Foreward: This column was originally written to coincide
with the Creighton re-union, held in July, 1989. In fact, I wrote two
versions . . . a draft, to see if my editor liked the concept . . . and the
final version that I dropped off a couple of days later. Well, when
The Triangle’s June edition came out, Murphy’s Law being what it was, there
was the draft version in all its glory. Folks liked it anyway, bless
them, because it probably had more feeling and less polish than my pride
and joy. So, it is with great trepidation that I offer here a very
loving blend of both . . . and a modest new conclusion.
Home to Creighton
The following article
was written by Marty McAllister. He wrote this as a tribute to Tom
Davies just before he passed away, and felt that Tom would be pleased to
have it donated to the Creighton website. I am most honored to present
this heart warming, beautifully melancholy piece. I cannot thank you
By the way, what WAS Cowboy's real name? He was my neighbour
for so many years, his mother, Granny Smith lived in the duplex beside the
Kiley's, and I only knew them for their most fragrant lilacs and the stud
covered, Harley riding Cowboy. One more of life's little mysteries
that has come back to haunt me!
Old mining towns never die. Instead, through the loving nostalgia of
those who were there, they live forever, tenderly passed from generation
to generation, growing ever more perfect with the passage of time.
So it is with Creighton, the Sudbury area village that is now the largest
member of an elite group of ‘company towns of yesteryear’, alongside Mond,
Victoria, Stobie, Nickelton, Worthington, Crean Hill, O'Donnell, High Falls,
Turbine, and others. They aren't ghost towns, in the usual sense.
No faded sign hangs crookedly in front of an abandoned general store . .
. no tattered curtain blows eerily through a broken window . . . no rusting
hulk of an old truck blocks the end of a weed-crowded street. Physically,
these towns have ceased to exist.
Just as the realities of mining company growth required that the towns be
built, so did new realities require that they be vacated and dismantled .
. . and returned to the gossan hillsides of their antiquity. “The moving
finger writes, and having writ moves on ...”
The great Creighton nickel mine itself continues, producing at a capacity
beyond the wildest dreams of those who shipped that first ore in the summer
of `01, but the Creighton we knew is gone ..... isn't it?
I thought so, until I began preparing for this column.
Early one warm spring evening, I took a drive to my old home. At the
modern, level intersection amid the emptiness, I turned into ‘town’.
Just ahead on my right, only the half-hidden remains of a curving concrete
walkway told of the beloved Inco Club that once sat in the now-empty clearing.
I pulled in, right at the spot my `58 Meteor and I had sheared off a hydro
pole. Flush with the ground, it was. Rest his soul, Jimmy Kearney
had been on duty that night . . . and the bard of Creighton had been at his
eloquent best, in court a few days later. How he and I had laughed
about that, years afterward. Poor Norm Silverson! Seeing the mess I
had made of the beautiful car he had traded, just about broke his heart.
Bill Taylor, then one of Inco’s line formen, told this scared young apprentice:
“Forget it, son; we were going to remove that pole anyway.”
Considerably older, but questionably wiser, I stepped down out of my truck
and turned in a full circle, looking for some clue to yesteryear.
God, had it all been a dream? Had the town and people I loved really
been here? How could so much have fit into so small a space?
I paced off the few yards to the former location of the Club steps . . .
where we used to sit, talk, laugh, and fall in love (sometimes for just a
week, sometimes for forever). The concrete gone, I sat on the grass.
Resting back against my arms, I closed my eyes and listened.
Was I just imagining things, or did I hear something?
Faintly at first, then progressively louder, I hear approaching footsteps
on the wooden sidewalk across the street. In my mind's eye, vaguely
familiar faces draw closer, and the lump in my throat tightens as recognition
dawns. We sit together on the steps, facing out toward the street,
sharing the most memorable of the day's events.
Memories leap-frogged memories, out of sequence, rushing forward, then
evaporating to make way for others. Giving up the effort to put my
recollections in some logical order, I just relaxed and let them come.
We wave at Cowboy as he cruises past --- on his Harley, or in his convertible?
Which convertible? He had at least two --- the blue `51 and the yellow
`56, both Fords. Jimmy Conners bought the `51 (his sister Shirley still
remembers the night they rolled it). Which one do I see us waving at?
Somehow, it doesn't really matter. I laugh to myself, still feeling
a hint of pride that I was one of the few who knew Cowboy's real name.
