Monday, November 21, 2022


 To swim through memories to high school and my career as a slow guard in football and then my anxious Telegram moments as a football scribe and editor is dangerous because my good old days were often not. But in 1955, just getting girls to smile at me and the coach not to suggest I was the slowest player on our team of future NHL, CFL, lacrosse and university stalwarts rated as A++.
The Santa Claus parade was key to boasting at Weston Collegiate, the second oldest high school in a city that had not yet exploded in every possible way to match a country that was busy growing up after stalling after the war. Eatons and Simpsons dominated retail and the giants cunningly had a couple of reps at each high school. They were the cream of the school. Eatons reached to their reps for the bulk of the Santa parade and they reached out to the inside crowd and you made sure everyone knew that you were one of the marchers. I remember little about the parade but the faces of the kids along the cold streets made it all worthwhile. It was a magical Saturday to match the radio broadcasts from Toyland in Eatons and standing in the halls to sing along with the carollers when Simpsons opened for the day. No wonder the two giant stores were our shopping destination and a cop had to control the pedestrians crossing between the two stores where Eatons was cheaper but Simpsons wrapped better.
The CFL, like the NHL, was smaller. But I noticed that despite all the references to Canadian players in the telecast on Sunday, the striking difference 67 years later was the absence of the names of Toronto high school athletes. I remember a halfback smashing over me for a TD at the high school final at Varsity who went on to star with the Tiger Cats and that our points were scored by Bob Pulford who was a solid Toronto Maple Leaf assistant captain. We had a tight end who played with the Parkdale Lions (longer than I did) which was the farm club of the Argos who used him on occasion.
At the Telegram, I was pressed into service as a fast typist who had played football for the special Grey Cup edition where I wrote the play by play of the entire game. I knew all about the special atmosphere at Exhibition Stadium, which was so adequate for football that they tore it down in hope of getting into the NFL, because one Cup afternoon I spent the entire afternoon sitting ignored on the bench of the losing team. The special Cup edition almost ended my journalism career because when I was in charge in the final Tely year, I didn't realize my news editor was so unconscious on vodka that he didn't know he was at work and screwed up our football stories. You didn't do that when your publisher owned the Argos.
Oh yes, my Sunday was more than a trip back 67 years. The good stuff shone like nuggets in a Klondike stream. The bad stuff, like my son getting so trapped in the jam downtown from the Santa Claus parade that my car exploded and had to be towed for expensive repairs, is deleted. After all, seven decades have passed while the city and sports have doubled along with the size of the defensive line.
We were called the Weston Ironman because the high school coach Mel Thompson believed that you played 60 minutes if you could still walk. I still have the leather football jacket and may even be able to get into it. Don't know but the memories fit just matter what the Downings say.

Saturday, October 22, 2022


 It seemed such a simple task. Getting Mark my loyal bullmoose son to take me to the grand old Royal York Hotel for the 29th induction luncheon of the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame. I have been on the selection committee from the start before I was hobbled into a wheelchair.

It took four hours and I missed the start thanks to a downtown so snarled with traffic that it might as well have been a Ukrainian city under Russian attack. Plenty of time to look at election signs for an assortment of anonymous candidates. Plenty of time to think that the city traffic is now run so stupidly that all 25 councillors and the mayor should be replaced. Fortunately some have quit and a few, like Stephen Holyday, Mike Colle and Michael Thompson, perhaps deserve to get another crack at saving a city from the woke activists and bureaucratic nincompoops who couldn't run a sandbox in a kindergarten.

Of course parking downtown now requires a second mortgage. Back in 1958 when I first covered luncheons at the Royal York as a hungry cub reporter, I strolled over from the Old Lady of Melinda St., the Tely, and made my way to the gilded caverns. It took a few minute. The Tely vanished in 1971 and the hotel has primped its way through many changes. It took us half an hour from downtown Etobicoke just to get to the western flank. And that was just the start of climbing Everest.

It was silly of us who thought with four degrees and a lifetime of experience downtown that it would be easy to access even a giant hotel. But no western entrance, and the south doors are not accessible supposedly to simple-minded dolts. We actually did get inside with the help of bemused hotel staff and I dragged myself up several flights of grand stairs while Mark lugged up the wheelchair and went off to find some nook that didn't cost a fortune to park.

I pushed my wheelchair towards the two banks of elevators and finally won the competition to get aboard one by shoving my wheelchair into some giddy thing. Best block I have thrown since my football days at high school and college. Of course the luncheon had started and it didn't matter much because the tables were too close together for a wheelchair and an 86-year-old fart to get through.

