A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 117: Modernizing

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Our modernizing came in the form of a (new) used tow truck. I bought a 1940 COE Chevrolet Coca Cola 3 ton flatbed. The parts I could salvage from the old tow truck I used on the new one, like the boom. But now I made an improvement by building out of an old car, the steering knuckle, mounting a swinging pulley, so I could pull cars out of ditches sideways, and not have to block the road.

Another improvement was the power winch, no longer did we have to climb up to crank the old stump puller, no, only pull some levers and reel it in. I made a nice job with curved sides, as was in style at the time. The B.A. Oil company was so impressed, they said, "If you will paint it our colors, white and green, we will supply the paint and the decals of a service man in uniform to put on." Sure no problem. It sure did look impressive, this high cab over, with the bright colors.

By the way, John Owens, and his wife who did all the talking when we bought this place, was out of business again. When we bought this place in 1954, people warned us times were bad, you might find it hard to make a living. "Why is that?" I asked. "Well," they said, "this is a town which entire existence depends on the steel industry." Indeed, except for the twine plant, everyone seemed to be making a living off steel. Yeah, it was bad because Union Carbide was only belching black smoke out of four of the six stacks. Hey, very interesting, the smoke stacks were an indication of the prosperity of the city. More smoke, more work, better for everyone. Now we knew, but let us not worry, we went through two wars, and were still alive, we had no doubt we would make it through this period as well.

Many people seemed to get discouraged so quickly with every little thing which was not favorable to them, they only saw the dark side and got depressed. We thought it was much more beneficial for all to look at the good and or sunny side of every situation, proof was, it would always turn out to the best. At least that was our motto, and it always worked. Thus we kept our ears closed to discouraging advice, and kept doing what we had in mind in the first place by coming to Canada, in the pursuit of happiness and making a good living for us and our children. By golly, we never had, and never would have any reason to complain.

The good Lord approved of our life style since 1953, I believe, because He rewarded us with a brand new baby boy, we called him John, in memory of Ma's deceased father. A new born baby never looked beautiful (except maybe in the mother's eye) and little Johnny was no exception. But after a couple of months, he was the happiest, loveliest, smiliest, friendliest and best looking kid on the block. You only had to look at him, and immediately he smiled from ear to ear. One thing worried us for a while. Dr. Purdon said, "Johny has a heart murmur." "Ok Doc,what does that mean? Is he gonna die?" "Oh no, he will grow out of it." "Is there anything you can do about it?" No need to he said. But we kept a close watch on John. We felt real bad for the friendly little sweetheart, but it did not seem to hurt him much, although we felt when he grew up, he was not as strong as the other kids, like catching colds quicker and staying longer an infection in his throat, when he was two and a half years old.

One night at 9 pm when Ma gave the little man a bath, he developed a breathing problem. We called the doctor. He said, "Bring him in immediately." At his office, he poked a needle in his tiny body, then told us to take him home and start making steam. If it didn't help in a couple of hours, call the doctor and we would have to go to the hospital. According to Ma, at around 1 am, John started to loosen up a bit, but mother kept the steam going until 7 am when the danger was past.

In 1958, Billy became five years old, and time for him to go to school. At the time there was a public school with only one room at Oxford Road, about one half mile from our house, at Port Robinson Road. But by the time classes started in September, the Catholic School Board build a classroom near East Main Street on our side of town. The reason was, the Diocese established a new parish in the east end and started first with building a school.

Father Botek, an immigrant priest from Slovakia was in charge. He named the new, yet to be build church, "Saint Andrew Svorad." In vain, I tried to discourage the priest from hanging this name on a parish in Canada. "Oh no, this a good name of a Slovac saint." Sorry, Father, we're not in Czeckoslovakia, this name did not mean anything to us. I was also an immigrant, but I left my country behind, and wanted to integrate with the people here, adopt their customs and way of life, live the way they live, feast the way they feast. Not to try to impose our way upon our host country.

Related resources:

Saint Andrew the Apostle Roman Catholic Church. "In 1957, His Eminence, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto, established St. Andrew Svorad Church in Welland. The new parish was designed to serve the growing Catholic population in the city and to afford the Slovak faithful an opportunity for their pastoral ministry in their mother tongue. Their multilingual Pastor was to serve the ministry in english and italian as well. The first Parish Mass and the subsequent Masses, for the next six years, was held in two classrooms of the newly built St. Anne’s School .... in February 1959, and enthusiastic group of parishioners under the chairmanship of Mr. Patrick Gibbons canvassed all parish wage earners for weekly pledges for the next three years ...

In the spring of 1962 the sod was broken and under the continued monitoring of the building committee, the new church was built.

On Sunday, June 16, 1963 in the presence of the pastor, clergy and five hundred parishioners, the newly built and now renamed St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church was solemnly blessed by Bishop T.J. McCarthy, Bishop of St. Catharines. Father Botek prepared a special capsule, which contains the list of all of St. Andrew’s founding parishioners. Their names were inscribed in non-biodegradable material and this document is sealed within the church corner stone. This day of thanksgiving was the achievement of the “parishioners” five year dream."


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