Welcome to 1981.
I don't remember as much about 1981 as I do other years. Perhaps by writing I will remember some things.
I turned 17 in 1981.
I finished Grade 11 in June. I was happy to be finished school for 2 months. But I had no job to go to. I had no money. I probably picked some strawberries that summer for a few weeks.
I have commented here and other places about how having a job, any job, is better than having no job, the vast majority of the time. I really feel that way. But no particular job is going to suit everybody. People have different strengths and weaknesses. There are people who are good at farm work and don't mind it at all. I am not one of those people. I sucked at it. I was too contemplative and aware of my own internal dialogue to be able to concentrate on that kind of work the way it deserves. Working at these jobs when I was young and hungry and needing work helped me appreciate the better jobs when I eventually got them, and the mistakes made by some friends of mine only encouraged me to try that much harder to get an education so that, to be a prick about it, I wouldn't end up like them.
J.R., our cat, was fun to hang out with. He was allowed to live downstairs in the cellar, where we would feed him every day. I would also make a point to visit him every day. He would see me and come bounding up the stairs. Sometimes, at night, I would sneak him upstairs and into my bedroom to stay with me. Glenda and Dad liked him, too. Mom? Not so much. She likes Newbie today; but back then, any animal that wasn't dead and on her plate was unwanted in the household.
I still miss J.R. It remains a deep regret of mine that I didn't pay as much attention to him as I could have, and should have.
In July, my cousin Steve got married to his first wife, Cheryl. Later on that summer, my cousin on the other side of the family, Wayne married his betrothed, Karen. Wayne and Karen came to visit us shortly thereafter. My mother and 2 sisters and I went to both weddings. It would be the last time I visited those cousins in New Brunswick for 8 years.
There is a story regarding Steve and Cheryl and my father that I will tell you about, probably tomorrow, as I am pretty sure it happened in 1982.
I am pretty sure it was the summer of 1981 when my part-time employers at the dog kennel decided to go to Disney Land (or maybe Disney World) for a vacation. They put me in charge of the kennel. Every morning and every night I would dutifully feed each animal and clean out each run and each cat "cell". I tallied every day what I thought I was owed.
Upon their return, they gave me a hat. I gave them the bill for my services. A day or so later, the husband asked me if his wife had spoken to me, because they thought I had over charged them for my work. I replied that she had not and that if they felt I had over charged them, we could go over the bill together. If it turned out I had made a mistake, I would apologize and reimburse them the difference. Not another word was said of it, so I can only conclude that they realized that they had made the error, or they had perhaps hoped that I would undercharge them because I was a dummy or something.
Look: I had to wade through dog crap every day for 2 weeks and tolerate screaming cats and feed and water all of them. I wasn't gonna undercharge for my work. And my ethics dictated that I would not knowingly over charge them either. I wanted what I was entitled to, what I had earned. Not one penny less. Not one penny more.
Summer was over. I entered Grade 12. My home room teacher would be Mr. Sinnott, who had been my German teacher for 2 years and my math teacher for one. I would continue with both of those courses. I would take English. I would take 3 science courses (Physics, Biology, and Grade 11 Chemistry, because I hadn't been able to take it the year before).
In... October, pretty close to Hallowe'en, I was summoned to the Principal's office. My name was called over the PA system. The regular principal was away that year. His assistant was filling in for him. The new assistant (the deputy principal? What do you call these people?) was a man named John Vaillaincourt. I may not be quite right with the spelling. But I and a few others ended up in his office, all at once.
The first thing he said was, "You guys are not in any trouble." We had been selected to participate in a peer education program to discuss the evils of drug and alcohol with students in the junior grades. I didn't say anything. I didn't smoke. I had never done drugs. And I had only been drunk once in my life (read the 1978 entry if you forget that story). To train us, we were invited to go to the Kingswood Bible Camp retreat for a weekend with students from other schools. I got my parents' permission, and it was a go.
We were to meet at the school at the appointed time. The bus picked us up and took us to the other schools with the kids and teachers who would be participating in the program. One of those schools, much to my chagrin, was the school that had caused me such grief and consternation just a few years before. One of the people who got was my English teacher from that school, whom I remembered and who remembered me.
The weekend was fun. We had to do little exercises to learn how to speak in public and how to control nervousness. We were bunked together, boys in one room and girls in the other. They fed us Kentucky Fried Chicken one evening. The next we had a much better meal, and I was presented with my first baked potato, ever. I watched others eat theirs and then dove into mine. Baked potatoes remain a treat for me to this day.
