My grandfather's memoirs

Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 08:18 am
Technically, this is not my original writing, but my grandfather's. This biography was found after he died. He never told anyone in the family that he was even writing this. This is the relative I feel I have the most in common with, intellectually, and it is a great read, in my opinion, with tons of history. While the family works on considering it for conversion into a screenplay, I post it here, in his honour (be patient with the scrolling, it is 98 pages, but that is double-spaced, and apologies for strange characters...they were in cyrillic in the original manuscript Very Happy):

June 1992

This all started at a Sunday brunch hosted by Toots and me. The occasion was in honour of Jonathan Strauss's Bar Mitzvah. There were our own families from Toronto and Winnipeg as well as almost all our Winnipeg friends.
When lunch was done Arla rose to thank our guests and then asked for Alex to come to the lectern.
I was startled to hear him bring up my approaching 80th birthday which doesn't come till the end of August. He had recalled my previous tales of my adventures in Russia and my early school days in Winnipeg - life on Pritchard Avenue and my Bar Mitzvah. He recalled my boasting of getting gifts of 4 fat, orange Parker Pens. Nothing had greater status value than one of those Parkers.
He forthwith presented me with a collectors item of a replica of a Parker Duofold. I was dumbfounded with surprise. I have no recollection as to what I said in response. Perhaps it's just as well.
The children have goaded me often to write something of my long life. Now that I have such a fine writing instrument I can't resist the challenge.
What follows is an unusually long letter addressed to my children and grandchildren both Natural and acquired by virtue of my second marriage to Toots.
I'd imagine that strangers trying to read this long and rambling epistle would find it boring and tedious. But the more immediate family may find parts of it informative.
In any event as a family chronology it may prove useful.

Boris Mesbur


According to my mother my birth was the most dreadful experience of her life. The pain and suffering she experienced was beyond description. The whole neighbourhood for blocks around was aroused by her agonizing screams. This scenario lasted for two whole days until I was finally expelled. The telling of this tale was probably intended to instil a sense of deep quiet in me. Strangely it never did.
This even took place deep in the heart of the Ukraine in a small city called Uman, south of Kiev - the capital and half way to the Black Sea City of Odessa. My world atlas, which is at least 30 years old lists its population at about 70,000. It must have been a fairly presentable little city with a public park called An Sofiafka; there were banks and a public lending library.
My birth certificate states that I was born on August 10, 1912. This being the Gregorian calendar converted to the European as August 23rd. And so it has always been.
Being born prior to World War I gives me a feeling of historical proportions particularly when watching an Edwardian movie or a play by Shaw or Oscar Wilde. I feel somewhat awestruck - that's how people dressed and lived when I was a small child. And people used hansom cabs and cobblestone streets were this "modern" paving method.
My father Jacob was 26 when I was born. His birthday and mine coincided on August 23rd. He was an only child. His father Abraham and mother Rose were "dirt" poor. So poor that hunger and severe deprivation was a constant companion. Charitable neighbours kept an eye on them to ensure that there was a fresh baked loaf of bread for the Sabbath.
In the years preceding my grandfather surnames were unknown. Men were identified as the "son of". Or for further clarification also the village or town of their origin. My grandfather's people came from the city of Medzhibosch in the far western reaches of the Ukraine. Amongst the religious Jews it was noted that this town was the home of the B'Sl Shem Tov a noted sage of the 17th Century. Consequently by my grandfather, he became known as Abraham the Medzhibezar. How my father became fluent in Russian and how he became an excellent bookkeeper remains a mystery to me. Moreover, how he managed to get a job in a Russian bank is also a mystery. In view of the fact the anti-Jewish laws and regulations were extremely restrictive in Czarist Russia it was a great accomplishment for him to have done what he did. To Russianize his name he acquired the surname Medzhbeezer - which of course was derived from the name Medzhibosch - the ancestral town.
My mother was 20 when I was born. She came from a much more affluent family. Her father was AKIBA Freivoch - a wine merchant. Most of his wine was imported from western Russia from a district now called Moldavia. He usually made 2 trips annually to the capital town of Kishiriev. The wine was shipped home in huge caskets which were moved to the basement of his house. A dark, damp, cold and spooky place. I was forbidden to ever venture down there - on penalty of some dreadful punishment. My mother was the eldest of twelve children --
She was named Brushka which in Yiddish is a diminutive of the Hebrew word Brucha - which in literal translation means Blessed.
Only 3 of whom survived. My auntie Jenine who married Max Schwartzman and settled in New York. My uncle Zalman (Sam) who joined our family in Winnipeg. My grandmother was Esther. She died in her thirties of the complications of diabetes.
The dwelling in Uman must have been quite modern by the standards of that day. I recall quite clearly a solitary bare electric light bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling in the most important room in the house - the kitchen, living room and dining room combined. An enormous oven occupied the furthest wall. It was built as part of the kitchen. Above it as far as the ceiling was a spacious crawl space which served as a bedroom for the "shiksa". The lucky girl had the warmest, cosiest place in the house. Bread baking day was the highlight of the week. The smell of baking bread permeated the house. A smell delicious and mouth watering beyond belief. Entrance to and from the house was from the kitchen. The gate from the street led to an enclosed garden dominated by a cherry tree. The door to the kitchen was at right angle to the street.
The language of my grandparents was Yiddish and I imagine that this was the language I first learned as an infant. There is absolutely nothing that I can recall about a teacher or a school. I doubt that I was ever taught anything formally in my early childhood. One of the mysteries which has always perplexed me was how I learned to speak Russian and read and write the language before I was six.
There was a library close to home where I was known and the lady in charge would let me borrow books. I must have been a fairly precocious child for I read everything I could lay my hands on.
One day while reading a book I was started and bewildered by coming across the word "жид" in page after page all underlined by some previous reader. The word (zhid) is a highly derogatory term for Jew in Russian and Ukranian. I recall crying when I showed my mother the book. It was my first encounter with open Anti-Semitism.
In some way I became aware that the family to which I belonged was different than the people inhabiting the rest of the community. I became frightened at the sight of an approaching priest. The blackness of their long cloaks, their black shirts acting as a perfect foil for their long and heavy necklaces suspending a very ponderous cross. Their black beards and tall black hats added to their ominous appearance.
At the sight of one I tried desperately to cross to the other side of the street. I had many friends my real best friend was Grisha Freivoch - my mother's uncle's only child. We were the same age and were inseparable. I think it was he who taught me how to jinx the evil spell that a passing priest might cast. You ran into the nearest "back alley" and emptied your bladder simultaneously with your friend. It was essential that the two urine streams intersected to form a cross. Another friend was a girl called Paula. Also a relative of sorts. We enjoyed playing doctor and patient. Naturally, I was the doctor. One day I decided to vaccinate Paula. I found a sharp piece of broken glass on the street and proceeded to scratch her upper arm with it. When blood started to stream down her arm she ran screaming into the house. I was punished sufficiently to never do it again.
Grisha and I also participated in our first sex lesson. Another little girl in the neighbourhood proposed a challenge to us. If we showed her our penises she would show us her genitals. We readily accepted but were terribly perplexed how anyone could urinate without a penis.
One day I nagged my mother dreadfully to allow me to do something. She continued to deny me my wish so in desperation I threatened her. If she continued to say "no" I would go to the pantry and start breaking jars of jam which had laboriously been "put out"; when this thread didn't produce results I calmly went about smashing some jars. This serious misdemeanour did not go unpunished. Another embarrassing episode occurred when I overheard my parents plan to go to the cinema to see the famous comedian Max Linder. This would be about 1917 before Charlie Chaplin displaced him. Naturally I was ignored and put to bed. I awoke an hour or two later to find my parents gone. Fortunately it was a warm spring or summer evening. I knew perfectly well where the cinema was. I ran barefooted in my night clothes to the cinema and yelled and screamed at the doorman to let me in to find papa and mama. Those were silent movies so I don't think I disturbed too many. My parents were mortified and embarrassed. I don't know how this tale of a wilful child ended.
Ominous clouds began to gather over the life of our little family. My father was fortunately spared the draft into the army. The reason being that being a bank employee was considered an essential service. Jewish boys would try every possible avenue in their efforts to avoid being drafted. This desperation was not prompted by fear of action or enemy fire but by the fear of the cruelty inflicted on them by the Christian soldiers.
In 1917 Lenin returned to Russia to head the Bolshevik revolution. His first act other than murdering the Czar and his family was the signing of a peace treaty with Germany. All I can remember about those distant days were endless discussions amongst the grownups. What would life be like under German occupation. Surely it couldn't be worse than under the Czar. Little did they know what was in store for them.
During the period of 1917-18 I contracted my first serious illness. A classical case of scarlet fever. A disease which no younger doctor has ever seen. After this fever and rash subsided came the period of desquamation. Huge pieces of skin peeled off, particularly my hands and feet. But I was far from finished with the disease. About a week or two after I thought I was fully recovered I had a classical complication. The condition is called nephrosis. I became enormously swollen. I had to rest for another several weeks until I was pronounced cured.
Life for our family became progressively far difficult and complicated. In late summer 1918 the War in Europe came to an end. But not in Russia. Allied forces fearing the spread of Bolshevism invaded Russia from all sides. Russian soldiers led by various generals loyal to the ousted monarchy and called "White Russians" fought on various fronts against the hated Bolsheviks. In the Ukraine the situation was the worst of all. There a whole variety of murderous leaders fought the White Russian soldiers, the Bolsheviks and quite often each other in their efforts to establish an independent Ukraine. All these factions terrorized vast stretches of the Ukraine. Pillage, destruction and murder dominated their activities. The slaughter of Jews became a game to avenge the death of Jesus the Saviour. I can recall vividly the days and nights of hiding in various cellars. One day while in our kitchen the family was surprised when a group of drunken soldiers invaded the house. In those days the most dreaded of all the Ukranian partisan armies was one headed by a notorious anti-Semite called Petlura. The mounted soldiers most of them sporting fierce bushy moustaches, tall caracul hats, rifles on their backs with crossed ammunition belts on their tunics. Often flashing their curved sabres provided a spine chilling fearsome spectacle. When lubricated with booze, they became executioners of anyone in their way.
One day, quite unexpectedly a group of them burst into our house. They had heard that there was wine to be had. I have no idea where my father was but at home was my grandfather and my uncle Sam. The kitchen table was very large and could easily seat a dozen or more people around it. The wine jugs and glasses were on it. The two Jewish men were forced under the table while the drunken orgy became more and more boisterous. When they decided to go elsewhere one of them began taking pot shots with his rifle at the two men beneath the table. Soon they all joined in the fun. When it was time to go my grandfather lay dead and my uncle lay bleeding profusely from a cheek wound. Undoubtedly they thought he too was dead.
I find it hard to believe that the recollection of these horrors remains so vividly etched in my memory. After all it was probably 1919 and I couldn't have been more than 7 years of age.
Events which followed bring nothing to mind. All I know and recollect was that suddenly my father appeared in a uniform and the three of us were on a train headed for the big city of Kiev. There my father had secured a bookkeeping job in a military hospital. Now life seemed to undergo a complete change. We spoke only Russian and my parents acquired a group of friends and frequently participated in raucous parties. After being put to bed, I could hear laughter and singing coming from another part of the hospital.
Before long I acquired a Russian friend. He must have been somewhat older than me. He taught me a great deal about the hospital. It was not only a place to help wounded soldiers but was also a place where undesirables were shot. Executions took place every morning. The roof above "our" building was flat and easily accessible. If you got there early enough you could watch the execution squad march their victims to an adjoining room and listen with bated breath for its sound of the rifle shots.
Later in the day when it was safe we would search the nearby wood for the discarded shell casings. My education was very grizzly for a child my age.
Unknown to me, my parents were busy planning a way to escape from the nightmare of life in Russia.


Russia was in a dreadful state of violence in 1919-1920. The "White" Russians who were the remains of the Imperial Army were led by the aristocratic officer corps. They were financed, armed and helped by the victorious allied and American forces. The revolutionary Bolsheviks were led by a self taught general called Leon Trotzky. The man was undoubtedly a genius. Leading his scattered ragtag armies he not only deported the invaders from western Europe but also the expeditionary American forces attacking him in Pacific Siberia. It was not until these victories were achieved that he turned his energies to pacifying the Ukraine. During their constant warfare political warfare raged in Moscow. The democratic movement had temporarily gained the upper hand under the leadership of one called Kerevsky in 1917. New currency was issued to replace the Imperial ruble. But when the Bolshevik revolution triumphed in October 1917 he fled the country and with his departure died any hope of a nascent democracy.
Naturally I knew nothing of these events and was totally unaware of the plans my parents were secretly hatching to escape from the bloody turmoil around them. It must have been during the winter of 1919-20 that they started the long trek westward.
It being winter I was clothed in a voluminous coat. Little did I know that my mother had sewn bundles of paper currency inside the lining. I now know that the objective was to reach the vicinity of the Dniester river. This was the political border between Russia and Roumania. It was heavily patrolled by both Russian and Roumanian troops. It was strictly prohibited to cross the river. Guards were instructed to shoot on sight at any intruder.
Apparently the plan commonly tried was to bribe a farmer along the riverbank to transport you by row boat across the river. The boat ride had be done in pitch darkness in utter silence. Once you were across the river on the Roumanian side, you were on your own.
The area we were dropped off was heavily wooded and because of this pitch darkness almost at once I was alone and lost. My parents didn't dare shout for me and I wandered about in the darkness by this time too frightened to cry.
I do know that at day break two women approached me and asked if I was Yosh and Brushka's boy. Soon we were reunited and were fed and sheltered in a farmer's dwelling.
The next hurdle was getting to Kirshinev the main city in that part of Moldavia. How we got there I have no idea. I now know that the main purpose of establishing residence there was to be free to communicate with the rest of the world.
My auntie Jenine and her husband were already safe in New York and were anxious for us to join them there. Unfortunately for us the open door for European refugees had just been closed by US immigration.
Fortunately my mother remembered an auntie who had emigrated to Winnipeg, Canada years before. Naturally there were married cousins there, the closest one to her age was Sonia who was married to a Barney Portigal. Letters between my parents and her Winnipeg cousin began to flow. An immigration permit had to be secured. Then there was the booking of passage across half of Europe, across the Atlantic and then again by train across Canada to Winnipeg. My parents were quite ignorant of world geography, they had never heard of Winnipeg and as for Canada they had heard of it as a cold and distant part of America. The fact that it was in America made them glow with eager anticipation. After all if the community was in "America" it couldn't be that far from New York.
How we got to Kishinev or how we managed to get living accommodation there is an unknown chapter to me. By this time it was already 1920 and my resistance to disease must have been very low particularly after being so ill with scarlet fever. This time I became gravely ill with lobar pneumonia. The doctor attending me told my parents to wait for the "crisis" to occur for without it I would surely die. The phenomenon of a lobar pneumonia crisis was a dramatic occurrence. Particularly in children it was the difference between life and death. Once has to visualize a child desperately ill with severe difficulty breathing and a fever of at least 40°C, sometimes higher. Within an hour the same desperately ill child undergoes a remarkable change. The temperature drops precipitously to normal levels, the difficulty in breathing is alleviated. Nothing is more dramatic in medical history. Since the advent of antibiotics few if any doctors have witnessed this phenomenon.
My convalescence must have been slow. To Eastern Europeans oranges represented the ultimate food for a quick recovery. Every day I was given an orange and watched by everyone as I consumed the fruit. Another daily ritual was the washing of my hair followed by meticulous combing with a special fine tooth come to ensure the elimination of head lice. My mother was a firm believer in the spontaneous generation of all kinds of tiny creatures - including mice.
I continued to have health problems. In order to secure visas to emigrate to Canada we had to submit for health examinations. On examination it was diagnosed that I was developing trachoma of my eyes. This is a contagious disease which untreated can lead to blindness. It is endemic in Africa and in Egypt in particular where it was the leading cause of blindness. I recall very vividly being put on a stretcher and immobilized with restraints. The doctor and his female assistants were socializing and babbling away in some strange language, probably Roumanian. My eyelids were everted and scraped vigorously with some sort of curette. Then the raw areas was cauterized with a chemical. I had no anaesthetic. My screams still ring in my ears after more than 70 years. The treatment was quite inhuman but nevertheless probably effective.

What is the purpose of writing of personal events occurring three quarters of a century ago? My life's accomplishments are much too modest for that. Genealogy seems to have acquired a fashionable resurgence in America and Canada. My distant "cousin" in Chicago Paula Gordon has written me many times regarding family roots. Toots' family the Comisaroffs have a very large company stretching from Australia, the U.S., Canada and Israel. There have been reunions of this far flung membership - although Toots has never attended but the Gutkins and Strausses were at the last one in San Francisco. Even my brother Ken has recently written inquiring about our family roots.
Whether this exercise in autobiography will be of interest to my children or grandchildren only time will tell. Certainly the clock is running out on me. I'll be 80 in August and if I don't make the effort now I'm afraid this opportunity will expire. I certainly can't afford the luxury of an experienced ghost writer to dramatize and embellish the simple events of one's life.

