Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for February 2015

Ease Up in Belgium’s Mechelen

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Margaret of Austria ruled the Netherlands from this palace in Mechelen, Belgium. 

Story and photo by  

Sandy Katz

MECHELEN, Belgium —- Perched on the Dijle River in the relative shadows of both Brussels and Antwerp,  this town glistened when Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, made it her capital from 1506 to 1530.

Taking advantage of Ludwig van Beethoven’s family roots, it has honored the famous composer
with an elegant statue even though he was born and raised in Bonn. The Mechelen connection
stems from Beethoven’s grandfather, who worked here as a baker, and great-grandfather, who ran a painting business.

The best way to take a look around this center for lace, baroque woodwork and drapery tapestry that’s but a an 11-minute train ride from Brussels Airport is on foot or by bicycle. There are trendy shops, friendly terraces, galleries, museums, and recreational areas for sailing, fishing, mini-golf and windsurfing.

The symbol of Mechelen is the imposing St. Rumbold’s Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site completed in 1536 in late Gothic style. If you can negotiate the stairs to the skywalk atop the tower, you are rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view. Eight historic churches fill the city center and each displays religious treasures.

The spectacular Renaissance  facade of the Palace f Margaret of Austria frontage features
her coat of arms. The building still houses the law courts but you can still enjoy some quiet and tranquility in  charming gardens. For another pleasant pastime, you can take the footpath along the back of picturesque old houses lining the Dijle.

The Kazerne Dossin is a special place of remembrance for Belgium. This center keeps alive the memory of the Holocaust and it gives a face to 19,000 of the departed.

Mechelen is just what you need for rest and respite after dashing around nearby Antwerp. Widely known as a global center for the diamond trade, Antwerp also has long been the capital of Belgium’s fashion industry. It’s also the birthplace of Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.

And it’s the home of the Red Star Line Museum that traces the late-19th- and early-20th-century immigration of Eastern Europeans through Antwerp to the United States and Canada.
Between 1873 and 1934, the Belgium shipping company Red Star Line transported approximately 2 million migrants from Antwerp to New York. What makes the Red Star Line’s passenger lists different is that it transported Eastern Europeans of Jewish origin mainly, including Irving Berlin and Albert Einstein, who were fleeing persecutions by the Czar of Russia and Hitler.

This museum is in a restored warehouse of the Red Star shipping company and mirrors the American-arrival story housed in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Not everyone who hoped for passage through Antwerp was allowed to leave on the 10-day transatlantic voyage. Everyone had to pass a medical examination first.

Between visits to the many historical gems around this country, you can sample its tasty specialties along the way. Belgium Waffles, which were introduced to America at New York’s 1964 World’s Fair, are available from street vendors and in gourmet restaurants. They’re usually served warm and dusted with confectioner’s sugar or topped with whipped cream, soft fruit or chocolate.

Potato fries – French Fries – are part of Belgium’s culinary cultural heritage. They are often eaten with mayo or served with mussels or Flemish stew. There are more than 50 dipping sauces to choose from.

Belgium endive is a popular vegetable, as are Brussels sprouts. And Belgian beer is featured in a number of recipes. Beer Central, which offers 300 types of bottled beers and has 20 beers on tap, is the perfect bar to jump into the Belgium beer culture. Connoisseurs favor Belgian beer for its variety, flavor and character. It has enjoyed the unparalleled reputation for its specialty beers since the Middle Ages.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2015

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 15, 2015 at 11:33 am

Further Confessions of a Newspaperboy

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V-E Day prepared me for covering such news events as downtown fires, tumultuous strikes, Detroit riots and similar chaos during my later career as a newspaperman. The prime rule is: Keep Moving.


Downtown North Bay became bedlam on Victory in Europe Day. We dodged army tanks, drunken soldiers and whooping civilians as we wiped our eyes of tears induced by the celebratory smoke bombs bursting endlessly all around. It was early afternoon on May 8, 1945  when the bells rang and we scrambled out of school. Someone – I think it was Clare Salidas who lived two houses away – was running and shouting about the war being over and hauling our ass downtown to sell the newspaper Extras that would carry the news.

It was the end of more than five years of headlines scoring the wins and losses of Allied troops (highlighting Canadians) versus Hitler’s hordes overseas. It meant husbands, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, relatives and neighbors no longer would be fed into the war machine.  It meant those in prisoners-of-war camps would be coming home. It meant we would no longer glimpse enemy prisoners of war — their uniform featured a denim jacket/smock with a large bright-red circle on the back — stretching their legs as the trains stopped at the CNR station en-route to camps out in the Prairies. It meant no more rationing. It meant time to party. As the end-of-war news tore through town, soldiers stationed at the local barracks spilled out in tanks and jeeps and, when they ran out of vehicles, ran out themselves. They chewed up the pavement rumbling up and down Main Street. I don’t recall any shots, blank or otherwise, being fired but the town was smothered by the smoke bombs popping everywhere.

All the stores closed. The staff and merchants joined the public party. My indelible first lesson was to keep moving in a crowd because you never know what turns it will take. I don’t recall if the Nugget gave us the papers that day but I had about at least a couple of dozen. I still had most of them when I got home even though I had sold them many times over.

Everyone was either drunk or acted like it. Soldiers, women, old men were all yelling, “Hey, kid, gimme a paper.” They’d flip a quarter or a dollar at me — a couple of different guys each tossed a $5 bill at me — and rarely took a paper. Soldiers and civilians alike tossed bottles of booze and beer at each other to share. Guys were climbing lampposts to try to see over the smoke. Gals were dancing in and around the moving vehicles.

The iconic sailor-kissing-a-girl on the streets of New York on V-J Day some three months later was rather tame compared with what went on during V-E day in downtown North Bay. For example, I saw one couple in kahki and swirling skirt enthusiastically making unabashed love in the front alcove of Fosdick’s Book Store. I don’t recall seeing any pictures of that. To a 10-year-old kid, all this was great fun.

It was well after dark when I dumped my papers and headed home. At the kitchen table, I counted my money. My usual tote was around to 50 cents. My V-E Day income was almost $45, which was more than my father made in a week as an Ontario Northland Railway section hand.

– 30 –


Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 9, 2015 at 6:10 pm

If we’re supposed to …

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. . . live it up happily and carefree  because “tomorrow we may die,”

why am I so stressed out about paying my bills?

— Cecil Scaglione

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 6, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Posted in A Musing

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