Duke of Norfolk

How long a time lies in one little word!

Norfolk Street is one of a group of streets in the south end of the city named for counties in Ontario. The group includes Brant, Perth, Norfolk, Elgin, Bruce and Simcoe, all of which run east and west, and Essex which runs north and south. Grey and Peel, once part of the street plan in that area, have disappeared. These streets appeared on the 1922 city map, but some of them were laid out much earlier.

Norfolk County, for which Norfolk Street was named, was established by John Graves Simcoe on the shore of Lake Erie in 1792. Its name was taken from Norfolk County in England, where it is said to have originated fom the "North Folk" who inhabited that eastern maritime county.

Norwich is a county town in England, and Simcoe (John Graves Simcoe) a town in Norfolk County, Ontario. Norfolk is the premier English Earldom and Dukedom of Norfolk that dates back to 1067 when Ralph the Staller became the first Earl of Norfolk. Another Earl of Norfolk was a member of the 25-man council set up by the Magna Carta in 1215.

The Duke of Norfolk is best remembered for his quarrel with Henry, Duke of Hereford (later Henry IV). King Richard II summoned Norfolk, and it was decided their dispute be settled by single combat at Coventry. But when everything was ready for the fight, Richard bannished both combatants. Norfolk was exiled for life and deprived of his offices, though not his titles. That famous quarrel forms the basis for Act 1 of Shakespeare's Richard II. The Duke of Norfolk died in exile in Venice in 1399. By Stanford Dingman

This photo, by Lloyd Dark, Stratford Beacon-Herald, was taken from the air on June 10, 1948. It was the first game at National Stadium under the new lights.

* Click below for video of the History of the National Stadium

National Stadium

National Stadium was officially opened as part of the Dominion Day Celebrations on Monday, July 2, 1934. The story re-told here is chronicled in detail in Dean Robinson's book Railway Stratford Revisited. The stadium was financed and built almost entirely by the Canadian National Recreation Association (CNRA) during the early years of the Great Depression. It was the third recreation facility built in Stratford during the Depression, after the Municipal Golf Course (adjacent to the stadium) in 1930, and the Lions’ Club Pool (see William Street) in 1932.

Despite the dark times and labour unrest of the 1930s (see Events: Stratford Strike), CNR employees agreed to payroll deductions for several years to raise money for the initial stadium building program on Norfolk Street land near Romeo Street. The site had been sold to the CNRA by the city. Laid-off CNR employees found work at the stadium site erecting fences, tilling, sodding, laying the quarter-mile cinder track that circled the baseball diamond, and building the grandstand and bleachers with reclaimed lumber from scrapped boxcars. It took nearly three years of labour before the work was finished in 1934, and it was named National Stadium.

At the official opening of the stadium, Howie Morenz (see Morenz Drive), of the Montreal Canadians was a celebrity guest. He had worked for the railway after moving from Mitchell to Stratford in 1918 with his parents. On this day, he was on the platform with city and railway dignitaries, in front of more than 2,500 spectators, from whom he received the loudest applause of the afternoon.

The day also included a parade of floats, marching bands, and Stratford’s sports teams, all of them winding their way to the stadium. There, people witnessed the CNRA’s first annual track and field meet, which starred a young Syl Apps, who later captained the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the evening, 4,000 were on hand for a tattoo featuring seven bands, among them the CNR Band, the Stratford Boys’ Band (see Brett Street) and the band of the Perth Regiment.

In that first stadium season of 1934, the Stratford Nationals (see below) brought the city its first Senior A Intercounty Baseball League championship. They repeated as Intercounty champs for three straight years, 1938, 1939 and 1940, and again in 1946, and in 1938 and 1939 they Ontario titles (see below). In the next dozen years, the Nats won another six Senior A, Senior B, and Intercounty championships.

National Stadium always had a shallow right field, initially 285 feet to the fence. That distance was eventually shortened to 277 feet. In his book Railway Stratford Revisited, author Dean Robinson shares the story that it was “built shallow to complement the hitting habits of Irish Miskimmons, a 17-year old import from Hamilton. True or not, for years its outer boundary was known as Miskimmons fence, and Irish responded with a memorable career. His first season in Stratford was 1934, and it remained his favourite. He opened the new stadium with a two-run home run onto the ninth fairway of the city’s municipal golf course. Thirteen years later, the left-handed hitting catcher won the Intercounty batting title with a .415 average. It should be noted, traffic over Miskimmons fence was not one way and, with regularity, smaller, harder, whiter balls would fly into the stadium from that same ninth fairway.”

Irish Miskimmons, at the left, was the first player to hit a home run in the new National Stadium, in 1934.

Eventually, the grandstand at the stadium was covered, and in 1948, lights were installed. At the first night game in June 1948, catcher Billy Flick (see Morenz Drive), who had come to Stratford to apprentice as a blacksmith and welder in the railway shops in 1943, hit two home runs as the Nationals blanked defeated London Majors 9-0.

Billy flick, left, who came to Stratford to play baseball, also became one of Stratford's foremost senior league hockey stars.

In the early 1950s, Bill Inkol (CJCS Albert Street) called the baseball games for CJCS radio from a folding chair and card table atop the grandstand. In 1952, the CNRA Nationals won the Intercounty Baseball League championship (see picture below) .

