BC Football of Fame
On, Oct 22nd, 2016 the Meraloma Club Football Section will be officially inducted into the BC Football Hall of Fame. See the full details here.
Early Meraloma Football History
The first mention of football in Vancouver appeared in the newspapers in November, 1924, two months before the first season began in January, 1925. From then on both the sport, to which the Meralomas contributed significantly, and its newspaper coverage entertained Vancouverites almost daily.
The Club benefited from the presence in Vancouver of a man who was to become a pillar of the game in western Canada and the driving force behind the Club's outstanding early football successes. Cyril Saxon Crossley came to Vancouver from Calgary in 1924 where he had played for Calgary against the Regina Roughriders in the 1919 western Canadian final. 'Sax' played and coached and held executive positions both at the Club level and for league and regional football associations. He was the 'daddy' of the Club in the early years being the only married member (aside from being somewhat older than most) and was very popular with everyone.
The Meralomas entered one team in the city intermediate football league in August, 1925, but were moved to the senior division in October. Composed of recruits who had played football the previous winter for either St. Mark's Bruins or Kerrisdale, or rugby for Kitsilano High School, they won only one game with newcomer Sax Crossley as the coach. A Meraloma junior team won convincingly during an abbreviated season against the New Westminster Hyacks, St. Mark's and Varsity Juniors, but lost the championship game for the World Cup.
Before the season began in 1926, a Vancouver Sun article offered a forecast:
'Although comparatively new in Vancouver, Canadian rugby has a large following and keen interest is being developed in the game. Two years ago, the first league schedule was completed and last year a number of new teams added and successful playoffs staged. This fall, marked strides have been taken in arranging a Big Three League composed of Vancouver, Varsity and Victoria. The winner of this league will tackle the Alberta Champion for the Western title. The Canadian game is being played for the first time among students in some of the high schools and judging by the turnout is bound to be popular. Considerable speculation has been made as to the possibility of the Canadianized version replacing the English Code in the high schools. If this takes place, the calibre of the Canadian game will be greatly increased. It is a well-known fact that all the larger universities in Canada prefer the Canadian game so that this seems highly probable.'
Anxious to do well in this new 'Canadian game', the Club purchased balls, sweaters, pants and a few padded helmets for those who wanted them. In these fledgling days of football not all players wore helmets, the main purpose of which was to prevent 'cauliflower ears'. In fact, it was noted that some players, Art Hunt being one, were still without helmets in 1934.
At the conclusion of the 1926 season the Meralomas were awarded the Harry Duker Cup for being the senior city champions and were allowed to challenge the Vancouver Athletic Club (V.A.C.) of the Big Three League for the provincial championship. The latter proved to be far too strong and earned a very convincing 27-0 victory. The members of this first Harry Duker Cup winning football team were Harold Rich, George Wray, Bill Pitt, Bert Quinn, Mel Parsons, Percy Wright, Harvey Campbell, Alex MacArthur, Gord Brown, Norm Howard, Jack Barberie, Roy Elliott, Bill Carnochan, Ted Black, Walter E. Magee, Bruce Lamb, Harold Danaher, Don Reycraft, Bill Edwards and Sax Crossley (Coach).
Interest in football continued to grow in the Meraloma Club in 1927-28 but a bid to gain a franchise in the inter-city league, now known as the Senior Big Four with the admittance of New Westminster, was unsuccessful. The team again entered the Senior City League and again won the Harry Duker Cup. Varsity (U.B.C.) captured the newly-donated Sir Thomas Lipton Cup for winning the Big Four. Through Coach Sax Crossley's efforts the Meralomas were again given the right to challenge the Big Four champion for the provincial championship, but in so doing they lost 25-4. Regina Roughriders subsequently defeated Varsity twice in the western Canadian final in November and then announced that they would not travel to Ontario to play for the Grey Cup for which they were eligible.
The Grey Cup, of course, was to acquire considerable prestige as the years went by and turning down the opportunity to play for it never happened again. The Cup had been donated in 1909 by Earl Grey, then Governor-General of Canada, for the rugby championship of Canada. It was originally open to competition only for amateur teams which were registered with the Canadian Rugby Union. Remembering that football was then called Canadian rugby in order to differentiate it from English rugby, the Canadian Rugby Union was the governing body of amateur football in Canada.
