When fire claimed Truro's most popular sports facility

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By Lyle Carter

Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part column on the Colchester Forum, previously known as the Truro Forum and Flemming Arena.
It was more then 51 years ago - Jan. 31, 1963, to be precise - that a spectacular fire destroyed Truro's only enclosed skating and hockey rink.

Charlie MacKinlay, left, Tom MacNaughton and John Hutchinson look over newspaper accounts of 1963 Colchester Forum fire.

It was more then 51 years ago - Jan. 31, 1963, to be precise - that a spectacular fire destroyed Truro's only enclosed skating and hockey rink.

A front-page story in the Truro Daily News on Feb. 1, 1963, described the loss.

"A section of the front wall and a mass of twisted steel girders were all that remained this morning of the 40-year-old Colchester Forum on Queen Street following a three-alarm inferno which started about midnight last night. The blaze was fought by five of the Truro Fire Brigade's six trucks.

"Zero degree weather hampered the firemen, who managed to bring the blaze under control at 4.30 a.m. Flames from the fire could be seen for over a mile. Sections of the building were still burning today as firemen continued to pour water on the ruins.

"The Colchester Forum, previously known as the Truro Forum and the Flemming Arena, has been the home of the Truro and District Hockey League for many years. The last game in the forum was last night, when the annual all-star game was played. The Bible Hill team lost all their equipment in the fire."

Tom MacNaughton, a member of the Truro Fire Brigade, helped fight the fire that destroyed the familiar landmark and popular sports facility.

"Donnie McCabe and I were on a two-and-a-half-inch hose," MacNaughton, 86, of Truro, said. "We were putting water on the upper level. It was a cold night and the water started to freeze. We started having trouble and could hardly hold the hose. The fire chief was Chet Lane and he was there at the scene."

John Hutchinson, another firemen, shared memories.

"The fire started sometime after midnight," Hutchinson said. "The alarm was rung in just after 1 o'clock and the fire was brought under control by 4:30 the next morning. I remember ammonia tanks in the compressor room exploded and the fire spread through the building quickly."

Charlie MacKinlay recalled a conversation he had with fire Chief Lane following the fire.

"Chet couldn't say for sure what caused the fire but he thought it could have started in the compressor room," MacKinlay, 80, said. "It was such a big loss to the community at the time. There was no other indoor rink in this area and hockey just died for awhile."

MacKinlay, an avid hockey fan, recalled attending a memorable Truro Bearcats APC Hockey League game during the early 1950s.

"The forum had an upstairs and at this game a scuffle took place on the ice just below the upper level at the north end. The fans in the front row at that end of the forum stood up so they could see better. Other fans rushed to that end of the forum to get a better look. The railing and stands gave way and quite a number of people fell right down on the ice among the players. It's amazing but I don't think anyone was seriously hurt."

MacNaughton, secretary of the Truro District Hockey League for several seasons, said he played very little hockey.

"I attended the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 1945 and I tried out for the Aggies. The coach, Win Langille, cut me. That could have been my big chance in hockey?"

Hutchinson, who played for many years in the forum and was the last district league scoring champion, has a great collection of memorabilia pertaining to local sports history.

"Bible Hill defeated the Truro District Hockey League All-Stars 5-2 in the last game ever played in the Colchester Forum," Hutchinson said. "More then 500 fans attended the game. Ron MacCormack had two goals for Bible Hill, Ron MacDonald, Bus Kuhn and Donnie Dennis each scored one. Terry Henderson and Harvey Stoliker scored for the All-Stars. Stoliker's goal at 18:27 of the third period was the last goal ever scored in the Colchester Forum. Terry Henderson and Paul Blair drew assists."

Gerry MacWha of the All-Stars was the last player to leave the ice following the all-star game. Little did anyone realize that it was the end of a special era in hockey.

Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Colchester Forum, Truro Daily News Truro Fire Brigade Truro District Hockey League All-Stars Truro Forum Truro Bearcats APC Hockey League

Geographic location: Truro District, Queen Street

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