Al goes for his medal

It could become lonely wheeling a large 55-seat bus with no passengers aboard. So let’s say Allan Johnson, my Winnipeg driver, was “lucky” when I got on here to keep him company for the rest of his trip after a mishap east of Atikokan.
The wires around his engine had all burned out because of the moisture from melting snow, but help came along to send him back out only about five hours late. We reached Winnipeg by 11 p.m. for my doctor’s appointment last Tuesday morning.
There was not much more company for our return ride three days later but Driver Al keeps his cool, apparently under any and all conditions, and I’m pulling for him to be awarded a medal by his Grey Goose (or Greyhound) company.
He expects that award two years down the road because that will give him 26 years of safe driving—and his record is still intact since he started serving us in 1978.
You get fairly well acquainted after talking to the same person for more than 10 hours.
In return for his impressions of life on the open road, I filled Al in on the district stories along the Ontario end, and I believe that must have been about a bookful between Sprague, Man. and here.
I went into more than one shootout, including the memorable story from the ’30s when one of our local jail escapees laid two Customs officers low near Barwick and the loss of life similarly at a Pinewood restaurant more recently, hoping none of this would scare him—but we had to discuss something.
I usually trust my bearings, but with a fresh eye operation, I might have been off a tad somewhere. Anyway, we pulled through without more serious misadventure.
We also got into the Sprague, Man. restaurant stop hardly long enough for the native lady cook there to serve up a great hamburger. I finished eating after we were back aboard.
My second cataract surgery was almost forgotten before we reached home, anyway, and an excellent Winnipeg doctor named Nigam, the slimmest lady I’ve ever met, is still on duty at Misericordia Hospital, where I would recommend anyone needing new eyes should go at the first opportunity.
And maybe you can tell Al Johnson how much his conversation was enjoyed by the fellow who hopes Al adds two more years to his safe service.
Then we’ll take his picture with that medal!
• • •
The names are familiar from our Allan Cup days although the faces may be forgotten. For instance, the name of Murray Balagus leaped from the Free Press letters to the editor page last week.
That name may or may not have been among our Canadians’ imports but it seems more likely to have belonged to someone on an opposing lineup.
Anyway, Murray wrote that the big New York teams in both hockey (Rangers) and baseball (Yankees) have been letting down their fans for winning lately, and he suggests changes in coaches and managers—rather than new players—might be the answer.
Then he wonders whether higher paid coaches or managers might be available. Doesn’t sound much like senior hockey talk, if that’s Murray’s background, does it?
I’m quite sure our Allan Cup manager, for instance, was practically an unpaid volunteer, and our coaches hardly knew what a paycheque was, either!
We imported coaches for a few years before drafting our trainer, Joe Bolzan, as the coach to go for the Cup!
• • •
Dorothy Coran said she told her grandson, “I’ll tell Harry!” (meaning me for a shot in my column!)
He had just told her he had scored a miracle “29” hand in cribbage. Only, he hadn’t quite achieved that feat and had to settle for 26 points instead.
Just let me know when it happens because that’s more rare than golfing’s hole-in-one!
• • •
This one definitely will make you blink when I report spending roughly $8 for about a five-pound bag of cat food for our faithful feline who guards my doorstep.
Why, when I was selling purebred Irish Setters all over Canada (plus scraps from a butcher), that would have been enough money to keep the whole pack going for maybe a month.
You may remember, because a dozen or more of my dogs were sold into local homes.
The majority of my big beautiful dogs, though, were shipped outside, especially to Newfoundland, from where the orders came quickly and I had to keep buyers waiting.
To travel that distance, I had to build a strong crate and also study a map because I learned not every destination was easy to connect with. But the letters from satisfied buyers made any trouble worthwhile.
Apparently they shot more than waterfowl out there because the buyers would report great upland bird shooting success with my red dogs.
• • •
There are lots of popular new ideas coming along faster than that condo castle. That downtown Hallowe’en event for town youngsters has been a smash hit for sure, and the annual spree of ’flu inoculations is another, both catching on so successfully, it’s a wonder the town ever did without them.
The old Hallowe’en Jamboree was big, though, under Joe Murray and the Rec Council half-a-century ago—and its Scott Street bonfire would be sensational today!
• • •
Showing barely a trace of the facial injuries received a couple weeks ago from a hockey puck while a spectator at a previous junior game, Haley Keast returned to the hockey wars Saturday.
This time, she was invited to drop the puck for the opening face-off—an honour few 10-year-old girls get to boast about.
Throughout her ordeal, Haley has been a good sport and her hometown Thunder team could consider making her mascot or honourary captain!
She was given a T-shirt as well as the puck at the game Saturday.
• • •
A pair of our best known and most popular merchant families made news this week, as first the death of Van Green occurred, and then the 60th wedding date of Dave and Mildred Brockie—and both items brought up fond memories for many.
Van, like his father, Rusty, was everyone’s friend and the same would be said for the Brockies, whose home for years was where you could go to practise square dancing.
Van’s death was as startling as that of his father, occurring either after raking leaves or golfing, because reports are mixed, whereas Rusty, our leading businessman, left us after pushing a car in snow.
• • •
Shaking hands at the Brockies’ anniversary dinner Sunday, I told Mildred that her father, Bruce Lloyd, sold me my first home for $30 a month.
It was an old-timer located on the riverbank a block below old McIrvine school, and served us for five years before we succumbed to the lure of our Crozier farm, also on the river.
Bruce was a pioneer businessman here, successor to Hudson’s Bay in establishing the Watson and Lloyd general store beside the bridge. He also was in Rainy Lake shipping where his son, Bill, spent many years while also planting buoys for safer navigation.
Meanwhile, Dave Brockie stuck to jewellery while pitching baseball for recreation.
My old home was replaced only about a year ago. It once had stood behind the “P.A.” hotel downtown, where it sheltered the Canfield family after the Rat Portage lumber office departed.

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