Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

The Magazine Of Queen's University

Search form

The George Richardson Stadium: reprint from the 1971 Queen's Review

The George Richardson Stadium: reprint from the 1971 Queen's Review

[Richardson Stadium]

Originally published in the Queen’s Alumni Review, January-February 1971.

The George Richardson Memorial Stadium will soon be relocated. The demolition squad has started to tear down the original stadium which has served the University and the students and the alumni and the community so well since 1921.

The Stadium will be transplanted this year to the West Campus. Much of the old structure will be salvaged, but, more important, the name of Richardson will be perpetuated.

The Stadium was the gift of the late Chancellor James Richardson in memory of his brother, George Taylor Richardson, killed in action in 1916. A graduate of 1906 with a B.Sc. degree, George Richardson was an outstanding athlete, and as a student starred for Queen's in hockey and football. In the latter sport he scored eight touchdowns, and was the leader in this respect until the arrival of Ron Stewart nearly fifty years later. His name was synonymous with good sportsmanship, and D. D. Calvin in his history of Queen's said: "His death was a very gieat loss, not only to Queen's University but to all Canada."

The bronze tablet* erected on the wall of the Grandstand bears the following inscription:

Desiring to put on record in this Stadium, erected by his brother in his memory, the great love and honour in which they held him, the former comrades of Captain George T. Richardson, in the field of sport and in the field of war, have set up this tablet as a memorial to his love of truth, his chivalrous honour, and the high courage and devotion which filled his life and led him to his death, with the hope that in all who here contend in manly exercises his spirit may endure.

*The Tablet will be moved to the new Stadium.

No more fitting memorial could have been found. Queen's teams were playing at the Old Athletic Grounds, at the head of Earl St., which had an uneven playing surface, a broken board fence, and an antiquated wooden grandstand seating only a few hundred.

The Principal's Report for 1921-22 stated: "The session just past has been an eventful one at Queen's University. It has marked the opening of the splendid gift, the George Richardson Memorial Stadium, which gives to the University one of the best playing fields on the continent."

The opening ceremony was held on Saturday morning, October 8, 1921, when Mr. James Richardson handed over the keys to Prof. C. W. Drury, chairman of the Athletic Board of Control. In the afternoon Queen's faced Toronto, a team they hadn't been able to defeat since 1908, and before a hysterical crowd of 3,500 won a thrilling victory 9-5.

Honour for the first touchdown to be scored in the new Stadium went to Bill "Doc" Campbell. The Journal reported: "Campbell gathered in a blocked kick of Harding's and, shaking off three Varsity tacklers, ran fifty yards for a touchdown between the posts." This was such a significant achievement that the Principal, Dr. R. Bruce Taylor, sent a letter of commendation to the hero of the day.

Bill Campbell, along with some other of his teammates including Frank Leadlay, Johnny Evans, Red McKelvey, Dave Harding, Curly Lewis, and a year later, Harry Batstone, went on to write new records in the sports annals of the University. The Tricolour narrowly lost the Intercollegiate championship to Toronto in 1921, and then went on to win four successive college titles and three Dominion championships. In 1922 Queen's won the Grey Cup in the Richardson Stadium, defeating the Edmonton Elks 13-1, and became national champions for the first time.

All told Queen's won the Yates Cup, emblematic of the Intercollegiate championship, seventeen times in the half century of the Stadium, a record that looks even better when it is considered no football was played during the war years. There were good years and bad years,of course, but always the student body rallied solidly behind their team. A good deal of the famed "Queen's spirit" was kindled at these football games. Guarding the goal posts against expected invaders from other colleges the night before the game became an integral part of student life, even if the promised invasion seldom materialized.

Win or lose, there were heroes. Frank Leadlay and Harry Batstone brought their own brand of magic to the gridiron, flashing skills that won them both a niche in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Almost every era produced a highlight that will live evergreen in the memories of the fans who were privileged to be on hand: the day Queen's beat McGill 19-3 and Pep Leadlay scored every point - four field goals, one touchdown, and convert, and one rouge .... the game Pee Wee Chantler, the last man between Varsity's Trimble and the winning touchdown, stopped his man with a diving tackle . . . . the consistent play of Harry Batstone, generally recognized as the master strategist . . . . the ferocious and deadly tackling of Bud Thomas and Liz Walker .... the lofty punts of Howie Carter . . . . the Fearless Fourteen who won a title despite decimated ranks . . . . the sterling play of Harry Sonshine, Bernie Thornton, Johnny Munro, Doug Annan, Ed Barnabe and others of that era . . . . The only team that went unbeaten and unscored on, captained by George Carson - it didn't play because World War Two washed out the league.

Speaking of washouts, there was the memorable day in 1937 Queen's played Varsity in the driving rain. At 12 noon there was twenty-six inches of water at the south end of the field and it was considered inadvisable to play the game. However, emergency sewers were opened, pumping engines from the Kingston Fire Department were brought into use, and most of the water was drained off by game time. There was only one fumble under these atrocious conditions. The final score: Queen's, 3, Varsity, 0. Johnny Munro kicked three singles.

Came the Frank Tindall era. For a time it appeared that Queen's was destined never to win another championship. There were players of the ilk of Harry Lampman, Tip Logan, Jim Charters, Al Lenard, Pete Salari, Ross McKelvey, but there weren't enough of them. Then along came Gary Lewis, Ron Stewart, Gary Schreider, Lou Bruce. Stewart and Schreider, the touchdown twins, revived memories of Leadlay-Batstone, and wrote some history of their own, including the first championship in eighteen years.

