Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

April 25, 2017

Even in Portsmouth

by

John McKenty

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 standings 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 percent of the time.  Based on his belief that ”a child brought up in church is seldom brought up short,” 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.

It would be the summer of 1960 that the Harold Harvey Arena was constructed at 42 Church Street, directly across from where my family lived.  Being close at hand it wasn’t long before my two brothers and I became ”rink-rats” at the venerable old arena which began life as an open-air affair, before eventually being closed in.

As rink rats our job was to sign the team in and out and collect their rental fee and then at the end of the day to clear the ice of snow and put on a fresh flood for the next day’s activities.  When there was public skating, we were to don the official rink sweaters and go out on the ice in a bid to impress the girls and to discourage the boys from playing tag.

In exchange for our meager efforts we were given free ice time and a bit of money.  With the money I made, I saved up to buy my first set of CCM ”Tacks”, the skate of the pros, the skate of my dreams.  Unfortunately, the price of my dreams was always greater than the size of my savings and, as a result, my first pair of ”Tacks” turned out to be a used set.  They were beat-up and far too small, but it didn’t matter.  They were ”Tacks” and I was going to cram my feet into them no matter what.

Back in those days, everyone in Portsmouth had their skates sharpened at Baiden’s Hardware, a retail operation overseen by Henry Baiden and his younger brother Bill.  The only problem, according to the villagers, was that Bill knew how to sharpen skates correctly, but Henry, on the other hand, didn’t.  Thus, before anyone took their skates I to be done, they peered cautiously around the corner of the store’s front window to ensure that Henry was busy, while Bill wasn’t.

It was a ritual I followed faithfully for I didn’t want just anyone messing around with my ”Tacks.”  That’s the way it was back then.  Little did I know back then that my infatuation with my skates would eventually lead me to write a history of the CCM company.  But life can be like that.  You never know what will happen when you follow your passion.  Even in Portsmouth.

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Walter and Victoria Turnbull

April 12, 2017

 

It is an amazing gift for me to watch this silent footage of my parent’s wedding, July 25th 1929 at Donlands Farm. The farm stretched way back to the Don River from Don Mills Road, then a two-lane country road on the eastern edge of Toronto.

It is such fun to see all the guests arriving in their distinctive Twenties outfits.

There is my dad, Walter Turnbull, serenely happy standing beside his bride, Victoria Turnbull. As a young man he was quite a rebel. At Stoney Lake in Ontario, he would go out in the family canoe alone, give a great war-whoop and fall overboard backwards just to scare his poor mother. There was one apple tree in the backyard at the home of his parents in Peterborough, Ontario where his dad owned the local hardware store. When the Baptist minister opened the basket of apples from Mr Turnbull, he found an indignant bite had been taken out of each one.

Later my dad and his brothers built an orphanage in India during the great famine. His first wife died in childbirth after their return on the long voyage home from India. He went on foot through South America looking for locations for missions, then became Dean of men at Nyack, the headquarters of the Christian Missionary Alliance.

My grandmother still could not quite believe that this famous man — who had spoken from platforms across the US and Canada – was about to marry her rebel daughter Victoria, who wanted to wear bloomers on Sunday of all things. Grandmother, whom we see in her distinctive peaked hat, insisted the wedding be a quiet one, out at the farm, no white dress or long train for this bride. The minimum of fuss, which suited my mother to a T. Later my grandmother would go three times on that long ocean voyage to India, where she was supporting medical services for women, along with her surgeon-daughter, my aunt Evelyn.

We also catch glimpses in the film of my uncle Russell, then still a stockbroker in New York, dapper uncle Murray and their brother Goldie. There are the blissfully engaged couple, Agnes, my aunt, and her fiancée Eric Bentley.

A very special moment in time. My parents spent their honeymoon in Quebec, part of it on the Peribonka River, which later provided the name for their cottage on Lake Simcoe, where I enjoyed many happy days as a child. Mother and Dad made their home in Nyack, New York where they bought a house, and Dad continued his work as the much-loved teacher who thought nothing of the occasional pillow-fight with his students. He had found a whole radio station on a Russian ship, established it in New York, and used it to broadcast a message of faith, hope and love to South America.

