EL: Now before my brother’s birth in 1910, it must have been 1908—my father came to Canada. He was looking for a job…
ID: What made him go to Canada?
EL: Yes, my mother’s brother Nate Shineman—and I’ll come to him—had migrated and the Grand Trunk Railraod was being built across Canada and general stores were opened up along the tract that the boys went along—the boys made a living selling to the workers, hundreds and thousands of men with fairly good payroll living in these shacks, going along with the building of the railroad and it is part of the construction of Canada. While this was going on they became merchants and they sold them suitcases and suits and brass watches and all the rest of the stuff. Nate Shineman, who was the elder brother of my mother who died last year at the age of 99 in Jerusalem, came out to Prince Rupert and made his way along the Grand Trunk to Rupert. My father, I guess started the same pattern and on route they went across Canada. The train stopped every so often, you could get out, look around, buy a sandwich or spend three or four hours there while they fix the train up—somewhere outside of Toronto was a sign up that Silverman, a chap by the name of Silverman, Sudbury, where the nickel strike had just been made, international nickel. They needed a man there of artistic ability—they needed a man there who could write signs on windows. And being of artistic ability he took that job and worked for Silverman who was one of the known characters of that time. My father encountered the fact that some fellows came in with, it was a mining area, and some fellow came in with a claim and offered to sell him part of it but he wouldn’t have anything to do with mining—that was gambling and he said that the claims that were offered to him or parts that were offered to him are now the International Nickel Mines of Sudbury. So history has a way of getting hold of you.
He made his way from there to old Hazelton which was on route to the Grand Trunk and he told stories of sleeping in tents there in 30 to 40 below zero and being able to get up in the morning and barely move—taking a match between two frozen hands and rubbing the damn thing to start a fire. Ant that was part of a living at that time—it was tent and shack living with great hardships—but these were all young men.
RT: And what was the next move?
AC: Winnipeg. And by that time that was January 1975 and that to me was one of the most difficult things that we had done was move from where I was born which is really warm [former republic of Moldavia], to Israel which is warmer, to Belgium which is kind of wet, to Winnipeg which is just frigid, freezing cold and in 1975 the winters were harsh. I mean now obviously things, with Global Warming, things are a lot warmer. But, holy-moly, I hated Canada. [Laughter].
RT: How old were you then about eight?
AC: Seven and a half.
RT: And when did your attitude about that change?
AC: Like anything it takes time, a couple of years.
RT: Make friends and stuff.
AC: Yeah, that was hard too. I think when you come into a country and kids are mean sometimes when you have a bit of an accent. On top of it all it was the Eagle and the Bear, the cold war was going on and so people don’t see …
AC: Well don’t see beyond, even in a private Hebrew school, don’t see beyond the Russian part. Coming from a tough stock, coming from the school of hard knocks and surrounded by a lot of sheltered, very soft (I called the North American Jews very soft), thin skinned … I basically fought for my respect, you know, stood up for my rights. Maybe acquired a bit of a bully persona going throughout elementary and junior high school but if that’s what it took for me to gain respect I was going to get that, and that’s what it was and that’s fine.