Saturday, 10 November 2018

chapter XII,1967 continued.

My father wasn't well.He pretended to be well.He went on with life as usual,being a father,driving eighty miles to work every day,and looking after his children during the hours our mother was working and he wasn't. He was very engaged on these occasions,unless he'd just worked a midnight shift,then he would sleep for a few hours while we watched television. Often in the afternoon we would go somewhere,usually the park One time,he took some time to build a kite out of newspaper and sticks and we were off to fly it in the park.It didn't fly very well,but we still had a fun day.At the entrance to the park,there was an old stem locomotive,and in those days you could climb on it,and we did.But sometime in 1967,there came to be another exhibit at the entrance to the park.It was a sleek looking jet fighter that was suspended on a pedestal not far off the ground.So my father would put us up on his shoulders and we would try to touch the underside of that plane,even though we never could.Later, we'd go off to the playground and play on the swings and slides.When the weather got warmer that year,my father would take us to the wading pool,and that is where we would spend the afternoon.Later that year,our park was given a new name. Centennial Park.It was called that,my father said because our country was one hundred years old. But my father wasn't well.And he wasn't anywhere near one hundred years old. He was getting to the point where there were a lot of things he couldn't or didn't want to eat.Sometimes he would throw up.And his teeth were bothering him too.Still,he played the game.He would take us off to the park and, very much the air force man that he was, he would stand looking up at that plane and say how it was a shame that such planes were being "retired",and how the military in our country was all going to hell.He only looked slightly diminished compared to the time a year before when he'd stood across the street from our house talking to our babysitter.He was still young,just thirty three.But if you watched him long enough and hard enough, even if you were just a clild,as I was, you could tell that he had already lost a step.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Chapter XII,1967,continued.

School.It was nearly becoming an obsession with me.While it was still spring,and the kids kept passing in front of our place on the way to school, I was being driven nearly crazy because I couldn't go.Not yet. school was a right of passage,and what I knew about rights of passage was that they marked you off as being very grown up, much more so than the other kids who,had to wait another year.

My parents talked about school all the time.They asked me if I was ready."Yes",I would reply,pretending it was no big deal."I'm ready". My education at home continued on a little chalk board.I learned,along with my sister,how to spell new words whenever my father was home from work:cat,rat,hat,bat,car,hen,dog pig,and a bunch of others as well.I also learned other small words like it,and,if ,or.Learning those words didn't seem to make sense to me,because I had no idea what they were.Of course,while I could speak,I had no real idea how the language actually worked,and I tended to think of every word as being a noun.So,while I Knew what a dog was,what in the world was an "and"? There was still a lot to learn.I recall the first two syllable word I learned too.My father said that it was a big,hard word,but that he knew I could manage it,so we started at the chalkboard.B-A-R,start with that.So I did.I wrote down every letter,then my father helped me sound them out.Not so difficult.But this word had another part.B-E-R.So I wrote it and sounded it out,then learned that I was to put the two words together.B-A-R-B-E-R. My father had another motive in presenting this word.We were off to the barber shop just down the street.So gradually I came to see words as conveying actual ideas.

I also learned a much more difficult lesson.At least it seemed hard at the time.Not every six year old,and certainly not any five year old could do it . But it was a task required before I could go to school.Since I don't ever recall there being velcro back then,I had to learn to tie my shoes. It seemed very difficult,crossing the laces and tucking one under the other then, pulling and making a bow. I worked at it everyday over and over,and at first I just couldn't get it right.I never really got frustrated at it,but I wondered what would happen if I didn't know how to do it by the time school started.Would I not be allowed to go to school? It seemed like school was such a short time away,so this worried me somewhat.But gradually I was able to do it.My parents liked to brag a bit,so every time we had a visitor,or anytime we went to visit someone I had to show them how clever I was by tying my shoe for them. This would always get me a lot of praise.People would say how very grown-up I was.My grandmother ,in particular would always make a big deal out of it.The first time I showed her I could do it,she gave me a dollar bill.She was not an educated woman,but she seemed like the biggest fan of our education.She also kept a big box of letters that she cut out with scissors, so that when we came to her house,we could all sit and play at making words. She made the biggest deal out of my being almost ready for school. In no way could you ever not realize that she was very proud of her grandchildren.

