During this time at MIT, I received a call in Winnipeg from my mother,
who was very upset with me. Archie and a friend of his had gone to
the Exhibition Grounds and elsewhere in Dauphin with a pellet gun
and shot up a bunch of windows in public buildings.
“Why didn’t you tell me this was going to happen?” she
asked. “Why did you put him up to it? Why didn’t you
stop him? What kind of brother are you?!”
I was amazed. I had nothing to do with it or Archie, being busy
in school and work 200 miles away. I knew nothing of it, yet my mother
blamed me for Archie’s stunts and crimes. For some reason,
it seemed that my mother had it in for me from early childhood. I
protested, and I think she realized she was wrong for blaming me,
but she never apologized; however, I look back and think that I could
have been more understanding with her in her fears and humiliation.
Particle –Chickens Home to Roost
Once while visiting Ron and Barb Hrehirchuk (my sister and her husband),
I was playing with their boy, Ron Junior, in the living room, with
several other guests present. Ronnie was about three or four years
old. I picked him up by the ankles and swung him around. He was enjoying
it, but his pants began to pull upward, exposing his underwear (and
perhaps partially more).
We had all been drinking, so I don’t know what my reflexes
were like or how long it took to notice something amiss, but my sister
suddenly screamed at me in front of everyone, cursing me and demanding
that I let Ronnie down. I was startled. Wow, right out of nowhere!
I am sure I was at fault for what I did, but I had no intention
of embarrassing or hurting Ron. I certainly didn’t think Barbara’s
harsh public reaction was called for.
Years later, I came to what I believed a feasible conclusion as
to why she reacted that way. Chickens had come home to roost.
Father’s Marital Advice
Being Head Housekeeper at the Dauphin General Hospital, my father
had his regular schedule to maintain as well as tending to unexpected
circumstances, like cleaning the morgue and other situations where
occasional messes were made. Sometimes the nurses in training residences
had parties, and his men would have to clean up after them.
One day he took me to their residence and showed me a suite. It
was a mess that would take several extra hours of labor. “Victor,” he
said, “that’s what women are like. Whatever you do, don’t
ever get married.”
Men have parties and make messes, too. Men generally get more physically
and personally violent and brutal. I know that my father had his
share of problems with my mother, and that may have prompted his
remarks. Regardless, those words impacted me. I thought, “Most
people marry; if they didn’t, there would be no families. Why
would he tell his son not to marry?” I was surprised he expressed
himself to me that way. We didn’t talk about it, and he never
said anything of the like again. I now suspect he had conflict with
Mom, but I didn’t have a clue then.
Particle –Gerry McClintock
One of the best friends I ever had in the unbelieving world was
Gerry McClintock. He was also in Business Administration and planned
to work with Continental Grain, with whom he later became president.
Gerry was an affable man - generous, good-humored, popular, and considerate.
The Lord gave me a good friend in him. I also appreciated his parents,
his brother, Ken, and his sister, Kathy.
Particle –Livia Phillips
In my first year in Winnipeg, I met Livia Phillips at the Winnipeg
Children’s Hospital nurse’s residence on a double date.
She was a student nurse, the daughter of a Ukrainian farmer of Vita,
Manitoba. We ended up spending a good portion of our lives together,
until one day she severely, publicly scolded me for making a wrong
turn in the country to a riverside wiener roast.
I suppose she was particularly upset because there was a line of
cars depending on us to lead the way, a way with which I was not
too familiar. It was not long before we found the right way, but
I resolved that night that we were done. I could not accept the possibility
of living with a woman who would, suddenly and without warning, blow
up at me, especially publicly.
Here was another person who needed help, but all I could think about
was myself, incapable of helping anyone. It was simply not in me
to understand or care.
Particle –Embarrassment with Strings Attached
After hearing this one, nobody will ever want to kiss me again,
but then, I’m married, so that’s good! One evening, Livia
and I were double-dating with Rick Harrison and Sandy, whom he later
married. We had all been drinking, and as we were in the foyer kissing
goodnight, I turned to leave through the two sets of glass double
doors. There was a string of saliva stretching from Livia’s
mouth to my mouth.
