Christmas Eve story – a connection to the past

Today is Christmas Eve day and I was forwarded an article that was published in Saturday’s Toronto Star called a  “A Christmas story: When Murphy met Baby”  with reference to Pembroke: 1963.  I was mildly intrigued given that I have family roots in Pembroke, Ontario (born there but raised elsewhere,  parents were raised there and my grandparents lived in Pembroke to their final days).  Admittedly the article didn’t draw me in immediately for it was about a religious cab driver in Pembroke who drove Norman Benjamin Yakubowitz, a prize fighter on the lam, to Rochester, New York Christmas eve.  I thought it was simply forwarded to me simply because it had the Pembroke reference, especially since I have recently returned from Pembroke after attending my paternal grandmother’s funeral.   I continued reading it though despite having no interest in boxing legends or crazy zealous cab drivers for I must admit I have a penchant for reading about stories from the past, specifically about a time and place where my family was from even if it meant a quiet little town called Pembroke.

Now where this gets a little interesting for me is when the author references the encounter with the Chief of Police in the lobby of the Pembroke Copeland Hotel. Apparently he was out for a normal stroll on Christmas Day eve and stopped in to say hello to all the patrons, I assume as part of his regular patrol duties. The Chief of Police is referenced as being an athletic man who enjoyed playing recreational sports. Well I am 99.9% sure that the man being referenced was my dad’s dad, my grandfather. My grandfather, Bert Dickie, was Chief of Police for 21 years and is notoriously known for his friendly charm within the community and athletic feats.   In 1963 he would have been around 40/41 years of age.  My dad would have been 14 years of age at this time.   The article does not name the Chief of Police outright ‘for reasons that will soon become apparent’.   As the story goes,  Yakubowitz a.ka. Baby Yak struggled to get out of his chair to go to the bathroom due to the cast he was wearing that covered his entire leg up to his waist. A cast that was needed as a result of getting shot by most likely a Toronto area mafia hit crew.  Anyways the awkwardness of the cast made him lose his balance and in the process out fell a .38 caliber Police Positive Special revolver from his jacket onto the floor.

According to the story, everyone fell into silence and probably taking advantage of the awkwardness,  Baby Yak asked my grandfather to pick it up for him; which he did.  Baby Yak then proceeded to his room where he packed up his stuff to leave town.  That is where he met Murphy, the cab driver, who agreed to drive him to Rochester, New York.  The interesting thing about this story besides my family connection is that Murphy was feeling quite lonely leading up to the Christmas holidays but his only close family,  his sister, lived in Rochester, New York of all places.  What were the odds? In the end Baby Yak found a new safe haven to hide out and Murphy got to spend Christmas with his sister, a fate that would never have been predicted or even contemplated if Baby Yak’s revolver didn’t fall in front of Pembroke’s Chief of Police. Talk about the Law of Attraction unfolding for Murphy and me in some ways as it is another reminder how this world works.


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