INSTANT REPLAY: ‘Bubs’ and the North Shore Crowhurst nine
The most successful team in the history of North Shore sports has to be the Crowhursts ladies’ softball team of the 1950s. And it’s all because of “Bubs.” Sort of.
Bubs was both Bubs Emberly and Bubs Robinson growing up – a story in itself – and then Bubs Lakey after she married Bill Lakey in 1956. They were classmates at North Van High in the 1940s. Bubs’ real name was Rosemary (after Rose and Mary, her grandmothers) but even she doesn’t know how she came to be Bubs. She was just always Bubs.
Okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. You want to know about Bubs and the North Van Crowhursts softball squad, a team that terrorized opposing pitchers from here on down into the U.S. and back, winning six straight B.C. senior “A” women’s championships from 1952-57.
Bubs was playing on a North Van senior “B” team called the Angels and working at a job pumping gas at Crowhurst Motors on the east side of Lonsdale at 17th Street. Jo Crowhurst (who ran the gas station while brother Pat operated the collision repairs shop in the 1600-block) would go to Angels games to see Bubs play.
The Angels had no business sponsor, but Jo was suitably impressed with the team and when Bubs suggested that Crowhursts might like to sponsor the team, Jo became the Angels’ angel.
“I got her to come down to the games,” Bubs tells me this week. “It was me that got her to sponsor us. She was really good to us [as a sponsor]. We were covered medically when nobody else was. We were sponsored very, very well.”
The team changed its name to Crowhursts and entered the Vancouver-area senior “A” circuit, playing home games at Norgate Park and attracting players such as Gerry Gilmore and Shirley Topley from the Vancouver side of Burrard Inlet and, later, players like Laura Malesh from as far away as Saskatchewan.
Topley, a first baseman and occasional pitcher, parlayed her success with Crowhursts into a stellar playing career in the U.S. and eventual appointment as a coach with the United States national team in the Pan-Am Games and Olympics.
Soon the Crowhursts were competing in the elite Pacific Northwest League against teams from Washington and Oregon, often finishing first or second, and in the world championships in Orange, California (1954) and Portland (1955).
All the while, as players came and went, the constant on the team was Bubs who played centre field.
It was 55 years ago on the Labour Day weekend of Sept. 1-2, 1957, that the Crowhursts had their final hurrah. That’s when they captured their sixth consecutive provincial crown by beating Victoria Polyettes in the capital city in three games: 10-3, 4-0 and again 4-0.
Appropriately enough, it was Bubs Lakey – the only player remaining from the team’s senior “B” days – who was the hitting star. She contributed seven hits (almost one-third of the team’s total of 24) over the three games. Shirley Topley had five hits including a three-run homer in the opener. Ev Bonneville pitched the first and third games, giving up just nine hits. Awilda “Willie” Minette won the second-game shutout, a five-hitter.
Not long afterwards, due to the high costs of travel and other expenses, Crowhurst Motors had to withdraw their sponsorship. Players drifted away to other teams. The Crowhursts era was over. Bubs retired from the game. She now lives in White Rock where she and Bill (who passed away last year) lived most of their married life.
“I could bunt and get to the base on time; an awful lot of my hits were bunts,” she recalls, thinking back more than half a century to her timely hitting in Victoria. Then she offers another little story. “That was the time when I was expecting because I started throwing up on the bench. All of a sudden I realized, ‘Hey, there’s something going on here, what was it?’” She laughs at the memory. Her daughter Lee was born in 1958.
“Bobby Peters was our coach for six years when we won. He was a really good coach, one of the best you’ll ever get. [Giving signals] he never flipped his hands or arms around. He did it all by his feet. It was where he stood in the [coach’s] box.
It was really smart because nobody could read his hand signals because he wasn’t really making them. If he’d stand on the main line you were to bunt right and if he was on the back line you bunted left.” And if he was standing in the middle? “Then you hit.”
So what about her Emberly and Robinson names growing up?
“When I was just about a year and a half old, my dad [25-year-old Allan Emberly] went out fishing in Lynn Canyon, fell and drowned. The boots they fill up with water and you can’t get out. He was by himself. It was Depression time so he was trying to get some food I guess.
“That was on the first of June  and Bob [Bubs’ brother] was born on the 10th of June, my mother’s birthday. So we were Emberlys. Mom got married again [to Albert Robinson] when I was six years old. So, unless we had to sign official papers, we went through school as Robinsons. We lived at 331 East 10th. John and Dan [her Robinson brothers] were born later. I was very, very fortunate. I had a really nice family.”
And, you’ll have to agree, a really nice softball career.
This is #467 from Len Corben’s treasure chest of stories – the great events and the quirky – that bring to life the North Shore’s rich sports history.