by Mike Spack
Part 4

The Chicken:
One humorous incident at Sutherland which could have been tragic was my mother watching me take the axe to cut off the head of the chicken. [This was standard practice in those days as compared to now. Also, the chicken may have been almost a pet of my mothers since she did like animals. It was winter time and I had large leather mitts. I caught the poor chicken and had its head on the wooden block left hand with the thumb of the mitt over the neck of the chicken. Down came the axe and took off not only the head of the chicken but also a piece of the thumb of the mitt. Mom came rushing out having seen this thinking that a piece of my thumb was gone. By now the chicken was running all over the yard without its head but died soon after. Gruesome but a true story remembered clearly today. What a relief it was for Mom and me to I know that the mitt was a large one so my thumb went in only partially! Then Mom had to take the feathers off and gut it ready for the oven.

Our sports practice area:
Across the railway tracks one would find the cinder area beside a large building (see map) and it was here that my close friends, especially John Podwysocki (later Potter), as well as Paul Kowal, Marty Swarek (later Warren) and I spent many happy hours practising various skills in various sports especially football and track and field. Sometimes we were adventurous when a freight train was stationery blocking our path so we would climb between the box cars to get to the other side. However if the train was in motion we were too squeamish to attempt this even though there were those who did one of whom, a school friend, did lose his life as a result.

Bike and radio:
Back to our Sutherland home, rented of course, I remember so vividly how proud I was to get a new bike purchased in part I would guess from working at cleaning bricks and taking out nails from used boards at Shwartz and Litz. When I returned from overseas Schwartz had his own

large construction company in East Kildonan while Litz was a huge interprovincial outfit. Also. the radio including short wave I have in our home is the first one our family purchased when we lived on Sutherland.  Oh how well do I remember the thrill of turning this on and before getting to sleep trying to see if I could make the short wave work! And it did from time to time mostly United States stations and I think occasionally a foreign one from heaven knows where.

Sad thoughts:
Mother made this our home and she did this in the face of horrendous obstacles Our family, mother, father, Nellie, Andy, Margaret born 1935, Rudy part of the time, and I were for some of the thirties on welfare since father had lost a number of jobs and was by this time a confirmed alcoholic. Nellie writes that during the week when father had a part time job, he was actually likeable even bringing some candies on Fridays which was payday.  The weekends however were horrible physically and psychologically to say the least. These were depression days including widespread bootlegging in our
 area. Unfortunately where some alcoholics are left in stupor and/or in a reasonably happy mood, our father was left with a very mean streak in him.

Back to Nellie's correspondences:
"I can still see and hear him calling her (mother) "Anastasia" (her first name but she preferred Nettie) ... kept hitting her. . . you boys would beat up on him ... eventually we would all be outside... lots of neighbors around by this time ... I would be the one often who in the evening and in my nightgown run to Mr. Kriese's store, borrow a nicek to be put on our bill which we paid once a week, and phone 105 for the police. In those days as long as father did not leave his premises they could not touch our father or it seems in looking back. I see Andy as a young boy (born 1927 and this was mid-thirties) hitting him with a baseball bat."

My views on this:
For me, vivid it is the number of times the police came to the house often on Saturday evenings if I remember correctly. Am I correct in I writing that he did not display his anger on me? Nellie consented I finally to remember the Sutherland residence with its sad events.It  was mother who father was after for whatever reason some of this perhaps sexual when his advances were spurned. Indeed he would not only abuse her verbally but hit her and I do remember protecting her by hitting back at him. In those days the law was not too concerned with this happening since they were called to so many places where similar incidents took place, that is husband abusing his wife. So nothing was done from one week to the next by the authorities.

Nellie continues:
"Rudy stole things at the time keeping silverware and dishes in the cellar. Father would drink all the juice from the dill pickle jars to try to get sober. I remember also the fish our father caught in winter (Red River) and these would be in a tub in the cellar so we had canned fish from tlme to tlme. Father also used to catch sparrows' clean' and cook them (probably commonplace in the Ukraine when food was so scarce.)

The orphanage incident:
Sad to say also. I remember that Rudy and I were taken to an orphanage for a short period of time located on the south side of Portage Avenue just about opposite to the present Polo Park shoping centre. The name was St. Joseph's Orphanage and the building I believe still stands. Rudy was the more rebellious one and he was in trouble often. I remember that one of the punishments was for him to eat some soap due to perhaps some swearing at the nuns. I do not know how long we were there and I do stand corrected to write that back in my mind it appears that mother spent an overnight with Nellie in jail due to a bootlegging charge (which is verified by Nellie). Margaret remembers mother saying when she lived in the Fairview home in Vancouver that she had gone through some shameful experiences.

