Born in Winnipeg
schooled in Transcona at TCI.
But I wasn’t into school
Because I was a music guy
Most of what I learned
I picked up while shooting pool
But all I ever wanted to know
was how to be cool
My first year of High School was a train wreck, and picking up on my disinterest, a few teachers were already hinting that perhaps intellectual pursuits may not be my cup of tea. Some even suggested that I should consider becoming an apprentice at the CNR.
The only teacher who appeared to give a damn about me was George Derenchuk. Mr. Darrenchuk, who was in his rookie year (pictured above), said, “Ok, I want the brains to the back, and I want Johns, Quail, and Ringach upfront with me.”
We didn’t know anything about him, but it was apparent that he had done his homework on us. Once we were up there, he said, “Ok, if you jokers will give me 20 minutes of your undivided attention at the start of each class, we’ll spend the rest of the time talkin’ football.”
Not only was Mr. Darenchuk’s class fun because of the football talk, but the first twenty minutes was kinda interesting too, and I ended up with an ‘A.’
That was the first and only ‘A’ I ever got, but my daughter Candis claims that he was probably the only one who was smart enough to give me one.
A few years ago, when I was back in Winnipeg for a long-overdue reunion at CKY, my good friend Jim Quail arranged lunch for us with Mr. Darrenchuk.
Once again, he seemed to know everything about us, so we spent the time mostly talking about him.
Candis had gotten it right about his being smart because not long after Jim and I had left school, he went on to become a principal and then Superintendent of Schools. RIP, sir.
While growing up in Winnipeg, I spent a lot of my time playing baseball and hockey, but the sport I loved the most was football. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a team in Transcona, so you can only imagine my excitement when I found out that they were starting one in the fall.
We were called the Transcona Nationals, and Mr. Cockburn who was known as “Coby” was our coach
Coby, whose son Huey was our QB, didn’t have any problems at all handling a bunch of Transcona “tuffs” with authority issues.
His son Huey had a gun for an arm and consistently threw 60-yard touchdown passes to our “Touchdown Twins,” Jimmy Harrison and Ermanno Barone.
Before long, we were one of the best teams in the league, but we were also the most penalized.
I have no idea why the referees always had problems with us? Hey, it was like Lo Lo explained after throwing his helmet at guy’s head, which brought him to his knees before he could score a touchdown. “What was I supposed to do,” he asked, “The guy’s a track star, there was no way I could catch him.”
Was it our fault that the uppity prep school team we were beating up 53 – 0 in the first half refused to come out and finish the game? It was just as well, I guess, because it was taking forever what with all their timeouts so they could drag their injured players off the field.
I also think that is was uncalled for when their parents booed us when we were getting back on our bus, which showed very poor sportsmanship on their part.
However, when the championship game rolled around, the referees were waiting for us. They had grown weary of our antics and took their revenge on us early.
Almost every play they penalized us, and they even went as far as to eject most of our best players.
Being a Transcona National was a great experience. Not only was I and still am proud of being one, but it also gave me a taste of fame.
The fame part came about when Bill Burdeyny, who was the sports editor for the Transcona News, started writing about us.
Bill was a great writer, but I suspect that our team may have given Bill a lot of exciting stuff to write.
One of my favorite things Bill ever wrote was, “Not only are the Nationals, a good football team, they’re also great Canadians, but they’ve also managed to bring a little hockey to the game of football.”
The Transcona News came out every Thursday, and every Thursday there, we were lined up waiting for it to come off the press. (and yes, I do still have all the clippings)
What with Bill’s writing and our swagger around town, we were beginning to create a small buzz in Transcona, which before long brought a lot more folks out to our games.
Even though the refs burst our bubble and put an end to our unbeaten season, we didn’t go down without a fight. But then again, fighting is the reason this story doesn’t have a better ending.
Even though we were disappointed about how the season ended, the arrival of our team jackets lifted our spirits. We wore them everywhere, like badges of honor.
Even at our 50th team reunion, a few of the guys were still wearing theirs with pride. Mine had long ago disappeared, but my friend Jim Quail surprised me with a brand new one which I proudly wore as we discussed that final game, perhaps for the last time.
(sadly, of the four Transcona Nationals shown in the photo above wearing their jackets, I’m the only one left standing. RIP guys.)