MHC Heritage Diary Episode 17 - North Bay's Parks & Recreation

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In this episode, MHC Chair, Peter Handley speaks with Dave Saad, retired longtime City Employee with the Parks, Recreation & Leisure Services Department. Handley and Saad discuss North Bay's various summer festivals including the Mayor's Kiddies Day which started under Mayor Merle Dickerson, the Gateway Heritage Festival as well as Summer in the Park. Saad and Handley also discuss the various sporting events that have taken place in North Bay including the 1989 Ontario Winter Games and Saad shares a little-known story about 'Bruno the Bernard from Bay North'.

Peter Handley:
We want to say welcome to North Bay’s Heritage Diary. Listen up and we shall weave for you tales of days and times gone by, which can inform today and show the way to tomorrow. This Municipal Heritage Committee podcast looks at our town, our people and our stories. This time we open the diary of our shared past and talk to Dave Saad, retired thirty-year city employee namely in recreation, special projects and communication. Recreation was your field. That's where you got your training?

Dave Saad:
Yeah. I really didn't know where I wanted to go after high school. I wasted five years of high school. So, I registered in broadcast journalism, but between the end of high school and the start of the school year in September they'd introduced this recreation leadership program with Dean McCubbin and Dean McCubbin changed my life. I found my niche. I developed a passion for it. Dean McCubbin had the passion and he shared it. I was fortunate enough, that I went through the program and said I want to work for the City of North Bay’s Parks and Recreation Department and then three weeks after I graduated, I was hired. It doesn't happen that way anymore.

Peter Handley:
No. What year were you hired?

Dave Saad:
1972.

Peter Handley:
’72. Okay, when did Sam…

Dave Saad:
Sam died in ‘75.

Peter Handley:
Right, okay. So you came in under his regime.

Dave Saad:
Sam and Murray Shaffe hired me.

Peter Handley:
Tell me what the city was like back in the 70s.

Dave Saad:
Sam was a Parks guy and I was fortunate enough to be around when they decided to build Thompson Park and I think Sam was determined to make me into a parks person too because he would take me over there about twice a week. We’d be on the island between the two ballfields where the water ran through and Sam would stand on the bridge with me and he say ‘well, I’m going to do this over here and do that over there and do that over there.’ I remember that because I went over there one day when I knew Sam was on his last legs. He was in Toronto and I was standing on the bridge at about 10 to 12 and that's when Sam died. But, Sam built on the passion that Dean McCubbin taught me. They say that Sam was a dreamer. I think we all had to be dreamers to be successful in that profession. Sam just had a real keen idea of what he wanted. In 1971, I believe it was, when I was still in school, Sam came in as a guest lecturer and he had a project for us and the project was for us to design a marina for North Bay’s future waterfront. This was before it was even brought up. At this time it was just bush and everything down there. We had to design this this this marina for this new proposed waterfront, which hadn’t even been talked about but Sam had it in his mind.

Peter Handley:
That's interesting because one of the times I visited the Recreation Department. I'd only been here a few years and he took me back into his area and pulled out all these designs that he had for the marina and that whole area and maps and things all done in real time. Of course, this was all up here and then on paper and some of it has been transferred onto the actual land. But the idea was there… How practical was he as a Recreation Director? I mean you used to do things back then like you used to register all the kids hockey players and…

Dave Saad:
We did. We did so much stuff. Sam told me very early on in my career, he said, ‘you’re going to operate 80/20’ and I said ‘what do you mean by that?’ he says ‘you’re going to do 80% right and you’re going to screw up the other 20%, apologize for it and move on’ because if you are afraid to fail, you couldn't be successful. I think that was a message that he was delivering to me.

Peter Handley:
Okay.

Dave Saad:
I remember early on, I said to Sam ‘we need a fence around the ball field down at Amelia Park.’ If you remember there used to be two diamonds down there with a junior field, was on the one end and Amelia as it is today was down on the other. He looked at me said ‘well, there's a drafting board, draw it and go do it and then figure out how you do.’ You may remember we did it with rink boards originally because we didn't have the money to buy the chain-link fencing. But that was Sam. There was no bad idea. It was bad if you didn't have an idea.

