Friday, December 16, 2022

Raymond’s hockey history of dubious distinction

By Ernest H. Knight

In the early days of this century most country towns had hometown baseball teams which gave players and fans the enjoyment of competition. But Raymond and Casco once, for a short while, had a unique sporting activity, though of limited and long forgotten impact, in its “Down East Hockey” teams of the first part of the 20th century.

The depression years of the 1930s were difficult ones for most people, work and wages being minimal with pleasures being limited to inexpensive and spontaneous events. Inspired by “Squire” Hussey of Raymond and recruited from Raymond, Casco, and Windham, 30 or 40 men and older boys were divided, whenever and whoever present, into two groups, for their play.

The central location for these hockey games was Saddlebag Pond, locally called “The Bog,” behind the Horsin’ Around saddlery shop on Route 302. It was a small body of landlocked water which froze early in the fall and was sheltered from wind and weather.

Hockey uniforms were limited to work boots and street clothes, while hockey sticks were fashioned from odd-shaped saplings or branches to suit the maker’s fancy, almost anything could serve as a puck and skates were considered as an unnecessary nuisance.

Organized hockey rules not being known or followed, there was no need to do other than “what came naturally” to afford a good time for all.

Fun on the ice soon expanded to enjoyment for any spectators and rough approximations of teams developed. They picked names for no good reason, such as the “Skowhegan Yokels” and the “Bucksport Pointers.”

While their first motive was for something to do in the winter months, it had escalated in response to public interest into the possibility of fame or fortune, or both. Its unorthodox nature soon caught the attention and imagination of the promoters of professional hockey, then as now with the followers of that sport, as a stimulant to ticket sales, and the teams were off to such places as the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Municipal Auditorium in Providence, Rhode Island.

Enthusiasm ran wild, and the more ridiculous the antics, the greater the public response. Fallen players sprawled on the ice were unceremoniously dragged off by their heels.

Chasing another player, from one’s own or the other team, with upraised sticks and Indian war whoops, created favorites or scoundrels, especially if one played the giant bully and the other the wimpy shrimp.

Referees were an endangered species with little influence on the players or respect from the crowd, and scoring depended more on subterfuge than skill. A contest typically ended with both players and spectators in a state of exhaustion ready for the relative peace and quiet of the scheduled game of the day or night.

Herman Verrill of Raymond was captain of the Yokels and B. Merrill of Windham captained the Pointers. Players hailing from Raymond included Will, Merton and Donald Foster, Squire Hussey, George Knight, and Leslie Foss. From Casco came Ernest and Bela Edwards, Donald Hanscomb, Mark Leach, and Bill Webb.

Windham supplied Paul Manchester, Charlie Smith, “Big Boy” Wescott, Merrill Frank, Ron Shaw, Hank Emerson, and Eben Lamb.

Travel to their engagements was by auto and train, and some wives went along to protect their menfolk from the hazards of the cities, with some degree of success, and also to enjoy some of the fun themselves.

For the moment the cares of the times could be forgotten in the interlude of enjoyment. Raymond and Casco outlived the flurry, possibly of their names being kept out of the publicity surrounding the teams. Fame, being elusive, did not follow them.

By the start of World War II in 1941, these impromptu hockey teams ceased to exist and the uproar about the games were long forgotten in the Lakes Region. < 

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

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