We got back home in time for me to housesit for my employers at the dog kennel. It was Hallowe'en, 1981. My sisters decided it would be fun to knock on the door and scare the crap out of me, so they proceeded to do so. I have a long, painful memory, ladies, as evidenced by these blog posts. I am not dead yet. I will get you for scaring the crap out of me that evening. Just you wait.
That very evening, I tuned into CJCH radio. They had a very unusual weekend that weekend. They got Dave Wright to announce that, coming that weekend, CJCH would become "a thing of the past". I was out of town on retreat so I couldn't listen to discover what the transition was. But that evening I could. They decided to pretend it was the 1960's, complete with the broadcast style of the day, the psychedelic music and approach to speaking common to the time. By Monday morning, they were back to their regular format. It was a very interesting experiment, a publicity stunt, and I still remember it 30 years later.
Later on that Fall, our English teacher arranged for us to go to Neptune Theatre in Halifax. For one cost, we would be transported to and from the city and attend a matinee play. The students were very much looking forward to it. I wasn't. Not because I didn't want to go, but because I couldn't afford to go. I did not feel comfortable approaching my parents for the money because we were not well off and that sum of cash, whatever the amount was, could be better spent on those things necessary to the family and household.
So, they went and had a good time, one presumes. I hung around the school with the other students in my grade who had decided not to go, probably for the same reasons I had. I think it was just one study class after another, all day long. It was like being punished for being broke. Thanks, guys.
There was at least one girl who showed interest in me that year. At least, I think she did. I was so used to being ignored by girls, or looked down upon by them, that I did not have the skill set necessary to help me read the sometimes-subtle clues that females send out to show interest in a member of the opposite sex (I still live in a black and white world, where there are one's and zeroes, and lack the ability to discern anything that is subtle or understated. It is a product of my early years of coping with being bullied.) I will leave her name out of this blog post to protect her from embarrassment. But she seemed to hang on every word and called me, "Bevy Sweet" over and over. I mean, she wasn't throwing her breasts in my face, or saying she needed a man, or indicating that quiet guys with acne scars who don't say 3 words when 2 will suffice were a big turn on for her. She may have been interested in me, or she may not have been. It is a mystery for the ages.
Another girl, who reads this blog, revealed a terrible secret to me that year, or perhaps the year before. She told me that she...
Was a fan of Stephen King's!
I didn't have a chance with her. Not one at all. For one thing, I never got that vibe from her (see the long paragraph above.) For another, she only dated guys named Allan (any spelling of that name seemed to be acceptable.) No matter how I arranged the 17 letters in my fully-spelled out name, I could not come up with any variation of "Alan". Lord knows I tried. So I just settled for conversations with her about Stephen King. I do not know, 30 years later, whether she still reads his books or not. Considering he comes out with a new book every few months, even now, we would have gone broke buying these books over the years, and thrown our backs out reading the thicker ones.
That Fall we had to read a Margaret Laurence novel. One of those "Can Lit" books that critics love to pieces, but which most normal people find tedious. It was "The Stone Angel", and all I remember about it was The Silver Threads Nursing Home. I think Ellen Page was in the movie version of the book, but I couldn't bring myself to watch it.
Also that Fall, we did a paper for our English teacher. What the Hell was the subject matter? I can't remember. All I recall is that Elaine Ells did a paper and I did one. They had similar titles. One was called "A Tale of a Whale". The other was called "A Whale of a Tale". No, it wasn't a book report about Moby Dick.
We got our report cards. There was a note attached with the package. There would be a change in what would be expected of all students come January 1982. We read these notes over and over, in shock and disbelief.
Christmas came. I got some clothes and underwear and a KISS album. That was the year for "Music from the Elder", a concept album that sucked so much it made me pine for the solo albums. I also got the 3 Lord of the Rings books by Tolkien. I wouldn't get around to reading them until 1986, and I will tell you about that, then.
1981 was over. 1982 sashayed up to me and said howdy. It would be a year of coping with the change in student behaviour expected of us, a night out with boys and girls on a foggy Saturday night, some life-altering decisions, graduating high school and moving on to university. A lot happened in 1982. A lot. So much so that I may break it up into 2 parts.
Come back here next time for... 1982 in review!!
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