The village of Douglastown along the west banks of the Miramichi River in New Brunswick, Canada was where I lived from 1972 to 1977. Pictured here is the Douglastown welcome sign at the village's south end. It was removed in 1996 when Douglastown was amalgamated, with Newcastle, Chatham, and other neighbouring communities, without the consent of the public, into Miramichi City. Photographed in June, 1990.
In Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner television series, a man is confined to an oppressive, servile village. But not all villages have negative characteristics, effects, or impressions. Indeed not, for the village of Douglastown, New Brunswick, Canada was quite an ideal habitat for a sensitive, shy, wide-eyed youngster like me. A place in which for me to do some "catching up" with my same-age peers in developing a social existence, and in finding quality, lasting friendship in spite of my weaknesses.
In Douglastown on the Miramichi River between the towns of Newcastle and Chatham, my intellectual development, impressionability, receptivity to imaginative entertainment, and impulse for creativity were encouraged by peers and nurtured by elders. Douglastown was to be the only place where I had school classmates as pals supportive of my interests and fancies. And with friends my junior, of which I had an increasing number as my Douglastown years progressed, I did enjoy a camaraderie and relationship stability as the smallness of the community meant less competition for my younger associates' company and loyal commitment (my closest, best friend was younger than me, in fact).
It was true that my progress was slow at first, especially at school, where I was, to the others in my class, a non-entity, completely introverted, terrified of the teacher and of being embarrassed in any way in front of the thirty other children. That first year (1972-3) that I lived in Douglastown, I was socially far behind my fellow learners in the classroom and outside of much of the bustling activity in the school yard. My shyness, which was the result of six sheltered pre-school years, was impairing my integration into the crowd of children at Douglastown Elementary School. Happily, I was not friendless around home, thanks to some early success, in the 1972 summer before starting Grade 1, at meeting some neighbouring boys who were interested and extroverted enough to reach out to timid Kevin.
Michael was the friend in Douglastown with whom I had closest rapport. My best friend. Something of a binding description, this, and I acknowledge that it does have the potential to "off-put" other friends without my giving to it the most carefully worded qualification. The criteria for it are substantial. Michael lived closer to me than did any of the others. And among the three first friends I made in Douglastown, Michael happened to be the only one of them who lived year-round in the village. And by my last days as a Douglastown resident, Michael and I had slept-over together many times, and he had accompanied my parents and I to the New Brunswick capital city of Fredericton on a visit with my grandparents, and the two of us had attended a Newcastle carnival and been to a movie theatre together. We had also been to restaurants with his and my parents, and we had played together one-on-one a substantially larger number of times than others had played with me. I felt rather more at ease with him than I was with most of the others. And though it was in a letter from Michael to me some months after my parents and I moved out of Douglastown, Michael did say that I was his best friend. Not in those precise words, granted, but the meaning in the words that he did use, was clear as crystal.
However, none of this is meant to diminish my other friends or the potential in those relationships. Under different circumstances, I could have been best friends with any of them. And as things were, their presence in my life was just as important as Michael's. Everyone had a part, a vital part, in my years in Douglastown being as gratifying as they were.
And each friend that I had in Douglastown helped in some way to curb, to compensate for my tendency to introversion and my inclination to being fascinated with- and sometimes disturbed by- certain television presentments. I still had such tendency and such inclination, but balanced by the genial or easy-going ways of my friends. I could grow as a person. I could have healthy social interaction. And retain my particular sort of fascination with works of entertainment. My friendships enhanced that fascination; even simply being with friends in conjunction with it, us watching a television show together or later talking about what we had separately seen and indulging our shared interest in creative endeavour or play, was truly marvellous.
It was rare for a friend in Douglastown and I to be in conflict about the merit in some entertainment production. I can recall arguing once with Michael over my reaction to an episode of a television show (the Yogi's Gang episode, "Mr. Hothead", to be precise), and that was, I can now discern, because he could not identify precisely with what impressions I was having, and my inability to satisfactorily put them into words annoyed him. For the most part, Michael could be depended upon to be supportive of my interests and would not object to some occasional nod to my particular responses to entertainments.
The impressions that I would receive from entertainments could be specific, or they could quite broad, encompassing a number of different notions or several branches of thought. They could simply stem from how appealingly that future human development is manifested in one opus, and I would collect toys or other merchandise and enact my sense of wonderment in play with friends. Or they could come from something amusing or mirthful, perhaps in a funny cartoon, and a positive response thereto from myself and my friends. Or they could range in philosophical scope from the anthropological to the astral or to the cosmological, or be a merging or a blending of those. Often, they were concerned with a changeability in appearance or disposition of people, habitats, environments, whole worlds, even the entire universe, or the fascinatingly dually faceted portrayal of scientific enquiry, technology, and progress, and how such may be represented in ominous, even monstrous, depictions. Even through the abstract styles of depiction in animated cartoons. Juxtaposition of cultural refinement or some notable sign of progression (in architecture, infrastructure, mechanics, etc.) with something sinister, something dangerous, something hostile. Elegance coinciding with violence. Space travel, technologically wondrous ventures to other worlds where something harrowing or horrific awaits. Encounters with alien and sometimes grotesque or horrific distortions of everyday reality on Earth. How such things are envisaged. How heroes emerge and overcome adversity, if they do. How man's imagination views his universe and what he may encounter "out there" and/or within himself. The altering of the human will. How "the other" is manifest. And how colour is used in representations of all of these. Sometimes, I just fancied the look or the sound of something even if I was not conscious of anything suggestive or potentially meaningful. I generally liked the colours of cartoons and of vividly imaginative science fiction. I liked the occasions in which I noted commonalities in cartoons shown in some proximity to one another. My impressions "touched on" all of these things as they were presented unto me by what I watched on television. Even at a very young age.
But at that young age, my impressions were, of course, nascent. My young mind was not developed enough to comprehend an impression's full connotation. Naturally, being of tender, juvenile age and wanting to see the best in everything, I hewed for the most part to the positive outlooks in entertainments being presented. And my friends tended to emphasise those positive outlooks, too. We all cheered for "the good guys" in whatever we were watching, and outcomes usually were to our liking, with "the good guys" defeating "the bad guys". An occasional downbeat movie might air on television with an uncertain resolution to story, or one in which "the good guys" did not win, and such could trouble me. It could seem to be "lending weight" to some of those aforementioned impressions of rather less than cheery nature. However, the real world around me seemed, for the most part, to be ordered, sensibly structured. The older generations seemed to know what they were doing. My parents and my friends' parents all had best interests at heart. They were all good people. Wise people. And so too seemed the men and women I saw in non-fictional television productions. The news. Public affairs television shows. Television game shows. And also in the films that were shown at school. And through positive interactions with friends, my young mind did concentrate on the affirming qualities of life, and there was so much of that to be had in this life era.
And yet, impressions from what I termed "spooky" cartoons or whatever, did keep unsettling me from fully blissful naivete. And they could- and often would- be compelling to me in their unsettling of me. It may seem to be a strange paradox, this. I know that. I wanted to hew to positive outlook but could find myself fascinated by dark, negative eventualities, situations, or connotations in what I was beholding. And there were other agents of outlook disturbance, like a certain nighttime radio programme. Things that had me wondering if maybe life in the real world is not as rosy as I would like for it to be. Things that had me sometimes feeling fearful or uneasy. Things that gave to me nightmares.
Even if my friends did not fully share or fully comprehend my responses to some of what we were seeing, they were not snidely or judgmentally remarking about such. My quarrel with Michael did not involve him speaking in that particular way to me. And it did help, I think, that I liked, that I appreciated much of what was popular among youngsters in our area. The Jackson Five. George of the Jungle. The Six Million Dollar Man (I found some of the episodes of that to be somewhat unsettling to watch, including one in which a maddened astronaut was on a rampage in an American hinterland). Tarzan. Planet of the Apes. The Flintstones. The Brady Bunch. Most American police and detective dramas. I would be inspired to start summer projects based on what I saw in a couple of these television programmes.
Such popular television shows and many others were distinctive elements of the 1972-to-1977 frame of time that constitutes this life era. But chiefly, this was the life era that cemented my bond with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and the colourful, sophisticated Warner Brothers cartoons. Other cartoons such as those of DePatie-Freleng Enterprises offered on television by way of The Pink Panther Show, also established themselves in my personal pantheon of favourite entertainments. This was the life era in which my reverence for the imagination in cartoon television series like Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood came into being and consolidated my sensibilities toward fantastic and Space Age entertainment, sensibilities that attuned me fully to receiving the prospectus and the depictions of the science fiction television series, Space: 1999, to which I was introduced and with which I became enamoured in this era. And this was the era in which I fit very much into my milieu and found friendship with many youngsters of different ages and had most of the sort of fellowship and fun that a boy should have.
Michael inhabited a house behind my own, close to the shore of the Miramichi River. Indeed, his back windows had an impressive view of the river and the many edifices on the other side thereof. Younger than me by three years, Michael was more sophisticated, more worldly-wise than me in just about every respect. His mother was black, his father white. His complexion was dark but not very much darker than Caucasian. His black hair was curled Afro-style, his eyes light brown, and his build average. His father owned a Miramichi area dry cleaning company with branches in downtown Newcastle and Chatham. The youngest of three children, Michael shared his upstairs bedroom with his much older brother, John. His sister, Debbie, had a ground floor room of her own. Michael had a brown, male hound that he named Paccus. Paccus liked for me to rub his belly and would wag his tail approvingly. I was very apprehensive around dogs, but Michael helped me to become tentatively comfortable with Paccus. The epitome of easy-going, outgoing charm, Michael had a reassuring, warm smile. During one of my sleep-overs with him, I remember waking from a nightmare to see Michael's comforting smile. He was fashionable and trendy. In 1976, he knew all about the movie, Jaws, before anyone else in our humble village. With anything that was in vogue, Michael was elaborately versed. Although he was younger than me and a pre-schooler for three of the five years that I was his friend and neighbour, I never once saw him cry. He could be argumentative, though. Occasionally. And so could I be, when he was being contrary. However, never did he carry a grudge. Just one day after a quarrel, he would be at my door asking me to come outside and play, with not a word said about the contention of words the day before.
Michael had a toy room directly across the hallway from his and his brother's upstairs bedroom, and within it was a tremendous collage of Tonka Trucks, Dinky Cars, plastic speed ramps, many, many storybooks, and oh, so much more! Michael's favourite toy was a steam-powered miniature locomotive, whose function he demonstrated for me on many a visit. In my house, during late 1972 and early 1973, in the multi-windowed room at the back of the top floor, I had a fairly large collection of playthings, art tools (including a large set of crayons and magic-markers), and other materials for many a fun afternoon. Michael and I compared and shared collections, and one day, early in 1973, we went wild with our imaginations, turning that whole room in my house's upstairs into a city, using, to augment a Fisher Price toy town (I do not remember for sure whether that belonged to me or to him), an old set of encyclopaedias which became buildings, on which I marked street names and numbers. My mother was aghast at the sight that awaited her in that room when Michael and I had finished our project! Suffice it to say that the rather expired and by-me-defaced encyclopaedias were soon replaced with an excellent twin set of Encyclopaedia Britannica and Junior Encyclopaedia Britannica, and also some colourful Childcraft encyclopaedias. I learned an extraordinary amount of facts about the different countries and cultures of the world from my Childcraft encyclopaedias, and I feel ashamed to have sold them for a handful of dollars in 1981 at a yard sale.
As personable as Michael was, he was not hugely popular in Douglastown. Although his birthday party that I attended was bustling with a number of boys and girls, I did not see any of those other children in Michael's company until he went to school- and even then only at school. I never really doubted that Michael was most partial to me. We played together in all seasons. He would be together with me in evenings and on weekends, and in the summers was a participant in most of whatever projects I had going in my garage or yard. My parents liked Michael enormously. They felt that he was good in helping me to overcome my shyness. When Michael was old enough to go to school, he did tend to associate with his same-age peers, but he did diverge from them to join me on the ice during a regular, all-school excursion to Newcastle's Sinclair Rink in early 1977, and helped me as I tried ever so cautiously to learn how to skate.
I met Johnny at almost the same time as I met Michael, and because Johnny was close to my age, he and I connected as friends faster than Michael and I did. But Johnny was not a full-year resident of Douglastown. He lived in Burlington, Ontario and visited his Douglastown-residing grandparents (who lived two houses up the road from me) for the summers. His stay in the village always began with the first week of summer vacation. I anticipated the coming of Johnny and his younger brother, Rob, on the first weekend after the school year ended. They would arrive on the Saturday or Sunday (usually the Sunday) of that weekend, and on the morning of the Monday thereafter, Johnny would cheerfully appear at my door, or would open the door to the garage, where I was working on some garage-transformative project, and say, "Hi, Kev." Johnny, like Michael, was outgoing and quite sophisticated, but he had a sharper turn of phrase at times and could be less patient and more excitable. Nevertheless, Johnny and Michael were similar enough to rival and dislike each other. Johnny's light brown hair was curly. He had a prominent freckle on his nose, and his eyes were a brownish hue. He had an average build. His grandparents had two dogs, German shepherd Trixie and poodle Sparky, neither of which I was particularly keen to be near. I was therefore less inclined to visit Johnny at his house, lest the boisterous, barking canines would bite me like a dog did in my earlier, pre-school years.
Johnny's brother, Rob, was around the same age as Michael, but Michael and Rob were seldom together as a twosome. Rob quietly accompanied Johnny whenever Johnny would permit it. He could be told by Johnny to leave on any given occasion, and that would understandably upset him. Somewhat quiet as Rob was in the first years that I knew him, he was as fun-loving and eager to participate in whatever we were doing, as the rest of us were. I remember one evening when my father played Simon says with Johnny, Rob, and myself in the living room of my house, Rob was enjoying the game the most among us. Rob's hair was a reddish blond, his complexion fair, and his eyes brown. Because of Johnny's dominant personality and Rob's younger age, Rob "tagged along" with Johnny for most of the years that I knew him, though in the last year or so that I lived in Douglastown, during which Johnny and I were at odds most of the time for certain reasons and Rob was older and more outgoing than previously, Rob and I affiliated one-on-one on a number of occasions. Rob started coming to see me on his own initiative, and I responded encouragingly. I recall Rob liking to eat a stick of celery with Cheez Whiz on it. He was eating one of those on one of his visits by himself to my place. I had never seen such a snack before, and the image of it remained with me in all of the years since then. Rob and I coming together widened, I think, the rift between myself and Johnny. But Rob and I liked each other, and I was not going to curtail or cease being with him for Johnny. In fact, as Rob grew older, I tend to think that, had I remained longer in Douglastown than I did, he and I would probably have had as close a friendship as Michael and I.
For the first year that I lived in Douglastown, these were my friends. Michael for the entire year, Johnny and Rob for the summer. The fact that none of them was at school with me, meant that I had to find new friends among the children in my school class, and as was usual for me, I waited on the sidelines, during recess and before start of morning and afternoon, in hope that someone would come to me and establish the starting process of friendship. For the entire first grade of school (i.e. school year 1972-3), I was a loner, watching as the other boys played together in the yard surrounding the Douglastown Elementary School building. The more time that I spent alone, the more I inclined toward the retiring and reclusive behaviour of my pre-school years, and the others in my class doubtless found me to be incognito and nondescript. I was scared to death of our teacher and of being scolded by her, and spoke only when asked by her to do so. I recollect all seasons in the school yard that year, standing as a solitary figure as the other first grade children played, and the older children, Grades 2 and upward, were inaccessible foreigners to my eyes. My only accessible friend in Douglastown during that school year was Michael, who, too young then to be in school, was at his home.
Like most people, I remember my first day at school. It was probably Monday, September 11, 1972 (school years in Douglastown tended to start on the first September Monday after Labour Day). The sun was shining. My mother walked with me to Douglastown Elementary School, where I was bewildered about why I was being placed in a room with thirty other children and told by a rather imposing woman (the teacher, Mrs. Boomer) to draw pictures, to learn all of the colours, and to print my name. For a shy only-child like myself, this was overwhelming. Though I recognised one of the boys, my namesake from Sunday School in Newcastle, all of the others were strangers. Some of my fellow pupils' names were the already-mentioned Kevin MacD.- and Darryl, Mark, Kevin L. (yes, there were three Kevins in the class), Harry, Ronnie, Doug, Roger, Jamie, Leroy, Todd (who was hearing-impaired), and Mrs. Boomer's son, Harold. In Grade 1, we prayed before every day of class, on the directions of Mrs. Boomer, who also read Bible stories to us. We sang "Away in a Manger" for the school Christmas show, an annual event at the old church hall behind my house. We learned to count by using bread pins. We read such textbooks as A Duck is a Duck, Helicopters and Gingerbread, and May I Come in?. I was fascinated by books, by how they were made and the colourful images and expressive text that they contained, and I manufactured my own books out of paper towels!
I remember being with my father one Friday afternoon in the 1972-3 school year (sometime in the spring, I think) as he brought me with him to shop at the Miramichi Mall in Newcastle, and I was in the process of writing and assembling one of my paper-towel books, patterning it after the school reader textbook, May I Come in?, as I was seated on one of the benches in the mall corridor. Another memory of being at that mall within the school year that was 1972-3 was on a Saturday with both my parents as I perused the vinyl record stock at Radioland and selected for purchase the 33-and-one-third-rpm CRAZY HORSES album of the Osmonds, which received quite a large number of spins on our family stereo record player in our living room. And when that vinyl record started to warp, its contents were transferred to audiocassette.
I was very much in awe of the selection of 45-rpm and 33-and-one-third-rpm vinyl records in Radioland that day. It was one of my first really cogent and for-life-memorable experiences in a store, the sights therein effecting a deep and lasting imprint on my mind. Availability of music, so very much music, on ownable, recorded media impressed me greatly. And the time would soon come when I would desire to possess some things rather more substantial than just music on recorded media.
My mother memorably had a vinyl record of songs from The Sound of Music, also purchased, I believe, from Radioland in the Miramichi Mall. It was the main go-to place for vinyl records in the Miramichi region.
Other memories of my first year at Douglastown Elementary include seeing older boys tobogganing in the backyard of one of the Seven Sisters, a series of identical houses at Douglastown's lower end; dreaming that I had chicken pox and my mother coming to the school to remove me from class on the possibility that my dream had a basis in reality; quickly tiring of peanut butter sandwiches; losing my Skills Handbook for A Duck is a Duck and Helicopters and Gingerbread, obtaining a replacement, and redoing all of my prior work, only to eventually find the original; registering one mistake on a mathematics quiz and being so ashamed at my uncharacteristic flub that I tossed the marked quiz into the Miramichi River; standing outdoors on the school steps with my Grade 1 peers for the year's picture; and proudly bringing my school year's end report card home in June, 1973.
Starting with the last weeks of Grade 1, a friend of my mother's, Mrs. Walsh, who lived a short distance from Douglastown Elementary School and had children, Greg and Tracey, in higher grades, was my sitter (I never liked the term, baby-sitter). Except for either July or August (it varied from year to year), on which my mother and/or my father had vacation and was at home each day, I usually stayed with the Walshes until my father came home from work at around 4:30 P.M.. I remember one day solitarily playing cars in the sand of a long dirt roadway leading to an elderly lady's manor house at the very back of the street on which the Walsh family lived. And behind the Walsh house was a narrow stream and a dam (the sort of which that beavers are known to build) that constituted a favourite place for me to visit when I was waiting for 4:30 P.M. and for my father to convey me in his car to our driveway, where Michael frequently was waiting for me.
I continued to have nightmares, fuelled by memories of certain Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat, and solo Sylvester the Cat cartoons, of monstrous metamorphoses caused by chemical consumption. I had a classmate whose name was Harry, and he was, in one of the dreams, the person with me who transformed time and time again into a green-faced maniac and terrorised me. I must have been channelled into the collective unconscious, or something like that, to associate that particular boy in my class with the Jekyll-and-Hyde scenario, because how was I to know, with animated cartoons as my sole means of immersion with the story material, that in the original novella and in the movies based upon it, Dr. Jekyll's first name was Henry, of which Harry is derivative? Bizarre. Very bizarre! I never told Harry about the dream, not even while in my more socially integrated condition of later years (Grades 3, 4, 5) in Douglastown.
My bedroom in which I would have such sleep-disturbing traumas, was on the upper floor of the McCorry home. It alternated between a single-window room on the house's southern side (for July, 1972 to early 1974, and then from shortly after March of 1974 through to August, 1977) and a multi-window room at the rear of the top story (in 1974 only). Between the two rooms, through the respective adjacent walls, were shelves on which I libraried my audio cassettes. One 1974 night in the latter room as I reclined in my bed in torpor, Herbert W. Armstrong's The World Tomorrow was on the radio that usually lulled me to sleep. His predictions of doom for the world were alarming to a small-town boy of eight years! However, I stayed quite steadfast in not fearing the future. I was in awe of the world and of human progress upon which my school textbooks elaborated. The full implications of Dr. Jekyll's frightful, insidious concoction at this juncture being beyond my comprehension, I believed in the virtue of humanity. Oh, what happened in years ahead to that delightfully naive outlook?!
To be sure, my outlook did fluctuate over those first 10 to 13 years of my life. I remember that my father, my mother, and I were in our car, stopping at a Newcastle Texaco service station at the corner of the King George Highway (Newcastle's main road) and Prince William Street on one sunny, summer day, and I was contemplating a "steady state" theory of the universe and of the Earth and of human society as I had known all of those, each of them being a permanent, everlasting condition, always having existed and always going to exist exactly as I knew them. Mr. Armstrong's ruminations on a world doomed to be destroyed by its human inhabitants threw my "steady state" conception of existence into dispute, and my later readings of astronomy and cosmology books revealed that the Sun would eventually die, together with the Solar System, and that eventually even the whole universe would terminate. Still, maybe, I thought, there was a way that man could develop so that he not only overcomes any inclination to ruin his own planetary habitat but that he also can re-engineer the universe to prevent stellar death and cosmological collapse. Such ideas for the future of man and his universe serve to show how much faith I did have in human potential, howsoever often that faith was subverted by impressions of human frailty and vulnerability in the face of nature's random wrath (like via the movie, Earthquake) and by my encountering individuals and whole peer groups exhibiting disagreeable, vulgar, or violently aggressive behaviour, most particularly in my early experiences after moving to Fredericton. And when I discovered how prone to failure that technology was to be, most notably in the field of space exploration, unable even to perfect artificial gravity and or launch and land spacecraft in the way demonstrated in television's Space: 1999, I did, in my teenage years and through much of my adulthood, speak contemptuously of man's capabilities in many of his fields of endeavour. Plus, I was to eventually fully comprehend the nature of evil and temptation that was evident in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". Humanity did not look to be anywhere near as noble and as worthy of perpetual existence in a "steady state" cosmology as I once thought. But I retained my memories of a childhood that, for a large part, was idyllic, and for that the world and its people who fashioned the world in which I had lived as a child, were deserving of commendation and some degree of hope.
What items did I receive for Christmas in this life era? In 1972, under the Christmas tree at home were vinyl records, magic markers, a miniature police cruiser gear panel, and a chemistry set! My parents probably thought that maybe, with the last of these presents, I would perfect an antidote to the Hyde formula that was plaguing my dreams! There was also a stocking, presumably filled by Santa Claus, with books, candy, and a few other things. In 1973, while we stayed at my grandparents' house in Fredericton for Christmas, I opened my stocking and unwrapped my gifts to find a Disneyland pop-up book, a battery-operated Disney song jukebox, a Snoopy electric toothbrush, some numbers and letters activity books, and some Rasti and some Lego. Again at my grandparents' place in 1974, I received a film projector that only played certain, extremely short filmstrips and quickly broke. In 1975, my presents were artist pencils, a slide projector, with slides of Canadian tourist sites, and a camera with which to snapshoot my own slide pictures to project in shows for friends. In 1976, a typewriter, a telescope, a sciences book, and a miniature football game were under the Christmas tree, again at my grandparents' Fredericton home.
The Christmas of 1972 is particularly memorable for it being the only Christmas that was celebrated in our home in Douglastown. We went to my grandparents' place in Fredericton for all subsequent Christmases of this life era. Christmas Day in 1972 was snowy. My grandparents braved a 100-mile highway journey in their car from Fredericton to Douglastown to join us for the afternoon and for Christmas dinner. I have some photographs of my grandparents and I in the living room in the McCorry Douglastown house, snapshot by my mother that day. Including one in which I am playing with the miniature police cruiser panel that I had been given. I vividly remember standing in the boundary area between living room and dining room and in the kitchen as my grandparents were readying to return to Fredericton, my grandmother offering to help with the dishes and my mother saying that such was not necessary, and that our visitors should be on the road back to Fredericton as soon as possible. After my grandparents had left, I was in the living room, examining the contents of my chemistry set and tentatively mixing a couple of them, as some musicians were performing in a Christmas-themed television show. For a long time, I thought that it was The Lawrence Welk Show. A Christmas episode thereof. But it was not. There was no Lawrence Welk on television that day in New Brunswick. I must have conflated a memory of a Lawrence Welk telecast of some other evening with what was being shown in the evening on television on December 25, 1972. My memory of television only really starts to become consistently dependable sometime in mid-1973, improving with each year thereafter.
Still, I will always clearly remember being in our Douglastown living room early in our tenure in that house while Lawrence Welk was being shown and hearing the final song of most episodes, "Good Night, Sleep Tight".
For weekday supper hour (5 to 6 P.M.) in 1972 and 1973, I sometimes dined in our living room as I watched Felix the Cat or Huckleberry Hound on our floor model colour television. Sure enough, Huckleberry had an encounter with a certain meek physician/chemist and his uninhibited alter-ego. I was eating breaded sausages during my disturbing viewing one 1972 afternoon of "Piccadilly Dilly". The sausage taste in my mouth lingered long after I beheld the effect of a dreadful concoction upon a squat Dr. Jikkle, whose tall, top-hatted, hysterically laughing other self enjoyed punching Huckleberry's London police constable hat so that it completely covered the blue dog's head. Not surprising, then, that I developed an aversion to this particular meal and would not eat it again for more than ten years. And I would not see "Piccadilly Dilly" again until November 28, 1999!
There were some false alarms, too, where the ugly, unsettling, but always intriguing incursion into my life of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", as utilised in cartoons, was concerned. "Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare" was in instalment 13 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. Its title card, when I first saw it during a visit to my grandparents in Fredericton in mid-June, 1973, sent my heartbeat accelerating. Might this be that frightful cartoon again, with Bugs and the "rabbit feeder" in that house with the laboratory inside it and the "rabbit feeder" drinking the formula?
But the cartoon titled "Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare" did not involve demonic drink triggering monstrous transformations. The Tasmanian Devil received an explosive dose of nitroglycerin, but that was all. The jungle medical hut imagery of the cartoon nevertheless left a powerful image upon my mind. Indeed, the whole of the thirteenth Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment, viewed by me at my grandparents' Saunders Street house in Fredericton while I was eating a Swanson television dinner on an assembled television tray-table, remains a vivid and rather iconic moment of my childhood. It was among the first Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hours that I watched from start to finish (the CBC's prior tendency to abbreviate the show due to sports being allocated insufficient airtime before it and the sport broadcast overrunning, was, happily, abating by 1973, courtesy of better scheduling), and I remember my father apologetically saying to me after the final Road Runner cartoon that the hour was done, and that my favourite television programme was finished for the week. It was also the first Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour that I ever recorded on audiotape.
Wile E. Coyote or the Road Runner literally turning the road ablaze during the former's pursuit of the latter in no less than two cartoons with visually stark desert surroundings, said cartoons being "Stop! Look! And Hasten!" and "There They Go-Go-Go!" (the title of the first of these caused my father to laugh), a strange yellow, red-tailed cat being situationally deceived to the brink of mental collapse by two mice in "Mouse Wreckers", Bugs in "Wideo Wabbit" cavorting through a television studio, chased by Elmer into several rooms where Bugs imitated various performers, Bugs summoned to a stage and being asked to tell all about his origins and past experiences in "This is a Life?", and Tweety Bird piloting a flying bird cage in "The Jet Cage" altogether coalesced in my mind as I contemplated what I had seen. And now, with audiotape, I could experience The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour again at any time after its ephemeral television transmission. I resolved henceforth to always record that television show on audiotape. And that evening, between time periods of listening to my Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour audiotape recording, I examined books from my grandmother's book case. One of them happened to have many exotic pictures- almost as exotic as jungle medical huts, burning pavement, and upside down rooms- and was called Bible Times. The next morning, I was eating Melba Toast in my grandmother's kitchen and thinking about the cartoon action on the last day's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. For some reason, Wile E. Coyote's attempted ingestion of a tin can and a clay chicken came into my mind.
Later in 1973, my grandparents moved out of their heritage-class Saunders Street domicile in the downtown residential part of Fredericton, and relocated to a modern, single-floor (with basement) house in the rather high elevation, southern Fredericton subdivision of Skyline Acres, on Bristol Street, where they lived for the remainder of my childhood.
Shyness, a legacy of Era 1 and a bugbear of mine for many years yet, prevented me from fitting into the crowd at school all through Grade 1. I naturally looked ahead to the summer of 1973, to being with Michael for whole days, and to Johnny and Rob coming again to Douglastown for a summer stay at their grandparents' house. I was always most at ease around home, in social situations where I was the controlling force. Each summer, my garage was the site of many an imaginative and fun day. It was the focal place of creative pretending and play for the youngsters within my immediate neighbourhood, and I had the deciding say in whatever was done. It became a restaurant (with pictures of "golden brown French fries") and a library in 1973. In 1974, it was a hotel and a theatre. In 1975, it was turned into a hotel again, a restaurant again, a theatre again (with a "Kevin's Cinema" sign pasted onto the door that gave entry from outside to the garage's left room), an ice cream parlour, a laboratory, and an art gallery. In 1976, it was modified to be a theatre one more time- with me at the start of one of our play performances coming from behind a curtain (actually, a large blanket draped across the diameter of the garage) and saying, "In the beginning, there was a huge explosion and the universe began...," and it also that summer was a fun house with sheets draped from ceiling to floor in a maze, newspaper-stuffed dummies, a glow-in-the-dark skeleton, and fake blood. And late in 1976's summer, the garage was turned into a hotel again, first a hotel with a Mexican flavour, then a hotel with cartoon character drawings adorning the walls. Finally, in 1977, it was a Moonbase and Eagle spaceship.
During my first full summer in Douglastown, that of 1973, Michael's older sister, Debbie, was with our "tiny tot" company. Ultimate decisions were mine, but she had many superb ideas to suggest and to which to contribute her creative talents. Combining grocery boxes to produce sit-in trains in which we played on my back and side lawns was one of our achievements. And it was Michael's quip one evening in his yard while he and I were seated in a pair of lawn chairs in the vicinity of a string of tall hedges, that his was a "restaurant in the shade", that inspired the initial metamorphosis of McCorry garage into restaurant, and Debbie provided curtains for the windows and the "golden brown French fries" sketched images. Debbie outgrew our juvenile joys by the following summer (1974), and I was then both the sole "ideas person" and chief orchestrator of fun in our niche of Douglastown.
One sunny day in the summer of 1973, my mother and I were shopping in Newcastle, and she bought for me a Pepsi Cola dispenser of the kind that fast food restaurants use. Mine was, of course, a miniature version of the usual article, but it functioned in the same way. I remember sitting on our back doorstep with the Pepsi dispenser and handing out Pepsi in little cups to my friends. I seem to recall incorporating that Pepsi dispenser into the restaurant project. And my mother contributed to the cause of the restaurant by preparing some tomato soup to serve to any comers.
I also seem to recall the summer of 1973 restaurant project being connected to my use of a Duratape audiocassette with which to audiotape a constant and entertaining chronicle, for posterity, of the garage activities of my friends and I, with one of our "co-stars" in the audiotape-recording being an iron bar that again and again crashed to the floor! I remember jokingly giving "co-star" billing to the iron bar, to the amusement of Johnny, who started proclaiming, "Cowabunga!" after the iron bar made its distinctive sound on striking the garage floor. Contrary to suggestion in its brand name, the Duratape was not durable, but I sure do wish that it was! What I would not give to be able to listen to it all of these years later!
That Duratape was among the first audiocassettes that I can remember using. It was in mid-1973 that I was becoming fully appreciative of the many possible uses of audiotape. Earlier that year, I had transferred some Osmond Brothers songs from vinyl record to audiocassette and was quite impressed with the ability that I had for putting the songs in whatever sequence that I desired. Vinyl record recordings of The Aristocats and 101 Dalmations were also transferred to audiotape in hopes of preserving their content from the ravages of stylus scratches, warping, and other means of use-related or-storage-related vinyl record physical damage. And with a Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode audiotape-recorded from television at my grandparents' place that June, I had discovered what was to become my primary application for audiotape. Preserving of television broadcasts for my continued possession after their occurrence.
Audiotape for me in this life era concentrated on what was termed as the "compact cassette" by manufacturers of the audiotape medium. But we also had an 8-track audiotape-recorder, which I did also use for a time when I was between "compact cassette" audiocassette recorders. Blank 8-track audiotapes were impossible to find in the Miramichi area, and my parents allowed me to erase one of their pre-recorded 8-track audiotapes for use in audiotape-recording the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour eighteenth instalment (with "The Windblown Hare", "Tree Cornered Tweety", "To Beep or Not to Beep", "The Dixie Fryer", etc.) and an episode of The Flintstones, "A Star is Almost Born".
And my mother had a BEETHOVEN NINTH SYMPHONY 8-track audiocassette, which I copied onto "compact cassette" for my own listening pleasure. I remember listening to the choral portions of the fourth movement of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony while relaxing in our garage one summer's day (possibly in 1973). And I was certain that near the end of the fourth movement, one of the singers said the word, "grandpa".
I always wished that I could have a pet, but I was anything but eager to have a dog. And my mother was not keen on the idea of a pet cat, however much I favoured that. In early 1973, my parents finally relented to my agitating for a domestic animal by buying for me some goldfish from a Chatham pet store. Not quite what I had in mind, but with the goldfish tank in my bedroom, I fairly quickly warmed to the little, swimming creatures. They died within just a couple of weeks, and I was in no time at all renewing my spoken hankering for a feline companion. In summer of 1973, we adopted a fully grown, female cat from a Chatham family known by my mother. She was multi-coloured and sneezed more often than would be considered usual for her species. I named her Tibby and had her until the spring of 1974. I will never forget Tibby's first night at our house. We allowed her to roam freely, and halfway through the night, she was on my bed, purring in my ear. I was rather timid of Tibby for a few days, her being the first clawed, furry creature to which I had been close since a dog at the Nickolitian home bit me during my pre-school years, and the first cat that I had ever petted. After a few days, I was completely at ease with Tibby, and I have some photographs, including one of my birthday party in 1974, in which I am holding onto Tibby affectionately. Tibby could be rather moody and evasive by times. My father put a flea collar on her, and we were rather anxious that she not bite into the collar, trying, herself, to remove it. We never knew what ultimately became of Tibby. She disappeared one day in the spring of 1974 after we let her outside for her daily run and dose of fresh air.
