Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The forgotten face of Jewish history in Canada

Too much of the historical record has been lost; remembered only by latter day scribes who had a different perspective or an axe to grind.

The recent drive up to Massey was a wake-up call. A century ago Massey was a boom town. The lumber drives were going great guns and the railway had been completed a generation before.

Massey is no more a boom town. The trains don't stop there and neither do the trucks. Greyhound still makes a stop in the town but that's about it.

Whereas 2000 lumberjacks used to augment the full-time population every season, they are now gone and the full-time population is barely half of that.

The most notable thing about Massey today is the metal sculptures on display about the town.

The day we arrived we had a good long walk that took us into the local museum. Saw a few old photographs of the good old days... the usual small-town stuff, and paid three bucks for a 32 page  booklet on the history of Massey.

It was brim-full of the things that you'd find in a little town that has seen better days. Lots of tales of the exploits of the local worthies.

Did you know they invented broomball in Massey?

One of the family names that came up again and again was Sadowski. There were Sadowski's here and there and everywhere. There was even a Sadowski on the first broomball team in history!

In fact, they even had a Sadowski as mayor at one time!

None of this meant anything to us when we were going through the museum. Yes, they had some British guys (Byers, Teasdale, Cameron...) and they had some German guys (Flescher, Bretslaff) and even some Polish guys (the Sadowski clan).

A couple of days later we head out for our morning walk, and the Farm Manager says why don't we take the other way, out of town, and because I generally try to agree with everything the Farm Manager says, I said sure.

Fifteen minutes later, after cresting a hill that has at its base the warning "no gas beyond this point," we find ourselves walking by a cemetery.

Two cemeteries, in fact. One on the left, one on the right.

The Farm Manager suddenly says, what's that over there? Doesn't that look like a star of David?

Turns out there was a third cemetery, hived off from the Protestants.

So we cross the street, and sure enough, there's a big boulder right up near the road with a star of David chiseled into it!

Also chiseled into it is the inscription, "thanks to Moishe Sadowski."

Well, we walked through the small Jewish cemetery that was right up there on the hill with the Protestants and the Catholics. Left some stones on the monuments...

When we got back to the campsite I had to pick up that pamphlet again.

Henry Sadowski was the mayor of Massey in 1914.

David Sadowski was on that broomball team.

These were Jews in pioneer Canada!

But here's a quote I found in that pamphlet. It comes from the depths of the depression, when one of the Sadowski's still managed the family's general store;

If it hadn't been for Mr. Sadowski, we would have starved to death. He trusted my father and he kept us for years. My father did pay him in the end but it took a long, long time."

Nowhere in that pamphlet we got at the museum did it mention that the Sadowski's were Jews.

Thanks, Moishe.

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