By Darren Lum
Bob Beeney can’t imagine the life he has led without the Highlands.
The 90-year-old is the lone survivor of the Minden Monarchs hockey team from the late-1950s. He is proud about his life here, which started as a child cottaging with his family, who bought property in Miner’s Bay in 1938.
He didn’t just serve as the goalie, which was the backbone of the Monarchs’ defence, but built a legacy connected to the community’s foundation from the second half of the last century.
It was his athletic engagement as a softball player and then goalie for four years with the Minden Monarchs that laid the base for him to become one of the pillars of the community where he not only raised a family and spent a career selling mortgages, but also dedicated himself politically as a former mayor of Lutterworth, serving on various committees to start the seniors’ home, Hyland Crest and help to establish the network of roads in the area. He was even part of a group that started the Minden Progress newspaper (later the Minden Times).
He was originally from Toronto. But his life was here. He married and raised three children, who all graduated from Archie Stouffer Elementary School and then from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
Beeney, who is currently living in Amherstview, a small community outside Kingston, still calls the Highlands home. He still owns 20 acres off of Beeney Trail, and has a home on Gull Lake, which he’s been unable to return to for several months due to recovery from medical treatments.
The Minden Monarchs of the late-1950s are going to be ceremoniously inducted into the Haliburton Highlands Hall of Fame on June 18. The team joins the 1934 Haliburton Huskies and the 1971 Haliburton Huskies in the Hall of Fame’s team category.
During much of the late-1950s, the Minden Monarchs Intermediate “C” team was a perennial hockey powerhouse finishing as the Eastern Ontario Champions and the Ontario Intermediate “C” Finalists in 1956, 1957 and 1958.
Beeney is proud of the team and its place in history. He welcomes the induction and said his teammates would be overwhelmed and honoured by the recognition.
“Going in is remarkable. I think … the people that have developed this hall of fame is a long time coming and there’s a lot of recognition that should go towards the people that really made it big in hockey, but to also other people in the community. Haliburton County is a vibrant community. It was a provisional county at one time. It seemed to graduate from that. We got our senior citizens home. We got a lot of things. A lot of politicians, old time politicians got together and made a great county. I think people should not only recognize the hall of fame for athletes, but a hall of fame for a lot of citizens that helped develop the county,” he said.
When Beeney has seen the old team photos, he can remember all his teammates.
“I can remember all their names. I can remember all the guys and how they were. We were a Minden team, but we had people who weren’t from Minden on the team. It was just a remarkable bunch of guys that went further than anybody thought we’d ever go,” he said.
The team’s post-season runs, he said, were impressive considering the competition who came from much larger centres such as Napanee.
“We seemed to just gel at the right time,” he said.
The Monarchs were the main draw for a loyal fan base that included several hundred people on any given night. At one regular season game in 1956, there were 815 people, who came to the Minden Community Centre where the former fire hall was across from the township office, to see the Monarchs edge out the Bobcaygeon Bobcats 9-8 in a shootout. This kind of support was common, as fans from Minden and the surrounding area gathered every Saturday night for more than entertainment. It was an evening to come together and bask in the warmth and life of the community during the dead of winter. The fandom included a regular parade of vehicles that travelled south to opposing teams’ arenas, which was so prolific that it was a major contributor to funding the construction of future arenas.
Beeney remembers the camraderie of the Monarchs.
“Great guys. Really terrific teammates to play with. We had a great following of people on Friday night or Saturday night, whenever we were having a home game. The old natural ice arena was filled with people. It was great they cheered and supported. After we won our division and went on further we had great support out of Bobcaygeon actually. I remember Bobcaygeon was great,” he said.
He adds the support included people from Haliburton.
When he was at his best he shared the goaltending duties with Gerry Gartlan, who worked at hydro and was brought in specifically to play for the Monarchs. He said they were equal in terms of skills early on, but at the end of his time he wasn’t starting.
Beeney said he actually played a few games for the Huskies, which included an instance when he had his nose broken during an era when it was common for goalies to not wear masks.
“I broke my nose a couple of different times and lost a bunch of teeth. The masks were just starting to come out, but they weren’t a good [mask to see out of]. They steamed up, so I never wore one. In fact, one game I played with the Haliburton Huskies I had my nose broken by a puck,” he said, referring to a shot puck.
Playing goal was a natural fit for Beeney though.
“I just loved the spot. Maybe I wasn’t the greatest skater at the time. That’s how you get stuck in goal maybe. I learned to handle myself pretty well,” he said.
He hasn’t been back to the area for the past several months, but expects to come to the induction ceremony open to the public at 2 p.m. at the A.J. LaRue Arena on Saturday, June 18 in Haliburton with his wife, Barbara Butler. The pair have been married for 11 years and together for close to 30 years.
Home is where the heart is and Haliburton County has been that for Beeney despite moving away.
“There’s a real home feeling in Haliburton County. Always has been and always will be,” he said.
He can’t imagine another life without the Highlands.
“Being able to live in Haliburton, be part of an athletic team for softball and hockey, my kids growing up there in sports and people going out of their way to help, I think I would have missed a lot during my life,” he said.