Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Say hello to Bob for me!

I remain steadfastly passionate about sports. There are occasions when my interest wanes, but only slightly. One of the ways that I nurture my love of the game is through the collection of sports cards.

I collected hockey and baseball cards in the early 1950s. I can distinctly remember ripping open the wax packs to look at the 1952 Topps baseball cards, or the 1954-55 Topps hockey cards. The name Parkhurst was important to me as a kid, because that company produced the cards of the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens.

Our house on Church Street in Belleville was in a strategic position to help with my passion for sport. It was directly across the street from the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church tennis courts. On the southern edge of the courts lies the beloved “Campus”, the playing ground of the former Belleville High School. A couple of blocks away lies the Memorial Arena, the place where I vainly tried to earn a berth into the National Hockey League.

Queen Victoria School is on Pine Street in the city, perhaps half a mile from the house on Church Street. I attended the school for several primary grades. Aunt Sadie and Uncle Hugh lived on Albert Street. I discovered that I could pass by their house if I took a slightly longer route to school. This leads to a most significant confession.

I did not realize it at the time, but they were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. I found this out rather quickly. I stopped by their house on the way to school in the morning. I was likely in Grade Two, about seven years old. “Is there anything I can help you with?” I asked, genuinely concerned about their inability to get around. “No, we’re fine thank you, James. Nothing right now. But here’s a little something to get a treat on the way to school.”

Ten bucks! I accepted it graciously. I alluded to the fact that their memories were not great. Here is the confession: I stopped by their place after lunch, on the way back to school. “Any chores I can help with?” “No, but thank you. And here’s a little something for you.” Bingo! Understandably, I visited them twice a day for several months.

Almost every nickel went into sports cards at the Pine Street Variety Store, directly across the street from the school.

Many kids in those days abused their sports cards. I could not believe it when I heard a kid race by me, for the first time, on his bike that roared like a motorcycle. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that he had fastened a sports card to the frame so that the spokes would rattle off the card to make the noise. Such a travesty!

Others threw their cards against the wall in a game to win more cards! Ding, ding, ding on the corners of the cards! Utter stupidity. Another slightly less invasive game was “Topsies”. Cards were place against the wall, at eye’s height. When released, they would flutter to the ground. As soon as a card landed on the others, that player collected all the grounded cards as his or her own, because that card “topped” one of the others.

I collected the sets of these cards for several years. I handled them with the same care as I did the stamps in my collection. I lined them up in order, breathing a sigh of relief every time I was able to complete a set. The garbage man collected them all off Church Street in 1967. The house had been sold. My parents were downsizing. I was away at university, unaware of the fate of my beloved collection.

I found out, years later. My mother fessed up. By that time, it really didn’t matter.

In the meantime, I still enjoy collecting, following the game through those little pieces of cardboard. Rookies, all stars, heroes, bums, ordinary super stars.

Al Wood has closed the door of his wonderful little card store in Belleville. We will now have to visit Bob Collins at J & B Books on Front Street in Trenton. Bob knows his cards, and his sports as well. It has always been a pleasure to deal with him.

For the next couple of months, I will be scouring the streets of Australia and New Zealand looking for sports cards.

Unfortunately, I will not be to stop at Aunt Sadie’s on the way to the shops. Nothing lasts forever. Until I return, keep your stick on the ice. Get the bat off your shoulder. Don’t linger in the key. Do not go offside. Keep those cards sorted.

James Hurst

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