The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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Ken Warren

May 29, 2013 Victoria, BC (ISN) – Welcome back to the second article of Ken’s Blog, where historian Ken Warren takes us through some of his childhood memories, sharing with us the lives and times of his sports oriented family growing up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the 1900’s and beyond. In Part 2, Ken takes us through some of the good times as well as the bad and somewhat ugly experiences while growing up.

 

THIS IS PART TWO OF THE SECOND ARTICLE; COVERING (1951 -52)  THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

My dad took us to our first football game in Regina in 1951. We had just bought our first car, a 1949 Meteor. Dad and I were sitting on the sidelines when a Bomber trying to make a catch fell on my dad. A cop told us to move back off the sideline markers. That’s how barnyard the W.I.F.U. (Western Inter-provincial Football Union) was in those days. That day I got many Bomber autographs. The ones I prized the most were Indian Jack Jacobs, Tom Casey, and Dick Huffman.

With Mom expecting a baby, Dad invested in a bath tub that was the proper size made out of tin. The rotation was the same, but with Jim gone to university, Dad was the last to use the water. In addition, we bathed twice a week both summer and winter.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

Continuing with 1951’s good things, in April I got my best birthday present ever. Dad asked me what I’d like, and I asked him if $15.00 was too much to spend. He said he could afford it, and I told him I wanted one hundred “Classics Illustrated” comic books. They were 15 cents each. At a cost of $15 plus $3 shipping, the comics arrived. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Jim, Phil, Dad and I read those 100 comics at least twenty times each. When I was in Grade 8, I used the comics as my book reports for novels I pretended to have read. How could my teacher, John Lipka, actually believe that I had read ‘Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’, and ‘Oliver’? Lipka had thumped me on the head with a 2,000 page, 5 pound dictionary, and thrown chalk and brushes at me for talking, but I doubt if he ever saw me lost in reading. I liked John Lipka, but his punishments ran the gamut from traditional to ridiculous. The things that happened to me: the big dictionary, the chalk throwing, the smack on the hands with a ruler were all traditional. The things that happened to Arnie and Cookum (Wilmer Salter) were ridiculous.

When we were in Grade 9, Lipka had Arn and Cook up to his desk at the front of the class, bent them over his knee, and strapped them both with the official leather strap. Another day, he made Cook take off his socks and wash them in front of the class. Then he sent Cook home to get a new pair. Cook lived close to the school. He was a Metis kid. I don’t think the women he lived with included his mother. I don’t even think the sister he had in our class was really his sister. What happened in that home was a mystery, and one that Cook never talked about. I remember clearly the day that Cook got hit by a flying brush. It was the day we learned that King George the Sixth had died. Somebody mentioned something about the King’s death.

“What happened? What do you mean the King’s death?” Cookum’s sister asked. “Has the King died?”

No sooner had Cook scoffed at his sister’s ignorance than a blackboard brush zapped him on the head. Lipka berated Cook. The very popular King George VI had died and we were all moved by the death.

Arnie and I hitchhiked the 100 or so miles to football games in Regina’s Taylor Field many times. I got scores of autographs from Bombers, Riders, Eskimos and Stampeders. At that time the BC Lions didn’t exist.

We had seen many coyotes now that we had a car, so I was always on the lookout for them. Then one day I asked my dad to stop so that I could chase one. The coyote had run across the road and was in a part of the Indian Reserve that I was familiar with. When I saw him run around a stand of trees, I knew that a roadway cut through that stand, so I ran the other way hoping that he would be on the road and I’d meet him coming towards me. And that’s how it happened. There he was just like I wanted him. Only a few feet away. I got him where I want him. He’s looking at me, sizing me up. NOW WHAT DO I DO? I’m 13, small for my age, and suddenly feeling even smaller. Both the coyote and I were chickens. We both turned and ran in opposite directions at the same time. Lucky for me that he decided to run away too. I told my dad that I caught him all right, but then didn’t know what to do with him. “You’re just lucky he wasn’t hungry,” Dad said, laughing.

A week or so later Dad and I were watching Jim pitch. A wild pitch hit the backstop wire about six feet high.