Further research is useless but the many recollections indicate what a difficult time mother had to raise the family. For the jail incident, one can only guess that father took to some bootlegging, kept the liquor in the yard or garden as many did and mother was caught getting a bottle or two. Is this true? Should it be included? All I can say is that something like this did happen since Rudy and I were sent to the orphanage.

 The little maroon house on the corner:
 After graduation at St. Johns ( with a borrowed sports coat at the exercises) we moved to the house almost on the corner of Disraeli and Sutherland and very tiny it was (see pictures). A shop shoemaker?) now not there was on the corner next to us. This small house still standing measured about sixteen feet by forty which I paced out one day. At least it was two-storied and by this time father was elsewhere probably in Vancouver. Was Rudy there? I do not know. I remember almost nothing of our home at that time except that this is where mother and the family lived for a little while when I was in the Air Force while in Canada. The two houses on Hallet were No. 34 mentioned
 earlier and the one Mr. Waluk mentioned but I know not the location of  that house.

Mothers maiden name was Suchasky, the first name Anastasia (Nettie) and she was born in Winkler, Manitoba. Her birth certificate (next page) indicates the date as November 21 and the year 1903. Her parents were Mary and Andrew Suchasky and her mothers maiden name was Zahayko. Baba and her husband, our grandparents, emigrated from the Ukraine I would guess to North Dakota mentioned in Appendix 1, UKRAINE. Mothers naturalization particulars dated 9th of August 1944, show that her nationality origin is British citizenship (born in Winkler. Manitoba) but since father came from what was then Poland (part of Ukraine dominated by Poland no doubt), she was considered a Polish citizen due to marriage to father. Perhaps there was no dual citizenship at the time.

As for father's naturalization papers, he came from Olekslnge, Borszczow, Poland, and though a Polish citizen he was Ukrainian living as a boy in probably that part of Galicia taken over by Poland. One of my notes indicated that Olekslnge was a small village next to Bilche-Sloty but this I could not verify on the 1984 map of Ukraine. Also there is an inconsistency since on mother's birth certificate,
 her parents came from Bilche-Sloty. Austria. Mind you both villages are in Ukrainian Galicia which was divided into eastern and western so perhaps the dividing line was in-between.

 According to the documentation on mother's birth certificate received December 19, 1951, her mother and father came from Austria which must have been the time when part of the Western Ukraine was dominated by Poland and the rest by Austria and the larger area of the Ukraine by  Russia. Various documents are on next pages.

Sisters and "uncle":
Mom had three sisters named Annie, Kay, and Lena who has a daughter Sophie Goetz (Sclaric) married to Len now living in Winnipeg. Mother had also four brothers two of whom were Bill and Mike (see family tree). Well-remembered is "little" uncle who I knew as "Woouiko" which  is what it sounds like in Ukrainian meaning "uncle". He is probably related to mother and he took care of the children when mother worked. He sat often in the kitchen and cooked his own meals. Our house in the diagram is second triangle from Sutherland.

I remember him clearly especially the scene when he daily went along the curbs to pick up cigarette butts. Then it was off to our kitchen to unroll the butts and gather together the tobacco making quite mixture of brands to be sure. Then with his fingers and suitably sized tissue paper he would "roll his own" cigarettes and place them in a tin box. Indeed at this time or perhaps later there were "roll your
own" small machines if one can call them that which may be purchased but in the days of little money available the fingers became quite skilled in this art. He lived in a room in another Disraeli house but during the day stayed in our house looking after us while mother was away.

I have such a fond recollection of our maternal grandmother, in Ukrainian "Baba", who lived on Barber Street. Quite often when we lived on Disraeli Street, I would go to visit her and always chopped I some wood into small sticks with which she could light her fires in the morning in the box stove. She followed a practice which traditionally many ethnic groups brought from the "old country" as it was called (Eastern Europe in general). Indeed the use of herbs and other plants continues to this day perhaps even more so than in the past. Each morning Baba peeled suitably sized cold potatoes and placed these slices on her forehead wrapping all this with a cloth and on top of this her "babushka" so commonly worn by the ladies who emigrated from Ukraine, Poland, and other countries. Why the potatoes? The coolness lasted for more of the day to provide relief for what seemed to be a constant headache (no Tylonol in those days).

Nellie remembers Baba very well, mentioning that when she visited the rooms on Barber Street they were spotlessly clean. " One could safely eat from the floor." And when our grandmother would get very sick such as having swollen legs wrapped in bandages (dropsy it was called then) our mother would nurse her. Also, "she wore long black skirts and when she met the priest on the street for instance, she would kneel down and kiss his hand." Neither Nellie or I have any recollection of  her passing nor when she arrived in Winkler with her children. More on this later.