Peter Handley:
He was recognized as Recreation director by his peers.

Dave Saad:
Well actually, ill give you an example of that. Our provincial organization was the Society of Directors of Municipal Recreation of Ontario and in 1974, Sam took me to my first conference and we walked in, and all of a sudden people started coming out of everywhere ‘Sam’s here’. He had that kind of personality. On the drive down, and God, I figure I was what 22-23 at the time and I’d never been to this thing before. He said to me ‘why are you going to this?’, and I said, ‘because you told me I'm going to it’. I know that wasn’t the answer he was looking for but, Sam said to me at that time, he said, ‘you're in a profession of leaders’ and he said ‘this organization is an organization of leaders and if you are not prepared at some time to be the leader of this organization then you should never go back’. So I walked into the organization. Pete, this place was so deep in protocol that a man could walk in wearing a thousand dollars suit and a $500 turtleneck they would say ‘you are not dressed appropriately for a business meeting, go put a shirt and tie on.’ It was over the moon in terms of the protocol, but I learned professionalism there and I remember coming back from that meeting and going ‘how the hell am I ever going to be a leader of this organization?’ But, I think it was 1986 or 87 that I became president of the organization, but it was because I always had that in the back of my mind, and because we were encouraged in this building - in City Hall. We were encouraged to get involved outside of your regular work. Morley Daiter used to say ‘do it because it's free professional development’.

Peter Handley:
You worked with Murray Shaffe as well?

Dave Saad:
Murray. I think Murray and I agreed to disagree amiably for 25 years.

Peter Handley:
He was a recreation guy?

Dave Saad:
Murray was a recreation guy and when Sam died, Murray was made the Director and I was made the Assistant Recreation Director. Murray was very strong in the political end of things. He was strong in the administrative end of things. He was strong in the budget end of things. Basically all the things that I kind of figured were a waste of my time. I think that's how Murray and I really got along well and I can think of only one situation where Murray and I had a real strong disagreement. In 25 years, we had one really strong disagreement. But, he let me go and do what I thought I had to do. I always remember, Murray said to me just before he retired, I went in and I thanked him for letting me do what I wanted to do and he said ‘there were three things I knew that you would never do: you would never embarrass him, the department, or the city.’ And that's how Murray and I got along. I was always appreciative of the fact that he let me go out. He gave me a lot of rope and let me go out and hopefully be more successful than a failure.

Peter Handley:
I remember, and I’ll give you an example. When I was on Council and he was the head of the department and he did the same thing with me as he did with you. I went in to explain that I'd like to change part of Lee Park to Veterans Field and I explained my rationale and so forth. And he said ‘do it’ so that’s what we did. But that’s it. He did the same thing with me as he did with you. You also worked with Jamie?

Dave Saad:
Jamie came on after Sam passed.

Peter Handley:
And he was a parks guy?

Dave Saad:
He was a parks guy. He did his own thing in terms of park development. He was heavily involved with waterfront development. I think one thing that I know that Jamie would probably be very proud of today is the ‘Heritage Gardeners’ program. He worked with Harriet when Harriet Madigan wanted to start that program and today you see the end result of what I think is one of the real pluses of what Jamie did in working with the community. We never would have had the manpower to do it and that's a real plus. It’s a real credit to Jamie for the work he did.

Peter Handley:
Now, the practicality of the budget – tell the Sam Jacks story with Dick Donnelly.

