Gordon Sinclair – Journalist, Author, TV personality, and Curmudgeon Extraordinaire!

He was brash, ornery, uncompromising, and occasionally uncouth – yet none of that stopped him from becoming one of Canada’s best-known celebrities. Loud in both dress and personality, Gordon Sinclair first rose to fame in the 1930s as a globetrotting journalist for The Toronto Daily Star. Later stints as a popular radio host and a panellist on CBC’s Front Page Challenge extended his celebrity into the 1980s. In this CBC Television clip Pierre Berton and author Morley Callaghan take turns eulogizing — and criticizing — their feisty friend who has just died at 83.

Gordon Sinclair (June 3, 1900 – May 17, 1984)
Gordon Sinclair (June 3, 1900 – May 17, 1984)

Sinclair was born in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. In 1916, before finishing his first year of high school, Sinclair dropped out to take a job with the Bank of Nova Scotia. After a few months, he was fired and started working in the administrative office of Eaton’s. During World War I, Sinclair served as a part-time soldier in a militia unit of the 48th Highlanders of Canada. After being fired from Eaton’s, Sinclair took a junior bookkeeping job with Gutta Percha and Rubber Manufacturing Company, starting in April 1920. It was there that he met co-worker Gladys Prewett. After an off-and-on relationship, the two were married on May 8, 1926.

Early in 1922, Sinclair applied for a reporting job at all four Toronto newspapers. The only offer he received was from the Toronto Star, where Sinclair started working in February 1922, hired on the same day as Foster Hewitt, who was the son of the Star’s sports editor.

Sinclair was given routine assignments at the Star for seven years before he received his first byline. His breakthrough was a series of articles written after living among a group of homeless people, which Sinclair called “Toronto’s hobo club” From that point, Sinclair rose to become one of the paper’s star reporters, spending most of the next decade travelling the world, filing reports from exotic locations. During an Asian tour in 1932, Sinclair spent four months in India and, after returning home, wrote his first book, Foot-loose In India. It was published in October 1932 and became a best-seller in Canada, with the first edition selling out on the first day of release. Before the end of the year, Sinclair announced that his next trip would be to Southeast Asia. His experiences on that trip were collected in Sinclair’s second book, Cannibal Quest, which was a best-seller in Canada and also reached #9 on the U.S. best-seller list. That was followed by a series from Devil’s Island, which was also turned into a book, Loose Among the Devils, published in 1935.

Later that year, Sinclair was fired by the Star after failing to get the story on the outbreak of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in Ethiopia. The Star reported that Sinclair was leaving journalism to take a job in advertising. The Star wrote that Sinclair had travelled 340,000 miles in 73 countries for the newspaper. At the time, he was working on his fourth book, Khyber Caravan, based on his travels in Afghanistan.

Sinclair’s time away from journalism was short-lived. Three months after joining the staff of Maclaren Advertising, Sinclair returned to the Star, this time as a sports columnist. Sinclair was hired shortly after the sudden death of legendary Star sports editor Lou Marsh, who had been one of Canada’s best-known sports journalists. According to sportswriter Scott Young, Sinclair’s transition to sports was “monumentally unsuccessful.”

Front Page Challenge

The cast of Front Page Challenge. Left to right: Pierre Burton, Fred Davis (host), Betty Kennedy, and Gordon Sinclair
The cast of Front Page Challenge. Left to right: Pierre Burton, Fred Davis (host), Betty Kennedy, and Gordon Sinclair

Sinclair also began a career in television, as a panelist on the CBC Television series Front Page Challenge. He would hold that position for 27 years until his death. While Sinclair was often controversial, he caused an uproar in 1969 when he asked Canadian Olympic swimmer Elaine Tanner if menstruation interfered with her training.

Sinclair was a vocal opponent of water fluoridation (calling it “rat poison” in 1958), the singing of God Save the Queen, medicare and taxes. Although he was raised as a Methodist and taught Bible class as a youth, Sinclair became a forceful critic of religion and the church. “I had 31 years of being a Christian, and it was enough,” he said in 1969.

