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To be sure, he was digging around in the weeds on the fourth hole when spotted by a housewife digging in the backyard of her home nearby. "Hello," she waved to the visiting statesman.
"How's your garden?" he shouted back.
"It's a mess, how's your golf?" she answered.
"It's a mess, too," said Richard Nixon.
But it wasn't quite that bad. He closed out the front nine with a 51 and finished with a 43, and though the grand total might have left some players gnashing their teeth the Vice-president was plain proud. "It's a great game," he enthused. "I just don't play enough."
Come to think of it, he'd better not play too much. He just might get good enough to beat the boss.
On the glass door of the city hall in Belleville, Ontario is a proud motto: MAGNUM EST VECTIGAL PARSIMONIA, or, "Great is the reward of thrift." That motto never seemed so meaningful as it did last week, when a Royal commission probing into the city's finances issued a report indicating a possible shortage of $612,000, of which at least $142,000 was brought about by an overgenerous use of funds for the hockey team that was Belleville's pride and joy.
"I doubt," said one lawyer, "if any greater exhibition of municipal mismanagement has occurred...." Belleville's sudden departure from its old parsimonious ways, said another, seemed to have been caused by "a magnificent obsession about hockey." This obsessive sentiment toward hockey was ironically evidenced in the fact that Belleville's city manager and the manager of its hockey team were one and the same: 40-year-old Drury Denyes. When Denyes took over in 1956 the team was financed by a builder named McFarland, who put up $3,000 to help maintain it. In return the team was called the Belleville McFarlands. By the rules governing play in its league, Belleville was allowed to spend $1,500 a week on players' payroll and remain technically amateur. Denyes, a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, son of a prominent family, husky and popular, found that he had to bid high to get first-rate players to come to Belleville and play on the team. Then he had to get jobs for them, and sometimes houses for their families. But in the hockey obsession that swept the town, these matters did not seem insoluble: John McClelland was hired from the Cleveland Barons for $500 plus $4,500 a year; Al Dewsbury came from the Hershey (Penn.) Bears for $3,000 plus a $5,000 salary.
True, the hockey team budget couldn't support such payments. But the city budget could—or so it seemed at first. Denyes, the report said, used his position as city manager to transfer hockey accounts to the city's general account and to pay salaries out of the town's general fund. Hard-working and enjoying unlimited confidence, Denyes took care of some salaries each week by carrying them on the public payroll as wages paid school guards and temporary employees. He had players working as electricians and at all sorts of city jobs. The effort paid off in championship hockey, and as the shortage mounted, Denyes carried on in the dreamy conviction that some day one last great triumph would fix everything: if the Belleville team became world champions, for instance, they would draw so many customers that the debt could be quietly repaid before anyone knew it existed.