Dave Saad:
Well Sam had a great relationship with Councilor Donnelly who most staff were afraid of, because he was intimidating individual and grant you a very, very smart man, a no nonsense man whatsoever. So I go to my first budget meeting. This is at the old City Hall and Sam would always have his tie loosened at the neck and he smoked a pipe and back then you could smoke anywhere and he be smoking his pipe and he used to go line by line. It was painful and anyways, Mr. Donnelly said to Sam, ‘Sam, this small tools account you have… there seems to be a lot of money in there and what it’s for was for rakes and shovels… Can you explain that to me?’ and Sam said, ‘yes. Mr. Donnelly’, he said, ‘you know we work very, very hard to develop a reputation as a Department of Parks relaxation and at no time do we want you to be driving by any of our Parks and see two guys leaning on the same rakes, so we want to make sure that they all have their own’. Mr. Donnelly breaks up. I don't think there was another department head in City Hall that would've dared to say that to him so a little while later, Mr. Donnelly again says to Sam, he said ‘Sam, this sod account… there seems to be a lot of money in their and if I was to estimate, we probably could do half to three quarters of the city with that, but can you tell me where you got that figure from?’ Sam just kind of stared off into the distance and reached up into the air like he was grabbing a figure out of the air and brought it down and pointed it at Mr. Donnelly. Then Mr. Donnelly said ‘do you think you can take a little bit out of there?’ and he said, ‘yes, Mr. Donnelly, we can take a little bit out of there.’ Can you imagine that happening today in City Hall? It just wouldn't happen that way. But, because of the relationship that took place after a council meeting there used to be the downstairs bar over the Empire Hotel and whatever happened at City Council, the majority of the Councilors and the department heads all headed down there and would have a few pops after and continue the conversation and make fun of each other, and it was relationship building and for whatever reason, it stopped. I'm sure that people would like to do it, but it’s just not the way things are done anymore.

Peter Handley:
Okay, part of the job of recreation people these days is to try to draw people to the city. I go back to 1925, where they celebrated Old Home Week in North Bay which became a huge ceremony and the program for that was a book. Basically it was just a marvelous job. There was another one later, various reuniions, beard growing contests. What were you a part of? When I came to the City, the Winter Fur Carnival was huge and it became too huge. It outgrew itself.

Dave Saad:
Yeah, it was basically a weeklong party, the North Bay Ty-Cats or that whatever they were, operated a pub and booze was kind of our primary activity. It was a catalyst in bringing people together. I guess with the Royal Bank downtown where they had the longest bar at one time and the bank closed and it I think from a liability perspective, it kind of ran its course, but it was a huge celebration. People came into town. Everybody in town was there. People would take their lunch hours to go over to the Legion. They would go over to the bar that was downtown. It was a huge event, but I guess people became wary of it and the city decided we just can't be part of that anymore and it ran its shelf life. So the city in their infinite wisdom decided that we were going to have a non-alcoholic family weekend so I'm going from this huge community party that a lot of it was alcohol based to no alcohol at all and make it fun.

Peter Handley:
What year roughly are we talking?

Dave Saad:
About 1976-77, probably. I came up with the idea and pulled some people together and thought up an idea of how we were going to utilize Memorial Gardens. It was indoors so you don't have to worry about weather, so we worked with the figure skating club and the figure skating club put on this huge figure skating show that was one component of it and the second part of it, we had a contact - Dave steeper, who was involved with gymnastics at York University and someone had the contact and they brought in the York University gymnastics demo team and they put on about a two hour show at Memorial Gardens. We put down the floor and they did their thing there, I forget what the third one was, but we had three events. It was one of my big one year successes.

Peter Handley:
You had an indoor track meet for couple of years?

Dave Saad:
Yes, we used to do that in the spring. That was one of the first events that Murray saddled me with. I wasn’t a track and field guy, but my two years at Canadore I'd volunteered to be part of the thing so I got a call from I think it was maybe Tony Pooley over the radio TV station and he wanted to do an interview with me and I thought it was going to be about summer program. So I studied and I had all my information and Tony started ‘so I understand you've got over a thousand athletes coming in for the Legion Track and Field meet.’ So I ad-libbed from the little information I had from being a volunteer. He said, ‘can you name the events?’ and well I didn’t know what events were in it, so I mean I just threw stuff out and by the end of the interview, I had Javelin and Shotput taking place in Memorial Gardens. But that event for me was a pivotal event because one of the things I learned from that event is that you don't have to know everything to be successful. I ran for and was involved in it for two years and I think the second year we had 1400 athletes that came in and you’ve got to think, we’re running on Memorial Gardens floor - no bank track. We did high jump over at St. Vincent School. But, the success of the thing. If, I had any part in the success it was that I knew what I didn't know, and Dennis Landry and John Cobb were the reasons why that was successful. I remember sitting in Dennis's kitchen with the two of them. My job was to write because I couldn't contribute anything else and they did the complete seating of all the athletes. They knew every athlete, so I mean it's an example of a community leading a community.

