The O'Connor family 1948 or 1949cursor over or tap a face to see the name
EARLY TRIPS AROUND THE SUN
Brian Kenneth O'Connor
Right from the start, I was a procrastinator. Thirty one days late, I was apparently delivered with forceps in Port Hope Hospital at 4:30 in the afternoon on March 31, 1943, thus being spared the ignominy of being an April Fool. With three older siblings waiting for me at home, I of course have no recollection of those times, but, being born at 8½ lbs, I am sure my presence led to lively conversations with, and sympathy for, my mother.
Of the first few years, I will have to trust that my mother's tales are correct, and of course any diversion from the absolute truth, may be caused by my paternal lineage: Irish. My Grandfather apparently was of the opinion that he would not allow the facts to get in the way of a good story. The Irish also believe that there is no point in telling a short story when a longer one will do. Be prepared, like my Irish cousins, I do know how to turn a short story into an epic!
A little education can be a dangerous thing and my eldest brother was a good example of that. Wayne was apparently really concerned about whether I would speak English or Chinese. As he put it, every fourth person born into this world is Chinese and I was the fourth born into the family. As it turned out, Wayne's eldest son Andrew speaks Chinese, along with several other languages, but not as a mother tongue!
There were severe disadvantages to being the youngest in the family. First of all, a lot of my training was commenced under the tutelage of my devilish twin bothers, Dan and Mike. Not quite identical, I always knew which one was trying to sucker me because of subtle differences not readily apparent to a casual observer. The biggest thing of course was that with twins only two years older than myself, the clothes I wore were inherited, not new. On the other hand, if they had not already destroyed them, I got lots of used toys along with lots of advice how to use or abuse them!
I was of a rather portly stature and my mother said that by the time that I had started to walk, and she gave no age, and that when I first tried to go under the dinning room table, I bumped my head. Maybe the real cause of that was poor eyesight, and just why would I want to go under the table? A possible answer is food and another is trying to get away from my demonic twin siblings. My mother always said that I did not learn how to talk until after my fourth birthday and once I started talking, they could not get me to stop. My opinion differs here, as I probably did know how to talk, and since I had three older siblings to learn from, it was more likely I didn't have anything worthwhile to say or, couldn't get a word in edgewise. As to my supposed continual talking, I am actually a poor conversationalist, sticking more to the facts than delving into the darker side of my friends, family and neighbours. Just ask Cathy, my wife.
Habits are important, and according to my mother, when I was about one year old, my grandfather decided that I should learn how to drink the last few drops from his beer bottle while sitting on his lap. Apparently, he had done this with Wayne whose reaction was a little more subtle. Recognizing a good thing, I apparently started to reach for that nectar a little bit sooner each time, until my grandfather complained that I was getting more than him. Why I just couldn't have my own bottle was, apparently, never discussed!
What could have had tragic results for our family was my eldest brother, Wayne, was diagnosed as having rheumatic fever of the heart, the deadly form of the disease. Apparently, my Great Aunt Rebecca, who had been a nurse in Boston and could not speak English went she first arrived there, cared for, nurtured and tutored Wayne upstairs at my grandparent's home, gradually nursing him back to health.
Anna Rebecca 'Annie' Caldbeck
Wayne insists that his poor spelling is a result of Aunt Rebecca's limited knowledge of the English language. Okay, we all need a crutch sooner or later. My mother didn't have time to spare, after all she had the twins and myself to look after. When Wayne went back to school, he was writing, not printing and I guess that the school system in it's rigidity, held him back one year so that he could lower his educational level to what was deemed to be correct. Maybe they should have taught him how to write clearly, as his script, even today, is as hard to read as a doctor's. I hate to admit it, but I do not have any memories of my eldest brother being absent from our household for that time period.
Wayne's memory of this time period in his own words: "I don't remember much about my early health. I just remember that I was always sick and unable to keep up with my friends and classmates."
I remember often going to see a doctor, probably a pediatrician, at the Peterborough Medical Clinic. Sometimes father drove us in his father's car (we did not own one) and sometimes mother took me on the train. We always put in extra time waiting at the house of a friend of my father. I think his name was Cap Caldwell and he was a baker. The shop he baked at was at the front of his house and only a couple of blocks from the Medical Clinic.
I competed at a public school field day, which I was not allowed to do, when I was in grade two. I don't remember winning anything but I remember going right to bed when I got home. I never went back to grade two.
Shortly after, we went to see the doctor in Peterborough. I don't remember the visit. I only remember my mother crying all the way home to Port Hope. Evidently he told my parents that I was dying. I had rheumatic fever of the heart, was very weak and needed lots of rest, quiet and care to survive much longer. Those requirements would have been difficult to provide in our house with my twin brothers just starting school and my youngest brother still at home.
My grandparents saw that I got it all, along with a lot of love. One day my grandfather picked me up out of bed and told me that he was taking me to live with my grandmother and himself. In my new home, I had my own room (I think it originally was aunt Kitty's), a radio and a big double bed. For a whole year I was allowed out of bed only to go to the bathroom.
I lived with my grandparents for two years. They spoiled me with my favourite foods. Often came up to my room to be with me while I ate so that I had company.
My grandmother was larger than life. I don't remember much of what she did the year I was confined to bed. She brought me meals, the newspaper, fresh fruit and read with me a lot.
My grandmother came from a relatively well-off Irish family and an Irish tradition was for the well-off to offer food to anybody at the door. She brought this tradition to her house in Port Hope. At one time Port Hope had a 'tramp town' near the railway station. Hungry tramps would come to her door for something to eat. They never came close to mealtime. She would not allow them into the house - usually just the barn and bring them food and milk or water. She always told them to come again when they were in Port Hope. In virtually every instance, the men fed offered to help with something before leaving. I don't know if any ever came back. I do remember more than one man telling her that he had learned about her at 'tramp town.'
My second year, I was allowed out of bed and to go outside. She taught me how to pick raspberries (the blue ones called 'Columbia' were my favourite), dry sunflower seeds and suck the sweet lilac flowers. On nice days I could spend a lot of time in her hammock in the lilac bushes. Every afternoon, usually around 3pm, she had me help her gather the eggs from the 300 hens in the hen house. It was easy to tell when it was time to gather eggs - all the hens starting clucking at the same time.
My grandfather was a very quiet man. He was always polite and would always make time to spend with me. He enjoyed his beer after working with his horses or chickens and usually shared some with me. Horses are not a lot of work - rub their noses, put oats in their mouth baskets, curry and comb them in the evening, and clean out their manure.
Brian Kenneth O'Connor
That's it. Chickens are a lot of work and my grandparents had 300 laying hens.
All the eggs were sold to the IGA and grandmother did all her shopping there. The eggs had to be candled before they could be sold by any store. I got quite good at the job and ended up being both accurate and fast. Grandmother cooked with most of the eggs that had blood spots. My love of scrambled eggs probably comes from all the ones I ate that were done this way so the blood spots could not be seen. If there was too much blood in them, the eggs were fed to the dogs. My grandfather was a very cheerful man, although I once saw him cry with tears rolling down his cheeks. There was a program on the radio every day probably around 6 o'clock. It was some sort of Roman Catholic service. My grandfather had been raised as Roman Catholic and left that church when he married my grandmother. No one was allowed in the living room until the program was over. I walked by the door to the living room one day, looked in and saw him crying. I don't think he saw me. I was very upset and never went near that room again when the program was on.
My two aunts, Eileen and Kathleen (Kitty), no longer lived in Port Hope. When they returned for a weekend or holiday they always spent lots of time reading to or playing games with me. Both euchre and hearts were my favourites.
My great aunt Rebecca came to live with us shortly after I moved there. She had been a nurse in Boston and had just retired. She became my school teacher and made sure that my schoolwork was sent to my old public school for recording. She got me through both grades two and three. She was originally an Irish speaker and did not learn to speak English until she moved to Boston. I inherited her rather poor spelling. I never was told why she was an Irish speaker while my grandmother, her sister, was not. To this day, it remains a mystery. She is the only person in that house who ever showed any anger with me. She once boxed my ears. Did I ever learn to behave when she was around.
Every week Dr. Tucker would come by to do a blood test called a 'sed rate'. He pricked my finger to get the blood which he mixed with some liquid and put in a tube in a wooden rack. He would then go and have tea with my grandmother. When he came back to my room, he would tell me (always with an adult present) what I was allowed to do the next week. I remember three times vividly - when I was told I no longer had to spend all day in bed, when I was told I could go outside and when I could go home and start school again. I also remember his final advice. "No contact sports. Don't go to school if not feeling well. You have a weak heart - look after it and you will live to become an old man." I must have followed his advice well. I am now an old man of 78.
I have no recollection of going home or of leaving my grandparents. I do, however, remember that when I started back to school I was put in grade four. I could write and use ink which none of my classmates would do until grade five. I never did learn how to spell properly. To this day, I am still self-conscious about it. I owe my life to my grandmother and my grandfather. They took a dying child into their care and nursed him back to health
God bless them.
As I am writing this, Wayne is on his 81st trip around the sun reaching the oldest age of any male in our recorded paternal family history. Not too shabby considering the shaky start. Our Aunt Eileen had just started her 94th trip before passing in 2008 and regrettably, Wayne will not meet this.
Daniel Edmund O'Connor was born on September 4, 1917 in Port Hope. He never moved from town, except for short periods such as for his war service. I believe that dad was fairly intelligent as all school records that I have located have shown him at the top of his class. Looking back on my daily life with him, he seems to have been one cool cat. Never ruffled, always willing to listen to my arguments before tearing them apart in a teaching manner, I can still picture him in our living room smoking his pipe, loving the flavoured tobacco that gave off a pleasant floral scent.
Lillian Mangus Carlisle was born on March 23, 1913 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Frank C. Mangus and Imogene (Irmia or Imo) Stonebraker. I doubt that mother actually knew that she had an older brother, William Frank, who died less than two months before she was born. Frank and Imo split sometime around 1915, and her grandmother, Ina Murdock, and her step grandfather, William Carlisle, adopted her. She always referred to Ina Belle as her older sister, while in fact she was her aunt.
My mother once related to me how she had met Dad. Although she did not use the word divorce, her parents, Frank and Imo had parted around 1915 while living in Chicago. Frank had remarried and eventually made his way to Port Hope and Mother visited him in 1936/1937. While walking down Cavan Street one afternoon, the file workers shift ended and they, including my Father, started to make their way home. Mom and Dad met on Cavan Street and that is where the romance commenced. Well, I guess I owe one to Frank as well, since if he had not come to town, Mom and Dad probably never would have met.
But why did Frank come all the way from Arizona where he was living according to the 1920 US Census, to Port hope? That question was finally put to bed when I found his third marriage in Cuyahoga Co., Ohio. Babe, as we knew her, was actually born in Port Hope as Kathleen Lillian Minaker. Then I beg to ask the question, just what was Kathleen doing in Ohio? Seems she got married in Toronto to a guy from Cuyahoga County and it didn't last since Frank and she got married less than a year later. I have never asked, nor do I intend to, just why her first husband was in Toronto!
I know from the records that we have found, that my parents got married in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 22, 1938. Possibly my maternal great grandmother, Ina Mangus (Murdock) was in attendance, as she raised mom and passed away on December 13, 1938. My aunt Kathleen married Thomas Wilbert (Wib) Wroe, a WWII veteran, on September 27, 1947 in Port Hope. The family portrait taken on our grandparents property was probably taken at that time. Wayne remembers that grandmother was very upset with grandfather as he did not have his false teeth in when the photo was taken. Everyone in the family photograph, except Wayne and myself, have taken that long lonely journey. Hopefully, I will be viewed as a credit to the time and effort spent in helping form just who we are. On the back of the photograph, the names of all those captured are recorded. Most other photographs that have been handed down are likewise identified, excepting the ones that my mother collected, prior to her marriage. With the digital age, this recording has floundered, so now I am trying to recall where, when and who are caught in the thousands of photographs I have taken. I guess I take after my mother!
When war broke out in '39, my father was deemed essential for the factory and therefore they obtained an exemption to the draft for him. Then in '43, the factory manager decided not to renew the exemption and according to Mom, Dad was upset because he felt that he would have been given a commission had he signed on at the beginning. Lucky for my twin brothers and myself, as we might not have been born otherwise. My father suffered from flat feet, and my Godfather, Ken Coupland advised him to enlist in the RCN before being called up, to reduce the potential marching. In '44, he joined the RCN, trained at Cornwallis, and then was sent to Newfoundland. Mother said that when Dad returned in '45, that I was the only one of his sons who recognized him! At that time, Newfoundland was a foreign country, which meant that dad could qualify for a pension, as he had served in a theatre of war. The poor buggers who served in the merchant marine were not considered as having served in a theatre of war until in the '90s, even though they were the ones being torpedoed. Our government made the same excuse for years about Korea, just a police action they claimed, but if you were to ask the Shortreed family, I am sure they would give you an earful!
On the old PHHS alumni site, I posted a question of what was the only name on the town cenotaph for for the Korean war. A few had guessed Shortreed, but nobody could come up with his given name. A friend, Peter Abrams, had thought of stopping a couple of times after passing the area of the park and finally, one night on the way home he stopped. As he was searching for the name, a gentleman came around and asked if there was a specific name he was looking for. It was Ron Shortreed, one of Vernon's younger brothers! I was to meet Ron later when I was looking into the story of John Fanya.
The only records of my Father's time in Newfoundland I have found are in his naval records, which I possess, and a purchased picture of U 190, the German submarine that surrendered to the Canadian Navy at the end of WWII, that was escorted into Bay Bulls, NL. Dad was on the Quartermaster's staff, and as such, would not have been in the firing line. However, in case of a raid, he did have a station to go to the top of Signal Hill in St. John's and had to be there within thirty minutes of the sound of the alarm. Those fortunate to have been there and climbed that hill, will recognize that it was no easy feat.
Frank C. Mangus was born on June 12, 1891 in Carthage, Ohio to William Mangus and Ina Murdock. He had five siblings that survived the early childhood years. Apparently, four were not so lucky. He married Imo Stonebraker on October 17, 1910 in Hamilton County, who was seventeen at the time. It would appear to have been a forced marriage as their first born, William Frank, was born less than seven months later.
Imogene (Irmia or Imo) Stonebraker was born on June 16, 1893 in Middleton, Butler County, Ohio to Christian Stonebraker and Mary Storm. Her mother died in 1908. After their parting about 1915, Frank moved to Cleveland and Imo remarried in Detroit in 1919. No trace after that marriage has ever been located of Imo.
On the other hand, Frank married Clara Meyer on May 14, 1915 in Hamilton County, Ohio and was granted a divorce in April 1919 in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio just before marrying Kathleen Lillian Minaker on May 5, 1919 in Cleveland. Frank indicated only one prior marriage on his license application, that ending in divorce, so his first marriage was swept under the table. Mom's half sister, Norine, was born in Canada on December 11th, 1920, probably Port Hope, and subsequently they moved to Arizona per the 1930 US Census. When they returned to Ontario is unknown, but since mom met dad in 1937 on Cavan Street, a safe assumption is that it was before then.
Frank and Babe owned a restaurant in Norwood until the mid '50s, either selling it or just closing the location. He then moved to Cobourg and was hired as a guard for a military warehouse there. Their daughter Norine married Isaac Whitefield and had two sons, Wayne and Colin. My brother Wayne remembers Colin from school, apparently he had attended L. B. Powers Public School at one point. I talked to Colin on the phone while we lived in Newfoundland, but after we returned to Ontario, no trace of him could be found.
Cathy and I met Wayne Whitefield's widow, Katherine, in Haliburton one sunny day when we decided to photograph the headstones for Isaac, Norine and Wayne. Had no real problem locating the graves, but another person asked us if she could help. As it turned out, she knew Katherine and gave us directions to her home. She added that if we saw an older woman walking on the side of the road, it probably would be Katherine. That's exactly how we met her, on the side of the road.
Neither Wayne nor I can recall ever meeting our maternal Grandfather, but we did met Babe in Cobourg after Dad had died. Maybe Mom was on the road to forgiving Frank for the childhood she had to endure. Frank and Babe are buried in Union Cemetery in Cobourg.
The last time I checked, I had over 30,000 names in my tree, the majority of them on the maternal side. I could claim that I am related to a number of US presidents, explorers and inventors but name dropping is not in my arena! The challenge is to discover the links for all those broken branches, however, I have to leave something for others to do. Only one broken branch really bothers me, that of my maternal Grandmother Imo Stonebraker because she is a 'close' relative, and it is just possible my mother actually did have one or more step siblings.
I do regret not having any real interaction with Frank and Babe, it is not like they were an ocean away, but I will credit mom with this lack, despite not really understanding what she had to bear during her upbringing in Ohio. My guess is that she felt that if Frank wanted nothing to do in raising her, then he should not participate in the raising of his grandchildren. Perhaps I am too harsh, but it is too late to ask her!
I have mom's ancestry traced back to when my 8th Maternal Great Grandfather came across in a boat. The maternal side of my traced family tree is by far the largest, I have recorded almost 30,000 ancestors dating back to when Thomas Skillman came to America in 1664, prepared for a war that never happened. It also has hundreds and hundreds of broken limbs, where I have either not been able to find records of their lives or have not yet tried to trace them. As I said, my ancestry tree is incomplete and I am sure that I leave behind a mass of relatives for somebody else to locate.
And it wasn't just any old ship that Thomas Skillman came from England in. A fleet of four frigates, under the command of Colonel Richard Nichols (Nicolls), came to take New Amsterdam, now New York, from the Dutch, and Thomas Skillman was aboard one of the vessels. The English offered reasonable terms and the inhabitants accepted, taking New York without a shot being fired. It sure has gone downhill from there!
My paternal grandfather, Daniel Connors, was born on February 25, 1890 in Kilkenny City, Kilkenny, Ireland to John Connors, a miller, and Margaret Lea. Family lore had him born in Cork County, but as Wayne and I were to discover, it's accuracy was probably compromised to cover his tracks, as was the name change sometime after the 1911 Irish Census. He had two brothers and four sisters and came from a staunch Catholic family.
My grandmother, Kathleen May Caldbeck, was born at the Lackin in Kilmanagh, Kilkenny County, Ireland on March 7, 1888 to James Caldbeck, a dairy farmer, and Mary Holmes. She had two brothers and four sisters, all but one brother emigrating to North America. Her mother died in 1899 and James remarried about 1901.
My grandparents got married on February 12, 1914 in Thurles, Tipperary County, Ireland where Grandmother had been staying, possibly working. It's doubtful that John and Margaret Connors were in attendance since there was apparently quite an argument when grandfather informed them that he was marrying a protestant. I still have the original marriage certificate, complete with affixed postage stamp, which contains crucial information that allowed Wayne and myself to track down our relatives in Ireland.
My grandparents arrived in Port Hope at the end of November 1914, having crossed the Atlantic after the outbreak of WWI. Why did they come and why Port Hope? We will probably never have definitive answers, but various clues help me surmise why. My grandmother was Protestant, my grandfather was Catholic and since they married in February 1914, about two years before the Easter Rebellion, is one clue. Second is James Caldbeck, my paternal Great Grandfather died about January 1914, leaving his farm to his eldest son. I found the record of them coming through Ellis Isle in New York on November 25, 1914, with train tickets to Toronto"?". Where they lived from February until November is a matter of conjecture, as the ship they arrived on, HMS Missinabie, started at Liverpool, England but stopped at Queenstown, Ireland to pick up passengers. Wayne and I also finally realized that Grandfather had changed his name from Connors to O'Connor. As per his military records, he had been a member of the Irish Volunteers, and his marriage would have been a good reason for retribution. Maybe covering his tracks?
But why Port Hope? Since the only other paternal relatives known to cross the Atlantic by then went to Sherbrooke, Quebec before moving to the US or Boston, MA, it seemed a little odd. That is until I ran into a statistic from the 1851 Canada Census. Apparently, the majority of the people listed in Port Hope, claimed to be from Ireland or of Irish Ancestry. While there were Holmes living in Port Hope at the time, I have never been able to link them to my great grandmother, Mary Holmes. Immigrants, banding together with other immigrants from the same country, something that some people rile against today. Let's face it, being in a new country, having others understand not only what you have gone through but also what you are now facing, is a real bonus. It's called transition!
Typically Irish, my Grandmother ruled the house on Bedford Street. Everything that happened there came under her domain. I remember that she held a weekly quilting bee in the living room, working on a bed spread with several other women. Each of them would bring their own pieces of scraps and lovingly hand sew them on their portion of the quilt. Meanwhile, they would be constantly talking about the events around town since their last bee. I have no idea how long this continued, but since many families could not afford a telephone, it was their way of keeping up.
One day, my grandmother took a picture off the bedroom wall and said that it was a picture of her parents back in Kilkenny. I remember the man had a full beard and had one hand resting on the shoulder of a woman sitting on a park like bench. She was dressed in an all white dress with lace around the neck. Situated underneath a tree, it was a very calming and serene picture. Regrettably, I have no idea what ever happened to that photograph. But I do have grandmother's locket, which does contain pictures of her parents.
She also told me that she had wanted to go up in one of those new fangled things called an airplane, but her father forbade it. With a twinkle in her eye, she said she went up anyway. Rebel! And her cooking, I still remember how everyone got served, she never sat at supper, and after everyone was finished, she would take a piece of bread and wipe the grease or gravy from the bottom of the frying pan. She always ate what she called the Pope's nose from a chicken, in other words, that part that goes over the fence last. My Aunt Eileen made meatballs and gravy one day in the sixties, but it was Grandmother's cooking I tasted that day!
A friend once asked Grandmother one day what she would do if ever Grandfather was dying and asked for the services of a priest. Quick answer: "Send for him of course." Love and respect, that is what she had for her husband.
My cousin, Mary Yuchno, was born in December 1955, so my Grandmother got to see her only Granddaughter before she passed away three months later. When the hospital called Dad, he shaved and got dressed, but did not make it to see her before she died. I do not have any memories of her funeral!
Family lore also was that there was no contact between my grandfather and his birth family after arriving in Canada as his family apparently disowned him. Several clues however, led me to believe otherwise, namely stories from my Aunt Eileen. She claimed to have a newspaper clipping of grandfather's youngest brother William in either a police or military uniform. Since William was born in 1907, some contact would have had to exist for her to have the said picture. Was she privy to information and then sworn to secrecy? My aunt never admitted to any knowledge of her father corresponding with his siblings or parents, but when I told her that we had located her cousin, she seemed unusually attentive, but guarded.
