I HAD A KING’S PLATE CINCH
SO YOU want to win the King’s Plate? (Pardon me if I don’t laugh too loudly—I’m afraid of bursting my stitches.) Don’t try it, please! Take up some nice, inexpensive hobby such as collecting Ming vases or Persian tapestries. Permit me to speak to you from the abysmal depths of my experience.
I, too, once attempted to win the King’s Plate. All that the effort cost me was about $7,000 in cash, most of my hair and the trust of my wife and children. Although the scars have become mere streaks of white even now it is necessary for me to visit the Red Cross filling station every two weeks to receive my injection of blood plasma.
At that, I was lucky. Some men have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to win North America’s oldest horse race. For their pains they have acquired gastric ulcers as large as dinner plates. If you’re going to compete successfully in this particular turf league you’ll need a million dollars, an overabundance of patience and more than your rightful share of good luck.
Permit me to take you back to the beginning of this sad business. (The editors should border this story in mourning black.)
It was the spring of 1945. My father and I had campaigned a rather modest stable of horses with moderate success but we’d never taken a crack at the King’s Plate, which is the greatest prize in Canadian racing.
One day, in a Toronto hotel, I was lunching with R. James Speers, the celebrated horse breeder and racing magnate from Winnipeg. Under verbal prodding Speers admitted that he could perhaps be persuaded to sell a yearling colt by Brooms out of Donna Julia. Over the coffee cups he sold that colt for $1,000. (Why couldn’t the whitefish have been tainted so that I would be stricken by ptomaine poisoning?)
This colt was given the name of Leonforte, to commemorate the Canadian capture of a Sicilian mountain town. My younger brother had been decorated as a result of the sanguinary activities at Leonforte. He never has been interested in horse racing—he doesn’t care for gambling. The last time I saw him he was drilling oil wells.
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Fame and solvency were in his grasp as the gate sprang for Canada’s greatest horse race. The colt’s name was Leonforte
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In the autumn of 1945 I traveled to Winnipeg to see Leonforte “breezed” for the first time.
Ah. that was it! The sight of a young chestnut colt breezing in the early morning sunlignt compensates for all the disappointments of racing luck. I was sitting in the old abandoned grandstand at Whittier Park when Leonforte tiptoed through the gap. He stood stock-still for at least two minutes, sniffing the gentle breeze. His ears pricked as he looked around him, alertly, intelligently and full of confidence. Even today I can’t forget that picture of him. I wouldn’t have traded him for Man O’ War.
Trans-Atlantic to Todmorden
Calmly and sedately the colt went about his business. The boy jogged him around the track slowly and when, once again, they came to the head of the stretch, I saw the boy settle himself low over the horse’s withers. The little chestnut colt gathered himself, bounded away and my heart flipflopped. He came through that stretch traveling as swiftly and as straight and as true as an arrow. He raced his own shadow that sped along the white inner railings of the race
1 wanted to shout but I checked myself and puffed furiously on an unlit cigar. My eyes followed him all the way around the turn before I dared look back at Speers who was the only other person in the grandstand.
“Are you satisfied?” he asked, grinning with pride.
I just grinned back at him.
They’ll tell you an owner never should fall in love with his horse. I guess that’s where I made my first mistake, but I’ll always remember him the way Leonforte appeared that morning.
The next day he was bound for Toronto to be trained by Dr. U. K. Hodgson, one of Canada’s outstanding horsemen. He was breezed just once more at Thorncliffe Park before “The Doc” sent him to winter quarters.
The Doc is one of the most patient and long-suffering men with whom I have been associated, and in the next 18 months he had ample opportunity to display these commendable qualities. He was likely to be brought to the telephone at any hour of the day or night by my urgent enquiries concerning the health of Leonforte. Heaving a sigh The Doc would reply: “He’s champion—just champion!” At least The Doc was consistent. Never at any time did he retreat from this estimate of our sterling charger.
