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GUYS FROM THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

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posted by charlie gregory alias selrahcyrogerg on Saturday 29th of March 2014 12:50:58 PM

The Bar, Chapter Two, Come Walk With Me Chapter Two…Come Walk With Me.. Working at the Arms was a good experience. I was fresh out of prison, well Reformatory to be exact and a steady job with great financial benefits and Hell to boot was a good toxin. A new group of friends from previous years appeared pretty quick, a drinking crowd. In reflection it amazes me how life’s journey is empty unless it is shared with others. This group contained mostly people from the sixties before the lure of Toronto’s downtown action in the form of hashish exploration. It was only natural that former acquaintances would share a friendly story with me as I plied my new bartending skills behind the bar. The Queensbury Arms was located right dab in the middle of where I grew up. In fact it was right beside the famous White House rooming house where many a night was spent smuggling beer up the stairs on weekends during the Dyer and Miller days and eating Renatos ‘buttered pizza’ with the guys before trading in the alcohol for psychedelic pills and first stampings of the Beatles Abbey Road. It was within a block of Pearen Park where as a boy I had skated with a stick in hand at the outdoor rink, the same park where we had played tackle football in preparation for York Memorial, the same park I had played my first organized baseball game for Ronnie Thompson and Coach Carter with the fabled Rawlings glove, the same park I had kneed Buddy Walford in the nuts in a scene that still enters my head from time to time, The Protestants vs the Catholics. The same area where so many times I stepped off the wooden steps of our rental home at 26 Victoria Blvd, crossed the narrow street, said hello to the Ainsworth kids, cut through the house owned by pretty Rita Huttey’s parents, closing the metal gate shut as I had been asked to do, the yard came out on a back lane where the York Township works area kept a substation where we had played pick up ball, adjacent to it there was a cinder block sign shop that today of all things, fifty years later our daughter Jade works at with a group called The Urban Arts Community, a few yards up I’d enter the small back alley that ran below Mac’s BP where I once lived in The 57 Ford Hotel a station wagon that I had run a stolen orange 100 foot long electric cord from the front of the station to keep warm with a space heater, single light and a cheap little radio on which Al Boliska from CHUM would blurt and blast out his words when a black skinned police man named Officer Leroy would make comment on the interior of my home in his island drawl, “he got a radio, an electric light bulb and a space heater” when he was rousting me cause some old biddies going bowling across the street at Glenvalley Bowling and Billiards had thought the rock and roll music playing inside the car was a man attacking someone in the dim light of the improvised home, later in life Officer Leroy and I would go to the Porter Field where he removed his weapon from the holster, laid it on the black vinyl seat of his cruiser and challenged me to a fight that I did not turn down from, I was not afraid of him, he changed his mind, I guess he thought of the consequences, fighting with a boy of 17, he got in that yellow squad car and did not bother me again, the next few steps you were in back of Diemert’s grocery where Mr.Diemert who had a big adams apple half way down his neck would fill your order, at times using a six foot long wooden pole with an attachment on it like a crayfish arm to grab the cereal boxes on the top shelves, the solid pine floor was covered in thick varnish, the lane carried on behind some homes then you reached Flynns Funeral Parlour where I would watch the shiny black cars and the hearse come and go in silence and wonder if there was a dead body in the hearse and if there was how the Flynns, Donny and his older brother could live in there. After Flynns there was an apartment building that housed the new Royal Bank where I forged Alex’s signature to some withdrawal slips, about $1.50 at a time until he found out when it reached $32 and along with that and wearing his blue Pepsi pants he threw me out of the house on Victoria Blvd and I would have to sneak in the cellar window at night and sleep in the room we used to store the coal in. Across the street on Ray Avenue there was a pair of primer red painted buildings thin by todays standards two storey places the Bunn family lived in the one on the left, Mr. Bunn worked as a waiter and tap man at the original Queensbury Arms, the old tavern coach house before it moved from Scarlett Road, his son Billy Bunn was a pitcher at Smythe Park for another team, the one Danny Morey played on, I think it was the Army Navy Air Force team, in the other red brick house, they were attached, a mechanics shop fixed only Volkswagens as there were always just those cars parked along the white fence that was part of the Shell station which faced Weston Road, it was painted in those Shell colours of the day, orangey yellow with a bit of deep red, next to the Shell there was another building with a store front that a real estate company named Crisp and Devine worked from, the one guy Crisp had thinning red hair and later in life he would try to sell Julia and I a house in