Thanks for the memories!

Quickly after I mentioned here that I might attempt a trip to southern Italy, a very welcome phone call arrived from Toronto.
Johnny Solaryk, our artist and advertising man, was suggesting we make that trip together! He had enjoyed Italy during the Second World War while in Canadian Army uniform, I believe he said, and there is simply no better place to be at this time of year.
Johnny was among our more enjoyable boyhood friends and had lost none of his cheerful personality, it seemed, so we talked and talked while I caught up on his career.
He reported having a son, now 40, and an older daughter in real estate, and two or more others while I tried to get in a word edgewise because Johnny was always a talker.
The eldest of his family here, he had a brother, Sammy, who wrote a book one time that was quite a study in relationships. Sammy worked with me for Paul Laurence Construction at the papermill, but did not talk much.
There were others in that Third Street East family near the railroad.
But Johnny almost sold me on a trip to Italy, which I had not planned at all, principally because my late father’s relatives in Campobasso (Vesuvius) don’t speak English and also write in Italian.
But there is downtown property which my father could have possessed and they are hopeful I might help them take it.
But there are other reasons for my hesitation: my walking is hopeless without a cane and any surgery needed is delayed because two specialists have disagreed. And Vesuvius streets involved up and down hill climbing, and probably at least one guide with transportation (and who knows what else?)
My age might be considered another barrier, although Johnny is a year older.
While I think this over, I’m hopeful he can find another travelling partner, but if and when my walking improves, I’ll keep his invitation up front for a while.
Beautiful Vesuvius is one tourist destination that nobody wants to miss, I’m told.
• • •
I was gone, but not forgotten! And the lady on the other end of a phone call from Alberta the other day was persistent.
Having learned that I’m no longer connected to the phone number I had for many years, she asked Information to check on my name and was told I have this newspaper column with my number on it.
Right away, I am talking to a college classmate whom I have not seen in over half-a-century. Prudence tries to keep in touch with her old journalism class from Carleton College in Ottawa and sort of serves as a pipeline for all of us still in the land of the living.
Pru also finds out who is no longer available, and tries to bring us all up to date after she returns from her winters in Florida.
So she named another student, a lady whose death occurred recently, and this is depressing yet informative. And I guess we have learned more about our classmates’ departures this way than we would have in any other way.
Although Carleton has a monthly newspaper, sometimes I, for one, don’t receive it and we all went through so much together in those long-ago years right after the Second World War that there always has been a bond among us.
And Pru’s efforts in this regard are much appreciated.
She learned the name of my local paper, the Times, and I would not be surprised if she manages to see this column—and learn that we would all like her to keep in touch.
Someday, maybe, I’ll get to thank her in person, although Alberta is far off my regular route. People like Pru are priceless, it seems, more and more as the years advance and our contracts with each other keep on shrinking.
But whenever she phones or drops a Christmas card, she catches me by surprise, and I never knew her very well to start with. Still, she continues without any reward—just doing what she feels could be important to us, and she is so right.
But now that she has settled down again in Hashmore, Alta., maybe I’ll surprise her with a phone call for a change.
• • •
With the passing of Raymond Dolk this month, there went another of my boyhood birthday celebrants. He followed Mike Hupchuk, who was among our Allan Cup winners, and possibly Brian Hunt, of whom I’m not sure.
But recently I was told that Frank Izzard survives on the far side of the west, and my cousin, Claude McFarland, was looking very well the other day when he came bouncing across Canadian Tire’s parking lot, where I had met his son Jerry, from Minneapolis, and son-in-law, Jordan.
• • •
Having only rarely visited Mine Centre in recent years, I could not resist a ride out there with the highway so inviting undedr the almost forgotten sunshine!
So I finally got down the 40 or 50 miles to Harold Dennis’ meat store and gas station for a brief visit with his younger relatives because Harold haas been ill.
So has his business rival on the Bad Vermilion Lake side of the highway, Joe Bliss, I was told. Two better business leaders for a small community would be hard to find!
Then I went north from the Dennis pumps and promptly got lost in a village I could no longer recognize. I took a right-hand turn instead of following the railroad west past the old school corner.
So I missed seeing whatever happened to our old business street by the station, which I was told has disappeared anyway.
When I was a lad of 10 years, the main street had two stores—the Bliss and Prideau (later McMillan) emporiums. So I’ll have to return to see that area because the “new” residential area is so unattractive.
• • •
The three teens who went hitchhiking at the riverfront the other evening reminded me of all the free miles I logged back in the ’40s, doing much of the northeastern states, including New York.
We could return to Canada easily from Buffalo aboard a big ferry to visit a great Ontario playground at Crystal Beach.
In New York state, we met an oil millionaire who insisted, apparently because of our Canadian uniforms, that we become guests at his hotel in Olean.
In Brooklyn, we found the infamous race riot had started and we may have been lucky to avoid death. But we took in all the sights of New York City, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and, of course, the U.S.O.’s and Radio City Music Hall for great entertainment by the Rockettes Chorus Line.
Incidentally, a Rockette dancer came here once to perform at Rainycrest.
• • •
Dave Marsh’s father, Stan, and uncles were among our most popular people. Stan, besides serving for years as Kiwanis Club secretary, ran the Coca-Cola plant next to the present Times office, which was then Riverside Garage for Ross Marsh, later town assessor.
Grampa Lester Marsh was close by in his garage, as well a Customs officer!
• • •
At Wal-Mart the other day, it was “Hello, Mr. Wal-Mart” to the husband, Ross, of manageress Cindy Kellett, followed by “Hello, Mrs. Mayor” to the wife of Mayor Dan Onichuk (Denise), who was looking after the wheeled shopping baskets.
• • •
I can’t remember everything all the time (a statement that won’t surprise some), so I had to ask old storekeepers Bruce Murray and Dave Brockie, together at coffee in McDonald’s the other morning, for the name of the large Chinese restaurant on Scott Street during the war years.
That was “Peak Inn Cafe,” always a popular stop for supper before we crossed the bridge.
The Chinese also ran several laundries around town, using hand wagons for deliveries, while Lee Giddap had a Church Street eatery for years before Louis Roseman brought in his furniture store there.

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