Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘North Bay

How People Remember You . . .

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rabbit. . . can be fun, I’ve found, after bumping into about a dozen 70- and 80-year-olds over the past decade who recall our high-school days at Scollard Hall, the all-boys Catholic boarding school in North Bay, Ontario: — 1947 to 1952. We had a Grade 13 in Ontario in those days to give kids an opportunity to earn a few college credits before having to leave town to attend one of the handsful of universities in the bigger Canadian cities.  I was a day hop, not a boarder, and learning by osmosis more than class subjects because there were students from far away as Venezuela, Italy, England, the U.S., and most Canadian provinces.

But back to how I was remembered.

At a group gathering during a reunion, they said i must have been the model for The Fonz in TVs “Happy Days” except “He couldn’t dance like you.”

On another occasion, the old-timer leaned on his cane and said, “Yeah, you’re the guy with the three pens.” I’d forgotten about that. I used to use three pens so I could write three lines worth of detentions – penalties or punishment given for some infraction or other – such as “I will not be late for first class after lunch” 500 times. Those three pens cut down the writing time a lot. Then he added, “And you sure could jive.”

A retired salesman who had to give up a promising professional hockey career because of a shoulder that kept  separating just flat out blared, “You were the best jiver in the ‘Bay.” Another old colleague, recalling my dance-floor days, rolled his eyes and said, “Man, you made us live!”

This patter and pattern have tumbled through my mind as I recall those dazzling days when I could jitterbug/jive/swing/whatever historians call it today. It was a shuffle and shucking done to a boogie-woogie beat and, while I can’t claim to have been the best in the ‘Bay, there was no one better.

It all  began in Jack McGinty’s living room. His home is now a rooming house abutting a McIntyre Street motel. His sister, Leona, taught me when I was 14 or 15 how to cut a rug on their living-room rug. Jack and I were close friends, along with Frank Klein (who became a well-known cop and civic leader in Sault Ste. Marie), Tom Lyons (who acquired his own firm in Peterborough and became a competitor at international curling bonspiels), Dennis Murphy (who rose to monsignor-ity in the Church) and Bernie Bucholtz (who went on to play several years of professional football in western and eastern Canada). As it turned out, we were pallbearers at Jack’s funeral after he was killed in a freak traffic accident. I was 17.

I always got a picture of him in my mind when I went into swing that gave me access to every gal in town. When the beat got down, all I had to do was point to one and she skipped out and we had a boogie ball. This is said not as a boast, although it is with pride, because we both were having fun.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted out of life – to be able to have fun. And I’ve had to deal with hundreds – probably thousands – of people who have done their utmost to deter me. So I toss the big-bands CDs into the tuner and turn up the volume  just right then bob and bounce to the beat while I picture Jack and the living room where his sister taught me to boogie a long time ago in an era far away.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 26, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Added to Newspaperboy Confessions: Ch. VIII

