Digitized UNB Red Bomber Football Films from 1950s and ‘60s Revive Old Memories

Recently digitized films are providing a window into the history of club and varsity football in the Maritimes.

A provincial grant from the Council of Archives of New Brunswick has allowed the University of New Brunswick Libraries to post online 25 Red Bomber football films from 1958 to 1961 and 1963 to 1968.

UNB Archives & Special Collections staff had known about the existence of the films. However, it was the provincial grant that paved the way for them to be made available to the public.

Christine Lovelace, an archivist on the UNB Fredericton campus, says the films were discovered in a storage room in UNB’s Lady Beaverbrook Gym. The films are now stored in the university’s archives collection and staff are thrilled to have found them.

UNB Red Bombers vs Acadia University Oct 1958

UNB Red Bombers vs Acadia University Oct 1958 from UNB Archives&Special Collections on Vimeo.

“The films were found in good condition considering how long they were in storage. Oftentimes, films start to decay as they age and produce a vinegar scent – these films did not,” says Ms. Lovelace.

The age of the films meant they could not be played without the risk of being damaged, Ms. Lovelace explains.

“Digitizing the films allowed us to preserve the original copies and share the content of the films with a broad audience,” says Ms. Lovelace.

Brian Freeman, a Red Bombers alum and a 1974 UNB business administration graduate, says the digitization of the films has produced a feeling similar to finding lost family photos.

“All of a sudden, there’s a video and you’re watching yourself play in your absolute prime. It’s emotional to see it,” says Mr. Freeman. “It’s an angle you haven’t seen, it’s a film you might not have had the advantage – in those days – of seeing at all.”

Mr. Freeman played for the Red Bombers in 1971 and 1972 and now sits on the executive of the Red Bombers Football Club as the liaison for the club and alumni.

Red Bombers alumni have reached out to Mr. Freeman after watching the films online.

“One of the former players said to me, ‘I went through every game and relived all the moments of the games I was in. It was lots of fun for an old codger – I showed them to my kids and my grandkids, who aren’t that sure of their old man’s achievements,’” says Mr. Freeman.

The digitalization of the films raised many questions and the answers remain a mystery to both Mr. Freeman and Ms. Lovelace.

“Former players keep asking, ‘Are there more?’ They would love to find more of these gems,” says Mr. Freeman.

The collection of digitized Red Bomber films could expand in the future.

“We were only able to digitize films that were labelled, so we still have a few mystery films that could potentially be football films,” says Ms. Lovelace.

The digitized films range from five to 30 minutes in length and feature games against Maritime teams such as Dalhousie University, St. Francis Xavier University, Acadia University, St. Dunstan’s University (now the University of Prince Edward Island), Mount Allison University and St Mary’s University.

Players such as All-Canadians Dick Flynn and Tony Proudfoot, who continued on to play in the Canadian Football League, can be seen in action on the films.

The films can be found in the Archives & Special Collections: http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/unb_permalink.html?key=59501

About the Red Bombers

The University of New Brunswick Red Bombers football team was established in 1949. From 1949 to 1980, the Red Bombers represented UNB’s Fredericton campus as a club and varsity team. The Red Bombers captured the Jewett Trophy conference championships in 1969 and 1970. After the 1980 season, the football program at UNB was cancelled. Thirty years later in 2009, the Red Bombers returned to campus as a competitive club team in the Atlantic Football League. In 2009 and 2012, the Red Bombers won the Moosehead Cup.

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