Denominations

Bible

I have never been much interested in churches. Christianity has returned the favor by not being very interested in me.  I think that I will live forever.  Heaven doesn’t want me, and Hell is afraid that I’ll take over.

My little home town had at least 6 different churches for 1800 citizens, unlike some small towns on the buckle of the American Bible-belt, where you’d better be Southern Baptist, or be ridden out of town on a rail. It began as a fur-trading outpost, and soon became known as a center for lake-fishing. With a protective off-shore island, it developed into a lake-port and railway terminus. These all brought to the town, people of many varied ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Three churches occupied an intersection a block above the highway, wisely called ‘The Church Corner.’ At one apex stood the United Church.   It (the sect, not the building) was formed in 1925 through the union of Canadian Methodists, Congregationalists, 70% of Canadian Presbyterians, and an odd bunch of other religious malcontents.  It seems that, ever since Martin Luther showed them that they could, all most Christians want to do is ‘protest’ and establish their own independence.

A girlfriend dragged me to her United Church one Sunday. In long-bygone days when poor factory workers put change in the offering plate, the preacher announced that, “Today, there will be a silent offering.” meaning no coins!  Bills only!  It was probably a pure coincidence that, on Tuesday, he was driving a new car.

Across the street was ‘my’ Baptist Church. My Scottish mother had left the Presbyterian Church when she married my ‘Baptist’ father, and got a twice-a-year – at Christmas and Easter (maybe?) attendee.  It has gone into decline, and is now the site of an artisanal restaurant, attracting mainly tourists.

Unlike our Southern brethren, there was no hellfire and brimstone, but our next-door neighbor sang in the choir, and her daughter was ‘a missionary in India,’ (the arrogance!) so any empty liquor bottles were carefully concealed in the trash.

These two were the main depots for the blue-color factory workers. On the third corner was the Anglican Church, and the fourth side housed the rectory for its minister.  This seemed to be where most of the town’s merchants, lawyers and real-estate agents prayed for (or preyed on) more customers.

Directly beside the highway stood the Presbyterian Church, larger, richer, and more ornate than either the Anglican, or the little Catholic. It was attended, in all pomp and circumstance, by the descendants of the powerful Scottish traders and minor nobility immigrants and their attendants.

This church had a large bell tower, rather than the simple steeple my Baptist, or the Anglican Church had. It had a set of chimes, and an amplifier, and speakers in the tower to carry the music to its worshippers.

With my Mother’s connections, we were the caretakers for several years – dusting pews, mopping floors and firing two coal-burning furnaces in the basement early enough on wintery Sunday mornings to warm the gentry parishioners.

Right beside the bank at the main intersection was a narrow little storefront Pentecostal Church(?) Its members were reputed to ‘speak in tongues’, and handle snakes.  Immediately above was a small apartment intended for the pastor and family.  When she was an impressionable teenager, my friend’s mother had listened to a pastor’s forked tongue, and handled his snake….and the Church had to house and support them there.

If not for a couple of stained-glass windows, the tiny Catholic Church might have been mistaken for a small storage warehouse. There weren’t too many Catholics in town – except in the tourist season.  The rest of the churches might get the occasional summer visitor….but the Catholic Church??!

During the off-season, there was an 11:00 AM Mass. During the invasion, the gullible guilty faithful Catholic tourists packed it all day.  There was an 8AM mass, a 9AM Mass, one at 10, one at 11, and one at noon – and probably evening services as well.  No long sermons.  The priest kept it short and sweet, 45/50 minutes, instant salvation.  After each service, as the faithful filed out the front door, the priest scuttled out the back, and scurried a half a block to the bank with a deposit bag bulging with cash.

There were probably some Jews in town. Two schoolmate brothers, named Oscar and Myron, and a girlfriend’s friend named Leah, indicate the likelihood.  Too small a group to warrant a synagogue, they probably met in someone’s home.

Other than seeing someone coming or going, I didn’t really know who attended what church – and didn’t care – and didn’t know anyone who did. With our already pureed population, and the vastly varied, and often foreign, summer invasion, the town was used to a wide range of opinions and actions.  Such tiny details as whether or not someone attended Church, and if so which one, were minute and insignificant.

Fathers’ Day

Fathers’ Day is just past, and I would be remiss if I didn’t describe mine, not for me, but to spotlight some young-uns.  I’ve been a father for a long time.  Hell, I’ve been everything I am or was, for a long time.  I don’t get too worked up about birthdays or Christmas or Fathers’ Day.  The wife will shove a hot poker up my ass if I forget her birthday, or our anniversary, but otherwise, meh!

