Life in Transcona was basically good.
Mother had a way of explaining things that made it seem we were very
fortunate. Eating basic and simple foods meant we did not have piles of
dishes to wash. Unable to afford meat meant no greasy pots and plates to be
scrubbed. Barley soup and rice pudding were easily rinsed away. While we
relaxed after dinner our neighbours would be busy doing dishes till all
hours. Were we not the lucky ones?
Our life in public sometimes challenged
mother's perspective. We were teased because our clothes were mostly hand-me-downs. Our school lunches did not include treats. Kids notice such things.
They do not let them simply pass. Our obvious poverty made us fair game for
disrespect and insult. This was not always easy to bear. It seemed that
worth was a matter having largely to do with appearances. Kids with shiny
new shoes and bright new shirts looked down on those who came to school in
second hand clothing. Looking back I understand this as a general
representation of values held by society at large.
For the most part I did well in school. I
was bright and attentive. Teachers noticed my potential and encouraged me in
many ways. Learning came quite easily to me. I specially enjoyed learning
how to read well. Stories offered my imagination a way of exploring the
larger world. Sitting with a book let me discover things that everyday
experience did not include. It also provided me with a safe place to be. A
place where I was not judged by others.
At the age of ten I left the public school
system. Our church had built a school in East Kildonan. Along with others
kids my age, I would ride the public transit for about an hour to get to the
new school. Quite an adventure for such young persons. Having to be careful
not to loose our tickets. Watching for the intrusion of strangers who might
do us harm. A major step in growing up. Learning to be responsible in the
world without immediate adult supervision.
One day, In geography class, we learned
about a small town in northern Manitoba. It was called Thompson. It had been
built by the International Nickel Company to provide homes for employees of
a newly opened nickel mine and refinery. Shortly after hearing about
Thompson father was hired as a miner. For the first year he lived in a small
tent city with other workers from all over Canada. Then, in his second year,
father informed us that he had rented a house. Soon our family was packing
in preparation for leaving our home once more. This time to travel north. We
arrived in Thompson early in nineteen sixty-two.