Over the course of Era 2, I had three pet cats. First was Tibby (1973-4). A couple of months after Tibby disappeared, we adopted a grey-black male kitten that I named Sylvester. Sylvester lived in the year in which I was in Grade 3 (1974-5). One morning during March Break, I decided, ill-advised, to bring Sylvester with me to the Walsh house, which was a few village blocks away from our home. Sylvester managed to free himself from my arms and hid behind a bathtub. I had to allow him time to emerge from his hiding place on his own, and went home for the evening. I learned on the next morning from Mrs. Walsh that Sylvester stepped out from bathroom concealment and somehow ran out of their door. I searched the area between their and our house, but to my grief, Sylvester was nowhere to be found. My third cat, the black-with-occasional-white-furs Frosty, had considerably more longevity. She was adopted as a kitten on June 7, 1975 and lived with us until February 21, 1991, having mothered three litters of kittens and remained my loyal companion through a move to another community, and through several changes, a number of them less than favourable, to my life.
My bicycle was blue and silver. The training-wheels were removed from it in 1973, and I rode it both in Douglastown and in Fredericton, when we went to the latter location to visit my grandparents. The bicycle lasted through all of the five years that I lived in Douglastown. It was my mode of transportation to the general store to obtain WigWag candy bars, Vachon cakes, potato chips, and some comic books (what few were available there), with everything costing 25 cents or less!
I remember the day on which I returned to school after the summer of 1973, to begin Grade 2, in the room that was located in the main school building on the top floor and whose windows gave a second-storey view of the school playground. Although I had yet to form a single, real friendship at school, it was comforting to know that I would see the same children again in my classroom, unlike in Grade 1 when I started the school year in a room almost totally full of total strangers. My Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. Lyons, was somewhat older than Mrs. Boomer, more the kindly old lady type like my grandmother, and I was therefore rather more relaxed in this classroom than I had been in Mrs. Boomer's. Mrs. Lyons used to write the days' mathematics work on the chalkboards before start of school day, and I would arrive early and often complete the mathematics assignment before the start-of-day bell and roll call. Throughout the Grade 2 year, I walked to the house of my sitter, Mrs. Walsh, for lunch and for an hour after school, and my father brought me home at around 4:30 P.M. each day. I became rather friendly with two of Mrs. Walsh's youngest children, Greg and Tracey, who were older than me by two years and one year, respectively.
|A friend is someone who accepts you for who you are.
-Charles M. Schulz
In Grade 1, there had never been a new child enrolled in our class. The concept of that was entirely new to me when, a day of two before Halloween in 1973 (the same day that UNICEF collection boxes were being distributed to our class), Mrs. Lyons introduced to our Grade 2 class a boy, David F., who would be joining us, effective forthwith. David F. was seated near me at my table, and I was rather pleased to encounter someone who was in a comparable situation to mine, not having friends as yet in our class. David F. had brown hair and dark brown eyes. He was tall and had a somewhat liberal girth in addition to a Liberal political leaning (I recall him one day during Grade 3 glumly wearing a "Hatfield Again" pin as an expression of disappointment at the Progressive-Conservative-winning outcome of the autumn, 1974 New Brunswick provincial election). He was somewhat outgoing but preferred, I think, to be particular in the persons whom he befriended. He was the studious, intellectual type with unbounded interest in world and universe, fact and fiction. He was a talker rather than a player, and hence not inclined to engage in games that tended to be played on the school grounds. He saw in me and in my interests in imaginative entertainments something of a kindred spirit, and usually accommodated his interests to mine, be they cartoons, newspaper comic drawings (in 1976, in Grade 4, he and I drew comics pages for an experimental run- on somewhat crude photocopy-paper duplications- of a school newspaper), or outer space and science fiction television.
David F. lived in Millbank, which was on the Neguac highway into which the Douglastown main road transformed a short distance beyond its intersection with the lanes leading to and from the Chatham Bridge. A mile or so up the Neguac highway which, like the Douglastown main road, ran closely parallel to the Miramichi River shore, was the village of Millbank. Moorefield Road in Millbank ran at a 90-degree angle from the Neguac highway, leading away from the river and into the woods. The houses along it were spaced quite far apart, with paths behind them leading to woodland trails. David lived a short distance up Moorefield Road on its northern side. Across the road from his place was the home of his younger friend, Sandy, who accompanied David to school in David's mother's car. The two of them were always seen disembarking the car and entering the school yard. David and I could have become closer than we were had I been perhaps less preoccupied with friendships with others. Indeed, it was not until Grade 5 that I first visited him at his home (on one afternoon after school). He visited me once or twice during that same year (1976-7). Grade 5 was easily the year that David F. and I were closest, and it was both astronomy and Space: 1999 and our ardent interest in both, that connected us strongly enough that we exchanged letters with each other for almost two years after I moved from Douglastown to Fredericton (in August, 1977) and he subsequently moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia, in Canada's west. I still have a sticker book, The Universe, that David traded with me one day in Grade 5, and memories of him drawing a picture of a "Not-So-Super-Superswift" (a wry variation of the illusory faster-than-light conveyance vehicle in Space: 1999's "Bringers of Wonder" 2-part episode) and the two of us teaching astronomy to the Grade 4 and Grade 5 girls and boys on the final day of Grade 5 (and the final school day ever that the two of us were together). David and I did diverge in opinion on which of the then-competing supper-hour television programmes, The Flintstones and his favourite, The Little Rascals, was better entertainment. I had little regard then for The Little Rascals and always much liked The Flintstones; so, there was no doubt where my loyalties were on that clash of tastes. But I did eventually warm to the mischievous and inventive exploits of The Little Rascals and watched them every day after school when I was in Grade 6 (1977-8) and living in Fredericton.
After I moved to Fredericton, David F. enthusiastically corresponded with me by mail, and I responded in kind, sharing with him my impressions of my new community, but as time passed, and especially once he had settled in Chilliwack and had become immersed in the culture there, while Space: 1999 was rapidly considered passe by the general public, David started advising me, and with constructive intent, I think, to abandon- or at least range beyond- my interest in that cancelled space opus and expand my tastes into areas of speculative fiction amenable to current liking. And I was at that time dedicating the lion's share of my time to building a Fredericton social existence. The result of these, I regret to say, was that I let the correspondence with David F. lapse sometime in the summer of 1979. But I would never forget him. I am reminded of him whenever I view The Little Rascals or the Superswift in Space: 1999's "Bringers of Wonder", amongst several other things. I was told that he went into the Catholic Church as a priest some time later in the 1980s.
A couple of weeks before the Christmas holidays, our Grade 2 class was joined by another newcomer. His name was Evie, short for Everard. In adulthood, he would prefer to be called Ev, but he would always be Evie to me. Mrs. Lyons, possibly seeing that I yet needed friendship and that a new boy in the class would require an initial connection to someone whose social time was not already full, seated Evie beside me at the circular table that I shared with a few other Grade 2 pupils. Evie and I must have very rapidly become friends, because he was invited to and attended my birthday party on Saturday, January 5, 1974, less than a month later. If my memory serves me correctly, I recall him accompanying me to my house after school on the last day of the pre-Christmas 1973 autumn semester, and the two of us talking as I put my black-and-white Seven is Magic (the name of our reading textbook) Skills Handbook and other school materials on a shelf in the dining room. Quite probably that was when I extended the invitation for Evie to come to my birthday party. Evie lived a short bicycle ride up the main village road in the direction of Newcastle, but still within the Douglastown village limits, and on the same side of the road as my house. Across the road from Evie's home was a dirt road leading to the Douglastown baseball park, several open, clover-filled fields, and a vast array of nature trails, and right next to that dirt road was the home of Evie's soon to be best friend, Peter.
Evie was easy-going, dark haired, brown eyed, quite tall, and a bit on the heavy side. He did in fact fill the role of Santa Claus in our Grade 5 Christmas play. His earlier place of residence had been in Prince Edward Island. He was the oldest of two children in his family. His younger sister was named Paula. His father drove a school bus, a retired one of which could usually be seen far in Evie's long backyard, that had a vast garden extending almost as far back from the main road as to touch the shore of the Miramichi River. Also in Evie's backyard was a sandbox and a pet cage for the dog that Evie eventually had. On his un-sheltered front veranda was an old couch. His light-brown-coloured house was two-storey and of a similar old-fashioned design to mine. I remember on Sunday, February 24, 1974 being invited by Evie to visit him at his home. We were in his upstairs bedroom discussing The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour from the day before, Saturday, February 23, in particular the disturbing images and premise of the Tweety terror transformation cartoon, "Hyde and Go Tweet", Wile E. Coyote's tornado seeds in the cartoon, "Whoa, Be-Gone!", and the images of another Road Runner cartoon, "Out and Out Rout". Said previous day's instalment of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was very much in my thoughts after I had awoken that Sunday morning from a nightmare about the Jekyll-and-Hyde scenario of "Hyde and Go Tweet" triggered by that cartoon's reappearance in my life by way of that Saturday, February 23, 1974 showing of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. I had the whole hour-long instalment on audiotape but was scared to death of even listening to the particular Jekyll-and-Hyde cartoon that upset me as much as it did Sylvester the Cat, who was terrorised by the Tweety monster. Evie was rather bemused that a cartoon could upset me so. He was a regular viewer of Bugs and the other Warner Brothers cartoon characters, but his primary interest was hockey. His bedroom walls were literally plastered with hockey player posters. Evie's favourite hockey team was the Toronto Maple Leafs, and most of the paraphernalia in his room was oriented toward Harold Ballard's hockey team and its eminent player, Daryl Sitler. I had scant use for hockey, really. I could not play it. And the watching of it, with men on skates moving rapidly back and forth on a sheet of white ice, gave to me a headache. But the vivid uniform colours and stylish team emblems appealed to my eyes, and for a time, I joined Evie and other boys in collecting hockey cards and hockey stickers for a book bought from a Newcastle Miramichi Mall gasoline station.
On the next Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour showing on the Saturday after February 23, 1974- March 2, to be precise, Evie and his sister arrived at my house for a visit as my favourite television programme was in progress, and they joined me in watching such cartoons as "Cheese it, the Cat!", "High Diving Hare", "Sandy Claws" (in which Tweety, on a beach, showed no ill effects from his prior week's contamination by Hyde formula), and "Zoom at the Top". I remember Evie and Paula at my house during a summer day, eating applesauce provided by my parents, and in years to follow, more visits by Evie, solo- i.e. without his sister, as I was watching other highly enjoyed television programmes, among them the Space: 1999 episode, "The Rules of Luton", on April 23, 1977.
Evie not only liked to watch hockey (on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday). He often pretended that he was both a hockey player and a hockey commentator, whilst he played with a hockey stick and orange hockey ball, putting said ball into "nets" demarcated by parallel twigs or wood blocks on the ground, as I was talking to him about various things during my visits to his backyard. Evie did put his hockey interest aside, as did I my Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour fascination, and the two of us played with Dinky Cars near Evie's house's front steps one sunny afternoon before supper, and during the autumn of 1974, when Planet of the Apes was popular in Douglastown, Evie, myself, and some others ran around his house, playing with toy guns a number of situations based on the scenarios in the Planet of the Apes television show, with me in the role of pursuer gorilla Urko and Evie and someone else (usually Kevin MacD.) as the fugitive astronauts. Evie, Kevin MacD., and I played Planet of the Apes at school during recess time in the autumn sunshine, and I remember chasing them through the narrow passage between portable classrooms and sliding in the mud as I did so. Evie invited both me and Kevin MacD. to his mid-July birthday party in 1974, and I remember eating hot dogs and frosted white cake and returning home following that afternoon party and sitting to watch Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour cartoons that included "The Windblown Hare", "Tree Cornered Tweety", "To Beep or Not to Beep", etc., at 4:30 P.M., before I had a late supper. Evie attended both of the birthday parties that I had, on January 5, 1974 and 1975. I used to envy Evie for having a birthday in the middle of the summer. I also thought it quite appealing to have an old school bus in one's backyard in which to play. We once played the scenario of a M*A*S*H episode in the school bus, with Evie's sandbox serving as the battle territory.
Evie and I were of the only households in Douglastown to have television antenna towers capable of receiving far-away television channels, but the famous Groundhog Day Gale of 1976 tangled the tower connected to my house and completely blew the one at Evie's home onto the ground. We both had fully repaired television towers by the summer of 1976, and had crystal clear reception for the advent of the spectacular Space: 1999 television series on the full CBC television network in September of that year.
Evie audiotape-recorded an episode of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour for me on March 29, 1975. I was to be in Fredericton that day, visiting my grandparents. And Fredericton received CBC Television programming on a CBC-affiliated television station different from the one that was providing CBC Television to northern New Brunswick communities such as those in the Miramichi region. CHSJ-TV, which broadcast CBC Television fare to southern New Brunswick including Fredericton, liked to videotape-delay CBC Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour telecasts, showing each episode a week- or more- later than on all other CBC Television stations and inserting into the episodes CHSJ-specific programming promotion and CHSJ-contracted sponsor advertising. CKCD-TV/CKAM-TV in New Brunswick's north (including the Miramichi) simply aired CBC television network telecasts as and when they were transmitted- with no delays and no locally inserted content. It was only in the summer months that CHSJ did not videotape-delay The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. I fully expected the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode that I audiotape-recorded at home in Douglastown on March 22, to be shown on CHSJ-TV while I was at my grandparents' place in Fredericton on March 29, with me missing the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode on all other CBC television stations (including CKCD/CKAM) that day. So, I had Evie audiotape the episode for me at his home in Douglastown. But Evie's recording of the television show stopped after the end of the Tweety-and-Sylvester cartoon, "Canary Row". "Canary Row" was a cartoon with which I was already quite familiar from earlier telecasts of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode containing it. Its urban setting with Victorian buildings mixed with modern architecture, a Victorian-style, inner-city hotel, and a trolley car; its story involving such items; and even its title suggesting, to me, rows of city structures, had much impressed me. Evie's audiotape-recording stopped as the cartoon after "Canary Row", a Daffy Duck outing called "You Were Never Duckier", was having its Bugs Bunny/Road Runner title card presented. Evie had forgotten to change the side of the audiocassette on which he was recording. I thanked him for doing the favour for me, just the same.
Evie also brought school work home to me when I was ill with a severe flu for an extended time period in Grade 4. I recall watching the Spiderman episode, "Cloud City of Gold", during noon hour when Evie arrived at my door with the school work that I needed to do to keep pace with curriculum.
As Evie and his across-the-road neighbour, Peter, became closer friends, I accompanied them in playing some baseball games (five-hundreds and pickle, I think the games were called) and a water balloon fight (with some trepidation on my part due to my aqua-phobia) near Peter's garage.
Evie and I quarrelled a few times over the years but always reconciled quickly, and we parted on best of terms when I moved out of Douglastown in August, 1977.
In Grade 2 (1973-4), my classmates and I flipped hockey cards during recess and lunch hour. We read Seven is Magic, The Dog Next Door (with its stories about frankfurters at a baseball game, a lost-and-found department, Johnny Appleseed, and a fox), and How it is Nowadays. We built "forts" on the school yard by arranging rocks around trees, collected Dairy Queen sticker books and mystery rings, and talked often about such popular television shows as The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, Walt Disney, The Beachcombers, The Six Million Dollar Man, and M*A*S*H. As previously stated, on February 23, 1974, "Hyde and Go Tweet" appeared again on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and affected me as much as it did initially some years before. It rekindled my nightmares with renewed vigour.
Of all of my classmates, Kevin MacD. was the one who most impressed me and with whom I most wanted to be close friends. He had already met me in Newcastle before I moved to Douglastown and was the only familiar face in that intimidating Grade 1 classroom, but in the company of all of the other children, he had little inclination to glance in my direction, my profile then being practically invisible. In stark contrast to my timidity, shyness, and insufficiently developed social skills, Kevin MacD. radiated with self-confidence, amiability, and good cheer. He had a much older brother and was an uncle at the age of ten. His build was average, and he had flowing locks of long, dark hair curled on his sides. His brown eyes sparkled as his upper lip raised to reveal his upper teeth in a warm smile. He dressed in faded blue jeans and a jean jacket. Clothes such as these and his thick, long, lively hair always gave to him an winsome, juvenile image of 1970s "coolness". He was popular with the girls in our class, and the boys looked to him for leadership in their school yard games.
When I was finally demonstrating a modicum of tentative sociability in the latter half- the winter and spring months- of the Grade 2 year, Kevin MacD. became attentive to me and interested in friendship. I had been delighted when our teacher, Mrs. Lyons, seated us at neighbouring tables. He was situated at the table directly behind my seat. One school day late in February, 1974, he noticed the "Hyde and Go Tweet" drawings that I had sketched and coloured and that I was assembling into a "film strip" of said cartoon, and he enquired about them and asked to see all of them. I remember talking to him early in March about the cartoon, "High Diving Hare", that had been on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on the preceding Saturday. And we joined in a hockey card flipping game at the back of the classroom during recess on the colder days that winter. I remember waiting at the school fence for him to arrive back at school, transported thereto by car driven by his father, after lunch. I would meet him, and walk and talk with him as we slowly moved to the steps at the back door of the school, where we would wait for the bell to ring for everyone to enter the building for the afternoon. And I was so quick in class at completing my mathematics questions that Mrs. Lyons encouraged me to help Kevin with his.
Warmer weather was with us in the spring of 1974, and Kevin telephoned me one Saturday afternoon very early in June and invited me to visit him at his home, which was on Percy Kelly Drive (Kelly Drive, for short), a road that went nearly perpendicular to Douglastown's main road, and directly away from the river and towards the inland woods, just within the Douglastown village limits in the Newcastle direction. Kevin's house was near the end of Kelly Drive, which stopped at the edge of a thick forest, and behind Kevin's house was a beautiful wooded area with a few bushy clearings. Kevin and I walked through that wooded area in the warm sun of that early June, 1974 afternoon. While we were standing in his driveway as I played for him my audiotape recording of the previous Saturday's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (containing such cartoons as "Tweet and Sour", "Hot Cross Bunny", "Muzzle Tough", and "Bugs' Bonnets"), Kevin remarked about my shyness and expressed interest in seeing me become more of an outgoing person, while still being true to myself in all other respects. I returned home for my supper and the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (starting with "Mississippi Hare" and also including "Duck Amuck", "Tweet Zoo", etc.) slated to transmit in the early evening, feeling tremendously upbeat at the excellent afternoon and at Kevin's generosity in inviting me to spend some afternoon hours with him at his place.
His house was split-entry, more modern than mine, with some distinct rural flourishes. It had a fully screened back porch on the upper floor. And behind it was a small shed. A fellow classmate, Ronnie, was with us one winter afternoon in that shed. An argument began about something, and Ronnie threw something at us, prompting Kevin to demand that he leave. As Ronnie left, saying some things to Kevin by which Kevin was offended, I offered some moral support for which Kevin expressed appreciation. I recall a rainy Sunday in early July, 1975 (one of those rare rainy days that very sunny summer), combining audiotape recorders with Kevin to copy for him my previous day's recording of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment with "Devil May Hare", "Rushing Roulette", "Tweet and Lovely", etc.. We both attended Evie's birthday party on a Saturday afternoon in mid-July in 1974, but I was reeling with disappointment when Kevin did not attend my birthday party on Sunday, January 5, 1975 and told me the day later at school that he had forgotten about the party. I had not telephoned him to remind him about the party because I feared a rebuff. Silly of me, I know. But I was always petrified of being rebuffed.
In Grades 4 and 5, Kevin and I, although continuing to be situated near each other in the classrooms, talked, played together, and visited rather less, even as I was becoming more sociable in the school location and integrating into outdoor fun and games. We were both in Cub Scouts and were pack leaders, the two of us, in our final year in the Cub Scout movement, but we would be placed at opposite sides of the room of our weekly Cub Scout meetings. We did, however, exchange Christmas gifts at school and were together in a Christmas play for school in Grade 5. Kevin marvelled with me at the visual splendour of television's Space: 1999, which was popular during Grade 5. In Grade 4, for a time, we enjoyed hot lunches together at the Douglastown village hall. We were partners during our Grade 5 class' village cleaning field excursion late in May, 1977. And on Grade 5's last day, June 24, 1977, the final school day for us both in Douglastown Elementary, the two of us stood looking out the window to the school yard as he was the first of the boys in our class to say good-bye to me in advance of my moving to Fredericton.
As my friendships with classmates were developing in the second half of Grade 2, I continued to stay with Mrs. Walsh for lunch and for some time after school until my father collected me at around 4:30 P.M.. I remember my father being somewhat late one day, and I was still at the Walshes' house after 5 P.M. as the cartoon television show, Jeannie, was being shown on CKCD-TV/CKAM-TV. In early-to-mid-1974, there was on CKCD/CKAM at 5 o'clock on weekday afternoons a cartoon television show. Yogi's Gang was seen on Mondays, The Pink Panther Show on Tuesdays, Jeannie on Wednesdays, Cool McCool (of which I have no memory) on Thursdays, and Goober and the Ghost Chasers on Fridays. I remember routinely watching Goober and the Ghost Chasers at home on Friday while waiting for my father to bring home a pizza from Chatham Pizza Delight. In 1974, Friday was pizza day. Not having yet acquired a taste for meat on a pizza, I only had cheese on my Pizza Delight pizza slices. But they were divinely delicious. And the smell of the pizza is connected for lifetime in my mind with Goober and the Ghost Chasers.
CKCD-TV/CKAM-TV, serving northern New Brunswick, was known to people in the Miramichi simply as channel 12. In most households, including ours with our television antenna-tower, CKCD/CKAM was the only television channel with crystal-clear picture quality. CKCD transmitted out of Campbellton, New Brunswick's northernmost New Brunswick city, and used CKAM at Upsalquitch Lake as a re-transmitter for the Miramichi region. I will henceforth in these memoirs refer to the channel 12 television station as simply CKCD. CKCD had affiliation with the CBC television network, but it was also an affiliate of television network CTV. CBC Television programming was favoured on CKCD in the evening hours after 7:30 or 8 P.M., mid-afternoons on weekdays (for an American daytime drama serial, for newsmagazine, interview, and general talk television, and for children's after-school programming), and for afternoon and evening sports and The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on Saturdays and afternoon sports on Sundays. Weekday morning CBC broadcasts of the fun-and-educational, originating-in-U.S.A. Sesame Street and CBC-produced morning television programming for young children could also reliably be in the offering on CKCD. CTV fare filled the airtime on CKCD for the remainder of the broadcast days. Yogi's Gang and the other weekdays-at-5 P.M. cartoon television shows shown in early-to-mid-1974 on CKCD came to us by CKCD's connection with CTV. With our antenna-tower, other television stations could be received with varying degree of signal quality. Two CBC French-language television stations looked fairly sharp, as did the CTV television station broadcasting out of the southern New Brunswick city of Moncton. CHSJ-TV from the southernmost New Brunswick city of Saint John could be pulled onto our television screen through our antenna-tower but with a very snowy picture. Not until fourth quarter of 1976 was CHSJ available with best possible reception throughout northern New Brunswick. And at that point in time, CKCD dropped its CBC affiliation.
Whilst it was dually affiliated, CKCD was very much a boon to me for airing The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour as and when that television programme was being offered on CBC Television on Saturdays. From 1972 to 1975, consistently so. CKCD also dependably provided Rocket Robin Hood and Spiderman. It was less reliable as regards The Pink Panther Show and The Flintstones, but the based-in-Moncton CTV television station sufficed when CKCD was not relaying the CTV telecasts of those. CHSJ, from what amount of its programming that I opted to look at in the years between 1973 and 1976, had what I thought was a weird and (for me) un-affecting Saturday line-up, with such oddities (to me) as The Flintstone Comedy Hour, Howie Meeker Hockey School, Talent Parade, and Miss Ann (CHSJ's answer to CTV's Romper Room and Uncle Bobby children's entertainment television series, only less imaginative and less competently produced). I thought of CHSJ as that oddball Saint John television station that deliberately put itself a week or more behind the CBC television network in broadcasts of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. It did, however, show CBC Television's airings of Maude while CKCD did not. Saturdays at 8:30 P.M.. Maude, the situation comedy starring Bea Arthur, I found to be entertaining and sometimes strangely compelling in a disturbing sort of way. Many of the faults of man were on display in Maude, including alcoholism, as portrayed in a two-part episode in which Maude's husband, Walter, had a drinking problem that changed his personality, at one climactic moment resulting in him hitting Maude. I remember Michael and I having a conversation about that particular occurrence and the meaning behind it. For me, to my mind, it definitely had parallel to the change induced in Dr. Jekyll by his demon drink. I did not fully comprehend the parallel, but I was certainly mindful of it.
Saturdays were always my preferred and most satisfying day for the watching of television during all of my years in Douglastown. I awoke rather early on Saturday mornings for an almost incessant run of children's television on CBC-CTV hybrid CKCD. The CKCD Saturday schedule tended to consist of: Spiderman, Rocket Robin Hood, The Littlest Hobo (the 1960s version), Tarzan (with Ron Ely), The Hudson Brothers Razzle-Dazzle Show (with an Australian and his boisterous puppet emu), underwater puppets in The Waterville Gang, improvising, juvenile make-believers of Let's Go!, the vaguely remembered Johnny Chinook of Kidstuff, and the hand puppets and weirdest of weird trash cans of Funtown. Though sports dominated the afternoon after Tree House at 1:30, I recall The Pink Panther Show and Spiderman being run respectively at 2:00 and 2:30 in summer of 1976. The big attraction of the day, until 1975, was The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, which, from 1973 onward, usually aired at 6 o'clock, after the CBC television network's afternoon sports (CBC Curling Classic often was shown at 5 P.M. before Bugs and the Road Runner at 6 P.M. through January and February), though The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was occasionally, and in summer frequently, shown earlier in the afternoon- and sometimes without advance notice, which meant that I had to stay close to the television for the afternoon, at times irritating my visiting friends.
In late December, 1973 and all of January, 1974, my bedroom was in our house's upstairs' one-windowed southern room, the foot of my bed pointing east, the head of the bed touching the room's western wall, and the house's second floor hallway directly visible to me through the bedroom door if I laid on my left side in the bed. I have a photograph of my friends and I sitting on my bed during my birthday party on Saturday, January 5, 1974, and the bed as seen in that photograph is in the position described here in this paragraph. While my bed was in that position in those final days of 1973 and first weeks of 1974, I was contemplative on many an evening while laying in bed in wait of sleep. Contemplative of such things as a new year closely beckoning (as 1973 waned in its final evening), my enjoyment of my Saturday, January 5 birthday party, and, most especially, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. When the cartoon, "Putty Tat Trouble", was shown in the instalment of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour telecast on Saturday, December 28, the sight of Tweety drinking a strange liquid (while emulating a dunking bird) had me fearful that he was about to turn into that huge, evil-eyed monster, but "Putty Tat Trouble" was not the cartoon in which such occurred, and I wondered with trepidation while laying in bed a few hours later, when the cartoon with Tweety turning into the monster was going to reappear on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. I appreciatively thought of the seven cartoons ("Devil May Hare", "Rushing Roulette", "Tweet and Lovely", "Piker's Peak", "The Foghorn Leghorn", "Apes of Wrath", and "Going! Going! Gosh!") in the episode of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour broadcast by CBC Television on my birthday. And after the airing of instalment 20 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on January 26, I thought as I laid in bed about how petrified I had been at the sight of the title card to "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide" coming immediately after the mechanical-technology-subverting hi-jinks of the bright, blue-skied, quite light-hearted "Robot Rabbit" (first cartoon on that day's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner episode) and of the horrific series of events unfolding from Sylvester's encounter with two dogs and a red chemical (no, that is not soda pop) in a laboratory. A peculiar juxtaposition of cartoons. Seeming opposites in their respective bearing and yet somehow strangely appropriate as a pair. And I thought about Sylvester's swallowing of a stick of dynamite in "A Bird in a Guilty Cage" and its body-changing result for him being in the same episode as his transformation into a monster. And Bugs' meeting of a vampire (more monstrousness) in "Transylvania 6-5000" also being in the same episode. Such was how I would spend my pre-sleep time in my bed at this stage of my life.
I would also be contemplating The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and the cartoons in its episodes while dining in a restaurant with my parents. On Sunday, August 25, 1974 (that was the exact date), we went to a newly opened restaurant in downtown Chatham, and my thoughts as we waited for our meals to be served, were of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner instalment shown the day before, and a certain Tweety-and-Sylvester cartoon that was a part of it. My father memorably stated that he was not impressed with his dinner at the restaurant. And neither was my mother. We never went there again.
Truly, I was addicted to and enamoured with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and I was audiotape-recording the broadcasts avidly, even when I already had the same episodes from prior showings on CBC Television. CBC Television of which CKCD was affiliated. And a more consistent and dependable telecaster of Bugs and the Road Runner than was Saint John's CHSJ-TV. CHSJ that was distributed throughout southern New Brunswick including Fredericton.
CHSJ, as I have noted, was usually a week (sometimes even more than a week) behind CKCD in broadcast sequence of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner instalments. A procedure called videotape-delay. Although scheduling Bugs and the Road Runner on Saturdays a half-hour earlier than on CKCD (i.e. at 5:30 P.M. instead of at 6 P.M.), CHSJ would show the episode that had been seen a week (or more) previous on CKCD (and the main CBC television network). In the summer months, when the CBC's time of broadcast for Bugs and the Road Runner was markedly variable, CHSJ would stop the videotape-delay and simply air the CBC telecast simultaneous with the main CBC television network and CKCD. Any episode or episodes remaining in CHSJ's videotape-delay queue was/were simply dropped and not shown. Such was CHSJ.
I feel quite fortunate to have lived in northern New Brunswick with access to CKCD. This despite the fact that there were a couple of prolonged outages for CKCD's Upsalquitch Lake re-transmitter. One of those was in late November of 1973.
The Telegraph Journal, the Saint John daily newspaper sold throughout New Brunswick, had an excellent television listing supplement, called "Showtime", in its weekend (i.e. Saturday) edition. Being that it originated in Saint John and being that it was owned by the same family company (Irving) that owned and that operated CHSJ-TV, naturally it gave a prominence to CHSJ-TV in its focus, in "Showtime", on television programming available to people of the province. In the early-to-mid-1970s, episode synopses were not printed in any of the New Brunswick newspapers' television listings. Only the titles of the television programmes. But "Showtime" routinely had articles about special television programmes and premieres of new television series. And for those, attention would usually be concentrated upon CHSJ-TV. Charlie Brown television specials broadcast on CBC Television and aired in New Brunswick by CHSJ- and by CKCD- would receive front-page display on "Showtime", with an image from the television special and a fairly detailed description of its story. "Showtime" would specify CHSJ as the television station on which to view the television special, with the television listing itself reading as, "4, 12 Charlie Brown", 4 being CHSJ and 12 being CKCD. In The Moncton Times, the television listing for same would read as, "7, 12 Charlie Brown", 7 being CHSJ and 12 being CKCD. The Moncton Times' weekend edition's television listing section was less attractive visually and less extensive in its "write-ups", if there were any at all. But much to my liking, it did, for quite a long period of time, offer television listings for the Saturday seven days in the future, giving to me an advance glimpse of when (or if) The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour would be shown a week hence. Its listing for The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour would read as, "12 Bugs Bunny", for CKCD. For CHSJ, "7 Bugs Bunny". And when CHSJ was airing the television show simultaneous with the CBC (and CKCD), "7, 12 Bugs Bunny". With a 4 in place of the 7, such was also how The Telegraph Journal listed The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour in "Showtime". There was not mention of the Road Runner.
7 was the channel for CHSJ's Moncton re-transmitter, which was why the Moncton newspaper opted to have it represent CHSJ in television listings, instead of CHSJ's channel 4 signal originating in Saint John. Whenever I tuned in CHSJ on our antenna-tower, it was always as channel 4. Channel 7 was, for some reason, not receivable, even though Moncton was closer to the Miramichi region than was Saint John.
I remember on February 9, 1974 recording Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 22 (with "The Hasty Hare", "Claws For Alarm", "Roman Legion Hare", "Home, Tweet Home", "Terrier-Stricken", etc.) on a Memorex brand C-60 audiocassette purchased hours earlier, in the afternoon, from the CANEX variety store at C.F.B. Chatham, and being rather impressed by the look of the audiocassette, its long-rectangular label's centre "window" allowing me to see almost the full span of the spools within the "compact cassette" that resembled a roll of film on a movie projector. By the way, the CANEX variety store that day had a television set on display, and being shown on it was one of the CBC French (Radio-Canada) television stations receivable in the Miramichi region, that television station airing an amateur sporting event on Sportheque. An anecdote of dubious relevance, I admit, to my audiotape-recording of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, but one that I thought I would mention as it is a memory of a particular Saturday afternoon in February of 1974.
The following Saturday, I purchased a Memorex C-120 audiotape on which to ambitiously record two Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalments, the ones to air on February 16 and 23. That was the audiocassette in my collection that was to have the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour twenty-third instalment (with "Rabbit Every Monday", "Sahara Hare", "Tweety's Circus", etc.) and the famous instalment 24 (with "Hyde and Go Tweet" along with "Cats and Bruises", "Long-Haired Hare", "Whoa, Be-Gone!", "Bully For Bugs", "Who's Kitten Who?", and "Out and Out Rout"). I brought that audiocassette with me to the Walshes' house for me to listen to it on one day of the week following the February 23 broadcast of instalment 24, but I could not muster the courage to listen to "Hyde and Go Tweet" on that audiotape.
As a test to verify that said C-120 audiocassette's side B would successfully record an hour's worth of content without jamming in my audiotape machine (as long-in-recording-length audiocassettes could be known to do), I audiotape-recorded onto that "compact cassette" portions of a Jacques Cousteau television special about the Antarctic that aired on Friday, February 22, that television special making for quite interesting viewing in its own right. As these memoirs continue, I will address at length my fascination with Antarctica as it developed over the months of 1974, 1975, and 1976.
That Jacques Cousteau television special which aired on Friday, February 22, 1974 was The Odyssey of the Cousteau Team- "Beneath the Frozen World". It was third in a series of television specials about Jacques Cousteau's expedition to the Antarctic. Rod Serling was narrator. I had not yet seen any episodes of Mr. Serling's most famous work, though I may have seen an illustrated magazine, i.e. comic book, with a Twilight Zone title. Johnny used to collect comic books of genres other than the foibles, fancies, conflicts, and treks of cartoon characters, and there may have been an issue or two of Gold Key Comics' The Twilight Zone in his stacks.
