Monthly Archives: April 2014

Covering Pops

The Stikks Family is a local content editorial cartoon appearing on the blog from time to time. Follow Pops, Mom, Dick and Jane and their adventures in Welland. (Cartoon humour by Joe Barkovich)

Lasting Image: Bill Lewis


CAPTION: A favourite bite to eat, and a photo showing a portion of the back cover of one of his books, combine for this lasting image of a local historian and author.(Photo by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

My lasting image of William H. Lewis, is one of the local history writer chowing down on a favourite sandwich

It was a cheese, tomato and bacon sandwich.

He ordered one when we breakfasted, either at Welland market or the Blue Star some Saturday mornings.

Strange as this may seem, the experience was somewhat like being in the presence of Sean Connery when he was playing James Bond.

You know how Bond ordered his favourite drink – a vodka martini – from the bartender:  “Shaken, not stirred.”

Mr. Lewis had a similar add on when he ordered his sandwich: “Toasted, not grilled ”

Mr. Lewis is the former pharmacist who had the perfect prescription for local history: make it fun.

He had “a gift for giving legs to local history. He gave it arms, and faces and heart and soul, too. Using the written and spoken word, his stories travelled across generations, giving meaning, once again, to the art form of local history as a hand-me-down legacy,” I wrote about him in a previous piece.

Though he was already well known in the community as a business owner, active member of the Welland Kiwanis Club, member of Heritage Welland and community activist, one could say Mr. Lewis was catapulted to higher-profile prominence because of his trilogy on Welland and its history.

His work, Aqueduct, Merrittsville and Welland, A History of the City of Welland became a local best seller. Volume 2, The Continuing Years (published in 2000) won critical acclaim, as it was shortlisted for the World of Words Niagara Book Prize in 2001. Mr. Lewis became a much sought-after guest speaker on local history at public and community group meetings for years after.

He had a favourite conversation piece and he found ways to work it into across-the-table dialogue.

When it came to the controversial Main Street bridge and its future, Mr. Lewis was an ardent preservationist. He could offer sound arguments about why it should be preserved, not demolished, a fate that met other vertical lift bridges in years following completion of the canal bypass project. Welland’s heritage would be forever diminished if ever the bridge was removed from the city centre, he believed. That outlook wasn’t surprising, and it was repeated time and again during those breakfast get-togethers, just to make sure the message was a lasting one.

But in re-reading his books, I became interested in one chapter in particular. It is: Where Rails and Water Meet (Volume 2, Chapter 5, pages 70-99.)

Where Rails and Water Meet is the City of Welland’s motto. It’s an expression of the relationship of railways and canal shipping and their importance in the city’s early industrial and economic development.

After meticulously tracing the decline of railways in Welland’s history Mr. Lewis writes:

“The railroads which, for so many years were vitally important to the life and prosperity of Welland, have all but disappeared. Only some ruins remain.

“ ‘Where Rails and Water Meet’ is no more.”

It is not the only reference to this in the author’s writings.

It surfaced again in Volume 3, Chapter 14, The Welland Canal By-pass The End of an Era (pages 193 to 203).

Here is one excerpt:

“As a result of the by-pass, east-west railway traffic through Welland disappeared. The last passenger train stopped at the King Street station on December 20, 1972 and after completion of the Townline Tunnel, the station and marshalling yards on Riverside Drive were transferred to O’Reilly’s Road west of the city.

“Today, rails and water no longer meet in Welland, and, for an ever-increasing number of people in the city, this once-vital transportation association is not even a memory.”

So why is Welland clinging to a motto that has no relevance in the 21st century?

If the City is intent on clinging to it, should the motto not be changed to: Where Rails and Water Met, to give it accuracy in the current day?

Or should Welland as a community be giving thought to finding a replacement for words that served us well, but no longer provide accurate description of what we are?

As things are now, Welland seems to be standing with one foot stuck in the past and the other in search of something that would provide firm footing, a place where both could stand for years to come.

One thing is for sure: We can’t have it both ways.

Mr. Lewis made it clear: Where Rails and Water Meet is no more. His words and wisdom should give pause, and cause, for serious thought  – and possible action.

