Born in Winnipeg
and educated at TCI.
But school wasn’t my thing
cuz I was a music guy
Most of what I know
I learned while shooting pool
But all I ever cared about learing,
was how to be cool
As I was saying , music was dominating my life but then I also start driving and dating so School was a train wreck.
Noticing my disinterest, a few of the teachers were already hinting that perhaps intellectual pursuits may not be my cup of tea and some of them were even suggesting that I should consider becoming an apprentice at the CNR.
The only teacher at TCI who appeared to give a damn about me was George Derenchuk. (pictured above)
Mr. Derenchuk who was a rookie teacher, said to us in his first class, “Ok, I want the brains to the back, and I want Johns, Quail, and Ringach, up front here with me.”
We knew nothing about him, but it was apparent that he’d done his homework on us.
Once up there, he said to us, “Ok, if you jokers will give me 20 minutes of your undivided attention at the beginning of each class, we’ll spend the rest of the time talkin’ football.”
Not only was his class fun because of all the football talk, but the first twenty minutes were pretty interesting too.
Hell, I even ended up with an ‘A’ in his class which was the only A I ever gotHowever, my daughter Candis claims he was probably the only teacher smart enough to give me one.
A few years ago when I was back in Winnipeg for an overdue reunion at CKY, my good friend Jim Quail arranged a surprise lunch for us with Mr. Darrenchuk.
Once again, he knew everything about the both of us so we spent the whole time talking about him. Candis had gotten it right about his smarts because too long after both Jim and I had left school, he went on to become the principal and then the Superintendent of Schools. RIP, sir.
While growing up, I spent a lot of my time playing baseball and hockey but the sport I loved the most was football.
Unfortunately, there was no football team in Transcona so even though I’d quit baseball because I was more into music, when I heard that they were starting a team up in the fall, I was very excited.
The new team was called the Transcona Nationals and Mr. Cockburn was our coach.
Coby as he was known, didn’t have any problem handling a bunch of Transcona “tuffs” with authority issues, but the one he rode the hardest was his son Huey who was our Quarterback
Hugh had a gun for an arm and consistently threw 60-yard touchdown passes to our “Touchdown Twins,” Jimmy Harrison and Ermanno Barone.
Before long, not only were we one of the best teams in the league, we were also the most penalized.
I have no idea why the referees always had problems with us?
I think Lo Lo explained it best after throwing his helmet at a guy’s head which brought him to his knees when he said, “Hey, what was I supposed to do? He’s a track star; there was no way I was going to catch him.”
Was it our fault that the uppity prep school team we were leading 53 – 0 at halftime refused to come out for the second half?
It was just as well; I guess because they were taking so many timeouts so they could drag their injured players off the field, the game was taking forever.
I also think it showed very poor sportsmanship like conduct when their parents booed us as we were getting back on our bus.
Unfortunately, when the championship game rolled around, the referees were waiting for us.
They had grown weary of our antics all season and took their revenge out on us early. They penalized us on almost every play, and they even went as far as to eject some of our best players.
Being a Transcona National was a great experience, not only was I proud of being one, but it also gave me my first taste of fame.
The fame came about when Bill Burdeyny, the sports editor for the Transcona News, began writing about us. Bill was a great writer, but I suspect that we may have given him some exciting stuff to write about.
One of my favorite things that Bill wrote was, “Not only are the Transcona Nationals, a good football team, they’re also great Canadians. They’ve figured out how to bring a little hockey to the game.”
The Transcona News came out every Thursday, and every Thursday, there we were lined up waiting for the paper to come off the press. (and yes, some 60 years later, I do still have all the clippings)
What with Bill’s writing and our swagger, we were beginning to create a small buzz in Transcona, and before long, we had lots of folks at our games.
Even though the refs put an end to our unbeaten season, we didn’t go down without a fight, but then again, fighting was why this story doesn’t have a better ending.
Even though we were disappointed, the arrival of our team jackets lifted our spirits, and we wore them like badges of honor.
Even at our 50th team reunion, a few of the guys were still wearing theirs with pride. Mine had disappeared long ago, but my good 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 team jackets above, I’m the only one left standing. RIP guys.)