Ted returned to Montreal. The political climate, which drove him out of the U.S.A.,
the virulent anti-leftism, was almost as rabid in Canada, though hidden. The Royal
Canadian Mounted Policy (the RCMP) had become a secret police. They compiled 800,000
files on more than a million Canadians - every communist, socialist, outspoken
liberal, union organiser, peace activist, and indeed anyone suspected of any left
wing sympathies. The small enclave that sprung up around my father in Mimico (just
outside of Toronto) in 1950/51 was known in the RCMP files as "Little Moscow".
When a family friend, the young Brooke Forbes, came back briefly in the late 50s
to Canada from London the RCMP visited her to tell her menacingly, "We know
who you've been seeing." We were all quite clear that they must have meant
Even in the best of circumstances
making a living by writing takes more than talent and dedication. It can take
some luck, and the witch-hunts cancelled out much of that. In a conversation with
Trudy Ship, Ted told how, "Even though I wasn't a member of the Party in
'54, the RCMP turned up at the CBC and said I was a member. The CBC threw me out
of a job, but then re-hired me as a Freelancer." This conversation took place
in 1993 in LA at Julie's Christmas party. Trudy is a close friend of Julie's.
Here Trudy was inquiring of Ted about his relation to her father, Reuben Ship.
Ted taped the conversation in which he recounted how Reuben had written a show
called "The Life of Riley" - that was a very popular radio comedy show
and he was really one of the top comedy writers in the country."
asked, "Why didn't you look up Reuben and Ada when you came to live in L.A.
in 1945? You knew them when you were in Montreal." After this observation
Trudy asked of Julie, "How old were you when you came to L.A.? Cause we didn't
meet in Toronto until I was 9 and you were 13." Then to Ted, "How did
you know Reuben and Ada in Montreal?"
didn't know Reuben and Ada. I knew Reuben."
did you meet him?"
"We were on the
same hockey team. We were eleven years old and we belonged to a team I named The
Cossacks - I was a secret Russophile even then. Now what happen when I got to
L.A., 'cause I did call Reuben; I called him and he never called back. Later I
asked him, "What happened?" I was a fairly well known Commie, and he
said that he felt it was too dangerous. I was an open Party member in '45. It
wasn't that he was scared. He was being correct."
wouldn't see you?"
"Honey, at that
time, at that time, he would make it a point, with my history, not to see me.
Later we renewed our friendship, which was marvelous."
was later in Toronto, but in L.A. you were living in the same city for three years,"
said Trudy. "Was Daddy a member of the Party?"
belonged to a branch that had to deny that they were members. That was policy,
to deny membership, and be careful about being seen with people like me. There
was strict Party discipline, very crazy Party discipline, but you can't blame
the Party. Everybody was going after Communists. But I didn't have a clue, until
much later when I came to Toronto, when we started to talk about that..."
"When did you leave?"
"And Rueben didn't contact
you again until..."
"You were wondering
why we didn't get together in '45. I'm just explaining '45. By the time he knew
me well, later, I may not even have been a member of the Party, but I was still
a sympathiser. Everything Russia did was absolutely right. Marxism made such sense
when it was analyzed and with what it promised. It made more sense than anything
else at the time, and one felt part of a great leadership, an elite, if you wish.
We were "The vanguard of the working class". It felt good."
Back in Montreal in 1949 Ted earned a living writing copy in a small advertising
agency, and writing and delivering radio talks. He gave talks on Canadian Literature,
on Hollywood, prepared a series of talks on Mental Health, and a series on medical
advances, which included programs and interviews with Hans Selye (who discovered
"stress") and Wilder Penfield (who "discovered" the brain).
From my childhood I recall the magic of the typewriter,
the family totem. And I recall books. Selye's and Penfield's fat textbooks stood
out. Ted was always reading. Always interested in everything new. He kept himself
informed. He had a great regard for human intellect, and for "science".
That dumb matter had evolved from the mud and become "conscious of itself"
was the great wonder. And nothing would eventually escape the power of human understanding.
Later, with the death and the fall from grace of Stalin, and with the eclipse
of the Party and "dialectical materialism" , while never losing his
respect for the rational, Ted became open, broad minded, and intellectually humble.
From my earliest days I remember Ted lying beside
me on my bed and telling me of the power of the human brain, human ingenuity.
"Men will walk on the moon, possibly not in my life time, but certainly in
yours," he told me. That was back in the mid 1940s, and, though I was just
a child, I found that hard to believe.
have one vivid memory of Ted from Montreal in '49. I was six years old. I had
a second bout of pneumonia. The doctor prescribed one of the then new sulfa wonder
drugs. It tasted awful. I was reluctant to swallow it. Ted shouted and, grabbing
me by the arm, dragged me across the room. A display of massive force. I took
Ted often reminded me of this
incident. He felt it must have made a deep impression on me.
