An old psychologist’s reminiscences
I was born in 1934, while the world was still in the Great Depression following the stock market crash of 1929. My parents were homesteaders in nothern Alberta. They lived in a log cabin, and my dad used to say that they survived on moose meat and sauerkraut. The homestead was about fifty miles east of Grande Prairie, and I can remember my parents going to dances at the Indian reservation not too far from where we lived.
My mother had been a teacher, and we moved to Grande Prairie when my older sister was old enough to go to school. At that time, Grande Prairie was more than a village and much less than a city – the roads were unpaved and the sidewalks were made of wood. There was no local newspaper. Several of us boys would meet the train when it came in from Edmonton, pick up a package of newspapers, and sell them along the main street – in front of the beer parlor was best, because you could get a better price for them there. I would reward myself with fish and chips or coconut cream pie.
I had had an older brother who was stillborn and, while I don’t remember ever having been told that I had to achieve academically, the message obviously got across. Personally, I believe that the message which I heard involved my death if I didn’t !! My poor father – I expect that he didn’t know what to do with a nerd for a son. I loved to read so much that, after I had exhausted the books in the children’s section, they gave in and let me access the books in the adult section. Books weren’t so dystopian in those days, lots of heroism – Kipling (Kim), Henty (With Clive in India, With Wolfe in Canada, etc).
I was never more than an average student (although I was accelerated through Grades 7 and 8). School was something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Perhaps that was partly because we kids essentially ran wild when not in school. We were out of the house in the morning and only returned for meals. Of course, there was no television, and I can only remember listening to the radio for the Queen’s annual Christmas (or was it New Year’s) broadcast. Swimming was in the old swimming hole in a creek not too far from town, and skating was on lakes that froze to a depth of several feet. Northern Alberta could get pretty cold.
We moved to London, Ontario when my sister was old enough to go to high school. My dad worked as a maintenance person at the hospital – in Grande Prairie, he had been a boiler engineer, also at the local hospital. Carpenter, electrician, air conditioning repair and, in his spare time, musical instrument repair and tuning, watchmaker, and anything else that he put his hand to. My first car was a 1929 Model A and, when it needed a new motor, he helped me get one from the wrecker’s and install it in the car.
When we lived in Grande Prairie, my best friend used to beat up on me with some regularity, so I never liked to fight. I had asthma as a child – less so as an adult – and was probably on the small side for my age. Nevertheless, I enjoyed sports and was fairly good at them, but never big enough to be part of the football or basketball teams. I can remember a fight with one of my friends in London. Because I didn’t want to hurt him, I just out him donw on the ground and held him there. Of course, he was still angry when I let him up, so I had to run home to get away from him.
The drinking age in Buffalo was a couple of years lower than in Ontario, and my best friend, Brian Collins, and I used to drive there so that we could drink before it would have been legal for us to do so in Ontario. I can remember Southern Comfort and not being able to feel my feet while walking around before getting in the car to drive back to London. On one trip to Buffalo when I was not with him, Brian ran his car into a bridge abutment. He didn’t die immediately and all of us kids went to the hospital to give blood. The receptionist/nurse, told me to drink as much frfoma a jug of cold water as I could, and I did. When I lay down on the cot , I could feel the water running back up my gullet. I tried to sit up, so she tried to hold me down. She got thoroughly soaked. That threw her off enough that she couldn’t get the needle properly into my vein, but she didn’t give up easily. I was sufficiently traumatized from all of the stabbing that it took me ten years to desensitize my self enough that I could give blood without my temperature going through the roof. Cold compresses and all that to keep me from passing out.
Well, enough of that nonsense. Maybe I’ll tell you more about my mis-spent youth some other time.