Faith, Hope and Love – these themes resonate for me as I watch this film — this eternal moment in time. This footage is the closest I have ever come to seeing my dad alive, as others saw him. Ten months later, my mother was four months pregnant with me when she received the news in the middle of the night that dad had been killed instantly in a car crash.

At crucial times in my life I have felt his presence. Most notable was an occasion when I was suddenly called on to speak to a large and intimidating audience in England following my husband Neil. Shaking in my boots, I walked up the steps to the platform. Suddenly I knew exactly how dad felt — as though I was standing in his shoes. I was able to handle the microphone with ease, and was told afterwards I had riveted my audience.

Not long ago, I was shown a letter that my mother wrote her brother Goldie at the time of dad’s death. In it she wrote of her determination not to go under, and her sense of a spiritual strength being given. She ended with the words “grateful beyond measure”. I can only repeat those words as I think of the enduring legacy left to me by both my parents, faith, hope and love.

Catharine Fleming McKenty

Writing Conversation

January 24, 2017

The Red Canoe 2

Today on the Writing conversation, a little book by Ross Fleming.

THE RED CANOE

“Climb up on top of that large rock at the head of the rapids” said the young instructor.  “Be sure your life jackets are securely fastened, then jump into the river, and float down face up and feet fist.”  We were terrified.  The water was turbulent, and there were a number of rocks.  We avoided calamity as we were carried down the rapids, and climbed out on the shore, exhilarated.  Having passed our first test, we were then allowed to get into ourcanoe and begin to learn the fundamentals of whitewater canoeing.

Thus began our lifelong afection for our new red canvas covered wooden canoe.  It began life 63 years ago in Fredericton, where its ribs and planks were carved from the cedar trees of the New Brunswick forest.  Made by hand, it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.  So aesthetically pleasing, and so responsive.  It survived the trip by Canadian Pacific Railway from Fredericton to our home in Toronto.  Over the years, it has trained and carried three generaation of Femings on many, many happy trips in Ontario’s northern lakes and river.

Like the snakes of the northern woods, our red canoe has shed and re-grown many skins, but always the same colour.  Like we, its family, it has survived broken ribs ans planks, all repaired and replaced by skilled and loving craftmanship.  All of which has enhanced our mutual affection. It understands us and we understand it.  It protects us, and we protect it.

My daughter’s poem reads:

This is my dad, happy,

In a canoe, long legs tossed out before him,

Arms paddling like legs walk.

The stories it could tell.  At the cottage, my elderly mother would appear at sunrise, banana in one hand and fishing rod in the pther, seat herself on the bottom of the canoe, her oldest son paddling and removing fish from her hook, the fish destined for breakfast.  Mother-son, son-mother love.  Our red canoe has patiently taught us how the relationship between bow and stern whitewater paddles provides an ideal model for married couple – no one person in cherge, each skillfully playing his/her own role, but respecting and depending on each other’s part.

The canoe connect us to Mother Earth, from which we cam and to which we must return.  Last summer our beloved red canoe carried Patricia’s ashes to be returned to the wilderness whence she came, and which she loved.  Hearing the bagpipe playing across te lake, one could picture Patricia kneeling tall in the bow and paddling strongly, the canoe rising and plunging in high splahing waves in strong wind, joyously calling out ” I LOVE THIS!!”

Since then, our beloved canoe has once again carried its now 88 years old compamion through the wilderness, crossing portages on now younger shoulders, but still enjoying the peace, beauty, freedom and adventure in our land of rocks, trees and lakes and rivers.

The Red Canoe 1

Neil McKenty Memorial Lecture

September 15, 2016

At the 11th Educational Conference on Mental Health on Friday October 28, 2016, there will be the Neil McKenty Memorial Lecture. It will be given by Dr. Anne Hallward and is entitled ‘The Fear of Labelling: Shame & Stigma, Silence and Suicide Among Youth, Adults and Seniors’.