Mark finally returned and I found my corner and could concentrate on the heroes of the day. Josh Dueck, Greg Westlake and Lorin MacDonald, stars from the worlds of Paralympics, human rights and hockey who know all about not only being champions at what they do but how to handle the hassles and frustrations of dealing with a giant city and a giant hotel which make such feeble attempts to actually let people moved around.

This hall of fame started with Vim Kochhar, then a senator, who had the inspiration for what we called the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, that great Canadian who ran across the country and into our hearts as he persevered and became an icon for all disabled. Early recipients were Edwin Baker and Rick Hansen. We renamed the hall because of some difficulty with the Fox family and Vim, who can be very persuasive, has had the Tiny Perfect Worship chair it for a year....which has turned into 29 even though David Crombie, still smiling and deaf like me, has the city clamouring for his attention.

The selection committee has had such notables as Rev. Bob Rumball, the great football player, and Con Di Nino, the former senator, as we sift through the remarkable biographies from people who smash the odds as they achieve, and achieve, and achieve. I have served on several hall of fame selection committees in the political, journalism and sports worlds but this is the one where the nominations leave me thankful that there are so many of our neighbours who hurdle adversities as if they are just  sidewalks cracks.

Too bad that so much still has to be done. As proof of that, we leave the grand hotel by heading to the eastern side. Along the way we encounter a hall of fame notable, David Onley, in a superior motorized wheelchair which makes mine look like a Model T compared to a Jag. But there is only one way out, a small elevator that takes David while we wait. Behind us are giant meeting rooms and hundreds of hotel rooms. And I use the small elevator and wait in the cold for Mark to negotiate a loan and pay for parking.

How nice the city has become so accessible....

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Shopping For Health

I have waded through oceans of bureaucratese, medical goofs, misinformation, lies, propaganda and just plain crap and concluded that I need as much protection against the virus and politicians as I can get.

I have a bullseye stapled to my chest and most of the world seems poised to use me as target practise.
So I went to get another shot. I already have two boosters but I seemed to match the most vulnerable among the old farts just floating along trying to avoid the latest stupidness of man. And doctors seemed to think it was a smart idea.
Shoppers didn't. Despite a vacant office, and I mean space not their minds, I was turned away in my wheelchair and told to talk to my GP.
Bernie Gosevitz may be the best family doctor          in the world so now I will intrude into his incredible sked and waste a lot of my time, and his time, and family time just to try to stay alive for the next pandemic to come along.
My medical profile is terrible. I do like waking up because it is such a surprise. And I certainly match the profile of someone reading obits for pleasure at all those I have survived... for now
I am 86 and have been a diabetic for a million needles. My pacemaker has been doing an admirable job with my atrial filibration. The five specialists who grunt at me regularly give me nine prescriptions and four vitamins and mysterious capsules to go with the two insulins.
I walk like a drunk when I am not falling out of my wheelchair and breaking ribs and decorating my forehead with stitches.
I came home in a medical plane from my last U.S. trip and the insurance refused to pay until my specialists grunted at them for a change.
Thanks to Mark, my son, who thank heavens took some cooking courses at George Brown to go along with his two degrees, I have actually survived at home despite two stays in three hospitals over a decade.
So I didn't expect any trouble when I showed up at the Shoppers at Six Points along with my 87-year-old wife also in a wheelchair pushed by another stalwart son Brett. She takes as much medicine as I do and Mark and Brett are the size of the Argo line and prob ably can play better than them too.
We were greeted with the sort of reception that you get when the clerks don't know wotinhell they're doing.
From above I heard a sympathetic groan from my old friend, Murray Koffler, the founder of Shoppers, and the wonderful renaissance guru that was such a magical force in culture, education and just about any nook in Toronto that mattered.
Koffler and I were in at the start of the outdoor art show in Nathan Phillips Square and with his money and smarts and my civic bluster we managed to intimidate officials long enough to make the show a success.
No wonder I had no trouble as head of the city advisory committe giving Koffler the top civic honour. He certainly knew how to deal with bureaucrats and heaven knows they certainly know how to screw up when given the slightest chance with our health and with our money. 
I am a big  believer in shots. When I was on the Runnymede Health Centre board, I moved that any staffer who didn't get a shot during a flu epidemic not have a job. My father had a huge family practise in the east end and he moved my two sisters and I into the same bedroom during mumps and measles and other outbreaks to make sure we got sick before we became adults.
He also was a big booster of doing things like that when he was chairman of the Toronto school board. He certainly didn't tolerate nonsense like ambulance staff and paramedics not getting protected by shots.
When Dad died and my uncle took over the practise, he had the same approach.
Thank heavens for the sensible approach of the old family doctor who didn't like populist renegades who thought BS equalled science. The anti-vaxxers were treated with the contempt they deserved.
They decided in my first year of university that I had had TB the year before. My uncle considered my last year of high school when I played 60 minutes of football in the championship game at Varsity and was active in other activities like the school play, puffed on his pipe and said it was nonsense for me to go to the Weston sanitarium. 
He considered all the evidence and decided not to put  my life on hold for a year.
Common sense was what he used. If only there was more of that when we fight pandemics.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Sad Anniversary