That cousin, Kathleen Maher (Connors), when first met by Wayne and Dora, asked who was Eileen Yuchno in Fraserville, obviously my aunt. When I met Kathleen the first time, Wayne and I asked her about any correspondence and she replied that there were regular letters from Canada until the early '50s. Our grandfather died in 1952! Since Aunt Eileen didn't get married until 1955, she must have been in contact with someone in Ireland from the Connors family after grandfather had passed.
With Patricia Rose Caldbeck in Ireland 2004cursor over or tap a face to see the name
Discovering Kathleen Maher came about in an unusual manner. When Wayne, Dora, Cathy and I, found our 2nd cousin Rose Caldbeck, who still lived on the farm where grandmother was born, we told her that we had no luck in finding any related O'Connors. She said that she knew a woman, but she thought her name maiden name was Connors, not O'Connor. We left it at that since at that point in time, neither of us had realized that a change in surname had occurred. Then we went to the archives in Dublin and it was there that we finally realized what had happened. In my Christmas card to Rose that year, I informed her of the above and her return card revealed the connection. Every Friday, Rose would go for lunch with a woman in Kilkenny, picking her up on the way. When she asked if she had an uncle in Canada, Kathleen replied yes, "I know that we are related." This must have stunned Rose, since she had known her for a very long time, but did not know that they were related by marriage.
And I had had a couple of friends tell me that they had trouble understanding my grandparents because of their heavy accent. Neither Wayne or I remember their accent, probably because we were exposed to it on a regular basis.
And why did Grandfather sign up in March 1915? He had a daughter, Eileen, that had been born in January 1915, less than two months after arriving in Canada. Our guess was that farming jobs were not plentiful, and the army offered a secure and regular paycheck. I still have my Grandfather's pay book, discharge papers, medals etc., and treasure them as priceless heirlooms, a window into my ancestry.
Speaking of Grandfather, his occupation on the 1911 Ireland Census was ploughman. He would continue to work with horses until the '40s, working with a team to do what ever chores needed to be done on his small farm. Trying to get his team to do exactly what he wanted sometimes could be a chore. Apparently, his language became very colourful while urging his team on in a loud voice. Grandmother would chastise him for this reckless language, but he didn't believe that he was actually swearing. On the Southeast corner on of Grandfather's property, across Clayton's lane was the orphanage, and as soon as the matron saw or heard Grandfather out with his team, she would gather all the kids and herd them inside. They called it ear protection!
My Grandfather also owned a mare named Queenie of which he was quite proud. I have a picture of him sitting on her near the old orchard. According to Wayne, whenever Queenie had a foal, there would be several bidders. I have another picture of him leading Queenie up the Pine Street extension on the South side of the creek that flowed East along the base of Monkey Mountain. If you were to look closely, you would see a small patch of white in the trees to the left of the culvert and on the North side. Sometimes on my way to PHHS, I would travel that way and would explore that area and I remember coming across what appeared to be a rotting wooden foundation, rather square and what I considered small for a house.
On the old PHHS Alumni site, I inquired if anybody knew anything about it. I got an answer from George Sweanor, who had lived in Port Hope before WWII. He knew the name of the family and I guess now the record of their lives there has been swallowed by nature. By the way, George was part of real life 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft 111, and had been assigned to security for the preparations. He had the offer of being one of the escapees but declined, as he had gotten married shortly before being shot down. He also stayed in the RCAF and ended his military career serving with NORAD.
George also wrote a book, 'It's all Pensionable Time', about his life experiences, and the Port Hope Library has a 'secure' copy. He also has a web site 'Ye Olde, Inquisitive Scribe' which covers many topics and some very deep thoughts. Last posting by him was on June 10, 2020. Thanks so much George, your privations are an inspiration to one who never even came close to what you have had to endure. Enjoy your 101st trip around the sun, you have more than earned it!
My Grandparents bought their house in 1919 from the Norman Gould estate, another name well known in Port Hope for their shoe store on Walton near the bridge over the Ganny. I had always wondered why Mother insisted on going into Gould's for our shoes, never Bata, and I guess, that is why. Over a few years, they purchased other segments including that portion across Clayton's Lane on the North side of Bruton Street between the orphanage and one lot short of Julia.
They built a porch on the South side of the house during the '20s and finally enclosed it sometime around 1935. I have pictures from different years, showing the various stages. Despite all the time I spent there, I can not recall ever being in the basement. The entrance to the root cellar was on the North side of the house, along the driveway to the barn. The kitchen had a wood stove/oven and Grandmother used to keep hot water for any reason in the side water tank, tea, shaving and even washing. Electricity was for lighting, not frivolous things like hot water or heat. I do believe that they did install an electric heater in the living room, but upstairs in winter, you covered up. Bed pan under the bed, you could be sure there would be a layer of ice in the water pitcher on the dresser in the morning in winter, which also included a ceramic basin for washing. You also learned to dress quickly and get down to the kitchen for the warmth of the stove.
The warmest room in the upstairs was the bedroom above the kitchen stove, for not only did it's heat go up the back stairs behind, but its pipes entered the adjacent hall and did a jog before exiting to the roof. When I boarded there with the Lunneys in the early '60s, Harold had to put out one chimney fire caused by that indirect routing of the stove pipe. They had also mercifully installed a bathroom just down that hall on the right. There was an attached shed, actually quite large, where the dogs slept depending on weather, and coming into the house, there was a room on the left where the hand water pump was installed with a sink. I still remember that leather strap that hung in there, for that was where grandfather shaved with a straight razor. If you went straight in you would enter the kitchen, that being an Irish woman's domain!
Grandfather had an orchard just East of the house, two rows of full size apple trees, running East to West. Of all the apples, Northern Spy was considered by my Grandmother as the only apple for pies, as she said they didn't squish down, but held their firmness, making for a solid bite of apple. Cathy and I still prefer the Northern Spy for pies, for the same reasons, but they are getting harder to find. Most orchards, there were a lot of apple trees on the North side of Highway #2 between Port Hope and that nameless town to the East in the '50s, have gone to dwarfs, making picking easier because you don't have to climb an orchard ladder to get to the fruit. Fewer accidental falls, and as far as I can determine, still with the same flavour.
He also had red delicious, Dutchess, Greenings and of course McIntosh. There were probably other varieties as well, but I can't recall them. Wayne recalls that grandmother had a Jonathan Apple tree on the north side of the driveway, opposite of the kitchen. North of the orchard, along Bedford to the homes facing Hill Street, was a large asparagus patch and in season, people would come from all over to buy some. If it didn't sell, guess what you had to eat. Despite being swarmed with asparagus, Wayne and I still enjoy that vegetable, but cooked a little different than back then. Grandmother also had a crab apple tree to the West of the house and her crab apple jelly was something to be savoured. To the South of the barn, which was on the West side of the property, was a hen house, producing lots of fresh eggs daily.
I remember going with grandfather one December day and he cut down a tree for Christmas on the southwest corner of his property, where a number of evergreens grew. Hauled it back to the house and it was put up in the living room immediately. With lots of water in a pail under the cut, only a few needles would drop from such a freshly cut tree and it emitted a pleasant aroma to the room. Somewhere, I have a picture of a decorated tree in that living room but have no idea if it was the one that I had 'helped' fetch.
In the late summer or early fall, if there had been a light shower, Grandfather would be out hunting mushrooms or puff balls a few hours later. One day he came back with a medium sized puff ball but Grandmother wasn't impressed. She pointed to the north side of the gravel driveway at a huge one and simply stated that he had been wasting his time elsewhere!
Both Grandmother and Grandfather brought their belief in the 'little people' with them when they came from Ireland. They never referred to them as Leprechauns, but believed that the little people sang, danced and told stories, unlike the fairies who were more mischievous or evil. My brother Wayne says that if Grandfather encountered a fairy circle, that is a patch of grass that is more or less encircled by mushrooms, he would not cut the grass inside of it. He would cut around it, but leave the circle alone, avoiding it until the mushrooms had disappeared. They believed that the fairies could bring misfortune upon anyone who crossed them. The little people on the other hand, bade no ill.
I remember that in the front side of the barn, a tractor and implement shed had been built by my Grandfather and they had a small area cleared and bordered by cement blocks. Over this was a pipe to take any smoke from a fire out of the building, and once the fire had gotten down to just embers, Grandmother would throw washed potatoes in. Cover them and let them cook. They look burnt when she took them out, but boy, I can not remember having any potato tasting that good since, even with butter. A few years ago, the current owner allowed me to look over the property and showed me an area where Grandfather had scrawled in the cement floor, DOC 1929.
Grandfather must have been an opportunist, for when I was searching the archives, I found that he had bought a property on Cavan Street at a tax sale in 1940. Over two chains along Cavan, and 15 chains, 55 links deep, it would have been a large chunk of land, roughly 150 by 1,000 feet. He paid $5 at the time and sold it in 1942 for $200, making a handsome profit. If you go North on Cavan Street, currently you will find a chain link fence around most of it, because the dump on Hyland Drive spread its material down hill creating a radioactive mess to clean up. When will they ever get on with it! Wayne remembers that there was a sugar shack on what would be the continuation of the Pine Street North, another broken roadway and probably on the East side of the street.
And about that Hill Street. Well named, and back then it was a link between Bedford and Bruton Street. If you go to the barrier where they have it blocked now, I think that you would immediately understand why everyone avoided it during the winter months! If it wasn't for Bruton Street at the bottom where it supposedly ended, that would have been the coolest toboggan run. Despite supposedly ending at Bruton, there is a separate stub that comes off of Walton Street and which probably causes some delays in emergency or delivery services! Had to be an Irishman who named the streets in town! And if you look at a map of the town, you can find where Molson Street becomes Jocelyn Street and finally Marsh Road, all in a straight line. While driving, you could play a game of guess what street I am on!
Just to the left of what is now the Jack Burger Sports Complex on Highland Drive, there used to be an Eldorado old metal hut enclosed with metal fencing and with numerous vats marked 'HOT' lying on the ground. Rumour had it that when you could no longer read the print, everything would be okay. If it was only so! And did they do a proper clean up before paving the parking lot? I had walked past that area whenever Jack Schoon and I left school together. Maybe that is why I have such a brilliant nature, at least in my mind and please don't ask Cathy for her opinion, because I may be radioactive!
Grandfather also had had a few dogs. First it was Stingo, then Moocher and finally Nipper. All of German Shepherd variety and all well named. The driveway went down towards Bedford Street on a slight slant and then gently curved East to meet the street without a large difference in level where they met. Because Bedford Street at this point started to drop into the gully on it's way West and to cut into the side of the hill on its journey to link up with Yeovil Street, it meant there was a steep drop to the street on the North side of said driveway. I think they may have since graded Bedford Street at this point because I seem to recall a steeper grade. At that time, there were no other homes until you linked up with Yeovil, unless you consider the house on top of the hill behind some trees, which had it's access off of Julia.
My eldest brother Wayne, managed in snowsuit etc., to get down there with Nipper, but fell over the edge just where the driveway turned to meet Bedford, the steepest part you could access without going through the lower garden and the trees on top of the hill. He became stuck and could not extricate himself. While Nipper stood guard, a couple of File workers on their way home from work on Cavan Street, came across this scene and respecting Nipper's reputation, decided to backtrack to Hill Street and come up Clayton's Lane to the house to inform my mother. Then back on Clayton to Hill to Bedford and down into the valley. A reputation can work miracles!
I can remember playing in the field to the west of the Baulch residence. Probably hadn't been farmed for over a decade at that point and if you continued north towards monkey mountain, there was a creek that flowed east to a pond just before Cavan Street. The creek had lots of water cress and if you crossed it, the cement remains of an old barn provided hiding areas. Apparently this was one of two barns owned by the Otts, the other being further east near Pine Street.
OUR NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD
The earliest event that I can recall is when we moved from Bedford Street to 29 William Street. I recall being upset since I was not allowed to go in the moving van. I distinctly remember that all the furniture was exposed in the back, so it probably was just a 1/2 ton truck.
Our home on William Street had a lot of approximately 3/4 of an acre of land. Room to play and have a decent garden. On the Southeast corner of William and Princess, it was the perfect place to play all kinds of boy things on the street. Now you are probably thinking that playing on the street as a pre-teen would be dangerous, but let me point out that we are talking 1946 to 1955. Not a time of streets teeming with hordes of commuters scurrying about trying to get to a destination that they left too late to get to on time. Besides, Princess Street did not yet go south beyond our driveway; progress had not as yet laid it's insufferable hand on my corner of the world.
Only two other driveways shared access on Princess Street, south of William, George Christie's and William 'Bill' Southgate's. Made for a nice secure play area, except when my demon brothers would intentionally throw our ball over the fence at 'Mr. Stonewall Faced Southgate.' Strict and authoritarian, he was to be avoided at all costs, at least in our minds. Sure enough, the twins would put me up to asking Mr. Southgate to retrieve our item from his property. He never failed to do so and although I cannot recall ever seeing a smile, I bet he enjoyed their little game.
William Southgate was involved with the local fire department and one year donated a wool dress fireman's uniform so that my brother could use it at a Halloween Dance at PHHS. He also gave us a couple of books. One was a history of Canada printed ten years before confederation. A name and the town of Whitby were scrawled inside the front cover and I remember that it talked about the coming union of the provinces. Was never taught in school that this has been such a long drawn out affair, but there it was in writing. Book was yellowish/brown in colour and it's dimensions were about the same as today's paperbacks. Much thinner though. Somewhere, I lost this window into our history.
The second book was an world atlas printed in Philadelphia in 1850. It was rather large, had thick pages printed on one side only, and had maps including Upper and Lower Canada. It also had a map of the North American Continent, the upper portion with little detail, just a red colouring, and the Ottawa River ran North and South! What I really liked was that on the map of North America, there were only three communities recorded in Upper Canada, Toronto, Kingston and Port Hope! Since the binding on the atlas was deteriorating and I could not afford to have it properly repaired, I donated to the Laurentian University in Sudbury.
Mr. Southgate's property was always kept in pristine order and I seem to recall that he grew raspberries behind his fenced back yard. I can not recall ever seeing anyone cut the grass or rake the leaves, he had a big chestnut tree by Princess Street, yet the property always looked in good shape. Thanks Mr. Southgate, you helped shape my quest for history as it was lived, not recorded. He is buried in Section A of Union Cemetery and I visit him whenever I can.
George Christie became my mentor after my father's death. Born in 1892, he was of my grandfather's age, and had lots of life experiences. I visited him many times, even after moving to Sudbury. Surprisingly, George apparently had worked at the Inco operations in the Sudbury area in the early '30s. He said he even had a boat with a small internal engine while living there and it may have actually been on Ramsay Lake, which is now surrounded by the city. George also grew raspberries, some behind his garage and some at the back of Southgate's property. He was very proud of his Columbia raspberry, the same type that Wayne mentioned, but I see there is now a house where they grew. He also had a rather large Willow tree behind his home. George also liked to grow African violets in his back porch, and I am sure he would be happy to know that Cathy and I still grow them and those plants have been with us since our Newfoundland days.
When George passed away in 1979, I drove from Sudbury to attend his funeral which was held at the Baptist Church at the corner of John and Augusta streets. Thanks George, I really needed your wisdom. George is also buried in Section A of Union Cemetery along with his wife Dora, daughter Norma and son in law Fred Klinker.
If I stood on our front lawn, I could see namesakes for a cookie, an ice cream cone, an English car, in other words, the Christie's, the Robinson's and the Austin's. Robinson's ran a convenience store on the corner of William and Hope streets, that sold ice cream in single servings in a paper sleeve, just remove the paper and stick the end in a cone. Thus, there was a measured amount of ice cream every time, unlike scooping which allows trained servers to skimp on the serving while appearing to be piling it on. They also had open candy and you would get seven black babies for a penny. And the uncompleted section of Princess street was still a farmer's field yielding even more play area. A very minor creek ran across the South end of our property, yielding a variety of aquatic animals, but no fish, since it usually dried up in the summer months.
Going North on Princess, a five minute walk would bring you to both the Port Hope Hospital and L. B. Powers Public School on Ward Street. Usually it took twenty minutes for me, for who was ever in a hurry to get home, what with no television, no cell phones, no internet, no hand held devices, unless it was a cap rifle or a cap six shooter. One year for Christmas, my toy was a set of two Roy Rogers cap pistols in a 'leather' holster, one slung on each side of the legs. Your friends were always wanting to play outside, heck, if you went inside you might have a bunch of chores waiting! And because of the size of the lot, most of the time we played at my house. Now isn't that convenient: Mother was always getting a phone call asking if so and so was there and to send them home for supper.
My parents had both a dog and a cat. Brandy was part spaniel, black, brown and white and had a habit of wandering away from home during certain periods of the year. He also had a habit of chasing cars that passed on William Street, so my dad had a neighbour drive by while he sat in the back of the vehicle with a pail of water. I don't think Brandy chased any more cars on William after that soaking, however, I heard through the grape vine, after he went missing, that he had been killed by a car. They also got a black Persian cat from the farm of Aunt Eileen and Uncle Stefan. Pure black, he was a big one so we called him Nikki. Sorry about that! Being used to getting milk from a cow, he absolutely refused to have anything to do with pasteurized milk. One day I went out on the west lawn, and he had caught a bird. He wasn't hurting it, just holding it in his paws. I separated Nikki's paws and the bird flew away.
And then there was the day of the stalking! I was sitting on the front steps and watched as a black squirrel crossed our lawn heading for the big poplar tree on the west side. Then I noticed a small black and white bull dog was stalking the squirrel. Finally, Nikki joined in the hunt and began stalking the bull dog. As if on cue, both the squirrel and the dog raised their heads at the same time and looked to their rear. Helter-skelter does not adequately describe the ensuing pandemonium as each tried to escape their pursuer. Ah, life was so entertaining back then!
One afternoon, after riding my bicycle for a while, I pulled up into George Christie's drive way and as I lowered the stand, running for all he was worth was George's collie. On his back was Nikki who jumped off once they passed me. As far as I can remember, he was never declawed but I never saw him use them either. He also really liked human contact, allowing anyone to not only scratch his back but also rub his tummy. Not sure just what happened to that cat but I am sure that he could handle anything that crossed his path.
One day Dan was going to cut the front lawn with the rotary two wheel lawn mower, the only power being supplied by the person pushing it. He started at the front flower bed and pushed it down the gentle slope to the main portion of the lawn. There the grass was much thicker and it brought the mower to a standstill once the grass glogged the rotor blades. Dan said "Watch this" and went back up to the flower bed and then raced down the slope pushing that mower in front of him. Again the grass clogged the blades and abruptly brought the lawn mower to a halt. Dan's momentum was so great that he continued up over the handle bars and landed in front of the mower on his back. Yeah, kids will try just about anything!
We also had numerous lilac bushes on the property. Mostly along Princess, they hugged the old hen houses and were out of control. However, there was one rather large lilac bush at the corner of William and Princess. It happened to be the dark purple and was my favourite for sucking the nectar out of the blooms. Remember that one Wayne, you probably are the one who passed down that knowledge, but then again, you also did always pay attention!
Queen Victoria Day was always celebrated with lots of fireworks. I seem to recall that Strong's bookstore down by the Capital theatre had one of the better selections in town. Legal then were the true firecrackers and they could be heard being let off all over town for several days. Used to break them into a V, then light the contents and hold them until they fizzled out. They came with lighting cords all attached, so if you lit one, the whole package would go off, one by one sounding more like machine gun. Sometimes we bought the extra thick ones, louder sound, but, if you hung on to a lit one broken into a V, scorched fingers were a possibility.
Dad used to put a wheel barrow full of soil at the end of our driveway in the growing darkness, stick a fireworks in it and then light the fuse. Loved the Roman Candle, ten colourful balls rising into the air, one at a time. Every so often, a fuse would not burn to set the fireworks off, so it was always left till the end. Then Dad would light a stick and try to set that fireworks off. The sparklers were fun, used to sword fight with them despite our parents protests. But the piece that was always last, and we all looked forward to was the burning school house. When it finally collapsed in on itself, we knew the display was all over.
I remember one year that it was really dry, so we soaked a large area of the lawn and the sides and roof of the garage, as a precaution. As an adult, I always soaked a large area, including trees, before setting off any fireworks. Had a working water hose, a rake and a shovel handy just in case. I was taught well!
TCS would let off a nice display, including rockets which soared high into the air trailing shiny sparkles on their path to the heavens before exploding. Not sure where they aimed them, but one year we found two that had not exploded, stuck in the flower beds beside our home. Okay, the one that landed on the North side would have had a direct path, but how the other got into the bed on the West side of the house is still a mystery. It was tucked into the bed a good five or six inches deep, and there is no direct path to the location from the TCS property. If it had hit our roof, it's momentum would have been broken and the penetration depth would nix that idea. If it had come straight down, and that is the only logical explanation, and then hit someone, due to it's size, it could have had deadly results. This rocket was about eighteen inches long when you included the tail, made of light wood and about two inches girth.
When we moved to William Street, there was a small old barn about half way down the property to the South. I know we had chickens there for a while, but cannot remember any other actual use. My father tore down that barn and the following year his taxes went up. When he inquired as to why the increase, he was informed that tearing down that old barn was considered an improvement.
Food is what I lived for and as it happens, my mother was a fairly good cook. This was a time before prepackaged food had taken over, and it actually had taste without the addition of large doses of salt or sugar. Canning was in vogue, as well as jars, for everything like jam, fruit, pickles, sauerkraut and this was a big one at home: horseradish! Yeah horseradish! I will get more into this horseradish thing later.
My dad had a 22 Cooey short barrel rifle down in the cellar. We also had two BB guns that we would practice our shooting skills with with appropriate targets. Somehow Mike and I got into a shooting match, and not with targets. Mike was hiding in the back of the old hen house while I was in the back porch at the rear door. The bugger actually shot me between the eyes, just above the nose. I can still visualize that BB coming towards me! Nice round red lump that was quickly disguised so that our parents would be none the wiser. More about that Cooey later as well.
