Edward M. Ballon
Born: February 14, 1925 (Montréal)
Died: April 26, 2014 (Toronto)
One of the best Canadian milers of his era, Ed Ballon was captain of McGill University’s track team after the Second World War. He competed internationally and also put on mile displays during the half-time break of university football games.
As a schoolboy, he attended Selwyn House School at Westmount, Que., and St. Andrew’s College at Aurora, Ont. In 1940 and ’41, he won the senior cross-country run at St. Andrew’s, a private school, earning a silver medal and a trophy.
In 1943, Ballon won the 880-yard race at the Amateur Athletic Association meet held at Molson Stadium in Montreal. The 18-year-old ordinary seaman was stationed at HMCS York at the time. (He ended his service in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant.)
He returned to studies at McGill, where he also flew the the school colour at the sailing regattas. He was also elected president of the McGill Student Society.
Ballon graduated from McGill in 1947 and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. He had a long career as an executive with the Hudson’s Bay Company and with Henry Birks & Sons. He also taught marketing at the University of Toronto and served on McGill’s board of governors.
In 1946, Ballon and fellow intercollegiate miler Joe Taylor of the University of Toronto were invited to race at a one-mile invitational race at St. Andrew’s. Though the university runners got off to a quick start, they were passed after a quarter-miler by an unheralded runner who then seemed only to get fresher as the race progressed, finishing well ahead of his more experienced competitors. As the crowd buzzed with the unexpected result, it was revealed the university milers had borne the brunt of a prank. The winning miler turned out to be Harold and Gordon Middleton, twin brothers from Hunstville, Ont., who took turns hiding behind a screen erected at the far end of the track.