At centre of this August, 2013 photograph is the post-1977 McCorry house in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, on Fredericton North's Linden Crescent.
Fredericton is the capital city of New Brunswick. Up to 100 miles south of New Brunswick's Miramichi region. 100 miles south of Douglastown, the village of the first and by far best five years of my schooling, the village where many of my most definitive and positive childhood experiences with friends and with imaginative entertainments occurred in combination. From village to city my parents and I moved, with me in all naivete believing that I would be as accepted and as fulfilled in the latter situation as I was in the former.
Acceptance was slow to come, and it was not to be found among any people of my age. It was entirely with younger people that I received something of a belated welcome, and I had to pass through several friends over the course of a number of years before I found one in particular who was similar enough to friends in Douglastown to meet my best-friendship needs. But because my friends were all younger and same-age peer groups tended to receive their highest priority, I had to endure recurrent separation from the people of my choice, which strained my morale and complicated the relationships beyond my capacity to comfortably, confidently, constructively, and effectively express my feelings or concerns. Add to that some critical errors of decision or judgement on my part, and my fate was sealed. I eventually lost the companionship of my friends, and after ten years found myself looking back to Douglastown and to my earlier childhood for present-day consolation. I survived the wrenching feelings of rejection and occasional onsets of intense sadness for long-gone earlier times. I survived precisely because of the tender memories of the many better times past, memories kept alive and vivid with my continued love of and fascination with the works of human imagination that first inspired me during the second era of my life. The grey bunny and his anthropomorphised compatriots of the animated cartoon, the interstellar wanderers inhabiting and crewing Moonbase Alpha, the crime-fighting, web-swinging marvel, the band of brothers marching together in year 3000 against tyranny, etc. were mainstays in the changeover from one life era to another. These were personages on which I could depend during some of the loneliest, bleakest times.
My life in Fredericton started entirely barren, gradually became socially fulfilling, and on my tenth year in the city, came full circle as a condition of chronic, doleful loneliness. It was not until many years had passed that I comprehended how, in terms of friendship, I had gone from rags to riches to rags. Missed opportunities, occasional and critical missteps by me, and an environment that was often less than favourable or supportive of my friendship choices, all combined to yield a frustrating and indeed agonising last quarter of the 1980s in my Fredericton surroundings.
But I had happier days in the early 1980s. And I would not trade those days for anything, not even a reversing of my 1977 move from quite superb Douglastown to initially-and-for-some-time-dismal Fredericton. In the final quarter of the 1980s, it is true that I was regretting having moved to Fredericton, but that was an irrational, emotional response to the collapse of my social existence there. I have since then realised that the collapse was more my fault than it was anyone else's.
Where the move to Fredericton from Douglastown was concerned, it came at the best possible time, I have come to believe. I doubt that I would have had even another school year left to me in the Miramichi area before my life there would have started to deteriorate. I was, after all, about to be transferred to a new school, Croft Elementary, in Newcastle for Grade 6, as too were my Douglastown Elementary School classmates. Most of my friends at that point in time were younger than me, and I would not see them at school anymore, in that they would all still be at the Douglastown school which went to the end of Grade 5. Moreover, I was not at all enthusiastic about the prospects of friendship at Croft Elementary. The Newcastle children of my age who had been schooled there since first grade were, for the most part, not likely to be very pleased to see an influx of people from Douglastown, particularly the less than fully outgoing person that I was. And it is quite uncertain whether my Douglastown Elementary classmates and I would have kept rather close together in Grade 6 at Croft. We, the alumni of Douglastown Elementary, would have been dispersed into different Croft sixth grade classes, and from what I have been told, social interaction between children at that school, in class and during lunch hour, was kept to a strict minimum. Little opportunity for socialising. That being the case, I do tend to doubt that I would have been often selected as a conversation and fun and games partner in those times when interaction was allowed. I and my Douglastown Elementary classmates of old would be riding the school bus together to and from Croft Elementary in morning and afternoon, but I can visualise them being stimulated by the new experience of going to a different school and sharing among themselves their impressions of that experience, with me languishing on the outside of their conversation, some bus seats away. One of my friends of my age, David F., moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia, a month or so after I departed Douglastown for my new home in Fredericton; so, if I had remained a Douglastown resident, I would have lost his companionship within the first month of Grade 6 at Croft Elementary in Newcastle.
Michael, my closest, best friend, would that school year, 1977-8, have been in Grade 3 at Douglastown Elementary School and would, I suppose, have been waiting most days at my driveway for me to arrive at home on my afternoon school bus from Newcastle. But I doubt that I would arrive at home any earlier than 4 P.M.. Michael and I would not have had much time together before supper. And other younger friends, no longer seeing me at school and not living in close proximity to my home, probably would have drifted away from me in interests and tastes and interpersonal awareness.
Then, for Grade 7, Harkins Junior High School in Newcastle was enormous, and my Douglastown Elementary School classmates of olden times would have, at Harkins Junior High, been even more removed from me. It is so very improbable that at so large a school we would have been in the same Grade 7 class. Evie, Kevin MacD., and the others would have easily adjusted to the large school and found new friends, while I would have felt as though they, now seemingly always in the company of their new buddies, had less time or regard for me. I would have pouted, floundered, fallen through the cracks in the school, and been miserable, watching from the sidelines as my old friends integrated seamlessly into the milieu of Harkins Junior High, walking the hallowed Harkins halls with their new pals.
No denigration intended on my friends. Absolutely not! They are very special people. They had accepted me, reached out to me, and accommodated themselves to me for several years, and I do not believe that they would wilfully abandon me. However, when one is out of sight and out of mind, as would I have been while in a different Grade 6 or Grade 7 class from them, one becomes less noticeable. To be less noticeable may also mean being, or at least feeling, less significant and thereby somewhat subordinate to people who are in sight and in mind- the people with my friends for hours every day in their classes. Newcastle may not have been as amicable overall as Douglastown, but hands of friendship still would have been extended by some portion of the Croft Elementary and Harkins Junior High students to the more outgoing alumni (my friends) of Douglastown Elementary. And my brooding, withdrawn behaviour- my usual and probable response then to being given less time and attention by my friends than others with whom they shared hours of in-class experiences- would probably have been interpreted by my friends as aloofness and disaffection, and they would have backed away from me because of my perplexing conduct. I know that behaviour on my part such as this had exactly such effect in Fredericton in the late 1980s. It can be so very easy for good friends, even the best of friends, to become estranged, for excessive time apart to lead to misunderstood actions and reactions (and as would be the case in later years, insufficient occasions for building rapport resulting often in misunderstood statements) and for what used to be easy and open communication to deteriorate. I have experienced this distressing process more than have most people. And I have much difficulty in believing that any friendship is immune to it. By leaving Douglastown when I did, when nearly every friendship was in a healthy condition and when I was at a zenith of social status, my memories- in the main- of friends there would forever be of warm and pleasurable rapport that did not seriously decay for as long as I lived there. I would derive much solace from that while in Fredericton.
Were I to have remained in Douglastown, however, I would have been experiencing a quite deeply troubling decline in my friendships at school in Grade 6 at Croft Elementary and in the first semester of Grade 7 at Harkins Junior High. And then, Michael would have announced that he would be moving to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, early in 1979. My staying in Douglastown would not have prevented that, because it was a migration caused by fracture of his family unit. His parents separated and soon divorced, and his mother brought him and his sister, Debbie, the younger children in their family, with her to Toronto. Losing my best buddy compounded with my diminished (or perceived as diminished) situation with friends at school, would have been too much. My social development, already much slowed, would have come to a halt and started to regress. And add to that the CBC's cancellation in September, 1978 of its Saturday broadcasts of Space: 1999. I would have been effectively inconsolable as I lamented daily about the loss of the happy life that I once had. As regards Johnny and Rob, I was not on good terms with Johnny in the last summer (1977) that I was in Douglastown, and although Rob and I continued to have a good relationship, he and Johnny were in Douglastown only two months per year, and I would not have been certain of how many more years that such would continue. If the situation between Johnny and I were to continue in the direction in which it was going, Johnny may have opted not to come to Douglastown each summer, and Rob (though still very much good buddies with me) may not have had any choice but to adhere to his older brother and also not come to Douglastown for the summer. I could not be certain how such would unfold, and ten months was a long time to wait and see. Particularly when facing bleak social prospects at school for nine to ten long months.
Further, by early 1979, the Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham area would have been receiving cable television at last, but without a CBS affiliate in the offering (only ABC and NBC affiliates from Bangor, Maine). And CBS being the network that was running The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show and other of my most desired Saturday morning television shows, it was the network to which I most craved access. I would have been profoundly disappointed by Miramichi Cablevision's omission of a CBS affiliate and envious of people in Fredericton, who had partial CBS access at least (and the television shows I wanted most to watch) by way of WAGM-TV of Presque Isle, Maine.
Had I not moved from Douglastown to Fredericton in 1977, I would in all probability have agitated to do so in 1979 or 1980, departing Douglastown on a rather less than cheerful note and finding Fredericton, like I did when I moved to it in 1977, to be anything but congenial for quite awhile. It was good that I did leave Douglastown at a time when for the most part my social life was plentiful and pleasurable, because memory of that earlier social condition helped me to endure the seemingly endless weeks as a complete loner in Fredericton. And it was better to start my school years in Fredericton with Grade 6 at a 3-class-per-grade school than it would have been to move into a different community and at the same time be newly enrolled in some 9-class-per-grade leviathan of a learning establishment. Moving to Fredericton when I did, when my five years at Douglastown Elementary School were finished with a positive feeling of accomplishment in matters both academic and social, and entering the Fredericton education system with an as gradual as possible adjustment to ever increasing school size, was for the best, really. Still, that does not mean that my recounting of my first experiences in Fredericton is going to be filled with upbeat narrative.
Era 3, this era, was something of a transitional time period between my Douglastown tenure and the best Fredericton years that would comprise Era 4.
On August 19, 1977, two days after Elvis Presley's death, a moving van arrived at the Douglastown house that had been McCorry property for more than five years, and a team of burly men started loading all of our furniture and other belongings into the van. My mother, father, and I travelled by our car to Fredericton, with Frosty and her two kittens, and stayed with my grandparents at their Skyline Acres, Fredericton South residence while the furniture was being deposited into the new McCorry house.
We moved into our new home in a developing subdivision, Fulton Heights, on Fredericton's north side, on a crescent named Linden inside of a maze of streets, most of them named with reference to trees (Woodmount, Longwood, Lilac, Moss, Oak, Fir, Willow, Cedar, Cherry). I did not care for my new environment. It had no history. It was characterless. It was cramped. Roads were not paved, there were no street curbs, and most houses, including ours, had no lawn. Our new house was an unremarkable, split-entry domicile rather smaller than our prior abode, with side yards so small that the houses on either side were casting nearly full shadows on ours in the morning or evening sun. The biggest window of our house had a splattered egg on it. We did not have a lawn until the following summer, when sod was laid. The street was not paved until autumn of 1978, and to my extreme dismay, we were not to have cable television in our home for more than a year (i.e. thirteen months)- even though the homes across the street from us did have cable television installed many months earlier.
Further, although my mother's employment future was secure (it was her acceptance of transfer to the provincial V.O.N. office in Fredericton that brought about the Douglastown-to-Fredericton McCorry relocation), my father's hoped-for job at the Canadian Forces Base in Gagetown, twenty miles south of Fredericton, did not materialise. For a few weeks, he had to commute the 100 miles from Fredericton to Chatham until his duties at C.F.B. Chatham were concluded. He then found labour at a Fredericton business called Battery and Electric.
During my final few weeks of summer vacation in 1977, I had no contact with anyone in my new community. I was content to search the Fredericton stores for Space: 1999 books to read- and drew pictures based on my impressions from the books. Or I would stack the books on the living room floor and admire them while on the screen of our living room colour television was the New Avengers episode, "The Tale of the Big Why", or an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter or promotion on CHSJ-TV New Brunswick for such autumn television offerings as Logan's Run and CHiPs. I wrote letters to a couple of friends (Michael and David F.) in Douglastown and went to my grandparents' house every Saturday morning to watch cable television stations from Maine (i.e. WVII-TV, channel 7, Bangor's ABC affiliate; WLBZ-TV, channel 2, NBC's outlet in Bangor; and Presque Isle's WAGM-TV, channel 8, which was primarily CBS). Nobody on Linden Crescent showed any interest in meeting "the new kid on the block". This was not Douglastown. People were less friendly and rarely unconditionally accepting.
"The Tale of the Big Why" was the New Avengers episode that aired on Tuesday, August 23. The second evening on which my parents and I were in our new home, our television flashing its images in the living room. I also distinctly remember seeing the New Avengers episodes, "Cat Amongst the Pigeons" and "Three-Handed Game", in the living room of our new Fredericton residence. Those episodes probably followed "The Tale of the Big Why" in broadcast sequence before The New Avengers vanished on eastern Canadian broadcaster ATV until the following summer (in which The New Avengers' second season was telecast). All of the other New Avengers episodes that I saw in 1977, had been watched in Douglastown. Also memorable in those inceptive Fredericton habitation days for me were the Walt Disney episode, "It's Tough to Be a Bird", on a mid-afternoon of a sunny Sunday, and musical Parks Canada vignettes aired between CBC Television programming on CBC Television affiliate, CHSJ. Most especially in the intervals between The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup and Mr. Dressup and Sesame Street on weekday mornings. And I remember looking out of one of our house's windows one evening at the many, many Fredericton South lights across the Saint John River.
Still more memories of my earliest days as a Fredericton resident. All of them involving no interaction with young neighbours or possible friends. I sat with my parents in our new living room and watched the Logan's Run theatrical movie as it was being presented on television by the CTV television network late in the evening of Saturday, September 3. I worked with my mother on the making of somewhat reasonable facsimiles of Space: 1999 Moonbase Alpha uniforms (an ongoing project that had started months earlier when we were in Douglastown). I accompanied my mother and grandfather on some daytime shopping expeditions while my father was still at work in Chatham. A convenience store on Sunset Drive in Nashwaaksis was an occasional stop during our outings, and therein I would swiftly set hands upon the latest edition of TV Guide magazine, intent on seeing what I could expect for Space: 1999 on CBC Television and CHSJ-TV come the following Saturday. And my parents and I went to the Fredericton Exhibition on Labour Day, and it was there where I learned that cable television was not to be available to us at home for at least a year.
I did not have my first really cogent experience of the general unfriendliness of my peer group in suburban Fredericton (Fredericton North where I now lived was called Nashwaaksis), and the differences between semi-rural and suburban schools until September 12, 1977, my first day of Grade 6. Whereas the final day of school of Grade 5 in Douglastown had been for me one of the best school days, the first day of Grade 6 in Fredericton was arguably the worst. I found that I was the only new Grade 6 pupil, and I had to wait until classes were in session before I was escorted to the Grade 6 classroom to which I was assigned on the top floor of the western wing of Park Street School, a modern, suburban school of 6 grades with 3 classes each and a built-in gymnasium/auditorium. It was cold and clinical unlike the homey feel of Douglastown Elementary. As I was directed to my seat in the 6A classroom, the judging eyes of 30 pre-teenagers were on me. I could hear snickers which I, indeed very sensitive and impressionable, instantly interpreted as rejection. I quickly was uncomfortable amid an age group whose members had already formed their cliques and had no place for a newcomer. Especially an ego-centric and rather naive newcomer with a disinclination to approach others without invitation to do so.
|Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.
My new peers were of another kind. They were coarse, disagreeable, sometimes openly hostile, or at the very least, indifferent. Some of them teased and taunted by speaking disparagingly about me when I was within earshot. Others openly expressed disdain for the things in which I was clearly interested. I reeled at the very early discovery that these youngsters had no interest in outer space beyond it being a setting for the movie, Star Wars, that I had yet to see. The difference between them and the Douglastown schoolmates (in my class and in grades a year or two behind me) with whom I had enthusiastically conversed on space and pulp science fiction concepts was starker than anything that I, in all my wide-eyed naivete, ever imagined. Space: 1999 was dismissed throughout my Park Street School Grade 6 class- and the other two Grade 6 classes in the school- as inferior to Star Wars or maligned as total garbage.
I was very upset when I came home for lunch on my first Grade 6 day. I had thought that the morning was never going to end! Every day seemed that way for several weeks.
My mother had stayed at home to prepare a spaghetti meal for me on that first Grade 6 school day, but the tears in my eyes, my runny nose, and the plaintive lump in my throat prevented me from enjoying the lunch. I wanted more than anything not to have to go back to school, and I stated my wish that we never moved to Fredericton.
I completed the first school day and the entire, gruelling, first school week that September, looking forward to the weekend and Space: 1999 and the Saturday morning television shows that I would be watching on cable television at my grandparents' house. As I stood solitarily near the school entrance at recess and on each morning and post-lunch afternoon, during both sunny or rainy weather on that first school week, I was aghast at how often I was witness to a physical fight in the school yard, and at how the other children of Grades 4, 5, and 6 seemed to revel in the violent spectacle before them. The widespread use of the four-letter word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet was also more than a little disconcerting. It was used both casually, in the form of an adjective, and for cursing purposes as an interjection. I had never heard that word, in any capacity, among the pupils at Douglastown Elementary. The Grade 6 boys were contemptuous of any intellectual learning and wanted to throw paper around the classroom, goad each other into violence, and utter crude epithets at the girls in the class, who mostly seemed to like those remarks. I dreaded Physical Education class, which during Grade 6 was on Thursday afternoons. And for good reason, for that was when the boys were given carte blanche to indulge their aggressive physicality and bully anyone like myself who was not as endowed as they with size, muscles, or agility- or with prowess in many sports. Further, I was anything but pleased when it was announced that on Friday mornings, starting on September 23, we would all be having swimming lessons at the Lady Beaverbrook Gym on the University of New Brunswick (U.N.B.) campus. The fact that I had aqua-phobia and was extremely uneasy in a swimming pool did not qualify me for an exemption, and I was scared of possibly hyperventilating in the swimming pool and the other children labelling me as any number of variations on the word, coward. Fortunately, I had an understanding swimming instructor who allowed me to wade in the shallow end of the pool and submerge myself ever so gradually in the water, but even so, it was a stressful Friday morning every week until the swimming lessons ended late in October.
During a Friday afternoon after Friday morning swimming, the Grade 6 classes of Mrs. O'Hara (my Grade 6 class' teacher) and Mrs. Clogg merged in Mrs. Clogg's classroom for some reason, and a couple of the boys in Mrs. Clogg's Grade 6 class approached me, asked me if I liked Space: 1999, and then cackled cruelly at my affirmative answer. Absolute garbage, they proudly declared it to be. As by extension was I for liking it. They sneered, uttered some pejorative with some variant of the ubiquitous-at-Park-Street-School four-letter word, and left me standing there, humiliated. As I have said, outside of the then-current Star Wars movie, outer space and science fiction carried little, if any, value with my sixth grade peers, Space: 1999 being especially scorned. And even Star Wars was not resoundingly popular among the majority of my new peers.
A small number, two or three at most, of the Park Street School Grade Sixers liked Star Wars enough to have a shirt with a picture from Star Wars on it, and there was one person in my class who owned the paperback novelisation of Star Wars and had very little to say to me other than an affirmation of the superiority of Star Wars over Space: 1999. My classmate was not unpleasant, per se, in stating his affirmation, but the attitude of others in the Grade 6 classes had much increased my sensitivity about the subject of my favourite television series and the distinct lack of welcome in Grade 6 classes at Park Street School for me as a keen aficionado of it.
Memorably viewed on the television set in one of the corners of our new Fredericton living room were the first part of the Bionic Woman two-part episode, "The Bionic Dog", shown at 8 P.M. on CTV/ATV on Saturday, September 10 (I missed most of "The Bionic Dog: Pt. 2" on Saturday, September 17 because my parents, my grandparents, and I went to church that evening), and both parts of the Bionic Woman two-parter, "Fembots in Las Vegas", on Saturday, September 24 and Saturday, October 1, respectively (8 P.M. on CTV/ATV, both weeks). My mother and father viewed both parts of "Fembots in Las Vegas" with me, and when the antagonist, Carl Franklin, pulled off his facial features to reveal that he was a robot resembling in construction the titular, menacing Fembots, my mother memorably chimed with Jaime Sommers' proclamation of, "Oh, no. Come on. No." Also memorable were the season premiere of Charlie's Angels, with Cheryl Ladd replacing Farrah Fawcett-Majors in that television series' regular cast of actresses (I was eating an English muffin pizza baked in our toaster as I watched that Charlie's Angels episode); the first episode of Lou Grant, the dramatic "spin-off" of The Mary Tyler Moore Show; the 1977-8 season opener of M*A*S*H, with Major Charles Emerson Winchester replacing Major Frank Burns at the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital; The Making of Star Wars television special; and an episode of Donny and Marie spoofing Star Wars.
The Making of Star Wars aired before I saw the actual Star Wars movie. There were scenes of the movie in it, certainly. But the impression that I received from The Making of Star Wars was mostly of the interaction of the two droid robots, See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo. Not tremendously exciting.
