MAC’S MUSINGS: Somehow the Baby Boomers survived growing up

Claude McIntosh

EDITOR’S NOTE: Claude McIntosh has announced his intention to run for city council. While we wish him luck, we have maed the decision to suspend his column for the balance of the election campaign, in the interests of ethics and fairness. Claude supports our decision, and he looks forward to meeting with readers on the election trail.

This might come as a shock to Generation Y, and whatever they call the gang coming along in their jet stream, but there was life before computers, cell phones, texting and IPhones.

Many Baby Boomers and pre-Boomers managed to get by without television (until the mid-1950s for most). They listened to radio shows like The Shadow (“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”), Amos ‘n’ Andy and The Mercury Theatre. Closer to home, they listened to Bill Gallant (Night Train), Bill LaSalle (Saddle Tramp), Johnny Lacrocque (morning show) and Carl Fisher (sports) on CKSF.

And when television did take hold, it came with an aerial usually secured on the roof with three or four wires, a black-and-white 21-inch screen and five or six fuzzy channels. You had to get up to change channels. If the neighbour started up a power tool, the buzzing noise was picked up by the TV. In some cases, taxi calls, too.

Telephone numbers were usually three digits (197 or whatever) and it took an operator to place the call. A lot folks had party lines and listening in was a form of entertainment.

Kids spent most of their time at the neighbourhood park, spring, summer, fall and winter. Parents would have to haul them home for supper, then it was back to the park until the curfew whistle (Howard Smith Paper Mill and Courtaulds) blasted. The older teen crowd hung out at Shirley’s Restaurant, now the Panda Restaurant.

Meals were home cooked. City school kids, who walked to school, came home for lunch. Take-out was packing a peanut butter and jam sandwich for a Saturday bicycle ride with a couple of pals that was planned the night before. Fast food came during Lent.

Mascots called Yogi Bear, Tony the Tiger and The Cheerios Kid helped sell cereals called Sugar Jets, Sugar Smacks and Sugar Pops.

Day care was mom at home taking care of one or two pre-schoolers. A single teacher taught a class of 36. There were no PD days. A snow day was when, what else, it snowed. The principal kept a strap in the top right drawer of his desk. Just as bad as the strap was ‘The Call’ home.

For teens, making out a reference to how you did on the algebra exam. Grass was mowed and Coke came in a glass bottle.

You could do a lot with a nickel: ride a Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Co. bus or trolley, buy a softdrink, mail a letter, buy a newspaper, make a call from a pay telephone and get one play on the jukebox.

Nobody shopped with a credit card but families had accounts at the neighbourhood grocery store and each Thursday would put a few dollars on the balance. Workers got paid by cheque on Thursday, which was grocery shopping day, which is why grocery stores ran their full-page ads in the Wednesday edition of the afternoon Standard-Freeholder. Most families puchased potatoes in 50-pound bags. Puffed wheat came in a huge bag. Monday was wash day and everybody had a clothes line. Sunday was for church.

Banks gave loans if you could “afford” one. Most families rented a home. Some could afford a second-hand car and would from time-to-time go for a Sunday afternoon ride in the country before filling up for $2 at a gas station. The attendant pumped the gas, washed the windows and checked the oil. The air hose was a free service.

Milk came in glass bottles and was delivered by a milkman who made his rounds in a horse-pulled milkwagon. Folks left the correct change in an empty milk bottle put out the night before.

People only locked their doors when they were away for more than a day. Police officers walked the downtown beat, day and night, and were on a first-name basis with the store owners. When folks went on vacation they notified the police who would check the home. After supper, mom and dad would sit on the porch with their cups of coffee and talk across the driveway to the next door neighbour. Everybody knew everybody.

Somehow, we survived.

TRIVIA ANSWER There were two major annual events for Howard Smith Paper Mill families – the children’s Christmas party at Cornwall Armoury and the summer children’s picnic on Sheek Island, an event that was attended by 2,000 employees and their families.

HERE & THERE Andre Rivette did a great job representing the city at the Classical College ’64 championship football team reunion on Aug. 30 at Summerheights. Rivette brought the original Golden Book that the players and coaches signed in 1964 and had them sign a new book at the reunion. Nice touch. Bouquet to the reunion organizers for a job well done. … With all the condo activity in the city the big question seems to be why the population (46,000) is the same as it was 35 years ago?

THIS AND THAT New get-out-of-jail card: convince the system you were bullied as an eight year old. … Jim Reid out Martintown way getting ready for the Prince Edward County Pumpkin contest. He won the event two years ago with a 1,148 pounder.

SPORTS STUFF Soon-to-be CFL Hall of Famer Moe Racine on his former high school teammate, Harvey Provost. “If Harvey had been about a foot taller, he would have played in the CFL.” … It has always been said that Gilles Leger was the Classics’ head coach. Not true said Leger who pointed out the team didn’t have a “head coach”. Said Leger, “Harvey (Provost) took care of the defence and I took care of the offence, that was the agreement.” … Marc Bissonnette, eastern scout for the Barrie Colts, back from the OHL team’s training camp, where he worked along side head coach Dale Hawerchuk whose son, Ben, a forward who played “AAA” midget last season, has made the team.

HEARD AND SEEN We’re being told that the upcoming winter will be harsh. Hey, weather guys, let’s concentrate on getting the weekend weather right before taking on the long range stuff. … We can find a cure for polio. We can put a man on the moon. But we can’t find a cure for Canada Geese in our parks. Actually, there is one. It’s called a .410 shotgun. … Little wonder minor hockey registration numbers are down across the country. It now takes $500 to register a kid in the Cornwall Minor Hockey Association house league program. Then there is the cost of equipment. For parents with two or three children, the cost can top $2,000 for a season. And when it comes to travelling teams, it is easily $6,000 per player. … Eric Duncan, running for re-election as mayor of North Stormont, has one of the best campaign videos this scribbler ever has viewed. It’s a keeper.

AROUND AND ABOUT When my back aches I think of those blistering hot, horribly humid, back-breaking days during three tobacco picking seasons in Southern Ontario. One season our crew went 42 straight days, up at 5 a.m. and working through to 4 p.m. Tar-stained hands for weeks after is one of the reasons I never took up smoking. Saturday was a special day when we went all out to finish before 2 p.m. so we could watch American Bandstand with Dick Clark.

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