An Anecdotal Memoir
Charles Templeton Home
Brad Templeton Home
Brad's Photo Pages
In the summer of 1932 the four Toronto newspapers were housed only three blocks apart. The Star was on the north side of King Street, midway between Bay and York. The Mail and Empire was on the northwest corner of the intersection at Bay and King. One short block south, at Melinda, was the Telegram, and east on Melinda, at Yonge, was the Globe.
The sports department at the Globe was on the second floor at the end of a long row of telegraphers' stalls - the news was transmitted by Morse code; there were no Teletype machines. You took the broad staircase because the elevator was an ancient, wrought-iron contraption, subject to shuddering convulsions and unpredictable enough to give pause even to the intrepid.
The sports department was, in fact, no more than a large room. Five mismatched desks lined the south wall. The sports editor's office - a narrow, rectangular cubicle, made private by dimpled glass windows, occupied most of the wall opposite. Such open space as there was covered with worn, green linoleum and was usually ankle-deep with that litter once common to newsrooms but now, alas, gone.
One evening in late August, a homemade portfolio under my arm, I made my may to the sports department and stood in indecision in the doorway. I was seventeen. No one so much as looked up; everyone was busy at a typewriter or editing copy. After a while, I asked the man nearest the door, "Can you tell me where I might find Mike Rodden?"
He jerked his head toward the tiny office. "In there.
I tapped tentatively on the glass and a voice roared, "Come!" I opened the door and was immediately enveloped in a miasma of pipe-tobacco smoke, exhaled rye whisky, witch hazel aftershave and body humidity. There, in a hinge-back wooden armchair before an untidy rolltop desk was the great Mike Rodden, sports editor of the Globe, He pounded the typewriter for another thirty seconds and then swung around to face me.
"What the hell do you want?" he asked.
Mike Rodden was extraordinary even in an era when sports writers like Lou Marsh of the Star and Ted Reeve of the Telegram were as celebrated as most of the athletes they wrote about. Mike was a round-faced Irishman of medium height and, when I knew him, tending to corpulence. He was the prototypically macho male. On a Queen's University's football team, weighing "no more than 160 pounds soaking wet, he played at the center of the line with an animal ferocity that intimidated opposing backfields. He had been a referee in the National Hockey League and in the Ontario Hockey Association, and was often assigned games between rival mining towns in northern Ontario where there were as many fights in the stands as on the ice. Rodden called them as he saw them and was often followed to his dressing room by gangs of hard-rock miners. He would hold them off by dropping to his back in the narrow passageway, skates aloft ready to slash. Once, as the mob beat on his door, he emerged with his skates laced to his fists. It was enough to cow them.
Now, his pipe between his teeth, a nimbus of smoke about his close-cropped white head, he glared at me and growled, "What the hell do you want?"
"I wanted to show you these," I said. I dug into my portfolio and produced three drawings; portraits of Joe Primeau, Harvey "Busher" Jackson, and Chuck Conacher, the "Kid Line" of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He looked at them closely.
"Could you do a drawing of Bobby Pearce?" he asked. Bobby Pearce, an Australian, was the world's best single sculler. He was to row the following day in an invitation race at the Canadian National Exhibition waterfront.
"I could if I had a picture," I said.
He found a photograph and handed it to me. "Have it here by six tomorrow.
The following evening I was back with the drawing. Mike looked at it and tossed it onto the desk of Tommy Munns, the assistant sports editor. "Run it," he said. "Three columns.
I stayed awake all night, and before dawn ran to the corner, barefooted and naked except for trousers, to get a newspaper from the bundle. There was my drawing - faded, for I didn't yet understand how to draw for newspaper reproduction - with a cut line describing me as "a young Toronto artist. The following day, Tommy Munns telephoned to offer me a job. I would do a daily drawing and would begin with a series - a portrait of each member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The salary would be twelve dollars a week.
I stayed at the Globe for four years.
Modern journalists, working in antiseptic and decorous newsrooms, may find it odd that I was initiated into the Globe sports department much as a college student might be welcomed to a fraternity.
I sensed nothing amiss when I arrived at the office one night to find Mike and Tommy Munns in a heated argument. "Of course I can lift five hundred pounds," Mike shouted, hammering a fist on a desk. "Christ almighty, I've done it dozens of times.
"Mike, you're out of your mind. An Olympic weightlifter your size couldn't lift five hundred pounds.
"Five bucks" -a good day's wages then - "says I can.
There was a problem: what was there about that weighed five hundred pounds? Mike resolved it. "Gordie, what do you weight?" (Gord Walker was later public relations director for the Canadian Football League. )
"A hundred and sixty.
"Don?" (Don Cowie was the Globe's horse-racing expert. )
A shrug. "One fifty.
"And you, Templeton?"
