Monthly Archives: February 2021

Gordon ‘Dode’ Sinclair

‘Dode’ Sinclair as a pro Salmonbellies player in 1922.

(July 18, 1898 – June 22, 1958)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1920; 1922)
Long Beach (1924)

Victor Gordon Sinclair – better know in the New Westminster sporting circles by his nickname ‘Dode’ Sinclair – was born on Mayne Island, British Columbia in 1898. His parents were James William Sinclair and Annie Isabel Irving. His father was born in Washington Territory and had moved to New Westminster in 1875, becoming a teacher in the Fraser Valley school district for twenty-five years, then later employed on steamboats and finally the British Columbia Electric Railway as an accountant.

Young Gordon moved to New Westminster at a very early age and in his youth he played on the John Robson Elementary School lacrosse team in 1913. He was also known in the Royal City as an amateur basketball and football player.

His older brother was Irving Sinclair [1893-1969], who became famous as one of San Francisco’s best-known commercial artists from the mid-1920s into the 1960s. ‘Dode’ also had five sisters, two of whom ended up marrying the brothers George and Tom Rennie, of New Westminster Salmonbellies fame from a decade or so prior. When Sinclair joined the professional Salmonbellies in 1920, he found himself team-mates with his brother-in-law George in what was Dode’s rookie season as a professional while Rennie making his final curtain-call in a 20-year career.

‘Dode’ served in the Canadian military during the Great War and in October 1917, Private Sinclair was awarded the Military Medal for gallant conduct as a battalion runner on the front lines with the 47th Battalion. He had been serving at the front lines for several months and during combat near Lens in France, his company had come under fire and every sergeant was killed in the fighting, with the sergeant-major and two officers wounded and out of action. Sinclair and one other were the only remaining runners after four other runners had either been killed, wounded by snipers, or incapacitated by shell shock. Along with the medal and ribbon, he received a letter of commendation from the company’s brigadier general.

Sinclair signing with the professional New Westminster outfit in July 1920 caused a major rift with the Royal City amateurs, as the pros had been raiding the amateur side that year for new blood. George Feeney and Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart had already been scooped by Manager Tom Gifford – and when Sinclair then backpedaled his commitment to the amateurs and jumped to the pros, the fortunes of the amateur Salmonbellies in their pursuit of the Mann Cup were put in some serious doubt. At the time of his departure from the amateur squad, Sinclair had been tied second on the goal-scoring list for the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association, and second-place for his team.

The war hero ‘Dode’ Sinclair in 1917.

He missed out the 1921 season when he found himself stuck in Australia due to a shipping strike which prevented him finding passage back home. Sinclair returned for the 1922 season but did not seem to have the impact or promise he had shown in 1920. His short professional career of two seasons spanned 25 games and he chalked up 3 goals to his name, from playing in almost all matches as a substitute and a half-dozen starts.

Sinclair left New Westminster in 1923 and began working in California when he gained employment sinking oil wells for Standard Oil and this proved more profitable than what his lacrosse career could ever provide. The following year or so he owned and operated an appliance store in Los Angeles. Then around 1942 he made a career change once once and became an orchard farmer, running an orange grove in Los Angeles County prior to acquiring his own grove, a year prior to his death, in the city of Exeter in Tulare County.

Despite departing the lacrosse hot-bed of British Columbia for greener pastures down south, he never forgot his old love for the game. In 1924, along with his brother-in-law Tom Rennie and ex-Vancouver pro Charlie ‘Smiler’ McCuaig, they helped introduce lacrosse in the Long Beach area and a 1924 lacrosse championship was played between Long Beach and Los Angeles Canadian-Californian teams. In 1938 when the Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association started play in Southern California and raided the Canadian box leagues for players, ‘Dode’ Sinclair became the manager for the Los Angeles Canucks entry in the four-team league, which was made up of star-players from the New Westminster Adanacs and a sprinkling of Richmond Farmers and Vancouver Burrards talent. The PCLA lasted around a month before it folded in mid-season after games on January 29, 1939 due to poor arena conditions.