As I was not particularly impressed with my new school peers, and nor they with me, I kept to myself, which did leave me isolated and, of course, lonely, with my parents as the only familiar faces in an alien world. Not surprisingly, my inclination to shyness and reclusiveness, which I had all but eradicated by my fifth year in Douglastown, returned in full force. I went close to three long months in Fredericton with virtually no friendly companions in neighbourhood or at school. My parents both worked from 8 A.M. to after 5 P.M.. So, on each weekday, I departed a house then devoid of people, for school at approximately 8:15 A.M., endured mind-numbing loneliness there, and came home to alone eat lunch (an oven-heated Swanson dinner, usually turkey or fried chicken), and returned to school in the afternoon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (there were no classes for Fredericton elementary school pupils on Wednesday afternoons). Occasionally, I went to Kentucky Fried Chicken on Main Street, just a foot path and a residential block or two away, for a lunch consisting of a couple of delectably spicy chicken pieces and some French fries. I arrived at home after a long afternoon of lonesome toil with pen and pencil, and by myself watched television (CBC children's programming such as Stationary Ark, Pencil Box, and What's New? and local (i.e. CHSJ-TV) fare, The Little Rascals, Scooby-Doo, and Flipper) until my mother and father came home, at usually around 5:30.
On Monday or Tuesday, my father would be at home briefly mid-afternoon when I was in school, and he would leave on the dining room table for me the issue of TV Guide magazine released for the week to come starting the next Saturday. Some weeks, I would have to go to a store to buy TV Guide. The reading of the magazine filled some of my time alone in the house in advance of my parents' late-afternoon return home from work.
What a miserable existence for an eleven-year-old! To be so lonesome while other, accepted children were experiencing some of the best times of their childhood. My parents sympathised with me, but there was little that they could do to improve my condition. I thought about my Douglastown Elementary School classmates of old, wishing that I was with them. I would look northward as I wandered the Park Street School playground during recess time period, wondering what my Miramichi friends were doing at those precise moments.
Fortunately, I still had the reassuring feeling that somewhere in the world I did have friends and months earlier had been happy in their presence. I remained in contact with Michael and David F. back in Douglastown. David F. soon moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia, and I was henceforth mailing letters to him at his new address in Canada's west. With Michael, I exchanged letters and talked often by telephone. One of Michael's telephone calls to me was during the 6-to-7-P.M. CBC broadcast of the Space: 1999 episode, "Black Sun", on October 29, 1977. While Moonbase Alpha was passing through the episode's titled space phenomenon, I was conversing on the telephone with my best friend of my former community. I jumped at the opportunity to go to Douglastown to stay with Michael, as he was inviting me to do, on Remembrance Day weekend. Indeed, that weekend is very vividly remembered as the best that I had had since moving away from Douglastown. It was a most welcome relief from many weeks of loneliness in Fredericton, a chance to be back in my old surroundings, with my closest, best friend there.
On that Saturday evening (November 12, 1977), an episode of Space: 1999 about a tentacled space monster aired after being joined five minutes in progress due to an overlong college football game. It left quite a haunting impression, in the same way that Jekyll-and-Hyde cartoons had done. I knew from the episode's novelisation and from an adaptation on a vinyl record that there would be a man-eating, octopus-like creature in the episode, and I was too frightened to watch when the monster boarded a spaceship and consumed three of the four-person crew. But I heard its crazy noises and the screams of its victims and watched the expression on Michael's face and on those of his mother and sister, who were watching the episode with us.
The monster was the most gruesome, most ghastly manifestation of "the other" that I would have thought possible. A huge, screaming, multi-armed creature that feeds on human beings. Technological man and his many equipment marvels, indeed his sophisticated energy weapons, were no match for its macabre feeding frenzy. It was a representation of all that is monstrous about our universe as can be imagined by older generations.
And experiencing for the first time this Space: 1999 episode, "Dragon's Domain", with my closest, best Douglastown friend, clinched its impact. Such was occurring during a rare overlapping of two of my life eras (Era 2- Douglastown and Era 3- Fredericton), and strangely enough, the episode had a combination of styles of the television show's two seasons: the horror of the first season and the more human characterisation of the second. The second season had been shown in the previous broadcast year (1976-7) when I still lived in Douglastown, and the first season was now being shown after I had moved to Fredericton.
I was to lose contact with Michael, though. As previously said, in early 1979, he moved to Toronto, Ontario, and he visited me a year and a half later (July, 1980) a rather changed person who was irritated by me in my retiring ways and degree of avid fascination with imaginative works. And I suppose irritation usually is a mutual thing, for I reacted with that to him in his more urbane and noticeably very trendy persona. We no longer had anything in common. After we parted at the Fredericton bus depot, I was not to see him again. My efforts to regain contact with him in 1988, after my interest in my life in Douglastown and in all my friends there returned in a big way, were met with dismay and disinterest. My stated nostalgia for our times together as young boys was not endearing to him at that young-adult stage of his life, and my imaginative fancies and how I expressed my affiliation to such, just did not find favour. In 1988, I had been totally out of touch with everybody from Douglastown since 1980. My last exchange of letters with David F. had been in 1979. To Michael, my stated wish for reconciliation and a reunion must have in 1988 seemed to be a totally "left-field" overture.
Whilst cable television was not available in our home during the initial thirteen months of our living in Fredericton, my parents and I were limited- at home- to ATV and CHSJ-TV. Those were all that could be received. In autumn of 1977, The Flintstones was being shown on ATV from noon to 12:30 P.M. when I was at home for lunch on weekdays. At some later date, ATV replaced The Flintstones at noon with The Brady Bunch, and it is The Brady Bunch that I remember most as the television attraction when I was eating Swanson oven-heated meals for lunch while in Grade 6. The Brady Bunch episode, "Sergeant Emma", in which housekeeper Alice's regimentation-and-fitness-minded cousin Emma replaces her at the Brady residence for a time, is particularly memorable as being seen at lunchtime on a 1977-8 school day. I also vividly recall the investigation of the murder of Adam Drake on The Edge of Night, the theme music for Stationary Ark, Little Rascals instalments with comedies entitled "Roamin' Holiday" and "Dogs is Dogs" (the former of which involving the mischievous four boys, Spanky, Alfalfa, Porky, and Buckwheat, running away from their homes and thinking that they can outwit the owners of a store and bakery), and the theme song for Flipper, among my many, many experiences with television in 1977-8.
CHSJ-TV's coverage of the CBC television network's Saturday Space: 1999 broadcasts was inconsistent in the autumn months of 1977. "Death's Other Dominion" and "Force of Life", the Space: 1999 episodes run by the CBC at 2 o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday, September 24 and Saturday, October 8 respectively, were not shown on CHSJ and therefore unseen through New Brunswick, while they did air in all other parts of the country, including the CBC Maritimes stations listed in TV Guide magazine's Eastern-Maritime Canada edition. I was with my parents as we three walked to the Pic N' Puff store on the evening of Monday, September 19, and in TV Guide on the shelf there was full listings for all television stations east of the New Brunswick-Quebec border, apart from Newfoundland. "Death's Other Dominion" was scheduled for Saturday at 2 P.M. on CHSJ along with the CBC stations in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and through the dire week at school I looked forward to seeing for my first time ever the ice planet episode novelised in the Space: 1999 book, Collision Course, but the newspaper television listings that I read on the evening of Friday, September 23 told that there would be no Space: 1999 on CHSJ that weekend. Enduring the school week had been for nought, where Space: 1999 was concerned. I was profoundly disappointed. Yet, I watched CHSJ at 2 o'clock on Saturday to see if perhaps TV Guide was right and the newspapers were wrong. But no. CHSJ telecasted Canadian Express while in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, people were watching Moonbase Alpha's encounter with the immortal inhabitants of a frozen planet. At least with "Force of Life" on October 8, TV Guide was in agreement with all of the newspapers in not listing Space: 1999 to air in New Brunswick on CHSJ. Still, I was watching anyway on the remote chance that CHSJ changed plans. But, again, no. Canadian Express ran roughshod over my favourite Moonbase on CHSJ.
All other Space: 1999 episodes shown by the CBC were on CHSJ that autumn. And I did finally have occasion to view the two aforementioned episodes on CHSJ when the CBC reran them on March 18 and April 8, 1978. I could never be a hundred percent certain that CHSJ would transmit any episode. Also, as had been the case some years earlier with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on the CBC, I became a habitual homebody on Saturdays in the event of an earlier-than-scheduled broadcast of Space: 1999, which did happen sometimes.
That said, I continued to go to my grandparents' house to watch and audiotape Saturday morning cable television through September and into October. On the morning of September 24, my father and I gave away Frosty's two kittens, that we had brought with us from Douglastown, at the Fredericton Market, and then went to my grandparents' abode for me to enjoy my weekly dose of cartoons, including The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and the new, live-action deep space adventure, Space Academy, on CBS as relayed by WAGM. Most days, if I did not remain at my grandparents' place to watch and audiotape Space: 1999 there, then I was sure to return home by 1 P.M. at the latest and to stay there for the balance of the day, never straying far from my television screen. By the end of October, I was tiring of the Saturday ritual of waking early and dressing and eating and then going to my grandparents' house in Skyline Acres on the other side of Fredericton. I decided that a less frequent (e.g. once a month or two months) serving of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour would suffice until such time as I had cable television in my own home, and Space Academy, although spectacular, was not enough of a pull for me to venture away from home and go to my grandparents' house every Saturday A.M.. Besides, repeats of the Space Academy episodes were appearing early that television season. ATV, which I received on television at home with CHSJ (those were the only two television stations receivable in Fredericton without cable television), had Spiderman at 9 A.M., and I was more than satisfied to remain at home to watch that, along with Rocket Robin Hood, which still had a Saturday morning presence, as part of the variety-hour offering called ATV Funtime. CHSJ had Coming Up Rosie at 8:30 in the morning, and I always had an inclination to watch that. There was also, at 11 A.M., George, the offbeat, live-action, half-hour children's television show about a fully domesticated Saint Bernard dog in the Alps. Watching these kept me aesthetically engaged or at least entertained until the afternoon, when I would occupy myself with some solitary play of Space: 1999 with the utility belt I had purchased from Consumers Distributing on the Friday before "Black Sun" on Space: 1999 on October 29 or the Moonbase Alpha model (with tiny, inch-long Eagle spaceships) bought at the Consumers-Distributing-like Cardinal store in the Fredericton Mall on the morning of November 5. My eye would turn to the television set, with my audiotape recorder primed, at every half-hour, on the possibility of a surprise early broadcast of Space: 1999 on CHSJ and the CBC. There were, alas, full-network CBC preemptions of Space: 1999 on November 5 and December 3, both of which I knew about several days in advance.
"Fountain of Terror"/"Fiddler On the Loose", "Diamond Dust", "Blotto", "The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian"/"Scourge of the Scarf", "Rollarama", and "Trip to Tomorrow" are the Spiderman episodes that I most vividly remember watching on television in my Fredericton living room on Saturday mornings in 1977 and 1978. By that time, Spidey's episodes were aired out of production sequence. ATV had not shown "Thunder Rumble" and "Cold Storage" for some considerable time, whereas "Blotto" was shown twice, as I recall, in 1977-8. Not that I would complain, for "Blotto" was my favourite Spidey outing. The George episode in which little Freddie had a taxi service with the titled Saint Bernard pulling a wagon, aired on the morning of October 29, the day that Space: 1999's "Black Sun" episode was shown at 6 P.M.. That was the first Saturday morning since moving to Fredericton that I stayed at home. Some Saturdays during the spring of 1978 I did undertake a morning's removal from my house to buy an audiocassette or a packet of audiocassettes (Memorex T-90) at Kelly's Stereo Mart in the King's Place mall in downtown Fredericton, for use in recording the same day's Space: 1999 episode. And I purchased a quite impressive stereo audiocassette deck from Kelly's Stereo Mart in advance of the rerun of "The Last Enemy" on Space: 1999 on June 24, 1978. There was also an electronics store called L & R Sound next to Victory Meat Market on Fredericton's King Street. I bought some SONY audiocassettes there in early June of 1978, whilst I eyed with then-futile acquisitive intent a SONY videocassette recorder on display at the L & R store and thought how marvellous it would be if I could only have use of that technology to archive Space: 1999 in my home.
Grade 6 in Fredericton (1977-8) typified my remaining school years. Uncomfortable and feeling unwanted by my peers and rather unnerved by the seemingly institutional size of the school (and the schools became larger and larger as I went to junior high and then senior high), I did what was expected by teachers and nothing more. I spent as little time at school as possible. If I excelled at anything, I was rather tight-lipped about it. Our Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. O'Hara, was a strict disciplinarian. She had no qualms about detaining the whole class because a segment thereof was misbehaving. She constantly "slave-drove" the class so that even something as fun as constructing puppets for a school play performance, "The Reluctant Dragon", became a tedious chore. I longed for the end of each school week so that I could see Space: 1999 on Saturday evening.
Space: 1999 was a crucial element of continuity in my dislocated, topsy-turvy life. My Boy Meets Alpha memoirs contain a detailed remembering of my early months in Fredericton as CBC Television was opting to air as a full-television-network presentation the episodes of Space: 1999's first season after twelve prior months of broadcasts of Season 2 Space: 1999. Space: 1999 had been of immense interest as my primary entertainment fascination in my final, outstanding year in Douglastown and continued to be so for my first, deficient year in Fredericton. My former schoolmates had been quite supportive of my admiration for the aural and visual aesthetic and stories of this television show, and it is natural, I think, that I would dearly appreciate the memory of such positive surroundings and of that which was of central attention at the time. However, I was not as yet aware of how much of the retrospective emotional phenomenon called nostalgia was going to factor into my regard for and response to Space: 1999.
As previously articulated, Space: 1999 had caught hold of my imagination in an exceedingly enormous way. It was the fantastically bold crystallisation of many of my juvenile interests, fascinations, fears, and yens for heroic archetypes. It had two quite different seasons, but in their own way, the two seasons both impressed me to tremendous extent in their look, their sound, their ways of portraying and depicting the universe and its many worlds and denizens, and their conception of Space Age life, hardware, and transportation. And both seasons were important in aiding my adjustment to a change of habitats. The television show as a whole bridged the gap between two very different life eras. My attachment to it was multi-faceted. Visceral (as purely exciting entertainment). Aesthetic. Deeply personal. And, as I would eventually discover, nostalgic. Words would usually fail me in explaining my inability to expediently and thoroughly "move on" to something else.
In years to follow, I would be on the defencive often in regard to my love for Space: 1999. My peers at school in Fredericton were unwilling to understand- or incapable of understanding. But most of the defending would eventually be to aficionados of the science fiction genre. Snobs who would argue that Space: 1999 fails to meet a strict and rigid definition of science fiction. Even though it was described in TV Guide magazine as science fiction as was Star Trek. Even though Space: 1999 books would be found in the science fiction section of bookstores, near to the books of Star Trek. Ultimately, I can capitulate and call Space: 1999 fantasy. Space fantasy. Science fantasy. Or science fiction/fantasy. Such does not alter the fact of its imaginative scope and its appeal to me. Certainly not.
But how cruel of life to hurl adversity at me almost without relent in years to come because Space: 1999 had been so powerful a grabber of my imagination and such an important factor in my endurance of the latter half of 1977 and because I had become quite staunchly loyal in defending it, especially the integrity of the in-Douglastown-viewed and most fondly remembered and appreciated second season! One scarcely expects at this stage of my life story that by the time that the 1999 year would be a reality, I would be lamenting, in fact cursing, Space: 1999 for the confounded put-downs, the sheer hostility that I had to suffer because of my two decades-plus of dedication to it. Season 2 of Space: 1999 was going to be utterly destroyed before my anguished eyes, by fans of the television show, no less! What I was forced to bear from my fellow Fredericton Grade Sixers because I fancied Space: 1999 was nothing compared with what was to come when I would join organised Space: 1999 fandom and be a part of it, more or less, for 17 tumultuous years.
I was alike with my new school peers in one respect, however: disliking Mrs. O'Hara. When our music teacher, Mrs. Wilkins, came to the 6A classroom and enquired if anyone would be interested in removing themselves from Mrs. O'Hara's tyranny and relentless workload to perform in a music festival, the entire class volunteered.
The highlight, for me, of the year that was 1978 was the third week in February, on which I went to Toronto, Ontario (Canada's largest city) with my parents by train. My mother had a Victorian Order of Nurses conference to attend there, and my father and I were to accompany her into Canada's metropolitan heartland.
On the evening of Saturday, February 11, I was in front of our living room television, watching and audiotape-recording the Space: 1999 episode, "Ring Around the Moon", and after that, shortly after at 7 P.M., my parents and I went to the Fredericton train station on York Street to board the passenger railroad transport that would convey us to central Canada. We had a sleeper berth, and I brought my Space: 1999 book, Moon Odyssey, in its pink-coloured Orbit Books edition, with me to read on the train, in addition to my memories of the "Ring Around the Moon" episode that had been shown on CBC early in the evening. There was on the front cover of Moon Odyssey a picture of Barbara Bain as Dr. Russell in a scene from "Ring Around the Moon". When I remember travelling by train to Toronto in 1978, it is always Moon Odyssey and "Ring Around the Moon" that together come to mind.
We changed trains at Montreal in the province of Quebec on the next morning (Sunday, February 12) and for the remainder of our journey to Toronto, we were in a coach-style train car. We arrived in Toronto on Sunday night. And there we stayed for four days in the Sutton House hotel close to Yonge Street. I, with my father accompanying me, shopped all along Yonge Street for Space: 1999 merchandise. From a Coles Bookstore on Yonge Street, I bought Orbit Books' edition of Astral Quest, which was an assemblage of four Space: 1999 episode novelisations including that of "Dragon's Domain". I had already had the Pocket Books' edition of Astral Quest and had for quite some time been curious about the appearance of Orbit Books' version of it. As I discovered, it was mossy green in colour with a most bizarre style of the book's Astral Quest title being in the same style of print as Space: 1999, but increasing in size with each letter/number character instead of decreasing. My father and I had lunch at a Yonge Street McDonald's restaurant as I regarded my Astral Quest book with some considerable satisfaction. The clerk at the bookstore had to rifle through a drawer beneath the book shelves in order to find the single stocked copy of Orbit Books' Astral Quest. I was reading the book intently during a French toast breakfast on the following morning in the Sutton House diner. My father and I, in our hotel room, watched such Star Trek episodes as "The Galileo Seven" and "The Devil in the Dark" in the mornings before going on further shopping jaunts, and I ate spaghetti and pizza at spiffy restaurants in the Eaton Centre on Yonge Street, and, on our first evening in Toronto, shish kabob at the Sutton House restaurant.
Also a transacted-for item within the stores of metropolitan Toronto was a Space: 1999 Hawk spaceship model toy. And my father and I went via subway to a shopping mall in suburban Scarborough, where I purchased from the Zellers department store a profoundly desired Mattel Space: 1999 Commander John Koenig doll. A piece of non-Space: 1999 merchandise obtained in Toronto was a Little Rascals framed portrait showing all of the precocious youngsters of that comedic stable of yesteryear. My parents and I were back in Fredericton on the morning of Friday, February 17 and hastened to a kennel to collect an upset Frosty, who had stayed there during our Toronto excursion. We journeyed to Toronto again in December, 1980.
By the spring of 1978, my social situation in Fredericton was improving. I had made acquaintance with a number of Grade 4 boys, among them David B., Tony, and Eric, each of whom, to varying extent, were followers of space science fiction/fantasy, the then-current and popular Star Wars for the most part. Though they did not share the quality of my fondness for Space: 1999, they were mostly willing to respect it. And this was a welcome relief from my unappreciative Grade 6 peers. I did not have any objections to having younger friends. My closest friend in Douglastown, Michael, had been three years junior to me. And I had many other younger friends there. In fact, I quite liked having younger friends because they filled the void from having no brothers. However, what was to be consistent for all relationships with younger people in Fredericton was that I would, by necessity of age difference, be outside of their groups on the occasions that meant most to them- and I was to remain in this sense foreign to their primary social existence.
None of this was foreseen by me at this time (1978). Nor would it have mattered if it were foreseen. I needed friendship, whenever and from whomever it would be offered. And there I was, in a neighbourhood where the only persons who would have anything to do with me were these boys of younger age. I accepted friendship with them and was their playmate, conversation partner, etc. whenever they would opt to include me in their social lives.An outstanding and much notable memory of the spring of 1978 is that of sunny Saturday, May 6, 1978. A day that I remember very vividly.
I expected that the Space: 1999 episode, "Dragon's Domain", would make a reappearance on CBC Television that Saturday- if the same sequence of Space: 1999 episodes was to be followed in spring and summer that year by CBC Television as had been put forth on that television network in the preceding autumn and winter. Which had been the case for several weeks since March 11. I saw TV Guide magazine for May 6 to May 12 with its release to stores on May 1. My father bought that issue of TV Guide for me on that day, and it was awaiting me on a table at home. Yes, "Dragon's Domain" was to air at 4 P.M. on Saturday, May 6. I was on my house's front steps looking at the TV Guide television listings minutes after arriving at home from school on May 1- and I was dismayed by what I saw.