To return to the evens in Kishinev. After surviving the horrors of Trachoma and lobar pneumonia the wherewithal to travel to America arrived. There were passports and visas to secure and passage to be booked.
Finally our long voyage westward began. Our first destination was Antwerp where it was hoped passage could be booked to Canada.
The trip across the continent was long and very arduous. Getting food was a constant challenge. After several days of moving and stopping we finally reached the German city of Cologne. My parents discovered that the train would have a stopover there of several hours. This was a great opportunity for them to try and get some food.
I was given strict instructions not to leave my seat during their absence. I don't know how I amused myself during their absence, but I did as I was told. Suddenly, to my horror the train began to move. Unknown to me of course we were in a huge marshalling yard. I became hysterical with fear at being abandoned in a strange foreign land. I have no idea how long it took for my parents to find our train and, me. Whether or not they secured some food was quite uninallred to me.
Finally we arrived in Antwerp. Another strange city in another foreign land. Our arrival there was in the winter of 1920-21 and I was now a mature child of 8. One of the problems faced by my parents was finding shelter and provisions. Then there was booking passage for the long trans-Atlantic voyage to Canada. Passage was finally found and booked on a steamer called the "Scandinaves". It was a nightmarish voyage. The accommodation was steerage. Everyone was deathly ill with seasickness. No sooner were we halfway across the Atlantic when again I became very ill with a classic case of red measles. I was isolated by the ship's doctor. Immediately, on arrival in Quebec City we were transported to a quarantined island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence called Grose Isle. My illness was further prolonged by a relapse and recurrence of the kidney disease nephrosis. My convalescence was not unpleasant. The quarantine station on this island was clean, the food was good and the surroundings were beautiful with lush greenery, flowers and trees all around.
Finally, after being cleared by the authorities, we were transported to Quebec city where we boarded a train for the interminably long trip to Winnipeg.
I have absolutely no recollection of the three or four days we spent on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. I presume it was the CPR because I do recall clearly getting off at the Higgins and Main station.
We were met by a delegation of Portigal cousins. All were total strangers babbling to each other in an incomprehensible lingo. I was dutifully kissed and patted on the head.
We were welcomed at the station by my mother's first cousins Sonia and her husband Barney. Another cousin Clara, cousins Fanny, Becky and cousin Fanny and finally the youngest one Anette. The only male cousin was Sam. All were called Portigal. I don't know why. Their mother, my mother's true Auntie, didn't show and her name is long forgotten.
The Portigal house was a frame house west of Main Street on a street called Burrows adjacent to a fire hall. Our taxi ride from the station to the Portigal house revealed a north main Street of unbelievable ugliness. To add to the bleakness of the street was the constant explosion of firecrackers. We didn't know they were firecrackers we thought it was gunfire. It took a little explanation to reassure us and explain that it was traditional to celebrate May 24th with fireworks.
Having come from a relatively handsome European city such as Kiev the initial impression of Winnipeg was extremely poor. In any event we were reassured that Canada was a peaceful happy country and that it wouldn't be long before we were established. Sonia and Barney had two children, Aubie their little boy was about 4 or 5 years old and Esther their daughter was 7. Communication was difficult. I was forbidden to speak Russian. The hatred for that country was too great for my parents to think clearly and objectively. I communicated to the grown ups in Yiddish. To the other 2 children in the house I have no recollection of communicating with them at all.
I must have had an aptitude for languages. When it was time to enrol me in Macaray school sometime in August my command of English was reasonably good. I turned 9 on August 23, 1921 and a week later I was already in Grade I.
Life was beginning on a more predictable pattern. Two important events took place. My father got a job as a bookkeeper with a financial institution and we managed to rent 2 or 3 rooms on Redwood Ave. near Salter and next door to Dyson's vinegar factory. By this time my uncle Zalman or Sam, as he became known, had arrived in Winnipeg. He got a job and moved in with us. It was only with the money he contributed for his board and room that "we" were able to make ends meet.
My father's salary was $35.00 per month. I have no idea how his employers communicated with him. His knowledge of English was zero but his ambition to learn was infinite. He would practice words and phrases endlessly. It was my duty to correct his mistakes. He enjoyed strolling down the street and read signs and billboards. He would hold my hand and we'd walk along Salter till Selkirk Avenue. There were many signs along the way. It was very difficult for him to "unlearn" the Cyrillic alphabet with its phonetic spelling and pronunciation to the Roman alphabet and the intricacies of English spelling and pronunciation.
School proved very pleasant. At first I was one of the big boys in class. I had just turned nine and almost all the other children were either five or six. By Christmas I was in grade 2 and shortly after that in grade 3 and in grade 4.
After our arrival in Canada my mother's cousins decided to Anglicise our surname. The decided on MESBUR and so we became known. Jacob was easy. My mother became Bertha and I remained unchanged as Boris.
Life on Redwood avenue was very difficult. The stench from the vinegar factory was at times overpowering. The kitchen which was the dominant room consisted of a sink and a cold water tap. The stove was a wood contraption, water for washing had to be heated in a tub. Serving a cup of tea meant lighting the stove to boil the water. In spite of this hardship my mother became pregnant. Esther was born in July 1922. She cried constantly and needed rocking to keep her quiet. I became a full time helper. After school I was busy with household tasks. I became adept at washing the kitchen floor and hanging the washed diapers on the clothes line. Once or twice a week I was delegate the task of baby sitting. I dreaded being left alone with the baby. She invariably cried, sometimes so violently she would hold her breath and frighten me to tears. Life became increasingly difficult in our primitive cramped quarters. To compound our difficulties my parents quarelled constantly. It was impossible for me to escape the perpetual insults, the nagging, the blaming of all our troubles on one another. School was a wonderful respite and a refuge from the domestic turmoil. My command of English was totally in keeping with my age and I was told I had no trace of a residual foreign accent. But I had no friends. I think it was my shyness and inferiority complex which stifled my social instincts.
My parents' social life was much better than mine. My mother had her cousin to visit with and my father became a founding member of the Achdus Free Loan Society. Naturally he became the society bookkeeper. Many of the members of the Achdus were new immigrants. Most of them were in dire circumstances all striving to extricate themselves from the poverty which was the lot of most of them. Many tried to become established in little businesses. Naturally some needed a bookkeeper and my father began to acquire a reputation as a "wonderful" accountant of impeccable credentials.
Sometime after my sister's birth probably in 1923 we moved to a "suite" on Prtichard Avenue. The house accommodated 3 families. Two immigrant families lived on the main floor and we occupied the top floor. Entrance was through a side door and up a narrow steep flight of stairs. I now had my own bedroom There was a bathroom with a sink and a tub as well as a toilet. The water was icy cold from the single tap. In the kitchen the stove which burned both wood and coal was in constant use. I became the chief hauler of wood and coal from the outdoor storage. Not only were there more floors for me to wash but also the steep stairs leading to our home had to be kept immaculately clean.
Fortunately I was never burdened with homework. Whatever was assigned at school I did during school hours. I was an excellent student and before long I joined the more select students in classes with a higher standard. Particularly those who would go on to high school and possibly university.
My social life finally took off. Our neighbours were all Jewish and with many children my own age - I acquired real friends and for the first time in my short life I became a member of a social group. We played games together and engaged in occasional warfare with Catholic children attending the adjacent Holy Ghost School on Selkirk Ave. Then I was enrolled in the Talmud Torah Hebrew School. The social life there was great but I hated the teachers and the compulsory subjects in Hebrew. It was an additional burden I had to endure.
I continued going to Macaray school. The teachers were excellent and although I continued to do no homework my grades were uniformly in the high 80s or 90s. Grades 7, 8 and 9 were considered "Junior" high school. In junior high one achieved the privilege of different teachers for different subjects.
In 1925 I went into "training" for my Bar Mitzvah. I acquired an elderly Jewish tutor who came to our house 2 or 3 times a week. He taught me the basics and I managed to learn the monotonous chanting of the mathir. Following this service at the Talmud Torah synagogue our relatives and my parents' friends trudged up the stairs for lunch. The lunch had been laboriously prepared by my mother just prior to the celebration. Refrigeration was with a block of ice which in the summer's heat had to be replaced daily. Electric refrigeration or freezers had not yet been invented. I was more interested in the gifts which I anticipated getting. There were only two gifts which thrilled me. Fat, yellow, Parker pens and watches. The Bar Mitzvah netted me 4 Parker pens and a CYMA wristwatch. There were also some other miscellaneous gifts which didn't particularly interest me.
The lunch food which had been laboriously prepared the week preceding was "gefilte" fish, herring and I presume the complimentary items. The birthday which was in August - a season when garden fresh produce were bountiful. On the whole this affair was judged to be successful and my performance in the synagogue satisfactory. I was thrilled at the thought and anticipation that my compulsory religious and Hebrew education at the Talmud Torah was coming to an end. My parents wanted me to continue but apparently only halfheartedly because my refusal to go on was grudgingly accepted. I now was free to play and fool around after school. I was still my mother's helper. There were floors to wash, wood to be brought to the kitchen, garbage and ashes to be disposed of and dishes to be dried after meals. I can recall that I was actually happy.
One day a bombshell fell. My father had been doing fairly well with his bookkeeping and had managed to save several hundred dollars. What better investment to make that to move us out of the slums and buy a real house. One that we could call our own. One was found for the outrageous sum of $2,000.00. It was at the northern outskirts of the city. In a muddy unpaved street called Junster. The street cars ended their routes a block or two behind our house in what was then called the "North End" car burns. The house itself was a two storey white house dwelling. The main floor consisted of the kitchen, living and dining rooms. On the top floor were 3 bedrooms and a bathroom. The house was heated by a real coal fired furnace in the basement.
There was even a ramshackle garage in the backyard. The front of the house was dominated by a verandah which was not screened. During the summer Winnipeg was already famous for the hordes or mosquitoes which descended on any unprotected warm blooded animal. Humans were their favourite target.
Macaray school continued as my educational home. We had some excellent teachers. Particularly in English, French and Latin, History and Mathematics. My class was considered to be the brightest and most promising in the entire school. I also achieved some notoriety as an "artist" and I has chosen to decorate various school projects. My class was also noted by the fact that with the exception of one pupil it was entirely Jewish. The one pupil was a girl called Cicely Skinner. She had the knack of getting 100 in almost all the subjects. She was not a particularly attractive child but I held her in awe.
My artistic notoriety led to my enrolment in the Winnipeg Art School My teacher was the subsequently famous artist Jerome Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald was hardly aware of my presence. I learned nothing and showed little inclination to pursue an artistic career.
During this period I became a Boy Scout. I recall our scout master, a very young one called Dan Krindle. The number of our troop was the 49th and as to be expected was all Jewish. Our main preoccupation was achieving a badge designation. I had the distinction of being the only one having an Artist Badge. The badges were attached to the upper sleeve below the shoulders. During the summer we went camping on the shores of lake Winnipeg at a place called Boundary Park. My only footwear were canvas running shoes. Our scout master decided that we were to go hiking one weekend. The distance we were to cover was about 10 miles and at the end of this trek my feet were badly blistered and bleeding.
I was still in Macaray school but in Junior High. One day we were shown a primitive radio receiver called a crystal set. My imagination was fuelled with excitement. How could something pluck speech and music from the air?
Radio was a new phenomenon at the time and had barely arrived in Winnipeg. There was one station opened by Manitoba Telephones for only a few hours per day. I come across a plan for building a home receiver. I needed money to buy parts. The only convertible asset I had was my stamp collection. A dealer took advantage of my youth. I was 14 at the time. He offered me $15.00 for the lot. This was not a trivial sum at the time. I learned may years later that some of the very early Queen Victoria issues were subsequently worth as much as $1,000.00. In 1926 $15.00 represented the wherewithal to buy my coveted components. Radio continued to be my passion for some years to come. While I was assembling my set my parents were ridiculing my efforts. In desperation I challenged my father to put up or shut up. He agreed to give me a dollar if it worked. It finally worked and I collected my bet. My mother who had joined my father in belittling my efforts became busy on the phone to her relations and friends boasting of her son's accomplishments.
Radio became an all consuming passion. I would spend countless hours fiddling with the dials and entering new and distant stations. To this day I recall familiar call letters like KDKA Pittsburgh, KSL Salt Lake City, WCCO Minneapolis, WBBM Chicago and hundreds of four others which I logged over a period of time. These were also the days when my musical career flourished. Shortly after moving to Inkster Blvd. my father decided that a musical instrument was an essential possession in a cultured family. He bought a Heinzman upright and was immediately accepted as a pupil by a young woman called Miss Kidd. We got along well and my progress was very rapid. I enjoyed playing pieces much too difficult for me to play.
Unfortunately as often happens my mother began to interfere. I was constantly nagged to practice and worst of all my mother insisted I perform for her friends at every opportunity. I detested her friends and relations. They were so patronizing and condescending.
By the time I was in Grade 9 my final year at Macaray school my mother became pregnant. I was disgusted and ashamed that people their age would stoop to having sexual intercourse. My mother would blame my father for this unwanted pregnancy. Ken was born in September 1928 shortly after my sixteenth birthday.
Our grade 9 class was singled out as outstanding and was chosen to take grades 10 and 11 in one year at St. John's High School. As it happened that summer became notorious for its epidemic of poliomyelitis. The epidemic raged on into September. The school board decided to postpone opening the new school year till Oct. 1st. The shortened year did not interfere with the proposed grades 10 and 11 combination. Most of us did not sense any challenge in the increased work load. I continued to do no homework but managed presentable marks at exam time. My graduation was a forgone conclusion. I was fascinated with Hans Zinsser's book about the great men who make momentous discoveries regarding diseases ravaging mankind. There was Koch and tuberculosis, Pasteur and rabies, Erlich and syphilis and others. I made up my mind that I would be a doctor and hopefully make some discoveries to help mankind. My father agreed to medicine but my mother kept nagging me that engineering was a much superior career. Her friends were very knowledgeable about careers and they insisted about the merits of engineering. There was really no urgency in deciding. I needed 2 years of pre-med studies which could be converted to engineering if necessary.
University was considered to be very expensive. The registration fee for all necessary classes was $100.00. I recall taking botany, zoology, mathematics, English, German and physics. I had still not learned proper study habits and my marks although adequate were far below my potential. In those days the University was located downtown along what is now Memorial Boulevard. Hazing of freshmen was now an established custom. I did not escape and joined a large group of other freshmen in the time consuming task of rolling peanuts across Portage Avenue using only our noses.
I enjoyed the life at University. All my friends were Jewish. I had still not been exposed to a Gentile milieu. My social life was a challenge to me. I became exposed to girls and went to small parties always in a Jewish home. Some girl began teaching me a few tentative dance steps to the scratch music played on a rickety gramophone. Girls fascinated me not just because they were "different" but because of their sexual attributes.
We were not well into the first full year of the Great Depression. Little by little my father'' bookkeeping income began to shrink and the necessity for economising was a major requirement. Bargains were constantly sought after. A loaf of bread was 5¢. A tin of Brunswick sardines was 4¢. Potatoes, onions, flour and sugar were bought in large quantities and stored in the basement. With 3 children in the house my mother did need help. We usually had a "live in" maid, a (shiksa). Almost always a Ukranian girl sometimes a fresh immigrant girl who didn't speak a work of English. In those days my parents were fluent in Ukranian, which gave my mother ample opportunity to berate at and belittle the poor girl in a language she could understand. The standard wage for foreign domestics in those days was $8.00 per month.
My parents continued to treat me as an adult, Ken and Esther were the "children". When Esther was about 10 she became seriously ill with rheumatic fever which targeted her nervous system. It was caused St. Vitus' Dance because of the constant agitation it produced in children. Her recovery was very slow and many years later as I observed her behaviour I would wonder if the stigmata of this childhood illness did not affect her adult life.
I finally completed the second year of "pre-med" and became eligible for admission to the Manitoba Medical College. The school was adjacent to the Winnipeg General Hospital and William Avenue. The tuition fees were extremely high for those days and several of my school mates who had every intention of pursuing medicine as a career could not enrol because of their inability to finance the fees. My father's solution to the dilemma of financing my career was to sell his holding of stock in International Nickel. He had been caught up in the euphoria of the stock marked preceding the crash of 1929. His last remaining asset was 1000 shares in the nickel company. In 1932 when he was desperately short of funds he sold his shares for $500.00. This was enough to finance my first year. There was tuition, books and a mandatory purchase of a Zeiss microscope.
The enrolment in the first year was open to all who fulfilled the requirements. A quota system for Jews and other undesirables in the Faculty of Medicine had not yet been established. The method used to achieve the same purpose was quite effective. In the first year one third of the class was failed. In the second year, another third was eliminated. Naturally, this "failing" process was highly selective with the Jewish students bearing the brunt of discrimination.
For the first time in my life I became exposed to crude anti-Semitism. The Dean of the Faculty was a psychiatrist called Mathers. Every student was exposed to an interview with the Dean. The Jewish students were subjected to a humiliating interview. Much of it was devoted to the sexual fantasies of the student and his masturbation practices. The interview usually ended with a statement about the student's unfitness for medicine as a career and a strong recommendation to call it quits before it was too late to get a tuition refund.
The Anti-Semitism became more evident after the interview. Jewish students were assigned their own segregated cloakroom. In the anatomy dissecting, laboratory students were assigned cadavers strictly along ethnic origin. Even the few Ukranian students were assigned their "own" cadavers.
In physiology laboratory the same segregation was practised.
My studies were not going well. I was never able to memorize facts without having a thorough understanding. It was particularly important for me to have a visual image of the subject. I managed Biochemistry and physiology by anatomy I found difficult. It remained difficult for me until I learned to visualize the relationship of one structure to another. In order to pass the year it was necessary to have marks at least in the upper 50% of the class. The Jewish student had to perform appreciably better than the Gentile to pass into the second year. I just managed to pass the year. I was satisfied with this and looked forward to the second year.
Financing the year remained a serious problem. A conventional job was totally inobtainable. The only employment I would find was as a news agent on the train. At first I would try selling prepared sandwiches, chocolate bars and soft drinks from Winnipeg to Moose Jaw. Business was very poor and I could barely make ends meet. I had to pay the CPR for a night's lodging in Moose Jaw which left me precious little money for the return trip to Winnipeg. In an effort to improve my lot I switched employers. I left the CPR and began hawking for the CNR on what was then known as a "moonlight" excursion to Grand Beach on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg. It was a relatively short run which left Wpg. in the early evening and returned sometime after midnight. The train was fairly full, mostly with young couples in their late teens or early twenties. They weren't interested in spending money on food or soft drink but had a decided interest in sex. I wasn't permitted to roam up and down the aisles hawking "safes or condoms" but I would let it be known that I had a good supply available for sale. I soon did a good business in this commodity. The mark up was very small - perhaps a nickel a condom. In those days to earn $2.00 for a night's work was considered good pay. The season was a short one. The excursions would not begin till July and end the first week-end in September.
Our first year in Medical College diminished the class form about 90 students to 60. The second year was equally demanding when it was whittled down to 40 students. The reason give form the high casualty rate was to allow for the admittance of about a dozen students from the University of Saskatchewan into their year medicine. Apparently some sort of reciprocity arranged had been made by the two provincial universities.
In our second year the Jew "baiting" became very pronounced. Occasionally this baiting became so violent that open warfare erupted. Fortunately we had two protectors. Both were powerful athletes. One was Harry Coleman who I believe is in Ottawa and the other "Tubber" Kabrinsky who tragically lost his life many years ago in a boating accident.
Psychologically the situation became very serious. In 1933 Hitler came on the scene in Germany and his public utterances in the press gave our local Anti-Semites an aura of legitimacy. The pall of depression deepened. R.B. Bennett became the prime minister. His stupid speeches fanned the growing influence of Communists and Socialists.
After completing the second year the entire atmosphere changed. We were rid of the overtly Anti-Semitic teachers and were now into Pathology and clinical subjects. Our pathology professor was the noted author William Boyd. It was truly inspirational to have him as a teacher. For our clinical teachers we had the cream of Winnipeg's medical profession. For the first time I began to relish and enjoy the studies. My marks improved dramatically and I no longer studied with the fear of failure. Before starting our third year I spent several weeks at the main tuberculosis sanitorium at Minette, Manitoba. The chief was a Dr. David Stewart, a noted physician and a truly outstanding administrator. I enjoyed the few weeks there so much that I managed to get accepted for another summer session between the third and fourth years. I continued to do well scholastically in the fourth year but another hazard loomed on the horizon. Where to intern?
Both major teaching hospitals in Winnipeg the Saint Boniface and General had strict Jewish quotas for junior interns. The quota was a magnanimous 2 students at each hospital. My chances of being accepted there was close to zero.
The only other option left in Winnipeg was what was then called a rotating internship. Every two months one changed hospitals. It was a most unpleasant choice and many of my classmates chose to try and intern out of town. One hospital the Regina General had some openings and moreover had the tantalizing offer of a $25.00 per month stipend. My parents financial situation was in dire straits. Not only had my father's income dropped precipitously but the drain of tuition fees and books and a $7.00 allowance a month to me for pocket money brought him almost to the point of bankruptcy. The economic outlook in 1935 was extremely dismal.
In an effort to establish himself in some sort of business to supplement his dwindling income from bookkeeping my father entered into a partnership with a German gentleman called Mr. Maron. The firm was called WORLD TRAVEL BUREAU and their office was on the main floor of the confederation Life Building on Main street almost directly opposite City Hall. An additional firm called MARON & MESBUR also existed in the same premises. I believe its chief function was to facilitate the transfer of money from Winnipeggers to their destitute relatives in Europe. It was a hand to mouth existence but nevertheless a meager income. The German and the Jew got along well together. Their main travel business was booking travellers to Europe on the North German Lloyd steamship line. In those days it had an excellent reputation for service and price. By the time I left Winnipeg there were some serious questions about my father being in business with a National German firm. I believe the partnership lasted about 5 years and on or about 1936 the German consul informed Moran that unless he terminated his partnership with a Jew they would lose the Agency for travel on the North German Lloyd. Fortunately my father had signed the leas on the office. Maron and Mesbur disappeared but father continued a variety of enterprises until well after the onset of the 2nd World War.
I had two months of summer holidays and I was most anxious to get away from Winnipeg. I applied for a summer internship at the Brandon General and my very best friend Alec Lerner also applied. We were accepted. The small staff of doctors were actually quite helpful and gave us as much to do as was permitted. There was a laboratory staffed by one technician. At night and on week-ends we were expected to do the work which consisted almost entirely of a simple urinalysis and a white blood cell count as well as a haemoglobin. There was no blood chemistry nor were there any tests for the various enzymes and proteins. The most complicated test was one called a Basal metabolism. It was a crude breathing apparatus which only confirmed what was obvious to clinical observation. In retrospect it was an important learning experience. For the first time I saw cases of eclampsia, a dreaded complication of pregnancy as well as witnessing the death of a young Greek woman pregnant with her first child. She was beautiful and it was heartbreaking to see her repeated convulsions before she expired. I also witnessed thyroic crises ending in death.
Our duties at the hospital were hard but left ample time for "dating". For the first time in my life I acquired a "girl friend". One of the nurses called Margaret and Alec acquired one too. Also a nurse called Evelyn.
Towards the end of the summer I contracted a very severe cold. It settled in my sinuses and I saw the leading otolaryngeologist in Brandon called McDiarrind. He strongly advised me to have a submucous resection to the septum of my nose. I agreed and he operated on me forthwith under local anaesthetic.
Little did I know what was in store for me. Almost immediately following the surgery I developed a series of complications. First these was a middle ear infection followed by mastoiditis. The mastoidities required surgery under general anaesthetic. My convalescence was slow and I began to have a chronic fever. The hospital administration was very kind. I was given a very nice private room and everyone waited and watched for my recovery. This did not take place. A variety of doctors were consulted and it was decided that I had a fatal disease called lubacuts bacterial endocarditis. Fortunately repeated plantings of my blood on special growths meter to isolate the offending germ all proved negative. In the interval my parents had been summoned from Winnipeg to be with their dying son. By that time the weather had become bitterly cold. The excuse to my parents of staying in Brandon was for more than they could afford. I made up my mind that I had to recuperate in Winnipeg in the relative comfort of home. The doctors in Brandon were glad to be rid of me and the responsibility of caring for me. In the meantime I had the problem of a very late start interning and also the problem of being late to write my final exams both for Manitoba and for the LMCC. The doctors in Brandon gave me the covering letters of my prolonged disability. I was given the option or writing my exams in the fall instead of in the spring.
Little by little my strength returned and I began to study for my final exams with renewed confidence. I not only passed all the exams but passed them with the qualification "with honours". I was very proud of my accomplishment and looked forward to interning in Regina. The hospital was an institution of about 600 beds in those days. We had comfortable intern's quarters and had a rotating schedule which gave us a little experience in all fields. Moreover there was a real pathology department with the resultant higher standards. It was an "approved" hospital for internship which was most important to me.
In November 1936 a delegation from the village of Francis came to the hospital superintendent to recommend to them a young graduate to be the community physician. I haven't the foggiest notion why I was chosen. I was truly frightened with the prospect of starting to practice. I was penniless. All I had for equipment was my stethoscope. Events began to unfold very rapidly. I was guaranteed a minimum monthly stipend of $125.00 plus other incentives to increase my income. The community was predominantly a WASP enclave with a dominant United church, a Masonic temple and two general stores. Naturally there was a post office, a telephone exchange, a Chinese restaurant but most important there was running water and electric power from a real utility. The village was only 39 miles from Regina. We had excellent communication for those days. The highway although a gravel road was considered good. There was a sporadic bus service but most important there were two trains daily to Regina and two trains to return.
The "fringe" incentives were very tempting. I was offered the entire second floor of the Bank of Commerce building on the main street. The floor was subdivided into several rooms. There would be more than enough space for me to have a waiting room for patients, a consulting room as well as an examining room. Then of course there was my "own" living quarter. The adjacent building to the quarters I was to occupy was the pool hall, the barber shop and the living quarters of the proprietor and his wife. The were a young childless couple called Hazel and Alf. They offered me 3 meals daily, plus laundry and housekeeping of my premises for $35.00 a month. The furnishing were all donated to me gratis by the community.
The representative of Ingram and Bell, and instrument and drug company offered to fully equip me for practice. I could repay them in any way I chose from future income. The few drugs available then were also supplied to me to dispense to my patients - all on the same basis of repayment. There was no drug store in the community so I was the dispenser by necessity. The needs were really very simple. There was aspirin of course. Then there were two types of cough syrup - one for adults and one for children. Then there was iron for anaemia and an Oil of Wintergreen rubbing compound for muscular aches and pains. Then there were the usual exotic necessities like Vitamin A & D capsules which were very popular at that time for arthritis and skin disorders. For eczema there was a tar ointment and for infections like impetigo I had a good supply of an amnoriated mercury compound. Considering how few tools doctors had in those days it amazes me today how highly the medical profession was held in those days.
Patients were grateful for what little one could do for them. No one expected a miracle. People appreciated being listened to. Kindness and caring could work wonders. An important part of practice was of course a home visit. I had purchased a 1928 second hand Chevrolet sedan. I paid $300.00 for it with no down payment. I don't recall how much I paid in monthly instalments but I do recall that I had it fully paid for at the end of my first year.
My first winter in practice were nightmarish. My greatest anxiety was the unexpected labour of a woman of whom I knew nothing. I had some very close calls. I was called one night to attend a woman in labour. When I arrived at the farm house the woman was bleeding profusely with no sign of a baby. I realized that she had a placenta praevia. It's a dreaded complication of pregnancy. In those days it was one of the leading causes of maternal death. At this time I must have had a guardian angel looking after me. Shortly after arriving she expelled the placenta first and then a stillborn infant. This dreaded complication is one where the placenta or afterbirth is implanted wrongly at the outlet of the uterus making a normal birth impossible. The patient survived but just barely. It was a harrowing night I spent in that lonely farmhouse. It somehow got around that I had saved the woman's life, which of course didn't hurt my reputation. Then of course there was George Koronkiewicz. George was Polish and was a large landowner and reputedly very well off. Prior to my arrival he had been to see several opthamologists about increasing blindness. None of them could do anything for him so he decided to seek advice at the Mayo Clinic. Shortly after my arrival in Francis he came in to see me with the question "Do You know anything about eyes, doc?" I said "not much" and then asked him what he had come to see me about. He pulled out a vial of murky solution and a piece of paper outlining the injectable dose schedule of this vaccine which had been given him at the Mayo Clinic. I asked him what was the diagnosis made in Rochester. He said he didn't know but had been instructed to have the vaccine administered to him once a week. I said to him that I really didn't like the idea of giving a vaccine without knowing the reason for giving it. "So what do you think I've got, doc?" he asked. I said maybe it's "retrobulbar neuritis". He looked at me somewhat perplexed and said "write it on a piece of paper". He then pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and compared what I had written with what was written on his paper. He was amazed that I had guessed correctly. He became a devoted fan and extolled my brilliance to all who would listen.
The winter of 1937 was a dreadful one for me. Pneumonia was of epidemic proportions. It probably had the characteristics of the deadly �'flu' epidemic of 1919.
The earliest Air Ambulance in Canada was started by a funeral director in Regina called Speers. People thought he ran it as a public service but in fact it helped him corner the bulk of the funeral business in a large area of southern Saskatchewan. If I had someone desperately ill in winter, I would phone Speers and his pilot would arrive in a little flimsy single prop plane accompanied by a nurse.
He had both skis and wheels. With snow on the field he would use the skis. If the field was bare he would land with wheels. Never did he have an accident. The nurse and he would carry the patient out on a light stretcher and off they'd go. In less than half an hour they'd have the patient in hospital, most of these patients died anyway but I would get credit that everything possible had been done. That first winter I lost 8 patients to pneumonia.
My basic stipend from the community was $125.00 per month but the majority of patients were not members and therefore were expected to pay me something. Most of the time I accepted what was offered. The summer of 1937 was climactically the most dreadful of all pervious summers on the prairie. The heat was unbearable and broke all previous Canadian records. In early July the temperature topped 110°F in many parts of the south. The winds were ferocious with dust storms blackening the sky and blocking roads for days on end. To aggrivate the misery the winds brought in huge hordes of grasshoppers from the States. They were everywhere. The plugged the radiators of cars, they fouled the windshields and appeared in the most unexpected places. The few trees around, the fields and gardens were totally denuded of living plants. It was like a Biblical plague foisted as punishment. John Steinbeck captured the mood of despair in his classic novel The Grapes of Wrath.
As in Arkansas and Oklahoma many Saskatchewan farmers simply picked up their families loaded them onto their trucks and silently stole away on a very long and arduous journey across the prairie and across the mountains for greener pastures. The suffering was dreadful. The animals suffered as well, for lack of fodder, thousands of horses and cattle starved to death. The crops continued to be adequate in Ontario and the railroad offered to ship spare food for free to the prairies. Bags of apples, potatoes and cabbages began to arrive. It was a drop in the bucket but nonetheless much appreciated.
The misery did not subside that fall. An epidemic of equine encepholomyelitis broke out. It seemed as if hardly a family escaped. I became adept at doing spinal taps and would do the cell count on my Zeiss microscope. Fortunately the vast majority of patients survived without any residual aftereffects. There was no treatment which was probably just was well. But there was a vaccine available for horses and the government purchased a large supply and provided it gratis to farmers who were expected to administer it themselves. I was immediately given the status of a veterinarian. I was expected to administer the vaccine intravenously. The only handy veins were in the horses neck. I was truly frightened and so was the horse. A snorting, shaking animal that size makes a city slicker no match. After a few failures I got the hang of it and managed to do it properly, but I never got over my anxieties. I can't recall whether anyone ever paid me for my suffering.
It was amazing to me when my patients ever got the few dollars some would slip me in gratitude. At the end of my first year in Francis I had earned around $4,000.00. This was a considerable sum in those days and I paid off my debt for the car and for my office supplies to Ingram and Bell. I decided then that I would never again purchase anything on credit. And tried always kept my promise.
My education was expanding. I began to do tonsillectomies. It was understood that I would be paid $15 for the operation. And most of the time I actually collected.
During that terrible summer of 1937 someone in the community go
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no attempt on my part the keep proper records. It was stretching imagination to the limit to pretend this cottage was a hospital. Although a daily occupancy fee had been agreed to nobody paid the slightest attention to its collection. Even the nurse had trouble collecting her princely salary.
I became progressively more busy. My social life also blossomed. People in Regina became aware of my existence and I would frequently be invited into Regina. There was a good selection of girls in Regina and I enjoyed being invited, but I found it difficult to form any sort of relationship.
I also began to take an interest in my medical colleagues. Weyburn was a good sized town directly south of Francis and even closer than Regina. I became a member of the Weyburn and district Medical Society. Two of my classmates had recently married and started practice in Weyburn. David Bruser and Laurie Rabinowitch were both classmates. A young Kaunle and his bride also settled there. He had graduated a couple of years prior to us. Then there were several older doctors there who more or less dominated the medical society. But dominating our group of private practice doctors was a larger group employed by the Province to care for the two or three thousand mentally ill who were incarcerated in a large facility which dominated the whole community.
Our monthly meetings were held in the institution and I would look forward to these gatherings. It was wonderful to talk shop with my contemporaries and catch up on medical gossip. In spite of my new found friends my loyalty was to Regina. My mentor was the Kravinsky family. Kravinsky was a doctor 20 years older than me and was considered to be an excellent surgeon. I invariably sent my surgical patients to him and would often assist him with the surgery. His wife Bella was a gracious lady and a wonderful hostess. Their daughter Grace was still at school and Ralph their other child was only 11 or 12. They entertained a great deal and were considered to be the pinnacle of Regina Jewish society. Berle's younger sister Ethel had just been married to Eddie Bosin and they became my life long best friends. Within a year of starting practice I had accumulated enough savings to buy a new car. I chose a 1937 Chevrolet Sedan. It's price was around 6 or 700 dollars. Using the 1929 Chevrolet as a "trade in" I don't think I paid more than $400 or 450 for this vehicle. I was very proud of it and enjoyed making house calls with it. At the pump gasoline cost 20¢ a gallon but I was told to buy bulk gas as it was much cheaper that way. I rented a very large metal barrel which was lined up with many others on a high platform. At the bottom was a tap which could be locked when not in use. A hose was used to fill the car tank. The do it yourself gas dispensary brought the cost of gasoline to about 10 cents a gallon.
Owning a new car made me very anxious to go on a trip. My mother insisted that if I thought of a trip it would have to be to New York. My uncle Sam and his wife Rose as well as a widowed sister of my uncle Mottia in New York were included. With the luggage on board there was hardly room to breathe. Nobody complained except my Aunt Rose who suffered terribly with her haemorrhoids.
We started our trip to New York on May 4th 1938. It was remarkably uneventful. We stopped in Chicago for a few days to visit with some relatives. It was a good break in the journey. We stayed with these relatives who were excellent hosts.
In New York we were packed into the Schwartzman apartment like sardines in a can. I remember New York vividly mostly because of the entertainments. Every night was a new experience. I squired my cousin Esther to see Eddie Cantor in Whoopee. We went to Billy Rose's night club called Casa Manana and danced to Duke Ellington and his band. Then there was a night at the Copacabana night club when we saw Cab Calloway and the young and gorgeous Lena Horne. The trip lasted about 3 weeks and I felt refreshed and rejuvinated. I had arranged for a locum teneus with a Dr. Parent from the neighbouring village of Spradley. I don't recall the financial arrangements I made with him but I was satisfied with the arrangement and he too was satisfied because he became my standby as time went on.
One night in February 1939 I awoke from a sound sleep with a dull stomach ache. I examined my abdomen as well as I could and sure enough I was moderately tender in the right lower side. Did I or did I not have appendicitis? I decided forthwith to go into Regina and see Kravinsky. He admitted me as a patient of the Regina General Hospital and that same day I suffered an appendectomy. In 1938 surgical patients were kept in bed. I was prescribed morphine for pain. This was my first experience with morphine. I became intensely nauseated and vomited incessantly. It was my first experience with morphine and my last.
To make matters worse I couldn't void and had to be catheterized repeatedly. The Kravinskys kindly offered to keep me for a few days of leisurely convalescence. When I finally returned to Francis I was hardly robust.
That spring of 1939 following this appendectomy, I decided to return to Winnipeg for a proper holiday. I hadn't seen my parents or my sister Esther and brother Ken for about a year and I enjoyed seeing them all. Particularly my mother's cooking which I sorely missed.
My "third" cousin Esther Portigal decided to have a party. By this time she was already married to Eddie Cohen but still living with her parents. I had no idea that she ad an ulterior motive in having a party, the motive was to bring Freda Civkin and me together. Freda was three years younger than me. She was very pretty and had a reputation as a brilliant student. Freda had been keeping company with a young engineer called Eddie Churchill. For reasons unknown to me the relationship had been terminated and Freda was a free agent as was I.
During the few days remaining of my holiday I saw her constantly. I was truly smitten.
When I returned to Francis I became busier than ever but wrote to Freda almost daily. I decided to return to Winnipeg in May and ask her to marry me. I was ecstatic when she agreed.
There was much to be done. -

