News

The Champ rides again

Gavin Murray, 3, is the first to hop aboard Champ a mechanical horse that has been entertaining Cowichan children for more than 50 years. Champ was recently restored to mint condition by Gavin’s dad Scott Murray, left, and grandpa Dave Cahoon, right.  The horse will makes its second debut at Duncan Mall tomorrow. - Andrew Leong
Gavin Murray, 3, is the first to hop aboard Champ a mechanical horse that has been entertaining Cowichan children for more than 50 years. Champ was recently restored to mint condition by Gavin’s dad Scott Murray, left, and grandpa Dave Cahoon, right. The horse will makes its second debut at Duncan Mall tomorrow.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

When Dave Cahoon was a young boy, he used to ride a coin-operated horse named Champion in the old TW Eaton's building in downtown Duncan.

"I used to ride him every other Friday night. We'd come down off the mountain every two weeks to get our supplies. I would ride him while my parents shopped. That was when you could get everything in one place, including groceries."

In the late 1970s, the Champion was moved from Eaton's (now the Merchants building), to a the Duncan Mall. It was then people nicknamed the horse the Champ, which has been his name every since.

When Cahoon was employed as a security guard at Duncan Mall in 1990 he recognized his old playmate.

"I spotted the Champ and thought, 'Now I know where he went.'" Seeing him brought back childhood memories."

At the time, the Champ, who was built around 1960, wasn't making much money. Cahoon suggested to the mall office that they move the horse from in front of Fields to centre court. There, Cahoon said, "he started producing nicely."

Cahoon influenced that revenue growth by offering kids an occasional free ride so they would fall in love with the Champ too.

"I can't count the number of kids I got hooked on this thing. I would plunk in a quarter at least once per day to get them hooked. When it's a kid's first time ever, their faces lights up and they know how brilliant he is. That's when I know I've got another one."

Cahoon tried to buy the Champ for himself, but he couldn't agree on terms with the owner. Instead, the Merchants Association bought it with a plan to restore it. But the restoration project took a back seat to the renovations in the mall. Champ's condition deteriorated to the point the mall's owner wanted it gone.

Cahoon asked his son-in-law, Scott Murray — who works in the paint body shop at Peter Baljet's car dealership — if he could restore it.

"Peter Baljet said we would bring it into the shop. He allowed Scott to do the work outside work hours. Scott and I spent the first weekend grinding out all the cracks and refilling it. Scott reworked the whole thing. The Champ is absolutely gorgeous now."

Cahoon said he knew Murray would do good work, but he wasn't prepared for how good the Champ would look when it was restored, and was emotional when he saw it complete.

"I was blown away.

The restoration took one month and cost about $1,500. Cahoon said revenues from all the kids riding the Champ in the past more than paid for the restoration.

He said the Champ's price will remain as it was.

"It's been a quarter since the 1970s, and it will always be a quarter. We won't jack the price like other mall rides. Anybody can afford a quarter."

The Champ will be unveiled at the Duncan Mall and Rotary Club of Duncan Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 8 from 9 to 11 a.m. Kids can ride the Champ for free during the breakfast.

Breakfast with Santa at Duncan Mall.

Join Santa Claus for breakfast on Dec 8th at Centre Court located inside the Duncan Mall. Breakfast runs from 9 to 11 a.m. with photos by Rosanne Korteland at Orange Passion Photography.

$7.00 for adults; $5.00 for children. Purchase tickets at the back entrance of the Duncan Mall, Superstore side.

Breakfast consists of pancakes, sausages, juice and coffee.

During breakfast and photos, families will be spellbound and enchanted by a Magical Micheal Machek, a master in illusions and magic.
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