was aware of former Sudbury mayor Bill Beaton and some
of his ties to local sports – which is to say that
I was aware in the same sense that I have knowledge that
both Max Silverman and Sam Rothschild formed integral
parts of nickel city hockey lore.
I don’t know that I
could have been immersed in the summer quadrathlon tradition
that is the Beaton Classic for well over a decade without
garnering some awareness of the man for whom it is named.
Yet as discussions flow to
the first families of Sudbury sports, those whose scope
of involvement is so widespread as to extend well beyond
just a singular sportsman or two, I don’t know that
I would have automatically included the Beaton clan in
with my more contemporary memories of the Savages or the
Folignos or the Johnstons.
Truth is navigating the genealogical
pathway is not an easy trip – but thanks to a recent
afternoon discussion with the grandson and namesake of
the former head of city council (1940 – 1951) that
surely just grazed just the surface of the family involvement
in sport, a far greater knowledge was grasped.
I had not connected the dots
from Bill Beaton to the McKinty lineage, nor the Whissell
arm, though perhaps I should have. Things made much more
sense once I did.
But I digress.
Let’s take a step back.
Bill Beaton, the original,
was born in 1896 in East Gwillimbury, moving to Huntsville
then North Bay before his fifteenth birthday. It was in
the Gateway City that he could come across the love of
his life (and frequent paddling partner), Isla Robertson.
Having already started to
influence the northern sports landscape as manager of
the North Bay Athletic Union and organizer, in part, of
the Northern Ontario Hockey Association, Beaton and his
new bride would make their way to Sudbury in or around
1921 or so, wasting little time in lending a helping hand
in his new hometown.
From leading the re-launch
of the Sudbury Canoe Club (paddling being the favourite
of the many, many sports in which he partook) to playing
a critical role in the work that would lead to the construction
of the Sudbury Arena in 1952, Beaton was a man of action.
And as is the case with any
man of action, rest assured that not one and all necessarily
agreed with every single cause that the always colourful
future city comptroller would champion.
“An editorial on Bill
isn’t easy,” noted Sudbury Star sports editor
Don MacIntosh on April 2nd (1956) – the day after
Beaton passed at the young age of sixty. “Correct
procedure calls for a review of only the finer points
of his turbulent career – yet one almost can hear
Bill’s spirit crying out for the truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth.”
Not yet born on the day his
grandfather would leave this earth, Bill S. Beaton (II
– technically) is not the least bit surprised with
the words of this column. “He was a very good boxer
– and he led with his fists a lot,” said the
middle of three children born to Lyall and Lily Beaton
with a smile.
“Back then, if you
swore at somebody, that’s what was going to happen.”
While there is now a very
handy book dedicated to the memory of the first Bill Beaton,
the latter would have to rely upon second-hand stories
that were passed along initially – stories that
were apparently not all that hard to come by.
“We just got told about
things; all of this is hearsay from other people,”
said Beaton. “For example, he was instrumental in
helping to get the arena built. The dedication on the
cornerstone is something he wrote. He helped the yacht
club get their property and restarted the canoe club.”
In some circles, he was criticized
for prioritizing his love of sport and fitness above all
All of which brings us to
the family tree.
Bill and Isla would be blessed
with five children: Doreen (who marries Dennis McKinty
and adds another seven sports fanatics to the mix); Roberta
(Bobby); Lyall; Evelyn; Gwendolyn (member of the Sudbury
Sports Hall of Fame for her work with synchronized swimming).
Coach of the Laurentian basketball
OIAA championship team in 1962-1963 and involved in that
sport and others for much of his life, Lyall also joined
the Hall in 2008, his father enshrined in 1981.
A column penned by Alex Szilva
devoted to “The Beaton Dynasty” reads: “When
you have a famous athlete in the family, the whole family
is proud. When the whole family is famous in athletics,
all they can do is try and outdo each other for fun.”
It kind of reads like a Beaton
Active in baseball, hockey,
basketball, running and boxing, Beaton would find his
true calling on the water. An undefeated northern Ontario
boxing champion at 122 pounds, the 5’6” dynamo
would enjoy his greatest victory in canoeing, teaming
with Gib McCubbin to defeat a field of international and
Olympic paddlers in a half mile race in Toronto (1926),
their time of 4:03 a record that remained unbroken at
the time of his death thirty years later.
While serving as mayor, Beaton
received an official congratulatory note upon winning
the Bellrock Trophy in 1944, emblematic of the Senior
Singles Canoe Championship in Northern Ontario. He would
have been 48 years old at the time.
“Age cannot wither
nor custom stale the infinite variety of his good parts”
closed off the official correspondence. The words of the
time do justice to the romanticism that existed with life
and sport in that era.
“This remarkable performance
by one, who while no longer in the heyday of his youth,
still possesses such physical perfection, stamina and
virility as to show the way home to all contenders”
noted the document.
Sounds like pretty good genetics
if you want to start the various offspring that create
one of the most storied families in all of Sudbury sports