Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: September 29, 2020 at 9:24:33 AM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>, John Wardle <john.t.wardle@gmail.com>

Note…I hope this story does not seem silly…then again what if it does…who cares?
John…take a look…you do not need to send the story out if it seems off the wall.

EPISODE 129     PM PIERRE TRUDEAU VISITS PCI…and has to take a leak

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

If the hat fits , wear it.  Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green, Bloc….or no hat at al.   IN the long run Canadian political parties
are not that different…and that is something of which we should take pride.

Backwards!   We have not got our politics all backwards as in this picture.  Deep down we like each other.

In Canada, I believe we follow the Rodney King look  upon life.  Remember him?  Beaten up in California he asked the
police, “Why can’t we all get along?”  The  difference between Bananas and peaches, between tomatoes and lemons is
greater than the differences between Liberals, Conservatives, Greens and New Democrats.   We can ‘all get along.’  Let’s keep
it that way.  We can talk to each other.  Most of us do not even belong to a political party.


We watched the Trump – Biden show  last night.  Shocked!  Made  me think about the
day Pierre Elliott Trudeau visited Parkdale Collegiate many years ago.  that was 
a gentler time maybe.   But the more I thought about that visit the more I came to 
believe Canadian democracy has much to recommend.

One quotation comes to mind about the  Trump – Biden fiasco….”Democracy is a troubled spirit whose dream
if  it dream presents only visions of hell.”  That sure was the case last night.  Visions of  hell”
Even subtle suggestions of civil war.  A debate that was Out of control presenting visions of 
hell.    I  would not invite President Trump to speak to my class.   But I did indirectly
invite PM Pierre Trudeau to come … and he  came

(A Grade Ten class at Parkdale C.I, west end Toronto)

“OK, gang, I have an idea.”
The class hurly burly settled down and most of the grade ten
students at Parkdale Collegiate in Toronto seemed in a listening mood.
“I think we can cajole the Prime Minister to join us.”
“In person?”
“Yes, in person,”
“Why us?”
“Because our riding is up for grabs in this election.”
“What’s the plan, sir?”
“You simply write him a note…an invitation.”
“Would it not be better for you to write the note, sir?”
“Nope.  Trudeau likes young people.   He loses  patience with older people…particularly
teachers I believe.  Too pompous.”
“Any tips, sir?”
“Keep it simple.”

So they wrote a letter.   Several letters as  I remember.  Written in Grade Ten language with
minimum of flattery.  Hand written…straightforward, some spelling errors.   Most of the students did not expect
the Prime Minister would ever visit our class.   But they went along with the plan.

And then, about a week later, we got a note from the Prime Minister…quite  personal.
The answer was a “Yes” he would visit our school…hopefully our class.

Then the whole adventure took on a life of its  own.

Unfortunately the visit was taken out of our hands as  the whole school  got excited.

“We will have to open the auditorium for everyone.  This is a great honour.”

So the visit was not to our classroom and, really, our Grade Ten students were sort
of shouldered aside.  That did not bother them as much as I expected. It bothers me
today.  Initially I thought One of the students
would introduce the PM and another would  do the thank you.  That was the initial plan
but staff changed it a bit.  Our staff of 60 teachers got excited.  The visit got to be
teacher dominated which was partly my fault. Trudeau sent word that he would like to to a Q and A with 
the kids.  Insisting the meeting be student centred.  That much I liked.  There were other
aspects of the planned visit that I did not like very much.  

A few teachers got really concerned that some of our outspoken and out of control students
would make the visit into a disaster by rude questioning.  Like “Mr. Prime Minister you only
came here to get votes.”  etc.etc.   Wild, even rude, questions did not bother me as I believed
Trudeau liked that kind of questioning from young people.

No matter.  Some teachers  decided  to keep a close eye on our more outspoken students.
And I was asked to chair the Q and  A from the stage.  The visit was getting goddamn pompous
but I agreed.  In retrospect that was a mistake.  A student should have had that job.  We had  
students that would have done a fine job sitting on stage with the PM.  A shy student would
have been terrific.  The PM would have liked that I thought.  

In short , we over organized the visit.  Too much teacher input.  Very little student input.
My Grade Ten class was not upset really.    None wanted the spotlight as I remember.
Now, decades later, I wish I had not chaired the meeting.  Trudeau would have loved to see
a student from the grade Ten class on stage.   He did meet some of them personally
though and that was quite wonderful.

As mentioned  the visit took a life of its own.  I was surprised when a day before
the official visit an RCMP detachment arrived with a sniffer dog…or maybe more than
one sniffer dog.  They did  not announce their presence but searched and smelled
the whole school  from basement even to the roof.  A search for bombs.  Wow!
This visit was getting the full treatment.   

Then, the next day, the PM arrived  with an escort of unmarked vehicles.  He had bodyguards
and also  political people with him.  But it was Trudeau who led the group.  We greeted
him at the front door.   Shook hands  He seemed a bit agitated.

“Thanks  for coming…(what should I call him?  I decided to use no special term)…My
class is very excited…flattered.”

PM Trudeau stil seemed a bit agitated when he leaned closer to me saying:

“Where can  I take a leak?”

“The principal’s office over here.”

And so he disappeared for a leak.

At this point one of our teachers sort of bulled through the crowd.  “Where is the
Prime Minister?  I just love him.”

I pointed to the Principal’s office and she zipped away in that direction.  She went
right into the office.   Trudeau  was taking a leak.  Apparently she stood  outside
the washroom door and greeted him.  I think he took that rudeness in his stride.
His bodyguards could not stop her.  I do not think a  CNR locomotive could have
stopped her.  It was no big deal anyway.

What is my point?  Not much.  It is just so human.  Nothing special…a normal

Trudeau then took to the stage.  He stood with an open microphone taking
questions from the kids just like any teacher wold have done in class.  it was
very laid back.  I was not needed on the stage snd had the good sense to
sit there and  keep my mouth shut.  Even when one  teacher moved in
on a student who seemed bent on embarrassing the Prime Minister. The kid
was removed.  Too bad.  Trudeau  would have liked a few sparks  flying.


Really our student experience  with political life in Canada was very relaxed…friendly, honest,
straight answers to questions.  The visit lacked pomposity.   It was so far
distant from the Trump – Biden debate.   Polite. Maybe  even boring.

What would  I do  if facing students today after the insult laden American Presidential 
debate?   How could I be impartial if I was an American teacher.  One thought 
came to mind.  “Democracy can  only work well if there are two political parties
that are not distant from each other…parties that we would  call centrists…neither
extreme left nor extreme right.   Parties not so filled with hate for each other that
they welcome the prospect of  violence.”   I read  something life that somewhere.
Seemed sensible to me.  I am not a member of any political party and have voted
for all three on different occasions.

Certainly I do not see the rift between parties as  deep and
hostile … The Grand  Canyon.   Full hatred.  Fire and Brimstone.  And 
that has a fascination for sure.  