But returning to the subject of audiocassettes and my use of them for audiotape-recording of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. I varied the brands of audiotape from week to week, such that my memories of specific Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episodes are connected to the label colours on the audiocassettes. SONY C-60s' labels were red, the labels of Memorex C-60s, C-90s, and C-120s were grey (with the plastic shell of the Memorex C-60s and C-120s being brownish black and the plastic of the Memorex C-90s having a slightly blue hue), and the Philips C-90s had blue spots on their labels. Many of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner instalments with cold weather and snowy situations were recorded, entirely without conscious intent on my part, on the blue-spotted Philips audiotapes, and many of the instalments with Foghorn Leghorn in them, including the one that began with the cartoon, "Lovelorn Leghorn", were recorded on the red SONYs.
On Sunday afternoons, if I stayed at home instead of going with my mother to the only store, a drug store, that was open for business in the entire Newcastle-Chatham area, and if I was not socialising with friends, I listened to my audiotape of the previous day's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode as I laid on my bed, reading the stories in my school textbooks, most memorably the Grade 2 textbook entitled, The Dog Next Door. I remember a three-page story called, "Lost and Found Department", concerning a group of children dwelling in a row of city brownstones, as my audiotape-recording of "Home, Tweet Home" and "Terrier-Stricken" was playing.
The importance of this audiotape hobby, fuelled by my love for The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, is staggering, really, for the collecting of audio-visual media and jobs in television-recording and broadcasting would be defining elements of my adult life.
Always, I stacked cushions beneath the television speaker for which to position my audiotape recorder microphone, and tolerated not a word from anyone as I audiotape-recorded my preferred television shows. In 1973-4, I eventually noticed that The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour had a 26-week sequence identical in March-to-September to that of September-to-March. For instance, the same episode with Tweety's monstrous transmutations that aired on February 23 was shown again on August 24, 1974.
During January and February of 1974, my father every Saturday purchased Peanuts books for me during his morning grocery-procurement excursions in Newcastle or Chatham.
I quickly found myself being pulled into the domain of Charlie Brown and Peanuts, not only because colourful cartoon television shows about eruditely conversant children had an appeal, but also because I could see some of my own situation by times in what Charlie had to endure. Charlie's routine lament that he had no friends would have sounded accurate to emanate from my lips in my pre-school years. Plus, Charlie had his Lucy, as did I have a girl named Colleen, who at Douglastown Elementary used to delight in ridiculing me, most particularly my poor performance in sporting events, of which Charlie Brown's derided, recurrent frustrations on game fields, were certainly reminiscent, each and every time that I saw them in Charles M. Schulz's books or television specials. I also owe to Mr. Schulz, by way of his brutally cynical It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! television special (as seen in spring of 1974), my sad but necessary realisation that there is no Easter Bunny, but only, in Schulz's conception, a beagle who steals people's coloured eggs and on the pretence of being a mirthful Easter Bunny-like egg-giver, distributes them to unwitting persons. From subsequent admission by my parents, immediately after the three of us had watched Schulz's illusion-shattering television presentation, I learned that there is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy, either.
One of the first Peanuts television specials that I can remember seeing was It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown, which aired early in the evening of Monday, February 18, 1974 within the time period of my father's every-Saturday provision of Peanuts books. Charlie Brown's sister, Sally, in need of something for her science exhibit at school, believes that the nest belonging to the beatnik bird, Woodstock, is prehistoric, and, when Woodstock is enduring tidal waves in his birdbath, Sally appropriates said nest from a tree. Thus is prompted an investigation into the nest's disappearance, by Snoopy (the beagle), dressed as Sherlock Holmes. Snoopy's investigation brings him to the homes of Peanuts characters, one of whom, Peppermint Patty, dons a villain's mask and chases Snoopy down a flight of stairs. A Victorian character (in this case, Holmes), a "prehistoric" bird, a chase down a stairway, a science exhibition replete with Bunsen burners, beakers, and test tubes. These all could be said to have been foreshadowing the coming of "Hyde and Go Tweet" on the instalment of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on the Saturday to follow, and a reiterating of the notion of prehistoric life (including a Sabre-toothed rabbit) on the earlier Saturday's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour with the cartoon, "Pre-Hysterical Hare". It is quite an intriguing combination of cartoon television on the CBC in the latter half of February, 1974, as I eventually noticed when thinking about it some 20 years later.
There is one or a multiplicity of memories associated with virtually all 26 Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalments as shown on the CBC and CKCD over the earlier years (pre-1975) that I lived in the Newcastle-Chatham-Douglastown Miramichi area. The second instalment, with "All a Bir-r-r-d", "Bunker Hill Bunny", "Barbary-Coast Bunny", "Birds of a Father", etc., is married with memories of certain Newcastle houses being passed by my parents and I in our car. I was thinking about "Bunker Hill Bunny" on the Sunday following instalment number two's transmission in September, 1974 as we passed a house whose distinctively old-fashioned design would have been quite prolific during the days of American Civil War, situated at the corner of Millar Avenue and the King George Highway. And a two-storey house, the lower part of it cream-coloured and its upper half a shade of pink, and near it, on the other side of the road, a green-and-yellow house with four-leaf clover designs cut into its window shutters, along the King George Highway as that highway forked into two sections, one of which leads from Newcastle to Douglastown, were what I was looking at as I was thinking about "Birds of a Father" on the same, September, 1974 Sunday that my parents and I went into Newcastle. The sight of train cars at the Newcastle train depot would put me in mind of the train in "All a Bir-r-r-d". And "Barbary-Coast Bunny", with its roulette wheel and the number, 23, thereon, airing in instalment 2 on March 23, 1974, recalls me to my rather astute observation on that day, of the number 23 being a somewhat apt number upon which for Bugs to wager his money. Further, while I was at the Miramichi Regional Exhibition in Chatham in August, 1975, at some time in between my fun on the various carnival rides (under the watchful eyes of my parents), my rather optimistic submission to the reading of a personal horoscope, and my becoming trapped in a hall of mirrors and my father needing to go therein to retrieve me, I happened upon a display of a projection television with a videotape machine that just happened to be playing a recording of "Birds of a Father" (the scenes of Sylvester's miniature aeroplane going berserk and training its automatic weaponry upon him as he flees into a TNT shed) that had been done of the CBC's March, 1975 telecast of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 2. It was the first glimpse that I ever had of a videocassette recorder, and I was determined to eventually own one!
On a visit to Fredericton, my mother and I travelling thereto from Newcastle via a S.M.T. bus (which departed Newcastle from a terminal next to the Miramichi Hotel on Castle Street) to stay with my grandparents for the weekend of May 18-19, 1974, my mother and I were returning to my grandparents' Bristol Street house after a Saturday afternoon shopping jaunt, and there on the television screen was the shown-earlier-than-scheduled-for-that-day episode of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBC. CHSJ-TV (received in Fredericton) did not videotape-delay that Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode presented on CBC that day. Such was a very rare instance of a Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode shown on CBC outside of the summer months, not to be videotape-delayed by CHSJ. And it was an episode that I had never seen before, starting with "A Pizza Tweety Pie", with an abundance of cartoons with Sylvester and Tweety (also including "Trip For Tat", "Dog Pounded", and "Claws in the Lease") and a cartoon, "Lighter Than Hare", with Yosemite Sam as a spaceman leading an army of robots and other mechanical things, stalking Bugs, who was living in a junk yard. This was Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 10. I had missed the first couple of minutes of it and was worried that my father at home in Douglastown (who was going to audiotape for me this television programme from CKCD, which was, again, a more reliable CBC affiliate than CHSJ that was received in Fredericton) would have been caught unaware, too, by the CBC's earlier-than-listed telecast of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and not audiotape-recorded it. But when he arrived in Fredericton to join my mother and I, the fully recorded audiotape in his hand, on Sunday around noon, after my grandparents, my mother, and I returned from church to my grandparents' house, I was elated!
The reason for the early Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour telecast on May 18, 1974 was special CBC Television coverage of the Preakness Stakes. There apparently had been some confusion as to which of the Canadian television networks (CBC or CTV) would be broadcasting coverage of the 1974 Preakness. The Kentucky Derby two weeks previous had been shown by CTV, and it is possible that the compilers of television listings erroneously believed that same would be true for the Preakness and that Bugs and the Road Runner on CBC would air at its usual time.
As a matter of fact, television listings had been wrong also about which Canadian broadcaster would be televising the 1974 Kentucky Derby. They had the Kentucky Derby indicated as airing on CBC Television on May 4, preempting The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, but The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour did air that day as normal (on CBC- and on CKCD), with the Kentucky Derby being shown on CTV.
I remember talking at school's back steps with Kevin MacD. about there not being expected a Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode on the next coming Saturday, the May 4 Saturday, per what was being stated on newsprint about that Saturday's television programming.
May 4's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode was quite Sylvester-heavy, the lisping cat being in four of the seven cartoons therein, and that episode's broadcast on that date was the first time that I saw it and most of its constituent cartoons. "Tree For Two" and "A Bird in a Bonnet" were particularly memorable in impression quotient in my first-time-ever viewing of them that evening. And whenever I see "A Bird in a Bonnet", final cartoon in that Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode, the memory of a sunny spring Saturday evening in Douglastown comes clearly to mind.
On the conveyance of my mother and I from Newcastle to Fredericton by S.M.T. bus, my memories include my mother's disapproval of me pressing my chin and lower lip along the rim of the bus window latch nearest our seats, the bus driver announcing all of the stops of the bus en route to our destination, and our wait to board the bus at the Newcastle terminal. My mother and I rode the S.M.T. bus from Newcastle to Fredericton at least four times, and on one of those four times, we both had a meal at a restaurant (Jean's Restaurant) across the street from the bus terminal, and I vividly remember hot chicken sandwiches with thick brown gravy being a popular item at said eating establishment.
We went by S.M.T. bus from Fredericton to Miramichi region too. But rather less than we used S.M.T. busses for the opposite direction of travel. Usually, my father would come to Fredericton sometime later and join us there, the three of us returning to Douglastown together in our car.
I remember sitting in Douglastown's St. Mark's Church, the Sunday sun beaming through the windows of that church, on the morning of May 26, 1974. That was the day after the CBC's May 25 broadcast of instalment 11 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, the first time ever for me to view that distinctly striking Bugs Bunny/Road Runner instalment (with cartoons "Tweet and Sour", "Hot Cross Bunny", "Muzzle Tough", "Bugs' Bonnets", and others). I was greatly enamoured with that particular Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour television series entry, most especially by its visuals. And concepts, too, of course. The look of Granny's stylised "modern Victorian" rural house in "Tweet and Sour" and the through-the-window perspectives in that cartoon's opening scene had firmly grabbed my impressionable attention. And the city brownstone of "Muzzle Tough" and some of the ways of "staging" of visualisation and action in that, ditto. The hospital theatre and laboratory of "Hot Cross Bunny" had held my rapt regard, too. At church that following morning, I was in my seat, itching for the church services to conclude so that I could listen to my Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour audiotape recording at home. I further have memories of walking about Douglastown that Sunday afternoon, thinking about imagery of the cartoons aforementioned in this paragraph, as I observed the happenings and scenery of our lovely village under the sunny, blue, spring-afternoon sky. Sights in the cartoons are combined in my mind with my sights of the village.
As previously mentioned, I was invited to Kevin MacD.'s place for an afternoon visit with him on sunny Saturday, June 1, 1974, and I saw the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode with the cartoons, "Mississippi Hare", "Duck Amuck", "Tweet Zoo", etc. later that day after returning home and having supper. Very gratified, I was, to have spent some quality time with my friend that afternoon.
The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 15 (with "From Hare to Heir", "Highway Runnery", "Greedy For Tweety", etc.) aired on Saturday, June 22, 1974, and I remember watching that instalment's final cartoon, "Compressed Hare", while anticipating Johnny and Rob's arrival in Douglastown from Ontario that evening for their summer stay with their grandparents. And they did arrive that evening. They were in fact outside to talk with me after that day's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour had ended.
On the final weekend of July, 1974, my parents and I went to Edmundston, New Brunswick, to see what life was like on the other side of the province. We departed from home on Friday morning. After a short stop at a fishery in the Newcastle outskirt of Red Bank, we trekked across New Brunswick on a seldom-used highway from Renous to Plaster Rock. It must have been the most boring two hours that I ever spent in a car. Not a single variation in the scenery. In Edmundston, I bought a stamp-collecting set for my short-lived interest in that particular hobby. We returned home via Fredericton on Saturday afternoon, stopping in Fredericton to visit my grandparents for close to an hour. Johnny and Rob informed me on my return to Douglastown that they had on that Saturday afternoon (while I was on the road) seen the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour twentieth instalment containing "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide", which I expected would that day be shown on the CBC, even though the previous week's episode (instalment 19, with "A-Lad-in His Lamp", "Strangled Eggs", "Kit For Cat", "Snow Business", etc.) had been preempted by a baseball game.
Instalment 19's preemption on its turn in the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode sequence in summer of 1974 had the effect of making its subsequent winter (January of 1975) transmission quite precious and very much anticipated. A full year separated 1974 and 1975 telecast of it on CBC. I was apt to listen often to my audiotape-recording of what seemed to be the rarest of the twenty-six Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hours on CBC and CKCD- and do remember there being a "Who is CUSO?" advertisement immediately after Sylvester and Tweety are served by Granny with an overabundance of bird seed and a car-driving Bugs and slingshot Wile E. Coyote collide and the closing credits of my favourite cartoon television show were run at close to 7 P.M. on Saturday, January 19, 1974. The international aid agency of the mentioned post-Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour announcement will forever be associated in my mind with Sylvester striving for shelter in Elmer Fudd's home on a snowy night or that same cartoon feline's attempts to survive in a snowbound cabin by eating Tweety before a voracious, starving mouse can dine upon his cat's tail, and with Bugs in Baghdad, Bugs in the Ozarks, Wile E. Coyote tunnelling to the Orient, a blue-spotted Phillips-brand T-90 audiocassette, and me inside a cosy, warm Douglastown house on a cold winter's evening. I also have memories of the M*A*S*H episode, "Bulletin Board", airing on CBC on the Friday night before instalment 19 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was due to re-circulate on Saturday, January 18, 1975 and me thinking from time to time about being able to again see the cartoons included in the nineteenth episode of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour.
And there was a family reunion at my grandparents' house on Saturday, August 3, 1974. Both of my cousins from Ontario were in the living room with me, watching "Beanstalk Bunny" of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 21 to the final cartoon, "Run, Run, Sweet Road Runner", of said instalment, as we all digested the feast that we had enjoyed in my grandparents' backyard. As I say, such is the essence of my personal connection with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. The memory of an episode always connects with that of life experiences concurrent to, or before or after, that episode's broadcast on the CBC and its affiliate television stations in New Brunswick.
Whilst The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was a Saturday-at-6-P.M. offering, the CBC News was its successor on the day's schedule on both the main CBC network in eastern Canada and on CKCD. I remember watching a news report about an Antarctic expedition of some sort needing to be rescued, its team members brought to the southern tip of South America. And some years later, I shuddered as a CTV news anchorman for Canada A.M. spoke of a commercial airline crash in Antarctica. Sounded to be quite the lethal continent, that white expanse at the bottom of the world! One evening while with my parents to eat dinner at the restaurant at front of the Fundy Line Motel in Newcastle, I was thinking of writing a book about a person inadvertently becoming stranded on the Antarctic Peninsula after being misdirected and sailing south from Cape Horn. I thought then that the distance between the southernmost extremity of South America and the northern reaches of Antarctica was quite small and that doom awaited anyone who mistakenly went too far past the last parts of land on South America.
On summer Saturdays with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour airing at its normal 6-to-7-P.M. time (its airtime not being affected by some special sports telecast), I would usually go outside immediately after the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner end credits had finished, and wander about the road behind my place in wait of an appearance outdoors of my friends, Michael, Johnny, and Rob. I could rely on such an appearance by most, if not all, of them, not long after The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour's broadcast had concluded. The look of middle Douglastown on a summer's evening, the breezes blowing along the back road, the scents in the air, all are everlasting in my memory, and connected indelibly to my very vivid recall of viewing The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour in the summertime.
With our joining each other on those Saturday evenings, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour would usually be the subject of initial discussion, me leading the discussion with some of my more easily articulated impressions, before talk would shift to matters of our evening's fun activity, which tended to involve my garage and the project that was being undertaken therein.
One evening in the summer of 1974, my friends and I had planned our first sleep-over in the garage. I think that sleep-over was meant as something of a "tie-in" to the garage's transformation into a hotel that summer. They supplied their own sleeping bags, and my mother and father moved my bed's mattress into the garage because I did not then have a sleeping bag. Johnny brought his ghost story comic books with which to spook us, and Michael provided some Triscuit biscuits and a shortwave radio, on which we received a station from Africa! We talked and talked and could not fall asleep. Finally, I decided that sleep would be impossible, and my parents and I moved my mattress back in our house. But I urged my friends to stay in the garage and finish the sleep-over, believing my presence there to be a catalyst in preventing sleep. They agreed to remain, but when dawn came, I rushed to the garage and found that everyone had gone home! A few hours later, they came to see me and said that they all left the garage an hour after I did.
Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalments 22, 23, and 24 aired, respectively, on August 10, 17, and 24, 1974, as I expected that they would. Each one of them. By then, I was fully cognisant of the same sequence of episodes being run from March to September as from September to March. After instalment 24 (with "Hyde and Go Tweet", etc.) on August 24, I was outside in my front yard, doing jumps from the curb running along the front yard perimeter, and pretending that I was in some sort of post-Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour CBC Television sports special. I was alone that evening, for Johnny and Rob had left Douglastown and returned to Ontario four days previous, and Michael was away to somewhere that day.
I recall Johnny coming to visit me on summer Saturday mornings in 1974 and 1975 as I was marvelling at the audacious premises and depictions of Rocket Robin Hood. One Rocket Robin Hood episode that I was in the process of watching on Johnny's arrival at my house, involved Rocket Robin on a typically creepy alien planet whose otherworldly surface was distinguished by austere rock formations. Rocket Robin was assisting an ancient-Roman-styled city to repel attacks by fearsome giant dinosaurs expelling blasts of energy from their nostrils. The images in "The Eternal Planet of Romarama" Rocket Robin Hood adventure were menacing, eerie, stark, and compelling. Par for the course for the bizarre cartoon television series that was cultivated from the same gloomy and frequently psychedelic seed as much of the Spiderman television show that tended then to air on Saturday mornings along with Rocket Robin Hood. Johnny sat with me in my living room and watched the Roman-Empire-in-space Rocket Robin Hood story, as captivated and on the edge of his seat as I was with the action that was unfolding. On another Saturday, Johnny joined me, again in my living room, as I was watching Rocket Robin on an even scarier planet with copious craters, weird rock protrusions, and plant life that looked anything but benign. Monstrous shadows were stalking a boy and his dog amidst a forest that looked as though the trees and rocks had hands. "Lord of the Shadows" was intense enough for Saturday morning viewing, as too was "The Living Planet" with its enwrapping, fiercely biting plant creatures, Rocket-Robin-swallowing craters and chasms, electrified trees, and a scientist with a sickening pallor controlling the whole grotesque biosphere by way of a fantastic machine with brain impulse gauges and towering power sources. But nothing could prepare me for the horrific scenario of "Dementia Five", which as anyone familiar with both Rocket Robin Hood and Spiderman (on which the same terror tale was portrayed, with Spidey in the same predicament as Rocket Robin) knows, is an experience far beyond just about anything that would be expected from Saturday morning children's television. Unnerving, disturbing, and scary does not begin to describe it. Whoever had produced these entertainments had spared nothing in the way of freakish visuals, spine-tingling, nerve-tightening, haunting music, and nightmarish situations for the heroes, and no extent of violent threat (whole galaxies being destroyed by the diabolically laughing, red, skeletal, one-eyed, villain) was too much for the producers to foist upon an impressionable, juvenile viewer.
And there was another episode, "Space Giant", in which a humble, naive, and exceedingly friendly colossus of a man on an alien world is turned into a bellowing destroyer by way of a lightning strike above his head, his murderous mania induced because the microscopic organisms in the cloud engineering the lightning strike want to eradicate the normal-sized humanoid inhabitants of a city on the planet. It was a story that reminded me of one that I had seen on Yogi's Gang, wherein Yogi Bear and his friends in their flying ark were offered unconditional, loving hospitality by a kindly benefactor who was changed drastically into a polar opposite personality by a comparable kind of external stimulus- villains pouring hate and prejudice, from flour sacks, into a concoction of foul emotions that they discharged from a projector gun, by which to induce distinctly anti-social and unpleasant behaviour in the formerly nice host to Yogi and friends. And when the effect of the gun's first discharge stops and the affected person reverted to his normal amiable self, a secondary personality-changing blast was administered. The turning of meek and mild people into anything but, had always upset me. The parallel to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as seen in the cartoons with Bugs Bunny and his colleagues, was so evident that there could be no denying it. By tapping into that brand of apprehension within me, Rocket Robin Hood's storytellers scored, and scored as big as the towering height of the episode's titled guest-character. Rocket Robin and company soon discover the source of the friendly giant's drastic change of disposition and thwart the microscopic antagonists, and the giant's gentle nature returns in a permanent way. Of course, the imagery of the episode was of the usual suggestively skewed standard, with all scenes of the giant's rampage being rendered with a fiery red hue to the whole screen.
I remember that on the second opportunity to view said episode some months later, I was committed to a Saturday morning Cub Scout bottle drive and had to leave home just as "Space Giant" was starting on my black-and-white television set in my upstairs bedroom. That said, despite occasional Saturday morning engagements elsewhere, I did see nearly every episode of Rocket Robin Hood between 1975 and 1978, before both it and Spiderman were gone from television screens in my Earthly region for several years. Watching Rocket Robin and Will Scarlet riding Halley's Comet after Prince John had banished them by teleporter to the usual desolate environment of an uncharted asteroid; gaping, mouth open in stunned awe, as a culturally advanced planet name of Thor was frozen in time- while a girl on the planet was dribbling a ball, and then shrunk to walnut size and heisted by a marauding, yellow-brown-complexioned space rogue with a pointed horn headgear; beholding walking Egyptian mummies and a giant, spaceship-swallowing sphinx; or seeing Rocket Robin and his cohorts piloting a bubble-cockpit spaceship amid the multi-coloured clouds, enormous, bleak planetary spheres, and distant star-dots that comprised the standard Rocket Robin Hood space milieu; all of these are indelibly imprinted on my memory of that age of my life. Occasional light-hearted hi-jinks with Rocket Robin and the Merry Men besting and humiliating the despotic Prince John and the bumbling Sheriff of N.O.T.T. were welcome relief from the extreme spatial spookiness of the other episodes. I remember Johnny and Rob, and nobody else, being with me as I watched Rocket Robin Hood. For some reason, my memories of Rocket Robin Hood in my mid-1970s experiencing of it, are all of summer broadcasts, when Johnny and Rob were in Douglastown, or when I was readying to depart my home for some Cubs-related meeting or activity, during which I recall being outdoors and seeing full foliage on trees and bushes. I did do several bottle drives for Cubs in bitterly cold weather. That I will never forget! But me embarking upon a chilly weather bottle drive thinking about Rocket Robin Hood either simultaneously or at an earlier hour that day being on television at home, is not a memory that comes to mind. But whatever the season, whatever the occasion, as a primer for what would eventually be an enamoured and comprehensive interest in space and science fiction, the adventures of the Rocket Robin and the Merry Men in year 3000 was a superlative, psyche-affecting offering for a young lad. Rocket Robin Hood geared my mind toward being very receptive to the futuristic and spatial and alien phenomena of live-action science fiction television shows. And so too did Spiderman, most particularly its episodes with advanced technology on display and its episodes set in otherworldly locales.
Spiderman was produced by the same company, Krantz Films, that made Rocket Robin Hood and shared the same producer, Ralph Bakshi, for its, to me, most visually appealing episodes. As both Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood had voice talent based in Canada, if not also some of their cartoon animation, they both received substantial amounts of airtime as "Canadian content" on television stations in Canada, including the CTV television network's eastern-Maritime-provinces broadcasting branch, in the 1970s. And CKCD, which was affiliated with both CTV and the CBC. Ralph Bakshi's Spiderman episodes visualise even the skyline of New York City as something compellingly moody, and they have a tendency to go for imaginative extremes in their stories. Bakshi also liked to depict villains as having a green or yellow-green tint to their skin. Such is an artistic choice. To depict evil as having a changing effect upon physical appearance, turning that appearance sickly coloured, i.e. green or yellow-green.
Spiderman aired on Saturday mornings with Rocket Robin Hood but also was shown on weekdays during noon hour for the summer of 1975 (for the full hour) and for a sizable part of the 1975-6 television season (in a half-hour format, sharing the noon hour with The Flintstones or some other enjoyable television programme). One of my earliest Spiderman viewings was of "The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian", a half-episode-spanning Spidey story whose titled antagonist character was a rather disagreeable-looking scientist with yellow-green complexion working in a laboratory (a kind of room that was always a sight to turn my spine rigid and my blood to feel chilled) and shown in facial close-up swallowing a purplish fluid from a glass. No Mr. Hyde transformation. And thank goodness for that! The scientist's original appearance was foul enough. I could not help but sigh with satisfied relief when Spiderman doused this periodically disappearing, villainous savant in mounds of sweet ice cream installed by Spidey in sprinklers within a bank vault. On the Saturday morning in spring of 1975 on which I saw "The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian", there had been a preceding Spidey instalment that began with "Sky Harbour", whose villain was a German baron, also of a disconcerting pallor, intent on dominating the world from the skies with World War One fighter aeroplanes with quite sophisticated weaponry. Every time in the mid-1970s that I would find "Sky Harbour", I would know that the episode with "The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian" was soon to come. After I saw "The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian" that spring-of-1975 Saturday, I accompanied my father to the Douglastown general store for a loaf of Butternut Bread and a look at the following Saturday's television listings in The Moncton Times to see if The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour would be airing on CBC Television and CKCD at its regular time (it was so-listed).
Memories of seeing Spiderman during this part of my life (the mid-1970s) are ubiquitous. This was when I saw every one of the 52 Spiderman episodes for the first time. "Menace From the Bottom of the World" was shown with "Diamond Dust" on a bright, hot day in summer of 1975, as I watched both episodes in my living room, captivated by the stylish depictions of a cavernous netherworld- and startled by rapid film cuts to Spidey web-swinging directly and very fast "into the camera". My foot wiggled constantly, my chin bobbed energetically, and I smiled with delighted satisfaction while the incidental music played. Exquisite! "Criminals in the Clouds" was also seen by me for the first time during a noontime broadcast, during my lunch hour at home when I was in Grade 4 (by then, I was going to home for my lunches provided by my father who was also having his midday meal at home). The stylish, autumnal episode had Spidey in one of his earliest crime-fighting outings, with intrigue surrounding an industrialist's invisibility serum and a kidnap ransom scheme engineered by a villain with an aerial headquarters, that was sought by Spidey with yet more of that oh, so stirring musical accompaniment! "Home" aired with "Blotto" on another weekday noon hour in the summer of 1975. I found the former episode to be affectingly jazzy and solemn, a thoroughly sympathetic Spidey adventure culminating in an encounter with an imperilled and needy alien species. And as for the latter, what a ride! New York City was subject to the limitless appetite of an obliterating black blob, accentuated by expressively strident and climactic incidental tunes- visuals and audio that left me both petrified and edified. It was always as though the music was speaking to me and I was understanding every phrase of it. And when I saw the Spiderman versions of stories portrayed on Rocket Robin Hood, I was staggered! Coming at a time when my interest in futuristic and outer space entertainment was steadily building, these were glorious opportunities to revisit those weird and wild scenarios with a different, quite Earthly lead character.
There were so many episodes, especially ones that hailed from the production team of Ralph Bakshi, that appealed to me on all levels. Visceral to intellectual. The radiation specialist and Dr. Atlantian episodes and the gravity-defying, island-undermining-and-sinking, willpower-weakening technologies wielded by these verdantly complexioned villains with weak left eyes, had me riveted, my imagination alight, and the music, as always, was supremely effective! I adored the design of the nuclear reactor's interior control panels and the potential of the technology portrayed. The seldom shown "Cold Storage", with its harrowing, nightmarish Spidey ordeal in a future, post-apocalyptic New York City, was always much desired. And "Conner's Reptiles" and "The Winged Thing" were included in the noon Spidey showing- accompanied by the "Room For Two" episode of The Flintstones- during the Groundhog Day Gale of 1976 while Michael was at my house in addition to a teenage girl, whom my mother had hired to come to our house for the day, to cook my lunch and supervise me. Michael was telling me about the movie, Jaws, about which he had become knowledgeable, and showing to me the novelisation of said movie, while we were witnessing on television the rampage of a walking, talking lizard in the Florida Everglades. This was before the wind mangled the antenna tower connected to my house later that day. My father hooked a portable pair of "rabbit ears" to our television set while repairs were being done to the antenna tower, and on the next day, February 3, 1976, at school, I was impatient for the morning to end so that I could be at home for lunch, watching the anticipated next Spidey instalment with the electrically charged, giant snowman- "Trouble With Snow".
I do not recall seeing the Spiderman episode, "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension", very much in the 1970s. I mostly knew the wildly psychedelic encounter with the one-eyed, skeletal Infinata and his most outlandish minions and setting by way of the Rocket Robin Hood iteration of it. I can only remember seeing Spidey tangle with Infinata during a stay at my grandparents' house in Fredericton in, I think, 1975. But I feel quite sure that I saw it one other time. Sometime earlier than that. When I was at home in Douglastown.
I always marvelled at the depictions of space in Bugs Bunny's cartoons with Marvin the Martian. One of those cartoons, "Hare-Way to the Stars", whose action is mostly on a rather minimalist Martian space platform, was especially captivating. It was the final cartoon of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 5 (whose CBC telecast I remember best was on April 13, 1974), and the isolated representations of high technology set against the vast, stark black of space and the by times eerie notes of music left me with particularly potent sense of both awe and apprehension. The visualisation of space was not exactly the same as that in Rocket Robin Hood but no less compelling to my impressionable mind. I later listened to my audiotape-recording of that cartoon in said Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode as I sat in our Douglastown house's dining room above the heating vent of the house's main floor, and I remember reckoning that space was a daunting but fascinating and always appealing (to me) milieu for cartoon happenings, whatever those happenings may be. And I was reminded of a pencil case of compelling images of celestial bodies and cosmic space, that I had when I was in Grade 1.
In the months that I was becoming acquainted with and appreciative of the episodes of Rocket Robin Hood and Spiderman and continuing to be steadfastly in love with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, I was experiencing many other television programmes. Most of the popular situation comedies hailing from the United States, as shown on either the CBC or the CTV television network, were among them. I saw an early episode of Happy Days with Richie Cunningham living in apartment with his older brother, Chuck, who subsequently disappeared, never to even be mentioned again. I watched All in the Family and its main character, the ever-grouchy Archie Bunker, who pejoratively nicknamed his son-in-law as "Meathead". And I followed The Mary Tyler Moore Show through its many seasons and changes to its cast of characters. And there was The Jeffersons, Good Times, and a new "hit" comedy called Chico and the Man. And the variety television series, Carol Burnett (a Thursday evening mainstay on CBC Television through most of the 1970s). And Canadian productions were copiously in the schedules, several of them television game shows of rather inventive concept, such as Pay Cards! (I saw that on weekdays while at the Walshes' place), This is the Law, Headline Hunters, and Definition. And for situation comedy, an oddity called Excuse My French (which I remember Michael mentioning in a joke one evening in 1975). The Swiss Family Robinson aired after Planet of the Apes in the autumn of 1974 and continued for months into 1975 after Planet of the Apes' cancellation. And I remember saying to Evie and Kevin MacD. one evening that I was going home to watch The Swiss Family Robinson as we parted company from a position at the foot of Kelly Drive.
And there was mention of the exotic name of Golda Meir on the news reports during Canada A.M., and frequent advertisements for a CTV television series called Maclear, featuring Michael Maclear, a television journalist who visited foreign locations. I can recall delving into my Childcraft encyclopaedia set volume about children of different countries on the same day that I saw an advertisement for Maclear on Canada A.M.. To my impressionable mind, the world was quite the diverse and beautiful place. The jungle safari music that opened each Untamed World half-hour television documentary on Saturdays at 7:30 P.M. was particularly cogent.
I delighted in watching television in the afternoons following my arrival at home, or at the Walshes' house after school. The Edge of Night, the continuing, weekday story of lawyers, policemen, and the forces of crime in the fictional city of Monticello, was always being viewed by Mrs. Walsh at her house, and that was how I became acquainted with and soon was quite the devotee to this rather violent, if occasionally sudsy, daytime serial. I remember being outside the Walshes' house, playing cars in the sand one sunny day in 1974, when I heard talk about Adam Drake, one of the Edge of Night lawyers, having been stabbed. I hurried inside, despite my revulsion at the thought of such violence, to witness the repercussions of the heinous deed said to have been perpetrated. I later remember Adam and his wife, Nicole, being the victims of a bomb on their boat in the Caribbean, and then, in 1975, the beginning of a long storyline about a woman- Nicole's cousin- with two personalities, quite naturally a premise that would capture my particular, avid interest for as long as that yarn was spinning on that ever so addictive television series.
Geared more to my age group in the shadow of The Edge of Night and the women's current affairs television show, Take 30, that followed (or for awhile preceded) The Edge of Night on the CBC afternoon schedule, was such fare (almost all viewed by me at home before dinner) as: Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins of which I have vague images of a dark-haired boy, who reminded me of my friend, Kevin MacD., experiencing many misadventures, often in the company of a pair of mobile-computer characters, the titled Zunkins; Hi Diddle Day with a hand puppet wolf called Wolfgang (inspired name!), that I recall watching at home following a visit to a Chatham dentist for a tooth operation, whilst the Novocain freezing effect was slowly dissipating; The Forest Rangers, the titled persons being a group of children having their own forest ranger station in an arboreal part of central Canada; Coming Up Rosie, a Canadian comedy starring several future SCTV personalities as offbeat office building tenants, their antics including an episode in which one of the characters, an actor named Dudley, does very much become Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and terrorises Dwayne, the building's doorman (scared me witless for the full duration of it and a Flintstones episode that aired after it); Salty, an endearing Florida Keys drama of two brothers, a young man and a pre-teenaged boy, and their pet sea lion; Zoom the White Dolphin and Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, both highly stylish European animated cartoon television series with soul-stirring music (especially for the former); Vision On, a lively, pantomime British offering about gadgets and contemporary art, hosted by three or four presenters, and the letters in its title casting a ninety degree reflection and both title and reflection combining to become a grasshopper-like insect; and The Tomorrow People- evolutionarily superior children in London, England with telepathic powers and a psychedelic laboratory. All wonderful material! There were even some short clay animation segments shown to fill some half-hour time slots when some of the programming under-ran an allotted time period. I also remember some Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour stage segments (e.g. Bugs walking into a backdrop and then demonstrating gravity) appearing as television airtime filler on the weekdays.
