Monday, July 16, 2012

Port 2054 - 1982 In Review, Part Two

Welcome to July of 1982!

I remained 18 years old.

By this point, I had earned my high school diploma.  I would be going to university in the Fall.  But, until then, I needed a job.

This was the early 1980's.  It was the era of interest rates at the level of 20% or a bit higher.  It was great if you had investments; it was awful if you were renewing a 5 year mortgage or paying down some other debt.  I don't mind telling you that the interest rate on my mortgage is 5.15%.  People were doing what they could to avoid going into any kind of debt.  I couldn't blame them.

I couldn't find a job to save my life.  I think I was still working here and there at the dog kennel, but that work was sporadic, even ad hoc.  I would get very little notice if they required me.  To use a term that I heard from my mother's aunt, I couldn't buy a job.  Other classmates had things a little easier, but only a little. 

My parents gave me a $500 cheque for graduating high school.  I kinda "lived" off that money for the summer, and went to a few movies and read a few books and so on. 

I certainly tried to find work, though.  In order to qualify for my student loan, I had to prove that I was seeking work and get places where I applied to sign a document indicating that I had applied for a job there. 

One place I applied, 30 years later, shows you the near-uniqueness of my situation.  I had applied to a vegetable processing plant.  The place has changed hands many times over the years, so I will not identify it, because the people who worked there then, are almost certainly not working there, now.  I put my name in, and went about my business applying for other jobs at other places. 

About a week later, give or take, the phone rang, and it was for me.  I identified myself and heard some hesitation on the line.  The woman who was calling was from that vegetable processing plant and was about to offer me a job. 


"I was looking to hire a lady", she said.

She had seen my name, assumed I was female, and called me up to offer me a job.  When the reality of my sex hit her, she backed off, stammered the above, and rang off. 

It was the first time in my life that I had knowingly been the victim of sexual discrimination.  I did not like that feeling.  I resented it.  I felt I could sort yellow beans as well as any woman.  But I never got the chance to prove it.

Yeah, that rankled with me, especially in light of my employment situation that year.  And, I wonder how many "Mike's" or "Gary's" would never even have got that phone call?  Probably quite a few.

I did some farm work that summer.  Paul and I from high school were hired to.. pick peas or something.  We received no training.  We were just told to pick "over there".  So, we did.  We were there for a few hours.

We picked everything that looked like a pod, including, as it turned out, quite a few pods that were not yet ready to be picked. 
Hey, folks.  We were 18!  We may have thought we knew everything, but I assure you, we did not.

We presented our baskets of peas to the owner.  He turned beat red with rage and said we were stupid and clue less.  We left, without having been paid a nickle.  In retrospect, I am surprised that he did not make us pay for the peas we had picked prematurely. 

I would be attending Acadia University come September.  I wanted to get to know the town of Wolfville better.  Keep in mind that my parents usually bought groceries and did other shopping in Kentville or nearby New Minas.  There was little need to go to Wolfville.  I began to explore it.

I really came to like Wolfville that summer.  I really liked the used bookstore I discovered on Gaspereau Avenue, called Thoth's Book Shop.  Thoth was the Egyptian god of learning or some such.  But I didn't know that.  I figured that the store was run by a guy named Mr. Thoth.  I was surprised to learn that it was actually run by someone named Jim Snelson.  I still see him in nearby Kentville from time to time.  He sold his business in 1998 and his house and moved into a mobile home somewhere in Kentville.

Jim had cats.  They had a tendency to.. spray the books.  There was always a pungent odor in the place.  He also rented out rooms to university students.

But I loved the books.  The sun room was pretty much fully devoted to mysteries.  Imagine my great delight when I chanced upon dozens and dozens of old back issues of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  Most were but 25 cents each.  I bought nearly every one.  Adding those issues to the ones that I had from my 1976 subscription made me pretty happy.  Didn't take much, back then.