We are lamenting the anniversary of an awful assault on our history, yet our awful leaders pretend it never happened. Two lines echo from the past when I consider the disgraceful renaming of Ryerson University and destruction of the statue of Egerton Ryerson, our most famous educator and the obstetrician delivering many of our major institutions and ministries.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down was the haunting melody from The Band in 1969, and FDR's A Day That Will Live In Infamy is one of the most famous presidential quotes.Surely the toppling of this giant memento should have also stimulated haunting songs and soaring oratory.
 But a year has passed and with the honourable exception of the National Post, the media and our cowardly leaders stay muzzled by the fear of the Indigenous lobby. No lament! No broadsides of oratory! No inquiry! The police played Keystone Cops even though evidence was piled higher than the Scarborough Bluffs.
The vandals escape charges/fines/jail for blatant criminal acts. I cry out for the days of such Post/Sun crusaders as Christie Blatchford, a Ryerson grad who would have taken the incriminating facts from profs like Patrice Dutil and driven them like swords into the craven administrators and the Greek chorus chanting lies. Dutil warned in the Post on June 8, 2021, that many universities could face similar destructive mischief when activists launch pathetic BS barrages over names and past.
Another Ryerson warrior, Mark Bonokoski, wrote in despair in the Sun about the Ryerson debacle and said he would tear up his degree.
There was no question when Ryerson hired me to write its history what would be the cover.
Since 1889 Egerton's statue had stared at Gould St., nearly 10 feet tall on a granite base of similar height that cost $8,300 from governments and pupils who loved him for innovating a Canadian first - free schooling for all. Behind him rose his incubator for education and culture that Cumberland designed in 1851. For decades they made their home of St. James Square a favourite attraction for all.
The man, the sculptor and the architect created so much that these werebizarre targets for a lawless mob using the incredible past mistreatment of the Indigenous to justify destroying a grand reputation and a statue worth $260,000 in modern funds and millions in historic value.
If the goal really was to punish Canadians for decades of their brutal handling by governments and churches, there are genuine targets for perverted activism in the Indigenous world, not that any sensible person would justify assaulting our past with distorted posturing.
Such as Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant whose history is not disputed. No need to cheat about his wars and dealings, unlike the lies about Ryerson. He kept and traded as slaves many Africans and captured warriors. Yet his statue hasn't been destroyed in his Brantford, and Brant County and a hospital haven't been renamed. His portraits are featured in great galleries.
Apparently not a useful target but then the activists failed in most subjects, including history.
His many critics scorned him as "Monster" Brant. The statue of Ryerson was dubbed affectionately as Eggie by many thousands.Yet it suited the twisted few to tear one man and statue down and ignore the other.

