The 1940's: An Eventful Decade in Owen Sound and Grey County

The 1940's: An Eventful Decade in Owen Sound and Grey County: A war; a surprising political event; sports celebrations and much more.

The 1940s was an era which was dominated by the impact of the Second World War. However, there were many other remarkable events during this time in Owen Sound and Grey County. 

In the winter of 1944-45 the war was still on everyone's mind. However, a strange twist of fate brought this region into the headlines of virtually every newspaper in Canada. Prime Minister Mackenzie King needed a strong cabinet minister to help his government cope with the conscription issue. To meet this end, King decided to name General A.G.L. McNaughton as his minister of defence. 

McNaughton had been the commander of the Canadian army overseas and seemed to be the right candidate for the job. All the Liberal government had to do was find him a safe riding to run for a seat in Parliament. It was decided that the strong Liberal riding of Grey North would be the perfect place for the general to get elected. A by-election was called for Feb. 5, 1945. 

At first it looked like none of the other parties would contest the war veteran's attempt to win a parliamentary position. However, things changed very quickly. Owen Sound's mayor, Garfield Case, who was a former Liberal candidate himself, decided to contest the seat for the Conservatives. An election that once seemed to be only a formality was turning into a race. 

Smelling a possible victory, and therefore a further humiliation for the government, the Conservatives sent in many prominent members of their party to campaign for Case. The outcome of the byelection stunned the country. Case polled 7,338 votes compared to the 6,099 cast for McNaughton. 

The 1940s: An Eventful Decade in Hockey

This region took centre stage in the Canadian political arena during the byelection. But in the 1940s this area contributed many whose skills shone brightly in the hockey arena. 

In 1940-41 the Boston Bruins captured the Stanley Cup in the first four-game sweep of the cup in NHL history. Owen Sound's Pat McReavy scored two goals and two assists to help his Bruins capture the cup. The Bruins coach that season was "Cooney" Weiland who had starred for the Owen Sound Greys when they captured the Memorial Cup in 1924. 

In 1940-41, the Owen Sound Orphans played in the All-Ontario Intermediate Finals. Ironically, the Orphans got their name because according to Harry Lumley, the team's goalie, the team could not find a sponsor. This successful season with the Orphans would prove to be an important springboard to a professional hockey career for Lumley. A little more than two years later, Owen Sound's Lumley would become the youngest regular goaltender in the history of the National Hockey League. Lumley spent the rest of the 1940s tending goal for the Detroit Red Wings. 

In 1950 he led his team to the Stanley Cup. He finished his career with stops in Toronto, Chicago, and Boston. After he retired, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

During this time another Owen Sound goaltender was also making his mark in the world of professional hockey. Gord "Red" Henry starred for the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League. But on Jan. 23, 1949 he played his first game in the National Hockey League for the Boston Bruins. That night Henry became only the sixth goalie in the history of the NHL to record a shutout in his first NHL game. Henry blanked Rocket Richard and the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 in the Montreal Forum. 

In senior hockey circles the Owen Sound Mercurys were considered one of the more powerful teams in the country. Led by veteran Pat McReavy and superstar Tommy Burlington everyone considered it only a matter of time before the "Mercs" gained acclaim on a national level. 

As the 1940s came to an end a new world was evolving in North America and the Owen Sound region would experience changes in the coming decades which hitherto had seemed unfathomable to even the most imaginative minds.

A version of "The 1940's: An Eventful Decade in Owen Sound and Grey County" originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on November 5, 1999.

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  1. History Articles
  2. Owen Sound
  3. Owen Sound Businesses in the 1920s were the Backbone of the Community
  1. History Articles
  2. Owen Sound
  3. The 1940's: An Eventful Decade in Owen Sound and Grey County