Monday, December 30, 2019

Would I join any Hub's Club that would have me as a member?

SUDBURY, ONTARIO: It just occurred to me, after all these years,
what the "SO" stood for.  And you're surprised I still believe in Santa?

When I was a very young kid growing up in Sudbury, Ont., we had two TV stations: CKSO and CKNC. Three if you were French.

The two we Carters mostly watched were CBC and CTV affiliates and one of them — CKSO which I believe was the CBC station — was  broadcast out of a studio located at the very top of the street that I grew up on.

Twice in my life did I visit that mysterious and exciting place; both times to appear on TV.

One of those visits involved lining up to see Santa Claus to tell him what I wanted for Christmas. I and my pal who came with me were in the latter half of our elementary-school years; a fact not lost on the man in red.

When we got to the podium, he leaned in and whispered,  “How old are you boys anyway?”

We told him. Santa said, “You’re a little old for this sort of thing aren’t you?”  (He was a fraud. The real McCoy would never have said anything so klutzy.)

The only other time I remember visiting the studio, I did so as part of what might be called a gang.

Like a lot of local TV stations, the Sudbury broadcaster produced a live after-school kids’ show, featuring a local host who somehow entertained small groups of visiting kids, for 15 minutes or a half hour at a time. I’m talking versions of Razzle Dazzle or Tiny Talent Time, two big-time shows with actual budgets and paid professional talent. (Meantime, if anybody out there can remember what the local hosts did to keep the visiting audiences amused, I’d like to hear it.)

I recall two Sudbury versions of said children's shows: Hub’s Club  and  Cook’s Clubhouse.  The latter was hosted by a local personality named Joe Cook.
HUB-A-DUB-DUB: A recipe for success in Sudbury?
Good looks and hockey scars

The other host was Hub Beaudry, who before becoming a Sudbury TV personality, had a brief career as a kick-ass major junior hockey player, a detail that you should never forget makes a Canadian job seeker’s resume sparkle; as in, “Mmmm. It says here you played right wing for the London Knights? Was that the ’86 Knights or the later, more defence-oriented squad? Doesn’t matter. You can start as bank president Thursday.” And I know nothing about hockey. 
(But I digress.)

For me, far more significant than his hockey career was the fact that Hub Beaudry sometimes attended and took up the collection at St. Clement’s Roman Catholic Church, the parish we Carters spent so much of our time at. Yes, a local TV celebrity attended St. Clement’s.

And that gang of kids that showed up for Hub’s Club? Most of us were altar boys. (Now there’s a position it’s safe to leave off the old c.v.—ed.)

We were all in grade six or seven. Hub mentioned that we looked familiar.
NO ANGELS HERE: Beneath the surface of every altar boy you'll find a
a potty mouthed felon. Exhibit A: The Hub's Cub joke.
Exhibit B: I swiped these photos off the Internet

And we may have been altar boys, but we weren’t wusses.

Case in point:  Hub asked us if we knew any good jokes.

“What’s hairy,” one of my altar-boy colleagues asked, “and sticks out of your pajamas?”

Sensing danger, Hub quickly moved the microphone away.

But not fast enough.

The jokester — who I proudly add remains my friend to this day — yelled, “your head!”

Now that was entertainment.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

I is for Italian

Sometimes when I can’t get to sleep at night, I alphabetize lists in my head: Places I’ve flown to; models of cars I’ve driven; people’s names that go naturally together: Alex & Brenda (My brother and sister-in-law); Chuck &  Di, Eddie & Flo, and like that.
LITTLE ITALY: Cultivated gardens and lots'n'lots of wine

Invariably, I nod off before I get anywhere near the tail end of the alphabet.

And here’s something you might find surprising, the more challenging the list, the more effective it is at putting me to sleep.

One night a few weeks ago, I set the alphabetizing bar at an unprecedented level. Said I to myself:  “When you were growing up in the west end of Sudbury, Peter, you sure knew a lot of Italians.  I bet you could do an alphabetical list of their surnames.”

I’m not making up a word of this.


First one was easy: Anselmo. Tony Anselmo.  A few years older than me but from the same side of town, Tony Anselmo became something of a well-loved local character because he eventually owned a very popular hangout on Elm Street, the Records On Wheels store.

Second?  Easier.  Bortolussi.  Alfredo. My very first day in grade one, they sat us in alphabetical order and I found myself behind named a kid named Alfredo Bortolussi and then — I find this hard to believe — he and I not only finished grade eight at St. Albert's, we were altar boys at St. Clement’s Church; we both attended St. Charles boys’ school then switched to Sudbury Secondary school and then and then…Fred and I went to Carleton university in Ottawa!

I haven’t seen Fred in ages. I heard he's a teacher. Must have enjoyed school more than I ever did.

But I sure like him. Have since grade one.

C? Another minimal brainer. Ciccolini. Michael to be specific. 
 LPs them what LPs themselves
 I probably didn’t spell his surname right but wouldn’t be surprised if I did.

He, too, was an altar boy and I remember once many years later when I was home visiting from Carleton, my folks took me out to a restaurant called the Silver Beach Tavern, and Mike--I think he was the head waiter or owner or something--brought some wine to the table and said, “This is way better than that homemade stuff we used to swipe from my dad when we were kids, eh Pete?” (Just what my parents needed to hear.  Thanks, Mike.)

That’s one of the things about the Italians. All their dads made wine. Lots and lots of wine.  It was no big deal for the kids to have wine with meals.

Another thing? All of the Italian guys had terrific-looking sisters. In fact, my brother Alex married one of them. But I digress.



Putting a whole bunch of west-end Sudbury Italian names in alphabetical order was way easier than I thought. Maybe that’s why they call it the Roman alphabet. Hahahaaha!

