It’s difficult to know how prominent it was back when I was a kid in the late 1950s and early ‘60s—I had a child’s perspective back then—but I kind of think that a fair number of young hockey fans bugged their dad to buy them hockey cards. It just seemed a natural thing if you were raised in an environment where there was a rooting interest in a particular team. (My family was devotedly pro-Montreal Canadiens, ugh.) Kids loved to open packs of cards, whatever they chose to do with the cards afterwards. In those days, kids would save and collect the cards, or play games with them, put them in bicycle spokes, whatever.
As I’ve discussed here before, I was raised in southwestern Ontario, in a small town across from Detroit. NHL fans in that region tended to be pulled in three very distinct directions: the “local” team was the Red Wings, of course, while there was a seemingly even (and remarkably passionate) divide between Leaf and Hab fans. The Wings in those days had some all-time greats like Gordie Howe and Terry Sawchuk, Norm Ullman, Bill Gadsby and Alex Delvecchio. The Canadiens had so many I can’t begin to list them all, but names like Richard, Plante, Harvey, Geoffrion and Beliveau only begin to tell the story.
Along the way lot of us young fans collected things. Hockey cards, as I mentioned above, but there were also Coca-Cola bottle tops with NHL players pictured, team calendars that you had to send away for (the 1962 Leaf calendar was the first NHL team calendar I was able to obtain as a child) along with magazines and all kinds of other unusual items. In those days we really did think in terms of having heroes, whether it was Zorro (a personal favourite) of TV lore or, if you were a young Leaf fan, perhaps a Davey Keon.
I don’t know how much this has all changed over the years. I know when our now grown sons were young in the late ‘80s through to early 2000s, they certainly had a card collecting interest and having things in “mint” condition was the buzzword of the day. It was all about “value”. It was still fun to help them collect and they (and I) really enjoyed it, but it was just different than when I was much younger.
But what I wanted to ask VLM readers today is—as we await real Leaf news to bat around—regardless of whether you “collected” anything in the ‘40s and ‘50s or much more recently, did you ever have an item that you really loved but somehow, somewhere along the way, you misplaced it and, well, you just never found it again?
For me, maybe the most frustrating loss was back in the early ‘60s when my older sister was working as a flight attendant. I was the youngest in the family and quite a bit younger than the others. My sister apparently sometimes worked on flights where NHL teams flew, and on this one occasion, she was able to obtain the autographs of all the players on the Leaf team at the time. This would have been around 1962 when the Leafs were champions, and names like Johnny Bower (right), Tim Horton, Allan Stanley, Dick Duff, Bob Pulford, Bobby Baun and George Armstrong were household names for any serious hockey fan.
I was thrilled, of course, and treasured that piece of paper. But somehow over the ensuing years, I couldn’t locate where I had put that small piece of paper with those classic, what would now be vintage, autographs. Setting value aside (I’m sure those autographs would be “worth” something) it would just be a nice piece of Maple Leaf history to still have.
That’s not my only memorabilia “loss”, but certainly one that stands out as I write this. What’s your story?