In 1949 Ted wrote "Lies My Father
Told Me" as a short story.
I was younger, about five I think it was, I believed God allowed the children
that he especially loved to die and come to heaven. I really didn't want to live
after my Grandfather died.
I wrote a story about
my Grandfather in 1949 when I was back in Montreal, back in Montreal not through
choice but because I'd been deported from the U.S.A. It was the height of McCarthyism.
America the paranoid: a red under every bed ready to overthrow the government.
Nobody was safe. There was much hysteria, witch-hunting, blacklisting, and general
unpleasantness throughout the land of the brave. And that was why I was back in
Montreal working in a small advertising agency on the corner of Guy and St. Catherine
streets, run by a friend, Sol Pomerance, an unfulfilled genius.
had a client he figured I could handle - the Montreal Jewish Parochial School
- then in the process of raising money to build a school. I accepted the assignment
and was doing quite well at it, making enough money handling this client and taking
care of a few others, writing funny radio commercials for a men's clothing store,
a hardware store, a gift shop.
I'd already had
a couple of stories published in The New Yorker magazine, and I had read a few
stories on the CBC. My novel of the Spanish Civil War had been published a few
years earlier, so I had what is known as "a bit of a name" in my city.
One afternoon, just after lunch, I was working on
a radio commercial when the phone rang and a man's pleasant, soft voice said,
"My name is David Rome. I'm the editor of the Canadian Jewish Congress Bulletin
and I'd love to print one of your wonderful short stories." I am always flattered
when somebody wants to publish anything I write. The Bulletin, Mr. Rome went on
to explain, could not afford to pay its contributors, except a nominal fee of
ten dollars. This took some of the bloom off it, but I promised I'd look into
my files at home that evening and find something to send him.
all due respect," Mr. Rome continued, "I don't want an old story. I'd
like a brand new story for the Bulletin. I only found out a few hours ago you
were living in Montreal. The bulletin goes to press at seven o'clock tonight.
Could you please write me a new short story? I'll pick up at your office in an
hour or so."
Naturally I laughed and explained,
pleasantly, that I didn't write short stories in this manner. "A short story,"
I explained, "needs inspiration and time. I'll be happy to send you one of
the stories I've already written."
a new story," Mr. Rome repeated.
to lose patience. "I don't think you're listening, and I can't stay on the
phone all day." I replaced the receiver in a sour frame of mind, shaken by
the stupidities of people.
It was less than
an hour later that Mr. Rome appeared in my office. He was about thirty-five, portly,
and sweet-faced, by which I mean that he exuded the pleasantness of a man at peace
with himself. I was not amused. "I don't want to be rude," I said, "but
I don't write stories to order in this way! It is obvious you do not understand
the creative process!"
outside your office," he said affably. The thought occurred to me that he
was deaf. "I love your writing, Mr. Allan. You're a joy to read, particularly
your short stories." I found that irresistible. "I'll wait until five,"
said the indomitable Mr. Rome, and he sat down outside my office to do so.
I closed the door on Mr. Rome and returned to my
desk to complete the commercial I was working on, but I found it difficult to
push him from my mind. A short while later when I went to the bathroom there he
was sitting smiling that smile of awe and admiration, but he no longer looked
sweet to me. He looked stupid and sour.
my radio commercial. It was almost four o'clock. To this day I don't know why
I did it, but I heard myself sigh, placed a sheet of paper into my typewriter,
without having the slightest idea what I might type out. The first words that
came out were, "My Grandfather stood six feet three in his worn out slippers..."
and the rest of the story just followed.
Ted continued to struggle with the Bethune material:
had started the biography of Bethune in 1942. Through the forties I laboured over
Bethune. I worked for a while with Angus Cameron, then editor-in-chief of Little-Brown.
I wrote some two thousand pages, but found I couldn't finish it myself and got
Sydney Gordon to help me. The book, "The Scalpel, The Sword" appeared
in 1952, has been translated into nineteen languages, and is still in print in
Canada and China.
not clear to what extent Sydney was simply an editor, or to what extent a co-writer.
At the time Ted extended to him a co-authorship, and that began decades of animosity
and acrimony between them. They fought over whose turn it was to come first as
author on the title page. They fought over who owned Ted's film scripts on Bethune.