Perhaps I have greatly exaggerated the situation in my mind over
the years, but it seemed that only the doors put an end to the endless
string that would have followed me to the parking lot. I do not recall
too many events more embarrassing than that one. It wasn’t
Livia’s; it was mine. I have SSS – super strength saliva
- shades of Spider Man?
Livia, if you ever read this, I wish you well, and for what it is
worth, I apologize for all my selfishness. You used to laugh a lot
with me; you might find this funny.
Particle –A Broken Home on Home Street
My next home in Winnipeg with Walter Lewis was a much nicer place
- 122 Home Street; light housekeeping again, rented from Lydia Kisel,
a separated woman with two or three young sons. One day her husband,
Mike, dropped by and broke down crying, talking to me about their
separation. I was surprised that he should confide in me, a young
stranger. He was broken, and she was bitter and cruelly cynical,
running around with men. I recall their boys being very sad, Donnie
their eldest, being one. Here was yet another example in my experience
of a woman leaving a man.
Shortly thereafter she had breast cancer and a double mastectomy.
Had she known before she turned on her husband, or did it happen
after, or even perhaps because, she turned on him? One day we will
know these things.
Particle –A Time Appointed To Heal
I now wish I could have helped so many troubled and hurting people
that came my way. Yet it seems there are as many hurting people today,
and I feel just as helpless. Unless they are prepared to take responsibility
for themselves, take constructive criticism, and listen to the truth,
can they be helped?
I also know that unless God opens the door, we can do nothing. Many
don’t think they need help or are reluctant to admit they need
it, unless circumstances overwhelm them. As the writer of Ecclesiastes
declares, there is a time for everything, suffering and healing,
laughing and crying, winning and losing.
Particle –Trick or Treat
I went to a drinking party one day in an apartment of some friends
from Business Administration. I was sure I had just purchased a large
pack of Rothman’s, with only two or three cigarettes used.
Going for another cigarette, my pack was gone from the end table.
It was not usual for others to steal that sort of thing among friends.
It was mysterious to me, and I even wondered if I was not mistaken,
About a month later, one of those friends invited me into his bedroom.
I thought, “Uh oh, is he homosexual, propositioning me?” I
went, and with a strange look in his eye and sound in his voice,
he said, “Come here – I want to show you something,” motioning
me to his dresser. I cautiously approached; he opened a drawer and
gazed at the contents with a dreamy, almost crazed, expression.
“Look at this!” he quietly exclaimed with passion, as
though secretly showing me Tutankhamen’s buried treasure, or
as Gollum viewed “the ring.” I saw a drawer full of cigarette
packages, neatly enclosed in plastic held with one or two rubber
bands. And there was a pack of Rothman’s on top.
I didn’t think Gary meant any harm and immediately understood
he was a kleptomaniac with a fixation on cigarettes. I did not ask
for the cigarettes or talk to him about his problem.
Particle –The Sound of Music
At Home Street, I began to take voice lessons. I was enthralled
by The Sound of Music, with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
I was moved by the romance, the music, and the virtues of the characters,
and I wanted to sing. But I did not have confidence in myself or
my teacher, there was nowhere to practice privately, and there was
nobody to push, encourage, or direct me.
So I’m not a singer…but I believe I could have been.
Obviously, the true driving ambition that needs to be there was not
there. But one day, music and singing would come.
Particle –Billy Graham Comes to Town
Walter Lewis and I got along, although he had his friends and I
had mine for the most part. When he was finished Medical Lab training,
I had to find elsewhere to live. I then joined Fred Slater, a fellow
Business Administration student from Toronto, and we found another
place, not nice, but cheap, on Fawcett Avenue.
We found out that Billy Graham was coming to preach at the Winnipeg
stadium… for free! Because he was a celebrity, we went to see
him. He had a powerful delivery and charisma, and I was attracted
to him. When he gave the invitation to come forward, I wanted to
go forward and told Fred. He decided to go with me.
When we got to the stage, I was very disappointed to get an older,
rather dull-dressed, man to pray “the sinner’s prayer” with
me. But I followed his instructions and went through the motions.