Cobourg, isn’t that wild trying to sell us a house out of town in an area we had never even been to, upstairs in that building my brother and I played football with Gord Urbanski, his brother Vince played for the championship York Memorial Mustangs TDIAA football team, their dad drove a bus for the TTC, they were both football players, we loved football, Gord was a good guy, actually you know everyone was a good guy back in them days now that I think of it, sport kept us together even though we had been beating each other up on the playing fields for years ever since we moved to Mt. Dennis that is and had proved Catholics would take no shit. Beside the Urbanski house there was a bigger gas station than the Shell it was an Esso station and the men who worked there and served the gas wore matching grey blue jackets and pants and blue shirts sometimes with dark ties and these hats that you never see any more, sorta like Marlon Brando hats from his biker movie The Wild Ones but not worn twisted and cool to the side, but maybe just another version of a milkman, or taxi driver or police mans hat of the day, funny eh how hats like that are no longer around except in vintage stores or photographs. The building was painted white with blue and red trim and every now and then while walking home from school I would use their washroom, you had to go in the front doors to get the key, one of the owners sons, I think his last name was Smith drove a blue corvette that went really fast, one time he gave me a lift down under the Ray Avenue underpass and onto Industry Street to Trethewey Drive to York Memorial and he let it go, did that car ever fly! After crossing Denarda Drive there was another pile of two storey buildings Nancy Baxter and her family lived upstairs, at one time a crappy hardware store would lure me in, then there was an upholstery shop that always had these chairs in the window sort of a before and after display the finished chair looked perfect while the other chair had matting sticking out and torn fabric, next to that the Italian run Renatos pizza opened up, it would drive the owners crazy later on in life when I would order ‘Buttered Pizza’ by that time many people knew not to question me, I was to tough for my own good. An actors parents owned the variety store, it was named Glenvalley Variety, his name was Les Nirenberg and I can never forget the time I saw him in a show on Television, I mean how many actors do you know who you actually saw on TV, huh? They sold the store to this couple from Quebec who sold dirty magazines and condoms from behind the till, imagine that eh, those things weren’t legal to sell, she was kinda sexy in an odd older kind of way, it was her voice it was sultry, he wore a wig which I was always staring at. For years in my Dyer and Miller days the fire extinguisher company I took meals every day at the New Silver Tip Restaurant operated by these nice Greek guys, Chris, Tony and the old man Lou, but they may have been Cretians or Albanians as my friend John Stoddart says. My buddy Bill the Greek was related to them and every now and then on Friday nights and weekends he’d be there serving tables, he had this one shiny tooth and a killer smile and blue eyes and he wore a white apron around his stove pipe pants and winklepicker shoes, he was sharp and we’d all be posing like shooters, it was them days, those young greaseball days. Funny thing I was sitting in the front booth with Mickey Clair of all people and his scotch taped eyeglasses and The Greek was serving us Chocolate Sundaes or something else, maybe fries and gravy and I raised my left arm and sneaked a whiff of my armpit to see if it stunk and Mickey the asshole saw me and said, “what are you doing smelling your arm pit” right then a pretty girl who I had my eye on walked by and we both looked at her. My favourite food there was the chicken rice soup, you know how chicken rice soup can get just so good when the rice is starting to dissolve and the soup is thick and nurturing like breast milk. They also made a tasty 1/2 chicken dinner which I would treat myself to on weekends, on payday, I never went home to Victoria Blvd after I left for quite some time. My old mom Gisele would ask me where I was living and I was a smart ass, I’d say, “down on Shuter street ma, downtown on Shuter Street”, which bugged her cause the morgue was on that street. I didn’t want to take Al’s guff no more! Besides there were enough kids at home, Barb, Sue, Shane, Kevin and Alex. Then there was another street I’d have to look on a map to remember the name, if these directions aren’t perfect don’t lose any sleep over it, sometimes that becomes a problem with some people always looking at your stuff and saying things like, “oh you got that wrong it wasn’t such and such street it was called such and such street. Well down the end of that next street (I looked it up on Google it is called Oxford Drive) there was a big factory that made roofing shingles, I can’t remember the name, maybe it was RKL or MZP shingle company or something like that, they got their supplies off of rail cars parked at the back of the plant, what do they call them places where trains can drop off cars, a rail siding, that’s it, anyways I knew one thing I was never going to work in there, everyone who worked in that place was sweaty and very dirty, anyways, I just called it the Shingle Factory, you would think that I’d recall the sound of the machinery or the smell of the asphalt that they used to make the shingles with back