Peter Handley:
One of those athletes that came was Bridget Bitner from Elliot Lake who ended up being an Olympic athlete right?

Dave Saad:
That’s right.

Peter Handley:
We’re sort of famous in a sense for having a big event in the summer and that started under Mayor Merle did it not? Mayor Merle Dickerson?

Dave Saad:
Merle decided that he wanted to have a Mayor’s Kiddie’s Day. Basically it grew from our playground program. I think we had something like 17 locations throughout the city where we had summer playgrounds that ran for six weeks, probably two Supervisors at every playground. No charge for the kids. The kids would go to Santa's Village, a trip on the Chief Commanda…

Peter Handley:
That was a success. Could it be a success today, running now as you ran then or do you think it would flop?

Dave Saad:
I think it could be a success. I think they still have limited areas. They have now, I know they offer pre-and post-school programs in schools. The success of the playground program at that time was that it took place in people's backyards. So you had the people in the Pinewood area. They had Kinette, they had Bourke which was a couple blocks away. Probably, now that I think about it, the big problem today is that society does not allow kids to get out of their parent's view. There are issues that we’re facing today, but the playground programs worked at that time. I always remember our situation up at Vincent Massey School with two little kids. I don't know what the home life was like. But when the supervisor got there in the morning, these two little kids were sitting there. The supervisor found out they hadn’t had breakfast so she would bring breakfast for them. The kids, if they stayed for the full day, were supposed to have a lunch, but these kids never had a lunch so the playground supervisor would bring a lunch for them, and when she left the kids were still sitting there on the steps waiting for somebody to pick them up at the end of the day. We used to call them the hand holders and the leg huggers because those playground supervisors provided something that wasn't totally available at home. It was love and it was showing that they cared to the kids. The playground supervisors that that I came in contact with, them and the lifeguards, I had so much respect for the job that they did. They’re totally different jobs, but the job that those young people did on playgrounds and beaches, I can't say enough good about the job that they did and what they what they provided for kids that some kids just never have the opportunity to have at home.

Peter Handley:
Okay, back to Merle Dickerson on the picnic.

Dave Saad:
So, Merle decides to have huge event in Thompson Park. So Kathy Seguin was responsible for the playground program at the time and Kathy coordinated it and Merle was to raise money for us and he did. But one of the things that Merle did was if you remember, a gentleman by the name of Hurley Hu who owned the imperial restaurant down in Ferris and I always remember this and I'll come back to the event, but Merle called me one day to come down to his office. I come down there and Hurley is in the office and he is mad because Merle had convinced him to donate a thousand eggrolls for the Mayor’s Kiddie’s Day and told him that he can have a tax receipt for them, well, John Ford, who was the treasurer's said well you can't give a tax receipt for eggrolls, but that's kind of what we had to deal with. In ways it was a huge success. We brought all the playgrounds together. Kathy had a great program set up and all the playground supervisors were involved in with different stations and was a full day of activities and we had watermelon and we had refreshments and we had ice cream and everything for the kids and it culminated with a fireworks display off of the island at Thompson Park. So, the year that Merle got turfed out of office, Mr. Donnelly was the temporary Mayor of the day and boy do you want to see an absolute fish out of water it was Mr. Donnelly overseeing a Kiddie’s Fun Day. it just didn’t jive, but he was the Mayor and this is the Mayor's Kiddie’s Day and he was great. So, at the end of the day, he was standing on the island where the fireworks are being let off and one of the sparks flew back into the storage area where all the fireworks were and I think I'm one of the few people that have ever seen Mr. Donnelly run fast, because by the time he just got off the island and we had about a 15 second fireworks show that I don't think North Bay has ever seen because everything that was there went up in 15 seconds.

Peter Handley:
You mentioned the island. What water?