Our political life cannot compare.   Boring.  Nice.  The Prime Minister
has to take a leak.  The school staff worry he might be asked a rude
question.  The  Prime  Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, responds to an invitation
by Grade Ten students.   So ordinary.  So nice.  No apologies.

You want to know something I suspected?  I do not think many of
my students knew whether Trudeau was a Liberal or a Conservative.
There was no big difference.  And that…that makes all the difference.

alan skeoch
Sept. 29, 2020



alan skeoch
Sept. 2020


The broken finger did not hurt that much.  It just got in the way … affected my typing.  Devastated
my ability to take notes in class and to do homework.   All else was quite normal.

I could still  play football.
Even though scheduled for surgery in mid season.  Did I need surgery?  I do not remember how that 
happened because our family was not dependent on doctors at all.  Maybe mom
thought it was necessary.  But that operation sure changed my life.   Short term change
was for the worst.  Long term change was for the best.

The surgery was slated for early October. Part way through the football season in 1956.  No need to 
tell anyone.  I just got on the bus and streetcar and went down to St. Jospeh’s hospital on the appointed
day.  Surely such  a small operation would not affect my football playing…or my schoolwork.

Things did not go well at the hospital.  I was cloistered in a day surgery bed. Then a nurse came in
and began shaving my right arm.  “Why are you doing this?”  “To make sure the arm is clean.”
“But that’s my right arm, the surgery is for my left hand finger.”  “Sorry , extend your left arm.”

I wondered if the nurse was, like me, left handed and confused.  No matter i was prepared.  Then
given a shot of some kind of local anesthetic and wheeled into the holding bed just outside the
surgery room.  A long wait.

Finally I was  wheeled into the surgical room.  It was a bit intimidating because the room had a gallery
for nurses and doctors…and maybe others…to wach the surgery.  I was on my back looking at them
when the first cut was made.   IT HURT…REALLY HURT BADLY.  I screamed.  The doctor turned to
the nurse  “When was this boy given the local?”   Turned out the anesthetic had worn off so they gave
me another shot of something then proceeded open up my finger and put the bones in place then drive
a long wire down the centre with its end protruding from the finger tip.   

There was blood.  I know that because some dripped out of the  cast as I went back to school
on the street car.  Mom and dad were both working.  I told them I would be OK on my own.
That was not the case.  At school once the antithetic wore there was pain but it was tolerable.
I even went out to football practice after school but did not get into the usual rough and tumble.

I was ready and willing to play by game day and managed to make a good shoestring
tackle stopping the ball carrier.  Coach Burford commented….”Good job, Skeoch” and may have 
noticed my hand was in a cast.   I had not told him.  That was my last game for 1956. Playing was just too risky.

I was soon in trouble at school  My left hand was in a cast.  I could not write…no notes, no homework.
And, worse, I was in Grade 13 and would face  departmental examinations in June.   I felt just terrible…
like my whole world was collapsing mourned me.  The teachers must have noticed because
coaches Burford and Griffiths cornered me in the hall months after the football season ended.
They asked me if football was at fault.  The phrased that differently …i.e more carefully.
“At fault for what?”  They seemed to know my schoolwork was in free fall.  I felt helpless.
By the time my cast was removed and the wire pulled out of my finger I was way behind and 
having difficulty with some subjects, particularly Physics.  But I did not want to admit it.

In the departmental examinations I felt I did OK in most subjects. Not stellar. But I could write… maybe
well enough to meet the minimum for university acceptance. Lots of blanks in my memory though. Then I had the black out in
the Physics exam.  I could not remember one simple term…”S” … 
in the mathematics of Physics.  So simple.  But my mind was blank.  Embarrassing, doubly so
because our Physic teacher, Jack Griffiths, was also the senior football coach.


The results were mailed in July.  I was working with a survey crew near Cochrane in Northern Ontario at the time.  When the letter 
arrived I slipped away from our bunkhouse to an abandoned shithouse outside an abandoned school.  I remember it so
well.  A big double seater…blue or green…solid.  The letter scared  me even before I opened  it.  I knew the word
would be bad but had a faint hope I might make the bare minimum of 75% average.  

Let me  cut to the quick.  My average was 72 or 73%…not good enough.  I think I failed Physics.  Must have failed
because of the black out.   My marks were too low for admission to the University of Toronto.  Mom and dad would
not be a  problem.  They were the kind of parents that support their kids through thick and thin. All the same I
faced a dilemma.  Was my school career over?  Or should I go back to Humberside for another year?  A failure.
I thought about that the whole summer. What to do?   Alone and humiliated.  I think I dropped the letter in the

When September came I decided to bite the bullet and go back to Humberside. I knew it would be embarrassing.
Mom and dad did not interfere but I knew mom thought returning to school was a good idea.  Worst part
of returning was that my brother was in Grade 12.  I would be his loser brother coming back for another year
in Grade 13.   That first day back was excruciating.

At least it felt so until I found my best friend Russ Vanstone was in the same position.  And many many others
whose names I will not say.  It took guts to go back.  And it would take years for me to admit my failure.  I now
know that failure is part of  our human condition.  We all fail sooner or later.  Many of us fail many times.
It is not the failure that is so important.  It is how a person reacts to failure that is important. Having Russ
with me was a great support.  We ‘soldiered’ on through life together.

I blamed my little finger for the failure.  Now that is a laugh.   The finger may have been part of the problem
but there were others problems.  Like not doing homework.  Our house was very small…one bedroom.
Shared by our dad when he worked nights.  Mom on the middle room couch always.  Dad on the front
room couch when he was on the day shift at Dunlop Tire Corporation.  No place to study or do homework.
Now That’s a laugh.  Blaming our house for my failure.  

Deep down I knew the failure was my fault.  And I was determined to make the best of things.  That year
I actually got to enjoy homework…reading was always a favourite occupation with me.  An escape.
I asked Mr. Cruickshank whether I could write the history final by my own studying. The same with English
and Mrs.  Charlesworth.  They gave me permission.  I did not know that teachers success was measured
by the marks their students got in the annual department of education common exams. They could have refused. They said OK.
They also did not make me feel like a failure.  They wanted me to succeed. Nice teachers who I admired
even if Mrs. Charlesworth had lifted me off the ground by my ear for skipping her detention one day.
(She was the girls volleyball coach. I decided to spend the detention in the girls gym rather than
her English room.  Easier on the eyes if you get my meaning. Seemed OK to me.  Not to her.)


DO not get the idea I was some kind of nerdy suck that year.  I became a good student.  I know that..,proud
of it actually.  But there was  a sharp learning curve.  Like my being Suspended!    A couple of the tougher guys in the
school asked me to join them by skipping school for an afternoon just ‘spot’ one of he enemy
teams…maybe it was Riverdale.  I thought this was a good idea to help the coach.The three of us went to their game and noted their top players…the plays 
they used most of the time.  The quarterback…etc. etc.  Really sort of stupid was my first thought as we
sat there among the Riverdale fans.