Channels 3, 5, and 13. Space: 1999. The episode synopsis read as: "Dr. Russell (Barbara Bain) recounts the farfetched explanation offered by the sole survivor of a disastrous 1996 space probe." Yes, "Dragon's Domain" that certaibly was. Only 3, 5, and 13. 3 being CBHT (CBC Halifax), 5 being CBIT (CBC Sydney), and 13 being CBCT (CBC Charlottetown). Where was 4 (CHSJ-TV- Saint John)? Nothing at 4 o'clock on CHSJ. I glanced up the printed broadcast schedules for the day and at 3:30 saw, for channel 4, New Brunswick Liberal Leadership Convention.
My face clouded completely. But wait. Maybe CHSJ was going to videotape-delay Space: 1999? No. No listing to that effect. I was seized with a mood of downtrodden despair. I had yet to see "Dragon's Domain" from start to finish. I had yet to view the pre-credits prologue, the opening credits, and earliest post-credit dialogue. Because the episode had been joined already in progress on its previous CBC airing on November 12, 1977. And I wanted the opportunity to see the episode again. CHSJ and New Brunswick politics had interceded on this. It was the convention that elected Joseph Daigle to the Liberal leadership, to be defeated by Richard Hatfield's Progressive Conservatives later that year (1978).
But in the "Showtime" supplement of The Telegraph Journal read on Friday, May 5, good news. Space: 1999 listed for CHSJ-TV at 6 P.M. on Saturday, after the convention coverage, videotape-delayed by CHSJ from its 4 P.M. airing on CBHT, CBIT, CBCT. Beautiful, I proclaimed. The Telegraph Journal was usually more reliable than TV Guide when it came to predicting CHSJ's intentions, as both The Telegraph Journal and CHSJ-TV were owned by wealthy businessman K.C. Irving.
So, that sunshiny Saturday morning, I felt confident of a viewing later that day of Space: 1999- "Dragon's Domain". I accompanied my parents to Fredericton's downtown. We stopped at King's Place Mall and at Kelly's Stereo Mart, where I bought a three-pack of Memorex C-90 "compact cassettes", one of which was designated by me to house the anticipated Space: 1999 broadcast that day. As we were walking about King's Place and its parking garage, we saw people with Joseph Daigle pins on their jackets scurrying about. I remember asking my father who in heck (I wanted to say the word, hell, but I was a youngster, for whom that word was expressly forbidden) Joseph Daigle is, anyway. And why are the people all pronouncing his last name as Daig, the final two letters being silent? Hatfield was very probably going to win the next provincial election again; so, why go to all of this trouble? I tried not to fret too much, for at least I was going to see and audiotape Space: 1999- "Dragon's Domain" that day- even if it was to be at 6 P.M. rather than at 4 P.M..
We proceeded to my grandparents' place in Skyline Acres, and there I used a pen to label one of the Memorex audiocassettes as Space: 1999- "Dragon's Domain". My anticipation was building as we returned to home at around 2:30, going along McLaren Avenue, and me in the car's back seat having a look at the vast farm property on McLaren as we passed it. And at home, I prepared my audiocassette recorder and "hunkered down" for the wait for 6 o'clock. As I visualized the coming triumph of at last seeing the first minutes of "Dragon's Domain", I watched the leadership convention on CHSJ.
Ah, what does first and second ballot mean? What would going to second ballot mean for elapsed time of the convention broadcast? I was going to discover the protracted length of a leadership convention, and I was not going to be happy.
6 o'clock came, and the convention was ongoing. Still. I clenched my teeth in aggravation as I realised that at the very least, "Dragon's Domain" was going to be joined in progress. Again. But, no. Not only that. The convention did not end until very close to 7 o'clock, and CHSJ followed it with The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, the then-usual 7 P.M. fare on Saturday. I fussed and fretted. Then, I joined some of my new, younger friends for some evening outdoor play on the Crescent Linden and tried to "let go" of my burning resentment over what had happened. I seemed destined never to see the first five minutes or so of "Dragon's Domain".
Happily, CHSJ did videotape-record "Dragon's Domain" that day from its CBC Television signal source, CBHT, though I did not know that for approximately two months. Yes, CHSJ planned to air a videotape-delayed-from-May "Dragon's Domain" at 5 P.M. on a Saturday (July 8) over two months hence, but was unable to do so because a preceding sports telecast went almost an hour beyond its alotted airtime. And so, "Dragon's Domain" was shown by CHSJ-TV at 6 P.M. on Sunday, July 16, 1978 completely by surprise in lieu of Walt Disney.
On Saturday, May 20, CBC Television's 6 P.M. telecast of Space: 1999's "End of Eternity" episode looked like it would not be shown in New Brunswick by CHSJ-TV, CHSJ opting instead to air an episode of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams at that hour, as indicated in The Telegraph Journal. My parents and I decided to depart our Fredericton place at around 11:30 A.M. for a day's travel to and from Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham. I visited with Michael for an hour or so in the afternoon. And my parents and I then dined at the home of my parents' Chatham friends, the Hutchinsons, and returned to Fredericton as daylight was slipping away. It was dark by the time that we were passing the village of Taymouth on approach to the Killarney Road on the frontiers of New Brunswick's Capital Region.
The Saturday after that saw Space: 1999 settle into a from-then-onward regular 3 P.M. airtime, though I was expecting for it to be shown at 4 P.M. (as all television listings had indicated). My father summoned me to the living room television at the first glimpses and sounds at 3 P.M. of the Space: 1999 episode, "The Full Circle". I was entertaining David B. in one of the McCorry house's back rooms at the time, and he stayed at my place with me to watch that day's Space: 1999 broadcast. Thereafter, David and I joined Tony, who had also watched "The Full Circle" that day, for some baseball in a vacant lot along Maple Street.
Some additional memories of the spring of 1978. Charlie Brown's All Stars! aired on CBC Television on the evening of Friday, May 19, and I put an audiotape-recording of that Peanuts television special broadcast on the same Memorex C-90 audiocassette that contained the sound of Space: 1999- "Death's Other Dominion" from its March 18 showing on CBC Television. I listened to that particular audiotape many a time in the spring weeks of 1978. I would often listen to my audiotape-recording of Charlie Brown's All Stars! before leaving home to go to school in mornings of that spring. Same as I had done with my audiotape-recordings of the cartoon television special, Noah's Animals, and of the first-time-ever airing of What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! (a Snoopy-centric Peanuts television special about sledding in the Arctic and the first of the Peanuts television specials made after the death of ace Peanuts music composer Vince Guaraldi) in the winter previous. On Thursday, May 25, I had to have an aching tooth removed by the Brunswick Street dentist whom I started seeing on that same day. He yanked the tooth out of my mouth before the one injection of Novocain given to me had reached full effect, and I screamed with the excruciating pain that I felt with that procedure. I also remember a sunny weekday afternoon on which Tony and his friend, Neil, partook in quite a wild cushion fight in my basement that extended to the outdoors.
And also from spring of 1978 I remember CHSJ airing episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show at 3:30 P.M. on Saturdays in April preceding 4 P.M. Space: 1999. Most especially remembered is this being the case before "Force of Life" was telecast on April 8. I remember developing a fever on Saturday, April 22 as that day's Space: 1999 episode, "Another Time, Another Place", was coming to an end at near 5 P.M., and my grandparents visiting after supper as I was laying down on my bed. I stayed at home on the next school day, a rainy day; my fever had broken, but my mother did not want to chance sending me to school. I have vivid recall of watching through my front window my friends coming home from school that day's afternoon. I remember a game of television tag (anagrams of television shows being written in a sketched television diagram in the sand, and the person giving the correct answer to the anagram puzzle having to run in a circle and race the "questioner" person back to the diagram television, the winner of the race being allowed to be the next "questioner"). One day, a group of us also played Star Wars in the school yard, with me, being eldest in the group, having to be the Ben Kenobi character. And lastly, I recollect sunny Saturday morning shopping expeditions with my parents downtown in Fredericton at Simpsons-Sears on Queen Street and at the Zellers department store with its two entrances, one on Queen Street, one on King Street (we entered and exited the store usually through its portals to King Street), and its esclator (the only one in Fredericton) to its second floor, where its toy section had Star Wars action figures in stock.
On the final Friday of school that year, Mrs. O'Hara's Grade 6 class travelled by train to the New Brunswick city of Moncton, 100 miles east of Fredericton, for a sight-seeing and shopping tour. There, at Highfield Square mall, I bought a Tusken Raider Star Wars action figure, a quite rare item in the stores in Fredericton (both it and the Jawa action figure were definitely the two most difficult Star Wars action figures to find in stores in the Capital Region of New Brunswick, as my friends would attest), and a Space: 1999 Pocket Books edition Astral Quest book to replace my earlier one thereof, which was falling apart. On June 21, the school games day involved several teams with children from Grades 4, 5, and 6. Tony, one of my new friends from Grade 4, was on my team, my partner, actually, in the three-legged race and other events, and our team did enjoy an overall first-place finish. The school year was actually ending in a rather satisfying way.
In mid-1978, my suburban Fredericton social circle widened to include, in addition to Tony, David B., and Eric, 4-years-my-junior Mike J., my next-door neighbour until his family moved to Arizona in 1980. Mike J. had a sister named Krista and a significantly older brother, Hugh. Tony's younger brother, Steven, also joined in our fun and games.
In the spring and summer months of 1978, CHSJ showed television movies every Thursday night, and the most memorable ones were It Happened at Lakewood Manor, a.k.a. Ants! (which I saw the on evening before the day that my class at school travelled by train to Moncton), The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, and Deadman's Curve. There was a late-night, i.e. 11:35 P.M., showing of Earthquake on CHSJ on the same Saturday- June 17- that Space: 1999's "The Last Sunset" episode was rerun. I stayed awake until the end credits of Earthquake that night, audiotape-recording the movie.
My first viewing of a movie in a Fredericton theatre following my move to that city was- surprise, surprise- Star Wars. I wanted to see if all of the accolades, all of the hype, for this allegedly better-than-Space: 1999 filmed work of the imagination, were/was in fact warranted, or if it was all much ado about nothing. My parents and I attended the Queen Street Gaiety Theatre's Sunday matinee performance of the George Lucas space epic on October 30, 1977. I found Star Wars on first viewing to be flashy, noisy, and quite simplistic as a tale of heroes going to the rescue of a girl, who is held captive by the evil villain, that villain, of course, garbed in black. Having come to know the space science fiction/fantasy genre via, among other things, Space: 1999 and Star Trek, I did not care much for the "lived-in", less-than-immaculate version of the long-in-the-tooth technological society depicted in Star Wars, nor the rather drab costumes of the characters for whom I was supposed to cheer. The antagonists had the more appealingly sophisticated science fiction/fantasy hardware, wardrobe, and general iconography. It was on the whole an entertaining movie (the droid robots' bi-play in the first third of the movie had admittedly been something of a patience-taxing "slog" and the movie's weakest part, by my reckoning). But it really did not grab me and elicit a really emotional, much less an intellectual, response. Its aesthetic appeal to me was not at all comparable to that of Space: 1999. I still just did not comprehend what all of the fuss was about. It is true that a matinee provides seldom the best conditions for experiencing a movie. Yes, there were plenty of wailing, very young children in the audience, and most irritating were two teenage girls who, seated directly behind us, kept hitting the back of my chair. Between these distractions and I suppose my predisposition not to favour the movie because it was being used against Space: 1999 by a number of my peers at school, I was not an instant citizen of what one might call the Star Wars Nation. Such was to change in the next few years.
I should add that I did like the look of See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo, and that of most of the other Star Wars robots. That much is true. The first Star Wars action figure toy that I bought was that of Artoo-Detoo. But with regard to the droid robot personalities, my fancy was not captured. Certainly not when the droids were conversing among themselves. For me, robots tend to be interesting in their interaction with people, and/or when they are an antagonistic quantity. The rather affectedly sympathetic See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo communicating with each other for so many minutes and then separating and being apart on the theatre screen for more minutes, was a drain on my engagement with Star Wars as I first saw it.
On the evening of Friday, April 7, 1978, the day before the long awaited rerun of Space: 1999's "Force of Life" episode was to be on Space: 1999 on CBC and CHSJ, I was with my father at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 to see Breaker, Breaker, a movie I evidently was eager to see because it was shown on television advertisements for it, to have plenty of scenes of transport trucks crashing into houses and other buildings and causing calamity on a large scale. For some reason, that kind of ruinous action appealed viscerally to both myself and my father.
In the summer of 1978, three visits to the local cinemas are memorable. The first of these was on the evening of Saturday, July 8. Space: 1999 had been preempted for two weeks in a row, and I was desperately unhappy about that. My parents suggested that the three of us go and see a movie, and it so happened that at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 there was playing a deep-space war epic called Battlestar Galactica. I sat with my mother and father in the second cinema of the Nashwaaksis dual-theatre establishment, enjoying the unfolding, dazzling spectacle of a far-away stellar system's populace fighting for their collective survival against raiding, besieging, humanoid-exterminating robots called Cylons. This was the theatrical film version of the soon-to-be-telecast, three-hour premiere episode of the television series of the same name. I thought that the Cylon robots looked something like Star Wars' Darth Vader. Indeed, the entire premise of the movie seemed to be cut from the same cloth as Star Wars, but it appeared to be more to my liking. The special effects seemed to be of the same calibre, and more prolific as space combat scenes were longer and on a mostly wider perspective. There was no prolonged and quite boring sequence of scenes of two robots on a vast desert landscape to slow the movie to a crawl in its opening half-hour. Rather, the action was fast and furious and almost never relented until forty-five minutes into the movie. The Colonial heroes had some quite eye-catching hardware and Space Age clothing. And Lorne Greene was immediately recognisable to me from Earthquake. This time, he did not die as a disposable character but was the enlightened leader of the heroic community that began a fascinating migration across space in a diverse array of detailed spacecraft, including one which read on its hull, "Colonial Movers- We Move Anywhere," bringing a chuckle out of my mother. And Greene was surrounded by what looked to me to be an ensemble cast of veteran and promising young actors. I enjoyed Battlestar Galactica so much, and so did my friends who viewed it on their own excursions into Nashwaaksis Cinema 2, that we played Battlestar Galactica by times in the summer of 1978, bought the novelisation of it from Beegie's Bookstore in the Fredericton Mall, and were pleased to learn that it was coming to television that autumn with weekly episodes on Sunday evenings. I was still first and foremost a Space: 1999 enthusiast, but I would not object to a secondary visually dynamic, televised space opus in my impressionable, pre-teenaged life. I did not then, in the summer of 1978, know that the CBC intended to drop Space: 1999 from its schedule come September. On another Saturday evening during the summer of 1978, my parents and I were in the same Nashwaaksis cinema, watching Heaven Can Wait, the Warren Beatty movie about a football player's premature death and necessary reincarnation. And I was at the Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 yet again, this time by myself, to see the Sunday matinee showing of The Bad News Bears Go to Japan on August 6, the day after Space: 1999's episode, "Space Brain", was rerun on CBC. It was the first Bears movie that I had seen. Scarcely a good introduction to the little-league baseball team's boast-worthy exploits. I did not see their first and by far best movie until it appeared on evening television in the autumn of 1978.
Oh, yes. There was also the August of 1978 evening on which my father and I went to the Plaza Cinemas to see the killer bee movie, The Swarm. I know. The less said about that movie, the better. A television movie, The Savage Bees, airing on CHSJ-TV that summer, was, whatever its production budget, a much better dramatisation of the concept of killer bees than was the ineptly-written and ineptly-directed The Swarm. The book, The Swarm, from which the movie of same title was derived, probably was more satisfying a telling of the story of killer bees coming to the U.S.; I had the book but never read past the text in its preface.
A particularly tenacious remembrance that I have from summer of 1978 is of a couple of Monday afternoon solitary walks down and then up Nashwaaksis' Douglas Avenue, an IGA grocery store being at the foot of that street, at its intersection with Main Street, that IGA grocery store selling TV Guide magazine sometimes earlier than other places such as the Pic N' Puff store. Vividly do I remember ascending the long hill of Douglas Avenue and reading listing for Space: 1999 in TV Guide's July 8 to July 14 issue and its July 15 to 21 issue. The former of the two issues had CHSJ-TV alone (i.e. without CBHT, CBIT, CBCT) scheduled to air some unspecified episode of Space: 1999 at 5 P.M. on Saturday, July 8. I had my mother telephone CHSJ-TV that Saturday morning to ask what Space: 1999 episode was to be telecast, and the CHSJ receptionist could only say, "It's an old one." So my mother reported to me. I feel quite certain (certain enough to assert it essentially as factual) that CHSJ intended to show a videotape-delayed-from-May-6 "Dragon's Domain" on that day. But because of longer-than-expected CBC sports programming, Space: 1999 did not appear on July 8 on CHSJ-TV. It was preempted. And it had also been preempted on CBC Television on the Saturday previous to that. TV Guide synopsised "Missing Link" as the episode of Space: 1999 to air on all CBC Television stations at 3 P.M. on Saturday, July 15. And that was what happened. And as I have said, CHSJ finally did show the videotape-delayed-from-May-6 "Dragon's Domain" in lieu of Walt Disney on Sunday, July 16. I believe that CHSJ, its intentions to show the episode on July 8 having been thwarted, chose to air it in the next available vacant airtime. That being Sunday, July 16 at 6 P.M..
On the weekdays straddling that hazy and muggy July 15 and July 16 weekend, a company called P.D. Moore was placing sod in the yard of the McCorry home to finally bestow upon our home a green lawn. I remember thinking about the "Missing Link" episode of Space: 1999 as I, through our house's living room window, watched the burly P.D. Moore employees working in the humid air to spread pre-grown grass onto our front yard.
In the final week of July in 1978, Michael rode an S.M.T. bus from Newcastle to Fredericton and stayed with me for a number of days. My father and I collected him at the S.M.T. bus depot on Regent Street in the Fredericton downtown, and we promptly had lunch at Dairy Queen, Michael telling me everything he knew about what was happening in Douglastown. I remember Michael and I spreading sleeping bags out onto the living room floor, and the two of us watching an episode of The New Avengers, "Medium Rare", as we were snugly zippered into those sleeping bags. I remember showing to Michael my latest audiocassette-recording-and-playback equipment (purchased that year's June at Kelly's Stereo Mart) and my audiotapes of Space: 1999 episodes, including "Dragon's Domain" with which Michael and I had already shared a connection through its earlier telecast on CBC Television on November 12 of the previous autumn while I was staying with Michael at his place. And I vividly visualise the sunny Friday evening on which Michael and I walked along Maple Street and down Fulton Avenue to the Pic N' Puff store, where Michael browsed the toy model kits on a shelf at back of store, beside which was a television set showing what looked like an aerial view of an alien planet. For a second, I thought that the CBC was offering impromptu a Space: 1999 episode. "The Metamorph" from the Season Two Space: 1999, perhaps. Michael commented bemusedly as I suggested that possibility, before it became obvious that we were looking at something else entirely. Michael memorably watched the "Ring Around the Moon" Space: 1999 episode with me on its CBC Television rebroadcast on July 29, from 3 to 4 P.M.. That and also the Bionic Woman episode, "The Martians Are Coming, the Martians Are Coming", airing on ATV that evening from 8 P.M. to 9 P.M..
In the summer of 1978, with my new-found younger companions (Tony, David B., etc.), I played baseball in a vacant lot on Maple Street parallel to Linden Crescent South, and, nearer to my home and theirs, guns, television tag, hide-and-seek, and scenarios from Battlestar Galactica and Space: 1999. I remember David B. declaring that Tony be in the Victor Bergman role for our playing of Space: 1999- and especially Tony's retort of, "I don't want to be Victor. He's stunned." I do not think that Tony was referring to the balding professor being the victim of an unconsciousness-inducing anti-personnel weapon. One of our pretended Space: 1999 episodes brought us to a house under construction on Linden Crescent West, a house that would be owned by the Sprague family. We imagined that the partially built house was a crash-landed derelict spaceship.
Our group turned the unfinished basement of my house into first a Space: 1999 then general science fiction club (with us lining all of the then-available Star Wars action figures (twelve of them in total) from our combined collections on a shelf), then into a hotel, rather like the garage in Douglastown had been, with cardboard room dividers, many pictures on the walls, and beds constructed from old sheets and cushions. As previously stated, I was not particularly impressed by Star Wars when I first saw it with my mother and father on the afternoon of Sunday, October 30, 1977. But the action-figure-collecting bug bit into me just as firmly as it did into my friends, first with Star Wars, then with Battlestar Galactica.