Since the son is almost as sentimental as me, (Remember that first part!  It’s SENTImental, not just mental) his Fathers’ Day present was a guided tour of Kings’ Buffet Chinese Restaurant.  It was also his Mothers’ Day present to the wife – kill two birds with one obesity stone.  He also picked out and purchased about $30 worth of gorgeous cholesterol beef tenderloin, from which we cut three thick, beautiful filets, and two small roasts for later.  The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I have an 8-lane super-highway, complete with on-ramps.

1986 Dollar

My darling daughter, LadyRyl chose to enhance my coin collection.  When she and the grandson came over on Fathers’ Day, she presented me with a Presentation Grade, 1986, Canadian Dollar coin.  This is different from the simple, bronze-colored, Loonie coin in general circulation.  These used to be ‘Silver Dollars’ but are now Nickel, and silver in color only.  This one commemorates 100 years of coast-to-coast railroad in Canada.

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The coin came safely snuggled in a plastic holder, inside a black holding case with a gold panda embossed on the top.  It has never been touched by human hands – cotton inspectors’ gloves, but never oily skin.  The finish is immaculate.  Certain areas have a mirror polish.  Truly an impressive coin, and a tribute to a vanishing technology.  I just can’t imagine one with a semi big-rig on it.

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Now we come to the grandson – the 6’ 2” little scamp.  (Fortunately) abandoned by his father before he was born, the son and I have tried to support and guide him through life as best we can.  We may have helped his mother do something right, because he has grown up to be a super young man.

He handed his uncle a $100 gift card to the Chapters Bookstore chain.  Knowing the son’s reading habits, that might last till the middle of July.  For something to munch on while he’s reading, he also gave him about two quarts of party mix snack, from the bulk food store.

He brought with him, a cardboard box, about 4” square, and almost 4 feet long.  Being a little slow on the uptake, I wondered what it was. He brought it over to me, slit open the seal on one end and handed it to me.  ‘Hmmm, doesn’t weigh much.’  And the dénouement began.

Rapier

The Well-Dressed Renaissance Gentleman

Of all the weapons I’m interested in, I’ve wanted a rapier for display for years – and that’s what slid out of the box.  This thing is fully functional.  I could engage in SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) fencing tournaments, but like the Dollar coin above, I don’t want to ruin some polished surfaces.

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It has a 39” long, diamond profile blade, with no sharp edges.  This is a stabbing weapon.  It weighs 2-½ pounds.  Movies aside, real sword fights didn’t last all that long.  Your arm would tire quickly.  Interest in rapiers must be cycling/dying down.  A few years ago, it would have been possible to also purchase a matching ‘main gauche’, a left hand parrying knife – but no longer.

I am fascinated by the shiny, beautiful, swirling, interlaced-rod guard, developed over years of experience to protect the hand.  It has a heavy pommel to counterbalance the heft of the sword, and for punching or head-bashing, in close.  The handle is bone, perhaps giraffe, from Africa, spiral grooved and inlaid with twisted gold(-plated brass) wires, for solid grip.  At each end of the bone handle is an assembly ring which is engraved with flowers.

I have cast my bread upon the waters, and it has been returned to me seven-fold.  I have the love of my daughter – and an impressive coin, and I have an upstanding, generous grandson – and a mesmerising rapier.  I have displayed (pictures of) the sword on my blog site.  Now I have to find a place to display the real thing, proudly in my home – and stop waving it around, knocking over the lamp, and (gently) poking the dog.  Baseball bat?  Shit!  Now I’m waiting for the first stupid burglar.   😳

#477

An Apple A Day

Recently, we had a batch of tech-nerds/fanboys go door to door through the neighborhood, extolling the virtues of the Apple Corporation, and trying to convince people to buy Apple computers and gadgets.  They called themselves I-Witnesses.

They claimed that Apple was a great company to work for.  Employees still got paid after they lost their Jobs.

Steve had been concerned with childhood obesity, and had developed a pogo-stick-like device with a mini-computer which was supposed to urge kids to keep exercising.  The project had to be cancelled when it was found that they were promoting breakfast pastries instead.  Jobs had unfortunately named the device I-HOP.

Just when I thought the neighborhood was safe and sane, we had another batch of young ones go door to door, promoting healthy eating through pancakes.  They were Jemima’s Witnesses.

***

In my freshman year in high school, our class took a school trip to a small hobby farm.  Mrs. Olsen introduced us to her favorite cow, Landescog, and showed us how to milk her.  We added rennet to the milk to get it to separate into curds and whey, and pressed the curds into a cheese mold.

Near the end of our year, we were again allowed to visit the farm to see what had happened to our “cheese.”  Mrs. Olsen had made up a big batch of linguine, and most of us sprinkled our shredded cheese on it.  Since the farmhouse was crowded, I took my plate outside, and stood at the fence, under a tree.

Landescog, the cow, wandered over and, perhaps attracted by her contribution to lunch, stuck her head over the fence and mooed loudly, so I had Swedish meat bawl on my pasta.