Click below to see Catharine McKenty discuss Neil and mental health before last year’s conference.

Walter and Victoria Turnbull

March 14, 2016

 

It is an amazing gift for me to watch this silent footage of my parent’s wedding, July 25th 1929 at Donlands Farm. The farm stretched way back to the Don River from Don Mills Road, then a two-lane country road on the eastern edge of Toronto.

It is such fun to see all the guests arriving in their distinctive Twenties outfits.

There is my dad, Walter Turnbull, serenely happy standing beside his bride, Victoria Turnbull. As a young man he was quite a rebel. At Stoney Lake in Ontario, he would go out in the family canoe alone, give a great war-whoop and fall overboard backwards just to scare his poor mother. There was one apple tree in the backyard at the home of his parents in Peterborough, Ontario where his dad owned the local hardware store. When the Baptist minister opened the basket of apples from Mr Turnbull, he found an indignant bite had been taken out of each one.

Later my dad and his brothers built an orphanage in India during the great famine. His first wife died in childbirth after their return on the long voyage home from India. He went on foot through South America looking for locations for missions, then became Dean of men at Nyack, the headquarters of the Christian Missionary Alliance.

My grandmother still could not quite believe that this famous man — who had spoken from platforms across the US and Canada – was about to marry her rebel daughter Victoria, who wanted to wear bloomers on Sunday of all things. Grandmother, whom we see in her distinctive peaked hat, insisted the wedding be a quiet one, out at the farm, no white dress or long train for this bride. The minimum of fuss, which suited my mother to a T. Later my grandmother would go three times on that long ocean voyage to India, where she was supporting medical services for women, along with her surgeon-daughter, my aunt Evelyn.

We also catch glimpses in the film of my uncle Russell, then still a stockbroker in New York, dapper uncle Murray and their brother Goldie. There are the blissfully engaged couple, Agnes, my aunt, and her fiancée Eric Bentley.

A very special moment in time. My parents spent their honeymoon in Quebec, part of it on the Peribonka River, which later provided the name for their cottage on Lake Simcoe, where I enjoyed many happy days as a child. Mother and Dad made their home in Nyack, New York where they bought a house, and Dad continued his work as the much-loved teacher who thought nothing of the occasional pillow-fight with his students. He had found a whole radio station on a Russian ship, established it in New York, and used it to broadcast a message of faith, hope and love to South America.

Faith, Hope and Love – these themes resonate for me as I watch this film — this eternal moment in time. This footage is the closest I have ever come to seeing my dad alive, as others saw him. Ten months later, my mother was four months pregnant with me when she received the news in the middle of the night that dad had been killed instantly in a car crash.

At crucial times in my life I have felt his presence. Most notable was an occasion when I was suddenly called on to speak to a large and intimidating audience in England following my husband Neil. Shaking in my boots, I walked up the steps to the platform. Suddenly I knew exactly how dad felt — as though I was standing in his shoes. I was able to handle the microphone with ease, and was told afterwards I had riveted my audience.

Not long ago, I was shown a letter that my mother wrote her brother Goldie at the time of dad’s death. In it she wrote of her determination not to go under, and her sense of a spiritual strength being given. She ended with the words “grateful beyond measure”. I can only repeat those words as I think of the enduring legacy left to me by both my parents, faith, hope and love.

Catharine Fleming McKenty

Tuesday Writing Conversation: A treasure from the 1920’s

March 7, 2016

Here is a repost from May 26, 2015
A treasure to see

Exchange

Note: Footage revised 31/5/2015. It is an amazing gift for me to watch this silent footage of my parent’s wedding, July 25th 1929 at Donlands Farm. The farm stretched way back to the Don River from Don Mills Road, then a two-lane country road on the eastern edge of Toronto.

It is such fun to see all the guests arriving in their distinctive Twenties outfits.

