Tuesday, October 4, 2016


There are just a few things that I do not share with Christine and this is one of them. Well actually there were two other times as well - identical situation. If I told her about this she would have more concern over my failing memory, and there is no need to worry her. I mean it. She can't even watch a blue Jays game like tonight's against Baltimore. So why tell her that I almost lost my KOBO. I love my KOBO eReader. I take it to the gym each morning. In a black cover it is almost invisible when the cover is closed on the stationary bike, or the elliptical machine. Yes, I packed up and came home without it. What are the chances that it would still be there, specially when this is the third time that I have done this. The first time I asked the attendant and was surprised that someone had turned it in for me. The second time it was still on the machine when I returned for it. This morning I came to the attendant and confessed, "I have done this before … and she quickly disappeared to retrieve from her desk, my KOBO, kindly deposited there by an honest person. Okay this is chronic. I need to tape a bright, "TAKE ME," on the cover.  

Saturday, October 1, 2016


I read and I write. I spend hours each day reading, news, blogs, articles. I have a Kobo and read on the gym stationary bike, treadmill and elliptical machine. I enjoy diverse genre. Fiction is an escape with espionage, crime thrillers. I find when a good script is converted to film, an increase in sex, violence and profanities occurs. Recently I have watched some good and bad movies on YouTube. I am not happy with the fermentation of dialogue in my psyche. I find my dreams and morning waking mind filled with distasteful language, vulgarities, profanities that I never use. And at my age I ponder a day when losing my marbles my mind will seize on language convenient to recall, and I will spout expletives at my family and caregivers. I am convinced that my proportion of wholesome written and visual input must increase. I am making an effort. I am more discerning and I am prioritizing refinement, spirituality, and unpolluted prose. I pulled the apostle Paul close to me and he whispered something he told believers in Philippi, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." That's what I am doing. (Phil 4:8)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

boyhood sketch 21. FOR MY BOYS

Dad worked hard. He finished grade eleven in the small Saskatchewan town of Hepburn where he was born. He had owned his own gas station (called service stations then), and he and mom owned and operated a coffee shop. They moved to St. Catharines, Ontario in 1947. Several large manufacturing companies employed thousands and wages were better than anything in the West, and furthermore, my mom's family already lived in the city. Assembly line work was strenuous and often exhaustingly hot. Air conditioning was unheard of in those years. From our Clark Street home, Dad walked thirty long city blocks to work at Anthes Imperial, a furnace assembly factory. Dad tried several jobs, starting on the smelter, a wickedly hot job even in winter. In summer it was intolerable. Ringing wet at the end of a shift, Dad would walk home in the late afternoon humidity and heat. Arriving, he would remove his T-shirt and ring it out. As a child I never thought about this or regarded it seriously. Much later as an adult, having done some hard labour, I understood dad's family investment. When all three sons were adult and dad was nearing retirement after forty years of physical labour on an assembly line, we asked why he stuck at something like that. He replied in a manner that humbled us forever, "I did it for my boys."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Theatre still stands but it’s closed
My dad worked for Anthes Imperial, a furnace manufacturer. He was one of hundreds of assembly line workers. Salaries were meagre yet one of the employee bonuses Anthes Execs offered for families was an annual Christmas Party, a December invitation to Lincoln Theatre on St. Paul Street. There we would watch a Christmas flick and then every employee's child's name was read out and an age appropriate gift given on stage by none other than the fattest Anthes Santa they could find. Murray had beautiful curly white-blond hair and sitting on Santa's knee he was asked his name. In his sweet boy voice he replied, "Murray." Santa and his helper misheard the name and gave Murray a present. We didn't open the gifts until we got home. When Murray opened his, he found a dainty toy Tea Set, cups & saucers & teapot. He was not pleased.

Queenstown Heights Restaurant & Brock’s Monument
The other Anthes gimme was the annual Factory Summer Picnic held at Queenston Heights. Races and other contests were organized for children, three legged races, and wheel-barrow races (dads holding their kids legs and the kids scrabbling with their hands to a finish line), and sack hops. I loved it because I was fast and competitive enough to come home with prizes. The Factory also provided drinks and foods, ice cream and watermelon.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

boyhood sketch 21. HALLOWEEN HAUL

Mom sewed these garments

It was Murray and me. Neale had not yet arrived. I was ten and Murray was five. Household money was not spent on frivolity such as costumes. Halloween was what we kids made it. We were originals. We used cardboard boxes, fabrics, watercolour paint. That's the best that could be said. Families around our home were as poor as we were. They drop donuts and homemade stuff in our bags. We wanted candy, expensive candy. This year we asked Dad to drive us a few blocks, first to the streets around Montebello Park and then to the Glenridge area, posh homes, gleaming luxury cars. Dad dropped us off and parked and waited for us. We rang doorbells and at each home a stylishly dressed man or women greeted us, invited us inside, looked us over, and sometimes asked us if we could sing. Could we sing? We'd confidently answer "sure." What songs did we know? We were Sunday School kids. I would harmonize a tenor with Murray's little boy soprano. "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…." We'd sing the entire song and the people would applaud, stunned by the pure sound. They loaded our bags with great Halloween gifts. Within a few blocks we had more than we could carry and we'd ask Dad to take us home.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