The thrills were many . . . . Stewart and Schreider running the ends . . . . Jack Cooke almost making an impossible catch on the goal-line in a play that would have been hard to believe even if it had come off . . . . Gary Lewis consistently blocking two men out of the play. Varsity coach Bob Masterton had a special play designed for use only for those infrequent occasions Lewis was taking a breather . . .. Jocko Thompson booting those long ones down the field, and the day he kicked the placement in the dying seconds of the game that gave Queen's a playoff win over Varsity.

The Golden Sixties: the Gaels won the Yates Cup five times, and in the other five years were in second-place. . . . Terry Porter, Dave Skene, Gary Strickler . . . . Cal Connor throwing those long bombs .... Bayne Norrie making those heads-up plays . . . . Jim Young, again and again pulling off a sensational run, and the time he ran full out to catch on his finger-tips a ball thrown apparently ten yards over his head and beyond his reach . . . . Don Bayne maturing as a first-class quarterback . . . . Heino Lilles making those patented bursts through the line . . Keith Eaman writing his name into the all-star records.

The coaches have not been many. First there was George Awrey, followed by W.P. Hughes, Orrin Carson, Harry Batstone, Milton Burt. Then came Teddy Reeve who brought his own humorous brand of legerdemain and around whom revolve some of the best anecdotes when the old jocks gather and swap reminiscences. Teddy was followed by Frank Tindall, the Pied Piper of Poplar Grove, who attracts good players by his reputation and personality and who gets more out of his men than they knew they had in them and who remain his friends for life. Frank has just completed his twenty-fourth year as head football and basketball coach and is still going strong.And then there were the men who worked so hard in the background: the trainers, Billy Hughes, Jimmy Bews. Senator Powell, Stu Langdon, TabbyGow; Len Ede on equipment, Dutch Dougall on the grounds. They all made their own colourful contribution.

Colour there was, by the wagon-load. The procession of bear mascots, named "Boo-Hoo" - there was even a march composed for the piano entitled "The Mascot," and dedicated to one of the early Boo-Hoos. Those beautiful drum majorettes: the pulchitrudinous Marj MacGregor, the pride of the campus; the beauteous Tance Alcock, the sexy Dyer girls, Peggy and Sandy, Joan Murphy, and a long and proliferating line of successors.

Peculiar to Queen's was the one and only Alfie Pierce who served the University and the athletes for more than half a century. Alfie's connection with Queen's went back to the days of his idol, the legendary Guy Curtis. and he lived to become a legend himself. When he died, in 1951, something irreplaceable was lost. Certainly nothing could take the place of the pre-game ritual when Alfie, resplendent in his tricoloured togs, tossed the football to the captain leading the Queen's tea m on to the field. Escorted by a couple of comely cheerleaders - he crossed to the student section. The yell: "What's the matter with Alfie?" "He's all right!" "Who's all right?" "Alfie!" "Who says so?" "Everybody!" "Who's everybody?" and the answer came thundering back in the form of the Gaelic war cry as Alfie acknowledged the ovation vibrating his shako at arm's length. No doubt Alfie had a closer physical connection with the Stadium than anyone else - it was his home during the summer months.

The Queen's bands were developed in the shadow of the Stadium. The pipe band was originally a small group of enthusiasts, largely recruited from the city, led by an innkeeper and a high school teacher, and with only a token representation of students. It has matured into a student institution and makes its fierce music resound around the campus glens. The brass band, in the beginning a dozen or so dauntless musicians, dressed in white ducks, tricolour sweaters, and Queen's tams, later accoutred in tricoloured capes and uniforms, into a three-score-member band in full Highland dress, and a joy to behold.

While football dominated the Stadium other athletes made good use of it. The track and field team practised there and Intercollegiate meets were held there. Such champions as Bobby Thompson, half-miler, Stan Trenouth, three-miler, Abe Zvonkin, javelin, and' many others developed and displayed their skills. At one time Jim Courtright, who represented Canada in the Olympics and was the British Empire champion in his specialty, the javelin, and Bill Fritz, another member of the Olympic team and one of the world's top quarter-milers, were on the same squad. One winter Bill Fritz won such outstanding invitational meets as the Hollis 600 in Boston and the Buermeyer 500 in New York, and the only outdoor training he could get was on paths shovelled by his friends in the Stadium snow.

On occasion the Stadium was used for Special Convocations. In 1938 the eyes of the world were focussed on Queen's when Franklin Delano Roosevelt received an LL.D. degree, and the crowd of 5,000 was thrilled to hear the President utter the historic words: "I give to you assurance that the people of the United States will not stand idly by if domination of Canadian soil is threatened by any other Empire."

In 1946 Viscount Alexander of Tunis, Governor-General of Canada, received an LL.D. degree before a large crowd which included 900 student veterans. The ceremony took place during the Centennial celebrations of the City of Kingston as a corporate city. On Sunday, June 28, 1959, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made a twenty-minute stop at the Stadium where they were greeted by Queen's Principal W. A. Mackintosh and Mrs. Mackintosh. On hand, as well, were representatives of the Kingston Boy Scout, Girl Guide, Brownie and Cub troops as well as various ethnic groups in national costume.

The Stadium was also a community asset and provided a setting for religious rallies, military tattoos, baseball, high school games, and a wide spectrum of activities such as donkey baseball and other esoteric ventures.

The Richardson Stadium enters a new phase, but happy memories of its early contribution to the Queen's scene will remain green in the minds of thousands of her graduates. If ever a memorial fulfilled the purpose for which it was intended it was Richardson Stadium "with the hope that in all who here contend in manly exercises his spirit may endure."

[cover of Queen's Review 2015-1]