Thanks to a sharp-eyed janitor, some pieces of St-Lambert history have made it out of the Dumpster and into the trophy case.
Last week, the janitor found about a dozen old sports trophies in a Dumpster close to the building where he works — and one of them is 130 years old.
Speaking on condition of not being named for fear of losing his job, he said that when he was throwing garbage into the Dumpster, he noticed the trophies frozen in the ice inside.
“I routinely at the end of my shift take the garbage out and put it in the Dumpster,” he said. “If I see something in the garbage that could be of use, I’ll take it out and give it to someone.”
Normally, he picks up records or electronic equipment that he donates to the thrift shop, but when he spotted the trophies, he said he was “livid” that someone would discard them in such a way.
“They were in the Dumpster for a week and I didn’t touch them because I didn’t want to be accused of stealing.”
Eventually, he took about a dozen trophies out, and gave three of them to the local historical society.
While the janitor said he didn’t know where the trophies came from, a spokesperson for the South Shore city of St-Lambert confirmed that the trophies were thrown out to free up space during the renovation of the Eric-Sharp Arena, which is located about 15 metres from the Dumpster.
“These trophies were analyzed one by one and it was determined that none of them had any value to be preserved by the city,” Catherine Langevin told the Montreal Gazette. “None of them was connected with a competition, an athlete or a significant historical moment for the community.”
St-Lambert’s historical society disagreed.
Sonni Malo, the vice-president of the Mouillepied Historical Society, said the trophy dated 1884 is the oldest St-Lambert trophy she has ever seen. It was awarded to the municipality for winning an annual boating competition. She described it as “absolutely fantastic.”
“You can say Dumpster diving was very good for the historical society,” said Malo, who found three trophies in a plastic bag hanging on the door of the historical society last week. “I’m very, very saddened that a city employee would throw it into the garbage without contacting us.”
She said she never saw these trophies on display before.
“We didn’t even know that these trophies existed,” she said. “I have a feeling that the people responsible for sports in St-Lambert aren’t interested in the past.”
Malo said the trophy commemorating the canoe race from 1884 is particularly interesting because canoe races, based on aboriginal customs, used to be important events in St-Lambert.
“We had a very good boating club, which was a social hub from the 1880s to the First World War. This was always the highlight of the summer season; they called it the war canoe competition,” she said. “They were very elegant occasions. People dressed up.”
The other trophy the janitor donated to the historical society is a silver (or silver-plated) cup from 1924. The Spiller Trophy was presented by the Otterburn Boating Club to the St-Lambert rowing club for winning a race. Even if you don’t consider the trophy’s historical value, Malo said, it is a very beautiful item.
“I would put it into my living room (and fill it) with flowers,” she said.
The final item the janitor donated is a plaque commemorating an exchange between St-Lambert and the city of Fribourg, Switzerland. The plaque is engraved with a picture of Fribourg. It is not known what year it is from or under what circumstances it was awarded.
The janitor said he kept some of the more recent sports items he found. He said he has no intention of selling them, and will give them to the right people eventually.
“One is associated with baseball. I’ll probably approach the person who is responsible for organizing baseball and ask the person what he wants done with it.”
The janitor said he suspects the garbage truck picked up at least a dozen more trophies and carried them to the dump before he could get to them.
“I deeply regret not fishing those out.”
St-Lambert Mayor Alain Dépatie agreed that the trophies shouldn’t have been thrown away.
“They should be stored or given to different organizations that follow the history of St-Lambert,” he said.