History of the A's

 
 

An Interview With William "Stu" Scott

 
 

In the span of just three years, William “Stu” Scott went from being a lacrosse player on the Ontario juvenile champions from St. Catharines, to the mountains of eastern Italy battling the German army, to prisoner-of-war camp Stalag 7A outside of Munich Germany, to back home and playing lacrosse again at the Haig Bowl, but now with the Ontario senior champion Athletics. It certainly was quite a lot to experience before your twenty-first birthday. 

Scotty the lacrosse player was as tough as nails on the lacrosse floor, but he also possessed a deft scoring touch around the goaltenders of senior lacrosse in the late 1940’s. Just the kind of fellow you always want on your side. Stu Scott was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1997 in the veterans category.

 

Gary: Stu, where in St. Catharines did you grow up?

 

Stu: I grew up in Orchard Park, just north of Carlton Street and actually the city limits were Carlton Street back then. The area we were in was actually Grantham township. I was born in Scotland in ’24 and my family came to Canada in June 1926.

 

Gary: What are your earliest memories of lacrosse, either playing it or watching it?

 

Stu: My family was living in an apartment. It was a big house and the Essery family was living downstairs. Eddie was older and “Skippy” was my age. Skippy and I were together all the time growing up playing hockey and lacrosse. “Skippy’s name was Frederick and he was killed two weeks before the war was over in Holland.

 

Gary: Wasn’t he on the ’42 juvenile team with you?

 

Stu: Yes he was, Bobby Thorpe, Bill Caton, “Jumbo” Gamble and a lot of those guys. We had a good team and won Ontario that year. And Skip was a natural athlete. Boy, he could do anything. He was small but he was terrific. Hockey? He was a good hockey player. Sloppy with his skating but boy could he handle the puck, just a marvelous athlete.

 

1942 ONTARIO JUVENILE CHAMPIONS - St. Catharines Standard photo

Photo courtesy of Vince Lomore

"Above are shown the "Tecumsehs", who won the juvenile lacrosse championship of Ontario on Friday night to bring St. Catharines its only provincial lacrosse title of the year. The boys had a bye into the finals to meet Mimico. Members of the teams are, front row, left to right: Gordon Prodger, Fred Essery, Bill Angus, Martin Olsen, Jim Blank. Second row: Bill Canton, Lloyd Budd, Gordon Campus, Jimmy Neelin, Gerald Gamble, Johnny Inkol. Back row: Ed Kalls (manager), Bob Thorpe (captain), Stewart Scott, Ken Wignall, Norm McClelland, Harold "Shy" Manning (coach)."

 

I remember when we were at the old canal down on Lake Street when the old locks were there and we used them as the boards. We were on the pond this day and Skippy fell in, and he said, “Don’t let me drown, my mother will give me hell!” (laughs) And the pond was only knee deep and he was standing on the mud bottom.

Skip was with the Royal Regiment of Canada. That’s not the same as the Royal Canadian Regiment. I went back to Holland on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Holland and then I went again on the sixtieth. Fortunately there was a gentleman there who helped me because I was looking for Skip’s burial site. I went to his gravesite and I was busted up remembering him as a boy.

Back when we were boys, maybe only about 12 or 13, I remember Bill Isaacs was playing with the Hamilton Tigers. One time when he came to St. Catharines, well wouldn’t you know it that one kid stole his good lacrosse stick and it ended up downstairs with the Essery family. I don’t think Eddie stole it himself but he might have bought it from somebody.

We used to play with Bill Isaacs’ stick and I ended up coaching intermediate with him in Burlington. Bill Isaacs was a nice guy.

 

Gary: Were you drafted into the army?

 

Stu: No, I enlisted. I was only a boy. I was eighteen on September 1st, 1942 and I joined the army on October 27th.

There were a lot of young guys from all over Canada and they brigaded us and shipped us to Nova Scotia after our basic and advanced training at Camp Borden.

We were the Queen’s Own Rifles, Third Battalion. The First Battalion was already over and as we grew older, we were going to be shipped to the First Battalion. Well, quite a few of our boys made it and they went in on D-Day. A lot of them that I hung around with were killed going in on D-Day.

