Bob Hazlehurst, in the centre of the back row, is shown with the 1946 Maritime intercollegiate championship rugby team. Courtesy of the Mount Allison archives department
He was born in England, spent his early developmental years in Mexico and has lived in such diverse places as Halifax, Mexico again, Dartmouth and Fredericton, to name a few, but Bob Hazlehurst says Sackville is the only place for him.
“There are just so many positive things I could say about this community,” Hazlehurst said recently, just after being the guest of honour at his 90th birthday held at Cranewood on Main. “Sackville is one of the safest towns I know of; it’s so friendly that you meet and talk with friends in the grocery store and there is no limit on the number of activities for all ages. I just wouldn’t trade this town for any other regardless of our sometimes rough weather conditions.”
But it wasn’t easy getting this modest person to open up and relate some of the places he has been and things that he has done. As a matter of fact, we have been trying to interview him for several years and it was only after his son Peter came to our rescue that we managed to squeeze a few tidbits out of him.
Your columnist first got to know Bob Hazlehurst back in 1946 as a student at Mount A. Bob was a member of one of the greatest rugby teams ever assembled at the local school, featuring a good many war veterans who returned to complete their education. That squad not only captured the Maritime Intercollegiate championship but then moved up to win the senior title by travelling into the coal fields of Cape Breton to defeat long-time champion Caledonia Caledonians.
“I certainly remember that game very well,” says Hazlehurst. “We played on a field of gravel and clinkers and I’m sure we all came home with bumps, bruises and contusions. Not only was the field rough but so were the opposing players who had no intention of giving up the title.”
Bob Hazlehurst played on the three-quarter line with Oola MacIntosh, Sackville’s own Willy (Bill) Tucker and the awesome Donald (Fats) MacLean. The first three had skill and speed, while MacLean, who played on the end, simply used his size, bull-like strength and toughness to either run over people or drag them into the end zone. Ben Karrel, who went on to a long and successful medical career in Truro, was the picking quarter and the well-known Jimmy Keefe was the “quarterback.” Keefe also played many sports and served as coach of the Sackville Eagles in the 1953-54 campaign.
The Mounties boasted an awesome scrum. Huge Tiny Titus was the anchor while two other titans – Tom Wells and Dave Morgan - were locks and the trio simply pushed the pack all over the field. There wasn’t a weak spot in the lineup, which was managed by Sackville’s Ron Estabrooks, who went on to enjoy a successful teaching career in St. Stephen.
As usual, Bob Hazlehurst likes to downplay any role he may have played in helping his squad ride to it greatest successes. Rugby continued as a major varsity sport until 1954 with Canadian football being introduced in 1955.
The Hazlehurst family moved to Mexico when Bob was less than a year old. His dad was an accountant in the silver mines in Salpillo and later moved to Mexico City with General Motors.
He recalls his father died while he was very young and his mother remarried a man whose mother had attended the Mount Allison Ladies College, and thus the connection. His family sent Bob off to the Mount Allison Academy as a 16-year-old to complete his high schooling. Following graduation, he moved to Halifax and worked in the shipyards until he was old enough to enlist in the RCAF.
“I remember very clearly my discharge after three years in the air force. It came on Dec. 17, 1945, and I returned to Mexico only to discover DVA would not cover the cost of my education down there so I came back to Mount A where I completed the commerce program.”
It was during this time he met Poppy Henderson, the lady who was to become the “light of his life.”
Following graduation Bob accepted a position with the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City but moved over the GM and subsequently was transferred to their Moncton office. He was married in 1951 and he and Poppy produced four sons. But he and his bride returned to Mexico where sons John and Jim were born and hold dual citizenships.
The Hazlehursts returned to Sackville in 1953 where he joined up with Jim Weldon in the J.E. Weldon Ltd. Pontiac dealership on Queen’s Road. After selling the business, Bob became employed with the Indian Affairs office in Amherst and subsequently was transferred to Fredericton where he became business service manager for 15 years before finally retiring. It was while in Fredericton that Peter and Paul were born. Years later Paul, the youngest, was killed in a motor mishap.
Bob recalls retiring to Sackville and looking for a house to buy but instead moving into an apartment adjacent to the local curling club where he remains following the death of Poppy a few years ago.
Since coming “home” he became a 70s golfer and enjoyed curling while spending much of the summer months at the cottage. It seems the ideal life in retirement. He now boasts seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Asked about his remarkable rugby playing ability Bob said he learned the game as a youth in Mexico as a member of the Trail Rangers and it felt natural to try out with the Mounties after his term in the air force. And it certainly was as that unit was unstoppable, thanks in no small part to the young “travelling man.”
So, after such an interesting life what does this veteran of 90 years have as advice for young people?
“I would definitely advise them to get involved in sport – whatever they find enjoyable – as it teaches teamwork and provides lasting friendships as well as keep a person physically fit.”
Yes, Bob Hazlehurst has maintained those friendships over generations – as a matter of fact when your columnist arrived at his apartment he was having a telephone conversation with another fine Mountie rugby player, Sackville’s own Ron Campbell who is retired and living in Fredericton. Thus, Bob Hazlehurst talks the talk and walks the walk.