All that spring,we spent a lot of time home with my father.Sometimes he would sleep after working the midnight shift,then driving the eighty miles home.Usually he would go to bed around nine O'Clock.In those days,there used to be a show on the radio,that he liked to catch before he went to bed.The show played in the morning for fifteen minutes,either right before the news,or right after,I don't really recall which.The show was a Gospel radio show, and back then some of the radio stations still carried them.So my father would sit quietly in his big green armchair and listen.The shows were usually of men harmonizing,and were really strikingly beautiful to hear.Usually these shows had a sponsor who would advertise some product between songs. It was all wonderful to listen to.But I wondered why my father liked these shows so much,since they were all about Jesus and God.Because he would still sometimes talk to us about our souls or spirits, and kept talking to us about Heaven or Hell,which we were still not allowed to mention by name, but he would rarely ,if ever accompany us to church.

After my father went to sleep,we were allowed to watch television.mostly it was the CBC,which ran children's programs for most of the morning.The Friendly Giant, whom I still believed was truly a giant, and wasn't sure could really be friendly, since the only other giant I'd ever heard of was the one from Jack And The Beanstalk, and he wasn't at all friendly.After the Friendly Giant, Mr.Dressup came on,and we would watch that too,along with several other shows.Television was our babysitter for a lot of days,but it was a much safer world back then, so my father could catch the sleep he needed.About the only thing that I can ever recall happening while my father was sleeping was that one day I got a nosebleed.This didn't disturb me much, because when I was a preschooler,these things happened.I'd had several, maybe even a lot of nosebleeds,and it was never regarded as serious.One of my parents would just hand me some wet Kleenex to hold over my nose and eventually the bleeding would stop.No big deal.But on this one occasion,while my father was asleep and we were watching The Friendly Giant,or some such thing,I sprung a big leak that seemed to take a long time to stop.And the Kleenex was up out of reach,on top of the refrigerator where I couldn't reach it.So I started using the pages of a coloring book to stem the flow, but of course it wasn't wet,so the bleeding wouldn't stop.Finally,I asked my little sister to go wake up our father.I still wasn't worried much about the bleeding,but it was getting to be quite a mess. So I asked my sister to go to the bedroom and wake my father.I didn't really want to do it myself.Sometimes my father was grouchy right after waking up.Often,he wasn't really easy to wake either, and my sister either couldn't wake him,or was afraid to try. But on the way back,she stopped and grabbed some toilet paper,which immediately struck me as a great idea, because It had never really occurred to me that you could use anything but Kleenex for a nose bleed.But I soaked it in cold water,and managed to stop the bleeding.But there was still a big mess when my father woke and my mother came home for lunch.So my father asked me why we didn't wake him.

Sometimes,if the weather was good,we were allowed to play outside too.Or at least I was.It's hard to believe that I went out and around with such little supervision, but those were different days.What I didn't really realize was that my parents knew most everyone in the neighborhood, so I was getting a lot of supervision I wasn't seeing.Most of the time I went two blocks down the street to my friend Kenny"s place, and my parents had no problem with that at all.I would spend the whole morning or afternoon there and come home in time for meals.We were always well supervised, and Kenny's mother would always let me know just when to come home.

One morning,though,I didn't go to Kenny's.Instead,I set out on an adventure of my own.It never really occurred to me that I might get into trouble if I was caught, but I never really got caught. The issue of getting into trouble had to do with crossing the street.I was allowed to cross Willett Street,on my way to Kenny's, and sometimes I could cross over to Karen"s directly across the street, if my parents were watching.Really,my family and Karen"s were more like one big family most of the time,with people coming and going to and from both houses. So the way I got around the problem of crossing the street was to cross right in front of our house.I was off to the school.I wanted to see what actually happened there.Often we would walk past the school,and even look into it's windows, but this was different.This was when there were actually kids at the school.I wanted to see what they did.So I thought I might follow that kid who had burned up the ant that I'd met long before.Only I couldn't find him. I was still driving a tricycle then, but the school wasn't much farther away than Kenny"s house, so off I went. I pedaled up the street, but when I got there,there were no kids anywhere about.Getting right to the schoolyard required me to cross another street,and this one was a street I wasn't familiar with, so I stayed across from the school, where I couldn't see a thing.After awhile,I just turned around and went home disappointed. On the way I stopped for a better look at the fire call box on the pole.When I got home,I wasn't in trouble. Nobody even knew that I'd been gone.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Chapter XII,1967, Continued.

