Wounds a dressing can’t heal

Al Theobald was raised in a home in Borg, Germany, used in 1945 as a first-aid station for U.S. medics.

We walked in single-file behind our guide. The street in Nennig, Germany, opened into a market square as the young man leading our tour painted a wartime picture of this town 72 years ago. He pointed to the homes tucked neatly around the intersection. Then, he said because of the battle being waged between German and U.S. forces here during the Second World War, that civilians had been evacuated.

“Well, that’s not entirely true,” a quiet voice said behind me. I turned and a man I didn’t know, but who was travelling on the same tour, added, “Some of the civilians refused to leave.”

Adding a chapter

Alex Barris’s ID card when he was 21 years old and at war.

On my last day of classes in 1964, with nothing left to teach us, my Grade 9 phys-ed instructor just gave us a bat and a ball and told us to go play some baseball work-ups. I loved playing shortstop, the position my dad liked most too. Not long into the game, however, the catcher and I chased the same infield fly and we collided head-on. I broke my nose, lost some front teeth and was knocked out cold. I spent several weeks recuperating at home in bed. My father happened to be writing in his office at the house, so he spent time trying to distract me from my pain by telling me stories. It wasn’t long before I popped the big one.

“Hey Dad, what did you do in the war?” I asked.

A unique calling

The Grant Mansion has a unique place in Atlanta's history, if it can be preserved.
The Grant Mansion has a unique place in Atlanta’s history, if it can be preserved.

It’s rather unassuming, yet quite historic. It doesn’t dazzle with extraordinary colours or flashy architecture. To the contrary, its simple lines, modest proportions and utilitarian features speak more of its being a family dwelling than a historic building. But in the City of Atlanta, the Grant Mansion has a unique distinction. It’s one of the few Civil War period buildings not destroyed in the burning of the city 150 years ago by Union Gen. W.T. Sherman. Initially, its survival is attributed to one odd factor.

“Because Union troops found Masonic paraphernalia in the house,” documentation at the historic site explains today, “(soldiers) were instructed not to harm the houses of Masons.”

Madness as wisdom

Abraham Rosenbach got the bug to collect rare books from his uncle Moses Polock.
Abraham Rosenbach got the bug to collect rare books from his uncle Moses Polock.

Did you know that the original manuscript for James Joyce’s book Ulysses rests in Philadelphia? That’s because a Philadelphian named Abraham Rosenbach felt he needed to acquire it. In 1924, when he saw the first version of the book, Joyce’s actual pencilled words on paper, Rosenbach bought it.

He paid $1,975 for it. At the time, he felt he was simply helping Joyce raise much needed cash. When Joyce’s fortunes changed and he tried to buy the manuscript back from Rosenbach, he refused. Later, Rosenbach offered to buy the page proofs for Ulysses.

Joyce was incensed, saying “when [Rosenbach] receives a reply from me, all the rosy brooks [a play on Rosenbach’s name] will have run dry.”

Rescuers with no names

Crosby in Team Canada dressing room at Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
Crosby in Team Canada dressing room at Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

It was the day before New Year’s Day, four years ago. I had simply gone to exchange a gift at an electronics store in Oshawa. As I drove home that midday I remember listening to former Detroit Red Wings star Steve Yzerman announcing names of Team Canada hockey players for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

That’s when I was T-boned by a truck coming through an intersection. I remember my world spinning until I hit something else and came to an abrupt stop facing the opposite direction in the intersection. Next thing I knew, not an official, just a guy with a cell phone in his hand came to what was left of my driver’s side window.

“Are you OK?” he asked.