I must pause and digress for a moment. A completely new aspect and direction to my life had started. For years I have admired the gifted writer of fiction. How skilfully they developed a story and their ability to use words and sentences to express emotion and action. The serious articles particularly those in the Atlantic Monthly or the lead commentary in the New Yorker are beautifully crafted. I've often wondered where one learns the skills. Is it by taking a course in creative writing at some college? This road does not appeal to me. Perhaps it's because I'm too old. If I did take a course or classes would I have anything worthwhile to write about?
I've glanced over the pages I've written and find them dull and tedious. Other than my immediate family, who might find parts of it amusing (in a patronizing way) I can think of no one else. Perhaps the exercise is good for me. It has given me a chance to stir my memory in reflecting on my life.
At my age one does not do much future planning. Before the past fades into oblivion I started this exercise in recollection. On reading some of the pages I've written so far I'm struck by the skimpiness of my notes. I seem to have made no effort to elaborate on the events which took place.

Now to return to 1939. In those days I seemed to have had enormous sources of energy. I would see patients in Francis and when the last one had gone I would get into the car and drive all night to Winnipeg. The week end would start on Friday night when I had seen the last patient. The roads in those days were almost all entirely gravel. It was impossible to drive much faster than about 40 miles an hour. On a particularly good stretch maybe 50 miles an hour could be achieved. I had decided on getting a new car. This time I was struck with the appearance of the 1939 Nova and bought the sedan, the one extravagance I indulged in was to order the snow drift saver tires. I think they were called that but I was probably wrong. These salient tires had a miniature tire inside the outer casing. In the event of a blowout the inner tire would remain inflated and keep your safely in control until the car came to a full stop. On a straight stretch of road, particularly on pavement I could easily reach 90 or 100 miles an hour.
Now to return to the week end routine. After having supper at about 6 or 6:30, I would get into the car, drive all night and arrive in Winnipeg when dawn was breaking. My dates with Freda were pre-arranged and on Sunday night I would start my long drive back to Francis. Patients would often be waiting for me on Monday morning. The time left for sleeping was almost non existent.
There was an interesting blending of events when Freda and I decided to inform our parents of our engagement. The young King and Queen of England were paying their first official visit to Canada. Their open limousine was to drive down Main Street in front of my father's office which was on the main floor of the Confederation Life building directly across the street from the City Hall. It was practically a front row seat. Freda and I chose that day to inform our respective parents. My father was non committal at the news but my mother's nose became strictly out of joint. How could I insult her by not consulting her of my decision.
The next day I drove back to Francis and Freda paid her a visit to meet the family and pay her respects. It was not until we were married that I heard of my mother's rudeness to her. Apparently the daughter of a common barber was an unsuitable match for her son the doctor. This was only one of a multitude of sins of which we were both guilty. I had met the Civkins when calling for Freda and I have no recollection how they reacted to our engagement.
It is hard to visualize our relative poverty in 1939. Freda's main occupation was teaching piano. She taught in pupils' homes all over the city. Her only means of transportation was the street car. It was time consuming and the fees per lesson were by present day standards laughable. The finances for a presentable wedding were almost non existent. Coming to the rescue was Freda's relatively prosperous uncle Sam Pearlman. Sam was the publisher of a racing sheet. It may have been called the Sporting news. He and his wife Yetta offered to finance the wedding at the Royal Alexandra Hotel. It was to be held on Sunday August 13th. Rabbi Kahanovitch the dean of the rabbinical community in western Canada was to officiate. I can't recall who the bridesmaids were but Freda did have a lovely new wedding gown. The music was on the piano. I work a brand new white double breasted suit. The luncheon was a fish meal. There was wine and the usual sweet table. My best man was Alec Lerner who came in specially from his practice in Alsask, Saskatchewan. The guest list totalled well in excess of 100 or 125 guests. It was a happy affair and we planned to leave immediately after the affair. The day was blistering hot. That week in August was setting records for heat. Air conditioning other than in the odd movie house was non existent. Certainly an air conditioned car was unknown. As we were leaving the hotel we were showered with confetti. Some of Freda's well wishers shoved handfuls of confetti inside her going away outfit. The dreadful heat in the car and the resultant perspiration made the dye in the confetti run. She had multicoloured dye on her face, neck and chest. When we were safely out of town I drew off the road and stopped the car while Freda took off almost all her clothes. This was how we drove on past he US border and on to Grand Forks North Dakota. Our plant was to drive all the way down to San Francisco where a World's Fair was in progress. The further south and west we drove the more oppressive the heat became . In Pierre, South Dakota the temperature at midnight was 104°F and the mountain roads through Wyoming and Utah provided little or no relief from the heat. It was particularly hot driving through the Great Salt Desert.
Soon we were in Nevada. In a town called Elko I developed an abscessed wisdom tooth. We found an obliging dentist who extracted it for the princely fee of $2.00.
By Canadian prairie standards, Elko, Nevada was not a hamlet. It was closer in size to small towns like Melville. To our amazement the best hotel in town boasted chamber pots in the rooms and wash basins were filled with water in pitchers.
We wasted no time in leaving Elko and drove on to what was locally called the biggest little city in the world - Reno, Nevada. This was long before Las Vegas come on the scene. Reno was not only a mecca for gamblers but was the undisputed capital for quickie marriages and divorces. The place we enjoyed the most in Nevada was Lake Tahoe. We found it enchanting. We were finally on the last leg of our trip to San Francisco. Again we were met by a wall of intense heat particularly the Bay area in late evening and were amazed at the sudden change in climate. Leaving the furnace like heat of the valleys to the refreshing coolness of San Francisco was an unforgettable experience. We were total strangers in a big city arriving fairly late at night. We were hungry and had no shelter. As we drove down a street not knowing where we were, we spied a policeman. The officer was extraordinarily polite and helpful. First of all he directed us to a small Italian restaurant to satisfy our hunger and then to a hotel where we could have the amenities of civilization. The Italian restaurant where we headed to first was an extraordinary little place. The service was cafeteria style. For 50 cents you could have lamb or beef or chicken - in any quantity - with pasta and vegetables and tea or coffee. The food was marvellous and after more than 52 years has left an indelible recollection, and so did our hotel room - which had all the conveniences one could possibly expect. And San Francisco was deliciously cool after the blistering heat of travelling there - the hotel room rate was $2.00 per day.
I will digress for a moment to write of our finances. We planned to be away for exactly 3 weeks. 1939 was long before the advent of credit cards. Cheques for daily transactions were looked upon with suspicion and were very impractical. We budgeted for almost $25.00 per day with was thought to be a very considerable sum at the time. This of course included the cost of driving the car.
When we were settled down in San Francisco our attention turned to the World's Fair. The fair was wonderful. I vividly recall the night club where Sally Ruud performed. Sally Ruud was the most notorious of the naked fan dancers. She was very good but I couldn't help noticing that she shaved her pubic hair. At another night we watched Phil Harris and his wife Alice Faye perform. The highlight came when Phil Harris made a public comment about how pretty Freda looked. On another evening we danced to Eddie Duchin and his orchestra. He was a very gifted pianist and musician. He died not long after from a brain tumour.
Our honeymoon was cut short by events we didn't anticipate. We were in a night club and had just finished dining at about 2 AM when a trembling waiter came to our table to hand us an "EXTRA" newspaper just off the press. Huge black headlines declared Hitler invades Poland.
There and then we decided to return home as quickly as possible. We had a radio in the car and heard when Britain and France declared war and a day or two later when Canada joined the war.
We had one mishap on our return journey. One of our tires blew in the intense heat of the desert. Our finances were becoming somewhat depleted as I hadn't budgeted for a tire replacement. In any event we arrived in Regina with only a couple of dollars to spare. But that was enough for the hotel and several meals.
Prior to our wedding I had rented a two storey house adjacent to the United church. It was a conventional house with a living room, dining room, kitchen and a summer kitchen on the main floor and 3 bedrooms on the second floor. In the basement was a hot air furnace. I found a retired farmer who had a reputation as a painter and paperhanger. I had the whole house decorated. Supervising the decorating during our absence was Isaac Stoffman, Freda's first cousin who had just graduated and was happy to oblige us by being my locum teneus.
Freda liked what she saw which relieved me greatly. We settled down into domestic life very quickly. My friends in Regina and Weyburn had us over and before long we were entertaining them at parties in our own house. We were also fortunate in that the fall of 1939 was unusually mild in our part of Saskatchewan with no sign of snow until the last week of December. As 1940 progressed with little or no action in Europe many of us began to worry that Hitler was going to get away with his aggression. The Blitzkrieg in Europe was a tremendous shock to us and when the Battle of Britain got underway I decided to enlist in the army. I was told to stay where I was and was told that I would be called when necessary. To me as to most of my contemporaries Hitler was evil incarnate. Instinctively we were angry at Germany for aiding and abetting his vicious "theories", his virulent and violent anti-Semitism and his stated aim to dominate Europe and create a huge class of slaves to serve the Master Race.
The Battle of Britain unfolded on our radios like a fairy tale. It became almost Biblical in its scope with David conquering the giant Goliath.
I anticipated being called up and decided on moving to Regina. I was becoming very busy in my practice. Because some of my neighbouring doctors were already in service I was asked to be available for service. The villages of Lajourd and Riceton offered me consulting rooms twice a week to see their patients. It was as easy to serve these communities from Regina as from Francis which was an important factor in us deciding to move to a city. The only drawback was that I was denied admitting privileges in the two major Regina hospitals. The respective staffs had voted to freeze out all newcomers for the duration of the war. This was a nuisance to me and an inconvenience rather than a major setback.
We managed to rent a small cottage at 3316 Victoria Ave. Our rent was $40.00 per month which we thought was pure extortion. We had hoped to be able to rent an apartment but were turned down in two separate apartment buildings for no other reason that that we were Jewish. This was overt Anti-Semitism by the local WASP establishment.
We moved into our rented cottage in 1941 and later that year the army informed me to prepare for an imminent "call up". This pending "call up" coincided with Freda's pregnancy. We expected our baby in April 1942 and the previous month in March I had already spent 3 weeks in Camp Borden near Barrie, Ontario for my start of army basic training. Needless to say I hated it. By the time I returned to Regina spring had arrived and Alex was born on April 14th 1942. Freda nursed the baby but in spite of all outward signs of health the baby cried incessantly. In retrospect the child was probably intolerant of cows' milk but this was long before the advent of milk substitutes. Our paediatrician was a Dr. Gareau who assured us that the baby was fine. The head nurse in the paediatric ward at the General Hospital was well acquainted with our problem. Her name was Miss Jolly and she and Gareau insisted that if only we'd leave Alex in their care they'd straighten him out in a week or ten days. Both of us jumped at the chance of having a bit of rest and we agreed to leave the baby in their care. In retrospect our callous behaviour would have been unthinkable at present. Nevertheless we jumped at this opportunity and spent a beautiful holiday in Banff and Lake Louise. On our return the baby continued to cry incessantly.
My army duties were minimal. I was made the medical officer for a Mobile Recruitment Centre. The staff consisted of myself, a clerk, a driver and a sergeant. The sergeant would arrange the itinerary. Posters advising the community of the date of our arrival, the location of the recruitment centre and bookings for an overnight stand in a hotel if the distance from Regina was too far to return late in the afternoon - I was always amazed at the brisk "business" our recruitment centres generated. The clerk did most of the work. He would fill out the application forms, medical history, and measure and weigh the recruit. I would complete the medical form. The two trips I most clearly recall was one to the village of Gravelbourg in the south west. It was a French Canadian community. It was dominated by a pretty church with beautifully religious murals and the campus of a parochial Junior college. The village itself was very well maintained and was much more impressive than other villages of a similar size in other parts of Southern Saskatchewan. The other village I recall even more vividly. It was Arcala in the south East. The hotel we were booked into was very well maintained. My room was immaculately clean and it boasted of a fine dining room and beer parlour. The waitress in the dining room recommended the ham steak as being outstanding. I recall enjoying the meal and afterward joining my "staff" in the beer parlour. My experience with beer was negligible but it was recommended. I have a bottle of Guinness stout. I went to bed at a reasonable hour but I awoke in the middle of the night with a terrible itch. Bedbugs was the first diagnosis to come to mind. I got out of bed turned on the lights to see myself in the mirror. At a glance I knew it was not bed bugs but hives. It was either the ham steak or the stout or a combination of both. I decided to take a bath to relax my body and eventually fell asleep again.
By morning the itch had subsided and by the time I was back home I was completely recovered.
Life was relatively pleasant. My army duties were minimal and being lulled into a false sense of security I traded my Nova car for a very upscale Pontiac sedan. No sooner did I settle into a life of domesticity when a bomb shell descended. Alex was now a year old and was turning into a beautiful child. With the Americans on our side the war did not seem so hopeless. The Battle of Britain had been won and the Russians were holding the Nazis - even though the enemy had almost reached to Volga. Leningrad and Moscow were in Russian hands and the Germans were paying a terrible price for their senseless aggression.
Life in Regina was becoming quite interesting. We were in the midst of a real social explosion. Cocktail parties, dances and innumerable gatherings. In May 1942 our placid and pleasant life was suddenly disrupted. The medical brigadier in charge of all medical services in the Province phoned me. It was not until much later that I discovered that he was a notorious Anti-Semite and an inveterate liar.
His message was clear and simple - pack up and get to Prince Albert in 48 hours. We had a house in Regina, furniture and most important of all a small baby. By a stroke of luck the medical officer I was to report to was Mitchell Rubin a classmate and a Jew. I immediately phoned Mitch and told him what had happened. He already knew what took place and promised to find us a place to live. News of our transfer travelled fast and we were swamped with offers to sublet our furnished dwelling.
As ordered we arrived in Prince Albert within 48 hours and miraculously Mitch did find a tiny basement apartment. Mitch had enlisted the week the war erupted in September 1939. He was shipped immediately to Britain where he served in a variety of units. In 1941 he became very ill with a severe kidney disorder and apparently almost died. Eventually he was invalided back to Canada where he made a slow recovery. He was now promoted to major and was given the job of running the medical establishment in Prince Albert. He was a native of Saskatchewan and had been brought up in a small village in the province. After graduation he began practice in a village close to his family's home. He married a nurse a fine Gentile girl. Apparently they had no children. No sooner did we settle foot in Prince Albert when our Brigadier showed up. He was very cordial and hoped that I would have a pleasant summer in P.A. Of course the bastard was lying. He had already submitted my name for overseas duty.
Freda managed the constant disruption with equanimity and remarkable good humour. Even the baby was standing by himself and was gradually developing into a beautiful little boy.
My work in P.A. was really quite simple. There were new recruits to examine as well as taking "sick parade" at the notorious Prince Albert Penitentiary. The weather was glorious and we had already met some Jewish families. It was probably during this short interval the Freda became pregnant for the second time.
Finally the hammer fell. I was informed that I had exactly 14 days to get to Windsor Nova Scotia. The bastard general lied to me with malice when he wished me a lovely placid summer at the entrance to Prince Albert National Park. For it was he who placed my name at the top of the list for shipment to Britain. We plunged into a frenzy of activity. We had previously decided that should I be sent to Europe Freda and the children would move to Winnipeg and move into the upstairs apartment in Civkin's house on College Ave. It was a self contained suite with its own private entrance, a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. It was presently occupied by a tenant but the terms were that the tenant was obliged to vacate the premises on 2 weeks notice. Our possessions were to be shipped from Regina where they were still in our little cottage on Victoria. There was a fine sofa and chair, a Chinese rug, a Heintzman piano and other miscellany accumulated in almost 3 years of marriage. How we managed to do it all in so short a time was amazing. Only one bad error of judgement occurred. I had bought a new Pontiac sedan during the winter. It was in immaculate condition and when I returned to the dealer who sold it to me he offered to purchase it for ½ of what I had paid him for it. I knew he was taking advantage of me, but I had no time to advertise and sell it privately.
When I returned from overseas in 1946 and needed a car the stupid salesman a Mr. Higgins; the grandfather of Dick Grosch one of Alex' best friends, boasted to me about the bargain he had bought from me and how he had sold it a year later for 4 times what he had paid me.
We got to our destination in Windsor Nova Scotia exactly on time and learned that the date of sailing was as yet unknown. It was May 1943 and the Annapolis valley was ablaze in apple tree blossoms. The town was pretty and the climate delightful. We were soon a group of young married couples most of us Captains in the Royal Cdn. Med. Corps. By this time both Freda and I were pretty certain of the pregnancy. When I would see the child was not discussed. This was not a topic which either of us spoke of.
And so came to a pause a chapter in our lives. We were embarking on the unknown. Freda with a baby in tow and an unborn child, left to manage as best she could. At least she would not be alone. In Winnipeg she would have her parents as well as mine. As for her finances she would probably manage. I assigned almost all my army pay to her. After paying rent to her parents and paying her light bill she would have in excess of $100.00 per month for day to day expenses. This was not an insignificant sum at that time for it was sufficient to pay for domestic help which she particularly needed after David was born on February 1st, 1944.
Finally we sailed. The troop ship was the Empress of Japan now renamed the Empress of Scotland. We crossed the Atlantic without a convoy or escort, relying entirely on the ship's speed to avoid interruption by German "U" boats.
The crossing was very rough, most of the time I had to lie in my bunk. At no time did I show any signs of tolerance to sea sickness. My only relief was when I managed to doze or sleep. Perhaps had there been available some the motion sickness remedies still to be invented I might have tolerated the voyage better.
Eventually we entered the Irish Sea and headed for the Scottish coast. The sea became much calmer and I was able to join the hordes of soldiers crowding the deck to watch the panorama of Ireland, Scotland and finally England and the docks of Liverpool.
None of us knew where we were. The crew denied all knowledge of our destination. In those days silence and secrecy were paramount.
When we disembarked and were shepherded onto a troop train heading south did I realize that I was now in a real warzone.

It's now 1992 and almost a half century since the events I've tried to recollect. Perhaps it's time to pause and reflect. In a few months I'll be 80 years old. Before I retired from practice six years ago I'd consider patients my age as very old and requiring special care and attention. In spite of my present infirmities I don't feel quite that ancient or decrepit.
For the past few months my bother Ken has developed a keen interest in our family's genealogy. He has written me several times about dates of birth and death of various members of our family. He his keeping track of all this on his computer and printer which is a new toy he has recently acquired. About a week ago Toots uncovered a letter dated 1980 from a cousin - (several times removed) - in Chicago. It was from Paula Gordon. She is a woman my age also born in Uman and emigrated to Chicago in 1920 or 1921. Her maiden name was DRUBYGH. In brief this is what I learned from her long and disjointed letter. On our maternal grandfather's side we are descended from a man called AKIBA SHKODNIK who lived in a village close to UMAN. On or about 1800 he acquired a wife called RISSEL. They had 3 daughters. One daughter named one of her sons after the grandfather AKIBA. Another daughter married a Schwartzman. Another daughter married a Freivoch (my mother's maiden name). Each of these "new" branches had males called AKIBA. The Freivoch Akiba was my grandfather. Your uncle Ken is named for him as is Esther Young's brother Ken Schwartzman in New York. Freda Metter whom I believe you know was a Schwartzman. Another daughter (several generations ago married a DRUBYCH) and so on. Now we can trace our family tree - one branch at least 200 years. The occupations of these long forgotten ancestors I don't know.
I must not forget the Brodetzkys. The Brodetzkys also belonged on the family tree. Your grandmother Brushka always considered them her close relations. Mrs. Drubych Paula Gordon's mother was a Brodetzky. There was a urologist in Winnipeg called Dr. John Brodie. He married a Gentile lady and completely severed all ties with his relations and with the Jewish community. Mrs. Drubych had a very distinguished brother Dr. Zelig Brodetzky - Professor of Mathematics at Leeds University. He eventually became the President of the Board of Jewish Deputies in England. He was a close friend of Chaim Weizmaun. And eventually became the President of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Another member of the family I should mention is my childhood friend and cousin Grisha Freivoch or Frivei. Grisha's father was Mayer who was my mother's uncle - a brother to my grandfather Akiba.
Grisha was an only child. His parents emigrated to Paris instead of America. When war in Europe erupted in 1939 they fled to Lima, Peru. About 15 years ago they settled in Los Angeles. Now Grisha and his family are back in Paris. Esther Young saw them in Lima Peru many years ago. She was very impressed. They are apparently a highly cultivated family.
The preceding has been a very sketch account of our family. I have precious little knowledge of Freda's family. Except for the fact that Celia Civkin was a Pearlman. There were four Pearlman sisters Zelda Stoffman, Rasha, Golden and one sister who was mentally retarded. Then there were 2 brothers Sam and Sidney. Sam became a protégé of Walter Aurenberg the mover of an important publishing empire and Sam the publisher of the New York based Triangle publications. Solomon Civkin was a character worthy of description by the important Yiddish writers of the time.
Both Celia and Solomon Civkin were ardent Yiddishists. They spoke to each other in Yiddish only and wrote to their children in Yiddish. They were radical intellectuals both steeped in the socialist tradition of the early twentieth century. Civkin was a socialist in the anarchic tradition and Celia was a confirmed communist always justifying Stalin's brutalities. They quarrelled incessantly but listening to their quarrels was an educational experience. They had four children. The eldest Alex died at age 12 from lobar pneumonia. Then came Freda, Sidney followed by eleven months and finally Naomi. Sidney an otolaryngologist in Vancouver and Naomi a gifted concert pianist, who lives in California. Sidney married Estelle Mindess of Winnipeg. They have two daughters Linda and Shelley.
Naomi married Bernie Zaslav of New York. Bernie is a gifted violist who at one time played with the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. In recent years he has concertized extensively usually with well known string quartets. They have two married children, Mark and Claudia.
My sister Esther married Sam Wolinsky later known as Wallen. They were married in 1942. Sam had recently enlisted in the RCAF. Sam's father Joseph Wolinsky was reputed to be one of the richest Jews in Winnipeg. He was involved in a multitude of business and his sons become active in some of the enterprises. One of the sons Leonard, founded an electrical manufacturing business in Toronto. Sam became a junior partner and when the business was sold to a large American Corporation he became instantly very wealthy. Esther and Sam had 3 children Richard the oldest was born in 1949 followed by Shelagh and Mina.
My "kid" brother Ken was born in 1928. He was only 7 years old when I left home.
I will write more of my family later. I must return to a more orderly recitation of the biographical events of my long life.

