Revisit Wattpad/GMACDO for some older thoughts

On this summer's day it's quietly comfortable in my chair pausing to reflect on what I have done in the past. It's Saturday June 29, 2019 and I'm revisited some of my writings that were posted in the early 21st century to a fledgling website for writers. That site was and still is called Wattpad. Recently, they had been reported in The Globe and Mail in glowing terms that some contributors had signed huge contracts for new books based on that which has been previously published on Wattpad.
To get this story started please click this link to see and/or read my previous posts. Now I don't state that these are great writings but they could be classified as a good start. For example I will attempt to find a piece of Earnest Hemingway's earliest work; by now even his worst will have been published after his death in 1961. It's worth a try to prove my point.
The very next day I found this singular sentence written and spoken by Hemingway:

When asked by George Plimpton about the function of his art, Hemingway proved once again to be a master of the "one true sentence": "From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality."
[I don't know what you think or feel about this one true sentence, but here is the great writer and thinker Gore Vidal quoted in an interview in the 1970's: "Hemingway is not a great writer; his work is best suited for 'Field and Stream' magazine "] Many would disagree with Mr. Vidal.

I think you will enjoy Donald Sutherland's reading of an excerpt from Hemingway's 'Old Man and The Sea.' For me this excerpt is an example of great writing, and perhaps Hemingway's one true sentence is a verbal response. There is a difference in the two methods of expression; one is immediate and the other can be the result of many edits.

While I work on some new writings here is How I Started To Print written in 2009:

I WAS BORN on September 1, 1941 under the sign that amateur horoscopians would later predict quite applicable to me: a Virgo. So too were Edgar Rice Burroughs (born in 1875) who wrote: “I write to escape poverty.” and Rocky Marciano (1923) who said: “What would be better than walking down any street in any city and knowing you're a champion?" and Lily Tomlin (1939) who made us all laugh with lines like: “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Perhaps the only entity Burroughs, Marciano, Tomlin and I have in common is our birth date. No, I lie; we all have, or once had a vocation. Almost all people have a pursuit, a calling or line of work, but few write about it. This is my story warts and all.

My eyes were closed when my Mother (Emma J. [Arsenault] McDonald) and I went to St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto where I first appeared. My Dad rode in the taxi with us. Dad (James A. McDonald) revelled in the sentence: “He was born of poor but proud parents who were married on his fourteenth birthday.” For that matter dad liked to say that about many people, in jest mind you as I’m sure his father did before him; I’ve been heard to repeat that line as well. My birth date was Labour Day, 1941, the first Monday in September, three months and six days before the name Pearl Harbor spewed from radio and print; on December 7, 1941 the world’s governments were at war against someone, anyone, everyone. This story is more about me, a very small speck in the grand scheme of things.
When dad told the boys at work of my arrival, one of them, clearly a friend, promised to work an entire shift for dad if he would agree to name me Garfield. That generous offer came from a certain lathe operator whose name was Garfield. When dad presented his selection of one name to mom he probably didn’t include any agreement he made with any benevolent character at the factory. Mom’s side of this tale is that her understanding of the name Gary was as an abbreviation of Garfield. That makes sense. So it was written that I would be Garfield on paper and Gary in person and dad accepted an extra night’s sleep on the job as his bonus. This story and others that include me, or anyone other that me before I reached the age of four are provided indirectly and come from others, who in truth or lie, passed it on to me. Everything I recall on and after September 1, 1945 is gospel; and so my story begins with my earliest recollection and a chocolate birthday cake with lemon flavoured filling between the layers, a party of kids and a guy named Wayne; Fink was his last name. Honest.
My favourite cake then and now continues to be chocolate with lemon filling and chocolate icing smothering all sides. My Mother made and served this masterpiece to my honoured four-year-old guests in my backyard that was directly in front of a big empty lot that was over-grown with grass and very large Maple trees; we called it ‘The Big Yard.’ Sammy Long’s dad owned the big house we lived in and I’ll bet he owned the big yard as well. That big house—our house, across the street from the Catholic school, twenty yards north of the Catholic Church and directly adjacent to the big yard—housed two large families: mine on the first floor with mom and dad and five kids, and dad’s younger brother Fred who was married to mom’s older sister Anna and their four kids on the second floor. The one washroom on the second floor was a busy room. In 1945 the oldest kid (Archie) was six and the youngest (Danny) was just born. We climbed the huge trees in the big yard, we swung from tires strung from trees in the big yard and some of us fell from those trees in the big yard, but no one died in the big yard that I know of; and come to think of it, no one I knew had died in the war either. Wayne and Sammy and Brackett and Willie and Knobby and Cully and Spike and Heyyou and Putt and Weed and Jack and Jeanette and dozens more were growing up all around the big yard and so was I with no idea of what was happening around the world. We were happy and fed; what else was there? Wayne has long since disappeared (the Finks moved to California right after my birthday). The fact is the only thing I remember about Wayne Fink is his name.
