Lloyd Johnson is credited with the original idea of the Garbage Bowl and his friends at the old Montreal West High School were the first participants. Three hundred and fifty fans watched that historic game in 1950 between the boys from the south of the C.P.R. railroad tracks and the boys from the north. The South, led by Dick Brook, won the first game 15-10 never realizing they were creating a rivalry that would endure for decades.
Initially, the Southern Bombers were dressed in green pyjamas and the Northern Combines were wearing red longjohns but in the mid-fifties, the South changed their uniform to green longjohns. Due to the absence of goal posts in the early years of the game, converts were made by tossing the football into garbage cans positioned at both ends of the field. From these humble beginnings came the name of the game and also numerous imitations of the game across the continent.
The Garbage Bowl became associated with the Montreal Westward Rotary Club in 1952 when the club started sponsoring the game as a fund-raising event. The first beneficiary of the game's proceeds was the newly merged School for Crippled Children and the Mackay Institute for the Deaf. While the Mackay Centre for Deaf and Crippled Children continues to be a recipient of funds, the list of beneficiaries has expanded to include most organizations sponsored by the Westward Rotary Club. In keeping with the spirit of the game, the money was collected by volunteers carrying garbage cans around the field into which fans would toss their donations.
No football championship would be complete without a queen to preside over the event and the Garbage Bowl is no exception. In fact, the Garbage Bowl was probably the first football game to eliminate sexism from the competition to become queen. Miss Leftovers, the Garbage Bowl Queen, is a student at Royal West Academy "picked" by her peers. All the names of the contestants are placed in a hat and the last person whose name is picked from the hat becomes Miss Leftovers. The second and third to last names chosen become Miss South and Miss North.
Many famous Montreal gridiron members of the past, present and future have either played with or coached Garbage Bowl teams. People like Johnny Newman, Sam "The Rifle" Etcheverry, Red O'Quinn, Tex Coulter, Moses Denson, Terry Evanshen, Red Storey, Brodie Snyder, George Dixon and someone known only as "The Shadow" have all been "on the field" on January 1 no matter how rotten their weather to make the Garage Bowl game a memorable start to the New Year. Over the years the game has had its controversial moments. Tex Coulter had his eligibility questioned in 1957 when it was claimed that he was purposely directed to the wrong (North) side of the tracks by Combine scouts. Johnny Newman resolved the problem when he produced Tex's contract written, in true Garbage Bowl fashion, on a bread wrapper. In other years, supporters have engaged in torch light parades and even effigy hangings to rally their team to victory.
Perhaps the most exciting play in Garbage Bowl history was in the 1951 game when only one player knew all the plays for the North. At the start of the game however he was nowhere to be seen. Just before kick-off, a taxi roared up and out came Jack Birks wearing his tuxedo and clutching longjohns in hand. After pulling on his "uniform", he got on the field and returned the opening kick-off for a 102 yard touchdown.
Since having aligned with the Montreal Westward Rotary Club, the term Garbage Bowl has come to involve a more lasting meaning. It now symbolizes the hope to put a child's crutches in the garbage. That is, not as a devilish gesture, but by helping to buy the operation needed to cure them.
The garbage bowl players at one time were required to canvas Montreal-West, to be able to play they had to distribute the programs door to door and raise money. The canvasing usually occurred at the Santa Breakfast in December of every year. But with the disappearance of local High School Football teams (Montreal-West HighSchool, Marymount High School and the loss of the NDG Maple leafs), recruiting players has become difficult, players now come from outside the local area, making canvasing a thing of the past.
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