Sinclair had invested his earnings in the Depression-era stock market and was independently wealthy by the end of the Second World War. In 1960, he boasted that he earned more than $50,000 a year. By the end of his life, Sinclair reportedly had liquid assets of more than $2 million. He bought a Rolls-Royce in 1961 and drove it for 11 years.

Sinclair’s autobiography, Will the Real Gordon Sinclair Please Stand Up was published in 1966, followed in 1975 by a sequel, Will Gordon Sinclair Please Sit Down.

During his 62-year career in the media, Gordon Sinclair became known for both his curmudgeonly manner and his outspoken views. A relentless self-promoter, he transformed his singular style into a lucrative career which spanned some 50 books, a popular radio program and a plum spot on the longest running show in the history of CBC Television. Equal parts loved and loathed, many of Sinclair’s most outrageous comments continue to live on more than two decades after his death on May 17, 1984.

“The Americans”

On June 5, 1973, following news that the American Red Cross had run out of money as a result of aid efforts for recent natural disasters, Sinclair recorded what would become his most famous radio editorial, “The Americans.” While paying tribute to American success, ingenuity, and generosity to people in need abroad, Sinclair decried that when America faced crisis itself, it often seemed to face that crisis alone.

At the time, Sinclair considered the piece to be nothing more than one of his usual items. But when U.S. News & World Report published a full transcript, the magazine was flooded with requests for copies. Radio station WWDC-AM in Washington, D.C. started playing a recording of Sinclair’s commentary with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” playing in the background. Sinclair told the Star in November 1973 that he had received 8,000 letters about his commentary.

See the clip at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwv-dndrMDE

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Sinclair

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Walter “Turk” Broda

“Mr, Maple Leaf”…

This morning’s sports headlines announced that a “Legends Row” of greatest Maple Leaf hockey players would be established outside the Air Canada Centre. In keeping with that announcement, here is my nomination, i.e. the already legendary Leaf, “Mr. Maple Leaf,” Turk Broda.
Walter "Turk" Broda (May 15, 1914 – October 17, 1972)
Walter “Turk” Broda (May 15, 1914 – October 17, 1972)

Regarded as perhaps the best clutch goaltender of all time, Walter “Turk” Broda was “Mr. Maple Leaf” for 16 seasons, with two years lost to Canadian armed forces duty in World War II.

Walter “Turk” Broda (May 15, 1914 – October 17, 1972) was born in Brandon, Manitoba to a Ukrainian family. He acquired the nickname of “Turkey Egg” during his school days in Brandon because of his many freckles. “Turkey Egg” soon became “Turk”, and the name followed him.

Broda played his early hockey back home in Manitoba for the Brandon Athletics and Brandon Native Sons. He even got the Native Sons to the Abbott Cup final but lost to the Regina Pats. After stints with Winnipeg Monarchs, St. Michael Majors (he was the practice goalie when they won the Memorial Cup in 1934) and Detroit Farm Crest, he was given a shot at the NHL by the Detroit Red Wings. Turk had introduced himself to the Red Wings during an exhibition tour which brought the NHL stars to Winnipeg. A naïve but determined Broda only wanted to meet some of his NHL heroes. In addition he was given a training camp try out offer.

Broda was an immediate hit in the IAHL and led the league in both wins and goals against average, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Suddenly the pudgy goalie from Winnipeg was one of the most sought after commodities in the game. He was ultimately sold to the Maple Leafs in 1936 for the then steep price of $8000! It was money well spent by the Leafs, as he became the first, and arguably the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf puck stopper of all time.

Broda quickly proved he belonged in the NHL, but by the beginning of the 1940s he was emerging as the league’s best. He led all goaltenders with 28 wins in 48 games in 1940-41 – the same year he captured his first Vezina trophy. In 1941-42 he followed that up with his first Stanley Cup. It wasn’t a likely Cup victory either. Down three games to none and on the verge of defeat in the finals against Detroit, the Leafs, thanks in large part to the great goaltending of Broda, stormed back and unthinkably won 4 straight games to capture the championship!