Although my paternal side was musically inclined, my grandparents had brought an Irish and a Sweet Potato Flute plus other instruments on their trek from Ireland in 1914, that gene must have been lost or altered by the time it got passed on to me. After hearing my voice, the choir master at St. John's Anglican Church, a Mr. Cohu, suggested that I mouth the words. My older brothers had to take piano lessons, we had a big one in the dining room, but they blotched it so well that I was mercifully never enrolled. Thanks guys!
And about that choir, I did not enjoy being stuck on display where everyone can see you behind the altar at St. John's. I guess that led to my following my twin brothers into skipping practice one September day. As we crossed the old Barrett Street bridge, somehow we got to fooling around. We eventually ended up in the fountain behind the old post office in the town park downtown, and I mean in it. When we got home, we had already concocted up a cover story and sure enough, we needed it. The church had phoned about us not arriving and our parents were waiting.
Our story was not really well thought out, and I am sure my parents were not deceived. Why they took it to the next step I still do not know as they never attended St. John's themselves. Anyways, they told my grandfather, and he smelled a rat. He tried the divide and conquer method, talking to us individually to see if he could find differences between us. I was the last one to be questioned, probably felt that I would be the weakest, and when he took me to the scene of the supposed 'crime', I felt a loyalty to my brothers. Or maybe, I felt they would take out their revenge on me if I told the truth. Things simmered down a little but I know my grandfather felt that he had us on the run. He said he would arrange a meeting where the 'other parties' would be and we could pick out the culprits. That was probably just pressure, but we stuck to our guns.
We were never 'convicted' and my grandfather passed away the following March, on my mother's birthday. Of course, everything then was forgotten. His funeral was held at St. John's and I remember my parents discussing if I was old enough to attend, not yet having reached my 9th birthday. I have an impression, not sure if it is actual, that the procession to cemetery included a horse drawn carriage. Would make sense, as grandfather did love his horses. In 2013, when my school buddy John Boughen was buried, he also had a horse drawn carriage and I wonder if by chance, it could have been the same one.
So Grandmother sold the house to Harold and Mary Lunney and moved in with us. Our house had four bedrooms, but it meant that I now slept in the room with her, on a cot. It also meant that we had two women in the house, but they did get along very well. When I told my mother in 1965 that I was engaged to Cathy, we were at my brother's home in Renfrew, she asked me to send Cathy in to see her alone. Her reason was that she wanted to welcome her to the family, since when dad did the same with her, Grandmother had welcomed her to the family; it had meant so much to mom considering her past. Wayne says that she had done the same with Dora.
We would play hockey on Princess Street, usually with an India rubber ball, man did that hurt, a puck which hurt just as much, a tennis ball or a few times with an old tin can. Used newspapers for shin pads, otherwise, no protective gear. I have a scar in my right eyebrow from one rusty old can that one of my twin brothers shot at me while I played goalie. A lot of blood, heck no stitches, as that would cost money in those days prior to OHIP, just a wet towel held over the rip that slowly mended itself. Despite dire warnings from our mother, we were back at it the next day.
I tried playing organized hockey, but I was a poor skater and therefore relegated to defence. Had a blazing slap shot, it was a penalty back then if your back swing brought the stick above your shoulders, and the opposition soon found out that I could hit anything, but the net! When the puck came back to me, everyone sped to the goal crease. But I persisted up to the bantam level and managed to score the grand total of one goal. A hockey career, apparently, was not in the offing.
We did enjoy playing pickup hockey on natural ice, usually on the Ganny, Gages Creek or Rice Lake. The latter had it's own hazards and frequently we dispersed as old cars came sliding out of control and awfully close. The ice would creak and groan but the worst part was chasing the puck way out of our improvised rink as there were no boards. And if your car driver had to leave, game over.
My twin brothers were natural athletes and competed both in hockey and at the OFSAA track and field championships. Although we all played baseball, I don't remember any of us being in a league, just pick up games up with friends. In hockey, Mike was a good goalie and Dan played centre. The only time that I can recall my parents attending any of our games was when a scout came to watch my brothers play. That ended in disaster, as Dan was hit in the head with the heel of a stick by a player from behind, no head gear at that time, and suffered a concussion. After Dan left the game, Mike was unnerved and didn't play well. The only result of that game as far as I can remember was that my parents immediately bought a helmet for me, a ring around the forehead with cross straps up top. It was constructed of a cushioning material and would only give minor protection, However, it was the forerunner of what has developed into a scientific approach to protect the head. I guess that I was a guinea pig!
Football was too hard to try and get enough players together to try and have a game. Of course anytime we did try, it was tag only as we had no protective gear. But we would pass the ball back and forth and sometimes kick it to each other on Princess Street.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the games we played, most of which we tried our darndest to turn into anything but what was originally intended. Hide and seek was an original game that we played on our property due to the size and hiding places that abounded there. Simple, until you let someone go and hide and not bother to go look for them. Wasn't long before nobody volunteered to hide.
A simple game of tag often ended up in a wrestling match after some one insisted that the tag was not made. No referees, just boy against boy defending honour!
I guess it may have been a lost opportunity. We could have been used as testers for toy manufacturers as no adult could ever begin to understand the torture testing that a group of teenagers can devise to put new products through. For example: One year we got a set of lawn darts, four darts with heavily weighted tips and a couple of plastic rings for targets that were placed on the ground. Yup, each of us tried to goad our adversary to catch them but with little success. We picked one person to hold the ring in their hand, giving us an circular target to throw the darts through. This ended after the distance became too great, our accuracy obviously decreasing as the distance became greater and the holder becoming more aware of what was happening; just because of a lack of volunteers. Then it became a game of just how high you could toss the dart straight up, causing everyone to scatter. One errant toss resulted in the dart hitting the fence across William Street at the Jenkin's. Never was one to read the instructions first.
We also got a lawn croquet set, but trying to hit the ball through the hoops was almost impossible from any distance due to the condition of our lawn. I think our parents finally hid the set when they found us swinging the mallet with all our might and trying to bounce the balls off of the trees.
The badminton set didn't last long either, we would just try and hit each other with the bird. The rackets finally gave up the ghost after we starting hitting tennis balls with them.
We played with the frisbee, at home, in the park and on the west beach. Even tried to get our dog, Brandy, involved if I was by myself. Of course we tried that circle thing but fortunately we had a decent distance between players who usually were able to evade being hit. Kind of uncharacteristic!
When the Hula Hoop craze hit, we got them. Built like I was, there was no waist for it to ride on and I never mastered more that a few spins before it fell to the ground.
In the fall, we would gather chestnuts and bore a hole through them, pass a string down and tie a double knot so the chestnut stayed on the string. We would then try to break our opponent's chestnut as he held the upper part of the string. One shot, then his turn. Around school, these contests were common, but some cheated and soaked their chestnuts to harden them. These rascals were quickly ostracized.
And we all craved to possess a Swiss Army knife, the kind that locked the front blade straight out or at a 90 degree angle. Of course it had to have a rear blade as well as one on the top. The coiled wire with a point on top was an extra and when I started to drink alcohol, I found a more immediate use for in removing corks or caps. We would hold contest on our back stoop to see who could obtain the most flips and still have the knife landing on one of it's blades, stuck into the wood. Again, our possession outlasted it's usefulness, and all I now have of the memories it help create.
If the weather was bad, inside didn't fare much better, with one exception: table tennis. My brothers didn't seem to care for the close quarters that we played in and maybe it was their influence all along that had led me astray. The dinning room table had two removable leaves to extend it's length but with the piano on one end and the buffet on the other, we had no choice but to play close to the table. With either Calvin, John or Peter, our games were seriously played, but we did congratulate each other on good shots. With the close quarters and ever increasing speed, reflexes sharpened quickly.
Most card games, monopoly, snakes and ladders, or any card game usually ended up with accusations of cheating. So I took my mother's advice and walked away whenever I thought that element had entered the game.
Then it happened, we got a televison set. The first one I had ever seen was in the front of Coleman and Philips department store on Walton, opposite Queen Street. We had just been at west beach and were returning home when someone suggested that we go check it out. Then we went to a friend's place to watch the one there. All I can really remember about the experience is that for hours afterwards, I saw a lot of horizontal lines. But we now had one, black and white, a huge 19-inch screen and a set of rabbit ears until dad installed an outside antenna.
Shows like Howdy Doody, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry were fun but the westerns were my favourite. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid and Gunsmoke were avidly followed. Later Maverick, the Rifleman, Zorro and Have Gun, Will Travel were earnestly watched. And so were the classics, I Love Lucy, The Jack Benny Show, The Honeymooners, and The Ed Sullivan Show. On the latter, I watched Elvis Presley perform 'Blue Suede Shoes' and one of my favourites, Tommy Edwards sing 'It's All in the Game.' A lot of these shows were live and sometimes unplanned things happened. Watched as John Cameron Swayze did a torture test of a Timex watch. Attached it to the propeller of a mercury outboard motor and ran the motor in a big tub of water. When they lifted the motor, the Timex was nowhere to be seen and Swayze without missing a beat, trumpeted 'could take such a licking and keep on ticking' as he showed the one he was wearing. The original can be viewed on Youtube.
But there was also The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason and the iconic Bonanza. And only thirteen channels, some of which we could not even get. Channels would only operate until around 1am, then you saw nothing but a test pattern and heard a buzzing sound.
One year, one of the cereal companies put a small plastic submarine toy as a prize in the box. It was powered by baking soda, which you put in a hole at the rear and when you submerged the toy, the water caused the baking soda to bubble, causing a forward push. Played with that thing in the bathtub and and the laundry tub. We looked forward to the next 'craze' as the companies tried to out do each other, but I have none of those toys left, just their memory.
GETTING AROUND TOWN
A bicycle gave us a whole town to explore, or a quick means to get to school. Of course, if we went to the West side of town, we had a hill to climb on both legs of the trip. I therefore can validly claim that when I went to Dr. Hawkins School on Pine Street or PHHS on Victoria, that I did actually did go uphill going both to school and returning home. Our bicycles were not fancy, no lights, no gears nor handle bar brakes, just a rear reflector and usually a basket attached to the handle bars to carry our loot. I remember one day coming home on Hope Street, that as I neared William Street, I decided to lift the front wheel while still riding, and to my horror, the front fork came off the wheel and quickly plunged into the pavement. Ass over tea kettle does not do justice to the path I then took. No helmets, no elbow or knee pads, you took your chances. Scrapes and bruises were cost of the freedom the bike gave you.
Of course, we all like to dress up our bikes with cool things, but money was not readily available to purchase commercial paraphernalia. In order to be able to stay out late, we would attach a flashlight to the front handlebars. We would also affix pieces of stiff cardboard to the forks so that when the spokes hit it, a noise could be heard. Pieces of cardboard boxes, cigarette packages and trading cards would be recycled in this manner.
Like most things I ended up with in those years, I inherited my brothers Toronto Star paper routes. The East end route had over sixty customers, the West was smaller but the hills on Dorset and Augusta sure made for a better workout. I only did the West route for less than one year, but the east route had it's own challenges. I picked up my papers at Robinson's, nice and handy for me, and I remember waiting with apprehension each Saturday to see how many pages there were. Sections went past AA and at least 260 pages was normal. I could not fit all those papers in the front carrier, so my route was done in two sections.
On Saturdays, the papers came in two different bundles, one being all the sections that had been printed earlier in the week, the other being the current section which included all the latest news and had been printed that morning. The Star also had several additions during the day and periodically we would see different front sections in the same bundle. We had a canvas bag provided by the paper to protect our precious cargo from the elements and in the winter I still used my bike for my route because I could not carry all that weight. On Saturdays, I tried to collect from my customers and of course that slowed things done quite a bit. I had a two ring binder with a cardboard page for each customer who would be handed a small tear off, showing the week as proof of payment.
Of course, the Star's local circulation manager was always after us to find new customers. Sometimes, they would be out of your route area and more than once I traded customers with another carrier to shorten my route. Once I traded a customer from the East end of Francis Street for a professor in the residence on the North side at TCS. I was instructed to never deviate from that entrance, but to go back out the way I had entered. I suppose the school didn't want their students mixing with the locals.
Not sure when my parents got their first car, a 1953, 4-door light blue Dodge. Therefore, walking and our bicycles were the main method of getting around town. If mother was with us, we would walk down William to King and then cross at St. Mark's Church. Then down Jacob's Ladder to Mill Street and the whole town was there for us to enjoy. Hutchings Grocery Store at the corner of Cavan and Walton was frequently visited, as was the butcher on John Street, across from Canadian Tire. We always walked to choir practice at St. John's, so exercise was in your daily routine, not in a gym or spa.
The butchers, Al and Ed Gooderham, had freezers for rent in the back of their shop, and my parents utilized one for several years before putting a freezer of their own in our back porch. They also would cut a side of beef into what ever you wanted, steaks being cut very rarely, and you would leave the meat in the locker until you needed it. Now that was considered convenient, your freezer being a half mile away. I remember the blocks of ice being brought into the kitchen for our refrigerator, until we got an electric one. Milk was delivered in a single quart glass container with a cardboard cap that rose if the milk froze before you brought it in. Bread deliveries were common, although I do not recall if we got it that way. Since the owner at Robinson's Convenience Store was a bread man, I suspect we got it from him.
Of course, once our purchases had been completed, we would reverse course and the trip up Jacob's Ladder with parcels was a lot harder than going down. Funny, I actually don't remember the parcels. If we were with friends, we would race up Jacob's Ladder, three steps at a time, sometimes attempting four, and when we reached the top, would try to impress our friends by trying not to show any signs of exertion. In the early '50s, there was an air raid siren installed beside the stairs, and on November 11th at 11am, it would sound to alert everyone of the two minutes silence that was to be observed. Someone must have finally clued in, for that only happened for a couple of years.
If we were going to St. John's Anglican Church on Pine Street, we would head North on Princess, West on Ward and descend the short steps to Mill Street. Head North on Mill and cut through Sculthorpe Motors property and head to the Barrett Street Bridge. Cross to Cavan and head West on South Street. Again, that bloody Irishman must have named that street! I have viewed pictures on Clayton's site of the choir at St. John's. I am not in any of them, but school mates Allan Bigelow and John Record are.
OUR NEW HOME
The fully enclosed back porch was where the laundry was done, an electric washing machine on wheels that you filled with a hose and emptied via a drain on the side, gravity doing the work, not a pump. Of course, you had to stop the water flow each time the pail filled and it took several pails to empty the tub. Then fill with warm water and start another cycle. We had a big square galvanized tub that was used for rinsing the clothes, squeezing excess water out of the clothes before putting them through the wringer. The machine had those wringers on top and squeezed a lot of the remaining moisture out of the clothes, the water draining into the washing machine. Then outside to the stoop, a raised wooden platform, to hang the wet clothes on a close line. To ensure that we understood how lucky we were to have an automatic clothes washing machine, on the back wall of the porch hung a washing board!
When my parents purchased our home, there were stairs into the basement from the kitchen and underneath the stairs to the second story. Dad and Andy Pidgeon dug a stairwell through the back porch and put a doorway through the cement wall into the basement. Dad then installed a toilet and sink where the old stairs into the basement used to be. Then, when you came in the door on the South side of the porch, you could go directly down into the basement or enter a room on either side by stepping up a couple of steps. The room on the left was maybe ten feet square and mainly used for storage. The room on the right was at least three times the size, and where the washing was done. There was also an entrance into the kitchen from here and was the regular way of entering our home.
As mentioned before, Dad installed a hot water boiler, a used one that he had purchased through his contacts at Nicholson File, and eventually installed an electric hopper feed for the coal. The coal used to be distributed from an open storage area underneath the CN viaduct, just before John Street. We received it through an open window on the west side of the basement, and then shovelled it into the hopper as needed. I recall one year that it came in canvas bags that we emptied and then returned them to the delivery person.
Hot water was distributed through pipes to the various radiators throughout the house by gravitation, giving a relatively even heat without any drafts, all of them installed on the outside wall of each room except the one in the front entrance. During heating season, we would release built up trapped air in each radiator via a pressure release valve, until it started spurting water, otherwise it's effectiveness would be lower. My parents found the living room to be a little cool during the winter, it was on the northwest corner, and so dad installed a second small rad in that room. Whenever it was opened to provide extra heat, it must have unbalanced the system as that room got even colder, so the intake control knob was usually turned off.
The front entrance was used mainly for our parents' guests with access to the living room being on the right, stairs going up on the left and access to the kitchen through a door straight ahead. There was a small covered veranda outside with a few steps down to a cement walkway that lead to the sidewalk along the south side of William Street. Dad had wanted to change the veranda to run all along the north side of the house and then along the west side. I noticed in the '80s that someone had done just that.
I was only in the attic a couple of times, the only access being difficult via a step ladder through a covered hole in our parent's closet. There was no insulation in the rafters but there were boards to allow walking across to a window that overlooked the back porch. Some things had been stored up there, but it was mainly empty space. When mom sold the house, I doubt that anything up there was removed by us and probably that fireman's uniform was left in the moth balls.
On the back wall of the porch was where we hung all of our coats and placed our shoes on trays beneath. Being an unheated area, in winter you hurriedly got dressed and seldom got warmed up before heading outside. Flight boots as we called them, patterned after the boots worn by war time aircraft crews, were heavy and lined with fleece. As far as I can recall, they were not really warm and if you stood in a spot for very long, sensations of tingling could be felt. Stomping of feet, while probably not very effective, at least made us think that it warmed our toes! Hats were an option, but most kids wore ear muffs and a toque in winter. Scarves were for the gals, the guys just turned the collars up on their jackets and slunk their heads down to try and cover any open spots. Wool mittens were the best unless you got them soaked, which made them less than useless.
Every summer our garden would provide us with fresh vegetables and fruit. Red strawberries and raspberries, picked at their peak and mostly eaten while being picked, asparagus and the never to be forgotten horseradish. Each year, mother would line up her conscripts, usually my older brothers on the back porch, grind this aromatic wonder into a tub from which it would eventually be jarred. Now, for those who have not had the opportunity to participate in this event, or have not walked within a 1/2 mile down wind of our house on the chosen day, count your blessings! Take the aromas from an outhouse, a manure pile and the heap of offal found around a lake shore and you have something approaching the stench caused by this delicious plant when ground. We had more than one neighbour threaten us with some vile retribution to even the score. This was not creamed horseradish and I am sure if you put it on your skin, the heat would cause it to blister. The final product would bring tears to your eyes and was a fantastic remedy for a stuffy nose! I think Wayne still has that old grinder.
But we also had apple trees, cherry trees, pear trees and plum trees. My father even planted a couple of apricot trees, and although I do not remember that they actually produced anything, Wayne says that one of them did periodically. When the time was right, I was to be seen sitting in a cherry tree gleefully munching away at anything that seemed to be turning red, while flailing an arm to let the birds know that that tree was mine. Then the apples would ripen, the tree out front had at least three different types, the scabs and even some worms were digested to fulfill our need. Never much cared for the pears, and the plums were the blue ones, hard as nails and as dried up as that creek in the back.
In winter we invariably built ice forts and stocked them with snowballs. One year we even put some in the freezer over night due to a warming trend, but our opposition cried fowl. Built a few snowmen, okay, snow persons today, and we actually used coal for the eyes, as our heat was from that fossil. The year that dad installed the boiler and radiator system will never be forgotten. Lingering heat at 6am! No frozen water pails! But we still could count on coming down in the morning and seeing snow that had drifted in under the main door during the night. Weather stripping was basically unknown so all doors could be counted on to keep us supplied with lots of fresh air. And then the year he installed the automatic coal hopper, we loved it as it stayed 70 degrees all night! Thermostatically controlled!
The windows in the house were single pane, so another set, the storm windows, was installed on the outside before Thanksgiving to reduce the amount of heat that escaped. Each window had four separate panes of glass, all held in place by a few small nails and putty which was painted. At the bottom of the window was a piece of wood that you could turn up, exposing three round holes that allowed fresh air to enter.
Accidentally leave the wood turned up in the winter, and you found out very quickly all about your error the next morning. On very cold mornings, frost would accumulate on the inside panes, crearing beautiful patterns covering most of the glass and hindering the outside view.
These windows did not seal particularly well and the replacement of some the putty was an annual event, usually completed in the fall before putting the storm windows on. Drafty is the word that best describes how we felt about them. But then again, the walls were not an effective means of stopping the cold. If you felt an outside wall on a cold winter's day, going from top to bottom, you felt the wall get warmer until almost half way down. This was because the older homes had used various items for insulation in the walls and settling occurred leaving a gap near the top. Old newspapers, sawdust etc., were pressed into use. This also meant that any fires that reached the interior of the walls had plenty of fuel to thwart the firemen.
To combat the coolness created by the ineffective attempts to insulate the house, sweaters or at least long sleeved shirts were worn in the house in winter. Some mornings we would put on our fall jackets while we ate breakfast. We also had the use of a hot water bag, which we would place at our feet in bed. With two wool blankets and a comforter in winter, our beds were nice and cosy when we retired. Not the case in the morning, often our toes got cold and the only way to defeat this was to put on a pair of socks until you got out of bed. Then run downstairs to the kitchen which had an electric stove that at least would provide some heat.
Once the radiator system was installed, it did not tend to get quite as cold inside. But then, our parents would turn the thermostat down, and it took a while before turning it back up before the rads started to give off heat. But we would be too busy to notice as we ate our cereal, I usually had at least two bowls each morning and a couple of slices of toast plastered with homemade jam. In winter we usually had oatmeal, not the instant variety, cooked for five minutes and smothered with brown sugar and milk. Today, I still prefer this oatmeal, but add raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. I then douse it with maple syrup instead of the brown sugar, and still eat two bowls at a sitting. Thus it has become one of the few foods that I still eat that has improved taste and is healthier!
My father worked at Nicholson File on Cavan Street until they moved to Highway #2, just East of town. At that point, my father and George Christie decided car pooling was the way to go as George was a machinist at the File. It is a good thing that my father had a decently paying job, because my older brother Wayne and my appetites, would put a severe crimp in any food budget. My mother every Saturday for the noon meal would make cheeseburgers. Now, these were not like McDonald's 1/4 pounds, no sir, close to 1/2 pound of meat each, aged cheese cut from an actual block of cheese with a wire cutter, grilled enough to slightly blacken the cheese. Add bun, mustard, relish and tomato and you had a banquet! My usual take was six, my oldest brother and dad would normally eat five each. Dan and Mike usually only had one, but sometimes they too got hungry and would have a second. Mom would have two trays in the oven just to cook lunch. No wonder the butcher loved seeing Mom come into his shop on John Street.
