Sports
The 1948 Cup made legends of Stamps fans

Calgary Stampeders fan Bill Galiardi at home in Calgary, Alberta, on November 19, 2012.

Credits: MIKE DREW/QMI AGENCY

MICHAEL PLATT | QMI AGENCY

CALGARY -- He's possibly the last living witness to a Calgary legend.

More importantly, Bill Galiardi is one of the few people who was sober enough to really remember that fabled day in 1948, when a horse ended up in a posh Toronto hotel lobby.
Galiardi is now 87 years old -- and no one is more surprised about that than Galiardi.

"When we left, I was 22 years old, and I didn't even know what a bottle of beer looked like," says Galiardi.
"By the time we got home again, I thought I was going to die."

Galiardi sure didn't expect to be riding a train bound for Toronto that week in November 1948, never mind a train packed with rowdy football fans, all determined to bring the Wild West to Eastern Canada.

Besides fans, there were a dozen horses, a chuckwagon and beer -- free beer, packed onto the train by the crateful, courtesy of Calgary Brewing and Malting Co.

Lore has it the beer lasted until Regina, but the boozy celebration kept going until the Stampeders beat the Ottawa Rough Riders that Saturday.

It was a long and hazy week for the 250 fans who crammed aboard the hastily-packed 13-car express to Toronto, a train even outfitted with a special boxcar for dancing.

That's how Galiardi, an accordion player, ended up riding the eastbound rails, playing "morning, noon and night" for a pack of football fans determined to sleep as little as possible.

"At the last minutes they decided it would be good to have music, because it was a long trip in those days, so they got a boxcar and they fitted it with a piano that was bolted to the wall," says Galiardi.

"They put some planking down so people could dance -- and that's what I remember the most."

Clacking across Canada, the mobile party was intended to promote Calgary and Stampede culture to the staid easterners. By Friday, Toronto had already witnessed an eyeful.

"Their eyes were wide open," laughs Galiardi. "They couldn't believe it actually."

Flapjacks, square dancing and music were acceptable enough, but newspapers of the era contain reports of Calgarians with lassos roping Toronto women off the street, in a good-natured show of cowboy skills.

"One bow-legged son of the West carried a lasso with which he roped goggle-eyed Toronto girls," reads a 1948 newspaper account of the crazy scene.

And then there's the legend of the horse.

What's known is that a Calgary steed somehow ended up in the lobby of Toronto's Royal York Hotel -- and legend has it future Calgary mayor Don Mackay was in the saddle.
But that's not the case, says Galiardi.

Not only was the accordian player right there in the York when hoofs hit the plush carpet, Galiardi says he'd avoided serious boozing, and he remembers the legendary moment with crystal clarity.

"You better believe I saw it -- I couldn't believe my eyes," he says.

"It was Henry Viney and Bill Batch."

Viney was a sportscaster for Calgary's CFCN, while "Bad" Bill Batch was a local wrestler who'd made the trip east.
If Galiardi has finally cleared up who actually masterminded the most famous stunt in Stampeder history, he's also got a pretty sound theory as to why the two Calgarians decided a horse suited the York decor.

"If you'd been drinking beer for eight straight days, you wouldn't give a damn where your horse went either," says Galiardi, chuckling.

As well as the iconic horse, contemporary Toronto newspaper reports say triumphant Calgary fans tore down the goalposts following Saturday's victory, and brought them to the York too.

"At 5:01 p.m. the goalposts were borne triumphantly through the front doors and were erected against the railings of the mezzanine," wrote columnist Jim Coleman in The Globe and Mail.

For Galiardi, who still lives in Calgary, the trip of 1948 remains a highlight of his life.

And he's proud to say that it was a train full of Calgarians who turned the Grey Cup into the national party it remains today.

"We made it a big deal -- we were the ones responsible, and when I say 'we', I mean the whole entourage."

Sun News Videos

Feminist 'consent underwear' spark debate

Do consent underwear just change the conversation from 'rape culture' to 'slut culture'?


Afghanistan's upcoming election

With an election rapidly approaching, change is on its way to Afghanistan. Good or bad, the world is watching.


Is pedophilia a sexual orientation?

The American Psychiatric Association wanted to call pedophilia a sexual orientation, but is now back-tracking.

Ezra Levant’s The Source is the most provocative and thought-changing multimedia show in Canada.

This show is 100% focused on the political battles taking place across Canada, in the United States...even around the world.

Michael Coren brings you strong, balanced opinions to challenge conventional thinking.

Byline brings you the stories you won’t hear anywhere else while exploring points of view that are all too often ignored.