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Sometimes I am getting ahead of myself - talking about the results from the way we raised our offspring. So back to the 50's and 60's.
After about a year, business was going good at CARL'S AUTO SERVICE, but the garage was only a one-car facility. We had to do something to keep up with the demand. We decided to build a whole new two-car repair shop. We had a one-acre property. There were lots of room and enough interest among our customers to give us a helping hand. One fellow offered to dig the footing by hand, which he did after putting eight hours in at the plant where he worked. It took him a couple of weeks, but what was time? Time was eternal.
Another guy, a carpenter by trade, offered to make the overhead doors and also drew the plans for the building, which were approved by the township of Crowland, our official local government at the time.
Mr. Jansen, a retired farmer handyman, built the forms for the pit: a very ingenious plan with side openings for oil drain, grease gun, and transmission oil barrels on one wall, and on the opposite wall, a shelf for tools and built-in lights. To excavate the pit, I borrowed a horse designed scraper, but since I did not have a horse, we used an old Model A horse's power to scratch out the earth. Kind of a primitive contraption but it sure beat digging by hand. To hire Mr. Horton, who had a home made cable operated backhoe would be too big a burden on our financial position at the time. We had to pay off our mortgage, so we were able to build this new garage without borrowing any money and still kept paying on our obligations. A feather in our cap. The children liked the new garage too, now they had a lot more room to horse around on this big cement floor.
However, it also created a danger with this open hole in the floor. We tried repeatedly to warn the children to stay away from this pit, but accidents happen. One day, Elly was transporting herself on a non-motorized four-wheel sit on, feet powered cart, when the stupid machine headed straight for this gaping hole. No, whoa whoa stop hooow, but nothing could stop it from taking the plunge in the abyss. When I heard the commotion, I moved faster than a woodsman could holler "Timber". I jumped down to the concrete floor and expected to find a broken baby. I removed her from the entanglement and carried her into the house. The most unbelievable result of that fall came slowly to our troubled mind, "She is not hurt." But that was not possible: three times her own height, to fall on a cement floor with only a scare? Now we had proof she had a good guardian angel watching over her. Needless to say, we were very thankful to the good Lord, and said an extra prayer that night. After that, she never fell in again.
Another mystery took place. While I was working on a car outside, I heard some unusual crying coming from the garage. When I went to investigate the noise, it was little Bill hanging by his fingertips on the edge of the pit. Before I had a chance to grab him, he lost his hold and plopped down in the hole. This fall was not as serious because his feet came down first. But it sure gave a person the shivers to see your own flesh and blood in such a predicament.
One would think a pit may be dangerous only for children but this was not necessarily so. One day while I had my head under the hood of an automobile working on an engine, a stranger walked in around the car and promptly fell on the steps leading down. "Why in the world do you do that"? I asked. "I did not see that opening in the floor," was his answer. "Well, I cannot be sympathetic with someone who walks out of the bright sunlight, his eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses on his snozzle, and not expect to get into trouble, wandering around in an unfamiliar place." After some handshaking and apologizing for the mistake he made, he introduced himself as an accident insurance salesman. "I agree it is a noble profession, and in a very dramatic way you proved how neccesary it is to have some. But I am not interested, because we don't have any customers who would do a thing like you did. Thank you, and better luck next time with your next prospect."
This was not the only trouble those dang kids got into. One Sunday afternoon, we took the family to the playground on Ontario Road where they enjoyed the swings, teetertotters, slides, etc. When it was time to move on, they got in the car and slammed the door. However it did not shut, the reason being that little Billy had his fingers in between the door and the door post. This, of course was serious, but being as it is, children are made up of soft bones with a rubber base. His fingers were flattened and out of shape alright, but soon they started to swell up and became fatter than they were before. In due time, they became their own selves again. The pain that came with it, only Bill could tell, we presumed it must have been awful.
