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Roughin' It Volume II: In Kanata, Eh!
I came to the conclusion after the first volume was published that there was so much that I had missed. I can't blame it on my age precisely because it was more likely my laziness. I love telling stories and realized that with a little bit of encouragement there were more stories to tell. Twelve years just doesn't cut it as my Irish friend, Brennie would say. Therefore, I am going to fill in the missing pieces from those early years and then bring you to Kanata where I have lived for over sixty years.
I was looking at some early photos of my family and realized that I had not shared too much about their lives and what they had done for me in those formative years.
Names, faces and more stories began to appear: My parents, Mrs. Fellows, Granny Walsh, Aunt Ann and Uncle Charlie Childs and Charlie Boy; Uncle Tom, Aunt Esther, Frances and Carol Walsh; Cissie, Jack, Jim, Heather and Dorinda Emery; Tom, Paddy, Bridget, Bridie & Carol Walsh; the Childs family & Fulham FC, Nazareth House, Jane Kelly, Miss Hand, Derek/Akela & the Cubs, Tommy Reynolds and Holy Trinity Boys Club; Peter Wills (Spiv), Colin Garvey, David Hoppett, John McGoogan, Albert Markham, John McDermott and all the Clapham College Class of '54 with Messrs. Blight, Begley, Marshall, Thomas, Gilmore, Pocock and Brothers Peter, Xavier & Damian, who were our teachers.
And unless other names surface, there was also Mickey the cat and Dinky the dog at 43 Masbro Road and not to forget Nicole Blanger from Clichy, Paris, France. Now my challenge really begins because all these names represent pieces of my memory and the lives I shared before 1956 when I came to Windsor, Ontario. How to start is the problem, but I shall try to humour you with some vignettes to show how these people contributed to my life.
From 1943 to 1945
Mrs. Fellows appears in one of the early "Me" pictures along with other pictures of my mother and me. As the story goes I was born at Hazlewood Castle in Tadcaster, Yorkshire, another royal birth, which happened to be a maternity hospital at the time. From there our journey took us either to Birmingham with Mrs. Fellows or back to Shepherds Bush. I am not certain which address came first but I was told that she was a retired lady who received and helped new mothers to cope in a safe house and be at peace, which meant being bomb free. I don't know how long we stayed there because I am pretty sure I was back in The Bush in 1944 until the end of the war.
Whether it was a good idea to leave Birmingham, I don't know but London was not the best choice for your young Mick. We got bombed out a couple of times before V.E. Day. As the story goes an incendiary bomb hit 127 Percy Road, burning a hole in my crib and killing my teddy bear. I guess my guardian angel must have been taking a nap that day or he had a choice and saved me first, God Bless him! Then a German rocket hit Sinclair Road, a street near the Olympia Exhibition Hall, which also happened to be close to Field Marshal Montgomery's headquarters in Rowan Road beside Brook Green. However, if they were after Monty, they missed but they did come close to ending my cherubic, auburn-haired life. And to think that Monty had attended St. Paul's School, which was nearby and also had a bronze statue of John Milton, the blind poet, looking out onto Hammersmith Road. But whether it was paradise lost or regained for me, I don't know whom I should have thanked, Monty or Milton, because those Doodle Bugs and V2s left behind one hell of a mess. No pun intended.
My mother told me that when the rocket hit, it took down the back of our flat and left an old lady on another floor looking out into No Man's Land, while still sitting in her armchair, holding a cup of tea. A reminder to me in later years of a comedy skit from Beyond the Fringe, when the husband says to his wife, "Put the kettle on and we'll have a nice cup of tea," after the bombs had fallen. Some joke but that was the reality in '44 & '45 and that is why I have always said that my first playgrounds were definitely bombsites.
43 Masbro Road
For any family to have a history, it begins in the home where they grew up. My father, his brother, Tom and sister, Ann began their lives at 43 Masbro Road during the Great War. They lost their father soon after the war ended and as children they lived off Granny Walsh's meagre income from cleaning houses. It was hard work and the times were always tough. They lived under gaslight, with coal fires, no hot water, a damp cellar, sleeping three to a bed and an outdoor loo providing relief and entertainment with old copies of the newspapers, to be read and rubbed before pulling the chain.