A year later I was sitting in an Amsterdam bistro when I was overcome by a desire to receive a report on Leonforte’s health. I dialed longdistance and demanded to speak to Dr. Hodgson, at Todmorden, Ont. Before I resumed my seat the telephone rang and echoing far across the broad Atlantic I heard that phrase: “He’s
I didn’t telephone my wife from Amsterdam. Frivolous conversations were much too expensive, and besides, I was afraid that she might ask me to bring home a pair of wooden shoes.
But I’m getting ahead of my story— a whole year ahead of my story. During the winter of 1945 and ’46 Leonforte ate his head off and, when he was shipped into Woodbine late in March, he was as sleek as a seal. When The Doc turned him loose in his first morning trial the professional clockerB looked at their stop watches and whistled appreciatively. The professional touts wrote down the colt’s name in their little black books and the boys around the barn began to boast about him over their morning coffee.
The first time Leonforte went to the post he was the hottest tip since Regret won the Kentucky Derby in 1915. 1 wore a new suit for the occasion (a suit on which 1 owed only two more payments) and 1 carried a pair of borrowed binoculars. As The Doc, Jockey George Courtney and 1 stood around Leonforte in the paddock we must have presented an impressive picture. The picture was marred only slightly by the fact that my tailor had followed me into the paddock demanding payment for the suit. I disposed of him by telling the track detectives that he was a bookmaker. In the solemn argot of the racing world they “denied him the privileges of the course.”
It would be pleasant to report that Leonforte won his first race. Unfortunately he didn’t, but he showed us that we had something out of the ordinary on our hands. He charged up to challenge for the lead as the field turned for home and then, inexplicably, he bolted for the outside fence. He lost 10 or 15 lengths while Jockey George straightened him out and, then, he closed with a tremendous burst of speed.
In the next five minutes at least a dozen veteran horsemen dropped over to tell me that the colt undoubtedly had inherited the temperament of his mother, Donna Julia. She had been an extremely fast mare but, in her early racing days, it was her custom to run very wide at the stretch turn.
The Doc listened to all these mourners cynically and then looked into the colt’s mouth. Leonforte had sprouted some ‘‘wolf teeth” which pained him violently when Courtney pulled on his mouth to guide him around the bend. The offending teeth were extracted and, despite dire prophecies, the horse never again ran wide.
A Year to Rest a Knee
His second start was impressive but was beaten by good American-bred colts which had received more training. This time I had borrowed the binoculars again but still hadn’t learned how to use them. I discovered afterward that I had been looking through the wrong end.
Leonforte won his third start but his proud owner wasn’t there to see him. I wandered into Woodbine late that afternoon and, looking over the fence into the winner’s enclosure, I thought that I recognized the woman being photographed with the winner of the previous race. I should have recognized her, of course—she was my wife.
I looked at her reproachfully. “Why didn’t you tell me he was going to win?” I complained. “Nobody ever tells me anything.” I left the track just ahead of my tailor who had noticed Leonforte’s name in the entries.
He ran twice more as a two-year-old. He sulked in a race at Hamilton and then he scored a smashing win at Fort Erie. I didn’t see that race either—I’d heard that my tailor was going to be at the track. He beat a good field that day and won with such ridiculous ease that the wiseacres were predicting freely he’d win the Coronation Stakes and the Cup and Saucer, the two richest events for Canadian-bred juveniles.
He never went to the post in those races. One night 1 was sitting in my office at the Toronto Globe and Mail when The Doc phoned from Fort Erie. Somehow Leonforte had injured one of his knees. He could be raced but racing would jeopardize his future. The best thing to do was to retire him for the
My heart was like lead but, naturally, I agreed with The Doc. After all, we’d bought the horse to win the King’s Plate.
About this time my newspaper sent metoEuropeformental readjustment. I went to The Doc’s farm to kiss Leonforte farewell and, absent-mindedly, I waved to my wife and children before boarding the plane.
While I toured Europe I padded my expense account systematically to provide comforts for my ailing steed. Every night, before I closed my eyes in slumber, I plotted the running of next May’s King’s Plate in my mind. Leonforte would lie third or fourth going down the backstretch, would move into the lead on the big bend and then would open up three or four lengths in the long drive to the wire. I wouldn’t accept the cup and the 50 guineas from the Governor-General myself—it would be nice to persuade Dad to come down from Montreal to lead in the winner.