As part of the basement-conversion-into-hotel project, my friends and I snipped some movie attraction advertisements out of the Fredericton area newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, and stapled them to the wooden beams of my basement. An advertisement for a drive-in theatre's showing of Star Wars was among what we had cut out of the newspaper for wooden-beam "wall" adornment for our hotel. On a weekday, Tuesday, August 8, 1978, during the general science fiction fan club phase of our summer's activities in my basement, my friends and I went upstairs and watched some of the movie, The Green Slime, on ATV's Midday Matinee. On the day before that, David B. came to my place to announce that he had seen the TV Guide magazine listing for Space: 1999 for the next Saturday (August 12), in advance of my acquisition of that particular issue or TV Guide. He said that he had seen the word, halt, in the episode synopsis. It was synopsis for the logically expected next episode in the CBC's Space: 1999 broadcast sequence repeated from the previous autumn and winter. Namely, "The Testament of Arkadia". But on sunny August 12, CBC broadcast of both a Pope's funeral and the Commonwealth Games meant preemption for Space: 1999. I was coming out of our house's washroom when my parents informed me that they had just heard the CBC's announcement that Space: 1999 would be preempted. And "The Testament of Arkadia" was the only Space: 1999 first season episode not to see rebroadcast on the CBC Television network in spring and summer, 1978. On that Saturday's morning, I remember playing with Star Wars action figures with Mike J. on his back porch's steps. My father and I had been to Beegie's Bookstore earlier that morning. And there I had bought The Swarm book.
Some other summer of 1978 memories. Walking with my parents down Douglas Avenue one weekday evening after having seen The New Avengers' episode, "The Lion and the Unicorn". Sitting on David B.'s doorstep with him and my other friends and speculating on the front cover look and episode-novelisation composition of a mysterious Space: 1999 book, The Edge of the Infinite, of whose existence I had recently become aware. Seeing Tony on his return from a summer's hockey school. Tony's cousin, Gary, talking quite insistently about the apparent similarity in physical appearance of magazine cover model Cheryl Tiggs and actress Cheryl Ladd ("Big deal!" was what I sarcastically opined to myself on that matter). Attending David B.'s birthday party along with Tony and Eric, it involving a lunch at McDonald's. Learning with distress that Mork and Mindy was going to supplant Space: 1999 on CBC Television that autumn, and my friends all insisting that Battlestar Galactica coming to television that same autumn would be sufficient compensation for losing Space: 1999. And my being distinctly unenthusiastic about having to go to Grade 7 at yet another different school, the first day of the new school year looming closer and closer- and then inevitably upon me.
My young friends did indeed fill a gap in my life caused by the move away from several same-age and younger friends in Douglastown, but we were separated when I went to Grade 7 in the nearby Nashwaaksis Junior High, while they remained at Park Street Elementary. Grade 7 was no more agreeable than Grade 6. School days were longer. And I did not much like having to change classrooms and teachers several times each day. Why? The corridors and stairwells of the school would become congested with unruly, vulgarly exclaiming, potentially bullying teenagers. That plus my needing to adjust to several teachers and to their peculiar traits, temperaments, and expectations, instead of just one teacher.
Battlestar Galactica on Sunday at 9 P.M. preceded my bedtime, after which was a night of slumber followed by the start of five consecutive days of school, a string of days of which I would always feel wary, for school in Fredericton was not "my oyster". The premiere episode of Battlestar Galactica, "Saga of a Star World", airing on Sunday, September 17, 1978, was scheduled to "clock-in" at three hours. My parents allowed me to stay awake until midnight to watch (and audiotape-record) all of it, but the last half-hour of it was delayed until sometime past midnight for a news report about a Middle East conference. I had to go to bed and miss the final Battlestar Galactica half-hour that night. And on the Monday thereafter, I went to school, ate a Beaver Foods lunch in the cafeteria, and came home in the afternoon to a TV Guide issue left in the house by my father, and read the Battlestar Galactica episode synopsis for the following Sunday, describing a virus afflicting Galactica fighter pilots. First, though, I had a forlorn look at Saturday's listings in dashed hopes of seeing Space: 1999 there.
At my new school, peer exclusivity still prevailed as cliques from elementary schools had been transplanted into the junior high school environment. There was again no room for a relative newcomer to the city, particularly one of rather rural background with, in my age group in Fredericton, uncommon interests. I began to have what could accurately be called a double life. Shyness and social passivity were Kevin McCorry's attributes at school, where I continued in Fredericton to be an outcast, but around home, in the company of my younger friends, I had fun and was, like I had been in Douglastown, an organiser and leader in projects on my property, in this case, my basement.
When surrounded by friends who I knew accepted me and clearly wanted to be with me, who initiated friendship and the occasions for which for us to be together, my social skills were mostly there. I was eloquently communicative, boundlessly creative, comfortable with sharing with my friends any idea, any interest, and forthright in expressing my opinions about practically anything. I had come quite some ways from the petrified, quiet, abjectly retiring wallflower that I had been in Grade 1. But I still was wary of rebuff in new social situations, or circumstances wherein my friends had others in their company, or whenever I had to approach someone without invitation to do so. And because of an ego-centric condition of mind, the result of being an only-child and as such the "spoiled" darling of my parents, and indulged for years as leader by accepting and almost always cooperating friends, I had not as yet gained an ability to decentralise my point of view, to perceive myself from "outside of the box", to regard my conduct through the eyes of others, and to relate, to empathise with their feelings if I unwittingly hurt them.
When I left Douglastown, I was effective at interacting one-on-one and in social groups already known to be welcoming of me. In such situations, by Grade 5, I was distinctly in my element, talking with no inhibition about whatever interested me. But obviously I still had some way to go yet in becoming a fully adjusted, complete social success. I had to lose my tendency to egocentricity and my disposition of shrinking from by myself initiating contact with others, and gain some modicum of outgoing personality, and with it a capacity to view myself through the eyes of others. At school in Fredericton, I regressed utterly to what I had socially been in Grade 1 in Douglastown, while around my Fredericton home I had found a handful of younger friends who allowed me to lead them in creative projects and playtime fun, not unlike my buddies in Douglastown. But they diverged from my Douglastown pals in that they were not willing to submit to my decisions or my guidance on a constant basis. They wanted their own opportunities to lead, with me following them, and if they thought that I was asserting myself into an inordinate number of opportunities to be the leader, they would not refrain from open criticism. And were I to refuse to concede to their wish to don the mantle of creator and coordinator, they would go their own way and do their own projects. Mike J., for example, built a tree house for himself and his friends in the wooded area behind the houses on my and his side of Linden Crescent. David B. wanted to have his basement play area with sit-in cardboard space-fantasy vehicles, and so did Tony, who also spearheaded an audiotape-recorded rendition of Star Wars using the voices of himself and his friends. I would participate or not, depending on my interest in being a part of what they were doing and their forgiveness of my stubbornness on the issue of leadership- and, of course, on a still-open invitation for me to join in the endeavour. I, along with Eric, teamed with Tony on the Star Wars audiotape project. Around home, all in all, I was able to retain, without building upon, most of what I had progressed toward, in the five Douglastown years. A leader and an outspoken proponent of interest and insight on imaginative subjects. At school, I lapsed completely into social lethargy and the wallflower persona, teased and bullied as rather standard practice. Teasing and bullying of me was exactly an everyday procedure, mind, but happened often enough for me to be constantly mindful of, and anxious about, the distinct possibility of experiencing an unpleasant teasing or bullying incident. Enough for me to hew resolutely to the wallflower's keep-a-low-profile ways. And to hate the oppressive environment in which I was required to face that possibility and adhere to those ways.
During the course of the early-to-mid 1980s, my best friend of that time period helped me to progress further, to submit without resistance to the ideas and guidance of others in creative endeavours as often as others did to mine, and to be complimentary, tactile, and outgoing enough to speak people's names. And at least sometimes- though still anything but frequently enough- to understand others' feelings. That is another era, though. In Era 3, I was, with regard to personal development, in a state of regression at school and static around home.
Toward the end of 1978, my father joined Fredericton Transit as a mechanic and cleaner, and worked there Monday through Thursday and every second Friday and Saturday from 6 P.M. until 2:30 A.M.. An advantage to my father's new job was that he was provided with bus fare tickets in bulk, enabling me and a friend to ride the buses to the downtown and Fredericton South upper-hill mall area whenever we wished to do so. My father also had access to the bus schedules throughout the city so that I could plan expeditions into the Fredericton business districts in advance of departing from home.
On my birthday in 1979, Tony, David B., Eric, and I all went to see the 1966 movie of Batman being screened at the Gaiety Theatre, and it was a verbal one-upmanship sparring event between Tony and David through the afternoon at the theatre.
On sunny Friday, November 10, 1978, a holiday from school due to Remembrance Day that year being on a Saturday, Linden Crescent was in the process of receiving cement street curbs in advance of its paving later that month, and I remember Tony, Eric, and myself marvelling at the procedure for molding the street curbs to specifications. The three of us that afternoon walked to the Pic N' Puff store on Main Street, where we discovered an issue of Future magazine with a Battlestar Galactica article therein, but I was most intrigued by a picture of a back issue of said magazine's sibling publication, Starlog, with a Space: 1999 montage drawing on its cover. The cantankerous elderly lady who owned the store did not appreciate the three of us perusing the pages of the magazines on her shelves and ordered us to either buy something or depart the premises. We were none too pleased with the way that we were treated, though I did not refrain from returning promptly to the store with sufficient funds to buy that particular magazine. I longed to have that Space: 1999-oriented back issue but was unsuccessful in this regard until December, 1980, when, in Toronto, I found that magazine, Starlog Issue Number 2, in a comic book collector's store as my father and I were en route back to our hotel from a tour of the CN Tower. The much sought-after early issue of Starlog was tremendously appreciated as I read it in our hotel room, though it was not as overwhelmingly informative and visually appealing as I had hoped that it would be. But at least that was one instance circa 1980 that I was not disappointed in a quest for something relating to Space: 1999.
The McCorry household was at last linked into the Fredericton Cablevision network on the weekend of September 30-October 1, 1978, just in time to witness the second half of the Battlestar Galactica "Lost Planet of the Gods" two-part episode on multiple cable television channels on Sunday, October 1 at 9 P.M., although due to mandatory television programme substitution, it was the CTV/ATV broadcast feed on all of those television channels. With cable television at my bidding, I plunged headlong into the delight of Saturday morning entertainment from American telecasts, and most especially the ability to see a Bugs Bunny/Road Runner transmission in the comfort of my own home, something I had not experienced since the CBC terminated its association with the grey bunny and his cohorts in 1975. Tony and I followed the weekly, 90-minute Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show compilations, in which cartoons were presented in a completely unfamiliar sequence. Seated by myself in my living room, I saw "Hyde and Go Tweet" again after more than 3 years, on the morning of Saturday, December 9, 1978, as the second cartoon in the 90-minute instalment, coming after the hospital laboratory imagery of "Hot Cross Bunny" and before "To Beep or Not to Beep" and other cartoons such as "Piker's Peak", "D' Fightin' Ones", "Tweety's S.O.S.", and "A Bird in a Bonnet". I remember this coming the day after the evening on which I bought a Battlestar Galactica Cylon Warrior action figure from Mazucca's variety store in downtown Fredericton.
Tony and I fervently sought to view "Hyde and Go Tweet" again, and this time together at his place or at mine, but week after week we were treated to practically every other cartoon short then in the then CBS television network package, and to excessive showings of "A Pizza Tweety Pie" and "Shishkabugs", among others. "Hyde and Go Tweet" did not recycle again until the December 9 instalment was repeated on June 9, 1979, and again Tony was not with me. He came out of his house and approached me on our street to talk briefly about "Hyde and Go Tweet" later on that overcast, drizzly day in advance of him and Steven going to a family gathering; they were already dressed in their special occasion clothing. When "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide" surfaced on CBS' Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show that broadcast year, it was on the final Saturday in July, 1979 (the January running of the same instalment had been preempted on WAGM due to high school basketball coverage), and on the same overcast, mid-summer day as the afternoon wedding of my cousin. I was thinking about Sylvester's disturbing metamorphosis as I went with my parents to my grandparents' house after lunch and then to the church of the ceremony and to the reception party at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel. Tony yet again was not with me during the viewing of that other regularly appearing on Saturday morning Jekyll-and-Hyde Warner Brothers cartoon. He was not with me for much of that summer of 1979. Via cable television at my home, I also became reacquainted with Space Academy and first experienced its close relative, Jason of Star Command. WVII, the ABC television network affiliate out of Bangor, Maine, was transmitting Jonny Quest early every Saturday morning, but despite the obvious enthusiasm for it by David B. and some of my other Fredericton associates, I found it mostly un-engaging. Primitive and superstitious peoples in swamps and jungles really do not fuel my imagination, and far too many episodes were oriented thusly. Also, the music that was often same as that in The Flintstones, sounded distinctly disorienting in the supposedly more realistic universe of the two adventurous generations of the Quest family.
My cat, Frosty, used to follow me into the woods behind our Linden Crescent abode, and one day in 1979 she even followed me all of the way to the Main Street Pic N' Puff store and back to home. Tony one day commented that if he saw Frosty, it meant that I would be somewhere nearby, and he was right. Frosty was a loyal companion, but on her own terms, at her distance. Born in 1975, she was a part of my Douglastown life now with me in my new, Fredericton surroundings. She slept on the water heater in the basement every night and was always waiting in the morning at the basement door to be given access to upstairs. She had a taste for bacon and most other meaty foods. She would utter a br-r-r-r sound before she would cry. She usually came at a run when I called her name at our door and was usually waiting at said door for my parents and I to return from one of the Fredericton malls or from my grandparents' house. She was the longest lived pet that I have ever had, remaining with me until her death in 1991.
September of 1978 was a time of upheaval for my preferred television programmes. Space: 1999 was cancelled on the CBC; September 16, 1978 was the date of its final national English Canadian broadcast on the country's foremost television network. I lamented this as I walked home from Grade 7 at Nashwaaksis Junior High on many an overcast autumn, 1978 day. Spiderman was soon to be gone from ATV. Rocket Robin Hood was gone as of that September. And neither of them would again be seen in my part of the world until ageing leaves started turning yellow or red in 1981. The New Avengers and both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman ceased production and were cancelled on ATV. The much-heralded new television season mostly felt to me like cold comfort. I did not appreciate Mork and Mindy for it usurping Space: 1999's airtime on CBC. But my friends were so very enthused about the new television spectacular of Colonial Warriors combating the skirted robot Cylons, that I allowed some of their ardent admiration for all things Battlestar Galactica to pass along to me. The theatrical feature film culled from Battlestar Galactica's three-hour premiere episode, that I had seen at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 in the previous summer, had been impressive, visually, conceptually, and in actors' performances. There were some alien worlds and weird creatures. It boded reasonably promising for the episodes to come. But no sooner did Battlestar Galactica settle into its hour-long format than it became mired in Wild Western cliches and space battle footage reused to the extent of wince-inducing tedium, and even had the irritatingly sardonic Match Game panelist Brett Somers as an amorous vixen chasing a reluctant Lorne Greene on the usual Wild West frontier planet. Battlestar Galactica nonetheless compensated for a time after Space: 1999 was foisted off of the air by the CBC. But it was never an adequate replacement, and I was delighted when the French version of Space: 1999, Cosmos 1999, returned for a rerun on CBC French starting on Monday, January 8, 1979. My interest in the French language was sparked like never before, and my mark in French in Grade 7 shot upward from 79 to 91!
As fate had decreed, Space: 1999 was my prominent entertainment interest during this time period and for many, many years to follow. As with its Saturday-on-CBC predecessor, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, there is a memory, if not many memories, associated with every single episode. It meant as much to me in Fredericton during my many solitary days of pining for companionship, as it did so affectingly in my socially popular and immersed condition in Douglastown. Attached to it was memory of so many pleasant times at school and around home with friends and a wider supportive Douglastown community. And for quite some time, my fondness for Space: 1999, in its manifesting, in my awareness of it and expressing of it, acted as something of a proxy for my fond regard for Douglastown. Space: 1999 signified comfort, better days in a most appealing place- in addition to its own intrinsic values of intricately detailed and imagination-engaging otherworldly imagery and dazzling special effects, appealing music, fascinating concepts, and dynamic characters- especially the Commander. It was for many years in Fredericton the precious item upon which memories of Douglastown were crystallised- though I was not fully conscious of this. My yearning to have Space: 1999 in my life was in no small way influenced by my hankering for something of my Douglastown days to be with me in the forefront of keen interest in Fredericton, even during later years, the early-to-mid-1980s, when Fredericton was of itself for the most part quite a hospitable and fun place. I was in a veritable state of mourning when the CBC terminated in 1978 its Saturdays run of Space: 1999. And I was overjoyed when after four bleak months, Moonbase Alpha meandered back into my televisual orbit, when the French-language CBC restored Cosmos 1999, French version of Space: 1999, to its programming schedule in January, 1979, after, for Cosmos 1999, an absence of more than a year. Cosmos 1999 had been broadcast at 8 P.M. on Saturdays in the 1976-7 television season, and there had been a number of episodes that I experienced in French before they were seen by me in English.
So thrilled, so edified, was I by the return of Space: 1999 in some form, to my life, that I was determined to audiotape the francophone versions of all episodes as they aired in 1979 on Monday nights at 8 P.M.. I audiotape-recorded the first episode to be shown in 1979, and it was "The Metamorph" (in French, "La Metamorphose"). Aired on CBC French after an evening sequence of news and documentary programming, the talking-heads production, Acadiana, immediately preceding it at 7:30, and followed every week at 9 P.M. by a rural drama called Terre Humaine, Cosmos 1999 was somewhat differently presented than its linguistic counterpart had been on CBC English. There was no commercial sequence after the episodic hook (in the case of Season 2) or prologue (for Season 1), unless either hook or prologue and the first act of an episode were quite long. The first commercials were usually 14 or 15 minutes into every episode. Removal of episode scenes for commercial time was at a minimum during the Season 2 episodes, all of which were shown on CBC French on Monday nights in 1979 from January to June. As I now had cable television, picture and sound reception for CBAFT, the CBC French television station broadcasting out of Moncton, was almost perfect, except for atmospherically quirky evenings in the summer. "La Metamorphose" was particularly gratifying for being the first Space: 1999 that my eyes were beholding in close to four months, and it was the first Season 2 episode that I was watching since September of 1977. Plus, I had not seen "The Metamorph" in any capacity since December of 1976, when I had been very much integrated in my former environment. The music and sound effects were evocative of overwhelmingly fond sentiment as I heard them on transmission of "La Metamorphose" on the cold, winter's evening of January 8, 1979, and as I listened to them on my audiotape on the next day after school. I could scarcely wait as I left school in my usual rush to be out of the large-scale presence of abrasive, and of me potentially abusive, peers, and to be back at home, playing my audiotape of Moonbase Alpha's encounter with volcanic planet Psychon and revelling in the music that played as Commander Koenig and his team are boarding and launching Eagle 4 for a rendez-vous in space with the deceptive alien, Mentor. Tony, coming out of Park Street School, joined me as I was walking from Nashwaaksis Junior High to home and said that he had seen "La Metamorphose"- and the first time ever for him to have experienced "The Metamorph", in any language- and was very impressed by it.
I thought the sentiment being stirred within me to be for Moonbase Alpha and its characters and the awesome television show itself. To a substantial degree, it was. But my fondness for Douglastown and my life there was tied into the comforting feel of the reunion with Space: 1999- Season Two. In a very real sense, this was my discovery of the phenomenon called nostalgia. Not that I fully- or even partly- comprehended it as a definitive construct, in terms of my own experiences and its meaning in general. But I was feeling it. Oh, yes.
It was not that I had never before experienced loss of something to which I felt strong attachment. While living in Douglastown, I had experienced loss, for instance that of the CBC weekly telecasts of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (said termination of telecast on CBC of Bugs and the Road Runner happening in 1975). The loss hurt deeply, and I subsequently missed that television show so very much. Nostalgia can be, and often is, powered by a loss. But the longing to have back what was lost becomes nostalgic after a passage of time adds to the feeling of disconnection. And can be most palpable if there are, concurrently, also lost close associations with people. As certainly had been the case with my leaving of Douglastown at close to the time in 1977 at which the CBC's broadcasts of Season Two of Space: 1999 stopped. Space: 1999 and my initial series of cogent experiences with it, mostly through its second season, had become inextricably joined to my remembrance of living in Douglastown and my fondness for my years there- especially the final one of which Space: 1999 had been a very, very significant part. Such was how Space: 1999 had come to serve as a proxy for my fondness for my Douglastown years, and as I heard the music of Season Two again with Radio-Canada's French-language run of it in 1979, I was feeling nostalgia for it and, with it and through it, Douglastown.
Granted, nostalgia is unusual, highly unusual, for a thirteen-year-old. One might even say that I was unique to be feeling nostalgia at age thirteen. But then, my circumstances were not what one would call common. Only-child, moved from semi-rural home village to suburban surroundings at between eleven and twelve years of age, not accepted by peers in new habitat after having reached something of a pinnacle of social success prior to moving.