During the spring of 1967, we seemed to be staying home with my father more and more.But at times we still went up the road to the babysitters. Being at the babysitters was , in truth getting to be a bit of a drag for me.Usually I was allowed to watch movies in the afternoon while my sister, and the lady's younger son slept, and I rather liked that.In truth, her kid was a bit of a pain, and being away from him for a couple of hours was alright with me. He was younger, and I considered him to be a baby, someone who couldn't really play and talk and interact at my level.By noon I was usually tired of his nonsense.

Sometimes, though I was made to take a nap too, and this really never sat well with me. One of these times was, of course, the time I got the smallpox vaccination.I didn't feel sick, there was no reason at all for me to slow down and rest, or to eat that nasty aspirin without the benefit of water.So I just lay down on a bed in one of the bedrooms, and looked at the ceiling, because I couldn't sleep. Another time,we were going to pick up my father where he worked, then we were heading onward to my grandparents place in Canterbury.This, for us was a very long trip.Almost eighty miles to start with, before we even picked up my father. So the babysitter decided I needed to have a nap, because I'd surely be tired by the time my day was over, deep into the night. So off I went to the bedroom, right after lunch. Again, I was not happy.First, I was not a little kid and didn't need to sleep.Secondly, I'd come to see being sent to my room as being a kind of punishment for misbehavior, and I had no idea what it was I'd done to warrant punishment. But off I went.On this particular day, lunch had been a bit of a testy affair between the babysitter and her oldest girl, and there had been a yelling match. The longer we stayed at the sitters house angrier she seemed to get, so I wasn't eager to to try her patience about having a nap. I lay down on the bed for a bit, then I heard here tell her oldest son to come and check if I was sleeping.There was no need to check on the other kids because she knew they'd be out like a light. So her kid comes into the room and asks "Are you asleep?" I wasn't, but my eyes were closed tightly and I was pretending, so I answered "Yes." He went back out into the kitchen and said to his mother"He says he's asleep." There was a lot of laughter at that, then I heard the screen door slam and her three oldest kids were off to school.

I don't recall just how my father came to be at work without a car, or how he got there, but the idea was that my mother would drive up and get him.For some reason she'd needed the car in the city, or maybe he'd caught a ride up to work with someone else.We didn't have two cars then, and sometimes my father would even talk about hitchhiking to work.He may have done that a time or two, but I don't really recall it for certain. In any event, my mother picked us up at the sitters by mid afternoon, and we were off to pick up my father. I hadn't slept much at all. In fact, I'd given some thought to crawling out the bedroom window and playing in the yard, but I couldn't think of how I'd get back into the house without being noticed.So I stayed put.

In those days, there was no double lane road up the east side of New Brunswick. First you took the road out towards Shediac, but, before you got there, you came to a tee in the road and turned left.Then you were off up along the coast, right along the water for the most part. Every few miles you would pass through a town, so getting anywhere fast was not happening.Still, there was a lot to see.It seemed that there were signs and billboards everywhere that had lobsters painted on them.There were even houses that had lobsters painted on them, and sometimes other sorts of things, like fish or clams too. In one of the towns along the way there was an old anti-aircraft gun in a park right along side of the road, and I always wanted to stop and have a look at it.But it was many years before we did. Another of the towns had a building, a church maybe, that was completely round, and that fascinated me because it was the only round building I'd ever seen. Once, as were were passing by my father said something about confusing someone by "Putting him in a round building and telling him to go piss in a corner."My mother shot him a hard look, and he never said anything about that building again. Somewhere along one of those little towns, my uncle worked as a Mountie, but I can't remember exactly which town it was.Still, I knew that they lived in the police station, so I would come to recognize it as a landmark along the route to where my father worked.

My father was getting off work that day at four o'clock, so we must have started off from Moncton at about two o'clock.We got there a few minutes early, and, even though it was on a military base, we were allowed to drive right into the place, after stopping at the main gate, and sometimes being asked for identification.Usually, though we were just waved through, as the man at the gate knew my mother, as well as my father.