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The perks of roaming the streets of downtown North Bay peddling the daily Nugget during the mid-‘40s were wide-ranging and the lessons long-lasting.
As I cited earlier, it developed street smarts in a 9-, 10- and 11-year-old who’d just moved into town from the bucolic burg of Feronia that was about an hour’s dirt-road drive away.
We had no electricity (our substitute was coal-oil lamp) indoor plumbing (an outhouse, of course, and washtub for once-a-week baths) central heating (piling and chopping wood and kindling for the stove was a daily chore) nor storm windows.
Our main connection with sidewalk civilization was our twice-a-month (1st and 15th were paydays) rides – we used the bus in winter because my father put the old ’30 Nash coupe on blocks – for groceries and quick visits with friends, and our battery radio that was turned on only for the nightly news.
So diving into the ‘Bay’s commercial core and culture was fantastically eye opening and educational. Without realizing it, I got to know many of the movers and shakers in the city of 18,000. I’d run in and out of the soon-to-be mayor’s jewelry store and sell him a paper if someone hadn’t beat me to him. I’d crash highly animated political (I didn’t know then that’s what they were about) debates in several of the sports and shoe shine shops along Main Street.
And I’d see Mr. Smith sneaking some suds in the Continental Hotel with a paramour Mrs. Smith ostensibly knew nothing about. These encounters usually resulted in a sale because it seemed like the cheating husband felt buying a paper sealed my lips. I never intended to hunt down his wife and tattle, but I was pleased that he thought I might if he didn’t buy a paper.
We unwittingly made life-long connections because everyone remembered you as the kid who once sold papers. In some cases, that wasn’t so good.
Among the things I learned was how you could sneak into the theaters to watch movies. A fellow paperboy said his older brother, who was an usher at one of the cinemas, told him to buy some confections once you slipped by the ticket taker. The theater made more money on the candy bars and Cokes, he said.
And there were immediately-satisfying events. Like the time I found a crumpled-up $5 bill right in front of the check-out counter at the Arcadian Grill. FIVE DOLLARS! That was about what I made in a month of newspaper sales. I showed it to the restaurant manager, and he said no one reported a loss, and then ran across the street to show it to Hector Bentley (he operated a magazine stand in front of the Post office and used crutches to get around but was always dressed in a hat, suit, shirt and tie with shoes shined at all times) and he said no one had mentioned a loss to him. It was a remunerative as well as memorable day.
Another sweet memory is stopping by Central Bakery on the way home. It was right on the bend where Main Street angled north into Klock Avenue (later Algonquin Avenue) that turned into the two-lane highway reaching north to the precious-metals mining towns of Kirkland Lake and Timmins. On most days, there would be a couple of sugar-dipped doughnuts still soaking in the sweetness at the bottom of the tray slanted in the window for display. Because it was near closing time, I would get them for half price. Even thinking of them now, they surpassed their weight in gold.
When I joined a local senior softball league a few years ago, the first team I played with was sponsored by a local doughnut shop. Their array was sweet-toothsome, but no match for those Central Bakery “leftovers” from so long ago.
– 30 –

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 11, 2015 at 8:13 am

Still More Newspaperboy Confessions Ch. VI

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Boy_SmokingBilly Larochelle and I rarely bumped into each other after I relinquished my spot in the waiting line for Nuggets to rumble off the presses six days a week in downtown North Bay. I moved to the other end of town and we went to different high schools. He also matured into an excellent multi-sport athlete. He wasn’t much bigger than I, but he had many times more talent, athletic skill and toughness.

But we spent a lot of time together for a couple of years pounding the downtown pavement selling papers and conning passersby.

The conning began rather innocently. While scurrying into and out restaurants, shops and saloons peddling our papers – he and I leap-frogged each other in our chase for customers – I managed to lose my money one day through a hole that developed in my pants’ pocket. (When I started newspaperboying, my mother gave me a little change purse but it wasn’t designed to use for gathering coins and providing change while maintaining control of an armful of papers so I did like my colleagues, I banked on – and in – my pants pocket.)  I lost more than usual because it was a payday Saturday and I was near the end of my second batch of papers. I’d bought 20 papers to start and ran back for another armful. The papers cost 2 cents each and we sold them for 3 cents. On paydays, we’d get quite a few nickels “and keep the change.” So I’d lost about a buck.

I told Billy my problem — and that I’d probably get what-for going home without any money. We were sitting on the curb in downtown Main Street and Billy thought for a minute. Then he said, “Cry.” I said, “What?” And he repeated, “Cry.” So I put my hands to my face and started “sobbing.” A couple of people stopped to see what was wrong and Billy told them I’d lost my money and that I’d get a licking if I went home without any dough. And he added some eloquent embroidery by adding that I’d been beaten up by bigger kids and my family was poor, and whatever else came to his mind.

It wasn’t long before a lady gave us  — me – a quarter to buy one of my remaining papers and a couple dropped a couple of extra nickels to buy the remainder. Then a guy who’d been drinking a bit stopped to listen and he popped a $1 bill – A $1 BILL!!! — out of his pocket and said, “Here, kid.” Hallelujah! Billy had saved my skin. But he wasn’t through. He said, “Keep going.” So I did and after a few more encounters, I – we – wound up with almost five dollars.

