George Schilling was a man for his time. Scrupulously honest himself, he had no time for anyone who wasn’t, and if the somewhat arbitrary methods with which he controlled racing in Western Canada would have trouble standing up in the courts today, they were what were needed to keep horse racing on the straight and narrow in his time.
Schilling was already a racing official of considerable experience when James Speers hired him as presiding steward at Winnipeg in 1925. There were no film patrols, and no post-race tests in those days, and racing in any given locale was just what the presiding steward made it. Schilling arrived to find that “Hudson Bay Rules” prevailed at most western tracks and he devoted 31 years of his life to making the sport, in his words, “a gentleman’s game” throughout the Prairie Provinces. Schilling was ahead of his time in recognizing the value of good public relations and the destructive influences of bad publicity. He cared what the fan thought and devoted much of his time, without pay, to endeavors that now occupy entire publicity staffs at race tracks. He helped pioneer the use of radio to promote racing in Canada and, with his rare gift for dialects, would often write and star in radio skits on racing that featured up to 15 characters. He was anxious that newsmen covering his sport be well-informed, and spent much of his time indoctrinating new writers into the intricacies of the game.
Schilling was a fair man, but he ruled racing with an iron hand at a time when that was needed. Behind the twinkling eyes that peered mirthfully out from behind a bulbous red nose was a keen mind, well in tune to the dangers that can result in racing when supervision is lax. He was the complete racing official. When times were hard during the Depression he would double as the Speers Corporation’s racing secretary. He would also, anonymously, supply selections for newspapers that couldn’t afford to hire a selector. George Schilling served as a steward in Western Canada during the summer, while performing the same duties during the winter in California and Caliente, Mexico. There, too, he was among the most respected figures in the game.