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International lacrosse, 1911

A few outstanding postcards and photos sold recently on eBay showing Nelson sports teams, one of which was an action shot of a lacrosse game against Spokane in 1911.

Although it is badly creased, it is unusual to find such a crisp action shot on a postcard from that era. Here is a closer look at some of the players.

You could have fooled me into thinking this match was played at the civic field in Nelson (now the parking lot of the Nelson and District Community Complex), for it had a similar grandstand, and a fruit fair building where the Civic Centre is now.

But the card reveals it was taken is Spokane — Natatorium Park, specifically — for it was postmarked there on Sept. 13, 1911 and sent by a Bettie Mitchell to Scotty Williams of Nelson. Bettie was probably related to the Mitchell who played point for Spokane, while Williams was probably Scotty Williamson, who played first defense for Nelson.

Very fortunately the message and postmark give us a date to look for in the newspapers. Here is a preview of the match from the Calgary Herald of Sept. 2, 1911, which indicates it was a significant event in local lacrosse annals.

The following day the Spokesman Review provided a detailed account of the game:

Notably, a couple of Nelson players in the postcard are clad in sweaters bearing an N with wings, similar to those worn by the team that won the provincial hockey championship in 1909.

Indeed, several members of the lacrosse club also played hockey, including Flukie Greyerbiehl, Waldo Ferguson, and Harry Bishop — who was one of Nelson’s outstanding all-round athletes until his tragic death in the 1924 train explosion that also claimed the life of Doukhobor leader Peter (Lordly) Verigin and seven others.

The same batch of postcards included this photograph, which I initially thought was taken before or after the game in Spokane. On closer inspection, though, I think this photo was taken on the civic field in Nelson. It may be a different team altogether, as their uniforms don’t resemble those in the action photo. We do have one player wearing the N with wings, however. We also have a kid sneaking into the shot in the back row between the fourth and fifth players.

On top of that was this contemporary but unused postcard, which judging from the ball the man in front is holding, depicts a soccer team. However, the man in the back row, third from left in the tweed cap also appears in the team photo above, back row, fourth from left.

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