Next day

“ Would Vic —— and Ted —— and Alan Skeoch report to the VP right now”  Ted had taken me to shoot
pool at a rough billiard hall in the Junction in the past.  W.E. Taylor, our principal actually came to the pool
hall and escorted us back to school.  A good man.  He cared about us all.  But this seemed different.
Mr. Herman Couke was our Vice Principal.  ..in charge of discipline.
“I would like to see each of you separately.”
Vic then Ted went in and came out ‘suspended’ from school for a week.
Then came my turn.  I was not a bad  kid.  Not really tough.  Never in big trouble at school. So I
was terrified when I met Mr. Couke.
“Now, Alan, I have to treat everyone equally….”
What great words.  That means I was being suspended as well as Vic and Ted.  I shook Mr. Couke’s hand.  
“Thank you, Mr. Couke…thank you.”  What a relief.
  I had been treated
the same as Vic and Ted.  Suspended.  Wonderful. To be treated otherwise would have had awful implications.

As with most negative experiences in my life,  I took a good look. “Why the hell did I do that.
Why did I skip school to spot Riverdale.  That was poor sportsmanship for sure.”  And that would
never happen again.  Any spare time I had that year would be spent reading.  With the exception of
one of Streak McLelland’s sex talks….like the talk on safes.  Most of the time I read.  Self selected books,,,
all of Charles Dickens and Hardy…then Steinbeck and even some socialist philosophy.  And the biography
of Dwight Eisenhauer.  Books of all kinds…not guided titles.  I had a journal
that broke the days into half hours.  Each half hour I had a reading target.  If I finished early then I got
a five minute reward to see what girls were in the reading room as well.

That broken little finger had turned into a good luck charm.  My life became a total joy that year.  
Shakespeare said it best.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

William Shakespeare


What a great year I had.  Very hard to believe really.  And undeserved I knew deep down
there were other athletes far better than me.  But I could hit hard….block and tackle.  Never would I touch
the football but we on the line did provide a route for our halfbacks and fullbacks to score.  I was even elected co-captain
of the senior team…and President of the Boys Athletic Association.  Honours that I could not believe.
Then one morning both coach Burford and Griffitsh called me aside with wonderful news.

“Alan, you have been chosen for both All Star City teams…the Toronto Star and the Toronto Telegram.”
I was speechless.
“And Alan, we hope you realize this is as much a tribute to our team as an honour for you.”
“I know that.  I also know there are far better athletes on our team than me.  Rich Mermer is
the best athlete I have ever seen.  He should be the winner.”
“He is a halfback…beaten out by other halfbacks.  We know he is a fine person.”
“There is more to this honour.  There is a special All Star team dinner at Hart House
and you can take three guests.”
“My mom and dad for two…and would you come as my third guest Coach Burford.?”
He loved the chance to go.  My girlfriend at the time was a little miffed by the fact
she was not asked.  The love affair was going nowhere but it took a little time for both
of us to admit that.  This failure to invite her was just one nail in that coffin.

My final year at Humberside was terrific.  This picture was published in the Toronto Star after a victory.  Grant Weber was our
Fullback, a glory position but he got the shit beaten out of him often.  I was a left guard, a protector of the fullback.  That final
year for reasons unknown to me I was the All star Left Guard recognized by both the Toronto Star and the Toronto Telegram,
daily newspapers.   Of course there were other All Stars.  The best athlete I have ever seen in my life, Rick Mermer, went
unrecognized as did my fellow lineman Russ  Vanstone whose forearm smash hit like cement.
My victory was mystifying but wonderful.

These honours all sound so terribly vain.  And undeserved really.  How do I speak of
them without sounding like a pompous ass?   That takes me back to the broken finger.
Without that broken finger none of this would have happened.  I just want to make the
point that sometimes when everything is going wrong and you feel lower than a snake
in a rut life may not be bleak forever.  Failure is a learning experience.  Savour it.

other honours followed.  The Wildman Trophy and then I was even chosen as
Head Boy by my new Grade 13 classmates.  It was a cornucopia of good things.
Vanity?  Probably too much of that.  Not bad for a kid that could not tell the difference
between right and left.

My marks were good on the 1957-1958 departmental exams.  Middle of the pack
kind of good.  Not the top of the mountain kind of good.  I was accepted at the University of Toronto,
Victoria College campus.   Great.  Just great.  But why am I going there?
Why am I university bound when our parents were distinctly working class…mom
a sweatshop worker in the needle trade and Dad a truck tire builder. Both
proud and skilled workers.  But neither ever darkened a  university hallway.

I had no idea.  No idea why I was going to university.  So I was careful when 
choosing courses.  I did not want to fail again even if failure was a part 
of the learning curve.  I loved the stories of history…the people.  Not the
judgmental part nor the oneupmanship competition.  I loved English as
well and for the same reason…the human stories.  And I really loved philosophy
as presented by Dr. Marcus Long at University College.  It took some time for me
to realize I was a humanist.


Maybe I chose university so I could still play football.  Today football is as dead
as a Dodo bird at Victoria College.  Not even lamented sadly.  That is one of
the tragedies of modern university education.  No intra mural football teams.
The field where we practised is now some kind of fenced off flower garden.
Football has become A ‘wasteland’ if I might twist T.S. Eliot’s words.

“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?”

Our football practice field is now a dead place.  When we were there in 1961 it was
alive with the sound of men and boys making guttural noises and laughing at
themselves.  Now it is ’stony rubbish’.

Let me cut to the biggest event in my life that happened on that field when the field
was alive.  My simple answer to people asking why I went to university.  Truth.  I was 
looking for a wife.  Pure and simple goal that made sense to me. That is a lifetime decision.

And it happened on the Victoria College football field.  God’s truth.

We were doing our warm up.  Running in a great oblong circuit around the field.  Talking
and laughing.  Then I looked up at a fourth floor window of Margaret Addison Hall which
was the Women’s residence…really the girls’ residence.  An attractive young person was
watching us.  I knew her from a Soph Frosh dance the day before. so I yelled

“What are you doing tonight?”
Then continued my circuit with the boys.  Next time round, she yelled
“Nothing much.”
“Meet you at seven in the student car.”

So simple.  So amusing.  So short a comment for a lifetime decision.

Why was  she looking out that window?

“I was looking for Jimmy Randall from North Bay.  His girlfriend wanted
me to say hello.”   Looking for Jimmy.  Not even looking for me.  Such
happens when the dice are rolled.  Marjorie soon got to know all the
boys on the team.  She even became a cheerleader for the SPS football
team…the Engineers…the opposition.

That’s where Bob Cwirenko was the outside corner backer.  Neither of us knew that
until in one game I threw a good cross body and took him out.  What did he say”
Maybe, “goddamn Victoria bastard.”  No.  Bob said and I remember this clearly.
“Nice block Alan.”  We had both been members of the Humberside teams.  We did
not know each other well but both had the same feelings about university…nervous.
Why were we there?   His family had trekked across Eastern Europe to escape the
horrors of post World War II as had many Humbersiders.  We still meet for luncheons
to this day.  