All this said and done, you would think we had our share of misery. Not so. Only a few weeks later exactly the same thing happened, but this time it was Elly who got her fingers flattened in the car door. We were afraid they might be broken as she was hurting much more than her brother was at the time, so off to the doctor. After examining the little paw, Doc said, "No broken bones, but the pressure was so great it split the skin." He gave Ma some goo to put on and keep it clean. Yes, quit a bit of crying was going on with good reason. Months later when everybody was healed and the hurting was gone, they teased each other like, "You slammed the door on my fingers, now I went and done it to you, Ha Ha."
Later on during the school years, the only serious trouble I remember befell Henry. In grade school, he was one of the smallest pupils, and what was true everywhere at that age, the bullies picked on the little ones. I understand many a fight took place. Harry was not the kind of person to lay down and roll over when told, no matter how big his tormenter was. He would rather fight than surrender. I instructed him to never pick a fight, but if there was no way to avoid it, to do the following. "When you get hit, scream as loud as you can, like a screaming pig, if you ever heard one. This will throw the enemy off his guard, and he will wonder how he could have hit you that hard ... then haul off and hit him with all your might where it hurts him the most, like a devastating blow in the chest, then run away. The other boys will be beholding to you."
I don't know if he ever applied this technique in practice, all we knew was one time he got the worst of the ordeal when he came home with a broken thumb. When we asked what happened, he explained that he got in a fight with a boy, and laid a good beating on him. "Did you not pound him in the stomach or other vunerable places?" "No," he said, "I smacked him right on the head." "You should have known that kid had a hard head, otherwise he would not have tackled you." Lucky Harry.
Maryann also had her scrape with a accident. The whole family went to Memorial Park to play. Many children enjoyed the equipment that was there for them to use. In one careless moment, the smallest member of the household crossed the path of a swing, and got hit close to her left eye. How serious was it? Did she get hit in the eye? Blood was all over her face. Let us not speculate. Ma rushed the little victim in the car and off we went to the emergency ward in the hospital. We did not even take time to gather the other children, just told them to behave, we had to attend to our little butterfly first. After cleaning the wound, the doc had to put five or six stitches in to pull the skin together. An enormous load dropped off our shoulders when the doctor said the eye was not damaged. Thank you good Lord, we now know she also had a guardian angel.
Now, with four four little brats running around, we take the Sunday for our family. No more working on cars, or having the store open every Sunday. In the summer, we took many trips to the canal, to watch the ships of the world go by. The children had to figure out what country the ships came from, by looking at the flags. We had a book at home with all the flags of the world.
On some Sundays, we went to Nickel Beach or further west to Lowbank to the beach, where you first had to climb a steep sand hill to get there. The children loved that sand. Billy and John just couldn't get enough of the water. We had to keep a close watch on them lively boys, they figured they could tackle Lake Erie like it's a big bath tub. It really paid off that we watched them close, Johnny ran in the water deeper and deeper, then lost his balance and disappeared under the waves. I must have jumped three meters at every step to get to him in time. He coughed and spat but otherwise was alright. It must have scared him bad because for a long time after he was very leary to get in deep water. But time heals all wounds, and in time he lost his fear and became a good swimmer.
Other times we took the family to the Buffalo Zoo. At the time there were lots of room to park and no entrance fee. All we had to ask was, "Hey guys, you want to go and see your relatives?" We did not have to ask twice. They were ready to go anytime.
At one time, we had a beautiful 1953 Cadillac. Of course we took this machine to Tante Diane and Uncle Pete in Chatham. It was the nicest and fastest automobile we ever had. I was doing around 90 mph, then slowed down to 75. Ma really enjoyed this car, so much so that she said, "Why are you going so slow?" not realizing we were still clipping along at 120 km (about 75 miles) per hour. Yes, a fantastic ride when you were used to Model A and the like. I had bought this luxury vehicle at Virgil Motors for $1700. I sold it to Earl on Main Street for the same money plus a Buick, which in turn I sold to John Klein, and took his Pontiac as a trade-in. He was a Dutchman who had emigrated to P.E.I. with his wife and two daugters, but came to Ontario in the hope of making a better living. Apparently, he had the same philosophy as we: "Keep on moving until you come to where you like it. Go and pursue your goal, no matter what, as long as people eat, there is work to be done to feed them." Thus, there's always something to accomplish as long as you're willing to give a helping hand.