Once I started in grade 8 on the other side of town in the old high school building, I had to pack a lunch. Usually four bologna sandwiches, but if I was lucky, I got ham once in a while, and since I had to make my own, the meat slices disappeared much faster than mom ever could figure out why. When I went to High School, there was a cafeteria, but after the first try at the menu, back to the packing of lunch. But I have gotten ahead of myself.
My father also brewed his own beer down in the cellar. The only thing I can really recall about this was we would be sitting at the kitchen table and would hear a pop from down below. Another bottle had flipped it's lid. He stopped brewing it after he realized that bottles were unaccountably disappearing. Okay, I took the ham, but Dan and Mike are the likely suspects for the beer. Wayne also one year added some raisins to some apple cider and hid it in the top of his bedroom closet. I think my parents discovered it when it started to overflow and I doubt that my brother actually got any. As he became a pharmacist for a career, it would have been a natural thing to mix things and reap the benefit.
When dad came back from the war, he was offered a job in Gravenhurst which he wanted to take. Mom would have none of it and eventually won out. Good thing because that factory went out of business a few years later. Our lives would have been drastically changed and Wayne was the only one of the four kids who was in school at that point. And considering the health problems that Wayne developed, Aunt Rebecca would not have been close by to nurse him back to health. Okay, one for Mom!
Unlike my Grandfather, my Father was never to be heard swearing and if he actually did, it must have been under his breath. I remember one Saturday, he and one of my twin brothers were up on the roof of the entrance shed at the back of our home, installing new roofing. Apparently, dad hit his thumb with the hammer and yelled out 'damn'. My mother rushed out of the house because she was thought something very untoward had happened.
My Father was not a strict disciplinarian either. When I was in my middle teens, I got the bug to build a swimming pool in our back yard, probably because someone else in town had just done so. Status symbol I guess! So I started digging in the back yard, just off of the garden area, to construct my own. Yea, I can just imagine how that would have turned out! My Father was not upset, but invited me into the house to discuss both the pros and the cons of what I was attempting to do. Voluntary end of the construct, after all, how can you argue with reason! And, he didn't even make me put the earth back, he used his small tractor that you controlled by walking behind!
I also remember that sometime around '55, the Serpent Mounds at Hiawatha were in the public's news since some archaeologists wanted to unearth them. The natives were restless and my Father explained it this way: How would you feel if the natives, okay back then, for better or worse, we called them Indians, wanted to unearth our cemeteries? Walk that bloody mile in the other fellow's shoes!
Father also did minor repairs to his vehicle. Setting the points, changing the spark plugs, oil and filter and the breather filter yourself saved money, and with the size of our food budget, you scrimped where you could. Few if any cars had snow tires and the technology just wasn't there to make a strong case for owning them. Then again, commuting to work everyday was usually within the town limits, which at the time did not go East of Rose Glen Road. If you crossed the bridge at Gage's Creek on Highway #2, you were really out in the country! And, most people usually gave enough time to arrive a little early for work, rather than rushing in at the last moment as it gave them time to catch up on what was happening, or just gossip.
Just East of Gage's creek, on the South side of Highway #2, was a discount gas station. Wayne worked there for a while and they provided full service. Mind you, they asked first if you wanted your oil checked, and would immediately do so if they got an affirmative, meaning that a lot of the oil was still 'up' in the engine. Never trust a salesman, he is not on your side! Gas was usually 25¢ a GALLON, but during some competitive pricing wars, you could find it at 19¢.
In town, on Mill Street, there were several gas stations, White Rose near the North Viaduct, Supertest at the little stub of Dorset Street East and of course B/A on the NW corner of Walton and Mill. On my way to PHHS, I often would cross the B/A lot, a portion of which was removed when they widened the Ganny. Of course we also lost the fire hall in '80 to the flood and subsequent widening and some of the buildings on the other side of the river.
There was a Chinese restaurant in the latter portion, and when we ate there, it was very noticeable that I ALWAYS HAD A MUCH BIGGER SERVING THAN ANYONE ELSE! Not sure if they thought I was Chinese like my brother had feared, or if they just liked my flaming red hair. Either way, I am not complaining!
There were also gas stations at the juncture of Toronto Road, Victoria and Rideout, both an Esso and a Shell. I have seen a photograph that shows a Shell station on Mill Street, about where the Hydto office used to be, it's location being strategically placed due to the older cars that did not have a gas pump, but used a gravity feed system. That would have been prior to my time, prior to 1930 probably, because the Ford Model T had it's tank up high at the rear of the car, no gas pump. I have seen others where the same concept was used. If you drove up Walton with less than a certain amount of fuel in that tank, the engine would starve for gas, and the driver would have to go back down to fill up.
My father taught me how to drive and I suppose he did also for my siblings. He not only showed/told me what to do, but carefully explained why and boy he must have had patience galore. I seem to recall that you got a ninety-day learners permit and there was only one examiner in town. On March 31, 1959, on my 16th birthday, I went for my drivers test. Other than a couple of turns where I had to use my signals, the whole test came down to one single maneuver. On Dorset Street at that time there were stop signs at John and of course we came up from Queen. Stopping at John, you were on quite a slant and taking off required coordination moving your foot off the brake onto the accelerator while releasing the clutch. Not done properly, the car would end up rolling back down Dorset.
I completed that maneuver fairly well, so the examiner told me to take him home. He said I had a good attitude towards driving and that I had passed. I don't think I ever thanked my father for helping me, but I sure appreciate him having done so. I also thank him for gently nudging, not pushing me to learn correctly. I think he could have been an excellent teacher!
To sum up, I had great parents who displayed their love for the family each day. They cared, but didn't interfere because in those days if you were bad, the grapevine was faster than today's internet and the bad news somehow always beat you home!
Kindergarten was not offered in the public school back then, but my mother got me a spot in Mrs. Montizambert's class on King Street. So when I attended grade one at L. B. Powers, I had an advantage, at least according to some people. There, the powers that be, decided that I should take four years worth of study in three years, thus thrusting me and kin amid the older kids. This brought me into contact with older students in grade 4, the only year I was in the main building, people like John Boughen and John Record. Save for that year, I was in the portables on the West side of the school, probably as either a punishment or an attempt to see if I could survive those poorly heated and ventilated units.
Of all the friends I had in grade school and high school, the closest had to be Calvin Brown, nicknamed Charlie Brown after that famous hard luck cartoon character. A year older than me, Charlie lived a little West of us, the only thing that Charlie didn't seem to have an interest in was fishing, but I did. We played cowboys and Indians, please excuse my choice of words since the term Native North Americans was not in vogue back then, and with all the natural cover in the area, that is, lots of trees and long grass, hiding was just a natural thing to do. Coolest of all, was climbing a big maple tree and hiding, surprising your seekers from above! More than one fell out prematurely to the ground amid the humiliating laughter of friends.
My last year at Dr. Powers was grade 7, and there was this bully, Tommy, who was always getting in trouble. The vice principal, a Mr. Roberts, was administering the strap to Tommy one day, and as Mr. Roberts raised the leather strap and started the downswing, Tommy withdrew his hand. Not sure just where the strap hit the vice principal, as I was not a witness to this part of the event, however, Tommy tore out the front door with you know who in hot pursuit. To his everlasting shame, Mr. Roberts caught his prey just after they crossed Hope Street and marched Tommy back to school in front of all the students.
Later that year, during recess, Tommy was determined to have it out with me. Being fairly short, he probably figured that I would win a fair fight because of my height and reach. Anyways, he took an unannounced run at me and caught me at the knees. I guess Tommy had never applied the knowledge that any seesaw would have given most people, that is, if you remove the bottom end, everything is going to come tumbling down. That I did, right on top of my adversary, and to his chagrin I had landed with my knees pinning his arms. I didn't have to do a thing, which is probably a good thing, as I was stunned at the quickness of this event. Just so happened that Tommy's old nemesis was on yard duty during that recess, and over he marched having witnessed the whole thing. After I had managed to get up, Mr. Roberts stood Tommy up and all he said was "Well Tommy, I hoped you learned a lesson from this." Sometimes punishment administered in front of your friends and enemies only has to be the bringing of attention to your shame.
In 1955, Port hope welcomed the opening of the new high school and the old building became a junior high. Named Dr. Hawkins, it was an old, stately building set on the West side of Pine Street. It had a football field, of which the western portion had been the Westleylan Cemetery at one time. Supposedly, all the bodies or parts there of, had been removed and re-interred in the new cemeteries on Toronto Road back in the '30s prior to the building of that football field.
Since I was in the first grade 8 there, I was part of the first graduating class from that facility. More importantly, I met students from the other side of town who had attended different schools previously. The aforementioned John Stassen was in my class, a recent immigrant from Holland, and who had an excellent grasp of mathematics. We were friends, but each test was hurriedly completed in competition to see who had the highest mark. Usually, we both got perfect, so who had handed in their test first, was the winner. But the spoiler was another Dutch immigrant, a girl, who also was excellent in mathematics, Judy. There were more girls and I noticed some rapid development among them. Wish I could go back to those days!
It was about this time that I noticed the opposite sex, as noted. Being confident is one thing, but actually talking to a girl about anything other than school was beyond me. Try as I might, I could not bring myself to actually ask one of them for a date. This weakness of resolve would manifest itself well beyond my school days! However, on graduation I was invited to a house party, complete with a record player that could spin 78's, 45's or the 33⅓'s! Had a couple of dances and the toe count was probably quite large.
In grade 8, I was over 5' 10" and therefore probably the tallest in my class. It was also the time when my parents did that horrible thing and had my vision tested. Myopic apparently, so glasses festooned my face from that time on, and oh the shame of being the only male in my class with these horrible things slung across my nose. They got all fudged up, rain streaked and spotted them and for the first few days I was unable to properly judge distances. But nobody dared call me four eyes!
Grade 8 was probably the happiest time in school for me. I found it easy to complete all work within class and would graduate with honours. At the same time, I was never really pressed with additional assignments to foster a desire to excel, and therefore my efforts were not placed in languages or artistic endeavours but in male themed deeds.... I really should have been pushed, but once shown how to do things, I never ventured outside to widen the sample. I also did not bother learning to show how I arrived at my answer, I just usually wrote the final line. Poor traits!
As to that old cemetery, sometime in the '60s, after a particular heavy rainstorm, some students found some bones and informed a teacher. They were human, so a supposedly exhaustive search was performed and all the bones located were reburied in a common grave in Union Cemetery. I wasn't in town at the time, but I guess they did the dig here and dig there approach, and after coming up empty a few times, decided that was all. After Dr. Hawkins was closed, the old football field was sold for development. Surprise, surprise, while rooting around doing whatever builders do, they located some bones. Human again! But the Cemeteries Act had been changed, and they were required to bring in professional seekers. Like to be around when they demolish those homes and see just how thorough they actually were!
My year at Dr. Hawkins brings back many memories. One kid, he was also on the taller side and heavy set, had come over from the Catholic School, I believe because it only went to grade 7, and the Yanks were playing the Dodgers in the World Series. None of the kids were Yank fans, except the one above, and they taunted, teased and badgered him continually. I felt sorry for him, so I joined him on the North bank of the football field. Amazingly, none of the kids wanted to tangle with both of us, and the teasing stopped. Easy solution to bullying?
Calvin and I would play ping pong, table tennis being the correct term, on our dining room table. We would try out new stuff on each other, new spins, slams etc. We actually were fairly good and evenly matched, though the table was not of legal size. That didn't matter, we had fun, expended energy and dreamed we could beat the world. Eventually John Stassen came into my life and joined these games.
In 2020, I was talking to Pat Honey (Francey) and I mentioned George and Grace Lowes. George had worked at Mathews Conveyer both down at the harbour and then on Highway #2 East when they moved the plant. Both George and his wife Grace were good friends of my parents. I had tried to locate their son Peter several times in the past and had no idea where he was. Apparently she knew both George and his son Peter. In the '50s, Pete and I were good friends, had sleepovers etc. She told me where Peter was living, I had already photographed his parents headstones, but that he was named Edward A Lowes. After we finished our coffees, Cathy and I drove by where Pat had said that Peter lived, on Highway #2 at Welcome.
A day later, I phoned Pete and had a nice conversation. Then Cathy and I went to visit him one Friday and he cleared up the name mystery. Officially, he was named Edward A Lowes, but when born he had a stomach problem which the doctor decided to operate and fix when he was two months old. Off to Toronto he was whisked where his older sister Joan was already in the same hospital. When she was informed her baby brother was in the same hospital, and his parents had not yet really decided on naming him, they told her that she could call him any name she wanted. She decided on Peter Rabbit and the Peter part stuck. Joan was to pass away in 1948, age nine or ten.
I remember on one sleep over, that Pete and I were playing hockey, just shooting the puck at each other, in the basement of his parent's home on Orchard Street. We had no protective gear on and Pete put a shot slightly to the right of me. Instinct took precedence over prudence, and as I stuck my right foot out to block the puck, it hit the inside of my ankle bone. Sprained it so good, that for the next couple of weeks I walked to Dr Powers school with my right foot wrapped up tightly and sporting one of my father's right shoes.
SUMMERS IN MUSKOKA
Brother Wayne, Mom and Dad at Lake Muskoka August 1956
Probably the greatest adventure that I ever went on as a youth was a visit to my aunt and uncle on Brandy Creek in Muskoka. Brandy Creek emptied into the 'big lake, Muskoka' and Uncle Tom, 'Wib', took Wayne and me lake trout fishing. Was a poor year for lake trout that year, but each of us had our own designated rod, which in reality meant that Wib had three lines in the water. Fate intervened, and my line started to run out, after all the bait was a twelve-inch lake herring, and of course I had nothing to do as my uncle hooked and landed the fish. He then proceeded to his father's home at Sandy Cove to show his success off. Old Tom, there is a road named after him there, came down the ramp beside the boat house and eyed the catch. He told Wib to keep that red haired kid around because he was a good luck charm. Thanks to him, I got to spend four summers around the millionaires of Lake Muskoka.
I was informed of my fate and cried as my parents and brother drove away, then quickly wiped the tears away and went down to the dock to fish. I could not swim at this time, so there I was, holding a pole with fishing line wrapped around it, watching the float while outfitted in a life preserver. Caught many sunfish, a few perch and then a small mouth bass. It was a small fish, not much bigger than a sunfish, but it put up a brave struggle until I managed to land it. Too small to eat, back into the river it went. But the fish wasn't the only thing that had been hooked that day! Wib eventually provided me with a rod and reel to use.
One day as I was starting to fish from the dock, I made a one handed cast and to my horror, the reel came off the rod and plunked right in the water. It was too deep for me to go in after it, as I had not learned yet how to swim. So wailing loudly, I pulled in the line which of course just keep unreeling each time the reel managed to get free of the bottom, before plunging once more into those depths. As my reel dashed again and again for the bottom, my aunt who was in the house, opened the window and asked me what was the trouble. I shot back that my reel had fallen into the water. I guess between my sobs or her poor hearing, my aunt thought I had said that I had cut my finger. She told me to bring it into the house and she would put a bandage on it. "But I can't" I retorted, "it's fallen in the river." That kind of created a stir! Anyways, I managed to unwind the complete fishing line and pulled in the reel. I picked up my rod, reel and a tangle of fishing line and headed for the house. Later that night, I watched my uncle untangle the line, and as a bonus, learned a few swear words.
No longer content to just throw my line beside the dock, I started throwing it out into the deeper part, and seeing my desire, my uncle taught me how to properly make a cast. I then learned how to tie a leader unto the fishing line, allowing a for quick change of baits. But Wib wanted lake trout, so off we went into the big lake, he had a big powerful 7½ horsepower outboard motor on a home built fifteen foot boat that at full throttle would cause the boat to plane the water. What more excitement was there?
I actually did manage to land a couple of more lake trout that year, but bass fishing was what I wanted to do. Strict adherence to Wib's Law, meant that I could not go out on even the creek in a boat by myself until I learned how to swim. Try as I might, that capability eluded me. It probably had more to do with the muck that had to be waded through before reaching an appropriate area for swimming. However, when I returned home in August, I promptly went to the town pool and learned the dog paddle. I was confident! Having been informed that next summer I would return to Brandy Creek, I was prepared for more vigorous fishing scenarios.
In 1952, my second summer in Muskoka happened under changed circumstances. In January of that year, my aunt had given birth to her first son, Tom, at least the 4th in line to carry that moniker. Since my aunt, nicknamed by us as Aunt Kitty, was busy looking after the new arrival, it gave me more opportunity to spread my wings. But first things first. Upon being informed that I could now swim, Wib wanted a demonstration. Recognizing the futility that I called swimming, he was very kind and began teaching me more methods. How to tread water for long periods of time, float on my back, the Australian crawl and his favourite, the breast stroke. These I eagerly mastered and was then allowed to have his old fifty footer, he had already bought the twenty-six foot launch 'Yorkton' by then, and sans motor and with just a paddle, I was allowed on the creek, but not to go onto the lake. Freedom! Alright bass, here I come!
I was also permitted to walk the 1/2 mile or so down Hwy 118 to Sandy Cove, and as it name implies, it had lots of sand on the beach. It was a gathering place for local teenagers and quite often I was accompanied by Ross Wroe who lived next door to Wib. Sometimes Paul Wroe, who lived in Toronto but summered on a small island just out from Sandy Cove, would join us. A few times Nancy Wroe, daughter of uncle George Wroe, who lived 1/4 mile West on 118, would join us as well, but she was older. The first pangs tore at my heart! It wasn't until my '60s that I figured out how all these people were related to one another, and that the term uncle, did not necessarily mean a blood relationship, but was a form of respect for elders.
I became Wib's tool fetcher whenever he had a plumbing or electrical job. At the end of the day, usually around 4pm, Wib and I would gather up all the tools and toss them in the back of his old Ford pick-up. Without fail, each time we entered Milford Bay from the East and came down the big hill towards the government dock, that old pick-up would swing to the right on its own and stop in front of the Bayview Inn. Didn't take me long to realize that Wib would be in there for hours spreading fishing tales. Out of the truck I would hop and hoof it home. Usually supper was eaten by the time he got there but, there was always a full plate, saved in the old wooden stove's oven.
Wib took me to see his father Tom on Belle Island in Lake Muskoka one afternoon, where his father was the care-taker. While they discussed several things about the property that needed repair, I wandered back down to the huge boat house, three double doors with docks along each side to service each bay. In one bay, there was an old beautiful black walnut coloured cruiser that was basically in dry dock; raised on timbers above the water. When Wib and old Tom came in, I asked why that boat was not in the water. Old Tom said "watch this," grabbed a large pail and filled it with water. He then dumped the contents into the cruiser, and with the speed at which the water gushed out of the boat, he might just as well have thrown pail and all in. Major dry rot! I understand that eventually the boat was intentionally sunk just off the island.
Brandy Creek had a section that was basically a swamp near the outlet to the lake. So, not only did we have a breeding ground for fish, frogs, snakes and turtles, we had an area that we could hide from supervision being screened by tall grass and dead trees. My uncle had a major dislike for turtles, in particular the snappers. One day while fishing from his lot, he caught one and hauled it in, turned it over and then picked it up and put it on an overturned rowing boat. He badgered it with a stick, and was hoping the sun would help finish it off. This was no small, cute turtle. If I had tried to put my arms around him, my fingers would not have even met. I stayed well back with a wary eye on that thing. After several hours, Wib decided to pick up a bigger stick nearby and turned his back on that turtle. When he turned back around, the turtle was nowhere to be seen. In less than twenty seconds, it had rolled over, dropped off the boat and apparently hit the river! Swimming was curtailed for awhile.
At the end of Brandy, there was a large rock outcropping where the creek turned to enter the lake. Ross and I decided that this would be a great fishing spot and so after mucking about in the swamp, we grabbed our rods and headed over. Because we had been seeking small frogs for bait in the swamp, I had on large rubber boots and decided to carefully make my way down to a lower ledge. On one cast, I moved a little too much and lost my footing and to the water I went. I still do not understand how, but I remained upright the whole time and as my boots were filling with water, I had just enough time to hand my rod to my friend, before I went under. Lost my boots I did! In order to help, Ross threw both rods up on the top of the rock, then lent me a hand. It took some time before I eventually was able to get back up that rock face: probably should have just swam the 500 yards upriver to home. Try to explain that one to a doubting Thomas: my uncle's given name.
My aunt and uncle had decided to drive to Manitoulin Island, whether it was a friend's place or not, I don't remember. I was relegated to the back of the Ford pick up, and tried to keep warm under an old bear skin blanket. We had left Milford Bay long before sunup, and by the time we got to Sudbury, I was really cold and welcomed the stop at a house to get warm. I know we went through Parry Sound, so there must have been a road, maybe not officially opened, through Burwash by then. Once on Manitoulin, I remember going fishing: walked down the wharf, climbed down the wharf and then walked out several hundred feet on a the mud flat to a boat where the water was. Hydro playing around with water levels?
Wib also took us to the hunting camp, I believed it was owned by his neighbour Mr. Hutton, and we spent a week there. No electricity, this camp was isolated but some where near the Lake of Bays. All I can remember inside was that there was a wood stove and a large wooden table with many chairs around it. Outside was a shed and beside it a rack where they would hang the deer for cleaning. According to Wib, one of the hunters had got lost once and the prearranged signal for help was a shotgun blast. They would then give return blasts on a timed basis to allow the hunter to get his bearings, who would give a double blast once he found familiar territory. I have enough respect for my uncle to believe him, but he would have made a great Irishman with the tales he told.
Near this isolated camp was a small pond and the hunters had put a punt on the shore. We went fishing there, also carried in a canoe, and while Wib fished from the latter, I rowed the family to the other shore, near a beaver's lodge. Beautiful August day, picture Wib fishing from his canoe maybe 500 yards away. Did not see him when he first entered the water, but a bull moose was in a weed bed in the shallows to the left of my uncle. Wib seemed to be watching this animal carefully and then suddenly he threw his rod into the bottom of the canoe and grabbed the paddle. At the same time, the moose started towards the canoe and the race was on. Even in the deeper water, the moose was not losing much distance but finally, it gave up the chase. To this day, I can not believe how fast that moose could swim but luckily my uncle did know how to handle a canoe!