Why tell you this?  Because being a member of those teams was a lifelong 
experience.  A bonding that even extended into marriage.  Russ Vanstone and I
even married roommates…had children…had careers…met often and still do.

Recently Marjorie insisted I attend a Victoria College meeting with the Principal last 
year.   The place seemed dead to me because our field was ‘stony rubbish’ so
I asked the Principal how the College manages to hold boys who seem lost.’
He admitted that there were problems.  There would be fewer problems if they
kept the sports program healthy in my opinion.  Another problem, however, is
the lofty academic standards.  Lots of kids come with marks in the high 90’s.
I taught high school for 31 years.  Not many boys had those grades because
the fires of spring burned too brightly.  i.e. They were very interested in girls.

Summed up.  There is no longer a football field at Victoria College.  There is
a big library but somehow the isolation of a reading cubicle does not cut it
as much with me. Sue I spent a lot of time in those cubicles.  But not all the time.


I was a lowly lineman. I never felt that way however.  I felt my job was integral to 
team success.  On my right was our new centre, Russ Vanstone, whose forearm
smash after snapping the ball was awesome…having experienced the forearm
in practice.  “Wow, Russ, where did you get the power>” “When I snapped
the ball my arm was way back…lots of leverage sweeping forward and up.
How did it feel?” “Like a block of cement in motion.”

 On my left was a new guy.  Big guy.  Super friendly guy who just
loved the game.   His name is Edward Jackman,  ex student from Upper Canada
College.  His family were great donors to various charities.  Well healed folk in
other words.  I did not know this until I really got to know Ed.   We became 
good friends through many changes in our lives.  Still are. The son of a tire 
Bilder and sweatshop worker…side by side with the son a leader in finance whose
brother was destined to become Lt. Gov. of Ontario.

One football game comes to mind.  We were playing against a very tough
St. Michael’s College team.   We were also tough so do not get the idea we
were crybabies.  

On the line there is an expectation that both offensive and defensive lineman
will launch themselves against each other.  Force meets force.  We are only
about a yard (metre) apart so the crash of bodies is not fatal.  Rare injuries.
Often good natured body against body.  Not a romance though.  

Well on this particular day my opposing lineman did not charge.  He took a
step back and waited for my charge whereupon he lifted his knee forcefully
into my mouth.  Bloody bastard.  Back in the huddle I said to Ed Jackman,
“That son  of a bitch opposite me is not charging.  Instead he is kneeing
me in my mouth.  Turning my mouth into hamburger.”  That’s too many
words.  There was No time for such
a long comment.  “Bastard is kneeing me in my mouth.”  There, that’s

Ed Jackman, Marjorie and Alan Skeoch

One odd twist of fate occurred when Ed became a Dominican priest.   That allows
me to kid him a lot about that game against St. Mike’s so long ago.

Eddie’s response was immediate.   “Step back when the play is going to
the right.  I’ll deal with him.”  Remember we are the left side linemen…ball
carrier would be going to the right.  So the next chance I stepped back
and Eddie gave the guy a good solid kick in the balls.  Message was
received.  My mouth was spared.

As a result Eddie and I became friends for life.  And he is now a Dominican
priest.  I rib him often about that kick he let loose.

Would I have met Eddie had I not broken my little finger?  Possibly I suppose.


Yes, football is a violent sport.  Football players do get hurt in the games and sometimes their
injuries are life changing.  But we also had one hell of a lot of fun.  And we met each other in a non academic
forum.  No need for one upmanship posturing.  We socialized.  Some of us got in the atrocious habit
of going to the King Cole Room in the ritzy Park Plaza hotel for a few draughts of beer.  That was after i gave up
trying to stop the the  team from drinking.  I must have been a real prick in my temperance role.  Thankfully
a female friend from Humberside broke that.  “Alan, you need to take a drink…join in…you need to change.”
I have always taken criticism seriously.  Not offended.  Camilla was right.  So I joined the boys for draughts
in the KCR and the Embassy and other watering holes.  Eric and I could not afford many draughts…maybe two
or three. the glasses at the time were small.   

We were really silly…immature.  Lucky to be able to be that way.  Like the time we came out of
the KCR and found Hugh folded neatly into the big Municipal garbage can on the corner of
Bloor and University Avenues.   Today he would not fit in the slot…but back then the tub was big
enough to sleep in and there was no danger of a compacter crushing a sleeper.

THE BOB APPLE BATTLE  (now just a fading memory if that)

Violence can sometimes seem funny.  I know some readers  will take offence at this story.  Sorry
about that.  At Victoria back then in 1961 and 1962 there was the annual Bob Apple Battle where
freshman were expected to capture a Vic Beany that was nailed to the  top of a big pole.  Sophomores
defended the pole throwing heaps of garbage…apples, maybe, more likely softer fruit like tomatoes.
Our sophomore leader was a bit on the pompous side.  Maybe he put down football playing as juvenile.
Not sure why Russ and I disliked him.  Maybe no reason.  Maybe it was just the devil getting into our

To get ammunition for the Bob Apple Battle both sides gathered garbage. Messy stuff.  We decided…maybe
it was more my fault but Russ was a partner in the crime even if he denies it today…no matter.  I decided 
to get slop from a restaurant on Yonge Street.  Slop?  The stuff skimmed off dirty plates or the excess  slime
of food preparation…really bad stuff.  So bad that it had to be carried in a pail.

No one really knew us in the rough and tumble of the battle.  So we posed as freshman.  Then pinned 
down our target.  One doing the pinning, the other doing the pouring.  Isn’t that about the worst behaviour
imaginable.  Disgusting.  Somehow the slop sliding off our targets face drained away his pomposity.
Or so we rationalized.

Now is it possible to get this email to the President of Victoria College, maybe he or she can explain
to me why the Bob Apple Battle was cancelled.  There must be a good reason for the cancellation of
such a mild initiation to university.  Surely it was not because the battle was silly.
But I cannot understand why it was cancelled. (sarcasm)  Was it cancelled in 1962 because of our misbehaviour.  I hope not.
How rude and insensitive can you get Skeoch?  I know. I know.

At least one of the Victoria College professors, Prof Grant, came to watch the proceedings with
interest.  Not sure about the rest of them.

A few years later, around 1966 or 1967, the whole football extra curricular sport was also cancelled.
Sad. Really Sad.  

The grads of my generation were very very lucky.  Employers wanted us..  We had choices.  We were those
lucky kids born in 1938, 1939, 1940…luckiest generation of human beings ever born.  I am serious.  That
comment is not just a figment of my imagination.

Our lives ran on parallel courses.  We married room mates.  Russ married Anne Hilliard.  I married
Marjorie Hughes.   And we both…all four of us I mean…got into the baby production business as
you will see below..

