Mr. Schofield, my very religious History Teacher in Grade 10, used to make us take our notes taken in class and re-write them for study purposes. We would have to turn in these revised notes to him to evaluate. Even after 32 years, I do not see the point of this exercise.
At any rate, I would go through these motions of re-writing my notes in a way to appease this man. In the first entry for 1980, I remember writing, "The 1980's: A Decade of Hope!". I do not remember why I wrote that, just that I did. After all, the 1980's decade didn't actually begin until January 1st, 1981, not that that point can be successfully argued with an obstinant person who doesn't want to accept reality.
But, if you pinned me down and made me answer why I wrote that inscription at the top of the first entry for 1980, I guess it would be that, being at a new school, where I was more-or-less accepted from the get-go, and not tormented and beaten up every day by boys and girls alike, I felt a degree of hope and optimism for the coming year and decade.
I turned 16 in 1980. Practically the next day, my father was on my case to get my driver's license. He wanted to be relieved from the burden of the weekly grocery trips, driving my mother to town every Thursday night. My older sister had long since moved out. My mother didn't drive. Which left Dad to do all the driving for the family. And he didn't want to do it all the time.
I wrote my test for my beginner's permit not long afterward. They tripped me up. As I recall, I failed the first written test. I remember one question was along the lines of, "Is it ok to exceed the speed limit when passing another vehicle?" I thought, "Well, sure! How else are you supposed to pass the vehicle?", I checked off the "yes" box. I got some other questions wrong. I had to re-write the test.
Once armed with my beginner's permit, I was allowed to drive the family car as long there was another adult with a license in the passenger's seat. This was years before graduated licensing. I was also allowed (by Dad) to drive on the family property and get used to making turns and the like. One day, I drove the car into the garage, ripping part of one corner of it, and scratching the car really well to boot. Dad literally never forgot that day; he mentioned it to be in 2008 or so with the comment, "Remember the time you tore a piece off the garage?"
I did my driving test with driving instructor for the government who would pass or fail me, allowing me to get a full license. He failed me because I nearly ran over an old lady in the town of Kentville; she was crossing the street and I didn't stop diffidently enough to suit him. I had to take the test again, and this time, I passed, barely. It was October of 1980. And, 32 years later, I have never been in an accident that was my fault.
I got my first "real" job in 1980. A guy from up the street was graduating high school and had grandiose plans to become a doctor. He would be moving to Halifax and go to Dalhousie university, to take pre-med. He therefore would be leaving a job he had held for a few years. That job was offered to me.
I still have nightmares about this job. It was working at the dog and cat kennel up the road from our house. I would have to clean out the dog kennels. I would have to feed and water the dogs and cats. I remember having to give a pill to a cat. It was impossible. Years later, I could laugh about it, but at the time, it was not funny at all. Also, years later, I would read these instructions for how to give a pill to a cat, and chuckle ruefully, all the while fingering the scars that the cat gave me so long ago.
I will also never forget one particular dog. It was a tall, gangly thing, with an ability to escape that would have astounded Houdini. The kennel runs were well constructed, with just enough room, in theory, to allow the door to open so that you could feed the dogs and water them and clean up the urine and feces that had accumulated since the last clean up and feeding. There was practically no room from the top of the kennel run to the ceiling of the kennel, and practically no room from the bottom of the run to the floor of the kennel.
Somehow, and I never saw this happen, that damned dog would get free, over and over, causing me undue stress trying to track down the canine. A couple of times, someone would call at the house and report this to me. I would have to find the animal and return it to the kennel, knowing in my heart that the little bastard would just get out again.
The job was never full time. The owners did most of the work. I was called in when they would go away on vacation and got busy with other things. I was paid a certain amount per day for each cat and somewhat more each day per dog.
I was told how much to feed each animal. More than once, an owner would pick up his animal and report that it had lost weight, complaining to me that we were underfeeding the animals. I would just tell them to take it up with my boss. If they ever did, it never got back to me.
I think it was 1981 when they went on vacation for 2 weeks. I will tell you about that, next time.
School was still going along swimmingly. But I ran afoul of the History teacher one day when challenged about something I said in class. I said I had "screwed up" on something. I don't remember what I screwed up on, but I used that phrase.
I told you before that he was a religious man. He would say that things were a "pain in the posterior" rather than a "pain in the ass", because "ass" is a dirty word, apparently. He would say and do things that would today get him or another teacher in trouble, up to the point of dismissal, by attempting to foist his beliefs on us in a classroom setting. As I stated before, teaching is the last profession where people can get away with that crap.
He didn't like that I said "screwed up". He interrupted his teaching and came down to me and stood over me and gave me that little Baptist smile of his, the one that said, "I'm the boss around here. I decide what I find offensive. And I'm not going to let some 16 year-old-kid get away with something that I don't like." I corrected myself to say that I had made "a mistake" on that thing. That appeased him and he slithered back to the front of the room and resumed the lesson. And, 32 years later, I can recall this incident and make a dig at him, just because I can and want to.