At Sandy Cove, there were many wild raspberry and blackberry bushes on the West side, near old Tom's house. Wearing only our swimming trunks, we often went there and ate the berries fresh from the bush, being careful not to expose our skin to the barbs on the bushes. There was also a large amount of poison ivory present, but when somebody challenged you to be first in the lake, nothing but the shortest route would do, no matter what was in the way. I remember running through a large patch of that poison ivy and both Ross and Paul took pity on me after laughing at me going through that patch. Either I was not allergic to the plant, or my quick dip in the water washed all the residue off, but I never developed an itch.
Wib took his family and I across Lake Muskoka in his launch to what he referred to as East Bay for bass fishing. On the map of the lake, it is actually fairly close to the south western portion of the lake so I guess that Irishman from Port Hope named the area. Anyways, we spent the day there, trying different baits, worms, crayfish, grasshoppers, minnows etc. I remember that I had put on a frog and was fishing in about twenty feet of water. Since the bass would normally grab a frog by the hind legs most often, I had to let out some line until it went momentarily limp. That's when the bass would then grab the bait from the front, where the hook was. Maybe thirty feet of line out, but it took me over a 1/2 hour to bring the bass close enough to the boat that Wib could net him. The bass was about 3½ pounds, yet with lake trout fishing in waters over 100 feet deep and allowing the fish for the same reason to pull sometimes another 100 feet of line out, it never took that long. That's why I liked bass fishing, for the fight!
My fourth year on the Brandy was terrific despite an unfortunate encounter with the lake bottom. Maybe it was the beginning of climate change, but for some reason, the big lake was extremely high when I arrived. Flooding was everywhere and the Brandy came to within a few feet of the house, probably ten feet or so. The gang still met at Sandy Cove where the water had flooded the lower portion of the two level dock. We still started on the land, ran down the higher portion of the dock, then down unto the lower portion through water over our ankles, jumping high in the air. This lasted for a couple of weeks, but then I missed a few days. Upon my return, I proceeded as before, and just as I leapt from the end of the dock, I realized that the water had returned to normal levels.
My encounter with the bottom of Sandy Cove was rather jarring. I had managed to twist while in the air, so that only my left shoulder took the brunt of the collision. As I staggered to the shore, a couple of adults knew that I had a problem, but I had trouble trying to explain why my left arm was dangling at such an odd angle. No one looked at the back of my shoulder, where the end of a bone could be seen pushing under the skin. Off to Bracebridge they drove me, not to a hospital, but to a chiropractor who managed to pull, heave and twist the arm back into it's socket. With my left arm wrapped in a sling, they drove me to my Aunt's, who had been already informed of the accident.
One very hot and sunny day, four of us, Paul, Ross, Nancy and myself, went fishing on Brandy Lake in a row boat. We rowed around a peninsula into a shallow bay and fished just off some weed beds. We all caught several small bass which we just released as they were too small to bother keeping and after a couple of hours, we were not really paying much attention to our lines. We had been using several different types of bait and I decided to change to a lure. It seemed like I had been casting for hours, and I finally got a strike. Didn't seem to be large, but Paul sensed something and as he was telling me to get the tip of the rod down near the water, an explosion happened maybe fifty feet from our boat. A very large small mouth bass cleared and danced for several seconds across the water before throwing the lure free and disappearing into the lake. It was the only time I have ever see a bass do this, but I had heard many stories about this occurring.
We thought that that was the end of the excitement for the day, so we rowed slowly out of the bay. WRONG! As we went around that peninsula, Nancy's line got hooked on the bottom or a log. At least that is what we thought! We came about as Nancy tried to reel in her line and went past where it was lodged. Slowly, she managed to reel in more line and there it was. Could have been the same snapper that Wib had caught the previous year, but it was huge. None of us were going to put any arm, let alone fingers near that beast, so we ended up cutting the line.
During the summer, Wayne and Mike went fishing on Rice Lake in a boat that Wayne had built. During one cast, Mike managed to hook the lure on his line in his brother's nostrils, not on the nose, but in the cartilage that separates the two sides. Mike was badly unnerved, so Wayne had to drive into town to the hospital to get it removed. How he drove those ten miles holding on to the lure dangling from his nose with one hand, and using the other to both shift the gears, no automatic, and steer I will never know. At least there were no stop lights in his path. When the doctor said that he would simply snip the hook, Wayne told him no, as it was his favourite lure.
I also went fishing in Rice lake and I remember catching a couple of bass up where the Otanabee enters. No point keeping them, as they had worms visible in the stomach area. Only place I had ever seen this with bass, but perch were quite often loaded with them as the season dragged on. One sunny day, I was fishing alone in Wayne's boat just off a weed bed to the East of Bewdley. I finally put on a Jitterbug lure that I would let sit on the surface, just twitching it a bit every thirty seconds or so. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion where my lure was and I watched a huge musky dive for the bottom. I doubt that he had the lure in his mouth more that two seconds, but when I pulled in my line, the lure had been destroyed. The front metal 'wings' were folded together and the lure was almost broken in two pieces. Just a small bead of plastic held the two halves together. Now that is raw power!
BUILDING NOAH'S ARK?
Wayne in his boat on Lake Muskoka August 1956
And since I mentioned Wayne's boat, I think it appropriate for my brother to give us a little insight on his boat building career in his own words.
I have always been drawn to water - creeks, rivers and lakes. I have swum in everything from a widening of a creek at Sylvan Glen (warm but full of very large rocks which severely restricted diving) to the old head pond of the Ganaraska river above an old damaged and abandoned dam (water so warm swimming was possible on sunny days in April) to the cold waters Lake Ontario (unfit for swimming until September when the onshore winds were very strong).
If swimming is possible, boating may often be done as well.
I don't really know when I built my first boat but, I was probably about eleven or twelve. It was a crudely constructed punt of 4ft by 8ft. The bottom was ordinary plywood. I do not remember the thickness. The sides were white pine and about 1/2" high and a full one inch thick. I think it had two seats. One at the front and one at the back. I could not afford brass or stainless steel screws so I used ordinary ones. Seams were lined with oka strips which were held in place by liquid marine glue to reduce water seepage into the boat. I remember the cost of the glue to this day. A small can cost $4.95 at Canadian Tire and that was a lot of money. I could not afford marine enamel, so I painted it with two coats of green exterior house paint. My Dad must have helped me with building it and I used his tools. There was a pruning saw (I never got to use his good saw), a ratchet screwdriver, a wood rasp and four carpenter's clamps of 4". That was it. It took nearly a whole spring to build it.
The punt was used for fishing on the Ganaraska above the fishing harbour and below the Arbo leather plant. Since the only way it could be moved from our house on William Street to launching in the river was by using my brother Brian's wagon, it required two to pull or push and keep it level. It was pretty heavy and even heavier when it had been in the water. As a result, my companions in fishing were either my brother Mike or my brother Brian. I don't think Danny ever came. Fishing is all about timing and luck- you need to fish when they are feeding and you need to keep the line tight when one is hooked. We caught some but not many. Although I desperately wanted to catch a white bass, I never even got one on the line.
At the end of the summer, the punt was put upside down on a pair of saw horses in our garage for storage out of the weather. The next spring, it was evident that the punt was never going in the water again. The plywood bottom was soft and coming away from the sides. The damage could not be repaired. The boat was taken apart. My Dad was able to reuse the lumber in the root cellar. I think the plywood was cut up and burned. My Dad kept the screws.
When I was about fifteen, I began reading 'Science and Mechanics' because it had William D. Jackson, a well-know naval architect write a monthly article on building boats. His designs were for plywood skinned and fully framed boats? Did I ever learn a lot from his articles. White pine is never used in building boats because the wood is too soft to hold screws due to the vibration from motors. Keels, transoms, and bows are made from white or red oak for strength. Framing is fir for strength and bending ability and spruce is used almost every place else. I decided to build one of his designs.
I simply do not recall how I paid for my first outboard motor and a boat trailer. I was seventeen and working after school and on weekends. I had a car and that means that I must have had money.
The outboard was a brand new 5hp 'Hiawatha.' The distributor was leaving the Canadian market and my Dad bought it for me from the distributor for the wholesale price. I think the boat trailer was bought from Eaton's.
I also had the input from my Uncle Wib, who had built a boat shortly after marrying my Aunt Kathleen and was living with my grandparents.
The design I chose was for a 14 ft boat with a beam of either 52" or 54", a short deck and a carrying capacity of 800lb. It was rated for a 15hp motor. The bottom was 3/8" plywood, the sides and deck were 1/4" plywood and the transom was 1/4" plywood. Uncle Wib told me how to dip ordinary steel screws in liquid marine glue before using them to reduce the risk of rust. This made using the screws a very messy job. Since the boat plans specified Philippine mahogany marine plywood, which was extremely expensive, Uncle Wib suggested that I use normal exterior plywood and seal both sides of a sheet with a water resistant filler prior to use. His two suggestions reduced the cost of building the boat to less than $150.00. Because of all the screws required and the compound curve of the boat bottom, I invested in two carpenter's clamps of 6", an electric drill and an electric jig saw. Although the jig saw went through blades pretty quickly, it save a lot of time.
I had great difficulty cutting the red oak for the spit. It was both time consuming and exhausting. It took over a week to shape it with the rasp. The most difficult task was cutting and fitting the 3/8" plywood compound bottom curve to both the keel and the spit. I finally ended up using a kettle to steam the inside and pouring literally gallons of hot water over the outside of it. I required all of the carpenter's clamps to gradually pull it into position. Because of the amount of hot water I had to use, I waited for a week for the plywood to dry out and then applied extra water sealer to both sides.
As in the punt, oak strips were laid in liquid marine glue in all water proof seals. Real marine enamel was used to paint with, white above the chines and green below the chines and on the transom. The deck was finished with marine spar varnish. From start to finish, building the boat took over a year.
That boat saw a lot of use. I still had it when Dora and I graduated from university in 1963. I had to sell it when we moved into an apartment in Sudbury the next year.
Eventually, we moved to Renfrew and I began to get the idea to build another boat. Again, it was a William D. Jackson design that was in use by customs collectors in the Philippines. I decided on one major design change - it was going to be clad in fibreglass cloth sheets. Boy did that ever boost the construction time and hike the cost higher than I could really afford. Besides the usual difficulties with the keel, spit and transom, I had only a short 'window' to work with the Fibreglass. I went through a huge amount of solvent and had to stop construction at one point because I ran out of money.
What I estimated would take about a year and a half, actually took over three years. It also ended up with a final cost of over $3000.00, which I really could not afford. However, did I ever end up with a great boat. The fiberglass made it very heavy and I had to buy a brand new Chrysler West Bend 18hp Motor for it. I think the final cost of the boat, the motor and the trailer was nearly $5000.00. We moved to the farm on Lime Kiln Road and it was in the water nearly every week.
Unfortunately, I hit a deadhead when the transmission lock was on. This had the effect of breaking the power skew in two. Getting it to shore and on the trailer was a risky and time-consuming exercise. I put it in the woods behind our house with the intention of getting the motor repaired the next spring. Over the winter it was stolen and whoever took it got one fantastic boat.
The next boat I bought
I distinctly remember Wayne building his second boat in our parents garage. Dimly lit, one large door was usually opened for visibility while working on it. I helped him as he put the wooden slats for the gunnels on the hull from the transom to the bow. This was the hardwood that Wayne mentioned and as it neared the bow, it had to be cut part way through with a saw every couple of inches to allow the wood to bend to the hull's shape. Using our mother's electric kettle, he would boil some water and slowly pour it over the area he wanted to bend. Then, while I held the wood flat against the hull, Wayne would screw it in place. This procedure would be repeated until the slat was firmly affixed. I think he only did one piece a day but he would check to ensure the slat had not been loosened in any way before proceeding to put another slat on. Not sure if he used any glue to help the screw hold it in place. You had to have a lot of pride to do what he did and I wish I had of helped him a lot more and learned 'the trade.'
Despite his memories, the second boat he built, ended up with me. Used it on Rice Lake many times and it finally ended up near Wawa when I was transferred there. Had the old Hiawatha 5hp outboard, and did some fishing on a lake north on the Trans Canada. Regrettably, when I was transferred to Sudbury, the old trailer was unfit and I left the boat overturned where you could see it from the highway. A few years later, on my way out west, I noticed that the boat was gone, so someone rescued it and hopefully enjoyed it for many years.
My cousin Tom Wroe, ended up in a boat-building enterprise in Kingston. Mind you, what he builds are much larger and complex than anything that Wayne had ever contemplated. He is still at it, although at a somewhat slower pace as he has reached the normal retirement age.
In September 1956, I headed to PHHS to further my education. Being in Grade 9, bewildered by having to physically change rooms for different classes, sometimes upstairs and other times downstairs, meant that someone was always late for class. Heck, why does a student suddenly show up for one class, and then you would not see him/her again until the next day, same room, same class? And in the halls, the constant vigilance of a teacher, or even worse, the supervision of the vice principal Mumby or principal PJ Bigelow, meant no talking. No wonder we got lost at first, if we could not even ask for directions!
And the text books were not free. You got a list of required texts and usually headed down to Strong's to buy them. Sometimes older students would put their used books up for sale, but often the actual text used was changed between years. I wonder if this had to do with a certain merchant who was on the board?
But I had an unseen advantage! Older students were well aware that I had twin brothers in attendance, so I was never harassed. Bullying they call it today. Mike and Dan were repeating a single grade 9 class, but each a different one. I was asked a couple of times by fellow students why I referred to my brother as Mike and then Dan in different classes.
I did have the advantage that Wayne was the owner of a 1950 Ford, and so enjoyed the 'convenience' of being driven to school for the first couple of years. I usually walked back home and seldom could be seen carrying books or texts. As to that convenience thing, remember that with the four brothers, Mary Christie from next door and a girl that Wayne was seeing at the time, it became rather crowded. And then winter arrived! Cars of the '50s where never known to be submissive to the turning of a key during winter, especially if it got close to 0° Fahrenheit. At that temperature, the car starter would grind and groan as you encouraged it to start: you knew you were in trouble once the grinding started to slow down. Forget it if you heard 'click, click.' So, open the hood, take the breather off, which fortunately was attached to the top of the motor with a single wing nut, and pour some liquid ether into the carburettor. The trick was to get the bottle and your hands away from the breather before the ignition was turned on by Wayne or, well, just say the blue flame was rather scorching.
Of course the batteries back then did not come with high cranking power and being 6 volt, juicy they were not, so if the liquid ether had evaporated or failed to start the car, you had to try and add more to the 'hot'carburetor. And then hope there was still enough power in that old battery to turn the engine over again. Then again, you hoped that the anti-freeze in the cooling system was up to snuff since that fan was not electrically controlled and spun the instant the engine started, bringing in oodles of cold, freezing air. It was common for the first rays of heat to be just starting to come through just as we reached the corner of Victoria Street and Highland Drive. Car seemed to have perfect timing!
My brother was blessed with black curly hair and rumour had it that he was part Jewish. This rumour was further enhanced because not only did we seem to be pushing the car to start it further and further each time, but he had the habit of turning the engine off just as we passed St. Mark's heading south on King. When we arrived at Peter Street, Wayne would turn the engine on and drive normally. This was possible because the '50 Ford had a standard shift, no power brakes and no power steering. When he finally learned that he probably wasted more gas restarting the car than would have been used if he has just glided down the hill, he was a little upset.
Further to enhancing his 'Jewishness' was that a woman customer at Watson's Drug store, kept insisting that Wayne was part Jewish. When he finally got glasses, they were dark rimmed, the woman didn't need any further convincing! Aah, an Irish Jew, what a rarity!!!
Then there was the morning that that old Ford just decided it did not want to go anywhere. The liquid ether trick didn't work, so we starting pushing the car North on Princess and turned onto William Street. On the little knoll at the West end of William, the speed usually increased enough that if Wayne engaged the clutch, the car would start before King Street. But not this day.
We pushed that @$#%@ vehicle all the way passed St. Mark's and as it started down the hill and as the car sped up, envision three brothers trying to scramble into the moving vehicle that was picking up a lot of speed. Add to this that the rear doors were not the suicide type and constantly wanted to close due to the onrush of air, and you have a good picture of a Keystone Cops routine. Knowing that the battery needed a lot of tender, loving care and @#$%@ charging, Wayne decided to take a drive around town to ensure a return trip would be possible.
It was well after 10am by the time we arrived at school, so we reported to the office to get an admission slip. Mr. Mumby was in a good mood and queried whether we might have taken a slight detour for sight seeing through Welcome. If we had of done that, we probably would have been to school before ten!
What I have not said is that prior to the '50 Ford, Wayne possessed a Morris Minor, an English subcompact car built for four, and I believe when they said built for four, they meant 110 lbs and under 5' 2". With five of us in there, the driver had the most room and of course Wayne and Mary who were in the front, were the smallest: cozy it t'was! Light as a feather, and with stingy 12 or 13 inch wheels, it was a bumpy rider! My memory is a little hazy, but it recalls it being a two door version, so any Keystone Cops drama was next to impossible. Not that we wouldn't have tried!
In winter, the Morris was not a good snow car since between it's light weight and small wheels, snow could easily come between the treads and the roadway. I think that is why Wayne put up with driving us to school, he needed the ballast. Anyway, one day after school, my brother went to his car to find it in the ditch, which really wasn't very deep, in front of the school. Apparently, a few members of the football team decided to play a prank and had lifted it into it's then current location. With his muscular build, I wonder if Jimmy Roberts had anything to do with that.
PHHS had 'mandatory' army cadets for the males. The only exceptions were those who had a doctor's note for exemption. Let's see now, we had a Lt. Col. for a principal, a Captain for a vice principal and our gym/physics teacher was a lowly Lieut. in the reserve. This lowly Lieut, Keith Rose, was actually my favourite teacher and was always a bulwark between the student body and the military command. Later, I will explain.
Being 5' 10” when I arrived at PHHS, I was naturally eyed by the coaching staff of the basketball team. My pedigree seemed perfect since my twin brothers were natural athletes, but, to the coaches dismay, my doctor had said that I could not participate until my shoulder was all better. Better to disappoint by not showing up than by showing just how bad I was. So, off to the gym, upstairs behind the bleachers where the regulation table tennis table was, I headed. Watched for a couple of months as the grade 13 players dominated the scene. If nobody was playing, Calvin, John and I would give it a try. Eventually, we all got invited to play the poorer players and showed that we were adequate adversaries.
One morning on the football field, Keith Rose lined us up on one of the yard lines, gave each of us a ball, and told us to kick it best as we could. Several had trouble even making contact, but I had kicked a football on Princess Street many a time. My turn came, and my kick was very straight down the field with impressive distance. It was suggested that I might try out for the football team, so all the rest of my kicks were intentionally flubbed. Again, the injury to my shoulder gave me an excuse not to show up at a try out.
In English Composition, we had a Mrs. Ford. Nice woman, but I had my reservations. On a test, she had given several subjects that we were to write about in an essay. I just could not get enthused by any of them, so I decided to write a parody instead of being serious. When she handed back the test, she noted that I had got a B-, or about 60%. She then took back my test and read it out to the class and when finished commented on how a writer can be inspired. Of course, that was the year that her husband published 'Feast Under The Midnight Sun', which talked about his life among the Eskimos.
Each summer, my friends and I would go to the West beach to swim, it having a pavilion where you could change or get some refreshment. We always looked at the chalk board outside for it showed the water temperature which was taken at different times of the day. If it read 53°F, you went swimming, but at 52°F, you spent your time on the swings, seesaw or that injury inducing merry go round. Not quite sure what it was called.
If you were swimming that day, you made your way down an embankment to the shore, which was four or five feet below the upper ridge of sand. At lake temperatures, the key was to get in quickly, as those who hesitated were likely to be splashed by those already accustomed to the water. Windy days were a Jekyll and Hyde event, since you got large waves rolling and crashing in, but the water temperature would be lower. And unlike that nameless town to the East, at our beach you certainly didn't have to wade out a half mile to get the water over your knees!
My brother Dan one sunny April day, challenged me to go swimming at the West beach. My goodness, there was still some ice floating off shore, did he think I was a polar bear? I only managed to get to the bottom edge of my swimming trunks but he actually dove in. No towel was going to warm us up, so we hurried to the car but had to wait for it to warm up. After that, I can imagine what it was like to have to abandon ship in February after being torpedoed!
One year they extended/repaired the West water break to the harbour. While it had no real effect on our swimming, we did notice that more seaweed tended to accumulate at the water's edge. Then in the late '50s, with the new dam at Cornwall built for the St. Lawrence Seaway, the water crept higher and higher. While it is difficult to tell with all the equipment and the canteen gone, it looks like it now covers over half of the upper sand area. I remember reading that the water level at Cornwall was raised by about forty feet! And they now call the flooding in Lake Ontario an act of God!
Of course there was a lifeguard stand, but I actually don't remember ever seeing one there. Maybe he was the one with his arms around the girls wearing bikinis on the blanket. There was also a parking lot behind the canteen and I believe a baseball diamond as well. Sadly replaced by the Eldorado/Cameco buildings in the name of progress!
One day in grade 10, as we were writing a chemistry test in the lab, the teacher, Mr. Rice, decided that he needed a few small pieces of magnesium for his next class. Pounding away with a hammer, no safety googles or hand protection being used, the inevitable happened and the magnesium burst into flame. Poor Mr. Rice was on fire, and while most of us were transfixed by events, one person jumped up and ran for the fire extinguisher. Jack Schoon probably had the poorest of reflexes of any of us, but spray the fire and help the teacher he did. Someone phoned down to the office and informed them that there had been an accident. Promptly, PJ Bigelow marched into the room to assess what had happened. It was at least fifteen minutes before the fire alarm went off, 10 minutes after the fire was doused, but off it went and the whole school marched out. Mr. Rice never came back and died shortly after.
So our new chemistry teacher, Danny Drinkwater who only had one full arm, the left having some sort of extension which he used for leverage. No chore was too difficult for Danny, he always found a way to overcome only being able to grip with one hand. He did manage to scare some of us though, as he was cutting some phosphorus with a hacksaw blade, his fake arm holding down the chemical block. I think most of us envisioned an explosion and started to calculate just how long it would take to either get out of the lab or get to the fire extinguisher. More on Danny later as well.