And now to return to the chronological events until I digressed.
The British countryside is vividly green and lush in May and June. The war did not disrupt the beauty of the flowers, the trees or the picture postcard appearance of the villages. We finally arrived at our destination in Aldershot. This was a town well known as the site for military training. The barracks housed the thousands of troops assembled to learn the fundamentals of soldiering. I hated the place from the start but did look forward to our free "weekends". We required billeting passes from the army and once secured all we needed was to hop on a train (where were very frequent and always on time). A few days after arriving in Aldershot I was introduced to my first glimpse of London from afar. London was still in the midst of the fire bombing and Battle of Britain. I don't think these descriptive terms had been invented. They were very apt at night particularly if the sky was overcast one could see the reflection of the fire bombing and the bursts of anti-aircraft fire which lit the sky at the horizon. It was an awesome sight but strangely it did not produce any sensation of fear. This was at the height of the London blitz but all of us were quite oblivious and ignorant of its historical significance.
At the first week-end opportunity I secured a billeting pass and off I rode to London. There I was joined by a couple of acquaintances from Winnipeg. We wandered the streets till dark. In June and early July nightfall comes very late. Nevertheless we were fascinated at the teeming life around us. The blackout was total. Taxis were permitted one very dim and hooded light at night. Even lighting a cigarette without shielding the flame was forbidden. Nevertheless life proceeded as usual. My first exposure to the horrible destruction of war was going down to the London underground. The long passageways and corridors were lined with double decker street cars for those whose homes had been bombed. It was a nerve wracking experience to see whole families trying to get some rest under appalling conditions. For my first night in London I was billeted in a very fancy hotel called the Park Lane on Piccadilly. The room was spacious and overlooked Green Park. I fell asleep in the most comfortable bed I had been in for many months. Sometime during the night I was suddenly awakened by the most horrendous explosions. The window rattled as did the chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. One didn't need any light to see what was going on outside. I was witnessing my first air raid and the deafening noise was coming from the anti-aircraft batteries across the street in Green Park. Needless to say, I was thoroughly frightened by this - my first wartime experience with the reality of war.
When daybreak came the bombardment petered out. I then noticed the dirigibles encircling the park all of them dangling long metal chains. The chains were apparently designed to entangle enemy aircraft should they attempt a low level bombing run. I thought this experience exciting and now considered myself part of the war effort.
During the weeks which followed in Aldershot my experience of war-time Britain grew considerably. For the first time I saw a propellorless aircraft in the sky. I can't recall whether the term jet had been coined at that time.
The month of June 1943 was the time when mass bombings of Germany commenced. Most afternoons many of us would stay outdoors and try to count the waves of massed bombers flying in formations eastwards towards the Continent. Some hours later we would count them as they returned from their bombing mission. Sometimes we would see planes in obvious distress such as smoking engines.
I finally managed to contact my good friend Alec Lerner. All I knew at that time that he was a medical officer with the Calgary Highlanders. I had heard that he had recently married into a well to do family but little else. He invited me to spend a week-end at his in-laws country home at Surningdale not far from Aldershot. He would meet me with a vehicle at the station and drive me to the house.
When we met at the station, I noticed a perceptible change in my friend. First of all his speech bore a slight trace of English accent and his manner somewhat superior and paternalistic.
Little by little I learned that he had married the daughter of Simon Marks the head of one of the world's great mercantile dynasties - Marks & Spencer stores. Hannah his wife was a spirited young woman and I thought quite likeable. They already had a child - a boy roughly the same age as Alex.
The country home was a sprawling estate. This was my first introduction to such a magnificent estate.
As I entered the house I was struck by the spaciousness and scale of the interior. The entry hall - if one could call it that was a huge room with the opposite end opening onto a glorious garden. This whole wall was glazed in an interesting pattern as were the huge doors leading to the garden. To the left as you entered was a broad curved staircase leading to the upper floor. Behind the staircase were the doors to the dining room. On the right were two doors. The first to a huge drawing room which apparently was not used. The walls were decorated with French impressionist paintings. I had never seen such art in my life. The second door on the right led to another small drawing room with books, sofas and prominently displayed was a magnificent young girl's portrait glowing with the rosiness that immediately identified it as a Renoir.
The bedroom I was assigned was in the "guest house". The room was decorated with Degas sketches and the bed sheets were satin. "My" bathroom was as big as an average Canadian bedroom maybe larger.
Alec took me on a tour of the grounds. There were tennis courts and a house especially designed to accommodate a small fleet of limousines and sportcars. All of these vehicles were upon blocks and were not used because of the war. I used the term house instead of garage because by no stretch of imagination could it be equated with a building we would call a garage in Canada.
After the war the Markses became elevated to Sir Simon and Lady marks but when I knew them they were still Mr. and Mrs. They were both unpretentious and very well informal. Both of them spent only weekends in the country. They had vacated their home in London but had an apartment at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
I became a frequent visitor on week ends at Sureningdale and although I must have appeared as a gawking colonial to Mr. and Mrs. Marks as well as to the household staff.
There was one quite memorable occasion which has stuck with me. It was in November or December of 1943. Had I know about it before hand I'd probably have "chickened out" and made some lame excuse. I don't recall the whole guest list except for 3 particular guests. There was a Lord and Lady ______ he being the resident or chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). One of the great industries vital to the war effort. I had read somewhere the ICI was related to the great German chemical complexes. Knowledge of the poison gases used to kill millions in the German concentration camps was as yet unknown. On my right sat another Lord & Lady. This one being the chairman of the London transit complexes such as the underground and buses and so on. This poor Lord was wheezing very badly with asthma. He asked me what I did in the Army and when I told him I was a doctor he wanted to know if I had any knowledge of new drugs in the treatment of asthma. On my left sat a woman called Lady Middleton. I had recently read that she was a sister of the notorious Fascist leader of the English Nazi Oswald Moseley. Fortunately he was imprisoned when war erupted. I felt most uncomfortable at my proximity to the sister of a man espousing every vicious anti-Semitic utterance mouthed by his mentor Adolph Hitler. I couldn't wait for dinner to conclude so that I could question Alec about Lady Middleton. His only comment was that everybody knew she was a Moseley. The Moseleys were a very old and distinguished English family and one couldn't blame her for her brother's beliefs.
This comment didn't sit too well with me. I couldn't reconcile the fact that a very prominent Jewish family was on such intimate terms with upper crust English aristocracy many of whom were originally quite sympathetic to the aspirations of the Hitler regime.
Strangely, Simon Marks was a staunch supporter of Jewish aspirations and a large variety of Jewish causes.
Mrs. Marks was born a Sieff - one of the oldest and most prominent Jewish families in England. She too was a leading figure in Jewish philanthropy.
Army life in England was a rather lazy and boring existence. I continued to be posted to medical examination groups in the London environs.
The news from "home" was good. I would write to Freda at least 3 - 4 times weekly and she would reply almost as frequently. Her pregnancy was progressing well. Alex was developing rapidly and had learned a few words. My "army" portrait in the living room encouraged Alex to identify all men dress in uniform as "Daddy". Whenever Freda took him outdoors either for a walk or shopping he would amuse pedestrians by pointing to every uniformed man as "Daddy".
After New Year's Day 1944 I was posted to a very small medical unit headed by Charles Hollenberg from Winnipeg. He was an orthopaedic surgeon and had been promoted to major. We got along quite will.
On February 2nd 1944 I received a cable telling me that Freda had given birth to another son on February 1st. I didn't know the details except that the cable said "Mother and child doing well". Letters detailing Freda's sudden onset of labour and the mad dash to the hospital by taxi were later vividly described. Fortunately she had been able to secure domestic help which in wartime was an achievement. We had decided on calling the baby DAVID.
One day in April Charlie Hollenberg my C.O. talked to me about my future. He told me I had two choices. The first choice was that I remain with the unit. He expected to be transferred shortly and would recommend that I succeed him thereby gaining a promotion to major. The second choice was a posting to #10 Canadian General Hospital. The hospital which originated in London Ontario had an excellent reputation with its chiefs of department being almost entirely drawn from the staff of the Medical Faculty at the University of Western Ontario. It didn't take me long to decide. I chose the hospital.
The transfer was almost immediate. I was to report to the hospital at once and was faced with a long journey by train to a point called Scotch Corner in Yorkshire. I shall never forget that trip. I had a heavy Army issue packsack crammed with my belongings and which weighed about 75 lbs. The train was packed with soldiers not just the seats but the narrow corridors as well. The train left our station sometime in the afternoon. I stood in the train corridor partly supported by other soldiers. There was no way to relieve one's bladder or get a drink of water. The so called journey took 12 solid hours. I seemed half paralyzed when I got off at the station in Scotch Corner. There were several army vehicles at the station to give me a lift to the hospital. It was about 4 AM and already the sun had risen. When I entered the building no one was around all were sound asleep. I lay down on the floor with the knapsack as my pillow and immediately fell asleep from utter exhaustion.
It didn't take me long to adjust to my new life. The hospital had been vacated from all patients. We were to get ready for new adventures - which to us meant only one thing. Somehow we would participate in the invasion of Europe. Naturally we didn't know where or when.
On about June 1 we began to pack for an impending journey. We were sorry to leave Scotch corner. The countryside was beautiful. It was truly picture postcard country and the weather was glorious. We boarded a train which took to us to a sea side town called HOVE - adjacent to Brighton on the English Channel. All day long were watched unending convoys of tanks, other mobile arms, vehicles packed with soldiers. The blackout was total and everyone observed the control of idle speculation outside the confines of our building.
The building it was housed in faced the sea and my room had a wonderful view of the beach and channel. The beach was strewn with small rocks and was almost always totally deserted. The ocean breakers made a constant rhythmic pounding which some found annoying while most of us found its monotony soothing.
Life was boring but most of us did manage to take the bus into Brighton or Eastbourne - all well known as English summer resort towns.
Once I recall going to Portsmouth where we had a chance to see Nelson's famous ship the Victory. A spot on deck is marked where he was fatally shot. This "flagship" of his fleet is amazingly small. Below deck it was impossible to stand erect. No matter where one turned you had to stoop to avoid banging one's head. It was interesting to speculate on the stench below deck of the packed, sweaty unwashed bodies.
Slowly the days slipped by. June 6, 1944 was quite breezy with a choppy sea but blue sky with scattered fluffy clouds. Soon came waves of bombers and fighter planes. The placidity of the previous weeks was gone. The invasion of Europe had begun and excitement and restlessness filled the day.
In spite of being only a "stone's throw" across the channel where the action was. The news of the action on the French coast was amazingly meagre. With each successive day we knew our turn would soon arrive. The "official" bulletins were always upbeat but we well knew to take these with a large dose of salt.
Our turn finally arrived in the last week of June. We were ready to go.. We were divided into small groups. Each group sailed on a special landing craft. It was daybreak when we approached the coast. The tide was out and clearly revealed to us were the German fortifications and the sea obstacles that had been planted to tear the batten out of any unsuspecting ship. When the command was given the armed motorized vehicles went ashore first. We had been thoroughly briefed as to what to do on landing. It was hard work wading through the water and soft bank, particularly with a bomb sack on one's back. To our surprise it was eerily quiet on shore. Everyone had his own rations and water. An office not connected to our hospital directed us. We were hot, dirty and exhausted but managed to trudge our way inland for 3 or 4 miles until we reached some farmer's field where we were told we'd spend the night. Up to this time we hadn't heard a sound of gunfire. That was soon to end. As soon as dusk set in all hell broke loose. I was frightened as I'm sure my companions were too. We were expected to rest and sleep till daybreak. The din of artillery and anti-aircraft fire was constant. For novices like us it was impossible to rest. At daybreak we were again mustered to march and finally we reached our destination. There was nothing there except a provincial road and farmer's fields and orchards on both sides. By this time we had discovered that we were in Normandy and that we had landed at a place called Arromanches.
Surprisingly the logistics of assembling us, bringing the hundreds of tents and other necessities all arrived on schedule. Many of the staff began digging their own personal fox holes. Half of us didn't bother at all. Little by little the hospital began to take shape. The tents were erected. The equipment was assembled.
The huge tents to accommodate the casualties were assembled. The cots for patients arrived. The surgical instruments, the drugs, the dressings and all the other surgical items arrived. The last to arrive were the portable kitchens. Up till the all we had were cold rations. Soon we could look forward to something hot.
Little by little #10 Canadian General Hospital became assembled. All the services fell into shape. The generators to power the operating room lights, the x-ray machines but no lights elsewhere.
My classmate Abe Earn from Winnipeg scored a tiny bell shaped tent and later that summer we salvaged an enormously heavy battery from a burnt out German tank. We hauled it over beside our tent with the help of a truck. We then led a couple of wires to a headlamp of a blown up vehicle and presto we had a little light to serve us after dark. It was amazing the capacity of that battery. It lasted from early summer till late fall in November when the hospital moved to Belgium. I was not qualified to do casualty surgery but was kept quite busy with medical problems.
I had my first exposure to cases of malaria. But my most memorable problem was a young British soldier who contracted "Weil's Disease" a disease contracted by exposure to water which had been contaminated by infected rats. It's a severe, usually fatal disease. I had the distinction of being the first physician ever to treat and cure a case of Weil's Disease with penicillin - which had just been released to our hospital.
Naturally I was encouraged to publish the case which eventually appeared in a military medical journal
Early in July 1944 the fighting on the front became very heavy. The casualties were coming in streams of convoys and the hospital literally bulged with about a thousand wounded. The casualties were a mixed bag. Many were British with small groups of Poles and French but the majority were our own Canadians. One day as a convoy of ambulances arrived a soldier came running to me to tell me some guy was being taken in and insisted that he was my relation and needed to see me at once. It didn't take long to find Sidney Civkin my brother in law lying on a stretcher. He had sustained a piece of shrapnel in his buttock and was in great pain and practically in shell shock. He was terribly concerned that his parents would receive on of those frightening army telegrams - "we regret to inform you that your son - has been wounded in action. Extent of injuries unknown. Further particulars will follow."
I immediately sent a cable to Freda telling her of Sid's wound and reassured the family. My cable arrived well before the Army message. I had done a good deed. Sid's recovery was anything but smooth. To complicate matters he developed severe haemorrhoids which required surgery. Sidney was the medical officer of a battalion of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and had been exposed to heavy fire in action.
I felt sorry for him to be wounded but it was nice to have a member of the family at hand and with whom we could discuss family problems. The war was progressing favourably and on August 23rd 1944 Paris was liberated. This major event coincided with my birthday and no more joyous occasion could have been planned. Naturally the city became strictly out of bounds.
Needless to say most of us desperately wanted to get there and see for ourselves a little of life in a liberal Paris.
Needless to say a Jeep was soon found and of we went to the big city. We had been briefed that under no circumstances were we to try to get military lodging or try to wrangle food from some army unit. We would promptly be arrested with unknown consequences. The first thing our tiny group did was check in to a third rate hotel for a place to sleep. We knew food would be difficult to get so we brought along whatever we could lay our hands on. But it wasn't nearly enough and before long we were literally facing starvation. Every scrap of food needed a ration coupon and we had none. We managed to survive and on our return we felt as if we had participated in a great and glorious adventure.
Another wonderful trip we took soon afterwards was to visit the famous monastic fortress and walled city of Mont St. Michel in Brittany.
Our hospital was close to the main town of the district Bayeux. The cathedral had been the repository of the famous Bayeux tapestries. These had been carefully stashed away by the custodians when war erupted. In the town was a tiny jewel of a theatre dating from Napoleonic days. Every night there would be an entertainment. At one performance we saw the famous artist Door Novello and his co-star Diana ____ (I can't recall her last name). I had seen her previously on screen at home. The play was a mystery and very well done. The little theatre packed to the rafters with soldiers erupted with tumultuous applause at the conclusion of the performance. For most of the Canadian audience this was the very first live performance of a play any of them had ever seen.
By mid-October there were definite signs that summer was now at an end. The temperatures were quite cool particularly at night. But most unpleasant was the onset of very damp and rainy weather. We managed to scrounge a little kerosene heater which was only marginally helpful in reducing the cold and damp in our tiny bell tent. Little by little the weather continued to cool and the rains much heavier and more prolonged. The hospital which continued to be quite busy was now floating in a sea of mud. We all knew that efforts were being made to find a suitable hospital site for us, further north to be closer to the front lines.
In November we had a taste of what troops suffered in the trenches during World War I. The rain was interminable and the cold seemed to permeate every bone in our bodies.
Finally, at the end of November 1944 the glad tidings that a suitable site and buildings had been found for the hospital arrived. We were all ecstatic that finally we would have a real roof over our heads.
There was a tremendous task ahead. What does one do with a thousand casualties? The logistics of moving and setting up were very formidable. We were finally told that we would move to a Northern Belgian city called Tarrenpaut. This had been the site of a very large, permanent Belgian military complex before the German occupation. After Belgium had been overrun by the Nazis it became a German camp. And now it was to be a Canadian military Hospital. The move was done with extraordinary expediency. Within a week or ten days we finally had a real roof over our heads. There were four large brick buildings enclosing a huge paved courtyard which had been designed as a parade square. The Germans had been in such a rush to get out that they left everything intact. There were hundreds of beds. There were lecture halls. The kitchens were fully equipped and in immaculate condition. Even the electric generator were in perfect working order.
Little did we know that we would soon be in the heart of a new and violent phase of the war.
We had previously been warned that we would be in the direct path of the German pilotless "Buzz bombs" on their way to London. The drone of these missiles of destruction was constantly over our heads. As long as the drone could be heard one was safe. Should the drone suddenly stop it meant that the bomb was on its way down. The only evasion we could take was get on the floor as quickly as possible. The drone was constant and uninterrupted.
A much greater menace was on the horizon. A huge German offensive was being prepared. One that would encircle and trap hundreds of thousand of Allied Troops including ourselves. The offensive was launched between Christmas and New Years of 1944 - 45. The weather had become dull and foggy which effectively grounded the Allied Air Force. At first the German offensive was very swift and effective. Its purpose was to reach the sea and trap the allied Forces. The battles reached within walking distance of our city and for the first time our fears were not of being hurt or killed but of being taken prisoner.
Everyone became irritable and tense. None of us could distinguish Allied from German artillery fire, the din was constant. Eventually the fog began to lift and Allied planes became airborne again. The Germans had no air force to speak of. Before long the Germans had to retreat and we all sensed it was the beginning of the end.
Nevertheless the �'Buzz Bombs" continued their constant drone and the casualties continued to arrive.
As the winter gave way to spring it became obvious that the Germans were in the death throes of total defeat. Not only were our Allied forces clearing Western Europe of the German Scourge but the Russians were brilliant in slaughtering countless enemies. In May 1945 the "end" finally arrived. The Russians captured Berlin and Hitler and his entourage committed suicide or were captured.
We continued to be very busy at the hospital. But now our casualties were quite different.
The hospital became a centre for the treatment of syphilis and diphtheria. For syphilis we now had penicillin - the newly discovered wonder drug. Diphtheria was raging in the Prisoner of Warm camps as well as amongst unimmunized Canadian troops. I was one of the doctors assigned to care for the syphilites and the diphtheria stricken. None of us had any pervious experience in treating diphtheria. Our only guides were some outdated medical books. There was hardly a day when we didn't have 2 -3 deaths. Our chief wired London for help and they sent us a specialist in communicable diseases. He straightened us out in a hurry and within days our mortality rate dropped down to near zero.
Then came the German casualties. They were assigned their own wards with German officers to Imperialize their management. I hated making my daily rounds of these enemy wards. The contrast to the informality of the Canadian troops was startling. As my little entourage approached the ward the German officer in charge would salute smartly and bellow out "Achtung". The wounded would stare stiffly at the ceiling with their arms rigidly at their sides. No one was permitted to lie on their sides or sit in beds. Their blankets would be tucked in tightly around them. The appearance was that of a bunch of dummies laid out for inspection. An interpreter would accompany me and my nurse as I went from bed to bed. There was never an exchange of pleasantries or cheering remarks. I hated this work.
