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In “the summer of the Peeping Tom”

It was in “the summer of the Peeping Tom” that my older sister Mary became a neighbourhood heroine. The year was 1960 and she and her family had arrived from Manitoba to vacation with us on The Commons (Hill Street).  To make room for our house guests, my mother had made a makeshift bed for herself on our living room sofa.

One night, shortly after 11 p.m., she awakened and went into the kitchen for a glass of water. She glanced through our kitchen window and saw a man flattened against the side of the house next door, which was owned by my father’s spinster cousin, Fern. Every few seconds, the prowler would lean forward to look through Fern’s bedroom window. My cousin had neglected to draw her blind and was oblivious to the fact that someone was watching her as she disrobed for bed.

Mother ran upstairs and awakened my father, who hurried down in his pyjamas to confront the intruder. Acting instinctively, he failed to call the police, first. Instead, he rushed outside, and yelled at the Peeping Tom, who immediately took flight. My sister, who had followed dad downstairs, was not about to let him escape. She bolted from our kitchen, barefoot and clad only in her nightgown to give chase.

To evade his pursuer, the Peeping Tom, veered off the sidewalk and clambered down the overgrown embankment leading from Hill Street to the shores of Picton Bay. Mary slowed to a walk, realizing the futility of continuing the pursuit in her bare feet.

Although she had not overtaken the culprit, the neighbourhood was abuzz the next day when word of the foot chase spread. Obviously, my older sister Mary was no pushover. She was prepared to take back the night from the Peeping Toms of the world.

Her heroics prompted several neighbours to remark that while she had done a brave thing,  she had acted on the spur of the moment, with no clear thought of the possible consequences. What would she have done had she succeeded in overtaking the Peeping Tom?

Two days after my sister’s daring sprint, I decided to play a joke on her. To succeed in my plan, I needed an accomplice, so I told my mother what I intended to do. That night, I borrowed one of my father’s white shirts (the Peeping Tom had worn a white shirt) and his tweed cap and concealed them in my room. At around 10 p.m., I yawned several times and announced that I was going to bed. I then went upstairs, donned my disguise and snuck out of the house, through the front door. I crossed our lawn, into my cousin Fern’s yard and leaned against her house, just outside her bedroom window.

Right on cue, my mother looked through our kitchen window, pointed and said, ‘There he is again.” Mary ran outside to give chase, this time fully dressed and wearing shoes. I started to run and had almost reached Franklin’s corner, before I realized that Fast Mary was no longer in pursuit. Although I could not see her, I could hear her voice. I slowed to a walk and looked behind me. Determined to catch the Peeping Tom, this time, my sister had recruited a posse.  Our neighbours Carl Simpson and Howard Clarke, both burly men were about to join in the chase. While I was confident that I could outrun my sister, I was not about to test my speed against the fleetness of Mary’s deputies. Forced to give myself up, I took off my cap and called out, “It’s just me”. My sister was not amused.

The town police had been advised of the incident of the Peeping Tom but never apprehended him, although they did have a suspect. In later years, I often wondered why he chose to peer through the window of a 67-year old spinster in her nightgown, yet fled from a thirty-something woman, similarly clad, who was running after him.

Filed Under: Margaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

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  1. Ann Sherwood says:

    Margaret, you little devil! Too funny!

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