The outside of the building that my father worked in was crowned with these structures that looked like giant golf balls, and these housed radar scanners.Also, inside the building there were a bunch of motors that turned over day and night to produce power.My father called them "Turbines." or "Diesels", which were not the same thing, but I didn't know what the difference between them was. Either way, each of them, and there were three or four of them, were as big as a house, and they not only made a lot of noise, but they set the whole building to vibrating.That was something I wasn't sure I liked , but I did rather like being where my father worked.There were a lot of tools there too.My father had some tools at home, by the variety and size of the tools here was something like I'd never seen.He even showed us a wrench that was nearly as big as I was at the time.I couldn't imagine what that wrench would ever be used on.

One of the things that happened on that trip, that I though was kid of cool at the time was that we got to eat in the mess hall on base.There were soldiers coming and going all of the time, and the food was really good, and I could eat as much of it as I wanted.After dinner, we were all herded into the car, and started off towards Newcastle, where we would catch the road going down to Fredricton and on to Canterbury.But, before we got there, my father decided it would be a good idea to stop along the roadside to let us blow off some steam, to get us tired out, so we would go to sleep. So he pulled off beside this field and we all got out and went off for a bit of a walk.Before long, my father noticed something in the grass, and motioned to our mother to bring us over to where he was standing. There in the tall grass there was a bundle of snakes, all curled up together in a big knot, all slithering around with tongues darting in and out of their mouths. I'd knew about snakes.Well, sort of. My entire knowledge of them at that time came from the story of Adam and Eve, so I really didn't have a great view towards them.Some of the older kids said that snakes were poisonous, and that if one bit you, you would die.So I really wanted to get out of there. But my father said that these were just grass snakes, and, just babies.They wouldn't bite anyone.He reached down and picked one up in his hands and let it crawl around a bit before putting it back in the grass with the others.That was the first time I'd ever seen a live snake, and, at the time it was happening, I was glad when we got back into the car.I wasn't planning on sleeping on the way to my grandparents place.I still liked listening to the radio at night, I still liked watching the stars in the front windshield.It all gave the impression of there being a world that was much bigger than myself to wonder about.But hours later I was being aroused out of a deep sleep as our car came to a stop.My mother was knocking on the front door of my grandfather's house.The porch windows rattled loudly and there were moths flying as my grandmother opened up the door.Then I was asleep again.  

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Welcome/Happy New Year.

Welcome.As we stand here on the brink of a new year, let me invite you, if you happen to be reading this blog for the first time,to come along for the ride, as I  write this memoir of my life in Atlantic Canada during the 1960's and 1970's.Hopefully you will find something of interest, either just as a story, or as a primary source in terms of the history of that place and time.Only a Large Hill began in blog form about eighteen months, but it's groundwork was laid down years before as I wrote journals out in longhand in coil notebooks.

As an adult in my thirties, I went back to school after over a decade out in the working world.Before I could do that I had to take upgrading classes in reading and writing, which seemed unreasonable to me at the time, because I thought myself to have enough intellect,and I'd never set aside the idea of learning, even though I'd been busy doing other things.In retrospect,however, I came to see how one's skills can become rusty, and how much the upgrading was going to ease my academic burden.More importantly,the beginnings of this memoir can be credited to those few weeks of classes.

One of the assignments during writing class was to keep a daily journal.It didn't have to be on any particular topic, but we were to write one page a day, essentially as writing practice.I was busy at the time, working full time and I had a young family.Moreover, it was hot,uncomfortably so at times, during those six weeks, so I often found myself going about the task rather peevishly.But I received good grades on the assignment, and decided not to give up on the journal writing once class had finished.So for years I just kept writing down anything that came to mind, until I had a stack of notebooks.

It really wasn't until the early years of the twenty first century that I decided, hey, these writing might actually be important.They might actually be of interest to someone.The biggest obstacle to starting a memoir, for me was convincing myself that my life might actually interest someone.You see, I was just busy living life, working and going about the daily business  of being to consider it very interesting myself.I'd always remembered the days growing up in Moncton, New Brunswick, and even the days before that, living in rural New Brunswick as little more than an infant.I also recalled many stories that were told to me by others that served to set context for my being.So from an early time onward, I've always been filled with stories, though not necessarily a gift for story telling.