Sunday afternoons were usually replete with sports coverage on television, although I do recall viewing an episode or two of such occasional CBC-aired British dramas as The Adventures of Black Beauty and Upstairs, Downstairs- on some of the atypical Sunday afternoons during which I was not socialising with friends. For Sunday evenings after dinner, from 6 P.M. to 7 P.M., routine television viewing on CKCD (and, later, CHSJ) was of The Wonderful World of Disney, with its inclusion of Walt Disney Productions' theatrical films (e.g. The Strongest Man in the World and Now You See Him, Now You Don't of the Dexter Riley/inventive-college-students series of movies, The Sky's the Limit, Napoleon and Samantha, etc.) divided into two-part presentations to comprise a pair of consecutive weekly episodes of said television show, or compilations of cartoon shorts with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc., or serious or comical live-action travelogues (some of them introduced and narrated by an animated-cartoon professorial bear) involving antic elephants in Africa or naughty bears causing calamity in the kitchen of a deserted resort hotel. The Beachcombers was CBC's 7 P.M. stalwart on Sunday evenings, and after that, Sundays at 7:30 through much of my years living in Douglastown, was The Irish Rovers. Not an aficionado of the Rovers, I tended to go to our upstairs washroom for my Sunday bath from 7:30 to 8 P.M., after which I would sit with my parents and watch the CBC's telecast of The Waltons. Or in later years- 1976 and 1977- The Six Million Dollar Man.
My grandparents had a cottage. It was at Lake George, which was approximately twenty miles away from Fredericton. On the weekend of September 7 and 8, 1974, my parents and I were in Fredericton to stay with my grandparents for that weekend and the Monday thereafter. School in Douglastown did not begin that September until at least mid-week of the second week of the month. At my grandparents' house in Fredericton, I watched and audiotape-recorded the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment aired on CBC Television (and on CHSJ-TV) that weekend's Saturday, said instalment including "Rabbit Romeo", "Tweety and the Beanstalk", "Weasel While You Work", "A Street Cat Named Sylvester", etc.. We, my parents and grandparents and I, went to the cottage on the Sunday. I discovered that there was no power there for playing my audiotape machine; so, I therefore had to amuse myself with imaginative play for the duration of our time at the cottage. There was no running water, and an outhouse functioned as our toilet. I remember spending one night there, my mind mostly fixed upon listening to my Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour audiocassette-recording upon our return to my grandparents' house in Fredericton in the afternoon of Monday. There was a small general store part of the way back to the main highway, and a short excursion to there with my mother, my father, and my grandfather helped to pass some of the time. En route back to Fredericton on Monday, my grandfather gave a ride to a hitchhiker, for whom there was room in the back seat of my grandparents' car. Different times, then. Different times.
My grandparents sold their cottage in 1975. And it still stands at Lake George, where there is now power and running water.
After another, earlier stretch of time spent at my grandparents' cottage, as we were on our way back to Fredericton, I was marvelling at the highway and the strewn-with-graffiti stone cliffs running along the sides of the road and such additional sights as an impressively large Esso gasoline station and one or two expansive lodges. I hatched an idea of building a "Kevin's Highway" and started to "break ground" with it on the hill adjacent to the north rim of our Douglastown yard. I did not progress very far, but I did find a certain appeal in a story in the school second grade reader textbook, Seven is Magic, about the building of a highway up a mountain. In that story, a young boy looked forward to the completion of the highway so that he could see the other side of the mountain. And as the story neared its end, the boy met and befriended another boy, one who lived on the at-last-reachable other side of the mountain. The story appealed to me in its highway-building premise, and its friendship-formation coda would be supremely endearing to me in my look back upon it some fifteen years later.
On Saturday, September 14, 1974, instalment 1 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was shown on CBC Television (and on CKCD) at 6 P.M.. That was the first time that I had seen instalment 1 (with the cartoons, "My Bunny Lies Over the Sea", "Tweety's S.O.S.", "I Gopher You", etc.) since back in Era 1 when we, the family McCorry, were living in our mobile home. It had been preempted by an overlong college hockey game when it was to have aired on March 16, 1974 (I remember having had quite a temper tantrum about that, much to the chagrin of my mother). I do not remember how I missed its showings in autumn of 1972 and spring of 1973. Anyway, when on the evening of September 14, 1974 I saw Sylvester chasing Tweety on the ocean liner in "Tweety's S.O.S." and the Goofy Gophers pursuing "vandals" into a food processing factory in "I Gopher You", the memory of my earlier viewing of that episode and its cartoons readily came back to me with more than a fair degree of vividness. "Tweety's S.O.S." involved a bottle of seasickness remedy and another bottle of nitroglycerin and a pouring by Tweety of content of the latter into the former. I recalled myself easily to my initial viewing of that. And the rather daunting depiction of the food factory and disquieting presentment of its unrelenting processes (along with its predominantly deep-red colour palate). That, too. Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 1 has always "struck me" as having been quite a very red Bugs Bunny/Road Runner episode. In addition to the red in "I Gopher You", there was the red hair of the Scotsman in "My Bunny Lies Over the Sea", the red plaid in Granny's suite in the ocean liner in "Tweety's S.O.S.", plus the Red Cross on the door to the ocean liner's medicine room, and the reddish hue to the sands in the National Forest in "Tweet Tweet Tweety".
That day, September 14, 1974, I had visited Michael in the afternoon for a couple of hours and had, in Michael's family's living room, seen some of his older brother John's vinyl record albums, including one by a Black Sabbath musical group, with the title of BLACK SABBATH PARANOID. The imagery on the front cover of that vinyl record album was somehow appealing to me, and the title's words mystifying. A deep red set against background black made the vinyl record album "stand out" amongst all of the others in the vicinity of Michael's family's stereo. And the blur effect behind a man in harsh movement was rather dazzling to me. I remember asking my parents about the meaning of the words in that vinyl record album title as we were in our living room awaiting the commencement of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. In that day's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, in the first commercial interval (between the cartoons, "My Bunny Lies Over the Sea" and "Tweety's S.O.S."), there was an advertisement for Kenner's SSP Smash-Up Derby Set.
In October in 1974, the addition of a little black-and-white television set to my bedroom had me hatching the notion of converting the room to a "television-theatre". I remember arranging some furniture to produce rows of chairs, with the television set resting on a table against the side wall of the bedroom. I resolved to watch all television programmes henceforth in my own "home theatre" television-viewing area, which I hoped to open to my friends to join me in beholding a variety of television shows. The Friday evening on which the Planet of the Apes episode, "The Good Seeds", aired on CKCD marked the first time that I viewed a television show in my thusly-transformed bedroom. And on the Saturday thereafter, I watched Funtown, The Tree House, and most other morning and early afternoon Saturday television offerings, and 6 P.M.'s Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour ("Shishkabugs", "Beep Prepared", "A Fractured Leghorn", etc.), in monochrome in my room. It was not very long before I craved to see full-colour television once more and dropped like a hot potato the "television-theatre" idea (my contracting of the mumps in early November had also resulted in an indefinite delaying of the inaugural event for attendance of friends to my "television-theatre"), but it was a kernel of conception that would in years hence pop to a for some while fairly robust form of audiotape and, later, videotape presentations. The black-and-white television continued to be useful, though. On many an evening when I was in Grade 5, I would lay in bed, watching television until I fell asleep. And when my parents did not wish to watch something that I wanted to see, like the French-language version of Space: 1999, the upstairs black-and-white television set would be my recourse.
Anti-smoking Public Service Announcements were being shown on television in 1974 and in 1975. The National Film Board of Canada cartoon-animated many of them, and just about all of them I found to be disturbing. I suppose that was the intended effect with them. Two of the least disturbing but by no means ineffectual were the ones showing hopeless-looking smoking men walking in a chain gang (with a narration comment of, "Do you smoke hard? What a slave!") and a man desperately chasing a lit dynamite fuse in a quest to light his cigarette with the sparks of the running fuse, and dying by total obliteration in the explosion of the dynamite before his cigarette can be lit. "Some people will do anything for a cigarette," was the narrated annotation to the latter. The one that was most unnerving for me had a man in a fancy-dress suit and top hat (a Victorian-looking "get-up") playing a piano in a spacious, ornate mansion, with an attractive, cigarette-holding woman in an upstairs room, and that woman saying, "Light me, Harry." The cigarette became a long, ropey extension running down a winding stairwell to the man at the piano, and the man, Harry, lit it at his end and hurriedly followed the protracted run of the cigarette all of the way up the stairs whilst music continued to be heard, building to a crescendo as the man reached the top of the stairs and approached the room with the woman inside. Then, a super-close-up of Harry as he reacted in horror to what he saw in the room. The woman had turned into an ugly hag, coughing and wheezing. And Harry fled. "The longer you smoke, the shorter life gets," said the annotated narration. Also quite distressing was one of the live-action ones. It had a woman with a pet skunk entering a restaurant whose staff and patrons were smoking heavily. She donned a gas mask and pulled the skunk out of its carrying bag, and the people around her in the restaurant reacted with sheer terror. And there was another one with a room full of smoking people coughing and gagging deathly in slow motion. Some of these anti-smoking Public Service Announcements did not make perfect sense to me (I struggled to comprehend the one with the skunk and gas mask), but the "creep" factor was very effective. I would never smoke, nor ever even contemplate doing so. My mother smoked, and I wished that she would quit.
One of the anti-smoking Public Service Announcements memorably aired on a Saturday morning, in an episode of The Hudson Brothers Razzle-Dazzle Show. Autumn of 1974. It was one of the more obscure ones. It was cartoon-animated. A man was digging a hole and pulling a hat full of coins into it. A narrator said that the man was planning to cheat the government out of tax money and that the consequences of doing that could be "grizzly". The man imagined himself behind prison bars. His eyes opened wide with mortal distress, his teeth clenched, and his opened mouth almost filled the screen as he wildly exclaimed horror. He pulled the hat out of the hole and ran speedily, frantically into a building with signage of "Revenue". A second later, the man stepped outside of the building, his hat on his head. He lit a cigarette and started puffing on it, the narrator then saying that stopping smoking would be a legal way of denying the government money in taxes. And in reaction to the narrator's statement, the man became hysterical and scurried away with an increasingly demented laugh, as his again removed hat collected coins falling from the sky. As I describe it here, this Public Service Announcement may make sense, perhaps perfect sense. But back then, with my eight-year-old's knowledge, I found it to be vague, quite inscrutable. But still fascinating. That man's eyes, his mouth, and his laugh unsettled me. And when that Public Service Announcement would again be manifest on my living room television set, my spine would tingle and my body would go tense. Rather what the effect was upon me when I saw a representation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in the cartoons of Warner Brothers, or in a cartoon on The Pink Panther Show, or in Spiderman. Etc..
Grade 3 (1974-5) is remembered for collecting and exchanging of marbles, playing Planet of the Apes, and going on class excursions to C.F.B. Chatham and to Kouchibouquac Provincial Park, where we frolicked on a beach and boardwalk (and I brought with me my plush-toy Road Runner, to the amusement of some of my classmates). That year, our teacher, Mrs. Jardine, read to us Charlotte's Web, The Bully of Barkham Street, The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, and a thick, little book (provided by me) with Mickey Mouse and Goofy as lemonade vendors whose business attracts the attention of aliens from outer space. She taught us how to construct paper mache Indian masks, dye T-shirts, and speak a few French words. We saw films in the school library about kayaking on rapids, Eskimo life, and the planets of the Solar System. We read about space exploration, Barnum and Bailey's Circus, ostriches, and Canadian and American pioneers in such textbooks as With Skies and Wings and All Sorts of Things. We ordered copies of Owl Magazine, another magazine entitled, Highlights, and Scholastic Books' novelisations of movies and books about then-current television shows. There was also a physical competition day (it could not have been called "track-and-field" since the school had neither a track nor a large field) in which I was the wheelbarrow in a wheelbarrow race. My partner and I actually scored a respectable second or third place finish.
While in Grade 3, I started bringing my audiocassette machine and some of my audiotape-recordings with me to school, to play in the morning or early afternoon before classes. There was a power socket near the back of the Grade 3 classroom, and on a high table beside a heater was put my audiotape apparatus, from its speaker coming such things as "Two's a Crowd", the Claude Cat and Frisky Puppy cartoon within instalment 25 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and The Wonderful World of Disney's "Two Against the Arctic" episode. My classmate, Ronnie, expressed some interest in the latter of these, I recall. Grade 3 was also the year that The Six Million Dollar Man attained its most prominent role in discussions among my classmates and I. It was in its second season that broadcast year (1974-5). I remember being at my desk and thinking about such Six Million Dollar Man episodes as "Straight On 'Til Morning" (bionic man Steve Austin meeting space aliens) and "Stranger in Broken Fork" (an amnesiac Austin in a small town) and visualising the quite disturbing image of an intubated Austin in a hospital and the exciting representation of him running at sixty miles-per-hour (both of which were in the famous introductory sequence for each Six Million Dollar Man episode). I also remember there being on one morning in Grade 3 some extensive discussion about a television movie about the Bermuda Triangle. And that prompting me to do some reading about the Triangle and the Sargasso Sea.
One day in the middle of Grade 3, as I and my classmates were working toward completion of standardised multiple-choice tests, I periodically perused the pages of my newly acquired part-illustrated, part-textual little storybook about the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (a Big-Little Book by Whitman Publishing, as, too, was the Mickey Mouse book previously referenced two paragraphs above). It had animated cartoon action that could be effected by flipping rapidly through top-right corner of all of the book's pages. Books such as these were available for purchase at department stores such as The Met in the Miramichi Mall in Newcastle.
I was in Cub Scouts at this time and recall bottle drives on bitter cold days, planting trees in a Chatham field, handing around the collection plates at church, going to father-son bean banquets, and attending weekly meetings on Monday night, first in the church hall behind our house, then in the village community centre directly across the road.
For a portion of Grade 3, Mrs. Jardine was on maternity leave, and her substitute was a Mrs. Addison. I recall queueing with my classmates at teacher's desk for Mrs. Addison to evaluate our work on a class assignment. And as I was standing in the line, I glanced out the classroom window to my home, which was visible from the windows of our third grade classroom. And it was also during Grade 3 that I became very much interested in world geography, and the large world map in our classroom was key in the growth of such interest. The varied conditions on Earth and the look of the planet's continents, islands, oceans, and seas, and peculiarities such as the aforementioned Bermuda Triangle/Sargasso Sea, intrigued me increasingly that year in school. And my interest in the look and the comportment of the Earth, would expand into space to include the appearance and condition of other planets, too.
I was most particularly fascinated with the vast expanse of whiteness at the very bottom of that flat world map in our Grade 3 classroom. So much so, that I consulted my Encyclopaedia Britannica about it, and learned about how inhospitable and lethal that the continent of Antarctica could be. There was a Professor Kitzel televised cartoon that began with a penguin sitting on the titled science professor's time machine, which Kitzel activated in all of his cartoons to tell a factual story (by way of individual drawing cels and inventive camera movements) about some historical personage. And in this particular cartoon, the subject of the story was Robert Falcon Scott, who raced to be first to reach the South Pole in 1911-2 and, along with his team of men, perished in Antarctica from starvation and exposure to extreme cold, while struggling to return from the Pole to their base camp in McMurdo Sound. I recall being distinctly unsettled by the story of Scott, shivering about it as the Flintstones episode, "Droop-Along Flintstone", followed it during one weekday lunch hour in early 1976. I had also watched (and audiotape-recorded) a Jacques Cousteau television special about the Antarctic one Friday evening in February of 1974. At school, in Grade 3, a classmate, Darryl, and I had an argument over whether the land mass at the bottom of the world as seen on our classroom map, was the coldest place on Earth as I maintained, or the hottest place as he claimed (on the premise that going further south always means hotter weather). We approached Mr. Donahue, school principal and our Grade 3 science teacher, and asked him to settle the dispute, and I was stunned when he answered that Antarctica is neither the coldest nor hottest location on Earth. I knew from my own research that it was coldest but also knew not to contradict our school principal.
My mother always lamented the amount of television that I watched and/or audiotape-recorded, but I enjoyed the television shows so very much and my skills at writing, drawing, and mimicking character voices prospered along with them, and I had acquired factual knowledge like that about Robert Falcon Scott from television, too; hence, my mother indulged my enthusiasm. I continued to watch television after school. I also tended to watch early evening television programmes at least three times per week, particularly in the autumn and winter. In spring and summer, I watched somewhat less television, though year-round, Saturday was my "big day" for sitting in front of "the tube" (to my annoyance, my mother always referred to it as "the idiot box") and letting my imagination be swept away to cartoon worlds and such. Sundays were least remarkable for television, and it was on Sundays that I usually socialised, although a telephone call from Kevin MacD. on a Saturday with an invitation to visit him, could easily entice me away from the television for a few hours, and if Evie or anyone else happened to appear at my house during the day, they were certainly welcome to watch the television programmes with me, if they felt so-inclined.
Michael watched The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour with me in my living room on many Saturdays in the 1974-5 television season (the final television season for Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour broadcasts on CBC Television), and some of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hours in which his presence by my side is most remembered were the one with "Stupor Duck", "Catty Cornered", "Wet Hare", and Bugs "filling in" for the Road Runner in "Hare Breadth Hurry" (Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment number 9 as transmitted on the CBC on November 9, 1974), the surprise airing of the tenth episode starting with "A Pizza Tweety Pie" instead of the expected twenty-fourth instalment with "Hyde and Go Tweet", etc. on February 22, 1975, and the instalments of April 19 (with "Tweet Dreams", "One Froggy Evening", Hare-Less Wolf", etc.) and May 24 (with "Tweet and Sour", "Hot Cross Bunny", "Muzzle Tough", "Bugs' Bonnets", et al.) onto which the CBC grafted at the end of the show, the cartoon, "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide", lifted from the twentieth instalment that routinely aired on the final Saturdays in January and July. On the latter Saturday mentioned, I went bicycle riding with Michael to the general store down the road, immediately after The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour had ended in the early evening.
March Break in 1975 was between the CBC Television Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour broadcasts of March 15 and March 22. On March 15, Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 1, with "My Bunny Lies Over the Sea", "Tweety's S.O.S.", "I Gopher You", etc., was offered once more on CBC, and watched and audiotape-recorded by me in our Douglastown house's living room. On one of the weekdays of the week thereafter, I undertook the disastrous bringing of my cat, Sylvester, with me to Mrs. Walsh's place for a day. And, as previously stated, Sylvester escaped the hold of my arms, hid behind a bathtub, and had to be left overnight at the Walshes' home, subsequently running away outside before I could collect him the next morning. I was anguishedly calling out his name as I walked about the middle-Douglastown area before noon that overcast day, my mother by my side. She arranged to be home from work that day to console me in my grief over my lost pet, and my grieving at his evident demise. I sat sadly over the heating vent of our dining room early that afternoon, listening to my audiotape-recording of the previous Saturday's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, the cartoon, "Tweet Tweet Tweety", with Sylvester chasing Tweety in a National Forest, being particularly memorable, its first phrases of incidental music becoming melded with that solemn day in my memory. Specifically, the music before Sylvester pops out of a side container of a trailer, his name in printed lettering above the container hatch. Yes, the cartoon Sylvester had indeed inspired my naming of the second McCorry cat. A cat that my father would always remember as having an affectionate nature. A cat that was not to have been with us for even a year.
Our third cat, Frosty, was adopted on Saturday, June 7, 1975. I remember my parents calling me to the kitchen late in the morning with, "Kevin! Here's your kitten!" Frosty darted to a hiding place behind the kitchen stove, and needless to say, I was most insistent that my new feline pet not have any opportunity to bolt from her new home. She would be an indoor-outdoor cat, but not until she had come to know our place as hers, inside and out. We had a leash for her that ran along our backyard clothesline. The day that she was brought into our home was the Saturday in 1975 that Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 13 (with "This is a Life?", "The Jet Cage", "Mouse Wreckers", "Wideo Wabbit", etc.) was given its usual early-June transmission by CBC Television (it aired each year in early December and early June).
On Saturdays in the spring of 1975, there was shown on CBC Television- and on CKCD- a series of half-hour anthologies of short films made for children. Children's Cinema, it was called. Airtime, 2 P.M.. Some of the films were National Film Board of Canada productions. Some came from other countries. One particular film had actor Bob Vinci (who would later play the character of Duke on CBC Television's King of Kensington) as a struggling clown. It was mostly a pantomime performance. Some occasional words spoken. In short sentences. The clown was berated and spurned wherever he went, but near the end of the film seemed to find some acceptance from one person or a small group of persons. "There is hope," the clown said. For some reason, the film had me in tears. It "moved" me. Even privately thinking about it while I was in my bedroom one day, two days, several days after seeing it, induced almost instantaneous crying. An effect, I suppose, of the film's scenario and direction, Vinci's sympathetic acting, and some emotively expressive incidental music. A week later, I was with my parents in the city of Bathurst, 60 miles to the north of Douglastown, as they shopped for carpet (we also had lunch that day at the Big D drive-in restaurant in Bathurst), and my mind was very much upon Children's Cinema and the film that I had seen in it on the Saturday previous.
Assorted items of some note. Highways and junctions with signposts pointing in opposite directions and delineating distances were of some fascination to my young and impressionable psyche. In Fredericton, my grandparents' post-1973 Skyline Acres subdivision had a street named Liverpool that met the Vanier Highway at ninety degrees, with a sign on said highway, directly across-road from its connection with Liverpool Street, having arrows pointing left for Saint John, right for Edmundston, two New Brunswick cities some considerable distance from Fredericton. While staying with my grandparents, I used to ride my bicycle to the very end of Liverpool Street and survey the Vanier Highway and the aforementioned sign with wide-eyed wonderment. At my home in Douglastown, a section of our house's paved driveway proceeded from the garage and joined the driveway's main portion at the same angle as did Liverpool Street with the Vanier Highway in Fredericton. So, what did I do? Why, erect a sign, of course. With arrows and printed distances in miles along the driveway directly across from where the pavement to and from the garage linked at right angle with my driveway's "thoroughfare". There was a row of pine trees separating our driveway from the side yard of our next-door neighbours, the Matchetts. I planted my sign in front of those trees. Also compelling to me, and beckoning me toward "creative duplication" were the Teacher's Editions of the school reader textbooks in Grade 2, those distinctive and significantly more comprehensive versions of our colourful-pictures-and-entertaining-prose-filled editions of The Dog Next Door and How it is Nowadays having metal-ringed bindings. Desiring my own such special editions of the reader textbooks, I had my parents buy for me some with ringed notebooks in which I copied my school reader textbook pages one by one and put in the margins some quizzes and pupil assignment activities. Hall's Bookstore in Fredericton even had for sale the very Teacher's Editions of the reader textbooks that I wished to have, but the price asked for them was quite too high. In Grade 4, a fixture of our classroom was a rather large paper-flip-chart with each month of the year represented with a collage of colourful, weather-related visualisations. For several days after school, I was busy at home trying to reproduce, by drawing, the same images on some bristle board sheets.
Banana slices with sugar and milk were an evening treat for me during the mid-1970s, including on one memorable Sunday evening as I was watching The Six Million Dollar Man, the episode of which being one of a quite unsettling ordeal for Steve Austin and Rudy Wells marooned on an island whereon Rudy is infected into turning into a savage creature. On Saturday, April 19, 1975, as I was readying to audiotape The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, the instalment thereof that evening consisting of "Rabbit of Seville", "Fowl Weather", "Henhouse Henery", etc., my mother returned to our Douglastown home after a work-related sojourn in Fredericton, and she had for me a vinyl record of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which had for some reason captured my fancy. I have substantial recall, too, of sitting in the kitchen of our Douglastown house on Sunday mornings and listening to my Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour audiotape-recordings- and most particularly the Road Runner cartoons produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises with sprightly, often jingly Road Runner theme music. I remember watching my mother confecting cakes, mixing chili con carne, popping corn by a variety of methods (Jiffy Pop stove-top popcorn was my preferred means of producing the fluffy snack), and kneading, topping, and baking some Kraft cheese pizzas (which in those days had a spicier, tastier quality to them than in post-1990 times). The annual going-away parties for Johnny and Rob were something remarkable, too, as they, Michael, and I would twirl sparklers after dusk in the evening in Johnny and Rob's backyard (their dogs safely- for me- ensconced indoors for the occasion) sometime in August between the third and fourth Saturdays of that month, i.e. on one of the weekdays between CBC's- and CKCD's- Saturday Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment number 23 ("Rabbit Every Monday", "Tweety's Circus", etc.) and instalment 24 (with "Hyde and Go Tweet"). My mind would drift periodically during those parties toward the impending (on the Saturday to come) monster metamorphoses of Tweety Bird.
Further yet on "Hyde and Go Tweet". When I was in Grade 3, in the spring months of that school year, I had to go with my father early mornings, at around 7 A.M., to his C.F.B. Chatham place of employ, stay with him there for an hour, and then be given transportation by him back across the Miramichi River to Douglastown Elementary School. As I meandered the office area of the Chatham military base, I discovered a typewriter near my father's work station and began a professional-looking transcription of the story of "Hyde and Go Tweet". It would be many years hence before my writing about cartoons would be accessible by the public at large. For the time being, I brought the completed parts of my "Hyde and Go Tweet" typewritten text with me to school for eyebrow-raised perusal by certain of my classmates.
Some outings with my father were rather less appealing to my creative (or "spin-off-creative") impulse. On a sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-1975, he brought me with him to view a baseball game in Chatham, but I there became bored and restless very quickly- and walked off the grounds of the baseball field and played by myself on the sidewalk and grasses near to our car parked on a Chatham street, pretending, as I usually did, to be a television broadcaster showing programming featuring Bugs Bunny and other cartoon characters. If anybody had told me then that ten years in the future I would be a pundit of Major League Baseball and a frequent recreational player of the sport, I would have been more than a little incredulous. But by Grade 5, I was tiring of being a sure retiree at home plate during Physical Education games of baseball in the school yard and resolved on my own time and initiative to learn how to connect a swung wooden stick with a pitched sphere, starting my self-training by wielding an actual flat piece of wood to propel a rubber ball around the area of my house's side lawn. I indeed had a long way to go before I would be an effective winner at Abner Doubleday's invented game. But improvement had definitely begun.
The final day of Grade 3 was a sunny one, and Johnny and Rob, having already arrived in Douglastown for the summer, helped me to carry some of my school work to my home. They saw me coming across the wooden bridge between the school and my place and came at a run to my side. So started the summer of 1975, which I remember very fondly for all of the fun times that were had in garage conversion projects and for a number of very cogent, mind-imprinting experiences in my part of Douglastown and elsewhere.
The sun shone brightly, sometimes quite hotly, in the summer of 1975. With only one exception (a wet Sunday on which I visited Kevin MacD.), rainy or overcast days that summer do not readily come to mind, few in number that they were. What rain that did fall tended to be in thunderstorms that moved quickly over and past the localities of New Brunswick. I remember being bathed in hot sunlight and feeling the more than ample heat emanating from the pavement in front of Johnny and Rob's grandparents' house, as I was with Johnny and Rob in conversation about something. Shade was sparse there, and I was definitely perspiring. My thought went to the part of the Road Runner cartoon, "Rushing Roulette" (second cartoon in instalment 17 of the broadcast-on-CBC-Television Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour), showing an intensely radiant Sun in the sky and the Sun's light reflecting in a concentrated ray of energy off of a magnifying glass being operated by Wile E. Coyote. That was probably on a day of the week following CBC Television's airing on July 5, 1975 of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 17.
I recall being in that same place one other 1975 summer's day when Johnny and I were talking about warfare and the dropping of bombs from aeroplanes. It was a disturbing and alarming and quite revolting possibility as I looked around me at the placid beauty of middle Douglastown. I had heard Herbert W. Armstrong's ruminations about global war on his radio programme, but I think that this was the first time that I actually had a cogent visualisation of modern war's destructive power with regard to my own most highly agreeable circumstances. How could man be so callous as to bomb such a lovely habitat out of existence? It and all of its people? I pondered on the question for awhile, before the subject of conversation changed to something pleasant, and how most welcome such a change was! I preferred a positive outlook upon man and his future. Indeed yes. But as I say, there kept coming my way indications that all was not rosy about the world and the humans who dominate it. And my outlook did, troublingly, fluctuate.
My outlook might have fluctuated, but I knew which direction to which I preferred my outlook to hew. The positive. And in my life as it was in Era 2, there was plenty of reinforcement of a positive perspective on the world and life in it. Because life at that time was, on the whole, placid and agreeable. It was agreeable because the adults in my life were good people. Very good people. The best.
I remember Johnny and Rob's grandmother and her patience, firmness, and wisdom in responding to the occasional interpersonal problem between us boys, and the tender, loving care that she gave to her two dogs and to her pet bird that she had in her house's front porch. And she also maintained a bird-feeder and bird bath for less domesticated fowl. I remember my Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Hanna, and the dedication and sincerity with which she taught me the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes. I remember Michael's mother and the gentle way that she chastised me one day for my having abruptly terminated a telephone conversation with Michael. And my mother's friends were always exceedingly nice to me when I accompanied her and my father to their places for visits. And the children of my mother's friends were also very, very personable toward me when I was in their midst, the example for such definitely set by their parents. I also remember the reaction of my Grade 3 teacher, Mrs. Jardine, when one of my classmates in a prank endangered the health of another. She was very upset and responded with a reprimand that was appropriate and a clear indication of her genuine concern for all of us. With adults like her in control of our world, how could it possibly be anything less than agreeable and placid? And so did I tend toward positivity in my outlook. I wanted to tend toward it. And I had ample reason, in the stimulus of my surroundings, to tend toward it.
The music that I heard on the car radio while on outings with my parents (outings for shopping, for restaurant meals, for ice cream, or for leisurely "Sunday drives") or while going with my mother to places to where she was summoned for a nursing house-call, was sweet to the ears. And, it was, I now perceive, indicative of the concern of elders for healthy moral development for the young. There was no vulgarity. No smut. No rasping tangents of irritability or animosity toward anyone or anything. The music was always mellow and tasteful. Songs by Edward Bear ("You, Me, and Mexico"), Petula Clark ("Downtown"), the Stampeders ("Oh, My Lady"), and Gladys Knight and the Pips ("You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me") are some of the pieces of popular music I remember hearing in this life era. And also Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Puff, the Magic Dragon". Mellow as mellow could be, that one.
And in harmony with such songs were day-to-day routines of my friends and I which included an afternoon or early evening stroll along the river shore, via a short trail behind the old church hall and through some bushes and past some white-bark trees, and the soothing sound of the water coming in on the tide onto the shore rocks. Or some of us gently arcing back and forth on the large wooden swing of my next-door neighbours, the Matchetts, who never objected to our presence.
Life was good because we humans had made it so. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", monstrous and horrific as it was as a concept, a story, and a prospectus for a cartoon, was then, to my comprehension, simply an experiment gone wrong. Jekyll's first transformation after drinking the concoction was unexpected, an unfortunate outcome of a misbegotten chemical experiment, and his subsequent changes to the evil Mr. Hyde were all involuntary and random. Like the ones of the cartoon characters who unwittingly exposed themselves to the potion. The idea and its implications as I understood them were disturbing, for sure. Very much so. And it disturbed me that the human imagination could conceive of such a thing. But I had yet to discover and to understand the underlying premise of a wilful condescension to evil again and again and again by an otherwise upstanding man. It would be some years yet before I would arrive at a thorough understanding of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".
Talk of war and destruction and human frailty was disconcerting to me, to be sure, but in my immediate surroundings, such things were quite remote, even foreign, to me. People were good. They might quarrel from time to time, as my friends and I would. But goodness and agreeability and positivity prevailed. And what a world, what a future, we had!
I was aware of pollution. We had a comic book about it in the Grade 2 classroom, and I felt disturbed by some of its depictions and implications. I did wonder about that rotten-egg smell emanating from the paper mill in Newcastle. But because the elders in my village were good, I thought the same of the adults in power in the world at large. If there was pollution, it was going to be eliminated, because the problem of it was being acknowledged.
Wishful thinking? Naive thinking? What can I say? I was an eight-year-old, nine-year-old boy, living in rather idyllic circumstances. Some substantial amount of inclination to rose-coloured outlook is natural in such a case. But at the same time, there could be no denying the fascination that I had with darker areas of the human imagination and their constructs. Yes, as disquieting as such things could be, there was for me, and I suppose for most youngsters, an attendant fascination with them. Mine was to grow, along with the appeal to me of things spatial, futuristic, and wondrous.
Even so, I would go into summers like that of 1975 with scarcely an immediate or foreseeable concern for my way of life and all of its components, aspects, and tenets. If there were concepts in entertainment or in discussion with friends that perturbed or disquieted me, I kept them in something of an academic realm of thought. As much as I could.
I say again, as much as I could. There would continue to be incursions into my life by those darker areas of the human imagination. Of course. They and their constructs were, after all, there in many movies, in television shows, and even in cartoons. Such was the way of things for me in my youth, as it is for most young people. I dwelt upon it in my own particular way. And had dreams about it, too.
One late-June Saturday in 1975 (Saturday, June 28, 1975, to be precise), Johnny and Rob persuaded me to accompany them to swim (or in my case, wade) at an up-river beach in the village of Millerton, near to a house owned by acquaintances of their grandparents. Over the early-to-middle course of that sunny afternoon, I kept asking the time and reminding Johnny of my deadline for a 4:30 P.M. early broadcast of Bugs and the Road Runner. That day's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment contained the "doin's" of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd during a contentious winter hunting season in "Duck! Rabbit, Duck!", Foghorn Leghorn's courtship of Miss Prissy and humbling acquaintance with genius Egghead Jr. in "Little Boy Boo", Bugs' defence of Fort Lariat against an attack by American Indians led by Renegade (Yosemite) Sam constituting the story of "Horse Hare", "Putty Tat Trouble"- about Sylvester and an orange cat's chase of Tweety in a wintry city (which reminded me of the white-and-purple picture of an American city above a poem entitled, "Snow", in our Grade 2 reading textbook, Seven is Magic), and Wile E. Coyote's construction of a giant robot in "The Solid Tin Coyote".