​All this, to add focus to my autobiography, took place in the changing seasons of the east end of Toronto where my dad (older people called him Arch) had toiled as a lathe operator during the war. (We fantasized about the bullets and tanks he made for the war effort.) At the beginning of the war he enlisted in the armed forces but was denied due to a bronchial chest that plaques him to this very day. Incredibly so, dad, living with poor health and bad habits for almost as long as I’ve known him, celebrated his 92n​d birthday in good spirits on December 9, 2002. My Mother, a rock of Gibraltar with very soft shoulders for everyone she has ever known, blessed with good health and agreeable habits celebrated her 87t​h birthday with a smile for all of us on August 12, 2002.
In the latter years of the 1940’s swimming in Lake Ontario was a healthy pursuit. Unfortunately, that can’t be said of the warmish polluted water of our lake today. We had bicycles that took us there in twenty minutes. On frozen days in winter, ice and road hockey were our sports. On wet fall and spring days our favourite pastimes where just a few days away. Our days were full with school, church, sewer tag, burby, hardball, road hockey, forts built close to the big yard and Sammy blowing up live frogs. If it is true that we are what we eat, we never ate frogs especially after Sammy was through with them.
​I believe that we are the games we play, the comics we read, the movies we see, the books that we read and the children of collected influence guiding or misguiding various epiphanies throughout our youth. In my case, I am one of your standard-bred, white, part Irish, part French, catholic, average sized people who did reasonably well in grade and high school without working at it. With ‘little real effort’ was the part that always annoyed my older brother (Richard) who worked hard and excelled at school. When he graduated from University, he was the first and only one of a long line of McDonalds to accomplish this distinction prior to the 1970’s. So at the age of 15 years and 11 months (1957) I blurted that I was through with Latin and Greek and Algebra and English in the middle of my public high school education, Rich was furious and said something like: “You’re nuts—school could be so easy and rewarding for you if you worked at it and developed a passion for learning. You should read more and I don’t mean the sports pages either.” But who listens to older brothers? That moment in my youth was strange, so strange that I’ve never totally understood it even to this day and neither did the coach at the playground or a couple of my high school teachers. My epiphany hit home in 1957 when I quit organized hockey, organized sandlot hardball and organized schoolwork to do something else. I had no idea what that ‘something’ was going to be three days short of my sixteenth birthday, but, I was moving on. Since that day I have, on suitable occasion, characterized my intentions as one whereby money, a car and a babe where my priorities. I was very young when I was young.
​Looking backward is the occupation of this narrative. I currently see my first sixteen years as comfortable; I enjoyed friendships and a questionable confidence that grew out of better than average accomplishments in sports but not much in anything else. Perhaps you remember your days of growing—heady days between the ages of eight to sixteen years of age—only eight years from a mathematical viewpoint, but so vital in many ways. I was a boy who took changing times and changing thoughts in stride.
​At St. Joseph's School, I recall being one of the little kids, and little was the accurate word to describe my physical size. I was 105 pounds and around five feet plus two inches tall at fourteen years old and remained that size until I left the school system at sixteen. Why did that size and shape matter? It didn't affect my participation on the basketball team or the hockey team or the baseball team—I was good at these sports during grade school at St. Joseph's. It did however present a major challenge when I felt the urge to dance with one of the girls in my grade nine class at Riverdale Collegiate. She was blonde, cute and played the base violin—that’s the big one that you stand to play—while I played the small one tucked under your chin. How did my fellow students get so tall and well developed? I was only a year or so younger than the rest of the class, due in some manner to Miss Wallace, an extraordinary white-haired teacher who taught me to add columns of four digit figures faster than I could speak the individual numbers. This took place in grade three and this accomplishment, certainly one of significance, gave Miss Wallace an opportunity to elevate me to grade four in her combined classroom and complete the two years in one. Perhaps this was a way of moving students through the system faster, and therefore, a credit to the teacher as well as the system. Oh yeah, I could add like the wind could blow, but I didn't grow in size like the others. It wasn't a problem until I met the female base violinists in high school who were a head taller than me; you can imagine where that put my nose when they played the emerging super star Elvis Presley’s "Love Me Tender." If the nuns had witnessed that they would have died.
How were the nuns at St. Joseph's to know that dancing would be an issue? Boys never came in direct contact with girls until long after their care and teaching was over at St. Joseph's. Perhaps that was a good thing, for these Sisters of St. Joseph were a strange lot I thought. An example in black and white sisterhood was Sister Mary Blanche who fancied herself as a technical teacher of the mechanics necessary to become a singer. An exercise used by her, if it can be described accurately after fifty years, was to place the index finger and the thumb into the mouth, and click the top and bottom rows of teeth with ringing fingernails that enabled the sound of tooth and nail. Click. Clack. This banging was designed to open the mouth wider and wider creating a huge canal down the throat empowering the wind to escape into thin air and carry the sounds of angels ever higher and higher. She was a master at this exercise; unfortunately, her teeth took the brunt of the pounding and protruded almost at a right angle toward her cowardly students. She was a dynamic figure in black and white and seemed to sweat constantly. And yell, oh could she yell. She was loudest when she yanked up her long black sleeves and sang from the bottom of her being. Sister Mary Blanche yearned for similar devotion and effort from her students that never seemed to come, except perhaps from Colleen Nash. Colleen had a marvelous voice that even the dullest of students recognized. Her reward was to perform at all the religious functions that year as well as the years to come. At the end of the school year everyone graduated from Sister Mary Blanche's grade five class, all with her well wishes for the future, plus her gift of a small three by five framed print of the Sacred Heart which has been hanging in my home centred over the inside front doorway fifty years after my teeth escaped unscathed.
