Writing conversation

Even in Portsmouth
by
John McKenty

Part one 

I was born in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1948, but moved with my family to the village of Portsmouth shortly after it was annexed by the city of Kingston in 1952. It was a union, I later discovered, given little attention by the villagers who went about their daily lives as if they were still a recognizable entity unto themselves.

While Portsmouth, with a scant population of five hundred, had the usual small-town amenities, such as a grocery store, a drug store and a barber shop, it also had two rather rowdy hotels and two maximum security prisons, one for the men and one for the women. Many a parent in the village reminded their male off-spring that staying too long in the former could result in a stay in the latter.

With the prisons standing as a stark reminder of what can happen when one’s life goes astray, it was around this same that Kingston building contractor Harold Harvey, troubled by the frequent sight of children playing in the streets or just hanging around with nothing to do, founded the Church Athletic League, an organization that offered youngsters the opportunity to play recreational hockey, softball, basketball and bowling.

The one stipulation was that all participants must attend church or Sunday school 80 per cent of the time. Based on his belief that “a child brought up in church is seldom brought up in court,” the Church Athletic League was Harvey’s valiant attempt to set the youngsters of Portsmouth and the city, as a whole, in the right direction.

When the Church Athletic League began its first season of hockey in 1951, it had 100 boys registered. From there the number grew at a rapid rate causing Harvey to come up with a plan for a new outdoor rink to be built-in the old quarry in Portsmouth, the same site where inmates from the men’s maximum security prison had once hammered limestone into building blocks. It was here where hard labour had once been intended to teach the incorrigible about the error of their ways, that young boys were now to learn the rules of fairness, co-operation and team work.

Part two, next Tuesday

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