Ilearnedto skate at Channel’s Rink, just across the highway/main street and a few houses up towards the centre of the town of Stanstead Quebec, maybe a few hundred yards away from my home. They sold hot dogs for ten cents and I remember slathering the dog and me with mustard and then “clumping” home, with my skates on, not to be repeated.
Learning to skate in a small town is an experience to be learned, experienced and enjoyed, and the very girls that I later threw snowballs at as they cycled along main street on a late autumn snow fall day, were probably the ones that took me by the hands and arms and helped to get me around the first few ovals of the natural ice surface. The youngish girls were always helpful and after a few turns, they may have moved on to help another aspiring Rocket Richard or maybe contented themselves as they too developed their capabilities.
Channels was an old, dark, wooden quad style of an arena, with a few spectator stands along the sides of the boards, for maybe 500 people. The change rooms were dank and poorly lit but there was a small ticket window at the entrance and a smallish restaurant counter where hot dogs, coffee, hot chocolate and cokes were sold. The facilities, as I recall were pretty small and modest, but there were separate “Men’s” and “Lady’s. There was no ice making machine, so the ice at Channel’s was always natural and depended on cold outside winter weather, and periodically could be almost invisible under a vapour cloud of mist if warmer moisture laden, spring air met up with a cold ice surface. It was just another natural phenomena that a very limited ventilation system
Forthe last several years, The Rotary Club of the Boundary, has offered two vocational scholarships in the area. These scholarships are offered to a graduating student who wishes to further their education in the vocation that they have chosen to follow. These vocations are those of technical nature (i.e. agriculture, carpentry, mechanic, refrigeration, hospitality, etc.), and are geared to college career oriented programs, rather than university. One is issued to a Canadian student residing in the Boundary area including Ayers Cliff, Hatley and North Hatley and immediate area, and the other to a U.S. student residing in Derby Line, Derby, Holland, Morgan, Charleston and immediate area. was not designed to handle but to be enjoyed and patiently waited on, to clear on “Hockey nite in Stanstead.”
My brother Philip played for the Stanstead Blackhawks and I can remember him holding forth on the blue line in his gray sweatshirt. Sammy Bethel was another player, maybe the goalie. They were playing one of their frequent opponents; the hated team from Beebe dressed in their blue “Maple Leaf” jerseys. When we bored of the performance, we chased each other around the narrow aisles of the empty spectator benches, until Mr. Benbow, remonstrated that we should pay attention to the game, and maybe learn something. We usually settled down and watched the remainder of the game, usually, or strayed away into the cold winter night air, and home.
Then one day, Channels was declared unsafe and in no time at all, was soon undergoing demolition by a Sherbrook contractor, leaving the three villages with no covered ice surface. Neighbouring towns of Beebe, Rock Island, Derby Line and Ayers Cliff, had already addressed and solved the winter rink scenario and all had their normal, one or two or even three, natural ice, out door surfaces fitted with modest and smallish changing rooms, restaurants and parking facilities. Lighting might just be normal higher wattage bulbs strung from poles at the ends of the rinks, barely nine feet above the playing surface, although Stanstead College was fitted with new and higher quality spotlight style of lighting. Visibility was not the greatest. Rinks in those days were all prepared by men of the local village, but frequently would have one or two people employed in the ice making and maintenance of the facility and another as ticket taker to earn a modest amount to help for the winter-time pleasure. A town like Rock Island
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This photo of the Stanstead Olympics hockey team was taken around 1925 by the famous Parker Studio, of Derby Line.