Broda’s reign as the top goalie in the league was put on hold in 1943 when he spent 2 and ½ years in the military during World War II. He would return late in the 1945-46 season.

Broda’s second tour of duty with the Leafs proved to be more successful than the first. The Leafs emerged as one of the greatest teams of all time. Broda would be the puck stopper in each of the Leafs Stanley Cup wins in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951. He was very good during those regular seasons, but come playoff time he somehow was able to take his game to a new level – he led the entire league in wins and shutouts in each of those Stanley Cup years, and in goals against average in 3 of the 4.

Broda’s own explanation for his playoff success was simple.

“The bonus money for winning wasn’t much but I always needed it,” he said. “Or maybe I was just too dumb to know the situation was serious.”

In that comment you can see Broda lived up to the standards of the stereotypical goaltender – a touch on the crazy side. Mind you goalies back then stopped fast flying rubber bullets with his maskless face for a living, so his craziness can be somewhat understood.

A publicity shot of Broda eating a hamburger during the "Fat" joke episode.
A publicity shot of Broda eating a hamburger during the “Fat” joke episode.

One of the most famous and publicized incidents in Turk’s career was his constant “Battle of the Bulge.” The often witty though short-tempered Turk had the Toronto media press’ attention as he and Leaf boss Conn Smythe constantly battled over Turk’s playing weight.

Smythe once ordered Turk to cut his grocery intake enough to lose some weight. He wanted Broda to play at 190lbs, down from 197. Smythe then brought up minor leaguer Gilles Mayer and brought Al Rollins from Cleveland Barons (AHL). The Toronto press had a field day and called the goaltending trio “The Long” (Al Rollins 6’2″), “The Short” (Gilles Mayer 5’6″) and “The Fat” (Turk Broda).

The whole event turned into fantastic publicity stunt, with Broda leading the way. The press knew all about his diet of grapefruit and soft boiled eggs. And of course the press was there when Turk tipped the scales at 190lbs before game day. It was front page news!

Broda’s career statistics are amazing: over 300 wins, (in an era when seasons were only 48-60 games long) 62 shutouts, and a lifetime GAA of 2.53. He won or shared 3 Vezina trophies back when the award was given to the goalie with the fewest goals against – a truly amazing accomplishment considering the Leafs of the 1940s were known more for their offensive production than for their defensive awareness.

It was in the playoffs where Turk’s star shone the brightest. With 5 Stanley Cup rings, he is without doubt one of if not the greatest money goalies of all time. With 13 more playoff shutouts and GAA under 2.00, Turk Broda was simply a phenomenal post-season puck stopper, which was necessary for the Leafs dynastic teams of the 1940s.

Turk retired in 1952 as he approached the age of 38. He became a junior coach and led the Toronto Marlboros to back to back Memorial Cup championships in 1955-56. He would be welcomed into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967, but passed away just 7 years later at the early age of 58.

Source: Greatest Hockey Legends.Com

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Joseph Howe (1804 – 1873)

Nova Scotian par excellence, and Champion of a free press in Canada.


Joseph Howe (1804 - 1873) .The Nova Scotian patriot par excellence, Howe could use his oratorical powers to influence his compatriots as no other man has ever done
Joseph Howe (1804 – 1873) .The Nova Scotian patriot par excellence, Howe could use his oratorical powers to influence his compatriots as no other man has ever done

“When I sit down in solitude to the labours of my profession, the only questions I ask myself are, What is right? What is Just? What is for the public good?” ~ Joseph Howe.

Joseph Howe, journalist, politician, premier and lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia (b at Halifax 13 Dec 1804; d there 1 June 1873). Taking over the Novascotian in 1828, Howe quickly made it the leading provincial newspaper. Originally defending the political status quo, he gradually became convinced through personal experience that serious ills abounded throughout the government. Charged with criminal libel in 1835 for criticizing local government officials, he was acquitted in the province’s most celebrated trial. He entered politics in 1836 and was primarily responsible for the election of a majority of Reformers (Liberals). A conservative Reformer, he entered a coalition with the Tories in 1840, hoping to achieve his aims step-by-step. Having failed, he prepared the way for the Reformers’ success in the election of 1847. As a result, Nova Scotia securred responsible government by 1848, the first colony to do so, and Howe could boast that it had been done without “a blow struck or a pane of glass broken.”