The most trying of all duties came when we began to receive the living corpses from the Concentration camps. I shall never forget these emaciated bodies. Most were quite soundless. It was amazing how rare it was to hear them speak. Occasionally I would lapse into my broken Yiddish in the hope of getting a response. Occasionally I did. The death rate amongst them was extraordinarily high - as I guess perhaps fifty percent. Our facilities for convalescence and rehabilitation were non existent. Those who survived were shipped out elsewhere as soon as they were able.
By May the war was officially over but nevertheless one had to exercise extreme caution when travelling. It was during that month that I had a chance to see the devastation wrought by our bombers on Cologne, Essen, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. At that time it seemed inconceivable that the masses of rubble would soon be cleared and sparkling new cities arise to take their place.
In July we vacated the spacious hospital we had occupied in Turnfout and were transferred to much less pretentious buildings in Bruges also in Flemish Belgium. I immediately fell in love with this small mediaeval city. It was a step back to the seventeenth century. It was there that I became acquainted with those great Flemish artists. Brueghel, Memling, Steen, Ter Bosen and many others. Many of their paintings would hang quite causally in public houses mainly around the central square. Many of the paintings depicted life in the Central Square as it was in the seventeenth century. Other than the costumes worn by the citizens three hundred years ago the scene was totally unchanged.
The summer of 1945 was a most pleasant one. Mainly because I had 2 week long leaves in Paris. My first leave was ostensibly to take some sort of course. I can recall nothing of the few lectures I attended but I do recall the beauty of the surroundings. We stayed in Canada House which was on the campus of the Cité Universitaire. It seemed that every European country as well as many others throughout the world had its own building. The centre piece of the whole campus was a large imposing building called the Rockefeller Centre - presumably named after its benefactor. The campus was somewhere in south Paris on its left bank. Most of us quickly learned how to get to the heart of the city on the subway - which in Paris is called the Metro. We also had ample opportunity to do the usual sight seeing as well as getting to Versailles.
The other leave in Paris was on my own. I stayed in a Canadian officer "mess" where the meals and accommodation were excellent. That trip was highlighted by visits to the Folies Bergère, the Moulin Rouge and others.
There was another brief excursion I recall quite clearly. This one was to Amsterdam. It was during the first fortnight in August 1945. As usual, I stayed in Canadian officer's quarters. It was situated in the main square of the city called the DAM. It rained constantly and most of us spent our time playing cards.
While playing cards one of the fellows remarked about the news he had just heard on the radio. Apparently the announcer said that the Americans had dropped a "blockbuster" of a bomb on some city in Japan. It was so powerful that it had completely destr
Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 09:49 am
was and probably still is at St. Larmaert.
In Brussels in the mediaeval market squares I bought Freda a Belgian Rose point embroidered handkerchief. Sidney bought a very fine evening hand bag as a present for his sister and which I was entrusted to bring home to her. Everything arrived safely in Winnipeg.
With little to do in the hospital life began to drag. Day in and day out in hope in vain for news of possible repatriation. Eventually summer gave way to fall and still no word about going home
Finally it came to pass. Sidney had been posted to Brussels where he was able to spy on repatriation lists. Hallelujah! He found both our names on a homeward bound list. Not only were we leaving for England on the same day but our departure for home was booked on the same boat - the Empress of Scotland. The very same ship which had brought me to Europe in May 1943. When I got the news I became so excited that I began to drink large amounts of gin. I was never a drinker and my tolerance of alcohol was really very limited. What I do remember is that I eventually passed out. When I regained consciousness I became violently ill. I paid dearly for my elation. The date of departure was finally set as November 14th, 1945.
The crossing was a nightmare. The ship tossed about like a cork. Many of the porthole windows were blown out like candles and for several days all troops were forbidden to be on any deck. There were many casualties, mainly fractured arms or leg and lacerations due to flying glass. The air was very warm which make the cabin areas stiflingly hot. This added to the stench of roijicters made life unbearable.
Suddenly the climate changed. As we approached the coast of Newfoundland we left the warm waters of the Gulf Steam and entered frigid Canadian waters. We finally docked in Halifax. What a relief it was to leave the misery of the North Atlantic.
Prior to leaving Belgium Freda and I had decided to meet in Montreal and proceed from there to New York. Both of us managed to wrangle free transportation to the Big Apple. Sidney arranged to meet an old girl friend there - a Trepel. A younger sister of Freda Trepel who already had a wide reputation as a concert pianist. The girl Sid was interested in was also a fine musician - a cellist.
When we arrived in New York our instructions were to proceed to an accommodation "desk". We were given a wide choice of accommodation. We opted for the most expensive choice of all. A choice we've never regretted. The hotel was the exclusive Pierre. We had never been in such luxurious surroundings. The week was utterly exhilarating. The special rate for soldiers was $5.00 per day. What a bargain!
To make matters more extraordinary the Americans confused my Canadian dress uniform with its three epaulet pips for that of a three star general. Waiters bowed to us and waved us to the best tables without benefit of a reservation. Bartenders poured us gigantic drinks and refused payment. We saw plays, musicals and were lunched and dined by Sam and Yetta Pearlman.
Both Sidney and I had forgotten about Winnipeg's early winter climate. We returned to Winnipeg sometime in December 1945. Alex was 3½ and David not yet 2. Both children were repelled by the sight of this stranger and intruder.
The children were not only resentful of my presence but I think were somewhat frightened. Their attitude was instinctive and perfectly normal. A stranger had descended on them and appropriated their mother. Little by little our thoughts turned to the immediate challenges of returning to practice, establishing a home and supporting a family.
Our finances were in dismal shape. It was imperative that I secure an income as soon as possible. I could only think of Regina as a place to settle. At least until I could support my little family. I had no home in Regina, I had no practice nor did I have an office. I was not panic stricken but neither was I confident of my success.
There were so many things to attend to as 1945 was slowly drawing to a close. It then dawned on me that I had no car. There were no cars to be bought and no cars had been built after America had joined the war in December 1941. I was told that I was eligible to buy a used car by getting a permit. Being a doctor and a veteran were the magic words. Then one had to scan the paper for used cars for sale. They too needed a permit to sell.
My finances had to be rigidly apportioned. I had somewhere between five to six thousand dollars. The car I bought was an enormous black Lincoln sedan. It ran but consumes enormous quantities of gas and oil. I had little choice in the matter and paid several hundred dollars for this necessity. We phoned the Bosins in Regina to inquire about houses and offices. We were told that these were unobtainable. They invited me to come and stay with them and to look around for an office and a house.
I took up their invitation and arrived in Regina a few days later. Needless to say I was warmly welcomed. I had hoped that the office I had previously occupied in the Broden building might be available to me - particularly in view of the fact that I was a veteran. It was sorry, sorry, sorry Doc. I don't know who tipped me off that a Mr. Graut had just bought a building on Broad Street. I saw him at once and sure enough he had a very large office available. The rent he wanted was very reasonable and it included putting up some partitions for me as well as decorating the office. I think he wanted me to move in. Within a week I had purchased some second hand furniture and was ready to resume practice on what I could scrounge for patients.
The last problem to solve was a place to live. In those days there were two Regina papers, the Star and the Leader-Post. There was nothing to rent but there were a few houses for sale.
I refused to see any home on my own. Freda agreed to come to Regina to look over the few that very available. A two story house about 10 years old was available but not for about 2 months hence, they wanted $9300.00 for it. Freda loved it at once. There were 3 bedrooms with a spacious well appointed bathroom The floors, the window frames, the doors and baseboards were a beautiful oak. Downstairs there was a pleasant entry hall with a parquet floor and the front door was embellished with fine bevelled glass. The door to the clothes closet was faced with a full length mirror, it too had bevelled glass.
The living room was on the left as you entered and on its far wall was a large fireplace faced with a rough reddish brick. The mantle was of oak. Facing the street were 3 large windows covered with Venetian blinds fashioned from oak slats to match all the other woodwork. The dining room to the right of the living room had windows facing the back garden. The kitchen was lovely with the counter and back splash of Dutch motif ceramic tile.
I didn't have $9300 and I don't recall how the finances were arranged. Everything seemed to fall into place. After completing the negotiations to purchase Freda returned to Winnipeg and I moved into a downtown hotel called the Kitchener. My rent was $35.00 a month with daily maid service. There was a dining room and lunch counter attached. I would have breakfast there but my main meal was at lunch which I would have at Simon's restaurant nest to the Army & Navy. The food was excellent and the price not more that 35¢ for a full course meal. It was also a great place socially and particularly to resume contact with many of my former patients. Certain days were particularly important. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays were favourite days for farmers to shop at the Army & Navy. The war had wrought a tremendous transformation to the economy of Saskatchewan. Crops were excellent and the prices for grain generous. Hardly a day went by that I wouldn't be greeted very warmly by a long forgotten rural patient. "When did you get back, Doc?" or "Where is your office?".
One day a farmer named McDonald sidled up to me and asked me casually how much he owed me from the Francis days. I confessed I didn't know. He then pulled out a fat roll of bills from his pocked and pulled off $80.00 that represented a great deal of money to me, and I was most grateful.
Little by little my practice began to grow and before long I felt I was actually going to make a living. The main difficulty was being separated from Freda and the boys.
Finally "our" house was vacated and became available for occupancy on or about June 1st 1946. The furniture from Winnipeg arrived on time. It seemed that we were settled in no time at all. This was our first "real" home and we loved it.
My practice grew rapidly and I still recall the sense of accomplishment when I grossed $14,000.00 during my first year.
Socially we were very busy! There were many Jewish couples our age. We were remarkably compatible. Hardly a week-end went by without a party. They were very happy parties. We danced to records and drank to the limit of our tolerance. I recall one party in particular. Rose Hoffer got rid of all her inhibitions. She went to the basement found an old pair of army issue long johns, discarded her own clothes. Garbed in this underwear she stuffed a grapefruit in her panties and a banana stuck out of the fly. She made a spectacular drunken entrance.
It didn't take long for the two boys to adjust to their new environment. Although only 4 years old Alex was enrolled in a nursery school. He took his new challenges in stride and became an instant "school boy". David was only 2 but showed a remarkable aptitude for reading. He recognized words with ease and although still a baby in diapers could read the captions of illustrated children's books.
We became friendly with our neighbours, particularly the Blacks -- Don and Nan -- . Their 2 children a boy and a girl - Michael and Linda became our boys' best friends. Both Don and Nan were highly intelligent and well educated and we enjoyed their friendship immensely. The Normans who lived across the street also became friends. Stan Norman was a young lawyer. They had one child - a little girl about Alex's age. I think her name was Valerie. Unfortunately Stan died about 15 years ago from cancer.
Because of the ease which Alex adjusted to nursery school we thought it worth while to enrol David as well. I don't think David was 3 yet. He wasn't really ready yet and prone to soil his pants. The nursery school teacher was a Mrs. Smith. She was highly intelligent - very well educated and was probably overqualified. She let David run his own show. He was a loner and spent most of his time playing contentedly by himself.
Sometime in 1948 barely 2 years after living in our "new" house one of our friends Nate Robinson, announced that he found an ideal summer cottage for us and the Bosins. We could buy this lakefront property for $2000.00 or $1000.00 each. Nate was so persuasive and so adamant that we decided to go ahead and scrape together the $2000.00 to complete the purchase. The cottage was on a heavily treed lot facing west smack on the waterfront. The lot was narrow only 50' but extended at least 250' to the road allowance. There was no electricity or no water. A small "Quebec" stove served as a heating source in chilly weather. The "back" yard was a mass of old soft prairie maple trees, young ash saplings and tangles of Saskatoon bushes. The sides of the cottage were screened verandas.
In those days, before the advent of detergents, chemical fertilizers and other pollutants the lake was crystal clear in its pristine beauty. "Our" lake called Katepwa was one of several strung out for about a hundred miles carved out of the prairie during the ice age. The valley was about 2 or 300 feet below the prairie plain and was a beautiful sight to behold as you descended from the plateau of the prairie. The suddenness of its appearance - totally unexpected to the casual traveller could be an unforgettable sight. The lakes connected to each other by the Qu'Appelle River were a natural highway and waterway for Indians and explorers. Why the valley is called Qu'Appelle has never been adequately explained.
That first summer at the "Lake" with both our little families working like beavers was a memorable one. We were four adults and three children. The Basins and ourselves got along surprisingly well and truly worked like beavers to make the place habitable.
That spring Freda had become pregnant. She had no unpleasant symptoms, gained very little weight and didn't "show" a telltale bulge until late fall of 1948. When the Bosins realized that we were expecting our third child they decided to build their own cottage on land given to them by Ethel's sister Bella Kravinsky. The land was only a couple of hundred yards away from our own. By this time I could reimburse the Basins the $1000.00 which was their equity on our joint purchase. They began construction almost immediately.
We were not idle with our plans, either. Electricity was brought to the cottagers that first winter so that our plans included proper wiring, lowering the ceiling and enclosing the west and south sides with picture windows. Consequently our living room doubled in size. We acquired adequate closet space, 3 bedrooms and a large glazed porch to accommodate visitors. With electricity came a refrigerator and freezer and our own well with an automatic pump.
Ruth Ellen was born in January 1949. This completed our little family. But now other problems loomed on the horizon. The house we enjoyed so much was obviously too small for our needs particularly when we had live in help. The boys shared a bedroom, Ruthie was in a crib in our room and our "maid" had the third bedroom.
Following in her brother's footsteps Ruthie was not a "good" baby. She cried incessantly. In retrospect it is now obvious that the children were intolerant to cow's milk. Unfortunately the milk substitutes commonly used today were unknown at that time. By the time cottage "time" rolled around the renovations to the cottage were complete - or almost complete.
With each successive month after Ruthie's birth our house became more and more crowded. The only solution was to move into a more spacious house. Housing was a major problem in a small city like Regina. Much larger communities like Winnipeg were also hard pressed to fill the demand. Building supplies were in very short supply and many builders were afraid to build new homes for fear of a return to the days of the well remembered and dreaded recession. To make matters worse there were recurrent rumours of reimposition of war time price controls.
We began to look at some of the larger, older and more spacious homes in our district which was called Lakenion. Our problem was mostly ignorance and tunnel vision. The homes available were all in the $20 - 30,000.00 range. The price seemed astronomical to me.
We did see some fine old houses. The problem - or so we thought - was the fact that most needed upgrading - usually the kitchen. We suffered from timidity and short-sightedness.
We heard of a new home being built in our district. We went to see it and what we saw looked interesting. It was a bungalow type with a dive in garage and above the garage just a few steps above the main floor was a spacious 4th bedroom if needed. All the rooms were fairly bright and airy. The price seemed fairly high - $20,000.00 or more than twice as much as we paid for our first house. After much soul searching we decided to commit ourselves to moving. Selling our house was no problem. We got $13,000 for the house so that there was a shortfall of $7000.00 which we financed with a mortgage at 5% but with the option of paying off the principal outstanding after 3 years. I remained trapped psychologically in the depths of the depression. Being in debt was almost too painful to bear.
The new house was still unfurnished and it was mid April 1950 before we moved in. by this time, Ruthie was a toddler and was much more tolerant of milk.
Naturally we had "live in help". The basement of the new house had been partitioned. The floor was covered with linoleum ties and there was a bathroom with a stall shower. There was a laundry room which also included the furnace and a very large "playroom".
Our new house and recently acquired cottage together with new developments in my practice make life challenging and interesting.
During the winter of 1948 - 1949 Dr. Kravinsky had asked me to care for his practice while he and his wife were away. They were away in New York while he took a course in cancer surgery at the memorial hospital. They were away for four months.
I worked very hard indeed. Unfortunately our fees were very small in those days. Office visits were on average $2 -3.00. House calls, even at night, were rarely more than $5.00.
A doctor earning between $12 - 18,000.00 a year was considered to have an excellent income.
When Kravinsky returned from New York we began discussing the possibility of combining our practices.
The ground floor of a little building on Rose Street was available. A few simple partitions was all it needed to accommodate three or four doctors as well as room for a business office and a lab and x-ray.
Mitchell Finkelstein who was born and raised in Regina was practising in Weyburn and was very anxious to move to Regina. This made us into a little group of 3 and immediately conjured up the title or Regina Medical Centre.
From the moment we moved we became very busy. Soon we needed a fourth hand to help us cope. Dr. Murray Eutkin - an easterner and newly married was anxious to join us for a salary of $4000.00 per year. He was a wonderful addition to our little group. He was particularly interested in obstetrics. I had become very popular as a "maternity" doctor and a few years later I did as many as 150 deliveries a year. At no time do I recall being paid more than $50.00 a case.
Before long we realized that we were outgrowing our premises. None of us had any money to speak of. Kravinsky whose income was much larger that ours because of his surgical referrals had spent very large sums of money on extricating his daughter Grace from her husband Bert Leny. Bert an English Jew had appeared in Regina during the war as a major attached to the British army. He was a con man and a scoundrel. To make matters worse it was later discovered that he was a bigamist with a wife and several children in England. After successfully blackmailing Kravinsky into losing most of his life savings he finally agreed to divorce Gracie and give her custody of their two children.
To me this period in my life was an eventful one and although my digression to recollect the sad affairs of the Kravinsky family may be out of place nevertheless it was important. Ralph Kravinsky their son had been going to University in Vancouver where he met his future wife Ruth Becker. Ralph and his new bride had to be supported as well as Grace and her two children. Ralph had no profession and no job prospects. He had tried his hand at business both in Vancouver and Montreal. All of them fruitless and expensive to his father. Nevertheless he supported his growing family with dignity.
An opportunity to buy a city owned vacant lot two doors south of our little clinic presented itself. The time was late 1950 and the price was $17,000.00. The city stipulated that a sale at that price necessitated the erection of a building with a building permit value of at least $200,000.00. In those days this seemed like an astronomical price to us. After much soul searching we decided that the only way we could finance the project was to search for more partners. We were told that Stanley Abrams the optometrist was very interested as well as Gordon Kliman a druggist. When we discussed the matter with Abrams he told us that his brother in law Saul Cohen who was then practising in Melville was also very anxious to move to Regina. The plan was for each partner to invest $10,000.00. This would give us and a proposed company $60,000.00 to purchase the city lot and engage an architect to come up with a plan.
Three of my classmates had joined a group in Winnipeg and had just completed the construction of a clinic building. They called themselves the Mall Medical Clinic and because I knew three of them I was elected to go to Winnipeg for ideas. The three were Erwin Brotman, Laurie Robson (Robinovitch) and David Bruser. They showed me the building, explained how it functioned and only had glowing reports. At no time were any shortcomings listed.
The building was a split level design, copied form ideas coming out of California at the time.
We all agreed that this was the way to proceed and Dan Stoch our engaged architect proceeded with the plans.
The $10,000.00 each of us was required to deposit with the new firm was a very large sum indeed. Strangely, I have no clear recollection how I managed to raise this sum. The company to manage the building was named Professional Associates. All of the six principals including our wives became shareholders. The reason for this was the burden of succession duties in the event of misfortune befalling any of us.
Construction began in early 1951 and we moved into our spanking new building in 1952.
None of us could afford high rent and our budget left nothing for a contingency fund. We paid our bills promptly as well as the mortgage payments.
Our contractor was a man called Hilsden. He was remarkably efficient and honest. He suffered from asthma and emphysema and became my patient until his death many years later. His wife an equally fine woman remained my patient until I retired from practice.
As I write of these events which occurred 40 years ago I began to recollect some of the difficulties which began to arise. It soon became evident that neither Abrams the optometrist or Klinan the druggist were paying a fair share of the rent. Not only did they plead poverty but were constantly complaining that they were getting no referrals from us. Their nagging was so persistent and amazing that we soon tired of this bickering so that no rental adjustment was made.
Life at home was equally hectic. The children were growing. The boys at school were busy with friends, play and the beginning of Hebrew school. Another Jewish family moved onto our street. They built a large 2 storey home. The Schewarfields were a well known merchant family in Regina and their eldest child Terry became a life long friend of Ruthie's.
Television arrived in Regina in 1952 and our play room became a hangout for the little children on the block who every afternoon would sit in front of the Philco set enthralled with the likes of Howdy Doody.
