Friday, 13 July 2018

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

No. Not that one. The one in the middle of this group of three friends. The one who was friends with our Dad (that's Dad in the pink shirt) for over 50 years.

The one who came to see us off when we moved to Canada as little kids with an armful of the very best books (box sets of the first 5 Doctor Dolittles, the Narnia series and an E. Nesbitt set including the Wouldbegoods, Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Story of the Amulet and THE RAILWAY CHILDREN!) and and a stuffed kangaroo for me and a koala for my sister.

The one who joined our family for all the events and made us laugh at the absurdities of the world. The one who cheered my Dad with constant company when he was laid up with a sore foot. The one who lent us his tiny apartment in Brussels - my Dad slept on a chair on the balcony. The one who would call out of the blue to tell us of some interesting find he'd been researching or some outrage he was working to rectify.

The one who regaled us with tales of my Dad's mispent youth - and beyond - in London.

He loved to tell the story of a time my Dad was catching up with old friends at The Bell on Fleet Street on a trip back to "old Blighty". My sister and I were too young to go into the pub and were hanging out with our Mum in the St. Bride's courtyard. We came to the door and called out to our Dad that we were hungry. Our Dad responded by chucking a couple of bags of crisps at us and ordering another pint. Every time Mr. Fox told the story, it would send him off into gales of giggles as he mimicked our piteous cries and my father's indifference.

None of us remember it quite like that but who cares. It is funnier and foxier his way. I have always loved the story of the journalist who hid in the bathtub in Cyprus but I won't try and recreate it here. I couldn't do it justice and it probably is only barely true anyway.

The funny stories, punctuated with roars of laughter, that got wilder and wilder as they lurched towards a hilarious conclusion, is one of the many things we'll miss about the fantastic Mr. Fox. He was a great friend, great company and filled every room with his great spirit.

Cheerio. Pom pom.

Here are some of the things people have written about Mr. Fox:

And here is what he wrote about my Dad:

Friday, 6 June 2014

the fellows

My dad moved to Bloor and Dovercourt in 1945 and attended Bloor Collegiate from then until 1950.

Carl Mollins on the BCI Student Council
There were two gangs my dad had to contend with.

The Beanery Boys hung out at Dovercourt and College near the West End YMCA. My dad and his friends had to run fast to avoid the Beanery Boys when they went to the Y.

The other gang was the Junction Boys.

When my dad met my friend who has lived in the Junction for about 25 years, he told her about his encounters with the Junction Boys - about how his high school shop teacher carried a sawed off baseball bat up his sleeve at school dances so he could chase away the trouble-makers. He also told us of the time his younger brother came running into a local coffee shop to tell my dad and his friends that the Junction Boys had ventured down to Dufferin and Bloor and were ready to rumble. My dad and his pals were happy to respond to the challenge.

My friend and I often think about the Junction Boys as we genteely sip a hot or cold beverage in one of the neighbourhood joints.

Just after I joined my friend as a Junction resident, I was looking through my dad's old photo album and found an article from the February 5, 1949 edition of the Toronto Star about my dad and his friends and it mentions both gangs!

A gang of more than 75 'teen-aged boys, wearing a variety of outfits, stormed into Parkdale United Church last night. No one was hurt. There were no zoot-suiters. No rowdyism anywhere. It wasn't that kind of an attack.It was a conference of boys from 15 to 21, belonging to different religious organizations [my grandfather moved to Toronto to become the minister of College Street Baptist Church], and sponsored by the Toronto members of the 28th Ontario Older Boys' parliament. The sessions continue today and Sunday.
The boys came to church, they said, "because it gives me a good feeling to be with good guys." Coming in sweaters sporting school crests, slacks and suits, the boys were members of Scout groups, Trail Rangers, Boys' Brigade, and Community "Y" groups. Some belonged to no groups at all.

John Chapple, leader of the boys, set forth the position of his group in relation to gangs. "This organization started before the gangs. While it helps keep fellows out of gangs, it seldom attracts gang members."

No "smart aleck" members of the Beanery or Junction gangs were in the group. "They probably think we're sissy or white collar boys. Anyway, we have a good time and they are welcome to come," said Chapple. His boys played football and hockey and were primarily interested in the church "or they wouldn't be here at all," said Chapple.

Rev. Neil Crawford of Hillcrest United church gave a sermon warning the youths on the dangers of communism, "Christianity is no less radical than communism," he said. "Christianity intends to redeem human souls while communism has a narrower range and only intends to remodel society."

The 28th Ontario Older Boys' parliament has three objectives: "To stimulate interest in their churches, to exchange ideas and fellowship, and to apply Christianity to their daily living."

Here's a photo of some of the fellows. My dad is second from the left. Carl Mollins, George Leek, Harold Chapman and George Shaw are still friends and have the occasional rendezvous.

I am not sure if my dad attended the sermon but if he did, it didn't seem to have the intended effect; while probably not a communist, he has been a resolute social democrat ever since I can remember.

The Gangs of Toronto, 1949
My grandfather, Harry W. Mollins, was the minister at College Street Baptist church.
(the blue squares are places I have lived my gang-free life).
More on Junction life in the 1940s and 50s: George Chuvalo reminisces about growing up on Hook Avenue.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


I got this photo from here.
This is Ellen. Ellen died, very suddenly, very shockingly, on the weekend, on her birthday.

We met in junior high. I don't remember our first meeting but I do remember being in metalwork class with her. I did metalwork in Grade 7 and 8 and Ellen joined in Grade 8. We had a lesson on welding and most of us set about whatever welding project had been assigned - I can't remember what it was. There is a food warmer in my parent's basement so it might have been that. When it was time to have our projects evaluated, Ellen had made a fantastic art piece - a set of square tubes of different heights welded together. I remember thinking "WOW!" and "WTF!" at the same time. I was amazed that someone even had the idea to go off script let alone the nerve, impressed that my friend had such art in her and a little chagrined that she had surpassed my year-long training in a matter of weeks.

A lot of days with Ellen were like that one. She always seemed a little bit cooler, a little bit more self-assured and quite a bit more innovative than the rest of us.

Some of my best memories from high school are times Ellen took me to the Ruptash cottage. I loved it all - trekking to the cottage, swimming and rowing, picking blueberries, cooking on the wood stove, washing dishes outside by the well - but the part I loved best were the evenings when we would light one of the oil lamps, roll up some Drum tobacco, pour a drink, and talk long into the night.

I haven't spent a day or evening with Ellen for a long time now but when I see someone doing something in a way that surprises and delights everybody in the room, I think about her.

Another person I met at about the same time once said, "I still love pretty much everybody I used to love." That is true for me too. Ellen is one of a precious cohort and it hurts like hell that she had to leave us behind once more.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

kitchen sink whimsy

I saw this at the kitchen sink at my parent's house.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

remembering jack

My Dad's friend Jack Hartzman died on Christmas Day and his funeral was today in London. We could not go to the funeral but we went to the lake to think about Jack and enjoy the birds and cup of coffee.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

bee holden

Somebody posted this on Facebook today.

So once this is over

I know what to plant on my new patio. 

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