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Gerry Posner - age 15

By GERRY POSNER Let’s step back in time to April 1956 - in particular to April 21, 1956.

Yes, I expect many of you are thinking to yourselves that date was, of course, the Queen’s official birthday and others might think that it was, as always, one month after the first day of spring.
And, if you fall into either or both of these camps, you are indeed correct. But, I was not thinking of those two possibilities. Here’s a hint though: In 1956, just like this year, April 21  fell on a Saturday,
Well, if you have not figured it out already, let me take you out of your uncertainty. That day was the day of  my Bar Mitzvah. Yes, there it is. In fact, some of you reading this might have been there and no doubt recall the event with clarity. Just in case your memory is blurry, let me give you the highlights of that week and indeed, that very day.

On the Wednesday before my Bar Mitzvah, I took the bus downtown, where I met my father and brother at a restaurant at Ellice and Donald. At that lunch, my brother gave me a watch (my very first) as his gift to me for my Bar Mitzvah. Back then, I actually thought he had bought it for me. Still, irrespective of his inability to make such a purchase, I thought he did and thought that  for a long time. I have since forgiven him for this deceit.
The Thursday before the BM ( I never recall anyone referring to the moment that way) I was busy with a tune up at the synagogue with Jack Garland, the “Minister of Music” as he was then known, and the guy responsible for my preparation. Keep in mind that in those days at the Shaarey Zedek, it was an abbreviated service starting at 11:00 and ending by 12:30. Also, keep in mind that in order to meet those time constraints, the Bar Mitzvah boy (back then girls were only on Friday nights) had his Haftorah cut to 10-13 lines. They expected little from us and little did they get. We, however, received presents and more presents. For the boys, the main gift was a fountain pen followed closely by cuff links. I know that the thought of donating a portion of my monetary gifts to a charity never went through my mind.
My family had a never-ending run of relatives turn up for my big day, from Chicago, Iowa City, Boston, Minneapolis and Vancouver, as well as several other places connected to our family. Part of the attraction to attend my Bar Mitzvah was because my first cousin on my father’s side, Gary Diamond, had his Bar Mitzvah one week earlier, on April 14, 1956 at the Rosh Pina. Thus, for a chunk of relatives, they got a two for one. I have often wondered what those out-of-towners did that whole week in Winnipeg, when the talk of the town then was not the Bar Mitzvah boys, but  whether the Red River would overflow and the possibility of a flood.
As many of you will recall from that day, I was pretty good for what I did. I can say that now, some 62 years later, as who among you will dispute that fact? I had a brief memory lapse before I began the blessing before the haftorah.
Luckily, I heard the high pitched note for the blessing descending from the choir loft from Jack Garland and that gave me the reminder of the melody. And from there I took off.
Of course,, there was the charge from the Rabbi as in Rabbi Milton Aron who put his arms out and bellowed to me in words embedded in all of our minds:” Gerry, your father has recited the Sheheyanu. May Father and Mother live to enjoy the fruits of their devotion to this child of their love. And in thee Gerry, may we all be blessed.”

The luncheon after was a combination of hand shaking and hugs from people I barely knew. And lest I forget, for anyone who was there at these weekly celebrations there is the memory of the mothers pouring tea and coffee and dispensing those not to be forgotten party sandwiches called sliders.
At night, I opted out of having a party. I recall back then that there was a party almost every week and I stood on the sidelines afraid to even speak to a girl. There was a group of us that were not involved in the dances with the opposite sex except for the occasional square dance with Len Fromson calling out the steps like dosey dow and my corner girl. Instead, my parents had a big party at our home at 392 Oxford St. I spent the night alone for the most part in my basement. The thing is that I really did not mind that decision to be kind of absent form the festivities upstairs.
Lest I forget, as you might also remember, I was then faced with the daunting task of thank you notes. I did not send them by email as is the case today. I feel badly abut those people who had to decipher my handwriting. But, I am unable to send them my regrets now.

And so it went 62 years ago this week. The passage of time is hard to believe. I still have one remaining gift from my Bar Mitzvah which I use each day, if for no other reason than to make me remember. It is a little calendar with my initials GSP on the front, and which requires me to change the date for the day of the week, also the date of the month. I now have my grandkids turn the dials when they sleep over. I wonder who gave me that present, which is the last gift standing all these 62 years.
No doubt each of you has your own memories of your day in the sun. Well, I would welcome reading them.
Ed. note: Gerry can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.