Steel City Genocide

 

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When I was in my mid 20’s I lived on the Beach Strip was an interesting community.  It was like its own little town.  It was a narrow strip of land with Lake Ontario on one side, and the Burlington Bay on the other.  A lot of people didn’t even know it was there.  It was often referred to as Hamilton’s best kept secret.

When I first moved there I joined the Hamilton Beach Preservation Committee.  The committee met once a month to determine methods in improving the general quality of life.  I was approached by the President of the Neighbourhood Watch.  This wasn’t your typical neighbourhood watch.  This was a group of vigilantes sponsored by the Hamilton-Wentworth Police.   There were patrols, as well as efficient communication in a time before cell-phone culture.  We had walkie-talkies and pagers.

Within a month I was voted Vice President.  I was organizing patrols.  Arranging recon.  As well as…..

This sounds pretty ridiculous right?  Well it was.  There were no major crimes to speak of.  There was the odd case of vandalism.  Notably, there was a small fire in an abandoned house.  But it was extinguished by an elderly neighbour.

At one particular meeting a bunch of adults showed up demanding something to be done about the youths of the Beach Strip.  They were loud.  They were obnoxious.  They swore.  They played in the vacant lots.  They trespassed….

Funnily enough, the adults at this meeting didn’t have any children of their own.  I tried to reason with them, explaining that while the Beach Strip community was a paradise for adults, it was damn boring for the youths.  There were two awful parks, neither with so much as a creative playground.

My reasoning fell on deaf ears.  I was only 23 at the time.  I looked like I was 16.  As far as they were concerned, I was one of the youths.  They even suggested I may have been too immature for my non-paying position in the highest ranks of the Committee.

This wasn’t a hard thing to fix.  A couple of the youths in question lived on Granville Avenue.  Incidentally, I lived there too.  I caught them in my backyard a couple of times.  They weren’t causing trouble.  They were just playing hide and seek.  This wasn’t a lie on their part, I ended up joining the game and taught them a thing or two about being a ninja.

One day they were out on the street playing ball hockey.  Unfortunately a shot went wild and a neighbour’s K-Car was pulverized by a tennis ball.  The neighbour FREAKED out.

Here these kids were, playing ball hockey, whilst other kids were inside playing Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.  A junky car like a K-Car gets hit by a tennis ball (not a puck), and this irate malcontent is absolutely screaming himself hoarse at these kids who are in the 11-12 range.   I tried to reason him but apparently I was just a pretty boy punk who needed a haircut.

After Captain Anger calmed the hell down, I engaged the kids.  I pulled aside the two who seemed to be the leaders.  I told them to to ask everyone they knew if they wanted to play in a ball hockey league.  They liked the idea.  I think they respected me a little too because I was younger and never looked at them with an expression reserved for a little brother who just farted in church.  That, and I was impossible to find when it came to hide and seek.

Within two days they had a list of at least 40 names.  I had them pick two others who they thought they would make good captains, aside from themselves.  I told them to let me know when they had them and we would meet at my house to have them pick their teams.

I managed to get sponsorship from local businesses for equipment and uniforms.  Weekly hockey games were arranged down at the park, at the basketball courts that didn’t even have nets.

This was a very successful endeavour.  There were very enthusiastic parent coaches.  Every kid was present for those Sunday games.  I mean every kid.  Even the kids who weren’t playing showed up to watch.  Parents came out to root their kids on.  I refereed the games, as well as wrote a weekly zine on the league.  Results were posted as well as report cards on each player.  I was ruthless too.  But those zines were just as popular as Green Day and Creed at the time.

Ok I think I’m off on a bit of a tangent at this point.  Bottom line is, these kids weren’t criminals.  They were bored.   With the hockey league, they had something to be a part of, and feel good about it.  Their behaviour in the community improved too.  They were less mouthy.  They weren’t perfect, as most kids aren’t.  But they now had someone else to answer to if they were being disruptive.  And I didn’t give them an inch.

Communication.

Save the nation.

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Posted by: Doug Hell on