This is my life story in my own words. It will be a lasting heritage for my four children. They can follow their Dad as he answers the many questions. Like what grade did you get to in high school, Dad? What was your strongest subject? How were your final grades? What did you do on your first date? Your children have probably asked you these questions and many more. Why? Curiosity partly, but mostly because they care about you. They want to know what you did when you were growing up, because they want to know you. This book will be about childhood memories, family history, humorous incidents, and meaningful traditions from my life. Things like describe the most fun you ever had on Christmas Day or, what was it like when you went to a hockey or ball game as a boy? What kind of food did you eat? Or what is the nicest thing you ever did for your mother and father? So my legacy begins as I try to draw closer to my children and share my memories of my life, straight from my heart to theirs.
So let’s begin with the Questions:
What did you enjoy doing most as a child? Did you prefer doing it alone or with someone else?
As a child I spent a lot of time outdoors on the streets of Montreal in a very robust French, Irish and Italian community. It was called The Point, short for Point St Charles. I did a lot with other kids outdoors. By this I mean running and playing games until our mothers would call at the top of their voices, “Time to come in now children”. It was tough leaving the streets after having so much fun to go inside and sit before a black and white TV. There wasn’t much else to keep us indoors – not video games, computer, internet or play stations. Nope, just the black and white TV to struggle with. Playing with the rabbit ears to try to get a clearer picture and having to many times wrap foil around the tips to get a stronger reception. When I was outside playing we would play kick-the-can, hopscotch, hide and seek, murder ball, buck-buck how many fingers up, and the infamous Yo-Yo competitions on the street corners. Yes, we all had our own designs of Yo-Yo’s. Mine was black with embedded shiny, sparkly diamonds (fake of course). We would do all kinds of tricks with them, like walk the dog, around the world, rock the cradle, shoot the target and more. Yo-yo was fun indeed.
When the cock crowed at nine p.m. we knew our mothers or dads would be calling us in and god help us if we didn’t answer or walk through that door at the appointed time,or it was hell to pay and I would be grounded for a few nights. I remember very well my mother sitting with the clock beside her and scolding me if it was one minute past nine. She was a tough disciplinarian. My passion as a boy was playing hockey after school. As soon as I got in the door I would find my skates and fling them over my shoulder, grab my CCM straight bladed hockey stick and put a puck in my back pocket and away I went up to the top of Fortune street to the Point St Charles Boys and Girls club. To the outdoor hockey rink (there were no indoor arenas in my neighborhood, too poor). After I finished a scrub round of hockey I would hide my stick somewhere, keep the puck in my back pocket and over I went to the public rink beside the hockey rink to play with my friends and make the whip. We would all try to be at the end as that person went the fastest and ended up flying on to their butts with laughter from the rest of the kids. We also played tag and would chase each other all around the ice, trying to stay free and not be tagged.
I played football for a couple of seasons but I did not enjoy it as much as I did playing hockey. I also got tackled pretty hard in one game and ended up at the hospital with a mild concussion. Football was not my sport of choice. I played baseball one season and it too was not my favorite. I needed speed and I got pretty good at playing hockey, so much so that I became the best pee-wee defense man on the island of Montreal at the time. Very few skaters could get past me, I was that fast. When the coach realized that I could be a goal scorer he decided to move me up to left-wing and I became the top goal scorer on my team. Little did I know I had the passion and the ability to become a scouted player in the future. Now some of the boys I hung out with would do their best to get me in trouble with them. One of our favorite games in the winter was hopping on to the back bumpers of cars and buses. We would try to stay on as long as we could without falling off or ripping our knees open should we fall forward and be dragged for a block. We would move the challenge up even further by hopping trains as they moved down the tracks at a speed that allowed us to try to get on. Sometimes we couldn’t make it and would fall backwards into the bush along the track and land flat on our backs.
Did I live a dangerous life growing up in The Point? I sure did and enjoyed every minute of it. I forgot to mention the Montreal stock yards. Oh yes, we would head over to ride the calves and the odd cow, but mostly the calves as they would buck us off their backs into the soft hay on the floor. We knew that if we were seen by the stock yard man, he would give us a chase and try to jolt us with the electric prod he carried with him. We were always too fast for him and would run like the wind to avoid being caught. The odd time one of us would feel the shock in our butts as he caught us off guard. He would give us a warning and send us on our way. We would plead for mercy, tongue in cheek, and laugh afterwards and tell our friends that he didn’t scare me one bit. Of course that was a lie.
Who gave you your name and why? Did you have a nickname? How did you get it?
I am told my first name, Ken, was given to me from a friend of the family from my mother’s side. My middle name Michael just happened to be a name that my mother really liked, so she tagged me with it. My nickname came to me from my mother and sisters and to this day I can’t really figure out why. They nicknamed me” Greenspoon”. They tell me it suited me because I wouldn’t share with them and that apparently I would eat the last candy or last of anything left in the fridge. I know my mother had an account with a little Jewish man named Mr Greenberg and he would come around and show my mother what he had in his catalogue uptown at his store and she would order from him and end up in his little green book. I think that’s really where the name Greenspoon came from. Another name they called me was Monkey Ears, because my ears were fairly big and stuck out quite far from my head. Whenever my sisters were mad at me they would tease me with that name and run around the house calling me Monkey ears, Monkey ears. It’s strange because my head outgrew the ears and I ended up with a perfectly normal set of ears. The nickname that hurt the most and would really upset me because I was very sensitive at the tender age of 12 was pee-the-bed-kenny . Whenever my mother discovered that I had wet the bed and they were in earshot, they would yell out to me Pee-the-bed kenny, pee-the-bed-kenny . Well, I would chase them around the house and whoever I caught first, I would pin them down and pull on their hair until they screamed apologies. Even though we all had nicknames for each other and would blurt them out by name-calling from time to time, we were really a close-knit group. I loved my sisters very much and I know they loved me. I was their protector when they needed protection either out in the streets or at school. No one messed with my sisters, even though they could be mean little brats from time to time.
Describe your childhood home.
Which one? I think we moved every two years. My mother had a thing for moving. She loved decorating and placing things in different ways. We seemed to outgrow every flat we lived in. Besides we had a growing family, now with seven of us to feed. She had to find larger quarters every few years. Flats in the Point were like row houses, someone lived on the bottom and the other family lived above you. The floors were generally a shiny linoleum and the rooms mostly wallpaper with some ghastly graffiti type paper. Rooms were generally spacious and the kitchen normally huge. We would have a coal-burning stove and one of my chores was to always empty the ashes into a can and take them to the backyard. We heated with an oil stove and now and then you would hear the gurgling sound coming from the bottle attached to the stove. Between the smell of cigarette smoke (yes, everyone smoked back then in homes) and the smell of the oil, it was an interesting aroma. I generally had my own room as I was the only boy living at home and my sisters would share the other spare bedroom among them, four in a room, two double beds to share. Our entertainment was the one and only black and white TV we owned, with just a few channels. I was mostly outdoors during the weeknight and only watched TV usually on weekend mornings, never wanting to miss Mighty Mouse, the Lone Ranger,Three Stooges and the Ed Sullivan show on Sunday night. Our meals were served to us around a huge kitchen table, where we would all gather and talk about the days events, school, friends, neighbors, each other, weather and the latest community news. My mother was a great cook and always was able to scrub up a great meal with the little money she had, between a boyfriend’s pay cheque and welfare we got by.
I will stop here for now and hope you enjoyed your visit, please drop by for my next chapter in the life
and times of my growing up in Montreal.