When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of an orange light
That split the night
And touched the sound of flankers
With apologies to Paul Simon! I’m not sure how this thought got in my head, but for some reason, lately, I’ve had the sound, smell and sight of flankers, from a nice blasty bough, flying high, in my memory. I don’t so much have a story to tell , but a word, and a memory to share.
What are flankers? Well the link can tell you they are sparks from a fire, but really they are more. A part of a lifestyle, memories from a time many have forgotten, and may be getting lost. Bonfires, and boil ups, ice fishing and skating on ponds and lakes. Days and nights spent with parents and relatives now gone. Indelible memories.
I am taken back to Island Pond. Probably not one memory but many combined. In with Dad and Keith, pulled by our old horse Pet on the slide, a fire going on the shore while we cut holes through the ice with an axe. No ice auger for us in those days. Salt Pork for bait. Not sure we ever caught one, but what was better was the time spent together.
You know you remember them too, and can smell them. The orange needles from an old spruce or fir top thrown on a fire, immediately igniting into a fireworks display better than any Canada Day celebration. The accompanying smell as they rise high into the night, throwing an orange glow on the snow and ice. While your tea boils in an old apple juice can strung up with rabbit wire over the fire.
Flankers aren’t a concrete thing, but a portal to a world that was, and memories we cherish.
The time: Winter 1980-81
The Place: Burin Peninsula
The Event: Regional C Varsity Basketball tournament.
(Apologies about the heads cut off, will try to resolve later! Picture from 1980-81 Yearbook. Adding again here:)
In the fall of 1980, in grade 10, I tried out for the varsity basketball team. I really had no expectation I’d ever be selected, I’m not overly athletic or coordinated, but I was, for the time, tall. I was in reasonably decent fitness I guess, as were most of us at the time, because we were always running, or walking, or outside, as it was really all we had to do.
I did have reasonably good reflexes, and have been told I played decently as a street hockey goalie, but I, by no means, thought of myself as having much athletic ability. I mainly tried out to show I was interested, and for “something to do”.
Imagine my surprise, and I’m sure most of the school’s, when I made it. I have no idea yet how it happened. Only Rid Nichol can answer that, if he even knows now, 30 years later.
In any event, I warmed the benches in many local games at our school, hosting others from around the area, Musgravetown, Clarenville, and I’m not sure which others, and travelled to a few as well.
I was lucky enough to play with some very talented players though, Kevin Martin, Rick Verge, Chris Laite, Charles March, Brian Wilcox, Derek Burt, Mario Vary, David Bowering, and Faron Turley.
Our tournaments were broken into 3 levels, if I remember correctly, the first remains unnamed in my mind unfortunately, maybe zone?, but was at the Clarenville High School. I really don’t recall much about it to be honest, but we did win the tournament.
The next step was to play in the regional tournament, which was held in the town of Burin. I have three main memories of that tournament.
One: The gym we played in had a lot of condensation, and the floor was damp a lot. The referee of one or more of our games, was a former teacher at our school, Jim Pittman, and we seemed to be getting called for an inordinate amount of travelling calls from slipping in the dampness.
Two: We were playing some team, and were up by a substantial amount, and I got to play for a bit. I remember keep missing my shots, and the team kept feeding me the ball to try again. I finally made a basket, and the whole team cheered, which felt really good for the guy who was mostly known as the school’s nerd.
Three: We won the tournament! And thats where the title comes in. I remember riding the bus back home, fairly late at night I believe, and all of us singing along loudly to this song when it came on the radio.
Photo courtesy Faron Turley
This also meant we moved on to play in the provincial championship, which was held in Grand Bank. I remember I was billeted with Chris Laite at some person’s home, and that, if memory serves, we missed out on the playoffs by total points scored, being 4 shy of making the “cross over”.
I’m sure a horrible disappointment at the time, but fondly remembered now.
At the end of that school year, our jerseys were “retired” – these used to be used year after year. And we got to keep them. I think mine finally gave up the ghost only a couple years ago, and shredded into dust.
Someone on twitter recently posted about Icy Squares, and that reminded me of a couple things…
Bernard making hot chocolate with a mess melted in it (The result wasn’t good)
Icy Cups – specifically the little cups themselves!
Well not on their own really, but as part of a weird, odd, or poor man’s decoration.
I remember back in school, washing the little cups and using our fingernails, or a coin or something, flattening them into discs. Used to remind me of those we’d use to nail on roofing shingles, but that’s a different topic.
We’d take a mess of these, cut a slit in each about half way through, and then tape them end to end to form a garland. Not necessarily a long one, but more often a hanging one of a foot or so long. I really don’t remember if we did this at home, or at school, or just because we didn’t have the internet!
Another thing we used to do was take catalogs and fold the pages to make a lantern. Fold one page lengthwise back into the fold, then the next, fold the corners in to make a triangle, and repeat for the whole catalog. I really have no recollection of EVER hanging these anywhere, again might have been a boredom reliever! Would look similar to this, other than being a complete 360°.