Going forward at the end of my sixteenth year was as foggy as Edgar Allan Poe’s first glimpse of the House of Usher without the insufferable gloom. I saw nothing clearly; there was no apparent reason to quit everything I had known up to this point in my life and, to do it now. My family was supportive but I was adamant. I knew that I wanted to get out of school and start to work. Was it money in my pocket, a car, some freedom I thought a job would provide, was this why? The short answer is a definite maybe. Hindsight reveals words like stupid and shallow, but whatever it was I was resigned to doing just that. My mind, such as it was, knew something. My older brother Rich would equate intelligence with the pursuit of more intelligence through school and books—no one else on our street, no one who ever climbed the trees in the big yard, no one else in our entire neighbourhood went on to University but him. Every one but Rich got a full time permanent job around the ages of sixteen to eighteen.
Richard was sixteen months older than I and eleven months younger than Arch. Arch (1939) was the first born to mom and dad, followed by Rich (1940) and then me in 1941 and Joan in 1943 and Marilyn in 1945. Rich was the best student by far because he had the brains and the aptitude and drive to do well in school. Arch and Rich and I were altar boys in the church. Marilyn and Joan—being girls—were disallowed that privilege. That rule has since been changed along with meatless Fridays and many other dictates of the Roman Catholic in the last half century. Arch and I were altar boys because it was the right thing to do, but Rich thrived in the rarified air of the sanctuary at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Mom was very proud of us, she was proud of all of us. And when Rich grew up and took the vows of the priesthood, he was a distinguished and handsome figure of a man who had ducked several lovely young women who had their caps set on him. If those unlucky girls had turned his handsome and kind head they would have had a great guy on their hands. Too bad Marie-Lou, Myrna, Gloria; I think you would have been good for him.
I have no idea how or why I developed the Puritanical Duty: “I shall not deserve anything unless I work relentlessly for it, with iron discipline, day after day.” (Fuentes) I think I actually did inherit that principal or something resembling it, but it took a few years for the concept to grow within my spirit. I think my older brother had a hand in that and I thank him for it. Rest in peace Rich.
I was not ‘popular’ in the school sense of the word that kids seem to need. This yearning for popularity can permeate a person’s thinking and actions. In many cases this need can be a negative influence in personal growth. For me, I think I was more regular than popular in school, or on the playing field. I have a “Good Sportsmanship Trophy” that was given to me when I was eleven years of age by my hockey coach. The diminutive silvery memory adorns my mantle above the fireplace in the recreation room to his day. I was not the leading scorer, not the guy with the best shot or even a hard slap shot, but I was a good sport.
In 1952 Larry Brown and Hurricane O'Brien were the stars of St. Joseph’s CYO hockey team while my claim to longevity would always be the silver cup that stands eight inches high on my mantle in the recreation room. That cup is engraved "Good Sportsmanship Award" and is positioned 8 feet away from the other plaques commemorating my runner-up tennis award of 1968 and other second place finishes in squash, tennis and golf. That little trophy, the one with the good sportsmanship engraving taught me the fundamentals of being a good loser and, if I ever got the opportunity to be a good and gracious winner. Being a member of this team of eleven-year-old hockey stars was one of those opportunities. I remember two Saturdays back to back. The first being held in St. Catherines, a city well known for its young budding hockey players, and the second in the great Canadian city of Toronto. The St. Joseph Peewees had their equipment packed in several trucks waiting to be driven by several coaches and enthusiasts who had cheered them on to victory all season. We were enroute to St. Catherines to play the first of the home and home series with the winners of the Niagara region's Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) hockey championships—our team was coached and led by Mr. Corry's oldest son Bob. ​We were the overall winners of the greater Toronto and district CYO.
Bob Corry was a good guy; he encouraged his charges to be the best that they could be at all times and in all ways. Our spirits were high as we weighed the evidence in our minds as to whose team would triumph, the very thought of a small town team beating the likes of Hurricane O'Brien and Larry Brown—the fastest and smoothest skaters in the entire league, and me, who would soon to be receiving the "Good Sportsmanship Award", was unthinkable as the trucks rolled down Leslie Street to link to highway #2 and carry us westward to victory and our great reward.
The excitement continued until the puck dropped at centre ice in their arena. Within minutes the St. Catherines team had scored five fast goals and the visiting team had none. What was happening? Their speed and size was awesome. This was a new experience for the team from the big city, Bob calmed us down by saying "Hurricane, tighten up; Larry, turn on the jets; everyone, listen up, were not beaten yet, lets hustle, we can do it."
