Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What I did for fun in the 70s...

Brace yourself.  I'm about to wax nostalgic.  I grew up in Winnipeg.  Twice.  Once between the ages of 3 & 8 and then again between the ages of  15-18.  My Dad was Air Force.  He was a navigator.  He 'told the pilots where to go' is how he used to put it.   We lived off of Ness Avenue in PMQs.  (Private Married Quarters)  We weren't technically ON BASE, but we were pretty frickin' adjacent to it.

We moved to Conway Street when I was four, I think.  Memories from before the age of eight are all sort of ... fuzzy.  I've had a head injury... okay three... I've had three head injuries. 

Ticky Tacky Houses as contracted by the Canadian Forces.  I think mine might have been the yellow one.

Now one of the great things about Winnipeg, is that there were back alleys.  Any garages were to the rear of the properties, which made for tidy front yards without cars cluttering the scenery.   No fences anywhere - as a kid you could basically run rampant through everyone's yard ... so we did. 

This was the time of playing outside until the streetlights came on.  The time when your Mom would say "If you can't hear me call you for dinner, you're too far away!"  You pal'ed  around with a gang of kids, all Air Force brats, all your parents knew each other so you couldn't get away with anything. Because this was also the time, when the parent of your best friend would grab you by the arm (or ear) and march you back over to your house and tell your parents what you did.

I took swimming lessons at the St. James Assiniboine Pool.  We walked from our house on Conway across the western stretch of the Assiniboine Golf Course in the dead of winter.  The golf course didn't have fences back then either.  It was like trekking across the tundra to get to the pool  I arrived cold and exhausted and I departed cold and exhausted. I want to say that those lessons were late at night, but really, I think it was just after school and it was winter and already dark at 4:00 p.m.  My mother would do her best to dry my hair underneath the hand dryers and then would throw  me back into my snowsuit, with an extra hat AND my hood.  I remember the bone-chilling wind driving across that golf course as we walked for what seemed like hours to get back home in the dark.  In actuality, it was probably all of 8 minutes.  I thought I would die on that walk home - I was so cold.  To this day, swimming at ANY time of the year is not my favourite of activities.  (It's sort of a coup for David and Rissa to get me into Lake Ontario - now a mere 8 minute walk from my present house.)

I remember skating  on the duck pond at Assiniboine Park.  Sunday afternoons, cold air, blue sky, white snowbanks and evergreens.  Mom would have thermoses of hot chocolate and maybe some fresh-baked cookies.  My feet would practically drop off from near-frostbite, but I never wanted to leave.  I just wanted to skate and skate and skate.

Winnipeg in the summer was a different thing altogether. Prairie HOT.  A blessedly DRY heat, not like what you can get in Ontario.  Running around barefoot - ALL summer long. That was the best.   Kids' feet must have some asbestos-like quality to them, you can walk on gravel, hot pavement and never seem affected.  Apart from a stubbed toe here and there, you're good to go.  Who needed shoes??  They were so limiting!  When it got REALLY hot, I'd go play in the back alley.    The heat of the sun would soften up all the tar used to seal the cracks on the road and it would bubble up.  And thank God I wasn't wearing shoes, because if I'd had shoes on, I would not be able to pop the tar bubbles with my big toes.  I could spend hours going up and down my back alley popping tar bubbles.  Then I'd go to another back alley, and another - all within PMQs and all within the range of my mother's voice - in case it was anywhere near dinner time.

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