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Who remembers those old Maple Leaf Bee Hive photos?

It’s been a while since I had this particular flashback.  But I was on my way through the small town (now part of Mississauga, just west of Toronto) of Port Credit this week to get to the studio for the enjoyable task of co-hosting the “Leaf Matters” podcast.  (By the way, Episode 29 is now up on ITunes and Podalmighty.) I had been down the old Lakeshore Road many times before, but on this occasion, something caught my eye. 

I was suddenly looking to my right, as if by instinct.  I think it was just after I had crossed Highway 10 (Hurontario Street).  What should have been the old St. Lawrence Corn Starch plant (and the tiny reddish/brownish brick building that I always assumed was the company ‘Head Office”) was, of course, no longer in existence—replaced by what seem to be very modern-looking buildings— condominiums and related housing and offices.

It’s all part of progress, of course.  But I’ll always remember visiting my older sister back in the late 1960s (she lived in Clarkson or Port Credit, I believe it was) and being driven by the buildings that were part of the old St. Lawrence company.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that was almost as excited as I was the first time I walked into Maple Leaf Gardens as an 11 year old during the 1964-’65 NHL season (Ronnie Ellis’ first season, as I recall). 

Why does this matter at all, you may well wonder?  Well, that company mattered to me as a young hockey fan because they were the ones that produced those great old black and white “Bee Hive” photos and who gave them away to those of us who sent in a box top from one of their St. Lawrence family of products.  It could be their corn starch or whatever, but for me, it was about convincing my parents, who made precious little income as it was in those days, to buy something they didn’t need very often (Bee Hive Corn Syrup).  I needed their help because they made the purchase and I would then collect the (purple and yellow?) circular “ring” that sat between the top of the syrup can and the twist-off top.  That was the “golden ticket” for kids like me.  Every one of those "tops" would net you a picture of a Leaf, Hab, Bruin or a player from one of the other "Original Six" teams.

Goodness, I collected so many of those old photos.  I have almost none any more, but what joy they brought.  Every time I could cobble together two or three of those Bee Hive mail-in tops, I would mail them in, and for a couple of weeks, anxiously await the arrival of those light brown, mid-size (larger than regular size) envelopes with those classic “posed” player photos inside.

You know what was also great?  The envelope had my name—and my address—on the front.  How great it was to get “personal” mail as a youngster (at least mail with my name on it!).  In the upper left-hand corner, there was a mimeograph photo of the St. Lawrence Corn starch facility in Port Credit, and of course the company’s return address.

For me, receiving that envelope was just about the height of excitement in the early and mid-1960s.  I was born in 1953 so I was in my hockey-collecting "kid" prime in that era.  I would dutifully write out, long hand, my letter to the company each time, respectfully asking for the pictures of certain players.  Once I had collected all my favourite Leafs, I went on to certain Hab player and of course big names like Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. (The Howe photo on the left is from the classic woodgrain Bee Hive series in the early-mid 60s.) As I recall, for regulars like myself, the company would forward a checklist that was pretty useful as you collected more and more photos.

At one point in my life, years ago when I was a lot more involved in collecting (I still enjoy it, but don’t find the time for it as much these days), I had a better sense of the history of the Bee Hive photos.  I broadly know that there were maybe two or three different types of Bee Hive pictures over the years, depending on what time period you were collecting during the 1950s and ‘60s. (I think this promotion stopped when the fledgling NHL Players Association demanded financial compensation from the company…)

My older brothers had their own original Bee Hive pictures from the 1950s—mostly Habs, of course—because they were ardent and very passionate (like my father) Montreal supporters.  I remember because I slept under the pictures—displayed on the wall in my and my brother's tiny (and I do mean tiny) bedroom.  Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore and Boom Boom Geoffrion were in the frame the boys had set up, along with the legendary goaltender, Jacques Plante. (I "inherited" the Donnie Marshall Bee Hive photo on the right, an older and different style of photo from the Howe picture above.  Marshall was a fine NHL'er, who played more than 20 years in the NHL, including a season in the early '70s with the Leafs.  As a rebellious Leaf fan, I was not exactly first in line for the pictures of all the Hall-of-Fame Hab greats...)