Here’s another reason why my thoughts are with him.

William H. Lewis, local historian, author and visionary, died two years ago this day, April 15, 2012. He was 81.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)


It’s My Life, Sort Of : Nicknames and neighbourhoods


CAPTION: A parting shot of a landmark, the former Welland South public school, Broadway Avenue in Welland South, taken on the second to last day of demolition in late March 2014. (Photo by Lydia Butera).

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Anyone who has lived in this neck of the woods for a little chunk of time knows Welland’s once-rich mosaic of neighbourhoods.

Like Welland South.



Think Broadway.

No, not the Big Apple’s Broadway, but Welland South’s Broadway.

Got it now? That should help pinpoint Welland South.

The heart of that neighbourhood for decades, some will say, was Welland South public school – on Broadway, where else?

When I was a kid, I vacationed in Welland South for a week at a time during the lazy, hazy crazy days of summer back in the 1950s.

We lived on Fifth Street on the east side. But my father’s parents, Ignace and Rosie Barkovich, lived on Clifford Avenue in Welland South, on the city’s west side. So I vacationed with them at their house, the one with a lawn that was kept trimmed so it was always like a golf green, the one with a dozen or so fruit trees in the side and backyard. The house at 31 Clifford.

Going from one side of the city to another, from one neighbourhood to another, was a big thing when you were nine or 10.

The great photograph accompanying this piece, taken by Welland South resident Lydia Butera, who lives at 42 St. George St. – off Broadway of course  – schooled me about that neighbourhood once again. And the Welland Boys Reunion in October where Michael Petrachenko, a guest speaker, brought the good old days into focus by talking about another tradition: nicknames.

The Petrachenkos were long-time Welland South residents, living at 151 St. George.

Michael Petrachenko, whose nickname is “Shank”, follows in the footsteps of his father, Nick Sr., in more ways than one. Michael recently retired as a secondary school teacher, his father was an elementary school teacher and principal. Michael is a city councillor, representing Ward 5, his father was a city councillor representing Ward 6. His father’s nickname, chosen by family consensus was “the Chief.”

Of course, “Shank’s” brothers have nicknames too.

Brother Nick is “the Hawk”, after the former major league baseball player Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson. Brother Lonny is known as “Ace”. Brother Myron became “Marvin” and later, due to popularity of the Merv Griffin Show, “Merv”, which has stuck like Krazy Glue.

“We grew up in Welland South and nicknames abound to this day. Names were derived from last names, body parts, screw ups, talents or just for reasons unknown,” said Michael Petrachenko, er, “Shank”. He delighted guests at that Welland Boys reunion with a long, long list of nicknames – some from the Welland South neighbourhood and more, from other neighbourhoods in Welland and Crowland.

Remember Crowland?



I won’t cite all, but this is a good representation – some names (and nicknames) are probably well known, others, well maybe a little obscure:

Tim Katrynuk: “Kit Kat”;

Violet Elcich: “Looby”;

George Elcich: “Sausage Man”;

Any of the Shabley family: “Shabs”;

Jimmy Smith: “Bubba”;

Ralph Grimaldi: “Magpie”;

Gary Desjardins, Dennis Grimaldi: both known as “Boogie”;

Frank Buonocore: “Bonzo”;

Tracy Wakunick: “Hey, hey, hey, it’s the Tray”;

John Grdenic: “Slavko” and “Johnny G”;

Emil Suzich: “Sooz”;

Mike Hominuk: “Moxy”;

Mike Cowell: “Tricky”;

Plamondon’s variety store: “Don’s”;

Vi Tomori: “High C”;

Pat Parker: “PP”;

Gary Blazak: “the Blaze” and “Breeze”;

Brian Saltarelli: “Salty”;

Notables from other parts of town:

John Belcasto: “Boxer”;

Chuck Spitali: “Little Spit”;

Roman Grocholsky: thought he was a Big Wheel so everyone called him “Spoke”;

Dave Chypak: “Chy”;

Rick Podrebarac: “Pudsy and “Big Ricky”;

Larry Jaroslawski: “Moochie”;

Frank Panetta: “Doody” and “Peckle”;

John Maurice: “Tarmac”;

Frank Sernak: “Chev”;

Matt Rome: “Junior”;

Yvon Dupont: “Doofy”.