In 1921, teams from the west were permitted to compete for the trophy for the first time. In 1936, university teams dropped out of contention and the Quebec Rugby Union and the Ontario Rugby Football Union followed suit in 1937 and 1954, respectively. Since 1954, only the nine professional teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences of the Canadian Football League have challenged for the Grey Cup. In 1966, at a ceremony in,Vancouver, the Canadian Amateur Football Association, the successor to the Canadian Rugby Union, formally turned over the Grey Cup to the Canadian Football League. (For a comprehensive account of the history of Canadian football, refer to Frank Cosentino, Canadian Football - The Grey Cup Years, Toronto, Musson, 1969.) Not realizing the future importance of the Grey Cup but certainly wanting to be champions at some level, the Meralomas obtained some tackling dummies and bucking machines in 1927 and began to take their football training very seriously. The Senior City Football League, which was also referred to as 'intermediate', operated in the spring of the 1928-29 season and four teams- Varsity, Richmond, Meralomas and Dodekas, competed for the Harry Duker Cup. The Dodekas were a Kitsilano based team which had won the junior football league for three straight seasons, usually by wide margins, and this was their first venture into better competition. After losing their first game to the Meralomas, the still junior-aged Dodekas won all others to capture the trophy. Several members of the Dodekas joined the Meralomas after they had passed the junior age limit.
Football in the late 1920's, in addition to being strictly amateur, still bore many similarities to football as played under the laws of the Rugby Football Union of England. Both Canadian and American football had evolved from Rugby Football and were undergoing rule changes yearly. The positioning of players in the twelve-man Canadian version closely resembled today's but the terminology differed. The seven-man line was composed of a snapback (centre), inner wings (guards), middle wings (tackles) and outside wings (ends). The five-man backfield contained a quarterback, right half-back, left half-back, centre half-back and a flying wing. Kicking was of paramount importance and the lateral pass was still much in evidence. Although the forward pass was used occasionally after 1929 in Vancouver, it was not officially adopted until 1931. Touchdowns had a value of five points. Canadian football was to undergo many changes in the next 55 years in its transformation from an amateur pursuit to a business enterprise. Higher transportation costs, growth in the national status of the Grey Cup and expanding professionalism were all influences yet to be felt by the Meraloma Club as it continued to pursue the game at the amateur level.
Over the decades, Meraloma Football made a huge contribution to the CFL, the Canadian Junior "Big 4" and Juvenile Football in BC.
A disproportionate number of BC and CFL Hall of Famers played on Meraloma football teams.
1954 - B.C. Lions entered the WIFU adopting Meraloma colours, burnt orange and brown.
During Ed Murray's coaching tenure, 1967 to 1974, the Meralomas won 8 consecutive league championships and 7 consecutive BC championships (in 1967 we lost the BC Championship by 1 point) During the entire rest of that time, Meralomas lost only two or three league games. The teams under Ed's coaching also won several Western Canadian championships. In 1974 the Meralomas went to the Canadian final, losing a close game to the Ottawa Sooners.
1974-75: a large group of Lomas "graduate" to the UBC Thuderbirds starting another winning tradition."
With football participation on the decline throughout the 1980s on Vancouver's West side, the franchise was moved to the Tricity Bulldogs.
However, every summer, the Meraloma Football Alumni Reunion is held at the Meraloma Clubhouse: (see the calendar for the next date when available). Below is Ray Crawford's Ode to the alumni 2015:
Gentlemen of the Orange and the Black
This story has few sharp edges, a few wise, funny, indelible strokes and some wit that winks between the lines.
I have, perhaps, said enough on former occasions of the misfortunes which I had, for a long series of years, enjoyed so large a portion of your favor. Through the success of my literary efforts, I have been able to indulge most of the tastes which a retired person of my station might be supposed to entertain.
Within my pen this nameless romancer possess the secret and I no doubt believe that I might venture, without silly imprudence, to extend my personal expenditure considerably beyond what I should have thought of, had my means been limited to the competence which I derived from collecting returnable bottles in my grocery push cart, to obtain a moderate income of professional situation.
There is a dimension between sanity and reality, a narrow plane inhabited by eminently offensive individuals. These dirty hungry wretches, who try unabashedly to portray a character, of fiendish, unruly barbarians upon the gridiron. Seem to Jekyll and Hyde themselves into upstanding, intelligent and graceful gentlemen off the field of play.