Behind us, Enci and Fats emerge from the Club, and we scramble out of their
way, hoping maybe they’ll say “Hi”. Yockey looks toward the creek below
Snob Hill, singing “Cross Over The Bridge”. We all know who he's teasing.
There's no real hurry to go inside, or to remain sitting; there's just
no hurry. Eddie Hreljac shows up, looking fit and ready to conquer
some new foe on the badminton floor. I grin at him, chuckling to myself:
“I started lessons the same day he did; I coulda been just as good if I'd
wanted,” knowing I'm lying.
Preoccupied as Butch McMahon's wholesome, pretty face comes into view, I
hear a familiar voice call: “Hank!” Without looking, I know it's Bob
Seawright. Jeez, you have one picture taken with an old guitar, and
you're Hank forever. Gratefully, Bob’s the only one to call me that
. . . but I guess it beats getting shot in the butt with one of his cat-tail
Another car goes by, quietly, smoothly, the mine superintendent's trademark
fedora set perfectly, as always. The green `54 Buick Century was Mr.
Mumford's pride and joy, although his joy was less obvious the Sunday morning
the keys were locked inside, right opposite Fraternity United.
Why am I remembering cars, anyway? How come I remember that old Cadillac
V-16 Carl Malmberg had? Longest hood I ever saw! And what about
Archie Massey's `61 Continental four-door convertible? Now there was
a story: my brother Bob sold it to Mr. Massey, and he swore it was the same
one that John F. Kennedy rode in when he visited Ottawa. The guys don't
believe me, but . . . who knows? (This memory's out of sync, but I
Cars . . . stock car races in New Sudbury . . . number 11 . . . Creighton's
Elmer Tuuri, the best ever . . . Curly Takala cursing the rising cost of
sponsorship . . . me selling hot dogs . . . and, of course, the loudspeakers
playing ‘The Song From the Moulin Rouge’.
Digressing, I see a group of little kids clustered at the cash in Fievoli’s
store. How kindly and patiently they were treated . . . and I recall
my dad’s comment on Mr. Fievoli’s philosophy: “He takes extra care with them;
little customers grow up to be big customers.”
There's Yolly Davies, home from school, regaling Sally and the rest of their
crowd with stories of the big city. Sally Zanure --- with a beautiful
smile that would inspire any brother to become a dentist. They won't
all look like that, Chunky! Speaking of Yolly, have you ever seen a
dad more proud of his son? If you'd told Mel his boy would one
day be Regional Chairman, he wouldn't have been a bit surprised. You
think Tom's a raconteur? He comes by it honestly.
The evening wears on, and Barney Barnicott comes out of the Club, his workout
finished for the day. How incredible that a man older than our fathers
can be in such great condition! And what fun to listen to his stories
of . . . was it India or Africa, where he said he got so tanned it never
The street lights are on as I say goodnight to my friends, deciding to walk
with Barney as far as his house on McNaughton Street, next door to mine.
Not that I'm leery of walking by myself, mind you. Yeah, it gets kinda
spooky down by the creek, but there's a street light just ahead, by Sergeant
Grant's house. And they'll be there in the living room: old Huey and
Mrs. Grant, him reading one half of the paper, and her reading the other.
Barney and I part company, and my heart warms as I turn in at number nineteen.
The garage door is closed, and that means . . . they're both home.
The dining room light is on, casting familiar silhouettes on the drawn curtain.
My impulse is to hurry `round back and inside, blurting out all the things
I never took time to say, but I pause, and the image begins to dim, returning
from whence it came.
I can see morning, then, and can hear, before everything fades: “Beyond the
blue horizon, waits a beautiful day . . .”
At the reunion itself, I learned that a writer should never, ever remember
only one attractive girl from the good old days. Butch, you see, didn’t
make it to the reunion . . . but her former neighbour did. Can you
imagine a feisty little Italian lady exclaiming: “It was always Butchie this;
Butchie that! Wasn’t mine a pretty, wholesome face too?”
It sure was, Lia . . . and it still is.
Last Sunday, here in 1997, a bunch of us went to Creighton again.
It was a short-notice, word of mouth kind of thing . . . just so we could
gather around the George Street corner and . . . well, stupid, so we could
show Yolly how much we loved him. There, I said it . . . but if you
tell anybody that a Creighton boy said a dumb thing like that, I’ll get Red
MacDonald to break your face!