Reg McGee getting ready to go out with the Goderich Saddle Club - notice his dress
Our father, Reg. McGee mostly known as a car dealer, loved farming and animals. He would take almost any animal in on trade for any vehicle. I even remember a set of huge Belgians arriving at our horse barn. This barn was located on Picton Street behind our home which faced Elgin Avenue. It had 4 stalls, a tack room, and an upstairs loft for Hay and Straw.
It is still there and eventually it was converted to a small home by the next property owners.
Reg. was a member of the Goderich Saddle Club which was quite active in the fifties. The men all dressed up in suits and ties to ride their favourite horse on a nice Sunday outing through bush trails and farmland. The ladies would make lunches and join them somewhere for a picnic under a big shade tree. They also held a few horse shows at the Town fairgrounds and charged an admission which in turn was prize money for the participants.
One of the events that Alvin participated in was bare chested wrestling matches on horses. That must have been quite the sight to see. Top prize money in any event was $25.00
Pictured on one of his favourite mounts is Reg. riding Macs Golden Rose, a show horse. It was a sad day at our house when we found that beautiful horse in great pain with swelled intestines and had to be put down.
Alvin putting Macs Golden Rose through her paces
Reg. was born in 1891. The family was at his bedside when he passed away in 1960. I remember him saying last words and when we inquired to his nurse, a Mrs. Lanaway, who had known our father forever, she told us that it is not uncommon for people to rewind their fondest memories in their last minutes and she said right now he is calling out the names of two of his favourite horses as he is coming in the buggy from his home at Port Albert and heading into town. I too, remember those horse’s names she said.
There are four boys in our family. The oldest, Leonard, never showed much real interest in horses even thought in 1952 he took a pacer named George Hy in on trade for a used car and decided to keep and race him. This didn’t work out that well and he soon sold the horse.
The youngest, which is me, Ken. liked the horses but I was relegated to forking out the manure and cooling them after workouts and helping feed and water them. My favourite was a smaller horse named Bildad. He was the most loveable horse. When I would walk him in our paddock to cool him out I never used a rein. He would just lay his head on my shoulder and walk with me. My next favourite was Prince Royal, a jumper. When he was at our farm I would call him over to the water trough where I would be standing, get up on his back and he would take me for rides around the apple orchard. I was just a small kid at the time. Ironically though, when Alvin jumped him, quite often right at the hurdle, Prince would dig his heels in, stop dead and Alvin would go over the hurdle.
The odd time I would hitch up an old fashioned 2 wheeled buggy we had in the summer or, use the cutter in the winter and take rides around town, but that’s about it for me.
I did though purchase a mail order Monkey from South America and when ‘Pete’ arrived built a cage and kept him at the horse barn as well. It ended up that he did not like me and I did not like him so I gave him to Bud Houze in Mitchell, who also had a monkey, so that he would have a companion.
Now- Alvin, the second oldest, was a real horse person. He loved jumping with Prince Royal and participating in any horse events at all the towns for miles around .He was very competitive and won so many ribbons and awards that it was impossible to keep count of them.
Ron the second youngest, I left him to the last. He was a true professional race horse sulky driver. One of the top in Ontario. I remember race day in Goderich one year when Ron drove 8 races and had six firsts. Once he won the coveted Supertest race event. Ron and Alvin, back in the fifties spent summers at the tracks in Toronto racing the horses and eventually showing and jumping them at the Royal Winter fair as well.
After his career at our garage, Ron left to become a Judge with the Canadian Trotting association in Ontario. He judged at tracks between Windsor and Barrie and everywhere in between.
John Donaldson (top), Ron Skelton (middle), Gord Pinder (bottom left), Alvin Mcgee (bottom right)
Lastly, John Banter is the one that asked me to talk about the horses and I told him I would if I could tell a tale on him. He agreed,
Here is the true story. As you readers know John was and still is a handsome man. He was even cuter as a kid. As he lived just a block away from our home property, he just had to walk down Stanley Street and as we had a lane right through our property to Picton Street, John would often stop to pet the horses as we would open up a window for them to stick their head out for fresh air. He was heading to Victoria Public school on Britannia Road when he made this trek. He was 5-6 years old when I seen John walking through and when I walked down our lane, there was John, dressed to the nines, petting one of the horses. Those same windows were the openings where we tossed out the manure. When it got stacked up we would load it and take it to our farm. This day the pile was right up to the window and John had crawled up the pile on his hands and knees just to get his petting done before going to school. I often wondered what the teacher must have thought about that strange odour in the classroom.
Gotcha John- I have wanted to tell that story for years.
Some of our other best known horses names were Joe Bunter, Lenas Girl, and Lenas Boy.
Lenas Boy had one hoof badly hurt when the blacksmith drove a nail up into it which was such a shame as this was one of the best race horses around. As a 2 year old he racked up 22 firsts. We took him to Michigan for treatments and eventually built a trough inside the horse barn which we filled with water and salts to help him heal.
Special memories to Freddie Johnston, a groomer and to Lloyd Turvey a trainer who helped out a lot at the barn and Dr. Geo. Elliott for his veterinary care.
Mrs. Della McGee our mother with her horse Lenas Girl - with Ron McGee riding - accepting first prize at a race meet