Enough said…more than enough said…way too much said.

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

Fwd: EPISODE 127 Fall colours… sept. 2020 with an explanation


Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: EPISODE 127 Fall colours… sept. 2020 with an explanation
Date: September 26, 2020 at 10:56:25 AM EDT
To: Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>, Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, John Wardle <john.t.wardle@gmail.com>

EPISODE 127     FALL COLOURS…2020    (with an  explanation)

alan skeoch
Sept .2020

Here  are some of the fall colours that I am sending early  so that some of you or all of you can 
get out and see them.  

What about finishing the Violence theme?  I  know…I know.  The story is written but has to be changed.    

I know or at least I hope you are looking forward to Part 2 of the Little Finger Story.  The reason I  am reticent to send it is that it seems
too egocentric.  Who wants to hear about nice things that happen to some people. Who really cares  about my life story?  That is my
problem,  The damn story just seems too egocentric.   When I get the nerve to send  it please forgive.

 My last year of high school made me very nervous.  There were failures.  It took me some time to understand that failures are common
in life.  Lots  of them.  The important things is the response to failure.   That last year in high school taught me that great lesson.
And then it turned into one of the best years of my life…followed by wonderful years at university.  It is written but I think I have to reduce
the good things…sounds vain… like too much bragging. Like sitting with a person who only talks about himself or herself…triggering one
thought,  “How the hell can I get away!”

Here is a twist.   Someone asked me once why I went to university of Toronto back in 1959.  My answer
came immediately.  “Hopefully to find  a wife.”  The way I figured out my life was that most things passed by…some in days, others months
and years.  But marriage could  be a lifetime so therefore was  more important than all  others.

How does this  connect to Football and my broken little finger?   Well, if I have the nerve you will see in the next Episode.  Meanwhile
here are some pictures that are best right now.  In a month they will be skeletons.

Let me put this story differently.  I hope readers  can look back at their lives and see that good  things happened sometimes  in the
darkest hours.  When I taught high school some outstanding students  worried me the most.  They had never tased  failure and
when failure happened as it does  in life they might have the greatest difficulty handling it.   The kids that tasted failure seemed  to
have the best chance of success.   Too much failure, of course, is deadly.  

Will I have the nerve to send Episode 128?  Maybe.  

Meanwhile … get outside if you can…find a tree.

alan skeoch
Sept. 25, 2020

P.S.   As I write this note on the last Saturday morning in September 2020, the Covid 19 cases are surging.   When I started writing these
Episodes I expected them to number around  14 not 127.   We are in troubled times for sure so take care.   Our leadership at the top seems
sound so let’s take the simple advice…wear a mask, wash your hands and keep socially distant.  You can do that and  still enjoy
the fall colours.

EPISODE 127 Fall colours… sept. 2020 with an explanation

EPISODE 127     FALL COLOURS…2020    (with an  explanation)

alan skeoch
Sept .2020

Here  are some of the fall colours that I am sending early  so that some of you or all of you can 
get out and see them.  

What about finishing the Violence theme?  I  know…I know.  The story is written but has to be changed.    

I know or at least I hope you are looking forward to Part 2 of the Little Finger Story.  The reason I  am reticent to send it is that it seems
too egocentric.  Who wants to hear about nice things that happen to some people. Who really cares  about my life story?  That is my
problem,  The damn story just seems too egocentric.   When I get the nerve to send  it please forgive.

 My last year of high school made me very nervous.  There were failures.  It took me some time to understand that failures are common
in life.  Lots  of them.  The important things is the response to failure.   That last year in high school taught me that great lesson.
And then it turned into one of the best years of my life…followed by wonderful years at university.  It is written but I think I have to reduce
the good things…sounds vain… like too much bragging. Like sitting with a person who only talks about himself or herself…triggering one
thought,  “How the hell can I get away!”

Here is a twist.   Someone asked me once why I went to university of Toronto back in 1959.  My answer
came immediately.  “Hopefully to find  a wife.”  The way I figured out my life was that most things passed by…some in days, others months
and years.  But marriage could  be a lifetime so therefore was  more important than all  others.

How does this  connect to Football and my broken little finger?   Well, if I have the nerve you will see in the next Episode.  Meanwhile
here are some pictures that are best right now.  In a month they will be skeletons.

Let me put this story differently.  I hope readers  can look back at their lives and see that good  things happened sometimes  in the
darkest hours.  When I taught high school some outstanding students  worried me the most.  They had never tased  failure and
when failure happened as it does  in life they might have the greatest difficulty handling it.   The kids that tasted failure seemed  to
have the best chance of success.   Too much failure, of course, is deadly.  

Will I have the nerve to send Episode 128?  Maybe.  

Meanwhile … get outside if you can…find a tree.

alan skeoch
Sept. 25, 2020

P.S.   As I write this note on the last Saturday morning in September 2020, the Covid 19 cases are surging.   When I started writing these
Episodes I expected them to number around  14 not 127.   We are in troubled times for sure so take care.   Our leadership at the top seems
sound so let’s take the simple advice…wear a mask, wash your hands and keep socially distant.  You can do that and  still enjoy
the fall colours.



We left Mississauga at 10 a.m. and drove east with no particular goal…all self-contained with
lunch and water and Woody.  Those of you in semi isolation might like to duplicate the trip
which is perfectly safe unless you have bad tires and a poor sense of direction.

The Shelter Valley Road and Shelter Valley Creek run under the 401 with access from Highway 2 just a bit east of Port Hope.
Likely you have driven overtop as these trucks are doing en route to Kingston or Montreal.  We parked, had lunch and walked on a
trail to the Shelter Valley Creek…as  we have always wanted to do.

the leaves are just breaking into colour…if you follow us you will even see briber colours.

Marjorie packed a lunch…Ontario peaches and salmon sandwiches.

the salmon are easy to spot at Port Hope in the Ganaraska River.    They are also present yet hidden under the 401 in Shelter Valley Creek. 
Big ones.  Trapped there.  Do not tell anyone.  Promise?

Wicklow Beach is long and lovely and so accessible at any point…three strides from truck to beach.

Under the 401 and all alone

On Highway 2 just outside Colborne is Rutherford’’s farm market…

Free parking I thought until we saw this sign…but about half a mile on there is a huge free parking lot right on the beach.

the wild asters are full of honey bees right now…Sept. 23, 2020

Hiding under the shelter Valley Creek bridge are a bunch of big salmon, their backs sometimes out of the water…and
no fishermen.

The old canning factory in Brighton is now a huge antique market.

The Ganaraska River runs through the centre of Port Hope.  It is one of the great salmon spawning Rivers in Ontario…and a visitor
can almost touch the salmon.  No fee involved.

Woody had a good time.  I know he looks forlorn…that is just one of his acts.

This picture was taken just to show you where to  park on the Shelter Valley Road…room for two cars only.  Nobody there today.

