Tuesday, August 30, 2016

boyhood sketch 2. RUSSIAN RENTERS

My home was at 10 Clark Street, a two-story rental. Mom and Dad and Murray, five years my junior, and I lived on the main floor. We rented the top floor to Mary Pankratz and her sister Elizabeth. Mary's daughter Betty was a four years older than me. They were religious people. In fact they attended the same church that we did, perhaps because mom and dad recommended it to them. They had not been in Canada very long when they came to live at our house. Their stories of persecution in Russia captivated me. Mary's right elbow was misshapen. A bone protruded noticeably. She let me feel the large bone covered with skin. She said that a soldier on horseback had charged at her, slamming her into a wall. These friends were quiet and pleasant. I liked all three of them. I remember that we shared an occasional meal together. Particularly on special days and seasons, Mom made enough food for everyone in our building to enjoy. ( the green house was our house. It seemed so much larger when I was a child)

Monday, August 29, 2016

boyhood sketch 1. FIRST TV ON THE BLOCK

I remember the boy that I was, and the life I lived. In a series of daily sketches I now recall the years from 1949-1956 when I was ages 7-13 in St. Catharines. Ontario. The stories are all true. 

I wouldn't trade my childhood for one with all the electronics today. I had a bike. I had imagination. I had a local library. I had really tall trees in my yard. I had friends on my street. We lived in simple homes on Clark Street. We were happy. We didn’t have a television but Eddie McArthy did. He lived three houses up the street on the other side. Neighbourhood kids were allowed inside to watch Sagebrush Trail, Howdy Doody and Hopalong Cassidy before supper. After about an hour when Mrs. McArthy called Eddie to the table, we knew it was time to go home. Ronnie & Jerry Barr, Joey Daniels, my brother Murray, and me never overstayed. On a couple of occasions Mrs. McArthy asked us whether we would like to stay for supper. Murray and I declined. We were certain that what our mom would prepare was far better than what we saw on Eddie's supper table.

Monday, August 1, 2016


Brenda Alberts, the owner of the Birthplace of B.C. Gallery in Fort Langley, has died. She passed away peacefully late Monday after a brief struggle with cancer. She championed the work of local artists. We grieve with her husband Kurt and his family. A celebration of Brenda Albert’s life will be held on Thursday, Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. at Christian Life Assembly, 21277 56 Ave, Langley. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Langley Hospice. (Photo by Roxanne Hooper, Langley Advance) - Gallery website:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


CRAIG HILL NEEDS OUR HELP - I write out of concern for Craig Hill, founder and editor of The Valley Voice News.  Craig also has a Facebook presence. As you know he is a friend and advocate to Chilliwack and the Upper Fraser Valley providing without cost, both news coverage of area events and advertisement space to local businesses.  He needs immediate help from his community ASAP. On short notice he is being forced out of an apartment in which he has lived as a model tenant for twenty years. He has exhausted appeals and not having found another affordable living space, his apartment contents will be removed to the street on Sunday July 31st, 2016 at 1:00 PM. That is days from now. This is worrying in the extreme. Craig is 60 years old, on disability following a truck accident that injured his legs but is mobile. The stress may have contributed to recent petite and grand mal seizures. This friend needs help, to find him a place to live preferably in Chilliwack area. He has appealed to friends, acquaintances and the community at large for leads to rental apartment. Can you inform Craig of a temporary lodging or a permanent living space? He is fine man and a good tenant.

You can reach Craig by EMAIL or by telephone 604-392-NEWS (6397).

Friday, July 22, 2016



I grew up with thunder
Boyhood storms with claps and flashes
Warm summer squalls and autumn tempests
Charmed by the pelting cadence
Then the flare and counting, one, two, three
A jolt of cannon fire,
Shaking glass, cracking trees
Then silence in the rainy land
To which I moved years ago
Where thunder is seldom heard
But for this morning
Five o'clock, the rush of rain outside
And surprisingly the welcome sound
Of thunder.

© JULY 22, 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016



She was a Christian in a Mennonite community and her faith was sincere. She met Edward Richard Unruh, four years older than she. He was a good young man, balding but handsome with a dark pencil mustache, a pleasant voice, and a constant whistle. He was not a Christian, that is, he had not made a public profession of faith as many in his community had done. She married him anyway. In the town of Hepburn, Saskatchewan in 1941, that decision carried a stigma. It was an unequal yoke. Perhaps it was the prohibitive cost of a wedding gown but more likely it was because it was considered inappropriate for her, therefore, to wear white, that she was appareled for her wedding day in a pink dress and matching pink hat.

Dad was a singular man. The tunes he whistled in downtown Hepburn (Main Street), were secular tunes, dance band tunes. World War II broke out, and Canada became involved as a member nation of the British Commonwealth. Hepburn’s dominant Mennonite community held a pacifist position. Dad, in contrast, felt that his father had emigrated to Canada from a Mennonite settlement in Russian held Crimea, and Canada was now the family home where freedom reigned, so he enlisted. I was born on September 13, 1942, and Dad was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. When the war was over, employment was scarce in a prairie town, so dad operated a service station (gas), and mom and dad together began a coffee shop, with a reputation for great pies. That comes as no surprise to anyone who remembers mom’s reputation for baking and cooking.