Sydney moved to East Berlin. According to Ted, Sydney produced no further work,
but lived simply to duel over ownership of Bethune. Ted came to view Sydney as
a loathsome parasite.
notes dated November 5, 1979: "You,
who I have hurt, forgive me as I forgive those who trespassed against me, with
the exception of J.L., the egomaniacal mediocrity, and S.G., the untalented scumbag
my neurotic needs catapulted into a momentary prominence and prolonged pain in
the rectum. J.L. at least had some talent. S.G. had none. He was an incompetent
hack who fooled me with his anxieties. I thought they hid sensitivity. All they
hid was a pathological envy and greed. I learned slowly. He brings the taste of
bile and vomit to my mouth.
After a year in Montreal, we left for Toronto. Ted's brother, Georgie, was working
as a union organiser. At that time he was working in Fort Erie and living with
his wife, Nina, and their baby daughter, Lisa, in near by Crystal Beach, across
the lake from Buffalo. We stayed with them for a couple of months during this
Ted found a bungalow to rent just
outside of Toronto, in Mimico, on the "Longo Estate". Longo was a Construction
Magnate, and his private estate, twenty acres on the lake, had stone walls, landscaped
gardens, a mansion, stables with an in-door arena, several terrace rows of houses,
and our deep red (or maroon) brick bungalow with it's own garden leading down
to the lake. Across what must be the Humber bay, one looked on Toronto. The Royal
York Hotel, rising several hundred feet, was the skyscraper then, "the tallest
building in the Commonwealth". Mimico, now eaten right into the belly of
the con-urbation, was at that time a separate town.
father had a large circle of friends. Ted had charm. He was loud and daring, but
with taste and humour. Slowly, as one house after another on the estate came free
to rent, we were joined by these friends. The Jordons, he was a singer: the Pearces,
he an actor, and Uncle George moved up to Toronto. My cousin Paul was born on
the Longo Estate. We lived there two years, 1950/51, and '51/52. I was seven and
eight years old. Again I've few clear memories of Ted. I can't remember where
he did his typing. Was he still working in the kitchen?
home from school one day some boys stole my hat and threw it into a tree. I came
home distraught. Ted accompanying me back to the scene of the crime. The thieving
boys were still there. Ted insisted they retrieve the hat from the tree. I remember
few details, but I know I was deeply embarrassed.
wrote that I opened a door in the house at Mimico catching a kitten's paw beneath
the door and breaking the kitten's foot. Ted told Julie and I that the kitten
might have to be put to sleep. "Why?" asked Julie. Because it might
not be able to hunt mice and run away from dogs when it grew up. Julie said that
didn't matter: she would look after it. The kitten recovered. If I remember correctly,
though, this kitten was taken with us in the car when we drove to visit someone,
and lost at a stop over.
During this era some impresario brought a touring group with Musicals Comedies
to Toronto. These "Broadway" shows were performed in a circus tent.
There we saw Brigadoon and Finian's Rainbow and Carousel. A taste of the culture.
We also went to union picnics, no doubt due to Uncle Georgie's connections. I
recall hearing Earl Robinson sing, and Paul Robeson singing on the Peace Bridge.
Classical music, folk songs, and Broadway Show music were important in our house.
We subscribed to an edition of Audubon prints. We
cut them to put them up in the panels of the glass door that then screened off
the back patio as a room for visitors. And Ted's sister, Sadie, came to stay with
notes is a memo to a Dr. Kalz, dated Feb. 25, 1951, that expounds on his family's
children, the three of us (Ted, Sadie, Georgie) expressed our hostility mainly
toward our mother, blaming her for my father's illness. We complained, echoing
his complaints, that she "nagged" him too much. She was a perpetually
high-strung and nervous woman, becoming more so over the years. She was a "screamer".
It seemed quite impossible for her to speak in a normal, quiet tone.
mother considered her life a failure: her husband was crazy; her eldest son (me)
was a struggling writer; her youngest, a union organizer; and her daughter had
turned out crazy too. The daughter had gotten married, but then divorced when
her child was two years old.
mother reconciled herself with regards to her sons, for each seemed, in her terms,
to have achieved a modicum of success. Each had a car, a seemingly happy marriage,
children. Only the daughter's life now seemed a total failure. In 1950 the daughter
returned from Los Angeles in a bad state of depression and was given shock therapy.
The daughter lived with the eldest son for a few months. Then he, I, moved my
family to Toronto and the daughter moved in with her parents.
the last three years my father had been "well". Three years ago he underwent
shock therapy at the Allen Memorial Institute, but he did not finish the treatments,
complaining that they hurt him. He eventually came back to "normal".