The summer of 1975 was one of many circumstances and events. That summer was one of my most active in regards to garage transformations, and the one with the most variety in those garage conversion projects. There was also a protracted stay with my grandparents in Skyline Acres in Fredericton, during which there was a heat wave, my grandfather memorably remarking that the mercury had exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit as we languished in the living room (with drapes closed and floor fans running to maximum) and watched television game shows and mid-afternoon repeats of episodes of such television situation comedies as All in the Family and Sanford and Son on American television stations (my grandparents had cable television by that time). And on my grandparents' television set, I watched some cartoons offered by Bangor, Maine's WLBZ-TV, when I had opportunity to do so. On some of the less hot mornings, my mother insisted that I join the activities of the local Boys and Girls Club at a playground adjacent to Liverpool Street School near to my grandparents' place.
The major McCorry journey that summer was to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where my father's foster family lived. My parents and I stayed at a hotel (the Halifax Holiday Inn) for a night, then had accommodations with my father's foster parents, the Strums, for the remainder of our visit. I remember them serving waffles with corn syrup for breakfast. While in Halifax, I purchased some thick, little books, i.e. Big-Little Books, with stories about cartoon characters (e.g. the Road Runner, Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse and Goofy) and some flip animation in the upper-right corner of the pages. I seem to remember a Tom and Jerry Big-Little Book called The Astro-Nots being associated with our sojourn in Halifax in 1975. We all went to Peggy's Cove to see the Atlantic Ocean and toured a lighthouse. It was during the return in our car back to Douglastown that my idea arose to modify the garage into an ice cream parlour.
Another of my summer projects in 1975 was a Kool-Aid stand. There was a wooden crate in the garage left behind by the prior owners of the 1972-7 McCorry property. It had been filled with sand for some strange reason unbeknown to my friends and I. Johnny, Rob, and Debbie were with me when we first used the wooden crate as a table in the summer of 1973. I subsequently attached a drawn picture of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour's main titling to the crate (memorably after a CBC Television summer broadcast of the The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode containing the cartoons, "From Hare to Heir", "Highway Runnery", "Greedy For Tweety", "Mutiny On the Bunny", etc.) for its use in the lounge area of the hotel into which I converted the garage. One sunny day in the summer of 1975, Johnny, Rob, and I eyed the crate for a yet another purpose. We worked together to remove most of the sand from the crate so that it would be easier to transport, then together pushed it out of the garage and to the front yard and attached some wood to it to form an arch and wrote "lemonade" on the arch top. Of course, when we learned that we could only make Kool-Aid, the notation on the arch was changed to Kool-Aid.
I went inside my house and made the Kool-Aid, while my friends collected paper cups in which to serve it. Johnny went to the general store down the road to buy more packets of the fruit-flavoured beverage's powder.
People driving cars, bicycling, or walking past our enterprise were our patrons. It was an optimum location as there was substantial traffic on Douglastown's main street. Customer feedback was that we needed more sugar to sweeten the drink. Variety was also suggested. Where possible, the feedback was acted upon. More sugar was added, but we could only serve one jug and one flavor at a time.
I suppose that we were losing money, our price probably lower than cost of production, but we were having fun- and receiving recognition from passing motorists. One older boy (I cannot remember his name) who came along the road on his bicycle liked our business so much that he talked me into a partnership involving sale of nick-knacks on the stand in addition to a move down-road to a position next to the Douglastown general store. Johnny did not like my new partner, and he and Rob departed. I soon found that my joined-with business collaborator's ambitions were addled. The lady running the general store did not appreciate our new location. And justifiably so! A tussle with some of his friends resulted in my new partner going away and leaving me. I had to drag the stand home by myself. But fortunately, Johnny saw me coming back and rushed to my side to help in returning the stand to our initially selected place of commerce.
We did not maintain our Kool-Aid venture for long. Within a day or two, we put the stand into storage and were doing something else. Michael was clearly impressed by my Kool-Aid stand. He asked my next-door neighbours, the Matchetts, to allow him to establish his own, wagon-based Kool-Aid business on their front lawn, essentially duplicating my Kool-Aid stand's optimum location along Douglastown's main road, and, by Michael's account, was so successful that a reporter from the local newspaper came along to photograph Michael and write a special-interest story on Michael's enterprise. I was jealous and disbelieving but now realise that if he did have the recognition that he claimed, it was a result of the ground-breaking work on the first Kool-Aid stand. Imitation is the surest form of praise.
There was an evening in 1975 when a lightning storm occurred while we all were busy changing the garage once more into a hotel. I remember looking out of the garage windows with my friends at the lightning arcs. On another evening, we had a cook-out, with my mother providing to us hot dogs that we ate while seated at a picnic table in the garage, which was at that point in time a pretended restaurant.
The weekday afternoon television schedule (on CKCD) for summer of 1975 had The Forest Rangers at 4:30, followed by The Brady Bunch at 5. The Edge of Night was shown at 3:30. Family Court was at 4. It was during the airing of Family Court that my father would collect me at my sitter's place (he left work nearly a full half-hour earlier in 1975 than he did in 1974), and most days, we would go directly home, where I would sit in our living room and watch The Forest Rangers and The Brady Bunch before supper. I sometimes missed the first few minutes of The Forest Rangers, and there was one memorable sunny day when my father and I went directly from my sitter's place to Dairy Queen for supper, and I that day missed The Forest Rangers entirely. I remember thinking about that fact as I sat in wait for the Dairy Queen chili dog that I had ordered. And there were some other days when my father and I went shopping before going home. Including a vividly memorable day when he and I went to Gallivan's Bookstore, downtown Newcastle, for me to buy some comic books.
That was on the days that summer when I had to go to a sitter's place. For a sizable percentage of that summer's weekdays, at least one of my parents was at home on vacation (and there were several days when they both were at home on vacation), and I was able to remain at home and to be with my friends, morning and afternoon. The endeavour of the Kool-Aid stand was on one of those days.
The enterprising initiative and the inventiveness of the children in The Forest Rangers contributed to fuelling my ardour for creative garage transformation projects with my friends that summer. It was also something of a factor in the genesis of the Kool-Aid stand, I feel sure. And the title of Children's Cinema for the Saturday afternoon children's film television series shown on CKCD in spring of 1975, no doubt influenced my theatre in the garage that summer- and its naming (Kevin's Cinema). That and the movie camera that Greg Brady used in The Brady Bunch. For the time being, in summer of 1975, theatre plays were the closest that I would come to presenting "cinema" opuses.
Sometime in July of 1975, my parents, for some reason, decided to have me stay with Mrs. Waye, my sitter from my pre-school years, on weekdays when they both were working. My mother would convey me by morning into Newcastle and to the Wayes' house, and my father would retrieve me therefrom in the afternoon. I was, I must admit, rather uneasy about the prospect of this, because in my pre-school experience with the arrangement, I was dominated, rather intimidated, by Mrs. Waye's son, Jimmy, and not much welcome among the neighbourhood tykes. In the three intervening years that I had lived in Douglastown, I had progressed somewhat from the exceedingly quiet and shy, easily overruled boy that I once was, though I did still have retiring tendencies. My apprehension was unfounded, for the three weeks approximately that I stayed with the Wayes in 1975 were more or less quite enjoyable, though I did wish that I was in Douglastown with my friends there. It was during my time at the Wayes' place in 1975 that I, seated on the Wayes' chesterfield and drinking some of their Pop-Shop-delivered colas, became enthralled with the famous Serena-and-Josie split personality storyline on The Edge of Night. There, before my eyes, was actress Louise Shaffer portraying a woman with two selves, alternating back and forth from mild-mannered Serena to the seductive, impetuous, dangerous Josie by way of the donning and removing of a frizzy, black wig. That storyline was to last almost another year, and I followed it avidly.
I brought with me to the Wayes' abode my audiotape-recording that I had made of the Brady Bunch episode, "The Cincinnati Kids", about an amusement park and an urgent search for Mike Brady's misplaced architectural sketches, in addition to my audiocassette of the twentieth instalment of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, with "Robot Rabbit", "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide", etc., magnetically recorded from CKCD on Saturday, July 26, 1975. Jimmy's older brother, Dwayne, borrowed the latter audiotape-recording and returned it to me precisely at the place on the audiotape where the transformed-to-Hyde-cat Sylvester laughs diabolically, and although I had become fairly comfortable by then at listening to the scary cartoon, "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide", on audiotape, that particular part of the cartoon still unnerved me, especially when I activated the audiotape and first thing I heard was the laugh.
I admired the little clay animal ornaments on some of Mrs. Waye's shelves and wished that I had something like them in my ownership. Additionally, Jimmy and Dwayne had many cartoon character comic books, which I perused eagerly, becoming increasingly interested in myself collecting such colourfully illustrated periodicals. Sadly, Robbie's General Store a short distance up the opposite side of the street from the Wayes only then sold Archie comic books, and I had absolutely no compulsion to collect those. I vividly remember sitting under a tree one day in the Wayes' front yard, listening to my Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 20 audiotape and waiting for my father to appear so that we could go swiftly to Gallivan's Bookstore and buy some comic books. By the end of that summer, I was purchasing comic books en masse from the book dealers in Newcastle and Chatham (mostly from Gallivan's Bookstore, Newcastle) and, on visits with my grandparents, the bookstore of second-hand items on King Street in Fredericton (United Book Store, that was called). I have further memories of Mrs. Waye bringing Jimmy, Dwayne, and I with her to downtown Newcastle to shop at the Zellers on Pleasant Street, to consult with her boys' doctor on the upstairs floor of a commercial district structure, and to visit a friend or relative of hers, who lived in a four-storey apartment building on Radio Street between the King George Highway and Pleasant Street, and at that location I became a gourmand of Vachon confections, especially Vachon's Rosette cakes, of which I could not seem to eat enough to fulfil my craving for them.
As the summer of 1975 was progressing deep into its second half, I was watching The Edge of Night and its woman-with-a-split-personality storyline. I was going with my parents, and sometimes also with one or two of my friends, on an afternoon or on some evenings to Parks' Dairy Bar in Newcastle for ice cream (I remember seeing Josie on The Edge of Night on the television there one August afternoon in 1975). I was delighting in viewing episodes of Spiderman during noon hours on weekdays. I was continuing to watch and audiotape-record The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on Saturdays. I was collecting comic books with my favourite cartoon characters. And I had summer projects with friends. One of which was an art gallery project for which the covers of comic books, particularly when duplicated by tracing the drawing lines, were of a prime importance. More on that later.
When one or both of my parents was/were at home that summer, I was never left unattended. One of them had to be there at all times. If they both went out somewhere, I had to go with them. For most of the days of the summer of 1975 when the McCorry family was together as three and not travelling, we were at home, and I was engaged in some project with friends. My mother, father, and I going out to Parks' Dairy Bar for an afternoon ice cream was one exception to this. And another was the overcast afternoon when we went to downtown Chatham for an appointment that they had at the Bank of Nova Scotia. They bought, from Joe's Store, a Tweety and Sylvester comic book for me to read in the car while they were in the bank. They seemed to be in the bank for an exceedingly long time, and I went inside the bank to look for them. When I did not see them in the teller area, I panicked. Minutes later, they emerged from the bank, having been in one of the closed offices, and reassured me that they would never abandon me.
With regard to everything that was happening in my life then, one might say that I was "on a roll". But as that sunny summer was nearing its end, a less than appealing change was around the corner.
I was devastated when the CBC announced on August 30, 1975, that the episode of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour being aired on that day would be the final one to be shown. Just two weeks later, however, a half-hour Bugs Bunny Show shared the Saturday, 6 to 7 P.M. CBC time slot with Welcome Back, Kotter. Although a reduction of transmission time for Bugs from an hour to a half-hour constituted a severe loss for me, at least I could continue to enjoy the rascally rabbit's adventures and those of his cartoon colleagues on Saturdays. I saw some cartoons for the first time on the half-hour Bugs Bunny Show, including "Each Dawn I Crow" (with John Rooster dreading expected slaughter by farmer Fudd's axe), "Golden Yeggs" (Daffy Duck paired with the diminutive gangster, Rocky), "His Bitter Half" (Daffy marrying for money and regretting doing so), and a few others. But the reprieve given to Bugs by the CBC was short-lived, and by Christmas of 1975, there was no more Bugs Bunny on CBC. At least not on the English-language CBC television network, anyway. Bagatelle, an hour-long, eclectic cartoon compilation on Saturdays at 6 P.M. on CBC French, sometimes, not very often, contained a Bugs Bunny cartoon (I remember "Bugsy and Mugsy", "Hare Splitter", and "8 Ball Bunny"), and I was able to view those from a CBC French affiliate, television Channel 5, by way of our antenna tower.
I was much, much more gratified to discover that on an American television station, WAGM-TV- Presque Isle, Maine, received by my grandparents in Fredericton via cable television, was The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on Saturday mornings! On the day late in 1975 or early in 1976 that I saw the listing for it in The Telegraph Journal's "Showtime" section, I was at Michael's house, and we were playing hide and seek in his living room and stairwell area. Upon seeing, in black and white, "5, 8 Bugs Bunny/Road Runner", 5 being WABI-TV, Bangor and 8 being WAGM (and yes, this time in the television listing there was mention of the Road Runner), my mind went racing. It was incredible news! And how soon, how much, could I capitalise on it?
So, in 1976 and early 1977, I would agitate often for a sojourn in Fredericton to visit "grammie and grampie". WAGM was a partial affiliate of the CBS television network, and to my surprise CBS was running all-new instalments with Bugs and his fellow cartoon personages, the first of those that I was able to view commenced with Daffy Duck performing painfully as Bugs' stunt-double in "A Star is Bored". And there was an unforgettable Saturday morning in the summer of 1976 on which my parents and I hurried to depart Douglastown for Fredericton early enough for us to arrive at my grandparents' house before The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour commenced on CBS and WAGM. We were at destination with a couple of minutes to spare. But I discovered to some considerable chagrin that there was no audio-video WAGM signal received by Fredericton's cable television provider. I persuaded my father to telephone the cable television company to enquire as to why this was so. It was a beautiful sunny day, with scarcely a cloud in the sky; weather could not have been a factor, surely, in losing reception from WAGM. Technicians were said to be working on the problem, and ultimately, WAGM was not restored on the Fredericton cable television dial until just before the last cartoon on that morning's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and said cartoon was one with Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny which I had never seen before. The title, "Rabbit's Feat".
Shifting back to the CBC and its Warner Brothers cartoon coverage. Besides The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and The Bugs Bunny Show, the CBC had been in possession of individual cartoon shorts to utilise as filler in the event- however unlikely- of a shorter than expected sporting event telecast. On a Saturday afternoon in 1974, the pre-1948 Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam cartoon, "Hare Trigger" (with the two eternally adversarial characters engaging in a battle of wits and "drawn" guns on a passenger train), and "Along Came Daffy" (Daffy Duck versus two famished Yosemite Sams in a cabin in mid-winter) appeared on the CBC, and it so happened that I had my handy-dandy audiotape recorder ready to engage at the first glimpse of Bugs Bunny in the Warner Brothers cartoon signatureship. Strange indeed that there were pre-1948 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies on the CBC, and there was something quite peculiar about those two cartoon shorts, quite apart from the circumstances and the manner (full original cartoon titles) of their presentation. The design of them was rather less abstract than what I had become accustomed to, Yosemite Sam had a less streamlined design and somewhat more blustery persona, and Bugs looked rather less developed in appearance and zanier in behaviour. While staying at my grandparents' Fredericton residence in summer of 1975 for a few days, I came across still more of such strange cartoons on My Backyard, a children's variety television show on weekdays at 10 A.M. on an NBC television network affiliate out of Bangor, Maine, the cartoons being "Hare Force" (with Bugs in conflict with a dog- a dog?!?- named Sylvester), "Rabbit Transit", and "Racketeer Rabbit". I was intrigued and perplexed by those cartoons which, aside from under-saturated colours, an overall dark look, the noticeably inferior film prints thereof, were even more outside what I had come to regard as the norm for Bugs Bunny cartoons in terms of Bugs' demeanour and characterisation of his opponents. But I was prevented from watching more such cartoons on My Backyard because my mother insisted on my joining a Skyline Acres Boys and Girls Club children's gathering in a nearby playground adjacent to Liverpool Street School (a gathering of which my only memory was of searching for four-leaf clovers in the grass and being ignored by the boys and girls around me). True, I had already known of the existence of Bugs Bunny cartoons not included in the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour package, for instance the scary Bugs Bunny-and-little-man-in-the-"Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde" scenario that I had seen before the six o'clock evening news one day in 1972. But I was under the mistaken impression that those, although of like visual style to the cartoons on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, were longer "Bugs Bunny Specials", only because the Jekyll-and-Hyde Bugs Bunny vehicle had seemed exceedingly lengthy to me on my one and, until 1989, only viewing if it. Though I had not seen it for a number of years, it remained vivid and quite frightening in my mind. When I bought a Bugs Bunny colouring book during one of my mid-1970s visits with my grandparents in Fredericton, I was rather nervous on flipping pages for fear that I might find myself beholding and gasping at a reproduced, silhouetted image from that laboratory and green-monster-transformations Bugs Bunny cartoon.
I would add that in addition to occasional Bugs Bunny cartoons on Bagatelle, the French-language CBC had its own compilation television series of Warner Brothers cartoons. A half-hour long and called Bunny et ses amis, it started broadcasting on CBC French on a weekday afternoon early in the summer of 1975. Although each episode began with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck singing "This is it" on the same stage seen on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, this was essentially an assembly of cartoons with Sylvester and a light sprinkling of Foghorn Leghorn. "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide" was in the very first Bunny et ses amis along with two of Sylvester's cartoons with Tweety (those being "A Street Cat Named Sylvester" and "Tugboat Granny") and one with Sylvester and Speedy Gonzales ("Chili Weather"). Weird it certainly was to see and hear cartoons in French that I had known in English. But there were several non-Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour Sylvester cartoons in Bunny et ses amis that were new to me, "Bell Hoppy" and "By Word of Mouse", for instance. I saw both of those while I was at the Wayes' place in July of 1975. "By Word of Mouse" would be memorable to me as the cartoon with two mice embracing warmly at a dock and Sylvester later chasing those two mice in a department store. The Wayes evidently had a very good television aerial because the French CBC signal as seen on their television screen was almost as crystal-clear as the signal for CKCD.
"Hyde and Go Tweet" was much later in the run of Bunny et ses amis (which was staggered over the summers of 1975 and 1976) than was "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide", and it came second in an instalment that began with a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon ("The Slick Chick", I think). That instalment aired, I definitely remember, on a Saturday morning in the summer of 1976. I retain quite a vivid memory of "A Bird in a Bonnet" being the final cartoon in a Bunny et ses amis episode aired on some weekday in the summer of 1975, on a sunny and rather hot afternoon when the teenaged girl whom my parents had hired to cook my lunch had invited several of her young male friends to our house, and they were all over the living room furniture while I was watching the cartoon action in French on the television set. There was more than a little apprehension felt in me for so many strangers being in our house, and when I informed my father, on his arrival home later that afternoon, of what had transpired, he ceased the employ of that teenaged girl. As Mrs. Waye was my sitter at her home on several days that summer, I would postulate that this would have been a day when Mrs. Waye was not available for sitter's duties. Perhaps she and her family were vacationing somewhere that day. Though my father was not pleased with the teenaged girl opting to have her male friends luxuriate in our living room, he would hire another teenaged girl for much of the summer of 1976, to cook my lunches and supervise me for a portion of the day. And she was rather more self-disciplined than her predecessor.
The Pink Panther Show was another significant television series of my childhood. The elegant, suave, though frequently accident-prone, tall cat in the pink fur and the bumbling French Inspector, with his Spanish sidekick and short-tempered boss, gave to me many memorable television viewing experiences, several of them less readily comprehensible than those of the Warner Brothers (Bugs Bunny et al.) oeuvre, for there was scarcely a word spoken in the Pink Panther's cartoons, and references to French locations and idioms in the Inspector's misadventures and his cartoon titles were cryptic to my still quite nascent mind. The villains in several of the Inspector cartoons were really quite repulsive, and the cartoon, "Sicque!, Sicque! Sicque!", wherein the Inspector's Spanish assistant, Sergeant Deux-Deux, drinks a bubbly, noxious chemical liquid in a scientist's home and becomes a fanged, egg-headed, evil-eyed monster at intermittent times, had me petrified on my grandparents' sofa with fear and revulsion at the hideousness of Deux-Deux's induced condition and monstrous form, as I beheld said cartoon for the first time on a mid-1975 weekday afternoon. It was a relief when the Pink Panther Show instalment's next cartoon, "Pink Ice", commenced. I remember wondering just how many cartoons had been made with the Jekyll-and-Hyde story elements that frightened me so. There seemed to be so very many!
For most of the summer of 1976, The Pink Panther Show was a weekdays-at-noon television presentation. I have many, many memories of watching it then. All thirty-four Inspector cartoons. The Ant-and-Aardvark cartoon, "Science Friction", which I initially thought- with some trepidation- was to have yet another Jekyll-and-Hyde-following story. The hilarious set-in-the-Stone-Age Pink Panther cartoons, "Prehistoric Pink" and "Extinct Pink". All of these. And more. Much more. Remembered clearly as being seen in the summer of 1976 in my Douglastown living room.
For awhile in the summer of 1976, The Pink Panther Show was also broadcast on Saturday afternoons, sharing with Spiderman the 2 to 3 P.M. time slot. CKCW, which was Moncton, New Brunswick's CTV television station, had to be received via my antenna-tower for access to such telecasts, for CKCD was opting that hour to show CBC Television network programming instead of The Pink Panther Show and Spiderman, which were CTV fare. I remember watching "Gong With the Pink" (the Pink Panther in a Chinese restaurant), "Psychedelic Pink" (the pink feline within a "trippy" library), "Pink Outs" (a diverse array of short comedic situations for the Pink Panther), and a number of Inspector and Ant-and-Aardvark cartoons on those Saturday afternoon broadcasts, including the day of the Douglastown Days Parade in which I rode my streamers-adorned bicycle. I hurried to home after the parade, to be sure that I would not miss a minute with the panther and the web-swinger. Spidey episodes that I saw on Saturday afternoon included "The Menace of Mysterio" and "Return of the Flying Dutchman"/"Farewell Performance". Reference to "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", though brief, in those Spidey episodes gave to me quite a nerve-racking experience! And Spiderman duelling with his foe, master-of-illusion Mysterio, on the Brooklyn Bridge and in a television studio is most reminiscent for me of a sunny, mid-summer Saturday afternoon. I seem to recall "The Menace of Mysterio" airing on a particular Saturday after two of the weirder Spiderman episodes, "Up From Nowhere" and "Rollarama", had been aired on closely preceding occasions.
Johnny and Rob were laying on the floor on their stomachs as they were watching The Pink Panther Show with me on one early-summer-of-1976 Saturday afternoon in my living room. And I also recall Michael joining me on a 1976 weekday after early lunch, when an episode of The Pink Panther Show was being watched in same living room. It was in the summer because Michael was wearing shorts. There was in my living room a brown, leather trunk containing Electrolux vacuum cleaner accessories, a trunk that I was using also as a seat. And Michael and I both sat on that leather trunk watching the Pink Panther cartoon, "Little Beaux Pink", about the pink cat and his sheep establishing a grazing area in cattle country in Texas. On another summer day in 1976, a day quite late in that sunny summer, Michael and I were seated on the trunk, watching the "El Terrifico" Mexican vacation episode of The Flintstones.
And on Friday, July 16, 1976, I was watching the Pink Panther Show episode with the cartoons, "G.I. Pink", "Carte Blanched", and "Pinkadilly Circus", my cat, Frosty, sitting with me on a black chair in the living room. And Frosty went into labour. She had a litter of kittens, there on the chair. The teenaged girl who was my sitter on that day had never witnessed a cat having kittens, and she was just as upset as I was at the sight of Frosty's blood, birthing sack, and tiny progeny. The Flintstones episode, Hollyrock, Here I Come", was next on the television screen, but I was utterly oblivious to it, as Frosty was diligently carrying her offspring off of the chair and under a sofa.
That was Frosty's second litter of kittens. She had given birth to a first litter of kittens on a sunny evening in the preceding spring. I was outside at the Douglastown baseball field, unsuccessfully trying to join a recreational baseball game that friends were playing. When I walked into my house, my father informed me of Frosty's blessed event. I seem to remember the Bionic Woman episode, "The Jailing of Jaime", airing that evening, or on an adjacent evening.
I had seen the Six Million Dollar Man two-part episode introducing bionic woman Jaime Sommers, and like many of my friends and classmates, I was saddened, distressed even, by her apparent on-screen death, and subsequently pleasantly surprised to discover in a further Six Million Dollar Man two-parter that she had been resuscitated and returned to health, though with some loss of memory. And shortly thereafter was born the television series, The Bionic Woman. I remember watching the first season of The Bionic Woman in winter and spring of 1976 when I was in Grade 4. Episodes such as "Jaime's Mother", "Winning is Everything", and the above mentioned "The Jailing of Jaime" are memorable 1976 television viewing experiences, as also are the Six Million Dollar Man (and Bionic Woman) episodes involving Bigfoot. Of the 1976-7 season of The Six Million Dollar Man, the episodes, "The Bionic Boy", "Death Probe", and "To Catch the Eagle", are vividly recalled as living room television attractions for me and my father. There are other television shows that were watched by the whole McCorry family in our Douglastown living room. M*A*S*H, for one. The episode of M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye Pierce is concussed after a jeep crash and in the home of a Korean family and talking, talking, talking to stay conscious as he awaits rescue by his army surgical hospital colleagues, was memorably enjoyed by my mother. And we three watched Mary Tyler Moore and a number of its outstanding episodes.
I was with Michael one evening when the television special, The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, was being shown on CBC Television and on CKCD. That was some years before The Muppet Show premiered. At the time, we only knew the Muppets as being denizens of Sesame Street. It felt very strange to see them on television in the evening in something other than an educational television programme.
From summer and the last four months of 1975 into most of 1976, I was collecting comic books and paperback-book versions of comic books (called "comic digests" by Gold Key Comics) based on the characters of Disney's and Warner Brothers' cartoons, The Pink Panther, Heckle and Jeckle, Underdog, and The Flintstones and which were readily available on a monthly or bi-monthly basis at 25 cents each in stores in Newcastle (in Gallivan's Bookstore, especially) and Chatham (in Joe's Store on Water Street) and for a dime at a second hand bookshop (United Book Store) in Fredericton. Whenever I visited my grandparents in Fredericton, I perused the bookstores for any publications featuring my favourite cartoon personalities.
In mid-1975, Gold Key launched a new Looney Tunes series of comic books with issues published every two months. I had the very first issue, and on its front cover was a picture of Tweety hanging his laundry on a clothesline tied to Bugs Bunny's ears. Beneath this cute picture was a collection of Warner Brothers cartoon characters' faces in that the new comic book series was to feature stories with various players, rather like The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on television. Because the format of each illustrated periodical in the new Looney Tunes comic book series was quite demonstrably analogous to that of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, Looney Tunes quickly became my very favourite comic book, and I would always walk into Gallivan's Bookstore in search of the latest Looney Tunes comic book issue. I remember walking into Gallivan's Bookstore on many a sunny evening, stepping on the creaky wooden flooring, glancing toward the expansive wooden shelving on which comic books were on display, looking for the latest issue of Looney Tunes, and feeling immense delight when my eyes caught sight of the item that I sought. My mother and father were then only too happy to part with the quarter in currency that it cost to purchase the desired illustrated publication.
Displaying my comic books and tracing the cover art and pasting the traced copies on walls in our garage was what gave rise to the idea of converting the garage into an art gallery in 1975.
Another vivid memory from the summer of 1975 was the Douglastown community picnic on a sunny Sunday outside of Newcastle in Red Bank. By then, I had purchased the first issue of the new Looney Tunes comic book series, and I was tracing the front cover picture to install in my art gallery when my mother and father hastened me to ready for the picnic. En route to the picnic, we stopped at the Newcastle Dairy Queen for lunch. At the picnic, which lasted all afternoon, I found some of my school classmates, Kevin MacD., Darryl, and Mark, and talked with them.
Also, leisurely "Sunday drives" in the summers were McCorry family practice during our years of living in the Miramichi and especially in the mid-1970s. On many a Sunday afternoon, my parents and I would venture about in our car to Newcastle or to Chatham, and we would sometimes stop for an ice cream at either the Newcastle Dairy Queen, or Parks' Dairy Bar (also in Newcastle), or the Big Spot, a Chatham ice cream (and other foods) take-out situated beneath the towering Chatham bridge.
I returned to Douglastown Elementary after the summer of 1975 to start Grade 4, already feeling the loss of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. My most anticipated television event of the week, gone. I did not know what I could expect from its partial replacement, the half-hour Bugs Bunny Show, which, in any case, could offer only half as much content. I was very appreciative of Gold Key Comics' Looney Tunes and brought the latest issue of it with me to school on one or two of the earliest days of Grade 4. I remember pulling it out of my desk to read for the five minutes remaining before lunch. I went home for lunch each day in the first week or two of Grade 4. Then, hot meals started being provided in the newly opened Douglastown village hall for every Douglastown Elementary pupil who wanted them. And for a number of weeks, that included me. It was quite the sight. Huge clusters of children walking from the school, across the wooden bridge, to the village hall directly across the main road from my place. The meals were usually canned soups, canned pastas, beans and wieners, and hamburger and noodles (a sort of proto-Hamburger-Helper called Beef it Up). I remember Kevin MacD. joking about the spaghetti being "worms in blood" and all of us exclaiming our "o-o-o-ohs" of revulsion. We washed down our food with juices that came in "mini-sips" bags of clear plastic penetrated by a pointed straw.
The post-1975 Grade 4 classroom was what had been the Grade 2 classroom. Prior to the autumn of 1975, the powers-that-be decided to move Grade 2 to one of the portable classrooms behind the main building and to put Grade 4 upstairs in the room whose windows had a full view of the school playground. In Grade 4, we were seated at desks in rows, our teacher was male, and Physical Education class would eventually be added to the weekly schedule.
In autumn of 1975, I had a heated difference of opinion with some of my then collaborators (Colleen, Jo-Anne, Leroy, and two others) in the garage art gallery project. They were a more raucous bunch than the group (Johnny, Rob, Michael) with whom I was accustomed to working. I had coopted them into my art gallery project after Johnny and Rob had departed Douglastown after their summer's stay in the village had concluded. We were putting "finishing touches" into the art gallery when tempers flared. I cannot recall whether they departed in pique or whether I insisted that they leave or whether it was a combination of the two. I frankly do not remember what the disagreement was specifically about, but it intensified quickly. By that time, the garage was more aesthetically decored than ever, and I was quite proud of it. It was a resplendent display for the cartoon characters so cherished, so beloved by me and for the overall cartoon "look" (yes, even in its representation on the front covers of comic books) that appealed to me so very much. Said "look" incorporating all that I had seen from Warner Brothers and from DePatie-Freleng (the Pink Panther, etc.), and from some other cartoon production studios. It was a testimonial to the extent of my appreciation of cartoons. That appreciation now visible, aesthetically, to everyone in my life.
Jimmy, from my Era 1 days, was visiting one late-September Sunday evening (I remember that I was in our living room, watching an episode of The Beachcombers, when he arrived), and I escorted him to the garage to show to him the art gallery. And I was stunned to find that my former colleagues (Colleen, Jo-Anne, Leroy, et al.) had clandestinely visited and trashed the place. Not only did they confiscate all of their work, but they vandalised mine. I planned at first to confront them about this at school but decided to "let the incident ride" and begin again with the art gallery. In any event, when winter started, the garage became unbearably cold, and nothing could be done in it until the next spring. The doors were unreliable in the winter. I found myself locked in the garage's side compartment one Sunday in January, 1976 and had to use a roll of masking tape to break a window so that I could free myself from the converted icebox! My mother and father were not particularly happy about that!
Conversely, the upstairs of the garage was an oven in the summer. Flies congregated on its window, and the musty smell would remain in my olfactory memory for life! We were never able to do anything with the upstairs, to which the ascending steps were rather hazardous.
I remember my mother asking me what it was about cartoons that found to be so compelling, so attractive, so absorbing, and so very difficult to be without. That was, I think, a few days after I learned of CBC Television's cancelling of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and I was clearly grieving very much for the loss. I struggled to articulate for her what it was about the cartoons, those of the Warner Brothers cartoon animation studio especially, that had so strong an appeal to me.
Now, I can put it into words. It was the look of the characters, their personalities, their adversarial pairings and the incredibly varied array of situations to which those pairings were set, the concepts utilised for the cartoons' stories, the sophistication in the humour and in the design of the backgrounds, the lovely motifs in the backgrounds (e.g. Victorian architecture rendered with flourishes of modernity), the stylised views of other countries and other times, the technological and "spacey" cartoons and their lavish and sometimes disquieting aesthetic, the fast pace, the energetic, multi-faceted, often suggestive music. Just about everything, I would dare say. And the cartoons could unnerve and frighten me, too, on occasion, and I had a fascination with that. And the way that they were presented in The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour as shown by CBC Television with its distinctive iconography and broadcast practises and protocols. That, too. Yes, very much that, too.
Things like the art gallery project were a collaboration with friends in bringing that fascination with the cartoons into some tangible creation. Something through which I was actively sharing with my friends the degree and the ardour of my cartoon fascinations. And it grieved me too, that some of my collaborators had seen fit to wreck the art gallery project, whatever may have been their quibble or quarrel with me. Still, I can say, in retrospect, that the art gallery project and the creative impulse therein, lived on to manifest itself another day, as I proceeded further into the fourth grade at school.
The Uptown Theatre on Pleasant Street in downtown Newcastle was the site of nearly all of my early-life experiences of viewing movies in a cinema setting. I saw one movie in Fredericton's Capitol Theatre with my mother and grandmother before that theatre's extinction sometime in the early 1970s but have not the slightest glimmer of memory as to what the movie was. Herbie Rides Again at the Uptown for an evening performance in, I think, 1973 (during cool but not wintry weather) constitutes my first memorable time beholding a theatrical film, and the memories of the evening are underscored by the much larger than anticipated queue outside the Uptown's doors. My mother, father, and I were worried that we would be turned away due to seating capacity in the theatre being exceeded. Happily, we were admitted to the theatre and had three consecutive seats, but the pre-movie cartoon short had already begun before we passed through the box office and the concessions area. It would seem truly amazing for a Walt Disney movie to attract so large a crowd, but the Uptown was the only movie theatre in Newcastle- and the only major one in the Miramichi. Chatham had the Vogue Theatre, but it scarcely ever showed any popular movies. Not that I can recall, anyway. And the one regional drive-in theatre, in Chatham, was open only in mid-summer. As for Herbie Rides Again, I remember being unnerved by depictions of the little Volkswagen high on the suspension beams of the Golden Gate Bridge, and liking kindly Helen Hayes as the elderly owner of the feisty, little car.