“Shank” said at the reunion: “As you can see, nicknames are a big part of our lives. Especially in Welland and its wonderful variety of neighbourhoods. And I know there’s a story behind every one of those nicknames. So share that history, the reason why we called people what we did and still do.”

Chances are you haven’t heard (or read) the last about nicknames and the folklore around them – the topic is expected to come up again at the next Welland Boys reunion in early October.

I can attest to that rich nickname heritage in Welland South – as a neighbourhood interloper.

I still remember walking with my Deda to Luka Gojmerac and Sons variety and Esso station at the corner of Clifford and Broadway – usually for an ice cream cone or a pocketful of penny candy – or both!

Now Gojmerac can be a tough name to pronounce, even if you happened to be of Croatian descent. So this popular neighbourhood landmark – in Welland South and beyond – had a nickname, too.

Who can forget: “Gumpy’s”!

(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)

Garden Routes Home: A rose show for Joe


CAPTION: Pussy willows are out and about, these being photographed with the sun rising in the distance.


CAPTION: Peekaboo! The crocus says ‘hello!’.

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Welcome to the second in my series, Garden Routes Home, a feature about local gardens and gardeners with special reports on rose shows, garden walks and other seasonal attractions in our community. Garden Routes Home will provide a bountiful bouquet of annual, perennial, ornamental, shade and container gardens; a potpourri of interviews for the latest in garden gab and yes, gossip; garden tips; and last but not least, words to grow by.


A new rose show in Welland, Canada’s Rose City, is coming together for 2015.

The city already has one, Welland Horticultural Society’s rose show. It is marking its 96th anniversary in 2014.

The new rose show will be named the Joe Mocsan Memorial Rose Show, after the distinguished rose grower Joseph L. Mocsan, who died May 31, 2003, in his 72nd year. Deservedly, on Saturday, June 9. 2012, the city’s rose garden in Chippawa Park was renamed the Joseph L. Mocsan Memorial Rose Garden in his honor.

Paul Mocsan, a son of Mr. Mocsan, was delighted when told of the rose show plans and has joined the steering committee. A rose show committee will be formed later in the year.

Although all details are tentative at this time, it can be reported that Sunday, June 21, 2015 has been picked as the inaugural show’s date. A well-known personality in the gardening community has been chosen as judge of the rose show, although her name is not being released until later in the year because of 2015 scheduling uncertainties.

Preliminary plans call for seven sections of competition: hybrid tea (single bloom); hybrid tea (three blooms); floribundas; grandifloras; climbing roses (minimum of three stems); true miniature roses; and arrangements. Others may be added, for example, David Austin roses and peonies.

Trophies or other prizes will be awarded to best entry in each of the sections and there will be special awards, for example: Best City of Welland rose, Best of Show, Best Arrangement and Best Chicago Peace (or another Peace if Chicago not available). However, there will be no monetary awards in the show’s inaugural year.

Much work remains to be done, including securing a sponsor and arranging for trophy donors.

The show will be closely modelled on rose shows that Mr. Mocsan organized for several years on behalf of the Welland Rose Festival.

More details are to be released in upcoming Garden Routes Home reports.


Let’s continue Garden Routes Home’s focus on local horticultural societies and their 2014 activities. This is Pelham Horticultural Society’s turn.

Meetings are usually the 4th Monday of the month from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Fonthill Library. Exceptions are: June (Garden Walks), July (Member’s Picnic), August (Flower and Vegetable Show), December (No meeting).

2014 Meeting Schedule:

April 14: Dan Cooper, Master Gardener, Green Garden Tours, speaking on Gardening from a hammock – low maintenance gardening. Also: Garden book and magazine exchange.

May 26: Ted Kretz, Vermeer’s Garden Centre and Flower Shop, speaking on Fairy Gardens – miniature gardens for inside and out.