I was at my living room television, audiocassette recorder ready, every Monday evening in the first nine months of 1979. "All That Glisters", "The Exiles", and "Journey to Where" followed "The Metamorph" on CBC French on the other Mondays of January, 1979. Between the first and second episodic acts of "Journey to Where", I recall a lengthy interlude with montage of scenery from predominantly French-speaking locales in New Brunswick. I quite liked the image of an Eagle of red-striped middle section rising off of the Moon, an image which was used by CBC French as a bridging photograph on return to Alphan intrigue and action following all commercial sequences. With my audiotape-recording of "Les Exiles", I hummed the music that played over the episode title and guest cast and production crew credits of said episode as WKRP in Cincinnati was being shown on CBC English later in the Monday, January 22 evening. Tony's brother, Steven, expressed admiration for the character of Tony Verdeschi after "Tout ce qui Reluit" (French title of "All That Glisters") had been shown and as I was contemplating the always awesome sight of the red-skied desert world depicted in said episode.
Among my four first Fredericton friends (David B., Eric, Mike J., and Tony), Tony was the only one to be at all attentive of the revival- in rebroadcast- of the French-language Space: 1999, and to watch it and be somewhat encouraging of my rather unorthodox intention to audiotape episodes in a language in which I had yet to achieve anything resembling fluency. David B. had no liking whatsoever for the second season of Space: 1999, and for that reason was decidedly spiritless regarding Cosmos 1999 on CBAFT (French CBC's channel for Canada's eastern Maritimes) in early 1979, in addition to balking at the strange language that was, by the magic of dubbed audio, being spoken by the Moonbase characters.
Not surprisingly, I had no use whatsoever for Battlestar Galactica by that time, and it had, in any case, hamstrung itself by all but eliminating the menace of the enemy Cylon robots in their destroyer fighter spacecraft and concentrating instead on insular, i.e. within the Colonial spaceship fleet, antagonists and the threat posed by the rather hackneyed humanoid fascists of the Eastern Alliance of planet Terra, which was revealed not to be Earth toward which Lorne Greene's Adama was leading his people, contrary to the quite obvious (even to me at the age of 13) fact that Terra is Earth in certain languages. I was never convinced that Battlestar Galactica was ever as worthy of my reverence as Space: 1999. The battles between fighter spacecraft and the detailed and realistically moving Colonial spaceships, including the titled space battlecruiser, and the characters and their futuristic garb were appealing enough, despite recycled footage. But the crucial ingredient missing was a curiosity and sense of wonder about space and the infinite possibilities of planetary environments and alien life forms, Battlestar Galactica instead offering gunfights Wild-West-style and encounters with frontier planets with more motifs of the old American West. And in the later episodes, a murder mystery and other rather uninspiring story material. The last Battlestar Galactica episode that I audiotape-recorded was the two-parter, "War of the Gods" (guest-starring Patrick Macnee of The New Avengers). I then plunged fully into the francophone presentation of the odyssey of Moonbase Alpha, frustrated by the in-my-Canadian-region-only preemptions of the fifth and tenth transmitted episodes, "The Mark of Archanon" and "Brian the Brain", for local programming, the former preemption being for something called La Cabane about a rustic family (which Tony and I worried might be intended to permanently replace Cosmos 1999 on CBAFT), and the latter happening on CBAFT in favour of the cultural talk television show called D'Amour et d'eau fraiche (English translation: Of Love and Fresh Water).
After La Cabane preempted Cosmos 1999 on Monday, February 5, I expected the worst, and although all television guides had Cosmos 1999 listed for February 12, I watched CBAFT early in the morning that day before going to school as the programming day was outlined by an announcer. I was relieved to hear the statement that Cosmos 1999 would be shown in the evening at the 8 P.M. airtime.
I was however, dismayed, when I looked out the window that morning and saw what looked like a burnt section of sofa on Tony's front lawn and a piece of transparent plastic over the big window of his house. My father told me that there had been a fire on our street the night before, and I deduced correctly that Tony's house had been where the fire was. I went to school that morning troubled by what had transpired, and I did not see Tony that day. I watched and audiotape-recorded "One Moment of Humanity" on Cosmos 1999 in the evening, with an eye out the window every now and then, wondering what had become of Tony. I saw him on the following day, Tuesday, after school, and learned what had happened on Sunday night. Chimney residue had ignited the fire, and Tony and his whole family escaped the burning house via the big window after a blazing part of sofa had been thrown through the pane of glass. Tony, his brother, and his parents were staying at Keddy's Motor Inn for as long as their house was being repaired.
In the early months of 1979, as Tony joined me after school for an hour before his mother arrived at my house's driveway to collect him, the two of us conferred at some length about Cosmos 1999 and Star Wars. My reappraisal of Star Wars was definitely happening at the behest of Tony, who was its most loyal supporter- without attacking my most beloved work of space fiction. Tony regarded Cosmos 1999 with an open mind and seemingly always enjoyed the episodes presented. At my house in my living room, he watched with me Cosmos 1999's "Deformation spatiale" (in English, "Space Warp") on the evening of Easter Monday in April. I was suffering a severe cold sore at that time, as I recall. Tony and I both collected two waves of Star Wars action figures, Jawa and Snaggletooth being the problematic ones to locate- though both of us did manage to find them, and a variety of related toys, including the TIE Fighter, the X-Wing Fighter, the Death Star (complete with a retractable walkway, tractor beam control unit, and trash compactor), the Land Speeder, and the Creature Cantina, the last of which I bought in Bangor, Maine, U.S.A. together with Space: 1999 Moonbase Alpha playset during a Labour Day weekend, 1979 sojourn there with my father. I totally rethought my first reaction to Star Wars. Battlestar Galactica, now a one-season flop on television, suffered in comparison in 1979 to George Lucas' epic movie series in every way, to my eyes. Star Wars had an integrity to its story that Battlestar Galactica now lacked due to its floundered transition to television series format. When Star Wars was re-released to theatres in the last few weeks of the summer of 1979, I went to see it again, this time at the Plaza Cinema 1, and not this occasion with my parents but with Tony and his brother. Even the slow-paced part of the movie situated on Tatooine with the two robots was enjoyable, and I had the emotional and intellectual response to the overall story, and especially its climactic Death Star trench battle, of which I had been completely devoid on my first experience of the adventures of Luke Skywalker in the galaxy far, far away.
Tony encouraged me to broaden my perspective on the science fiction/fantasy genre and on Star Wars in particular, such that I was not only almost as ardent an adherent as he to the 1977 movie that changed cinema forever, but receptive with boundless enthusiasm to the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, whose fabulous showing in 1980 at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 was an event of a lifetime. In the meantime, as The Empire Strikes Back was still in production, Tony and I went to the Fredericton theatres, usually Nashwaaksis Cinema 2, to view many more movies with a space orientation. And on television, besides Monday evening's Cosmos 1999, we watched Saturday A.M. cartoons. I remember Tony being with me on the Saturday morning of March 24, 1979, watching the 90-minute The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show and Tony being rather amused by Bugs' tele-o-phone quip in "Barbary-Coast Bunny" and the bulldog's, "It just don't add up!" remark in "Cheese Chasers", two of the cartoons in the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show instalment of that day. "A Witch's Tangled Hare", with Bugs and Witch Hazel in the midst of the Castle of Macbeth and famous scribe William Shakespeare, was watched as the last cartoon of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show on the same sunny, early June Saturday that Tony and I went to the matinee performance of Starcrash at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2.
On the second weekend of May in 1979, Tony was away to Bangor, Maine. His family liked to stay at the Koala Inn there and to visit the many vendors of toys and books and other movie-and-television-related materials. For almost all of that largely overcast weekend, I was moping around the neighbourhood, plaintively missing my best friend. On Saturday night on ATV/CTV's Academy Performance movie was The Cassandra Crossing, the disturbing and thrilling tale of a trans-European passenger train infected with plague and en route to a concentration camp in Poland, ahead of which is a much-in-disrepair bridge that the authorities know will not withstand the weight of the train. Most of the people in my neighbourhood, including Tony and Steven while they were in Bangor, saw this movie and were talking about it for some days after its broadcast. While Tony was gone on his May, 1979 travel to Yankee terrain, I spent some portion of my time with some of the much younger children on Linden Crescent and Kelly, a girl who lived across the street. There was a for-sale and unoccupied house on the corner of the southern stretch of Linden Crescent, and a group of us played Simon says on the steep driveway leading to the house's indoor garage.
On Saturday, May 19, 1979, the Saturday of the annual May long weekend with Victoria Day Monday, I went to Douglastown with my parents for a visit to my old stomping grounds. Michael by then was gone, having moved to Toronto. I talked with Evie and his friend, Peter, for close to an hour. At the newly opened Northumberland Square Mall in Douglastown, my mother, father, and I ate at the Coffee Mill restaurant and I bought an audiocassette tape with which to record the Cosmos 1999 episode, "Le Spectre", due to be transmitted on the next Monday. In Chatham, at the same bookstore at which I had bought some Space: 1999 books in 1977, I found an issue of Starlog magazine with a "Many Faces of Maya" Space: 1999 article, two pages in length, therein. I was quite fond of that Starlog magazine issue, for the article and also for the reason that it was purchased in Chatham, and it is truly a pity that a bully in my Nashwaaksis Junior High Grade 7 class a month later extorted the magazine from me and, I presume, destroyed it.
On CBC French on the Monday of that long weekend was "Le Spectre" on Cosmos 1999. With its mention of voting, "Le Spectre" was quite an apropos episode for that week, for it was shown on the day before the famous 1979 Canadian federal election that yielded Joe Clark's short-lived Conservative government. I detested the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau and wanted to see the blue Tories win that election. They did, and I was indeed happy, but I did not understand the media's misgivings about the long-term viability of what they were calling a minority government. A year later, Clark's Tories were defeated both in the House of Commons and at the polling booths in a subsequent election that saw Trudeau returned to power.
June of 1979 was quite an eventful month for Tony. He was away in Saint John, where dwelled much of his extended family, on the Monday that "Devil's Planet" was on Cosmos 1999, and that was one of the second season episodes that he would not yet see for several more years. I recall being very impressed by my re-experiencing of the last Season Two episodes, as each was transmitted in French on those sunny and warm Monday evenings. Tony was particularly admiring of the exciting scenario and the character portrayals of "The Immunity Syndrome", which was shown on Monday, June 11 on CBC French. In a rather less critical but nonetheless quite bizarre analogue to the distress of his Moonbase Alphan namesake in "The Immunity Syndrome", Tony was to require medical attention on the week of June 11, when, during a street baseball game with Eric, myself, and one or two much younger children, Tony broke his ankle. He was irate at me for my asking him if he was "all right" after he fell to the pavement. That plus a few other stinging rebukes in those early Fredericton years at my enquiring thusly when Tony or others had evidently hurt themselves left me instinctively at a loss for words and not sure how to respond to someone who has tumbled to the ground. Joey, my best friend in later years, was to be rather appalled at my lack of overt, vocal concern for a fallen playmate, but it did come from some rather unpleasant retorts in these earlier years to my enquiries as to whether someone who has fallen is "all right".
Tony was transported to hospital where his foot was put into a plaster cast that he was to wear for a few weeks. For many days, I did not see Tony. It was as though I was blamed for his condition and forbidden to be in his company, while others in the neighbourhood, Steven's friends mainly, told me that they had been with Tony and signed his cast. Eventually, I was permitted access to Tony's house and did sign his cast, and Tony came outdoors to socialise with me and others and to partake somewhat, in his foot cast, in whatever games were being played. Tony still had his foot in cast on the final day of the school year, as I met him on the way to my home. By Monday, July 2, as I was with him at Consumers Distributing, both of us buying a Star Wars toy, Tony's cast had been removed. He watched the "Collision Course" episode of Cosmos 1999 with me at my house that evening and could scarcely contain his laughter at Victor Bergman's exaggeratedly fey way of running down the steps to Main Mission Control. Tony enjoyed poking fun at the Bergman character whenever he had occasion to do so.
In the early summer of 1979, Tony and I began what we called Cine-Audio. Movies and television shows on my audiotapes played for audiences in my den, with me providing explanatory narration as needed. There was no admission fee, as I recall, for it required of me enough persuasion as it was to talk people into coming to a sound-only "showing" of something. The first "show" that we had in such a format was The Bad News Bears, audiotape-recorded by me from its second television performance on ATV on a Saturday evening in late March of 1979. The Cine-Audio of The Bad News Bears in late June of 1979 was a rousing success. My den was full of enthusiastic listeners, and The Bad News Bears was the kind of movie that, audio only, required very little in the way of exposition on my part as to what was happening. As mentioned elsewhere in my recounting of this era, Tony became rather scarce in that summer of 1979, and I hosted most of the remaining summer-of-1979 Cine-Audios by myself. Other Cine-Audios: two remaining English-language Space: 1999 audiotapes in my collection, they being the episodes, "Dragon's Domain" and "War Games"; a Laverne and Shirley episode about a supermarket shopping spree; and the movie, Logan's Run, that, like The Bad News Bears, I had audiotape-recorded from a Saturday evening television presentation, and it was anything but a success because everyone in attendance found it boring with long, dialogue-less parts to the movie, and my explanations of what was occurring being insufficient to hold their interest. And so, Cine-Audio floundered, with the neighbourhood inhabitants derisively referring to it as "snot-t-io". Attempts to revive it in the autumn of 1979 and the summer of 1980 with the initial outing of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (audiotape-recorded from television), a version of Star Wars with voices provided by Tony and myself, and, played on the reel-to-reel audiotape recorder given to me by my parents for Christmas in 1979, The Black Hole (audiotape-recorded by me when it was playing at a drive-in theatre) and The Bad News Bears in "Breaking Training" (from television), were successful at the outset, but I always eventually in my presentation sequence arrived at a movie or something to which nobody wanted to listen. Oh, God!, with George Burns and John Denver, transferred quite effectively onto an audio-only medium, but nobody was interested in bending an ear in its direction. I remember audiotape-recording The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from a MPBN (PBS- Bangor, Maine) broadcast on a December, 1979 Saturday afternoon during the PBS viewer-support-pledge time period. Starring Jack Palance in the dual role, it was the first non-spoof and live-action variation on Robert Louis Stevenson's "bogey tale" that I ever saw, and despite the rather un-monstrous visage of Palance as Hyde, I found the two-hours-long movie to be more than a little disturbing. I had it on audiocassette for several months but felt decidedly uneasy about giving to it a listen, and, heavily dependent on its alternately lavish and dreary visual presentation for its conveying of mood, atmosphere, and by occasion quite shocking surprises, it would not have yielded a satisfying Cine-Audio.
The final iteration of Cine-Audio, in spring of 1981, only had one presentation, the James Bond movie, Live and Let Die, audiotape-recorded from television on a Sunday in the previous winter. Attendance for that was small. Two people, I seem to recall.
The latter half of 1979 was a poor, dark time, to say the least, to be a Space: 1999 enthusiast on my part of planet Earth. There was no sign of the slightest possibility of the television show returning in English on the CBC. Cosmos 1999 on CBC French continued on Monday evenings into the summer, "Le Retour des Dorcons" (last episode of Season 2) being followed by "A la derive" (in English, "Breakaway", the first Season 1 episode) in late June, close to the time that I finished Grade 7. I was excited to finally have the opportunity to see the entirety of Space: 1999's opening episode, and I looked forward to re-experiencing the entirety of Season 1 thereafter. Alas, CBC French began treating Cosmos 1999 shabbily, removing most of, and sometimes the entirety of, the episode prologues, and the picture and sound reception during "Puissance de la vie" (in English, "Force of Life") in mid-July was atrocious. In September, Cosmos 1999 was moved from Mondays at 8 P.M. to Wednesdays at 6 P.M.. The last Monday evening CBC French Cosmos 1999 broadcast was of "Alpha Child", with "The Last Sunset" scheduled to start the Wednesday evening run for the autumn and coming winter. I was ready for the first Wednesday at 6 P.M. broadcast when I learned that CBC French in my region of the country wanted the 6:30-7:00 P.M. airtime for a local television news programme called Coup d'Oeil and to fill 6:00-6:30 P.M. with La Fine Cuisine d'Henri Bernard. Thus, for New Brunswickers like myself, Cosmos 1999 was gone. TV Guide magazine was slow to indicate this, in that it listed Cosmos 1999 on Wednesdays for my locality of eastern Canada for three weeks that autumn before coming into agreement with the Daily Gleaner and Telegraph Journal newspaper television listings that had the correct CBC French New Brunswick broadcast schedule printed. The remaining first season episodes, including my most anticipated, "Le Domaine du Dragon", would not be transmitted in New Brunswick or in any of Eastern-Maritime Canada, except perhaps in the communities nearest the New Brunswick border with the province of Quebec. It was a bitter, bitter, bitter disappointment. Again, I was left with no Space: 1999 in any form to which to look forward during the tortuous weeks of school- and Grade 8 (1979-80) to come was to be my worst ever year at school in terms of how I was treated by my peers. TV Guide magazine had listings for one CBC French television station in Rimouski, Quebec; so, through TV Guide, I was privy to precisely which episode I was missing each week. This particular torment lasted until the spring of 1980, when the CBC French television network pulled Cosmos 1999 from transmission everywhere else in Canada. I did not see anything televised of Space: 1999 until a late-night showing in May, 1980, on ATV, of Destination: Moonbase Alpha, a Space: 1999 "movie" culled from the two-part "Bringers of Wonder" episode. Said "movie" was repeated on ATV on a Wednesday evening in May, 1981, and then there was no Space: 1999 whatsoever in the remainder of 1981 or in any of 1982, as my beloved television series faded in people's memories, becoming a forgotten commodity of past time. Some of my new, younger acquaintances and friends had no knowledge of it at all.
Further, by 1979, it was becoming next to impossible to find Space: 1999-related merchandise in stores. Space: 1999-related Toys were gone from store shelves. Packets of Space: 1999 bubble gum cards, of all things, occasionally surfaced in unusual locations, but not clearly visible to consumers (I will later elaborate on this). As to the books, Beegie's Bookstore had cleared away its stock of Space: 1999 novels (Pocket Books' editions of the first season episode novelisations and original novels; Star editions of the second season episode novelisations), Coles Bookstore in the Regent Street Mall was also devoid of the Space: 1999 books that it had used to stock (the Orbit editions of the first season episode novelisations), and Westminster Books on King Street rarely ever sold Space: 1999 books (I only ever recall the Orbit Books' edition of Moon Odyssey being within the cloistered Westminster inventory). A short-lived bookstore in King's Place mall had a few copies of the Pocket Books' edition of Collision Course, which were gone in advance of that book dealer's closure of business. The University Bookstore on the University of New Brunswick campus had, in addition to most all of James Blish's Star Trek books, the first two Space: 1999 Season Two episode novelisation books in plentiful supply, and I was there to buy one or both of those Season Two books in the summer of 1980- and in 1981 was eagerly incorporating into my by-then-enormous television-and-movie-based collection of print publications, the Blish Star Trek books. I had in early 1978 placed an order for the Pocket Books' edition of Breakaway (which I had yet to ever see) at Beegie's Bookstore and had entirely forgotten about that order when in the spring of 1980, I arrived home from school one sunny day and found this Space: 1999 book on the kitchen table. My father had been at Beegie's Bookstore to collect it after a Beegie's clerk had telephoned him to report completion of my order.
I eventually found most of the Space: 1999 books, previously used by other people, to replace my disintegrating copies, by means of United Book Store, and with that began, by the end of 1979, a quest to buy books based on any and all of my favourite entertainments. I was purchasing old comic books, too, when some of them caught my notice on the United Book Store shelves. I sought, usually in vain, to acquire the Charlton Comics' Space: 1999 series of both colour comic books and quite elaborate black-and-white comic magazines. I found three of the colour comic books in my intensive searches through the varied stacks of comic books at United Book Store, and Tony located one of the black-and-white comic magazines at the Book Broker in Saint John, bought it, and sold it to me for twice what he paid for it.
Starlog magazine had fairly regular attention given to Space: 1999, mostly by way of a column called "Gerry Anderson Space Report". The "Many Faces of Maya" article in the Starlog issue that I bought in Chatham in May of 1979, was an incidence of that column. From 1979 through to 1981, I always looked for "Gerry Anderson Space Report" first when I opened the latest issue of Starlog, and it usually, though not always, was about Space: 1999. Still, in the aggregate of printed pages of Starlog, Space: 1999 was very much in the shadow of Star Wars, Star Trek, and whatever current productions of movie or television science fiction/fantasy were garnering interest from science fiction aficionados, or fans, in general. The people to whom Starlog was being marketed. And I would occasionally be subjected to derisive comments in the Starlog letters section from readers who did not fancy Space: 1999.
In 1980, Starlog offered a Space: 1999 Technical Notebook touted as being the definitive guide to Space: 1999. It was advertised on the back cover or in the sale pages of many a Starlog issue. Its outer cover looked very appealing, and the sample blueprint of the stun gun, likewise. It also had a comprehensive episode guide section, the advertisements said. Needless to say, I coveted it- especially during a year (1980) when new Space: 1999 merchandise was so very rare, and the old was vanishing fast, or receding into darkest corners, in stores in both New Brunswick and Maine. It was expensive, and my father was not very eager to purchase it for me, especially through mail order, as that was the only way that it could be acquired. Still, I was able to persuade him. The order was sent. And nothing came. I waited and waited and waited. Nothing. My father was not interested in trying a second time to buy the item, and I had to just "give up" on ever having Starlog Publications' Space: 1999 Technical Notebook in my possession. It was becoming all too normal, the circumstantially frustrating outcomes whenever I wished some substantial reconnect with my favourite space opus.
