Lou Bernstein surrounded by his grandsons in 2010 Front row, from left: Brayden Bernstein, Lou Bernstein, Matthew Bernstein and Jay Greenfeld Second row from left: Eli Goldenberg, Josh Greenfeld, Benji Goldenberg holding Lucas Goldenberg and Griffin Bernstein

Ed. note:
In July 2010 Harvey Rosen penned a column about the great St. John’s High School football teams of years past. That same year St. John’s was celebrating its 100th anniversary. In his column Harvey paid particular attention to Lou Bernstein. Lou passed away a couple of weeks ago, so we thought it appropriate to revisit that classic column of Harvey’s.

I might add that when I mentioned to Lou’s daughter, Roz Greenfeld, that I was planning on rerunning a column about her father and other members of the St. John’s Tigers football team, Roz told me that Lori Gilfix, whose father was also a member of the same team as Lou, actually had a picture of the 1942 St. John’s Tigers. We are reproducing that picture here. If you look closely at it, I’m sure you’ll recognize many names from the past.

 

 

 

 

1942 St. John's Tigers football team

Here is Harvey’s column from our July 5, 2010 issue:
Anyone passing by the corner of Church and Salter, the site of the St. John’s High School Centennial Reunion in mid-June, may have wondered whether or not a circus was in town. Why else would a giant tent have been erected in front of the long-time educational institution?
Well, on Saturday the 19th, the enclosure housed a variety of “Tigers,” but animal rights’ activists need not have been overly agitated since the multiple inhabitants were of the two-legged variety.
And how appropriate and timely it was that during this once in a lifetime occasion that the diligent organizers should decide to spotlight and honour the gridiron stars, both past and present, in the school’s rich sporting history.
Well before the demographics of yesteryear began to change drastically, Tigers’ football teams between 1918 and 1935 really growled and their dominance made baseball’s New York Yankees appear as perennial losers. The big orange, you see, captured a total of 14 city titles.
The basketball teams weren’t slouches either as the hoopsters at one point reigned for 13 successive years. Now that’s Tiger pride!

In 2008, the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the Winnipeg High School Football League, it was decided that a Hall of Fame be instituted in order to recognize on all levels those individuals who have made notable contributions to the huge success of the league.
Currently 68 former league members are in the hall and because of St. John’s June celebrations the league allowed a special induction of five former Tigers. Aside from Kirk Kuppers, Bert Aikens, and Dr. Norman Hill, two Jewish football standouts were honoured: The late Rube Ludwig - a player from the late thirties, and Lou Bernstein - a standout with the 1942 Inter High champions - who played from 1941-43
Lawyer Israel Ludwig, the nephew of Rube, was on hand under the big top to honour his uncle who starred at St. John’s prior to the league being officially started in 1933. Rube also toiled with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers between 1941-43 and in 1945, following the war.

Bernstein, now a jocular and upbeat 84-year-old who played left end and fullback for the Tigers, was on hand for the ceremony surrounded and supported by his close knit and loving extended family who let out the loudest cheer and applause of all when he strolled to the head table to be acknowledged by a sizable crowd of onlookers.
As Lou advanced, my mind flashed back to the impressive following that once attended high school games on Friday nights back in the fifties. A St. John’s Tech game was a real happening, replete with enthusiastic and agile cheerleaders on the sidelines who added to the color and excitement. The buses from the north end were packed as students and family made their way to Winnipeg Stadium to most games, whether the team was in contention or not. In years following, crowds dwindled drastically to the point where St. John’s didn’t even field a team due mainly to demographic changes and perhaps the advent of satellite and cable television or the greater appeal of meeting your peers at movie theaters or community club dances.
When I spoke with daughter Roz Greenfeld a week following the reunion she was still beaming about the honour having been bestowed upon her father. “My dad was absolutely thrilled,” she said. “It was a three-generational moment. He re-lived all those wonderful days and our children and grandchildren got to see and share in it as well.

POST PATTER:
Interestingly, Lou’s grandson Matthew followed in his zaida’s footsteps when last season he captained the St. Paul’s team that won the WHSFL Potter Division title.
Honourable mentions and possible inductees for the Hall of Fame at a later date are: Larry Fleisher a one-time Edmonton Eskimo, Mort Corrin, Percy Cutler, and Len Meltzer a former Blue Bomber.
Bernstein’s 1942 title-winning Tigers had a preponderance of Jews on its roster. Would you believe almost a double Minyan? Some of you may recognize such names as
Manny Fink, Morton Nemy, Ben Mandell, Sid Corrin, Meyer Gilfix, Moe and Ben Chochinov, Sid Perlmutter, Morley Zipursky, Ben Adelman, Barney Kleinfield, Sam Brownstone, Al Greenberg, Bill Minuk, Jack Speller, Ralph Levene, Marshall Wilder and Jack Rubin.
Other former Jewish players I noticed roaming the halls at the 100th Anniversary were former Tigers’ quarterback Eddie Steinberg, Sam Sarbit, Ron Kaufman, Norm Portnoy, Jerry Holt, Jack Buchalter, Jerry Cohen, Meyer Rypp, Phil Altman, Rubin Todres, Nelson Rudalier, Sheldon Earn and Sheldon Fossaner. I’m told that Herb Labane and Al Feldman, a couple of grand guys I wish I had encountered, were also present.

Morley Meyers, younger brother of the late Ron Meyers, was in from Las Vegas. The member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame skated thousands of miles in his officiating career at various levels from junior to US college and to minor and pro levels.
Also in town from California was Dr. Arnold Medved, a dermatologist, with wife Dodie. He was a former member of the St. James Junior baseball champs of 1957 and also a decent goaltender with the Excelsior’s.
In my humble and unbiased opinion, I suggest that what really made the 100th such a notable and memorable event was that considering how few members of our faith there once was and now are in our community that our Jewish faith was inordinately well represented. Go figure.