***

Middle Managers’ Lament

Amtrak Style

 

I am not allowed to run the train.

The whistle, I can’t blow –

I am not allowed to say how far

The railroad cars can go –

I am not allowed to let off steam,

Nor even clang the bell –

But let it jump the goddamned track,

Then see who catches Hell!

***

The Farmer Learns Fast

A farmer bought a new car, after spending a lot of time pricing them.  By coincidence, a few days later, the dealer who sold him the car appeared at the farm, and said he would like to buy a cow for his small country place.  The farmer quickly wrote up the following, and handed it to the dealer:

Basic Cow  ………………………..  $200.00

Extra Stomach  ……………………..  75.00

Two-Tone Exterior  ……………….  45.00

Produce storage compartment.. 60.00

Dispensing Devices – four spigots

@ $10.00 each  …………………..    40.00

Genuine Cowhide Upholstery . 125.00

Automatic Flyswatter  …………    35.00

Dual Horns  ………………………..    15.00

Plus Taxes and Delivery  ………  595.00

 

Total Charge  ……………  $1,190.00

 

***

 

A Child’s View of Retirement in a Mobile Home Park

 

After a holiday break, the teacher asked her class how they spent the holidays.  One little boy’s reply went like this.

We always spend our holidays with Grandma and Grandpa.  They used to live here in a brick house, but Grandpa got retarded and moved to Florida.  Now they live in a place with lots of retarded people.

They live in tin huts.  They ride big three-wheel trikes.  They go to a big building they call a wrecked hall, but if it was wrecked, it is fixed now.

They play games and exercises, but they don’t do them very well.  There is a swimming pool, and when they go in it, they just stand in the water with their hats on.  I guess they don’t remember how to swim.

My Grandma used to bake cookies and things – guess she has forgotten how to bake.  Nobody cooks there; they all go somewhere to eat something they call an Early Bird.

When you come to the park, there is a doll house with a man sitting in it.  He watches all day so they can’t get out without him seeing them.  They wear badges with their names on.  I guess they don’t know who they are.

My Grandma said Grandpa worked all his life, and earned his retardment.  I wish they would move back home, but I guess the man in the doll house won’t let them out.

Magical Mystery Tour

Photo Hi-lights of Historical Sites around Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Pioneer Memorial Tower

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In 1925, the city council decided to commemorate the establishment of the first farms in the region.  The piles of stone which had been laboriously removed from the rich river flood plain below this lookout point, were used to construct the tower.

 

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 In Kitchener’s Victoria Park

Small industrial buildings in what had become the downtown area, burned, or were torn down.  Council used the land to create a public park, and in 1895 dedicated it to Queen Victoria and erected this display.

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 Clock Tower from Our Original City Hall

DSCF2950   When the city hall was torn down, this clock tower was dismantled and saved.  Twenty years later, the clock was cleaned and rebuilt, and it and the rest of the tower were erected at the main park entrance.

 Kaiser Wilhelm’s Plinth

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Funny thing about the Kaiser……In 1916, Berlin residents were so incensed that he caused World War I that they took the bust of dear old Wilhelm & threw him in Victoria Lake…….he was rescued and reinstalled…..he got thrown in the lake again.  Somebody pulled him out, but he was never seen in public again.  Perhaps he became shell casings in the war effort.

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 Note:  Before this event Berlin‘s name had been changed in 1912 to Kitchener, after a British, Boer War officer named Lord Kitchener, who was lost off the coast of Ireland, when his destroyer struck a mine on the way to negotiations in Russia, in 1916.  A tiny lumber/railroad town in the depths of British Columbia had already named themselves after Kitchener in 1896/7, and still claim that they are the real Kitchener, and my Ontario version unjustly appropriated the name.   Germany and the Kaiser’s aggressive actions in Europe caused the “German” people of Berlin, Ontario to show that they were not allied in any way.

 

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Never common in Upper Canada, this is the last surviving covered bridge in Ontario

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Historical Field Stone House

Like the pioneer tower, the stones to build this house beside the bridge were removed from the fields so that they could be plowed.

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Castle Silo

A rich city dweller who retired to the country built this castle around an old, stone, farm silo to produce a workshop for his hobbies.

Following the Path the Cow took

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At the intersection of the main streets, King and Queen, we’re still driving around an apple tree that stood here, two hundred years ago.

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Even after the change of name from Berlin to Kitchener, the city retains a strong German heritage.  In 1968 it was decided to host a Munich-style Oktoberfest, which is still celebrated each year.  This building was erected beside a downtown hotel to house administrative offices and storage.