For my own part 1 would confine myself to a few modest remarks to the newspapers. “I can’t take any credit for this,” I would say. “He’s a grand horse and he won it on his own courage. I want to thank Dr. Hodgson for the splendid job he did in conditioning this horse and 1 want to thank George Courtney for the splendid job of riding him. It was teamwork that won this race. I’m glad that Mr. Speers was here today to see Leonforte fulfill his ambitions as a breeder.”
Purified by such noble thoughts I would fall into a peaceful sleep and the next day I’d pad my expense account for another $10 or $20.
I am sure that C. A. Macdonald, the treasurer of the Globe and Mail, will forgive me if he reads this. Any minor discrepancies in any of my accounts were inspired only by the most lofty motives. Leonforte came of underprivileged Western Canadian stock and the Globe and Mail always has prided itself on being a “national” newspaper which is dedicated to the abolition of sectional barriers.
After completing the annual audit the Globe and Mail recalled me from Europe and I discovered that, in my absence, Leonforte had acquired an impressive Board of Strategy. In the important role of chief ad viser was Willie Morrissey, the fabulous little horseman who had won the King’s Plate twice with Bunty Lawless and Willie The Kid. In the background, but vocalizing at all opportunities, were Jockey Courtney and his uninhibited agent, Johnny Finn. The Doc was tugging on his long nose and hoping for the best. Leonforte’s “popped” knee bad responded to The Doc’s expert ministrations and, as far as the trainer (was concerned, the horse was “Champion— just champion.”
At Home, the Larder Bare
1 waved to my wife, patted my children and then settled down to clean up a rather embarrassing problem. Courtney had ridden Leonforte in his starts as a two-year-old and, before leaving for Europe, I had told him that he would have the mount in the running of the King’s Plate. While I was away Willie Morrissey took my affairs in hand to the extent of verbally contracting with an American jockey, Herbie Lindberg, to ride Leonforte.
Courtney was bitterly disappointed. He was an honest, reliable fellow and The Doc wanted to use him as the colt’s exercise boy during the long period of preparation for the race. Wiping a few tears from my eyes I told Courtney that, even if he didn’t pilot Leonforte in the Plate, he would receive the winning jockey’s customary lO'T of the purse in the event that the colt
There was an immediate outbreak of hearty handshaking and the Board of Strategy began serious training for the big race.
The purse was dwindling rapidly but I reasoned that by winning the race I would be able to square all my outstanding accounts and still have enough to buy my wife a hat. It wouldn’t be a Lily Daché model, to be sure, but it would be something to keep the rain out of her hair.
I went home, discovered that the larder was bare and determined that the time had arrived for an accounting. A slightly larcenous accountant friend of mine compiled a list of the damages incurred to date. The figures were depressing. He listed the following expenses:
( ’ost of horse ........$ 1,000
Shipping expenses 200
Boarding horse, nine months 450
Training fee. 180 days if $7 1,200
Trainer’s bonus. 150
Jockey’s bonus 100
Stablemen’s bonus ... 100
Veterinary fee 50
Blacksmith’s fee 00
Stake nominations, etc. 100
Total expenses $3,470
To offset this. I>eonforte bad netted approximately $1.470 from bis two winning efforts, which left me with a deficit of $2,000. I realized that I faced additional expenses of at least another $1,000 before the colt could go to the post in May.
Even a sports columnist could see that this was a state of emergency and if there’s one thing with which a newspaperman can cope it’s a state of emergency. Armed with a quire of foolscap and a gross of pencils. 1 retired for several hours to prepare an interim budget. When I emerged it read something like this:
Food for Leonforte......$1,000.00
Food for wife, children. 60.00
New shoes, Leonforte . 75.00
New shoes, children..... 6.50
Medicine for horse.. . 20.00
Medicine for trainer 15J)0
Medicine for children... 1.00
Wagers on Leonforte. .. 500.00
New dress for wife...... 4.98
If ever I should become wealthy I must do something to repay my wife for her loyalty during this period. She never complained openly although' she was subtly critical of my conduct at times. I thought, for instance, that she was overdoing it a bit when she took to wearing newspapers instead of dresses while working around the house. Loyal to a fault she draped herself invariably in the Globe and Mail. On Saturday nights she dressed up slightly, condescending to wear the rotogravure or comic sections of the New York Herald Tribune.
