||June 30, 2000
Arena named after one of Mattawa’s famous sons
|Mike Rodden at Iroquois Falls in
1913. From Anent Michael J.
Mattawa's Mike Rodden Arena and Community Centre is named after one
of Ontario's most remarkable sports figures. Mike (1891-1978) is the third
unique Mattawa personality, along with Gertrude Bernard (1906-1986) and
Gordon Dufoe (1891-1975), that I will profile before moving on to other
heritage perspectives (Gordon Dufoe was born the same year as Mike and
lived near him).
Mike Rodden was born in Mattawa and lived there at Fifth and Bridges
St. until he left to attend Ottawa University at age 15, and later attended
Mike and his wife Millie returned to Mattawa regularly and usually stayed
at the Moose Head Lodge, the former home of Henry Timmins Jr.
Mike had a great affection for Mattawa and an incredible memory for
stories about his home town.
The stories he told did not suffer in the telling. When he retired,
he wrote a five hundred page book on his remarkable career as an athlete,
coach, referee and sports writer.
Peter Handley, the sports writer and sports caster from North Bay, worked
and corresponded with Mike, and in the early 1990s tracked down the unpublished
Handley acquired the sections of the book on Mattawa and Northern Ontario,
which he edited and added various appendices and photos.
The Rodden grandchildren co-operated with the project, and provided
||The Lacrosse Gang - Porcupine 1913. Mike Rodden is third
from fight front row. Photo courtesy Dana Rodden, from the book Arnet Michael
J., edited by Peter Handley
Handley’s son designed and produced the book, and the Highway Bookshop
in Cobalt published it in 1993. The book is called Anent Micheal J: The
Life and Times of Michael J Rodden in Northern Ontario. It is available
in bookstores and museums, including the Highway Bookshop and the Mattawa
The book includes considerable material on other aspects of Rodden's
incredible life later in his career.
-He played hockey, football lacrosse and was an outstanding boxer,
canoeist and ten pin bowler.
-While at Queen's University he was an all-star several times and had
an all-time record of fifteen sports letters.
-He coached various football teams and won 27 titles, including 2 Grey
Cups. n He refereed 2,864 hockey games, including 1,187 NHL games in a
13 year period.
-While doing his coaching and refereeing, he worked full-time as a
sports editor for the Toronto Globe for 18 years and for the Kingston Whig
Standard for 15 years.
-He was the only person elected to 2 sports Halls of Fame, in hockey
(1962) and football (1964).
In his autobiography you can see the things that characterize his life-his
intelligence, his writing ability, his self-confidence and his energy.
He was the second of four children of Irish Catholic parents.
In the book, he describes how most of Mattawa, which he calls "Mattewan"
was on the south side of the Mattawa River, and how Rosedale on the north
side had the Catholic church, school and hospital, etc. He lived in the
area beyond Rosedale, which at the time was called "Squaw Valley" because
of the high Native population there.
He went to St. Anne's School at age 5 and recalls numerous fights, adventures
and incidents there and elsewhere in the community. His stories about every
aspect of life in Mattawa, up to the end of the First World War, make that
era in Mattawa come alive like nothing else I have read.
His stories about early logging companies and the running of the logs
down the Mattawa River, under the bridge and into the Ottawa River, were
especially lively. For example, he says: "the running of the logs became
a challenge to me, and there was no dare I would not accept." The stories
of his bobsledding, local forest fires, medical emergencies, the judiciary,
politics, fishing and the coming of electricity, etc. are fascinating.
He notes that he and his wife Millie made "many holiday trips to Mattawa."
On one occasion, the owner of the old Timmins store, Ike Tongue-who
mike called "a landmark in a town of landmarks"-was to pick them up after
a fishing trip on the Ottawa River. There was a huge thunderstorm and they
were not picked up. Later they found that Ike had a good excuse-a tree
had fallen on his car and wrecked it, and when he went to look at the damage,
his store was hit by lightning and started on fire.
The museum and the arena/community centre are working on separate Mike
Rodden displays. The book itself is an outstanding record of his life and
of life in Mattawa during that era.
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