Tag Archives: 1970s

♥ Love Letter To Canada ♥

Happy Canada Day, all!  It’s our nation’s 146th birthday, and my 46th blog post (I’d like to claim I’d planned that).

When I was an elementary school student, one of my favourite assignments was geographic research.  I recall penning (penciling?) compositions on San Salvador, Florida and Rome, however the ones that gently squeezed my little Canuck heart were inevitably about Timmins, British Columbia and Toronto, among others.  I remember happily flipping through encyclopedias in the school library, eager to gaze upon grainy 1970s photographs like this one:


Ontario Place, Toronto

or this…

St. John, New Brunswick

St. John, New Brunswick

or this…

Swartz Bay, Britisih Columbia

Swartz Bay, British Columbia

In the years since, I have travelled to the West Coast numerous times, and have spent time in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  Six out of ten ain’t bad, but I do palpably feel the absence of the midwestern provinces, and what I wouldn’t do to get to Nunavut, NWT and the Yukon.
One day, I whisper to myself, one day.

I have fundamentally Canadian images burned forever into my brain, that give me a little tingle every time they rise, unbidden.   A photograph of a grain elevator in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.  Nighttime pub crawling in Montreal with my friend Andy.  Sprinting down an eastern provincial park beach, tearing off my clothes (bathing suit conveniently underneath), and jumping into the salty Atlantic for the first time.  Strolling through Stanley Park in Vancouver, on a warm yet soggy March day, almost having the place to myself, and spotting an immature eagle, perched majestically in a tree, watching me.  Just missing my PEI friends as I arrived in Kensington, yet because of that, having the most beautiful night camping by the water.  Listening in awe as my cousin in Moore’s Mills, New Brunswich spoke fluent French and English to her children.  And, of course, years of memories from hometown Ontario, like watching the CN Tower being built (on my first visit I bought a pen, which had a picture of the tower and a little elevator that moved up and down as you tilted it).

Other memories from my Book Of Canadian Recollections include:

  • Getting all excited about traversing the then 5-year-old Confederation Bridge spanning NB and PEI, almost 13 kilometers long (that’s 8 miles for Americans, y’all).  Realizing immediately that they’ve built the barriers so that drivers can’t see over them and get distracted.
    Experience rating: meh.
  • Ordering a ‘Relic’ burger at Molly’s Reach restaurant in Gibson’s, British Columbia.  Bruno Gerussi, FTW.
  • Hearing Stan Rogers for the first time.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Buying a beautiful print of A.Y. Jackson’s Yellowknife, Northwest Territories from a woman who had originally purchased it because it brought to mind her days there as camp cook for a group of geologists. I sat contentedly for the next hour as she regaled me with stories.
  • Heading to the Canadian National Exhibition every year with my father, whose commitment to procuring a Shopsy’s corned beef sandwich each and every visit bordered on the religious.
  • Breaking down en route from Montreal to Lac-des-Seize-Îles in a torrential rainstorm, and proceeding to travel with the French CAA guy and his girlfriend, windows rolled up, them smoking cigarette after cigarette, as we communicated directions in Franglaise.  Good times.
  • Canada Vignettes.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Stepping into the narthex of Notre Dame cathedral in Montreal for the first time.  Words cannot express.
  • Living through ten (count ’em, ten) London, Ontario winters.
    Snow.  Oh God, the snow.
  • Meeting fascinating people:
    Gordie Tapp of Hee Haw fame in the waiting room of my optometrist’s office (circa 1978).
    Bill Lawrence, former host of Tiny Talent Time, who became the perpetually cheery weather guy at CBC.
    Guy Paul Morin (acquitted of murder in 1995), in a CBC elevator, where it took me about 30 seconds to connect the face to the name.  Suddenly overcome with the enormity of what he must have gone through, feeling  I had to say something, I turned and offered a simple ‘Congratulations,’ to which he humbly replied a quiet ‘Thank you.’
    Ken Bell, WWII photographer, at his home in Gibson’s Landing.  What an honour.
    There are more, but I don’t want to make you jealous.
  • Dating a Francophone separatist in the early 90s and realizing in my Ontarioan ignorance that we still have a long way to go in that department.
  • Each and every summer from time immemorial, having at least one opportunity to float on my back in one of our beautiful fresh water lakes, my heart filled to overflowing with gratitude.
  • Richard Condie.  ‘Nuff said.
  • 1992: The Tragically Hip releasing Looking For A Place To Happen, because any band that can somehow fit Jacques Cartier into a  tune is well, the coolest ever.
  • Having it slowly dawn on me that every other white clapboard Catholic church on the East Coast is named St. Peter’s.
  • Standing under two-hundred-foot trees in Capilano, British Columbia, and being reminded of my smallness in the world.