Wicklow Beach…now where on this planet is a beach more accessible.  Free.

Next week the colours here will be orange, red, beige…etc.

Even though there will be no halloween this year we bought 3 giant pumpkins for $20 and will carve them
early with candles…why not?

Drive east to Port Hope…south to centre of Port Hope…stop to look at the wild salmon struggling up the Ganaraska River…then
drive east on Highway 2 to the Hidden Valley Road…left up the road for a mile to the 401 bridge…take a 10 minute stroll
to the Hidden Valley Creek bridge…then drive back down to Highway 2 and continue east to the Wicklow Beach sign…turn right
down a charming empty rural road to Lake Ontario…turn left when you hit Lake Ontario…you will find free parking just a few steps
from the water…maybe go for a swim (we could have done so in the nude for the beach was empty…we did not do that…wish we
had)…then continue east until a rural road cuts back left to Highway 2…drive east to Rutherford’s market…spend a few dollars…giant
pumpkins at $8 each (loss leaders…who could make profit at that price?)…..then continue east to Brighton…there is a
delightful Antique store on the north side before you get to Brighton…nice man owns it…high end stuff at very reasonable prices…
and there is another giant collectibles story in the old canning factory in Brighton.

By the time we got to Brighton it was 4 p.m. so we headed home…got back at 6.30…sun still shining…trip took 8.5 hours with many
many stops. 

Next visit we will try to reach Picton but if we fail then we fail…In the past we have driven to Picton and stayed
overnight with fancy suppers…but not now for the spectre of Covid 19 hangs over  us all.   Peaches, salmon
sandwiches and giant raw red peppers were better than some fancy dinners  anyway.

You do not need to follow our trail…make up your own trail.   You are unlikely to confront Covid 19 unless
you blow a tire.

My cousin Christopher lives in the County…so if we blew a tire he would put us up no doubt…as long as we
were masked and socially distant.  What a weird world we live in at present.  We never gave that terrible Covid 19
threat much thought today.

alan and marjorie

P.S>   I had hoped to buy a six pack of Barley Days beer on the Picton Road…but failed.  So there must be a next time.
Sept. 23, 2020

We really should have stopped down and waded into the lake.  Marjorie was in favour.  I was more modest.  Kick
myself for not doing it.



alan skeoch
Sept .2020


The real story is that Marjorie had a luncheon for retired school teachers at our farm…8 of them…social distancing and face masks were worn
except when eating. 

Just for the hell of it, I held a fake rally outside our barn at the same time.  What is the difference? Who would organize my
 rally…President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden.?  

On the same day, Sept 22, 2020,  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke the all Canadians.  The Covid 19 virus has arrived again
and could be worse than the original viral Pandemic.

On the same day, Sept. 22, 2020, fourteen party goers in Scarborough who ignored both masks and social distancing were
each fined $880.  Will they pay their fines? 

alan skeoch
Sept. 1010



alan and marjorie skeoch
Sept. 2020


Strange things happen when we live in isolation.  And a lot 
of the novel happenings are related to Covid 19…

Take yesterday morning for example.  Marjorie found
some complicated medical stuff on a chair under the dining room

“Alan, what is this equipment from the doctor.”
“I don’t remember…maybe something sent along
from the hospital.  (where I had my gall bladder removed)
“This could be important, Alan.”
“Suppose so.”

We thought it was an emergency kit for intubation. There
was a shiny new funnel, a length of clear plastic hose and some
kind of filters… and a Stainless steel pipe with handle.  All wrapped in clear plastic and sealed.
Inside were the instructions.  We had read that intubation hurts
and requires sedation so this stuff made sense to us.

Opening the bag we discovered they were the
new parts for putting gas in our lawn mower.

Take A look.   Would you assume medical paraphernalia
for self intubation?  Tube to the lungs in other words.
Post surgery emergency kit?

alan and marjorie skeoch
Sept. 2020


A  NOTE:  IF you did not receive Episode 122 there is a reason.  I felt it was just too brutal for your tender ears.
A subjective decision.  The topic includes  a letter from my good friend Robert Root who was forced to visit
the hog killing floor at the St. Clair slaughter house when he was about my age.  It is awful reading.  So I applied
censorship.  If you want the story, let me know.

This Episode (#123) continues the violent theme but is terribly self centred for which I apologize.  Hope a few of
you are left handed and therefore more understanding.



alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

Take a close look at this LEFT HAND.  See the little finger.  Look closely and you will see it is  crooked.  When that finger was wired
back together my whole life changed.   Big changes happen often from small events.  Keep that finger in mind.
(Now I know you will not believe this.  I asked Marjorie to proof read the story and she broke out laughing reading the first
sentence.  I had photographed my right hand…not my left.  I still do not know the difference.)

“Did Someone say turn left?”  Take a look at my hands…I am touching my left little finger…and that
is what this story is all about.   You may not realize that until the very end of Part One.

There, among the miscellany of our children’s old room,…there rests the team picture from 1954.  I checked today and notice
it is gone.  (Sept. 20, 2020)

Hidden away in our cellar are the trophies that were once so important in my life but are now forgotten.  Take the Wildman Trophy
for instance.  I was very proud of this award. That was once a huge trophy in Humberside C.I., sat in the front hall all on its own.  
Now gone somewhere.  Chuck Wildman was killed at Queen’s University in his first year when doing a prank climbing an electric 
pole to the transformer.  His father was an organizer of our annual football dinner…father and sons.

“OH, ALAN, I know these boys from Lawrence Park Collegiate,”  I asked Marjorie to proof read this story and it turns out she knows the enemies
very well.  She had a bad crush on one of them.   I think she could have done better looking over our guys at Humberside.

Take a close look.  Look at faded #7, Roger Pugh, the boy who took a kick in the face to prevent a kicker from booting the ball downfield.
That’s coach Burford on the left…beside him in plain clothes is Jim Romaniuk, my friend, and beside Jim I am crouched.   See # 13  That
is Rich Mermer the best Athlete i have ever seen.  And a nice guy as  well. On his right is co captain,  Gord Nicholls #12, who along with Gary Logan (left of 
#13) organizes our annual luncheons … yes, some of us still meet even though now in our 80’s.  Like Garth Spencer in front of Jim Romaniuk. That’s
Ken Takasaki behind Rich Mermer who I suspect was the son of a Canadian Japanese family pushed out of British Columbia in World
War II…their fishing boats confiscated.  Maybe so.  And look at #54 on the right, that’s “Jarring Jack Osmond”, suspended from school
a year later for bringing beer in s violin cast to a night football game.  Rob Wildman, top row #25, whose brother was electrocuted by accident and
whose family donated the Wildman trophy in Chuck’s honour.  And Jeff Scott with whom I share emails each week.  So many freinds.
On the far right is our principal, W. E. Taylor who had to contend with
the anti-football lobby of teachers at Humberside.  Not everyone loved the game..