Billy wasn’t concerned about getting a fair share or an even split, he was just going to enjoy what we had. So we hopped to a nearby restaurant and got ourselves each a tin roof sundae (a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped heavily with chocolate sauce and handsful of salted peanuts). Then we went to a movie and got ourselves each a candy bar and a Coke. And we stopped for another tin roof after the theater. I still had about $3 left and offered to give him one dollar but he said, “Never mind.”

What he did do was have me run the same scam a few more times before we parted ways when I no longer sold papers. None but he and I ever knew about our venture. And it was certainly fun while it lasted.

When we did bump into each other on occasion around town as we grew up, one of us would just say “Cry” and we’d both break out big grins.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm

More From the Newspaperboy III

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Growing up in metropolises like New York, London, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles, Houston or Sydney is more challenging than maturing in a small town. But prowling the streets of a little city like North Bay offers the lessons of gotham without the concomitant perils.

Boy_SmokingAnd my times were different. Downtown dangers were not as brutal as in the Big City. There were plenty of guns in town, but they all huddled at home greased up for hunting season. Get into a scrape and the cop kicked your butt – hard. If a shop owner caught you shoplifting, he or she slapped you silly and then the cop kicked your butt – hard. If you got into enough of these, you were dragged home – dragged – and the cop kicked your butt – hard – before you got a licking from your parents.

But the things that went on in the alleys behind Main Street were a microcosm of – they just didn’t happen as often as —  what occurred in the after-dark recesses of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tijuana. It was exciting and exhilarating for a nine- and 10-year-old kid running loose along these streets. Billy Larochelle and I used to get free gawdawful soup to warm us up during sub-zero midwinter from the elderly Chinese couple that ran a sleazy and smell-of-vomit restaurant on Oak Street, North Bay’s slums draped around the edges of the Canadian Pacific Railroad station that was just a block and a half off Main Street..

I have no idea what kind of soup it was. I didn’t even like soup, and I never asked because it probably would have made me sick. The chairs and stools in that place were stickier than the floor with grease, grime and layers of dirt. But the old couple were as comforting as their lumpy soup was tasty as we sipped it slowly to let the freeze leave our fingers while the frost on the window kept the dark outside. Keep in mind, the winter sun goes down real early that far north.

One summer afternoon I heard a muffled boom from the CPR station and ran down when I saw some smoke coming out of everywhere. When I got there, I saw the men’s washroom smelled odd and looked like it had been stepped on, so I poked myself in. There was blood, bone and gore splashed all along the walls and packed solidly into the corners and crevices that worked their way up to the ceiling. I was the first person on the scene, which earned me a hard kick in the butt by cop who got there right after me.

I read in the paper the next day, a guy had sat down on a toilet, lighted a stick of dynamite and held it to his chest to blow the top half of himself all over the walls and ceiling. His bottom half was still left sitting on the can. I saw his boots sticking out under the battered bottom of the toilet stall.

That was exciting.

In the alley beside the Chinese couple’s restaurant, I watched Big Mary put on a show one evening. Her name was Mary Commanda and she was a large – over six feet six inches – raw boned Indian who just drank a lot. She could have been 20, 30, 40 or 50, had a gravel voice that was unmistakably hers and a glistening heart of gold. She always told me that if she ever got money to buy a paper, she’d buy it from me.  One late afternoon, during the beer-parlor closing hour, she was seated against a wall beside a pile of garbage behind the Chinese couple’s restaurant and using a beer bottle as a dildo while laughing raucously and merrily challenging any and all of the bums around her if they could match that.

That was funny.

There was the time we were almost on site when a guy we knew – everybody knew everybody in the Bay — pulled off something I could never have done. He was a clerk of some sort (timekeeper, I think) with the CPR and was walking through the morass of tracks when his boot got stuck in one of the frogs (a frog is an X-shaped chunk of rail that’s used in switching yards). As is always going on, locomotives were shunting tanker, freight and flat cars here, there and everywhere to assemble them into trains heading to the proper destinations. And a couple of the multi-ton cars had been shunted right at this guy. All he could do was lean over and let the loose-running freight cars run over his ankle and amputate his foot.

