A V I E W F R O M C H A R L O T T E T O W N , P R I N C E E D W A R D I S L A N D
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Driving down Fitzroy Street the other day I was taken back to see the vacant lot where the Charlottetown Forum once stood. I was reminded that I had promised to write about it and its memories. So here goes, but remember the memories will be mine and belong to my generation and, of course, except for a few figure skating lessons and some skates - around and around - I never really did know the life inside of the forum very well.
At its prime , it was a wonderful Art Deco building. Officially opened in December 1931, the interior was alive with excitement and the feeling of having arrived. It was advertized as the "outstanding model of modern artificial rink architecture". Imagine! The Gyro Club had brought in an ice show that they promised to be "the nearest thing to a continuous crescendo of joy even in this unretrospective age" It sounded erotic.
Altho' the newspaper coverage mentioned all the details of the building and all the contractors that provided the various services, the architects were never mentioned. It was just as if all the sub contractors had brought together the parts for a big pot luck supper. James Harris and Bone Blanchard have an ad in the newspaper congratulating everyone and telling us that they were the associate architects, but that's as far as it goes.
Each generation has its own flood of memories, but I well remember that place that seated over 3000 people being full to capacity for many events. It could have been Ice Follies under the direction of Wallie Scantlebury, school ice sports or those competitive hockey games between West Kent and Queen Square or Prince of Wales and St. Dunstan's or all of us against Summerside. Lots of names come to mind that made those events work: Coach Art Perry, Pius Callaghan, referee Jackie Kane [grandfather to Lorie] Billie Archie and Bill Reid, Spy and Charlie Ready, the Kennedys' and Luker Burke or Don Large in the nets - even Alf Hennessey played that position and well, too, but that was just a little ahead of me. My heros were the line of Keith Dalziel, Howard Glover and Orin Carver.
Hockey has all changed, but maybe I'm just disconnected with it now altho I do know a young man of about 10 who is a very proud goalie and those father drives him all over the Island to play in BIG competitions. I also know Alan Andrew who has been holding great hockey schools on this Island and has created around that an tourist industry all by himself. The three guys I know who came from Centre Island, New York and kept bring their friends are playing and teaching hockey all over North America - so it can't be all wrong now.
I want you to read this Guardian report of a West Kent/Queen Square game in February 1949 : "...in a wide open pulsating battle that reached its highest pitch in a thrill packed third period West Kent School team last night retained their City School title and won the C F Archer Trophy...." Can't you just feel the tension? Who was writing those reports and has he followed his calling??
As I said each generation gathers its own memories - so I've been pretty personal with the names I've mentioned, but I remember one night that all generations came together and that was for the performance of figure skater, Barbara Ann Scott in February 1950. Still fresh from the 1947 Olympics and still the pride of Canada, she made that Forum electric that night and, yes, it is true that the Notre Dame Choir did do the warm up for Gracie Fields on June 21, 1950 and after that whether it was David MacDonald Stewart in his racoon coat at the Brier, those hockey games or just a plain skate - The Forum offers memories to so many of us.
Written Tuesday, March 13, 2001 at 07:33 PM