South End Boy: Growing up in Halifax in the tumultuous '30s and '40s
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In this memoir Jim Bennet introduces us to Halifax of the 1930s and '40s: one full of coal smoke and rival gangs, chuffing freight trains and pine tar soap. He takes the reader along with him ''down the bank'' and off to adventures all over the city's south end and beyond, offering a glimpse of childhood where a young boy had free rein far beyond his backyard.
For Jim and his neighbours, the playground was the seashore, the tracks, the ponds and parks, the tramcars, the Commons, the Citadel, and more. Through his eyes, we see the impact caused by the Second World War on daily family life.
Jim Bennet's recall of the details of ordinary life -- seen from the perspective of a boy growing up into his teens -- and his gift for storytelling are evident in this enjoyable book. It will bring memories flooding back for some readers; for others, it offers a window into adolescence at a time when the world was rapidly changing.
constitutes today’s teenage romantic adventures, was referred to (with a knowing wink) as “watching the submarine races.” Then there was Quarry Pond, up the hill from Steele’s and just inside the so-called Golden Gates of Point Pleasant. This jagged punchbowl, left after building stone had been excavated from the bedrock, was said to be bottomless. We boys had to check out this rumour with a length of fishing line and a sinker (and I must admit to our disappointment at dispelling it). But unlike
recollection is the noise of the trains from the railway that cut through the city a block from our house. The train noises were particularly welcome as I was tucked into bed. There was nothing more soporific or comforting than the chuff-chuff of a slow freight outbound from the rail yards by the harbour front. It took miles for a loaded freight train to get up to speed, and an engineer’s hand had to be sure and responsive if he was to keep the wheels from spinning as he accelerated. When that
internet, text messaging, iPods, cell phones and their expensive kin, kids of my vintage could certainly find ways galore to divert ourselves at no cost whatever. Portable phones were easy: two tin cans and a ball of string, and voila, instant walkie talkie. Really worked, too, within the limit of the string. Computer games? Well we had an analogue equivalent called tiddly. A piece of old broom handle about five inches long and sharpened at the ends was what you needed. That and a longer stick
Herald-Mail and Chronicle-Star were separate journals at the time, and this man carried an amazing number of papers, probably weighing some fifty or sixty pounds when both his bags were full. Bearing this weight over the years had given him a permanent slump. He had a slight hesitation in his speech, and every passerby got a lopsided smile and a droned, “St-star, lady?” or “St-star, sir?” More often seen on the tramcars than the sidewalk was a man I’ll call only Mr. M, in deference to any
family dog Pat. The thing that sticks in my mind is that every one of the scores of old family corner stores in Halifax provided people of my generation with similar, but by no means identical memories. How lasting those memories can be is confirmed by the fact that the corner of Cogswell and North Park still reminds me of the cedars of Lebanon. And when passing through Coburg and LeMarchant I can still hear, in some recess of my mind, an accented voice gently saying, “Kamonka monka monka monka