It became vested in the hands of you gentlemen whose integrity, prudence, and intelligence are combined with all possible liberality and kindness of disposition, and who readily afford every assistance towards the execution of plans, in the success of which this author contemplated the possibility of his ultimate extrication, and which were of such a nature that, had assistance of this sort been withheld, he could have had little prospect of carrying them into effect.
The personal narrative of my first work of fiction which I put forth only after it had come to be publicly ascertained; that the exercise of my pen in the same path of literature, so long as the taste of my countrymen should seem to approve of my efforts. I had therefore the task of allowing myself, to the numerous and respectable company assembled, as the sole and unaided author of these Meraloma Alumni Notes, the paternity of which was likely at one time to have formed a controversy of some celebrity, for the ingenuity with which some instructors of the public gave their assurance on the subject was extremely persevering.
I now think it further necessary to say that, while I take on myself all the merits and demerits attending these compositions, I am bound to acknowledge with gratitude hints of subjects and legends which I have received from various Alumnae’s, and have occasionally used as a foundation of my fictitious compositions, or woven up with them in the shape of episodes. It is believed that my affliction, as well as my devotion, induced me to commence the meandering mode of life which I pursued for a very long period.
It is more than fourteen years since I started to furnish a scene not unfitted for the pencil. I am conscious how much it was owing to the truth and force of the original sketch, which I regret that I am able to present to the alumni, this writing with much feeling and spirit. The alumni reader who is desirous of this information will find the melancholy tale was communicated to me for many years since, and, I believe, of one or two other personages of the same cast of character, in the article referred to.
And now the alumni reader may expect me, while in the confessional, to explain the motives as to why I have so long persisted in claiming the works of which I am now writing. To this it would be difficult, as any reply, as it was this author's humor at the time. I hope it will not be construed into ingratitude to the alumni reader, whose indulgence I have owed my Sang-froid much more than to any merit of my own, if I confess that I am, and have been, more indifferent to success or to failure as an author, than may be the case with others, who feel more strongly the passion for literary fame, probably because they are justly conscious of a better title to it.
It was not until I had attained the age of fifty years that I made any serious attempt at distinguishing myself as an author; and at that period men's hopes, desires, and wishes have usually acquired something of a delusional character, and are not eagerly and easily diverted into a new channel. I have only to repeat that I avow myself in print, as formerly in words, the sole and unassisted author of all the letters published as works of the Alumni Letter. I do without shame, for I am conscious that there is anything in their composition which deserves reproach, either on the score of religion or morality; and without any feeling of exultation, because, whatever may have been their temporary success, I am well aware how much their reputation depends upon the caprice of fashion; and I have already mentioned the precarious tenure by which it is held, as a reason for displaying no great avidity in grasping at the possession.
If I may so express it, the abruptness of my personal forthcoming, by investing an imaginary coadjutor with at least as much distinctness of individual existence as I had ever previously thought it worthwhile to bestow on shadows of the same convenient tribe. Of course, it has always been in my contemplation to discuss any Alumni as if he were a real person to sustain my quasi-editorial character and labors.
This author has been accused of introducing some not polite allusions to respectable living individuals; but I may safely, presume to pass over such an insinuation. I have tried to present a communication channel by which our subconscious can express itself to our conscious minds in as clear and ambiguous a way as possible. When I compare its effect upon my remembrance of my worthy alumni’s oral narration it is certainly extremely affecting, and at times when I penned them, I had no doubt passed myself off for embellishments.
As a worthy gentleman, my reputation for shrewd Scottish sense, knowledge of our football history, and a racy humor peculiar to myself, I must still be remembered. For myself, I have pride in recording that for many years we were, infamous as the Sons of the Orange and the Black.
Thoughts of those gone past
Thinking of our departed brothers and recalling their faces, their voices, and the depth of meaning that they brought to all of us. Those characters, of our near gone past, that have left an indelible memory for each of us individually and collectively. Their courage and their laughter still lovingly haunt each of us today. For not a day goes by that they are not thought of in some hilarious story remembered. They are not gone for they continue to reside within the hearts of all of us. I am not going to name them all, that is a pain I could not bear. Safe to say, a toast to those departed but never to be forgotten.