by Leah Brisco from Fredericton, NB
Jan 7, 12
Every Friday in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, a group of local teachers and their friends get together at the End of the Line pub.
When I was visiting Bridgetown a few Fridays ago I found myself at a long table full of conversations. Sitting across from me was Jon Main.
Jon (who’s in his seventies) and I (I’m in my twenties) are both from the same town of Dundas, Ontario. Pretty soon we got to talking about Dundas, and how it had won the title of Kraft Hockeyville in 2010. We mused over what improvements they would be making to the Market Street arena with the prize money. I told Jon I had taken figure skating lessons in that arena in the 1980s. Jon had an even better story set in the same rink, in the 1950s..
When he was a teenager, Jon and his friend Dick worked as ‘rink rats’ at the Market Street arena. This was before Dundas had a Zamboni. That meant the ice had to be scraped, and then flooded, using a hand pulled 45 gallon barrel on wheels. The barrel was filled with hot water and rigged with a hose, piping, and a mat to distribute the water evenly.
Doing it the old-fashioned way took time. On Saturday nights after public skating, Jon and Dick usually worked alone. They’d clean the dressing rooms, sweep the stands and wouldn’t finish scraping and flooding the ice until after midnight. But that’s when the fun began.
Jon and Dick would sneak into the Junior B’s dressing room, where the players of the local hockey team hung up their gear. Jon’s favourite player was Fred Carter. Dick’s was Gus Goodale. Once they had Fred’s and Gus’s pads, skates, and Junior B jerseys on, they would hit the freshly flooded ice and play one-on-one for hours. All it took was a quick flood before they finally went home in the early hours and no one was ever the wiser. Or so they thought.
In 1980, Frank Westoby, who was manager of the Dundas arena for 27 years retired. At his retirement party Frank told a story of a Saturday night back in the 1950s when he happened to be passing by the arena at about two in the morning. The lights were on. Curious, he let himself in and snuck to a spot where where he could get a view of the ice. There they were: Jon Main and Dick Pipe dressed from head to toe in their favourite Junior B players’ gear, skating their hearts out. Frank left them to it, quietly let himself out, and saved the story for almost thirty years.