Here is a document from the 1956 season with all the boys names.  Why would you be interested?  1) Because your name might be there  2) Because the lists reveal just how deep the football culture
of the 1950’s had penetrated the high school culture.  Today only a fragment of that culture remains. Most schools do not play football any more.

Football may seem to have little to do with violence … I mean nasty violence.  
I feel, however, that this short football story might find a few interested readers.

Football scared me at first.  Not the violence although that was a little frightening.


In Grade 9 I nearly joined the Bantam football team at Humberside Collegiate but was rather
startled by the knowledge base required.  And also by the fact that football used 
words like ’left’ and ’right’ a lot more than I  could handle.  I am left handed.  No big
deal to most of you and even to most left handers.  My problem is that I do not know
the difference between left and right.  Really.   If someone asks  me to turn left I
immediately move my fingers to touch my broken baby finger on my left hand. I know
that is left.  The finger was broken and operated on when I was a senior student
at Humberside.   That BABY FINGER CHANGED MY LIFE.

Why do I have this trouble?   Back in elementary school at Kent Public School there
was a concerted effort to ‘break’ left handed kids.  To make them right handed.
For their own good because they must live in s world where 90% are right handed.
Tools, for instance, are made for right handed people.  Scissors, stoves, washing machines,
watches, car controls (i.e. signals, headlights) are made for right handed people.

So it was a noble plan to make left handers in right handers.  Maybe it was Grade 4
where the attempt was made at first.  That made me feel like I was some kind of 
freak.  Then the policy was changed.  It suddenly all right to be left handed if I might
say it this way.  (i.e. the right means correct…if that is so then what does  the word
left mean?  Left is sinister…wrong, dangerous, threatening, odd, etc.)

Sports were for right handed people I came to believe.  In baseball I was usually
assigned to centre field and feared when the ball was hit my way.  “Please do
not hit a high fly to me,” I prayed.   When that happened I had to try and
catch the ball with my left handed mitt…then transfer the ball to my right hand…
then throw off the right handed mitt…then transfer the ball to my left hand…then
throw the ball .  By that time the runner was heading for third base and even
home plate.  

If choosing players for a team, I would  not be chosen…at least not  chosen
first.   Maybe alone at the last.  

In Grade Ten, things changed.   I did join the junior football team at high school.
Why?  My brother, right handed, had joined the Bantams was one reason.  The
other reason was that I came to believe that girls like football.  And I liked girls a lot.
I know now that
this chauvinistic  belief was false.  Girls do not give a sweet goddamn about football.
They do however like boys, especially when boys reach Grade Ten and are not longer
considered fools.  The best way to see and  meet boys was to cheer the football team.
Well that is an overstatement but is something i came to believe.

Our coach, Fred Burford, was a born leader of men.  He was tough and knew where 
each  man (boy) could serve the team best.  What would he do with me?

“Skeoch, you will be a left guard.”
(Perfect, he knows my handicap).
“Second String left guard.:
(Perfect, I will sit on the bench sidelines for the game but still be on the team.)

Every game we played that year I was nervous.  Afraid that coach Burford would
send me forward into the offensive huddle.   Afraid i would fail him in some way
or other.   I was not alone on the second string bench.  Jim Romaniuk, my good
friend, set beside me.  He was the second or third string quartrerback and also
fine on the bench.  

Then one game…A real game against another high school…there was a need
for a second string left guard.  The coach turned around.  Jim Romaiuk pointed at me…
Coach Burford said, “You Skeoch, get on the field”   God, I wished  I had not
been chosen as I flip flopped my way to the huddle.  Flip flopped because my
football shoes (called Spikes, because they had aluminum stubs on the soles…spikes)
..my football shoes were the last handed out.  The worst in other words.  Split in
half between heel and sole.  

Once in the huddle I hope and prayed the fullback would dive into the right side
of the line.  And most often he did.  Right wins more than left.  Thankfully.

I know this is all Greek to those of you who have never played football. Let me
just point out that the boys (men) on the line have a job to do.  They must
use their strength  to punch a hole in the line that the ball carrier can run
through…usually squeeze through…before the defensive players can bring him
down to ground like a wild steer at a rodeo.

Yes, football is a violent game.  Boys and men flinging themselves at each other.
Force against force.  A victor and a loser.  

“Your job is to delay the attackers…give the halfback or fullback a chance to 
make some yardage.   That means putting your body in between the ball carrier
and the attacking team.  Now, listen closely, this is what you must do.”

And coach Burford had precise instructions which I remember now clearly
nearly 70 years later.

Marjorie has set aside a football corner in our farm house…in jeopardy of being taken over
by hats.

1) Drop into a three point stance.  Hand in front, both legs bent.
Legs must be bent to give you the force necessary.  Straight legs
are useless.  No leverage.
2) When  ball is snapped you launch your body.  Raise your hand to
your chest so that your shoulder is as large as possible. Do that fast.
So doing increases the impact.
3) Point your head into the hole.  Very important to do this.  Your 
head should be in the hole.  Less chance of attacker getting around you.
4) Keep legs bent … use short choppy steps to get as much force
as possible.   
5) Do not grab the attacker.  No holding.  But try to push him aside.
6) Spearing!  Do not spear with your head.   That also applies to
tackling when you play defence.  Never hit with your head.  Use
your head.

The coach spent more time with the backfield and particularly the
quarterback who was the brain central of the team. But everyone
had a role.   Even the lowly left guard like me.  I was part of the 
team.  My task was clear.  I was on the left.  My job was to knock
people down or, at the very least, stop them from getting our
quarterback, fullback or halfback.

My brother became a right end.  He could race down the field and
possibly receive a pass from the quarterback.  He had one of the
glory positions.  To any observer I was likely invisible.  Part of the
great pileup of bodies that happened on every play.  Fine by me.
I was part of the team.  I had a team sweater….#55 for my whole


A crisis developed at one game.  The quarterback had forgotten 
his spikes…his football shoes.  Coach Bruford called us all together.
“Boys, I need a volunteer, a person to give up his spikes so our
quarterback can play.”  For the good  of the  team I raised my hand.
“Not yours, Skeoch, they are split in two.”  A grand gesture, spurned.

And on another occasion when I was very nervous I began to whistle.
“Who is whistling?” asked the Coach.  I raised my hand.  “Come over here and stand up
on the bench.”  He pointed at me standing there.  “This boy was whistling.
He was showing overconfidence. That is how we could lose games.
There will be no whistling on this team.”  I was mortified…humiliated in
front of all the boys.  Later, when I got to know Coach Bruford well
I realized he was looking for a way to get the team pepped up for the game.
My whistling was the way.  Not a good experience for me.  I still
whistle when in trouble.


Most of my best friends through life have been members of the
various football teams to which I belonged.  Most of them were
linemen like me.  Here I think of Russ Vanstone, Eddie Jackman,
Gord Sanford, Jim Romaniuk.   The glory boys of the early teams
did not even know our names.  But we knew each other.

