The Arcade

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!

CCM Targa

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.


The Lunch Can

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.

Music Class

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!

Three on the Tree

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.

Have you ever driven or even seen one?

Storm Windows

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way to hammer us here in Halifax, I got to thinking about broken windows and shutters and the like.

And that led me to remembering our fall and winter preparation years ago. I can’t say I’ve really thought about storm windows and storm doors in years, but every fall without fail, we’d take the big old home made wooden casements, with glass likely cut at Duffett’s, and screw them on over all, or most of the windows in the house. Especially the original ones. Any vinyl ones I think we left as is.

I can still remember lifting them up on Mom and Dad’s bedroom, and screwing in the eye bolts with a screwdriver stuck through it. And cursing under my breath when I’d jam it in my hand, or drop it on the ground.

That was especially infuriating when I was doing the higher windows on the ladder. Tho I have to say, I liked that old heavy wooden ladder much more than these new fangled aluminum jobbies that sway every move you make. I liked the solid feeling.

We also sometimes added a wooden storm door, but in later years we had the aluminum screen and storm door that did the same job.

Do you or any of your family still use them? Send me a picture, love to add it to the post!

Father’s Day – Uncle Hay

I visited home this past summer, and while our old house has changed with new occupants over the years, many things remained the same.

One being Uncle Hay’s property. It was like stepping back in time for me, and on this Father’s day, I am maudlin thinking about those old times and how close him and dad were.

Both of them spent much of their time in their respective workshops, and while dad’s is gone, visiting Uncle Hay’s, I could almost see him there, wearing his old denim coveralls, and I could imagine I was there on one of my multitude of “Run down and see if Hay has a <insert tool here>” missions.

I’ve gotten countless chisels, replaced broken drill bits, borrowed sharpening stones, and often had to make a return trip as Uncle Hay would ask me to bring down a tool of dad’s.

I can smell the old smells, and did when I visited there in September. The smell of sawdust, mixed with three in one oil, melded with the smell of rough lumber and planks, baked for years through the big multi-paned window that the sun seemed to beam through constantly.

I know I’ve been there on cloudy days, and in rain and snow, but somehow, in my memory its always sunny, motes of dust drifting in the beams, and I can’t tell you how much I miss it, and them.

Rest in peace. Greater, more loving men I have never known.

The Sawmill

If you’re familiar with Apsey Brook, you know that Roy Smith operated a sawmill business for many years. What you may not know is that Uncle Luther, Dad and Uncle Hay used to operate one too.

It was mostly for personal use, but I do remember trucks coming occasionally and buying some lumber.

You’d be hard pressed to believe it now, but if you drive down the wharf road, behind Roy’s old place, where the road kinda curves towards the wharf, it also used to go straight, and there was a bridge across the brook, similar to the old wooden one on the main road.

Apsey Brook

When I was a kid, it was our wading pool too, underneath the bridge in the cool, a decently deep pool formed. And just up the brook, this little point, where you could catch a pasty white trout, that while edible, weren’t very good, but we caught and ate them anyway. Plus we’d usually get one in the same spot for the well. Do people still put trout in their wells?

But you could and we did drive a truck across it. And if you went further, Ross had a big wide gate there that you could also drive a truck, or horse and slide through, and could loop right around by the old house and the new and come out on the road by the old school.

The mill itself though was very much alike a lot of the old mills. Roy also had one down by the beach, on the left hand side of whats now the breakwater road. And they were all similar.

A push mill, with rollers, and a table. I big heavy material of some sort of thing hanging over the blade, to stop the sawdust. Big belt drive to an old diesel engine. (I assume it was diesel anyway).

Off to one side a planer to dress the lumber, would have to change the belt from the motor to power it when needed. A wide door/opening on one side to roll the logs in, I think we had a sliding door on it. All in all, it was pretty much just a slap dash of planks, with big chinks in the “walls”

The picture above will be familiar, though not mine.

Was only used in summer mostly, wasn’t made for comfort, nor were any of them, and many had them. Every community had one or two, maybe more.

Before my time, but the Smith family originally had a watermill. I remember stories told of the young boys having to hike in the brook to dam pond to open the dam to get water to run to drive it.

Vincent Smith on the old bridge by the water mill. I can’t remember the name of the lady.

I wish I had pictures of it now, many a summer day was spent down there, playing with turpentine boats made from mill strips. And of course lugging up slabs as part of the winters wood and for splits.

Incoming Duck Missile!

In our ever lasting search for a water supply that would last the summer, dad tried many things.

In the summer of 1983, the year Keith had his accident, he and I dug a pipeline 660 feet through the woods, in the heat of summer, to a small brook that we somehow managed to get a huge concrete culvert pipe into. I remember the distance based on the amount of plastic pipe dad bought to lay down. When I was home this summer, I saw someone has a smaller culvert pipe in the same location.

Another thing he had done, tho I really don’t remember when, was he had a bulldozer dig out a big reservoir up behind the house on the hill. The water wasn’t very good, but sometimes in summer we’d lay a pipe across the ground and use gravity flow for water to flush the toilet at least.

To me it was always called the reservoir, but to many others it became known as the duck pond, cause sometime thereafter, dad also got 3 ducks, 1 male and a female, with the intent I guess of raising them for sale? give away? hobby? Not really sure anymore. But let me tell you, the eggs were amazing. So much better than chicken eggs!

We eventually got rid of them, mostly I think cause when we’d let them out, they’d often go down across Alice’s yard to the beach, and she complained about them and the duck crap.

But before we did, I remember they had at least one brood of young ducks. I can still remember them waddling across the yard following their mother.

One of the young ones was a little … slow. He had trouble keeping up, was unbalanced and un-coordinated. Hmmm….. No I am talking about the duck, not me!

I never realized how protective the mother ducks could be, and for some reason this one never seemed to like me much. The others would let me pet them, but she’d just hiss at me.

Well, if you know our old house, there was a rock wall dad made holding the hill back surrounding it. One day this slower duck, who’s name was not Peter, fell over the wall, and his mother was in a tizzy.

I went outside to pick him up and put him back up, but his mother didn’t like that either.

It was like a missile launched from a battle ship. All I remember was feathers and hissing as I was bombarded!


Face of Many Colours

When we were young, we could make a ball field, or hockey arena, pretty much anywhere.

Across the road from Eric’s house there was a field, with some large rocks arranged in a rough diamond. Though pretty small, we’d often play ball there, especially when we only had a few people as the small size worked better.

On one particular day, and while I don’t remember the date, I know it was likely in the 80s as it was an election day, and mom was working as returning officer in the old school in Apsey Brook. So it was before it was torn down. I remember this because as events unfolded, I ended up driving in to show her the results of my encounter…

We often used to play ball with those old red and blue and white sponge balls, but this particular day, we were using a hockey ball. And not one of the softer ones, it had absolutely no give whatsoever. And it “encountered” me.

For anyone that remembers, the field was approximately between where Barry’s house and Eric’s houses are now I think, and we used to pitch from about 20 feet (if that) away.

I had just gotten new glasses from Dr. O’Halleran in Clarenville, not sure if same day, but not too long before. Eric and I, and I think maybe Bernard and Craig and Jim might have been there on the field. I was pitching to Eric, and he smacked the ball hard, right back at me, and right square in the glasses.

I remember looking down and the twisted mess and thinking, “Oh No, my new glasses” until I saw the blood start dripping on my sneaker.

The frame of the glasses had dug into my face making a circular cut all round my eye, and a nice bruise and swelling already starting.

A week or so later, Eric said he could count 7 colours there! So there lies the face of many colours story!