John Martens Jr. had a wife called Vi Isaac. Frank was her youngest brother. He grew up in Winnipeg and apparently frequently got into trouble. So the parents sent him to Springstein to stay with his older sister. Frank was about my age so the Martens urged him to look me up. (I think he even went to school from January to June and was in Dad’s class but I’m not sure about that). I remember some incidents in our brief friendship that still stand out in my memory today.
One of these was the fact that Frank had a gun. It was a 0.22 rifle he knew how to handle and shoot. Frank taught me how to carry, load, aim and fire a 0.22 safely for which I’m thankful.
In summer he invited me to join the Isaac family to spend the weekend at their cottage on Lake Brereton in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. I recall that as we arrived and unloaded ourselves Frank immediately ran away from the chore of helping carry stuff to the cottage and jumped into the row boat. He urged me to hurry on board and we took off into the lake. There was a brisk wind blowing and the waves were quite severe. It was the first time I had ever been on a row boat but Frank showed no fear as he headed straight into the wind. He emphasized that the boat should always point into the wind perpendicular to the waves. This way it would never get swamped. Again I learned something from Frank I’ll never forget. We reached a small island Frank knew about and rested. After it got dark and the wind subsided Frank manned the boat quite casually and headed home. His parents knew he would be safe and placed a lantern on the dock to aim at. Eventually we arrived and were welcomed by his mother and a late night supper.
On another occasion I found Frank one Sunday at the Martens garage trying to start a one cylinder put-put engine. The put-put engine had been dumped outside for years and seemed to be missing some parts. I didn’t think it could run. But Frank was convinced he could start the thing and was spinning the fly wheel as hard as he could. It never once puffed as if to start and so eventually Frank gave up.
Next he invited me into the shop and showed me how he ignited the acetylene torch. I don’t remember what he was trying to do with this device but I knew you could weld things together with this equipment if handled correctly. I cautioned him not to play with this thing but Frank paid no mind. I guessed this could lead to serious trouble if we were found out and so I left.
A week later I stop in at the Martens with my bike to pick up Frank. Mr. Martens comes out of the house and confronts me with: “Did Frank use the acetylene torch?”
Frank shouts:”No I didn’t, you old goat!”
Now I was stuck. I knew I had seen Frank light the acetylene torch. But I didn’t want to squeal on my friend.
“Tell me the truth or I’ll talk to your father,” said Mr. Martens to me. I did not say a word. Instead I slowly lead my bike off the yard and cycled home. Frank was grounded for a few days as Mr. Martens wore off his anger. This was the first time I had witnessed an outright lie by someone I knew.