When one thinks of ‘waxing nostalgic’, usually it means having an increasing reminiscence for fond memories of the past.
On a local level however, we may need to redefine that term and adopt it as our own homegrown colloquialism.
Biographer Lawrence Gregoire, age 69, has gone by the nickname “Waxy” to the locals since his earliest days as a kid growing up on Harriet Street in Penetanguishene, and sports have always been a part of his life.
“My father passed away when I was ten,” says Gregoire, “but I recall when I was a little guy, my father used to come home from work… The World Series was always on in the afternoon around supper time.
"And I recall my father sitting there watching the World Series, and I got the opportunity — I was the oldest in the family — to sit down and have supper with him, watching the ball game. Of course, TVs were pretty new back then. I had sports in my blood.”
Currently, Gregoire is associated with the Society of International Hockey Research as the Vice President of Ontario, as well as a working member for the Penetanguishene Sports Hall of Fame. Prior to those titles, he cites Penetanguishene’s rich sports heritage as his inspiration for becoming a writer.
“My first book was on Bert Corbeau who was on the winning team of the Stanley Cup 1915 Montreal Canadiens, along with George McNamara who was from Penetang and Amos Arbour who was from Victoria Harbour. So you can you imagine three guys that live so close together and were on the Stanley Cup team for the Montreal Canadiens? It was that interest that got me going.”
In 1990, Gregoire co-owned a collectibles store in Penetanguishene.
"Collecting sports (memorabilia) and researching sports kind of go hand-in-hand," he says. "We closed down the collectibles store and I wanted to get involved with the sports hall of fame and Dave Dupuis was the president; he’s a writer, a very good writer.
“I started researching some of these guys, and we both had the same premonition that ‘some of these stories have to be told’. A lot of the things we do involve the sports hall of fame, such as interviewing past and present inductees. People we want to interview, we put them on tape— just to catch their story. They’re going to pass away someday and nobody’s going to remember them; but we have their story on DVD and we’ve done a lot of research.”
It was during 2010’s Bert Corbeau — Montreal Canadiens, Winner of the 1st Stanley Cup that Gregoire chose to immortalize tales from the early days of our sports history.
“Because he’s a local guy, not many people are going to pick up his story and write about it,” Gregoire states. “Same goes with the McNamaras when I wrote (2014’s The ‘Dynamite’ Era and the Road to the NHL: The McNamara Brothers). They’re local, they’re not big-time superstars that played, and the chances of people writing about them are slim-to-none.”
In addition to 2013’s Heart of the Blackhawks: The Pierre Pilote Story and 2016’s The Red Kelly Story both co-authored with David Dupuis, and the latter with Red Kelly himself, Gregoire’s 2018 The Penetang Hurons — A History.
"The one thing I wanted to talk about in that book was the first chapter about the building of our community centre, because that rink — we’re probably not unlike other communities," Gregoire explains. "That rink was built by volunteers, that’s why it’s called the Community Arena. It was being built at the same time as the general hospital in Penetang, so money was scarce.
“And of course, the hospital would generate the biggest contributions. So that rink that we have today was built by our forefathers. It wouldn’t be a book in itself, but it’s a story that I felt was an opportunity to be included in that book. The Hurons started, basically, shortly after the rink opened officially. So it’s a good tie-in.”
While the future is as unwritten as Gregoire’s next published works, he does have two projects laid out before him. A long-term ambition is to write about sports history within the defunct Penetanguishene Secondary School, while closer to the present is the history of the Penetang Kings Junior C hockey club.
“The Kings have been in existence for 44 years, so I’m starting to do research on them and I’ll probably do a book on the first eight years because there’s so much information," he says.
In the meantime, the Facebook group for the Penetanguishene Sports Hall of Fame features Blast From The Past, an ongoing series of weekly posts by Gregoire featuring local sports moments of interest.
Limited runs of his early works are hard to come by, but local libraries carry Gregoire’s titles. Additionally, the Penetanguishene Sports Hall of Fame sells DVDs of interviews with heroes of the past.
With so much material available to the community, the chronicled efforts of Gregoire will stand the test of time like a long-burning candle, bringing parts of our history to light for all to see; that’s not a bad legacy for a guy named Waxy.