This was now my second exposure to what was called “the Gospel” and
Afterwards we put away the alcohol, tried hard not to smoke, and
tore down the Playboy centerfolds from our walls. We tried drinking
tomato juice at the bars with the boys while they drank beer, and
they couldn’t help but laugh at us. We lasted about three days
and packed it all in. On my part, it was not without at least a tiny
bit of guilt, along with the embarrassment of not being able to follow
Particle –Pepper Parts Pals
As was my custom and nature, I did another very foolish thing. Fred
was quite sensitive, and I was a brute. I had the habit of putting
lots of pepper on my food, while he did not like any. One day, I
decided to give him some anyway. He burst out in surprisingly great
anger and gave me notice that he was leaving. He left and never did
forgive me. I couldn’t understand what the big deal was.
Particle –Bunking with Mr. Manitoba Runner-Up
So I moved in with Rick Steinke to a basement suite
at his relatives’ place
on Bannatyne Avenue. Rick was a quiet Commerce grad, also hired by
the Bay as a management trainee. He excelled to “Mr. Manitoba” or
runner-up in bodybuilding, played acoustic - mostly Gordon Lightfoot
- and enjoyed his liquor. He hung out with some guys who aspired
to be professional hockey players. A bit more on him later… regretfully.
Particle –A Deal for the Future
Around this time, Lois Szmon, my mother’s sister who was only
a year older than I, was living and working in Edmonton, and we all
came home for Christmas. The Szmon family got together at Lois’ Aunt
Cary Schaeffer’s in Gilbert Plains. On this visit, a peculiar
and portentous thing happened, more than met the eye: Lois made a
deal with me that if I married first, I would owe her a dollar, and
It was the only such future transaction I would ever make with anyone
that I can remember. The strange thing is that there would be an
infinitely greater connection between us than we ever dreamed could
exist, of greater import than has occurred with many.
My friends and I did a fair bit of blind dating in Winnipeg. I met
a young and pretty brunette at a party, Jan Delorme, whom I now realize
was rather mischievous, though I did not discern it then. As I drove
her home, we agreed on a date for the following weekend.
I was looking forward to that night, but when my friend, his date,
and I came to pick her up in St. Vital, she was not there. I was
embarrassed and crestfallen; the only thing I could think of doing
was to proceed with the planned evening and get drunk. In days to
follow, wondering if there was an innocent error or plausible excuse,
I tried calling her, but she did not return my calls. That was not
the only rejection I had known in my life, but it had an impact on
me. There would be more and greater ones.
Particle –Self-Destruction by Ignorance
While a fair bit of my story is about self-destruction in many ways,
I would like to point out a few of the more common ways people hurt
themselves, ways that many do not even think about. I am sorry I
used Head and Shoulders shampoo; I suspect I would have more hair
today (not to mention health), if not for that caustic scalper. I
am sorry I used Secret antiperspirant deodorant, Brut and any other
cosmetic shave lotions, along with other toiletries, cleaners, and
cold remedies, like Dimetapp and Contac C.
We live in a world of chemicals – toiletries, household cleansers,
and pharmaceuticals - that are killing us. Companies marketing them
are there for the money, not for our health. I did not know it then;
I do now.
I used to perspire a lot, so much so that my suit armpits showed
large white rings. Wearing absorption pads did not always help. Little
did I know that polyester suits, shirts, and T-shirts would do this
Though I wore only leather shoes, I wore nylon and polyester hosiery
and my feet perspired until my shoes turned white on the sides, the
sweat penetrating and eventually cracking the leather.
I bought Harts and Florsheims, good shoes in those days, to comfort
my feet on the cement floors at the Bay, to no avail. I was overweight,
I drank, and I smoked. I ate bachelor fare, which was more about
taste than health and nutrition. I was an ignorant, self-destructive
slob. If I had any understanding, I wouldn’t have known what
to do with it.
Particle –Polyester a Poor Pal
Only in recent years have I realized that polyester and other synthetic
materials are not the materials to wear if you want comfort and don’t
wish to sweat and stink. I try a polyester T-shirt and I stink; I
try a cotton one and I do much better. In those days, everything
I wore was polyester – suits, socks, shirts, and T-shirts.
