Grade 5 Glen Echo School 1967

My Grade 5 class 1967 – Glen Echo School, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada … I’m bottom row, second in from right.

Yeah, I was bleeding alright … all over the driveway.

And I screamed bloody murder with monster salty tears streaming down my chubby little cheeks.

My brother Gord’s friend Ron had pulled back hard on the rubber band and shot a U-shaped fence staple from a slingshot into my exposed lower leg from about 6 feet away. But it was a game, and so this end result should have been anticipated. Is it possible that maybe we weren’t the brightest kids?

When I pulled the two pronged galvanized projectile from my leg, the blood poured out pretty profusely. Everybody was apologetic and concerned and all, but you know, this was 1967 and I was 10 years old; these were the sorts of games we played to cement our childhoods.

Where were the parents you might ask? Oh puh-lease

Parents and kids of the 1950’s and 1960’s led pretty independent lives — we met at mealtimes, and outside of that, we were all mostly free to head in whatever direction we wanted. From any age.

But remember, this was a naively different time when we were still just standing at the front door of the haunted house that held all of the understanding of the dangers of child abuse and abductions, drugs, war atrocities, and all of the other scary things that go bump in the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My leg felt like this …

Boy's bloody leg

…but probably looked more like this.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It was all normal stuff from an era that no longer exists.

Hell, as a 1990’s and 2000’s parent, I would never have dreamed of sending my kids outside to play at 8 in the morning, and then not expect to see them until they came running in starved at lunch time.

Not only would I have not dreamed this, but frantic neighbourhood watchers would have sent apoplectic police officers to my door before an hour had passed.

………………

Like a wistful Ken Burn’s PBS documentary, this blog post has me delving into ancient 20th century history.

And it’s truly unsettling from my perspective because the message that runs indelicately through my head is that this means my lifetime on our good earth is running low on ticks of the clock … and since we’re talking 20th century, that’s an analog clock, you know, the kind with hands that sweep around the circle.

Burn’s documentaries beautifully lay out history in sepia tones. Dreamy nostalgic music floats through while sentimental rivers of images appear like miniature puffs of smoke that recede into the pale blue sky. I like to think of my life’s experiences in sepia, it lends romanticism and import that would otherwise be absent.

1967 was a big year in the 20th century – for me, and the rest of the world too. I think that 1967 is the first year where I’m really cognizant of my being an individual person. This is striking because I was only 10 years old in ’67.

It was the year of Canada’s 100th birthday — or Centennial —  and there was a huge international party going on in Montreal called Expo 67. Across the land, Canadians spent the year wandering their streets, schools and businesses in geometric-striped or paisley shirts, and mini tent dresses, singing, “CaaaaaaNaaaaaDaaaaa… One little , two little, three Canadians … we love thee

I visited Expo 67 twice. I loved the awe-inspiring country pavilions — Iran’s brightly-toned blue tile walls, the Sputnik satellites hanging in the sloped-glass USSR building, the Buckminster Fuller geodesic-dome U.S. pavilion that had monorail trains gliding right through its middle. The breezes of the St. Lawrence River were filled with the intoxicating smells of foreign dishes with names we couldn’t pronounce.

It was so exciting that I hardly needed the extra adrenaline boost found in the amusement park area called LaRonde, it was that cool. At one point, I got lost from my parents and aunt and uncle in the park which really pissed off my Uncle Dwight. Come on, I was TEN!

Expo_67_Pavilion_of United_States_PC_004

Humankind began to grow up in the 1960’s. Incredibly, in 1967 many of us were just beginning to realize that war was a bloody miserable thing to march into. It really wasn’t the glorious, fun-filled tromp into camaraderie and dancing with easy local girls and drinking and singing we thought it was.

Television brought Vietnam into our living rooms each evening. There were terrible bloodbaths and chemical burns, and innocents shredded in the crossfire just like in World War 1 and World War 2 and every other war that had played out over the millennia, previously unseen in our living rooms. It was scary and painful and messy. We were all scared shitless of nuclear war annihilation.

We’d been Lee Harvey Oswald‘ed and Albert DeSalvo‘ed by now, but still had no signs yet of Richard Speck, Sirhan Sirhan, Mark David Chapman, James Earl Ray, Clifford Robert Olson, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer to name just a slight few. We were semi-naive babies taking one last delicious suck on our thumbs.

But despite any worries of the time that existed, I loved 1967 for a whole bunch of reasons.

  • There was a shiny new (alright, 2 years old) Maple Leaf flag flying over the Expo 67 celebrations in Montreal.
  • Elvis married Priscilla.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
  • The Mad Men era where men were men and women were subservient was in its final throws.
  • The summer of free love bloomed in San Francisco.

Maple Leafs 1967

………………

It might be strange to you but an even more important cause for my love of all 1967 was the movies that hit the theatres. It was a classic year in cinema.

  • To Sir With Love
  • In Cold Blood
  • Wait Until Dark
  • The Graduate
  • Bonnie and Clyde

All great movies. Thoughtful, serious, funny, emotional movies.

Remember at the beginning of this post I said kids and parents went their separate directions?

Here’s a perfect example. On Saturday afternoons, I, along with one of my friends Jerome, Renato, Larry, or Frank would jump onto the Main West bus that traversed Hamilton from east to west. It was about a 30 minute ride to the central core of the city. We’d hop off downtown and find our way over to the cavernous 2,259 seat Capitol Theatre, or the majestic Palace with its huge balcony, or sometimes the relatively plain-Jane Tivoli.

Give the lady at the front kiosk your 25 cents kids’ admission, head to the snack bar for popcorn and a big chocolate bar and you could ensconce yourself in the theatre for the whole afternoon.

Why watch Bonnie and Clyde get gunned down in bloody slow motion just once when you could sit and watch it again a second time? Faye Dunaway was just way too pretty to leave behind after just one performance. Jesus, even Warren Beatty was too pretty to leave behind with only one viewing. And it took at least two viewings to understand Buck Barrow’s joke, “And she called him over and she said, “Son, whatever you do, don’t sell that cow!

You could enter the theatre at 11 am and not leave until 11 pm if you wanted. Of course, we didn’t because I had to deliver the Hamilton Spectator newspaper to my customers by 5 o’clock or I was dead meat.

Bonnie-and-Clyde-1967

I think that if I could play out my own Back to the Future scenario, 1967 would easily be my year of choice.

I’d luxuriate in the warmth of my long-gone Mom and Dad, and the rest of my family. I’d eat lots of MoJo’s and french fries at Van Wagner’s beach on Lake Ontario. I’d spend hours playing football in the park across the street from my house, pretending I was a famous Hamilton Tiger-Cat receiver like Garney Henley. I’d ogle poor blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark for even more hours at the Palace theatre.

More importantly, I could make sure I ran far and fast away from Ron with that damn staple-shooting slingshot.

Then today, I wouldn’t have to look down at the two bumpy little scars on my lower leg when I happily reminisce about my youth.

Advertisements