By Lyle Carter
Kirk Archibald knew he had stumbled onto something special as he rummaged through the family home in Truro this summer.
"My mother (Elizabeth) and I were going through things in the attic," Archibald said. "That's when we came across these old ball photos."
The softball photos dated to the late 1960s and early 1970s and involved the Salmon River Keiths, a team his father, Earl, played on.
"It was like finding a time capsule," said Archibald, 47. "My father took me to Stanfield's Ball Park in Truro and Elk Park in Brookfield even before I started school. I remember as a real young kid travelling to those games. Sometimes it was with my father and other times it was with my mother.
"There were such big crowds. It was really exciting. Softball was really booming."
Archibald recalls several hundred people gathered around the ball diamonds for games.
"It was a very exciting time in my life," he said. "There was yelling and cheering and those were good games of high calibre softball. Those were the days - there was nothing like it. I can still see the big crowds, it seemed like everyone loved softball."
Keith MacKenzie, the president of Truro Bearcats of the Maritime Hockey League for thr past 15 years, was a player-coach with the Keiths.
"Yes, softball was in it's heyday," MacKenzie recalled. "I remember we had a big rivalry against the Bible Hill Mooseheads, who were coached by Irving ‘Chub' Bartlett. We both played our home games at Stanfield's Ball Park.
"The Brookfield Junior Elks were also in the league and they had quite a number of outstanding young players who would go on later and win a Canadian senior championship."
MacKenzie, a first baseman, also recalled big crowds and a great following of the local Truro District Softball League, which also included the Belmont Motors and the Thorburn Mohawks.
In 1969, the Keiths captured their fifth consecutive league championship. Powered by the big bats of Denny Clyke, Bob Crowell and Lyman Totten and strong pitching from Howie MacLean and young sensation Foster Mackenzie, they defeated Bible Hill in the league final.
Victories over Pictou County, Waterville and New Waterford followed on their way to winning the Nova Scotia Intermediate A softball championship.
"Johnny Hutchinson was our catcher," MacKenzie said. "Barry Clark played shortstop, Gerry MacWha was a good-hitting, solid-fielding second baseman and Pat ‘Rabbit' Hare covered a lot of ground in the outfield.
"It's good to remember those times when the ball was so good and the local support was outstanding."
MacKenzie said the ball seasons often ran well into the autumn.
"Especially if your team was successful in winning a Nova Scotia playdown series. It could take you well into September and if you made it to a Maritime final you could be playing softball in early October."
Bob Crowell also has good memories regarding the Keiths.
"We had a good all-around intermediate A softball team," Crowell said. "Good pitching from Howie (MacLean) and Foster (Mackenzie), good hitting and good fielding. I still have my uniform from 1969 when we won the Nova Scotia championship.
"Playing late into the fall comes to mind, and I guess the big thing is, we had a lot of fun playing together. They had a big day for our 1969 team at the Best Western Glengarry a few years ago."
Other team members were Birdie Mentis, Sterling Dobson, Danny Carter, Bob Tattrie, Larry Thomas, Ray Richard and Jim Wiles.
On Feb. 17, 2000, the 1969 Keiths club was inducted into Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame.
Lyle Carter's sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.