"All together, 495 pounds. He turned to Tommy. "Close enough?"
Tommy nodded. "But how are you going to lift the three of them?"
Mike paused, frowning. "How the hell do I do this?" More furious pondering, and then, "Got it! Here, Templeton - you're the biggest. Lie down on the floor. Lamb to the slaughter, I lay on my back, selfconscious at being the center of attention in such august company. "Good. Now stretch your arms straight out. And spread your legs. Spread'em!
"Okay," said Mike, his ebullience mounting. "Now, Don and Gord, you lie down on either side of him. Templeton put your arms around their necks. Each of you takes hold of his wrists. Right. Now, both of you put a scissor-hold on Templeton's legs. Here's what I'm going to do: I'll lift Templeton. When he comes up, all three of you will, and Munns can kiss his five-spot goodbye.
A sly grin stole over Mike's face and it broke on me that I'd been had. There I lay, spreadeagled, immobilized. Each arm was snubbed about a neck. Each leg was locked. The office rang with boisterous laughter. Off came my tie. My shirt was unbuttoned. Trousers and shorts were pushed down. Mike took a pot of copy-paste - in those days, glue that hardened to the consistency of glass - and dribbled it from my throat to my groin. Sheets of copypaper were laid on and patted into place. Another layer and I were locked in Mike's office until the glue hardened. Half an hour later, Tommy Munns opened the door, grinned at me, and said, Welcome to the Globe.
The walk to the streetcar was an agony. Each step, any movement pulled out hair. At home, I ran a bath, making the water as hot as I could bear and slowly lowered myself into it. But the bath was ineffective. When finally the glue and paper had been removed, a pink, hairless area ran down the front of my body.
I was very happy.
It was one of the great eras of sport. The New York Yankees, with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, were close to their prime. Carl Hubbell and Dizzy Dean displayed their pitching mastery. Joe Louis, who had seemed invincible, faltered before Max Schmeling's right cross. Jimmy Mclarnin was middleweight champion. Eddie Shore, Howie Morenz, Chuck Conacher and Bill and Bun Cook dominated a six-team National Hockey League. Jesse Owens won three Olympic gold medals, to Adolph Hitler's chagrin. Jack Love-lock and Glenn Cunningham set records for the mile. Fred Perry and Helen Jacobs dominated tennis courts in the United States and Europe. Bobby Jones was trying for a comeback. The forward pass had just been introduced to Canadian football. Abs Box's soaring punts led the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup. Jim Londos, "The Golden Greek. packed arenas, the star of the new-style wrest-ling. Six-day bicycle riding with Canadas "Torchy " Peden was a fad at its height, and another novelty, box lacrosse, had just been introduced. The Depression was at its peak but the sports arenas were jammed and I seldom lacked subject matter.
To a boy in his late teens, it was the best of all possible worlds. I was obsessed with sport. I had won the junior track-and-field championship at Parkdale Collegiate and had quarterbacked the football team to a Toronto final at Varsity Stadium. I was captain of the basketball team and three times cross-country champion. I made halfback with Toronto's Balmy Beach Club but got into only one game, a mud bowl with the Hamilton Tiger Cats. And now here I was, at the heart of the Canadian sports world, sitting in the press box at Maple Leaf Gardens for every NHL game and on first-name terms with many of the great athletes of the time.
Beyond that, I was well paid. The drawings I did daily for the Globe were syndicated to eighteen Canadian newspapers. I also syndicated, through Central Press Canadian, a one-column feature called Chuck Templeton's Sportraits - a drawing and three hundred words of copy. Tommy Munns, who did publicity for the Queens bury Athletic Club, hired me regularly to do sketches of such wrestling behemoths as George Zaharias, Danno O'Mahoney "The Irish Whip" and the Four Dusek Brothers for the official program. Ed Fitkin, who now works for Jack Kent Cooke's Los Angeles Forum, and I started a newspaper, Canadian Sporting News. We saved engraving costs by using the zinc etchings of my drawings for the Globe, and between us wrote all the copy. The venture expired after four issues.
Most evenings when I arrived at the paper with my completed drawing, Mike would summon me to his office. It had begun on my second day at work
"How old are you, Templeton?"
"Eighteen," I said, stretching it a few months.
He reached for his wallet. "Do you know where the liquor store is?"
"Forget the sir. It's at Church and Lombard. " He extracted a twodollar bill and handed it to me. "Get me a mickey of rye, Hiram Walker's 16-C. There'll be eighty cents change.
