Raymond Sports Oral History Project

I am an old Raymond Comet basketball player (1974-76) and my mother, Katie Paxman McCue, is an older Raymond “Helcat” (love that name – one “L” so they wouldn’t be swearing) basketball player (1950 – 51). So, I was raised on Union Jack, Comet and Helcat legends. These stories formed my perception of both myself and how the world works around me to a much greater extent than I understood until recently. See the essay (it is not up yet) under the “Essay” button titled “Raymond Sports – Social Psychology and Mythology” for more in this regard.

In the Spring of 1997, my former Comet team-mate Ron Hill and I were swapping our favorite basketball stories (lies, myths, legends, tall tales – pick your favorite term), and perhaps making up a few news ones in the wake of the Comets’ great season that year, and decided to collect as many as possible of the stories we were told around the kitchen table while growing up – particularly at Sugar Bowl time each year – so that they would not be forgotten. And the project mushroomed from there. The 96-97 Comets, by the way, went undefeated until the Provincial semi-final, and I have never seen a better coached or more entertaining high school basketball team.

The interview aspect of this project records, for the most part, “oral histories”. These are not intended to be “real” history. That is, we have made no attempt to verify the accuracy of these stories. We recognize that they are exaggerated, and in some cases may be completely false. Indeed, some sports loving Albertans who do not hail from Raymond will think that most of what is here is false.

In any event, these stories are a big part of the intellectual food and air on which we were raised and so around which our brains and self-images formatted. These stories helped to form important expectations as to what we could and should do, in much the way as Biblical and other scriptural narratives do. So, they powerfully influenced what we chose to become and how hard we were prepared to work at it. They gave us a certain unwarranted swagger as little kids. And without question, these stories were a big part of what walked onto the basketball court between 1973 and 1976 while bob mccue and Ron Hill were Comets. Of that we can speak with assurance. And we suspect that the same has been true for many generations of Jacks, Comets, Comettes, Helcats, etc. This project is an attempt to find out more about how that works.

As we began to collect the stories, our questions naturally turned to how this remarkable and in many ways wonderful tradition established itself and over many generations carried itself forward. We wondered, for example, how the Raymond basketball tradition seems to have infused a football program with unusual life, and then how the football program fed a different (and arguably better) kind of athlete back into basketball. This was of particular interest to us because the assets required for a football team are so different from what basketball needs. In football, size matters much more than it does in basketball, and the number of quality athletes required to make a great team is much larger. So it is understandable that Raymond’s tiny talent pool, if concentrated on basketball and coached well, could consistently produce success against larger schools whose more diverse student populations focus on many activities. But it was (and is) much more difficult to explain the extraordinary success the Raymond football team has had.

And it is impossible to think about the past without wondering what the future holds. So we asked questions about that, such as will the Raymond sports tradition run out of steam as the coming generations plug into the Internet, opt for skate boarding and video games, etc.

The questions I just described led us to interview a cross section of people connected to the Raymond sports tradition, with an emphasis on basketball. We collected during the course of eight months during 1997 and early 1998 something like 600 pages of material. My law firm, Code Hunter Wittmann in Calgary (as it was then, now Gowlings LLP) donated the word processing services necessary to turn the recorded interviews into documents, and Dianne Meldrum (a good Raymond girl herself) who also works at the firm, did yeoman service in organizing and editing the interviews. You can thank Gowlings by referring legal work to them, and Dianne by inviting her over for dinner when she is in Raymond to visit.

For various reasons, Ron and I were distracted from the task of getting this project to the point at which it can be useful to others, and hence the delay from 1998 to 2005. But in any event, here it is. I put the first ten interviews up last night. Other interviews, essays and materials will go online as they are edited to a relatively low minimum standard. We ask that those interviewed and others with personal knowledge of the events in question contact us with corrections, additions, etc. In particular, I am sure that many names of people and places have been misspelled and would be grateful to those who could point these errors out so that they can be corrected.

For the time being, we have organized the material that has been collected under two heading – “Interviews” and “Essays”. Each has its own button that becomes visible when the “Raymond Sports” button is pushed. Ron and I will each contribute an essay or two with regard to the social and psychological environment that makes Raymond what it is in athletic terms, and gives it a larger than life place in the lives of many people like us who were raised there. My case is particularly interesting in this regard.

My mother was raised in Raymond and I visited often as a child. However, I only lived in Raymond for all of grade 11 and part of grade 12, and yet feel strongly influenced by my connection to the town and its tradition. Several of my children would say something similar.

I should add, for the benefit of those who think that this may be some kind of typical Raymond sports ego-trip (and a few of the interviews could give that impression), that Ron and I are trying to present a realistic picture of two things. First, the wild, wonderful stories that entertained and formed us when we were impressionable kids. And second, the both good and bad things these stories do from a cultural point of view. We are not trying to either lionize or tear down the Raymond sports tradition. We are trying to understand our roots and discuss in an open, enquiring way something that is foundational to us, and both precious in many ways as well as troubling in others.

We hope that our effort to preserve the oral histories that are near the core of Raymond’s traditions, and to open a discussion about what they mean and do, will be useful to others. I have in mind particularly those little kids who each year at the Sugar Bowl charge out onto the floor at half time in their Comets jerseys to imitate their heroes while unwittingly renewing a tradition, and those who care about them. I also hope what we have collected will be helpful to people like Ron and me who in mid-life look back and think, “Wow, that was a real rush! Why was it such a rush??”

Neither Ron nor I are professional social scientists. However, Ron studied anthropology for more years than he cares to recall, taking both undergraduate and graduate courses, and has stayed up to date with regard to the anthropological literature. I have a BA, a law degree and an MBA and for the past several years I have read enormous amounts of scholarly literature related to how cultures form. This put me in a position to revisit the interviews we conducted in 1997 with new eyes. Reading them before they go online has been an interesting experience for me that will inform my re-writing of the essay I wrote in 1998 for the purpose of accompanying these interviews.

As time passes, I expect that we will collect other interviews, essays, perhaps photographs and audio files, and make them available on this site. Anyone wishing to contribute is welcome to get in touch with either Ron or me. And, I would particularly welcome suggestions for inclusion in a “best of” section. That is, I would appreciate hearing about the few paragraphs from an interview that particularly impressed you as disclosing the essence of what Raymond sports is about.

bob mccue
Calgary, Alberta
September 20, 2005


One thought on “Raymond Sports Oral History Project

  1. Hi Bob,

    I came across your project a few months ago. This is great. I am on the Board of the Raymond Historical Society. As far as I can tell, we don’t have copies of these in our archives, but I think they would make a great addition. I see you have the transcripts posted here. Do you also have the original audio? Is there more than what you have made available here? Either way, I’d love to see what we can do to make sure that these are preserved, both here and at the Museum for future generations.

    Stewart Foss

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