Seeking to rise above “the muddy pool of politics,” he tried unsuccessfully to arrange the building of the Halifax-to-Québec Railway. As chief commissioner, he began the Nova Scotia Railway in 1854, however, and saw completion of the lines from Halifax to Windsor and Truro. Devoted to Britain, he recruited forces in the US in 1855 for the Crimean War, one outcome of which was a rupture with the Catholics and the defeat of the Reformers in 1857. Following the Liberal victory of 1859, he was premier 1860-63 and imperial fishery commissioner 1863-66 under the ReciprocityTreaty of 1854. Between 1866 and 1868 he led the movement against Confederationon the grounds that it was being effected without popular consent and that it conflicted with his plans for the organization of the British Empire. Although overwhelmingly successful in the provincial elections of 1867, as a delegate to Britain in 1866-67 he could not prevent passage of the British North America Act, or, a year later, secure its repeal. Having no further means of opposition he entered the federal Cabinet in January 1869. In a celebrated midwinter by-election from which his health was so impaired that he never fully recovered. As a federal minister, he played a prominent role in bringing Manitoba into the union. Becoming lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 1873, he served only 3 weeks before his death.

Despite his failings, many consider Howe to have been the greatest of all Nova Scotians. The Nova Scotian patriot par excellence, he could use his oratorical powers to influence his compatriots as no other man has ever done. He sought, in his own words, to elevate them to “something more en[n]obling, exacting and inspiring, calculated to enlarge the borders of their intelligence, and increase the extent and area of their prosperity.”

Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia


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CC1 and CC2 — British Columbia’s Submarine Fleet

In commemoration of the start of WWI, August 4, 1914.

By Starr J. Sinton, Museum volunteer, CFB Esquimalt Museum.

Just days before the outbreak of World War One, in the summer of 1914, British Columbia was offered a unique chance to make a substantial contribution to the defence of Canada’s vulnerable West Coast.

CC1 and CC2 in port at Esquimalt, British Columbia.
CC1 and CC2 in port at Esquimalt, British Columbia.

On the same day war was declared – 4 August, 1914 – Sir Richard McBride, Premier of BC, gambled his political future on a daring plan. The scheme was to spirit away two newly constructed submarines, originally intended for the Chilean Navy, in complete secrecy and under cover of darkness from Seattle, Washington.

Not only was this a violation of US neutrality, but the Premier risked over a million dollars of provincial funds to obtain the much-needed vessels for defence of the West Coast.

When war broke out, Canada’s West Coast found itself nearly defenceless. Great Britain immediately concentrated its great fleet in European waters for the struggle against Germany, leaving the northern Pacific largely to the protection of its ally Japan. Only one Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) ship lay in harbour at the RCN’s only West Coast base, Esquimalt, BC: the ageing cruiserHMCS Rainbow.

At least one, and probably two, modern German cruisers were off the West Coast of Mexico. The cruisers were in a position to threaten British sea lanes in the Pacific, attack Nanaimo’s coal mines, shell Vancouver or Victoria with their long-range guns, or even destroy BC’s fishing fleet.

With a declaration of war less than a week away, fate took a hand in the person of Mr. J. V. Paterson, president of the Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, who was in Victoria on business. At Victoria’s Union Club, Mr. Paterson mentioned two submarines his company had just finished and the troubles he was having with the Chilean government over payment. Soon he was offering the two submarines to Canada, at an almost 50 per cent increase in price over the previous deal brokered with Chile.

BC’s premier Sir Richard McBride was soon informed. An avalanche of telegrams ensued, involving Victoria, Ottawa, and London, but little could be accomplished in the few days remaining before the imminent outbreak of war and a resulting American embargo on the provision of war materials to combatants. In this crisis, McBride took a courageous decision to use provincial funds to get possession of the much-needed submarines before it was too late. On his own initiative he decided to advance the purchase price demanded, just over $1.1 million. This was an enormous sum, twice the annual budget for the entire RCN for 1913-1914.