Another day, he asked me to do the roll call for him while he stepped out for a moment, likely to prepare some religious tract or something. I called out the names as requested. One classmate came up to me with his written excuse for having missed school the day before. The teacher wasn't back yet, and the excuse had to be signed and shown to each teacher whose class he had missed the day before, so I signed it, "Mr. Keddy", and passed it back to him, much to his amusement and to the delight of the rest of the class. It never got back to me, so I can only conclude that the excuse was accepted by all the teachers that day.
In mid-June, a radio jock at Annapolis Valley Radio left. I had listened to him avidly for some 3 years. His name was John Morgan. I was such a fan that I actually wrote him a letter wishing him all the best. Much to my surprise, he read that letter on the air during his final show! I was up until midnight listening to him that Friday night, and then up hours later to work at that dog kennel.
Later on that summer, another Morgan would go to work at that station. It was Jordi Morgan, another Valley native, who would leave AVR within 2 months to begin a long career in the media. He is the host today of Maritime Mornning on the Rogers radio stations in Halifax and New Brunswick. And I have been listening to Jordi for more than 30 years, which I remind him of every time I see him.
I finished Grade 10 later on in June. That summer I did.. I'm not sure. Not much. Probably picked some more strawberries. Applied for retail jobs at local stores and not ever getting a call back, not even once. And listening to the radio. A lot. A whole lot.
Saturday evenings that Summer, I developed the habit of listening to CJCH radio in the car that I drove. The radio in the car had much better reception than what I could muster in my bedroom. There was a music show on Saturday nights hosted by Gregg Lee (not his real name) that played newer music. I enjoyed it very much. One song I heard that summer, which I never hear on the radio any more, is by the Scorpions. If they're remembered at all today, it's for "Wind of Change", or maybe "Rock You Like A Hurricane." I always liked this song much better; and I first heard it on a car radio in Port Williams in the summer of 1980!
Also that summer, we met a cat. We named him JR as it was the summer of "Who Shot JR?", and we were really young. The deets of that story can be found right here.
That summer I remember a documentary series that ran on the CBC. It was called "Hollywood", and it was about the silent film era of early Hollywood. I remember being fascinated by the series, not all of which I saw, and which was never run again. Years later, I secured a vhs copy of the series, and then, a bootleg dvd of it (it has never been released on dvd, and likely never will be, due to rights concerns). More recently, I digitized my dvd copy of the series. It rests on an external hard drive in my house.
I love this series. Love it. Anyone with any interest in film whatsoever should see it. And you don't have to go through the hassle I had to, in order to see it. The whole 13 part series seems to be on youtube. Here's a link to the first part.
That's silent film actress Lillian Gish in the still image above, by the way. She would live until the early 1990's, and work almost up until her death. If you have ever hear of the film, and the controversy surround, "A Birth of the Nation", there is a pretty good defense of the movie in this episode. I do not necessarily agree with it, but at least this movie gets some good press for a change.
Sometime during the early part of 1980, my dad got sick and had to be hospitalized. I don't remember the particulars of the illness, just that he was im Krankenhaus. A neighbor, the man who had hired me to work at his kennel, actually, came to the house and reported to us how he was doing. We appreciated the update, but didn't visit him ourselves because, well, I didn't have my driver's license yet, and my older sister was unavailable. She was either working or... I don't know. My mother has never had her driver's license. All I know is that we had no legitimate way to get to the hospital to see our father; or my mother, her husband. If I let myself think about it to any extent, I would get angry that nobody even thought to take us to go see him. He did get out a few days later, not in a very good mood, and returned to work.
That fall, I returned to school, Grade 11 to be exact. My home room teacher was John Newcombe, who taught Geography. That subject is a cure for sleeplessness for me, guaranteed. Our English teacher was Ms. Hammett, and I came to like and respect her quite a bit.
I had decided that year to try to recapture some of the academic achievements of my early high school years, before my self esteem was ripped from me and jumped and pissed on by those bullies. My marks improved that semester, which made my teachers happy. My parents, too.
We had a substitute teacher who had told a friend of mine at at my previous school that he, the teacher, had been a teacher to none other than Paul McCartney. It was possible, I suppose, but I have no way of knowing. I sometimes wonder, though, as this man told me that he had just got a letter from McCartney, with whom he had remained in touch over the years. The teacher's name is long lost to me, but my friend Randy may recall it.
1980 drew to a close. I got some socks and underwear for Christmas. I probably got KISS' "Unmasked" album, which sucked even worse than the solo albums had.
1981 waved to me like a woman trying to dry her fingernail polish before manually pleasuring her boyfriend. I could not resist its clarion call.
1981 would show incremental improvements in my grades. I'd have a chance to go off to a retreat. I'd have a chance to go to Neptune Theatre. A girl would talk to me without a hint of irony. Another would reveal a terrible secret. I would read a Margaret Lawrence novel. And, was it a "Tale of a Whale", or a "Whale of a Tale"? Let's talk all about that next time as the "Year in Review" series goes into its final 6 entries!
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