Carefree Childhood – Life Was Good

January 26, 2010

I spent my childhood in a small town of around 1,000 persons. Summer days were idyllic. Riding bikes all over, playing, or lying around. Collecting soda bottles, cashing them in for 2c each, taking the 25 or 30c to the variety store. Buying a comic book, bottle of pop (soda), bubble gum, and chips. Heading for the nearest large shade tree. Reading comic books and dining with good friends for hours.

Climbing trees in vacant lots. Making forts in the upper branches of large leafy trees. Life was good.

Serial killers, perverts, pedophiles? Who the heck heard of those in the 1950’s. Carefree was the byword in those days. We knew what time to go home in for lunch or supper. My friends and I policed ourselves. The freedom we had amazes me to this day.  No wonder we didn’t want to grow up and take responsibility.

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Firsts

March 13, 2008

Several bloggers have done this lately. I thought it would be an interesting way to look back in time, so here is my version.

1. Who was your first date?
A girl name Terry who was in my class. I remember it took me forever to work up the nerve to ask her to a dance. I think I was around 15 at the time.

2. Do you still talk to your first love?
No. My first puppy love was at age 14 and her name was Crystal. We met while vacationing at a resort. Apparently she married and had several children. I never saw her again after that summer, except we did write letters back and forth for a while.

3. What was your first alcoholic drink?
Vodka and orange juice. A couple of my buddies and I tied one on when we were about 16. Certainly something I am not proud of, but I was so sick that it’s something I haven’t forgotten.

4. What was your first job?
My first part-time job was working at the local IGA grocery store. I worked there through all of high school. Started when I was 15. The first full-time job was in June 1969. My employer was Babcock & Wilcock. I was a timekeeper/first aid man on various construction sites. There was lots of shift work. I remember the starting wage was $3.00/hr and after three years I got up to $5.00/hr.

5. What was your first car?
First car I owned was a 1969 MGB sportscar. It was a snazy convertible. I had lots of fun for a couple of years, until I had an accident and couldn’t afford the insurance, so I traded to a Toyota Corolla. Before cars I did have a couple of motorcycles, a Yamaha 100cc Twin and a Yamaha 350. Got my first one when I turned 16 and got my licence.

6. Who is the first person you thought of this morning?
My beautiful wife Cindy. I get up early, around quarter to five, and it is very difficult to leave the warmth of the bed.

7. Who was the first teacher who influenced you?
I don’t remember at all. The one teacher that really sticks in my mind is Gerald Kelsey who was my grade 8 teacher and also principle of the elementary school. I was severely challenged by math. He took the time to work with me after school several times a week. If it weren’t for his patience and perseverance I would likely still be in that grade.

8. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane?
In 1957 I went for a helicopter ride in the small town I lived in at the time, Iroquois, Ontario. It was part of their Christmas celebrations. Santa had arrived via the chopper and Dad arranged for us to have a ride.

9. Who was your first best friend, and are you still friends with him/her? When, high school? Elementary school?
I had two very best male friends all the way through high school. Unfortunately I lost touch with them over the years. Recently I found out one is a drunk and the other has passed on. Very sad all in all.

10. What was your first sport played?
I played little league baseball when I was around 10 or 11. I was a pitcher.

11. What was the first movie you saw?
Bambi when it first came to the screen. My folks took us to see it in Ottawa. It would have been in the 1950s, but I’m not sure of the year. 

12. What was the first concert you ever went to?
The Rolling Stones in 1964 in London, Ontario. They had just released “Satisfaction”. I remember how conservative they were at the time dressed in suits and not dancing around the stage like they do now. I also remember girls fainting and pulling off their clothes in a frenzy.

13. What was the first foreign country you went to?
The United States because I lived across the St. Lawrence River from it.

14. What was your first run-in with the law?
The police rousted a bunch of us who were at a bush party. Nothing serious though, they just told us all to go home.

15. When was your first detention?
It is hard to remember since I got so many in high school, but I was likely about 14.

16. What was the first state/province you lived in?
New Brunswick because I was born there. We left in 1955, when I was six, to live in Ontario. I left in 1977 to move to Alberta where I still reside.

17. Who was the first person to break your heart?
A girlfriend I had in high school. She was a minister’s daughter, but you would never have known it. She was a wild one let me tell you. She ended up marrying one of my best friends.