We began to look at their opposition's offence in a different light, the evidence and scrutiny yielded an observation that these guys were large, these guys were fast, their names were not names like Kennedy or Broda or Connacher, they were called Cullen and Hull and others great unknowns at the time. I’ll bet they were but I can’t prove it now; it just seemed that way when I recall the events for you dear reader. The game went on far too long; it gave their team time to get five more goals before the whistle blew ending the misery of this road trip to the city of St. Catherines. On the way back to Toronto with heads hung lower than Tomlin’s Rat, Bob told us that we had an off night and next Saturday at Maple Leaf Gardens our team would give them a run for the trophy. He was optimistic and encouraging, Bob was a good guy.
The next 6 days and nights passed quickly. The following Saturday all of the St. Joseph Peewees found their way to the greatest hockey shrine of them all: Maple Leaf Gardens, still standing majestically on the northeast corner of Church and Carleton in downtown Toronto, but never to witness scenes of mortal hockey combat any longer. Back then, when you walked through the doors on Carleton Street, you’d see pictures of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey stars adorning the walls, pictures of the Stanley Cup winning Toronto Maple Leaf teams speaking softly on the history of the great game to all who enter, and the players—especially those participating on that day fifty years ago—knew they had arrived when they hoisted their hockey gear over their shoulders and marched down those hallowed halls to the dressing room. The spectators would surely see a different game with a different result than the humiliation advanced in the Niagara district only a week ago. Bob Corry and his team would not be counted out in such a harsh and cruel manner; he would give the team the pep talk they needed before the biggest game of their entire hockey career and the only one I ever played at the Gardens.
My parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends and foes were in the crowd waiting to witness this historic event. At the point of skating on to the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens, the St. Joseph Peewees were ready for this game in every way. They had a healthy respect for the quality and ability of the team from St. Catherines as well as the confidence to give it their all, win or lose. There we were, dressed in the maroon and brown colours of St. Joseph's champion team, roaring on to the ice to the screams of appreciative fans from everywhere and the game was soon underway. Larry was faster than he'd ever been; Hurricane was unbeatable in the net. I roamed the left wing looking for the opportunity to score; the fans went wild when the first goal was scored. It was St. Catherines once again lighting up the scoreboard. Appearing to contain his fading enthusiasm Bob yelled, "You can score against these guys, I know you can." And he was right, after the allotted time for this rematch, the final score was 6 to 1 for them (the announcer had spoken the words, "Goal scored by St. Joseph's Jim Cowan, assist, Gary McDonald, time, nine minutes and fifteen seconds of the second period”. This home and home championship series for the CYO's championship for all of Southern Ontario was won by a score of 16 to 1 by some of the greatest eleven-year-old players in the league. And one or two of these kids—not Jim Cowan or Larry Brown or Hurricane O'Brien or Gary McDonald—would, in another eight years, become household names in the NHL. It had to be true; it just had to be.
On the corner of Dundas Street East (formerly Dole Avenue) and Greenwood Avenue stands a baseball diamond where the near greats played sandlot hardball. The shorter, would be ball players, in the late 40's had their idols playing for the "Stone Straws" and the "Bonitas." They were the big guys with spectacular uniforms and pinstripes adorning the gray or white uniform (indicating a home or away game) and the logo of the sponsoring company like The Stone Straw Company and the Bonita ​Theatre prominently displayed on their backs. I never knew any detail regarding The Stone Straw Company (other than they made drinking straws) that I could offer at the time of this tale, but the Bonita ​Theatre was well known to me and the rest of the neighbourhood as the "Show." Going to the Show was a big enough deal for us because an expense of ten cents was the entry fee. But to play hardball, you needed only a team of eager kids who wanted to be like the big guys, and a coach like Barry Rule's old man who coached Adam Beck Playground, or the venerable Matty Eckler (a very big man who stood about five and a half feet tall) who earned a living at the Pape Street Playground teaching kids to play games and compete, or the tall thin man with the red face who did the same job as Matty for the East Riverdale Playground; we called him Mr. Flynn—his teams were Pape's main competitor along with Moss Park that was coached by Matty's old friend Gordie Hymler and Regent Park who never really had a permanent coach that I can recall.
Behind the ball diamond and the protecting screen was the place for viewing the game played by the big guys. I could barely see the ball leaving the hurler’s hand and arriving in the catcher's mitt, or cracking off the bat toward the berries in centre field. The pitchers were fast and an important part of any successful team, but the hitters always gave them a run for their money. These games played by the guys in the nice uniforms were at night or Saturday and Sunday afternoon—and when they weren't playing for the large crowds that gathered there, the mighty Atoms would take over. Adam Beck Atoms consisted of my brother Arch behind the plate, my brother Rich on first base, Johnny Culliton whose parents moved him and all of his big brothers and sisters to Wellesley Street East at Parliament right in the middle of the season—Johnny hated that move—at shortstop, my cousin Bill at second base, Knobby (childhood polio had crippled his left hand, forcing his right hand to both catch and throw) in right field, Bruce Brackett (one of the Protestant kids you will encountered a little later) in centre field or as our substitute catcher when Arch went on the mound to relieve me Gary Rubber Arm McDonald, who may have left third base to relieve the starting pitcher (Barry Rule) who always needed relief. Bruce Brackett’s younger brother Allan rounded out the starting nine ball players with Barry Rule's old man at the helm. We had substitutes that always got into the game—winning or losing—because that's the way it was.
