Sunday, October 12, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's the Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, an annual tradition of enjoying the bounty of the harvest season.

We are beginning our feasting today by attending a dinner with some of Ellen's cousins whose company I very much enjoy.

Tomorrow, we gain some additional weight by having dinner with those of our kids who can attend at my son's home (I think there will only be three of six present) plus at least one, but hopefully more, of our grandkids.

I have much to be thankful for! Most of all, I am thankful for the doctors, nurses and therapists who aided me four years ago when I inexplicably developed Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), a condition I had never heard of, nor could pronounce, let alone understand. The condition caused my total paralysis, (well, at least from the neck down) and for a moment or three, my death.

Those medical professionals were able to resuscitate me in the Ajax-Pickering Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, and help me over the next several weeks begin to regain my strength. They taught me how to walk again and become mobile. They returned my sense of independence to me.

I am thankful that I have been blessed with these past four 'bonus' years, with many more yet to come (I hope!). I am thankful that in the past four years I have been able to 'hang out' and do some traveling with my wife, hold my grand daughter, walk my eldest daughter down the aisle and sing at her wedding. I am thankful that we have been able to continue to offer help and encouragement to all of our kids as they work hard to establish their own niches in this often overly-harsh world.

I suspect we all have much to be thankful for and that is my, at least, partial list. What is on your list?

52 Ancestors: Jack Hangs Up The Blades For A Life Of Service

This is the fourth and final part in a series of posts that primarily set out to capture the professional hockey career of John Osborne 'Jack' Filkin, or, 'Uncle Johnny' to my wife.

The previous three posts about Jack Filkin's hockey career can be read here:

Jack Filkin learned to play hockey, likely on the frozen ponds and rivers of his native Ontario, Canada. It is clear from all of the records that Jack loved hockey and would do whatever was needed to find a place on a good team. He was scouted a signed by the New York Rangers. He didn't make the NHL team following the 1929 training camp but rather was assigned to the Rangers' pro farm team, the Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians. 

His second pro hockey season was spent in the California Hockey League playing for the Los Angeles Millionaires. Unfortunately, no cumulative statistics for the team or the league could be found for the 1930-31 season. However, various newspaper articles and family-held press clippings tell of Jack impressing with his speed, his goal scoring touch and his ability to play both a finesse and physical style of hockey. Whatever it took to succeed. 

Jack Filkin as a Los Angeles Millionaire (original photo privately held)

Jack's Los Angeles Millionaires finished second in the league that year to the Oakland Shieks. Jack was near the top of the list of goal scorers, probably in the top ten players, possibly as high as the top five in the league.

It is not surprising then that Jack's pro hockey contract was purchased by the Philadelphia Arrows of the Canadian-American Hockey League for the 1931-32 season.

Jack was off to the 'City of Brotherly Love' to join an Arrows hockey team being coached and managed by Hockey Hall of Famer Herb Gardiner. The team played all of it's home games in the Philadelphia Arena on Market Street in the city's west end. Statistics for the 1931-32 season show that Jack played in 31 games, assisted on three goals, and accumulated twelve minutes in penalties. 

What that record does not show is that jack sustained a career ending injury towards the end of the season. Jack's hockey season was ended early when he severely broke one of his legs.

The following hockey season, Jack attempted a comeback with the 1932-33 Edmonton Eskimos of the Western Hockey League. Leading up to the Eskimos' opening game, an Edmonton sports reporter introduced the new member of the local team in this way:

Over on the left wing, McKenzie [Edmonton Eskimos coach] has a big, robust speed merchant in the person of Jack Filkin, 25-year old sniper who has had his share of pro competition...Filkin had a bad break with the Arrows, suffering a badly fractured leg, and he never did regain the form expected of him.

Although his hockey career came to a disappointing end, Jack had lived the dream. But it was now on to other and perhaps even greater things John Osborne Filkin.

With his hockey career over, John returned to Toronto with his wife Hazel (Latimer). They settled into a pleasant home on Vaughn Road in the Toronto borough of York. John and Hazel welcomed into their family two daughters. John went off to work each day according to voters lists as a salesman. Eventually John took up the profession of tree surgeon as recorded in numerous subsequent voters lists. Eventually this profession would be described as Landscape Architecture.

