18 NAPIER STREET
In the mid-1950s, with dark poster size memories of WWII fading in peoples’ minds, a worried mother makes a life-changing decision to emigrate from a small village in Greece to a new home in Canada. In early December 1954, a cold blustery winter day, she gingerly steps off an ocean cruiser in Halifax, Nova Scotia to reunite with her husband and her six sons in tow. It has been two years since she last saw her spouse. Did she make the right decision bringing her sons to a new country? Had her husband changed? Had really stopped drinking as promised? Like countless immigrants before her, taking that first step on Canadian soil would change her life’s trajectory forever.
The family’s new home at 18 Napier Street is a rundown rowhouse, in a feisty working lower-class community in the city of Toronto. The youngest brother Gus is four years old. He will live in the house for the next twelve years. The house has paper thin walls. Midnight mice and rats patrol the kitchen floor. Cockroaches feast on any scraps of food in sight. And bedbugs disturb the family’s sleep. Due to an alcohol dependency, the father has difficulty maintaining a watch repair business to keep the family afloat. Money is scarce.
Gus’s older brothers hit a wall of culture shock. In school they are teased and called harsh names. It is not fair. Who said life is fair? Gus has an easier time adjusting to life in Canada. He learns to speak English quickly. His friendly personality attracts kids on the street. He develops strong friendships. Through Gus’s eyes we see episodes of violent interactions, feel the sting of discrimination, and witness tragedy. But Gus’s childhood is alive, breathing with enthusiasm, joy, hope, sometimes sadness and the desire to always have your friend’s back. The friends on Napier Street dive into competitive go-carting racing, joyous street hockey, adventures both permitted and illicit. Gus and his friends charge with the unbridled energy of youth into life and live gloriously in the moment.
18 Napier Street is about friendship, family, community—what tears them apart and what cements them together.