When I was four years old and with mom pregnant again, it became apparent that opportunity for the family did not exist in Hepburn. Non-farming prairie families were moving either west to the coast or to Ontario. Dad and mom decided to go east. Mom’s parents had already made the move to St. Catharines, and that is where our home was made. Job opportunity for an unskilled worker like dad and the urgent need for an income to support his family meant taking a factory job, first at Ontario Paper Mills, then Thompson Products pumping our GM parts, and then for over 40 years at Anthes Imperial that produced furnaces. He had a few different tasks in that company but most of his years until he was 65 he was on an assembly line, up and down, from his knees to standing position, screwing in metal parts. He was a hard worker and his sons, all three of us respected him.

I said, three sons. Murray was born in 1947, the year of the move from the West to St. Catharines. I turned five years of age six years after Murray was born. Neale, the youngest came later, when I was eleven and Murray was six. He was born after we moved from a St. Paul St. third-floor apartment to Rosedale Gardens in a rental home owned by Ken Grimwood. Finally, we were settled at 10 Clark Street in a rental home next to the old St. Catharines Bus yards that contained old maintenance and storage barns and train tracks and trains and streetcars. So that two story brick house was the home to which Neale came after his delivery in St. Catharines General Hospital.

I mentioned that we respected our father, each of us for our own personal reasons and also for shared reasons. When the three of us were grown men, we asked him why he had stuck with that same hard physical job all those years, and his response humbles me still. “I did it for my boys.”

Such was the loving motivation of a family man. Nothing else needs to be said to explain him.

There was an unsubstantiated rumor that Mom lost a pregnancy several years after Neale was born and this time it had been twin girls.

My mom and dad loved each other for all of their 67 years together. There were occasional differences of opinion between them, but I cannot remember a time that my father raised his voice in anger at my mom. When I was ten years old, my father went to an evening church meeting on his own and it was on that occasion that he did make a conclusive choice to accept Jesus as his own personal Saviour and LORD. Dad was not a theologian but he tried to understand scripture and he sought to live by its principles. Their dependability and authenticity most certainly affected their three sons, each of the three sons became involved in Christian service.

A legacy is cherished by those who survive the predeceased. What did my parents leave behind? After purchasing their first home for $10,000 in 1954, when dad was 39 and mom was 35, and living in it for 40 years, they sold it in 1985 for $65,000 when dad was 70. They then lived off of that money and government pensions for another 23 years, enjoying winters in Florida and trips to the West Coast where I have lived  1991. Still, when the estate was settled, dad left $39,000 to his sons – incredible.    

Saturday, June 11, 2016


I have been busily engaged in so many other places than here. Life is full.

I have American friends, some of whom support Trump. This is actually what an American friend wrote today. "How to consider Trump. Learn to listen with a filter. Filter out the noise and only attend and hear the content. You will like what you now hear."

            To which I said, "I was wondering how my friends arrived at peace with a Trump endorsement. A filter, that's it. A filter to filter out Trumpisms. A filter that delivers only authentic policy.  The downside is that the filter is effective for only pre-election months, after which it becomes reality-degradable. Alas, the filter cannot eliminate the toxicities of the true Trump. The seeming unalloyed policy will be serviced by an unfiltered oval office occupant.
            Further, hindsight will reveal that the personal cost of filter development was enormous for the otherwise conscientious voter. A case could also be made for a Hillary filter. It would require entirely different criteria and variables. It may even require greater effort and filtration to endorse another Clinton.

            When the campaigns began, every voter employed a filter. As candidates fell away, filters became more complex to impede the contaminants so voters could be comfortable with remaining candidates. Until we are here, with a choice between two residual candidates that demands that voters delude themselves."

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


We eat cones of ice cream on March 8 each year in tribute to my father. My brother Murray began this tradition a few years ago.

Ed Unruh loved ice cream. I was ten years old when he took me to a junior hockey game. On our walk home we stopped in at an ice cream parlour and he bought us each a cone. We had no sooner reached the corner of the block when he was finished his cone, looked at me and said, "That cone tastes like more," so we turned around and went back for a second cone. So we emphasize more. Kids can dip their own, and more than one.

He loved Ice Cream. It was an inexpensive treat in the old days. A triple scoop cost .25, yes, twenty-five cents. My mom worked the counter at Avondale Dairy one year which served the family well. Into his senior years when we visited one another and we were en route anywhere, ice cream signage caught his attention, and he would suggest that we stop. No one objected.

Edward Richard Unruh was my dad. Born to immigrant Mennonite refugees from Crimea, Ukraine in 1915 and bestowed with English given names to mark his new homeland.  Proudly Canadian, in 1942 my father enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force while living within a pacifist culture. I was an infant. He and mom raised three of us, all sons. He had acquired a grade eleven education but no skilled trade. He earned a living using his body. He was 5 feet six inches in height but in his youth and into his forties he was a strong man. After his post WWII departure from the prairies, he found employment in Ontario factories, staying with one company for well over forty years until his retirement. He worked on an assembly line at Anthes Imperial building furnaces in St. Catharines. His three sons grew up, received educations and were able to move forward. At about his forty year mark in the company, we three asked him, "Dad, why did you stay there doing that hard work for all those years?" His reply was, "I did it for my boys." He aspired to little more than being a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good worker and a good friend. He was a man with a simple faith in God. He read the Bible. He trusted preachers. He raised three boys who became preachers/missionaries. He loved us, and he loved our wives and he loved our children, and he loved his great-grandchildren.  His legacy entails far more than a love for ice cream.