I’m not sure why it was called a ‘Winter Club’. It was really just the local community center, playground, park and hang out place, on Brazier Street. And when I first came across it, it wasn’t winter at all. One day I cut through Leonard Belisle’s yard on the way to the park and I came across kids playing football in the big field. I loved football and was quite good at it because I was a fast runner. Not only that, but they had an adult with them, showing the kids how to run real plays. I was quick to run over and ask if I could play.
The adult, I learned later, was a volunteer coach. He was actually a student at the university who also was a linebacker on the University Football team. It was awesome. It was clear early on that I was an excellent football player, learned the plays very quickly and got to play offense and defense. I was a running back on offense and on defense I played right in the middle of the front line. I played there because I was fast and usually the other teams center would be the fattest slowest kid and I could easily get around him to tackle the quarterback.
But we were just pee wees, playing six man football. It wasn’t like real football where everybody wore real football pads. Most of us had borrowed shoulder pads and at first the only helmets we had were plastic with almost no padding.
We did get brand new real helmets before the season started. Our jerseys were actually hockey jerseys from the Winter Club. Nobody on our team had football pants. We wore jeans to play in. Most of the kids on the teams we played against didn’t have football pants either. Only rich kids had football pants.
In our very first official game I scored two touchdowns. I was a football hero, even though we lost 39-18 to Kelvin. Our team wasn’t really that good, but it was still fun for me. We didn’t win any games except one exhibition game against Norquay. But when we played them in the official game, we lost 22-6. That was the only other touchdown I scored that year. Most games we got beat really bad, like 56-0 or 52-12. But still it was fun. When we played CUAC, who beat us real bad, I got to see my best friend, Jimmy Brown, from College Avenue, when I was in grade 4. He tackled me once, but once I caught the only pass our team threw all year, right in front of him. We didn’t throw the ball because nobody on our team could really throw that far. Martin was our quarterback but Morris was the biggest kid on the team, strongest too, and he was the one that threw me the ball.
In the winter we played hockey on the outside rink. Most of us didn’t have pads, just skates and sticks, but we played official games against other community clubs. Darrel Canada was our best player. He got to wear number 9 and his dad coached the team. We weren’t very good, but it was still fun and it didn’t matter how cold it was outside, we still played. I played goalie mostly. That way I got to wear the goal pads that were provided by Elmwood Winter Club. We wore the same jerseys for hockey that we wore for football in the summer.
One time I took my skates to get sharpened, at the shoemaker. But I forgot to pick them up until the day we were playing Norquay. They were really the only team that we had a chance to beat because they weren’t very good either. The shoemaker was closed, because it was the weekend and I had to borrow skates from Jamie Cook. They were too small for my feet but I squished and curled my toes into them. But after one period of playing outside in the -20 with skates that were too small, I had to stop because I could barely stand and could not skate at all. I watched the rest of the game from the bleachers. It was very disappointing. We lost 5-2 and I’m sure if I’d had my own skates and I had played the whole game, we might have won, or at least tied. Back then the whole season was only 8 or 10 games long, so every game was important.
We got to play one game in an inside rink, in a tournament. Leonard Belisle lent me his hockey gear so I was fully equipped and was like a real hockey player. You had to win each game to advance in the tournament and the winners got a real trophy. I wanted to win really bad, so I played real hard, but we lost 3-2. One kid on the other team scored all their goals. He was small and could skate really good and he kind of looked like Alan Perron, except he was native. It was very disappointing.
In the spring we moved again, before the end of the hockey season. I missed playing the last game. It was very disappointing. I wrote a letter to Jamie Cook, asking how we did. His letter didn’t come for many months. He told me that we lost the last game, but by then it didn’t matter.
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