The children presented another problem. Adults can go for long periods without food but children are unintelligent animals who must be fed al regular hours. One evening I returned to the house after bedding down lx*onforte on his new air-spring mattress. Rather proudly I tossed a package of steaks to my wife. She cooked them speedily and put them before us, but my son—a sceptic, aged nine examined his suspiciously.
“What are you staring at?” I roared.
“I am just looking,” he replied, “for the imprint of the saddle girth.”
My nerves must have been near the breaking point for I picked up a chair and pursued him from the house. I was weak from hunger. He outdistanced me rapidly.
The Horses’ Laugh Was Last
Upon my return from Europe I had canvassed the more conservative bookmakers to ascertain what price they were quoting against Leonforte’» chances of winning the Plate. To my horror they were quoting only 10-to-l, a shockingly short price against a horse which had won two races as a twoyear-old. Bookmakers aren’t exactly openhanded philanthropists and it was after weeks of negotiation, haggling and tearful bickering that I was able to wager $400 against $4,000.
Since first money in the Plate approxima ted $10,000, the Colemans stood to collect $14,000. I would have to give away $3,500 in bonuses and there were thoHc old bills U» be accounted for, hut there’d be a nice chunk of cash left over. Perhaps I might lie able to boost the price of that new dress for my wife.
we wenl into training at Woodbine that spring. The Doe estimated that the horse to beat was Kanlee, which belonged to two of our friends, Harry Laliman and Morris Fishman. Kanlee was stabled just around the corner from The Doc's barn and each morning, after training sessions were closed, our rivals would open the doors of the "Kanlee Kan’l lx.se Club.” The Dík: and i dropjs'd into this tack-room oasis every day to refresh our flagging spirits.
When Leonforte went out on the track to train the Kanlee supporters would line the railings and sneer at him. When Kanlee went out to train we would lean over the fence and sneer at Kanlee.
What we didn’t know was that, behind the closed doors of their stalls, both horses were sneering at all of us.
The King’s Plate is run at a distance of one mile and one eighth. Prior to that the three-year-olds are permitted to compete in only one race—the Plate Trial at six furlongs.
It was on the eve of the Plate Trial that things began to happen. Willie Morrissey, who had been giving us his moral support and assistance, appeared at the track to announce that he had been unable to locate Jockey Lindberg in New York. “To hell with Lindberg —we’ll use George,” snorted The Doc who, by that time, had tugged his nose down to the point of his chin. us
The next morning we received a telegram from Lindberg. He had forgotten to tell us that he had decided to ride at the Bay Meadows meeting in California.
I Didn’t Risk a Nickel
That afternoon The Doc and I strolled into the paddock at beautiful Woodbine and, wonder of wonders, my stomach had stopped behaving like a bowl of guava jelly. Leonforte looked magnificent. He was as fit as human hands and loving care could make him. It was reassuring to see Jockey George come into the paddock, wearing those blue and white silks. There were 24 horses entered in the Plate Trial in that year, so the race was contested in two divisions. Leonforte ran in the first division.
The Doc and I stood in the infield to watch the race. I didn’t bother to carry any binoculars that afternoon. I wouldn’t need them.
Courtney got the colt away from the gate a bit slowly but he permitted him to get into stride and dropped him down on the rail as the speedsters set the pace down the backstretch. Suddenly Leonforte began to move along the rail and, as they headed into the turn, I was certain that George would be shut off. I closed my eyes as George steered the colt into the hole and I opened my eyes again when I heard a roar from the crowd. George had shot the colt through the gap and Leonforte was galloping more than a length in front of the field.
