Me and Pink Floyd and Ivor Wynne Stadium ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be
What’s left of Ivor Wynne Stadium.

It was sad to note in today’s news that Hamilton’s storied Ivor Wynne Stadium, home to the Tiger Cats, is almost no more.

People who know me well, also know I don’t follow sports. So why would a rickety football stadium bring a figurative tear to my eye? Because I have fond memories of a single day at Ivor Wynne Stadium: June 28, 1975.

Coincidentally Hamilton was the last city in Canada in which I lived before moving back to ‘Merka to help take care of Pops after my Mom died. Before I ever moved to The Hammer, I had only visited The Hammer on two previous occasions.

In the early ‘70s, when I was still in college, some bonehead in the Ontario government of Premier Bill Davis invited me to put on my award-winning slide show at a post-secondary school educational conference. Instinctively, I knew whoever chose my slideshow for the conference had never seen it; they had been suckered by the title: “Is There Any Place You’d Rather Be?” which just so happened to be the tourism slogan of Ontario. Maybe they thought my slide show was a travelogue.

Let’s just say Ontario wasn’t much impressed by my slideshow, which included naked women rolling around in broken watermelons, among other, err, interesting images. When the lights came up I was an instant pariah, especially among representatives from the Ontario government. Pleased at the reaction, which was wholly expected, I went for a walk.

The government had rented out the Royal Connaught Hotel, so Gore Park was steps away. I sat in the beauty of this downtown park years before the Gore Park Chainsaw Massacre ruined it forever. A sign outside The Palace Theatre beaconed. The Palace was an Art Deco monument to the era before Multiplex Madness had cheapened the movie-going experience. The cheaply painted sign was one no self-respecting film student could resist: AUCTION TODAY – CONTENTS FOR SALE. It was all going, as they say, to the bare walls.

I could have bought anything because there were so few bidders. However, I was a student on a tight budget, so I could afford to buy almost nothing. However, when a beautiful glass-etched, Deco exit sign came up for bids, I decided to go for it. The frantic bidding went all the way up to $10, but I managed to snag it. Snag it? I didn’t realize I was bidding on a lot of 10. While $1.00 a sign was a great deal, what the hell was I going to do with 10 exit signs?

Wait! The car I came in was already full. How the hell was I going to get 10 exit signs back to Oakville? Eventually I cadged transport for them and, over the years, I gave most away, before an ex-wife finally trashed the last two. Today I have none left.

It was only a few years later, June 28, 1975 to be exact, when I made my second expedition to Hamilton.

By then I was out of college and toiling as Editor [and chief grunt] for Cheap Thrills, the house organ for CPI, Concert Productions International, Toronto’s largest concert promoter. CPI had an exclusive lock on Maple Leaf Gardens, which is how it became the city’s biggest concert promoter. [That’s a story worth telling in detail some day.] While Cheap Thrills was filled with record reviews, interviews, and
profiles readily consumed by the average Rock and Roll fan, Cheap
Thrills was merely a cheap [no pun intended] and clever way for CPI to promote its upcoming shows.

How would you like to see this from your front porch?

Early on the morning of June 28 I arrived early at the printer and loaded up bundles of the latest issue of Cheap Thrills. I was headed to Hamilton’s to distribute Cheap Thrills to fans going to the now-fabled Pink Floyd concert at Ivor Wynne Stadium. I arrived at dawn. It took less than an hour to distribute tens of thousands of copies of Cheap Thrills at all the entrances. Although my work was finished, I was also sporting an ALL ACCESS PASS to a Pink Floyd concert. You don’t really think I was going to turn around and go home, do you?

To kill time until the show – some 8 – 9 hours away – I wandered in and out of the stadium and I explored the immediate neighbourhood. I was astounded that Ivor Wynne was plopped right in the middle of a residential area, with houses facing it on most sides. It made no sense to me to have a stadium right there.

As I waited the for the concert to begin the crowd grew from a few curious stragglers to a literal crush at the gates. I decided that the safest place, when the gates opened and the running and pushing started for the General Seating, would be outside the stadium. So, that’s where I watched the madness from. When the crowd outside had dwindled to mostly late arrivals, I looked around sadly. The mob left behind mountains of litter. Among the pop cans and other convenience store trash I was horrified to see my name on most of it. Copies of Cheap Thrills were everywhere: over lawns and flowerbeds. On porches. Blowing at the corners. Covered with footprints closer to the stadium. Everywhere one looked you could see my small contribution to Hamilton lore.

Pink Floyd at Ivor Wynne Stadium

As for the concert itself: I’m not here to review the show. However, it was the last concert on that Pink Floyd tour, so the band decided to go out with a bang. Rather than pack and transport the pyrotechnics, the roadies decided it would be best to explode it all at the Hamilton concert. The resulting explosion blew up the scoreboard and broke windows all around the neighbourhood.

After that Hamilton banned all concerts at Ivor Wynne Stadium, citing complaints from neighbours over the trash with my name on it. The ban held with a few notable exceptions ever since.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.