Sunday, May 1, 2022


Supposed friends used to say when an old fart like me retired that he or she was worn out. The reality is that in most cases we don't want to stand the BS a second longer.
It has always been the case that the good old days often weren't. They were "good" only in your nostalgia which has been edited by more holes in your memory than cheesecloth so that you have forgotten the crap of daily hassles.
But now the nonsense has multiplied to ruin what we hoped would be more sensible public life.
There are new hurdles the height of the mountains I once climbed in the Yukon all fed by an explosion of populism infected with tribalism and politically correct views where facts and logic don't mean a damn thing. The crazies have shot machine guns at history.
So even when they  talk about the past without endless apologies, they don't mention what really happened because it doesn't suit the latest pandering to the latest clutch-and-grab of activists.
And so we trash the past and slander its leaders because a few mouthy jerks want to justify their income and existence and public rep rather than actually work for a living.
Ryerson University is being renamed because some educrats who know little about the history of influential Egerton Ryerson and the school's great six decades have been intimidated and seduced by a supposedly large movement which knows nothing about the man and the school. 
I do! And I know the man and the school were great. The hell with those who disagree, and say Egerton Ryerson was the architect of the awful Indian residential schools that crushed indigenous kids after it ripped them away from their parents.
I will spare you a recitation of all my proof that I know more about the man and the university than the name-changers but just check my biography on I will also refer you to my three blogs over recent years about the phony name crisis and the grand circus when the university was born out of post-war chaos.
But Ryerson did hire me to write the book about its early history. I did help write its first history plaques after I was student president and student newspaper editor. I did serve on several task forces, the board of governors, search committees, (my nominee, Walter Pitman, became president) advisory committees and I did teach there. I did turn down a request to head a course.
So I do know what I am talking about more than the current excuses of leaders. And when I argue the renaming was stupid, I am hardly alone. The National Post had an article April 28 by a Ryerson prof, Patrice Dutil, which began: "The renaming ... was driven by a systematic process of shaming Canadian history by outright distortions and gross misunderstandings."
The Post also had an April 6, 2021, article by Dutil and Ryerson prof Ron Stagg that outlined the wonderful background of Egerton Ryerson as one of the most significant fathers of education in Ontario and Canada. I blogged about it the next day titled Only The Ignorant Would Rename Ryerson.
It's just incredible there was not more of an uproar when Ryerson's statue, one of the most famous in the city, was destroyed. Paid for by public subscription including pupils throughout Canada and even the eastern U.S. because he brought free education to all elementary and high schools, as well as starting a museum, art gallery, art school, publishing house, and teacher's college which still exist in grander form. Strange if not shocking that I never heard any of the leaders at ROM and Victoria College and the many other offsprings of his countless endeavours defend the reputation of this giant being slaughtered by intellectual pygmies.
But then too many of our leaders are gutless when it comes to reasoning with those who say ALL our past is rooted in racism and hatred of minorities and there is nothing to do but apologize endlessly even when the indigenous claim is for land that was under water before the awful white men dumped fill. The claim has been made for areas where there was never an indigenous population according to various university studies. 
And so we trash a man who did so much for his country that he should be a national treasure.  But heck, he was one of those damn preachers who believed it was his duty to preach Christianity and serve others and actually live with the "natives" and teach them about farming and have one as his best friend. He even started agricultural experiments to test the climate.
The militant indigenous demands for more rights and money would be blessed if Egerton Ryerson were still alive because he would be a great leader for all their legitimate causes and have enough sense to caution them against their more ridiculous demands. 
A friend is writing a book about the Ryerson debacle who is an expert in indigenous history. This means he is starting from a deep hole because he knows what he is talking about and the point I have been making is that facts no longer seem to matter, especially when it comes to kowtowing on indigenous mythology. But it really doesn't matter what he knows or says because it will be ridiculed because it doesn't help whatever cause the ignorant have dreamed up to milk us. The cause is more important than any fact.
This published author told me in an email:"It's kinda scary that the professors who teach at Ryerson know so precious little about Ryerson and the true history of the Indian residential schools."
I will spare you the bile from all my fellow grads who wish that Ryerson would concentrate on just teaching instead of running around frantically trying to be in front of every trendy issue.
The response to my blog last Dec. 10 titled The Scalping of Ryerson's Past reassured me wrongly then  that the administration  wouldn't be nuts enough to go ahead with renaming once the impact sunk in of all those who thought it a bizarre idea.
Once again I turned out to be as as wrong as I was when I thought as a veteran columnist and editor who had twice rejected offers from two parties to run for them that the public would finally see through Trudeau The Lesser as he excuses his gropings and muggings and continual conflicts of interest. You would have thought they would have been warned by the shenanigans of his dad, Pete The Diffident, and his mother Margaret, who was the strangest wife of a PM that this country will ever have.
I had thought in recent years it was finally going well at what used to be slurred as Rye High, as I wrote on Sept. 21, 2019 in a blog titled Happy Birthday Ryerson University.
Ah, those were the days my friend, back when few knew much about Ryerson Institute of Technology and the grand accomplishments of Egerton Ryerson were buried in history, not hateful lies.
Our class was tiny but grads became editors and professors and columnists and publishers and even university publicists. We huddled in a glorified closet to gossip and gripe over lunch. And we made up a song and sang it in the annual student revue called RIOT (after the school initials.)
Ryerson all hail to thee
You're preferred to Ryerson
Other schools are tiresome
Cause they charge a higher sum
You are best cause you charge less
Hail to thee O Ryerson.
It did charge less, and it was also better than my time at U of T.  However, now they have sawed off the horn of the unicorn, a useful title for my book that I stole from an early Ryerson pioneer before delusions warped education at 50 Gould.
 I will never forget that ditty or my school buddies or those early years in the 1950s.
 I will never not think that Egerton Ryerson was a Goliath of education. But his name has been trashed now even though the final stage of the name change, the Legislature, a confused and reluctant parent, still has to approve it.
That probably will happen but I know as the Canadian National Exhibition president who applied for a new act to cover changes at the big fair only to have the Legislature pass the wrong language that anything can happen when MPPs get involved. 
It would be only fitting if they screwed it up. After all, everyone else has as they ignore all the facts.