 

Gary: You eventually made it to England and then you were shipped to Italy. How long were you in England?

 

Stu: Maybe a couple of months.

 

Gary: What was going on in Italy by the time you landed there?

 

Stu: The Allies were already in Italy after the 1st Div went through Sicily. My regiment didn’t go there until they were already in Italy. I was in the Irish Regiment of Canada then and I went in as a replacement for somebody killed or wounded.

I went up from the holding unit in Avellino to the Irish Regiment and when I got there they asked me which company I would like to go to. I said, “I’d like to go to ‘A’ company, 7th platoon if they need me.” Danny O’Hearn was there and he was “Nip’s” brother (St. Catharines lacrosse player Donald “Nip” O’Hearn). So, they let me go into the 7th platoon with Danny.

I remember we listened to a hockey game laying in a little pup tent in Italy. It was shipped to London and then sent to Cairo. Danny had a radio set and we could pick it up from Cairo. It was clear as a bell and I’m not sure, but it might have been the night that Rocket Richard scored five goals in the one playoff game against the Leafs.

The Royal Canadian Regiment was in Italy and Bobby Melville (former Athletic) was R. C. R. I found out where the R. C. R.’s were and I thought I would go up and see Bobby Melville. They were about ten miles up the road from where we were and I knew Bob well. I went up there but they said, “No, no Bobby Melville. He’s in the hospital” I said what happened and they said he was hit with a piece of shrapnel.

Anyway, while I was hanging around with the R. C. R. men, Don MacPhail (Mimico lacrosse player and Canadian lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee) came over and he told me all about Bobby. I stayed up there for a couple of hours before I headed back.

I was in the 5th Div., armoured division and we had tanks along with us.

 

Gary: Sherman tanks?

 

Stu: They were Shermans, yes. The Germans had the Tigers.

 

Gary: The Tigers were the better tank.

 

Stu: Well, they had that big gun. It was a monstrous weapon, the “88”, and you would hear that tank from miles when it fired that thing. You just hoped your dugout was deep enough. (laughs)

 

Gary: Were you under a British command?

 

Stu: Yes, we were 8th Army, the 1st Div. and the 5th Div.

You know there was always some confliction between the veterans…“Where were you?”…“I was in Italy.”…“Oh, you missed D-Day.” Well we didn’t miss bugger all because we were fighting a year before D-Day arrived. Our regiment, and all of them, were fighting in the mountains and it was tough fighting. I mean you get up a bloody hill and the next thing you know they’re gone and you’re down again and chasing. This was the big concern over the years when they called the people who went to Italy the “D-Day Dodgers.” Lady Astor in England said we dodged the D-Day and that’s where that all started.

I turned twenty on September 1st, 1944 and on the 27th our whole company was caught, well what was left of them anyways. We had crossed a waist deep river and got maybe a mile past when they came in behind us with their tanks and infantry. They cut us off and we couldn’t get back, so there were 42 of us captured on that one day.

And I was in the last group to get caught. We had a wounded German boy with us. He got a slug in the shoulder and we bandaged him and gave him morphine. Put an “M” on his forehead to let people know he had morphine so they wouldn’t give him another shot. He was a nice fellow. We conversed back and forth.

When we had to get out of the dugout, I was the first one that went out and I got up and I saw this little, wee German officer. He said in perfect english, “There’s a kid! What are you doing here?” So I said, “Hey, your guys are all younger than me.” And they were! They were all just young boys.

I said, “Where did you learn such good english?” He said, “I lived in Chicago for nineteen years.” He asked, “Do you have any American cigarettes?” and I said, “No, we’re Canadians.”

After I was captured, it was about two weeks before we were moved from Italy to a prison camp in Germany. I was in northern Italy for three or four days and what they would do is just lock you up inside of a boxcar. It wasn’t the best place. We went up through the Alps into Germany and then to Stalag 7A, which was about 30 miles north and a little bit east of Munich.