More easily recollected are my evenings with my parents at the Uptown for the showings of Paper Moon (in March, 1974, I do believe) and Island at the Top of the World (later in 1974; the autumn, I think). I recall seeing on television the advertisement for the former, with Tatum O'Neal, who I thought was a boy (sorry, Tatum) in the passenger seat of a speeding car turning a corner, and he (or rather, she) was screaming, "Keep going!" I was interested in space, and the movie had Moon in its title. That plus a child in a fast car captured my interest, and my parents and I were at the Uptown watching a charming black-and-white-filmed story of a girl and her outwardly reluctant but inwardly sentimental confidence-trickster guardian, played by Tatum's father, Ryan O'Neal. The mid-movie scenes in a lavish hotel with a desk clerk and fold-open windows above the room doors had me thinking about the same items within the Broken Arms Hotel in the Tweety-and-Sylvester cartoon, "Canary Row", which was expected to reappear on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on March 30, just a week or so later. Island at the Top of the World was my first viewing of really elaborately imaginative travel fantasy, with adventurers in a weird airship journeying to the high Arctic and encountering a Viking civilisation in a hermetically closed, superstitious tribal settlement on a lush, geothermally heated island. There were gigantic idols in a worship area that, together with earlier scenes of the dirigible's northern trek amid Greenland mountains and glaciers, had me dazzled at the scale of this wildly speculative and somewhat educational (about far-northern lands) Walt Disney opus. I was, however, under a misperception that Greenland as shown on the map in my Grade 3 classroom was England. I feel certain that most people in Britain are sure glad that I was wrong! By and by, I started going un-chaperoned to matinee performances at the Uptown of further Walt Disney movies such as No Deposit, No Return, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and Treasure Island and attending with my parents yet more evening movie shows, of such Walt Disney offerings as Freaky Friday and Superdad. The first non-Walt-Disney, non-family-viewing movie I ever saw was Earthquake, at the Uptown with my parents accompanying me, one evening in November of 1974. Wile E. Coyote's famous pills in the cartoon, "Hopalong Casualty", on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour were upsetting enough in their effect, but I was not at all prepared for the devastation and graphic suffering and death that my eyes were to witness with Earthquake- In Sensurround.
I actually thought, going into the theatre, that Sensurround was the city in which the titled cataclysm occurred, and not the revolutionary technique of high-bass, in-cinema surround sound, and I continued thinking so for much of the protracted pre-disaster sequence. I will never forget the feel of beholding that movie on the big screen in all of its panorama, even before the Earth convulsed violently and turned the sweeping urban vistas into fiery rubble. True, I was becoming restless during the seemingly interminable scenes with the characters in their humdrum lives, flaring nostrils over romantic matters. But Lorne Greene's intensity, his bushy eyebrows and distinguished greying hair, Ava Gardner's glamorous wardrobe, and George Kennedy's sincere portrayal of the no-nonsense policeman mated with the expansive visuals of the bustling community of teeming masses. And when the earthquake finally started, it was gargantuan- and it lasted for many minutes. People were falling out of high rise windows, driving their vehicles off of freeway ramps, falling into a concrete storm drain, instantaneously losing their lives in explosions of natural gas valves, bleeding profusely under raining glass and other debris, and dying at the bottom of an elevator shaft, blood splattering on the screen. I was aghast at the grisly spectacle before my eyes. And after more than a half hour of seeing the survivors struggle to reach medical aid, earthquake started again, like Dr. Jekyll becoming Mr. Hyde a second time without needing to drink his potion once more, and the medical facilities collapsed, the bandaged survivors of the first intense rumble succumbing, many of them, to the tumbling brick and mortar. A dam broke, the blazing city was flooded, and many more of the victims of the terrifying tremors met their ends. I did not expect the movie's leading character, played by Charlton Heston, to die. That whole evening's experience at the Uptown, the grandiose scale of destruction on the large theatre screen, stayed with me vividly for many days, and as the movie appeared on television one Wednesday evening early in 1977 with added scenes, and in late night showings in 1978 and 1980, it retained unnerving hold upon my psyche. A startling testimony, however fictional, to how vulnerable man and his enormous settlements are to the tremendous power of nature. Some of my naivete was certainly lost, but simultaneously was there gained a healthy reverence for the Earth's elemental forces that are in no way subservient to human settlement and human aims. And I did yet feel hopeful that with an advance-warning system, made possible by seismological science, the horrors that transpired in Earthquake ought not to be an unavoidable fact of life on planet Earth.
I remember that just about every time I went to the Uptown to see a movie, I would return to my home and go out to the garage, determined to there have my own theatre. I even installed a curtain (a large blanket) that could be raised by a wire to reveal a makeshift, unelevated stage, plus a pretend, cardboard film projector placed to the back of the seating area. Using my audiotape recorder for sound, I would enact episodes of The Flintstones, "The Rock Vegas Story" and "Barney the Invisible", although, alas, I did so to crowds of nobody. I was able to persuade my friends to sometimes join in the fun by becoming stage actors with me; finding audiences, however, for our in-garage performances still tended to be problematical. Except, that is, for a staged play of something or other one day in summer of 1975, a staged play for which Michael's sister, Debbie, and some of her friends were our watchers in the spectator seats.
With a film slide projector given to me by my parents in Christmas of 1975, I had slide shows, which were much closer to the theatrical film experience than stage performances. My only slide show, however, was something called, "Canada and Me", consisting of store-bought slides of tourist destinations in Canada, mixed with slides produced from photographs of me outdoors in Douglastown. A few girls from down the road came to the slide show, which I had in my dining room area during the winter months early in 1976. A platter of exotic cheeses was provided for the girls in attendance. It is a mystery to me why they came and nobody else did.
As for non-Uptown-situated viewings of movies in theatre locations, I hazily remember going with Michael to see an animated cartoon Jack and the Beanstalk movie at Chatham's Vogue Theatre on a Sunday afternoon, the only time that I was ever in said theatre. And I was with my parents to view two movies at a drive-in theatre in Chatham. Those movies were Juggernaut and The Return of the Pink Panther, seen on two separate occasions in, I think, summer of 1975. I went to the showing of Juggernaut with the expectation of seeing a movie about some sort of astronaut. A pre-movie cartoon short even had a story involving an astronaut. But I was served with an extremely tense bomb-threat-with-extortion thriller aboard an passenger ship on stormy seas, and I will never forget how every nerve on my body stayed tight throughout the movie and for the hour or so thereafter until I finally fell asleep in my cosy bed. The Return of the Pink Panther was the first movie performance by Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau that I had ever seen, and I was quite pleased to see recognisable characters from The Pink Panther Show- including the pink cat himself, in a theatrical motion picture with actors.
Movies were screened on television on weekday afternoons in a 90-minute Midday Matinee starting at 1 o'clock. On the Friday afternoons on which I had no school and on school holidays and days when I was sick and therefore at home, I watched the early afternoon film- and had some unsettling viewing experiences! During the summer of 1974, while I was staying at the home of my sitter, Mrs. Walsh, one day, the Midday Matinee was advertised as involving an accident in a laboratory changing a man into a monster. I thought that it was going to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and although it was not that, it was equally scary. It was called The Projected Man, a 1967 British film, in which a matter-transporting laser malfunctions and scars one side of a scientist's face and gives to him the touch of death by electric discharge. At my age of 8, I could not understand everything about the movie, but I was shaken by the monstrous look and murderous inclinations of the affected man and by the ending in which the monster trains the laser upon himself and disintegrates into oblivion. The Projected Man never aired again in New Brunswick until early 1996, when I viewed it for only the second time in twenty-two years!
Another frightening movie on Midday Matinee was The Green Slime (1968), which was shown several times, including once in 1976, once in 1977, and once in 1978. The movie is remembered by many members of my generation, and it is no wonder why! A hoard of one-eyed, tentacled monsters with the touch of death by a discharge of electricity (just like the monster of The Projected Man!) grow from a blob of slime on the suit of an astronaut returning to a space station from a successful asteroid-detonating mission and quickly overrun the space station and threaten to spread to Earth. While the film is unpopular with critics, it scared the wits out of me when I first saw it, in 1976, and some nightmares resulted. Through home videotape, I had the opportunity to watch it again after many years, and though I noted the "campiness" to the dialogue and costumes and the extremely cheap special effects, the nightmarish scenario still made me shudder!
Some of Midday Matinee's other creepy offerings were a film about killer bees (which I remember watching while I had the mumps in autumn of 1974), a wild movie involving a ghastly room, a motorboat race opus in which someone in the water is graphically struck by one of the boats, a by-times-unexpectedly-startling animated cartoon movie called Pinocchio in Outer Space, and Darren McGavin's second television movie appearance as reporter Carl Kolchak, in The Night Strangler (1973), featuring a vampirish alchemist (played by none other than Richard Anderson- the boss of The Six Million Dollar Man) residing in an underground city beneath Seattle.
There were many films on Midday Matinee that did not scare me. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) was shown in two parts, as was North By Northwest (1959)- with a young Martin Landau. Many Westerns were screened. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was shown in January, 1977. There was a film about an African safari, and an Evel Kenevel movie, too!
Midday Matinee, offered on the television stations of CTV's eastern Maritimes division (which by the mid-1970s was calling itself ATV), was reliably transmitted on CKCD every weekday.
CKCD, in October, 1976, went totally CTV/ATV, dropping affiliation with the CBC. It was henceforth solely a satellite transmitter for CTV/ATV Moncton (CKCW), with CHSJ-TV, the distinctly inferior CBC affiliate television station in Saint John, gaining a re-transmitter facility for northern New Brunswick communities, including those along the Miramichi River. By then, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was long-gone on CBC Television, and a new televised fancy of mine, Space: 1999, occupied the CBC Saturday 6 P.M. broadcast slot.
In addition to providing the CBC network transmissions of Space: 1999, albeit not with 100-percent dependability, CHSJ liked to air Linus the Lionhearted as occasional filler material. As early as 1974, I was aware of the existence of Linus the Lionhearted on CHSJ, by way of viewings thereof at my grandparents' house. An enjoyable half-hour compilation of cartoon shorts featuring the kindly Linus the Lion- King of the Jungle; the sly and easy-going Sugar Bear; humble, dog-loving postman Lovable Truly; and So Hi the Chinese Boy, Linus the Lionhearted would, after 1980, become rarer than peacocks in the Canadian tundra.
More miscellaneous memories within this second era of my life include attending an evening corn boil in Chatham with my parents and sitting with a bunch of other children in a room and watching television; going with my parents to the homes of friends of my mother, including the Hutchinsons in Chatham and the Loggies and Stevens in Newcastle; wading in the water nearest the Middle Island beach; going on a Grade 4, spring of 1976 school outdoor venture to a place up the Williston Road in Douglastown to collect salamanders and other creatures, and on another Grade 4 march to the Douglastown Cemetery to read the dates on the tombstones; travelling 60 miles north to Bathurst, New Brunswick with my parents as they sought new carpets at some vast warehouse in Bathurst; meandering on Pleasant Street in downtown Newcastle one sunny Sunday afternoon in 1976 while my father was at a drug store, and seeing a group of boys go-carting down the hill of Newcastle's George Street; desiring to but never owning a copy of the Flintstones picture book that a classmate named Lorrie had in Grade 4; putting folded paper covers on my school textbooks; eating with my parents at the Portage Restaurant (on its wall a huge picture of the Chatham Bridge) just outside the grounds of C.F.B. Chatham, at the Enclosure Restaurant (its service absurdly slow) just outside Newcastle, and at various other eating establishments in the Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham area; reciting some Bible passages during a Sunday School Christmas production at St. Mark's Church Hall; and bringing my audiocassette machine to school one morning in Grade 4 to play my audiotape-recording of the "Indianrockolis 500" car racing episode of The Flintstones, a practice that would continue in Grade 5 with my audiocassettes then of Space: 1999 episodes.
That I was able to bring my audiocassette machine and audiotape-recordings with me to school was in itself remarkable. Very remarkable. Such was something that I could never even contemplate doing in later years when I was going to school in Fredericton. The disapproval of my teachers and especially my peers in Fredericton, to my doing such a thing would have been most severe. Overwhelming, to say the very least. In Douglastown, I was permitted to do it- and I felt free to do it. And I looked forward to the reactions of classmates to whatever was on the audiotape playing on my machine. I even remember one Grade 5 day on which we had a few spare minutes before dismissal. Our teacher, Mr. Donahue, actually played some of the audiotape-recording that I had brought with me to school that day. It had Tweety singing in it, to the amusement of everyone in the classroom.
Audiotape was one way of bringing my interest in television programmes with me to school. So too was my acting out of episodes of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, The Flintstones, etc. at recess. My schoolmates were interested in- and sometimes acknowledged- whatever it was that I was iterating. The Flintstones episode, "The Hot Piano", and the "Happy Anniversary" song therein, for instance. A schoolmate smiled and nodded in recognition of that, I clearly remember.
But such was Douglastown. I am not saying that I was never "picked on" there, but I cannot recall ever being belittled or ridiculed or humiliatingly "shot down" for anything that I liked. If I was laughed-at or "called down" or in some way made to feel diminished, it would have been for an embarrassingly deficient result in some Physical Education class competition. That sort of thing. Or over some escalating differences of opinion on what was to be done or how something was to be done in a garage transformation project. And those were exceptions to the overall norm of acceptance. Usually initiated by the same girl or pair of girls. Lucy to my Charlie Brown, one might say she was/they were.
Proceeding further in my listing of sundry mid-1970s reminiscences, such as: being at home by myself when I was sick (sometime in Grade 4) and seeing in the morning a hodge-podge of children's programming (dramatic and documentary) on a television show called Camera 12, followed by the weekday morning CBC staples, Friendly Giant, Mr. Dressup, and Sesame Street, and then watching from my window as everyone in my class arrived at the village hall directly across the road from my house, for their daily hot lunch; seeing on CKCD a CTV-originating, weekday children’s television show called Uncle Bobby whose titled character would throw his hat at the camera and whose format was such that the same guest character always appeared on the same single day each week; creating a variety of toys with Lego and Rasti kits; putting together a model aeroplane (during my weekday stays with the Wayes in July, 1975); watching Earthquake on television on a Wednesday night in early 1977 and having to go to bed at approximately two-thirds of the way into the movie, specifically at the scene in which Lew Slade (George Kennedy) is in the middle of a devastated street with many injured people and waving at the truck belonging to Miles Quade (Richard Roundtree) to stop; watching another televised movie, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, and laughing myself hysterical at it, on a weekday night; and enjoying many weekday evening television series, like The Bionic Woman (whose "Doomsday is Tomorrow" two-part episode was the ultimate in angst-conveying intensity- and the Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar Man "Kill Oscar" Fembot three-parter with John Houseman as the diabolical Dr. Franklin was no slouch, also), The New Avengers (which I adored for its classy, British flair and sophisticated blend of fantasy and action), The Rookies, Hawaii Five-O (loved the visuals), Charlie's Angels (glamorous characters); and the many situation comedies of the mid-1970s, especially those on Friday nights: M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Chico and the Man, and Fawlty Towers, the last of which kept my enthusiasm alive for maintaining my garage in its hotel transfiguration, despite Basil Fawlty being quite the twit.
With Bugs Bunny and his Warner Brothers animated cartoon cohorts gone from English-language television in my area, my enthusiasm for colourful cartoons on television concentrated itself largely upon The Flintstones, a weekday and occasional Saturday morning offering on ATV. In my Grade 4 year, during which I was most dedicated to viewing Fred and Wilma Flintstone in the Stone Age town of Bedrock, I saw every Flintstones episode. All 166 of them. Every episode has some distinct memory attached to it. One of the first Flintstones episodes that I clearly remember seeing was ""Fred Flintstone: Before and After"", the riveting and famous Fred-goes-on-a-weight-loss-diet story, which I watched in French (Les Pierrafeu was the title for The Flintstones in French) on the Wayes' television in July, 1975. ATV television stations started running The Flintstones weekdays in autumn of 1975, and I "picked up" my viewing of the television series with episodes of its second season airing on ATV that November. I had to watch The Flintstones then on ATV Moncton (CKCW), because CKCD was not showing The Flintstones in the autumn of 1975. The Flintstones started being offered by CKCD in early 1976.
As The Flintstones was broadcasted by ATV, through CKCW and CKCD, in the winter, spring, and summer of the 1975-6 television year, I was to see every episode of it that had been made. And I would audiotape it whenever I could (i.e. whenever I had an audiocassette available for me to use and my audiotape machine was operational and ready). I became definitely partial to the later episodes and their emphasis on spy, horror, comedic horror, science fiction and things futuristic, and popular culture with such charismatic personages as Jimmy Darren, the Cartwrights of Bonanza, and Samantha the nose-wiggling witch of Bewitched.
It irritated me that nearly all of the time on ATV, there were advertisements directly after the opening Flintstones song. Occasionally, there were not commercials inserted so early in a Flintstones broadcast, and I was grateful for that. Episodes on ATV without the early after-the-opening-song commercial break included "Glue For Two" and "El Terrifico" (airing in January, 1976), "Pebbles' Birthday Party" (airing in February, 1976), "Feudin' and Fussin'" (airing in May, 1976), "The Monster From the Tar Pits" and "The Babysitters" (airing in July, 1976), and "The Rock Quarry Story" and The Soft-Touchables" (airing in August, 1976). Episodes with lengthy pre-titles sequences always had commercials after the song.
The broadcast of Les Pierrafeu on CBC French never had commercials until about eight minutes into every episode, and I used to wish that the ATV English broadcasts could always be of an identical configuration. Many episodes were discovered by me by means of the French-language versions; I saw many of the fifth and sixth season episodes in French some weeks or months before they circulated in English. Favourites were "El Terrifico" (fuelling an interest in Mexican culture), "Dr. Sinister", "Fred's New Car" and "The Stonefinger Caper" (dynamic and menacing crime syndicate stories experienced with wide-eyed wonder by me a few years before I ever cast eyes upon a James Bond movie), "The Time Machine" (for its science fiction or science fiction-fantasy pedigree), "Fred Goes Ape" (which "aped" the Jekyll-and-Hyde scenarios of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies of some substantial acquaintance), "The Long, Long, Long Weekend" (with Fred and the others visiting the moving sidewalks, elevated-to-cloud-level buildings, and Martian tourism buses of the future, firing my imagination as most things-to-come depictions did), and virtually every episode with the Great Gazoo, the little, green man from planet Zetox.
I audiotape-recorded the Flintstones episode that introduced Gazoo on a Thursday in the spring of 1976 and played my audiotape-recording of that episode quite a number of times. As previously stated, my audiocassette-recordings of the Flintstones episodes, "The Rock Vegas Story" and "Barney the Invisible", were used as the sound for some garage stage play performances of those episodes. To no comers, alas. It was just me in the garage on the overcast 1976 afternoons on which I undertook to attempt to stage-play to the Flintstones-episode audiocassette-recordings. I was very fond of "The Rock Vegas Story" and of most Flintstones episodes involving travel.
The Flintstones sometimes shared the Monday-to-Friday-inclusive noon hour broadcast slot on ATV with The Brady Bunch. Spiderman and The Pink Panther Show were also known to air with the Stone Age misadventures of Fred Flintstone on weekday lunch hours. During the second half of Grade 4, I saw The Flintstones when at home for lunch (by then, I had stopped needing to go to a sitter's house, for my father would come home to cook lunch, and I was given a key for after-school entry to the house for an unsupervised time therein of an hour or so). While I was in Grade 5, weekday reruns of Emergency! filled the lunch hour airtime on ATV, and The Flintstones was shown at 5 P.M. and also on Saturday mornings (I recall watching "Curtain Call at Bedrock" on a Saturday morning in autumn of 1976). In 1977, The Flintstones was returned to the lunch hour, as also was its very memorable teammate, the entertaining tales of the Brady clan.
So many memories of watching Flintstones episodes and of circumstances surrounding those viewing experiences. Michael was with me when I watched "Glue For Two" in January, 1976. School was cancelled that day because of snow, as I remember, and Michael joined me at my place for a long visit just as that Flintstones episode was starting. I saw "Cave Scout Jamboree" on the last Friday of January, 1976, before my parents and I embarked in our car for the highway to Fredericton and a weekend visit with my grandparents. I audiotape-recorded the episode from its telecast that Friday and later was listening to it on my audiotape machine in my grandparents' den. We had no school on Friday afternoons; so, I remember being fully immersed in the Friday episodes, not needing to concern myself with having to go back to school. Episodes memorably aired on Friday included "Bachelor Daze", "Pebbles' Birthday Party", "The Gruesomes", and "Adobe Dick" in February, 1976, and "The Buffalo Convention", "Wilma, the Maid", and "Fred's New Job" in June, 1976. I went with my mother and father to the French Fort Cove Restaurant in Nordin for a meal shortly after seeing "Bedrock Rodeo Roundup" (probably in February, 1976, but I am not certain). I cozily sat relaxed in my favourite living room chair as I watched all five of the episodes airing during March Break in 1976, them being "Moonlight Maintenance", "Sheriff For a Day", "Deep in the Heart of Texarock", "The Rolls Rock Caper", and "Superstone". I vividly remember seeing Barney hypnotised by Fred into acting like a dog and Fred needing to seek out Mesmo the Great in order to return Barney to normal, i.e. the episode, "The Hypnotist", early on a sunny Friday afternoon mid-summer in 1976, and later that afternoon, I was in a trailer court off of Douglastown's Rennie Road, for some reason. I think it may have had something to do with the Douglastown Days Parade which would, I guess, have been on the Saturday thereafter.
And the incidental music of The Flintstones is notable for its impressions. Many pieces of music were distinctively specific to certain scenes or actions. The Fred-at-work-at-the-rock-quarry musical theme would often be playing in my mind, prompting me to replicate it with tongue movements, hums and grunts as I walked to school for afternoon class(es), stepped onto the playground, and joined friends for some chatter prior to summons of us by bell into the school. That or the fear-and-action music that played whenever Fred and Barney were fleeing for their lives (its use in the deucedly creepy and wildly funny episode, "A Haunted House is Not a Home", as Fred and Barney are frantically trying to escape "the late" J. Giggles Flintstone's morose, seemingly macabre and homicidal servants, is most effective and memorable). Or the excited-and-happy music accompanying Fred's departure from work for a weekend or vacation. Or what would usually be heard while Fred either by himself or together with other characters, is speedily performing a task (for instance, the making of hundreds of gravelberry pies in an assembly-line). Some of more sedate passages of music were just as effective in conveying mood and in mental imprinting upon me, and would become quite evocative of fond recall of Douglastown and my experiences there, several years after I moved away from the Miramichi area. These include many of the restrained, quaintly reflective musical scores for conversation scenes in episodes of the last two seasons of The Flintstones. I would also give honourable mention to the calmly ritzy music accompanying the Flintstones and Rubbles' stay at Rock Vegas. Many of the pieces of music cited here are probably indelibly imprinted on the grey matter of many a member of my generation. They certainly are for me.
And I would make further mention of "The Time Machine" and "The Long, Long, Long Weekend". There was a vaguely disquieting feel to the world of the future into which Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty were sent in the former. Difficult to put into words, but it was not, even with all of its awesome Space Age technology, as inviting a time and place as one might expect. It and its people seemed aloof, distant. Somewhat unamenable and "off-putting". As though some humanity had been lost in future progression. The incidental music in those scenes seemed to suggest such, too. And yet, as a depicted future, it was fascinating. So too were the astronomers operating the telescope that detected the foursome in their transference through time to the future world. And as to the latter of these two episodes, everything in the future was positive, bright, and enticing, apart from the journey to Mars and the ominously otherworldly and creepy conditions found there. It was so like the often jointly connected genres of speculative future and science fiction to include, to incorporate the bright and some of the dark constructs of the imagination, and in interesting combinations.
On the whole, The Flintstones and my watching of all of its episodes, was a fun and cheerful experience. Much amusement and many laughs to he had, mostly at the amazingly diverse breadth of predicaments of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble and their reactions to each of them. A delightful television-viewing lark if ever there was one, and with many an impression to share with friends, with whom I would talk (at school or at or around home) after an ATV Flintstones telecast. And along with it, a recognition of the divergent operational idiosyncrasies of television broadcasters, with appreciation of some of those broadcasters and their practises and irritation with some others and their procedures and habits. But interesting. Always interesting. In summation, a highlight of 1975-6, certainly after The Bugs Bunny Show was no more on CBC Television and as weekend visits, maybe once a month, to Fredericton were my only way of seeing The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBS/WAGM.
Michael and I played outdoors in my yard, and I remember a Flintstone episode or two being the basis of our fun. We role-played some of the characters as the two of us ran around on my yard's side and front lawns. Michael and I chose to play together the premise of "Fred Goes Ape" one spring evening in 1976 (some while after that episode had been shown that spring on ATV), and we modified the subject matter so as to be acted-out by us in a way that was rather less ridiculous than how actual episode portrayed it.
On many days, Michael joined me in my living room as I was watching television. Episodes of The Flintstones were among what we watched together. And episodes of Leave it to Beaver (which ATV was running weekdays at noon for a time in the late summer and early autumn of 1976). And a Pink Panther Show episode with the hilarious Inspector cartoon, "Reaux, Reaux, Reaux Your Boat", airing after a broadcast of CTV's Uncle Bobby. After some noon-hour television viewing, we snapshot photographs of me and of him standing next to and atop high snowbanks in January, 1976, using the still-photographs camera that I had received as a present the previous Christmas. I remember our friendship becoming closer and closer during the winter and spring of 1976. And in the summer of 1976 and the subsequent autumn, winter, spring, and summer, Michael and I would be as close as we would ever be.
And Michael was the epitome of childhood chutzpah, and I admired that, even if it did fluster me on a number of occasions. My parents gave to him a key to the house so that he could feed Frosty while we were away in Nova Scotia in 1975. One day when I was in Grade 4, I arrived at home with my key to admit me to the supposedly locked and empty house- and found him inside, helping himself to a snack. He had used the key given to him on the preceding summer to enter the house and surprise me. That he certainly did! Another of his bold activities was driving his older brother's car around the Douglastown Raceway while seated on his brother's lap. And he was just six years-old in 1975!
Michael had perhaps the biggest thrill of his early childhood when he was chosen to appear with his mother in a television commercial for Chukwag'n fried chicken. I was intensely envious, of course, of his good fortune and pending fame, until I saw the commercial during part one or two of The Six Million Dollar Man's "Death Probe" episode on a Sunday evening. The producers of the commercial had overdubbed Michael's voice with that of another boy, and Michael's back was to the camera as he presented the bucket of chicken to his mother at a house's doorway. Michael was rather quiet, but still his usual easy-going self, about the commercial when I spoke with him about it on the following day. Such, he and I both learned, is show business. The outcome is frequently not what was expected. Michael did not proceed to do any further television commercials, nor did he progress to becoming a television or movie actor.
Grade 4 (1975-6) immediately had an unaccustomed feel to it. A male teacher, Mr. Wood, throughout each day. And the arranging of classroom desks in rows, which for me was a first after I had been seated at tables (in Grades 1 and 2) or in a cluster of desks (in Grade 3) yielding a communal aspect to the learning process and facilitating the development of classmate comradeship and friendship. Rows of desks were isolating and tedious, I thought. For much of the pre-Christmas part of Grade 4, our desks were positioned in their rows horizontally across the classroom, facing the back wall of the school. None of my classmates with whom I was closest in rapport were seated anywhere near me, and for possibly the first time in my school experience I was often impatiently counting the minutes to noon hour and to afternoon dismissal. On one day or two in the first couple of weeks of the school year, I brought my latest edition of Gold Key Comics' Looney Tunes with me to school to read after completing my morning's or afternoon's assignments. By then, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was gone from CBC Television, the half-hour Bugs Bunny Show being run for a short while instead, before Bugs and his cartoon friends would disappear from English-language television in my community, with Looney Tunes comic books (and comic books specific to certain individual or paired cartoon characters) the only regularly-output, available-in-the-Miramichi-area visual medium in English for my continuing affection for the cartoon personages of Warner Brothers. Grade 4 was a year of what I felt, at the outset, was unwelcome change, for the most part (I did for awhile enjoy hot lunches with my schoolmates at the Douglastown village hall across Douglastown's main road from my place), and it was not until the latter half of that school year that I was mainly adjusted to new realities and immersed myself enthusiastically in some different things. After Christmas, the rows of desks were turned 90 degrees to the right, and I was located along the school's front wall with our classroom door ahead of me and a pin-up board to my side (on which I displayed some of my drawings) and Kevin MacD. seated behind me. A much, much more appealing condition. It was during the second half of Grade 4 that I researched Guatemala in books from our school library following an earthquake in that Central American nation, and a young-adult sister of one of the girls in our class came into our room one afternoon to tell all about her time in El Salvador, as we learned how to count to ten in Spanish.
Grade 4, particularly its second half, is most memorable for mathematics games in which Mr. Wood would line the boys on one end of a chalkboard and the girls on the other end, then have the boy and girl at the front of each line turn away from the chalkboard as a mathematical equation was written on the chalkboard. He then told the two contestants to turn and look at the written equation. Whoever first gave the correct answer remained in the game, and the other person was eliminated. The game continued until either every boy or every girl was eliminated and there was someone left on the other side. I often won the game for the boys and recall walking home from school with a sense of pride on many an afternoon. There were also spelling bees which I frequently won for the boys. Around that time, I had become fond of sketching comic page or comic book characters of my own invention but loosely based on Peanuts. In Grade 4, mathematics became rather more difficult as we were taught long division, surface area, and fractions. 1976 being an Olympic year, our school had its own version of Olympics in spring, 1976. Teams were assembled to "represent" certain countries, with boys and girls from Grades 3, 4, and 5. My team "represented" the United States, yet finished last.
Fact was that with no Physical Education class for any of the pupils of Douglastown Elementary until the construction (a short time into my Grade 4 year) of the Douglastown village hall directly across the road from my house, I was significantly less agile and less muscular and less skilled at sport than my classmates- who had been somewhat more physically active and participatory in traditional sporting games than I had been at school recess, before and after morning and afternoon classes, and around home. In addition to my being short in stature for my age. I was voluntarily sidelined during Physical Education games of floor hockey, for example, and although I was a player in Physical Education baseball games on Douglastown Elementary grounds, my sole value to the boys' team was to let pitch after pitch go by as I stood in the batter's box so that expiration of allotted time would prevent the opposition girls from having a last turn at bat. But by Grade 5, I was intent on attaining at least a modicum of proficiency in baseball, at least enough for single-base-hits by which I might score a run. And I do recall being involved, though not much of a factor, in some Physical Education floor hockey games during that school year.
However, I must say that for awhile, I felt rather resentful of Physical Education class for it being then the one item of curricula at school at which I was deficient in performance, and I did not much care for the village hall whose newly built existence had made possible indoor Physical Education through much of the snowy and cold school year. But gradually, I found the village hall to be a positive addition to my community (though my mother did lament the loud music- of summer concerts- that would resonate from the edifice across the road from our dwelling). As I have said, I partook of some hot lunches with my schoolmates at the village hall during the 1975-6 school year. The lunches were served in a ground-floor area of the hall. And my final year of Cub Scout meetings were convened therein, as was a Halloween party and school Christmas show in 1976. I was in fact saddened to hear of the village hall's obliteration in a fire a year or two after my parents and I moved out of Douglastown. Quite ironically, the Douglastown firefighters' station was situated in the cellar area to the right-hand side of that same village hall. Evidently, the inferno that destroyed the structure was very rapid and occurred rather late at night.
As previously articulated at some length, Grade 4 (1975-6) was the year that I followed the ATV broadcasts of The Flintstones. Over the many months of late 1975 and the first quarter of 1976, the Serena/Josie storyline on The Edge of Night proceeded from one surprising development to the next, with murder occurring at the hands of Josie in an outdoor scene one day in early December. And it finally culminated in an entire late-March-of-1976 episode in which attorney Adam Drake exposed Josie to a court after she had been pretending to be Serena since the day of the killing. I was rigid in my living room chair as that episode progressed in each extremely tense minute. I knew that something of some huge import was going to happen but was not sure what it would be. And having seen most of Spiderman in preceding months, I saw, in final quarter of 1975, some of the Spiderman episodes remaining for me to experience and grew more and more appreciative of the order in which episodes were made and broadcast. Especially those of the Spiderman seasons of producer Ralph Bakshi.
In the autumn of 1975 before I started going to the Douglastown village hall for hot lunches, I was coming home for midday meals prepared by my father, and watching noontime ATV showings of Spiderman. I remember one day being impressed by the Spiderman episode, "Criminals in the Clouds", and Spidey's intensive search for the impeccably poised, devious, elusive aerial villain and his equally elusive headquarters (a dirigible with a cloud camouflage), said villain, the Sky Master, seeking to acquire, through kidnapping and extortion, an invisibility serum. The concept and nomenclature of "invisibility serum" was compelling to me.
And the Sky Master I regarded as quite the distinguished villain. Calculating, suave, supremely confident, and, as his green complexion denoted, sinister and quite evil. It was not explicitly stated what he intended to do once he had the coveted serum, but his contempt and hatred for the "Earth dwellers" was declared in no uncertain terms. There had also been a green-skinned aerial villain, the Baron Von Rantenraven, in "Sky Harbour", in a Spiderman episode of some acquaintance to me already. I was accustomed to villains in Spiderman (and Rocket Robin Hood also) having a distinctly verdant tinge to their skin. I regarded such as befitting the destructive, world-dominating, in some way unconscionably unkind and quite unpleasant connotation in the villains' schemes, green skin being a striking aesthetic visualisation, an artistic denotation, of evil. It had evidently been so in the Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Hyde and Hare", seen by me near the end of Era 1. But as with the Sky Master, not every green-skinned villain in Bakshi's Spiderman was ranty and maniacal (though many of them were) in their evil. So many Spiderman viewers have bemoaned the tendency of villains to be green in the episodes of Bakshi's two Spiderman seasons. As a visual means of coding villainy in the making of cartoon animation, I thought it to be very effective. I interpreted it correctly as a cogent visual representation of the less than benign bearing of the character against whom super-heroic Spiderman is pitted.
I would add that the one time that there is some depiction of Mr. Hyde in Spiderman, though not in a Bakshi-produced episode and albeit represented only in a stage actor's theatre poster, his skin is green. When, totally unexpectedly, I first saw this, I was more than a little startled. Which I suppose should go without saying.
