Edward Archibald (carrying Canada’s Re flag) was just another name on the list of Canadian Olympians, long forgotten, until his war and sports medals went up for sale.
Camp Wanapitei, a summer camp for children and teens, is located about four hours from Sudbury on Lake Temagami, but with a name like that, one knows there is a connection to the City of Lakes.
One of Canada’s first Olympic heroes, Edward Blake Archibald, started a wilderness summer camp for boys on the northwest shore of Lake Wanapitei about 1924.
Archibald was on Canada’s first Olympic team that competed in London in 1908. The Canadian pole voult champion was 24 when he voulted 3.58 metres (11feet, 9 inches) and tied with two other athletes to win a bronze medal.
After attending the University of Toronto, and before the First World War, Archibald was a prospector working out of Sudbury and staking claims in the Shining Tree area. Later, he combined his love of the wilderness with sport by setting up a children’s camp on Lake Wanapitei.
Archibald was just another name on the list of Canadian Olympians, long forgotten, until his war and sports medals went up for sale on eBay earlier this year. The Chatham Kent Museum purchased Archibald’s First World War British War Medal, as well as his medal for participating in 1906 Intercalated Olympic Games competition in Athens in 1906, and his 1908 trials medal for hammer throw.
Archibald was born in Toronto in 1884 and died at the age of 80 in 1965. He was captain of the Canadian team and carried the Red Ensign into the London stadium for the Parade of Nations, the first time this ritual was performed.
During the First World War, Archibald served as director of Recreation, Sports and Social Work with the Canadian Army in France.
As an Olympian, he was a celebrity and well-known in Sudbury during his prospecting days. When he wrote an article in the Dead Horse Corner Gazette, a monthly newspaper for servicemen, it was republished in daily newspaper.
Sudbury Museums curator Jim Fortin found a copy. The article is about how to get in shape for competition.
“Not only does one have to have his muscles under control, but also the mind, which in most cases (is) a winning part in sports, as we know very well, a pessimist never won a competition,” Archibald wrote.
Later in the same article, he wrote, “The man who cannot control his appetite for stimulant, and is desires, passions, and thoughts along sexual lines, will not last long as an athlete.”
After the war, Archibald worked as sports editor at The Ottawa Journal for a time, and he remained active in sports activities for his entire life. In 1920 he was the first president of the Ottawa and District Hockey Association.
During the Second World War, he was a member of the Canadian YMCA War Services Staff serving in Toronto and Newfoundland.
Bruce Hodgins’s family purchased the camp from Archibald in 1956 and still owns it. He says Camp Wanapitei was moved to Sandy Inlet on Lake Temagami in 1930 after Ontario Hydro constructed a dam at the outlet of Lake Wanapitei, raising the level of the lake and flooding much of the original camp.
“The camp was on Parkin Creek, about three kilometres east of the mouth of the Wahnapitae River*,” says Hodgins.
In 2001 Edward Archibald, Class of 1907, was inducted into the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Hall of Fame. At university, Archibald competed in track and field and gymnastics.
“He is in the first and prized spot in the hall of fame,” says Hodgins.
Canada has only ever won one medal in pole vaulting, the bronze in 1908 by Edward Archibald.
*The City of Greater Sudbury’s website spells the lake as Wanapitei and the river and town as Wahnapitae.