“Judas Priest, Jimmie. Control, man. Control,” my dad hollered.

I shuddered, because the manager of the team was Father Rielly, a domineering Roman Catholic priest who basically controlled the town, and I didn’t want him to think that my dad was making fun of priests. We were Protestants in such a minority that the town had only a small ‘Protestant’ church that was used one week by a visiting Anglican minister from Ituna, another week by the United Church minister from Kelliher, and the third week empty. Mom was the organist for all services, so we went as a family no matter what group of Protestants were offering the service. Anyway, after hollering at Jim for his wild pitch, my dad looked at me long and hard. “Kenneth, go get me my tobacco from the car and put away your toy in the back seat. Put it in the trunk so nobody steals it.” He threw me the car keys. I was relieved to get out of there and avoid Father Rielly’s stare, but I couldn’t think of what toy I had left on the back seat.

When I got to the car and opened the back door, I must have almost keeled over. It’s sixty years since I was that 13-year-old boy, but I’ll never forget the joy of seeing that brand new single shot Cooey .22 rifle lying there on the backseat and knowing that J.E. had bought it for me and any coyotes I came across.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

I can’t count up how many scores of hours I tramped around the bushes, stands of trees, meadows, Indian Reserve lands, and farmer’s fields with Rusty looking for rabbits, coyotes, and prairie chickens. I never got a shot off at any of those species, but before you laugh at my futility, just ask me about the rats. Remember now, Lestock was a town without any police, so I could sit on the platform bench in front of our living room window and pick off rats from the Pool Elevator’s granary. I killed at least a hundred rats while sitting there, nailing them as they came out to nibble on new shoots of wheat. Every time I got one, I scratched a mark on the rifle butt. If I’d killed a hundred more, the butt would have been in tatters. The thing I liked best about it, was to wait until two or three came out. I’d shoot one, and the others would scoot to safety in the air pockets at the bottom of the granary. In three or four minutes, the first new guy would pop his head out and look around. I’m sitting still, two sets of railway tracks and a platform away from him. He can’t see me unless I move. He comes out and starts nibbling. His friends come out and nibble too. Another boom, another dead rat. Who needs to tramp around looking for rabbits when you have the midway just outside your house?

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

Then the best thing of all happened at the end of 1951, my brother David Earle Warren was born Dec. 12th at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Chuck McCulloch, a close friend, was the doctor who delivered Davy. Chuck woke Dad up early in the morning tossing rocks at his window. J.E. opened it. “You’ve got another Adam,” he said of the family’s fourth son. Phil and I went up to the hospital the next day to see the baby. A nun showed us a baby. “Is this your brother?” she asked. Phil said yes, and Ken said no. Phil might deny this, or not remember it, but the reason I was suspicious was the dark skin and I knew the nuns (Sisters) often played little tricks on kids. Anyway, I think the first baby we were shown was an Indian or Metis baby. The nun smiled and then went and fetched David. He was a keeper. A real cutie.

Now I must speak about two deaths that shook our family sadly. Remember Rusty, Jim’s beautiful Irish Setter? Well, Mom, Jim , Phil and I were all in Winnipeg when Mom received a telegram from Dad that Rusty and 18 other dogs in Lestock had been poisoned. Dogs were never on leashes in those days and someone had spread poisoned meat around the town. We suspected a man who raised foxes, but nobody was ever tried for the crime. I had never seen my big brother cry before, so reality of his loss hit home immediately. My Aunty Kay, who had given Rusty to Jim, arranged to have a new Irish Setter puppy for him. This new Rusty, which Jim at 16 showed in the Saskatoon Dog Show, became a real family pet.

Every noon hour Mom would tell Rusty: “Here they come.” and he would run to the window and wait until he saw us round Mihalicz’s Esso, and he would dart for the door. Anybody with a puppy knows the love. Unfortunately, the RCMP came from nearby Punnichy and asked my dad to slow a freight train down to a crawl while they searched for a fugitive. Many noisy children were excited watching the police. Meanwhile, Rusty, on the other side of the train, thought he was missing out on something, and wanted to get over with us. To our horror, he tried to crawl under the slowly moving train. His body rolling up and over as it was being cut in half is etched in my mind forever. HOW HELPLESS WE FELT. HOW HORRIBLE THE SIGHT.