Still, it was in looking both forward and back that I decided to tell my story.In looking back, I discovered that there had never really been storyteller in our family before, at least so far as I knew about.My paternal grandfather grew up in and around Springhill Nova Scotia, a notorious town, often
well known for all of the wrong reasons. He was a ships carpenter, according to his own telling, a bootlegger during the 1920's, an all round hellion and a very tortured man, given to excess of drink.He could tell a story orally, but had to be harassed to do so, and then told tales of poetic nonsense.Later I discovered that he neither read nor wrote, so what might have been a great and stimulating tale never came to be.The other side of our family seemed to me a notoriously closed mouth lot.They lived in Western New Brunswick, in a hard little place called Dead Creek.Surely the day to day challenges of  living in such a place alone would have made for fertile reading.Yet again, the story was never told, because those people from whom my mother came were stoics, United Empire Loyalists.Stoicism makes complete sense if you'd ever seen the place they came from, and how many people there lived.My mother always used to say"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."I realized that it must have been something that was bred into her from childhood.My grandfather often said nothing at all.So their story can often only be known by inference.

In looking forward, the events of September Eleventh 2001 were to provide an extra incentive to start work on my memoir, because, as I considered the world past, I came to realize, as I began my day in the city of Calgary Alberta, that the world was to be irrevocably changed, divided into the time before, and the time after.I didn't know what to expect, exactly, but it was around that time that I began to feel an urgency in regard to getting the past written down.In the months and years that followed, I realized that words define and identify us, either our own words, or those of others.I found the idea of being defined by others repulsive, and who knew then how much our society would allow us to define our own experience moving forward.So a memoir was begun.

The whole concept of Only A Large Hill has been from the beginning, to allow you to have a sort of back stage pass to my writing room.You get to see the work as it's being produced, kind of like what you might find if you slipped into the room where I write.The downside of that, as I've discovered is that the writing you see can be of inconsistent quality. I've considered writing this memoir for print media, and may well yet do that, but as for right now, it stands what it is-essentially unfinished work product, to be further refined, perhaps should the need arise.

Nevertheless, I invite you along for the ride as we head into a new year.My blog will be of interest to you if you are interested in the history of Atlantic Canada in general, or of growing up in Moncton,New Brunswick in particular.It also touches on events in other places.

After eighteen months of producing this blog I've yet to get myself through the schoolhouse door for the first time.That's coming in the very near future. Largely that's because I grossly underestimated the things that I would be able to adequately recall from my very youngest of days, and didn't see the treasure trove as being all that rich.In just the time since I began blogging, I've also come to realize that the story as I've been telling it has a kind of continuity right up until today, that I never really imagined when I first started out. There is a particular thread of the story that really would not have made complete sense to even me as little as two years ago.Again, that story is ahead of us in the coming months.

So in closing, let me again invite you along for the trip, if you have any interest at all.I began this project for my family, but really, my family has come to include many more people than just siblings, my son, nieces and nephews, and all those yet to come.A story is for all.

As I move forward, I had goals for this blog aside from just more entries.As of this date, this blog has had just over forty five thousand views.I'm satisfied with that.I never dreamed that that many people would read some portion of my memoir.In terms of numbers though, I'd like to double readership in the year to come, and I believe that's fully possible.Obviously I'd like to continue to tell a story of readable quality, through to it's conclusion.

I have something to ask of you readers though.And that's that I would like you to visit the blog and comment.It's with regard to comments, and followers that I'm lagging behind.If you are one of the followers to whom I personally send this blog out, entry by entry, I'd like you to go to Blogger and become an actual follower.A few close friends have provided input on Facebook, but I'd like to ask you all to actually visit the blog.I'd also like two things further of you.First,I'd like you to send the stories you find here to anyone else you might know who you think would be interested.Secondly, it's always been my goal to partner with another blogger who is doing what I'm doing:publishing an online memoir of life in Atlantic Canada.Essentially what I want is to carry someone else blog on my site, and have them do likewise.So, if you are a memoirist from Atlantic Canada, please contact me to make arrangements.

