At least, teenagers today have straight teeth. I don’t know about the other part.
In happy days of the sixties, I was transitioning from the earner to the ovice stage of being a teen and knew everything there was to know, or at least the parts I thought worth knowing. I could list every WW2 allied fighter ace, name the dambuster pilots of No. 617 Squadron RAF and engage a veteran for hours about the Battle of Britain. Strangely though, this vet was a lowly private, a tank driver, my uncle, original member of the Kangaroo Squadron. He wouldn’t talk a word about the ground war. That death and destruction was too real, too personal. Instead, he gloried in air to air combat that he only watched, where men might give a respectful wave to the persons they aimed to kill.
I could instantly identify the make, model and engine option of any car on the road and recite, had anyone bothered to ask, up-to-date Vancouver Mounties baseball stats like Chuck Oertel’s batting average, Howie Goss’ Strikeout/Home Run ratio or George Bamberger’s ERA. School was important mostly to visit friends and homework was for nerds, to be done only under duress and at the last possible moment. Getting a good laugh in class was always worth more than getting an A. I remember triumphant participation in a high school quiz-bowl on stage during a full school assembly. Afterward, a kid came up to me in the hall and said, “I. . . , I didn’t know you knew anything!” I wasn’t sure whether to be honored or insulted.
For kids in those days, radio was king. We were pals with the swinging men at 1410: Al Jordan, Brian Lord, Frosty Forst, Dave McCormick and Jerry Landa. At CKWX, Buddy Clyde did both morning and afternoon drive times and Jim Robson was the indefatigable sports guy, calling real or imagined baseball play by play until late in the evening but still at the microphone for scores and happy talk on the early morning show. No Vancouver radio station today can measure up to the powerhouse legends of the sixties. And, they spoke directly to us; no adults welcome.
In the week of September 1960, when my pioneer grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, I wondered how people could get to be that old. Rockabilly Queen Wanda Jackson was number one on the CFUN*Tastic 50 and number two on The Sensational Sixty at CKWX.
Reminiscences are fun, but in reality, the good old days depend mostly on faulty memory. Most of the music was utter crap, junk that today’s golden oldies lists don’t include. ‘Running Bear‘ by Johnny Preston, for example. And, who today would listen to a wave of other teen death songs. Maybe, Ray Peterson who was still singing ‘Tell Laura I Love Her‘ on the oldies circuit a few years ago. Or, Marilyn Michaels, artist responsible for the sensational Laura sequel: ‘Tell Tommy I Miss Him‘.
Much of that music was painful. Happily, one trait of human nature is to dismiss painful experiences and focus memories on happy times. We recall trepidation preceding the first kiss and grope sessions but those joyful terrors are worth remembering. Real suffering, we put away in private places, and mostly just keep them there, to ourselves.
Indeed, Canadian society in the sixties was much different than today. In my town, there were few visible minorities, apart from little known people on the reserve a few miles beyond the last bus stop north of town. There were no gay people and we had few ‘subnormals’ in our community. Handicapped or ‘retarded’ youngsters were mostly sent off to institutions, somewhere, where they could be better cared for while their families got on with life. A few lived at home but were strictly excluded from regular schools. Who knows, maybe Cerebral Palsy was contagious in those days.
|Renovated and without window bars|
Juvenile delinquents were occasional problems but they too got shipped out of town. There were dungeons for some at the Industrial School for Girls on Cassiar Street in East Vancouver. It housed female miscreants as young as ten and was called the House of Horror by the Vancouver Sun. The City Fire Chief repeatedly condemned unsafe conditions at the 1914 jail and officials were also persuaded by a riot involving 70 pre-teen and teen girls. At the start of the sixties, it was replaced by the slightly less oppressive Willingdon School for Girls.
Misbehaving boys, including one of my neighbors, could be deemed incorrigible and jailed at Brannan Lake ‘reform school’ near Nanaimo. Again, pre-teens mixed with older inmates. Children suffered all kinds of abuses: emotional, physical and sexual. Additionally, the lawbreaking skills that apprentice criminals lacked beforehand were quickly learned from more experienced offenders.
In truth, the good old days were good for already comfortable people, the folks well clear of society’s margins. For those who didn’t or couldn’t conform with the ordinary, life was tough. In youth, and for years after, I never thought much about these issues. With age, I’ve lost a portion of my ignorance, at least, I hope, that willful disregard I used to avoid subjects that made me uncomfortable or allowed me to pretend I was not indifferent to others.
As a special to A Guy in Victoria, here is a link to one of his old favorites:
As was common in those times, successful novelty songs gave birth to sequels and responses. Here is one answer to Napoleon XIV (NY record producer Jerry Samuels) by Josephine XV:
A person, one whose identity I could reveal, left a comment proving my suggestion about crappy music. He still listens to songs from the sixties and uses the same hi-fi equipment he used 50 years ago. This is it, along with part of his record collection. I kept saying, “Put those damn things back in their sleeves or they’ll scratch.” He never listens.
I actually grabbed a photo from his record library, which proves not only that the song exists but he owns one of the few remaining copies in the world: