The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
When a group of Sudburians first announced they wanted to raise $50,000 to place a bronze statue of Stompin’ Tom Connors downtown, it seemed a bit out of place. Connors was not a Sudburian, yet he is inexorably part of our heritage for his iconic song, Sudbury Saturday Night. He is not necessarily associated with an individual place, rather he was relentlessly Canadian. Why a bronze statue in Sudbury?
Because he was able to write a simple, irresistibly catchy song that captured who we were at the time. In 1965, when he wrote the song, we were a city of hard partying labourors drinking away the sweat of the mines. It does not represent what Sudbury is today, but Connors was able to make a nation think about a city that many at the time knew only as a place “up North.”
Sudbury Saturday Night — best captured in his performance at the Horseshoe Tavern — might make us cringe a bit now. “The girls are out to bingo and the boys are gettin’ stinko and we’ll think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday Night.”
Inco is now Brazil-based Vale, and bingo has faded. And drinking heavily is not so much to be memorialized these days. “We’ll drink the loot we borrowed and recuperate tomorrow, cause everything is wonderful and we had a good fight.”
It recalls the days of the hard-driving company town that spawned the city we have today.
We were those lyrics, once.
Interviewed after Connors’ death last year, Paul Loewenberg, manager of the Townhouse Tavern, where Connors was said to have written the song, said of the mid-60s, “You walked into a bar at 5 p.m. and you see all the shift work people getting off work and everybody is having a tray of draft. That’s what people did. There was no real television, people weren’t going out to camp. You went to the bar and forgot about the tough workdays.”
Charlie Angus, now an NDP Member of Parliament, once played with the band the Grievous Angels. “I remember the first time I played the Townehouse with the Grievous Angels and we did Sudbury Saturday Night and it was like watching the movie unfold in front of us and we were just the soundtrack,” Angus said after Connors’ death. “It was haywire. People were dancing on tables and there was beer being spilled and fights breaking out and it was just a chaotic, wonderful night.”
Well, some of us may not have left Sudbury Saturday Night not so far behind.
Sudburians like to think of our city as the capital of northeastern Ontario. Stompin’ Tom was the first to popularize songs about the North, as he did about towns from coast to coast. He got his start at a bar in Timmins, and memorialized the Hollinger Mines fire that killed 39 people in Fire in the Mine. He sang about the historic Algoma railway in Algoma Central 69. He wrote and sang Little Wawa. Who else would recognize these distant places in song? And if we are the capital of the region, why shouldn’t we be the place to memorialize him?
As one commenter noted on The Star’s website, “if it wasn’t for that wild and woolly past, the Sudbury of today would not exist.”
So true. So bring on that statue of Connors.
For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2014/02/14/pov-why-we-need-a-statue-of-stompin-tom