Victor Gordon Sinclair passed away on June 22, 1958 at his home located southeast of Exeter, California. He was survived by his wife Edna but there is no mention of any surviving children in his obituaries. While long-forgotten today as one of the many obscure, fringe players who have come and gone throughout the sport’s history, ‘Dode’ Sinclair’s short career is proof enough that all players great and not-so-great, superstar or bench-warming substitute, all have stories to tell from their lives lived.

(PHOTO SOURCES: Vancouver Province October 16, 1917; Vancouver Sun April 11, 1922)

Bay Carter

Bay Carter with the Vancouver Terminals, 1923

(1895 – October 26, 1974)

Vancouver Athletic Club (1914-1915; 1919)
Vancouver Terminals (1920; 1921-1924)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1921)

Bay Carter was part of a core group of local-bred players that included Everett McLaren, Harry ‘Fat’ Painter, and Eustace Gillanders who fortified the Vancouver Terminals defense during their post-war campaigns of the 1920s.

Bayard – known by all as ‘Bay’ – was the son of Emily Lavina Carter (née Barr), who later married Andrew Grieve Waddell, the chief of police of Steveston between 1914 and 1918 and the first chief of police in Richmond. Young Bay would have been around five years-old at the time of his mother’s second marriage on April 19, 1900, which was reported in the press as far away as Owen Sound, Ontario, near where his new step-father originated from. His mother was born in London, England and she was recorded as a 30-year-old widow on their marriage certificate. Waddell’s obituary from 1931 mentions two stepsons, which would have been Bay and his younger brother Stan.

Carter attended the same high school as the Painter brothers with whom he later played alongside on the Vancouver Terminals in the 1920s. Both Bay Carter and ‘Fat’ Painter were also members of the Vancouver Athletic Club senior lacrosse team although they never played in the same season with each other – as ‘Fat’ had moved up to the professional ranks in 1914 when Bay joined the senior amateur team as a much-needed replacement to help fill all the departures of its players to the professional league. Out of around 30 players trying out for the team, Carter was one of those named to the roster on May 13, 1914 and he soon established himself as a crack defender.

A young Bay Carter as a rookie with the Vancouver Athletic Club in 1914.

When the First World War intervened, Bay Carter served overseas in the military for three to four years – first in the Canadian field artillery with the 46th Battery from Kingston, Ontario and the later as a Royal Air Force pilot. He received his officer’s commission as a lieutenant in 1917. He returned home to Vancouver on July 16, 1919.

He landed work as a mining engineer at Britannia Mines. He then graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1921 with a Bachelor of Science, all the while playing professional lacrosse to pay for his education.

With the Vancouver Terminals, his usual position on the playing field was at first defence and second defence, although when needed he could slot in anywhere from point up through the defensive ranks to centreman. The year after Bay had turned pro and signed with the Terminals, his kid brother Stan Carter also signed with the team and filled the role of substitute.

In one match at Queens Park, on June 24, 1922, Bay had to come to the rescue when his brother was embroiled in a fight with ‘Haddie’ Stoddart of the Salmonbellies, which then quickly exploded into a free-for-all brawl which saw benchwarmers and spectators from the stands spill out on the field to settle old and new scores. It took ten minutes for police and firemen to break up the fight, only for it to erupt again a few seconds later. When the riot finally ended and the dust had settled, and not before old Archie Macnaughton had walloped Pat Feeney in the head with his cane, it was found that most of Vancouver’s equipment – sticks, gloves, and caps – littered about on the ground …had now disappeared! – pilfered by New Westminster youngsters who had run off with anything that had been left laying about during the ensuing chaos.

Once his professional lacrosse days were over, Bay Carter would then find employment embarking on a 36-year career in marketing and advertising. He found this line of work the perfect calling for him, as his imposing six-foot-two frame gave him a deliberate manner of appearance while his mind was full of imagination.

Carter worked for the Vancouver Daily World newspaper for two years, later moving to Farm & Home for eight years. Then the Vancouver Province newspaper became his final employer from January 1931 until his retirement as their advertising director in January 1959. During his years with the Province, he was promoted to assistant advertising manager in 1936, advertising manager in 1941, and director in 1947. When he retired from the newspaper, he was bid adieu with send-off articles printed in both his former employer’s pages as well as those of the crosstown rival Vancouver Sun.