Domestically we were fortunate in our choice of hired live-in help. There was a young farm girl called Elsie. The children liked her. She did everything Freda instructed her to do but she had a tendency to be very moody and was only with us for a couple of years.
In the meantime we seemed to have a constant stream of visitors. There were my parents as well as Freda's - who seemed to alternate their visits.
They were good visitors in that they did little complaining. My father loved to go for walks and the Civkins were educational. They talked and argued interminably. Always on interesting topics. Celia Civkin was a dyed in the wool Communist. She was constantly defending the Soviet Union as well as Joseph Stalin. She refused to accept any deviation from the pronouncements from Moscow. Solomon Civkin was also a dyed in the wool Socialist but also staunchly anti-Stalinist. The verbal battles spiced with insults and insective and always conducted in rapid fire Yiddish was amusing to me but Freda was usually hurt and saddened.
In those days (in the early fifties) travel was almost invariably by train and our parents would always arrive exhausted and headachy. It would take them a day or two to regain their health.
In 1950 Sidney returned from Britain where he had done graduate work in otolaryngology and decided that the prairies were NOT for him. Isaac Stoffman had established in Vancouver and was doing very well professionally and financially. Sidney soon found a likely place to practice in New Westminster - a suburb of Vancouver. Before long he became established. How he met Estelle Mindess of Winnipeg I cannot recall. I was best man at their wedding in Winnipeg.
They bought a modest bungalow in N. Westminster. They were very anxious for someone to visit them and we did so in February of 1952 or 1953. We enjoyed our visit very much. It was during this first visit that Sidney spoke to me in the privacy of his car about difficulties with Estelle. She was pregnant but was constantly nagging, complaining and even accused him of infidelity. She was making life miserable for him. He didn't really expect any advice from me except to unburden himself.
Freda was aware of an undercurrent of friction between them but it was not until we returned to Regina that I told her of Sidney's woes.
Life in Regina revolved around the children and a very hectic social life. There was a continuous stream of parties. They were happy parties, with lots of food, a great deal of liquor and dancing and music.
The Kravinskys, the Robinsons, the Bosins, the Sandouirskys, the Hoffers and ourselves constituted what was euphemistically called the "inner circle".
It was the inner circle that had the best parties and seemed to have the most fun. The most flamboyant of all New Year's Eve bashes was our party at the Hotel Saskatchewan. We would reserve a large suite and have a bathtub filled with ice. Every couple brought 2 bottles of Mumm's Champagne. No other drink was permitted.
A large table was reserved for us in the ballroom where we dance and after midnight had a gargantuan meal. To be invited to our affairs was considered a privilege. New Years Day was always celebrated with a brunch at one of our homes which always lasted well into the night.
Again there were mountains of food, and a "booze" table.
In 1954 we realized that Alex' Bar Mitzvah was approaching and we began to plan accordingly. His Bar Mitzvah was planned for the spring of 1955. Although his birthday was in April we though that May would be a more pleasant time of the year. April weather in Saskatchewan could be very unpredictable.
We began to plan in earnest. We finally decided to have a dinner and dance at the Hotel Saskatchewan. The ballroom was booked, a band was engaged and the dinner menu decided on. Nowadays such a pretentious plan is a common occurrence but in 1954 -55 it was very unusual. Naturally there was a luncheon to be served at the Synagogue. This had to be Kosher so that all the food had to be prepared in the Synagogue.
Another problem was the accommodation we had to provide for our "out of town" family. There were 4 grandparents, as well as my sister Esther and her 3 children. There was also our live in "maid" and only 2 bathrooms in the house. Fortunately everyone was on their best behaviour. Sam Pearlman come in from New York as did his 2 older sisters from Winnipeg. Freda's cousins, the Miles and Carrs were there as well as was Sidney who flew in alone from Vancouver. His flight was an early one on this newly created Canadian National Airlines called in those days Trans Canada Airlines.
We had a wonderful time. The grandparents were on their best behaviour and the dinner dance on Saturday night was a great success. Alex' performance was faultless. It was customary for the Bar Mitzvah boy to make a speech - usually a string of platitudes but Alex was insistent on composing his own. He did very well indeed. Old man Civkin was so carried away with pride that he began to applaud. We had to restrain him from continuing.
It was after the Bar Mitzvah that I became aware that Kravinsky was suffering from angina and intermittent attacks of atrical fibreallation.
Max Israels was the premier cardiologist in Regina but it soon became evident to us all that his ability to maintain the stress of a busy practice - predominantly surgical was now markedly diminished. The thought of having someone replace him was anathema to him - and to a lesser degree ourselves.
A young fully qualified surgeon soon became available. He was a native Reginan. Andy Sowchuk began to help Kravinsky in the operating room but soon was doing the bulk of the surgery. He was an excellent surgeon and before long he resigned and left for the USA.
Later another young Reginan, fully qualified in surgery joined our group. He too was a wonderful surgeon but as with Sawchuk he left our group to practice as a consultant surgeon.
Nevertheless we were all very busy and although none of us had any capital to speak of we were considered to be prosperous physicians. In the day the fee schedule was so small that one had to see many patients on a daily basis to make ends meet.
During the 50's the Bosins and ourselves decided that we deserved an extended holiday and made plane to have a regular European fund to which we contributed a monthly sum.
In the meantime, David's Bar Mitzvah was approaching. We decided to forego a lavish dinner and dance and instead have a great party in our house. Again there was the deluge of visitors from Winnipeg as well as from Toronto. We had a great time. I shall never forget finding two of our friends sound asleep in the basement the next day. Clara Samuels and Louise Isman had simply passed out and their husbands decided to leave them where they were.
Following the Bar Mitzvah Freda and I decided on a holiday to New York. We had been going to New York every other year. After all - we had family there. Freda's uncle Sam Pearlman now resided in Manhattan and I had my Auntie Jenny Schwartzman and her family as well.
We had been staying at the St. Moritz Hotel on the Part and enjoyed the location very much. We saw plays, shopped, lunched or dined with relatives and simply enjoyed the pleasures of a great city. In those days we walked the streets at all hours without fear of being "mugged". As a matter of fact the term mugged had not yet joined the lexicon of American usage.
In 1957 my brother Ken, his wife June and their 3 children had arrived from Ireland. He had a year of internship to fulfil before he could get his license to practice. This he did and we offered him a job at the clinic for $6000.00 a year. This was considered to be a generous salary and at the "high end" of salaries offered recent graduates. They accepted the offer. We found them a bungalow for rent and even furnished it for them before they arrived. Before long they decided by buy a home. They bought a brand new bungalow for $16,000.00. Before long they became fully integrated into the community. Ken became active in a theatre group and June wrote the occasional columns for the Leader-Post in Regina. She was a gifted writer and her columns had an Irish lilt to them which made them quite charming.
As the months went by we began to notice that June was becoming very irritable and touchy. She would often slip into a heated monologue about Irish politics and the injustices perpetrated by the Evil English.
In the meantime an additional surgeon joined our little clinic, Noel Cutler was Jewish, he has recently receive his qualifications in surgery, he was married and had 2 children. His appearance was nondescript and his personality was anything but warm. Nevertheless he was a very capable surgeon and relieved Kravinsky of almost all the burden he was shouldering.
With the medical practice under control the Bosins and ourselves began to make plans for a European holiday. Our itinerary was not the same.
I had made up may mind that if I could get a visa to the USSR and book a hotel, meals and a guide through the newly established Intourist we would go.. This was at the height of the Cold War and most of our friends thought that we were very rash to go.
Nevertheless we planned our itinerary with great care. We first flew to Rome where we met the Bosins. We toured the city, we walked endlessly, we dined elegantly and went to the opera where we ogled the aristocracy who paraded their finery in front of us.
After a week in Rome we bade good by to the Bosins and proceeded to Milan. We couldn't resist La Scala and a side trip to the Lombaby Lakes. We had never seen such beauty before. It was still April in 1959. The flowers, the foliage the Lakes nestled in the Italian Alps - the sight became indelibly etched in our minds.
Our itinerary then took us to Zurich in Switzerland. We had not planned on spending any time there. But getting to the Soviet Union from Italy was impossible. Our next stop was to Prague in Czechoslovakia. Our itinerary had been carefully planned. We had a chauffeur and a guide waiting for us in Zagreb. Our stay was short but very memorable. We visited the little street where Kafka lived. The whole street is now a museum. The houses are working class dwellings - each brightly painted. The street is cobbled. The houses are fully furnished and inhabited by lifelike mannequins. The effect is very striking.
We visited the oldest synagogue in Europe as well as the oldest Jewish community.
The city has a great deal of charm and is quite unlike other European capitals. Our young guide was fluent in English. He had never been abroad and when we asked if we could give him something he had only one request. Did we have a "TIME" magazine we could let him have? Unfortunately we had no reading material to give him.
On May 4th 1959 we finally departed for Moscow. We flew in a Russian aircraft and it was a revelation. The plane was packed and yet amazingly comfortable. The seating was totally unlike anything we had seen before. It was similar to that of old railway cars. Two seats faced two opposites. A folding table between the two served the four passengers. No seat belts were in evidence and smoking was permitted at anytime The informality was extraordinary. Every passenger seemed to be in possession of a bottle of liquor and may had small musical instruments. Before long songs burst out.
Soon the stewardesses were serving a meal. The chicken was hot and delicious.
Another surprise was the "toilet". Unlike the cramped dark and uncomfortable cubicles in American planes this one was bright and airy with a large window and a little room to move around.
We arrived in Moscow in late afternoon. We were surprised at how cursory the so called "customs inspection" was.
A limousine was waiting to drive us to our hotel destination. The drive seemed endless along long wide streets line with tall, conlike apartment buildings. The hotel turned out to be the gigantic "Ukraine". Our accommodation was an enormous suite. The living room had a grand piano as well as a television.
Every floor had a reception desk where one left the room key. Every other floor had a small "tea room". This proved to be very convenient. The service was fast and you could have coffee, cocoa or tea with pastry or sandwiches at any time. Moreover there were groceries, wines, liquors or bottled water to be bought. All meals and wines and groceries were paid for with coupons we were given when we arrived at the Hotel. I recall quite clearly the excitement of our week in Moscow. We had a guide as well as a car and chauffeur.
Our guide Michael a young man in his early twenties spoke excellent English though he had never been out of the country. We went to the Bolshoi twice to see the Ballet Don Quixote and the Opera Aida. At the Tschaikovsky concert Hall we heard a symphony orchestra with a contralto as soloist. We went to see a spectacular dance troupe which subsequently came to Canada on tour. At the puppet theatre we rubbed shoulders with Anerill Harriman the US ambassador and his guests. We visited Tolstoi's home, we went to the Tretjakov (?) Art Gallery. The Moscow subway was great. The Geun departments store was full of second class merchandise. To visit Lenin and Stalin's tomb did not require us to stand in line. We were given the VIP tour.
The highlight of Moscow was a morning spent at a neighbourhood Poly clinic and another at a children's crèche. The Poly clinic was a g.p. centre for servicing the neighbourhood. Most of the doctors were out making house calls. Those in the clinic were directly involved in preventative medicine.
An interview with the clinic director really turned me off. When I asked her how they treated bedwetting in children her answer was only too revealing. In the Soviet Union children do not wet the bed.
The visit to the nursery school was a joy. The children were beautiful and so well behaved. The school was really not a school but a day-care centre for parents who had to work. The children sand songs and danced and presented Freda with an enormous bouquet of spring flowers. Before leaving we were served tea and cookies. When we asked about the cost of the centre and whether the parents had to pay we were looked at as queers. Pay? Why should they pay? - a Socialist Utopia no less!
Of all the trips we had previously taken as well as those to come none could equal the total recall of our Moscow experience.
We arrived in Paris where we were joined by the Bosins. We stayed in a large hotel on one of the grand boulevards. We ate a great deal at a large variety of restaurants. There was the Georges Cinq and at a glorious setting in the outdoors of Baie de Boulogne. We did what millions of other tourists had done over the ages. There was sightseeing and shopping without end. Our enthusiasm was boundless.
Finally we were approaching the last leg of our voyage. We were to spend 2 weeks in London. Our hotel was called the Washington. It was in the heart of Mayfair and were charged the exorbitant sum of $20.00 a night. Our windows faced the notorious Shepherd's marked. In 1959 the British laws prohibiting hookers from soliciting on the street had not yet been enacted. The market swarmed with whores. It was in the heart of Mayfair and the clients were all well dressed gentlemen. The girls - on the whole - were quite attractive and nicely dressed. It was fascinating to watch them ply their profession.
During our stay in London we saw Alec Lerner on two occasions. Both times we were his guests. One evening we dined at the "Mirabelle" and sat at an adjoining table to Aristotle Onassis and his large group of guests. The restaurant was very impressive.
On another evening we went to the famous Aurabillies. This was the hangout of the "cream" of the young and wealthy aristocracy. Alex pointed out famous titled young men and women. None of their names were familiar to us. It was an experience.
We indulged in theatre and concerts and being in Mayfair, Bond Street, Oxford Street and all the other exotic shops were within an easy stroll.
On our arrival in London a letter from Ruthie awaited us. The news was startling. She informed us that Paula had run away with a boy whose name I can't recall. As for Alex he has broken a leg and was in a cast and on crutches - but not to worry - and not to tell the Bosins about Paula - it might spoil their vacation. The letter was very well written and also added that Mrs. Jaffray the housekeeper we left in charge was managing quite will although under very trying circumstances.
The Bosins were only staying in London for a few days but were probably glad to be flying home to reassure themselves that Ruthie's letter was written tongue in cheek. We returned to Regina in the middle of June and were met at the airport by my brother who told us that Kravinsky had suffered a heart attack and was convalescing in hospital.
Noel Cutler became our official surgical consultant now that Kravinsky had become severely disabled. His appearance was non descript and his personality was anything but warm but he was capable and little by little his surgical patients acquired confidence in his competence.
I had forgotten to write about an important venture we undertook a few years earlier. Donald MacPherson the son of a very prominent lawyer lived next door to our home on Petallack Street. He too was a lawyer. And was associated with is father's firm. One day he broached the subject of renting space in our medical building. His firm needed a minimum of 5000 square feet and he suggested that we consult with our architect about the feasibility of adding another floor to our building.
In retrospect it was no sooner said than one. The rent charged for the whole floor paid for the construction in a few years. By the time the law firm had outgrown our premises and built their own structure our clinic had expanded to the point where we needed all the extra space we could find.
In 1960 I was approved to accept the chairmanship of the department of General Practice at the Regina General Hospital. The following year I was again nominated for another post. This time to be the President of the Regina and District Medical Society.
In the spring of 1962 Freda and I decided on a trip to the up and coming newly fashionable Mexican resort of Acapulco. First we went to Mexico City for a week and then a leisurely bus trip to Cuernavace, Taxco and finally to the sea and Acapulco. We enjoyed the holiday very much but I do recall finding Acapulco much too hot to bear. We were away for about a month. Alex was now in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan and David was in Winnipeg in the faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba. Ruthie was well looked after by our "live in" nanny.
On arriving in Regina we were confronted with the news of Kravinsky's death. Events were moving very rapidly at that time.
A major confrontation between doctors and government was gaining momentum at this time.
The NDP government proposed enactment of a Bill to regulate the Medical Profession. This Bill was designed ostensibly for the improvement of the delivery of medical services throughout the province. When the details were made public the 1200 doctors in active practice rose up in protest to denounce the plan. It was an extraordinary show of solidarity.
The various medial districts held emergency meetings. In Regina I had the challenge of chairing innumerable emergency meetings to plan strategy and correlated our activities with the other district societies and with our headquarters in Saskatchewan.
Briefly the governments plan was as follows. Universal medical availability to all citizens at no cost to the patient. The government would have sole power to set the medical fee schedule. The government would have the power to assign doctors to practice in areas the Government considered to be underserviced.
Historically, Saskatchewan doctors had always been in the forefront in providing socially responsible medical care to the province. Saskatchewan was the first area in North America to provide free Sanatorium care for citizens with tuberculosis. It was the first place anywhere to provide free diagnostic and therapeutic care for cancer.
During the great depression, the province pioneered fixed income for doctors in rural areas. And following the second world war a Blue Cross type of medical insurance became available to all citizens. All of those socially responsible measures were pioneered with the active participation of the doctors of the province.
Moreover in 1962 it was calculated that over 80% of the province's population had adequate medical insurance. Since 1949 all of Saskatchewan had 100% hospital insurance. So what was the reason for the draconian laws proposed by the government? Apparently the extreme doctrinaire socialists in government had prevailed. Fee for services was evil! The Medicare scheme proposed - that is - for government to set fees and for government to have control over the location of practice was more than any doctor could bear. The profession was truly up in arms and after innumerable meetings it was decided to withdraw services. The date set was July 1, 1962. Naturally the public was reassured that every such service would be provided for all and that all hospitals would be fully staffed. No fees would be charged for service rendered during the duration. The profession in Saskatchewan was extraordinarily unanimous in supporting the withdrawal of services.
It was fascinating to observe the reaction of the public. It soon became evident that the doctors had the support of the majority of the population. The Socialists began a virulent campaign to malign the profession. Before long individual doctors began receiving threatening letters, then came letters full of abuse, these were followed by direct threats to the safety of the doctor's family. The government was becoming panicky and decided to break the strike with medical scabs. A recruiting team was dispatched to England with offers to pay full fare to British doctors and their families and a generous annual salary. The doctors they recruited were all licensed to practice in Britain. At that time, this was the only requirement for a foreigner to secure a license to practice in Most Canadian provinces.
Soon it became apparent to both governments and public that many of these British doctors were totally unsuitable for practice in Canada. Some had police records, some were drug addicts or alcoholics and some had come for a free trip and for some money to boot.
In spite of government propaganda all truly sick parties were adequately cared for. The doctors worked very hard and without pay. We made house calls and the emergency departments in hospitals were packed 24 hours a day. Some specialists were assigned to rural hospitals to ease the burden on the local physicians.
In the meantime the government became panicky at the turn of events. They enlisted the help of a Noted British conciliator - a Lord Taylor. He arrived in Saskatoon in 48 hours and lived up to expectations. In a matter of a few days he convinced the government to drop the most contentious of their proposals and after more than 3 weeks the doctor's strike was over. The bitterness and ill will remained. Other than the local press the national media as well as the radio and television networks were virulently against the profession. The news items were twisted to give the impression that doctors here didn't give a damn about the welfare of the public but only in selfish money grubbing.
We had been warned that interviews could be doctored to give an opposite view of what was intended. In giving interviews particularly to radio I was extremely careful in what I said and always had another member of our council to back me up.
One Sunday while driving in the car with the radio tuned to the CBC I was appalled at what they did at an interview I gave. Comments I had made were doctored to give a completely different view from what was intended.
Prior to this doctor's strike I probably had the largest practice in Regina of senior NDP beauracrats and politicians. I had the premier and his family. I had several members of the cabinet and their families. There were also many patients who were senior civil servants who after the NDP defeat in the following election drifted to Ottawa where later they became known as the Saskatchewan Mafia.
I was deeply hurt by their desertion. Not only by the shrinking of my practice but also by the lack of loyalty which I felt I deserved. Often years of providing them with medical care.
After the strike we found our finances to be in shambles. All our employees continued to be paid their salaries, rent, utilities, taxes and upkeep had to be paid.
For the first time we had to borrow from the bank to meet our obligations. Moreover the fees we were permitted to charge the insuring agencies were so small that we continued to be hard pressed to meet our obligations for the better part of 3 years.
Our problems were not only due to the strike. In 1963 we were plagued by illness. In March of 1963 I became totally disabled by severe sciatica. I could not sit, I couldn't drive a car. There were only two positions I could maintain. I could stand or lie down. The neurologist I consulted in Regina referred me to the University Hospital in Saskatoon where it was confirmed that I had a herniated disc and surgery was done in April.
I had a very slow convalescence and it was not before the end of May before I was able to return to practice.
During my disability another misfortune struck our little clinic. Mitch Finkelstein suffered a severe pulmonary haemorrhage and required hospitalization. Although we suspected the worst Mitch avoided discussing it and we did not pursue it. We needed help badly and fortunately for us we did manage to get it. Aubrey Matthews originally from Glasgow with his wife and three young daughters were available as well as a young Englishman from Lancashire Jim Concill and his wife. A third doctor a Czech who was completing his internship…