I tried to replicate the Space: 1999 Technical Notebook with my own handiwork, with some help from my mother. But it was no substitute for the genuine article.
Also to elude me were hardcover books of Space: 1999 episode novelisations. The Fredericton Public Library had all six of the first season episodes novelisations in hardcover format in its stacks. In 1980, I wanted to buy those books, but the library refused to offer them for sale. Many years later, they were gone, presumably sold for a dollar or two in some clearance sale. Not that it would have mattered to me then in any case, for the books had deteriorated way, way below my standards of acceptability. Over the years, I occasionally did go into the library to see if the books were still there and examine their condition. The library also had a "compact cassette" of Space: 1999's first season music released by RCA Records. In summer of 1979, I borrowed that audiotape and made copies of it. Oddly enough, there were two dynamic music tracks on it that did not hail from either of the two seasons of Space: 1999, and I loved those more than the actual Space: 1999 music on that audiotape.
As the decade of the 1970s was nearing its end, I was spending money less and less on toys and more and more on books, in addition to my continuing purchasing of audiotape on which to record my favourite entertainments.
I had been using audiotape to collect television series episodes since 1973. My collecting of movies on audiotape started some while after the move to Fredericton in 1977. The "compact cassette" had been almost entirely the format of audiotape adopted by me for such an acquisitive hobby. And that decision had been mandated in no small part by my parents and by how much money that they were prepared to spend to indulge me in my quest to possess my favourite television shows. "Compact cassette" was the least expensive audiotape format. In my pre-school years, my parents had owned a reel-to-reel audiotape machine. It was, I thought, an impressive piece of equipment, though what ultimately happened to it, I cannot recall. As a result of its presence in our home for the time that it was there, I knew of reel-to-reel audiotape's existence, but it was much more expensive than "compact cassette" and 8-track audiotape. And my parents opted, while we were living in Douglastown, to support an interest by me in collecting audiotape in the "compact cassette" format.
The dependability of the "compact cassette" and of the various brands thereof, was a learned concept for me whilst I was evolving as quite the peculiar audiophile. I had to learn "the hard way" that audiocassettes could be, and all too often were, prone to breakage. Some brands of audiocassette were less likely than others to jam and to un-spool and to crinkle and to snap, but, as I discovered with each year that passed, there was no brand of "compact cassette" that could be guaranteed to have a lasting life. It was a learning process for me as I was collecting, as to which brands- and which lengths- of "compact cassette" were better, less likely to churn a mess of crinkled audiotape out of a machine. Along the way, I lost countless audiocassettes and precious recordings to the ravages of deterioration. Deterioration by sudden and destructive event. The jamming and un-spooling of audiotape. Philips audiocassettes were, I discovered, the least dependable- and I had used them in the audiotape-recording of several Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episodes. Memorex C-90 and Memorex C-120 were more prone to the usual jamming and un-spooling than the Memorex C-60. Unfortunately, I used many of them for episodes of Space: 1999. Radio Shack Supertape "compact cassette" was likewise rather less than reliable in its C-90 length. It would be agonising to do a tally of how many precious audiotape-recordings were lost to "compact cassette" breakage.
Also, in early 1978, operating still with lack of knowledge about wired-together audiocassette machines yielding superior audiotape-to-audiotape copying, I was going microphone-to-speaker in making copies of audiotape-recordings and had found that ambient noise was lowest in the closed bathroom of our Fredericton home. I combined CBC Television broadcasts of episodes of Space: 1999 for most complete possible renderings of episodes, editing the audiotape-recordings of them on different dates together by copying. I remember doing so with the episode, "War Games", using my audiocassette-recordings of the September 17, 1977 and March 11, 1978 CBC broadcasts of that episode (different scenes cut in the two broadcasts) to achieve a complete episode, though with an inferior, microphone-to-speaker-on-second-generation sound quality. I stupidly erased many of the original recordings and next stupidly junked the second-generation copies when I finally, in June of 1978, attained an impressive, bulky audiocassette deck capable of making an audiotape-to-audiotape copy via a wire connection from another audiotape machine. The results were greatly superior to those old, microphone-to-speaker copies, my increasingly perfectionist tendency went "up a notch", and I started erasing my old copies, foolishly thinking that I would have occasion to audiotape all of those Space: 1999 episodes again from CBC Television broadcast, i.e. that the CBC would not stop airing Space: 1999 anytime soon. In June of 1978, I thought so. Why did I think so? The question is meant to be rhetorical- but I can give the answer. Naivete. Yes, even in the face of so obviously evident rebuff, by my Fredericton school peers, of that television series. I guess that I wanted to yet believe that my Fredericton peers were not representative of the general population. When Space: 1999 was cancelled by CBC Television in September of 1978, I had little more than a dozen episode audiotape-recordings remaining. My parents had by then acquired a Hitachi stereo with an audiocassette machine of some considerable dynamic range. Those audiotape-recordings received a sizable number of playings, most particularly in the months following CBC Television's 1978 termination of Space: 1999 airings. And all too many of them did not last for posterity.
Anyway, I persisted with collecting audiocassette-recordings of television shows and movies until Christmas of 1979, when I, frustrated with the recurrent loss of audiotapes and worrying about the future for what I then possessed on audiocassette, asked of my parents to give to me a reel-to-reel audiotape machine. And they did. It was an AKAI machine. AKAI was reportedly the best of all of the manufacturers of reel-to-reel audiotape decks. I began immediately the process of converting the collection of audiotape-recorded television programmes and movies that I then had. Open-reel audiotapes were not easily and inexpensively acquired, but over the course of a number of months, I had enough large spools of reel-to-reel audiotape to contain everything that I held in my personal archive of audiotape-recorded entertainments. That archive expanded as the months passed and I continued audiotape-recording various items. I had many episodes of Cosmos 1999. A couple of surviving audiotape-recordings of Space: 1999 episodes. Destination: Moonbase Alpha. The Return of the Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again. All three Bad News Bears movies. The Black Hole. Oh, God!. Three James Bond movies (From Russia, With Love, Live and Let Die, and The Spy Who Loved Me). Logan's Run. Earthquake. Some episodes of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. A Star Trek episode, "The Enterprise Incident", audiotape-recorded from television while we were in Toronto in December, 1980. The debut episode of Mork and Mindy from an ABC television network rerun thereof in 1980 (my resentment of Mork and Mindy for it having replaced Space: 1999 on CBC Television, had dissipated by 1980). The opening episode of Battlestar Galactica from an afternoon's telecast of it on Bangor, Maine's WLBZ-TV. The SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back television special. An ABC News Close-Up television special about space exploration. Etc.. Except for The Black Hole (already mentioned in these memoirs as having been audiotape-recorded at a drive-in theatre), the movies that I had on open-reel audiotape in 1980 and in 1981 were audiotape-recorded from television. Earthquake memorably aired on CHSJ-TV late at night on New Year's Eve in 1980, and I stayed awake to capture the audio of its telecast, which offered the extended, three-hour television version of the movie. I thereby had a much more satisfying audiotape-recording of Earthquake than the one that I already had from a June of 1978 CHSJ broadcast, whereupon Earthquake had been shown shorn of almost all of its made-for-television scenes.
Because the reel-to-reel audiotape machine was huge and not portable, I retained "compact cassette" for the audiotape-recording of movies from drive-in theatre audio speakers (as with the audiotape-recording of The Black Hole) and other uses. The reel-to-reel audiotape machine was choppy and awkward when it came to editing; edits were best done on audiocassette, the finalised recording then being transferred to open-reel audiotape. The linking of machines by audio cables minimised "generation loss" in the copying process. The finalised audiotape-recordings of movies often fit perfectly on one side of a large open-reel audiotape, and I put another movie on the "flip side" of the same reel-to-reel audiotape, having "double-features", with me labelling the audiotape box to that effect.
I had the reel-to-reel audiotape machine until mid-1982, using it to capture the sounds of a few episodes of Spiderman aired on television in March and April of 1982. Those were the last audiotape-recordings that I chose to make.
Before advancing to the collecting of RCA VideoDisc in fourth quarter of 1981 and subsequently to collecting videocassettes starting in second quarter of 1982, audiotape and books were how I satisfied my acquisitive nature as regards my favourite entertainments. My room (and sometimes the den adjacent to my room) was filled with audiotapes and books, and the reel-to-reel audiotape machine towered over my bed.
Tony and I together used to routinely ride the bus to the downtown and the mall districts of Fredericton to buy whatever books of interest that we could find. In the summer of 1980, we were avidly absorbing the Beegie's and Coles supply of Star Trek Photonovels, collecting all 12 of them. When my Douglastown era best friend, Michael, was visiting me in July of 1980, I was with him on a Saturday at Beegie's in the Fredericton Mall, buying the Photonovel of the episode, "Metamorphosis", and eyeing intently that of "All Our Yesterdays", for which I parted with my money after Michael left on his bus for Newcastle in the Miramichi area and thence for Toronto. The last time that I ever saw Michael, I was thinking more of buying a book than I was of an again impending separation from my best friend of more than five years. I cannot blame him for resenting that, if maybe he does. Even if as a buddy duo he and I were not any longer compatible in outlook, interests, or disposition, and were during almost the entirety of that visit in disagreement and discord.
Michael was still largely an easy-going extrovert, but he had, in his time in Toronto, evidently lost some of his capacity for unconditional acceptance, one of the essential elements for successful rapport with me. I was, I regret to say, as ego-centric in 1980 as I had been in Douglastown. No less so, but really no more so. Being a pal to me had not been difficult for Michael in the past, but Michael and I had been apart for quite a long time, and our interests and points of view had differentiated, and with the willingness on his part to accommodate himself to me having seemed to decline somewhat, it was, I suppose, inevitable that relations would sour during his stay with me in 1980. He was critical of several things about me, such as habits and interests that did not match his conception of what was sufficiently trendy to be "correct". And as at school in Fredericton, I tended to withdraw to my interests when I was being criticised for not conforming to the standards and expectations of others. My resultant retiring behaviour during Michael's stay certainly did not help matters.
I was never, not even in Douglastown, responsive to a criticising kind of approach. Not from anyone. And for Michael's stay with me in 1980, I wanted to go about my life as it was then, with Michael accompanying me in the same unconditional way as he did once upon a time. But such just was not going to happen. To the stores for books I went with Michael my reluctant and impatient companion. And to the Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 we two walked for a Friday matinee viewing of The Empire Strikes Back- my second occasion at seeing that awesome stretch of celluloid, and Michael's first- and he was underwhelmed by the movie, most particularly by its ending. I remember Michael's 1980 visit vividly throughout, from the Thursday evening at the S.M.T. bus depot during which my mother and I received Michael at that location for a subsequent dinner at the Nashwaaksis McDonald's at which he was speaking with praises for his new life in Toronto, to the Friday of the Empire Strikes Back comic book adaptation in paperback format that I bought from the Pic N' Puff store and the Empire Strikes Back matinee, to the Saturday of the Fredericton Transit bus ride to Beegie's Bookstore and a Star Trek Photonovel, to a Sunday during which Michael's boredom with me and criticism of me reached a summit, to the less than auspicious departure. In retrospect, I can see how my tendency toward "bookish" ways and progressively more enamoured and weird otherworldly fascinations had become alienating for him. But also, he was not totally the Michael I used to know, and that was disaffecting for me. And I lacked understanding of his perspective and interpreted his reaction to me as a growing mandatory hostility, as acceptance and friendliness gone.
I allowed communication with Michael to lapse after that. It was, I believe, my turn to write a letter, and I procrastinated in doing so. Long enough to lose my will to write the letter. Michael did not write to me to enquire as to my intentions, and we were hence essentially incommunicado. I was in Toronto with my parents in December of that year, 1980, and declined while there to telephone or visit Michael. In 1988, I tried to reestablish contact with my earliest best buddy but received something of a critical rebuff. All of this having been said, fact is that Michael was a profoundly appreciated presence in many of the best, and several of the most formative, years of my life. He is vital to the overall impression of my Douglastown years, the whole of Era 2, as being very positive. No matter what happened to him and to our friendship, I will cherish always the myriad of excellent times that I spent with him. I still have dreams in which I have a reunion with him, in Douglastown, of course, and within the house that he used to inhabit. But such an event must forever remain the stuff of dreams, for Michael in 1988 told to me in no uncertain terms that he would never return to New Brunswick.
Now would seem as suitable a time as any, to do an enumeration and description of my Fredericton friends.
David B., two years younger than myself, in Grade 4 when I was in Grade 6 (1977-8), was the first friend I was to find in Fredericton, after close to three lonely months in the environs of my neighbourhood and school. One late autumn day in 1977, I was descending the stairwell inside the Park Street School's two-storey wing's entrance when I passed David B., who expressed approval of the Alpha Moonbase Space: 1999 badge (that I had received as a mail order bonus item for the Moonbase toy assembly model that I had bought from a Fredericton Mall store called Cardinal on November 5, 1977) on my blue autumn-winter jacket (similar to those worn by the Space: 1999 characters in the "Death's Other Dominion" ice planet episode) that I was wearing that day. He said that he was a keen admirer of that television show, a television show that had few, very few, enthusiasts in Fredericton, my experience so far had depressingly told.
It was on the Wednesday between the CBC's Saturday broadcasts of Space: 1999's "Earthbound" and "End of Eternity" episodes, that I again met David B.. Wednesday afternoons were school half-holidays for Park Street Elementary pupils, and on that particular Wednesday, November 23, 1977, at around 2 P.M., I was leaving my house for a walk to the Pic N' Puff store, when I encountered David B., who was riding his motocross bicycle. He convinced me to cancel my walk and to accompany him to his house, which was on the other side of my street at a two o'clock angle to my front door. David's house was the largest, most distinctive construction on my street of otherwise mainly cookie-cutter architecture. His house had two floors plus a basement, a sprawling living room area, and a two-car garage, and in his upstairs bedroom, sitting in glory on a shelf was the Mattel, 2-foot-long Space: 1999 Eagle spaceship that I coveted so very much! Also in David's jealously guarded possession was the Mattel Commander Koenig doll that I had as yet been unable to procure from any department or toy store in the Miramichi or Fredericton areas, a compelling Charlton Comics' magazine adaptation in black and white of "The Metamorph" episode of Space: 1999's second season, and colour comic books, vinyl records, and other items. In David's basement were more impressive space toys and, in the Battlestar Galactica days, a large box that David turned into a sit-in Land-ram. He was the first on my street to have the then-rare Jawa Star Wars action figure, complete with a cloth robe.
David B.'s parents had an abundance of money, hence their ability to own such a large house on a school-neighbouring street in a suburban community. In his family, David was the youngest of two children. His older sister was named Rhonda. He was dark-haired and had greyish-brown eyes, his build average. David B. was almost immaculately groomed, with his clothes, even his jeans, giving the appearance of selective style. A higher standard of dress than most of the children in our surroundings. David's personality was distinctly outgoing though alternately tending at times toward being either cloying or cavalier. When he was with someone he approved of and liked, he could be noticeably excited, his words piling over one another in a haste to eloquently express himself in a sophisticated manner. He had a habit of using mismatched expressions like, "For crying Pete's sake," and of arranging our pretend play-games of Space: 1999 situations so that he was in the role of every dominant male character, leaving me to be the eccentric, egghead, and rather fey Bergman, the brainy computer genius, Kano, and the female characters. I was none pleased with being routinely subservient to a younger person- or anyone for that matter, but I was desperate for companionship and acceptance, and my parents encouraged me to cultivate friendship with David.
During the remainder of 1977 and early 1978 were some patience-straining moments. I remember falling flat on my back in the foyer of my house while I came into my doorway and my wet-snow-covered boots slid on the floor as I was rushing to answer the telephone, the person on the other end of the receiver being David, who had seen me arriving home and had not given to me enough time to properly secure myself indoors and remove all outdoor garments, before he initiated the ringing of my telephone. He would, as he bit devouringly into the orange Popsicle that I gave to him, tell of the negative things that others at school were supposedly saying about me. He was adamant that I scarcely touch any of his impressive toys and printed media, while he had not that much reverence for my possessions. Playing the Star Wars Escape From Death Star board game in my living room one Wednesday afternoon, he gloated over his winning outcome, provoking an angry reaction from me. And come baseball season, spring of 1978, I learned how abrasively competitive he was when on an opposing team. He could at other times be possessive of me to an extent that, in his case, I found to be more disconcerting than flattering.
David was not popular then among his same-age peers, but neither was I with mine. Through David, I did become acquainted with my next-door neighbour, young, hyperactive Mike J., and a fellow Linden Crescent inhabitant, Tony, whose house on the opposite side of the street was at a ten o'clock angle from my door and who liked to berate David at every opportunity but who still called upon David to play baseball- and me along with him. David and I followed the CBC broadcasts of Space: 1999's first season of episodes through December, 1977 and the winter and spring of 1978. He had already seen every first season episode in the 1975-6 television year, by way of cable television in Fredericton, while I, then living in Douglastown, had been almost utterly deprived of Space: 1999 until the CBC began its national run of the television show with Season 2 in 1976-7. David liked to tantalise me with his knowledge of episodes that I had yet to see. He held Season 2 in contempt and was unwilling to hear my accolades for it. He even refused, when we were playing Space: 1999, to allow me to use the first names of characters as the Season 2 Moonbase Alphans did, preferring the more formal first season forms of personal address. In 1978, David paired with his next-door neighbour, Eric, as the two of them, pretending to be the motorcycle constables of television's CHiPs, rode their identical motocross bicycles on the section of our street in front of my house. Eric quickly became David's best friend. Their fathers, too, were best friends. My friendship with David was not long for the world as I wearied of David's social style and as I became closer and closer with Tony, whose antipathy toward David kept growing, and as David and Eric and Mike J. all connected in 1979 with a nemesis of mine, name of Andre, who that year moved into a house on Linden Crescent. David has the distinction of being my one Fredericton associate ever to meet one of my Douglastown pals, when Michael visited me in Fredericton in late July of 1978 for a number of days (him having come from Douglastown to Fredericton on a S.M.T. bus as I have previously remembered). I remember being rather apprehensive at how easily David and Michael became friendly with each other, but that was toward the end of Michael's visit and was the only time that Michael and David interacted. By the time of Michael's second stay with me in Fredericton for part of July, 1980, David and I were not on speaking terms. In adult years, David and I have been cordial to each other when our paths have crossed. We did not constitute good friends as boys, as things transpired. But as men, we can be quite friendly acquaintances.
Eric was more a friend of a friend (David B.) than my friend in the strictest sense. For awhile very early in the summer of 1979, he was together with myself and Tony, and Tony's inordinate attention toward him was problematical for me. But that was a transitory situation while David B. was away somewhere. Eric and I seldom were together as a twosome; we were, in 1978 and early 1979, part of the larger Linden Crescent group of boys. Eric was, like David, two years my junior. He lived next door to David, at an almost 3 o'clock angle to my front door. He dwelt in the only other really impressively designed house on the street, with a two-storey construction, a basement, and large garage. Eric was mechanically minded and quite the pragmatist. Television and movies had scant intrinsic, aesthetic value to him. They were momentary entertainment with which to pass the time or alleviate boredom. Eric was more interested in carpentry, motor mechanics, bicycles, and basketball and baseball. He was scathingly critical of what he called my predictable choice of conversation topics, i.e. science fiction television and movies, the disaster film, Earthquake (of which I had an audiotape-recording from a late-night showing on CHSJ in June, 1978), etc.. But I do recall a day or two that he and I spent together in the 1978 summer being rather enjoyable for the novelty of it. I found him one morning working on some carpentry project in his backyard, approached him, and talked with him for more than an hour, and he was instrumental in helping me to transform my basement into a make-believe hotel in 1978. Eric had rusty brown hair, dark eyes, and an average build, though slightly taller than David. He, like his older sister, was bowlegged, most obviously when he wore shorts. I used to wonder how he was able to withstand what I thought was quite painful posture. I do not know why I remember this, but I was with the other boys in Eric's basement one Saturday afternoon late in 1978 when Eric used the head of his Artoo-Detoo Star Wars action figure as a nose picker. I was never under any illusions that Eric's first allegiances were not to David, and when the relationship between David and I became strained, so too was that between Eric and myself. Eric was somewhat captivated by my sworn enemy, Andre, and he joined Andre in invalidating me from a distance at every opportunity. One sunny Saturday morning in 1980, Eric and Mike J. threw a firecracker at me at close range with no warning as they sped past me on their bicycles, thinking the deed to be funny. From where I was standing, it was anything but. By the autumn of 1979, there was not much good will left between Eric and I, and I honestly did not feel much of a sense of loss for that, though I was annoyed that Andre had something of an enticing hold over him. In 1984, while I was in Grade 12 and he was in Grade 10 at Fredericton High School, Eric sat next to me on the afternoon school bus once or twice, but no words were spoken.