There is my dad, Walter Turnbull, serenely happy standing beside his bride, Victoria Turnbull. As a young man he was quite a rebel. At Stoney Lake in Ontario, he would go out in the family canoe alone, give a great war-whoop and fall overboard backwards just to scare his poor mother. There was one apple tree in the backyard at the home of his parents in Peterborough, Ontario where his dad owned the local hardware store. When the Baptist minister opened the basket of…

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Mental Illness

October 26, 2015

On Friday, October 23rd, was held the 10th Educational Conference on Mental Health.

Caring together:  Addiction, Homelessness, Forensics and Mental Illness.  With all the specialists, consultants, seminars and testimonies. But for the first time ever was ”Neil McKenty Inaugural Memorial Lecture”.   A great message of hope to raise awareness among communities and people in general.

mental

POLLY

September 27, 2015

Who is Polly or Aunt Polly for some?

Since it was the author’s birthday not too long ago, I decided to encourage you to get to know Polly.

POLLY OF BRIDGEWATER FARM, AN UNKNOWN IRISH STORY”, is a wonderful true story about a bubbly little girl born in 1837 near Dromore, Northern Ireland. Ten years later, due to great famine and destruction, Polly and her family migrated to Canada.  Here is a glimpse of her early life in Ireland:

And now, to keep Polly from being lonesome away from home, in the big bed in the loft of their grandparents’ house, Eliza whispered another story to her from olden times of three Scottish princesses who fell in love with three Irish princes.  Eliza rose to her full height, waved her arms with the drama of it all, her golden hair shimmering in the moonlight as she described the tragedy, the death of the three princes in battle, and the heartbreak of the three princesses as they turned their faces into the ground to die on the spot of grief.  Polly wiped a tear from her eyes as the glorious story ended, then promptly fell asleep, curled up beside her sister in the old house with an owl hooting gently outside in the starlit night.”

cover-inside

Here is a link for the book: click here

Catharine asks:

September 13, 2015

I can’t believe I watched a Blue Jays game with their magnificent win in the historic Yankee Stadium. ”

What is it about baseball that keeps us all fascinated? Even though it’s slower than football and hockey.

Here’s what Neil had to say about baseball his favorite sports in general.

———————————————-

ARE SPORTS RELAXING?

Well they sure are for me.  Both passive and active.

The only active sport that I am still involved in is golf.  And I  must admit it’s idiosyncratic golf,  I only play nine holes and I don’t count.  At one stroke you remove all the stress.  Used to play goal for my high school hockey team but those days are long gone.

But I will sure be watching the rubber game of the Stanley Cup series between Detroit and Pittsburgh. Go Crosby.

I have also started watching baseball early this year.  My favourite teams are the Blue Jays,  the Red Sox and the Yankees in that order.   I find watching baseball enormously relaxing.  I know some people find it slow, about as exciting as watching paint dry.  But I find it a graceful ballet between the bases, filled with strategy.

Do you find sports relaxing, a good stress reliever?

Do you still play any active sports?

Will you be watching the Stanley Cup Final tonight?

Oh, I  almost forgot to mention golf and Tiger Woods.  Never miss him.

How the Sheas (and Neil) arrived in Canada

April 24, 2014

Exchange

Written by Neil – originally published in Nuacht September 2006

You might think the name Coolcappa describes one of those iced coffee drinks we enjoyed during the summer. In fact it is a small village on the border of Limerick from where my Irish ancestors, the Sheas, set out for the New World in June 1825. (Coolcappa comes from the Irish Cuil Cheapach meaning “corner of the village plots.”) This spring, my wife, Catharine, and I spent a morning there mucking around the parish graveyard in the warm rain, looking for names on the weathered gravestones that might give us a clue about who was left behind. We also chatted with the lovely woman who keeps the grocery store-post office as clean as a whistle and filled with laughter from her wonderful Irish stories.

Coolcappa graveyard.

Of course the Sheas (also called the O’Sheas) are one of those storied Irish…

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