During the period of my disability I became aware that Freda was becoming unusually anaemic. Her doctor referred her to a haematologist at the cancer clinic but his investigation was inconclusive and she was prescribed iron and folic acid.
While I was a patient at the University Hospital in Saskatoon I made an appointment for her to be seen by another haematologist.
She and I spent several days in Saskatoon while the haematologist did innumerable bone marrow smears. Mycloma was suspected but a definite diagnosis could not be confirmed.
On returning to Regina we resumed normal life until tragedy struck the Civkin family in Winnipeg. Freda's mother Celia inadvertently leaned on her stove brushing her dressing gown on a red burner. The material she was wearing was highly flammable and she sustained third degree burns to most of her body. She lasted only a few day before succumbing.
Following the funeral it became Freda's and Sidney's task to help their father adjust to his loss.

…at the Regina General Hospital. He was also married and named Zdenek. Martinovsky. A newly qualified internist Salvador Silva also joined. Then there were others who came and went. An Italian was a good worker but soon left for the States. Then there was a Turk who was a disaster. The best doctor of all was a Peruvian. We knew he wouldn't stay. He had his sights on a more academic career. We were also joined by an Iranian obstetrician gynaecologist an Indian from Guyana an orthopaedist. An extremely successful psychiatrist born in Bombay but educated in England, his name was Charlie Messer. Then there were two Mexicans. A woman called Sophie and a young man Luis Salgado de Leon.
Everyone seemed to be busy and this building was always bulging with activity.
During the fifties I had decided to upgrade my knowledge of electrocardiography. I enrolled in an intensive 3 week course at Chicago's Cook County Hospital. There were many small hotels in the vicinity. I chose one close to the hospital. The course was excellent and I managed to acquire a much clearer grasp of the principle of electrocardiography. The course helped to stimulate me to continue reading and upgrade my skills. Later it became necessary for me to pass examinations at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon to qualify as an electrocardiographer and thereby charge for interpretations. I recall that I studied fairly hard for the exams and managed to pass with a reasonably good mark. This accreditation proved to be very useful as our medical group increased in number.
While In Chicago I managed to get 2 tickets for a concert by Horowitz. We had planned for Freda to join me and after the concert to fly on the New York - which in those days was by far our favourite holiday destination.
But to our profound disappointment when we arrived at the Concert Hall we were greeted with the sad news that Horowitz was ill and could not play.
New York was as exciting as ever. The St. Moritz hotel was to become our home in New York on several subsequent trips.
I notice that I left the sixties and returned to the fifties. I'm sure that there are many other incidents that I neglected to write about and that I'll probably have to backtrack again and again.
Our children were maturing rapidly and their scholastic records could only be described as brilliant. Alex was particularly fortunate in having many friends who collectively could be called a "brain trust". Their marks in high school were in the mid to upper nineties and their competitiveness was very keen. Scholarships were the norm and Alex decided on continuing studying at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. He and two of his good friends. Dick Groson and Joel Sandonusky rented a new three bedroom apartment. Alex continued to do very well and came to be noticed by Prof. Hilda Neatby of the Department of History. In the meantime David who was equally brilliant at school decided to continue with his passion for architecture. As there was no faculty in Architecture in Saskatoon he decided to go to Winnipeg where he had two sets of grandparents and many second and third cousins via the Pearlman ancestry. By now both boys required cars. Alex bought a tiny British made convertible called a Sunbeam and previously owned by Dr. Gerald Sinclair. He loved the little car and cared for it as for a baby. David got an English Austin which Freda had owned.
Ruthie was still in high school and was doing as brilliantly as her brothers. Her friends continued a close relationship for many years to come.
At graduation Ruthie applied for a scholarship to York University in Toronto. There were 3 scholarships awarded that year to applicants from Western Canada and Ruth was one of them. We were very proud of the children's achievements and felt that they were on the way to achieving professional success.
Not one of them showed the slightest interest in medicine. They had been exposed to the trauma of our "doctors" strike and this unpleasant period in our lives effectively destroyed any temptation they may have had to emulate their father.