Mike J. was my next-door neighbour, younger than me by four years and two years the junior of the other dominant boys on my section of Linden Crescent. He was hyperactive (with all of us restricting his access to our valued toys and other destructible materials), very impulsive, and aggressive at times, but was usually a happy-go-lucky personality type. He was quite like Eric in primary interests but had more of an accepting taste for the space science fiction/fantasies that I enjoyed. I remember playing with Star Wars action figures with him on his back steps. He invited me to his upstairs room once to show me his large collection of Mad magazines and comic books, nearly all of them missing their covers. And on the evening of a power failure in the chilly autumn of 1979, he invited me, along with my cat, Frosty, over to his place for the duration of the blackout while my mother was away for most of that evening. I liked Mike J., though I did distance myself from him for the most part, mindful as I was of his frequently manic disposition and potentially destructive impulsivity. He accompanied me to my first ever viewing of a James Bond movie, Moonraker, on a Saturday matinee at Fredericton's Gaiety Theatre in early August of 1979, while Tony was preoccupied entertaining a cousin to my complete exclusion. Mike had a slightly thinner than average build and was a fountain of energy. He wore long, blond hair underneath baseball hats, and during games of hide-and-go-seek, it could be difficult at a distance to determine whether I was looking at Mike J. or my later best friend, Joey, whenever I was "it" at home base (my chimney or that of my other next-door neighbours, the LeBlancs, usually). Mike frequently diverged from us, to be with Craig, one of Mike's school peers and who lived up the street, Linden Crescent West. I knew Craig through Mike but did not establish any kind of relationship with Craig until 1982, after Mike had moved away. Mike's affinity for Andre was as "off-turning" to me as was David B.'s and Eric's connection to the enemy mine, and Mike and I were less and less cordial most days as a result but still occasionally pals. He was never one to hold a grudge, and I think he found my intolerant conduct where Andre and others' loyalty to Andre was concerned, to be puzzling. Mike was the youngest of three children in his family, and they moved out of Fredericton in 1980, resettling in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.. Mike visited our neighbourhood for a week or so in the summer of 1982, and thereafter I never saw him again.
And now, my best friend from 1978 to 1982, Tony.
I met Tony in the yard of Park Street School during recess later in the winter of the 1977-8 school year. David B. introduced me to Tony, who was evidently very, very enthusiastic about Star Trek and Star Wars. An avid interest in television programmes and theatrical films set in outer space was most certainly cause for me to regard him as potential friend material. I was quick to discover that Tony and David B. were not best of pals. They were Grade 4 classmates and both lived on Linden Crescent, but while that meant that they were acquainted with each other, it was not necessarily conducive to friendship. Tony at his age at that time had quite the witty repartee, and was not afraid to express his dislike for people whom he regarded to be self-inflated or having a domineering, dependent, and very tactile approach to courting friendship. Tony routinely liked to dismiss and berate David, but always with a droll choice of invalidating words. David's mother hated Tony and was not afraid to call him a disturber of a certain unmentionable substance, and there was certainly no affection in Tony for David as a result of that. Tony was also inclined to nickname other people, like young Mike J., whom he called "Jinx", no doubt because of Mike's hyperactivity resulting in some toy damage, though in most cases around that time (1978), Tony's wittily critical manner seemed harmless, intended with affinity. I found Tony's intensive interest in imaginative outer space adventure and his confident, social quipster personality to be rather appealing, and in the spring months of 1978, as Tony orchestrated a series of baseball games, that included me, in the vacant lots along Maple Street behind the houses on the southern part of Linden Crescent, I gravitated to Tony and away from David, whose cause was scarcely helped by David casting aspersions upon my admittedly then-still-tenuous ability to play baseball. And my angry retorts to David in these instances evidently impressed Tony. By June of 1978, Tony was telephoning me to meet out of doors and talk, including one rainy evening in June when Tony and I were wandering around the concrete area alongside Park Street School's eastern end, talking about a variety of shared tastes and interests. On a sunny Saturday morning, Tony and I were teammates, just the two of us, in a Maple Street vacant lot baseball game, and we won, to our shared elation. And Tony and I, though being in different grades, were on the same team, partners in fact, during the school track-and-field day on the morning of June 21, 1978.
Tony's mother was a real estate agent, and his father a supplier of groceries for supermarket chains in Atlantic Canada. Most of Tony's extended family lived in the city of Saint John, sixty miles south of Fredericton.
The summer of 1978 was one of group dynamics and for the most part good fun among myself, Tony, David, Eric, and Mike J.. In the autumn and winter that was to follow, the group splintered into twosomes, Tony and I forming one such, and by early 1979, there was no doubt that Tony was my best friend, as we followed the Sunday night travels and tribulations of television's Battlestar Galactica and the Monday night French-language broadcast of Cosmos 1999, and as we collected and played with Star Wars action figures and other space toys, in addition to the cardboard sit-in Star Wars X-Wing Fighters and Viper Battlestar Galactica fighters that Tony and his brother, Steven, had constructed in their basement. Tony was somewhat on the heavier side of the weight scale. Although he played sports like baseball, he tended to keep running to a minimum. He was a connoisseur of popular entrees and enjoyed heaps of butter on his mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, and almost always had greasy bacon for breakfast. And his family extensively frequented fast food establishments. I, too, was a lover of fatty foods and none too athletic, but I ate smaller servings and my metabolism was such that it did not lead to weight gain. Quite the opposite, in fact. Anyone looking at Tony and myself was apt to remark at how different we were in physical appearance. Not entirely different, though, as we both had brown hair and blue eyes. Tony tended to wear T-shirts with Star Wars imagery on them, and his other choices of clothing were what was in style. He had not known much about Space: 1999 prior to meeting me but was intent upon seeing every episode that this television opus had to offer, including the ones about which I spoke most highly. Tony did choose me first and foremost when he wanted someone with whom to see the latest movie spectacular, although I was more than a little upset when he occasionally invited someone else, a same-age classmate, to accompany him, and it has to be said that Tony could be rather dismissive of me when others were with us. And he was apt to recoil from me if I complained about that or was the least bit possessive in word or deed. Such conduct was, after all, symptomatic of the kind of person Tony hated. There was a distinct imbalance in the dependency department as I was more reliant on Tony than he evidently was upon me, though there was really little doubt that I was Tony's first choice of companion. During February to April of 1979, Tony's family had to dwell at the Keddy's Motor Inn on Fredericton's south side because a chimney fire had rendered their Linden Crescent home uninhabitable until such time that it could be repaired, and every day after school, Tony came to visit with me before his mother would collect him, along with his brother who was visiting friends of his own, before supper. My affinity for Tony by the spring and summer of 1979 was supreme. I delivered a welcome home card to him, signed by various people in our neighbourhood, when his family returned to their restored home early in April. That spring, Tony rode his bicycle to Nashwaaksis Junior High School daily to meet me there and conduct me speedily to home, with me doubling on the back of the bicycle. We compared collections of bubble gum cards relating to Star Wars, Superman, Battlestar Galactica, Space: 1999 (from surprise bags sold at the Pic N' Puff store), and later The Empire Strikes Back, and both amassed huge numbers of books and magazines based on movies and television shows of our fancy, while continuing to go to see whatever new, and not so new, movies were playing at the Fredericton cinemas.
As close as Tony and I were, he drew a sharp line when it came to going out on a limb for me. If I was being verbally accosted by somebody, Tony would hold his ground and his tongue, and if I was at all upset by what had transpired, as I usually was, Tony was not interested in listening to my laments. Tony's inclination to label and outright reject people became rampant by 1980, and he maintained what he called a "queer list", which was as long as Bugs Bunny's nephew's Christmas wish list in a Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales cartoon in which the Tasmanian Devil was in Santa's attire. Anyone (including fictional characters like Professor Bergman in Space: 1999) whom Tony thought had a fey, prissy, overbearing, domineering, clinging, tactile, and/or overly affectionate disposition was instantly on the list- and I always had to be careful that I did not qualify for the dubious distinction of being added to it. Tony's father thought me to be unsuitable as Tony's best buddy in any case and was always auditioning new people for Tony to befriend. To Tony's credit, he always returned to me, though I was always in a kind of disconcerting limbo for the time that Tony was with those other people, including a prolonged visit by his cousin in the summer of 1979, during which Tony was to have no contact whatsoever with me. Even so, Tony was my best friend consistently from late 1978 until mid-1982, although as early as the autumn of 1981, I was becoming more and more interested in a new potential best friend, name of Joey, who I had known since June of 1979.
Tony's brother, Steven, was exactly four years junior to Tony. Both of them were, in fact, born on leap year days, a rarity that merited to them media attention nearly every time that we were in a leap year. Steven shared Tony's enjoyment of fatty foods in quite generous portion, and had his own particular taste for canned pastas like Alpha-Getti. Like myself, Steven was fond of soft drinks, and by all accounts he drank whole 2-litre bottles of them within one or two days. Steven's weight, unlike Tony's, was average, possibly because Steven had more of an energetic physicality about him, but his high-fat, high-sugar diet led to the discovery, when he was thirteen years of age, that he had a full-fledged diabetic condition. And he began having insulin injections. Steven had brown hair, like Tony, but his hair, unlike Tony's, was curly. He had a vertical scar on his centre forehead, the legacy of an early childhood accident. In the early years that I knew him, Steven was submissive and quiet, following Tony around and attracting unfavourable comments from me and others for dropping his bubble gum in the sand and immediately putting said gum back in his mouth, and for wearing baseball hats bearing the emblem of Canada's then-perennial losers, the Toronto Blue Jays. In 1980 and early 1981, Steven became quite infatuated with me, much to Tony's oft-spoken annoyance. But it was a phase through which Steven passed quickly, and by the fourth quarter of 1981, Steven was a leader among his age group, and he was best friends with a boy on Woodmount Drive, which ran parallel to Linden Crescent East and to which Tony and Steven relocated in July, 1980 (they had lived on Linden Crescent until then). Steven's new best pal was very irreverent toward me, and it was not long before Steven's regard for me turned into a grudging tolerance as long as I did not irritate too much by my rivalling presence as a neighbourhood leader, in games and in the presenting at my home of VideoDisc/videotape shows. I remember in spring of 1982 being subjected to regular verbal abuse by Steven and his new best friend whenever I would come to see Tony, who was playing with Steven and with several of Steven's associates, in their (Tony and Steven's) backyard. One day, a Friday, in June of 1982, I reacted to such abuse with a stinging, heated rebuke, after which I immediately departed for home. The verbal assaults subsided for awhile, but under certain conditions, like the competition of baseball games, they were revived with intensity. And my soon-to-be-best friendship with Joey (whom Steven never really liked) in the early 1980s did, I believe, contribute to Steven's diminished esteem for me. Toward the end of the 1980s, however, Steven turned into a very nice young man, more outgoing than Tony, and was friendlier and more inclusive toward me than was Tony in the early 1990s.
In June of 1979, I became acquainted with Joey, a younger fellow who had just moved into a house at the top of Linden Crescent's eastern side. We two met one evening when Joey was among a group of boisterous youngsters having fun near a rock in the front yard of a house at the turn of Linden Crescent from flat to inclined road. By 1982, Joey would be my best friend, and remain so for five eventful and highly cherished years.
Joey was the most dynamic friend that I have ever had. There is no simple way to describe him. He could be easy-going or rather intense from day to day. He was six years younger than me, and yet in some ways, e.g. technical matters, more knowledgeable. He could disassemble and reassemble a bicycle without any assistance required. His Caucasian skin was slightly dark and tanned quickly in the summers. His light brown hair, which he liked to wear long and straight, flowed like golden rays of light from under his baseball hats. From his grey-blue eyes could come the most piercing stare. There was a wrinkle under one of his eyes that apparently came from squinting, which he did frequently. I also remember his wearing an eye patch during the first year (1979-80) that I knew him. The first time I saw Joey, he was repeatedly pulling up his pants (on his sides and then on his front), a Joey trait for as long as I knew him. And he was fashionable; whatever clothes were in style (jeans, corduroys, rugby pants, rain pants, army pants, muscle shirts), he would wear, and always appear like a trend-setter rather than a trend-follower. For a year or two, he used expressions like "dang" and would "double-take" like the boys on The Little Rascals did, whenever anything surprised him. After he abandoned these, he would express surprise by skeptically or rather incredulously asking for confirmation of what was said. He could some days be intense and disinclined to smile at anything, even the funniest pratfalls in a comedy movie that I was showing to him, and on other days he would be grinning warmly and laughing. He was spontaneous and unpredictable, appearing at my bedroom window as early as 7:30 in the morning one summer day in 1984, or calling to me on the telephone to arrange a meeting at 8:30 in the evening in the middle of winter. Like myself, he loved ketchup potato chips, chocolate Swiss rolls and most other sweet foods, and Coca-Cola- and he would pour heaping tablespoons of sugar on his Rice Krispies, but his weight never exceeded average, due, I guess, to genetics and an active lifestyle. Joey and I could both go to the Pic N' Puff store and buy potato chips and candy and eat all of that junk food with no weight gain, while the woman at the videotape rental shop in the York Plaza on Nashwasksis' Main Street would look at us and think that Joey and I were brothers.
A dweller of the uppermost and the first numbered house on the eastern side of the eastern slope of Linden Crescent, Joey was the oldest of two children. His sister was named Angie. His mother was a member of Fredericton's University of New Brunswick clerical staff, and his father worked for Eastern Bakeries, manufacturers and distributors of Butternut Bread. In his home, Joey had a basement bedroom and bathroom. The walls and dresser drawers of his bedroom were decorated with photographs of players representing his favourite hockey and baseball teams, the Montreal Canadiens and Expos. Joey's bedspread and bedroom curtains were red, matching the team colours of the Canadiens.
Joey's bicycle was his pride and joy, and he rode it nearly everywhere he went. He loved to participate in any games that the neighbourhood boys were playing, no matter how rough and rowdy the games might become. I would say that he was the most athletic of all the people with whom I have ever been friends. He once had a shirt that read, one hundred percent muscle, which he said was most apt for him. He played organised hockey and baseball every year in addition to whatever recreational games of road hockey or street baseball were going. He frequented gymnasiums and had Tae Kwon Do training. At the age of 10, 11, 12, he was quite a powerhouse, and he had a formidable image with many of the boys his age. Some of them called him a bully- an unfair and simplistic description. Joey had, like myself, moved into our neighbourhood some time after the people in his age bracket had formed their alliances and cliques. Joey knew what it was like to be left out of things. He had no difficulty in the friend-making department. Most of the time he could indeed be very outgoing. But retaining friends' attention and loyalty proved for him, as he mentioned to me on occasion, to be something of a challenge, particularly with clique affiliations from before his arrival in the neighbourhood still predominating. I understood that, certainly.
Joey's heart really was golden. He was fiercely loyal to his friends, and was so to me especially. He would never, when present, stand idly while I was being verbally abused or my integrity, dignity, or competence was under attack. He would be there by my side, telling my detractors to desist from the verbal slings and arrows, and, if need be, pulling assailants off of me. And he was a superb listener, supportive at times that I was despairing of something, like my supposedly not being successful in applying for a golf caddying job. He encouraged me to talk about whatever was troubling me. No matter how ego-centric my rants were, he would talk me through them. He had the unique ability to pull me out of occasionally gloomy moods. If he saw that I was struggling to do something, like carrying my videocassette recorder to my home following a videotape copying session at Tony's place, or staying on my feet as I mowed a steep lawn slope, he would rush to my aid. He was a tactile person, and would put his hand on my shoulder or even hug me as a gesture of affinity and gratitude for my friendship to him. He would sit with me on my doorstep for evenings past sunset, talking with me about whatever was of interest to us at the time. He was my insistent partner-teammate in whatever games (baseball, badminton, etc.) that we could put together. He wanted to be my assistant in every videotape show that I was preparing to have for the fellows of the neighbourhood, which was not always possible, as previously established routines with Tony, my assistant in all shows as far back as 1978, had to be maintained, so my instinct told me. I understand now how Joey's lashing out at me on occasion was a result of my disappointing him at earlier times, although then, his abrupt turns of disposition toward me were mystifying, and I did back away, offended, from him. Joey was, it is now clear to me, a rare find as a buddy. The eventual loss of his presence in my life, due primarily, I now think, to a series of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, was devastating. My efforts later to reconcile with him were doomed to flounder, because they consistently failed to address the real issues that contributed to our pulling apart, and were in any case obstructed by some intense bitterness. I do miss him constantly. There is not a day that goes by in the summers that I do not think back to the truly good old days with Joey, with that bittersweet feeling of good times, long past and gone forever.
Joey enjoyed Spiderman and James Bond, especially the Roger Moore version of Agent 007. And it was I who introduced both of those imaginative entertainments to him. Joey was eager to please and willing to accommodate himself to whatever television and cinema I admired. He was also very appreciatively attentive toward the Superman movies, the Star Wars trilogy, and such down-to-Earth fare as the Inspector Clouseau films and The Bad News Bears. Space: 1999 was quite a daunting challenge for him because I lacked a truly sequential videotape library of episodes (they came trickling into my possession in a scattered fashion) by which to introduce him properly to the premise and characters of the television series, which was, in any case, absent from television stations in New Brunswick from 1979 to 1990. Joey's willingness to share my enjoyment of Space: 1999 was hampered further by the all too evident connection I had with Tony as a result of it (my use of Tony's videocassette recorder in addition to my own machine to copy episodes acquired from Nova Scotia to remove commercials, combined with Tony's more thorough knowledge of the television programme and his experience of it with me via the CBC French broadcasts in 1979), which Joey, I believe, found bothersome and disaffecting. I also made the mistake of favouring Tony as my assistant in all video shows of Space: 1999 for the neighbourhood youngsters, alienating Joey further from it and, I regret to say, from me. But Joey tried to find common points of reference. He sat with me for hours watching my videotaped Spiderman and Flintstones episodes in 1982 and 1983, he partnered with me in a Return of the Jedi/Space: 1999 appreciation club in my basement in 1983, and he did join me in evenings' casual viewings of such Space: 1999 episodes as "The Rules of Luton" and "All That Glisters" and found them to be engaging enough as an hour's worth of escapism. I was in the process of showing to him the tentacled monster episode, "Dragon's Domain", on August 8, 1983, when we were interrupted by a ringing of my doorbell and an invitation to partake in a baseball game. He invited me to go with him to see E.T. on Labour Day weekend in 1982, but I was saving my pennies to buy Star Wars on videotape and declined to accompany him- a decision that I have always regretted. And, dressed in a white turtleneck shirt similar to my own, he sat with me on the slope of my lawn one warm summer night in 1984, looking up to the stars as I delighted in the opportunity to share with my best pal my keen knowledge of astronomy. He also once told me that his favourite television show was Rocket Robin Hood, no doubt largely due to his middle name being Sherwood. A very endearing allegiance of taste, nevertheless.
I met Joey in June of 1979. We played a few street baseball games together, games in which Tony was also a participant. I remember Tony complaining about Joey's left-handed, ball-lobbing pitching technique and the short in length baseball bat that Joey had supplied for the games. The summer of 1979 proved to be quite a trial for me due to Tony's absence for the almost whole of July, while he was at his woodland camp with his family, and then because Tony kept me at a distance for close to three weeks in August while he was entertaining his visiting cousin, Gary, from Saint John. I had met Gary during the previous summer (1978) and been cordial with him, but for some reason, I was to be persona non grata where Tony was concerned during the entirety of Gary's stay at Tony's house in 1979. I walked by my lonesome to the newly opened Tim Horton's Donuts on Nashwaaksis' Main Street on many a summer morning in 1979 and wandered the neighbourhood for several afternoons, watching Tony and his cousin having fun in Tony's yard, and feeling more than a little glum. Eventually, I encountered Joey, who was riding his bicycle on our street, and Joey and I connected for several days, playing baseball games with two girls, Kelly and Teena, and Simon says- with the same girls and a few other neighbourhood persons. I walked to Tim Horton's Donuts one afternoon, and beside me on his bicycle was Joey, and Joey had to wait on the Wallace Avenue side of Main Street for me to buy some of Tom Horton's tasty confections, because Joey's mother had forbade him to cross the busy Main Street.
Cosmos 1999 provided a reliable index for Tony's and my time spent together in the summer of 1979. Between "Death's Other Dominion" and "Force of Life" (both of which Tony watched with me at my place) in early July, Tony was away to his summer camp location, and then I believe on the Tuesday after "Force of Life", Tony was gone again, and with his family's travels and his cousin's visit, Tony was absent from my side on a consecutive run of Cosmos 1999 Monday night broadcasts consisting of "Earthbound", "Voyager's Return", "Matter of Life and Death", "Guardian of Piri", and "Ring Around the Moon" and on near all of the days between them. It was on the evening that "Ring Around the Moon" was aired that Tony's cousin departed Fredericton and Tony came to my house to see me as Commander Koenig was talking the Tritonian space probe into willing its own destruction. Tony and I then went to his house at 9 P.M. and sat in his basement television room and watched CBS' Bad News Bears television series as we chatted about what had been experienced by us in terms of imaginative entertainment in the weeks that we had been apart. There were but two more Cosmos 1999 episodes to come before the school year started on the Tuesday after Labour Day weekend, and on most of Labour Day weekend I was away with my father to Bangor, Maine. So, this shows how much of the summer of 1979 that Tony and I were separated. He and I did derive the full advantage of the summer days left to us, at the expense, unfortunately, of my association with my new friend, Joey. However, being on the periphery, if that, of my then best friend's life for most of the summer was something to which I had never been accustomed, and it was not something that I wanted to have to experience year after year. Although Tony and I continued our quite reliably close and regular rapport that autumn, in particular following together the deep-space adventures each weekday afternoon of the good spaceship Argo of Star Blazers, I was anything but eager to have to go through further prolonged disconnections from my best friend during what should be the best season of the year.