Adam Beck (a local politician whose name appeared on a plaque by the ball field at Main and Gerrard Street East) Playground was the scene of some of the most notable slaughters of Adam Beck's young aspiring ball players, with most of it coming at the hands of East Riverdale and their incredible left-hander Marvin Berbach. Marv had all the stuff that was needed to fan most of Adam Beck's hitters, while Mr. Flynn's hitters chased the opposition pitchers out of the game on practically every occasion. Losing to those guys was tough to take; they seemed to have some kind of skill that was unfamiliar to us. For example, Marv's old man had Marv pitch hardballs to him constantly when he wasn't working at his job or watching his son pitch in a game, and when he caught his son Marvin there was always criticism that followed. Marv only got better and mowed our hitters down with precision and a mean fastball with a wicked off speed pitch.
Inside the other dugout lurked a skinny kid with a pencil of an arm and a curveball that could move twice the width of the plate by the time it eventually reached its destination. His nickname was Rubber Arm whose handle was aptly provided by my Uncle Allan (dad’s oldest brother). One steamy hot afternoon Algie (his nickname) yelled onto the field as he welcomed me to the pitcher's mound with a mighty, "Come on Rubber Arm." With that encouragement from a clearly hometown fan, I proceeded to throw two wide swinging hooks that confounded the batter for a count of two strikes and no balls; and then the infamous "High Hard One" was offered up to the waiting slugger. Pitchers must have more than one good pitch, if they didn't, most batters could get the hang of that other one and ride it downtown any time they could get the bat on the ball. They never touched the wide hook ever, but the need to develop another pitch such as the ‘High Hard One’ was my downfall. And I was an up-and-coming St. Louis Cardinal for sure. I may have called it high and hard, but it really looked more like a beach ball to Flynn's kids, and they hit it for extra runs almost every time. Curses!
I’ve always tried to be a good sport; as a matter of fact, my entire second place future finishes in tennis, golf, squash and all of my runner up plaques will attest to my being a good sport, don’t you think? If I was to be a perennial second placer being a good sport made it easy.
So I went to work.
​Dad knew a fellow around the corner who was in the printing business and dad’s logic was if I was not going to have a profession, with the only route to a profession through academic pursuits, that I should have a trade. So he told me to see Alf and ask him if there’s a chance for me in his print shop. I met Alf on an evening in late August that year; Alf Barry was a cigar smoking, red nosed, rather corpulent and magnanimous recent widower whose career in printing spanned almost sixty years. The night we met he said that he was getting out of the business now that he had reached the age of 70 because, “there was no future in it.” Alf laughed and I laughed with him; at what? I didn’t know. In a couple of days I had an interview with a Winston Churchill look-a-like named Andy. Andy was the big boss with an even bigger cigar than Alf smoked. I smoked in those days, as did the majority of our buddies, but never stogies. After an in-depth interview that lasted all of five minutes Mr. Kilgour put me to work in the shipping department of the company that I thought would employ me for the next 60 years.​
​Alf was the entire letterpress department and my new best older friend; it (he) was located a few yards from my department. Alf crashed numbers on bank checques—a big part of the business that employed the likes of us in the company called Litho-Print Limited. We also printed labels, cylinder covers for Gilbeys Black Label whiskey and one of my old favourite text books in Charlie King’s Latin class at Riverdale Collegiate: ​Living Latin​.

[Please allow this slight digression to tell you that Charlie King was sixty-five years old and smaller in height than me; he taught at Riverdale Collegiate his entire teaching career. His last year on this earth was unfortunately linked to the students in my class. As a group, we were non-learners to put it bluntly. Charlie had an easy chair at the front of his classroom and it rocked to and fro when he sat in it. It was a strange sight and when he yelled at the obvious dumbbells who faced him as he sat in his chair we heard statements like: “You darn hoolies, you’ll never learn anything here; why don’t you get out and get a job.” I don’t know what has become of my fellow students but I know that Charlie retired at the end of my final year in High School. There would have been a cake and wonderful accolades from those who cherished Charlie’s work at Riverdale Collegiate for fifty years. He booked a trip that first summer of his retirement on The Queen Mary sailing for London England, tragically, unfairly and without warning, Charlie died on board. Charlie was a good man.]

