Waterloo Region Record

Sports in Waterloo: loud or quiet, team or solo


Waterloo has long been known as a sports town: many teams and individuals have risen to the top ranks of their chosen sport while fan enthusiasm has always been a given. Vintage photographs from the Waterloo Public Library’s Ellis Little Local History Room take us back over the last century for a glimpse at, as the old cliché goes, sports-of-all-sorts.

Photo 1 Hockey stands at the top of most Canadians’ favourite winter sport and mentioning hockey with Waterloo brings to mind the legendary Kraut Line that dominated 1930s and 1940s NHL play. One third of that line was Waterloo’s Bobby Bauer. Like the early professional stars (and unlike today’s) he didn’t develop his talent in a comfortable indoor arena while passing through a comprehensive minor hockey system. More likely, it was years of coachless pickup games with boys of all ages and any number of players on each side on a bumpy ice surface behind some school in all kinds of weather. As skills increased, some boys were invited to play on more organized teams, usually sponsored by a church or business. The hockey scene here does not include Bobby Bauer but he would have been right at home with these earlier players. That’s his church, St. Louis, in Waterloo but the photo was taken just before the First World War and he was born in 1915. Names of this club’s members and management are lost. Compare this goalie’s pads to the monster-size style that 21stcentury goalies hide behind. Hopefully someone has this photo with names and details and could share. Photo 2 Sports is not always a team endeavour or even a competition. Just the thrill of gliding down this long slide in Waterloo Park would be enough to make a boy or girl feel like a champion. Next time in Waterloo Park, stand beside the old schoolhouse, look across the parking lot then down the hill to Silver Lake — THAT was this toboggan run. Any second in this late 1920s’ photo, some youngster on a homemade toboggan with a cap, boots and mitts as the only protective gear will whiz down. Periodically, the slide was watered to create an even speedier descent.

Photo 3 Remaining in Waterloo Park, but changing seasons, let’s sit in the grandstand

overlooking the main sports field. Between 1894 and 1953 you would have had a great seat for numerous sports activities including races of all types: bicycle, motorcycle, dogs, even humans. Today, it is a summer’s afternoon in 1909 and another heat in the day’s motorcycle racing program is about to begin. Alas, after a few years, as motorcycle engines increased in speed, the Waterloo oval’s lack of banked turns proved dangerous to trackside spectators and that sport moved on.

Photo 4 Speed was never a concern in today’s final Waterloo sports look-back. Lawn bowling is still a 21st-century activity with popularity and participation growing after a low point. Kitchener has two greens and two clubs to which a number of Waterloo lawn bowlers belong. In the early 20th century however, Waterloo had several greens of its own including a pair near Erb East and Regina and one at the Mutual Life at Union and King South. On those greens, a dozen or so business-sponsored clubs competed vigorously. Several Ontario lawn bowling championship trophies were brought home by Waterloo teams, the first in1906 when W.J Krueger, F.G. Hughes, William Hogg and Edward Frowde Seagram captured the trophy. This photo is a bit of a puzzle: the researchers at the Ellis Little Room say it is from that 1906 championship event in London, Ontario. Ed Devitt, one of the authors of 1982’s Welcome to Waterloo book, dates it to 1942 on the Erb Street greens. Take your pick: what year are the clothes more indicative of?

For more on early Waterloo sports and the Seagram family’s involvement, see “Seagram Much More Than A Liquor Bottle Name” using the search function on The Waterloo Region Record website (therecord.com.)






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