Campbellton Tribune

Campbellton, New Brunswick: Hockeyville Forever

Senator Jim Munson

Imagine 50 years ago.

Imagine being 12 years old.

Imagine a small town where everybody knew your name.

That town was my town — Campbellton.

I think it’s fact, and not nostalgia, that 50 years ago bubble gum never tasted so good, Kik Cola never more refreshing, and Dulac and Hatfield potato chips never more addictive.
It was the 1950s and the radio show Cuckoo clock was on the air – “Be back next week and be sure to be there.”
And at the heart of my town and of these memories was Memorial Gardens, my Hockeyville.
The view from my home, at 5 Patterson Street, wasn’t so much of the mountain range across the river, but of Boudreau’s canteen where Madame Boudreau had everything in life that a 12 year old would want.
Childhood memories leave an indelible mark.  What does it mean when you can’t remember what you had for lunch, but you always remember your telephone number as a child — 32260 — or the numbers of the players of the Campbellton Tigers.
My life was centered on hockey.
With all due respect to my Scottish heritage, when you have a choice on Friday nights between trying to learn how to play the bagpipes with Alex Crowe or seeing the mighty Tigers, was there really a choice?
There was always Sea Cadets, but I didn’t know how to march.  But as Mini Munson, I could skate. Well, I thought I could skate.
I wasn’t going to be Jackie Parker or Carrots Vermette.  And I couldn’t shoot like Chief Berubé, but I think a big heart in a little body can go a long way.
CKNB was one of the few avenues to the world outside of Campbellton.  As a newspaper boy, delivering the Tribune, the Graphic, and the Telegraph-Journal, there would be other information highways which tweaked my youthful curiosity.  But that’s a story for another day.
This is a walk through my Campbellton, my Hockeyville.
After all, if you could make it through your paper route in winter and make it through the snow drifts to play hockey at the Academy rink or at the gardens, you were tough enough to be a north shore hockey player ….even if you only weighed about 100 pounds.
As I think about that time not so long, there is no better memory than Friday nights at the Gardens.
I was a rink rat.
I was also a mischievous rink rat.
Besides cleaning the ice, I seemed to end up at the canteen looking for food — free food.
I know that in another life I will never be forgiven for this, but when you’re 12 and you don’t know any better, why not have fun?
With Joyce Maisey serving hot dogs and the Tigers crowd gathered at the canteen, there I was, Mini Munson, reminding a few Roman Catholic neighbours about eating meat on Fridays.  In order to buy my silence, some would say, “Here’s a hot dog, now go away.”
The Tigers had just scored, in fact Buddy Helleyer had just scored, the hotdogs tasted great and all was well with the world.
My world was hockey, hockey, hockey and a couple of times hooky from school.
There are some things you just don’t tell your dad, especially when he is the United Church Minister.
Saturdays mornings were about playing minor hockey with Ron (Carrots) Vermette and George (Chief) Berubé.  In the afternoon, we played at the old outdoor Academy rink and not long after the street lights came on I knew it was time to head for my next door neighbour’s house, the Nadeaus.
The Nadeaus were a good family.  They were also one of the few families who had a television in Campbellton in the late 1950s
How can I ever forget the warm face of Mrs. Nadeau when she opened the door for a 12 year old hockey fanatic ready to watch his glorious Habs on her snowy black and white television set?
It didn’t matter.  When you get to see the Habs on CHAU, once again, all was well with the world.
But my first allegiance was for my beloved Tigers.  I saw the individual and team pictures at the local barber shop where I got my hair cut. Sometimes I would just stare.  What I would give to see my heroes again.
Campbellton in the winter, Campbellton in the 1950s, Campbellton where as a child’s life was good.
Even going to church on Sunday morning wasn’t that hard.  After all, dad would pull hum bugs from his vest pocket to keep his son quiet — a boy whose dreams would take him faraway from the hard pew in church to the next Friday night at the Memorial Gardens.
It doesn’t get much better than that.