They opened the big swinging gates at the camp, I walked in and to the first guy I saw standing there, I said “Hey Norman, how you doing?” It was Norman Little and he lived next door to my aunt in Merritton. He looked at me and said, “Who are you?” I knew him right away but he didn’t know me. I told him my aunt lived next door to him and he said, “Yes, I know the Scotts.” He knew my brother John because they were about the same age, a little bit older than me. He said, “You were only about this big the last time I saw you.”

He was captured in Normandy or France somewhere. There he was, clear as a bell, and the first guy I see in that camp was someone from my hometown.

 

Gary: When you were in the camp, did you have any idea how the war was going?

 

Stu: Yes, we used to get news from different Germans.

I would get to work in Munich and it was good to get out of the camp. That was a big camp with a lot of POWs, French, Russians and more. You relied on what you could save from your parcels. We would get five-pound Canadian Red Cross parcels and they had everything in it, chocolate bars, soap, canned butter, canned bacon and little packages of tea and instant coffee. They were good parcels.

I was taken into town and in the fall and the winter when I was there, the ladies would have big, heavy coats and you could see that they had bread under them. They would say, “Do you have soap?” and we would tell them, oh sure. In a lot of our parcels was Kashmir Bouquet soap and when they got a whiff of that, they would say, “sehr schön”…“So beautiful!”

We would get 2 kilos of bread for one bar of soap and that was a good deal. In the meantime, you would have to give the guard a cigarette and he would walk away about 20 or 30 feet. He would say, “Watch for the officers, don’t let the officers see you!”

Sometimes we would deal for a small bag of potatoes. That was right in Munich, right in the downtown area.

 

Gary: The German civilians didn’t really show any resentment to the allied prisoners?

 

Stu: No they didn’t. I never ran into any of that. The only time I did was from a guard and he hit me with his rifle on the shoulder. I found out that he hadn’t heard from his family in the last six months after the Russians moved into that part of northern Germany near the Polish border. He didn’t know if they were alive or not, and he was a little nasty. The other German guards told us he was taking it out on us because of that.

 

Gary: At any of the time that you were in the camp did you witness an allied bombing raid?

 

Stu: Yes, we were working just outside of Munich and we were cleaning up around a manufacturing plant there. We got a four alarm that there were Flying Fortresses coming. They bombed in the daytime and the British bombed at night. All these silver “Forts” were coming over.

The guards would each have ten men. Our guard had bad feet. He had them frozen at the Russian front. So I said to my buddy, “You go on one side and I’ll go on the other” and he put his arms around us. We were running for a ditch, it was beautiful, it was about ten feet deep and I was holding him up with one arm and carrying his rifle with the other.

We got to the ditch, I guess it was a runoff and we dove down into there. The guard was underneath us and when we got the all clear, we sat up and I handed him back his rifle. He said “danke” and looking back later it seemed like a comedy. We laughed about that. It was one of the funny incidents that happened in the prison camp.

 

Gary: How long were you in the camp?

 

Stu: We were there about nine months. We worked every day and that was nice because we got out of the camp.

The Red Cross parcels were the only thing that kept us healthy. I weighed 132 when I got back to England and I used to box in the army at 160.

I got back to England on V-E Day, May the 8th, 1945.

 

Gary: How were you released from the camp?

 

Stu: The Americans liberated us on April the 22nd.

 

Gary: There wasn’t any kind of a fight at the camp when you were liberated, was there?

 

Stu: No, those who were left were just old men, the home guard, and they were all sixty some-odd years old. Some of them could hardly walk.

 

Gary: So you were discharged from the army, you came home and you joined up with the Athletics right away? 

 

Stu: Yes, I was home in July of ’45 and I liked lacrosse. As a kid I played juvenile. I wasn’t home very long before I was playing with the seniors. I don’t know, I was always a fair lacrosse player but I wasn’t really exceptional with the stick. I did alright, I scored goals. But I think there was no muscle on the team then and I could look out for myself. I was only a little guy but army experience helped. I trained in hand-to-hand combat and I was good at it. I think that’s the reason I got on that team. We had Normie MacDonald and Vern Whitely and a quite a few of them, and they were pretty easy-going men

 

Gary: I understand that the Athletics of the earlier Mann Cup years had some muscle to go with all the skilled players they had?

