Our Family Scrapbook

Poppy Gricken

Poppy Gricken was my maternal grandfather. His parents immigrated to Canada from Germany in the late 1800s, and Poppy was born here. His name was Robert, but everyone called him Bob. He was born in _______ and died in 1972. He suffered for years at St. Vincent’s Hospital and died of lung disease.

Although he was only five feet tall, he could work like someone twice his size. Poppy had no education, and so his jobs provided him with a menial wage. His first job was at the Ottawa Slaughterhouse. His second and final job was with the City of Ottawa. In the summer he had a cart and a long-handled pick that he used to pick up refuge that people threw on the street. In the winter, he and his brother drove a plow that was pulled by a horse. The horse knew the route so well that the guys didn’t have to do anything but hang on.

I think Poppy knew how to read, although he wasn’t one to read a book. He loved to watch wrestling, baseball and hockey on television.

His favourite thing to do was go to the Albion Hotel for a pint. All he needed was a dime for his first draft, and then he’d play his harmonica, and the boys at the Albion would buy his beer. He had a good thing going…until he got home! Nanny Gricken would always hit the roof when he came home drunk, which was all the time. Sometimes, she had to send one of the kids down to the Albion to drag him home. Nanny (my mom) told me that sometimes she would see him on the bus when she was heading home from work. He would be drunk and singing old German songs.

He was a master of the harmonica and played at every family gathering. He would always play an Irish song, and my grandmother would do “The Irish Washer Woman” dance. He would dance with each of his daughters in turn while playing a sentimental song such as “Du, du liegst mir am Herzen,” in English, it means, “You, you are important to me.” My mom (Nanny) really loved dancing with her dad. At Christmas, he would play “O Tannenbaumm” and O Holy Night. The whole family, gathered together in my grandmother’s kitchen, would sing Christmas songs together.

I never had a conversation with my grandfather because he just didn’t have many conversations in him. He just loved sitting on their tiny front porch in his webbed lawn chair, rolling cigarettes, and saying hello to passers-by. He was a funny guy.

Angie was five, and Neil was one when he died.

Although I was 24 when he died, I can honestly say that I really didn’t know him well. The most he ever said to me was, “Maw’s in the kitchen,” and “Ah, you’re a good girl.” But I guess that is good enough! I loved that little old man just as he was.

P.S. Poppy Gricken was Gloria’s grandfather, Angie and Neil’s great-grandfather, Lindsay, Austin, and Ashleigh’s great-great-grandfather, and Ethan’s great-great-great-grandfather.

*Photos to be added

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