This is the last bad thing I’ll mention about 1951 and ’52; then we’ll deal with the really ugly. I remember the day an unusual train came to Lestock. It was a train made up of freight cars, cattle cars, and passenger cars. In all my years, short though they may have been, I’d never seen such a train before. Then people started coming to the station with their cows. They were directed to take them to the stock compound by the siding track. Other people came with their furniture and loaded it onto freight cars. Then I saw Mabel and Jimmy Brown with their parents; and Larry and Raymond Lafontaine with theirs. When I saw Marina Fisher, who had been my first girlfriend in Lestock, I asked her what was happening. “The government’s moving us all,” she said, tears flowing down her cheeks. “What did you do?” I asked. “Is it just the Metis that are moving?”

“Yes,” she answered, “but we didn’t do anything. We don’t want to move, but they want to make us farmers.”

Hundreds of Metis were loaded onto the train with their furniture, forced to leave their homes, as the CCF government tried to rehabilitate the Metis on farms in and around Green Lake in northern Saskatchewan. The experiment failed miserably, but we never again saw our old chums.

NOW FOR THE UGLIER

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

Reverend Ralph King, a United Church minister from Kelliher, Sask., came every second or third Sunday to our little Protestant church where my mother was the organist. He also used to come one evening bi-weekly to conduct a Youth Group in different peoples homes. On two occasions, he offered to drive me home from the meetings. Both times, when he came to a stop sign, he unzipped my fly. He never got any further, because both times I said: “Who’s that outside, looking in the window?” He jumped back so fast and grabbed the steering wheel, you’d have thought he had been shot at. I guess naturally he was shaken enough that he lost all sexual interest and so drove me home. What I didn’t realize was that he had at other times given rides to my younger brother, Phil. He was only 9 and Rev. King had had his way with Phil. He violated Phil and I knew nothing about it. Phil told Mom, and Mom asked me if Reverend King had ever tried anything wrong with me. I admitted he had, and Mom scolded me for not telling her. It was then I learned that he had assaulted Phil, and it should have been my responsibility to look after him better than I had. Mom had a talk with Reverend King and that was the end of Youth Group.

Father Rielly, the Roman Catholic priest, was quite another matter. As you know, he was the manager of the Lestock Red Sox, a team on which my brother Jim was one of the better pitchers. On this day, the Red Sox had gone to the Punnichy Sports Day in hopes of winning prize money. Father Rielly saw me on the road and pulled his car over and asked me if I wanted to go to Punnichy to see Jim pitch. I loved watching him pitch and welcomed the invite. When we got to the edge of town, however, we turned left and went across the tracks towards Virag School, rather than straight ahead to Punnichy. I was surprised, but not alarmed. Maybe he had business with a parishoner or something before we get going. Not so. We stopped at Paddar’s Slough and he said we have to go swimming first. Naturally, without bathing suits we stood there in the nude and he wanted to talk about penises and how and why they get hard. I tried not to look at his and I was embarrassed when he asked me how often mine got hard. I honestly don’t know whether or not he satisfied himself. He never touched me, but he did handle himself to explain that blood was rushing to his penis and that’s how we males get so hard.

I regret to say that I don’t want to name the last person who sexually violated me because he’s dead, but his brother, whom I admire and look up to, is not. Besides, this young man was only 17 when he did what he did. He and I went to a local farm where we were hired to assist with the threshing. We had to sleep in the same bed. Some time in the night or early morning I woke up to find my hand on his penis and his hand on mine. I didn’t know what to do. He was a couple of years older, a lot bigger, and a lot tougher than me. I was 15. I rolled on my stomach which meant now neither of our hands were where they had been. He whispered softly to me: “Ken, are you awake.” I said nothing, but I stayed awake the rest of the night and quit my job that next morning. My dad said to me: “Oh, Kenneth, you can’t even last more than one day at a job. I don’t know what you’re going to do when we’re not around to be there for you anymore.” I never told my dad why I left, or about the incident with Father Rielly. Thank God children don’t have to be silent anymore.

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