It was that afternoon that Leonforte proved to me that he was game. They caught him a furlong from home and George cut him twice. Leonforte pinned back his ears and fought. It was close enough for the judges to call for a photograph of the finish—but those of us in the infield knew that Leonforte had won by a neck. I turned to congratulate The Doc and he yanked his nose as he grumbled: “Jimmy—I don’t know if that colt’s going to go a mile and an eighth. I just don’t know.”
It wasn’t until I was watching Leonforte being cooled out at the barn that I realized he had won a $2,500 purse. I hadn’t bet a nickel on him in the Plate Trial.
The Doc and I were sitting on a bench in the sun when the horses from the second division of the Trial began to return to their barns. We asked who’d won.
“Tularch win it by as far as you can throw a rock,” shouted a disgruntled groom who was leading home a loser.
The Doc and I looked at each other and broke into laughter. Tularch was owned by George McCullagh, who also happened to own the Globe and Mail for which I worked. There was a fine situation for you—I wanted to win the King’s Plate and it would be necessary for my horse to beat my boss’ horse.
Relations between my employer and myself were superficially cordial during the ensuing week. I don’t know if he would have ended our happy association if he had learned that, in the locked sanctuary of my office, I moaned weird incantations in Swahili each night as I burned paper effigies of Tularch.
The Plate was run on one of those muggy, overcast days in May. I didn’t carry any binoculars into the paddock but I was wearing a new suit. I’d managed to get a new tailor who made me a suit on the condition that I’d be photographed wearing it in the winner’s enclosure if Leonforte won.
Two Years for One Thrill
I wasn’t expecting too much as The Doc and I went into the paddock to meet Jockey George again. I had conditioned myself for disappointment. I managed to mumble a few inanities into the microphone for a radio broadcast. I managed a couple of glassy smiles for my employer and Harry Lahman and half a dozen owners who looked more nervous than myself.
“Well.” said The Doc as the horses left the paddock, “that’s that! There’s the end of two years of work.” We walked into the infield together and waited for it.
The horses didn’t keep us waiting too long. They were away from the gate in a tangle and Leonforte was shuffled back but Courtney hustled him into a contending position on the first turn. He was fifth as they raced down the backstretch and he was moving easily.
Then, with a half mile to go, he gave me my thrill. He raced up on the outside of the leaders and I let out a yell. The yell ended as abruptly as it began. He dropped back again and he floundered around the turn. I wasn’t watching as the field finished. Leonforte was back in the ruck but I noticed one thing—he finished ahead of Tularch.
The King’s Plate that year (1947), the records will reveal, was won by an outsider named Moldy, owned by poor old Col. R. S. McLaughlin who was down to his last nine or ten General Motors factories.
There was a lump in my stomach. Two years of planning and dreaming and scheming had been blojvn to the winds in two minutes of heartaching uncertainty. I rubbed my chin and reasoned that the one thing I would like more than anything else at the precise moment was a good drink. I walked into the clubhouse and had it.
My wife was sitting at a table with some friends. She smiled at me bravely.
I patted her on the shoulder affectionately and handed her a bundle of nice, fresh newspapers.
I could tell you the remainder of the story about Leonforte; how he went to Chicago and Detroit that summer and ran desperately but unsuccessfully until we discovered he had an abscess in one foot; how I paid the bills for him for two more years before he won a race and how he finally degenerated to the $1,250 claiming class
My wife and children still defend my conduct loyally and treat me as an impulsive child. They were particularly v gentle and understanding the night that I got rid of Leonforte. They didn’t mention horses. Peeking over the top of my book I could see them exchanging those small friendly smiles.
I’ve been writing this story on a farm on the shores of Lake Simcoe. Just yesterday morning 1 walked out to the barn and peered into Counter Gal’s stall and I saw him—he was all legs and head and he was only a couple of hours old. I went into the stall and lifted him in my arms. He was all mine—I’d bred that one myself. I’m going to call him Notions.
If you look into the entries for the King’s Plate in 1953 you’ll find the name of Notions. His owner will be listed as “Braeside Stable.” That’s me!
When I looked at that head I knew instinctively that this time I really have something. I’m going to have one more crack at that King’s Plate . just one more crack.