With each succeeding breakdown my father, in his normal periods, appeared a more
and more defeated man; quieter, his sense of humour gone; and he expressed this
by telling me, "I've learned not to worry over silly things anymore. I just
try to take things as they come."
my sister and her child moved in with my parents, my mother complained that she
found it hard to take care of Susan (my sister's four year old child). She (my
mother) seemed to be getting increasingly impatient: the child wouldn't eat, the
child wouldn't sleep. My mother complained of being tired. In the meantime my
sister went to group therapy, and at home was completely dependent on my mother.
Two months ago my father came home from work, placed
his head in his hands, and said he didn't feel well and wasn't going to work.
He didn't want to go out of the house. My mother's reaction was, in her own words,
"I got a shock. I saw he was getting sick again. I began to itch that day."
My mother's skin condition has become steadily worse, spreading over her back
and under her breasts. The itching is so bad that she finds it difficult to sleep.
Various doctors told her it was (a) psoriasis (b) nothing. After Dr. Kalz saw
her the first time, she was convinced that he, in the manner of skin doctors,
would keep seeing her often, that she'd spend too much money, so she went to another
dermatologist at the Jewish General outpatient clinic. This was where she was
told she has psoriasis.
When I discovered that
she had been going to other doctors (after I had sent her to Kalz) I became angry
and insisted that she return to Dr. Kalz. Kalz at this time felt that his fears
concerning her condition were confirmed, that indeed she was suffering from Pemphigus
(2), and that she should be hospitalized. When
she told the doctor she couldn't stay in the hospital because she had to take
care of her husband, her daughter, and her daughter's child, Kalz told her that
her life was more important than the taking care of a grandchild. This frightened
her. She thought it meant she had skin cancer. I pooh-poohed her fears, told her
not to be silly, assuring her of Kalz's eminence in his field. In the hospital
she entreated me, "Take me out of here. Don't go back to Toronto without
taking me out of here. If you don't they'll take me out dead," I teased her
about her fear of a simple skin disease.
hospital she phones home every evening to make sure that everything is going right.
Before going into hospital she made arrangements with an old friend of hers to
come and cook for my father and sister. Since my mother went into the hospital
my father's mood, after the first day during which he seemed more depressed that
ever, has picked up a little. (I should report here that among the first words
he said to her when she told him she had to go to the hospital was, "What
will become of me?") But today (Sunday) when I told him that he must try
to sound confident and cheerful when speaking to mother, he replied he would try
and that he would tell her he was working and that everything was going to be
Now, I have tried to characterise in a few pages a situation which, to do it justice,
calls for a novel. I've tried to outline the main features of my mother's life.
To me, my mother's skin has gone insane. This is my mother's way of telling the
world she's had enough and more than she can bear.
feel that while ACTH and/or cortisone may bring about immediate relief, my mother
should be treated in the same way a manic-depressive is treated after shock therapy.
The shock therapy in many cases removes the symptoms of the disease; then psychotherapy
tries to play a role in removing the causes. But my mother is not a good candidate
for psychotherapy, and the reality of her situation is ever present - my father,
Two days before my mother entered
the hospital she stopped taking her skin medication, took a sedative to sleep,
and slept for the first time in two months. She woke without any itching! The
sores on her back had dried up! Perhaps what she needs is sleep therapy?
I want none of this to be interpreted as indicating any lack of confidence in
Dr. Kalz. I am presenting this as information for his consideration. I am fully
confident in his administration and decisions regarding treatment."
Ted's mother was treated with
ACTH and cortisone. She survived her Pemphigus, but unfortunately suffered, thereafter,
from Cushing's Syndrome, a side effect of cortisone treatment (3).
In Toronto, the Longo Estate, where
we were living, was slowly being pulled down and turned into apartment buildings.
This made it doubly fascinating for the children (we got to explore the buildings
in progress, and to "borrow" bricks and nails and things to build our
own "clubhouses"), but it put a limit on our stay there. Ted and Kate
bought a house, a bungalow, in the newly sprouting suburbs. His brother George
and Nina followed them, moving one street over. Ted had a study built for him
in the basement and an apartment for his parents. Annie and Harry came to live
in the basement apartment. When we were away in the summer on holidays, Grandpa
Harry "killed" my new pet dog. Timmy was a miniature Collie, and a birthday
present. While we were away Grandpa Harry lured my dog across the road in front
of a car. The first car missed. Harry called the puppy again to cross the road
in front of a second car, and this time engineered the puppy's death. He was jealous
of the attention Annie was giving to it, he confessed to her.