20080706123845_single red maple leaf

The ties I have to this place are not the silken, tenuous kind; no, these are most surely comprised of diamond-encrusted titanium links. And though enormously strong, they are neither awkward nor heavy, and provide a centering and stability I can’t imagine getting from anything (or anywhere) else.

And with that, I will leave you with Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s The Log Driver’s Waltz, 1979, Canada Vignettes.

Happy Birthday, Canada.  I love you.



Filed under Music, Nostalgia, Uncategorized, Wanderings

Hooked on the 70’s

I was born in 1970.

While I hit my teens over a decade later, I’ve always identified as a 70s kid, mostly because there’s less embarrassment found there; I wasn’t old enough to make my own decisions, and therefore avoid all guilt related to music and fashion, far and away the biggest strikes against the 1980s.

The 70s were filled with an innocent joy.  I went out to face my day in my brown jumpsuit and orange turtleneck, and jumped (sans helmet) on my Canadian Tire Supercycle.  Sometimes my mother would have me wear a dickey.  (A dickey!  They couldn’t have come up with a better name, really?)  On the weekends, I could wear my red, white and blue satin shorts (and matching jacket!) with gym socks.  If we were headed to my grandma’s for Sunday dinner, culottes, gauchos or full-length quilted dresses were de rigueur.

At school, we worked in our cahiers.  No, I didn’t attend a French school.  We’re Canadian, is all, and that’s what we called ’em.  Teachers thought nothing of screaming at us (nor would they ever be reprimanded for doing so), and the halls were scented with green Dustbane at least once a week, because of some kid who couldn’t control their nervous stomach.  You say you’re not familiar with Dustbane?  Well, if you’d ever smelled it, you’d have never forgotten it. Be grateful.  At recess we played on all sorts of playground equipment that placed our young lives in peril.  No one ever stopped us from doing underdogs on the swings, or from jumping off them.  We had high, metal climbers we clambered on, rain or shine.  Sometimes one of us would get bloody or break something, but not usually.  Worse thing that ever happened to me was the upper tie of my halter top came undone while I was hanging there, but at eight years old, there wasn’t anything terrifically newsworthy about it.

I was in the so-called ‘enriched’ classes in grade school (smarter than the average bear, apparently, but who could tell, at the time?)  In any case, I attribute my annual browner classification primarily to Saturday morning cartoons.  If it weren’t for the Electric Company, Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock (bless you, David McCall, Tom Yohe and Chuck Jones),  I might not have remembered that a noun was a person, place or thing, or that what a predicate says, we do, or still be able to count to ten in Spanish.

After school, I’d take my Crown Royal bag of loose change over to the variety store and buy candy; Gold Rush gum, Popeye Cigarettes, Lik-M-Aid, Gobstoppers, candy necklaces, Pop Rocks, Lollies, Pep, Bottle Caps, Sour Fizz.  Stuff that’d run you fifty bucks at Sugar Mountain, nowadays.

Before the wonder that is Swiss Chalet ever made an appearance in Oakville (around 1978-9), there was the Steak ‘N’ Burger at the Burlington mall.  It boasted a convenient prix fixe menu, which allowed you your drink, appetizer, main course and dessert.  You took your tray and walked along the perimeter picking out your pre-made, heat racked stuff. I’m pretty sure I always ordered a chocolate milk, but when it came to dessert I was always torn between the pudding or the Jell-O with the whipped cream.  I have no clue what I actually ate for dinner, but I tellya, I could recognize the aroma of that place from 500 feet to this day.

Christmas in the 70s brought the greatly anticipated Sears Christmas Wish Book.  How I poured over it!  The rings!  The shoes!  The toys!  I begged for a Big Wheel, but it was always denied as it was a ‘boy’ item.  I did manage to score a Simon, Merlin, and a Digital Derby (which as far as I could see was only ‘digital’ insofar as you used your fingers to work it).  The lesser Yuletide mag title belonged to Consumers Distributing, but us kids only browsed through it to titter over the ‘personal massager,’ held delicately by a slim, female hand.  Did women actually go in to the showroom with a straight face, fill out the order form and buy these?  Do you think there was a picture of the item on the box?

In 1970s Burlington, my music was my mom’s music, not having the opportunity to build my own likes as yet.  Good news is, I got to hear The Guess Who, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Carpenters, Carole King, Carly Simon, Motown, Jim Croce, Elton John, The Eagles, America and a slew of others that shaped my future tastes.  “Put on some dinner music!” mom would holler from the kitchen, just before the evening repast, and the floor-model stereo button would be pressed to go to CKDS Burlington and the sweet sound of easy listening would flood the room.

Sigh.  Awash in memory.  How lucky am I?

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