By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
Roots were important to Steve Krar, a champion of neighbourhood nostalgia who died Saturday, June 30, within a month of his 94th birthday. He was the sole surviving member of a tight-knit group of neighbourhood reunion organizers who believed stories and experiences from the past were worth sharing and preserving, especially for younger generations coming after them.
Back in the ‘20s and ‘30s, for example, they were denizens of storied King Street and the Welland and Crowland neighbourhoods that pulsed on its many side streets. They came from ethnic, hard-working and often struggling families who knew what it was to share their triumphs and their tragedies.
Mr. Krar was a co-founder of one, with Tony Tulumello, Wally Roberto and Frank Szeman. He liked sharing a story about how the nostalgia movement began, about how the boys met at a funeral wake for a mutual friend and how they started reminiscing about yesteryear. Rather than burying their memories upon leaving the wake, they realized they should be sharing them at somewhere other than the funeral parlour, which was happening all too often. A membership blitz was started and the group’s first reunion was held.
(Two other groups were already holding meetings: King Street Boys South, founded by Michael Blazetich and a splinter group, Joe Miller’s Neighbourhood. The three groups amalgamated about 10 years ago and now one reunion is held yearly as the Welland Boys Reunion.)
Steve Talosi was asked by Mr. Krar to join the group when organizers realized there was need for “new blood” to help keep it going.
“I commend Steve,” Talosi said in a telephone interview. “He knew they needed a succession plan if it was going to have a future not just a past.”
Mr. Krar had a “great love” for neighbourhood nostalgia, and over the years had taken “great pride” in it, Talosi said.
One of the reasons he decided to become involved is because he shares in Mr. Krar’s vision: “It’s important to future generations not to forget where we came from and where it all started. These guys (Mr. Krar and the others) represent the history of what Welland is about. I know things have changed, but we can’t forget what Welland is all about….If not for their lives, this wouldn’t be happening.”
Special tribute will be paid to Mr. Krar’s memory when the next Welland Boys Reunion is held in October, Talosi said.
His brother, Gary, became involved with him. He considers Mr. Krar a “visionary” for his conviction and commitment to neighbourhood culture.
“He was one of the guys who got it going and then made sure that young guys came along and got involved.
“I picked him up a few times for our meetings and he was always ready and willing to go. It was always important to him, even when he was up in years.”
Talosi said one of Mr. Krar’s notable qualities was his organizational ability.
“He and his brother Joe compiled the best records of what transpired in the past.”
One of Mr. Krar’s newsletters about the King Street Boys was a classic compilation of its evolution. It told of “kinship, friendship, workmanship, hardship and more.” They were part and parcel of growing up in the so-called Dirty Thirties.
There is much, much more to this amazing man’s life, best told in the death notice that appeared a few days ago. It begins:
“A visionary leader in education, technology and manufacturing; An unselfish man willing to help improve the lives of others and make the world a better place…”
Mr. Krar was “ A tool and die maker who turned machine shop secondary school educator in Niagara Falls (1955), Guelph (1956) and Eastdale Secondary, Welland (1962 – 1974); 10 years on the Ontario College of Education, University of Toronto as summer school technical trainer; who turned author of technical text books (1959 – 2008) having more than 80 publications in print worldwide.”
I recall him chuckling with great delight at a reference to him in one of my columns several years ago. I referred to him as the “Stephen King of technology textbook writing” because he was so prolific and the books sold so many copies. He quipped in a telephone conversation: “Maybe. But I don’t have Mr. King’s money, that’s for sure.”
In one of many conversations over the years I asked Mr. Krar for his thoughts on why neighbourhood culture remains popular in Welland, why roots are so revered.
“Old friendships run deep,” he said in a column published in 2010.
“Time goes by quickly. We look back and realize it’s all behind us now, but for a few hours coming together like this, we get to relive it, we get to experience it again. Heck, there are some people here who haven’t seen others in 30, 40 years or more. God willing, we’ll be back next year – and maybe a few more.”
Mr. Krar’s death notice can be found on the Tribune’s website at https://www.wellandtribune.ca/announcements-obituaries-memorials/obituaries-death-notices/8724081-krar-steve/
(Lasting Image appears occasionally on the blog.)
Others in the series: Keith Hornibrook: Opening Doors to Addictions Recovery In Dignity, July 11, 2018; Mother Alba Puglia, Tireless Trailblazer, June 18, 2018; Don Murray, A Small Part of Local History, June 6, 2018; Martin Walsh, One Of Our Finest, March 2, 2018; Michael Santone, A Barber of King Street, January 23, 2018; Ed Tymkow, Minister of Hospitality, April 6, 2017; Jimmy Roberto, September 11, 2015; Bob Fralick, May 7, 2014; Frank Addario, February 24, 2014.