Dad worked hard. He finished grade eleven in the small Saskatchewan town of Hepburn where he was born. He had owned his own gas station (called service stations then), and he and mom owned and operated a coffee shop. They moved to St. Catharines, Ontario in 1947. Several large manufacturing companies employed thousands and wages were better than anything in the West, and furthermore, my mom's family already lived in the city. Assembly line work was strenuous and often exhaustingly hot. Air conditioning was unheard of in those years. From our Clark Street home, Dad walked thirty long city blocks to work at Anthes Imperial, a furnace assembly factory. Dad tried several jobs, starting on the smelter, a wickedly hot job even in winter. In summer it was intolerable. Ringing wet at the end of a shift, Dad would walk home in the late afternoon humidity and heat. Arriving, he would remove his T-shirt and ring it out. As a child I never thought about this or regarded it seriously. Much later as an adult, having done some hard labour, I understood dad's family investment. When all three sons were adult and dad was nearing retirement after forty years of physical labour on an assembly line, we asked why he stuck at something like that. He replied in a manner that humbled us forever, "I did it for my boys."
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
|Theatre still stands but it’s closed|
My dad worked for Anthes Imperial, a furnace manufacturer. He was one of hundreds of assembly line workers. Salaries were meagre yet one of the employee bonuses Anthes Execs offered for families was an annual Christmas Party, a December invitation to Lincoln Theatre on St. Paul Street. There we would watch a Christmas flick and then every employee's child's name was read out and an age appropriate gift given on stage by none other than the fattest Anthes Santa they could find. Murray had beautiful curly white-blond hair and sitting on Santa's knee he was asked his name. In his sweet boy voice he replied, "Murray." Santa and his helper misheard the name and gave Murray a present. We didn't open the gifts until we got home. When Murray opened his, he found a dainty toy Tea Set, cups & saucers & teapot. He was not pleased.
|Queenstown Heights Restaurant & Brock’s Monument|
The other Anthes gimme was the annual Factory Summer Picnic held at Queenston Heights. Races and other contests were organized for children, three legged races, and wheel-barrow races (dads holding their kids legs and the kids scrabbling with their hands to a finish line), and sack hops. I loved it because I was fast and competitive enough to come home with prizes. The Factory also provided drinks and foods, ice cream and watermelon.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
|Mom sewed these garments|
It was Murray and me. Neale had not yet arrived. I was ten and Murray was five. Household money was not spent on frivolity such as costumes. Halloween was what we kids made it. We were originals. We used cardboard boxes, fabrics, watercolour paint. That's the best that could be said. Families around our home were as poor as we were. They drop donuts and homemade stuff in our bags. We wanted candy, expensive candy. This year we asked Dad to drive us a few blocks, first to the streets around Montebello Park and then to the Glenridge area, posh homes, gleaming luxury cars. Dad dropped us off and parked and waited for us. We rang doorbells and at each home a stylishly dressed man or women greeted us, invited us inside, looked us over, and sometimes asked us if we could sing. Could we sing? We'd confidently answer "sure." What songs did we know? We were Sunday School kids. I would harmonize a tenor with Murray's little boy soprano. "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…." We'd sing the entire song and the people would applaud, stunned by the pure sound. They loaded our bags with great Halloween gifts. Within a few blocks we had more than we could carry and we'd ask Dad to take us home.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Behind the buildings that front along St. Paul Street, were messy looking lots for parking and garbage bins and storage. Further behind, the forested hillsides led down to the old canal. Vagrants, hoboes we called them, street people as we know them today, lived back there, among the bushes, under the stilt building additions, and anywhere else that provided shelter. On one of our foraging, exploration days, we came behind a store where there was a large rectangular wooden box with a wooden cover. It measured approximately eight feet long by four feet high and three feet deep. We heard sounds inside the box. That fascinated us. We were talking to each other as kids do, excited and scared. An animal might be inside, but what kind of animal. We wanted to find out. I approached, ready to open the lid. Suddenly the lid " went up and a man sat up inside the box. We could see that he as sitting on blankets and clothing. He had an open can of beans in one hand and a spoon in the other. He said, "Do you want some beans." We were startled and said, "no thanks." We asked, "Do you live in there?” Dressed in a heavy wool overcoat and torque, he said, "Yep. It's cozy.” We used to refer to these guys as bums, hobos, rubbydubs. Never after that. I had a new respect for these people. Survivors they were.
Friday, September 16, 2016
Bicycles got us anywhere and everywhere. We explored everything. Life for a kid on a bike was fantastic. St. Catharines is known for the canal systems that for the past two hundred years have joined Lakes Erie and Ontario and provided arteries for the shipment of goods. Four distinct canal systems operated during those years, each larger and more sophisticated than the previous ones. A very old and unused version once ran behind St. Paul Street, the mai
Thursday, September 15, 2016
|R. to L. Murray, Dad & Me|
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
|St. Catharines Teepees 1953-54 Memorial Cup Winners|
The St. Catharines Teepees were our city junior A hockey team. They were a strong and competitive team for many years and gave local citizens so many occasions for celebration. But 1953-54 was our first Memorial Cup Championship year.
