Winters in Winnipeg were very cold back then. There was usually lots of snow and it was not unusual to get screaming cold wind off the big lake many miles north of the city. That winter was no exception, but at least the walk to school was only one very long block, from our house at the end of McIntosh. Not like the six blocks to Wellington school. This is the house; it is still there:
The front yard wasn’t overgrown then and there was no fence. The concrete steps at the front landing weren’t there. Father built a plywood platform at the entrance. I smashed my shins trying to jump up on it one day. The front porch was there. One cold winter morning we found a large white dog sleeping in the porch. It looked like this:
A Malamute. Not quite as old as this one, but very friendly. It wasn’t an adult dog, maybe a year old. Still quite large and very strong. We called him Frosty, because he was white, like Frosty the Snowman, and because he lived outside. We let him in to the house once, to warm up, but he was so active that he wasn’t allowed to stay inside, even though it was at least a hundred below outside. He stayed in the porch. The porch door was left open so he could go home, but he stayed. We might have given him some food and water once. Even though it was mid-winter, he didn’t freeze to death or beg to come into the warm house. Then one day he was gone.
Perhaps father called the pound on him, perhaps someone else took him in or maybe he just decided to go home. Somebody had to have owned him and somehow he got separated from his family. Our house was too small to keep such a big dog. And there was renovations going on inside. Maybe if we didn’t have the Angel Monster there would have been enough room for Frosty, but trading a kid brother for a dog wasn’t going to happen.
There were two bedrooms on the left side of the house. One wasn’t really a bedroom until a closet was built in it. Father’s good friend, Ed, came to help with the sawing and hammering. He had his own toolbox and told me his name was Eddy-ola Manzkenstein. I guess his real name was Carl Manz but everyone called him Ed.
The first of the two Jims moved in, to board with us at that time. Jim Simister. He had a dark green 1952 Pontiac. I’ll tell you about Jim later, but for now just know that he was very friendly and a very good guy who did lots of stuff for us. The other Jim was Jim Flood. He was okay too, but not as memorable, other than he was in the War and got shot in the back of the neck and didn’t have to fight anymore after that. He showed me his war wound scar. It wasn’t that big of a deal; I think he only got grazed. And why was his wound in the back of his neck? Was he running away when he got shot? Anyway, he was a nice man too, just the same.
I think the Evil Sister got the bedroom with the new closet and I shared the small front bedroom with the Angel Monster. Mother and father had a bedroom at the back of the house. Across from that was an open space with a trap door leading down to a root cellar. It wasn’t a real basement. Plywood walls were put up around the open space, which became Jim Simister’s room. Right next to the back door. I don’t recall where Jim Flood slept. Maybe in the root cellar.
Father was still recovering from his tuberculosis and he had to take a ton of different kinds of pills. One was brown, there was a pink one, several others and a great white horse pill that I knew would be impossible for me to swallow. I couldn’t even swallow small pills back then.
One time father brought home a sun lamp. He set it up in his bedroom so he could tan his very white skin. But he fell asleep and ended up frying his leg skin until it was blistering red. I think he fell asleep from drinking too much beer. Another time he caught his finger in the drop down ironing board and took a small chunk off the end. He had to cleanse it with whiskey and then had to drink the rest to ease the pain. I don’t know if drinking whiskey and taking all his tuberculosis pills was a good thing.
They used to get beer delivered at the back door, just like the bread man. Turn in the empties and get a whole new box of beer. One time when I was home alone at night, babysitting the Angel Monster, there was a sound at the back door. Like someone creeping about outside in the dark, at the back of the house. I was forced to arm myself with a black handled steak knife, just in case. I’m not sure why I was supposed to defend against intruders, I was only eleven or twelve. Anyway, the sound went away and I wasn’t killed, so I guess I saved the Angel Monsters little life.
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