I remember that loo very well during my obligatory, Sunday visits because my relief came from reading the sports pages or sneaking a peak at the saucy, Sunday papers adorned with images of bathing beauties, the Jane comic strip or another scandalous story of a middle aged and respected Canon, who had placed more than his blessed hands on his faithful, female parishioners.
There was also Mickey the one-eyed black, rat-catching cat and Dinky, the scrawny, war surviving, deaf dog. They ate left over scraps and Mickey was always good at finding a mouse, while Dinky hid under the dining room table waiting for dessert. Yes, I remember 43 Masbro well because my Aunt Ann stayed there until 1960, when she finally moved to a council flat in Roehampton, after Granny Walsh, Mickey, Dinky and Uncle Charlie had passed on to a better place.
Note: She refused the Council's offer to purchase it for £300 and said that she wouldn't be caught dead there. Today many of these houses are listed for more than a million pounds. Fool's gold no doubt!
The War Ends in 1945
When the war ended my father was still overseas with the British Army in Berlin until 1946. Before he left in 1944 for Europe apparently my first words had been, "Go train, boat, water."
Other stories about booby traps along his journey suggest that this final campaign was traumatic. Since he said very little about his time in Berlin, I can only imagine the horror, destruction and challenges he faced. In fact, one memory he did reveal was the Soviet Army's presence in Berlin with its soldiers driving around the city firing machine guns at the government buildings, statues and other reminders of Hitler's Reich. Apparently, the looting was rampant and he recalled seeing furniture, toilet fixtures, clothing, home appliances and many personal possessions and family artifacts being loaded onto trucks for a return journey to the Soviet Union. Civilian life was in chaos and the victims were German civilians and so many homeless refugees. I learned very little about his year in Berlin because it was a too painful reminder. As far as collecting souvenirs from the defeated Germans to bring back to England, he told me that he dumped his small collection of Nazi paraphernalia into the Channel before his arrival in England. His silence for the next 25 years of his life was never discussed openly and I now believe that his experiences in Europe were too painful to recall. He returned home in February, 1946 and ironically, he was still listed A1 because there was mention made of a call up to go to Malaya to fight the Communists. It did not happen but he was left with the task of trying to find a full-time job, which took another two years to achieve, lest I forget.
Meanwhile back in London at the end of the war my mother started searching for a suitable flat and within a few months we were given one floor at 51 Percy Road in Shepherds Bush by the local council. A street surrounded by bombsites, which became my playground for the next eight years.
Cleaning up the destruction would take years to repair, along with the continuation of rationing for a few more years. Nevertheless, our family began to gather and the time for trips to Southend or Margate began again. To reach these places Uncle Charlie, my Aunt's partner became a welcome addition to our trips because he had a car. It was an Austin Ruby and its plate number was BYH 408. How we filled so many adults and children into it, I don't know but it got us there. Deck chairs on the sand, carnival rides, donkey rides and cockles, winkles and chips became fodder for my young body. Plus, the smiling faces of my family who no longer had to worry about bombs falling on their picnic. I suppose that peacetime was enough relief to make up for the hard task of cleaning up the mess.
Uncle Charlie Childs deserves a whole chapter to fully describe what his presence meant to me over the years. From a large family, he was born in Fulham before 1900, fought in the Great War, was married and had a son, who was called Charlie Boy by the family. His first wife had died before the war and he began his partnership with my Aunt Ann during the war. He had a shoe repair shop near Hammersmith Broadway with a basement flat that contained a billiard table, sports memorabilia and Charlie Boy's extensive collection of vinyl pop records, apparently one of the best collections in England I was told later.