Choo-Choo

Before the summer ends, I thought I’d take you all on another virtual vacation trip with my parents.  After we had bought that bank-vault on wheels, we took it camping in a variety of places.  One summer, my Dad decided we would concentrate on the area near Bracebridge, Ontario.  Since that fateful summer so many years ago, Bracebridge has installed a theme park called Santa’s Village.  Nowhere near as large and all-encompassing as the all-Christmas, all-the-time town of Frankenmuth, MI., but it still draws its share of tourists.

We pulled into town and located the tourist camp.  The town is on the edge of the Canadian Shield, so there is lots of rock.  The camp itself nestled along the edge of a river at a big bend.  Projecting above the campgrounds was a vee-shaped, hundred foot high, stone outcropping.  After we got set up, my younger brother and I went for a walk.  About a block back, where we entered the camp, the rock sloped down so that you could drive about half-way up the steep grade, and climb to the precipice.

We walked up and stared down at our tiny trailer.  In today’s world, there would be steel railings, high mesh fences, air-bags at the bottom and so many warning signs, that you couldn’t see the magnificent view.  Back then there was common sense and self-reliance, and a hundred foot drop.  Having seen what was to be seen, we felt we should return to camp.  Most people just went back down the middle, but we wandered around one edge.  The front was so sheer that only a professional climber with pitons could ascend.  Around the side, where it was merely 90 feet high, the wall was only an 80 degree slope and had cracks and little ledges.  “Do ya want to climb down?”  And down we started.

We made it down safely, although we could have walked back around and got home sooner.  At the bottom was an eight foot pile of scree, which angled down to the edge of the road.  I stepped off onto it carefully, but my brother dropped the last couple of feet into it, and lost his footing.  He tumbled into me, and the two of us rolled right down onto the road, and nearly got run over.  The fact that it would have been ironic wouldn’t have made the hospital visit any better.

The next day we packed the trailer back up and headed further north.  I asked Dad where we were headed, but he just said, “You’ll see.”  We didn’t exactly get lost, but we didn’t get where Dad wanted to be, and had to turn around and go back, and then onto a different road.  Back before GPS and computer maps, I’m surprised that anyone ever got anywhere.  Without Sacajawea, Lewis and Clarke would still be in the parking lot at a Wal-Mart in Montreal.

We finally turned off the paved road, and headed into the bush.  After a couple of miles, the dirt road T-ed out.  Do we turn left or right?  Dad finally decided on right, and started to drive.  After a while I noticed that there were steel rails not too far off the road.  Dad finally admitted that he had heard from someone, that there was a miniature railway back here, which connected two lakes.  We drove for another mile or so and came to one of them.  The tracks went right out onto a concrete dock.

Apparently, by getting lost, we had come at this railroad from the wrong side, and should have turned left at the T-intersection.  If we had gone the other way, we would have reached a nice little campground and village.  On this end there were a few houses and a tiny general store.  Because we drove the extra miles, we had run out of daylight.  The sun was going down.  No time to drive back through the bush to the other end.  Dad talked to the store owners.  They were heading for bed, but told us we could park on the tiny lawn at the end of the building.

There was no room to open the trailer, so we decided to just sleep in the car.  Fortunately it was a station-wagon.  We hauled the stuff in the back out, and Mom, Dad, and my brother slept (?) in the back.  I jammed my feet under the steering wheel in the front.  We had no mosquito netting and it was way too hot and muggy to roll the windows up, so it was doze, slap, doze, slap all night.  I don’t want to say that the mosquitoes were big, but I saw two of them molesting a seagull.

We were out of the car at first light, and down to the lake with soap and wash cloths.  These little lakes sit in hollows of solid rock, and their average temperature is enough to make penguins order take-out.  The store finally opened at eight AM and we got some coffee and hot chocolate for breakfast.

The tiny train was sitting right across from us, so we went over to have a look.  Unless it got lost when Mom died, we have a photo of me, as a twelve-year-old, stretching up to lean on the walk-rail around the front of the steam engine.  Re-watch Back To The Future III to see Doc Brown, and how big the full-size model is.

Finally a couple of guys came from the nearby cabins and started the boiler on the train.  By ten o’clock it was ready to make its first run of the day.  A locomotive, a fuel tender, (I don’t remember if it burned coal or wood.) three flat-bed freight cars and a passenger car.  The two lakes were only four miles apart, but, to get from one to the other by water, was over fifty miles.  The little railway had been put in to haul lumber, small boats and other freight.

Off we went for a lovely ride through the woods.  When we got to the far end, there was a two-hour hiatus before going back, but at least there was more civilization to wander around and look at while we waited.  Finally, we huffed and puffed and chuffed our way back to the car.  We drove back to Bracebridge and stayed at the same camp for another day to recuperate.  Wrong turns and giant mosquitoes and all, it was an adventure I’m glad I didn’t miss.  I hope you’ve enjoyed rummaging through my fading memories.