Sabatino’s Story written by Marcia Toms

When Sabatino arrived in Vancouver as a very young boy, his family moved to East Van and never left.  The post – World War Two years were times of high immigration, mostly from Europe, and of initial hardship for many new arrivals. Sabatino, an Italian, recalls enduring the usual slurs and a little name calling, and having to change his name to Tony, so that his teachers could manage the pronunciation.  By and large, though, East Van and the three schools he attended were safe and welcoming, homes away from home for other recent immigrants, offering places to learn and to play. Sabatino attended Franklin, Hastings and Templeton.  He fondly remembers The Beavers, the name for all the teams at Hastings, and The Titans at Templeton.  As people in the ‘hood know still: “Once a Titan, Always a Titan.”

While Sabatino attended Templeton, he also had a weekend job at The Track, a work site for many East Van kids.  He walked horses every Saturday and probably neglected his schoolwork.

One Monday morning in PE class his teacher, a Templeton veteran even in the mid 1960s (the school expanded from a junior high to a full high school in 1963), asked  ‘Tony’ what he had done on the weekend.

“I walked horses at the track on Saturday. I think I want to be a jockey!”

The teacher looked straight at his student. “Hmmmmm” he began. “How much do they pay you?”

“50 cents for the day,” replied ‘Tony.’

“Well, now, that’s interesting.  I did that same job in the ‘30s, during the Depression, and they paid me exactly the same wage.”

Sabatino never did become a jockey, skipped his high school graduation parties and went straight to work after that.  He does, however, attend Templeton reunions. “To make up for not going to grad.”  And he still makes his home on Le Roi Street, near Frog Hollow, drinks a good, strong espresso regularly at a favourite meeting place, and happily details the many ways that East Van is “special.”

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