And one more, I can’t say I did, but I remember seeing hanging in Verlie (sp?) Mills’ store in Shoal Harbour, was taking Wrigley’s gum boxes, pressing one end into the end of another, leaving the other stacked end on end, till you had a wheel. I can’t find any pictures of anything similar, but I’m sure some people will remember.
Was visiting Mom yesterday at the nursing home for Christmas, and for whatever reason, we were talking about buttons. And that reminded me of the old “button can”.
I know we weren’t the only one with one, but ours was an old biscuit tin, battered and faded and worn from likely decades of handling, similar to, yet totally unlike this pristine one here.
I can’t remember where it was when our old pantry was actually used as a pantry, rather than a porch/entry way, but perhaps it was the same place. We had a narrow opening in there, with small shelves, and hooks for brooms and mops, known, oddly enough, as the broom closet! Those were kept “clicked” in these kinds of holders. We kept the can on one of the shelves in there.
Everytime there were extra buttons on anything, or one was found I guess, it went into the button can, and many a time when one of dad’s shirts for works went missing one, it was pulled out to look for one that was a match, or at least similar.
And not only shirt buttons, but also coat buttons, with their different backing.
What was very surprising, at least in my memory now, is how often we actually found a match!
Not a very Christmasy post, but was what was brought to mind yesterday. Merry Christmas everyone!
I was at Bedford Place Mall yesterday morning, and being an early bird Giant Tiger wasn’t yet open. This mall is kinda like a wasteland now, other than Giant Tiger and Dollarama, there’s not a ton of businesses, or traffic. At least I guess not, being the early bird I am, I don’t see it anyway I guess!
But while waiting, I wandered through the mall, and had a look around. Not going to give you the directory, but there are a couple of interesting shops for card collectors and giftware anyway. But this, to me at least, was new. An Arcade! Self serve by the looks of things, and can even pay by phone now!
It reminded me of years back, going with Mom and Dad to Clarenville to get groceries. There was an arcade in Dalfens Mall then (it’ll always be Dalfens Mall to me) – owned by Eric Freeborn I believe. If memory serves, it may have been once upstairs over the Chain Store too? Or was that just the video store owned/run by Scott MacDonald? (I need to write about that too, I nearly bought a Betamax!).
Somehow, it was always dark, and Dad would give me a dollar or two, and I’d run over and play a few games. We never had much money to spare, so my dollar usually was just 4 games, each game being a quarter each, and used to have to get change from someone on the counter. I was never very good at most games. I had some skill with a few, but they were usually not in the arcades long either, with a constant rotation of games coming and going. It didn’t matter much though, I enjoyed watching others play nearly as much as playing myself, and learning how in the process.
I really can’t even remember the games now, I bet Pac Man, Galaga, Defender and Zaxxon were the constants. I do seem to remember Ms. Pac Man too.
One lasting memory though, was looking at my watch, or the clock, and realizing I said I’d be back to meet Mom and Dad at the CO-OP and that the arcade would be closing, turning and making for the door in a hurry, only to realize it had already closed when I ran face first into the glass door!
A couple years ago I got back into riding bike, and then the other day I saw an ad for an old vintage 10 speed. It reminded me of the one Keith had and I inherited. An old CCM Targa. There’s been quite a bit of new technology and difference since those days (and price too!).
If memory serves, dad got both Keith and I bikes at the old Western Tire location on Marine Drive in Clarenville. Keith got the 10 speed, and me being younger, and smaller, I got an old 20 inch coaster brake bike with a banana seat and a sissy bar. That bike was ridden sooooo much. I think everyone in the community learned to ride on it. And I loved it. I wonder is it still going somewhere?
But back to the 10 speed. In those days, our roads were still gravel, I’m sure it wasn’t the ideal road surface for those smooth tires. But it was, to us at least, pretty amazing to be able to change gears and make riding easier or more difficult. I think to that point, the only gears I had seen were on an old 3 speed, that had them somehow built into the hub.
Technology certainly has changed though. I remember in order to change gears, it was totally by feel, trying to just edge these two levers till the chain moved into the right position, nothing like now, where you can just click the shifter.
All the same, I can’t really think either of our bikes wen’t far. I think I took the 10 speed to school once, and other than that, probably the furthest I went on it, or the coaster brake, was Elliott’s Cove, or perhaps Random Heights.
I think my biggest memory was the old plastic handle bar tape constantly peeling off the steel handle bars. Used to just pull it through to knot it.
Nowadays, and maybe then on higher end bikes, but I had never heard of anything like the Tour de France in those days, the tape is cushioned, frames are made of aluminum or carbon fibre, or even titanium, gears are clickable, and built into the same control as the brake levers, tires can be tubeless, and I have ridden as much as a 100 km in one ride.
But one thing hasn’t changed, and thats my love of feeling the wind in my face, and hair (or lack of it) and feeling free and relaxed when in the saddle, even if it took me a long time to rediscover it.
Recently, an old family friend, Gary Cooper, passed away. Gary was more than a family friend though, he WAS family. To everyone!