I would deliver my drawing to the engraving department and then fetch the whisky. Mike, who had already had a few belts, would close the door to his office and begin to write. I would hang around, reading the out-of-town papers, helping out any way I could, absorbing the ambience, reluctant to leave. Some nights, the sound of Mike's typewriter would slow, become intermittent and finally cease. Tommy would say to me, "check on Mike." I would tap on the door, enter to find him slumped asleep in his chair, or discover that he had slid down and was in a heap under the desk. I would gather what had been written and take it to Tommy, "we'll need a wrap-up," he'd say, or perhaps, "Give me two or three short items."
I would finish the column in Mike's office, sometimes with my feet on the man I idolized. It was the only typewriter available, and it was bolted to the desk.
With the drink in him, Mike Rodden was a tough, combative and sometimes cruel man. He would come up beside junior members of the staff, and without warning, hook a hard right to your upper arm, numbing it for half an hour. He would light his pipe and then flick the flaming wooden match at you. Once, telling one of his inexhaustible fund of stories, an extravagant gesture threw him off balance. He staggered across the office, put a hand on a desk to recover his balance and ran a copy spike through the palm and out the back of his hand. (At the time, copy spikes were fashioned in the composing room from a pointed steel wire set in a rough-cast lead base.) Rodden started at the protruding spike, yanked it free and finished his story. He scorned suggestions that he have it seen to, spat on both sides of the hand, massaged the spittle into the wound, wrapped a handkerchief about it and went into his office to finish his column.
The grapevine sped the terrifying rumour from the news room to the sports department and through the various beverage rooms frequented by reporters; negotiations were going on between the owners of the Globe and the Mail and Empire. The Mail was about to swallow the Globe and most of us would be fired. In 1936, in the trough of the Depression, it was sobering news. A purchase of the Globe by the Mail and Empire seemed a reasonable development. The Globe was the oldest paper in Toronto. It had been founded eighty-three years earlier by George Brown, one of the Fathers of Confederation, and had the smallest circulation of the four Toronto papers.
Then on November 19 the exhilarating news - the Globe had bought the Mail and Empire and our jobs were safe! More than that, we would be moving out of our gloomy, creaking Victorian building to new premises at the corner of King and York. Heaven bless William H. Wrights money and George Mccullagh's entrepreneurial dash!
At the newly formed Globe and Mail, all was right with the world. There was a feeling of optimism and expansiveness. The paper was enlarged. More prominece was given to sport. My cartoons sometimes ran three, four, even five columns wide. When they were exceptionally newsworthy, they were carried on the front page of the bulldog edition, to catch the eye of people on their way home late at night. And I was being asked to do special assignments by the city desk. When the Moose River mine disaster griped the interest of the nation, I prepared drawings depicting the desperate efforts of the rescuers to reach the trapped men. When Mitch Hepburn, the flamboyant premier of Ontario, visited the editorial offices, I drew his portrait and it was carried on the front page. Heady days for a youth of twenty.
On the side, I was taking advantage of the vanity of the wealthy. When I could find the time, I went to the morgue at the Globe and dug out the "official" photographs of prominent Torontonians. I then rendered them larger than life size, put a mat on the drawing and presented myself unannounced at the office of the Great man. His secretary would inform me that it wasn't possible to see him without an appointment. "I only wanted to show him this," I would say ingenuously, uncovering the drawing. Invariably, the subject would see me, ask if the sketch was for sale. And if so, for how much. "Twentyfive dollars. It was more than I made in a week at the Globe.
I did a dozen or more such drawings. Not once did I fail to make the sale.
In 1936, a profound change entered my life, a change that would alter radically my nest twenty-one years and leave an indelible mark on my psyche. I "got religion. From my present vantage point I am at a loss to understand my blind acceptance of the fundamentalists' Christian belief. A number of facile explanations present themselves: that I yearned for a satisfactory father figure; that I wanted very much to repay my mother for her years 32 of loneliness and struggle by accepting her new-found faith; that my adolescent experiences of sex - innocent enough in retrospect - had burdened me with guilt. But enough of amateur
psychoanalysis; whatever the reasons, I went through what is described today as a "born-again experience.
I was nineteen, and although I had been out of school and earning a living for almost three years, I was relatively naive. The family had begun to attend the Church of the Nazarene, a small denomination in the old-fashioned Methodist tradition, in Park dale. Mother had undergone a religious experience at the church that had made her a changed woman. She looked better, sang as she went about her housework and seemed filled with an inner happiness.
All of us children responded differently to the pressures that we surrender our lives to God. I was the only holdout. When I was importuned to go to church - as I was almost daily - I begged off with the excuse that I was busy at the Globe which, happily, did require that I work every night but Saturday. Moreover, the
family's new religiosity did not attract me; indeed, it made me uncomfortable, restless and sometimes impatient. I was moving away from family and home. I had been introduced to a new world - a stimulating one when I first encountered it at seventeen - of personal independence, downing a few beers with some of the Globe staff, first-name acquaintance with celebrated athletes and attaining minor celebrity status myself.
