Custom Search

Remembering my own personal Bee Hive mania as a Leaf fan in the '60s

Like countless other Leaf fans, and I’m sure hockey fans in general across the country, one of the great joys in the early-to mid-1960’s was the opportunity to collect “Bee Hive” hockey photos.

Worth noting is the fact that, before I ever sent away for my first photos, I actually knew a little something about “Bee Hive” pictures in the first place.

You see, hanging on the bedroom wall, above my bed, from the time I can remember, was a gallery of Montreal Canadiens greats, in their classic, posed Bee-Hive photos.  Simply but nicely framed by one of my older brothers, the photos were a constant reminder of my family’s hockey heritage, as part of the legion of  proud and passionate Montreal Canadiens fans.

To this day I have vivid memories of those particular photos from the 1950’s Bee Hive series- Henri Richard, “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante and defenseman Tom Johnson were the five that hung above me—each one a future Hall-of-Famer.

The family had other similar photos, they just weren’t hanging above my head as I fell asleep every night.  (It’s sometimes hard to believe that I became a Leaf fan, despite the rather overwhelming and yes, oppressive,  Montreal influence…)  Interestingly, the above list doesn’t even include other all-time greats such as Rocket Richard and Doug Harvey but  there was also a photo of rugged Bert Olmstead (at right), who of course went on to become a Maple Leaf—and a Hall-of-Famer, too.

Another of classic those photos has been passed down to me—a picture of a then very young Donnie Marshall, a fine player with the Canadiens (who was later included in the famous Plante for Gump Worsley deal between the Habs and the Rangers) who had more strong years with the Rangers before finishing up his career in Buffalo and Toronto.

Thus motivated by my older brothers and their collecting habits, in the early ‘60s, probably in 1964 or thereabouts, I started my own collection.  In those days, you would send in the little “ring top” from a Bee Hive corn syrup tin, and I can’t remember what exactly from the old Bee Hive Corn starch boxes.  (It was great promotion for the St. Lawrence Corn Starch company, located in Port Credit, Ontario, just west of Toronto.  As I understand it, though, the company discontinued this promotion when the fledgling players association wanted more money for participating in the photo shoots, probably around the time of expansion after 1967…)

Now, looking back, how much corn syrup does a family really need to use?  I never touched the stuff myself, I don’t think.  I assume it was used for something (baking?), but as the youngest of five kids (I was born well after everyone else…I assume I was an accident of sorts…) I had some pull with my mom, and my dad liked the fact that I was a huge hockey fan.  So somehow (bottom line, my parents were doing me a huge favour...) I collected enough off these labels to acquire quite a little Bee Hive collection- most of which is now long gone.  I’ve kept a couple, including a Gordie Howe photo from the '60s “wood grain” era.  (I've included the Howe picture below.)

Once in the late 1960s when I was visiting one of my older sisters (she lived in or near Port Credit at the time) with my parents, we drove by the St. Lawrence Corn Starch corporate office and factory in Port Credit.  I was so excited you would have thought I was driving by Maple Leaf Gardens for the first time.  This was where all those wonderful photos came from, I realized.

I guess it’s this simple:  When I was 10, 11 years old, it was one of the neatest feelings in the world to get something in the mail.  And our family didn’t exactly have “home delivery”.  Our rural mailbox was a few minutes up the road, an old-school mailbox which we shared with my uncle and his family.  (In the really old days, we got mail twice a day!)  But getting one of those yellow/brown mid-size St. Lawrence Corn Starch business envelopes was just so cool.  I used to keep the envelopes themselves, and the pictures (as simple as they were, with the wood-grain border look) were great—at least to me.

I collected as many Leafs as I could on the checklist the company provided, and then ventured off into players from other teams.  I would (stupidly, in terms of the modern day obsession with “mint condition” collectables) “mat” the photos—either glueing or using sticky tack on them so they would stay on a piece of cardboard.  Once my brother moved out of the room we shared, I would hang the pictures up and put a mark every time one of the Leafs I had a picture of—Mahovlich, Keon, Shack, etc.—scored a goal

It was a fun time, and I have such fond memories of that period in my life.  I have to believe there were thousands of other youngsters doing much the same thing in those memory-filled "olden days”…


No comments:

Post a Comment