It was also that year that I had Herman Hass as a math teacher. I liked him and he taught me well. But he was suspicious of my work ethic and decided to lay a trap for myself and others. Our text book had all the answers in the back of the book, and he assigned as homework one particular problem. The answer in the back of the text was incorrect and he knew it. Next day, he went down the aisles checking work books and was amazed at how many had managed to come up with the same answer as the text. When he got to me, I had just written out the answer, my normal mode, and he was dumbfounded. When he asked if I had checked with the text book answer, I stated flatly that it was incorrect. Many groans could be heard!
One fine autumn day, a grade 9 student was looking out a second floor window and spotted Herman coming through the arches at the main entrance. He stuck his head out a window and yelled 'Herman the German' and quickly ducked back in. This of course was less than a dozen years after WWII and created quite a stir. The powers-that-be accused the wrong student, known for his rough ways, and he of course denied being the culprit. He went from class to class accompanied by a teacher and warned that whoever was responsible for the act, admit it, or face him. Gerry O'Brien decided that admission of guilt was the safer way.
Gerry also made his mark in his first year at PHHS by compiling ninety-nine detentions in a single year. When I met him in Newfoundland in 2007, he admitted that he broke that record the following year. Gerry went on to become an RCMP officer before venturing into real estate. I guess knowing how the other side operates has it's advantages! His picture also hangs on the wall at PHHS in honour, so I guess Gerry has had the last laugh over his teachers!
It was finally determined that compulsory cadet attendance was not in the School Act, much to the dismay of our dear principal. So it became co-ed, and as I was part of the quarter masters staff, I had fun asking certain female recruits during fittings, if I could check the pockets in their blouse. At least I asked! Anyways, the advantage of having all the male student body attend as cadets at the annual revue had evaporated. Several cadets met trying to figure out just how they could again win the shield as best cadet corps, and they came up with a real smoker.
They arranged with Danny Drinkwater to make a couple of smoke bombs that could be triggered from a distance. Two cadets were to run towards where the smoke bombs were planted, and carefully jump beside the area and hit the ground once they went off. Seemed like a winner, except maybe they should have told them, or marked the spot so as they could avoid the resulting flash. One of the cadets was right over top when they went off, and to the ground he went. Those in the know, knew what had just happened. These medics raced out onto the field while one of them headed into the school and called the ambulance. It eventually arrived and placed the cadet in the back and sped off. Just to clear what happened up a bit, when a small explosion goes off, most humans will breathe in air, and the resulting fumes can quickly overcome the lung function.
The reviewing officer stated categorically that he had never seen such an inspired and realistic demonstration. However, PJ knew that something was up, and took it upon himself to get to the bottom of this perceived scandal. He threatened teachers, told them to turn in the rascals, or else. Keith Rose realized that PJ meant to expel anyone named and even though he had not been in on the event, stood up and said that he had approved the demonstration. This deflated the situation, as PJ could not fire a teacher, and Keith refused to name any of the students involved. Of course at this point, he may not even have had any idea who they were.
Keith did find out just who was involved, probably from Danny Drinkwater, and he talked to them and said "next time, make sure you tell me about it!" That's all. No wonder the students admired this teacher. Thanks to Larry O'Brien for telling me of exactly what had happened. Larry, like his younger brother Gerry, became an RCMP officer before going into private investigation, where he did crack a difficult case of sexual attacks by a dentist in Saskatchewan. Their father was also a police officer in Port Hope and will be referred to later.
Limited in my ability to play sports, not necessarily due to my separated shoulder, I took over and developed the table tennis group. We could be found every day up behind the gym bleachers before and after school and most lunch hours. Calvin and John were my toughest opponents and none of us would ever give up on that blessed ball until it had hit the floor. One day as I was playing Calvin, he slammed the ball off the right corner of the table, bouncing it towards the steps. I reached back and caught the ball while falling, just missing the nose of Keith Rose by inches, and returned the shot. Calvin couldn't believe that I had returned the shot and made no attempt at a return. Meanwhile, I had landed on the cement floor and looking up saw who it was that I had just missed with my paddle. Keith said "nice shot", turned and went back down the stairs.
I worked out a ladder challenge, where anyone could challenge any person within two spots of them on the board. It worked well and prevented any really bad mismatches. It also gave each of us a desire to be on the top rung. If you were not on the board, there were ten spots, you would start at the bottom and try to work your way up. I taught a few students how to play, but my reflexes were very quick so I had to be careful not to scare off potential players. But we always seemed to have an audience when the top players were at it, though seldom of the female genre.
I think it was in grade 12 that we got a young, fairly recently graduated history teacher who had been born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a Miss Rigsby. She had even taught somewhere in the Caribbean and having been on the world stage so to speak, her views on history and current events would have been considered scandalous by the military command at PHHS. First of all, she taught us to question the the correctness of the text books, for as she said, the winners write the story, their way! She also related how during WWII, air raid warnings would sound and all lights had to be doused immediately. However, the furnaces at the Algoma steel plant, lit up the sky as they didn't interrupt production. Supposed German aircraft launched from a non-existent carrier might attack the steel plant, so why not make it the brightest object around for hundreds of miles!
Miss Rigsby also pointed out that the Egyptian hieroglyphs had been dechiphered back before 1850 after the Rosetta Stone was found. It wasn't even hinted at in our texts! The students of course gave her a nickname, very non-complementary, due to her tall and slender build, but I would now never consider revealing it! This teacher in one year, probably influenced my future life more than any other teacher and I thank her for that. Not that I have been any roaring success, but she helped nourish a curiosity that I didn't know I even had.
I also took Trig and Geometry under the Vice Principal Mumby. Wayne had had him before me and if he thought that I would be anything like my older brother, he was in for a very rude awakening. Wayne showed how he arrived at any answer and knowing him, he probably figured out several routes that arrived at the same result. Me, nah, I still didn't show any path to the end result and often I would show up with homework as blank pages at school. A wing and a prayer you say, not really. I did my homework and was, at least at that time, able to remember the steps required, almost as if it was on a video.
It didn't take long before Mr Mumby had had enough of this smart ass kid. One morning in Geometry class, he called five or six students to the blackboard and gave us a problem in an area that we had not yet progressed to. Only he didn't know that I had already scanned that chapter and understood it. He told us to start off by marking the lines on the graph and unlike the other students I marked my x-axis on the vertical and the y-axis on the horizontal. He commented on the fact that we all could not agree on these markings and then proceeded to give us the problem. When time was up, he then checked each blackboard and when he came to mine, he had to turn his head on its side to understand my work.
I am not bragging, because there where a couple of students better at it than me, but when Mr. Mumby could not really understand what I had done, one of them had to point out to him that mine was the only correct answer and why. And we all wonder why teachers get so irritated, and believe me, I was never asked to go back to the blackboard in any more of his classes. Yet this is the very guy who eventually helped me get the job at the Royal Bank!
Tests with multiple choices were the newfangled way of finding the IQ of the students in the province. On one test, I saw a pattern in the multiple choice questionnaires, and for the last half of that particular test, I just punched holes according to that pattern. While all the other students got theirs back, for some reason mine was never located nor was I ever given my mark. I also had to complete an aptitude test by punching holes in the paper, I think it was grade 10. The results were amazing, as scientist, mathematician etc. were at the bottom of my scores, yet social worker was number one, teacher number two and linguist number three. Any body who knows me knows that somewhere, something got screwed up really badly, and I am not telling how.
One year, I think Wayne was still at PHHS, one student's IQ came back, basically at the idiot level. Yes, they used those terms back then, and his marks were the lowest in the Durham Region. As Peter, Paul and Mary would later sing 'When Will They Ever Learn?' He was the male valedictorian that year!
Yeah, I had fun at school being non-destructive, non-role forming and taking advantage of any situation that I thought required my interpretation. Lots of students got into scraps with the military command, but they confronted it. Unlike Gerry O'Brien, I never got a detention for my behaviour, but I may have been at the beginning of the new style of student who while he didn't rebel, still had his input felt.
And during my school years, I am not sure just when, I was given the nickname of Carrot Top. Last I knew, carrots have a green top and are tapered to the bottom of the root. I had flaming red hair, noticed I said had, and tapering is not a word that would even begin to describe my build either then or now! And yes, there are red carrots, but it is the root, not the Hair!
DESTINY IN BRADFORD
In the spring of '64, I was on the move again as the bank transferred me to Bradford as the accountant. In about three years, I had been promoted to branch accountant, normally it took over five years. But then, the bank was getting desperate! Back to a staff of just six; did I say just? This staff were actually a dream staff, who communicated extremely well with each other, making my job a breeze. The manager, Al Beasley, was a good egg and allowed me to run things without interference.
But here I was in a strange town again, needing a boarding house when basically not much was available. The person I was replacing, said he would check if the people he was with were still interested in a boarder. That's how I met Sid and Anne, a young Dutch couple with a couple of children. They loved to cook potatoes, and that brought out my Irish side.
I spent weekends at my Aunt and Uncle's farm in Fraserville and dated a couple of girls from that area. I was still in touch with John Stassen who was attending Ryerson University. Now John had been a member of the PHHS Army Cadets rifle team and had participated in the annual provincial shooting competitions, which our school had the nasty habit of winning! No matter what the training, things can go right or wrong, and John and I experienced that one day on the farm.
I picked John up at his parent's house, they lived on Ontario Street, Brunswick and Orchard area, and he brought his prize 303. I had my father's 22 Cooey, basically like having a paring knife compete with a machete. The farm had 100 acres or so, and so we went roaming. When we over the hill on the northern field, there was a road running East/West, and the farm boundary had an old cedar log fence there. A couple of crows flew overhead, and landed on a tree ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD! I told my friend that I was going to make my way down and try to get one of them. His comment on this happening was a little derisive, insisting that I would never get close enough for a shot.
I made my way to the fence and carefully edged out from beyond an evergreen bush, leaning the barrel on the upper part of the fence. I had a good view of one of the crows, but I would be shooting across the road and my target was about 100 feet away. I squeezed the trigger and watched as I thought I saw the crow fly away. John screamed "You got him." Now that 22 hadn't had its sights checked since it's factory days and had been knocked about somewhat. I purposely shot a touch low and all I can think of was that the bullet had been deflected by a branch.
John insisted that I had got the crow and that I had seen the other one fly off. Be it as it may, the story does not end with my fortunate shot. Let's see, I had just shot across a public road, my shot left the area of the farm and somehow, had struck a target that my rifle wasn't really aimed at. A Miracle shot! So we continued, we got a couple of ground hogs, a nuisance to cattle farmers, and finally ended up back where we had started. Looking around, John spotted another ground hog sunning himself on the neighbour's farm in the bottom portion of a field.
According to John, he spotted him first, so it was his. After crossing the road, John crept along another fence until he got opposite of where he thought that ground hog was. I saw him raise his 303 and bang. John stood up, but what he had shot was not the ground hog, but a mound of cow dung. He had failed to positively identify his target and I can actually say that John had shot the shit!
My Uncle Stefan was a Polish war veteran with a very muscular build. One Sunday morning, we awoke to gunshots on the Southern portion of his farm, down by the creek. Stefan went to investigate and someone shot at a branch just above his head. NOW THAT WAS A BIG MISTAKE! Stefan had been with the British Eighth Army in Italy after he had walked from Siberia to Persia, and was with the Polish Brigade that had wrestled Monte Casino from the Germans. He came back to the house and phoned the OPP, who informed him that it would be about an hour before they could get an officer there. Stefan told the operator that they had twenty minutes and then he was going back down himself and would deal with the hunters. The OPP were there within ten minutes and hustled the hunters out in front of Stefan, advising them of his back ground. Reputation: put it to good use!
And did I say how muscular my uncle was? I saw him trudge through snow over his knees with two bags of oats, each about 75 lbs., slung over his shoulders, and down the farm road, probably 400 feet long. I followed in his footsteps and couldn't keep up!
It was also while in Bradford that I met the errand girl from the CIBC, named Cathy. She would come into the branch with drafts signed by our customers and pick up our cheque in payment. She also baby sat Sid and Anne's kids, and that is where I got to know her a little bit better. Didn't take long before we were dating.
Cathy moved out of her parent's house and into a boarding house not very far from where I resided. We had many dates and one night while we were sitting in my car in the driveway, she claimed that I had blurted out something, she really did not give me enough time to rationalize just what I might have said. I asked her to marry me, at least according to her that's what I said, and she accepted before I could retract it! Communication: put it in writing to ensure everyone knows exactly what has been said!
It was about this time that I made a basic mistake at work. A person approached the counter and wanted to open a savings account. He had a $200 cheque that was deposited and he then left. When I left for lunch, I guess he was watching outside, he approached one of the tellers and asked to withdraw most of the funds, which I had not put a hold on, but remember I said earlier I had a dream staff. The teller immediately realized what was going on and sought assistance from Al, the manager. Basically, they covered my ass and I will never forget it. Again, communication!
On a Friday, just after closing at 3am, the head teller advised me that we did not have enough cash on hand to handle the expected demand once we reopened at 4:30. I checked with the other bank in town and with a negative there I started phoning nearby branches of the Royal Bank. Finally, Beeton branch said they could provide us with $22,000, which would probably cover our problem.
I drove the 1/2 hour to Beeton taking with me one of the tellers and they had the parcel wrapped up and ready to go. We signed for it and returned to our branch. Neither of us had ever met any of the staff in Beeton, and we just signed and left. Shortly after reopening, I received a call from the Beeton branch inquiring if the money parcel had arrived safely. Not loosing a beat, I said "What money parcel?" There was a dead silence on the other end of the phone and after some hesitation, the manager came on the line. I immediately told him that the parcel was secure and a sigh of relief could be heard. He said that he had become suspicious after we had left and was concerned that they had been conned.
One day, Al came to me and asked me to sign a buy order to purchase 10,000 shares of a penny stock, for one of our customers. Everything looked okay, and off it went. Wrong! It said the price at market, where the customer's order had been at a specific price. When confirmation of purchase was received, Al realized the error and I suggested that we check the current price. Luckily, the price had jumped substantially, so a quick sale order was placed. It netted a profit in excess of $1,600, but what should we do with it. We decided to credit the difference to 'inland exchange' in the general ledger and Al informed the customer that the purchase had not gone through due to the inflated price. Not the end of the story though.
The stock was being manipulated by the head of the Toronto Stock Exchange, and our customer was related to him. When the price dove beneath the floor, the Ontario Government started an investigation and requested all the banks etc. to report on any purchases or sales. That's when we had to inform Head Office that the bank was one of the culprits.
Then one Thursday shortly after, there was a rap on the bank door just after we had closed: two pesky inspectors again. I had been on course with the junior in Toronto earlier that year, so I was quickly informed of anything that they found lacking. Each time they found a form improperly filled out, I promptly got the customer to sign a new form. Fred, the junior inspector, came to me after we had closed on Friday, and asked me to approve his personal check for cash. That I did and handed it back to him, fully aware of what he was trying to do. Regulations were that I would have to hand the item directly to the teller. Again, my dream staff would not cash it until they checked with me, as I knew they would.
After four days of the above, the head inspector called me into the manager's office and in front of the manager suggested discreetly that I had better leave them something to complain about because they would not leave until they found a few things for their report. When he asked me how much of the rule book that I followed, I said 90%. Which 10% I was willing to break would depend on the circumstances. Basically, the only notes they ended up with were really trivial.
A few of weeks later, I received a notice of transfer to the Drayton, Ontario branch. I was to report to Toronto for an interview before reporting to the branch because apparently this was a plum assignment. I reported to the Toronto Head Office and lo and behold, who was the interviewer: none other than the inspector I had a run in with while in Cobourg. The past meeting was all forgotten and I was informed that the branch supposedly got numerous visits a year from an assistant general manager. I also requested permission to get married since it was the bank's policy that all males with less than five years experience, be single. Permission was received.
Drayton branch was housed in an old building, right alongside the Grand River and had a complement of fifteen. The phone system in Drayton was to say the least, antiquated. After picking up the receiver, you cranked a handle and if you were fortunate, an operator would ask the number you wanted and make the connection. It was also the only branch in which I worked where any personnel had a pistol, both the manager and myself had one. They were always loaded, safety on but I managed to bury mine in the very back of the drawer of my desk. I do not recall if I told my eventual replacement about the gun.
The accountant I replaced asked me if I had ever shot a pistol. Since I answered in the negative, he took me into the cellar and proceeded to show me the so called procedures of shooting with a pistol. He had set up some wood blocks on the cement under the floor joists. He fired several times and then had me fire a shot. Not sure where the bullet went, certainly didn't hit any of the wood blocks, but neither had he.
One day I cranked the phone over a ten minute period, and having no success in raising an operator, I sent the junior down to the phone office. He reported that they were closed for lunch, as only one operator had reported that day.
In January 1966, Cathy and I got married in Bradford, Ontario with my brother Wayne as my best man, and she found a job with the Royal Bank in Arthur, Ontario, about a thirty minute drive. But it wasn't long before I got caught up in that old bugaboo system of the bank and received notification that I was being transferred. Fine and dandy, but my replacement arrived and I still didn't know where I was supposed to go. After a few days, the manager got on the phone to the personnel department and raised the devil. Then around 4pm that afternoon, he was advised that I was being transferred to Wawa. The manager was concerned that he had created too much of a fuss and I was the one being punished.
Of course, neither of us knew where Wawa was, so we got out maps and found it part way around Lake Superior. As I had to pass through Sudbury to go to my new assignment, I tried calling Barry Smith, the friend I had met at a convention there a couple of years before. His family informed me that he was now married and he had gotten married the same day I had, January 22nd. I had taken my bride to Temagami for our honeymoon, I am not sure were Barry and Cookie spent theirs!
The Royal Bank in Wawa was housed in a relatively new building on the main street and in the summer, we had to deal with lots of tourists. Most wanted to cash a personal cheque and back then the only way to verify if it was actually good, was to phone the bank it was drawn on. During July and August, I had to authorize numerous cheques, probably in excess of five-hundred. I actually only called a dozen times and seven of those were no good. I decided on first look whether or not I would phone and never got caught.
Shortly after arriving, on a Saturday, I decided to go for a drive and after 1/2 hour pulled over near Old Woman's Bay to see just where I was. Yup, thirty miles South of Wawa! With virtually no human dwellings in sight over the past twenty-five miles, it brought home just how big this province was, and I was not even halfway across it yet!
And I had left my bride in Drayton, so the long weekend in May, I headed South. On the way back North, in the Soo, after going through a light that changed to amber just as I entered the intersection, a Volkswagon Bug ahead of me, put on his left hand signal while applying the brakes at the same time. I managed to get stopped just short of the Bug, and looked in my rear view mirror. Traffic had already started crossing and a small MG crossed between cars and headed for me. It slammed into mine and forced my vehicle into the back of the Bug. When the police officer arrived, it didn't take him long to understand what had happened and he became a little irritated at the driver at fault for his excuses. He went to the car, tried the brakes and then asked the driver why he had left his brakes at home.
During my time in Wawa, the bank transferred in as a new manager, Art Makepeace, who had been involved with my hiring in Port Hope. I remember Art coming to my desk one day and slamming some papers down. He had just asked a man to have his wife sign some papers, assuming that the woman who was sitting in the office with him was the wife. Not in Wawa! Art asked if we were the only two men in town still living with our own wives.
The bank employed what we called 'the systems boys', a group of experienced bank employees who were sent from branch to branch to help implement new procedures and solve local problems. Now I am not saying they planned it that way, but during the summer, two of these guys turned up in Wawa. Their main interest seemed to have been in fishing, so I arranged to fly in to a remote lake where there were boats just for this purpose. On a Saturday, we flew in and when we saw size of the pond that we were going to land on, we questioned our pilot. His response was that landing was no problem, lots of space as long as you avoided any deadheads, aka tree stumps. The problem was getting out! Apparently, one pilot realized that he would not clear the trees at the end of the pond, and managed to put the plane into the trees: pontoons first. The major damage was to the said pontoons, but the insurance company wrote the plane off. The airline went in with a crew, lowered the plane and installed new pontoons. Plane was still flying while I was there!
On our return trip out, the pilot spotted what he thought was smoke and got authorization from base to investigate. When he reported the actual location, base said it had already been reported. But now the pilot admitted to us that he had not refuelled the plane before heading out to fetch us, and was concerned that he didn't have enough to get back! I think all three passengers were actively engaged scanning for any body of water that would accommodate us. Finally, the pilot said that he could now glide to the end of the lake if necessary and a boat could bring us fuel. Gliding in a plane equipped with floats!!!! Anyway, we made it, but when they checked, there was no indication of any fuel being left.
So now we had to wait for the ministry to come and check our catch. The two system guys handed me their share of the cost and I headed into the office and paid for our trip. Meantime, the ranger had showed up and counted the catch. He was informing them that they were over their limit and would be charged. When I stepped up and said that I had been on the flight, which would make our catch at the legal limit, the ranger refused to believe us, even though the pilot said he had three passengers. The ranger finally went into the office and looked at their booking sheet. I have often wondered what would have happened if I had just gone home!
Cathy and I attended church each Sunday and the priest asked if we would like to accompany him to a logging town called Dubreuilville. It was a 'company town', founded to service the Dubreuil Lumber Company around 1960.
Strictly a French speaking town, it was reached by a logging road off of Highway 17, about forty-five miles north of Wawa: it had a bowling alley and church to service the residents. Both Cathy and I enjoyed the visit and the opportunity of meeting a few of people who lived there, even though we didn't speak French.
Now Wawa is about 145 miles from Sault Ste. Marie, the closest place that had a Burroughs office that could service our posting machines. On a Wednesday in October, one of the machines went down. Before Burroughs could get a repairman to us, the second one went down on Thursday morning. It wasn't until late Thursday that the repairman admitted that he had to take both machines back to their office in order to complete repairs. So for two days, we had no posting machine to process the accounts and on Saturday, I drove the 145 miles and picked up one of the machines. This of course was during the month in which we normally completed our work unit return and the end of the month was the bank's year end. Because of the new legislation regarding working hours which limited the total hours in any period anyone could work, an order was issued by head office that I could not report for work for one week, as my average hours was over the 48 maximum allowed per week. Officially, I was not there, but Art and I had agreed that I would just not record any hours.
And of course, those pesky internal inspectors turned up the last week of the fiscal year. Was not a particularly clean inspection and in January, I was transferred to the branch on Durham Street in Sudbury. Had a staff of over forty, two levels to deal with the public and a third floor where most of the posting etc, was done. On Friday, I drove back to Wawa to pick up Cathy and bring her to Sudbury. It had snowed all day and when I headed West, it seemed like the storm was trying to swallow me.
