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By BILL MARANTZ Most of my law school classmates and I were about the same age, early twenties, but we had a handful of “returning” students, married men who had opted for the legal profession after spending a few years actually working for a living.

Among the latter was Harry Backewitch (who mysteriously became “Backlin” in 2nd year), a tall, slightly shady-looking character with slicked back hair and a lady killer moustache. I dubbed him “Oilcan Harry” (an homage to the villain of the Mighty Mouse cartoons) not realizing the nickname was prophetic. Though Harry came off a bit like a used car salesman he was always cheerful and friendly. Near the bottom of the class he nevertheless became friends with fellow family man, Andy Balkarin, who was at the top, and shortly after graduation arranged for the impoverished Trinidadian to obtain a house through a foreclosure. Andy’s Gold Medal, and Harry’s heart, weren’t the only gold connected with the class of 60.


In 1966, when I was in my last year at the Cherniack firm, The Great Gold Robbery hit the front pages. A group of thieves, dressed as airport employees, had stolen half a million dollars of bullion in transit from mine to mint. It was such a daring caper that suspicion immediately fell on Ken “The Flying Bandit” Leishman. Private pilot Leishman, a small town boy from Holland Manitoba, had earned his nickname by flying to Toronto in his small plane, pulling off a bank robbery, then flying out again... twice. The robberies had been non-violent (Leishman was also known as “The Gentleman Bandit”) and not particularly successful. Leishman ended up in Stony Mountain Penitentiary where, after escaping a few times, he met another adventurous small town boy, from Sandy Lake, Manitoba, who became his lawyer.
Guess who?
Though Leishman hadn’t participated in the actual airport heist (He was too recognizable.), he had planned it and was picked up and charged along with his two accomplices. They all sang like birds. Due to a once in lifetime snow storm which led to  all the roads being closed, the thieves hadn’t been able to transport the gold out of the province, so they had to hide it somewhere in the city. But where? That was the question that remained unanswered...
Until the warm weather arrived, and the snow melted. The police found a gold bar in Harry’s back yard, where it had been buried under a snowbank...after being moved from the freezer.
Harry Backlin wasn’t the only one of my classmates to get sent to “cheder” - merely the first of three, but he was the only one who was punished for an offence that had nothing to do with the (mal)practice of law. I don’t remember how much time he served (if I ever knew) but he was out by the time our ten-year class reunion rolled around. He had moved to British Columbia, to make a fresh start, but when Art Braid sent out the notices a few months prior to the event, Harry checked the ‘will be attending’ box. Art, who had arranged for Chief Justice Freedman to attend one of the functions at Frank Lamont’s home and say a few words to his former students, had been wondering which of his classmates deserved the honor of introducing His Lordship. Now the choice was obvious.
Harry did a commendable job. And Sam Freedman, noted for his dry wit and foul mouth, managed to keep a serious face, just as he always had when introducing a criminal law lecture, with a new dirty joke: “The definition of sodomy: enlarging the circle of your friends.”
When Harry “got out of Dodge” he had retained fellow classmate Herb Rosner, who was practising in Vancouver, to try and get the B.C. bar to let bygones be bygones. But Herbie couldn’t pull it off. Ex-con Harry did manage to get a real estate agent license and built a successful business. Nevertheless, he usually took time off from his busy schedule for every class reunion.
Most law school classes have occasional reunions but the class of 60 has them as regular as clockwork. At first they were held every decade, but now that our numbers have begun to thin - every five years. At each reunion we take a class picture, in which we try to assume the same positions as our graduation picture, a black and white photo taken by the late Barney Charach. The  1990 photo of our 30-year reunion (which appeared in our last issue and which can still be seen online on jewishpostandnews.ca) was taken by Barney’s former partner, my boyhood “best friend” Neil Charach. The quality is slightly better than the other class photos because Neil was a more conscientious photographer than his older cousin. Barney, who had the graduation picture franchise tied up, churned them out like sausages.
In the public’s perception - and most jurisdictions, law is a dog-eat-dog profession in which classmates and former classmates will stab each other in the back to advance their own career. But the class of 60 is more like a family... a band of brothers who accept each others’ weaknesses and transgressions without judging, and who try to help each other out. It wasn’t until our 45-year reunion that I discovered that Harry Backlin had made it possible for the late Andy Balacarin’s family to move into their first house, and that it was Gil Goodman who had prosecuted Harry for his participation in the Great Gold Heist. In the remarks we were invited to make after the formal speeches were over Harry assured Gil that there had never been any hard feelings.
A short time ago - perhaps a year - I attended Gil Goodman’s funeral. A former female colleague, who had worked under Gil at the AG’s, gave a eulogy that made him sound like a combination of Perry Mason and King Solomon. I couldn’t help recalling the way the late Justice Goodman had introduced himself at our first (and last) moot court: “Good morning, M’Lord, my name is Spalding; I believe you’ve played with my balls.”
I also couldn’t help recalling an old Jewish joke where a rabbi is giving such a fulsome eulogy at the funeral ofan unscrupulous rag merchant that his widow pokes her son and whispers, “Take a look in the coffin, Shloime. See who’s in there.”