June 23: Evening Garden Walk, Four Gardens in Pelham. Meet at Fonthill Library at 6:30 p.m. for list of gardens. Free for members, non-members $10. Refreshments to follow.

July 28: Members’ summer picnic. Members only, 6 p.m. Please bring lawn chair and place setting.

Aug. 25: Annual flower and vegetable show. See show brochure for details. All entries must be submitted between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.  Judging is 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Show viewing and prizes at 8 p.m.

Sept. 29: Theresa Forte, Garden consultant, writer and photographer, speaking on Sweet Caroline – Native Carolinean Plants for Fall Colour.

Oct. 20: Rick Harvey, Harvey’s Honey speaking on Sweet as Honey – Bees in the Garden. There will be honey for sale.

Nov. 24: Christmas Potluck supper and annual meeting. 6:30 p.m. at the library. Bring your place setting and a dish to share. Bring a gift under $5 for the gift exchange. Installation of officers after supper.

Contact: Maria McMillan is the society’s president, she can be contacted at 905-892-5991 or e-mail:

Coming up next: Listings for Port Colborne Horticultural Society.



CAPTION: Clematis vine can look like a tangled maze at times, but all that’s needed is some careful pruning.

Here is a list of garden maintenance tips for early-mid spring:

Clear the lawn of sticks and sweep up any litter left by winter storms;

Mow the grass with the cutter blades set high if the weather is fine and dry;

Tidy up any broken branches on trees or shrubs battered by winter gales, trim ragged edges and paint with fungicide;

Prune large-flowered clematis varieties (groups 1 and 3) down to 45 cm (18 inches) from the ground;

Prune wisteria, cut lateral shoots back to 2-3 buds;

Prune rambling and shrub roses if required;


CAPTION: Delicate snowdrops are among spring’s first arrivals, if not the first. The snowdrop is  a hardy spring bulb with a preferred habitat of woodland, shade or part shade. Snowdrops are named for their white colouring and also for their ability to flower in the snow, according to one of my garden guides.

Prune hybrid tea and floribunda roses if this has not been done before;

Prune buddleia, spirea, fuchsia, cornus;

Trim privet and hawthorn hedges.

(Source: Gardener’s Hints & Tips, by Anthony Atha)


CAPTION: Baby iris, breaking out after a long winter’s hibernation. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)


The 1812 Rose.

With attention building on the War of 1812 commemoration in Welland this fall, I was asked recently about the 1812 Rose.

In 2012, more than 1,500 of the commemorative roses were sold, the year District 9 (Niagara/Haldimand) hosted the Ontario Horticultural Society convention. Developed by Kordes Nursery in Germany, this floribunda rose has deep, velvety-red blossoms with a large number of petals. It is described as very disease resistant.

The 1812 Rose was sold through orders from local horticultural societies. Because it was a commemorative rose available for a short time, it may be difficult to find at garden centres and rose nurseries. For best information, check with your local horticultural society or Palatine Fruit and Roses in Niagara-on-the-Lake.


CAPTION: The red hybrid tea, Schwarze Madonnna, is one of my favourites (2013 file photo Joe Barkovich).


“Gardens come and go, but I find myself getting attached to certain perennials. My tulips are bridesmaids, with fat faces and good posture. Hollyhocks are long necked sisters. Daffodils are young girls running out of a white church, sun shining on their heads. Peonies are pink-haired ladies, so full and stooped you have to tie them up with string. And roses are nothing but (I hate to say it) bitches – pretty show-offs who’ll draw blood if you don’t handle them just right.” – Vangie Galliard Nepper, from Garden Diary March 1952.

Next Garden Routes Home: Friday, May 2; my first local garden profile, Friday May 23 and weekly after that through mid-August.

Sunset today, April 11: 7: 43 p.m.                     Sunrise tomorrow, Saturday Apri l 12: 6:22 a.m.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)


Campaign kickoff

The Stikks Family is a local-content editorial cartoon that appears on the blog from time to time. Follow Pops, Mom, Dick and Jane and their adventures in Welland. (Cartoon humour by Joe Barkovich)

Following In His Footsteps


First Station   Jesus is Condemned to Death

REFLECTION: It is clear that Jesus and the other players are human … but there is no identifiable human trait that stands out. Jesus is everybody. The soldiers here in a row are everybody. And the judgment will be for everybody.

