Large families always likeable

It’s probably because I was an only child that I’ve always been fascinated by large families of more than half-a-dozen children. Such as I used to know while growing here, like the Ukrainians around my home or French and Irish families here and there.
Early on, I was impressed, for instance, by the Fichuks of Third Street, next to where the CN subway was later installed. This family contained twin sons, Peter and Bill, a third, younger brother, and three sisters—all a very agreeable bunch, possibly because they were very well fed in those Depression years with a large garden and small farm featuring milk cows and chickens only a couple of blocks from downtown.
They sold some of that milk and delivered it by bicycle after school, and helped me learn to ride one. We chummed around across the river as teenagers before they joined up (Peter in the States).
Their younger brother, Johnny, died in a railroad construction mishap.
Another Ukrainian buddy, Ed Chernaske, who lived near us by the old Victoria ballpark (now Sixth Street School), had about five brothers and three sisters. My dad hired Ed to work at Kettle Falls, where we rebuilt the dam.
His own father was gone when Ed and I met on a railroad ditching job which took us around this district. His nickname was “Cuts” and a younger brother was called “Cowboy.”
I met some of the large Dumeney family in school at Mine Centre, where they took up a sizeable part of our only classroom and practised my wrestling with one of them, there being 13 kinds in that big, fatherless family.
There, again, their mother got them farming on the shore of Turtle Lake when raising livestock and vegetables pulled more than a few families through hard times.
Also, the Joe Miller family of 14 whose farm I took on the River Road.
I won’t say that any of these families rivalled that of Terry Allan or one of his Dutch neighbours on farms north of Emo because both numbered 20 children to everyone’s amazement—probably records for this entire district.
Another dozen kids came to Crozier from Switzerland with John Gerber.
As much as I envied these families for their lack of loneliness, I could understand why they rarely owned possessions to brag about. But even alone, I did not consider myself any better off.
During my childhood years, we all just went along doing whatever we could to entertain ourselves, but I sometimes wished for more company at home. Like our Wards or Watsons (about 10 children each).
I’ll say this much for loners. Maybe they got a broader education from being involved with other folks’ families, especially those of different backgrounds and languages.
And whenever you entered such homes, there was much to admire in relationships whether or not there was any shortage of personal comforts or belongings.
Maybe they didn’t always dress so well, but fond feelings were usually noticeable.
• • •
A one-room log cabin, such as we claimed rent-free at first in Mine Centre, would hardly do for a family such as we are discussing here. They might find enough to eat, but where would they sleep?
Before we built a much larger cottage when my dad found work there before the war, we pitched a tent for extra sleeping space in summer and were happy to own one.
It goes without saying the large family comes amid mixed blessings.
• • •
Wow! Aren’t those peonies and other blooms going great this summer. And when is the town going to start making awards for home frontages, or maybe the local Horticultural Society!
• • •
Talk of all the wildlife among us this year brings a report from a woman on York Avenue who sees four cubs with their mother nearby regularly at the mill lagoon, which Ken Munn keeps landscaped.
• • •
That West End widow with $30,000 in losses from bad town drainage is Marilou Boileau, the hard-working little floor manager at McDonald’s here.
Marilou complained diligently to Mayor Onichuk and town officials but since her first report was printed here two weeks ago, she has received support from only other taxpayers who agree with her that the present town administration is careless with complaints that badly need attention.
Together, they are discussing the need for legal action. And if lawyers step in, their fees will be added to costs of damages.
Stick with it, Marilou. Her losses occurred two years ago and are being ignored by the town.
• • •
Sept. 9 was my mother’s birthday and, in answer to recent inquiries, she was killed by a car on Dec. 17, 1964. The former Ethel Veley, from near Arden, Ont., was 72 and well-known, being a United Church, Legion Ladies Auxiliary, and former Women’s Institute member.
She and my father, Tony, were equally fond of everything the outdoors provided and would have been delighted with this autumn and summer—its bumper crop of blueberries and blossoms, both tame and wild, such as that large patch of bright yellow cowslips (black-eyed Susans) beyond the railroad on McIrvine Road.
They’re something for drivers to admire while they wait for those very long freight trains to roll past. I’ve rarely seen cowslips growing so profusely.
• • •
Here it is, mid-September with a town full of glorious trees and gorgeous flowers such as I don’t remember noticing for years. And did I mention wild animals roaming quite freely among the homes?
Allan Bedard was first to tell me about a full-grown bear found invading a home when the owner returned and grabbed a broomstick after opening the doors to let his children escape.
When he whacked at the bear, though, it ran and seriously soiled the house. Scared, it scattered manure all over walls and also the ceiling before it ran outside.
I don’t know whether this was the same bear reported as accompanied by no fewer than four cubs (probably a record). Anyway, it’s not welcome back to that home again.
• • •
No, that was not my son pictured on the front page of a Thunder Bay newspaper recently. That fellow was on duty in New Orleans, which had police forces arriving from all over the U.S. and Canada to help flood victims who have been living in severe distress of all kinds for weeks.
Canadians in uniform have a good account of themselves down there and will always be welcomed back.
• • •
I knew it! My young granddaughters down in Des Moines, Iowa, where daddy Dave Allison is coaching hockey, are not stepping clear of sports themselves.
The eldest of his three, Avery, is in uniform with a marching band while her younger sisters have joined ball teams.

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