 

Stu: Well, “Bun” Barnard wasn’t a great lacrosse player but he was the muscle you needed and part of the reason why St. Catharines won the Mann Cup for a few years. He and George Hope, George wasn’t there to score goals, he was there to check the other guys.

I saw “Bun” one night in Mimico when Bill Brunskill was playing for the Mounts. Bill was a fine goal scorer and he was tricky with his stick. He was shifty and he could score goals. He could throw a ball from centre and score. Barnard’s job was to get him off the floor. I don’t know what period it was and I was a water-boy at the time, but Barnard charged after him after someone threw the ball to Brunskill, and when Brunskill saw Barnard coming he jumped up on the fence. There was the wooden part he was standing on and he was hanging onto the fence. Barnard was swinging at him, and I thought, what is this, is this lacrosse? I thought Barnard was going to kill this guy. Brunskill was cursing at him, “Get out of here you so and so!” Unbelievable and yet they both got a penalty.

Years ago it was a vicious game. When you went into Mimico to play, boy they were going to rough you up if you scored a few goals the night before. And they would lay the lumber on you and there was no kidding about it. But I think the ruggedness made the game and the guys I knew from Mimico like “Scoop” Hayes and George Masters were all nice guys. They would be beating on me and I would be beating on them during the game but then after the game we were all good friends.

 

Gary: That team in 1945 would win Ontario and travel west to play for the Mann Cup.

 

Stu: We didn’t play well and we lost in three straight. It was only a best three out of five. We played pretty good the first game and they only beat us by 2 or 3 goals. The next game, 7 or 8 goals and then the last game they blew us away. But by that time we were cavorting too much and the game was out of our minds with the fun of being there.

 

Gary: Then in 1946 the Mann Cup finals moved back to the east and the Athletics were there again.

 

Stu: In ’46 we played New Westminster in the Gardens and we had a really good team. We beat them three straight.

 

Gary: Was that a big thrill winning the Mann Cup?

 

Stu: Yes, it was so. It was for me. I did well in the series as far as being a sniper was concerned. And we still had some of the old guys on the team like “Wandy” and Cheevers.

“Wandy” McMahon was a great penalty killer. He was very deceptive with that ball. He’d move back and forth, this guy would wack him and then another guy would wack him, and he still would end up with the ball.

 

 

1946 MANN CUP CHAMPIONS - St. Catharines Standard photo

"Although Athletics were a fairly tired squad of lacrosse battlers, the boys of the double-blue could still smile at the camera when this was taken after the game. They had just swept the west aside, but took their honors in modest manner. Kneeling are Jack McMahon, Jimmy McMahon, Doug Favell, Capt. Joe Cheevers (with the $500 gold cup of the late Sir Donald Mann), Cars Myers, Frank Madsen, and Pung Morton. Second row is Trainer Bill Demars, C. L. A. President Jack McDonald of Mimico, Sub-Goalie Bill Frick, Gerry Fitzgerald, George Urquhart, Doug Cove, Pat Smith and Assistant Trainer Matt McIntosh. Rear are C. L. A. Secretary Gene Dopp, Billy Nelson, Vern Whiteley, Hal Crooker, Bill Whitaker, Norm McClelland, Tommy Madsen, Stu Scott, Coach George Cleverley, and Norm MacDonald.

 

Note: Clayton Browne of the Standard posted on Oct 8, 1946 this correction to the above caption , "By the by, dropping one figure lent a rather cheap tone to the late Sir Donald Mann's golden goblet, emblematic of the national title. 'Twas announced at Leaf Gardens that the most-prized trophy in boxla was valued at $5000 - not $500 as appeared in the underlines on Saturday's front page. We do know that the Athletics and city fathers are called upon to bond the trophy for the neat little sum of $2500 every time it is carefully sheltered here. That's also why it is kept in city hall vaults."