Born in Stratford in 1955, Larry Landreth played minor baseball in the city and then became the first Stratford native to pitch in the big leagues, for Canada’s Montreal Expos. * See Flashback Article: Larry Lanreth.

After the CNR shops closed, the CNRA membership voted to turn the stadium over to the city. The original grandstand was replaced in the late 1960s, and the grounds reworked and drained. The Stratford Hillers won ICBL championships in the late 1980s. (see below). In addition to baseball and track meets, through the years the stadium hosted high school football games and concerts. Source: Gord Conroy

The teams

In 1938, the CNRA Nationals won the first of three straight Senior Intercounty Baseball League titles. (See picture below). They had won the crown in their inaugural season in their new stadium (1934) and did it again in 1946. In 1938 and 1939 they also added Ontario Baseball Association championships and almost didc it again in 1940.

Stratford- Perth Archives

In 1952 the CNRA Stratford Nationals won the Intercounty Baseball League Intermediate A championship with a 12-6 win over the Hespeler Orioles. The win was the 10th straight for the Nats. (see picture below).

Stratford -Perth Archives

Front row, from left: Dean Gibson, third base; Eddie Shuett, shortstop; Keith (Red) Pallister, bat boy; Jim Loader, third base; and Ab Flood, outfield. Second row, from left: Wally Bateman, first base; Bob (Bunny) Fryer, shortstop; Lorne (Gorb) McGraw, coach and outfield; Bruce Smith, outfield; Ken Leinweber, catcher; and Norm Calvert, catcher. Third row, from left: Dean Ayrheart, pitcher; Oren (Lefty) Price, pitcher; Bill Hodges, team president; Percy Lingard, executive; Lionel (Lew) Ayres, first base; and Ken Uniac, pitcher. Back row, from left: Bob (Whitey) Griffin, secretary; Ernie Taylor, executive; Monty Logan, trainer; and Harold (Bud) Dixon, manager. Others to play for the team that year: Denis (Dinny ) Flanagan, second base; Les Hutchinson, outfield and first base; Gerry Hesse, outfield; and Jim Langley, pitcher.

On Aug. 13, 1958, the Stratford CNRA Nationals beat Kitchener 5-3, in Stratford, to win the Intercounty Baseball League Juvenile championship. (See picture below, right)

Front row, from left: Gerry Howard, Gary Kingsley, Paul Shillolo (batboy), Ab Player, Bob Zimmer and Jim Fooks. Middle row, from left: Jim (Tiny) Nigro, coach; Jim Edmonds, Barry Butson, Doug Fountain, Claude Harefield, manager; and Angelo Nigro, coach. Back row, from left: Ben Wasman, Marv Thomas, Bernie Lawrence, John Gardner and Pete hiller.

Stratford Nationals Stratford Hillers

Rex Bartlett

Rex Bartlett, carmaker, 1917

At one time, Stratford had a place in the early days of the thriving automobile manufacturing business. Reginald Cleveland (Rex) Bartlett, an imaginative Stratford engineer, successfully designed, built, and marketed several of his inventions. One of those was, for a time, a revolutionary automobile, a car with air suspension and four-wheel brakes.

Most cars had two-wheel brakes only, and they were mechanical; there was no power assist. The pressure applied in braking depended on the pressure a driver could apply to the brake pedal. Having had personal experience, I can tell you it could be a bit scary at times. If you were going a little too fast, and had to make a panic stop for some reason, it could be interesting. I experienced that situation at Huron Street and Forman Avenue, and had to jump a curb with the car. I followed that with driving across someone's front lawn and back onto the road.

1914 Bartlett

Rex Bartlett's car was tested in public in 1913 in front of the Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto. The four-wheel brake system worked so well that when the car was brought to an abrupt stop in front of the theatre, 26 other cars behind it that were part of "the parade," ran into each other. American car manufacturers, concerned about competition from the Bartlett car, are said to have offered Rex a million dollars for his invention, but he turned them down.

Instead, he opened the Canadian Bartlett Automobile Co. Ltd. in Toronto. In its first two years, the company built 100 vehicles. With need to increase his output, in 1916 Bartlett bought a partially finished furniture factory at 212 Norfolk St. in Stratford. The site is now home to Rover's Ranch Dog Daycare and Boarding.

In 1916, 200 more cars were built in the Stratford plant. As well, the output included a few Bartlett trucks, which were built on the automobile chassis. But it all came to an abrupt end in 1917. The world was at war, and many of the U. S. manufacturers that Mr. Bartlett relied upon for machined parts for his cars, had all their civilian contracts cancelled by the U. S. government so they they could manufacturing war materials.

Bartlett (1891-1987) was forced to declare bankruptcy and close down his operations. In total, 600 Bartlett cars were produced. I don't know if any of these still exist. As recently as the 1980s, a 1917 Bartlett was in the collection of Gordon E. Smith in Ottawa. The photo of that car, which appeared in the Beacon-Herald, was taken from Cars in Canada, a coffee-table book that included cars that were in the now non-existent Rothman's Collection.

* An additional note: Rex's son, Edward Morley Bartlett (1927-1997), operated a riding stable in the former car plant on Norfolk Street, and also, in the late 1960s, he had a restaurant in the same building. According to Vernon's Stratford City Directory, Rex lived at 169 Norfolk St., an address that is now part of a an apartment building complex. Source: Text and pictures Brian Wendy Reis . . . FB