then, but that’s so weird I don’t recall, I do recall guys on tow motors hauling skids of cardboard containers of what looked to be un melted tar, was I even aware of things that had no interest to me, I don’t know, I was a bit reflective at times as you would be when you were in nature, in splendor which could really only be found while walking the train tracks that went by the big Kodak plant and the other companies, there were two lines about fifty yards apart with a big green space in between, it’s still there today, a CN line and a CP line in this grassy corridor that serviced the factories in our area. The shops on the street were there because the factories were there, mostly up Ray Avenue and under the rail underpass where Ray met with Industry Street, there were a slew of them factories, Raybestos, Moore Business Forms, Kodak of course was the biggest, there was the Continental Can Company where I worked for a while, the name 3M comes to mind, there was Johnson Matthey and Mallory and Ferranti Packard, and several other big outfits, you know something, in them days when a boy wanted to quit school and get a job, all he had to do was go apply at one of them factories and he’d be working the next day, those were the days eh. At the corner of that street (Oxford Drive), there was Jack’s Snack Bar which as a boy I would bend a piece of flat wire in half and scoop up nickels from the Toronto Star coin box on Sundays and at nights when the place was closed, a nickel was like a quarter is worth today, well inside the doors there was this small snack bar run by this Chinese Canadian guy named Jack he was tall and gangly sorta like his appendages were on wires, his head too, he was very pleasant and welcoming and he always wore a white long sleeve shirt with a black bow tie, the place was pretty busy, he would be behind the counter, flipping eggs and making grilled cheese sandwiches and shoe string French Fries and bacon was always cooking he was really very fast at preparing meals, I mean like lightning fast, not thinking fast but doing things fast, he could break an egg in one hand, flip the pancakes with the other and talk to you about how your day was going all at the same time, we’d go there a lot, just to watch him work and for his snacks which were smaller portions than at most places but priced accordingly, for staff he had these older ladies who wore those yellow nylon waitress smocks and white shoes, every hair was in place as if they’d just come from the beauty parlour they were the kind that would show up for work carrying little wicker baskets with flowers in them covered with doilies, they were there only at lunch time, the busy time and they took the table orders, there were only about six tables and I think there were at least three waitresses the tables were made of formica I think and there were chrome legged chairs with brown padded vinyl upholstery and there was the open kitchen at the back with about eight stools with everything stored in cupboards and fridges below and above the large grill, there was a small steam table, deep fryer and service area where Jack was always pouring the old coffee into the top of the freshly brewed coffee on the two burner Bunn machine, a menu was printed on a large blackboard with the Daily Special printed in a different colour of chalk, things like, Liver and Onions $3, Soup and fried Egg sandwich, $2.50, Hot Beef with Mashed Potatoes and Homestyle Gravy $3.25 (beef was more expensive than liver) then in even bolder letters the words in green chalk, FREE Rice Pudding or Jello with all meals! There was a glass display on the left as you entered the place it was full of gum and ten cent chocolate bars, so many kinds of chocolate bars, Kit Kat, Cadburys Milk Chocolate, Mars Bars, Nielsens, Big Turk, Crispy Crunch and several types of Hostess chips in five cent bags on the left as you went in and that is where you paid your bill, Jack always had a bit change sitting on a worn ribbed rubber mat that said Chiclets on it to save time when making change. I’ll never forget the one time I was there it was a Saturday morning in the early summer of 1979, we were hung over I was with Pee Wee and Vern and one of the old maids came to the table to take our order, it was the night after the incident at the Beverly Hills. Pee Wee ordered first, he said, “I’ll have a glass of water and a large orange juice, and bacon and eggs with brown toast, not to many home fries and I would like them crispy, not burn’t, crispy, and I’d like my eggs sunny side up and a cup of coffee with triple cream and lots of sugar and I’d like the water the coffee and the orange juice now, no hold it, make that a large water, and I want it now”! and he pointed to the place on the table where he wanted these drinks delivered to. It was the funniest thing Pee Wee asking for the drinks, now, like ‘go get them please, forget the other table guests’. It was the funniest thing. Then Vern picked up the Toronto Sun from one of the tables and wow, what a shock, three people had been murdered up at Weston Road and Lawrence a fourth person was half dead, we knew them all, were friends with them all, wow, our friend Bill the Greek was one of them and this rounder named Stan something or the other and Bills younger brother Paul, I think their last name was Iantzakis or something like that! Wow, was that ever an Instant Karma moment.



How Hot Is White Lightning Chocolate,
How Hot Is White Lightning,



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