Well, here it is! This is my 80th December since being Christened in a bath tub in a second floor flat way back in 1932.
What a magnificent event at a time when the Great Depression was in full swing and breakfast consisted of two slices of bread cubed and milked with a sparse sprinkling of sugar.
Man, I had to have been born at the worst period of time in Canadian history. Dad out of work at Firestone, no welfare cheques those days so you had to make do with what ever you could scratch up.
For Dad that meant doing odd jobs and selling his hand-painted satin pillow cushions with beautiful roses adorning them. Because of help from old friends, we managed to keep a little food on the table, but very little else.
Turning 80 now, I often reflect on people who made a difference in my life, some good and some bad. I watch the Spectator every day, checking out the “hatch, match and dispatch” columns to see who was born, married and died. Often times I find yet another old friend or acquaintance who is staring up at the wrong side of the grass and wonder, “Who’s next — me?”
Over my lifetime, just like you, I have met hundreds of people, some coworkers, others from various societies that I have belonged to. I remember going to a school reunion at Adelaide Hoodless elementary school. It was there that I entered kindergarten and was forced to sit in a circle with a group of giggling girls, whom I hated at that time.
Dear old Mrs. Robb made life bearable for me and I loved her dearly as did all the other kids. Despite having her dress pulled up at the back with a dozen thumbtacks placed on her seat, she knew well the pranks that little rascals pulled and paid no attention, taking the fun right out of it.
Corsets saved her!
Then there was Blinkey Gardiner and Mud Fathergill, two old switchmen on the Stelco Railroad that I spent years on. In their coveralls, railroad caps and homemade cigarettes hanging from their lips, they presented a most hilarious duo.
Blinkey built a shack by trackside in the winter which the yardmaster repeatedly tore down. Undaunted, old Blinkey patched together yet another one out of spite. Blinkey was a Mountain boy and sold Christmas trees at Upper Gage and Fennell for years. Close pals, they rode a donkey into the Plantation House one night just for fun. Another dear friend I’ll never forget was Justice George Yates.
As a sheriff’s deputy, I escorted him into landlord and tenant court to hear the case of a woman who found cockroaches in her kitchen. Addressing the judge, she plunked a bottle of the live critters down on the clerks desk.
The judge drew back and asked, “Madame, why didn’t you kill the bugs before bringing them here?” The woman, obviously bolstered by her evidence replied, “ Well, yer highness, if ya kills one, then 10 comes to the funeral.”
With that, the judge and I, both having to restrain laughter, left the courtroom. Once in chambers we caved in to howls of laughter.
These are but a few of my best memories and I invite all of you to look back and lighten up. December, a time to remember those long gone!
Mountain historian Colwyn Beynon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.