By Grades 11, 12 and 13,  I made first string left guard.
In high school I was  nervous before each game.  I wondered
how the other boys felt.  Most seemed confident…free from nerves.
Nervousness was not a bad thing.  I took the games very 
seriously lest i let Coach Burford down.  Not that I was sure
he noticed me…or even knew my first name.  I was Skeoch, Left Guard.


Tension was part of the game.   But there was always humour as  well such
as the case of ‘Wrong way Cush’.  He got that nickname for a reason.
Cush intercepted a pass from the enemy quarterback which should have
made him into a hero.  Had Cush run the right way…i.e. towards the other
team’s goal posts, he would have been cheered.  But he did not.  He got confused
and ran towards  our goal posts.  “Wrong Way Cush” could have scored  a 
touchdown against his own team.  Everyone on the bench screamed  “Wrong
Way, Cush!” as loud as they could.  He thought they were cheering.  I don’t 
remember how he was  stopped…perhaps tackled to the ground by our own
players.  He got that nickname, however, and that name stuck.’Wrong Way
Cush’.  Wouldn’t it be nice if he read this story.  Still famous  after 65 years.


Players  get hurt in the game.  Some injuries do not surface until
later in life.  Some surface right away.  Like the concussion that
caused Don Phillips to suddenly go into convulsions one lunch hour
while we were in a team chalk talk with coach Burford.  During football
season the team met every launch hour in Coach Burford’s room
to plan our attacks on other schools.  Very intense meetings.  Piles
of special mimeographed plays studied  such as the famous ‘double reverse’.

When Don Phillips started to pound his desk I turned around
shocked that he would interrupt Coach Burford.   What I saw was
shocking.  His body was twitching.  His mouth foaming and head rolling.
Involuntary muscles working at cross purposes.  

“Stand back, boys”, and Coach Burford put a ruler across Donnie’s
mouth so he would not bite his tongue i reasoned.   We never 
saw Don again.  Word was spread that the fit was caused by
a pre-existing condition.  I never really believed that..  Don used
his head in tackling practice I seemed to remember.

There was a tendency not to blame the sport for the injuries. Shy?
Reflected poorly on the game.


Another injury that upset me was when we were playing s game
in the mud in the east end.  To get better purchase on muddy ground
some boys changed their spikes.  Unscrewed the  nubs of aluminum
and replaced them with longer stiletto spikes.  That gave them more purchase
in the mud.   Mud spikes  became illegal later
but not until after Eric, my brother, got spiked at Millen Stadium.
I remember that gruesome spike hole in his calf filled to the top
with mud.   Actually made me feel weak.  Rather than revenge I
wanted to sit down.  We finished the game.  No one knew how bad
Eric was hurt until Dr. Greenaway cleaned out the hole that 
evening.  The wound was so serious that the doctor gave me instrictions

“Take this needle.  If Eric goes into a spell tonight then ram
in the needle.”  It was a huge thing.  And I would have to face 
the thing and ram it in then push the valve.  Never had to do it
though.  Eric did not get a serous infection and a couple of
weeks later he was back with the  team battling our way to 
the championship.


Roger Pugh did something I found problematic.  He took the full force
of the enemy kicker full in his face.  Part of our job on defence was to try
and get the kicker before he got the kick away.  Roger did this by placing
his face in direct line with the ascending foot of the kicker.  He got a
kick in the face.  And he got a reward.  Coach Burford congratulated Roger
as if he was a war hero placing his life in jeopardy for the sake of his country.
I thought this was more an accident than deliberate.  Coach Burford
praised it as a deliberate act that we might try to replicate.  If I got a kick in the
face it would certainly be an accident.  Then, a year or so later, I  pulled a
‘Roger Pugh’ by making an excellent shoe string tackle with one hand in
a cast and my finger held together by wire and pins.  Coach Burford was
as surprised as I was.  He gave me a compliment.  “Nice Tackle, Skeoch’.
Why was I even on the field in such condition?  Because I wanted to be there
with the team.  Why did Coach Burford allow me on the field?  Because he did not’
know about my operation.  But he also knew that heroics
 burned very deep in the teen-age mind.  I guess.
I really hoped a couple of girls were watching.  They were not.


We, Eric and I, developed a kind of sick humour playing football.
Like the time we came home from a game with Russ Vanstone driving
his father’s magnificent 1954 Chevrolet.  

Normally a  football helmet is perfectly round.  Designed to cradle a human skull.  A face mask
it attached to prevent facial injuries.

Now imagine this helmet split in two … only held together by the face mask.  Think of yourself as our mother, Elsie Skeoch, 
when she was told  Eric had been hurt in a football game.  Would you scream?   A bad joke.

“Let’s have some fun with Mom, Eric. You come upstairs later than me.”
“How was the game, boys?” mom greeted me.
“Eric had an accident.”
Whereupon I rolled his smashed helmet across the stair landing…it was cracked
open and oblong rather than smooth and round.  Russ had backed his car
over Eric’s helmet after the game.

“OH, DEAR”  mom screamed.  Which we thought was hilarious.  Of course, mom
could have had a heart attack.  That would not be funny.   Unlikely though, mom
had a tough constitution and expected some rough spots in life.  After all, she loved
a husband who was unpredictable at the best of times.  Sometimes truth was difficult
to ascertain.  Her boys had that same tendency.


Coach Burford taught all the lineman another way to take out an attacker.  It was
called the ‘cross body block’ which involved throwing your body at right angles
to an outside corner backer who was about to tackle your ball carrying half back.
The block amounted to nearly six feet of a lineman’s body blunting the attack by
a corner backer.  Very effective.  I enjoyed doing cross body blocks and got very
good at it.  Always got close enough that it was my hip that knocked down the corner 
linebacker.  Great fun.  

Then things went terribly wrong.  Such a silly injury but bad enough to change my life
irrevocably.  When  throwing a cross body block I always landed spread eagled on the
ground.  No problem, we were padded from head to toe.  Except for our hands.
On that particular day I landed, perhaps in pile with the outside corner backer.
My hand was on the ground and our own fullback ran over it.  Crushed it sort of.

The tip of my little left finger was broken.  

To those of you reading this story that injury must seem minor, especially after
reading about Donnie Phillips concussion and Eric Skeoch’s torn and mud filled
calf muscle.  Or Roger Pugh’s kick in the face. Or even the horror story we told mother about Eric’s imaginary 
head injury.

Minor Indeed!   That ilttle finger injury changed my life in so many ways
which I will describe in Part Two.  

Suffice to say that I could now know the difference between right ant left.
When someone says “Look over on your left” or “Turn left here” or “look
at that girl over on the left side of the street”.    i immediately touch my
little broken finger.  That is my left.  There is still a bit of a time lag but nothing
like there used to be.

This is  my left hand.  I know that now because I can touch where it was broken.

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

 (Alan Skeoch — alan.skeoch@rogers.com