From time to time Alf and old Ken and I would eat lunch together while sitting on skids of paper in the printing plant. My Mother made lunch for me that consisted of two sandwiches, one of which was always jam or peanut butter; the other was some kind of meat. Old Ken rattled his usual complaints about anything including his lunch being the same every day. On one of those occasions I suggested he ask his wife to make him something else to make him happy. Old Ken looked at me out of the side of his whiskered face and said: “Wife? —I make them myself.” He laughed, Alf laughed and I laughed, and this time I knew what I was laughing about. Soon Alf retired, we had another cake and a smallish party in Alf’s one-man department and off he went to Los Angeles to live with his son. I saw Alf one more time after that; we met in 1965 in The Brown Derby on Santa Monica Boulevard in LA. He looked great, the cigar was larger than I had remembered and so was he. Alf had a little difficulty with his eyesight then but he was living the good life in sunny California. We had a wonderful afternoon, and when I said goodbye to Alf I knew that the time I had spent with him was worth the four-day-drive Knobby and I had endured with Knobby’s girl friend Lucy in his brand new 1965 Dodge Polar Convertible. On the way to LA, Lucy had relatives in California and they had planned to stay with them, the three of us stopped for a two-day visit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Big mistake. Eddy (that’s Knobby’s real name) lost his bankroll on the tables—he was stone-broke for the balance of the trip. I got lucky and met two lovely gamblers at a ten-cent roulette table who invited me to visit while I was in Hollywood. What they didn’t say was that one of them was previously married to the sheriff. When he came in one Sunday afternoon to visit the kids, gun holstered to his hip, I vanished pronto.
On the way back home we tried Vegas again—still no luck. I’ve been back a few times since and it’s always the same except for the ten-cent tables and the girls from Hollywood.
After a year in the shipping department I begged Andy to put me on a press to begin my apprenticeship. Andy had forgotten me while I was working with Scotty, another cigar smoker who wasn’t a printer at all but did have a fascination for a girl or two from the bindery. Scotty left the plant sharply at four o’clock every single day.
Filling shipping cases with checques that never stopped coming was less than I’d hoped for in my career. But I was patient. My patience afforded me the opportunity to meet one of the great charlatans of my life. That nameless reprobate was a frequent visitor to the shipping department as a transport truck driver. He showed up daily after four o’clock to pick up the predestined freight his company had been awarded by Scotty. On one of those days he offered to sell his cherished and faithful 1949 Ford custom for the princely sum of $300.00 and not a penny less. Yup, I bit and asked for a test drive. The following day the Green Machine showed up. I started this ‘car’ up and drove it around the block once or twice. Its operational characteristics seemed okay to me and I trusted this bozo, so I bought it with $275.00 of my saved money and $25.00 I borrowed from Bruce Brackett and drove it home on a Friday night.
That evening I pulled into Nash’s Garage and asked for one dollar’s worth of gas. Mr. Nash stuck his head under the hood and reappeared to apprise me of the real current mechanical status of my purchase: “This car has no oil it whatsoever and I doubt if it has seen any lubrication in its ball joints and suspension system for years.” To him I replied: “Please put the oil in it and give it a lube job.” Mr. Nash owned the local garage and his three sons worked with him. His was the only gas station around our neighbourhood. After Mr. Nash and the boys did their work I drove home around six o’clock with wisps of smoke coming through the floorboards and a wake of gray smelly smoke filling the air the length of ​Jones Avenue. The green gray ghost was visible to all the neighbours while the fresh grease caused the steering wheel to shake almost uncontrollably in my hands.
When I saw the S.O.B. that sold this wreck to me I asked for my money back. He said that he would gladly take the car back except that he bought his kids some shoes and pants to go to school and that he was short of cash. In two months the green monster was towed to the wreckers and they paid me $25.00 for the privilege. I don’t know if the wreckers—a great name for the bone yard of automobiles—were in the business of reselling to the unwary but I was glad to be rid of the unsightly embarrassing bottomless money pit once and for all.
In due course (1958) Andy gave me the job that he had promised and I learned to love the hard work. My wrists and forearms became thicker and stronger from slugging sheets of paper as large as 52” wide and 77” long. Just so the reader has an idea, 500 sheets of ordinary coated paper at that size (4004 square inches per single sheet) weighs in the area of 320 lbs. No one person could handle that size of paper efficiently without kinking it. It took two of us working in unison to flop the stock and load or unload it. Vic Sluce was the boss of our three-man crew on the 77” Harris Press—he was also a member of the Whitby Dunlops. The Dunlops had represented Canada in the Olympic Hockey matches in the 1950’S. I liked Vic and most of the other guys with whom I printed. Bob Massingham, a very cool guy and a great golfer who worked in the stripping department, and Herb Forward who also slugged paper picked me up in front of my house and drove me to work every day when I was on the day shift (they never knew about the green monster; it was long gone by then). Ken Eldridge gave me the Lucas McCain handle that has stayed with me for most of my days in and out of print shops. After breathing and eating buckets of black ink and the white spray powder that was used to prevent the printed sheets from sticking to each other, Andy promoted me away from this black and white omelet to the feeding edge of a smaller press where I met Ken.
The Lucas McCain nickname was Ken’s way of drawing attention to a set of slightly bowed legs and my John Wayne impersonation. Into my third year with Vic, Ken, Jackson, Trotter, Nup, Boland, Bob, Herb and a very large group of very fine guys with whom I printed, with only fifty-seven more years to go and already a participant on the company hockey team, a frequent under-aged drinker at the company social functions, the king of wrist-wrestling matches with the boys on the street, the end came suddenly and without notice. Andy Kilgour, incomplete without his huge cigar, his head hung just a little (I’m sure it was), fired me along with five others who may have thought they were lifers as well. We made room for the newest technology in commercial printing; they called it a web press.
