How Tough Were We? Is the Wrong Question

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I’m old and we geezers are allowed to reminisce a little bit and as I look around most of our friends remember some stuff like this. I have no idea why I thought of this one day, unless it had something to do with Mary’s cooking, but when I was a kid about 7, maybe 8, right around the end of the war, we lived on a little street in Toronto, Billings Avenue. It was just two short blocks long. At the south end was a little field. Not a big field, maybe a couple of trees, a bush or two. When you are 7 that’s a field, the whole thing would probably fit in your basement, or if you live in a condo ― I don’t know, maybe on your balcony.

That has nothing to do with the story anyway I don’t know why you have to be so nosy.

What I wanted to tell you was there was an abandoned jacket heater down there on the lot. Do you know what a jacket heater is? ― it’s a little stove. I looked it up because I wasn’t sure. But three or four of us kids would pack sticks and bits of newspaper into this beat-up old relic and set the stuff on fire – it’s a wonder we didn’t burn down the whole block. There wouldn’t have been a brain among us – a firefighter’s nightmare, and here we were playing with matches.

We baked potatoes in the fire; burned the crap out of them is what we did. Sometimes we would swipe a wiener or two from the family ice box, skewer them on a pointed stick and stick them in the fire too. The wieners always broke in two and fell off into the fire but that didn’t matter we just scraped the ashes off and ate them anyway. The potatoes were cooked according to an age-old recipe passed down from the first cave woman, the same woman also started the first forest fire as a matter of fact. We left them in there until they were burnt black, dragged them out and ate them ashes, charcoal, burning bugs and all.

Now this is where it gets interesting and why parents today should look into this. Are you ready for this?We did not die.

Kids back then were immune to everything, not like children today. None of us had any allergies either. We instinctively knew no germ in existence could survive contact with a burning potato, and the germs knew it too. We weren’t going to take a chance with that stuff.

Now let’s just say you are babysitting your grandchildren for a few hours and your daughter comes home and says to her little ones,

“Did you have fun today with gramma and gramps?

“Yes we did, mommy, and guess what, Grampa lit a fire up against the neighbour’s fence and burnt the crap out of some potatoes and were they ever good. Not only that he dropped them in the dirt, wiped them on his pants and we ate them anyway. He’s a good babysitter.

“Really? Well don’t get too fond of him; we are putting the crazy old fart in a home.”

Do you know what we ate when I was a kid? Bread and drippin’. After she cooked up a pound of bacon, mom would throw in a slice or two of bread and fry it. It’s a wonder our aortas didn’t clog up like a hockey puck but they didn’t and we are still alive to prove it.

I was going to say that bread and drippin’ didn’t do us any harm, but Doctors Devon Bhat and John Jefferies might argue the point after shepherding me through a heart attack and two bypass surgeries. Never heard of gluten either, God we were stupid. But we survived.

Some cousins of my dad had a farm somewhere north of Prescott. There was no running water in the house, just an old cast iron pump outside. We drank from the rusty tin can hanging from it, being careful of course to throw the first batch away to get rid of any creepy-crawlers that might have taken up residence therein. I vaguely remember a wooden trough all covered in green mould beside the pump that we shared with the cows. They used it for drinking; and we for bathing every Saturday.

Now that I think about it, why didn’t we die?

(Image Supplied)

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