Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winnipeg (1)

I used to live in an apartment on the top floor of the building pictured below.

I can scarcely believe it, but I lived there for three years beginning sometime in 1964, over 45 years ago. I remember the landlord and his wife were an elderly German couple. I think they hated kids. They didn't seem to like me and my sisters much, at any rate. They had a very large, very mean German shepherd. He didn't like kids much either. I remember my father having a harsh exchange of words one day with the landlord after the dog had bitten me quite hard, just missing my privates. The old woman was always yelling at us to keep quiet whenever we came into or went out of the building. We'd just moved back to Canada from Germany. I remember my kindergarten teacher there seemed to have a negative view of kids, too. Thinking about it now, it's possible that it was just me these Germans didn't like. My own parents used to get pretty mad at me sometimes. Or maybe they were tired of being German, who knows. From my bedroom I could climb out a small window onto the flat roof at the rear of the building. I'd sometimes sit out there at night when it was hot. There were a couple of easy-going, fun-loving bachelors living in one of the apartments below us. To this day I'm not certain, because it's the kind of thing you only piece together in your mind after many years have gone by--a muffled scream in the night, urgent conversations that you, a little kid, can't quite make out, the bachelors suddenly disappearing, that sort of thing--but I think the bachelors may have raped the Germans' daughter.

Here's a picture of the school I attended in those days:

It was just down the street from the above-pictured apartment building. I went there for three years, grades one though three. I have two very vivid memories of this place. The first is of Miss Zernickel, my third grade teacher. She wore her hair short. She wore skirts and turtlenecks and suede boots and looked like a movie star to me. I was the best speller in Miss Zernickel's class. My spelling is still pretty good today. Thank you, Miss Zernickel. The other thing I remember is the school's janitor. He was a friendly, somewhat overweight, middle-aged guy with gray hair and a mustache. As far as I can recall there was nothing wrong with this guy, but once a week, for about a year, I dreamed about him. I had nightmares about him. In my dreams he was The Devil. It's never made any sense to me. But what about your childhood does?


  1. That is quite a dense cake of memoires- who needs Madeleines?

  2. That's quite a reference, Susan! I don't mind admitting that I had to track it down. It's certainly true, though, that seeing these places again had an effect on me similar (although maybe less dramatic) to Proust's "petites madeleines."