​Quitting was easy, being fired was not—I arrived into the ranks of the unemployed at nineteen-years old and I was devastated, but fortunately not for long.
There is no creation without tradition. Tradition had us report to the union office and they had it all figured out this time. The union boss sent me to another company who hired me on the spot at fifteen dollars more per week over Litho-Print’s pay package. The other five guys went somewhere else perhaps with the exception of Johnny Johnstone who was an older man and reaching retirement. Litho Print and the first crew of guys that I printed with will always be a meaningful memory for me. Once a month I receive the union newsletter. The old names appear either as fifty or sixty year pin recipients, or as a one-line death notice. I saw Vic and Herb and numerous others along with Art Hill’s name as a one-line entry over the passing years. They were all great guys, and I’ll never forget them.
That 20% increase in pay was too easy, wasn’t it? But perhaps it wasn't, because, now I was working all three shifts, one week on each and changing every Monday to another. The work was exciting and different especially when we worked 7 days a week. This was new for me but I was young and the young should experience that kind of hard work don’t you think? The seventh day was the best when I arrived home at 8.00AM and return to the ovens by 3.00PM to begin the afternoon shift for the next seven days. The ovens cooked and dried the sheets of metal decorated with fresh images and then they were trucked toward their destiny somewhere else in the huge, never cold, never stopped, never darkened plant in New Toronto we knew as Continental Can Limited, Plant 54. This was a goldmine for me—the overtime at time and a half or even double time on weekends was making me rich. I bought a brand new 1963 Corvair Convertible in the fall of 1962 for the unheard-of-sum of $3,500.00; it was all white with red leather seats and a black ragtop and I was on top of the world. Joan (my sister) and Garnet married that year and borrowed it for the weekend of their honeymoon. They looked great driving away with a few tin cans tied to the back bumper. I was proud of them and the car too.
Ross Cottrell was one of my co-workers at ‘the can’ and he had one of these cars and swore by it—that is until I drove into the parking lot with mine. I pulled into a free parking spot next to good old Ross to hear him say: “You didn’t buy that did you?” He explained what he meant. Ross was a weird guy. One of the stories he liked to tell was when asked by the foremen why he wasn’t at work on Tuesday, Ross was proud to tell his buddies that he responded with: “I came to work yesterday but I couldn’t find a parking spot in the lot, so I went home.” And they never fired him! Weird? Perhaps you already know about the General Motors experiment in rear engine vehicles—the Corvair was their answer to Volkswagen’s incredible success with ‘the beetle.’ Some of those beetles and even a few Corvairs are still around today—but GM, along with the experience I had with mine, knew it was a mistake of significant magnitude. My last day with the Corvair was in 1965 when the stupidly designed long fan belt that wound around its rear-mounted-gutless engine armed with two carburetors (can you imagine that?), flew off. My car began to slow down and actually caught fire. Handy loads of tossed snow and road dirt extinguished the oil pan fire while my passengers stood freezing on Lakeshore Road in downtown Toronto.
GM stopped making these cars and I licked my wounds again, saying to myself that someday I’ll get a reliable car, but I think I’ll take an expert with me when I put down my own cash. I’m not as dumb as you may think though. The car I owned between the Green Machine and the White Corvair was a 1958 Pontiac Pathfinder. The Pontiac was purchased with the help of Elgin Blandford, the mechanic who lived next door, who always snickered if not laughed out loud when he saw and smelled the smoking dragon on our street.
The job at Continental Can lasted three years in total with an annual layoff during the winter. During the third winter I took a temporary job at Arthurs-Jones Lithographing Limited in the west end of Toronto. I had two other notable temporary jobs the previous two winters, one with Cape and Company whose foreman fired me after fourty-nine straight twelve hour days because I asked for the extra ten cents an hour that the agreed-to union contract had stipulated I was entitled: the princely sum of 49days@12hours@10cents per hour = $58.80; and the other was Bryant Press, wherein Russell, the lead pressman and my boss, refused to work until 8:00 in the morning and then wash up after eight and prepare to go home. Big John Dunn, the big boss in the pressroom, fired the three of us. We had no say in the matter of personal hygiene or changing into our street clothes on company time. John’s point was made without fanfare or a second chance at abiding by his reasonable rule. Bryant Press was paying us for an eight-hour night and John’s words were: “Please work the eight hours or else.” Russell was a mild rather scholarly looking left winger who was not going to be pushed around by anyone. I never heard anything more about Russell for the balance of my time in the printing business—he was another one of those guys who dictated my fate. I didn’t like that very much.
While waiting for the recall to Continental Can in the spring of 1964 I printed on paper that winter at Arthurs-Jones Lithographing Ltd. While this was happening a posture of rebellion was crystallizing within me; I was unhappy again and wanted a change but the kind of change I wanted was an unknown to me at that time. When I found out that the big union boss, working in the big union office in downtown Toronto ​had turned down my former boss (Walt McDavid), who had requested that I be sent back to my metal decorating position at Continental Can in the spring. When I received no notification of that request of any kind I fully realized that my working life was not my own, I was furious. How could these union people not respect the individual and report the request of a man who liked my work and who wanted me back? They simply didn’t. It was more important to place another man into that position and leave me where I was.