Other rooms had books about film (I bought The Golden Turkey Awards there) and politics ("The Night of the Long Knives", about how John Diefenbaker was deposed as leader of the Progressive Conservative party).  The main room, where Snelson had had his cash register, was so full of books that one could hardly navigate it.  But there were gems there, one in particular that I would learn about later, which I still wish I had bought.  Seems someone had written a novel where Acadia University was the backdrop.  Jim had a copy, and I saw it, and haven't seen it since.  I do not even recall the exact title.   But it would be cool to see a copy of this book again, after all these years.

The summer passed.  Just before university started, just days before in fact, I visited that girl who had spirited me away back in March of that year.  She was heading off to commence studies to become a veterinarian at the University of Guelph.  We talked for a few minutes.  And.. I kissed her goodbye.  There.  How many folks reading this knew that?  Hmm?

I began university.

You guys ever hear of Harold Lloyd?  He was a silent film star of the 1910's and 1920's, but his career petered out in the 1930's.  Arguably more popular than Chaplin at the time, and certainly better known than Keaton.  Harold starred in film after film in which he played over exuberant, extremely confident and resourceful men who could  think their way out of any situation.  I have a boxed set of some of his films, and I enjoy it very much.

One of his movies was "The Freshman" in which he gets to go to university.  Read about it here.   His character is elated.  Back in the 1920's, to be able to go to university was a Very Big Deal, especially for middle-class folks.  Well, for me, in the 1980's, it was very unusual, too.  Most people in my family did not go to post-secondary school.  They would quit high school to get a trade, or finish high school and simply not even consider the possibility of university.  It was much the same in other families.

I still have a clipping from the local paper from 1982 in which they list the people who would be going on to university.  It was a fairly short list, and my name was on it.  The writer indicated that the village of Port Williams was proud to see so many of its young people going off to university. 

Anyway, there I was: My first day of university.  I didn't know my way around the Acadia campus.  I marveled that one class might be at, say, the Beveridge Arts Centre, and the next one might be at the Huggins Science Hall, across the campus.  Frig knows where the Huggins Science Hall was, though.  I just learned to follow other students, who had somehow magically learned where everything was. 

I began to feel overwhelmed almost immediately.  But I dove into my courses and did my best.

I met a lot of people that Fall at Acadia.  And I became re-acquainted with some folks I had gone to elementary school with.  In some cases I had not seen them since I finished grade 6 in 1976.  Remember that guy who told me I couldn't play on the soccer team any more, back in 1973?  Well,  he was at Acadia that year.  His girlfriend was a girl I had gone to elementary school with as well.  She greeted me warmly and said, "Cliff, you remember Bev, don't you?"  He just looked at me and scowled and walked away.   I will go to my grave wondering what I did to piss him off so much that he would be that way with me, all those years later.

I was busy that first semester.  Heck, I was busy every semester.  But that first one was special because it was the first.  I was responsible for doing my own work.  I had to get myself to every class on time and make sure that my papers and assignments were down on time as well.  It was a steep learning curve.

However, I did make one mistake that semester that made me shake my head.  I registered for all the right courses, but not always the right classes.  My discrete math class might have been the B class, but I'd show up for the C class.  Same material.  Just at a different time and location.  This mistake happened a few times when I discovered, the hard way, that I was registered in the wrong class.  I would go on to do that even into my second year.  And, I made a mistake in my second year that makes this one look like nothing, not that this mistake was a big one in the big scheme of things.

Christmas exams came.  I wrote what I had to and waited for my marks.  Back then, they were mailed to the student's home.  They arrived usually between Christmas and New Year's.  Today, of course, I'm sure they're emailed to students.  Not back then.

I passed everything.  Yay.

1982 was over.  It had been a busy year with many changes.  I had begun it a high school student.  I finished it, a frosh man in university.   1983 waited in the wings, its coat hanging open, revealing the naughty bits best kept out of view.

1983 would be another busy year.  I'd finish one academic year and begin the next.  The second year would be fraught with peril and heartache.  And, the Beachcombers kept plugging along.  Oh, that Jesse!  What a card.

See you tomorrow for 1983 in review!


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