I’d lost touch with him, and many more for that matter, since I’ve moved away, and more so since my own Dad died. Not necessarily through anyone’s fault, though I’m sure my own anxieties and stresses have not helped my own efforts at keeping in touch either. For that I’m sorry, and I miss you all more than I can say.
Thinking about his family’s loss, and my own, it made me think back to what was my first real memory of Gary, though probably not my first encounter.
Back in the days before paved roads in Apsey Brook, I rode the bike you see me on above. And, if you didn’t know, my dad worked at the highways (I guess Department of Transportation, but we never called it that). At the time I’m thinking of Jim Phillips also worked there. Jim, to my recollection, never drove a car, but at the time he used to get a ride back and forth with Dad.
Everyone, or most everyone, in those days has the same gray lunch can, or very similar anyway. I think I even took one to school!
In any event, on the day in question, Dad and Jim had mixed theirs up in the car. I believe it was after supper, most likely so, because by the time they got home from work, it was supper time, but I went, or probably was sent, down to Jim’s on bike to swap them back.
Now anyone who knows McGraths’ Cove, knows there are two big hills, going down in the cove, and then back up to the point. I’ve made that ride (and push) hundreds, if not thousands of times, but on this occasion, on the way back, with Dad’s lunch can looped over the handlebars, I hit a patch of loose gravel and went over the handlebars.
I don’t remember much about the actual incident, per se, though I remember lots of scrapes and scratches. And I chipped a tooth as well, but what I do remember was Gary, picking me up in that huge old Monte Carlo (at least thats the way I remember it, but we all know how our memories can lie to us) he had and driving me to the house.
I’m not sure if he put the bike in the trunk, or if Dad or I went and got it after, but he took me home for Mom to fuss over, and probably add Mercurochrome to my scrapes. Over the years, he’s done much more than that for me, and many more besides. I remember asking him to take me somewhere once when I was, for whatever reason, carless, and he just tossed me his keys and said bring it back when you’re finished.
RIP Gary. Love you. Rest easy, till we meet again.
The item in the image above, if you don’t remember, was used to draw music staves on the chalkboard (though it was also co-opted to use for cursive writing and maybe, just maybe, to make writing “I will not chew gum in class”100 times easier).
I posted it a couple days ago on twitter, and it seemed to blow up, my most interacted tweet ever, so I guess there’s a lot of nostalgia for it!
Balbo Elementary (shared on facebook, if this is yours, let me know and will credit)
As I write this, I’m sitting in the old shoal harbour school, Balbo Elementary, upstairs (oh what fun Hughie Reid and I used to have playing on those stairs), grade 2, and Dorothy Guillam (I probably am totally botching that spelling) is using a device like it to draw staves on the board.
Brings back memories of terms I’d forgotten, treble clef, bass clef, etc. To be honest, I had totally forgotten that until a user on twitter mentioned the old mnemonic to remember notes “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge”. I’m sure she drilled that into us too, or similar, though to be totally honest all I really remember was, that to a 7 year old brat like me, she seemed ancient, and totally “prim” especially as she was from the UK and had an accent, which made her seem upper crust and “proper” to me.
I am not sure the truth of this, but I’ve heard that she was somehow involved with the community of Weybridge on Random Island changing to this name, from its former name of Foster’s Point. If you have any details, please leave a comment and let me know, would love to learn more.
Music class kept on going to about grade 6 I think, with lots trying to learn an instrument. I even had a guitar back in the day, but if I’m not tone deaf, I’m at least tone dumb, and, as dad used to say, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
Laura Rogers was the last music teacher I had, and one thing I do remember from my time with her, and I’m sure every parent does too, with a sense of dread, was this hideous screeching thing. They call it a recorder, and say it’s a music instrument, but I personally think it was some sort of practical joke, or mild form of torture from music teachers everywhere to parents.
I can remember Dad now yelling out at me “Peter, for the love of God, stop!” when I was trying to play/practice it.
Anyway, Happy New Year! And I hope this took you down a nostalgic rest stop!
While out yesterday to drop off some tools to my sister, Annette, I saw a pickup go by that somehow reminded me so much of ones that Ross Smith used to drive.
While he had big lane with a long road gong right down to his house, the truck was a staple diagonally across the road from our house, parked near the church step.
Nothing special in and of itself, but Ross always, always got a truck with a standard shift, but unusually, at least to me, the shift was on the steering column like an automatic.
He probably had to special order these, but I can’t really say, because its not like I ever checked Hickman Motors inventory to see if they stocked them!
I actually drove it a few times, mostly when I was working at the Clarenville CO-OP. Sometimes when I’d get a ride home from work, I’d start walking home from Elliott’s Cove, and at that point in time the old Cormack Lounge was still on the go.
When I’d be on my way home, I’d often stop in to see if there was anyone to give me a ride home, or perhaps call Dad to come get me. And Ross didn’t mind stopping and having a beer or two in there sometimes.
Depending on how many he had had, occasionally he’d ask me to drive the truck home for him. I remember him describing the shifting as moving the gears around the outside of a box.
I honestly can’t say I ever had it in reverse, so no idea how that worked, nor really much recollection about any of the other gears. But I do remember it being a unique experience.