As something of an annotation to my memory recounted several paragraphs above, of an unsettling summer-of-1975 talk with my friend, Johnny, about war and of the destruction wrought by aerial bombing, I would say that I had seen "Sky Harbour" weeks or months prior to then, and had not been particularly troubled by its depictions of fighter aeroplanes and warfare from the air. In "Sky Harbour", bombs were being dropped from fighter aeroplanes by the green-skinned Baron and his minions, but they released paralysing dust upon hitting target. They were not incendiary or obliterating devices. That here being stated, I most certainly still knew that the Baron was the evil quantity that had to be defeated, and the green of his skin visually accentuated such.
In my viewing in this life era of Spiderman, I thought, quite naturally, that "The Origin of Spiderman" was the first episode, and that all of the Bakshi-produced episodes (what I thought of as "pier" episodes") came before those of Grantray-Lawrence (what I branded as "web" episodes). I inferred that there were separate production blocks (I was correct in that regard), with the Bakshi oeuvre coming first. What "chronological anomalies" that would incur from this were not immediately evident to me. And they would not be until I later viewed the episodes in the early 1980s. Besides, in its mid-to-late-1970s run of Spiderman, ATV did mix some of the early Grantray-Lawrence episodes with the later Bakshi ones (yes, there was some overlap), which made the odd "chronological glitch" in viewing Spiderman as starting with the Bakshi episodes, even less readily detectable (when seeing the episodes for the first or second time). Some of those "glitches" may even have been "corrected" in the mixed way that ATV ran the episodes, therefore avoiding early-days notice by me.
With the Bakshi-produced body of Spiderman episodes, I fancied how the five or six episodes subsequent to "The Origin of Spiderman" so clearly had a chronological placement not long after the story of Spiderman's beginning, as Peter began working at The Daily Bugle, as Spidey was being seen for the first time by citizens of New York City, and as Peter was learning that continuing his studies and having a successful social life was not going to be easy, given his dual identity and the responsibilities that go with it. I also liked how the early episodes had protracted web-swinging epilogues, with reiteration of the Spiderman theme song. And it appealed to me that many of the "excursion" episodes and some of Spidey's battles in New York City with behemoth beings, followed in the next "batch" of Spidey stories, and that the episodes with a style somewhat analogous to those made by Grantray-Lawrence, were then next to come. Followed further onward by some of the weirdest, very psychedelic ones. As I say, I was becoming increasingly appreciative of these "touches" to Spiderman as I watched ATV's 1975-6 airings of the vividly colourful television series.
A notable day of my Grade 4 school year was February 2, 1976, day of the Groundhog Day Gale. School was cancelled, of course. The wind was so strong that it blew Michael's family's Christmas tree from the edge top of their driveway down the back road to the edge of the cliff leading down to a tributary to the river. And it contorted our television antenna tower. On another morning when the weather was inclement but on which there was still school, I slipped on ice and fell twice into puddles, once on one side of the dip in the road and wooden bridge that I had to cross every morning to go to school, and once on the other side. I was soaked by the time that I arrived inside the school! And I lost my bookbag, which slipped down to the frozen river. It was later found, but the books were ruined.
In the following summer, the summer of 1976, I rode my bicycle, adorned with streamers, in the Douglastown Days Parade. Said parade was on Saturday, July 31. I am quite certain of the date. In July that year, Johnny and I built a fort along the shore, at a place where some dangling trees totally concealed us, and we used large driftwood for furniture. On Douglastown Days that summer, Johnny persuaded me to go to a rock-music concert with him at the Douglastown village hall, and my ears ached for days thereafter! 1976 was also the year in which Queen Elisabeth visited the Miramichi region. People gathered all along her motorcade route, which included the main road in Douglastown. But she remained in her car seat, while the Duke of Edinburgh was waving to the crowds.
In the last weeks of the summer of 1976, the garage was turned into a hotel. And fancying the Mexican settings of the Flintstones episode, "El Terrifico", I had the garage hotel adopt some representations of Mexico and Mexican culture for a time. Subsequently, I went back to tracing of comic book covers, for cartoon character pictures to put on the walls of the hotel, thereby returning to a procedure which had been integral to the art gallery project of the summer and autumn previous. I did say some paragraphs above that the sort of work undertaken and the creative impulse for the 1975 art gallery project, would be manifest again. And it was. In my comic page drawing in the school year and in a next-summer garage project. My interest in space and with things spatial was definitely in growth in the summer months of 1976, and it, too, found some expression in the 1976 summer transformations of my garage. When the garage was also a theatre in 1976, I stepped out from behind a hanging blanket and as a narrator spoke about the beginning of the universe.
In July, 1976, my friend, Johnny, came with my mother, father, and I to Fredericton for a week's stay at my grandparents' house. I usually slept in a converted-to-bed sofa in a den at the front-centre of the house's main floor, but with Johnny with me on this particular visit, I was relocated to the basement, where two old beds were located, and Johnny and I slept in those beds. We all went to the Mactaquac Dam for a sight-seeing tour and then to the nearby King's Landing Historical Settlement, for an impression of what life was like in Canada of 100 years previous. Johnny and I bought some comic books from the convenience store near my grandparents' home. I had a Great Gazoo comic book, and Johnny purchased one with Disney's Huey, Dewey, and Louie and Donald Duck characters. My father returned to the Miramichi before the rest of us did, and on a weekday, my mother, Johnny, and myself rode S.M.T. bus to Douglastown, and we disembarked from the bus at about 7:30 in the evening almost in front of Johnny's grandparents' house. Michael was rather anxious to have the same opportunity to travel with me. He was insisting on it, in fact. And, in July of 1977, Michael accompanied me to Fredericton and to my grandparents' place for a most memorable and enjoyable weekend.
My father and I travelled to Moncton, New Brunswick, 100 miles south-east of Douglastown, on a summer weekday in 1976, and in Moncton we ate at A & W, visited Champlain Place shopping mall in nearby Dieppe, and went to Magnetic Hill to experience the famous phenomenon of the seeming uphill glide of one's car. I was drinking some Fanta grape soda while at Magnetic Hill. My mother had agreed to come home from work for lunch and audiotape-record The Flintstones, the episode on that day being "The Soft-Touchables" (Fred and Barney as private detectives duped into helping bank robbers to perpetrate a heist). She did as promised, and I was relieved, when my father and I were back at home for dinner, to have the episode on audiocassette. I had most of the Flintstones episodes on audiocassette by September, 1976, when my next television show of primary and currently broadcast fascination was to make its decidedly explosive entrance.
Television show of primary and currently broadcast fascination. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was that, before being removed from the CBC Television broadcast schedule. I subsequently ached with longing to have it back for a weekly viewing and audiotape-recording, and saw CBS broadcasts of it whenever possible during visits with my grandparents in Fredericton. But after its long run on CBC had been brought to an end, it did not have a regular, every-week, currently broadcast presence in my life as the television show to which I most looked forward and about which I ruminated either in private contemplation or in social interaction with friends. The Flintstones soon filled that role (and not just once a week), with The Pink Panther Show and Spiderman as "close seconds", in the 1975-6 broadcast year. But something further was beckoning. Something quite different and wonderful. Vivid live-action in space, with a remit for exploration of "worlds beyond belief". Promotional advertisements on CBC Television in August of 1976 for a television series slated to air on Saturdays that autumn had my rapt attention every time that they appeared. My mother, whose refrain had been that television was "the idiot box", was actually encouraging me to watch it. Not that any encouragement was needed. Over the weeks of the summer of 1976, I had been building rather an intensive interest about all things spatial. And from what I was seeing, the television series, Space: 1999, would be the perfect science-fictional visualisation of space and the celestial forms therein. Not only that. As I would discover, Space: 1999 would be a synthesis of that interest in space with many of my other and long-existing fascinations.
As the summer of 1976 was drawing to a close, Leave it to Beaver was bought onto ATV's daytime schedule, Monday to Friday at noon. Gilligan's Island followed at 12:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Spiderman being offered at that airtime on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Flintstones moved from 12:30 P.M. (where it had been time-slotted for many months in the first two-thirds of 1976) to 5 P.M. on weekdays, with an additional Saturday morning episode broadcast. Not long after that, Emergency! would become ATV's noon-hour provision, Monday to Friday.
On a warm, overcast day in September, 1976, I returned to school for the first day of Grade 5. Overcast. Unusual, that; most first-days of school in Douglastown were sunny. I remember a geography lesson by our teacher, Mr. Donahue, before recess, and my mention of France being shaped much like New Brunswick. During recess, I acted out some of the twenty-fourth instalment of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, which I remembered word-for-word, operatic phrase by operatic phrase (for the cartoon, "Long-Haired Hare"), and bull bellow by bull bellow ("Bully For Bugs"). And of course the cartoon, "Hyde and Go Tweet". I remember the amused looks of a few of my classmates (Kevin MacD. among them), and the marvelling of them at my memory of that Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode, as I described it to them in detail while we filed back into the school building.
Grade 5 (1976-7) could be said to have been the pinnacle of my years in Douglastown. The number of friends that I had was at its highest in Grade 5. In fact, my number of friends doubled during the course of Grade 5. While some (a few) of my years-old friendships were receding somewhat at around that time, I was simultaneously gaining several new friends or enjoying increased rapport and time spent with other long-standing friends. The net effect was a clearly improving social life.
An extensive description of 1976-7 can be read in my account of my introduction to and growing fascination with the television series, Space: 1999, in my Boy Meets Alpha memoirs. Space: 1999 was a shared item of interest for me and my new friends.
My 1976-7 memories, just about all of them very, very fond ones, are of bicycle rides and strolls with my best friend, Michael, through a maze of nature trails that my grandmother and I had discovered in July, 1976; berry-picking expeditions with Michael; performing with Kevin MacD. in a Christmas play as we were two of three boys awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus (who was played by Evie); riding a school bus across the dip in the road to the school because of a spring of 1977 construction project (the tributary to the river had been crossed by a wooden bridge, which was being replaced by a causeway of sorts) and seeing what it was like to ride a bus to school (albeit for very short transport); Friday morning skating at Newcastle's Sinclair Rink (where I started learning to skate); baseball games between the boys and girls in the school yard through which I was making progress at being reasonably competent at playing a sport; and craft days during which I became quite proficient at soap carving. I also drew a fairly accurate picture of Tweety, which was hung in the entry way to the school. Our teacher, Mr. Donahue, liked to tell comical stories about us using the words in our spelling quizzes. He also encouraged creative writing, including one day, in the midst of more than two weeks of rain, when we were asked by him to conceive a story about what happened to the Sun.
The morning and afternoon riding of bus to school was not something by which I was particularly gratified during those spring of 1977 weeks when it was required that I do so, but for the first few days that it was a new experience, it was rather appealing for its novelty. I vividly remember Michael and a couple of girls joining me at the front of my driveway to await the coming of the bus in the morning. On one of those mornings, before the arrival of the others at the bus stop, I was thinking about the Flintstones episode, "Pebbles' Birthday Party", and the Bionic Woman episode, "Doomsday is Tomorrow: Pt. 2", that had aired on television within the previous twenty-four hours.
In the summer (that of 1976) that had preceded Grade 5, an interest that I had long had in different environments and outer space and all of its phenomena, had gone into an astronomically expansive growth. Johnny and I had sat in my front veranda and with a new paperback book (an impulse buy at a department store) that I had about the planets of the Solar System, had talked about how unlike Earth and awesome that planets like Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury must be. The otherworldly travels and tribulations or Rocket Robin Hood and his Merry Men and of Spiderman, and indeed even Bugs Bunny's impressive excursions to settings off the Earth and the extraterrestrial encounters in The Flintstones, had coalesced in my mind with the science facts being put forward in my book about the planets, and my imagination was flourishing. Astronomy had become enticing and exciting. Books about astronomy had become very desirable. And then, that September, along had come Space: 1999.
Space: 1999, through the first episodes that I saw of it, had collected all of the many elements of my sense of wonder and bonded them with certain other enthralments (apprehensions, even- and some revulsions, too) that I had carried with me through my juvenile years. It had grabbed me. It had me. I liked its concepts. Its depictions. Its hardware. Its characters. Everything.
My expanding interest in outer space, astronomy, and Space: 1999 was not only encouraged by long-time friends and classmates, plus a number of younger children at our school, but shared. We talked about the previous Saturday's episode of Space: 1999 and the aliens or alien world(s) therein, built replicas of Moonbase Alpha's communication devices, listened to my Space: 1999 audiotape-recordings that I brought with me to school, and looked at the Space: 1999 books then available which I purchased. The widespread popularity of Space: 1999 in Douglastown, I later learned, was a rare phenomenon. The second season aired there first, and everyone was inspired by the fast pacing, stunning production design, realistic special effects, and dynamic characters. A high regard for Space: 1999 was a collective trait positively connecting me in spirit with my peers for the last time, I would say, in my schooling. Whenever I think of Grade 5 (1976-7), I always remember Space: 1999 and the validation of my interest in it by friends new and old. By an indeed quite wide circle of Douglastown Elementary comrades.
And as I followed, with my friends, the spatial wandering of Moonbase Alpha on Space: 1999, my interest in astronomy broadened to include the stars. The fact that stars were other suns, many of them of colour different from that of our own sun, was amazing and captivating. I would sit in our Grade 5 classroom and draw pictures of blue stars and red stars. And when Michael and I played in my yard at home, it was to other planets, and planets of other stars, that we imagined ourselves to be going. My friend and classmate, David F., soon joined me in the purchasing of books about astronomy and space. And I would occasionally overhear some of my other friends in our class discussing, with accolades, the Space: 1999 episode of the preceding Saturday, and such would bring a smile to my face.
Douglastown had proven to be a highly advantageous locale for a boy such as myself, whose social development in earliest years had been distinctly, significantly below average, and whose tendency toward passivity in social situations, preferring others to initiate communication and potential friendship, could have been lonesomely disastrous in the all-important school Grades 1-5 stage of life. The inhabitants of Douglastown were the most congenial, most humane, most outgoing type of people that I would ever encounter, and even among them, the finding of friendship, particularly at school, had been seldom a cakewalk for me. In some cases, with David F. and Evie, I was helped somewhat by their new-pupil situation at the school and by a Grade 2 teacher who, I think, encouraged interaction of them with me, and the result was a pair of healthy friendships. Kevin MacD. was interested in some of the entertainment-based things on which I was working in my spare time and became closer to me as months passed in Grade 2, but I was definitely the passive one in that friendship. My friends around home always came to me or extended invitations for me to come to them. Very rarely did I approach them entirely on my own initiative, and even then, they had to be outside as I entered their yards. By Grade 5, I had attained something of a prestigious position at school in addition to around home because the entertainments that I so keenly, so openly, fancied and favoured were popular, and my knowledge and experience of them and possession of crafted-by-myself and store-bought items based on them, were altogether a valuable social commodity. I was also interested in astronomy and outer space, what most imaginative, pre-pubescent children should- and, at least in Douglastown, did- find to be prime conversation material. Classmates would often ask me about the stars that I was drawing or the Solar System map that our teacher permitted me to put on the wall behind the workstation shared by myself and five other boys.
I could talk for hours about such subjects, and was regularly sought, by younger boys in addition to some of the males in my Grade 5 class, as a conversation partner. But again, the interested parties came to me or invited me to where they were at; I did not go to them solely on my initiative. Even amongst the highly friendly population of Douglastown, I was still fearful of rebuff. Plus, I had not acquired much of an ability to project an image of confidence and competence in approaching people. I had not needed to do so, for my friends had largely reduced or negated the necessity for it. Still, I did wish that I could be with some of my friends (Kevin MacD., for instance) at times that I was not with them. Rather than call to them to signify my interest in our being together, I just stayed passive and tried to attract their attention and interest by some means or another, usually by bringing something, some rather impressive item, to school. In Grade 5, it was usually something related to Space: 1999, like my audiotape-recordings of episodes (audiotape-recordings brought by me to school on the Monday after the Saturday of the episodes' telecast), or books, or toy props of my manufacture.
Quite popular, a leader around home in garage projects and the like, sought at school on the playground and in the classroom for my extensive familiarity with very interesting subjects, but still abjectly passive at socialising. Such was me. I prospered because I was in the right place at, I suppose, the right time. The 1970s was the decade in which popular culture and my tastes were most in concert with one another, and I did thrive socially because of both this and the friendliness of the people in my midst. The whole experience, although enabling me to enjoy a social existence after a quite barren first life era, did, I believe, encourage an excessively ego-centric mindset. My friends all came to me. Around home, I was focus of attention. The activities on which my friends and I collaborated, the tremendously fun times we shared, were in my garage or yard or mostly in fairly close proximity to those. I had my own world, at which I was the centre, and my friends were a part of that world in as much as they wished to be and in as much as they cooperated with my ways of thinking and of doing things, which was almost always the case. It was something of an idyllic existence for me, and I am eternally grateful for it, but I did remain rather disadvantaged, it must be said. I was not only ego-centric but also more naive than most children my age. Michael, though being three years junior to me, was more worldly-wise than me in so many ways. My peers at school, too, had a sophistication and a dauntlessness about them by which I stayed amazed and mystified. I was none too eager for the change-over to another school, Croft Elementary School in Newcastle, that was imminent once we all had completed Grade 5 at Douglastown Elementary School, and one day in Grade 5, we went to Harkins Junior High School in Newcastle for some sort of regional pupil assembly, and the size of the school, while not to the least noticeable degree unnerving the others, had me deeply troubled. I felt desperately out of my depth. I was so happy to be back in the Douglastown school building when we returned thereto later that day.
In any event, Grade 5 was my highest point of social success in Douglastown. Though I was not exactly as close with Evie and Kevin MacD. as in previous years, I still had an indeed quite positive relationship with them. Evie and I still came to each other's homes to be together fairly often. And we three acted as an ensemble cast in a play performance of Santa Claus visiting a home during our school Christmas show at the Douglastown village hall in 1976. Other classmates were quite chummy with me by this time. Michael and I were together more than ever, spending many an entire night in my garage in our sleeping bags, bicycling around the village, tobogganing on a Saturday afternoon on the slope near the Miramichi River tributary separating my house from the school, playing together at my place and at his, and going with each other on excursions to Newcastle and Chatham and even on a weekend's visit to my grandparents in Fredericton in July of 1977 (Michael had an endearing address of "gramps" for my grandfather). Through Space: 1999 and my coinciding fascination with all things astronomical, I had an expanding rapport with David F., his junior friend, Sandy, and a group of Grade 3 and 4 boys of names Richard, Robert, and Albert, who invited me to join them in school recess playing of Moonbase Alpha's spatial encounters. A particular classmate of mine, named Doug, stayed with me for awhile in our classroom after the dismissal bell in the afternoons, talking with me about outer space and the possible existence of extraterrestrial life. And there were two brothers names of Aaron and Bobby, both junior to me, who visited me at home and played Space: 1999 with me there.
My mother, my father, and I went to Fredericton to visit my grandparents once each month of the final quarter of 1976 (including the weekend of Christmas Day, which was a Saturday that year). And on my insistence, those visits had to include a Saturday morning so that I could view and audiotape what was being shown of the Warner Brothers cartoons by the CBS television network. With cable television at my grandparents' place, there was The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour- and also The Sylvester and Tweety Show, which CBS added to its Saturday morning programming grid in the autumn of 1976 to be an adjunct to The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, increasing the airtime for Warner Brothers' cartoons on Saturday mornings to ninety minutes. I would hum to myself the introduction music to The Sylvester and Tweety Show as I sat through an In the News segment that came between The Sylvester and Tweety Show and The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was the "flagship" television-show vehicle for the Warner Brothers cartoons. The Sylvester and Tweety Show would not last beyond one television season, but The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour would endure on the CBS television network. And though, going into 1977, I was undeniably enamoured with Space: 1999, my love for the cartoons of Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Sylvester, Road Runner, and the other characters of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies was steadfast.
My memories of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and Sylvester and Tweety Show episodes that I saw at my grandparents' house in 1976 and 1977 are not detailed enough for complete listing of cartoons in specific episodes- except for the Christmas of 1976 episode of The Sylvester and Tweety Show, whose cartoons I can remember as being "Gift Wrapped", "Canned Feud" (a Sylvester cartoon new to me on my viewing of the television show that morning), and "Putty Tat Trouble". There were several cartoons (rather more than a dozen) seen by me for the first time by way of my viewings of CBS' Saturday morning Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour broadcasts, as I was seated on the floor in my grandparents' living room, my eyes "glued" to the television screen. And being that there was no comprehensive catalogue readily available then for the Warner Brothers cartoons, there was no telling how many more of them remained to be seen by my wide eyes. Based on what I beheld on those Saturdays when I was at my grandparents' place, it seemed that there could be many dozens more previously-not-experienced-by-me cartoons. Several, maybe many, many more, with my favourite characters.
And as I sat in front of my grandparents' television, I saw many of the most famous American television commercials of the 1970s. "Leggo my Eggo." Yes, that. Stupid commercial, but a "catchy" jingle. And the Tootsie Pop commercial with Mr. Owl trying to determine the precise number of licks required to reach the Tootsie Roll centre of a Tootsie Pop. And the Hubba-Bubba bubble gum commercials with "the Gum-fighter" having bubble-blowing contests with opponents in the style of Wild West showdowns. The accidental mixing of chocolate and peanut butter to yield the idea for the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. The giant, bipedal jug of Kool-Aid that comes crashing through walls. Ronald McDonald and his friends on their misadventures, combined with their descriptions of McDonald's food. Yes, all of them.
Audiocassette breakage was a recurrent problem for me through the 1970s, and ageing machinery and ageing audiocassettes made the problem worse as the decade progressed. Back then, I did not know of procedures for preventing audiocassette jamming and un-spooling (the usual cause of audiocassette loss), and splicing broken audiotape and making a second-generation copy, omitting the lost or corrupted sections of the recording, did not enter my mind as a possible and workable response to the calamity. I was usually so distraught at losing an audiotape that strategies for preserving its content were not in my thoughts. Not my immediate thoughts, anyway. In any case, the perfectionist that I was rather fast becoming, an audiotape-recording compromised by obviously missing sections, was unacceptable. Furthermore, prior to 1978, I did not know that audiotape could be copied without the use of a microphone, i.e. that copying could be done with a machine-to-machine connection of audio cables minimising "generation loss" of sound quality. Because of this and because of the occasional need to erase and reuse an audiocassette (I could not always have a new audiocassette in my hands for use in audiotape-recording an irresistibly desirable television series episode broadcast; I sometimes had to make a difficult choice), none of my audiotape-recordings of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, from broadcast on CBC or CBS, survived by late 1979 (late 1979 was when I had a reel-to-reel audiotape machine and was beginning to transfer my audiocassette-recordings to the more stable reel-to-reel audiotape format). I remember the CBC-broadcast Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episodes best because I had seen all of them multiple times and had audiotape-recording of them for a longer time period. And I had also enacted them in the school playground a number of times. Try as I do, I cannot precisely remember a CBS 1976 or 1977 Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episode's full contents.
As a matter of fact, while I was audiotape-recording the Space: 1999 episode, "The Taybor", at my grandparents' house on Christmas Day, 1976, the audiocassette jammed in the machine approximately fifteen minutes into the episode.
On Monday, December 27, 1976, my parents and I returned to Douglastown from our 1976 Christmas stay at my grandparents' place in Fredericton, and as 1976 became 1977, I was absorbed in using my new typewriter, one of my Christmas presents, to compose textual dissertations on planets and stars and an episode guide for Space: 1999; was putting together collages of hand-drawn planets hung on threads from a clothes hanger; and was pointing the telescope given to me by my parents for Christmas, at the night sky. I showed my Christmas presents to Michael, as I always did, and I brought one of those presents, a book on science, with me to school. I remember the first month of 1977 also for a series of snowstorms, one of them forcing a cancellation of school at noon-time; for my growing fascination with Space: 1999; for Conquest of the Planet of the Apes being shown on Midday Matinee on ATV (on Monday, January 3); for the airing of the television miniseries, Roots, on ATV; for Michael visiting me one evening as I was playing my audiotape-recording of the Space: 1999 episode, "The Beta Cloud", in the living room; for the urgent and gripping Bionic Woman two-part episode, "Doomsday is Tomorrow", and the exciting Six Million Dollar Man two-part episode, "Death Probe", airing for the first time; and for the start of routine Friday morning skating at Newcastle's Sinclair Rink for all grades of Douglastown Elementary School.
The first couple of Fridays at the rink are memorable for me perambulating the main arena's outermost circumference on the upper walkway at top of the seating areas, Kevin MacD., Darryl, and others walking some distance in front of me, and for me trying to skate without falling on the ice. Eventually, I found my niche in the boots-to-skates changing room, where I bonded with Grade 3 boys Richard and Robert, who were enthusiastic about Space: 1999 and other imaginative entertainments. And we, they and I, would go to the rink's canteen and have some delicious French fries and ketchup. In my element was I, very much so, in those changing room and canteen conferences with Richard and Robert on imaginative entertainment. Still, on all Fridays at the rink, we all had to spend some time on the ice, and on every one of those Fridays I was out there for a time on the sheet of frozen water endeavouring to skate- and to remain upright in doing so. Michael memorably helped me on one of my attempts to move myself some appreciable distance across the ice, and I did achieve some progress in early 1977 in gaining some rudimentary skating ability.
I have a vivid memory of forming a line in the rink's foyer for boarding the bus to return to Douglastown Elementary School, and another vivid memory of Kevin MacD. tripping over me outside the Grade 5 classroom as he was removing his boots after we returned to school from Friday morning skating, and the laugh that we two shared about that.
Early 1977 saw the opening in Douglastown of the village's first commercial eating establishment, as the Big D in Bathurst expanded its drive-in restaurant business to include an outlet in Douglastown. The Douglastown Big D was of identical construction to the Bathurst one. Right down to the towering Big D roadside sign. The novelty of the presence of a restaurant in the village gave to the Douglastown Big D an initially large clientele. I certainly do remember a few of the meals that I had there. Like at the A & W in Fredericton, food was delivered by waitresses to the cars of customers, with trays attaching to the car windshields. Douglastown's Big D was situated along the village's main road, in the section of the village that was nearest to the Chatham Bridge. Proximity of it to our home meant that it would be a preferred mealtime destination for my father, though my mother was not impressed enough by the food to want to go thereto often. I must say that I found the Big D food to be serviceable but lacking the desirability factor of a McDonald's Big Mac and French fries or an A & W Papa Burger. Further, I seem to recall preferring the food at Newcastle's Dairy Queen to that of the Big D.
Two outings to the Big D are vividly memorable. One of them, with my father as night was descending, was on Thursday, March 10, 1977, the day that rings were discovered around the planet Uranus. I remember hearing the report on the car radio about that as my father and I were finishing our Big D meal, and thinking about how appealing, how "cool", that discovery was, as my father was veering our car out of the Big D driveway. And on sunny Friday, June 17, 1977, after I had been unable to open the door to our house for the afternoon and had subsquently wandered the village until my father arrived at home from work, my father brought me to the Big D post-haste for food to fill my empty and growling stomach.
The Douglastown Big D would cease operations sometime in 1979. Construction of a shopping mall (with a Coffee Mill therein) and a McDonald's fast food restaurant a short distance away from Douglastown's Big D, could only have had one possible outcome for Douglastown's first commercial eatery. Such caused effect was quite swift, from what I gather. I was not living in Douglastown then.
While at Coles Bookstore in Fredericton's Regent Mall during a late 1976 or early 1977 stay of some length with my grandparents in Fredericton, I found a book on the universe that had captured my fancy. On that same visit to the bookstore Coles, I discovered also an edited-by-Richard J. Anobile "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" picture book, loaded with photographs from the 1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie, whose existence I already knew about from the cover of a Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and a fairly detailed entry (with photographs) about it in Scholastic Books' Movie Monsters, which Johnny possessed and had shown to me the previous summer. I could only buy one book that day at Fredericton's Coles Bookstore and opted for the space book. Anyway, I doubted that my mother would approve purchasing the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde book, her probably judging it to be inappropriate for me at my age; it was about a non-cartoon iteration of the horror story that had so strongly gripped my boyhood capacity for being frightened and disturbed. The space book that I bought had a picture of a galaxy on its cover and had an appealing deep-violet trim.
Maine Public Broadcasting's December of 1979, Saturday afternoon telecast of the 1968 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde television movie (with Jack Palance as Jekyll and Hyde) would mark the first time that I was to see "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" done with actors and actresses in full breadth of story development in a serious (i.e. non-lampooning) way. Canadian comedians Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster spoofed "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in early 1977 in one of their television specials on CBC, and there was an episode of the children's comedy, Coming Up Rosie, with one of the characters, Dudley Nightshade, becoming Jekyll and Hyde. Yes, I had seen those.
It would not be until 1991 that the 1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie was beheld with my pair of eyes.
I would add that Johnny's book, Movie Monsters, had a section on how to perform monsters on a theatre stage, with clever advice on using a change of lighting on the face from red to green, plus a quick and discreet application of fangs, to achieve a transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. My friends and I thought that to be quite "cool".
In 1977's first five months, CHSJ-TV (to which we in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick now had crystal-clear signal access) was offering Star Trek on Saturdays at 1 P.M.. Although I preferred Space: 1999 to Star Trek by a wide margin and did watch Star Trek with my mind frequently occupied with anticipation and ardent thought of Saturday's CBC Television (and CBC-affiliated CHSJ) Space: 1999 broadcast slated for a later hour, I still found the galactic voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek to be mostly enjoyable and interesting viewing. Sometimes stimulating. And at times even somewhat creepy and unnerving. The depictions of some of the planets visited by the Enterprise intrigued me, as did the distinctly otherworldly look of some of the aliens. And friends at school would talk about Star Trek with me in addition to our main subject of conversation, Space: 1999. In those first five months of 1977, CHSJ was only airing episodes from Star Trek's third season. It was then that I saw for the first time such Star Trek episodes as "The Empath", "The Tholian Web", "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", "That Which Survives", "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", "Whom Gods Destroy", "The Mark of Gideon", and "The Lights of Zetar".
For some reason, CHSJ showed "The Empath" and "That Which Survives" twice, while other third season episodes, particularly those near or at the end of that season, were not, to the best of my knowledge, in the CHSJ mix. I saw a few of those late-third-season Star Trek episodes by way of WLBZ-TV from Bangor, Maine, while I was staying with my cable-television-possessing grandparents in Fredericton during March Break that year. Such episodes were "The Way to Eden", "The Savage Curtain", and "All Our Yesterdays". I audiotape-recorded "All Our Yesterdays" and quite liked its premise, that of a library connected to a time portal on a doomed planet. Indeed, I found it to be quite an appealing outing for Captain Kirk and his friends.
That 1977 March Break was intended to be spent entirely at my grandparents' place in Fredericton, so that I could see and audiotape-record The Sylvester and Tweety Show and The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBS (WAGM-TV) via cable television on two consecutive Saturdays (Saturday, March 19 and Saturday, March 26). My parents returned to Douglastown on the Sunday after the first Saturday, leaving me with my grandparents for the weekdays thereafter. The plan was for my mother and father to come back to Fredericton on Saturday of the second weekend to collect me and return me to Douglastown. My grandmother went with me to a Plaza Cinemas, Fredericton matinee screening of Walt Disney Productions' The Shaggy D.A. on the Wednesday. I also that day bought, from the K-Mart department store near to the cinemas, a Space: 1999 wall poster. It was during that week that I watched The Flintstones episodes, "No Biz Like Show Biz" and "The House That Fred Built", and The Bionic Woman- "The Night Demon" on my grandparents' television set. By Wednesday afternoon, I was missing my parents and my friend, Michael, so very much that I wanted to go home, back to Douglastown. To go home earlier, much earlier, than had been planned. I agitated about doing so, and my grandmother, in telephone conference with my mother, relented to my hankering for home, parents, and best friend. And on the Thursday, with decidedly inclement weather (heavy snow and winds), I boarded an afternoon S.M.T. bus for conveyance to the Miramichi region. After a prolonged, storm-related stop in the Millerton and Lower Derby area south of Newcastle, the bus reached the Newcastle depot, where my mother met me and brought me home.
Next day, the Friday, I was with Michael in our home, feeling relieved to be there. Relieved and happy. Much as I had fervently desired two consecutive Saturdays' access to CBS' Saturday morning broadcasts of Sylvester, Tweety, Bugs, and the Road Runner, that desire had been surpassed by how much I missed, after passage of numerous days, being home in Douglastown with my parents and friend. I certainly was not inclined to appreciate a concept of a "trade-off" of cable television access versus presence in my life of valued friends. I wanted the best of both worlds. Friendship and weekly viewings and audiotape-recordings of Bugs Bunny. Why should there have to be a "trade-off"? But life as I was to learn involves choices and "trade-offs", even if one may not be cognisant, when making a decision, of there necessarily being a "trade-off".
CHSJ's Saturday offerings in early 1977 included also The Adventures of the Lone Ranger, which aired on CHSJ in advance of Star Trek. Sometimes immediately before. The William Tell Overture that was played as incidental music in The Adventures of the Lone Ranger is as imprinted upon my mind for distinguishing the Saturday television viewing experience of early 1977 as are the refrains of Alexander Courage for the theme music of Star Trek and several of the phrases of Star Trek's third season's incidental music. All courtesy of CHSJ-TV, the at times rather capricious CBC Television affiliate out of Saint John, New Brunswick.
There was a daunting, even nerve-racking spookiness to the otherworldly environs shown in several of the entertainment productions viewed by me on television in this life era. Rocket Robin Hood was definitely a prime example of such. Even the one journey in The Flintstones to another planet, in the episode wherein Fred and Wilma Flintstone and Barney and Betty Rubble visit a Space Age future with routine interplanetary travel, was distinctly unsettling in its imagery (of the Martian landscape and some of the denizens of the red planet) and accompanying music. Some of the episodes of Star Trek, in their portrayal of "the other" in alien places or beings, shown by CHSJ-TV did have much the same effect upon me ("The Lights of Zetar", most especially). But Space: 1999 was in a class all of its own in this regard. The first Space: 1999 episodes to be seen in full by me were supremely compelling in their vivid, detailed, lifelike, disconcerting yet often quite inviting otherworldly depictions. In the words of one of the many reviewers of Space: 1999 in the world's press gallery, "Space: 1999 leaves Star Trek behind." Indeed it did for me, with the 6 P.M. Saturday showing of Space: 1999 "leaving behind" my experience of watching Star Trek hours earlier.
As the winter weather of the first quarter of 1977 abated in northern New Brunswick, and a Miramichi-region spring started to flower, my love for Space: 1999 blossomed while that television show's airings in New Brunswick on CHSJ-TV became less frequent than they had been in preceding months, CHSJ preempting Space: 1999 in New Brunswick in April and May for such telecasts as Kiwanis Auction and World Literature Crusade, as CBC Television stations in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were continuing to show Space: 1999 just about every week. Being able to see most, but not every, CBC Television broadcast of Space: 1999 made me appreciate the occasions that I did see Space: 1999 all the more dearly. I could be enticed away from watching Star Trek, but there was no possibility of enticing me away from watching Space: 1999. Space: 1999 had already achieved the firmest of holds upon me, and the decreased opportunities to view it in the spring months of 1977 added to that profoundly tight grip.