Turning North at the Soo, I became tired and felt disorientated, basically I probably had snow blindness. Not sure just where I was in the Provincial Park, but I stopped, covered up and left the engine and lights on. When I awoke after a couple of hours, I got out of the car and I could not see any tire tracks around my vehicle. Since my eyesight seemed to have returned to normal and the storm had subsided somewhat, I drove the rest of the way into Wawa and arrived around 4am. This taught me to always be prepared in winter for the worst; I still carry a parka and snow boots in my vehicle 'just in case.'
We arrived in Sudbury and spent our first anniversary in a motel on Regent Street South, an area that was to become such an important part of our lives! Monday morning, temperature had plummeted to -40F over night, so I decided to take the bus downtown and leave my car at the motel. Wrong! The bus coughed, sputtered and then died half way down Paris Street and they sent another to pick the riders up. It too coughed, sputtered, then died at the Sudbury arena and I ended up walking the 1/4 mile to the bank. I never did use the bus system in Sudbury again!
Cathy was hired by the CIBC on Elm street as a teller. One afternoon, a man with a machete held her up, but Cathy called her sup. Theresa told Cathy to give him the money and she put it in the bag the man had thrown over the counter. She did however, fail to put the 'holdup bundle', a set of recorded serial numbers. The man then ran out to Elm Street and tried to hijack a couple of cars before hiring a taxi which drove him to a motel in Sturgeon Falls.
This was the first case of an armed hold up of a bank in Sudbury in over twenty years and made headlines locally. The Sudbury Star even published a picture of Cathy and I as we were heading to a police cruiser. Turned out that the culprit was mentally unstable and was sentenced to an asylum. When dealing with amateurs, caution is the best policy.
The Royal Bank's Christmas party that year was held in a local hotel, which was also a customer of the bank. With Mr. Martin presiding at the head table, I took advantage of the buffet style dinner. Cathy pointed out to me that the manager was watching each time I went to the buffet. And I was enjoying it so much! The following summer, at a BBQ for the Sudbury Jaycees, I ended up in a eating contest with a Maurice Lucyk, who weighed in excess of 320 lbs. Only one person put his money on me but he had seen how much I could eat. Maurice said that when I finished my fifth t-bone steak and headed back to the BBQ, it was all over. Only the cook and I know how many I ate and all I will say that it was in excess of seven.
Well known among the staff of the bank, there were four bank managers in Ontario that were considered as very tough and unforgiving. Port Hope had one, another in downtown Toronto, a third in Kingston and then Durham Street, Sudbury. So now I was under the watchful eye of a second supposedly demon manager. One day, he came to my desk and asked me to sign a buy order for a stock purchase. I asked him for the customer's signed order and he was not very impressed but went back and got it. The typed order was wrong and I was quickly asked to go into his office. While waiting for a corrected order, Mr. Martin asked me why I had wanted to see the customer's copy, no one else ever did. I related the experience of the stock in Bradford as well as the money parcel. New rules had been put in place to cover these situations, but he hadn't paid any attention. Later, when I resigned, he called me into his office and asked if he was the reason I wanted to leave. Actually, my annual revue had just been presented to me, and since the bank wanted to send me to the Toronto Credit Department in a couple of months, and Cathy was expecting our first child about that time, I had decided to leave. Put in the mix that my salary was now $5,200 a year after seven years, and after the Christmas Bonus had been tacked on while new staff were being hired off the street at $4,500 a year, money was also part of my decision.
The year that the bank had hired me, they actually hired 805 young men across Ontario. In 1967, they had only eight left, that is until I quit. Between frequent transfers and low pay, the incentive to remain was not very appealing. So I was hired by Northland Trust, a Northern Ontario outfit, at the grand salary of $6,000 a year. Just down the street from the Royal Bank, I still kept in touch with the employees from the bank, but something soon told me that I may have made a mistake.
As I indicated above, Cathy and I were expecting our first child about the end of July, however, these things don't adhere to a set timetable. In the first week of August, Cathy was hospitalized due to her having toxemia. Each night, I would go visit her and the hospital was fairly flexible on the hours. On the 12th, I didn't leave until around 10 o'clock and since nothing seemed to be happening, I went home and slept. At 6:30am, I got a call from Dr. Farrell that I was the father of a baby girl. Hold on a minute there. A girl? We had discussed several male names but had not even considered that we might have a girl. Quickly we settled on naming her Cathy.
Our daughter Cathy was 4lbs 7oz at birth and as usually happens, her weight dropped some over the next couple of days. When my wife was released, our daughter was still considered underweight and the hospital kept her, kept her for two weeks they did! Since breast feeding was a definite, it meant that Cathy, my wife that is, had to use a pump and store her milk in the fridge until we took it to the hospital each day. Despite the inconvenience of driving to the hospital every day, it did allow both of us to sleep much better than most new parents are able to. We were finally able to bring our daughter home two weeks later.
During her second pregnancy at about three months in, we were informed by friends that they had been in contact with German measles. They wanted to warn us because of the possible complications that could result. Neither Cathy nor I wanted to abort so our second child was born on June 23, 1971 in the same hospital. With permission from Dr. Farrell, we had gone camping for a week at Grundy Provincial Park, fifty miles south of Sudbury. Within a day of returning home, Cathy was again in the hospital and had really an easy birth, weighing in at 5lbs 7oz. We decided to name him after my father, we were already having problems with two with the same first name at home, and myself, so he became Daniel Brian. Daniel was a normal size baby so he came home the same day as my wife.
A little under three years later, Christopher Patrick arrived on March 24, 1974 and Cathy had a difficult time during labour due to his size. Dr. M. Farrell was on holidays at the time, so his brother, Dr. P. Farrell, was in attendance and decided that he should perform a cesarean section rather than risk either mother or son. Christopher weighed in at 9lbs 5oz and Cathy did remarkably well even visiting our new son in the incubator in the nursey that he was placed in for 24 hours that evening. He did look a little out of place amongst what were all preemies.
Then, seven years later, Crystal Lee arrived on September 14, 1981, again by C section as Sudbury General were not at that time allowing natural child birth if previously the mother had had a C section. Again, Cathy recovered amazing quickly. And since the nurse transporting the newborn to the nursery was a customer at our store, she had me come over and see the new arrival before placing her in an incubator.
I was hired on the basis that I would be able to control the balancing of the various ledgers, and within a couple of months we ended up with a shot balance. The staff were not happy when I told them that they had to recheck the tape, but they did find a card that was not listed properly. I did find a corresponding posting error, so the balance was done quicker than ever before.
Then I suggested to the manager, that we institute a machine posted general ledger. The main advantage would be that the daily balancing would be on his desk by about 10am, where as usually, it was close to 5pm. He finally agreed to it, but told me that if anything went wrong and head office complained, I would be on my own. So I phoned the internal inspector, who happened to be the accountant in the Timmins branch, and he told me to do it as he would like to have it throughout their branches. After instituting it with no problems and during the annual inspection, the manager was bragging that he had instituted the system. Obviously, the inspector knew better!
Northland Trust had a real estate office as part of their operation in Sudbury in a separate office in the same building. The agent, Walter McLeod, was the person who actually had informed me that there was an opening in the front office. One morning, Walter came into my office and was obviously a little peeved. A cheque that he had deposited into the trust account for a real estate transaction had been returned nsf, by the CIBC next door, but it had taken an exceptionally long time to be charged back. After looking at the times involved via the various bank dates stamped on the back, I told Walter that the bank had violated the Bank Act by not returning the cheque within twenty-four hours as specified in the Bank Act. The CIBC appeared to have held the cheque for four days before returning it. He asked me what could be done and I said I will try and get it paid. I took the cheque over to the CIBC but the manager still refused to honour it.
When I got back to my office, I phoned the Canadian Banking Association complaining about the time delay and after a few minutes discussion, I was informed that a settlement would be recieved from the bank before our office closed at 5pm. I received the settlement around an hour later and was happy to hear that the next day internal inspectors had descended on that branch.
One day while I was on a phone call, one of the tellers advised me that she had a couple of customers that just maybe, I should talk to. It was two men, an elderly gentleman and a much younger man who advised that they wanted to cash in a large amount of coin at face value. I asked if it was wrapped in proper coin paper and they said no. When they brought it in, it was in a chest, and wrapped in anything but proper paper. Immediately I knew something was up, so I told them that I would have to have one of the tellers re-wrap the coin so that we could be sure of the amount.
After a few minutes, a friend came into the lobby and after spotting him, I told everyone in my office that I had a prior commitment with him, and excused myself. I met Don Lampkie and told him to come with me and we went back to the real estate offices of the company. There I told Walter to phone the police as something was very fishy. I went back to my office and watched the teller until she had almost finished, when fortunately, Don came back in, basically to find out what had happened. Again I excused myself and we went back to see Walter, the police had been called over 1/2 hour before and their office was just down the street. Somebody misunderstood, and they had been searching the streets, never bothering to check with us. Within a couple of minutes, two detectives walked in and the younger man knew before the introductions, just who they were.
The total face value of the coins wrapped was almost $5,000. Old dollar and 50¢ pieces, mint sets from many years before, all in really mint condition. After questioning the two men, the police let them go, but followed them to a local hotel. During the night, the men fled with all their coins, but the police had received a report of some missing money that fit the description. They put out a bulletin, and the Parry Sound OPP nabbed them.
The elder man was a con and had made friends with another con while in the Kingston Pen. When he was released, he made friends with the other's wife, having been told the coins were in storage. He apparently got her to agree to move the money to a safer place but instead he took off. So a con, had conned, a con!
When the case went to court, the defence lawyer James Jerome, although he had been the speaker of the Canadian Parliament, did not impress me with his poor questions. The con had four trunks with a face value in excess of $20,000. Have no idea of just who ended up with it all, but it was probable originally put together from the proceeds of crime.
A year later, I was going through our bank deposit, we dealt with the Bank of Montreal, and I spotted two American Express travellers checks in the amount of $100 each. Apparently, some guy had walked in and cashed them but I was suspicious because we didn't normally deal in that type of traffic. I compared them to ours and although I could not see and real differences, I still was concerned. So I took them down to my old Royal Bank branch and asked the accountant, Roy Rogers, not the one with Bullet and Trigger, what he thought. He agreed that something was amiss but couldn't put his finger on it. I told him that I would call the police once I got back to my office and once the police had weighed in, would call him.
The police said they would check with American Express, but it would probably going to be a day, and since this was Friday, they would call me at home with the outcome. And just to confuse this story, one of the Inspectors was named Roy Rodgers!
On Saturday, Inspector Rodgers called me at home and informed me that they were counterfeit, so I called Roy Rogers and let him know. This is not really about who's on first! On Monday, Roy had his staff all primed when in walks a big, can I say black man, who wanted to cash some travellers cheques. While the staff delayed him a bit, they called the police and none other than Inspector Rodgers and another police officer answered the call. They took him to police headquarters but meanwhile a man and a woman showed up trying to cash more AE travellers cheques. Another call, and Inspector Rodgers walked in the far door and saw the woman on the phone. He knew that she was trying to warn any other accomplices and yelled to stop her and started to run towards where she was. The staff allowed her to dial, but recorded the number and then cancelled the call. They handed the number, a hotel close by, to the detective who then had a force raid the room that they were in. There, they found not only hundreds of counterfeit travellers cheques, but drugs and counterfeit Canadian bills. Not a bad haul.
A few weeks later, detective Rodgers called me and said he had somebody for me to meet. It was a representative of American Express, who chastised me for what I had done. Rogers finally got him to calm down and said that AE was well aware of the counterfeits, they knew where the plates were and were waiting for the counterfeiter ring leaders to show up so they could get them all. Not my problem, I was just doing my job!
Apparently, the one who passed them at Northland Trust, was not supposed to be in the area, but was on his way through heading West. None of the travellers cheques were suppose to be cashed until the Monday, but he got a head start. They caught him in Vancouver.
Since I was in the habit of checking our bank deposits, I noticed that on a regular basis, one of our customers deposited a cheque issued by himself and drawn on the Bank of Montreal. I phoned the accountant there and in our discussions, we realized that it was a 'kiting' operation. That's where a person deposits his own cheque to cover another cheque that he deposited at another banking institution. This was possible because the cheques could take three to four days to be posted by the institution where it was drawn on, thus giving an interest free loan to the perpetrator. It becomes a circle and when it crashes, one of the institutions would be caught with possible a loss. But this was a little more sophisticated as it involved four different institutions, Northland Trust, Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Roy Rogers at the Royal, the accountant at the BMO and myself all agreed that we would wait until our three institutions were clear and reject the cheque that was deposited at the CIBC, breaking the chain. We were all aware that this person's father was a respected insurance agent who dealt with the latter bank and would likely cover the bounced cheque. When the cheque bounced, the father did cover it and we heard a lot of grumbling from the CIBC. When they tried to implicate us, I reminded them of an earlier instance where they had returned that cheque that they had in their possession for over four days before bouncing it, in violation of the bank act.
In 1969, Cathy and I flew to Calgary, and then drove to Castlegar where my Mother and Step Father resided. We rented a yellow dodge Coronet and on the way through a pass in the mountains near Creston, I pulled out to pass a slow vehicle going down the mountain. I kicked it into passing gear, and when I relaxed the gas pedal, the car continued to accelerate. Having been through there before I knew the road came to a T, but since I was used to a standard, I simply threw it in neutral and then finally turned the ignition off. Now I had no power steering, nor power brakes; finally managed to get stopped all too close to that T.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere, a place I seem to frequent, I opened the hood as the engine continued to sputter. On close examination, I found a broken metal spring, value of maybe ten cents, had come off the carburettor which then allowed an unrestricted flow of gas. I bent it as best as I could and drove to Creston, making sure that I didn't press very hard on the gas. When I turned in the car in Castlegar, I mentioned the repair to them, and since this was a one way rental, it was all over. I say it again, Wrong!
Cathy and I decided to drive back to Calgary to meet our flight, we had originally intended to take the bus. When we rented a car, guess which one it was! While in Calgary, I broke a tooth, so as soon as I got back to Sudbury. I contacted the hospital, which informed me which dentist was on call. He pulled the tooth in an armchair in his living room and then started to ask me about investments. Finally, we arranged an appointment at his office where he wrote a rather large sum to invest for him. When I left the trust company, the manager refused to go to the dentist's office, even though there was in excess of $250,000 on deposit. He lost the account!
On the way into work one morning, the weather didn't look very good and Cathy asked me if we should take umbrellas. It hadn't started to rain yet and I said we could probably make it before it started. Have I ever said this before: wrong! We left home and walked, my car was sitting underneath a large tree and when we reached the underpass at the railroad tracks, it has started to spit a little. By the time we got to the other end, maybe 500 feet or so, it was a downpour. We raced up Durham street, but by the time we got to the Coulson hotel, the wind was driving it in our faces. We ducked into Murray's restaurant, part of the hotel and took shelter. But the storm kept going and opened the front door. Luckily, there was a ramp up to a second door and we took refuge behind it. The water was running up the ramp into the restaurant, the only time I have ever seen water flowing uphill!
Cathy now worked in the Royal Bank, where I had previously worked, and as soon as the storm passed, we both went to our jobs. My manager, was not there, and only one teller had shown up, and she had the numbers to the same lock as I did. We had no idea that a cyclone had run through Sudbury until the manager finally showed up. He lived in the direct path of the storm and apparently it was a monster. Later that night, Barry Smith and I wandered through the worst affected areas. Many roofs had been torn off and two pieces of damage I will never forget. A house under construction had been lifted off it's foundation and moved about a foot. The house did not yet have it's roof on, just the frame of the walls had been built, no siding. Why it moved, I have no idea. Next door, a two storey brick home was not hit, except by a single piece of 2x4 that punctured the brick on the second storey, on the lea side of the storm.
Of course the media had a field day with the body count, thirteen at one point, when actually three was the final count. This was also the year that Inco was building the 1250 foot super stack in a continuous cement pouring operation. Three men were up on the stack when they saw the storm coming, but only one could be lowered to the ground in the bucket at a time. The first guy was apparently half way down when the storm hit. With pieces of the platform being blown away, one of the men wanted to jump, so his partner hung on to him. He would have been more that 700 feet up at the time. All three survived!
The Bud car, I called it the blood car because that train never seemed to get anywhere, was coming into Sudbury from the Soo, when the conductor/engineer noticed that the enclosed conveyor system from the main plant to the iron ore recovery plant, which went over the tracks, was shaking very badly. He decided to stop and almost immediately, the conveyor system went crashing down on the tracks in front of the train.
A customer at the trust company told me that he had a boat stored in a building that was hit by the centre of the storm. He was called and when he got there, he found his trailer still intact, but the boat, a large cabin cruiser was gone. The boat had been fully strapped to the trailer and as far as I know, it was never found. And my car, I don;t think a leaf hit it!
Not being particularly happy working at the trust company, I started looking for other opportunities and after three years, decided to go with a local chartered accountants firm. I took a small hit in pay, but I felt it was worth it. I enrolled in the Certified General Accountant's course, with a view of getting the degree CGA. It also meant that I would be involved in travel and during March and April, would be working Saturdays as well.
I started on September 1, 1972 and found several people that I enjoyed working with. On Saturday Nov 4, 1972, I got a call from my brother Wayne, and was informed that Dan had been killed in Montreal the previous night. I often say that Dan was the first casualty of bilingualism, had he not been in the RCN, for that was when the push was on to have everyone speak our two official languages, he would not have been in Montreal. He had been sent there to learn French and was killed on the Jacques Cartier bridge in a car accident.
I phoned one of the junior partners of my employers and was given time off, so we left our daughter Cathy and son Dan with friends in Sudbury and headed for Port Hope. On Tuesday morning we still did not have a time for the funeral because the coroner in Montreal refused to release the body until he was ready. Then the military stepped in and overruled the coroner, basically they seized the remains, as they had a guard of honour on standby. Finally the funeral was set for Thursday and when I phoned to advise my employer, the response was take all the time you need, and it was paid time.
The funeral was held at St. John's Anglican Church on Pine Street with internment in my parent's plot in Saint John's Cemetery. My mother was very upset because it was a closed casket and nothing could be said that would console her. She just didn't know why she could not give her son a goodbye kiss.
Dan's career in the RCN was brought about because he was involved in an armed holdup. Never did find out where this occurred, but apparently Dan had secretly removed my father's pistol from the locked drawer in the sideboard in the dining room. He had done this by moving the unit forward, reached in and took the pistol out and then moved it back in place. While awaiting trial, Dan confessed to me that he had really messed up and that he was going to commit suicide. One Sunday morning, as Dan lay sleeping in the living room, a piece of paper fell out of his shirt onto the floor which mom picked up. My parents made frantic calls to Dr. Benson, I don't think they actually reached him, and then forced Dan up and started to keep him walking. His note apparently indicated that he had taken a full bottle of aspirin, dosage strength unknown. Looking back, I realize that his confession was probably a cry for help, but being only fifteen, I had much to learn about life and had kept it to myself.
At his trial, apparently the judge gave him a choice; jail or join the armed forces. According to Wayne, the local police chief signed off allowing my brother time to sign up. He chose the RCN and he really enjoyed his life in the navy serving on HMCS Restigouche, HMCS Bonaventure, HMCS Fraser and a couple of others. Dan had a purpose in his life and revelled in the surroundings the RCN gave him. Every revue in his record is recorded as very good! That is how the courts used to handle transgressions, with understanding and compassion.
I scored well on all my CGA tests, after-all, I was further on in accounting at work than what they were teaching me. In the second year I took statistics and had some trouble. When I wrote my exam, it was a closed book affair, I wrote a potential 35% mark according to the test. Surprise! I passed with a mark in the '70s and was one of only seven who passed that year. Bell curve? Reassigned marks? The following year it was an open book exam!
Life was not boring working with the chartered accountant firm and since I had a good understanding of banking transactions, I found it rather easy to 'balance the books.' Within a couple of years, I was the senior auditor for our credit union clients. Most of these clients had been expanding rapidly in the past few years and the staff training had not kept up. This led to some interesting situations.
One credit union had progressed from mini computers to a computer service, and they were inundated with reams of reports that nobody knew what to do with. In particular, their provision for doubtful loans, did not correspond with legislation. So they manually changed the report, a duplication of effort. Then, when I compared the previous year listing to the current year's, I found many missing, yet no write off had taken place. So checking the loan report, I found them, all supposedly up to date, but the catch was that they had called in the customers and had them sign new loan forms, paying off the old balance plus interest and classifying the loan as current. Only problem, these customers had not paid a cent towards their loan and probably never would. I therefore changed the records and placed all these loans back in the doubtful category. The manager was very upset with me and called the senior partner under whose umbrella all these clients fell. He of course backed me up, but co-operation with the manager now became difficult.
The following year, they had opened a sub-branch in downtown Sudbury and it generated excess deposits. These were entered as an asset to the branch and a liability to the main office whenever the transfers were made. It allowed them to acquire a slightly better interest rate whenever they invested the money because of the size of the investment. However, they included both the asset and the liability on the combined balance sheet of the credit union, which inflated the numbers. I netted them out and the manager started to argue very aggressively. I phoned the partner and arrangements were made for a meeting in our office. Despite a closed door, I could hear the manager shouting very loudly and arguing with the partner, while the director that came with the manager, apparently sat quietly nodding his head. He was a chartered accountant and knew we were right.
The following year, my audit turned up the fact that the credit union had over 20% of their assets in illegal investments. When the manager was informed, he obtained a letter from the investment firm stating that the investments were legal. I disagreed, and the partner also disagreed. I suggested that I call the government inspector, who I knew from several meetings, and see what he said. The partner asked me to make sure I did not divulge which credit union it was and when I called the government inspector, he immediately said they were definitely illegal investments. While it was easy for him to figure out which credit union it was, and without commitment, I told him it could be no other because of the amount. He asked that the investments be cancelled forthwith and call him when this had been completed; he would take no action until he heard from me.
I won't bother describing the fight that the manager had with the partner, a very crude attempt to intimidate, but the board of directors directed the manager to recover the funds. When I called back the government inspector, he said good, it is over with. The manager was let go and an accountant from another accounting firm, who I knew, was hired as manager. Eventually Rick offered me a job with a large pay raise, but I was to take another route.
