COLUMN: Two days from long ago


I have two distinct and crystal-clear sets of images locked in my head from my days as a Grade 1 student at Central School in Glace Bay, N.S., and I’m sure they’ll remain with me until my final breath.
The first is of the summer of 1964. I had strayed a little outside of my comfort zone and found myself walking down Brookside Street, dangerously close to Number 11, which I seem to remember being somewhere near Mars at the time.
I was fighting back the urge to scream for Mom and take flight as fast as the two wooden matchsticks that passed for my legs would take me.
But it was at that precise moment in time, while on the brink of hysteria, I realized the same strange sounds were coming out of the windows of almost every house I passed.
I had no idea what surreal was, yet there I was smack dab in the middle of what remains one of the most surreal moments of my life.
And, I had no idea what rock-and-roll was, although it scared the hell out of me because my father couldn’t seem to even mention it without pounding his fist on the table and speaking in tongues.
And I had no idea who the
Beatles were and how much I
would grow to love those strange sounds later in life.
Yet, in as much as the mind of a six-year-old is able to comprehend such things, I felt somewhere deep inside of me that something very, very special was taking place and slowed my pace as the strange sounds surrounded me from house to house.
It was incredible!
The 54th anniversary of my second set of images recently slipped past far, far too quietly for a nation that has called the most crazy patriotic country in the history of man friend and neighbour for what seems like forever.
Yet, as much as I love this country of ours, I rarely mind when the anniversary of our own proud Maple Leaf sails quietly past with little to no fanfare, as Feb. 15, 1965 holds no fond memories for me.
If you truly have no idea what Cape Breton was like in the 1960s, it was an island full of mainly coal miners, steel workers and fishermen who worked hard, played even harder, and did, in fact, owe their souls to the company store.
They had as deep European bloodlines as one can imagine – and they had strong opinions on both sides of the ledger when, on Feb. 15, 1965, the Maple Leaf was raised for the first time to become Canada’s national flag.
There were many who wanted the Union Jack to disappear off the face of the Earth with the birth of the Maple Leaf and, as far as they were concerned, every picture of the Queen with it.
Others fought under the Queen in the Second World War and, after a lifetime of God Save the Queen, what they saw on this day was not far short of blasphemy.
It was all far too much for a young boy’s mind, but the images of some of the craziness that day still remain.
It was going to be a special Monday morning, we were told, as we began the daily stroll to Central School, and I’m sure in many areas it was, but not in Glace Bay, N.S., as I remember it, and I remember it well.
The day ended with a mixture of relief and insanity, when my dad came home from the tavern three sheets to the wind, but safe.
I sat on the upstairs steps, watching Dad cover his head and giggle as Mom flailed away, open-handed, at both sides of his head.
I wonder what I would have thought, had I known at that very moment in London, England, the Beatles were recording Ticket to Ride.
I would have smiled, even if I didn’t understand why.


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