1968:  My true beginning as a CFL fan...
      Remember this amazing time. We, as Canadians were amidst a feeling of euphoria. We were in a "1967 hangover". The Leafs had won the "Cup" and Expo 67 was a celebration of "internationalism" and Canadian pride. It was fast becoming however, a time of turmoil. RFK was assassinated as well as Martin Luther King. Things were escalating in Vietnam and racial tension was continuing in America. But to focus in on this particular article, the truth was, that the Toronto Argonauts WERE being talked about around the water-cooler. The Argos had suffered a terrible decade so far. Wally Gabler their QB was popular, but lacked a killer instinct and plagued the team by throwing interceptions at crucial times. They had acquired Bill Symons who showed flashes of brilliance, and they had a solid defense. In 1967, Russ Jackson and the Ottawa Rough Riders proved to us all in the playoffs, how far the Argos had to go to be competitive. New coach Leo Cahill was interesting. He was from the "new school". He wasn't a disciplinarian and many Argo players were allowed to show their unique style and personalities. Flanker Bobby Taylor was gregarious and openly expressed dislike for certain players. He competed against Mike Eben for attention, and throws from the QB. Cahill allowed this kind of behavior as long as players were "game prepared". Mel Profit, the tight end, was considered an "oddball" opening up a fashion store and having an interest in hairstyling. Tom Wilkinson was competing for the QB starting position for 1968, but John Bassett, the owner, preferred Gabler. Gabler did start the season, but the players preferred Wilkinson because he was less sophisticated and more outspoken, and showed leadership qualities. He was previously successful as a QB for the Toronto Rifles. The "new" Argos donned long hair, mutton-chops and a reckless attitude. It was fun to be an Argo fan.

  Gabler started the 1968 season impressively as the Argos throttled Edmonton 34-2. The next game however, was against Ottawa, who had become their nemesis. The Argos could not rush the ball, and as often was the case, Gabler led the team in rushing, this time with 29 yards. The Argo defense proved to be brilliant. They stopped Pete Liske and Terry Evanshen 19-7 in their next game, but the Argos still could not rush the football. The next time they met the Ti-Cats, it was thought they had no chance against the 1967 Grey Cup champs, but their defense held fast, winning 18-15, with Bill Symons starting to be effective. Back in Toronto, an angry Hamilton team with the leadership of Mosca and Barrow, fought back with a 20-6 win. After beating the Allouettes, the Argo defense was really leading the way, with the likes of Thornton, Dick Aldridge, Luster, Learn, Dye and Arends. The next time the Argos faced Ottawa, they got clobbered again, this time 31-10. As an Argo fan I began to detest the Roughies. One thing in particular always got to me. The Argo linebackers would gang up on Jackson, and when they got to him they went high, and gang tackled, with little concern for possible penalties. They felt that the only chance to beat Ottawa was to put Russ out of the game. But whenever the pile unraveled, Jackson would jump up, and run to the sidelines with that menacing grimace of his, making it very clear to the enemy that he was indestructible. This always amazed me. It made me hate him more, but invariably, respect him more as well. The season went on, the Argos beat Hamilton 12-1 in a defensive struggle, but once again they got pummeled by Ottawa, with Gabler always coming up very flat against the Roughies. Gabler did come up big against the Tabbies in the playoffs in a big 33-21 win. He played poorly against Ottawa in the first game of the 2-game total point series...remember those? ...but in a great defensive effort they finally beat Ottawa 13-11.  The total point final score was 40-21 for Ottawa, as in the second game, the double blue had no offense with a total of 1 rushing yard, and Gabler played badly.  Change was in store for the 1969 season. 


Dave Raimey                                                                      Bill Symons

The Argos to start the season, had to match the offer of the Denver Broncos, in order to sign Bill Symons. Symons was more than happy to stay. In a situation that was not made public at the time, the new team doctor was not made aware that his predecessor gave the players 'uppers' before games. He was informed by various players that this was necessary, and he consented, but was caught, and though not reprimanded, the practice was curtailed. The Argos were no longer 'flying high'. Tom Wilkinson took over the reigns of the Argos and they looked much improved, despite losing to the Tabbies in their first game. They won easily out in Winnipeg...and unknowingly to the fans and team, Cahill had passed on a brief message to Dave Raimey, the brilliant Blue Bomber back, that he was shortly going to become an Argo. Raimey was very disgruntled at the arguably amateurish coaching in Winnipeg was very happy to hear about a possible move. Before the next game, the Argos had moved Gabler to Winnipeg for Raimey. As an Argo fan, I was very excited and remember very clearly waiting for the CTV telecast, a late-nighter for us in the East, facing the Lions with our new duo of Raimey-Symons. Everything went to plan. The Argos under the leadership of Wilkinson, and their new attack clobbered BC, Edmonton and Saskatchewan with ease. The Argos looked primed to finally beat Ottawa!! The big game was a great battle, but the final outcome brought many to believe the Argos were actually jinxed. On the last play of the game, the Rough Riders needed a field goal to win, but it was blocked by Allan Ray Aldridge....BUT...when blocking it, he deflected it through the uprights! So goes another defeat in the hands of Ottawa. Cahill was now 1-10-1 against Ottawa. The Argos continued to battle, and played a memorable game against the Allouettes which was a nasty affair. Sonny Wade, became "Stompin" Sonny Wade after stepping on the head of Argo Jim Tomlin after he was intercepted.  Following this, the Argos continued to rack up injuries but played some tough football, beating Hamilton twice, once by the score of 51-8. Wilkinson was playing injured and was said to have had two separated shoulders. Frank Cosentino was filling in for Wilkinson at various times, playing adequately, but not brilliantly. The final straw was an injury to Raimey, that put him out for the season. I remember being almost grief-stricken and despite a win over Hamilton in the first playoff game, the poor double blue were no match for the Ottawa Rough Riders, who went on to win the Grey Cup. I remember thinking at the time...what if?..I was fifteen at the time, and of course the Toronto Maple Leafs were a big concern, not playing well to start the 1967-68 NHL hokey season. My attention was soon grabbed by a headline event trade...which involved having to say good-bye to Frank Mahovlich of our beloved Leafs, a trade that rocked the hockey world...  

 Tough and versatile Dick Thornton
















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