This and the following photographs were donated in memory of Cornwall’s former Parks Superintendent, Joe “Skip” St. Denis. The collection will now be housed in Cornwall’s Sports Hall of Fame courtesy of the SD & G Historical Society.
OCOT Boys Club at Kiwanis Boys Camp South Lancaster 1940s
Joe “Skip” St. Denis on the left addressing children at Riverdale Park for OCOT camp preparation. Neighbourhood reps included Eleanor Lawn (Riverdale) and Alicia Page (Dover Heights)
Future Cornwall councillor and mayor L.G. “Archie” Lavigne, centre and Joe “Skip” St. Denis on the right look at a bundle of Cornwall pennants.
OUR CITIZENS OF TOMORROW.
Citizenship, companionship, physical education and tolerance.
In 1946, the city boasted that sports played as big a part in the development of Cornwall as industries, making it “one of the most prosperous cities in Eastern Ontario.” Our Citizen’s of Tomorrow and Joe “Skip” St. Denis can be given the credit for this success.
Born during the Depression to address the problems associated with juvenile delinquency, the OCOT, according to reporter Lauchlin MacInnes “originated in the spring of 1932 when a group of Cornwall citizens met” at Cornwall Collegiate. “Soon afterwards the Cornwall Athletic Commission was born.
Joe St. Denis, who had been active organizing boys’ activities, “working for one winter as a volunteer” by flooding his own backyard to make a rink for neighbourhood boys,” was selected take a course in South Bend, Indiana” to learn how to teach “clean living and sportsmanship.”
“Skip” as he came to be known, was now hired by the Town of Cornwall as playground supervisor for the Cornwall Recreation Association.
The OCOT, as the umbrella boys’ club operated at all city playgrounds. Conditions at these grounds were often inadequate. MacInnes wrote the going was tough “with little cooperation or interest from the general public. There was, however, plenty of ground available, even if the first Marlborough Street clubhouse was a mere shell.”
Living up to the club’s motto “Citizenship, Companionship, Physical Education, Tolerance,” the group emphasized leadership, responsibility and developing “professional athletes.”
Rapidly attracting more than 1,000 boys annually, activities included Scouts summer camp, fishing, hunting, track and field, lacrosse, baseball, gymnastics, basketball, rugby, volleyball, hockey, boxing, wrestling and leadership training.
Badly in need of more adequate facilities, Skip teamed up with Ernest Hamel to canvas the community for a clubhouse, constructed in 1939, on the southwest corner of the old Athletic Grounds, now named after Joe St. Denis.
After a tour of duty with the SD & G Highlanders, Skip rejoined the OCOT program, while acting as probation officer for the juvenile court. He instituted the first swimming program. The 40s also saw the first pet parade and the opening of King George and Alexander Parks. Annexation in 1957, added yet more parks along with the opening of the Kinsmen Club building and 7 wading pools. Reflecting his ever-growing responsibilities, Skip was named parks superintendent in 1959.