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at- large

The images on side walls of Roman Catholic churches go largely ignored most of the year, hardly getting as much as a  glance as people walk down the aisles to their pews. But during the liturgical season of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday evening as the Mass of the Last Supper begins, and on Good Friday, they become an important form of personal and public devotion.

These 14 images are the Stations of the Cross. Most parishes hold these devotional services weekly during Lent; sometime more often in some parishes. At mine, St. Kevin, Welland, they are held Friday evenings. Attendance varies, usually from 50 or 60 to 100 or so.

You may recall seeing or reading about high profile public Stations, like those at World Youth Day. When Toronto hosted, in 2002, about 500,00 people watched and prayed in Nathan Phillips Square, along a stretch of University Avenue, in front of the Ontario Legislature building and through Queen’s Park and finally, in front of the Royal Ontario Museum. In Rio de Janeiro in 2013, more than 1 million are said to have witnessed. When I attended a recent weekend retreat, Spirituality of the 12-Step Program at the Jesuit Spiritual Renewal Centre in Pickering, participants were given opportunity to take part in an outdoor Stations of the Cross. It was one of the most emotionally moving that I have seen.


Second Station  – Jesus takes up his cross

REFLECTION: There is resignation on the part of Jesus and determination. This is his hour. He has been waiting for his hour. I can’t really do the stations unless I do them as a disciple. And one can’t really be a disciple unless one takes up that cross and walks it as Jesus did. There is movement here. Jesus walking the cross. The three Roman soldiers right behind him. The invitation here is for me to walk along shouldering my own cross.

Much has been written about this moving and for many participants, intense devotion. One good source of information is on the Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska) website. It is clear and concise, explaining in simple language why it is that people “do” the stations. Here follows a passage about their history:

“From the earliest of days, followers of Jesus told the story of his passion, death and resurrection. When pilgrims came to see Jerusalem, they were anxious to see the sites where Jesus was. These sites become important holy connections with Jesus. Eventually, following in the footsteps of the Lord, along the way of the cross, became a part of the pilgrimage visit. The stations, as we know them today, came about when it was no longer easy or even possible to visit the holy sites. In the 1500’s, villages all over Europe started creating “replicas” of the way of the cross, with small shrines commemorating the places along the route in Jerusalem. Eventually, these shrines became the set of 14 stations we now know and were placed in almost every Catholic Church in the world.”


Fourth Station – Jesus meets his Blessed Mother, Mary

REFLECTION: Here just Jesus and his mother. Mary is there in her role as mother. And Mary is there in her role as first disciple; first believer. Jesus shoulders the cross with one arm and the other arm directed towards his mother. Mary is kneeling her arms outstretched. Is she there to catch or embrace Jesus? Or is she there to let Jesus go – to encourage Jesus so that he can do what his Father wanted him to do? The idea of a mother and child – roots and wings. There is time to hold and embrace and give security. And there is a time to let go as the bird flees the next. In Mary’s posture she does both.


I often wondered about the Stations in my parish: who was the artist, where did they come from? With the assistance of office staffer Marney Donohue, on Friday I learned a little more about them.

The Stations are the work of Niagara Falls sculptor Helen Waimel Robertson. She was born in Estonia in 1917, emigrated to Canada in 1926 and died May 22, 2002. In 2006, her name was added as an inductee on the Niagara Falls Arts and Culture Wall of Fame.

Mrs. Robertson attended the prestigious Ontario College of Art in Toronto on a scholarship, completing a four-year program in three. She was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal upon graduation.

According to information in her death notice, she made “a considerable contribution to the sculptor scene in Canada.” Her commissions included 12 Canada Coats of Arms, 10 Provincial Coats of Arms, Shields of Arms for Ontario Law Courts for various cities, architectural and ornamental sculpture for the Workmans Compensation Rehabilitation Centre, the crest for Niagara Falls City Hall and of course, the Stations of the Cross at St. Kevin, among others.