I didn’t have to iron anything, it lasted “forever” and
looked good, but I sweated and stunk. So the best thing for people
to do was to admire the iron-free man from a distance.
Particle –Love as Thin Ice
While at MIT and shortly after, I did something that I regret to
this day. A pretty woman, Pat Dennis, perhaps infatuated with my
comedy and guitar playing, began approaching me. I was uncomfortable
at first, knowing she was engaged. I also knew the man to whom she
was engaged - Bob Southam, one of my classmates in Business Administration,
whom I appreciated. He was quite simply a nice guy. He was even handsome
and well off, an uncommon combination. Pat prevailed with me, however,
persuading me that she was not in love with Bob, and that I need
not worry about it. She intended to break off with him, which she
Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Dennis, though friendly and respectful,
were not receptive of me as her suitor, hoping that Bob would be
her husband. Pat insisted on me, and Bob left. Pat and I dated for
about a year, and I loved her, but I was not comfortable that she
ought to be my wife. She was also not quite prepared to marry me,
One day I was very frank with her about my feelings and thoughts
concerning her, which indicated that I was not in deep love with
her. She immediately severed all communications, without notice.
I tried calling her parents’ place (she lived with them); her
mother, Mrs. Dennis, answered and told me she wasn’t in. This
happened a few times until I got the message. Brokenhearted, I went
on with my life, but it was not quite the end of the story. I would
be surprised to hear from her again.
Particle –The Right Man Wronged
Here is the primary regret and purpose for my account of this incident.
Years later, I came to believe that Bob Southam had been the man
appointed of God for Pat. Her parents appreciated him, and Bob and
Pat seemed made and meant for each other. I came to deeply regret
that I had not recognized these things, honored them, and counseled
Pat in that direction. Bob had been very hurt by her rejection, and
he was noble enough to honestly and openly admit it. God grant that
Bob was comforted, and that Pat finally found her way.
Particle –Recurring Nightmare of Approaching Exams
Throughout the terms, I hardly did my homework and certainly did
not read my textbooks, so when exams approached, I had to cram, taking
bennies, and drinking a lot of coffee to stay awake most, if not
all, of the night for many days in nearly a two-week stretch. I once
fell asleep on the exam paper in the finals, and Mr. Trenholm gently
For decades after that, I had nightmares of exams approaching,
not having opened my books, three weeks away, two weeks, one week,
days, tomorrow… and still somehow I hadn’t cracked a
book. I was also in fear of having wasted my time and money and still
short of what was needed to complete my education.
But again, all those nasty dreams would be dealt with in a most
Particle –Garden Raiding
A strange thing occurred when I was home in Dauphin for a few days
from Winnipeg. My cousin Christine Hafichuk, her fiancé -
Alan Tough, one or two others, and I had something to drink. I got
it into our heads to go garden raiding, something that others had
often mentioned as a prank. Why? I have no idea. It was as though
a bout of insanity took hold of us, and we raided fresh produce from
strangers’ gardens. It wasn’t even Halloween, when pranks
were the custom.
Incredibly, I showed off the vegetables in my trunk the next day
to my parents and Aunt Mary and told them to help themselves. My
father was stunned and greatly chagrined. “I never thought
I raised my kids to do anything like this!” he murmured plaintively.
My aunt said nothing.
I think my father tried to scare me, saying the police were out
looking for the raiders. Maybe they were, but how would he know?
I look back at that incident with great shame, wondering what got
into me. Devils? Plain foolishness? What? It wasn’t drunkenness;
every now and then, insanity would come and take a bite as it pleased.
The day came when, in spite of myself, I received the Diploma of
Applied Arts in Business Administration. As graduates from MIT, Gerry
McClintock, Dave Miller, Don Pierson, and I united to take a two-week
car trip to California in Gerry’s black ‘56 Chevy or
Olds. We were out for a good time, staying in cheap motels, drinking
all the way there and back.