His residence at the time of his retirement was a house located at 6069 Oak Street in Vancouver.

Bayard Carter passed away in 1974. He was survived by his two daughters, Shirley Miller and Nancy Baird, and five grandchildren; his wife Hilda had predeceased him in 1972.

(PHOTO SOURCES: Vancouver Province April 7, 1923; Vancouver Sun September 16, 1914)

Aaron ‘Bunt’ Watson

May 1921 press photograph of Aaron ‘Bunt’ Watson with the Vancouver Terminals.

(1896~98 – October 1, 1929)

Vancouver Terminals (1921-1922)

Although Aaron Watson’s nickname was actually ‘Bunt’, the Vancouver newspapers mistakenly referred to him as ‘Bun’ – and so ‘Bun’ was what ‘Bunt’ Watson was generally called while he played on the Coast. Aaron Watson was a product of Cornwall, Ontario and had played for the Cornwall Colts starting from 1916 onward, quickly regarded in his rookie season as the best home (midfield) man to come from the Factory City.

Heading into the 1921 campaign, the Vancouver Terminals were plagued with a divisive contract dispute between the players and management. A large majority of the Terminals players bolted the club to sign with Con Jones’s brand-new, rival Vancouver Lacrosse Club in his newly-founded Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association, leaving the remaining Terminals organisation in the lurch and scrambling on short notice to find replacement bodies. ‘Newsy’ Lalonde came to the rescue when he recruited eight Easterners to make the trip across the country to sign with the Terminals and play alongside him, with Aaron ‘Bunt’ Watson proving to be one of the best components of that mixed-bag contingent.

Of those Easterners brought west by Lalonde in 1921, Watson was by far at the top of the list whom the Terminals were eager to re-sign the following season. Despite playing just two seasons for Vancouver, his 23 goals in just 34 games places him at an impressive 20th for career goal-scoring totals during the professional lacrosse era on the Pacific Coast. He finished fourth in scoring for the Terminals in 1921 and second in 1922.

‘Bunt’ was also noted for his speed and toughness, so much so the Salmonbellies had to pay special attention in specifically assigning defenders on him.  What Watson may have lacked in stick skills and brilliance, he made up with shooting power and more so his physical prowess to bull and smash his way through the New Westminster defensive line. Bill Patchell was particularly effective in shadowing and shutting down ‘Bunt’, although Waston did gain instant credibility and respect as one of Vancouver’s toughest players when he laid out the Salmonbellies’ heavyweight enforcer Dave ‘Buck’ Marshall during his debut season with the Terminals. The pair would have multiple scraps throughout the season, one of which spilled into the stands and entangled spectators from both camps of supporters. After breaking up the two combatants and shooing them off for an early shower, Fred ‘Mickey’ Ion’s bloodied shirt from the fracas made the referee look like he had just worked a shift in an abattoir.

During his time in Vancouver, Watson would sometimes referee amateur PCALA senior league games.

Watson was expected to return for a third season with the Vancouver Terminals and was reported in early May 1923 to have agreed to a deal and would be making his way west from his recreational residence in Massena, New York, just across the border from his hometown of Cornwall. He was even contemplating a permanent move to Vancouver – but despite confirmation he was in transit west, he never showed up in Vancouver nor communicated his change in plans. It is very possible his father had some part in the decision and advised his son to remain home in the East – or he may have had a change of heart regarding Vancouver’s community payment method of split gate receipts. Whatever the reason, his hard-hitting physical absence was duly noted by observers and fans early that season.

He was married on November 28, 1916 to Anna Isabella Smith at the Methodist parsonage in Cornwall.

Watson was involved in a tragic, fatal accident on September 30, 1929 when the automobile he was driving along the state route heading to Ogdensburg, New York, failed to make a curve and struck a culvert. The automobile then leapt across a ditch, with the top of the vehicle coming apart and crashing into a tree. One male passenger was killed instantly while Watson suffered a fractured skull. ‘Bunt’ made it to Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg in critical condition but died from his injuries two days later. The two other men in his automobile survived and escaped with cuts and bruises.

Forty years later in 1969, Aaron ‘Bunt’ Watson was inducted to Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame in the Lacrosse category.

(PHOTO SOURCE: CVA 99-1018.23)