Dave Saad:
The Chippewa Creek ran through Thompson Park. So there had to be and there was an arched bridge that went over from the Troy football field side over to the Johnson ballfields. I think there are two bridges as a matter of fact that went over Chippewa Creek so that you could gain access to the other side where Sam had built the sliding hill. So you had to get over to that side if you parked there or to get over to the ballfields. Well, I guess you could cut through the football field.

Peter Handley:
Okay, Mayor’s picnic – Donnelly, Dickerson, and then Stan Lawlor becomes Mayor. Did this continue?

Dave Saad:
Oh yeah, it continued. So, Stan called me one day and he said ‘I got a guy in my office and he has an idea that he wants to bring to North Bay so I’m going to send him down to your office.’ I didn’t know whether he was just trying to get rid of the guy or he thought it was something legitimate but anyways, this huge man, I forget his name, he came in, introduced himself and he was with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and they had operated a festival out of the Heritage Pavilion at the CNE and they wanted to expand it to have six regional festivals throughout the province and they had heard about our Mayor's Kiddie’s Day and thought that might be something that they could align themselves to. So, his shtick was that they would come into the town, they would provide a show band and show stage, give us $5000 and they would host an open community banquet. I'm thinking about all this and I'm going this sounds a little bit too good to be true, so we talked a little bit more and he said, can you get back to me and if I recall correctly, it was in early April of that year so I brought Kathy Seguin in and I said Kathy, ‘what do you think about this?’ I threw all the stuff at her and she says ‘well it’s kind of a tight timeline’ and I said ‘well I think it's either in or were never in – do you think we can pull something off?’ and we agreed to do it. So Washboard Hank was there and the rest of his something something band and so they hosted this big buffet luncheon at the old Empire Hotel. We invited a bunch of community people and they gave us 5000 bucks. We had to raise the rest. I think we got a little sponsorship if I'm not mistaken. I think we had the petting zoo and we had to get some entertainment and make up the rest of the money. Stella Collier was one of our secretaries at the time, and Stella and I operated a barbecue. We had an ice cream cooler that we would pop and ice cream in and we sold that for the event that evening, which was a tribute band to the Beatles.

Peter Handley:
When did this all take place?

Dave Saad:
It was in the summer and it was basically just one day. So and Kathy, she pulled it all together. I’ve got to give her credit for that. We had no idea. We promoted it and I think the city was hungry for something like that and it was estimated that probably around 10,000 people showed up down at Lee Park that night for this tribute band to the Beatles. We were over the moon excited about the turnout. Wow. This happened, so it continued on and we built on it. We had a little bit more entertainment. We brought in a little bit more.

Peter Handley:
When did the air show come in?

Dave Saad:
That’s the next thing I’m going to come to. The show was taking place and Phil Richardson with Northgate Square was an integral part of the air show. We started to grow the festival – we had a corn roast and the first chair was Barry Pond and then Kevin Clark and then Peter McKeown and then Jerry Lawlor.

Peter Handley:
Jerry was the Mayor's wife.

Dave Saad:
She was the Mayor’s wife and I think what happened was, Phil took a look at what was happening with the air show and it had grown, it was big. The Air Show was very big. They had the product, but they didn't have the volunteers. We had some product and a really good volunteer base and a good infrastructure that was overseeing the growth of the Heritage Festival. So I remember we had a meeting in City Hall. We came together and that's basically what Phil pitched and him and Jerry had some discussions and we decided to merge the two. I think that took everything to the next level. It took it to a whole new level. I think at the peak. I think we were 1.3 million for the Heritage Festival and that was always a concern like why Heritage? We never wanted it to be a heritage festival where the emphasis would have been on North Bay’s Heritage… It was just because they'd operated the original thing at the CNE in the Heritage Pavilion so we thought we would just take the name and it was the Gateway Heritage festival,

Peter Handley:
And the only Heritage part was the Heritage Village.

Dave Saad:
Yeah, and you know your wife Pam pulled out together and it was very successful It was very successful the first year, successful the second year and then all of a sudden it was almost like the displays were secondary to selling raffle tickets and being used as a fundraising opportunity, but the festival grew because of the air show. There were statistics as to what impact air shows have on communities and we saw it. Big, big crowds and it was a great. It was the peak of festivals I think here in our city during those early years when the military were so heavily involved that we could put on an outstanding air show. We had the Lancaster, we had the stealth come in and they didn't really cost us a lot of money because it was a partnership with the military. The beginning of the end of the heritage festival was when the world went crazy and everybody was heading into war and those military shows were no longer available and we had to buy the shows. I know I was against it, but the committee ruled and they decided we would continue to buy them and they became very costly.

