And here we are with Part 2 of our look at 1940! On Wednesday, we discussed matters relating to the Second World War, as seen through the eyes of Peterborian newspaper readers of the era. This time, we look at what was going on around the city itself, so read on for early effects of the conflict abroad, some particularly uncooperative wolves, hockey, and a stroll down Peterborough’s “Avenoo of the Seven Winds.”
As we discussed last time, the early days of the Second World War were quiet ones for residents of our city, at least as such things go. However, it would be incorrect to say that the outbreak of war had had no effect on Peterborough in January of 1940 — some local folk were enlisting, although it does not seem that those numbers were huge just yet. There were other signs, too, that times were no longer normal. On January 20th, a “transient” entered the Peterborough Police Station and asked for a night’s lodging (this was not uncommon during the Depression). However, when the police discovered that his name was Fritz Mueller, and that he had been born in Germany, he was arrested and turned over to the RCMP. “Mueller’s failure to register as an enemy alien… will probably result in his internment for the remainder of the war,” predicted the January 22nd Peterborough Examiner. When asked what he thought of Adolf Hitler, Mueller apparently responded simply: “no understand.”
The war was also causing some changes to long-term planning in the city. Councillors had hoped to finally get construction underway of a new Customs House and Post Office, but public building projects across the country were being shelved as inessential to the war effort, and Peterborough officially got that bad news on January 20th. The city’s mayor, J. Hamilton, seemed resigned to losing the new building; “We are willing to accept this keen disappointment as a sacrifice by Peterborough to the successful prosecution of the war,” he said, as quoted in the January 20th Examiner. Ironically enough, the new Post Office had first been planned over a quarter of a century earlier, only for construction to be indefinitely postponed by the outbreak of the previous World War. It would be 1955 before the building, at the corner of Charlotte and Louis Streets, was finished.
Those concerns aside, the big excitement around Peterborough this week in 1940 involved wolves. Hunters from the Peterborough Wolf Club, under the leadership of Charles Kingan, were heading north to Apsley for the annual wolf hunt — at stake, the Peterborough Fish & Game Protective Association’s bronze medal, and a $15 bounty per wolf pelt taken. Accompanying the hunters on their trek were a large number of reporters; as the Examiner drolly reported on January 20th, they were there “for the purpose of getting a picture of a wolf before he was shot at, and probably having an interview with him.”
The problem, for both hunters and reporters, was that the wolves simply failed to show up. Not a single one was seen, let alone killed, during the three days of the hunt, although the hunters did shoot at a porcupine, which escaped unscathed. This was the cause of much mirth down at the Examiner offices. The newspaper, again on the 20th, gave all the credit to the wolves of Peterborough County:
“They are pretty darn smart. They haven’t been leaving any tracks and they haven’t gone into a huddle to see what they are going to do about the Wolf Club. Up to the time of going to press [on the second day of the hunt] no person has banged a successful bang at one of them. They seem to be just as smart as the well-trained farm dog who used to hide under the barn on the day when the assessor came around to inquire about a dog tax.”
There were also a certain number of Maginot Line jokes made about the affair. And the hunters’ chagrin was complete when they discovered that the bronze medal had indeed been awarded, but at the other end of the county, and to a 14-year-old boy who had been armed with only a wood axe (he had caught the unfortunate wolf investigating the family chicken coop). As the defeated hunters returned home, the Examiner had a word of warning:
“If any person dares to howl like a wolf today when Charlie Kingan and Herb Mason re-appear in civilized haunts, he’d better be fast on his feet.”
And, speaking of people who were fast on their feet, there was of course a great deal of hockey going on, as the various levels of the Ontario Hockey Association had all begun their seasons. Peterborough’s junior team, the Colts, was set to take on the powerful Oshawa Bees in Junior ‘B’ action. The Bees were coming off a 20-0 (yes, that’s “twenty”) hammering of Port Hope, and as Cec Perdue noted in his January 19th Examiner column, many Peterborough fans were fretting that the Oshawa team would go through the Colts “like wolves sifting through the Kingan Line” (even Perdue couldn’t resist ribbing the unsuccessful hunters). And indeed, the Bees downed the Colts on January 22nd by the comfortable score of 7-3; “team play was noticeable by its absence,” reported the next day’s newspaper.
But the week’s big hockey treat was actually an exhibition game, as the the Intermediate ‘B’ Petes welcomed a visit from the Toronto Goodyears, who played at the Senior ‘A’ level and were perennial contenders for the Allan Cup. Among their players for the visit to Peterborough, incidentally, was future Hall of Fame coach George “Punch” Imlach. This was clearly superior competition for the Petes, and indeed, when the two met on January 22nd at the Brock Street Arena, the Goodyears took it handily by a score of 7-1 (Imlach had one assist). However, the Examiner on the 23rd expressed satisfaction with the night’s entertainment, writing that “It was fast clean hockey all the way and the crowd saw a fine display of the sport, with the locals not all disgraced in their showing against extra classy opposition.”
And speaking of hockey, On January 19th Perdue, the Examiner’s chief sports writer for nearly 40 years in the middle of the century, provided a interesting glimpse into what the Brock Street rink was like on game night, particularly in that part of the building known as “The Avenoo of the Seven Winds”:
“This is the popular term for that stretch of wooden boardwalk which lies upstairs at the Brock Street arena between the balcony and the front windows. A rather amazing and intricate place it is, too. Covers no less than five rooms and several twisty little hallways and has even been dubbed Nicotine Alley. On account of a great many cigarettes are consumed there betwixt periods of a puck match, away from the watchful eyes of ushers and cops. Of the seven winds which circulate freely in this interesting section, only one is of natural origin and it manages to sneak through betwixt the not infrequent cracks here and there. Other winds include the coaches’ oratory, the oldtimers’ prayer, budding stars’ chatter, the coaxing zephyrs of betting gentry, fans’ fanfare and the gentle breeze of Bacchus.”
With that, we finish off mid-January of 1940. Next time, we will look at the later part of this month in 1941, when we will find the Second World War much changed. Until then, thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check out Part 1 of this week’s post!