The shop had all the machinery for repairs along with hides of leather, shoe dyes, a stitching machine, sharp knives and numerous shoe blocks. Uncle Charlie was a craftsman who wore a stained apron and always had a cigarette hanging from his lips. Along with the smell of leather from the shop, his own flat became my favourite place, a treasure trove of Charlie Buchan football magazines, cigarette cards, foreign coins and his support of Fulham FC, which he shared with me. His stories were endless about the horses, football, boxing, cricket, athletics and his favourite music hall performers, The Crazy Gang. This brief description shows you that his friendship was a major part of my early years.
Since his shop was next to a Doss House I believe he must have run a pawnshop on the side when the men next door were out of money. And as for those foreign coins and the English ones going back over 100 years, which he gave me, I promised to return any that were the same diameter as a shilling. Yes, a shilling because when the meter man came to empty the moneybox those coins could be recycled with a little money on the side for his friend. No doubt illegal but I have the impression that many electricity meters were filled with foreign coins in those post war years. However, I still have those coins because they didn't fit. Also, I have no doubt that his knowledge of the horses meant that he had been playing the odds for many years. In fact, I remember choosing the horses with him for the races that took place during one of our holiday parties. I can still see him sitting in an easy chair, with ash dangling precariously from his lit cigarette and a cup of tea balanced on his lap. He called the odds and asked me to choose. I must have been successful because he called me Lucky Jim. Whether he took bets at the shop, he never said but he always had a few pound notes and cash in his pocket.
However, his most significant contribution to my education was taking my father and me to Craven Cottage around the end of 1949 where I met the Childs family of loyal Fulham supporters. I think that one of the first games was on Boxing Day against Manchester United and there was snow on the field.
Every two weeks we parked his car on Stevenage Road and walked to the Entrance Gates. I think I got in for sixpence or a shilling back then. At first I was too small to see the games from the terraces at the Putney End but when my father made me a portable stool, it gave me a clear view of every game. From then on, my regular spot became about twenty rows up behind the goal posts surrounded by Uncle Charlie's Fulham relatives. No matter what the weather gave us, I stayed in that spot on the terraces until 1956.
I saw John Charles, playing for Leeds, leap above Fulham goalie, Ian Black to score and the ball had a fluorescent, orange glow, which I have never forgotten, when it rattled against the net. At another match I remember Dave Hickson barging Black over the goal line from a corner kick. Today a goalie is protected and an aggressive push becomes a yellow card for the striker. And to think that then most of the players were making only ten to twenty quid to please their supporters. How the game has changed when you realize that now players' salaries are in the millions and no barging is permitted.
Other greats from the '50s included Tom Finney, Billy Liddell, Nat Lofthouse, Raich Carter, Tommy Lawton, Bert Trautmann, Gil Merrick, George Farm, the Robledo brothers, Jackie Milburn, Bobby Mitchell, Len Shackleton, Trevor Ford, Ivor Allchurch, Ernie Firmani, Sam Bartram, Frank Swift, Ted Ditchburn, Alf Ramsey, Ted Drake, Billy Wright, the Stanley(s) Matthews & Mortensen, Reg Allen, John Carey, Derek Dooley, Peter Docherty and certainly not forgetting many of the Fulham players beginning with Doug Flack, Arthur Rowley, Joe Bacuzzi, Ian Black, Bobby Robson, Bedford Jezzard, Arthur Stevens, Charlie Mitten, the Lowe brothers, Jimmy 'The Chin' Hill, 'Garth' Chenhall, 'Dodge'm Dodgin, 'Tosh' Chamberlain, Robin Lawler, Roy Bentley, Tony Macedo, which always leads me back to my all time hero, Johnny Haynes.
My years on the terraces were my education, my football knowledge and the skills that I tried to copy when I was playing for various teams at school and in Canada. And I have to thank Uncle Charlie for introducing me to the game at such a young age. I even got to watch the Boat Race from the stadium one year, which makes Craven Cottage a special place for its supporters. By the way it was a short ride or walk from Hammersmith Broadway to Craven Cottage, if Uncle Charlie was not available. Just a side note but I remember once going to Griffin Park, Brentford's ground with Uncle Charlie and he said that it had the best grass and pitch in England. I guess being close to the gasworks must have influenced his opinion. I don't know the truth but his comment makes for a good story and the following question, "Where is the best pitch in England today?