Those Canadiens were some of the finest players ever in the history of our great sport.

As I have written here before, I grew up hating the Habs and loving the Leafs, despite the family influence.  But despite my Leaf leanings, my Dad did everything he could to “enable” my hockey collecting addiction.  No family ever needed as much corn syrup as we bought, I'm sure.  Believe me when I say we had very little money.  But for me, the “baby” of the family, getting a 5-cent pack of hockey cards or buying a can of syrup (that you didn’t really need) was something they did because, well, they loved me, eh?

Having had four (now grown) sons of my own, I’ve tried to pass that along, when our guys were little and wanted something that they just had to have.  (I was particularly an easy mark if it had to do with sports and collecting…)

In any event, I’ve never forgotten those Bee Hive photos.  They were a part of my life as a kid.  Keon, Mahovlich, Horton, Bower, Sawchuk.  Received them all—in the mail, with my name on the envelope.  It was so, so cool.

I’ve written here before about one of my earliest favourite Leafs, a goalie by the name of Eddie Chadwick.  Probably before I was even a Leaf fan, my older brothers (the boys must have run out of Habs they wanted to collect) had sent away for his picture.  He thus became one of the first Maple Leaf names that was imprinted in my hockey memory bank. It’s still there, after all these years. (The Chadwick photo at left may have been one of his Bee-Hive photos, but we had a different one when I was a kid.  This one is from an old magazine, but was a promo photo for the Bee Hive offer.)

Those were certainly golden times as a youngster, and as a hockey fan in Canada.

I wonder if some of you had a similar experience with those old Maple Leaf (or other teams, too, of course) Bee Hive photos?



    Is that the one?

  2. That's the one, DP. What fond memories that brings back. Thanks!

  3. Hi Michael,
    I remember those beehive cards very well! My favorite were Esso's Power Player in 70 or 71.
    I used to play hockey for Applewood and we would go to Port Credit arena a few times a year. I also remember playing in the old Dixie Arena. That place had a great vibe! Brampton had an old tractor dragging the ice-scraping equipment around the rink.
    But, changing the subject (as I don't know how to contact you directly): What do you think of an NHL team in Markham? I remember the old WHA Toronto Toros. I believe that they had some great players (including Paul Henderson), but they packed up and moved to Birmingham. I used to go to school with John Basset's son. He gave me a great Toro's jersey! But my point is that the old Toros weren't supported. Why would TO fans support Markham?
    Cheers, Mike

  4. Yes, that Esso Power Play promotion was fantastic, too, Mike. I was older then but still collected that album and those tiny little photos!

    Port Credit had a great feel to it, and while I wasn't from the area, I did later live there for a short period of time. Even as an adult, I loved going by the old St. Lawrence facility. Long gone now, I see.

    As for Markham, I have mixed feelings. I have followed the Leafs for more than 55 years. My interest is in and with the Leaf heritage, so I have little personal interest in a new franchise. But if people want it, sure.

    I well remember the Toros but as you say, they received, as I recall, only modest support. Different time, of course, so who knows about Markham?

    Thanks Mike- by the way, I think, on this newly-designed VLM site, there is a button to reach me via e-mail. I'm still figuring it out myself...

    1. Interesting comparison with the Toros. There were a few things, in my mind, that stopped the new kids from getting a foothold in the hearts and minds of Toronto. I believe loyalties were much stronger in the 70's. People simply loved "their" team, which of course was the Leafs (a loyalty that was passed down from mother/father/grandparents). Not so much anymore. Also, the Leafs were not yet the "Laffs" of the 80's having just won numerous cups in the '60's. Perhaps the larger issue facing the Toro's was the perceived instability of the WHL (why commit to something that might disappear tomorrow). Also they lacked their own building. Harold Ballard did some spiteful (and hilarious) things (as landlord of MLG) to make sure they weren't a success. It's worth reading up sometime.