18. What was the first world event that influenced you or that you remember the most?
The Kennedy Assassination – the killing of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963 still fascinates me. I was only 14 years old at the time, but from that point forward my interest in world events and history knew no bounds. For me it was a life changing event.

If you enjoyed this why not try this exercise yourself. I know I had a few chuckles jotting these memories down.


Summer Memories

June 26, 2007

iroquoislocks.jpg

In 1955 my family moved to Iroquois, Ontario. This small town of roughly 1,500 persons is located on the St. Lawrence River between Kingston, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec. I was only six then, but still have some very pleasant memories of that time. We lived there from 1955 to the summer of 1962.My father worked for the Royal Bank of Canada and was receiving a promotion with this move. Previously he had been the Accountant at the branch in Woodstock, New Brunswick. That was where I was born in 1949 along with brother Jim and sister Judi. Dad was going to be the Manager of the Iroquois branch of the bank. When we moved into town the St. Lawrence Seaway project had just begun. This was a major international project involving dredging new channels, building new dams and canals all along the river. This was to allow ocean-going ships to sail all the way to the Lakehead (Fort William and Port Arthur) at the head of Lake Superior. Up to this time these larger ships had to offload cargo at Montreal. There it was transferred to the shallower draft “lakers”. These were smaller ships designed specifically for the narrower, shallower channels and canals of the existing Seaway. This was very expensive and time consuming to say the least. The United States and Canada wanted to open up the interiors of their countries to trade. Ports such as Chicago, Detroit and the Lakehead would be accessible to these larger ships. Anyway I got to see it all first hand.

Our first home was on King Street which was the old Highway 2 that ran through southern Ontario. There was no Highway 401 expressway back then. This was a two lane highway that wound through every little town and carried all traffic. This road was right next to the river in Iroquois. The river was relatively wide at this point, about half a mile. We could see easily see New York State on the other side. The nearest large American town was Ogdensburg, New York. Access was via a ferry at Prescott. I remember riding the ferry was always real neat for us kids, especially in winter when the river was covered with ice. Sometimes the ferries had to shut down, but usually the icebreakers keep the river lanes open.

The house we lived in was very old. I remember it had a coal burning furnace. Dad used to go down to the basement before bed in the winter and stoke the furnace with extra coal to make the heat last the night. One time we had a rat living down there and Dad had to set a trap to catch it. When he brought the dead rat up hanging from the trap I remember thinking how big it was, but then I was only little myself so it was likely not as big as I remember. Heck I thought it was as big as a large cat.

Now the other neat thing about the old town at Iroquois was the old schoolhouse I attended. It had a fire escape from the upper floors consisting of a metal chute, like a large slide, several feet in diameter. Now of course kids being kids, we loved to sneak up to the second floor and when the teachers were occupied with other things, we would joyously slide down into the playground.

I started my school career there in grade one. There was no kindergarten or preschool available to me at that time. So off I went at six years of age to school for the first time. This was for all day, although I did get to walk home for lunch. I was so confused and scared the first day I wet my pants because I didn’t know how to ask to use the washroom. Teacher told me emphatically that if I needed to go in the future, I was to please, just put up my hand and leave the room.

It was decided by the Seaway Authority that the town of Iroquois would be completely relocated because of a control dam that was to be built on the river. Some towns along the river were partially relocated and others just razed, never to be rebuilt. A new town site was chosen and an architectural competition held to design a new town plan. Included in this plan was a unique thing. The downtown business area would be replaced with a mall. At the time this was a major innovation. The mall in new Iroquois was one of the few in existence once completed.

Our family got its very first house to call our own in the new town. I was told many years later that it cost $13,000 dollars. It was three bedroom bungalow with a full basement and garage. When I lived there my parents only allowed us to go around the block on the sidewalks. We made it a big adventure riding our bikes and wagons as if we were a wagon train heading west. On the way around this route one house had a pair of huge weeping willow trees that we loved to play all kinds of adventures on. Summers were hot and long. Those were the days of no cares in the world, other than where the next Kool-Aid or Freshie came from.

Later when I got older, around ten or eleven, I was allowed to bike to the mall or all around town. Some of us kids went all over town in the summer to collect bottles, cash them in at the depot, then head to the mall. There we would buy a comic book, a pop, and a couple of popsicles all for about twenty-five cents. Then we happily retreated to the cool shade of a large tree and savored the day reading Batman, Superman or some other superhero’s adventures.

Those were the days!


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