As alluded-to several paragraphs above, Space: 1999 was a synthesis of so much of what interested me in this era, and the era previous, of my life. Most apparently, it was a resplendent showcase for all of the spectacle that the cosmos could offer to a traveller. In its own discrete style, it presented its ogle-eyed viewer with an amazing diversity of intriguing astral bodies and space phenomena and alien life-forms. Especially a viewer with as growing and flourishing an interest in space and astronomy as I had. And together with such exalted wonderment, it also "tapped into" the feeling of apprehension associated with encountering "the other", portraying space and its worlds and denizens as potentially menacing, or at the very least disquieting. Sometimes frightening. Yes, even in the shown-first-on-full-CBC-Television second season, branded pejoratively by many Space: 1999 pundits as being "Space: 1999 Lite". To be sure, the most frightening episodes were in the first season, but I would by no means concur about Season Two having no unnerving content. With the first episodes that I saw of it (nearly all of those Season Two), I found Space: 1999 to be incorporating into its exceptionally vivid episodes such long-fascinating-to-me things as earthquakes, geologically unstable worlds, tenuous or soon-to-be extinct ecosystems- with earthquakes and seismic disturbances powerful enough to destroy planets. There were monsters. Transformations into monsters. A horrible end to someone forced suddenly to show the ravages of a long period of time. And amidst all of this, none other than "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", explicitly referenced in one episode, aesthetically suggested (to me, at least) in the imagery or storylines of others. There was even Beethoven.
Much more than did Star Trek, Space: 1999 accentuated and fed my then ever-building interest in all things cosmic. And one could say that such does attest to the inviting nature of the Space: 1999 universe, howsoever unnerving or scary that it could be. I so wanted to be a part of that universe. I wanted to be in those uniforms, porting the stun guns, talking through the communicators, and piloting the Eagle spacecraft. On Saturdays in 1977, I would sit closely before the television set of our living room totally immersed in the encounters of the crew of Space: 1999's Moonbase Alpha. With Star Trek, I sat more of a distance away from the television screen, in my favourite living room chair. As intriguing as Star Trek could be for me, I was not so tremendously adherent to it. Not as I was to Space: 1999.
Offered somewhat near to the end of CHSJ's 1977 run of Star Trek were the episodes, "Spock's Brain" and "The Enterprise Incident". The latter of which was being shown on a sunny spring day, as I recall. My friend, Michael, visited me that day while Star Trek was in progress, and I do not think that I saw the completion of the episode. I also remember being at Michael's place when an episode of Star Trek was on the screen of his living room television. I think the episode was "Wink of an Eye", but I am not certain. I only caught a few glimpses of it, mostly of the television show's main titles.
I was sufficiently interested in Star Trek to buy a model of the Enterprise bridge from a store at the K-Mart Plaza in Fredericton while visiting my grandparents one weekend in early 1977. I also bought a model set of Star Trek personnel equipment, namely the phaser, communicator and tricorder, from same store. In the summer of 1977, I purchased a battery-operated Star Trek phaser from Zellers in Chatham and, later that same year, a Captain Kirk shirt from Tiny Tots store in downtown Fredericton. But with each Star Trek-related item that I acquired, I wished that I could have same sort of item from the fantastic science fiction universe of Space: 1999. Some Space: 1999 toys did exist and were purchased by myself and by one or more of my friends, but there was so much more merchandise available from the universe of Star Trek.
The Space: 1999 water "stun gun", which my friend, Sandy, and I bought, was for sale only at the Continental department store in downtown Chatham, and Sandy and I, in purchasing said toy, had- as far as we knew- the only units of it in all of the Miramichi region of our fair province. There was not even one unit of such toy on store shelves in all of Fredericton. And the only Mattel Space: 1999 Commander Koenig doll known by my friends and I to be in existence in the Miramichi was in Sandy's possession, while I had the Mattel Professor Bergman doll. Conversely, units of Star Trek toys and of other Star Trek merchandise were very abundant in stores in both the Miramichi area and Fredericton. There was a whole row of Star Trek books (mostly the Star Trek Log series of paperback books written by Alan Dean Foster) in Coles Bookstore in the Regent Mall in Fredericton and in same store only a small pocket of Space: 1999 paperback novels, one unit each of three or four of the Orbit Books versions of the Season One episode novelisation books.
I had a Star Trek View-Master packet with three-dimensional photographs from the second season Star Trek episode, "The Omega Glory", which I found to be visually very dull. No competition at all for the superb glimpses of the Space: 1999 episode, "War Games", which was the basis of a View-Master Space: 1999 packet. The Space: 1999 View-Master packet was acquired from a photography store in the Newcastle downtown square on Saturday, the ninth of April, 1977, some weeks after my purchase of its Star Trek counterpart. I must say that to see Space: 1999's Moonbase Alpha come to most vivid, three-dimensional life through the lenses of my View-Master apparatus was mesmerising. Astounding. Magnificent. Superlative. Words cannot fully convey how supremely good it felt to gazing at those gorgeous images.
And with the Space: 1999 episodes shown on television, I was also besotted with the visualisations offered. Visualisations of an asteroid, strange nebulae, and a vast variety of planets. And space itself. And the greatly impressive means of conveyance utilised to travel to and from the space phenomena. And the hardware needed to analyse or to cope with whatever environments or strange forms of life that would be encountered.
Truly, Space: 1999 was the crux of my fascination with space fiction (and space fact) during the months of my Grade 5 school year. And friendships burgeoned and thrived that school year from that fascination. Especially during the spring months of 1977, when I was very much in demand at school as a playmate, conversation partner, and fellow admirer of Space: 1999 and the seemingly infinite spatial possibilities posited.
And yet, alas, I was something less than content. Having to go by bus to school in Newcastle in the school year ahead was, for me, not something to which to look forward. I feared the effect that such an arrangement would have on my relationship with younger friends who would still be at Douglastown Elementary School and on my relationship with my peer friends too. And I knew there to be in Fredericton and in other cities like Moncton and Halifax, many materialistically or appetisingly appealing facets to the urban way of life, such as several large shopping malls, a wide variety of fast food outlets, and especially cable television, that were not then available in the Douglastown-Newcastle-Chatham region. And I was naive. Although I had stayed with my grandparents in Fredericton many times and not been approached by any friendly children, I believed that the quality and quantity of friendship that I was enjoying in Douglastown would be as available to me anywhere- and more so, I thought, in cities, due to the larger, more concentrated population supposedly meaning more potential friends. I was utterly ignorant of the possibility of city people, and especially government-city people, being less accepting, less outgoing, and less friendly. My experience in living within the more populous- compared to Douglastown- and somewhat socially frosty, officious town of Newcastle earlier in life had seemed to have taught me nothing. In my naivete, I failed to recognise that there was no guarantee whatsoever that I could find somewhere else what I then had in Douglastown. Besides, I was bedazzled with the prospect of having access to cable television (and with it the ability to again view The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour every Saturday, something not possible without cable television because no broadcaster in my part of Canada was- post-1975- offering that television programme) and all of the other amenities of city life. I had always delighted in the ample opportunities, while in Fredericton, to shop at large malls, eat at Prospect Street McDonald's and Smythe Street A & W, and watch cable television. And shopping at large malls, eating at McDonald's and A & W, and watching cable television all were not at that time possible in Douglastown.
One day in late April of 1977, my parents asked me if I would like to move to Fredericton. The option of moving to Fredericton had come about through an offer to my mother by her employer, the V.O.N., of a transfer to the Fredericton V.O.N. office, a raise in salary, and a promotion. Fredericton was my mother's home city. She was raised there. Her parents lived there. And the deal being proposed to her was very timely, in that she was perhaps even less keen than I to have me going by school bus to Newcastle schools from start of Grade 6 onward. A bus ride likely of being at least a half-hour in length, morning and afternoon, to schools 4 or 5 miles away from our home in Douglastown. If we could move to a subdivision of Fredericton with schools within walking distance, then relocating would certainly be a sensible thing to do. My father thought that him finding work at C.F.B. Gagetown near Fredericton would be possible. Moving to Fredericton, before the idea was presented to me, must have seemed to my mother and father to be what in post-year-2000 parlance would be a "no-brainer". I would have had to mount the intensest of opposition to it, with constant sulking punctuated by daily temper tantrums, in order to prevent it.
But I saw the logic in it. I would not have to go on the bus every day to Newcastle schools (Croft Elementary School for Grade 6 and Harkins Junior High School) and experience the adverse effects that so-doing would have on my friendships. And my desire for cable television for access to The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (which I knew was, on CBS at that time, containing cartoons that I had not seen before) was quite fervent. And the other inducements to moving did not escape consideration.
I said that I would like to move, not fully comprehending what I would be forsaking and naively thinking that city life would be as fun and as largely free of concern as my Douglastown experience and that new, lasting friendships would not be very difficult to form. I will say again that I was also not keen on having to ride a bus into Newcastle every single school day the following year to attend Grade 6 at Croft Elementary School; moving to Fredericton would make it possible to live close enough to schools to continue walking.
And presumably, I could make new friends in Fredericton while keeping in contact with old friends in Douglastown.
By the beginning of June, plans to move to Fredericton were in progress. We went often to Fredericton to look at houses. Michael accompanied me to Fredericton on one of those journeys (on the weekend of July 9), and we went shopping and strolled the streets and park near my grandparents' home.
The spring of 1977 in Douglastown was magnificent. I can still smell those distinctive scents of Douglastown in the springtime, and springtime in 1977 was most especially memorable! Golden morning sunshine would pour through the windows of the Grade 5 classroom as I was contemplating star life, the possible existence of other solar systems, and television programmes, most especially Space: 1999, so profoundly anticipated and appreciated it was by me each week that it was aired by CBC Television and by New Brunswick's CBC affiliate, CHSJ-TV, on Saturday. The incidental music of such Space: 1999 episodes as "The Rules of Luton" and "Space Warp" became melded in my impressionable psyche with sights, smells, sensations, and social interaction quality of Douglastown in the sunny, blue-skied springtime of 1977. Most especially the pieces of music emphasising the humanity of the Space: 1999 characters (even that of the alien, Maya) and the degree of fondness and closeness between those Space: 1999 characters. That and the gorgeous spring sunshine bathing the Miramichi-region village of Douglastown. Melded together.
Other television offerings in spring of 1977 were the British children's science fiction/fantasy opus called The Tomorrow People, the first of whose serials, "The Slaves of Jedikiah", was being run on CHSJ-TV on Fridays at 4:30 P.M., Zoom the White Dolphin, The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo, and Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings on Wednesdays on CBC/CHSJ at 4:30 P.M., Charlie Brown television specials shown on several consecutive Friday evenings on CBC/CHSJ, and Fawlty Towers. The New Avengers, with its sophisticated mix of action and fantasy, on ATV on Tuesday evenings was quite appealing, also. And on the CBC as programming filler were segments dazzlingly showing stars and planets to the accompaniment of enchanting music which I would years later hear in the introduction to Jack Horkheimer's Star Hustler television show on PBS. And on Funtown on ATV on Saturday mornings, for several consecutive weekly episodes of it in April and May of 1977, one of the characters boarded a rocket to explore the planets of the Solar System, one planet each week. An outstanding time for television for a person of my interests and tastes. And for my friends who shared those interests and tastes.
A few anecdotal notings on The Tomorrow People. From the accents of the actors and actresses, I immediately knew that this television show hailed from the same country of production as Space: 1999- and it had other things in common with my favourite space science fiction opus. In what the special-powers "Tomorrow-Person" characters called "the Lab" was a biological computer. A benevolent biological computer that watched over and aided the telepathic, telekinetic, and teleporting youths. There had been a biological computer of rather different bearing and connotation in a laboratory in one of the first Space: 1999 episodes, i.e. "The Metamorph", that I had seen. Some similar aspects to the design of both instruments, were readily discernible. Next, the lead actor of The Tomorrow People guest-starred in a two-part Space: 1999 episode, "The Bringers of Wonder", that I had seen more than a month earlier. And further, the villain named Jedikiah seemed to me to be played by the same sinister-looking bearded actor who was a character called Dr. Shaw in Space: 1999- "The Bringers of Wonder". He was not the same actor, but at the time that I was initially viewing those episodes of The Tomorrow People, I thought that he was. Lastly, I saw one of those Tomorrow People episodes (the second of the five parts of that "Slaves of Jedikiah" serial, I think) at a friend of my mother's. A colleague of hers who lived in Newcastle. I remember eating a bowl of peaches when I was there. And spending some time outdoors under cloudy skies with a group of younger children.
And with regard to The New Avengers, I remember seeing its episode, "Sleeper", on one evening in 1977's spring months, and laughing with my father at the chase of Purdey (Joanna Lumley) by a pair of thugs who were part of a criminal organisation that put the whole of London, England to sleep (by means of a stolen experimental gas) for several hours on a Sunday morning so that a systematic looting of the city could be accomplished. Purdey and her suave, do-right comrades, Steed and Gambit (Patrick Macnee, Gareth Hunt), had been previously immunised to the effect of the gas and thus were they the only awake-and-on-their-feet Londoners outside of the criminal gang. Having discovered the villains' scheme, they are resolved to thwart it. But Purdey, in her pyjamas that are rather less than tight around her waist, is discovered by the aforementioned two thugs and chased into a department store where she tries to pose as a mannequin while her pyjama pants keep falling down. It was hilarious in addition to being quite tense in an edge-of-one's-seat kind of way. There was another New Avengers episode, "Gnaws", involving a giant rat (yes, a giant rat!) stalking the sewers of London and devouring people, an episode that was the focus of some conversation between some of my younger friends and I at school that spring. And one evening in July, "The Last of the Cybernauts...??" was the New Avengers episode to be telecast, and before it or in its earliest commercial interval, I remember there being a thirty-second promotional advertisement for the James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me, that was starting to be screened in movie theatres of the world that month. I had not yet seen a James Bond movie and would not see one until Moonraker in 1979.
I saw most of the first season of The New Avengers in spring and summer of 1977 before moving to Fredericton. There are a few New Avengers first season episodes that I did not see until my early days in Fredericton late in 1977's summer, them being "The Tale of the Big Why", "Cat Amongst the Pigeons", and "Three-Handed Game". "To Catch a Rat" (no, not the episode about the giant rat- though I could understand someone thinking that it was; the giant rat episode was titled, "Gnaws"), I watched on my black-and-white television in my bedroom in the Douglastown house, some evening in the spring.
In the spring of 1977, The Flintstones and The Little Rascals were being run against each other at 5 P.M. on weekdays on ATV and CHSJ-TV, respectively. David F. was quite enthralled by The Little Rascals, while I continued to proclaim allegiance to Fred Flintstone and the town of Bedrock.
Each school day that spring, I would leave home to go to school and with me would be something to do with astronomy or with Space: 1999 for me to show to my schoolmates, and they sometimes had something to show to me. I remember Sandy coming down to the Grade 5 classroom one sunny morning to show to me the Space: 1999 book he had bought. In fact, some boys of Grade 3 and Grade 4 came into the Grade 5 classroom ahead of Sandy to let me know that he was coming. I loaned one of my Space: 1999 books to my new friend, Albert, who was in Grade 4. I remember the morning on which he returned it to me, with expressed gratitude and appreciation.
And then of course, spring became summer.
My final summer in Douglastown was not perfect, but it was better than any summer that I was to have for the next four or five years. Fond memories consist of a school litter collecting assignment around the village on a beautiful sunny, late May day- and Kevin MacD. being my partner for that; playing Space: 1999 with friends around my home on many summer days; and going to a Newcastle carnival with Michael in mid-July and being enticed by him into riding the Scrambler, which left my stomach scrambled! On one of the final Fridays of the school year, I came home at noon time (we always had no school on Friday afternoons) and could not unlock the door. My key broke in the lock, and I strolled around Douglastown for the sunny, mild afternoon until my father arrived at home from work at 3 o'clock. My father conveyed me to a new drive-in restaurant, Danny's, in Douglastown, where I feasted on hamburgers for supper.
In 1977, I also fancied chocolate ice cream sundaes at a downtown Chatham ice cream parlour (my friend, Rob, accompanied me there one day, I do recall), hot dogs at the Newcastle Dairy Queen, heaping scoops of chocolate ice cream at the Chatham Big Spot, chocolate ripple soft ice cream at Parks' Dairy Bar in Newcastle, and fish and chips at the Skillet restaurant in the Chatham Zellers outlet. This was before my taste for breaded fish (I already detested all other seafood) evaporated when I read reports of high mercury levels in Great Lakes fish.
And I bought TV Guide magazine and some Space: 1999 paperback books from Joe's Store in downtown Chatham and Realistic-brand audiocassettes (on which to audiotape Space: 1999) from the downtown Chatham Radio Shack. And Gallivan's Bookstore in Newcastle continued to be the primary location for my purchases of comic books (e.g. Looney Tunes) and most other desirable printed matter.
Yes, in 1977, I was still purchasing the issues of Gold Key Comics' Looney Tunes (I would continue doing so for awhile after moving to Fredericton). Looney Tunes was the only comic book series that I was purchasing into 1977. Before November, 1977, by which time I was living in Fredericton, I was not aware that there had been Space: 1999 comic books. If Gallivan's Bookstore in Newcastle had ever stocked them, that would have to have been before I knew of Space: 1999, or before I had become motivated to seek out Space: 1999-related publications. It was by way of Gold Key Comics' Looney Tunes that I learned of the existence of a place in New York State called Poughkeepsie (the place where Gold Key's comic books were printed). It was a name that, in its strangeness, I could not help but remember, long after my buying of comic books passed into the ether of the later years of my upbringing. I also saw in Gold Key's Looney Tunes some page-spanning advertisements (involving Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner, and other characters) for Hostess Cupcakes, Hostess Twinkies, and Hostess Fruit Pies. Alas, none of those delicious-looking confections were then available in Canada. I so wanted to have a Hostess Cupcake (chocolate with cream filling and a chocolate frosting on its top with a twirled line of white icing along the top's diameter)! It looked exquisite!
I sat often at our kitchen table while reading the latest Looney Tunes comic book. In the first five months of 1977, I also sat there while listening to many an audiotape-recording. I vividly recall sitting there in the kitchen and listening to an audiocassette-recording of The Flintstones- "The Time Machine" from a 5 P.M. ATV weekday telecast in March of 1977, and the second part of Space: 1999- "The Bringers of Wonder" audiotape-recorded from its February 26, 1977 CBC Television broadcast, and also It's Arbour Day, Charlie Brown, audiotape-recorded from its CBC airing in early May. Further back in time, I was at the kitchen table on some Sunday mornings in 1974, listening to audiotape-recording of the previous day's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour while I was waiting for breakfast. The music to the Road Runner cartoon, "Tired and Feathered", was heard in the kitchen on one of those Sunday mornings, and on another, Sylvester saying, "What? No ketchup. Well, I'll just have to eat you without ketch--," in "Hyde and Go Tweet (I then panicked and switched off the audiocassette machine, in case I might be terrified by the monster Tweety's demonic laugh).
And a potent memory of the spring of 1977 is that of my quest every week for the latest issue of TV Guide magazine and its quite comprehensive television listings (including an episode synopsis for most prime-time and weekend television programmes, and for many shown-on-weekdays, daytime television series also) for the entire eastern Maritimes of Canada. I was at that time most interested in seeing the synopsis for the next Saturday's episode of Space: 1999. And I can recite verbatim many of those synopses, and easily visualise them in my mind's eye in the black-and-white print of the TV Guide television listings section. Them and the notation of, "3 4 5 13 Space: 1999- Science Fiction". Or on weeks when CHSJ-TV in New Brunswick was being contrary (i.e. declining to show the CBC television network's Space: 1999 broadcast), "3 5 13 Space: 1999 - Science Fiction". 4 was CHSJ. 3 was CBHT (CBC Halifax). 5 was CBIT (CBC Sydney, Nova Scotia). 13 was CBCT (CBC Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island). The earliest that I was able to find in the Miramichi region a TV Guide for an upcoming Saturday-to-Friday broadcast week was on the Friday before the Saturday commencing said Saturday-to-Friday week. And this would be at Joe's Store on Water Street in downtown Chatham. Or at the grocery store of a downtown Chatham shopping mall. On weeks where there was a holiday Monday or holiday Friday, TV Guide could not be found until the Monday after the Saturday-to-Friday week had started, or sometimes not at all. I remember going with my father to Chatham on Friday afternoons and buying TV Guide and diving into the television listings while in our parked car or on the way thereto. It used to disappoint, perplex, and vex me so very much whenever I saw that CHSJ was preempting a CBC Space: 1999 broadcast, and it was mostly in the spring that year (1977) that such did occur. Three times between April and June, inclusive. And a fourth time appeared, from TV Guide, to be a certainty, but, happily, was not the case.
In Fredericton, TV Guide was available for an upcoming Saturday-to-Friday broadcast week, as early as the preceding Tuesday in most stores. And even, I would discover after moving to Fredericton, as early as the preceding Monday afternoon or evening at some places.
Many of the strongest memories that I have of spring and summer of 1977 are of what was being shown on television- and that included what was in commercial intervals in television programmes. There was, that year, an often-telecast anti-smoking Public Service Announcement directed at teenagers. Many of my friends, schoolmates, and other youthful contemporaries of that year doubtless still remember it. In it, a group of teenaged boys and girls poetically chastise one of their peers for his having started smoking. "Smoking makes your teeth yellow. Smoking makes your clothes smell-o." One of them mimics a puff on a cigarette while saying, "Thinks he's so cool." Which was immediately followed with the group rhyming it with, "But he's being a fool." And then, "He'll learn. He'll learn. Smoking, you get burned." It was a poem that may have lacked refinement. And to some (perhaps most) teenage viewers, that Public Service Announcement in its portrayal of teenage culture might have appeared puerile and "uncool", produced by patronising elders. But it was something that was mentioned many a time then by people I knew, in conversations about smoking and in talk about television viewing in general. Also, CHSJ often ran a New Brunswick Libraries advertisement in which there was a slow camera pan across stacks of books while passages of dramatic and/or suspenseful text were quoted by a narrator and displayed on-screen in graphic lettering superimposed against the books, with the occasional sound effect added during or after the narrator's oral verbalising of the text. "The fourth key... worked." And then the sound of an opening door slamming against a wall (or what also could have been a gunshot; my friends and I were not certain what the sound was meant to be).
CHSJ would preview upcoming episodes of television shows offered by itself and not by the CBC (examples: Starsky and Hutch, Baretta, The Blue Knight, Rich Man, Poor Man), by showing a slide with a television show's logo, CHSJ's logo (in one of the lower corners of the television screen), and a picture, usually of the leading characters of that television show. After a few seconds, the slide would dissolve into a clip of the upcoming episode, a clip that would invariably be of an early scene in the episode, presented in continuous progression (i.e. no editing) for about two minutes, and then a return to the slide (often in the middle of a character's sentence) for CHSJ announcer Don Armstrong to identify the name of the television show and to state its airtime. Slipshod? Quite. Perfunctory? Yes. But typical CHSJ. And it was always easy to see when CHSJ was switching from its station identification or from one of its own advertisements over to a CBC Television broadcast. The television screen would always vertically jump. And it would often be exceedingly obvious that CHSJ was overriding the CBC network signal because CHSJ would be a second or two late inserting its own material and a second or two late returning to the CBC feed. And, yes, there were times when CHSJ's lateness was rather more than just by one or two seconds.
From CHSJ's peculiar promotion of television shows, I have always remembered that Hutch liked banana chips (or butterfly bones, as Starsky preferred to call them), and though I never actually watched Baretta, I knew about the sparrow on Baretta's shoulder. Just the CHSJ Baretta television show slide was enough for that.
There were commercials for A & W with a pantomime Root Bear character, McDonald's commercials depicting people in the throes of a "Big Mac attack", and a Corningware Cookware commercial (with the jingle of, "Corningware Cookware can do it.") showing rapid image cuts of food while some tuneful women provide such accompanying vocalisations as, "Make up a steak," and, "Bake a cake."
All of this is imprinted as much in my memory of spring and summer, 1977 as are Moonbase Alpha going though a space warp in Space: 1999 and Space: 1999's Commander Koenig and Tony Verdeschi characters aboard a wrecked derelict spaceship; the Jedikiah character of The Tomorrow People with his beard and the ominous electronic music that would signify his sudden appearance on the television screen in my home and in the home of my mother's friend in Newcastle; Jaime Sommers' look-alike, Lisa Galloway, eating a plastic-based Adrenalizine drug to simulate Jaime's bionic powers and becoming sick and desperate in "Deadly Ringer", a two-part Bionic Woman episode; Steed, Gambit, and Purdey of The New Avengers conjoining and "morphing" to become a stylised, emblematic lion; Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney proclaiming loudly, screechingly, their dismay and frustration at their latest predicament in Laverne and Shirley (my mother always detested that television series which topped the Nielsen ratings that year); and the Range Game on The Price is Right (it being particularly impressive for the daughter of my parents' friends, Mr. and Mrs. Stevens of Frances Street in Newcastle; we used to visit the Stevens family on some evenings).
While I was in Grade 5, my eyes and imagination were directed toward space. I was buying book after book about planets and stars and drawing Solar System maps, creating collages of planets hung on wire-clothes-hangers, and becoming enamoured with television space science fiction shows. It was not long before everyone noticed how interested I was in outer space, and several of my Douglastown Elementary School fellow pupils encouraged me with questions and an interest of their own in things otherworldly and fantastic. In the spring months of 1977, I was engrossed in work on a Solar System map that I brought with me to school. I was making improvements to it in my spare time and for awhile after the afternoon dismissal bell. A classmate name of Doug expressed a definite and quite comprehensive interest in the map and its subject, and we two had lengthy conversations on some sunny spring afternoons after everyone else in our class had left for the day.
The Solar System map that I was drawing was based on an already available map of the Solar System, but I wanted to expand upon that existing map, to include Proxima Centauri and some of the other stars in the Sun's vicinity in the galaxy called the Milky Way. Although I accepted, with some reluctant reservation, the non-existence of planets around Proxima Centauri as affirmed in astronomy books, planets orbiting stars other than the Sun was a concept that I fancied greatly. A concept that was being presented to me so vividly, so spectacularly, so appealingly in Space: 1999 and, to a lesser extent, in Star Trek. I was interested in those other stars in the Sun's "neighbourhood" for the possibility of planets in other solar systems (not that the Sun's own planetary system was not in and of itself fascinating; it most certainly was!) and also for their differences from the Sun in colour and temperature.
Something else that had me enthralled was the life-cycle of stars and the postulated end of the Sun and the demise of the Solar System approximately five billion years in the future. It was an alarming revelation unto me from one of the books that I was reading, and at the same time something that fired my imagination. The mutability of so everyday a reality. The yellow Sun in the sky, reliable, steadfast, amenable for life, becoming a force for destruction of the planets whose environments it had nurtured. What would the Sun becoming a red giant look like? What would be the conditions on Earth before man's planet would be completely "swallowed up" by the expanding Sun? Riveting material for the mind of an eleven-year-old.
It might seem contrary to logic that I would be attracted to ruminations on the death of the Sun, the Earth, and the Solar System within the same 1977 frame of time that saw my social existence at a zenith. But this was the way of my life in Era 2. I could be contemplative with impressions or thoughts of the mutability of things and have happy experiences with friends occurring side-by-side with those impressions or thoughts. Yes. And with regard to all things astronomical, including stellar evolution, I had friends who revelled in awe along with me at the scales of time, distance, size, and temperature stated in space-related reading matter. Colour, too, was enticing. The yellow of main-sequence stars, the blue of the exceedingly hot "supergiants", and the red of the red giants such as what the Sun would become. So much was colour appealing to me that I did a book exchange with my friend, David F., because I thought that the one that he had brought to school was more colourful, more visually striking.
The colour that I most closely associate with space and astronomy books that I collected in late 1976 and early-to-mid-1977 is, strangely enough, purple. Purple and its close hue neighbour, violet. One of my most strongly remembered space books purchased in 1976 or in 1977 was The Universe by David Bergamini, of Life Books' Young Readers Library. Its cover, spine, and back cover had a glossy, deep violet trim, with a photograph of a galaxy on its cover. From books such as that, I did tend to associate space and its phenomena with the colour purple, though purple is not a star colour, nor is it a colour of any of the planets of the Solar System. Altogether, however, the colours of the stars had me truly enamoured as I sat at my workstation in the Grade 5 classroom in many a contemplative reverie about stars such as blue Spica (my favourite), red Betelgeuse and Antares, orange Arcturus, white Vega and Sirius, and yellow-white Procyon (loved that name, a planet in Space: 1999 having a name of similar spelling construction). All of them shining like the Sun but differently coloured, their surface temperature different from that of the Sun. And all of them mind-bogglingly distant from Earth. Still, I quite fancied thought of man one day venturing to Proxima Centauri, Barnard's Star, and Sirius. It fired my imagination. That and the planetary reconnaissances of the characters of Space: 1999.
My Grade 5 teacher, Mr. Donahue, was also the principal of our school. He recognised my fascination with space and the same pronounced keenness of my classmate, David F., with the wonders beyond Earth orbit. In June of 1977, the year's curriculum having been completed, Mr. Donahue was looking to fill the last day of the year with something different. David F. and I petitioned Mr. Donahue to allow us to give a talk on our interest, and he granted to us the full morning of our final half-day, a bright, sunny Friday (June 24, 1977), to delineate our interest to Grades 4 and 5 as both grades alternated their Physical Education classes. The girls of both grades first assembled into our classroom to hear us, then the boys did so to complete our morning.
David F. talked about the planets, with overhead-projector transparencies and pictures for visual reference, and then I lectured about stars, with no visual aids except a piece of chalk, correcting common misconceptions about them (e.g. that they are crystalline, have five sides, and are the size of a house), and amazing my listeners with descriptions of the true size of stars, their temperatures, their variable colours, their awesome distances from Earth, and their life-cycles. I did this twice, once for the girls and once for the boys.
Time did not permit me to quiz them on what I had taught, but the morning was a joy, and all of the boys and girls of Grades 4 and 5 learned much about the vast space around our little, blue dot. It was a rewarding experience on two counts. That was my final day of school in Douglastown before moving to Fredericton, and it left an extremely strong and favourable stamp on those five years of schooling and a final excellent memory to reflect back upon for life. I like to think that at least a few of my fellow pupils still recall that day. And the second reward, of course, was the opportunity to stand before a group of peers and talk on something about which I knew very much. That was no doubt of immense benefit to my public speaking exercise in Grade 8 in Fredericton, in which I was chosen as one of the top two speakers in my class.
After report cards had been distributed and as I was packing my space-related materials and my school books and school project work for my final exit from the Grade 5 classroom and from Douglastown Elementary School, the boys in my class, led by Kevin MacD., all came over to me to say their farewells. I then walked to the classroom door and waved to them and the girls as I bade my departure. The sky was blue, and I felt very happy indeed, having had what one could say was a perfect final morning at Douglastown Elementary School.
Nearly every day in summer, 1977 was blessed by sunny, mild weather. A fitting conclusion to five quite wonderful years in Douglastown. I picnicked, skipped rocks on the river, and played Space: 1999, with friends. I made cardboard stun guns, cardboard commlock communicators, and cardboard scanner devices to distribute to friends as we ventured forth into middle Douglastown as though we were exploring alien planets, climbing the pebbly and gravelly formation of the new causeway between my place and the school like it was some impressively steep dune on another world. When not in use, the cardboard "equipment" was stowed in a suitcase along with some of the Space: 1999 toys that I had purchased. I remember marking some appropriate designating notation on the suitcase one weekday afternoon as Barry Morse, of Space: 1999's first season (which for the most part I had not yet seen in English), was a guest on Celebrity Cooks on CBC Television.
I vividly remember sitting one sunny weekday afternoon on Michael's back porch, basking in the sunshine, as I put intricately cut pieces of cardboard together into the form of a Space: 1999 stun gun (and using aluminium foil covered in Scotch tape to simulate the gun's metallic look). I also remember spending a mostly sunny weekday afternoon on the large wooden swing of my next-door neighbours, the Matchetts, sitting across from Rob on the swing as we two keenly delved into various topics of conversation. Rob and I also lounged in the Matchetts' back, ground-level, concrete veranda (the sights and smells of which I have never forgotten). I remember David F. coming over to my place to have a look at the Space: 1999 vinyl record that I had purchased on an excursion to Fredericton. I remember two of my new friends, two brothers, names of Aaron and Bobby, standing with me inside my garage. I remember one sunny afternoon playing my audiocassette-recording of the Space: 1999 episode, "Devil's Planet", in my garage while waiting for Michael to join me. And I remember one afternoon hatching with Michael the wild notion of us two bicycling to Chatham across the Chatham Bridge (my mother vetoed that most vociferously!). Michael and I had many a sleep-over that summer in my garage and on occasion in my bedroom (with Michael sleeping on a fold-out cot), and he accompanied me and my parents one July weekend to Fredericton for a stay at my grandparents' house.
The memories are so very clear. Those of the summer of 1977 and of several weeks of school preceding it. In my mind, I can vividly see the sights of the Douglastown Elementary School yard in the late afternoon sun on one of the days I stayed after the dismissal bell and talked at length with Doug, the sights seen as I was eventually leaving for home. And I can feel the gentle spring breeze blowing onto me from across the grasses, sands, and gravel of the yard of the school. I can see my garage's side compartment/side entrance room where I stood talking with friends about science fiction/fantasy. I can visualise Michael and I marching merrily to the convenience store near my grandparents' place, singing the lyrics to the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercial that we had seen within The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBS on a sunny Saturday morning. My life then was full, socially. Full and gratifying. And very notably gratifying with Michael, with whom I had shared many interesting times for five, on the whole, very good years.
Somewhat in spite of myself and the social weaknesses that I did in fact continue to have, I had experienced fellowship and real friendship of a kind that I would rarely garner in my habitat to come. It was a happy way to have left the village of the most formative part of my upbringing, and extensive thought given by me in later years to this, has imparted the wisdom to believe whole-heartedly that I left Douglastown at the best possible time. I will elaborate upon this during my telling of the events of Era 3.
As television programming and my life experiences are interconnected so very intricately and extensively, I am offering Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1972 to 1973, Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1973 to 1974, Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1974 to 1975, Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1975 to 1976, Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1976, and Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1976 to 1977. Complied therein are television listings for many, many specific days in this second era of my life.
McCorry's Memoirs continue with McCorry's Memoirs Era 3: Massive Family Move... Boy Removed From His Roots... Hurled into Suburban Maze (1977-82).