It’s hard to believe today, when you can drive it in less than two hours, but in 1954 it took the train over six hours to get from Charlottetown to Moncton. By that time I‘d decided that my father wasn’t completely right when he said I had nothing to worry about; at best I had almost nothing to worry about—I still had to deal with Mae.
I sat by myself from Charlottetown to Moncton, but just before the train for Montreal pulled out a guy in his late 20s or early 30s plunked himself down in the aisle seat beside me and started asking me questions, such as: where was I coming from; where was I going; was I going to Toronto to go to school; and, would there be anyone there to meet me. These questions seemed innocent enough, but then he said he was on leave from the army, had no money, and wondered if I’d like to buy some meal tickets the army had given him which could be used in the dining car on the train.
I told him I had enough food with me for that day and planned to have a good breakfast at the station in Montreal in the morning, which would tide me over until I got to Toronto the next evening. He said the meal ticket would be good for the restaurant in the station, but I said I was probably going to go to a lunch counter on the street just outside the station because that would be cheaper. Even though he then dropped the subject and asked me no more questions, whenever I slept I made sure my wallet was securely under me in a zippered pocket of my bomber jacket.
Although at that point I realized that my father was dead wrong -- I was likely going to have lots of things to worry about -- this encounter actually had two positive effects: from that point on I was wary of strangers; and, I decided that confronting Mae was a lot less to worry about than being robbed on the train.
At about six o’clock in the evening of Wednesday, February 10, 1954, I rang the doorbell at 36 Gloucester Street in Toronto. Mary Ann answered it and was delighted to see me. She commented that no one had mentioned I was coming and I told her no one knew. She simply said, “Oh, my,” and retreated to the back of the house where she was probably having dinner with her family. I knocked on Mae and Eric’s door.
Mae opened the door and then her mouth opened wide. “Lyman!” she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?” I told her I’d come to look for work and got set for a tirade that never came. She simply said, “Come on in, I’m just cooking supper.” She, Eric and Joey often ate together in Mae and Eric’s room -- meals that she, or Eric, if Mae was working an evening shift, cooked on that little gas appliance that each rental room at Gloucester Street had. I joined them for a very welcome meal of pork chops, mashed potatoes, and canned peas. I don’t remember what we had for dessert, but there was always dessert.
I guess it was just assumed that I’d again bunk in with Joey because I don’t recall it being discussed. At that time Joey worked midnight to eight a.m. so the only time we actually shared the bed was on weekends, which made sleeping lot more enjoyable than on earlier visits.
During the meal Joey asked me if I’d like to go to the Leaf game that night, which was akin to asking Johnny Cash if he had any dark clothing. The Bruins were in town. After we ate, Joey and I made the ten-minute walk to Maple Leaf Gardens where Joey bought a couple of Greens from a scalper. He didn’t have to pay a premium price because the Bruins weren’t a particularly strong mid-week draw at that time. I paid twenty-five cents for a program and we settled in to watch my first regular season NHL game (during my first trip to Toronto Joey and I attended the 1951 All-Star game at the Gardens).
I’ve never liked the Toronto Maple Leafs, mostly because my cousin, Pius, was such a vocal Leaf fan that he turned me against them when I was about five years old, and in February, 1954, my hatred was at its apex, which also contributed to this game being memorable. Seated directly in front of us was an old guy (probably in his late fifties, my age perspective being quite different back then) who was as big a Leaf supporter as I was a Leaf hater. The Leafs were expected to roll all over the Bruins but ended up in a 2-2 tie. For every disparaging remark this old guy had for the Bruins I had at least two for the Leafs, so we battled verbally throughout most of the game. Little did I realize that exactly one month later, on March 10th, I would become almost physically ill remembering this game.
We called in to Mae and Eric’s room after the game. Mae said she had called Ethel and Barney to tell them I was in Toronto and also that she had written home to Morell that I had arrived safely and would be staying at Gloucester Street. She also asked me if I had any money and I assured her I had enough to tide me over for a little while. I took all this to mean that she either had no misgivings this time around, or was prepared to suck them up and hope for the best. I went happily to bed without asking which it was. As a matter of fact, I’ve never found out.
Next week: Job hunting again.