Eighth Station – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

REFLECTION:This group of five persons, Jesus, two women and two children, is a powerful indictment of the patriarchal clericalism that there is still too much of in the church. No men here crying for or supporting Jesus. And I apply this to today. In most parishes in most places in the world it is the women who are the mainstays. It is the women who by and large make up the worshipping church, the witnessing church and the serving church. It is the absence of women in the offices where the rules and regulations and decisions are made that is missed most. The two women and the two children here jump out at us demonstrating what discipleship means in action.

Whether one is spiritual or not, Mrs. Robertson’s Stations of the Cross are noteworthy for simple elegance yet powerful imagery combining to create a masterful piece of religious art. They can’t be looked at for only a few seconds without inviting a longer and deeper, more probing study by the eye. These striking images may very well be the least known art treasure in the City of Welland.


At. St. Kevin, various groups or ministries take turns hosting each of the Stations of the Cross evenings, for example: St. Vincent de Paul Society, Youth Ministry, Franciscan Fraternity, Social Justice, Holy Cross Fathers.

It is not an overly-long service, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes. Each Station has a specific prayer and reflection led by the hosting group with spoken and sung participation of people in the pews. A verse from the beautiful hymn, At the Cross Her Station Keeping, is sung at the conclusion of each Station, then the movement continues to the next


Another passage on the Creighton University website offers this insight into why people participate in this old form of prayer:

“The most important reason for reviving the practice of making the Stations of the Cross is that it is a powerful way to contemplate, and enter into, the mystery of Jesus’ gift of himself to us. It takes the reflection on the passion out of my head, and makes it an imaginative exercise. It involves my senses, my experience and my emotions. To the extent I come to experience the love of Jesus for me, to that extent the gratitude I feel will be deep. Deep gratitude leads to real generosity and a desire to love as I have been loved.”


Ninth Station – Jesus falls a third time

I asked Father Jim Mulligan CSC, associate pastor at St. Kevin to offer reflections for some of the Stations. I have used his text (in italics beneath the photos) with some of the photos I have taken, and one photo, above, appears as a stand alone image in this piece of work.

“I have always liked the stations here at the church. They are almost in the style of an icon. They are carved stone. Each figure is in relief,” Mulligan noted.


Twelfth Station – Jesus dies on the cross.

REFLECTION: Jesus dying. Jesus dead. His mother. The disciple. Jesus gives the disciple (the church) into the care of his mother. Jesus gives his mother into the care of the disciple. Really – there are two disciples. Mary is the first of all of the disciples. She is discipling here trying to absorb what is beyond all of comprehension – the horrendous death of her son, her son who is Emmanuel, God with us. Disciples are often called to accept that which is total mystery and to accept it on faith. This station always reminds me of that. The disciple looking up to Jesus; Mary head bowed and hands folded asking for the grace of acceptance; asking that her beloved son – no matter what, is safe and at peace, finally. This station reminds me too of the hole in Jesus’ side from which came water and blood, the water of baptism and our birth into new life and the blood of the Eucharist that is food for our journey in our discipling and in our living this new life. The death of Jesus gives new life in abundance.


The 14 Stations are listed below as is the 15th which was more recently added.

First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross

Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Blessed Mother, Mary

Fifth Station: Simon of  Cyrene Bears the Cross

Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Seventh Station: Jesus Falls Again

Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Ninth Station: Jesus Falls a Third Time

Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

Eleventh Station: Jesus is Crucified

Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Thirteenth Station: The Body of Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross

Fourteenth Station: Jesus’ Body  is Placed in the Tomb

Fifteenth Station: Jesus is Raised from the Dead


At St. Kevin, two more Stations of the Cross services are scheduled. They are:

Friday, April 11, 7;30 p.m., hosted by the parish’s Social Justice committee;

Friday April 18, Good Friday, 7 p.m., a live re-enactment of the Stations by drama students from Notre Dame College School.

(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)

It’s My Life, Sort Of – Mind Your Peas and Queues


CAPTION: In our house, smushy peas from the can bring out the best in a hot hamburger sandwich. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Smushy peas.

