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Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Team

He knew soccer, in every fibre of his being he knew it. Six years before I was born, this was my father, Samuel Pretty's life, the team. My mother did not move from Maddox Cove, Newfoundland until she was twenty-one, in 1947, so I do not know if he even knew my mother at this point in his life. Soccer consumed his life and even though by this time he was working at the Newfoundland Railway on the Southside in St. John's, he played soccer every chance he got. The team became his life, the game, the common goal which brought them together and the comradery, important to his well being.  

Sam Pretty, third from the right, top
Holy Cross Championship Team, 1947

His pre-occupation with the game started when he attended Holy Cross school on Patrick Street, near his family home on Water Street across from the railway station. He had a tough time in school, thanks to the Christian brothers who taught there. Physical discipline was all some of them knew and Dad was on the receiving end of a few of their fists. His mother was sick and eventually died and his father was gone a great deal, an engineer on the trains. Dad skipped school to play soccer after his mother died. Reports to my grandfather by the Christian Brothers meant that Dad was beaten again. He quit school, boarded with another family and eventually got a job at the railway on the Southside Road. There he met my mother, who was boarding at her cousin's house on the Southside Road as well.

     School Boy Sam

Meanwhile the game kept him on the straight and narrow path, hours spent kicking the ball, practising with the boys and on the Holy Cross teams in the St. John's soccer league. The friends became household names as the girlfriends and later wives met in the stands for every game. The team members often socialized together and as families grew, they brought their children to the games as well. I have vivid memories of playing on the sidelines with other children as our fathers played soccer.

He was a quiet man, loving, patient, a family man who suffered a variety of health issues during his years after soccer. A congenital back problem resulted in surgery in his mid fifties, but back problems were an issue long before the surgery.

How did he play the variety and number of sports that he did with the spinal malformation that he had? Maybe the shape of his spine gave him an edge up to the point when the damage to his back was too bad to let him function. Mom spoke a number of times about Dad scoring a goal, kicking the ball out from his goalie position. He had quite a boot.

Dad spoke of his time rowing on Quidi Vidi pond for the regatta as well. At one of the regattas, after rounding the buoy at the top of the pond, his boat ran aground. The coxswain took credit for that mistake.

I did not hear much about my father's softball career. He must not have played long after meeting Mom because she never spoke about it. He was probably too busy with work, soccer and dating to continue with softball too.

      Sam Pretty, Age 22

So there he is, twenty-two years old. A young man whose mother was dead, a father who was often absent and with whom he had a strained relationship at that time. He was on his own from the age of fourteen really. Soccer and the team kept him going until my mother joined them. He knew what he had with each of them. 

Dad was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame in 1987. This is the what the Association wrote about his career. 

Sam Pretty
(Inducted in 1987)

Sam Pretty enjoyed an outstanding career, particularly in St. John’s soccer, but also at the provincial level. His playing days ran from 1942 to 1962 with a brilliant Holy Cross eleven that captured seven St. John’s soccer titles and the first All Newfoundland honors in 1950. While he was known as one of the best fullbacks in the league, Sam also played goalkeeper for his club on many occasions. He was also called on to take free kicks and penalty kicks when his team needed a goal. Although he will always be best remembered as a soccer player, Sam also played softball and was a member of the West End senior softball championship team of 1946. He also rowed in the annual St. John’s Regatta for a number of years. Following his distinguished playing career, Pretty became one of the founding group of former players that established the Mount Pearl soccer organization in 1973. He served as an executive member for approximately seven years, found time to coach both minor and senior teams and even came out of retirement and played in the Mount Pearl senior soccer league. In 1976 at the age of 50 he was a member of the United team that captured the championship in the senior soccer league. Sam Pretty was recognized for his efforts when he was inducted into the St. John’s Soccer Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Mount Pearl Sports Hall of Fame. Sam passed away in 1986 but will always be remembers for his long and distinguished career as a soccer player for Holy Cross and for his contribution to the development of soccer in Mount Pearl. Each year a school scholarship is awarded in Mount Pearl in memory of Sam Pretty.

This is the link to the site.

Sometimes today we hear of sports teams that involve themselves in team misconduct or illegal activity. Professional athletes making millions of dollars become idols to people, especially youth. The men in this picture were athletes to the core, some of the best examples of what local athletes can be. We can learn a great deal from such athletes, especially the importance of team sport in a young person's life.  

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