Don’t mention anything about this if you happen to meet my wife. She thinks I’ve reformed.
for things that would be uncomfortable for them to help me with.”
The Thomas A. Edison Co. was willing to give Zaramba a chance and today he works on the assembly line for $42 a week (before tax reduction). As soon as he landed this job he wrote to Alina and the children to join him.
There wasn’t much more to pack than when they first arrived in Canada. Alina remembers. Rut there was one difference. Her two youngsters weren’t the quiet, grave children any longer. They were so excited she thought they’d drive her mad. In Quebec, where they changed trains, she suggested some sight-seeing.
“No,” shouted the kids in unison. “We might miss the train to Toronto.” And they refused to budge from the station.
From the beginning the children fitted in at the Dewson Street school. There are many others with European backgrounds at the school, but the Canadianization progress is swift and thorough. Principal Maurice Nicholdoes not believe in making a fetish of it; he feels a game of marbles and the example of their playmates work better than much talk or separate classes. However. some of the teachers stay after school long hours to help children whose English is still halting.
The Zaramba children found no difficulty in orienting themselves. The pupils at Dewson Street are used to foreign names and halting English and a cheery sort of give-and-take has developed.
Mark had imagined that Canada would be cleaner, with wider streets than his Polish home, and “That we would eat more cake.” His only objection now though is constant schoolyard fighting—he doesn’t particularly care for it. hut he won’t have any grownup try to get him out of the battles he does get into. He’s a dreamy kid. which doesn't stop him from joining in at marbles or trying to learn hockey. His pals are the children on his street, but lie will, just as eagerly, come home to watch with interest whatever his father might be doing.
Barbara, whose pigtails are a thing of the past, and whose English is already accentless, has lately decided she isn’t going to be a ballet dancer at all. but a journalist—unless she becomes a pianist. She hears all the gossip of the street, and the school, is vitally interested in people and her friends, but she too, like Mark, still finds in her parents just about the best companions.
While the children are losing the French they picked up in Quebec, and the Herman they learned in the afterwar years in the camps. Jan and Alina mostly speak to them in Polish, not wanting them to forget their mother
The parents are well pleased with their choice of a public, rather than a separate, school, though the Zaramhas are Catholics. Since their future lies in this country Jan and Alina feel it’s to
their utmost advantage to learn as quickly as possible the manners and customs of the land and the people. But comic books are forbidden to Barbara and Mark because Jan thinks they breed lazy reading habits.
“The children here sit around looking at these wild pictures,” he says, “and never pick up a book and use their minds to read, and to understand.”
Jan and Alina Zaramba find themselves disappointed in the behavior of Canadian children, whom they often think noisy, rude and indolent.
“We had hoped that after so much moving about and insecurity our children, who were getting a bit out of hand, would have as good examples the happy Canadian children. Rut it seems to us that children are spoiled here. They get everything they ask for, and they don’t seem to have any sort of a sense of responsibility toward anyone else, or their family.
“Even in this small home of ours Mark and Barbara have their own duties. They must make their beds before they go to school, keep their clothes tidy, their shoes polished. It’s good discipline; and we feel, too, it gives them a sense of belonging and being part of the family unit.”
“To Have a Home of My Own”
Mark and Barbara appear to be thriving. They are quiet but not backward. They won’t interrupt you when you are talking but they tell you stories if you give them a chance. Both laugh easily and often and lend an enthusiasm to any incident they relate. Their immediate goal is to own a collie dog.
While the kids started finding their proper place among their youthful companions and in school life Alina, to help out family finances, went to work at Simpson’s.
“I really want to be a housewife,” she says. “1 want to have a home of mv own —with no boarders, though I suppose we’ll have to have them to keep up our house if we ever have a house.” She was dreaming ahead for the first time. “I would like to be here to see Barbara and Mark off to their school. Now 1 have to leave before they do, and sometimes I even must leave Barbara to make their lunches. And I’d like to be home, with the place tidy and the dinner ready, when Jan and the children come home. But right now. it’s still impossible.”