Fabbro. Fabbros were everywhere. Joe Fabbro was mayor for goodness’ sake. And remember I talked about being an altar boy? One of the older altar boys was Ron Fabbro, who must have been the Kahwi Leonard of altar boys because he is now a Roman Catholic bishop, in London, Ont.

Galardo and Grottoli. I have to use two G names because according to the rules of my mental alphabetizing game, if you can’t come up with a name that corresponds to the next letter, you have to find two that work with the previous letter, and I’m pretty sure I'll never find an Italian surname beginning with H. 

Okay, Gallo, too, because I got nothing for I either.

Speaking of, I will be passing Roy Gallo’s house tomorrow when I visit my sister Norma who lives on the same street that Roy grew up on. It’s one of Sudbury's tonier (ha-ha) neighbourhoods.

Which reminds me of something else.

Not only did all the Italian guys all have pretty sisters, their houses and yards were meticulously maintained, with colourfully painted wood trim and flourishing gardens. Which is all the more astonishing because so many of their dads had at least two jobs: one at INCO, the huge mining company, and another at their own family business.

Did those guys ever stop working? When did they find time to make wine?

I bet that when they hit the sack, they never had to make up dumb head games to help them nod off.

I’m stopping here.

Not only do I forget what point I was trying to make but it was me I was trying to put to sleep, not you!

Buon Natale!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

All the Pellis News That's Fit to Print

 LIFE IMITATING PULP: Why did Mother Nature give us
siblings if we can't exploit them?
Pellis News--or "Pellis's"--was a variety store precisely one city block east of the house in which we Carters grew up in the northern Ontario mining town of Sudbury.

About the same number of steps from our home in a northerly direction was the elementary school  that we Carters all attended--St. Albert's--but Pellis's was where a few of us got most of our education.

To whit: It was at Pellis's that I learned how to buy smokes.

After I got to maybe seven or eight years of age, my dad and later my older brother Tom sent me with some regularity to Pellis's to buy "large Export Plains," which meant when the time came for me to start sneaking smokes at 11 or 13, Export Plain was the only brand I knew how to buy.

Pellis's sold everything a human needed to survive: birthday presents, greeting cards, pop, ice cream and several hundred different types of candy, from two-cent paper straws filled with sugary something to boxes of Mother's Day chocolates.

The racks along the south wall? A magazine lover's paradise though young Peter had neither the height nor the nerve to reach way up there to the very back rows from where the Playboy magazine models smiled down at him.

But MAD and Cracked and Archie Comics Digests? Right at shin level and here's something: I don't recall any signs that read: "Buy'em here; read'em at home." (Speaking of Pellis's magazines, I just remembered something  that verges on the miraculous. I'll get to it in a minute.)

Pellis's was for hanging out at. It was west end Sudbury's pre-Internet version of  Facebook.

The store did God's work in many many ways

To Pellis's-purchased Classics Illustrated comics (and Bugs Bunny operas) I attribute much of the stuff I pretend to know about western civilization's finest art and culture.
 DUMAS FOR DUMMIES: Therein we studied
the canon

Right near Pellis's westernmost wall was a pinball machine with a sign that read "Restricted to 16 and over" or something like that.

I find this hard to believe but we little guys used to pay the older boys to let us share the machine. Using the nickel we provided, the older kid would, with his right hand, press the ball release and right flipper while I--feeling very grown up and somewhat sinister -- got to press the left flipper button.

To do this, we asked the older guys "to let us play a flipper," which now sounds really creepy.

That my dad sweated every day and night to earn those nickels that I then wasted in Pellis's pinball machines never ceases to astound.

I think I was a bit spoiled.

Perpendicular to the pinball machines hung row after row of paperback novels, many of them very--to a 10-year-old boy--provocatively covered.

Mickey Spillanes were my favourite.

I included that picture of the novel called Norma: How low can a woman sink? because of the following true story.

When she was a teenager, my older sister Norma actually worked at Pellis's. Many of the older guys had a crush on Norm and I remember exactly where I was standing when one of them--who went on to be a Mountie--picked this exact item from Pellis's bookshelf and waved it in my sister's direction, saying: "Norma. How Low Can A Woman Go?"

Mr. Mountie-to-be also had a lisp and I thought he sounded, well, worldly. The depths of my little-boy idiocy would challenge Jacques Cousteau.

Here's where we get to the miraculous part.

Much, much later in life, I grew up to be a magazine and newspaper editor.  A not-insignificant arrow in my journalistic quiver was my ability to write attention-getting headlines. One of my mentors, the founding editor of the Toronto Sun, Peter Worthington, said my facility with headlines could be attributed to the fact I was the youngest of 10 and learned early how to get attention. He might have been on to something.

Worthington and I were not the only ones who figured I had a flair for catchy titles. A bunch of  years ago, I won second prize in the "Best magazine headline writer in the country contest" (or something like that), held by the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors. I was thrilled.

SILVER-PENNED WALSH: He has headline writing
down Pat.
But pay attention.

The guy who won gold--and I hope you appreciate how painful it is for me to admit this-- writes headlines so sparklingly they make mine look like Ikea furniture-assembly manuals.

His name is Patrick Walsh and he is the editor of Outdoor Canada magazine.

But that's not important.

What's important is Pat's father Bud was born four houses north of me, on Eyre Street. Patrick's grandparents Frank and Mary were almost like members of our family.

And I happen to know that when Pat--empirically the best magazine cover line writer in the whole country--was a kid, he often visited his grandfather's house and from there, he would sometimes be sent on errands to--I'm getting all teary-eyed excited in a Lourdesy sorta way about this--Pellis's.

Where all the great magazines were.

Pellis News.

It's no longer in business. I'm pretty sure that its owner, Gino Pellis, has since died and gone to heaven.