Finally, I want to note that I currently produce two blogs. The second, entitled  Waking Up In Winter picks up the story began in Only a Large Hill, some thirty or so years later, in the Canadian West, when things began rapidly changing within our family, and when the idea of identity began to be challenged from seemingly every corner and front. So I want to invite you along for that ride too, as I write and produce it concurrently with Only a Large Hill.

So Happy New Year from Toronto Canada.Won't you sit down for a few minutes and allow me to tell you a story?

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Memoirs & Misadventures of Mones: This opinion piece will self combust

The Memoirs & Misadventures of Mones: This opinion piece will self combust: So In light of yesterdays events and a few posts and articles I’ve read. Rather than complete a long dramatic Facebook status I’d like to d...

Monday, 2 October 2017

Chapter Xii,1967,Continued.

One of the rites of passage before I could enter school was getting a vaccination for smallpox.I'd never met anyone who had had smallpox, and that was largely because a lot of resources were being invested to eradicate it.Everyone had to be vaccinated.

Every adult I knew had been vaccinated.They all had little round scars on their arms to show where this had been done.My mother and father both showed me what their scars looked like, and explained that they were put there with a needle.I would go to a nurse, and she would stick a needle in my arm,and inject the smallpox vaccine.The reason I was given for this at the time was that it would stop me from getting sick.Smallpox was a very dangerous sickness, and, my parents told me, if you got it, you would die.That almost certainly explained why I didn't know anyone who had smallpox, and that everyone I did know had a scar on their arm. In any event, I didn't want to die without ever getting inside the schoolhouse, and I might want to marry my friend Karen someday I thought.Truth be known, the school was a big attraction, but I'm not certain I'd rather have married Karen or died.I still remembered our rock fight, and at times thought she was mean.

In those days,the vaccinations were given at the Legion Hall, which was at John and Highfield Streets, just before you got downtown.It was a rather cool spring day when my father took me down there for the vaccination.On the way he asked if I was afraid."No." I said.But I wasn't so certain.I knew having a needle poked into my arm was likely going to hurt.But I was not going to admit being afraid.I was going to walk right into that room and let the nurse do what she had to.Thinking about it was uncomfortable though.I knew that pain was something to be avoided. The worst part of it was having weeks to think about it.I'd occasionally fallen outside and hurt myself, with the usual assortment of childhood cuts and scrapes.Only in those events, there was no need to think about it, because the mishaps just happened.There was no thinking about them.They happened and they were over just as fast, and life went on.It seemed unfair somehow that I had to think about this vaccination for so long.

Inside the legion,there were a bunch of older people sitting around at tables drinking beer.My father seemed to know some of them, and greeted them warmly. The room for the vaccinations was off to the side, behind a closed door.There was a table lined with these tiny containers, all in neat rows.There was also a sort of a box with things that were clearly the needles. The air had a sharp alcohol scent, and I didn't like it much.It was that smell that I wanted to get away from more than anything.It only took a minute.The nurse, who wasn't dressed like a nurse at all asked me what my name was, then asked if I was ready.I told her I was and she said that I might feel a little poke, but that it wouldn't hurt much.What I actually felt was more like a little scratch, and it really didn't hurt.It was kind of like brushing a piece of sandpaper over my arm.The nurse had a piece of candy of some sort that she handed me as a reward for not making her job difficult.She also handed my father a pamphlet with information about the vaccine on it.It showed pictures of how the scar should look after certain periods of time.The last picture showed a scar just like the one on both of my parents arms.That took about three weeks.It would scab over, and eventually the scab would fall off. Along the way though, there were some pretty ugly looking stages, and this worried me more that the needle.

I still recall vividly how the scar came to fall off.It had gotten to the last stage, which looked like an ugly grey scab.It itched a little bit.We were playing in the living room one night, with an old box.We would take turns getting into the box, and then we would roll the box over, with either me or my sister inside it.Then,we would roll it upright again ant the person inside the box would pretend to be a jack in the box. So when it was my turn to jump up out of the box,I did.And I caught the scab on my arm, which I'd nearly forgotten about,on the edge of the box,and off it came.Actually that hurt much more than getting the vaccination did.I was happy it was gone though.At the babysitter's I was made to take an aspirin, and go for a nap, because the babysitter decided I was having a reaction to the vaccination.With the aspirin, I was made to chew it up because she said water would make it so that it wouldn't work as well.It tasted dry and bitter and was hard to get down without water.As for the nap, I was six years old.Afternoon naps were an affront to my dignity.I can't say whether I was having a reaction or not, but I wasn't feeling sick at all. In all,the vaccination hardly seemed as big a deal as all the adults made it out to be, and now, finally, I was almost ready to go to school.  