 

Gary: For many winters a lot of the guys played lacrosse in the Rochester area. But then in 1949, the O. L. A. decided to crack down on that and suspended Bill Nelson, Jimmy McMahon, Roy Morton and yourself for the entire season. This was largely because the O. L. A. wanted the league in New York State to reimburse to them some of their gate receipts. What was that league like in the Rochester area in ’49? 

 

Stu: It wasn’t really that good of a league at that time.

 

Gary: They would get pretty good crowds there?

 

Stu: Yes, they would get pretty fair crowds and they used to play in the armouries. I remember it was tough going in the armoury in Geneva. On the one wall was all stream pipes for heating and you had to watch out because you could get driven into those pipes. We didn’t wear helmets in those days.

But you know we made $25 a game and that was big money then. Back in one of those years, I was on my honeymoon in Buffalo and my wife and I took the bus up to Rochester so I could play on a Friday night. Then we got a ride home back to St. Catharines with the gang.

 

Gary: What was your most memorable game?

 

Stu: Well I had seventeen points one night. I think I scored 7 goals and had ten assists. I was hotter than a firecracker, no matter where I shot the ball it went in. Over the shoulder or run by the side of the net and drop it in with my left hand. It was my night and I still don’t believe it today. (Stu Scott’s remarkable 17-point night came on August 5th 1946 versus the Brampton Excelsiors) 

 

Gary: Was that a record?

 

Stu: I don’t know. It wasn’t classified as a record at the time, but I think Gord Gair and I were the only ones to have that many points in one game. It was just one of those nights.

 

Gary: Stu, who would you say were the best players you saw during your playing days.

 

Stu: Oh I think Roy Morton and Bill Isaacs. They were real talented lacrosse players. And Bill Wilson was another one. He was a good scorer. He didn’t look like much on the floor but when he got that ball he could put it in the net.

And he showed it because he left St. Catharines, went to Hamilton, then to Orillia and then out west with the Salmonbellies and these were all Mann Cup teams. He was nice to watch on the floor because he was so smooth.

They were probably the three best that I could remember.

You know, I like the game today. Its fast and its not brutal like when I played. Today it’s up and down, up and down. I don’t like the situation where you lose the ball you get off, but, I can accept that. And these kids are good with the type of stick that they use, these plastic sticks. Geez, they can throw the ball!

Johnny Grant, holy doodle, he’s some lacrosse player and he is hard to get the ball from. Good-sized boy, well built and rugged, and he can throw the ball over the shoulder or whatever. He is good. There is no doubt about that. He can handle that ball and I like to see a guy that can handle the ball…over the shoulder, left hand, right hand, whatever. Now, what are your thoughts about Peterborough winning the Mann Cup and also the Minto Cup?

 

Gary: Well, it was quite a feat. I didn’t think the juniors were suppose to win after they finished fifth during the season, but they really turned it on in the playoffs. I think they beat Whitby. Whitby was a good team. They beat Orangeville. Orangeville looked good when they knocked off St. Catharines…  (correction: 5th place Peterborough knocked off 2nd place Whitby and 4th place Toronto...not Orangeville)

 

Stu: And then they turn and beat Six Nations by a good score in the last game.

 

Gary: They beat tough teams all the way.

 

Stu: I sat back and I looked for the scores when Peterborough won the final game by 17 – 10. And you know the Hamilton papers didn’t give the scores and that’s a shame. Here’s our national game and it’s not even in our Hamilton paper. That’s unbelievable, and that’s awful.

But anyways, Peterborough is a good lacrosse town.

 

Gary: It sure is, and it’s safe to say you’re a good lacrosse guy. It was a pleasure to talk to someone who played the game during that great period, played it so well, and also served his country during some pretty difficult times. Thanks Stu.

 

"Stu Scott made quite a record for himself at the bowl last night when he collected no less than 17 points, in his 10 assists and 7 goals. That mark certainly surpasses any other high marks for this year, and a search through the old record books won't show many, if any at all, who have gone on such a scoring rampage."

The St. Catharines Standard, Aug 6, 1946

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