In San Francisco, a black man who “saw us coming” approached
us on the street. He offered us black sex, which we paid for but
did not get, he tricking us and disappearing with the money. I was
also openly and unabashedly propositioned by a big, strong black
homosexual on the street and talked my way out of getting possibly
accosted. The guys and I went to strip shows and generally searched
for cheap pleasures. We did not pay much attention to the tourist
attractions, though we saw places like the Golden Gate Bridge, if
we happened to be passing by.
In San Diego, we gazed at the naval base as we continued on to Mexico.
In Tijuana, I purchased hundreds of dollars worth of black velvet
paintings, had them shipped back to Winnipeg, and sold them or gave
them away as gifts. One man running a market booth wanted to sell
me an acoustic guitar for $80. I dickered with him for an hour or
more down to $30, and then someone warned me that their guitars warp
after a short time, so I decided not to buy it. The vendor was enraged.
We took the legendary “Tijuana Taxi Ride” where they
drive you all over the city to take you where you want to go, from
a spot that might have been but a decent walk to the destination.
Of course, they charge you for it. We were looking for live sex shows,
bestiality and all, but did not see them. We did see sex movies in
dumpy motels full of prostitutes who encouraged us to buy their services.
We didn’t do so, not out of virtue, but because we were afraid
of STDs and being robbed. We had watched dancing girls literally
scratching themselves from “crabs” (an STD) and decided
to keep our health.
In Hollywood, Los Angeles, we stayed with cousin Bob Prestayko – Fred
and Mary’s only son - and his common-law wife, Zeta, an alcoholic.
Both were secretly taking drugs, yet we somehow knew it. Bob had
been in California for several years and tried to accomplish his
goal of being a singing star. He changed his surname to Eastman,
thinking that since the entertainment business was largely Jewish,
he might get the break he needed - as if they wouldn’t know.
Reportedly, he never made it because of stage fright,
but he did indeed have a very good crooning voice, like that of Frank
Dean Martin, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Pat Boone,
Al Martino, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, and such others… even
Michael Bublé, who wasn’t born yet!
Speaking of Bing Crosby, Bob took us to a bar Gene Autry owned.
Bob spotted two of Bing’s sons walking in, Dennis and Phil,
I believe. We could have introduced ourselves or not bothered, but
Bob was going to show us how “in” he was with those in
Hollywood and stardom, so he immediately approached them and acted
as though they were longtime buddies, introducing them to us. (Bob
was always self-important.)
Dennis was not about to take it lightly. He politely shook our hands,
but then turned to Bob and publicly rebuked him for his presumption
and pretence. “I don’t know you! I’ve never met
you before in my life!”
Bob was embarrassed but unrepentant. It was more important for him
to appear to be somebody than to be honest and real. He shrugged
it off and continued as though nothing had happened. There was truly
something psychologically amiss with Bob. I was somewhat embarrassed
that he, my cousin, should act that way, and the boys had a good
laugh about it for the next several days. I laughed with them in
my beer. Upon reflection, I began to strongly suspect Bob was a sociopath,
a man with his own reality or at least severed from the general reality.
Particle –Not a Fighter at Heart
Gerry and Don ended up having a fight. Alarmed at the conflict,
I shouted for them to stop (Dave and I both did) and threatened that
if they didn’t smarten up, I would leave them all right there.
(I wasn’t really about to do that, but they stopped. They didn’t
really want to fight, anyway.)
Particle –Some Sun Done
We then headed to the beach for some midsummer California sun and
tan, and we got some. The smog obscured the sun, so we thought it
was not a problem to be out there. We started with no tan and were
on the beach for at least six hours with only our trunks and no lotion.
We were pink in an hour, red in two, rust in six, peeling within
a few days, and much whiter and lighter thereafter.
Gerry could barely walk for the next few days, almost as though
he were hamstrung, his legs at about a 140 degree angle at the knees,
moving around like a crab, only not nearly as fast. But we all lived
to continue to be fools for a while longer.
Particle –Enter the Fornicator
When first joining the Bay retail store at Portage and Memorial
as an executive trainee, I rented at the Martello Apartments on Broadway.
During that time I became involved intimately with several girls.
I recall the day I lost my virginity. I felt badly and even cried.