We – co-newspaperboy Eddie Walker and I – didn’t see that nor did we hear him scream but we did see him being carried to safety. His face was a white color I hadn’t seen before.

That was chilling.

 – 30 –

Written by Cecil Scaglione

March 14, 2015 at 10:33 pm

A tip of the toque to Cecil

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(A tickle and treasure by National Editor Don Wall in the February 2013 issue of FYI — “Forever Young Information, Canada’s Adult Lifestyle Publication,” online at

     It’s a familiar byline to longtime readers of FYI, and recently came word that veteran travel writer Cecil Scaglione has earned a citation in the San Diego Press Club’s 39th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards, for the second year in a row.

     Scaglione may run an editorial service out of San Diego these days, while we are here in snowy Ontario, but this colleague and I share a special link. Some time back in the mid-1990s, soon after FYI entered into a deal with him to use his writing services, we realized we were both raised in the same town, North Bay, Ont.

     Have you ever noticed how home towns seem to become more important to you, the further in time it is since you lived there? Coming from the same small town can link spirits together, and this was the case even though we determined that Scaglione never lived there when I did; he was born in the 1930s and left town to work down south (that’s Toronto!) for the Telegram in 1955, while I was born three years after that. (This means, as the North Bay joke goes, we never went to separate schools together.) So there has been a regular, soulwarming swapping of stories as we share our love for the beautiful city on the shores of Lake Nipissing.

     As for his career, after the Telegram, Scaglione moved on to the Windsor Star, the Detroit News and the San Diego Union. He started his editorial service in 1991. The feature that earned Scaglione his travel-writing award this year ran in FYI in April and was titled Chartwell: Churchill at Home. His award-winning travel piece from last year, called The Naples Nobody Knows, saw my friend visiting the hometown of his Italian ancestors. Both stories are posted on our website at

     Cecil, keep up the good work. – Don Wall

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 10, 2013 at 12:05 am

Two Good Men

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By Cecil Scaglione,  Mature Life Features