Peter Handley:
It got to too big for its britches, didn’t it?

Dave Saad:
One of the reasons is what I just said.

Peter Handley:
The entertainment too.

Dave Saad:
Well, the entertainment was an important part of it, but it was entertainment was getting expensive. But, I remember the saying always used to be ‘oh next year is going to be bigger and better’ and I used to always argue against that. I said ‘forget about the bigger let's just focus on better’. But Pete, when you take a look - I remember the crowd for Roch Voisine. When we brought Roch Voisine in, the people at the gates. We estimated I think the crowd was 25 or 30,000 people that were down there to see Roch Voisine. Stompin’ Tom Connors was another. We had him in twice I think - big, big crowds. I mean our committee was an unbelievable committee of people. People like Sean Devine and Norm Shillington, who oversaw the security. We had better security there than most events you’d find anywhere. The people like our maintenance staff. People like Frank Corbeil and Tony Caini and the gang down in our parks. Yes, they get paid but they were there and worked their eight hours, but they’d be there, 12, 13, 14 hours, because it was important to be part of something that successful.

Peter Handley:
Eventually the festival stopped.

Dave Saad:
I think Pete everything is a shelf life now, and I think that the peak of the heritage festival could not be matched on the fundraising that we did. Stan Lawlor and Jack Burrows - both were outstanding Mayors in terms of their support for the event and running the corporate fundraising through the Mayor's office. They did a heck of a job in raising money and we had community buy-in into it. People like Kathy Strong - Kathy wrote a check for $10,000 every year through her when Wingate/Nevada bingos. We had a peak. I think with so many events, there's a shelf life and I think that when I see what they did this past summer they’ve gone back to square one. Maybe we’ll get to square two or maybe we’ll stay at square one and maybe that'll be the success I don't know.

Peter Handley:
Do you miss that sort of thing? I mean, you were involved not only with the festival business, but in the 80s you had all sorts of different events from figure skating to boxing to various games that came to North Bay. Sort of the start of sport tourism.

Dave Saad:
The 80s were pretty special here. It started out and again, I’ve got to give credit to Terry Talentino who was the arena manager. His job was to promote his facility and Terry did a good job promoting his facility. Terry had this idea of progressive hockey championships. We started with the provincial peewee championships and there was a line that was parallel. It was aligned to the formation of AAA hockey organization in North Bay that was spearheaded by Butch Turcotte. Dick Prescott was involved, Keith Blanchard was part of the coaching staff and Alex Geisler. But this was Butch and Dick Prescott's idea. They put together a core of hockey players here. It was a great core of hockey players, young hockey players, and they molded them into a championship team. But this was progressive so as they were peewee's, we hosted the peewee provincial championship. Terry chaired it and we had a core of people that were part of that committee. I was sport tech chair. Then we did the Loblaw's Cup, which was the bantam championship two years later. Pine Hill coffee shop was part of that. It was a progression and they won that. Personally, I was sport tech chair for that. Two years later the Air Canada National Midget championship and we all know what happened there where Pine Hill, won that one as well.

Peter Handley:
The only Canadian hockey championship we’ve ever won here.

Dave Saad:
That’s right, and that completed the cycle that Terry had in his mind. So that was taking place. We set records with the midget championship here in terms of attendance and what we sold terms, souvenirs. It was great. So then off of that the Canadian Figure Skating Championships and we were really, really lucky at that time because, if I recall correctly, there were I think at least five skaters went on to medal at the Olympics for Canada that there were that were at that event. Absolute sell out every day at that event. The Figure Skating Club played an integral part in that and again, Terry was heavily involved with that - I think he chaired that as well. But that was a huge success and one of the interesting things off of that that was the last time that a Canadian Figure Skating Championship was ever held in what we’ll call a small community. So was a success, then in 1977 we hosted the Ontario Winter Games and that for me personally was a real steppingstone. I was sport tech chair for that and it was a real steppingstone for me to see what went into organizational development of a major multisport event.