John Filkin in 1965 (from Lions Club International newsletter)

In 1950, John became a member of the Lions Club service organization. According to a variety of club archived records, in 1958, John became the President of his local Lions Club branch. The following year he became the Zone Chairman for the Lions Club. He then spent 1961 and 1962 as the Lions Club's Deputy District Chairman, followed by two years in the role of 100% Deputy District Governor. From 1965 through 1967, John was a Director of the Lions Club International, representing Canada.

John's dedication to service through the Lions Club is well documented, both in Lions Club archived records and in the many newspaper articles from across Canada and the United States reporting on John's message to fellow Lions Club members at the many conventions at which he was invited to be the keynote speaker.

When not inspiring and encouraging Lions Club members, John found time to serve as the Commissioner of the Parking Authority for the Borough of York (Toronto, Ontario) or 16 years. In the 1971 photo below, John Filkin is seen helping Borough of York Mayor Philip White cover a parking meter, an act that offered free parking in the borough for the busy shopping season the week prior to Christmas.

John 'Jack' Filkin (left) with York Mayor Philip White, December 1971 (Toronto Star newspaper archive)

Following a life of giving joy to hockey fans and serving his community, at home and abroad, John Osborne Filkin passed away on April 28, 1977 having followed his dream, served his community well, and teaching all of us how to live life well.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

52 Ancestors: Jack Becomes A Los Angeles Millionaire

I have, admittedly, been delinquent in continuing the story about John Osborne (Jack) Filkin, my wife's uncle through marriage and, in his younger days, a professional hockey player. This is Part 3 in a four part series about Jack Filkin. You can read the previous two parts of this story here:

Jack grew up in small town Ontario, Canada. Here he learned to play hockey, and play it at a high level. In an era before the blades of hockey sticks were curved, Jack played with a standard straight-bladed hockey stick. With that straight blade, Jack developed the unique skill of being able to shoot the puck either left handed or right handed.

At five feet, eleven inches in height and one hundred seventy-five pounds, Jack would have been considered a big winger, even a force to be reckoned with.

In 1929, the general managers of the professional hockey teams had no farm systems from which to draw for the big league team. They needed to scour hockey leagues looking for young talent. 

When the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL) were looking for new talent, according to press reports, they were "told of" Jack who was "known in the Maple Leaf country as Goal-a-Game Filkin, this because he has averaged a goal every game since he began donning the steel blades in league competition."

The 1929-30 season didn't work out as hoped for. Jack attended the New York Rangers training camp and was sent to the New York Rangers' Canadian-American Hockey League affiliate team the Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians. Although Jack was a fan favourite, his goal scoring touch was missing. He recorded just one goal and one assist while spending 30 minutes in the penalty box.

Following the hockey season, Jack returned to his Ontario home. In Toronto, he was known as Police Constable Filkin, Badge Number 788. In that first 'off-season' of 1930, Jack managed to take time off of his 'beat' to marry Hazel Latimer.

John Osborne 'Jack' Filkin, 1929-30 Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians 
newspaper photo clipping 
(Newspaper source and date of publication unknown)

On November 10, 1930, it was back to hockey for Jack. But this time, Jack was on his way to play hockey in California where his professional contract had been purchased. Jack was going to be a Los Angeles Millionaire.

There does not appear to be a compiled listing of the statistics from the California Hockey League available for the year that Jack played there (1930-31). However, a review of the press clippings available to me strongly suggests that Jack's scoring touch had definitely returned, with numerous multiple goal games reported.

Hazel joined Jack in Los Angeles and, together, they were able to connect with Hazel's aunts, uncles, and cousins in the Knox and Squires families. Hazel's mother, Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer was from California and had left the state the day after she married her Canadian husband, Edward Latimer, in 1906.

Hazel (Latimer) Filkin
(Original privately held)

The year of 1931 brought about more change for Jack. Maybe it was because of his goal scoring success in California, maybe it was because of team requirements, or maybe it was a combination of both but, whatever the reason, Jack's professional hockey contract was purchased again by another team. 

Jack was gong to spend his third season as a Philadelphia Arrow. He did not know it when he crossed the U.S.-Canada border in the Fall of 1931 that the 1931-32 hockey season would be his last.