Note: I don't believe there has been much change supporting our veterans, after their years on the frontline. Serving and defending the country might be memorialized with marching bands annually but assisting them upon their return is an uphill challenge, which is quickly forgotten by the government when peace returns.
Remembering Granny Walsh
My father's mother, whose life had been filled with hardships and challenges, became, in my early years, the "old lady" we visited on most Sundays at 43 Masbro Road, a tiny row house where my father, his brother Tom and sister Ann had grown up. Granny was born in 1875 and had two adult children from her first marriage before the arrival of the Walsh clan during the First World War. Unfortunately the record of this second marriage was filled with so many hardships that I have never learned the whole truth, only that she was left to raise three children after the Great War as a cleaning lady for some local, wealthy families.
Her children slept in one bed lit by gaslight and surrounded by a lingering dampness that had never left the house. The kitchen was on the ground floor and the only flush toilet was outdoors in the backyard, which I can remember using because more often than not old newspapers became my research library and much needed toilet paper. The rooms were dingy and dark with fireplaces in the downstairs rooms that were still covered by old wallpaper. And add to this the gas lamps that were still being used to illuminate these rooms, while reflecting an eerie yellowish tint.
I remember that one of the fireplaces had a Victorian wooden mantel with mirrors, which was removed by my father so that my Aunt could replace it with three modern style mirrors. And ironically the wooden mantel became kindling that year for a bonfire around the corner on Guy Fawkes Night. I guess that after a war there were fewer regulations enforced for unloading rubbish because bombsites were such a common site around The Bush.
Granny loved her hot, peppermint sweets, which she hid in her bedroom so that when I borrowed one without saying, "Please" I was told that her room was out of bounds. I remember seeing two pictures in her room, one a small framed painting that my Aunt always believed was a valuable masterpiece that should be researched and a certificate stating that Thomas M. Walsh was a member of The Loyal Order of the Bucks, presumably meaning that he was a good Mason, an army veteran and as I was told later a bricklayer by trade.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Roughin' it in Kanata, Eh!"
Copyright © 2019 Michael J. Walsh.
Excerpted by permission of Mosaic Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
My New Journey Began When I Was Thirteen ...,
Cloudy Day On the Lake (poem),
Roughin' It Volume II: In Kanata, Eh!,
From 1943 to 1945,
43 Masbro Road,
The War Ends in 1945,
Remembering Granny Walsh,
Other Names to Remember,
Tom, Bridget & Paddy Walsh,
Holy Trinity Boys Club & Tommy Reynolds,
And Before I Forget,
Miss Hand & the Scale of C on Valetta Road,
The Canadian Family Connection:Then & Now,
Enlist - The Walsh & Emery Family,
Lest I forget (poem),
Concordia res parvae crescunt,
The Class of '54,
My Pilgrimage to Lourdes,
Back to the College - A Strange Memory,
Madhatter's Tea Party & my last year at Clapham College,
Fleeting Moments and more memories,
At the Movies,
At the Circus,
At the Christmas Pantomime,
Up to the West End & What's on the Tele,
Parades and Military Tattoos,
The Pavement Artists face another rainy day,
Do you remember Butlins because I do,
Life's Journey is a River,
Life's Journey is a River (poem),
Coming to the New Land a Fictional Biography,
In Memoriam: Gone but not forgotten (poem),
Doce me ... Goodness, Discipline & Knowledge,
Doce Me ... Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge,
Our teachers, as I remember them,
Making the move to London, Ontario,
Keeping up with those Nuns on the Run,
Then the Games began,
I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me,
The Anti-Club & My Future Demise,
A Molar Interlude,
The Major's Daughter,
Ginger & Joe Metron: Lifetime friends,
Some Final Thoughts,
I'll always remember Algonac in the Fall of 1963,
Poland: Cracow & My Journey into Hell, June, 1991,
Train trip to Montreal, December 17, 2008: Reflections,