Heilingbrunner Story || (Be sure to view the photos at the
end of this article.)
Ross Jamieson's House - NE corner of Ross and Dufferin
Mom was waiting at this door.
THE WATCH BRIGADE
Short Story by: Ross
Mom was right
there to meet me when I opened the back door.
“Well - you can just forget about watching that game on TV tomorrow
night young man”
She always called me “Young Man” when she was upset with me.
At age 11 and in grade seven I had acquired a certain sauciness.
“ I gave you explicit instructions when I told you to stay away
from that flooded area! What's the matter with you? When I was
your age I would never have let my parents down like this!”
I knew exactly what she was talking about. At this point in
my life, however, I hadn't enough guile to come up with more
than a flippant “What?”
“We'll discuss this when your Father gets home. You haven't
heard the last of this! Go straight to your room!”
Cornered, but full of adolescent bravado and defensive indignation,
I brushed past Her. At the same time smart enough to recognize
the severity of mother's tone - I went to my room. My mind was
“Geez - how did she find out?”
I grew up on the corner of Ross and Dufferin Street in East
City right next to Nicholl's Oval. Every Spring the low lying
area adjacent to the bandstand in the park would flood and there
would be a virtual lake from April until mid June. In some places
the water would be four feet deep. One of my earliest memories
was of stern warnings to stay away from that water in the Spring.
Stu Roberston and Bob Delong on rafts near
the Grandstand in Nichols Park c1960
Bob Delong, with two of his five children, stands in the
in Spring of 2004.
Dad was on a trip to Quebec collecting money owed to DeLaval,
the company that he worked for, so that lecture wouldn't take
place until he returned. By noon the following day I had forgotten
all about the incident. That afternoon, however, just after school
finished it enveloped me again. I was walking past Danny Hopcroft's
house when his Mom called out to me from her back porch.
Ross, I tried to warn you!
“Ross Jamieson ! Yes - I'm speaking to you!
You know that you're
not supposed to be anywhere near that water at this time of year!
Start using your head!”
“Cripes - another one! How does she know too?”
This was getting eerie. I'd been down at the flooded area the
day before with Darryl Bennett, Stewy Roberston and his brother
Donny and now everybody seemed to know about it. We'd been on
a raft made of an old door nailed to some logs and we were poling
through the water with a long branch. Nobody else was around.
No one could have seen us. How could all these people know we
Stu Roberston on raft behind Nichols Park
The very next day at school in Mr Dainard's class at Armour
Heights it continued. I can't remember her name - just that she
stood up in class and announced,
“ Darryl and Stewart and Ross were on a raft in Nichol's Oval
and now they're really in trouble!”
Obviously she was thrilled to to be reporting this.
“Is that so?”, replied Mr Dainard, “Well I hope they're going
to accept the consequences like men.”
This was a real curve ball! I was beginning to think that something
super natural was working against me. Were all of my sins going
to be paraded before me? Was the next step damnation followed
by purgatory? It wasn't until the end of the week when my Dad
came home that I became aware of the forces that had been acting
against rebellious youth in a community of vigilant adults.
At the time that this scenario was unfolding CHEX television
had a daily public affairs and community service programme hosted
by Marie Callaghan. It was called Calendar .
Mrs. Callaghan would broadcast live every day from the studios
on Television road in East City. Her route to and from work took
her onto Parkhill Road adjacent to Nichol's Oval. As best I
can piece it together she stopped to watch us on our raft and
then made an announcement on her show.
“Today I witnessed something that could be a tragedy in the
making. Four young boys were putting their lives in jeopardy
Apparently she went on to describe our clothing and our size
relative to one another in the hope that some one would recognize
us and prevent a catastrophe.
My mother saw the show. Obviously Mrs Hopcroft had tuned in.
So too was the vengeful
female classmate. I imagine now how delicious
it was for her to engineer the outing that embarrassed us so
much in front of our school chums.
What still surprises me is how quickly and unerringly we were
identified and how the adults involved didn't hesitate to collectively
supervise or chastise us. Back then in the 50's it was understood
that, indeed, the whole neighbourhood took on the responsibility
of rearing the reckless brood. Now, as I reflect upon the incident
in later years, I understand that, from this proud heritage,
the children of East City were endowed with a noble perspective
that carried on into their own parenting years. Yes - I can definitely
live without malice for what happened to me on that Spring day
Well - almost! Even after 42 years, when I run into the female
classmate that “ratted us out”, I have disingenuous thoughts.
She was such a smug little witch!!
If you enjoyed this true story then maybe you also have
a story to tell about the Armour Heights neighbourhood and
about growing up in East City.
Send it in! Dan
[Follow-up footnote: Ross Jamieson became
an elementary school teacher in Peterborough and remains an
avid golfer. The photos and captions have been added by Dan
Delong from his personal collection.]
Mom, I'm being good!
That flood thing was three years ago!
But, I still love playing down by the River!
Darrell Bennett and Ross Jamieson c1963 below the Quaker
(after the huge sawdust pile on the left bank had
1959 Nichols Park Bandstand - preparing for
and evening concert
1961 flood looking north from the Hunter S. bridge
1961 Riverview Park diamond under flood waters