I was usually in bed by 9 pm but occasionally if the hockey broadcast on CKTB, 610 on the dial was still in progress, dad would let me to stay up to listen with him. It was after 10 o'clock and the Teepees were behind by three goals in a playoff game. Suddenly dad said, "okay let's go to the game." I was dressed in thirty seconds and we walked, from 10 Clark Street to Rex Stimers Arena. Admission prices were $1, $2, $2.50. We walked just about everywhere in those days. When we arrived we got in for free because of the late hour. Teepees scored once, so the deficit was two goals. Time wore down. Maybe five minutes remained. Dad gave up hope and wanted to get me home. We walked, to the ice cream store of coarse. There the owner said "Teepees just tied the score. Dad said, "We're going back." We arrived at the arena in time to see the overtime period. With the score tied, Teepees scored the triumphant winning goal. And I got to bed after midnight, happier than can be. It was a bid deal for an eleven year old. (Teepees were the 1953-54 Eastern Canadian Champions beating Quebec Frontenacs in six games and I was eleven years old. This advanced them to the Memorial Cup against the Edmonton Oil Kings whom they beat in five games, 4 wins no losses, and one tie for which there was no overtime deciding formula.)
|Memorial Cup Trophy|
My dad worked at Anthes Imperial, manufacturer of furnaces. He began in the foundry, and moved to a couple of assembly line positions, until he was asked to fill in as an overhead crane operator. He had been doing this for a few weeks when I asked him whether I could come to watch. It meant that I would ride my bike several long blocks, perhaps two miles, to his factory yard, hide my bike and peek through a chain link fence at a distance. I could see Dad in the all glass crane cab one hundred feet above the ground. He moved the crane along overhead beams picking up and setting down large pieces of steel. As I watched him, I noticed him beckoning to me. I couldn't believe it. He was looking around to see if anyone was watching and then he motioned for me to come. I quickly found a low spot under the fence where I could crawl to the other side. I cautiously looked for a clear moment and then I ran hard to the foot of the crane, climbed the gigantic ladder all the way to the cab. Dad told me to crouch on the floor. He continued to work. My entire crane experience lasted perhaps twenty minutes and Dad told me to carefully, attentively climb down the ladder, sneak back out of the yard and go home. I was ecstatic. It was like a booster shot of bonding with my dad.
Monday, September 12, 2016
|Times Square VJ Day Kiss|
My friend Joey Daniels lived around the corner on Raymond Street. He had two sisters, Pat and Geraldine. Pat was about two years older than Joey and me, and Geraldine was a year younger. All of this is approximate. In our neighbourhood we filled our time with all kinds of activities of our own invention. The Anglican Church was on one side of Robertson Public School and First United Church was on the other side of the school. This was one of the most curious. On a couple of occasions, we went into the back yard of St. George's Anglican Church, secluded, shaded with green bushes and trees. By 'we' I mean Pat and Geraldine and one other girl and a couple of other boys and me. We sat cross-legged in a circle and either a girl or a guy spun an empty bottle on the ground. The spinner had to kiss whomever, of the opposite sex mind you, the bottle pointed to. It was all done comically and demonstrably, with cheers and whooees. The object was to duplicate what we thought was a French kiss. Kissers would stand up, face each other and the guy would put an arm around the back of the female and bend back as far as he could hold her and give her a smooch. We would plant our feet so we could almost touch the back of the girl's head to the ground and would hold the smooch as long as we dared. I liked kissing Geraldine the best.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Clifford Long was a bully. Some kids are wired that way. I learned that the behaviour can be adjusted but I wasn't cerebral enough when I was eleven. I was scared. Clifford intimidated all of us. It wasn’t that he was taller than the rest of us. It was assumed that he was stronger. His aggressive language and demands worked for him. Mostly we managed to coexist, play together, but every kid his age had run-ins with Clifford. Something would tick him off and he would punch us in the chest or arms or whack at our heads. I had a couple of such brush-ups with him and I remember that it hurt. I cannot remember what I did that ticked him off the last time - that is, the last time he picked on me. It was after school and after supper. A bunch of us were in the schoolyard which was only minutes from my house. It was growing dark at about eight o'clock. He was angry and he chased me but I was faster, far faster, faster than anybody that I knew. In a blink I was out of the schoolyard, down Church Street, then in a panic bounded up on somebody's house porch. Behind a small waist high porch wall I hid. Clifford came calling my name, getting closer, closer. What could I do? What would I do? Then he was near my hiding spot. I leaped out and bounded down the steps and in mid-flight punched him hard in the gut, and I ran. He cried out, doubled over on the sidewalk with hands to his stomach but I was gone, home. Next day at school, I was worried he would be after me again. Nope. No problem. He stayed his distance. Days later he spoke with me, just about harmless stuff as if nothing was different, but it was. He respected me.