When it comes to homemade hot hamburger sandwiches, there is no better hamburger helper than smushy peas.

One day last week when it was my turn to make supper, I opted for hot hamburger sandwiches.

The real deal. Made with my own homemade hamburger patties, not the frozen ones that come in a box.

And then my wife reminded me: “Peas from a can, not frozen peas, please.”

I knew that.

I ate hot hamburger sandwiches at Al Koszalka’s Majestic Grill when it was on East Main. I’m talking back in the 1970s, when I was a roaming reporter at the local newspaper. The Majestic’s fare was so good its clientele ranged from blue collar guys, bank tellers and shoe salesmen (six or so shoe stores were within walking distance) to lawyers and County Court and Supreme Court of Ontario judges on lunch recess from trials at the County Building, and a lot of other diners in between.

Folks were bullish on Al’s hot roast beef sandwiches too.

You could choose mashed potatoes or fries and the hot sandwiches were crowned with a heap of smushy peas.

Nowadays, the Blue Star on King Street serves up a thick and good hot hamburger sandwich but the last time there, we had the feeling smushy peas were on the endangered list: you could count them on the fingers of two hands.

Anyway, my homemade burgers were great: lean ground beef mixed with an egg and fresh breadcrumbs for binding, a favourite, secret seasoning salt (just a sprinkle or two!) and black pepper. An avalanche of black pepper.

The gravy mix came from a package (we had no roast drippings on hand) and the peas, of course, came from a can. Well, two cans.

I don’t know what it is about canned peas, but they take hot hamburger sandwiches to the next level. Yummy!

I fielded only one complaint: the peas could have been, well, smushier for my wife’s liking.

Could I appease her with dessert?

Nope. Didn’t make any. It’s Lent.

Still, supper turned out just fine. I had a queue of two at one time waiting for homemade hot hamburger sandwiches, mashed potatoes made with sour cream and of course smushy peas.

A queue of two? Mind Your Peas and Queues.

(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)


It’s My Life, Sort Of: Robin’s ‘hood



CAPTION: Clouds obscure the sunrise over First Avenue around 7:25 a.m. today. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

It was a week ago yesterday, Tuesday, March 25, that I saw the first robin

It may not have been the first robin of spring. I’m not saying that. But it was my first robin of spring. A robin in the ‘hood.

It was perched in the branches of a tree found along one of our walking trails. Early morning walks, such as that day’s, are good for the limbs, good for the head and good for the soul – not necessarily in that order.

I stopped without warning to listen to the robin’s song. Buddy the dog, who was with me, would have nothing of it. The leash was taut and he tried to pull me on our way.

The robin sang and sang and sang, oblivious to the tug-of-war that was going on a few feet away.

Of course, I wished I’d had my camera. I take it along some mornings, just in case.

Well, it was one of those just-in-case mornings.

But it became a “if only….” morning.

I said to myself: “If only I’d brought the camera. If only….”

I remember reading that a sighting of the first robin is cause for rejoicing. Well, if not rejoicing then a minor celebration to be sure. Why? Because it is the sign of a natural cycle still in place, intact.

That’s something.

At home, I told my wife about the robin.

Of course she asked: “Did you have your camera with you?”



Funny how that one word says it all. “Oh”.


CAPTION: Entering robin’s ‘hood. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

Well, I’ve carried the camera every morning we’ve gone out since that day. The expectation on my part, of course, was to hear a robin in those trees in the silence of the morning. As if it would be back again, perching on a limb of a tree and waiting for a shutterbug’s discovery as the first robin of spring.

As if.

There was no shortage of cacophonous Canada geese winging their way overhead, no shortage of scraggy sparrows darting to and fro.

But not one robin to be seen.

In fact, I haven’t seen one since that morning, one week ago yesterday.

I had my camera on today’s walk.

Although I did not see a robin in the trails we followed, I did witness a cloud-veiled sunrise that held me in awe. A sunrise over First Avenue.

I could try describing it, but better instead to let the camera do the talking.


(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)