Walter Dunning 1880 - 1965
Inducted 1999 Builder
Walter Dunning was born in L’Original, Prescott County, ON, later moving to Georges Lake, ON where the family was farmers and lumbermen. In 1905, at the age of 25, Walter headed west to work the wheat harvest in Manitoba and ended up in Milestone, SK where friends had taken up homesteads. He took several homesteads over the next few years, improving the land and selling. He spent part of the summers of 1910 and 1911 back in Ontario and married Myrtle Campbell on May 31, 1911 in Papineauville, PQ.
They returned to Saskatchewan in the spring of 1912 and bought one of only four houses in the new town site of Gray. Walter farmed land near Gray, ran a livery and dray business, was a Massey Harris agent, and sold Verity plows and Bain wagons. He purchased wild horses from southwestern Saskatchewan, broke and trained them, then would take a boxcar of horses to Ottawa to sell to the dairies for milk delivery routes.
Walter was an active participant in the development and growth of Gray; a Past Master of the Gray Masonic Lodge; and a Councilor for the Rural Municipality of Lajord for 30 years (1926-1950 and 1953-1957). He and Myrtle had three children; Lorna, Ernie and Kay. They retired in 1951 and later moved to Regina where they resided until their deaths in 1965 and 1976 respectively.
Walter was an avid sportsman and keen on physical fitness. He skated on the Ottawa River and would skate to Papineauville to visit Myrtle, played hockey, baseball and curled before he headed west. He encouraged his children to keep fit and Kay recalls him bringing home a set of weights from an auction sale and they all experienced weightlifting to keep in shape.
In 1915 Walter built an open-air skating rink just east of his home. The walls were bales of straw piled two or three high and snow was melted in an open water tank by a cast iron stove placed in it. Grain car doors were placed on top to keep the heat in. The water was then scooped into a barrel with a sprinkler bar on the bottom, placed on a sled to be pulled up and down the ice to flood the surface. In 1917 Walter added wooden walls, rafters covered with page wire and flax straw to complete the first indoor rink. On windy days skaters were kept busy cleaning straw off the ice. A granary was added to one end of the rink and a stove provided warmth for a heated waiting room. A small door was cut in the end adjacent to the ice and skaters stepped out onto the ice surface. Walter and Myrtle enjoyed skating and could be found arm in arm circling the ice on regular occasions. Walter was the caretaker and the Dunning children learned to skate early in life.
Walter helped build the new skating and curling rink in Gray in 1926 and was a lifetime supporter. He established himself as a keen competitor and curled in local bonspiels. After moving to Regina he became a member of the Regina Curling Club and curled until he was 85 years of age. In later years, he used a whiskbroom to clean his rock and his eyesight hindered him from seeing the broom so when he curled with his son Ernie in Gray bonspiels, Ernie would hold a flashlight on the broom to aid Walter in seeing the target.
The first Gray Sports Day was held on Dunning property in the northwest corner of the town on July 17, 1912. In 1921 the sports ground was moved to the east end of town. Horseracing was a highlight and Walter was an organizer and participant. The horses would race the length of 2nd Avenue from the Dunning barn to the sports ground. There were prizes as well as a bit of money likely wagered on the outcome. Walter also won prizes showing his driving teams at the Milestone fair.
Walter was an avid fisherman, played horseshoes and encouraged sports for his family and community throughout his entire life. He would be very proud and honoured for his induction to the 306 Sports Hall of Fame.
(written by granddaughter Crystal Frisk)