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Chapter XII,1967,Continued.

Even though I'd yet to get into the schoolhouse I was to find out that some of the children in our neighborhood liked a somewhat more rough and tumble kind of play than I was used to. There were a lot of new kids moving into the area,especially down on Willet Street,towards the woods.And that's still where I hung out. A new duplex went up on Willet right by where the woods ended,and there were a couple of kids that lived there.Both were older than I was, but not really that much older.Most of the time they were reasonably good kids to play with.But not always. The same could be said for the kids that lived right on the corner of Willet and Watson.They were a big family with a lot of boys.My father used to say things about them being"Catholic." and that they were "prolific." whatever that meant. Karen and her brother still lived across the street too, and I still played with Karen, but only when there weren't any boys around.

For Christmas in 1966,I'd gotten a lot of guns.Games that involved toy guns were very popular among all of the boys.Sometimes the girls wanted to join in too, but the boys almost never allowed them to.One time we were getting ready to play guns,and Karen demanded to be allowed to play.Her brother,who was about four years older than us would hear nothing of it.Eventually he ended up pushing his sister down and she went away crying.Karen's brother was always nice enough to me, but he ran with a rough crowd, and he used a lot of bad language.Between him and his friends it seemed like they were using the F word all of the time, and I knew if my mother ever heard them,I wouldn't be allowed to play with them anymore.So I was kind of good at keeping their secret.

Most of the boys I hung out with were a bit older than I was, as there were no boys on our street exactly the same age I was.This also made them seem badder to me.Some of them really had an attitude.Mostly they didn't like little kids tagging along when they went to play guns, but usually we went along anyway.The problem with playing guns with the bigger boys is that they always got to decide who won, and what kind of play experience you got from the game.

First, if you were going to play guns,two of the bigger boys would become team captains.You could never dispute who the captains were,because if you did they might slap you around.It wasn't unusual for some of the boys who were just a bit younger to challenge the oldest boys,and then there might be a fight. But all the younger kids like me just kept our mouths shut and went along with whatever was happening. We had no real choice if we wanted to play at all, and nobody wanted to be left out.

When we played guns,the games usually took one of three forms.First there was war.Or,the next most popular game was Cowboys and Indians. Finally there was cops and robbers.Our games, in those days reflected the various prejudices of the time, but few of us thought much about that.Again, as smaller boys we just went along to get along.

When we played war, the teams,led by the older boys,broke down into one of two groups.Basically it was the good guys versus the bad guys- us or them.Usually though the bigger boys were not really shy about identifying the two groups as either "Americans." who were the good guys, or the "Krauts." who everybody hated and nobody wanted to be.Sometimes the "Krauts." were called "Japs." but they were still "bad guys",and nobody wanted to be one. At the time, it was only about twenty years after WWII,and there was a lot of negative feelings still towards our enemies in that war.I suppose it was to be expected, knowing how humans are, but it seemed like a bit of a shame that all the boys around adopted such prejudice so willingly.One night after playing guns until dark,I asked my father what"Kraut" meant.He said that it meant a German person, and explained that I was not to use the word.

When you played guns,the outcome of the battle was always decided.I'm not certain why anyone would have wanted to play,given that it was always the same people who always won.Sometimes the older boys would flip a coin to decide which group got to be "Krauts" then they would take turns in each new round.That seemed okay to me because you would win every second game.But then sometimes the older boys would just decide among themselves that us younger ones would have to be "Krauts" or "Japs" and you would have to loose every game if you wanted to keep playing, and nearly everyone did.Usually when this happened there would be an argument over exactly how old you had to be to be an "American." Sometimes this would end up in a fight, and the oldest boys would always get their way.Even when some of us younger ones got together by ourselves, the older boys would often come along later and take over the game,making us play by their rules.