Avenue, by Bathurst and Lawrence, was at the edge of the city then. Then, as now,
it had a large Jewish population. Julie, who was thirteen years old, insisted
that we keep our Christmas tree in the basement so our Jewish neighbours and classmates
wouldn't see it. So the Christmas tree was in Ted's study where the children were
sometimes welcomed in "to have some fun." Actually, my recall is not
of fun, but of being put on the spot when Ted turned on his tape recorder, thrust
a microphone into my hand and badgered me to speak.
habit was to work deep into the night, and sleep-in in the mornings. I do not
recall the cigarette hanging from Ted's mouth, but photographs from that period
always put it there. Ted said he smoked three packs, and more, a day.
remember crawling into my parent's bed in the mornings. Ted was the warmer, more
relaxed parent to sleep beside.
I have a memory
of Ted wrestling with me in the living room at Fairholme, of him pinning me down
and not letting me go. Perhaps it was just a joke, and it was for just a moment,
but it felt overwhelming.
these years Uncle Georgie left the union work and went into partnership with Kate's
brothers, Johnny and Mackie, in the tire-retread business. George made a comfortable
living, became moderately wealthy. I remember Uncle Johnny's new Buick, driving
a hundred miles an hour, and sitting in Uncle Johnny's lap to steer the car.
Ted must have continued to write some advertising
copy, for he brought home from a bubble-gum company a sheet of uncut ice-hockey
cards that went up on my wall. And in the summer of 1954, when we went to England,
Ted had worked for the Ocean Line and we traveled first class and sat at the captain's
and sold to the CBC a television talk show called "Fighting Words",
and he appeared on the show as a regular participant, debating issues of public
interest. And it was during this these years of Ted's return to Canada that he
wrote his first plays: "The Legend of Paridiso", and "The Money
Makers". The latter was produced by the Jupiter Theatre in Toronto in 1953
starring Lorne Greene and Kate Reid. Al Waxman played the young Canadian writer,
new in Hollywood, sucked and suckered into "ghost-writing", into putting
his name on blacklisted author's scripts. Two years later a new production of
the play was produced in England at the London Arts Theatre.
second play, Legend of Paradiso, was first a radio drama, then a TV play, and
then a theatre piece. (Also, later, a novel, but under the pseudonym Alan Mansfield.)
the 1990s Ted tape-recorded the following:
O'Grady says Clare Russell (5) flattered me
by calling me a genius; that it wasn't good for me, this "genius". What
really excites me, when I sold "Willie the Squowse" to Andrew Allan,
when I saw the first rehearsals and listened to every nuance of every word I'd
written, he caught, and the actors caught, it was just exactly as I wrote it.
And then when it went out on the air, I was the narrator, and I was the only one
that goofed. I muffed a line, but it was going out live, even though we were taping
it, it was going out live and absolutely lovely. The excitement, it's akin to
falling in love. It's the way it was when I fell in love, as I have, with Gerda
Taro, with Uta Hagen. Uta Hagen and I intended to marry. I don't know if I was
ever in love with Kate. I think I fell in love with Jeffy. I fall in love a lot
recently: with you (Beth R.), with Susan O'Grady, with Joan D.
part of me is really not giving any shit now. Why do I want to write the autobiography?
It's still ego. Sure I want my grandchildren to know, to understand what went
on. So what? I mean, so what if I read a history about the Spanish Civil War,
so what? So fucking what? Here I read Montaigne and St. Augustine's confessions.
There have been incredible autobiographies. It doesn't change anything. Well I
guess I have to face that.
the Golden Age of Canadian Radio I wrote comedy as well as drama for the Stage
Series, when I worked with the two geniuses who helped me learn my craft, Andrew
Allen and Esse Ljungh. I also performed in many of these shows on radio and television
with performers like John Drainie, Kate Reid, Lorne Greene. Lorne and I became
close. He enjoyed his success as "Pa" Cartwright on "Bonanza",
but when he tried unsuccessfully to play other characters in films, and it didn't
work, he became bitter in his later years. A sad ending for him. He was a very
good actor. This takes me to my television, radio and stage comedy, "Legend
of Paradiso", based on a short story by B.Traven (who wrote Treasure of Sierra
Madre, Death Ship, etc.). The moment Television was born in Canada, money and
the advertising agencies took over. "Legend of Paradiso", which had
been successfully produced by Andrew Allen on his radio Stage series, was slated
for a TV production. We were four days into rehearsals. I'd been paid, the sets
were ready, everything was sailing, when boom, the American Advertising Agency,
representing General Motors sponsoring the TV Drama series, said that the play
"made fun of mass production". It was cancelled! Another play was quickly
substituted. That was my cue to leave Canada."