  5. Thanks David. I lived in Toronto during that period, and agree, Ballard did what he could as the "landlord" of Maple Leaf Gardens to make it tough on the Toros, who had plenty of talent- including a number of ex-Leafs like the Big M, Dorey, Henderson, etc. (I remember going to Toro games at the Gardens, but before that, also at the old Varsity Arena, when the Toros first came to town- that's where the U of T Blues played some great hockey at the time...)

    I agree times have changed, and local fans may not be as single-minded in their hockey loyalties as they were in the '70s. I would have preferred Hamilton get their shot, but I guess that won't be happening.

    1. Ah of course, varsity stadium! I'd forgotten they played games there. Great "cold" rink whether for playing or writing exams in (while at UofT).

      I am a traditionalist and would prefer but a single team here in Toronto, but if it must come (and I assume it will), I am going to equate it to the Dodger-Giants rivalry before the teams moved west.

  6. Yes, David, I too recall writing exams while I was at U of T at wonderful old Varsity Arena in the early-mid '70s. (Nothing like a good mid-term exam on a cold, damp Toronto morning, eh?)

    I've posted here in the past regarding my personal preference for maintaining only one team in Toronto. (I'd be good with Kitchener or Hamilton.) But it's a new day and I'm guessing it is only a matter of time. And again, if people want it, great.

    The Dodgers and Giants moved their rivalry from New York to the West coast and it survived. We'll see how long it takes for the Leafs to develop a legitimate rivalry with a new franchise. The Sabres became a pretty nice rival right off the bat in 1970...

  7. Hi Michael
    I also remember collecting photos and a Tod Sloan ring in 50's, although never in volume that you must have had. What struck me as I read this post, is where did all these collectibles disappear, and where are they now?

    In my case, with the exception of myself, my family moved to Florida in 1964. It was my mother's contention that stuff like that was moved from Ontario and got placed in the attic. When they moved many years later, they apparently forgot these were in the attic. So the mystery remains - did they ever leave Canada, are they still in attic in Delray Beach, or did eventual homeowners throw them out?

    Note: Next door Neighbour in Delray Beach, was Wayne Huizenga who had two garbage trucks on way to Waste Management, Blockbuster, Dolphins ownership. Somewhere in memory, did he not own Florida Panthers?

    As per Markham/Hamilton, both places where I have lived, I am against any expansion. In fact, as we have discussed before, For product quality reasons moving to 24 teams would be the best direction.

  8. Sloan is a great old Leaf name, Ralph (RLMcC). And a Cup winner with the Hawks in his last season in 1960-'61, as I recall.

    Mothers, eh? How many wonderful old collectibles went the way of the do-do bird because of mothers! (What you don't want to hear is that the new house owners in Toronto or Florida found the collectibles and made a fortune off them!)

    I'm sure someone will know if Huizenga also owned the Panthers. I'm drawing a blank.

    And Ralph, could we have a 24-team league with a franchise in Hamilton? (As you know, I'm with you, fewer franchises would make for much better hockey....)

    Thanks for visiting today, RLMcC.

  9. Michael
    I have three new (probably dried out) Pierre Mondou hockey sticks in garage here in Georgia. Any value? These sticks are straight, no curve - great for passing, backhands and wrist shots. Something that maybe Leafs (Phaneuf?) could use. Tim Horton probably achieved the highest noise off the boards ever, but it is where you put the puck, not how fast it goes. I have always questioned the value of the slap shot unless it is low for deflections.

  10. Mondou was a nice player with the Habs in the '80s. Those sticks would have some value, I'm sure, RLMcC.

    I'm with you on the slapshot: it's location, not just speed. I remember Hockey Night in Canada, in the early 1960s, making a deal out of Horton supposedly having a shot that was "timed" (using that olden-days technology) at 100 miles per hour. Bill Hewitt played it up a bit, as I recall. And yes, Dion could use a stick that keeps that booming shot low - where teammates can actually do something with it!

  11. I loved going out to get gas with Dad so I could pick up new pics for my Esso Power Play collection (still have it in a box somewhere :). I'm guessing the BeeHive promotion must have ended before the 70's, or I would have been all over that (since I remember the yellow bottles of their corn syrup in our cupboards as a youth). These collectibles are a great way for kids to bond with their parents with a common interest.