It isn’t every day I get to have lunch with a couple of priests.
Nor is it every day I travel a few thousand miles to nosh with a couple of high-school buddies whose friendship can be traced back to the 1940s. They grew up around the block from each other in the shadow of the Pro-Cathedral of the Assumption in North Bay, Ontario.
Monsignor John H. Caswell was already in the parking lot of the lakeside roadhouse when I arrived. The Right Rev. Father Dennis J. Murphy slipped in seconds later. Our last gathering had been more than a quarter century earlier when a handful of the old gang set aside an evening at Murphy’s cottage on the south shore of Lake Nipissing. It was during an alumni gathering at Scollard Hall, the North Bay high school we attended in the 1950s when a dozen or so Resurrectionists molded a couple of hundred boys into shape each year.
Since graduation, Caswell crafted a television network in Sudbury for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Murphy carved a career in Catholic education.
This Cas-Murph-Scag lunch was set up after my wife and I, now living in San Diego, decided to take an R&R (relatives and reminisces) swing up to Pennsylvania to visit her folks and to Toronto to visit my brother Louis. An auld-lang-syne visit to North Bay seemed appropriate. A quick e-mail to Caswell was all it took. His ready response was that, while both men manage crammed calendars, such meetings deserve priority since old friends are passing away with regularity.
As we greeted each other, neither priest showed signs of his recent battle with cancer. Caswell trumped esophagus cancer a few years earlier. Murphy had just completed a radiation program for his prostate problem. “I thank God for Cas’s presence during my treatments,” Murphy said later.
There was no table talk of the awards and accolades these two retired reverends logged over the years. For example, Caswell’s work with Cath-Com Productions earned him a prestigious Gabriel Award in 2005 from the Dayton, Ohio-based Catholic Academy for Communications Arts Professionals. Sharing the awards program that year was U.S. television icon and NBC news senior vice president Tim Russert, who died recently. That same year, Murphy was cited by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees for his support and service as, among other positions, director of Catholic education.
Our lunch was punctuated with a lot of pauses over the passing of associates and acquaintances, grins and nods over accomplishments by colleagues and classmates, and guffaws over dredged-up happenstances of long ago. The two clerics were eight years old when they met in 1943, shortly after the Caswells moved to the Bay from Smith’s Falls. “One of my earliest memories was being invited to play ball after supper with his family,” Caswell said. Not only did Murphy have a few brothers and sisters, he had “a big side yard.”
“We certainly played road hockey – the R.H.L (Road Hockey League) – from that time on,” Murphy added. There were touch-football games with other kids on the block. And the pair played on the same midget hockey team at Scollard Hall.
“Dennis was ahead of me in school, so he had a jump start on giving the seminary a try,” Caswell recalled. “Remember, at that time there were a number of guys from our home parish who were already ordained or in the seminary. This was inspiring in itself and, when Murph went, it was only natural that I should give it some serious thought.” Murphy attended St. Augustine’s Seminary in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough while Caswell chose St. Peter’s in London, Ontario. Caswell was unable to make Murphy’s 1960 ordination in the church that dominated their neighbourhood because St. Pete’s was not yet out for summer vacation.
But Murphy made Caswell’s two years later. “He was on Bishop (Alexander) Carter’s staff and master of ceremonies for the diocese (of Sault St. Marie) for all such events as ordination,” Caswell said. “It was a special moment for me,” Murphy added.
Murphy continued his studies in such faraway cities as Rome and Brussels, did parish work at the Pro-Cathedral and Corpus Christi church in North Bay, held administrative and leadership posts in local, provincial, and national religious and secular boards and commissions, and wrote extensively on Catholic education. He was also appointed co-ordinator of Pope John Paul II’s September 1984 visit to English-speaking Canada.
Caswell applied further education, experience and expertise to building the diocesan communications network into a polished professional organization centred around its weekly Mass for Shut-Ins telecast while taking on parish work, including several years as pastor of Christ the King church in Sudbury, Ont.
And over the decades, they nurtured and nourished their friendship. “It really is quite remarkable,” Murphy said, “that during the last almost 50 years, although I worked many of those years in Ottawa and Toronto and Cas was in the diocese, we managed to see each other often. There were the summers when I was home. The same was true for many long weekends, Christmas and Easter holidays, and so on. It didn’t seem to be any big deal, but we just stayed together.”
“We try to stay in contact as much as possible without getting in each other’s way,” said Caswell. “I have always had the enormous blessing of being considered part of his family and he was always considered part of mine. It’s a given that he and I are always there for each other, in good times and bad. If there has been any mentoring, it’s been more by example than words.”
“The business of being there for one another is true,” Murphy added, “We certainly have prayed for and remembered each other not only in … less-felicitous moments but on all the happy occasions that have been part of our lives. I don’t recall us being much into offering spiritual advice or guidance to each other but I am sure we have communicated to each other much of what we hold of value.”
Such as their ongoing friendship.


(This article originally appeared in Forever Young News)

Tuesday Apr 20, 2010

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 24, 2011 at 9:05 am

Louis’ Birthday

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‘Twas a bright afternoon 72 years ago when Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway Dr. Hall emerged from our tar-paper railroad shack in Feronia and told me he’d brought me a baby brother. I was told of making the comment, which I recall, that the doctor take him back “and throw him in the lake.” I remember the day because I was 4 1/2, old enough to remember, and  any visit from the doctor was memorable. We lived in Feronia, about seven miles from North Bay, and we received few visitors other than the farm folk who lived in the community. It wasn’t even big enough to be a hamlet. I also recalled in later years that, while I was told to stay outside and play while the doctor was there, it wasn’t all that long and I never heard any noise from inside. But I do remember it was a bright, buzzing July day out in the country — one of those days when you could hear the bugs so busy at work none were bothering you.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 17, 2011 at 6:04 am

Posted in Memories & Milestones

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