Here we are on the boulevard outside our apartment on Roy Avenue in Winnipeg. We are once again celebrating a birthday for my sister. She is the one kneeling in the front middle, with her fancy birthday hair-do, while I, as you can see, have almost no hair at all. That is me, of course, on the left. The girl in the front, beside my sister, was named Star (even though it was still years before the Hippie movement) and the girl in the back middle is my cousin Christine. I don’t recall the other two although I think the boy was Star’s brother. This photo was probably taken in late April 1958.
This is the same crowd but inside our small apartment, which was just a few blocks from the bachelors house on Pacific Avenue. Notice my sister’s birthday cake and my roiling envy.
We lived on the second floor of an L shaped building. In the middle of the L was a court yard. Well not really a court yard, just a yard, mostly dirt but still good enough for playing in.
One day there was a garter snake infestation along the front fence. It was rather spectacular. Dozens of writhing, slithering snakes of various sizes weaving in and out of each other like a Gordian mass. My rocking horse, the one I was riding in my Bowness Christmas photo, was broken in this court yard from riding by my cousin that was far too vigorous for the light weight springs. The neighbor lady, Alice, taught me to tie my shoes when we lived here. The neighbor boys from across the street had a magnificent John Deer pedal tractor that I was obsessed with. I ventured over to their place many times with the notion that I would have a chance to drive the pedal tractor, but it never happened. I did, however, get to see a small shaggy white dog get hit by a car one day while I was standing on their poach, hoping for a try at the John Deere. Interestingly the dog didn’t get squished. As the car slammed on its brakes the small white dog bounced off a front tire and barrel rolled down the street. There was yelping of course but the resilient canine walked away.
We lived in this apartment over Christmas of that year. My father picked up a Christmas tree but we didn’t have a stand for it. He placed it in a wash tub with snow packed around it to hold it upright. We decorated it a little and then went out for Christmas dinner at a relatives. When we returned, the tree, of course, had fallen over on to the floor and the wash tub contained a pool of melted snow (water). Being too young to yet comprehend thermal dynamics and the effects of warm air on snow, my father explained to me that monkeys must have broken into our house and vandalized the Christmas tree.
The apartment was rather spartan, as I remember it. Our bathroom was simply a closet with a toilet inside. We (the children) bathed in the galvanized steel wash tub set up on the kitchen floor. Water was heated from pots and a kettle on the gas stove. I did not find being naked in the midst of a crowd of people, in the middle of the kitchen, to be much fun.
This is where we lived when my mother contracted scarlet fever and almost lost her life. I have a memory of her laying in her bed, mostly unconscious, soaked in sweat.