    The Chadwick promo shot with the prominent wooden goal stick brought back the memory of why I was given a net, mask and goal stick as gifts...

    I think I proved my interest in said activity when I took a length of 1 x 4 and cut it with a handsaw to create the narrow part of a goal stick, sanded it to avoid splinters, then cut a blade that I fastened with multiple nails to the shaft then taped up with electrical tape... after a few games it started falling apart and I would do just about anything I could think of to get it back to a functional state... it lasted me over a year of street hockey games ('til my parents realized it was probably costing more in materials to keep that stick together than a new (real) stick would cost). Pretty funny when you think back on that from an adult perspective.

    I like the new website design and only miss the Maple Leaf Blue - it'd be great if you could add a blue border with the tweaks that are still happening. I think a box at the top of the left column could alert everyone to the latest (then archived) Leaf Matters podcast topic/links, so that people could check that out when they have more time than needed to read the articles. If the article is related to the podcast, then it might be helpful to also insert the link at the end of the article. I find that when it is at the start, I get the feeling that 'I don't have time right now' (and even though I know what you write afterward will be interesting) I wonder if casual readers may not just leave without realizing there is an article there, too.

    Just a thought that crossed my mind multiple times in the past, so felt I should mention it. Hope it may be of some use to have said so!

  12. Bonding with our parents was often a huge part of what made collecting fun, for sure, InTimeFor62. How ingenious that you were able to concoct your own goalie stick!

    I fondly remember pond hockey and the occasional road hockey game in my youth, too. Sticks were expensive, so no attempts a "slapshots" for me.

    Thanks for your suggestions regarding the new-look site. I will pass them along (I am technically, well, not good...).

  13. Michael
    Reading this blog entry brought back lots of memories of collecting Leafs pictures but I did not remember the Bee Hive connection. Fortunately my mother also saved my pictures that I had taped to my bedroom wall so I decided to check my "Memory Box" I have stored in the basement.
    My pictures came from Quick Quaker Oats. With one box top and 5 cents I could get 2 pictures of selected Maple Leafs or Canadiens. I think I collected these when I was about 9 or 10 years old so that would be 1950-51.
    The pictures are a little the worse for wear now having also survived a flooded basement a few years ago but include the following:
    John McCormack,Bill Barilko, Ray Timgren, Howie Meeker, Ted Kennedy (2 pics including one holding the Stanley Cup in 1951 I bet), Joe Klukay, Bill Juzda, Cal Gardner, Max Bentley, Turk Broda, Al Rollins, Fleming Mackell, Gus Mortson, Harry Watson & Danny Lewicki. How's that for a few names from the past?
    What really tees me off though is I don't seem to have my pictures of Tod Sloan and Sid Smith. I'll have to check elsewhere to find them!
    I also have pictures of Elmer Lach, Gerry McNeil and Floyd Curry of the Canadiens. I can't remember why I have them unless I ordered them for my brother who was (and still is but is otherwise a nice person) a Montreal fan.
    Great memories for sure - thanks for the post and the impetus to go check the Memory Box!

  14. By the way, I think Ray Timgren was a Windsor boy.

  15. Isn't it great, Ed, when something triggers a memory, or nudges us to check out some old time collectible?

    Those old Quaker Oats photos represent an honour roll of well-known Leafs of yesteryear. Leaf fans all know about Barilko, but those other players were all important parts of the Maple Leaf heritage, too.

    Your brother can be forgiven- I come from a long line of irredeemable Hab fans myself Ed!

  16. I went out for dinner and to the catch the first period of the Winnipeg Jets game. I mentioned Bill Chadwick and Bee Hive over dinner and got a great story.

    A friend of mine who grew up in Western Canada told a story of the various sizes of Bee Hive products. I hope I am telling this right, but the bottle got you one player but the larger can was good for three or five players. Back in those days, little boys would peel the label off the top of the can inside the store and stick it to their bellies underneath their t-shits...thus stealing it from the stores so that they could get extra players.

  17. That story could indeed be accurate, DP. It may well have been that certain products came with an "label" that could be mailed in for for more photos. I can't remember but it sounds right!