Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Post 2034 - Where Were You In '72?

First of all, yesterday's post should have been #2033.  I made a mistake. 

I turned 8 in 1972.

We grew up in a small house in a rural part of Nova Scotia.  At one point, 6 people lived in it.  After my brother's death, we were down to 5.  Me, my 2 sisters, and my parents.  When I hear about people who live in a house many times the size of what I grew up in, who want to sell their own place because it could not accommodate another child, I inwardly roll my eyes and pretend to commiserate.  Eventually, Dad would add to the house, but that is a post for sometime this weekend.

I attended a school a couple miles from my family home.  We got to that school by bus.  When the weather allowed for it, I would ride a bike around.  I got my first bike in 1972.  It was a different time then, long before kids had to wear helmets and kneepads and padded clothing to protect them from every little thing.  I was allowed to ride my bike pretty much wherever I wanted.  My parents bought me a little bell for the bike so that I could let folks know I was coming and to get out of my way.  

I once rode that bike to my school where they were checking kids' bikes for road worthiness.  My bike brakes were not that good and I nearly ran into the man who was checking the bikes over.  Irony.  He would go on to be my Grade Six teacher in a few years.  It's called foreshadowing, folks.  A reason to read the appropriate blog post this weekend.

Returning to my parents' place that morning, I drove on Sutton Road, a shortcut I still use to get from and to my mother's.  Back then, though, it was a dirt road.  I wiped out on my bike and took quite a tumble. 

Sometime in the  Spring of 1972, our school was visited by Bobby  Gimby.    Remember him?  You would if you are of a certain age.  Gimby had written the Canada Centennial song for Expo '67.  Years later, he would tour schools across the country, and eventually found his way to my school.  I remember we were all led outside to the front parking lot, where Gimby would tell us stories and perform songs, including, one presumes, this one right here:

Did Bobby Gimby ever make it to your school, middle-aged readers of this blog?

In the summer of 1972, I took swimming lessons.  I know it was then because I had never taken swimming lessons before, and haven't taken them since.  It was 1972.  Don't challenge me on this.  I just know this.

The classes were taught by some students at Acadia University.  They were conducted there, too, at one of the big pools on campus.  I still think about that large, imposing room with the nearly-as-large pool in it; it is not a pleasant memory, as you will soon see. 

The student teachers would yell at us kids a lot.  I had never been spoken to before by someone like that, not even by my father, who could have a gruff side to him.   These guys ruled by fear.   I grudgingly learned to float, but that's about as far as it got.  My younger sister was also there, and she couldn't learn to do even that.  The near verbal abuse from the teachers didn't help our confidence, which is a big part about learning to swim.  Ever since then, we have both had a fear, probably irrational, of swimming.  I avoid it like the plague, and I know that my sister does, too.  Too bad, because it is apparently an excellent form of exercise. 

I earned my swimming badge.  Correction: My floating badge.   Returning to the pool the next day, one of the instructors yelled at me because my mother had not yet sewn the badge on my trunks.  What was I to do?  Go home and yell at her to take time from her schedule of cleaning and cooking and sew the damn badge on my trunks? 

My parents had shelled out 5 dollars for each of us to take swimming lessons.  I know that that money was hard-earned by my father, and my parents would have had to do without something that they perhaps needed to enable us to go on these lessons.  I did not feel comfortable telling my parents that I didn't like the class, and that the teachers had made my sister cry.  In fact, all  I had learned from the course was that swimming is not fun and should not be undertaken at any reasonable cost. 

I learned something else as a by-product of the swimming lessons.  I learned the importance of punctuality.   My dad would be out working.  My mother did not drive.  My older sister would be out working some Summer job.  We relied on the mother of a girl taking the class (this woman died last year, by the way), to drive to our place, pick us up, take us there, and return us home afterward.  The class started at a certain time.  We would need time to get there, and change and be by the edge of the pool to be raked over the coals at by the instructors.  Instead, Joan would show up fashionably late and get us there either barely on time or past the time we were supposed to be there. 

I would grow impatient waiting for her.  I would go outside and stare past our property to the road off in the horizon and look for her red truck (it's impossible to do that now, due to some trees planted a few years later by the neighbor).  I would fret about being late and therefore being crapped on by the instructors who delighted in doing such things.  I would feel stress and aggravation until Joan finally pulled into our driveway and spirited us away.

The class eventually ended, but not soon enough for me.  I would not swim again for a year, and when I did.. well, you will learn about that incident tomorrow.

That Fall, I joined Cubs. This was back in the day when only boys could join.  It's not like today when it is co-ed.  I would go on to earn a badge or two in Cubs, but eventually quit when I just didn't like it.  I learned even then that I was not one to join a lot of organizations.

Also during the Summer of 1972, my younger sister innocently set me on a path that would eventually take over a big portion of my life and disposable income, and which I only wrested myself from in the last few years.  One day that summer, we went to town.   As was our habit, and our wont, we made our way to the drugstore to look at the comics on the spinner rack.   A comic on the rack caught her eye.  It was an issue of Captain America, #153.  We got back home.  I borrowed the comic.  I loved it.

I had no way of knowing this, but it turned out to be the first issue written by a man named Steve Englehart, who would go on to become one of my favourite comics writers.  It was pencilled by a man named Sal Buscema, whose art, while simple, was perfect for a little kid to read.  You could be a new reader like me and still get an idea of what was going on, just by looking at the pictures.  I came to appreciate Sal's work a great deal and if he were still working, I'd probably be buying those books just out of respect for the man.

Here's an overview from Mr. Englehart's website in which he discusses his run on Captain America.

This issue was also the first part in what would become a 4 part story that would run into the Fall of 1972.  If you saw the Captain America movie in 2011, or the Avengers movie of 2012, you'd know that Captain  America is a man out of time, frozen in a block of ice from the end of World War II until some time later (1964 in old Marvel time; who knows what in "today's" time).  Well, there were some Captain America stories in the 1950's, and the editor of CA at the time, Roy Thomas, asked Englehart to consider resolving this discrepancy.  He did, and they even included some pages from a 1950's Cap story, which fascinated me all the more.  They showed a montage of many 1950's era Marvel superheroes, most of which are forgotten today, but which made me want to know more about them.  Good luck.  I still don't know much about the 1950's  Electro.

I read this book voraciously.  Couldn't wait to read the next issue, and developed math skills by examining the issue numbers on the cover and figuring out what the next issue would be and when it might be out.  Bought the remaining issues in the story.  I soon discovered that Captain America was a member of the Avengers, so I bought their comic, too, with my first issue once again being the beginning of a pretty cool storyline.  Other folks were in the Avengers, and I'd pick up their books as I could afford them.

I started reading The Fantastic Four, and resumed buying Spider-Man (I'd looked at some Spidey book as early as 1968).

There was a problem, though.  My allowance would only allow me to buy so many comics every week. What was I to do?  Well, what I did is something that will make many of my readers and friends go, "Aha!".

By the holidays, I was addicted to comics.  I was in Grade 3 and reading at a level far beyond many of my classmates.  I would use a dictionary at school to learn the words in the comics that I didn't understand.

1972 drew to a close.  1973 beckoned like a dead relative after an all-night bender.  It was a year of more comics reading, of moving over to Grade 4, of hanging out with some kids named Hill who lived on a... hill.  And, The Beachcombers were in full swing.  I'll tell you all about that tomorrow.

Bevboy's Blog.  It's the place to be in '73!


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