Hank Cooper is a first generation Canadian, born in Toronto in June of 1951, the middle child of orthodox Jewish parents. His grandparents on both sides undertook hazardous journeys from Belarus and Ukraine with their children during the 1920s, worthy of a book by itself and in a way making Hank a miracle child - the town where his mother came from has a mass grave with 3300 Jews in it, her family being one of very few who escaped that village.
Hank attended school in Toronto, until he realized that he and formal education were not a good fit. In fact, since the age of ten he had told himself that he would rather face his future by teaching himself on the streets rather than being imprisoned by the traditional school system. So, one day, with only two weeks left before the end of 11th grade during a high school class that frustrated him by its boredom, Hank decided that he’d rather take his chances in the outside world, facing the unknown and taking life as it rose up to meet him. He walked into the vice principal’s office and announced that he was leaving school. The vice principal begged him to stay in school, to the point that Hank was starting to feel sorry for the poor guy because he was so concerned about his welfare. But not sorry enough to stay, and Hank stuck to his exit plan.