The Start Of Something Big

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The year 1962 provided a lot of firsts for me. The Beatles and Tony Sheridan produced their first song “My Bonnie” and later that year their first single “Love Me Do.” In mint condition, that .99 cent 45 of “My Bonnie” can fetch between $500 and $1000 dollars today. The same applies to a mint copy of “Love Me Do”. If you are lucky enough to have a copy with Andy White on the drums, it is valued considerably higher. Jackie Robinson was the first black player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The USA’s attempt at landing on the moon missed by 22,000 miles, however, John Glenn became the first man to orbit the earth in February of that year. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards played together for the first time. The first domed stadium broke ground in Houston.

About the same time, the first “in colour” TV series “The Jetsons” and the ‘Beverley Hillbillies” were debuting. Sometime in 1962 I was pulling my new hockey jersey over my head with the Royal Donut logo stamped across the front and the number 15 on the back. I was about to play my first indoor game in the Wexford Hockey Association at the Tam O’shanter Arena. The Toronto Maple Leafs had, the previous April, won their first Stanley Cup since 1951. Ironically, the body of Bill Barilko, who had scored the winning goal that year and died in a plane crash a few months later, was discovered in June of 1962. The Canadian band The Tragically Hip would immortalize this famous moment in time with the recording of the song “Fifty Mission Cap” 30 years later.

Every Friday during that hockey season, the routine never changed. School, road hockey, dinner, and after dinner, the short walk to my coach’s house for the team ‘chalk talk’ before Saturday’s game. One particular Friday, my dad informed me there’d be no ‘chalk talk ‘ that night. Instead, we would be going to the opening of our sponsor’s new donut shop in the Colony Plaza at the foot of our street. “Dad, why do we have to go to that?” “Because, Michael, your sponsor wants to meet you guys and have you there for the opening. Besides, maybe you’ll get a free donut.”

After some grumbling I relented. But at 8 years of age and having all the answers, I couldn’t possibly fathom how going to some stupid opening of a donut shop was going to make me a better hockey player. The store was very crowded, and the 15 of us in our red Royal Donut jerseys where ushered closer to the back of the store. This way the owner could see all of us first and meet his team. “WHO CARES?”

Standing there still sulking a bit (ok a lot) a door opened and I heard the movement of someone or something approaching the small door leading from the back of the store to where we were standing. At that point my curiosity got the best of me and I just stared at the entranceway waiting to see what this waste of my Friday hockey night was all about. It was like a dream and almost surreal because through the doorframe emerged a big man with a brush cut, a long coat and a very recognizable face. “DAD ITS TIM HORTON!” I gushed.

I turned and looked at my dad, and from the smile on his face it was pretty obvious to me that he’d known all along that Tim Horton was going to be there. Little did I know, I was witnessing the start of one of the most iconic brand names and success stories in Canadian business history. Technically, the ‘TIM HORTONS” we know today with over 4000 stores across North America, officially didn’t go under that banner until 1964 in Hamilton, but still, it had to start somewhere!

At the time, Tim Horton also tried his luck in the fast- food business with a hamburger place right across the street on Lawrence Avenue near Warden Avenue in Scarborough. That didn’t work out, as we know. But a hat, apron, cup, menu, or anything from that burger outlet would be worth hundreds of dollars each to collectors today. Also, that ROYAL DONUT sweater would have some collectors drooling today.

So here I was in the presence of royalty (excuse the pun please). A real live Toronto Maple Leaf was just a few feet away from me. I got my first in-person autograph of a Leaf that night. I also have a picture of Horton signing all our scraps of paper (my dad brought my brown leather autograph book from home). I still have both tucked away.

Again, as the years would go by, little did we all know that Tim Horton’s signature would become one of the most sought after and expensive in the hockey memorabilia world. Today that signature sells for hundreds of dollars, and depending on the condition and what it is signed on, it could be even more valuable.

So in my world of 1962, the average family income was around $6000 dollars, the cost of a new home was $15,000, a car might set you back $2500, and to fill it .25 cents for a gallon of gas. Even a cup of coffee at Royal Donut only set you back a dime, but at that moment the only thing that mattered was that I had my first Leaf autograph, and my only concern was how long we could stay here and just look at Tim Horton. We got a drink with our free donut that night!