Walter “Bubbles” Peters provided the first ever Mount Allison Mounties football team with a certain level of legitimacy as he quickly became recognized for his skills as a running back, actually scoring the team's first touchdown in a 22-10 exhibition victory over St. Mary's Huskies in 1955.
Peters went on to gain national recognition as he advanced to the rank of major in the armed services and became the first black Canadian jet fighter pilot and also flying instructor. He was also involved in the development of the Snowbirds and flew with the acrobatic group.
The entire province was in shock last week when it was learned he had passed away a week after suffering a stroke. He had remained in excellent condition and was active up until stricken at the age of 76.
Peters overcame bigotry and prejudice with a smile and shrug and cemented his close ties to Sackville when he married Nancy Steadman, sister of Barbara MacKay and Joyce Estabrooks. Joyce says the entire family always enjoyed his regular visits and were looking forward to one slated for this coming May.
"Walter quickly became a popular family member," recalls his sister-in-law Joyce who has many stories to tell. She recalls his university roommate, Dr. Seth Greenwood, describing their relationship as "the first integrated roomies" at Mount Allison.
Peters was recruited to Mount Allison by the late Rev. W. S. Godfrey, who not only recognized his outstanding athletic gifts but also a far above average intelligence. He arrived just as Mount Allison was making the shift from rugby to football and was a "prize" for coaches Al Haig and Bob Goss as they attempted to mold a group of "greenhorns" into a viable unit. They won all three exhibition games that first year and Peters continued to be the key man over the following three seasons. He played one season under coach Laird McLennan and the final two under the mentorship of Angus (Gus) MacFarlane.
During his second season, Peters led the Mounties to a perfect 4-0 record that included two solid wins over the more experienced UNB Red Bombers before they were trumped 54-13 by the Greenwood Flyers for the Maritime championship in a Mud Bowl in Moncton.
During MacFarlane's first year the Mounties split with UNB but won the provincial title with a 4-2 record but again were crushed in the Maritime final - 40-18 by the Shearwater Flyers, who were led by future Mountie Ed Rieger.
In his final season in1958, Peters once again ran circles around the opposition to lead his team to a 7-1 record, losing their final 16-0 to a strong UNB squad.
During his four-year career as a Mountie Peters was a key figure in leading them to a gaudy 18-5 record. He was so outstanding that he was named to the first quarter century Mountie all-star team in 1991, joining Rick Black and Harry Haukkala in the backfield. The quarterback was George Tsonos with receivers being Dave McLernon, Jimi Charuk, and Bill Blair with offensive lince composed of Peter Campanelli, Brian McMillan, Neil Sargeant, Peter Ferguson and Charlie Haskell.
Long-time Mountie player and coach Peter Estabrooks, a nephew of Peters, says he regrets never having seen him play but recalls how in later years they would get together and run some scrimmages and share views on football.
"He was a very driven individual," says Estabrooks, "and was just one fine person."
Peters eventually became the Canadian Armed Forces" first human rights officer and an advisor to the United Nations Security Council where he offered intelligence on the tactical movement of troops by air”. One of his biggest tasks was to brief the council following the downing of a Korean civilian jet by the Soviet Union where 268 lives were lost.
While there may be only a few veterans around to remember his exploits on the gridiron, Walter Peters will remain "one of a kind" in the annals of Mountie football, as well as a gentleman who broke down barriers with an instant smile and willingness to go the extra mile. He did it all while serving as a loving father to three daughters, including Catharine who graduated from Mount Allison and became a close friend of Jacqualine Archibald.
While he flew in the clouds, Walter (Bubbles) Peters kept his feet on the ground and has now embarked on another journey, leaving behind a legacy that should be the envy of us all.