My father was proud enough of his wife and the kids, but be damned if he would ever say so within earshot of the family. Father was a police constable in the seaport city of Saint John, New Brunswick. When he was on his twelve-hour beat, he was heard to brag about us when he would step in to join morning or afternoon conversations in the local grocery stores. Men used to sit around in those days on covered barrels of sugar, flour, or molasses or boxes of canned goods, passing the time of day, smoking pipes and cigarettes while the proprietors kept a wary eye on the sawdust floors for fear of fire.
Life was not easy, but it was also not a pressure cooker in the 1950s. Keeping aware of local news was valued, and so the local policeman was a welcome guest at any establishment be it the grocery, the barbershop, the dry cleaner’s, the diner, the department store, or the funeral parlour. Who better than a friendly cop to have the inside slant about goings-on around the city? Danny Dunphy was an obliging gossip with a gentle sense of humour and almost no sense of his own importance. Dan’s best buddy on the police force was “Babe” Durning. They played cards a lot and they played tricks on people at home and on the beat. They were practical jokers all right, but because of their unassuming manner, they were seldom caught or even suspected.
As a young boy, I had no appreciation of my father’s twelve-hour shift whether he endured summer heat or winter frigidity. But I did recognize that the shiney uniform black shoes sounded very heavy coming up the front stairs and the sound took on greater amplitude when he sat on a chair in my parents’ bedroom and dropped the shoes to the floor one at a time before any other part of the uniform came off.
About two weeks before Christmas, father started dreaming of what he wanted a little louder than was usual for him. He had stopped for a rest and a warm-up at the butcher shop on Prince Edward Street. “Dates” Elliott, the butcher, had become an instant friend when Dan Dunphy joined the police force in the early 1920s, and his wife Charlotte became a friend for life to my mother. Dan was pretty proud that he hailed from Prince Edward Island and he often recalled how he was used to having goose for Christmas dinner on the Island until he ended up in Saint John where you had to be satisfied with turkey.
I am not sure he was thinking of goose dinners when he climbed upstairs to our second-storey flat every night on Celebration Street. When my parents bought the house at number 34 , they lived downstairs from Gladys Hopey and the family until they moved to their own house across the street and we moved upstairs.