boyhood sketch 20. BUM IN THE BOX

Behind the buildings that front along St. Paul Street, were messy looking lots for parking and garbage bins and storage. Further behind, the forested hillsides led down to the old canal. Vagrants, hoboes we called them, street people as we know them today, lived back there, among the bushes, under the stilt building additions, and anywhere else that provided shelter. On one of our foraging, exploration days, we came behind a store where there was a large rectangular wooden box with a wooden cover. It measured approximately eight feet long by four feet high and three feet deep. We heard sounds inside the box. That fascinated us. We were talking to each other as kids do, excited and scared. An animal might be inside, but what kind of animal. We wanted to find out. I approached, ready to open the lid. Suddenly the lid " went up and a man sat up inside the box. We could see that he as sitting on blankets and clothing. He had an open can of beans in one hand and a spoon in the other. He said, "Do you want some beans." We were startled and said, "no thanks." We asked, "Do you live in there?” Dressed in a heavy wool overcoat and torque, he said, "Yep. It's cozy.” We used to refer to these guys as bums, hobos, rubbydubs. Never after that. I had a new respect for these people. Survivors they were. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

boyhood sketch 19. LEATHER MOUNTAIN

Bicycles got us anywhere and everywhere. We explored everything. Life for a kid on a bike was fantastic. St. Catharines is known for the canal systems that for the past two hundred years have joined Lakes Erie and Ontario and provided arteries for the shipment of goods. Four distinct canal systems operated during those years, each larger and more sophisticated than the previous ones. A very old and unused version once ran behind St. Paul Street, the mai
n artery in downtown St. Catharines. The stores, apartments and factories that fronted on St. Paul Street all had rear accesses, storage and garbage and parking areas. One of the businesses was a leather goods store. All manner of leather products were made there, jackets, belts, bags, shoes. Behind it, over the years, a discard of leather scraps had grown into a hill twenty feet tall. We found it. We, meaning my friends and me. We climbed it, rolled down it, picked through it, and scared the rats from underneath it. From it we made our own leather bracelets, knife sheaths, and leather pads for sling shots.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

boyhood sketch 18.SECOND CONE

R. to L. Murray, Dad & Me
My father loved ice cream, not inordinately, merely a great deal. When I was a child, an ice cream cone was a rare treat. My father never had a lot of discretionary cash in pocket. Times were difficult for a factory laborer. Dad share his ice cream pleasure with whomever was with him. One night Dad and I had walked uptown to St. Paul Street for an ice cream cone, ten cents, two scoops. Two blocks away from the store I was still savouring the remaining scoop when my dad, his cone already gone, stopped, looked at me and said, "that tastes like more. What do you think?" I responded as enthusiastically as I could to cover my surprise. We turned and I hurriedly finished my cone. We arrived at the ice cream store to a smiling ice cream shop owner. Dad said, "We will each have another cone." As the years went by ice cream was increasingly present. My mother worked at Avondale Dairy, which to everyone in the Niagara area was a go to place for cones and sundaes and shakes. As grandchildren came along, he loved to treat them. Following his death at age 93, my brother Murray suggested that his three sons and their families in Ontario and British Columbia, honour Dad’s birthday and memory each March 8th, with an Ice Cream Cone Day. In B.C. the practice is dessert before main course, and with several tubs of flavours, as many cones as you like is the rule. Grandchildren who never met Dad, love him.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

boyhood sketch 17. MIDNIGHT HOCKEY MADNESS

St. Catharines Teepees 1953-54 Memorial Cup Winners
The St. Catharines Teepees were our city junior A hockey team. They were a strong and competitive team for many years and gave local citizens so many occasions for celebration. But 1953-54 was our first Memorial Cup Championship year.

I was usually in bed by 9 pm but occasionally if the hockey broadcast on CKTB, 610 on the dial was still in progress, dad would let me to stay up to listen with him. It was after 10 o'clock and the Teepees were behind by three goals in a playoff game. Suddenly dad said, "okay let's go to the game." I was dressed in thirty seconds and we walked, from 10 Clark Street to Rex Stimers Arena. Admission prices were $1, $2, $2.50. We walked just about everywhere in those days. When we arrived we got in for free because of the late hour. Teepees scored once, so the deficit was two goals. Time wore down. Maybe five minutes remained. Dad gave up hope and wanted to get me home. We walked, to the ice cream store of coarse. There the owner said "Teepees just tied the score. Dad said, "We're going back." We arrived at the arena in time to see the overtime period. With the score tied, Teepees scored the triumphant winning goal.  And I got to bed after midnight, happier than can be. It was a bid deal for an eleven year old. (Teepees were the 1953-54 Eastern Canadian Champions beating Quebec Frontenacs in six games and I was eleven years old. This advanced them to the Memorial Cup against the Edmonton Oil Kings whom they beat in five games, 4 wins no losses, and one tie for which there was no overtime deciding formula.)
Memorial Cup Trophy

boyhood sketch 16. CRANE OPERATOR

My dad worked at Anthes Imperial, manufacturer of furnaces. He began in the foundry, and moved to a couple of assembly line positions, until he was asked to fill in as an overhead crane operator. He had been doing this for a few weeks when I asked him whether I could come to watch. It meant that I would ride my bike several long blocks, perhaps two miles, to his factory yard, hide my bike and peek through a chain link fence at a distance. I could see Dad in the all glass crane cab one hundred feet above the ground. He moved the crane along overhead beams picking up and setting down large pieces of steel. As I watched him, I noticed him beckoning to me. I couldn't believe it. He was looking around to see if anyone was watching and then he motioned for me to come. I quickly found a low spot under the fence where I could crawl to the other side. I cautiously looked for a clear moment and then I ran hard to the foot of the crane, climbed the gigantic ladder all the way to the cab. Dad told me to crouch on the floor. He continued to work. My entire crane experience lasted perhaps twenty minutes and Dad told me to carefully, attentively climb down the ladder, sneak back out of the yard and go home. I was ecstatic. It was like a booster shot of bonding with my dad.