The bottom line in all these games of guns was that the "Good Guys " always won.The games always ended up with dead "Krauts". We would start out by having one of the teams going off to hide in the woods.That's where everything happened-in the woods.After everyone was hidden, the team waiting to attack was supposed to wait until someone counted to one hundred before heading for the woods.But I don't recall anyone being too honest about that.Usually the counting stopped much earlier than that,and boys would start heading into the trees with their guns.Not everybody had toy guns.Some of the boys just had sticks that were supposed to pass for guns.And of course, if that was the case,the older boys always looked down on the kids with the sticks.Sometimes they would make a rule that you had to have a gun in order to play. So once the attacking team entered the woods,the idea was to shoot the first member of the other team that you saw.You would just say"Bang,You're dead'" But usually the other kid would say"You missed me." Especially if he were older.That was part of the game.If you were a little kid, you never killed anyone.That honor always went to the  older kids.So we would run through the woods shooting and yelling until the game ended with a whole bunch of dead "Krauts." Only it didn't matter how many times you shot someone, if you were a little kid, you never got credit.The oldest two boys on each team were usually the only two kids who got kills.And usually the Americans didn't have any casualties at all.Only then one of the older kids on your own team would decide that somebody was a deserter and deserved to be shot.So the team captain would walk up to you, place his gun at the back of your head and shoot.That didn't seem fair at all to any of us younger kids, but again we had to go along.If you didn't fall down, or if the captain didn't like the way you fell down, he might give you a little kick, or he might say you couldn't continue to play.So everyone went along until someone eventually got too pissed off to put up with the game anymore, and things broke up for awhile.

Cowboys and Indians and Cops and Robbers all worked out the same as war,with a few minor variations.In a game of cowboys and Indians,the weapons would often be bows and arrows or knives.Sometimes we would even make bows and arrows from twigs and a piece of string.As for knives, nobody ever had a real knife that I recall.But some of the boys figured out a way to make "Play" knives. What they would do is find Popsicle sticks along the street or sidewalk, then start rubbing them along the cement on the sidewalk.After just a few minutes, you could grind one of those sticks into a really sharp point, and you had a knife.I tried it one time on the sidewalk right in front of our front door.I made a really good,sharp knife, but my mother came outside and asked what I was doing.She was not at all amused, and took my knife away from me.They were dangerous, she said.Someone might lose an eye from one of those knives.She said if I made another knife, I would not be allowed outside. So,from then on I made my knife out of sight of the house.In fact,while nobody ever lost an eye,people did get hurt from those knives.Kids were getting nicked up all the time, or were getting splinters from the wood.But no one ever got seriously hurt, and eventually that novelty wore off. Aside from all of that, the games ended just the same as war.With dead Indians and victorious Cowboys.Sometimes though, the Cowboys would allow one or two of their number to be captured so that the Indians could torture them, because, after all, that's what Indians did.In all,most of these games paralleled  television movies of the time.You really couldn't say there was much of a social conscience, either on television, or among the kids who played guns.

Cops and Robbers ended predictably too, and it was likewise dominated by the older boys.Most of us felt a bit better about robbers being shot than we did about "Krauts" or Indians getting killed. Robbers were almost universally held to be bad, and were seen as being deserving of getting shot, even though I don't recall anyone ever getting shot in Moncton at the time.In fact, I don't even recall that many people ever got robbed.

It's kind of hard to know how adults felt about our games involving guns.All the kids liked to play guns, and most kids had more than one toy gun, so on one level, I guessed adults thought it was alright.There were kids around though who were not allowed to play guns of any variety.One of the kids that I don't ever recall being involved in any game of guns, was the kid who had told me to call him Johnny Bastard,because I couldn't pronounce his last name.He said it wasn't good to kill someone, even if it was just pretend.But by and large no adult ever objected to guns.They might have if they'd known all about the mean sorts of undercurrents that the games really involved, but I'm not certain they really were aware.There came a time though when I was involved in a sort of a gun incident with one of the two brothers that lived in the duplex on Willet Street.And, even though I never told anyone about it, it was a rather serious incident, much worse than anything that went on in any of our games.