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A picture & a Story: David Cooper, Kingston Penitentiary, a Riot & a Skateboard.

David Cooper - Chief Photographer - @whatzname07


It was Sunday morning April 14, 1971 and I was driving back from New York city with Telegram staff photographer Norm Betts.

We had driven down to New York City to cover game five of the first round series between the Leafs and the Rangers for the old Toronto Telegram. The Leafs lost the game 3-1 and wound up losing the series in six.

We Crossed into Canada over the Ivy Lea Bridge and headed down the 401 towards Toronto. It was probably near 8 a.m. and realizing we were in Canada turned on the CBC to catch the news.

The top story: Prisoners riot at the Kingston Penitentiary. We were 20 km from Kingston, so we sent ourselves. 

When Norm and I arrived the Toronto Star team apparently called Toronto to say that the Tely had sent TWO more photographers. More Star photographers were dispatched.

In those days a big story would have teams of reporters and photographers on site, and this was really big. Prisoners had taken over the penitentiary and two inmates were killed. Much of the prison was destroyed during the standoff.

It went on for days with the media camped out around the clock in the former prison warden's house directly across from the main gates.

There was a lot of time to kill obviously because I had time to skateboard down the sidewalk in front of the prison with all my cameras. I don't remember where the skateboard came from, it was borrowed for somebody.

This was back in the days of film and Nikon F's and prime lenses. I usually carried three camera bodies, but only one with a motor drive (they cost $1500 back then which was at least 3 months pay for most photogs), and two without. It's hard to tell in the picture but normally I would have a 24mm on one a 105mm on another and a 200mm telephoto on the third.

Six months later the Telegram folded and 70 former Tely people (including Norm and I) started the Toronto Sun. I stayed for seven years and then came to the Star. Still here, still having, a riot (LOL).



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If i remember well, Norm Bette came from the Vancouver News and wore his Indian skin coat a lot. What ever happened to Brian Willer? and I believe Dennis Miles,( the teles color room assit) is a professor at Ryerson. At one time you showed me a photo of a person to whom you shoot through a glass ball. I would like to chat with you a bit, is you don t mind. Jim Thompon is still with the Toronto Sun. I guess there isn t much of us around nowadays.

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