To digress:
By nature I'm a pessimist. The passage of time has not altered my instincts.
The world situation seems to confirm this. At my age one cease to worry about one's self. My past has been very eventful and fulfilling. I've had two wonderful wives. My children are a source of pride.
The grandchildren are in their formative years and they too promise to lead productive lives.
So what is the justification form pessimism? Europe has reverted back to its ethnic hatreds. Religion too is nurturing its ancient evils of prejudice, ignorance an superstition. Economists are now back to "free enterprise" which really means freedom for exploitation.
Our politics have become a magnet for incompetents and a means for self enrichment.
The stock market is hitting record highs in spite of more than 1.5 million unemployed and retail sales described by optimists as "sluggish".
The world political situation has been deteriorating steadily since the 1950's and 1960's. The hopes for a European Community or Nations is bogged down by ethnic, cultural and economic problems.
The Soviet Union has been destroyed from within. Ethnic rivalries, old pent up hatreds, civil wars in Georgia and guerrilla war between Armenia and Azerbaijan shows little sign of abatement. In far off Siberia various enclaves clamour for independence and in Tajikistan there have been military uprisings.
The worst of all is in the former Yugoslavia. The situation there is almost too horrible to describe.. The daily reports of random killing, enforced starvation of helpless civilians. The callous destruction of property and history building, torture and rape seem to have become the norm.
Currently there is slaughter in Rwanda as well cholera. All these man made tragedies take a back seat in American Media to the excitement of the cold blooded murder of O.J. Simpson's ex wife and friend..

It is more than a year since I last scribbled my recollections.
Subconsciously I think I know why I stopped writing. Following my convalescence from disc surgery in Saskatoon it became apparent that Freda was far from well. She was seen several times by a haematologist in Saskatoon. For some strange reason the repeated marrow examinations were inconclusive as were bone scans. In Regina she was seen at the Bauer clinic and again went through the gamut of bone scans and bone marrow aspirations. In any event her condition seemed stable and life resumed its normal pattern. We ventured another trip to Europe. We enjoyed ourselves and everything seemed reasonably stable.
On or about 1964 Celia Civkin met a tragic end. While preparing breakfast her night-gown caught fire and after lingering in hospital for a few days she died. Mr. Civkin found it most difficult to adjust; he became deeply depressed and it was obvious that he wouldn't last long. He refused moving into a Senior's home and remained in his small apartment.
It was prevailed that he visit Sidney and Estelle in Vancouver but this trip started out very badly. His plane had to be diverted to another airport because of fog and not paying attention to the announcement by the pilot and instructions by the stewardesses he got out of the plane without his luggage. He spotted a taxi and gave the driver the address. As it happened the town he was in had a street also called Laurel. The old man recognised it as not where his children lived. Apparently a violent argument ensued with the taxi driver. He told the driver to take him back to the airport. In the meantime, Sidney was going berserk looking for his father. Eventually the old man was found and swore that never again would he fly to Vancouver. Some months later he was prevailed upon to visit us in Regina. This trip as well turned out very badly. During one night Freda suffered an agonizing attack of pain in her back. In hospital it was confirmed that she had suffered a collapsed vertebra due to erosion form mycoma. Finally my worst fears were confirmed. The old man realised that Freda was terminally ill. His depression deepened and we all realized that his days were numbered.
With radiation the spinal lesion cleared rapidly but it was necessary for her to wear a brace.
In the mid sixties a new chemotherapeutic drug was developed. It was called Alkeran but its general name was Melphalan. It had been developed in Sweden and its initial report of effectiveness was quite encouraging. Freda took it religiously until her death. As for Civkin - he gradually deteriorated until his death in 1965.
Freda's condition stabilized but her main problem became one of progressive anaemia and kidney failure with uralina. It became necessary for her to be transfused at frequent intervals and to reduce the urnemia - peritoneal dialysis.
In spite of this she was anxious to participate in anything within her physical powers.
Sometime in 1965 or 1966 while General Vanier was nearing the end of his term a s Governor General the Government decided to fund and establish an institute for the promotion of family life to be named in his honour. The Vanier Institute of the Family is quite active to this day.
I am bringing up the Vanier Institute because for some mysterious reason I was nominated to be one of two founding members from Saskatchewan. I was invited to an all expense paid for trip to Ottawa to participate in its founding. Freda came too. We stayed at the Chateau Laurier and attended some magnificent affairs hosted in Govt. House by Madame Vanier. Georges Vanier the G.G. was already seriously ill in hospital. We met and mingled and dined with notables like Dr. Linda Penfield, Allan and Mrs. Bronfman and many others prominent in the business world, politics and academics.
In spite of her frailty Freda enjoyed the affairs and although she had become very thin she looked lovely and friends and acquaintances were hardly aware of the seriousness of her illness. Her trips for hospital admission become ever more frequent. She bore her illness with enormous courage and stoicism. A continuing problem was domestic help. Keeping the house reasonably clean; preparing simple meals, doing laundry and fulfilling simple requests which Freda might request from time to time.
In August 1967 Alex Married Shirley Gould in Regina. The following year David married Ellen Sue Osten of Edmonton. Both affairs went off beautifully. At Alex' wedding we hosted a cocktail party and in Edmonton we had a dinner party in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Chateau Lacombe. Alex was still an undergraduate student at Queen's "U" in Kingston and we did visit them in their tiny apartment. Shirley became a hostess at an afternoon show on a TV station and I tagged along one afternoon to watch her perform and conduct a cooking demonstration. We had no idea that she had such talents. Alex graduated at the top of this call and was awarded the gold medal.
By achieving the gold Alex hoped to get a scholarship to Harvard. He had also applied to NYU and when New York accepted him he accepted. They secured a student apartment in the Washington Square area in a high rise building. He did well and achieved his Master's Degree in Law.
David was doing equally well in Winnipeg in the Faculty of Architecture and always received an annual award sometimes from 2 or 3 sources. He shared a so called apartment on Sherbrooke St. in Winnipeg with another student. His mother and I were shocked to see the squalor in which the boys lived. He didn't seem to mind his environment so we left things as they were. He was also busy with the University productions of their annual Broadway musicals. We went in to see Guys and Dolls at the Playhouse Theatre and enjoyed it very much.
He moved to Toronto where he began to work with an established architect of some repute. It was then that he met Ellen Sue Osten of Edmonton.
Just as Alex went to NYU to get a Master's degree so David requested a little more help t get a Master's degree in Architecture in Toronto. His mentor was Jack Diamond who impressed David immensely and who later achieved architectural prominence in design.
To backtrack a few years. Ruth was awarded a Western Canada Scholarship to York University in Toronto. A brand new building for female students had been erected on campus. She had a very nice room and made many new friends with whom she maintained friendship for many years to come. Her Scholastic Standards remained very high and her scholarships were renewed every year till graduation. She was not content with a BA from York. Consequently she applied to the Law Faculty at U of T and was accepted.
In the meantime I was absorbed with Freda's desperate and deteriorating condition. Her trips by ambulance to the hospital for transfusions and peritonent dialysis became more and more frequent. Her last hospitalization was a very short duration and the children barely made it to her bedside. She died peacefully on July 12th 1969.
She was 53 years of age and she wanted so badly to live. Primarily she worried about Ruthie and she would have been thrilled to see her grandchildren who were still unborn.
Her sister Naomi did not come to the funeral. Her absence was painful to me but I decided to visit Naomi and her husband Bernie who were living in Milwaukee. Ruthie went with me and I think the short visit was good for us. I think it helped to maintain a continuity for the family - particularly for Ruthie.
My first winter alone after Freda's death was a difficult one for me. I had planned on joining a Regina group for a trip to Israel but I became seriously ill with pneumonia and landed in the hospital. My convalescence was slow but eventually I regained my health.
The time began to fly by and when I was told that another group of Regina's was booked for an Israeli tour I immediately "joined".

The following is a practice run with the new Pa
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 09:52 am
Phew! I believe that is it! I hope you enjoy the ride as much as myself and my family did Very Happy
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 10:13 am
cav - I've only read a part of this and will be back to read the entire thing as time permits. This is GREAT! As a genealogy buff I could only hope that a similar piece would be found from one of my family members. Your grandfather left a legacy that future can family members can look back on for generations.
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 10:37 am
Thanks fishin! We truly think it is a treasure. I know it is a lengthy read, so I may duck out of the thread for a while, to let people get through it. Wink
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 11:13 am
I saved these memories in the text file and I shall read them while being offline. It is really interesting reading material to anyone interested in the history of the 20th century.
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 11:16 am
Yes, we thought so, in the family, especially regarding the Canadian medical system at the time....man, there really is a lot here on a lot of subjects, it continues to amaze us.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 11:51 am
A really very, very interesting reading, cavfancier, and a piece of lively history!

[We are fortune to have got some dozens of old documents from the past centuries.

Among them, there is a very interesting diary of an great-grandfather of mine (mother's site), who was a head forester for a count.

Yesterday, we found (actually it was "re-found") a letter from 1892, from a great-uncle [father's site] in USA (Sedwick Co., Kansas), where he praised the German community: "Hurrah for the Westphalians in America". [B. Schmiehausen, vita to be read here: History of the State of Kansas ].]
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 12:38 pm
I just finished reading the whole thing. Just fascinating. Are you the son of David, Alex or Ruthie, Cav? (If you don't mind my asking.) When and how did your grandfather die? How did Toots come into the picture?

This is fascinating in and of itself, but especially for me since so much of it mirrors my own grandparents' stories, and even names are duplicated. (My grandmother's family are Robinowitzes.) What a life, and how well told, despite his protestations.
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 02:19 pm
Hinteler, interesting stuff indeed!

sozobe, I am the son of David. Toots was Boris's second wife, after Freda. Boris died about 4 years ago, after a bout of pneumonia (figures, given his story). He had his priorities straight, even while in hospital....he did not give up the ghost until all his children flew in to get last words from him. I attended his funeral, it was the first time I saw my father cry. Toots died not long afterwards, within a year.
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 06:56 pm
sozobe, an interesting side story to Toots: Coincidentally, her name was also Freida (different spelling), but Boris could never bring himself to call her that....hence the nickname. Love eh? Toots was a fantastic lady, true class, and kept Boris happy the rest of his life. Also, Brushka, Boris's mom, was a hefty woman....Mrs. cav was supposed to wear her wedding band, antique Russian gold, for our wedding, but I ended up wearing it instead Very Happy
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 07:04 pm
I wore an antique Russian gold necklace (passed down from my grandmother) for my wedding.

One thing I was curious about, Boris talks a lot about how his parents sacrificed to give him an education, but then the rest of his talk of money is about his own family. Do you know if he supported his parents when he became better off?
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 07:14 pm
Boris's dad died before I was born. Brushka lived on for a while, and passed on when I was still young. She was fairly well off...what the situation was in terms of Boris's support, I am not sure. To us, the grandkids, Boris was always prompt but practical with monetary gifts at birthdays and holidays. My mother's parents were more generous, but could also not afford as much as they gave. I still see Boris's approach as subtly teaching the young 'uns the value of a buck. We share a birth sign, as it happens, both Virgos.
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Reply Wed 23 Jul, 2003 09:07 pm
Wonderful Cav. Bookmarking.
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Reply Thu 24 Jul, 2003 07:01 am
Read chapter 1 so far - amazing!
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Reply Thu 24 Jul, 2003 07:16 am
I must admit to consciously attempting to revive interest in this post, probably because of my brother's wedding (tonight!)....got me thinking of family.
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Reply Thu 24 Jul, 2003 07:20 am
s'ok! We tried to get my grandmother to write down some sort of memoir, but she never got very far. She did write out some info about relatives, birthdates, birth places, military experience of various family members. She also wrote down a stream of conscious couple of pages of memories. Then the alzheimers set in. She died a couple of years ago.
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Reply Sun 10 Aug, 2003 04:11 pm
absolutely fascinating.
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Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2003 01:42 am
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