MAC'S MUSINGS: Nearly 70 years of service from vintage army huts

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Claude McIntosh

The last long-standing visible connections to the role Cornwall played as an important Second World War training centre for the Canadian Army have disappeared from the local landscape.

Deemed to be long past their expiration date, the last of the old army huts at Joe St. Denis Field and King George Park, after 68 years of service to the community, have taken their final salute; they have been torn down.

Shortly after Canada entered the war, dozens of barracks (huts) were built on the large tract of land that stretched from the back of Cornwall Armoury to Ninth Street between Marlborough Street and McConnell Avenue. It was called Basic Training Camp 31, one of 15 army basic training camps in Ontario.

One of its side products was a powerful senior hockey team called Cornwall Army which finished first in the Quebec Senior Hockey League in the 1942-43 season but lost in the semifinal round. George Punch Imlach, the last Toronto Maple Leafs' coach to win the Stanley Cup, was a member of the team.

One story has it that the military brass dismantled the team after it was involved in several on-ice brawls. After the season, the word came down that if they wanted to fight, they should be sent to Europe.

At the end of the war, the military installation was dismantled. Owned by one of the city's wealthiest residents, the spinster Annie Dingwell, the site became known as the Dingwell property. Years later it was sold to a developer for a housing development.

Several of the huts were turned over to the city at the urging of Mayor Aaron Horovitz; another was given to the Cornwall YMCA on First Street West. It was attached to the rear of the "Y" building and used as a gym and hall until the organization moved to new digs on Fifth Street East.

The city moved their huts to the Athletic Grounds (Joe St. Denis Field), Alexander Park and King George Park where they were given a new lease on life as club houses. Thousands of kids changed their skates in the heated club houses over the years when outdoor skating and shinny were popular pastimes. In the summer the club houses were used for football, softball and lacrosse.

At King George Park a string of huts just beyond right field became an inviting target for sluggers. It was a notch on the bat for those who crushed one over the club house roof. A handful even accomplished the feat twice in a single game. The club house was 212 feet and change from home plate, not a challenging distance, but the ball needed to clear the roof, not an easy feat in the day of bats made from timber rather than aluminum. By contrast, reaching the centre field fence, a distance of 400 feet, required a mighty wallop.

As for the army huts, they outlast many more modern, more expensive city facilities, having served the community for 68 years.

'ROUND 'N' 'BOUT Nobody 'wins' $5 after buying $20 worth of lottery numbers; they just lose less. ... If Leslie O'Shaughnessy runs for mayor or council in October he will need to convince folks who voted for him in 2010 that he won't quit on them next time around. This council could have made use of his wealth of municipal affairs experience. ... Dr. Stu Munro who passed away earlier this month was one of the true, blue Bud fans who never gave up on the Leafs, - a bona fide BeLeafer. He was a member of the shrinking group of Toronto fans that could remember the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup.

IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR When margarine was known as olemargarine, was white and came with a packet of yellow food colour that was mixed with the margarine. A powerful dairy lobby managed to have olemargarine/ margarine banned until 1948 when the Supreme Court unshackled the ban. Olemargarine went on sale in Cornwall for 45 cents a pound. ... Clare Couture, who grew up on Second Street West, remembers the Skyway Restaurant, with its curbside service long before A & W came along, on old Highway 2 (now Second Street West) in the vicinity of the current minor soccer fields. As a teenager he worked at the eatery and remembers swimming in the canal after work in the summer. ... The Irwin Motorcycle shop at Blackadder's Creek on Second Street West. A third generation Irwin, Tom, runs the business now on Tollgate Road. ... When a kid got a $1.25 hockey stick for Christmas and it lasted the season, albeit it finished as a "toothpick". The blade started out wrapped in a thick layer of electrical tape. ... Huge ice jams on the St. Lawrence River that caused parts of east Cornwall to be flooded. ... The annual city playgrounds' ice carnival at the Water Street Arena. ... When paper routes were passed down from one brother to another and the Standard-Freeholder had a long list of kids waiting for a route in their neck of the woods. ...The Star Weekly.

HERE & THERE Don't know about you but I now check grocery store labels to see if the product is from China. Too many stories out there from legitimate news sources (such as 60 Minutes) about substandard made-in-China food products. ... Somebody asked why we hear talk about the Old Age Security system running out of money but we never hear about social assistance or the MPs' pension fund running out of cash? ... Don't know why, but since starting at the Seaway News back in July, I have developed a craving for bananas (inside joke). ... Alcoa is closing down its east plant, the former Reynolds Aluminum operations. That's the one just across the river from west Cornwall. It will continue to operate a second plant in Massena. It wasn't long ago the company spent millions modernizing the plant.

TRIVIA ANSWERS The Powdrell and Alexander curtain factory was at the corner of Cumberland and Fourth streets. It employed 230 people during the Great Depression. The curtain-making factory is long gone but the building, erected in 1933, is still in use as a business plaza.

TRIVIA Where was the House of Refuge and Industry? The original building is still in use.

SEEN & HEARD My bucket list has one less item. I have taken up curling, signing on with the Cornwall Curling Centre's exceptionally well-run senior men's program. Seems the veterans have at least one learning experience story. Like the time one made a beautiful shot his frist time out only to find out he had thrown the other team's rock. And, I'm not the first to forget to remove the gripper on the slider before taking a shot. My first game somebody asked what sheet I was curling on, my response was "Sheet 2 ... and hopefully not 3 and 4, too."

CORRECTION Seaway News wishes to correct an inaccuracy in a column that ran in last week's newspaper on Page 15. A name was spelled incorrectly. The name should have read J. Gilcig.

AND FINALLY The last thing you want to do on earth will be the last thing you do.

Organizations: Canadian Army, Cornwall Army, Quebec Senior Hockey League Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup.IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR Seaway News Supreme Court Highway 2 Standard-Freeholder Old Age Security Alcoa House of Refuge and Industry Cornwall Curling Centre

Geographic location: Cornwall, King George Park, Canada Ninth Street Marlborough Street McConnell Avenue Europe Alexander Park China Toronto Tollgate Road St. Lawrence River Massena Cumberland

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Stellabystarlight
    January 23, 2014 - 18:07

    I am extremely sad that this newspaper gave in to the big bully over at free Blog This man has never even made an attempt to apologize for suggesting a reader get a DNA test about a member of his family This same guy is crying like a baby when his name is mispelled..its like the frikin twilight zone wonder its FREE i won't dignify calling it news