"Sister Kay through her second marriage had a son John Bartkow, address, 1924, C8, Box 122, RR#3, Puslinch, Ontario. John's brother is Walter who has two daughters but lost his wife a few years ago. Walter left Saskatchewan when he was 14 years of age to reside in Prince George, British Columbia, where later he married his wife. They started a trucking business and apparently did well at this. Back to John. His wife passed away in October, 1994, at the age of 66 from a heart condition. Cousin Sophie and husband Len who go south each winter received John's Arizona's address from Nellie and in addition John was given Sophie's address. So in winter 93/94 visits took place in Arizona. This winter, 94/95, John is spending the winter in Ontario since as mentioned above his wife Beverley died in October. He is going to his niece's wedding in Prince George date unkown. He may drop in to see Sophie and Len down south."

This last summer, 1996. after correspondence with John who now lives in Hamilton, he and a lovely lady with whom he lives visited us. We had a wondeful time chatting and he added to our family tree. We shall keep in touch of course. A picture of the four of us on our steps may  be seen in the photograph section.


Of great interest is the account by John's mother Kay, one of our mother's sisters, a tall, heavy boned lady who Nellie met once, about Baba our maternal grandparents. Four boys and three girls and Baba's husband made up the family of nine. There is no record apparently as to the ages of the daughters and sons. Unknown is in which year the family emigrated to United States. They arrived somewhere in northern United States, probably North Dakota (no official border at that time between Canada and the States). Baba was pregnant with our mother at the time and both she and grandfather and probably children were walking towards Manitoba. Since our mother was born in Winkler, Manitoba, it may be assumed that the destination was that town. Our grandfather, with help from one or more sons, was pulling a cart with all their belongings. It must have been this extra exertion, combined with some health problem, that caused his death on route in North Dakota where he was buried. What happened next is not known but somehow Baba and children did get to Winkler where mother was born. It might be useful to find out if there any records available in Winkler about her birth. One guess that would seem to be true is that our mother was the youngest of the seven children. Obviously much of this is hearsay but even so without the technology available to us today, word of mouth was basic. So there must be some element of truth in all of this. John did mention that later, since the family was so poor, mother's sister Kay went to live with sister Annie and her husband. Many years back another incident took place when mother was living in Fairhaven in Vancouver. Mother phoned Nellie to say that Kay and son John were visiting her. Just how they found mother was not revealed. Apparently Kay had been married twice and had children from both marriages living in Saskatchewan (Katie Weilgosz who passed away recently?). Known is that Annie and husband had a daughter named Kay who married Paul Giroux. Her address may be 18 Spyglass Ridge, Stittsvllle, Ontario, K2S 1B9 (in my notes from someone.)


Mother's brother Bill moved to Chicago and married a Polish Catholic lady. They owned a tavern and I recall the name Bill and the fact that a relative owned a tavern in Chicago. They had no children but did adopt her sister's illegitimate son. This is a reminder that Sophie's older sister, not Mary, moved also to Chicago. As for brother Mike, only a little information is available. In later years he lived on Disraeli Street and Sophie looked after him and also buried him. Sister Lena was ill for many years and died while living with Sophie and Len.

Proposals for mother:
Nellie's final recollection Is fascinating and understandable since according to the pictures we have mother was very beautiful. So much so in fact that mother once told her that three men had approached Baba wanting to marry our mother, one of whom was our father. Unfortunately as it turned out, Baba chose our father. The name of one of the other suitors was mentioned but not recalled by Nellie. He lived in the north end of Winnipeg and did very well for himself and his family. And as far as our home on Sutherland and our father are  concerned, Nellie Indicates that mother did not wish to talk about those sad days. Neither did Nellie since the recall makes her very upset indeed but for the sake of family memoirs she has consented to do so.

Name origin:
By the way, the name Spack likely comes about since in Polish it is spelled Szpak as IS Nellie's surname on her birth certificate. Indeed one can find in many telephone books this name as well as Spak and Spack. My own birth certificate has my surname as Spak and I have not bothered to have it changed...probably should do this. A good guess about our name is that the immigration officer when perusing whatever paper was needed for immigration saw the name Szpak and just dropped
 the "Z" for some reason or other. Or perhaps father just dropped it on his own when he was older. No one worried about what Szpak in Polish meant namely some kind of bird, probably blackbird. In Ukrainian the word is spelled with the first letter an upside down M followed by nak where "n" is sounded as "p" and the upside "M" as "sh". So the name is sounded the same in Polish and Ukrainian.

 Information on the interesting but sad history of the Ukraine is provided in Appendix 1: UKRAINE.


Kathy and Mike Spack
History 1
History 2
History 3
History 4
History 5
History 6
History 7
Photo Album 1
Photo Album 2
Photo Album 3
Photo Album 4
Photo Album 5
Photo Album 6
Family Tree

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