On the day war was declared, Captain W. H. Logan, a surveyor for the London Salvage Association, was in Seattle to negotiate a deal, but the price remained firm, and an additional obstacle arose: payment must be cash on delivery. With no time left, Premier McBride by telephone promised a BC Treasury cheque would be waiting at the border at dawn the next day.

CC1 in her slip at Esquimalt, British Columbia
CC1 in her slip at Esquimalt, British Columbia

Accordingly, at 10 pm that night, the two submarines, with both Captain Logan and Mr. Paterson aboard, put off silently through the fog and mist of Seattle harbour for a secret rendezvous off Trial Island at daybreak the next morning. Complete secrecy was essential; both the Chilean and German governments would do all in their power to stop the sale of the submarines to Canada.

BC’s representatives, in the steamer Salvor, were at the rendezvous point at dawn when the two submarines emerged from the mist. No time was wasted in beginning the agreed hour-long inspection of the boats, but since the Chileans had earlier complained about weight and endurance issues, the investigation lasted four hours. Captain Logan spent these hours combing the horizon for US Navy patrol vessels, while Mr. Paterson paced the deck nervously. If intercepted, the Seattle shipyard executive would have had a great deal of explaining to do, since he had taken the submarines out of port without any clearances and delivered them to a combatant power in violation of American neutrality.

After four suspenseful hours, the cheque was handed over to a greatly relieved Mr. Paterson and the White Ensign was raised over British Columbia’s new naval vessels, which proceeded at speed towards Esquimalt.

Even safely within Canadian territorial waters, however, the drama of the day was not yet over. Amidst all the haste and secrecy, only the Navy’s Dockyard was aware that two warships would be arriving in Victoria Harbour. Seeing two submarines approaching Victoria on the second day of war, a picket boat sounded its siren and raced into harbour, under the protective guns of the Army’s Coastal Artillery. Fortunately, the shore batteries contacted the dockyard before giving the order to open fire, and the two submarines proceeded safely to their new home at Esquimalt.

The two vessels were informally christened the McBride and the Paterson. They were taken over by the Government of Canada two days later and renamed, rather more anonymously, CC-1 and CC-2. Premier McBride soon received reimbursement for the provincial funds advanced for the purchase, and Mr. Paterson received a personal commission of $40,000 on the unorthodox sale of the RCN’s first submarines.

In a resulting enquiry into the purchase, Commissioner the Hon. Sir Charles Davidson, in his 1917 report, completely upheld McBride’s decision, and concluded:

What Sir Richard McBride did in those days of great anxiety, even distress, and what he accomplished deserves the commendation of his fellow countrymen. For his motives were those of patriotism; and his conduct that of an honourable man.

Royal Canadian Navy service

The ship was assigned to the west coast in the home port of Esquimalt, British Columbia, and conducted training operations and patrols for three years. Together with HMCS Rainbow, CC-1 and CC-2 were the only Canadian or British ships defending the west coast of Canada between 1914 and 1917. Britain had tasked the defence of British Columbia to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s North American Task Force. In 1917 the submarine was transferred to the east coast. The

The White Ensign.
The White Ensign.

transfer to the east coast was for both submarines of this class, with their mother ship, the submarine tender HMCS Shearwater. Its transit through the Panama Canal was the first time a Canadian warship transitted the Panama Canal under the White Ensign. It arrived in Halifax for preparation to send the two subs to the Mediterranean and Europe. Deemed unsafe for transatlantic crossing, the submarine was held in Halifax as a Training Assistance Boat.[6] Her veteran crew were highly valued but were not able to conduct any other operations than training. Her continued use was too expensive, and her unseaworthiness resulted in her being paid off, and disposed of in 1920.


Visit my other blog, too: i.e. “Stop the Bull”

It is a lively, no-holds-barred commentary of whatever is current — Ontario’s hydro rates, Auto insurance, Bank and Visa charges, etc. Here’s an example:

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