“A half-dozen of Spaulding’s regulation baseballs had a hard time at Riverside Park on Saturday afternoon,” wrote the Peterborough Review on June 15th, 1908. The occasion? The much-anticipated opening of the ballpark’s new grandstand on the 13th, when Peterborians bore witness to a Midland League game between the Peterborough Baseball Club and the team from Cobourg. The “Petes,” as they were becoming known, had defeated Cobourg on the road the previous weekend, and the June 12th Review had warned of revenge, stating that Cobourg “would come up to Peterborough this Saturday with a team composed of all professional players from over the line.”
Read on, to discover how that turned out! There will be also discussion of a provincial election, an Olympics-bound Peterborian, and other matters.
The big international news this week in 1908 dealt with events in the harbour of Reval — now Tallinn, Estonia, but then part of the Russian Empire. King Edward VII was meeting with Tsar Nicholas II, the first time a British monarch had visited Russia in person. The conference involved both business (there were long discussions of a number of international matters) and pleasure — “Last night dancing was kept up on both decks of the [Royal Yacht] Victoria and Albert until nearly midnight,” reported the June 13th Review. It was also, according the newspaper, extremely cordial and “in every way… a complete success.”
Not everyone was quite so enthusiastic about the burgeoning friendship between Britain and Russia. From the Review‘s June 12th edition:
“It was learned… yesterday from a competent source that the recent meeting between King Edward and Emperor Nicholas at Reval and the rapproachment between Great Britain, Russia, and France has been made the subject of grave representations on the part of Germany, who has met the threatened birth of a new ‘triple alliance’ with a display of the ‘mailed fist.’
An ominous reminder that the summer of 1914 is getting closer as we move through the years!
The big news around Peterborough itself this week in 1908 is easy to spot — Ontario was headed to the polls to elect a provincial government. The voting took place on June 8th, and when it was done the Conservative government of Premier James P. Whitney had been returned to office, and with an increased majority in the Provincial Parliament (86 seats to the Liberals’ 19). Both Peterborough ridings went to Conservatives as well; T.E. Bradburn was re-elected in Peterborough West, while Peterborough East was taken by James Thompson.
As you might imagine, recalling previous elections in Peterborough, the reaction of the town’s two main newspapers was very different. The Peterborough Examiner, firmly Liberal, was left seeking what silver linings it could find in the rout. From the paper’s June 9th post mortem:
“Though reduced in numbers [the Liberal Party] will have the benefit of the four sessions observation of the tactics of the Government and the joints of its armour will be more easily located. The unwieldy bulk of the government may easily collapse under its own weight.”
The Examiner also took some solace in the fact that Bradburn’s margin of victory in Peterborough West was far smaller than it had been in 1905.
Over at the Review, the city’s Conservative newspaper, the mood was understandably somewhat different. “The people of Ontario know a good thing when they see it,” crowed the Review the day after the election, going on the say that “[a]lthough a desperate effort was made by the Liberal press and Liberal politicians to discredit the Whitney Government, the electors were not to be deceived.” However, the newspaper that day also had conciliatory words for the defeated:
“We are not believers in triumphing over fallen foes, especially when those ‘foes’ are our own countrymen and fellow-citizens. There is in our opinion, as a rule, a disposition to do a little too much of it… To all and sundry we say, ‘Canadians all, good luck!'”
On election night, Peterborians had learned of the results by heading to one or the other of the city’s main newspaper offices (depending on one’s political allegiance), where the returns were projected on screens with the aid of stereopticons as they came in over the telegraph wires. The reactions at the two offices reflected the partisans’ views of what they saw. Among the crowd at the Examiner, “there was little excitement, and the news was received quietly,” wrote the newspaper on June 9th. The scene at the Review, meanwhile, involved “two bands playing in front of the offices, fireworks illuminating the sky and the elated Conservatives cheering themselves hoarse” (Peterborough Review, June 9th, 1908).
Peterborians may have been divided by political issues, but they united this week in support of a local runner who was headed to the Olympic Games in London. Fred Simpson was a Mississauga, born in what is now the Alderville First Nation, just south of Rice Lake. He had for some time been competing as a marathoner for the Peterborough YMCA Harriers track club, and on June 6th at the Canadian Olympic Finals he secured his place on the team to head for Britain. It was a gruelling race — only 14 of 32 runners were able to finish — but the Toronto Star noted that Simpson “was never in distress,” and “ran a well-judged race all the way.” He finished fourth, with first place going to Harry Lawson.
Simpson’s qualification for the Canadian team spurred Peterborough to an energetic fund-raising effort on his behalf. “[N]ot only will the incidental expenses of the trip have to be paid,” wrote the Examiner on June 10th, “but… Simpson’s wife and family of four small children, must be maintained while the bread-winner of the family is across the ocean.” The efforts succeeded, raising more than $250 in a couple of days, and on June 11th, Simpson boarded the train for Montreal, whence the team was to set sail. That day’s Examiner described the scene at the Peterborough station:
“When the train pulled in all the team got out on the platform and as the tall form of the Peterborough Indian hove in sight, they gave him a cheer and then there was a great rush to shake hands with Simpson and his trainer. Both are evidently very popular with the Toronto athletes, who seemed sincerely glad to welcome them among the little bunch of men who are to bear the maple leaf of Canada before the eyes of the world…”
Simpson would be joined in London by another one of Canada’s great Native athletes, in the person of Tom Longboat. The Olympic marathon was run on July 24th, from Windsor Castle to the White City Stadium, and Longboat was among the front-runners when he was forced to withdraw late in the race. Simpson, for his part, finished the course in 3:04:28, coming home in a respectable sixth place, and second among the Canadians (William Wood finished fifth, three minutes ahead of Simpson). Lawson, who had won the Olympic Final in Canada, came seventh in 3:06:47. The marathon was won by Johnny Hayes of the United States, after Italian runner Dorando Pietri was disqualified for receiving assistance to finish the race.
Elsewhere in Peterborough, students at Peterborough Collegiate were looking forward to the opening of a new high school building scheduled for the coming September (well, they were probably looking forward to summer holidays, but still). The new edifice was described in the June 9th Examiner as “a large structure of red brick, presenting an imposing front on Central Park, side by side with the new Armouries…” The newspaper went on to say that “great things should be done in the new Collegiate.” Indeed, although the school by then known as Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School was controversially closed in 2012, the building remains in service, and continuing education courses are still offered there.
And as for that big baseball game? The Petes were at their best in it, bashing out 19 hits, and ending up the winners by a score of 12-4, which the June 15th Review called “a big enough margin to satisfy any sane fan if there is such a thing.” The newspaper further described the game:
“The white-coated inoffensive pellets were hammered all over the field, knocked into the drink and given a terrible beating generally. Five hundred people looked on and were pleased at and applauded the massacre and went home well satisfied with the afternoon’s sport.”
Next week, we’ll take a look at mid-June of 1909!