Sometimes when they think of moving from their crowded 11 it the thought of the children’s school holds them. They don’t like the idea of another change after all the many changes there have been.
“A good education for the children, a chance for them to have a future,” Jan says, “that’s our aim.”
“But what do you look forward to for yotirselves?” I asked.
“We don’t think much about that. We are much more realistic than people
believe. We can't speak of life back home, the comparison would not be happy to live with. We don't expect much: so whatever good does happen is a fine surprise.”
Jan has also been trying to turn his prewar hobby of photography into a remunerative occupation. He has rigged up for himself an enlarger and has already gone to a number of weddings in the district churches as a paid photographer. He hopes to study law again, but right now he's busy enough keeping his family in food and clothing.
In the spring of 1949 “a fine surprise” came their way. Jan received a cheque for $700 he’d forgotten about— back pay for his work as a liaison officer with the U. S. Army in Germany.
Their first idea was to buy a house, but investigation proved that $700 wasn’t even enough for a down payment. “We’ll buy a car,” Jan decided, “so we can go out into the country and have space all around us.”
The car made all the difference to the summer. When Jan got his holidays the family went to the Niagara Peninsula, near St. Catharines, and picked cherries. They visited Niagara Falls, whose rumbling name was so familiar to them from far Poland. They drove up to Lake Simcoe on week ends for picnics.
There came to them that sense of space Jan had promised. And with that, Canada began to lose its strangeness, and their daily living its feeling of impermanence.
Both Jan and Alina Zaramba have such an obvious desire to become a part of life in Canada, to see their children adjust themselves as Canadians, not foreigners, that 1 asked them about their friends. Were these Canadian or Poles?
“We should enjoy knowing Canadians,” answered Alina promptly. “We should like to learn their way of thinking and way of saying things, but how can we? We have no room where to ask them to come, and not enough money to entertain them out in the restaurants of the city. At home in Poland we did much entertaining. Everybody does. But it was always in our own homes. That’s another reason we dream now of our own house.”
“But hasn’t any Canadian—Canadian of Anglo-Saxon origin, not a Pole —asked you to their home, in these years?” I asked. Both of them are the sort of people you would like for friends.
The question embarrassed them. Very courteously avoiding it. Jan said. “Everybody has been very kind.”
Alina added, “There is one question I should like to ask you. What precisely do the Canadians think DP’s are? Sometimes, sometimes I feel as though we were expected to be some new, strange species. Sometimes I feel that people forget we did live quite normal, quite ordinary lives for perhaps 30 years, perhaps longer, before the war shook us out of that normality.”
“Displaced persons,” Jan said slowly, “that is something one tries to grow out of being. Of course, there are many who have suffered and come out with the suspicion that still, everywhere, the aim of the world is to persecute them. A Polish girl came to me not long ago terribly upset. The foreman, she said, had thrown filings at her, what should she do? I thought about it and I told her it was more than likely he was just trying to be friendly. In Canada sometimes it’s a friendly thing to throw things at one another.”
“It is those little, different things that are ditficult to understand.” Alina said. “Everybody makes jokes about DP’s and so we try to do it too, hut we do not always know whether, really, we are meant to take them as funny. It is like Jan's streetcar ticket, we don't know what to do about it.”
She laughed. “I had a streetcar episode too. It was rush hour and 1 was trying to get into a crowded car. and the man in front of me turned and said, ‘Lady, you’d make a good football player.’ 1 laughed and laughed. That’s Canada, you see. No one gets angry or nervous. They make jokes.” “There are a lot of people among us,” Jan said, “who feel their suffering has earned them special privileges. Then they come here and find that for a year still they are not free men. They do not find the special cotton-wool wrapping consideration as in a hospital they think they’re due. So they begin to feel persecuted all over. But there are not many like this.”
Those little different things of humor, habits, manners, speech, which Jan and Alina feel they’ll never span, they pray Mark and Barbara will.
With uncomplaining industry the future holds for the older Zarambas. probably, that house they want though when I spoke of a garden Alina said. “I had forgotten to dream of that.”
But for Barbara and Mark, their mother says, “Why, all the world is theirs!”