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A bat from the past: It's Prince George people's stories that matter most

Throwback Thursday brought a nice surprise for a former local athlete

Gordon Dondale was visiting family in Prince George over the weekend when his sister opened the last week’s edition of the Citizen and spotted a familiar face in a grainy black-and-white photo.  

“This looks like you,” she said, tossing him the paper. 

 After looking at the photo, he laughed in surprise. “It is me.” 

By sheer coincidence, Dondale happened to be in town at the same time that a Citizen editor chose a photo of him for our weekly Throwback Thursday page. And his sister, Luella Lund, happened to notice it. 

Dondale was photographed while playing in a youth league called the Legion Grads in a ball game here in June 1962. It’s a black-and-white photo of the then-17-year-old at the bat, a gleam in his eye, confident and ready to swing, and it’s pretty clear who it is.  

Now living in Penticton, Dondale doesn’t play ball anymore. “Golf is my sport now,” he says, chatting with the Citizen at Carrie Jane Gray Park’s fastball field, with that same gleam in his eye as he mentions the game. 

Throwback Thursday is our weekly look back at the people, places and events of decades past. When we heard Dondale’s story we headed out to meet him and his wife Edna at the field, bringing along a vintage wooden bat (from the garage of veteran sports reporter Ted Clarke) and photographer Chuck Nisbett set up the shot to mimic the original. 

Dondale, who went on to work for the City of Prince George, doesn’t remember the original photo being taken, or if he was aware of it running in the paper at the time.

What he does remember is the fairly regular presence of the Citizen at his sporting events. “We were in the paper for 10 years. Fast pitch was really big in town, and we got really good articles.” He notes that the paper’s sports editor at the time also played fastball, so that probably helped.  

He spent much of his amateur ball career playing for teams sponsored by Geddes Contracting and Hart Construction. In 1966, he travelled to Rock Island, Illinois, with the local Columbus Hotel Softball Club, which represented Canada at the World Softball Tournament. A Citizen advertisement from that time indicates that Dondale was sponsored by the City of Prince George. He remembers that the team had several players from Prince George as well as a few imports. Canada came ninth in that tournament, which was won by the U.S. Dondale later played on teams that won back-to-back provincial championships.  
So that’s one man’s decades-old connection to his hometown paper. You’re reading about it because of a couple of coincidences strung together by that sense of community, as word got to us that he was in town, and he was up for a chat.  

This is a perfect example of how much of a connection a local newspaper can have with its community. By telling people’s stories, we record those moments for history. It’s also a reminder of how important amateur sports can be to our city. Anyone can look up vintage game results and player stats online, but it was the Citizen sharing the pictures and stories of people like Dondale and others that mattered then and matters now. 

NOTE: This column was updated from the version that appeared in print after Gordon Dondale recalled more about his time with the Grads youth league.