Saturday, October 2, 2010


One of the best features of their home on Wyatt Avenue, from Ivaan's point of view, was its proximity to the Don River and to the industrial lands and abandoned factories which were the source of many of his most memorable stories.

On weekends, one of Ivaan's favourite activities was to sneak into the abandoned factory buildings, just to see what was inside them.  Sometimes the properties were patrolled by security staff.  Just as often, they were unguarded.  Ivaan must have been about ten years old one Saturday when he and a friend took the friend's wagon and found a way into one of these abandoned factories.  It was clearly a building that had at one time been used for the manufacture of ammunition for the war effort.  Inside the building, Ivaan and his friend found an empty shell casing.  It must have been quite large, because it was with some difficulty that they got it over the fence, loaded it into the wagon and headed for home.  They had just left the property when a policeman on patrol stopped them and made them return this piece of ammunition to the factory. The boys did as they were told, but as soon as the policeman continued on his rounds, they climbed the fence once more, put the shell casing back into the wagon, covering it with an old newspaper.  Hurrying to climb back over, anxious lest the officer should return, Ivaan got his shoe stuck in the fence and had to abandon it.  He was obliged to return after dusk to retrieve it.

The boys took the shell casing back to Ivaan's home, where Ivaan took it down to the basement and filled it with soot from the furnace.  Next day, after the family returned from church, Ivaan took his sister Nadia's kerchief, carried the shell upstairs, and climbed out the window onto the roof.  Once on the roof, he tied Nadia's kerchief to the shell casing.

Meanwhile, down below, every child on Wyatt Avenue had gathered in a semicircle on the pavement, looking up at Ivaan and his bomb on the roof.  All the children were wearing their Sunday best. Most were eating popsicles.  Ivaan manoeuvred his home-made bomb to the edge of the roof and let it drop, expecting that the kerchief would act as a parachute, and that his bomb would descend slowly and gracefully and land on the street in the middle of the semicircle of children.    As one might predict, the bomb fell rather more quickly than he, or his audience, anticipated.  It hit the ground and broke apart, spewing clouds of soot.  When the dust settled, Ivaan saw only a semicircle of dropped popsicles; his audience, their clothes blackened by the soot, had headed for home running.

Recalling the failed experiment many years later, Ivaan said ruefully, "Every kid on the street got a beating that day, not just me."