Things had to change; by now I knew that printing (the only kind I knew at the time) was not for me. After six years of shift work, two useless cars purchased using my judgment exclusively, one good one with the help of Elgin and very little social life outside of my time at Litho-Print, and now, working at a job at Arthurs-Jones for a foreman who was a crook, a cheat, a loud mouth and soon to be exposed for his lack of interest in the well being of the Company and its owners, I was moving on. To my everlasting joy, good sense and mostly good luck and good timing, I wasn’t going too far from a geographical viewpoint.
I asked for a sales position with Arthurs-Jones and they gave it to me. Mr. Reid McGregor had given me a title; I had a business card that read “Gary McDonald Sales Representative.” Duncan McGregor was my present-day Alf Barry and he appeared seven years after I started my printing career. Duncan was a young recent graduate of Ryerson Polytechnic School and the son of the co-owner Mr. McGregor. Duncan and I had met in the plant and became acquainted—he was in the sales department with his dad. The interview that Duncan set up with his Father and I lasted approximately twenty minutes. Time enough for Mr. McGregor to know that I listened intently and communicated both verbally and with readable handwriting. That was all he needed. He asked me to come to work in the morning in my new uniform: a suit, white shirt and tie. He dealt with his partner Mr. Adams and a replacement was found to feed the 48” Harris Two Colour press. In the morning I spoke to my former lead pressman who was a silver-haired wiry man we nicknamed the friendly silver fox. His real name was Arthur Hill and I told him, while dressed in my only suit (blue of course, with specially built pant legs to accommodate my John Wayne walking impression) that I was now in the sales department. I also asked him to leave my work clothes and shoes tucked into the corner and out of sight because I might be back. He said he would and wished me luck and good fortune in the new job. Art was a gentleman of the first order.
Ten years later I was privileged to speak at Art’s retirement party. Yes there was a cake too. To my regret, I never saw Art after that day—he said that the day he left would be his very the last day around printing machines and the people he worked alongside. We never saw him again—anywhere, except in that inevitable one line notice that appeared in the news-letter.
To begin this installment of my career, I was told to accompany the departing salesman and visit the accounts and clients he had served. Grant Wilson was a former press person at Arthurs-Jones and a few years prior had been handed the sales job now being offered to me. He enjoyed some success for a few years, and, as I would find out in two months time, had started another printing company with several other less than loyal employees at Arthurs-Jones with whom I had known in passing. Apparently they had been double dipping into the pot of clients that fed the employees and owners at Arthurs-Jones. Aside from the horror show that would soon surface as a result of their nefarious activity, and in short notice as well, I began to realize that the entire process of printing, or better said, lithography was an enigma to me. My clients knew more about the complete process of printing than I did.
My fellow employees, especially the ones in art preparation, camera, pre-press film and plates possessed the missing link in my printing education. From printing plates, images get planted on paper and metal, yes, I knew something about that transfer, but how did words and pictures get on the plate? I had no idea. But in front of the best clients anyone could hope for, the Ortho’s and the Fiberglas’s and several others, I was an eager kid who would find out and deliver the goods no matter what. Any latent antagonistic behaviour I had encouraged in myself beforehand, that is prior to the blue suit transformation, had melted into a genuine appreciation for the craft that I needed to learn in its totality. The customers and gifted production crew members at AJ would teach me, and in due course, Grant’s very silent partners who were still working at Arthurs-Jones and redirecting some of Arthurs-Jones work to the nascent empire they called McAlpine Printing were fingered for the double crossing rats that they in deed and in secret actually were. Incredulously, how could they have thought that their daytime employers would not soon learn of their infidelity? While the Industry is a large one, the community of commercial sheet fed printing is conspicuously close knit; a competitor, supplier or good customer would soon spill the beans. When they did, five men including two foremen, two pressmen, and one Chief Financial Officer were fired with cause but never prosecuted. Grant had resigned weeks before Mr. Adams and Mr. McGregor found out. I suppose their crime, although unforgivable by the men who trusted them and paid their wages, would not have been as bad if they had not redirected some of Arthurs-Jones work while still on the payroll. But they did. When I look back to those earliest days, I wonder in amazement how Mr. Adams and Mr. McGregor who had been saddled with these disloyal and dishonest employees had the fortitude to carry on? I think I know now that my brother was right as was Adams and McGregor and this Edgar Rice Burroughs’ inspired motto: “I print to escape poverty.”
Avoiding poverty and replacing its dreaded reality with realized prosperity fosters innovative principals that can change previous methodology as basic as the skills required to earn a living. The future, as unknown as it is for everyone, is ours to plan for. And for me, I had a principal in play that worked: “I shall not deserve anything unless I work relentlessly for it, with iron discipline, day after day.” This is a direct quotation from Carlos Fuentes in an autobiography of his. Am I ashamed to tell you the title of the piece from which this quote is culled? It’s called ​How I Started to Write and it’s a fabulous read. Any similarity to my title is purely coincidental of course.​

Gary McDonald 1941 – (Committed to Print in 2009)​

Congratulations on completing this read; it almost killed me.


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