I expected that there would be a sense of victory or pride but, instead,
I had a sense of shame. (You wouldn’t know it, hearing me talk
to the guys.)
It is amazing, however, how the conscience hardens so swiftly. I
did not hesitate with the next girl, and I felt half the guilt. After
the third or fourth, I was looking forward to more. That’s
how it works. It goes from uncomfortable to easy and pleasurable.
With repetition, vice becomes desirable, and one can grow proud of
a shameful thing.
What is the answer? Don’t start; keep yourself chaste; save
yourself for your destined lifelong partner, should you receive one.
Consequences wait in the wings for those who don’t wait, I
Particle –A Child Somewhere?
I met Candy Shea at the bottom of the stairs in my
Housewares department at the Bay. She was a pretty woman in her late
teens, slightly plump, a bit shy, but friendly. Candy had some class,
and she dressed and presented herself well. I soon struck up a conversation
with this particular shopper and began to try for a date. Though
I was devoid of skills to woo, impress, or flatter her, I finally
succeeded in getting what seemed a reluctant consent. She was either
playing hard to get or was naturally skeptical of dating a perfect
stranger. But at the end of the day, it seems she decided a Bay junior
executive may not be that great a risk.
I was surprised when I arrived at her home days later to find that
she remained committed to our agreement. I thought she might stand
me up. We dated several times, and I enjoyed her in many ways, one
of them not as I ought. If I had known she was the daughter of the
Minister of the Department of Transportation in Manitoba, I might
not have been so bold with her.
One day, she posed a question to me: “What would you say if
I told you I was going to have a baby? How would you feel about it?” I
thought, “Uh oh, why is she asking me this? I think I’ll
pretend there is nothing to it, like nothing really happened, and
she’s just asking.” My reply was, “I wouldn’t
want that to happen.”
I assumed that girls took the pill, or they wouldn’t indulge
in sex. I also assumed that the pill was foolproof and that their
diligence in taking it was as well. How naïve! I didn’t
ask what they did, and frankly, I didn’t really care. I never
wore a condom. Somehow, I didn’t believe that it should ever
happen to me that I should have a child out of wedlock. Just like
young guys go to war thinking they are invincible. I guess it’s
a denial of undesirable reality, a trait inherent in all.
I didn’t realize I was playing with lives - her life, her
parents’ lives, the potential child’s life, and the lives
of all those involved! Fornicators and adulterers are very foolish,
shortsighted, and selfish people, living for short-term, small-time
pleasure with potential long-term, big-time implications and consequences.
Candy began to cry and answered, “Then, if I did have a baby,
seeing you wouldn’t want it, I would never tell you if I had
it, not ever. You would never know your child.” Unless I am
missing something, she was pregnant and tested the waters to see
what my reaction would be, hoping I would be receptive. Whether I
was simply stupid or in denial or both (I expect both), I didn’t
get it. I didn’t ask her plainly, and I didn’t want to
know. I chose to ignore the whole thing, so much so that I didn’t
call her anymore.
Close to a year later, I saw her at the Bay again – with a
baby carriage. I was still hiding my head in the sand, not willing
to believe my eyes. I said, “Hi,” and barely looked at
the child. She looked like she was holding true to her word and said
nothing, though her expression was telling me something I wasn’t
able to perceive in my absurd obtuseness.
Do I have a son or daughter out there that is over forty now? How
many are the children out there who don’t know who their biological
father or mother is, and what is happening to them? How do they feel?
How would I feel if we met?
If I were to meet my son or daughter (though they are not my child
because I don’t deserve to have them), would they love me as
a father? No, I don’t see how. A parent and child relationship
is much more than biological; it is social, spiritual, a matter not
only of the body, but of the mind and heart.
Having said that, I hope that the son or daughter I might have had
would know that I want to do whatever is right and good for him or
her. I would want to love them as my own, though I know that mere
flesh and blood isn’t what it is all about. It occurs to me
I could be a grandfather or even a great grandfather now, for all
I know, but not in the living and true sense.
I marvel at Candy’s resolve in trying times. The Lord grant
you mercy and all that you need, Candy, and your son or daughter,
mine or not.