Peter Handley:
That was when Waldo Henderson was the head.

Dave Saad:
Oh man, Waldo Henderson. Good memory, Pete. Yes, Waldo was the consultant for the Ministry then and Ken Ward. So in ‘89 we decide that - I guess would been the end of ’87 that we are going to apply to host the 1989 Ontario Winter Games but something happened where basically we lost one year of lead time into the games in terms of them giving the games to us. But they came in and did their site visit, I drove everybody around. We had a great committee, Arnie Schmidt was the chair. I always described Arnie this way: from when we started the games until we ended the games I said, you know, I never disliked Arnie. I went from acute hatred to friendship and I skipped right over dislike. But we were called Arnie's Army. Now, that thing was never should have been a success. It was a success. It was a tremendous success with a great committee. We set a record. Dick Prescott was responsible for souvenir sales. We set a record that probably hasn’t been matched since in terms souvenirs that were sold. Bill Raymour coordinated volunteers. I was the overall games coordinator. Darla Esh was sport tech chair. We had Fred Gibbons and Jordan Orack. They were involved. It was a great committee. But, we lost a lot of lead time and we had to raise a substantial amount of money. Terry Talentino was involved with it as well and him and Arnie were sitting in a hotel room somewhere and they came up with the fact that we needed a mascot and he decided that the mascot had to be Bruno the Bernard from Bay North. A stuffed animal of a St. Bernard.

Peter Handley:
Oh I don’t remember that.

Dave Saad:
Well the next time you’re over at the house, I’ll show you one if you want. So what happened with that, they decided we’re going to do a stuffed animal. So we go through the whole thing. The orders are placed and everything is planned. We find out they're being made in China. Okay, so let's get them over here. Well they're literally on a slow boat from China. So we had this live St. Bernard and we had planned this huge launch out at the Northgate Square where you would get a Winter Games birth certificate for Bruno, the Bernard from Bay North. We have to but we couldn't get the damn things here. Arnie being Arnie and you know you can knock whatever you want, but I give him full credit. He went through the military and arranged for a military plane (no one was supposed to know about this at the time) a military plane that picked up a certain number of the stuffed animals in China and flew them to Canada. So Arnie and I we had this cube van and we had to drive to Toronto to pick them up. Now it was one of those winter days colder than hell and those cube vents don't have any heat. Arnie and I damn near froze driving down there so we drive down, we pick up I think 500 of these things, and Arnie decides let's go over to Queen’s Park and go see Lincoln Alexander, who is the Lieutenant Governor of the day. I said ‘Arnie, you just don’t drop into see the Lieutenant Governor’ and he said ‘no, we’re going to drop in’. We pull into Queen’s Park and of course the security guards says ‘what can I do for you?’ and he says ‘we’re here to see the lieutenant governor’ and he said ‘well, have you got an appointment’ and we say ‘no, but Mike Harris has left his parking spot for us.’

Peter Handley:
Mike Harris was the Premier.

Dave Saad:
No, he was the MPP. So, the next thing I know, I’m sitting in the Lieutenant Governor's office. It's beautiful. He wasn’t available, but his two ICs spent time talking with us. So, we’re heading out of town…

Peter Handley:
You didn’t give him a St. Bernard?

Dave Saad:
No, we were there to sell them. But, we’re heading up Avenue Road and I see this grocery store called Bruno’s Foods and I said ‘Arnie, pull over, I’m going to sell the first Bruno’. So Arnie pulls in and he says ‘you're never pull this off’ but I go into the store and I said ‘I see the stores named after Bruno, is he here?’ and the cashier said no. I had one of the stuffed animals and they were cute. I said so, here's the story gave a quick story and I said $25 and she said ‘I know if he was here, he’d buy one.’ She pulled open the cash register, took 25 bucks gave me the 25 bucks and Arnie and I came home we sold all that we had at Northgate Square.

Peter Handley:
That became the thing though didn’t it? You had to have a mascot.