At another credit union, they had moved from premises that they paid no rent for, to a new building they had built. The manager claimed that it had cost them nothing since they had used customer deposits to finance the building. Right, over 1/4 million no longer available for investment, building taxes were now being paid and the utility costs had soared. Tell me again that there was no cost! He also argued with me that the new credit union deposit insurance reserve fund saved them money since it was an investment, not a cost, while the Canada Deposit Insurance had a small percentage fee of all customer deposits for all members. Later that year, a single credit union almost wiped out the complete fund before being absorbed by a larger one.
For two years, when our staff went in for the audit, we had to balance their statement with the Ontario Credit Union League, in effect, their bank statement. Although shown how to do it, the manager never seemed to get around to it so I trained one of his cashiers to do it and she did a great job. Saved us some time, especially since discrpancies were common.
At a third credit union, when we went in for our annual mid year visit, as soon as it closed my staff started verifying the holdings of each of the tellers. I counted the head teller's drawer which also included the surplus recerve held in the vault. When the cashier showed me where she was keeping the reserve, I asked her why it was in an open container on the counter. Her answer was that during the day, it was left there for quick access. And when I counted it, I found an overage of $2,250. She was more surprised than myself especially since the manager had counted her cash the previous week.
Now I became involved in an audit of all transactions that she had processed since the last independent count by the manager. I had noticed that she had an unusual amount of $5 bills, 1500 in the vault and she had no idea why that was. Finally, I got the listing of the money parcel they had received from the Royal Bank in Sudbury. On it was listed 500 $5 bills, but the extension was for $250 only. I phoned the Royal Bank, the branch I had once worked at and asked the accountant, still Roy Rodgers, if they had had a shortage of $2,250. The royal was now only balancing their cashiers once a week and the main teller was due the next day. I told Roy what I had found and he said he would let me know once the cashier had performed her balance.
A couple of days later, Roy phoned and said that their difference matched the credit union's and thanked me for all the work it saved them. My note included recommendations on the storing of the extra cash, which should have been held in a safe with at least one combination turned off. Even the grill to the vault, which had a lock on it was left open, so any staff member, or anyone accessing their safety deposit box, would have opportunities to remove money. Since one comb was known only to the teller and the second was known to at least three other staff, I recommended that both combs be turned off as there was always at least one person available who had the second combination. Certainly, any robbery could result in a very quick grab the way it had been stored.
In October, which just happens to coincide with moose hunting season in Northern Ontario, a crew from our office went to a lumber camp in Missinabi, West of Chapleau. We had to test count the piles of felled trees they showed as inventory and their internal auditors from Wisconsin were there as well. One of these auditors was a big man with breathing problems and looking at the map provided, it showed several piles near where we had been dropped off and then more strung along for a stretch. We left the internal auditor to test count the piles near the exit, and Jim, the senior for our firm, and I walked in to do the furthest. We had done a couple of piles and were walking past some small ones, when we noticed a hunter on top of one. We came to three piles that we wanted to check and after I finished mine, I told Jim that I would go back and start on the big pile of over 20,000 logs. When he finished, he could come and help me.
I walked back and had counted about 300, I put a blue chalk mark on the end of each 100th log, when extremely close, a high powered rifle was discharged. It shocked me and I actually felt to see if I was hit. I never did see the hunter! I continued counting and then I spotted Jim coming down the trail. Quickly, I sprawled beside the pile and waited. Finally, Jim spotted me and called out, but I didn't answer. He started to run and when he got to me I said "Hi Jim." I know he will never forgive me for that one!
A day later, Jim, a driver from the lumber yard, myself and another from our office, drove out to check some piles just off a main road. Three of us were in the back of a station wagon where I was sitting directly behind Jim. He held the map, but I could read it from my vantage point because of the way he held it. All of these piles could be seen while sitting in the vehicle and Jim started it off by asking if anyone could guess the correct number. My guess was within a few, and since we are talking hundreds, sometimes thousands, in a pile, that is insignificant difference. So he pointed to another down that lane, and again I was within a few. This went on all morning, and we never did get out of the vehicle for a physical check. After lunch, we went back and continued, but I still sat behind Jim. On one pile, someone guessed within a dozen or so, and that gave me an opportunity to be way off. We completed the circuit and were back at their office by 3pm.
Based on this, as we were having coffee, Jim said jokingly that he was going to ask the partners to rent a helicopter to fly me over the area next year. That way I could count them from the air. I never told anyone. Who says auditors are dull and can't have fun!!!!
On this trip, I was also paired up with another internal auditor who was driving a station wagon. For those that have not driven in lumber company roads, lets just say there are thousands of bumps, twists, water filled holes and washouts. For lumber trucks, navigating these roads is not much of a problem, especially with their huge tires. The trucks always have the right of way so going around corners, sometimes there would be a truck in your lane as the driver didn't want to slow down and was making the turn as wide as possible. My driver seemed to think he was unstoppable and I was extremely uncomfortable being the passenger.
We were only on that road for less than a mile when the inevitable happened, he cut a corner to find a large puddle hiding a deep hole and when the car bounced out, control was lost. Luckily, the car was stopped at a crude ditch, with the frame behind the right wheel resting on the edge. This meant that one rear tire was barely touching the gravel, and no amount of pushing or heaving would help get the car out. Now this guy, wanted me to walk back to the 'main road' and flag a vehicle for help. The main road was unpaved, ran only to Missinabie which only existed because of the lumber camp. It could be hours before another vehicle passed. He became a little irate at my refusal to do his bidding and the look on his face when I told him how to get the vehicle unstuck was almost comical.
The jack was useless as we couldn't get a place to set it firmly on solid ground, so I located a couple of thick saplings and placed them in the ditch, then took a large trimmed branch and used it as a lever. This put the second rear tire firmly on the gravel and he was able to back the car out: right into the ditch on the other side. Luckily, it was able to be driven out. So here I am in the middle of nowhere accompanied by a person that I have started to loathe, and we had to test count the tree piles. In between our counting, I made sure that I brought him up to date on Canadian American relations, including that they had invaded Canada seven times and had been ejected each time. And I don't think he even caught on!
Lumber camps were notorious, but one thing made living there bearable; the cook. If a lumber camp had a good cook, staff turnover would be low. So this was just up my alley and I took full advantage of the opportunity. After a couple of days, when I brought my platter to the table, the buzz was that the men sitting at the next table had come to watch me eat. I went and got a second helping and when it was nearly gone, the men sitting opposite rose, shook their heads and walked out. I don't like to disappoint!
The American that I had teased a few days before was complaining of a sore back and that he would not be able to accompany us that morning. I lost no sleep over that! At noon, while we were eating our lunch, the fire alarm went off and everybody scrambled out to see smoke rising from the saw mill. Fire hoses were quickly laid out and behold, that internal auditor led the charge hauling the hose and then putting it on the outbreak. Sore back eh! Seems some renovations had been taking place and a torch was used to cut some metal framing. No one had noticed that some sparks had fallen into a large pile of sawdust and then everyone went to lunch.
While in Missinabie, we stayed at the only hotel around, a two story building. I was on the ground floor and to my surprise I found a fire escape. It was a very heavy rope with a knot on one end, the other end tied to the dresser. In an emergency, once the window was opened, I could have stepped out onto the yard which was at ground level. Maybe it was supposed to be used as a signal to any firefighter that the room had been vacated when hanging out the window, but I never did see any instructions on how to use it. In the bar, the hotel had the oldest cash register that I ever saw, NCR serial number xxxxxx007. Totally mechanical, when you pushed on the round button while entering a number, an arm raised that figure into the viewing port. Power outages would be no problem!
Year four in studies was the income tax. We had a three hour test, no calculators and we could not be excused until two hours had passed. The exam was easy, but the math was ridiculous. They used a March 17th year end for a corporation in a leap year. I decided not to bother figuring out the math portion, I just wrote down how to go about it, a strange departure from my school years. I then wrote above where I signed that I had come for a tax exam, not a math exam. I was done in an hour, and requested to be excused, which was denied, as I knew it would be.
It so happened that there were three others from our office taking that exam and my early request really shook them up as they were only part way through when I made my request. They knew that I knew my stuff, but couldn't figure how I had completed it so fast. When the results came back, I scored a 95%. The following year, calculators were permitted. Do you see a trend here?
The firm had several medium size clients in Sault Ste. Marie, and with December 31st year ends, we travelled the 200 miles to service these clients in mid January. Usually, three cars went and we stayed at a motel which just so happened to be a client. One year, probably 1975, it was bitterly cold and I was driving a '65 Fairlane. When purchased, it did not have a block heater and despite several attempts to install one, it always leaked so it lacked this basic item for Northern Ontario. When we arrived at the motel, it was -45 degrees, and doesn't matter which system you use, it was bloody cold.
The other two cars had their block heaters plugged in and the laughs I got when I set up my system could be heard everywhere. I had a table lamp, minus shade, and put it between the engine and the radiator. I then carefully placed a blanket over the engine and lowered the hood. Of course you could see the reflection on the snow beneath my vehicle, so I knew I had power. At supper, I took a lot of kidding. Next morning, my car was the only one that started and I had to boost the others. Revenge, oh it is so sweet!
I was designated to audit the books at a steel manufacturer's yard and was the only one from our office there. The accountant at the yard was known for excellent work but I kept on finding that invoices that I needed to check were missing. Each time, the accountant would locate them. It seems there was a person from the sales tax office doing an audit, and he would pull vatious invoices from their file and hold on to them, reluctantly giving them when I needed them. On the second day, the tax auditor was still there and still pulling invoices from their files. Finally, the partner in charge of the account phoned and asked if I had any problems. I explained what was happening, it was about lunch hour, and he said he would see what he could do.
About 3pm, the tax auditor gave back all the items he had been holding, packed up his bags and left. A few minutes later the partner called and asked if he had left yet. You bet! He had called the tax office and got them to pull the auditor. The person he talked to apologized and said they had hired a bunch of people based on their racial profile, not on their qualifications, and they just had to put them somewhere!
This partner was a very intelligent man who had a photographic mind and could recall details in a file without referring back. He also did not follow standard accounting practices when completing a balance worksheet and would add below the totals the changes he wanted to complete and usually without explaining these adjustments. Most of the staff hated working on his files but here was a man that did things my way. I had no problems understanding anything he had done but then I did things his way on one of his accounts. He quickly informed me not to do as he did because I would end up doing it in all my files and most of the partners frowned on the practice. As far as he was concerned, my work was fine, just remember who you are doing it for.
On this trip, we had a retail lumber yard client, who had an IBM punch card posting system. The office was up a narrow set of enclosed stairs and the cards were kept in order in boxes. These boxes were then picked up by the processing company around 5pm, run and then returned with the appropriate records before the store opened. One day, the courier dropped the boxes while going down the stairs and the contents spilled out. There was no way of putting these punch cards in the proper order, but they had to be in order to be processed. Staff had to work an extra shift to reprocess the days work. All systems have failures, just trying to identify them before something happens is the challenge.
We also had clients in Chapleau and being a three to four hour drive, none of us ever looked forward to that trip, especially since travel time was unpaid. Funny, the clients were always charged for it. One year, during moose rutting season in September, as we were returning from Chapleau, the partner driving was travelling in excess of 80 mph. We rounded a curve and there were several female moose both on the road and to one side. The partner braked really hard and managed to get stopped just before the first moose. He had four very unhappy passengers who let the senior partners know how they felt.
So the last year I was with the firm, they decided to hire an airplane, flying from Skead to Chapleau. It seemed like a good idea and we all welcomed the change until Monday morning when there was a lot of fog. Not good flying weather, GPS was not available to small aircraft at the time, but we all congregated at the airport in a little hut used by the rental company. All of us were joking about an aircraft we saw outside, that had both a front and a rear propeller, some of us wondering if it used an elastic band to turn them. In walked a very young man, seventeen or so, hair greased all the way back and wearing a black leather flight jacket.
Somebody said "guess that's our pilot" making us all laugh. We could hear the talk between any aircraft and the tower on the radio in the office when Air Canada requested permission to take off. Denied. The manager said just wait, he will rev up his motors, claim he can see five hundred feet, and take off before the tower can deny him taking off. Sure enough, we heard the engines rev up, and as he was moving down the runway he claimed he could see five hundred feet. Looking outside, unless the pilot had some type of supervision, he would have been lucky to see fifty feet, but gone he was.
We waited until about 10am when the fog started to lift and were herded outside by you know who, into you guessed it aircraft. Have to admit that flying through patches of fog at just over tree top level is exhilarating! When the pilot lined up for landing he explained that since the runway was gravel, he would be cutting out the front propeller, so that it would not shoot stones into the rear one. So here we were, almost four hours of travel time, but at least it was paid time after 9am.
And Chapleau is in the middle of nowhere and has a railway track along side of the main road. Only problem was that Highway 102 crosses the tracks, and I guess the powers that be, decided that that was not right, why should you have to wait to get to downtown Chapleau just because a train is in your way. So, they built a bridge, just before the tracks, you turned left up a ramp, at the top of which you made right turn over the tracks. Then, once on the far side, you make another right turn and go down a ramp to the main road. Very, very expensive. The first accident on the bridge was an OPP cruiser, and it was not even chasing anyone. Only in Chapleau!
In September 1972 I was tagged to drive to Chapleau to check a year end inventory listing at a lumber mill. Since the 29th, the day of the inventory was on friday, I left for Chapleau on thursday, the 28th. Just south of Gogama, I made a left turn onto a logging road and headed for Sultan, an E. B. Eddy company town. Although slower, it took a fair distance off the trip as I didn't have to drive to Timmins, which is farther north than Chapleau, to catch highway 101. Drawback was that there was no radio reception to be had. I therefore missed the live action of the big game, the final game between Canada and Russia. Just before the radio reception had faded out, the Soviets were in the lead and I was probably the last Canadian to hear that Canada had ended up beating the Soviets.
The last few miles on 101 were sweet, as the logging roads had shook my vehicle constantly. And there were lots of hunters heading east to go moose hunting as the season opened that weekend. As I neared Chapleau, the stream of hunters ceased and when I entered the outskirts of town, I spotted a moose who was non chalantly munching on some weeds in a bog beside the road. I spotted a second one a little further on. Seems like the moose were aware of the time of year and were seeking sanctuary in town!
As I was entering my fifth year of my CGA course, my employer filled out a form indicating what I had been exposed to while working with them. This form was required to be completed in order for me to graduate. Apparently, the governing body was not happy and sent me a letter that I did not have the required experience in order to receive my degree. The partners in the firm, all chartered accountants could not believe it, for as they said, I had more experience than most graduating chartered accountants. Despite a couple of letters from the firm, the decision held.
I had been considering my future anyways and I ran across a client of the firm who had just opened a franchised store in Sudbury and was doing quite well. I looked into it and finally had a meeting with the local representatives of Loeb's grocery chain. The franchise was called Pinto and was a rather large convenience store with pricing just above the chain stores. I decided to jump ship.
As a person who was born and raised in Port Hope, I still have an interest in the people, both past and present, of the town. A couple of years ago, I decided to photograph all the headstones in the town cemeteries that I could, and put them on line. Adding them to 'Find A Grave', I hope that it will be useful for people trying to locate information about their ancestors. Recently, I was contacted by a relative of a person who had drowned in 1953 in the Williamsburg Canal whose headstone I had photographed. His heroic story is basically unknown, yet despite having little to do with the town, he is buried in St. John's Anglican Cemetery on Toronto Road.
John Fanya, Jackie to friends, was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1936 and had four younger sisters. Apparently it was not a happy household, with the father being absent for long periods of time. I had been supposedly contacted by John Fanya's oldest sister, who told me the family lore of John's death. My own experience having shown that family lore can not be relied on,
on a whim, I decided to investigate. To my surprise, I found an account of the accident that confirmed most of what she had related.
In the late '40s, John was sent to a boy's orphanage and never saw any of his family again. In 1953, he joined the RCN and during training at Stadacona, Halifax, met Ron Lax of Port Hope. He apparently made several friends during basic training and upon completion of that training, Ron invited John to spend his thirty-day leave with him at his parent's home in Port Hope, rather than being alone.
The Lax family really enjoyed this orphan and told him to consider the Lax home as his. While in town, he met a girl named Gail, whose family seemed to be equally impressed with this young man. John also was often seen at the Lion's pool on Gifford Street.
At about 11pm on July 30th, both sailors boarded the second section of the Colonial Bus Lines coach headed for Montreal, to return to Stadacona, Ron near the front and John in the back. The first section had been filled to capacity, and when the second section pulled in, it had only one seat available. Then fate intervened when a passenger suffered a heart attack, and was sent to Port Hope Hospital on Ward Street.
Early newspaper accounts suggest that earlier that day, a patient named Max Roodman was released from a mental institution near Toronto. It appears that that time element was incorrect as testimony at a trial in Cornwall would indicate otherwise. After side swiping a police vehicle, he was let go and proceeded east only to side swipe another vehicle in Newcastle. Finally, in Brockville, Mr. Roodman hit another police vehicle and again after questioning, was released. About a mile west of Morrisburg, Mr. Roodman stopped his small truck in the East bound lane, turned out the lights and went to sleep, or so said the early newspaper reports.
However, it seems from the court testimony that Mr. Roodman's vehicle was in a state of disrepair and was experiencing problems with it's ignition system. While a couple of truck drivers helped get the truck operating again, it continually sputtered and then died. One trucker reported that he noticed that the coil was fastened with tape and not secured to the block with any other type of fastener. Several vehicles narrowly missed the darkened truck and a couple even reported it to the OPP.
One driver turned around in order to put flares on the highway marking the hazard and a police cruiser was nearing the stopped truck, but neither vehicle had reached the scene when the Colonial bus rounded the corner at about 4:30am. Mr. Roodman was probably outside his vehicle at this time, not inside it. Partially due to a standing regulation of the bus lines, the driver, Lorne Cheesbrough, was unable to avoid the darkened truck. After the collision, both vehicles went down the embankment and entered the Williamsburg Canal.
Since they could not open the escape door, Ron Lax, not realizing that they were in water, kicked out the rear window and escaped with a couple of girls he was sitting with at the time. John Fanya exited the bus through a window and brought three people to shore. He then went back a fourth time and dove down, the canal being twenty feet deep, and tried to assist another passenger to escape the wreck. He did not resurface, but drowned in his attempt to help.
Ron Lax was present went the bus was dragged from the canal and his friend's body was removed. According to emergency people at the scene, John's body was found in what appeared to be an attempt to push a woman through the window. A man, probably in desperation, had his hand closed on one of the sailor's trouser legs.
Gail's father, upon learning of John's death, drove to Morrisburg and made funeral arrangements. He also purchased a lot in St. John's Anglican Cemetery, where the funds came from is unknown, and a military honour guard was present at the funeral. It is erroneously reported in the paper that John was interred in Gail's parents' family plot.
The first report of the accident that I located was printed in the 21st of July 1953 edition of the Lethbridge Herald. Similar reports were found in different newspapers both in Canada and the US, all more or less confirming the family lore. I reported my findings to the contact and also told the story to Peter Bolton. Peter took it upon himself to go to the Port Hope Public Library and looked up eight pages of the Evening Guide that contained reports of this tragic accident. He forwarded copies to both my contact and myself.
I also found an interview with the bus driver and the investigating police officer done forty years later. Both are now deceased as is Gail. The one thing that continues to pique my interest is that at Mr. Roodman's trial in Cornwall, a young man by the name of Arthur Boundy claimed to have identified Mr. Fanya's remains. Mr. Boundy claimed to have known John for about five years and had lived in Manitoba and Hamilton. How is it that Mr. Boundy was in Morrisburg at that time, since he was not on the passenger list.
Since this accident had taken place over sixty-five years before, I held little hope of finding any survivors. And then I located Ron Lax. When contacted and told that the call was about something that happened a long time ago, Ron immediately knew that it was about the bus accident. After we had talked for a while about what had happened, I told Ron that I was in contact with one of John's sisters. Arrangements were then made for a telephone call and subsequently a visit.
By this time I had learned that the contact was not John's sister, but rather his niece, who would call her mother and discuss with her what had been turned up each time I gave an update.
In June, I had the privilege of meeting both Barbara Borden (Fanya) and her daughter Stacey in the Tim Horton's on Toronto Road, where I was having coffee with Ron Shortreed and his and my wife, Cathy. Took them to see the grave, Barbara although she attended the funeral, really had no idea where her brother was buried. I also drove them to the house where the Lax family had lived on Julia Street and then to where Gail's family had lived on Cavan Street, at the bottom of Bedford. After showing them a few other places, we took off to meet Mr. Lax.
Ron now lived in Courtice and he had fond memories and even kept pictures of his friend, which he graciously gave to John's surviving sister. It is my impression that Ron was anxious to tell his story after such a long time. He gave details of the accident that I had not seen in the papers and although I had many questions, Cathy and I both excused ourselves so that Ron and Barbara could talk. After all, this was for them, not us. Ron was to pass away less than a month later before I had a chance to meet with him again.
At his trial, Mr. Roodman was described by his brother, a physician, as having the mental capacity of a twelve year old. It was also brought out, that Mr. Roodman had tried and failed his driver's test five times before finally passing it. The condition of the truck, which Max had apparently just purchased, was also on stage at the trial. The investigating police officer stated that when he first examined the truck, he noted that the coil was loose with only tape holding it in place. Mr. Roodman was sentenced to be returned to a mental institution.
Twenty people perished in this accident and eighteen were saved. At the time, it was the worst bus disaster ever reported in Canada. It was reported world wide: Port Hope Evening Guide, Ogdensbeurg Free Press, New York Times, Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Herald and numerous other papers including some in Europe. This story has so many ifs, and if just one of then had not occurred, perhaps this tragedy never would have as well.
John Fanya was a hero, probably not the only one that day, who has not been fully recognized for his heroic efforts that cost him his life. No medals were awarded as there were none at the time for civilian deeds, and those created in 1972 by the Federal Government are time sensitive. John Fanya has been alone in his grave for sixty-five years, and has had no advocate.
At seventeen, John Fanya gave up his life trying to help others in need. While he was in uniform at the time, his heroics fall in the public's domain, not the military. But even the military should be proud of this sailor who, when the call was made and in the best tradition of the military, answered it.
Personally, I have asked the town council to put his name on the list of street names. Surely, this is not too much to ask for. Perhaps, in an effort to adopt this orphan, the town could also declare July 31st. John Fanya Day.