And there was a girl. Angela. She was two years older than I but much more sophisticated. She worked hard as a photographer's model and was strikingly beautiful in a jean Harlow, platinum blonde, slightly tarty way. She lived alone in a rooming was convenient to drop in on her before or after covering events there. I learned a lot from Anglea, none of it available in books at that time.
I took Angela to a Parkdale Collegiate Fourth Form dance at the Canoe Club. I had left school three years earlier but wanted to see the old gang, the fellows I'd played football and explored my early teens with - partly because I missed them and partly because I wanted to show off my new maturity. It was a mistake. When I picked up Angela, She was wearing a floor-length white satin dress and a necklace. The dress was unornamented by ruffles or furbelows, and fitted as if it had been painted on. I wanted to remonstrate; "Hey, this is a high-school dance!" but didn't have the courage.
At the Canoe Club we were the focus of all eyes and many low and unidentifiable wolf-whistles. I was distinguished by the pinkness of my skin and the rivulets of sweat on my brow. I was cut in on whenever we got ten feet onto the dance floor. Nobody asked me about my glamorous career as a newspaper cartoonist; everyone asked where I'd found Angela.
I took Angela to a New Years Eve celebration. She arranged the reservations. When I picked her up it was evident that she'd gotten an early start on the evening. I was appalled to find that she'd booked a table for the New Year's Eve Gala at a hotel on Jarvis Street at Gerrard, now gone. Early on, getting into the spirit of the evening, she shouted, "Whee!" and flipped a spoon high in the air. It broke a wine glass two rables away, inflicting a slight cut on the hand of a woman seated there. We were asked to leave by a man with very wide shoulders and a clubfighter's nose. It was 9:30 New Year's Eve and there was nothing to do but go
back to Angela's place.
So it went for the better part of a year, with Angela beginning to hint broadly if marriage.
One morning, I returned home at 3:00 a. m. after party. For no obvious reason I was heavy with depression. There was a mirror in the entrance hall of our home, and I paused before it for perhaps a minute. I didn't like the man I saw there. I went softly down the hall, not wanting to awaken mother, but she heard me and called out, and I went to sit on the side of her bed.
She began to talk about God, about the happiness her faith had brought her, and about how she longed to see me with the other children in church. I heard little of what she was saying; my mind was doing an inventory of my life. Suddenly. it seemed empty and wasted and sordid. I said, "I m going to my room.
As I went down the hall, I was forming a prayer in my head, but as I knelt by my bed in the darkness, my mind was strangely vacant; thoughts and words wouldn't come to focus. After a moment, it was as though a black blanket had been draped over me. A sense of enormous guilt descended and invaded every part of me. I was unclean.
Involuntarily, I began to pray, my face upturned, tears streaming. The only words I could find were, "Lord, come down. Come done. Come down. . . .
It may have been minutes later or much longer - there was no sense of time - but I found myself my head in my hands, crunched small on the floor at the center of a vast emptiness. The agonizing was past. It had left me numb, speechless, immobilized, alone, tense with a sense of expectancy. In a moment, a weight began to lift, a weight as heavy as I. It passed through my thighs, my belly, my chest, my arms, my shoulders and lifted off entirely. I could have leaped over a wall. An ineffable warmth began suffuse every corpuscle. It seemed that a light and turned on in my chest and its refining fire had cleansed me. I hardly dared breathe, fearing that I might end or alter the moment. I heard myself whispering softly, over and over, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you. . . .
After a while I went to mother's room. She saw my face, said, "Oh, Chuck. . !" and burst into tears. We talked for an hour.
When I went back to my bedroom, dawn was just breaking. I undressed, drew the shade, climbed into bed, and lay motionless in the diminishing darkness, bathed in a radiant, overwhelming happiness. Outside, the birds began their first tentative singing and I began to laugh, softly, out of an indescribable sense of well being at the center of an exultant, allencompassing joy.
As might be supposed, the announcement was not greeted with shouts of "Hallelujah" in the Globe sports department.
With astonishing ingenuousness, I related to my associates what had happened and saw polite incredulity enter their eyes. That soon gave way to good-natured barbs and off-color kidding. All the preacher-and-the-choir-girl jokes were dusted off. Raunchiness reached to act as if nothing had changed, it became apparent I had distanced myself from them, and we were no longer at ease with each other.
I began to spend less time at the paper. I would deliver my drawing, ask if there was anything wanted of me, and leave. Mike began to send Gord Walker for his mickey of rye. I didn't try to press my faith on them, but friendship and the easy camaraderie cooled, and when the time came to tell Tommy Munns that I was leaving the paper to go into the ministry, there was relief on both sides. Tommy shook my hand smiled his shy offcenter smile and said, Good luck, Chuck. I think youre nuts, but good luck.