Dave Saad:
Yeah, you had to have a gimmick. But, you know Pete, the interesting thing about that set of games. I'd say 15 years later, the provincial government was doing an Ontario Games review and they wanted to bring people in from various sets of games. I was called and invited to Toronto to go on the part of the panel to do the review of the games and I was told that because of the overall success that was created in North Bay when it never should've been a success.

Peter Handley:
That comes to your volunteer work force

Dave Saad:
Yeah, we called Arnie's Army. I think we had over 500 people that were involved in the games.

Peter Handley:
And that continued after that in various other things right, as recently as the Canadian Curling Championships?

Dave Saad:
But, that’s another one – I mean, I wasn’t involved in that and in fact, I wasn’t even here for that, but yea amount was needed here for that, but the success - you can plan all you want but planning is only successful because of implementation and you need the people to implement. At the Heritage Festival there were these two ladies. They insisted every year they were the ladies that handed out the equipment out of the storage area at Lee Park. You never even had to call. They were on board. they wished the new. They knew they were going to show up. You talk to the organizers of the curling, you see people still wearing the clothing, but the volunteers were there. Just recently I was involved with the provincial pickleball championships. We had 33 volunteers. My problem was, people wouldn’t leave when their shift was over - they wanted to stay. North Bay is so rich in people that give of themselves. I think it's becoming more and more difficult because now if you’re involved you that have security checks and police checks and all the stuff that we never had before.

Peter Handley:
Just finally… working with Mayors and Councils with regard to all this – recreation, festivals, and so on so forth. Did you have to walk a tightrope?

Dave Saad:
No, not back then. They let you do your job. They trusted you. You earned their trust – you had to earn it. It didn't hurt that when I started, Sam was there. They trusted Sam, although you know Sam was a dreamer and he did some things a little different, but they trusted that you had the greater good of the city behind what you did. They weren’t afraid to kick your butt. I remember Alderman Don King, he’d come in – and back then they’d come in your office one-on-one, and they’d throw it out if they were upset about something. They’d go one-on-one with you in the office and even with Mr. Daiter who was our CEO – Morley would call you in and you have it out about something and when it was done ‘let’s go for coffee.’ There was a respect for what you did and you respected them – it was a two way respect. You had to keep them informed. I know that in ’97 I was given the responsibility for the arenas. I start to bring in bands we had some successes. Go ahead; say it, please, please.

Peter Handley:
Terri Clark.

Dave Saad:
Thank you. We had some successes, but every everyone that I did, we went to Council and we said, here's what I have. Can I go ahead with it?

Peter Handley:
Yep.

Dave Saad:
And we did have some successes, but concerts - I hear the city and you know they do the renovations to Memorial Gardens and unless the concert comes in and purely rents your facility. Run. There's no money to be made in that. It's great for your community to have these big show bands, but it is expensive. I can’t even imagine like it was 20 years ago I was doing that - I can’t imagine what it would be like today. But no council, that was a different system. Back then you had your committee structure. So you'd meet every Monday, there'd be the meeting at noon hour and you’d go over what was to be on the agenda. You had formal committee meetings. We used to hold our meetings down at the Golden Dragon. We’d have a dinner meeting and you’d go through what was happening and you had an opportunity to be able to tell your story so that when you went to Council, Council was informed. It was a good time back then, it was. This was a fun place – City Hall was a fun place to work because you were allowed to think outside the box and you weren’t afraid to do that.

Peter Handley:
Thank you.

Dave Saad:
Thank you. Glad to have been part of North Bay's history.

Peter Handley:
Dave Saad. Retired longtime city employee. 30 years in recreation, special projects and communication. Thank you for spending some time with us and listening to our stories. These productions are put together by the Municipal Heritage Committee not only to retell old tales, but hopefully to kindle interest in area history. Local lore is important to any community and we shouldn't let it go unremarked and unremembered. Views expressed in this podcast are not necessarily those of the Corporation of the City of North Bay or its employees. Join us next time when we flip another page of the diary of our shared past. You can reach us at peter.carello@cityofnorthbay.ca. Production – Kealey Ducharme. Pete Handley speaking.