Tony, after Gary's departure to return to Saint John, came back to me, and was displeased to find that I had connected with Joey. Tony was still my best friend, after all- even after he had excommunicated me for the duration of his cousin's stay. My other first Fredericton friendships, i.e. with David, Eric, etc., had been mostly floundering, and when coarse basketball enthusiast and super-athlete, Andre, had arrived on Linden Crescent in the summer of 1979 and openly denounced me and my interests, all but one of my earliest Fredericton friends had flocked over to him. The exception, who resisted or refused the allure of Andre and stayed with me, had been Tony. I felt a distinct loyalty to Tony and a willingness to oblige Tony in whatever he wanted. And Tony wanted me to turn Joey away whenever Joey came to my door whilst Tony and I were occupied on some project, and, I am sorry to admit, I conceded to Tony's wishes. I did not envision that a few years later, Joey would replace Tony as my best friend. It is to Joey's profound credit that he gave to me another opportunity to be a pal to him after I disappointed him so much at Tony's bidding in 1979. However, first impressions never really disappear, and the negative impression I left upon Joey in 1979 must have lingered with him. It had to. And each time over the years that I failed, for whatever reason, to respond to Joey as he wanted me to, must have reinforced that first impression. He told me years later that he did have dreams of clobbering me in front of Tony's house in 1979 or 1980. A sensible reaction, under the circumstances, and it is clear as crystal to me now. Sadly, at the time, I did not see beyond my immediate concerns, and a future best friendship with Joey just did not appear to be on the cards. I did not know that a few years later, Joey would become my most outstanding friend. I was unable to foresee how different the dynamic of my social life would be in the 1982-7 time period.
And next, there was Craig, another significant player in the Fredericton half of my upbringing. I became regularly associated with Craig at the same time, almost, as Joey was attaining the centre stage position as my best friend. I had known Craig, having been introduced to him by Mike J., as early as 1978, but had not an inclination to be with him in any capacity. He was, like Mike J., four years junior to me. He lived around the corner and up the street (Linden Crescent West) from me. And unlike most of the other younger people in the neighbourhood, he had seemed content from the start to have no connection to me at all. Indeed, it was only an expedient need in both our parts to have someone to fill a foursome for a two-against-two baseball game that brought Craig and myself together. And that happened in June of 1982. Craig's best friend at that time was his next-door neighbour, name of Adam, who was some three years junior to Craig. Craig had brought Adam under his wing and was training him to be as capable a baseball player as he (Craig) was. And Craig and Adam were quite the juggernaut. No matter who I had with me on my team, I proved time and time again to be unable to defeat them. They did have a "home field" advantage of always playing on their sloped part of our street, and if I must say so, I felt that second base, a manhole cover, was too far into the "outfield". It was nigh impossible to achieve a double or triple, unless the ball was pounded a large distance up the street or the outfielder was not adept at throwing, and I was never particularly happy or competent as an outfielder, which my frequent teammate-partner, a girl named Kelly, insisted that I be while she pitched. Even when Joey joined us, and it was him, Kelly, and myself against Craig and Adam, we still lost. I was under no illusions that Craig prized my presence any more highly than my use to him as an opposing player. And I do not believe he ever regarded me as a good player, which was why he arranged conditions, whenever he could, so that I was not on his team. Even after early spring of 1983, when the place of the games with Craig changed to the flat part of the street in front of my house and then to the concrete area or the baseball field at Park Street School and I had not Kelly but other teammates- some of them powerful indeed at bat- and started winning my share of games, Craig still preferred not to be on my team. He did, however, become impressed quickly with a tall, English teenager name of Philip, who moved into our area sometime in March of 1983 and whom Craig initially paired with me, while Craig was again teammates with Adam. With me pitching and Philip as outfielder, we won the majority of these decisions. Craig's relationship with Adam began to decline during their losses to Philip and I, and by spring of 1984, Craig preferred Philip as a teammate and was rebuffing Adam. Bitterness crept into the formerly ideal rapport between Craig and Adam, and Craig and Philip were stalwart teammates through the mid-to-late-1980s. Craig and Adam would find their way back to each other sometime later.
Craig was slightly rotund but quite active. Weighty enough to have a powerful amount of force as he swung his baseball bat, though I did have a knack for retiring him at home plate with some selective pitches. He caught baseballs with efficiency, and when he pitched, he always threw unhittable junk, with which he used to delight in frustrating me. He had impeccably parted and groomed dark brown hair under his frequently worn baseball hats, fair complexion, dark eyes, and a somewhat wide face. After I had played baseball with him one time, he was at my door constantly, asking me to play, always against his chosen team, of course. I can count on one hand the number of times that Craig and I were teammates, and every time it was during a challenge from outsiders. Only for a short while in the summers of 1982 and 1983 was Craig really a friend to me in a definitive sense. He deftly deflected, on my behalf, a verbal assault upon me by one of my same-age, school detractors (who was also the area newspaper carrier from 1978 to 1984), which by itself was enough put a stop to said detractor's outspoken attitude toward me. Craig on a Sunday afternoon in August, 1982 invited me to a couple of strings of bowling at the Nashwaaksis Bowl-a-Drome. He asked me to bring my videocassette machine and my videotape of Star Wars to his family room for a viewing of that movie for an afternoon, August 4 of 1983, and I had him and Philip in at my place to view Moonraker and other James Bond movies. But there was no doubt that Craig's appreciation of me was very limited. He was not tactile or very outgoing. It was unlike him to call to me if he saw me at a distance. He came to my door or approached me, baseball gear in his hand, when I was outside. Craig hated Joey, and for Joey the feeling was mutual, though Joey tolerated Craig and even agreed to play baseball with him for my sake. Craig did not think much of Tony either, and Tony was not Craig's staunchest supporter nor a regular player in Craig's games, but they respected each other's abilities to play the sport.
By 1984, Craig and Philip were usual teammates and best friends, and the more that Philip was with Craig, the less he was the taciturn Briton and more the sharp-tongued competitor that Craig often was. Yes, Craig, when he wanted to be, could be caustic in my direction, subjecting me to a verbal whipping, with the enthusiastic cooperation of many others present. When not in the process of playing baseball or trying to manufacture a game thereof, Craig could be witty and fun to talk with, though he was anything but politically correct in the jokes and the limericks that he liked to tell. Joey used to ask me why I bothered being in the company of Craig, and I answered that it was baseball, only baseball. Nothing more. The opportunity to play games of baseball several times a week, which was the norm in the spring, summer, autumn of 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1986. Being active in those years was certainly good for my physical health, and when I was ahead of my game, winning as the deciding pitcher, I was on top of the world. For that, indifferent and only occasional as a friend he may have been, Craig was worthwhile, a part of what I will describe as my best time in Fredericton (Era 4: 1982-7).
In addition to these individuals was an array of other persons present in my life in Fredericton into the 1980s, persons some years my junior with whom I had amicable and respectful relations, though not often on a one-on-one basis but rather in a group dynamic of the playing of baseball and other games or in the watching of movies or television series episodes exhibited at my place for all comers, or by their being at Tony and Steven's house while I was there copying and editing some videotape-recordings. Most of them were peers and associates of Steven and lived in a sector of our neighbourhood away somewhat from the Andre effect which I have described as regards most of my earliest Fredericton friends. And they either were absent during the least enjoyable baseball games or if there at those, are not remembered to have joined in any unkindness directed at me by others. Some of them will be mentioned as I go along in these memoirs. I hasten to emphasise that I intend no diminution of their part in my life and no offence to them in omitting them thus far. Their being with me was indeed noteworthy even if it was through substantially less of the one-on-one sort of company that I shared with friends who I do mention and describe in detail in the preceding paragraphs. Each and every one of these fellow inhabitants of the Linden Crescent and Woodmount Drive area of Nashwaaksis, Fredericton, did contribute to the best of times for me in the early-to-mid-1980s.
Of what the decade of the 1980s had to offer, I was completely unaware as I proceeded in the autumn of 1979 with Grade 8 at Nashwaaksis Junior High and my then-best friendship with Tony, who was that year (1979-80) in Grade 6 in Park Street Elementary.
For the daily routine of 1979-80, I walked alone to school and came home for lunch at 11:30 and sat in my den, watching reruns of Alice (on CBS) at 11:30 and The Flintstones (on CTV) at noon while I ate the soup (tomato, celery, Lipton's chicken noodle, Chunky beef) prepared for me by my father (he now worked during nights, for Fredericton Transit, and my mother worked during days). His food was rather like that of Mel Sharples, the gruff cook and owner of Mel's Diner on Alice- sometimes! Then, I had a Mars candy bar for dessert before leaving home to return to school at 12:20. After school, I was joined by Tony, who often bicycled to the junior high school from Park Street Elementary to meet me, and I doubled on his bicycle for a swift journey home. Cosmos 1999 had been cancelled on New Brunswick's French CBC television station in September, 1979. A Japanese animated cartoon science fiction epic, Star Blazers, began its weekday broadcasts on WVII-TV (ABC- Bangor, Maine) at almost the same time that Moonbase Alpha on Cosmos 1999 faded from New Brunswick into the depths of space. I watched Star Blazers after supper, at 5:30. Five o'clock's The Edge of Night preceded Star Blazers.
Alice and The Flintstones were my lunchtime television programmes of choice in 1980-1 also, as I continued to come home from school for a lunch prepared by my father.
My teachers at Nashwaaksis Junior High were mostly unremarkable, as were the subjects that they taught. I was developing a distinct distaste for Mathematics, aggravated by the fact that my Grade 8 teacher of the subject was often unintelligible. Science appealed to me when its focus was off the Earth and into space, which was seldom the case. My teachers of that frequently only assigned textbook material to read and on which to answer questions in writing, and then left the classroom, allowing my disagreeable peers to indulge in their aggressive and derisive antics that could include intimidating and humiliating me. Science's sub-discipline of biology could not have interested me less, and we seldom in Grade 7, 8, or 9 dabbled in practice in the chemistry element of our Science course. I despised Physical Education and Shop class, in the latter of which I barely merited a passing grade, and a rather shrilly voiced and sarcastic Art teacher killed whatever interest I had in that field of study and endeavour. The Language Arts curriculum in Grade 7 contained the forgettable novels, Owls in the Family and The Silver Sword. In Grade 8, we read the slightly more interesting Shane and The Red Pony. In Grade 9, we endured the dull The Pigman and The Pearl.
Mathematics class was extreme ennui equalled only by the tedium of Canadian history in Social Studies in Grades 7 and 8 and Shop classes in Grades 8 and 9.
The only really enjoyable courses were Grade 8 Language Arts with Mrs. Brooks, when we were encouraged to creative write and compile a book about a chosen subject (I, of course, chose space), and Grade 9 Social Studies, taught by Mrs. Urquhart, when we learned about Europe, Russia, Russian history, and Asian lifestyles. I recall seeing Nicholas and Alexandra (a 1971 movie about the Russian Revolution) with all of my Grade 9 peers (i.e. all Grade 9 classes) one Friday afternoon in the spring of 1981. Nicholas and Alexandra, in my estimation, was nowhere near as bad a film as everyone else thought. The surprise presence of many Space: 1999 guest actors in supporting roles in the film was a big plus for me. And it also had Tom Baker (known to me a few years later as the Fourth Doctor in the British Doctor Who television series) playing the pivotal role of Rasputin, the mad, lecherous monk. The visuals of the movie were gorgeous, the scope epic. Still, all of this said, Nicholas and Alexandra fell short of being as dynamic as Superman, which was watched in our school theatre during Winter Carnival week in Grade 8.
Nashwaaksis Junior High was substantially larger than Park Street Elementary. It had as many as nine classes per grade, a huge gymnasium, several art, science, and industrial arts laboratories, an auditorium, a cafeteria, and a library. Less clinical than Park Street School only because its floors were carpeted, Nashwaaksis Junior High was all the more daunting to someone who did not fit into his peer group. And I was often sick. In Grade 8, I missed nearly the whole of the Winter Carnival Week (only returning on Friday to see Superman), which was before March Break, and was sick again just a few weeks later.
Winter Carnival Week at Nashwaaksis Junior High School was not the first occasion for me to see Superman, however. I viewed it with my parents in early summer of 1979 at a Fredericton drive-in theatre. There had been some considerable reluctance on my part to enter the world of the Man of Steel. I had come to think of DC Comics' signature super-heroic character as being rather- for lack of a better word- corny. His costume and his trademark declarations before ascending to flight were what I particularly found to be wince-worthy. But the Superman bubble gum cards that Tony had showed some images that would have been quite at home in Space: 1999, especially the ripping apart of the surface of a planet in its death throes, reminiscent of the Space: 1999 episode, "New Adam, New Eve", and the damage inflicted upon California by a massive shifting of the Earth at the San Andreas Fault, a premise with which I was already very familiar by way of Earthquake. The angelic-looking technological civilisation in space, on Krypton, also seemed curiously like something I might see in the Space: 1999 aesthetic. And when I saw Superman at the drive-in theatre, it far, far exceeded my most genial expectation. The grandeur of the visuals and the solemn though still appropriately light-hearted in places style of storytelling, altogether part of what the movie's director, Richard Donner, called verisimilitude, were an indeed effective grab for me. And further, Superman at times even sounded like Space: 1999. Sound effects from Space: 1999 could be heard in Superman (as they could also be heard in the James Bond films). Superman and its first sequel will always be among my five most admired and enjoyed film spectacles. My parents and I did not remain at the drive-in theatre for the second movie of the evening, Oh, God!, which I later viewed on and audiotape-recorded off of television in 1980. My mother, father, and I attended that same drive-in theatre in 1980 for me to audiotape The Black Hole (which I had earlier seen for the first time with Tony at the Fredericton Plaza Cinema 1 during Christmas vacation in 1979) and then to watch The Late, Great Planet Earth, which concerned the prophecy of Armageddon of which Herbert W. Armstrong used to speak on the radio in my room was I laid in my bed in Douglastown.
I was allowed by my mother to stay awake until midnight on some evenings to watch on television such cinematic spine-chillers and spine-shockers as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland and Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy), The Omen, Damien: Omen II, and Carrie. Even with the removal of their most violent content, these horror movies had me trembling with fear and by times jumping out of my chair in startled fright. I guess that these most downbeat, pessimistic films were really quite apropos in the rather dark, depressing times that I was having where my viewing of television and my lack or acceptance at school or outgoing best friendship around home was concerned. I do not believe that I ever had more consistently gloomy and unsettling times in front of the television screen in all of my born years. Even my most nightmare-causing experiences with Space: 1999 and the Warner Brothers cartoons were not as violently gory or ended on as gloomy a note as did these movies. The amount and degree of revolting, grisly death was without peer in anything else that I had before encountered.
My viewing and audiotape-recording of Destination: Moonbase Alpha on Friday, May 30, 1980 (or I should actually say Saturday, May 31, 1980) constituted up to then the latest hour to which I had been permitted to be awake. ATV that night aired Destination: Moonbase Alpha as a late-night movie presentation from 1 A.M. to approximately 3 A.M.. It was indeed fortunate for me that that broadcast was on a night not preceding a school day. If it had been on such a night, there would have been no way that my parents would have allowed me to stay awake until 1 A.M., much less 3 A.M.. I remember that evening and night so very vividly. My mother was away to some V.O.N. conference in another city, and my father was working his evening-to-night shift at the Fredericton Transit garage. Thus was I alone at home as I watched and audiotape-recorded Destination: Moonbase Alpha and as I passed the many hours prior to that. I remember the television set being in the farthest corner of the back room of our house. I recall seeing the CBS repeat broadcast of the Incredible Hulk episode, "The Slam", at 9 P.M.. I remember the seemingly interminable ATV late-night newscast preceding the late movie. I can hum the beats to the introductory music for the ATV late movie. And in my mind's eye, I can still visualize the delightful appearance of the ITC Entertainment logo and the newly constructed opening to that Space: 1999 movie, introducing setting, situation, and characters for persons not familiar with the Space: 1999 television series-proper. The music accompanying first glimpses of that opening had been hitherto unknown to me, but it felt so right, so very right, for the nostalgia-generating experience that I was about to have. It was nothing less than magical to see Space: 1999 again and to hear in English, simultaneously with the visualisations, the dialogue exchanged by the Space: 1999 Season Two characters, an experience savoured again for the first time since September 10, 1977. It felt like a reunion with old friends with the nostalgic "rush" that one would expect to come in unison with the convivial renewal of friendly association.
And again, I was experiencing a nostalgia for my old life in Douglastown vicariously through a reconnection with Space: 1999 and its characters. I remember the film jumping as Tony Verdeschi was walking into Command Centre to see a contact on the big screen. I remember where every commercial interval was inserted by ATV into the movie. I recall my hitherto unaccustomed feeling associated with being awake and mobile at 2:30 A.M. as I beheld the exciting action building to a climax at the Nuclear Waste Domes. I remember fancying the Oliver Onions song playing over the end credits as I readied for bed. I was only in bed for a few minutes before I heard my father walk into house after his work shift. Next morning, that of the overcast May 31, 1980, I felt somewhat groggy and not at my best, but I immediately and ecstatically set to work on polishing my audiotape copy of Destination: Moonbase Alpha and transferring it from "compact cassette" to open-reel audiotape.
My mother spent a ton of time, a whopping amount of time, away from home in the first years after our move to Fredericton. In addition to her usual morning-to-late-afternoon, Monday-to-Friday stint on the job at the V.O.N. offices, she was often at meetings in the evenings. In the months of 1979 when Cosmos 1999 was on Radio-Canada (CBC French) on Monday evenings, I was alone in the house while watching several of the Cosmos 1999 second season episodes. In that year, I watched many an episode of Eight is Enough on Wednesdays while by myself at home, and same notation for quite a few of the Incredible Hulk second season episodes on Friday evenings. I remember one 1980 or 1981 evening in the back room of our house watching the entirety of The Towering Inferno in a CTV presentation of such, and my mother not being home when the movie was done and I was preparing to go to bed. And first time that I saw The Bugs Bunny Howl-Oween Special, on Wednesday, October 25, 1978 at 9 P.M., my grandparents were with me in our home's living room. My mother was away to somewhere. I am not certain of where my father was that evening; he was not yet working at Fredericton Transit and logging the evening-to-night shift there at that time. Perhaps they were attending some social function together.
McDonald's Nashwaaksis opened in early 1980 in the area of the Nashwaaksis Place mall that included the Save-Easy supermarket and the Nashwaaksis Twin Cinemas. The franchise of the Big Mac coming to Fredericton North spelled doom for Shakie's Hamburgers, which was on Main Street in Nashwaaksis across the road from the York Plaza. Also not long for this world in the advent of Nashwaaksis McDonald's was the Dixie Lee Fried Chicken outlet next to the York Plaza and directly across Main Street from Shakie's. Tony, Eric, and I had lunch at Shakie's Hamburgers one sunny August day in 1979, the 25-cent hamburgers there being its primary attraction. Later that day, in the afternoon, Eric threw a clam at Tony and myself while we were seated within Mike J.'s tree house. The clam on hitting the tree house floor in front of us exposed its oyster, splashed fluid on us, and on me especially, and reeked as all creatures of the sea typically do. A clothes-wash and bath removed the clam's odour. Still, the incident exacerbated a growing rift between Eric and myself. He had also one 1979 day when doubling me on the back of his bicycle, done a sudden "pop-a-wheely", sending me careening, rear-end first, onto the pavement. I was displeased about that, for sure.
Dickie Dee ice cream wagons were a routine element in our neighbourhood starting sometime near 1980. Tony, myself, and others would always hear the bell of Dickie Dee and would scurry indoors to ask our parents if we could buy a Drumstick ice cream cone or some variant of the Popsicle. Dickie Dee's mobile business was a popular and successful operation in the Fredericton residential zones until at least the mid-1980s, although the prices of the products being sold became rather prohibitive as the years passed. Linden Crescent was every Sunday morning visited by another impressive vehicle, the green-and-white Sunday school bus for the Devon Park Church, which sported the name of Abraham above its front windows. Kelly and her brother Scott who lived across the street used to board that bus, and Tony and I would often speak of them as, "...jumping on Abraham."
When my Grade 8 Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Brooks, said that the next subject in that school course would be Public Speaking and that each student would have to stand at a podium in front of the class and talk for 3 minutes on a chosen topic, nearly everybody moaned or sighed. Some openly protested. While I was naturally nervous and apprehensive (especially as I was not treated anywhere near as favourably by my peers in Fredericton as I had been treated in Douglastown), I decided to make the best of the opportunity and to choose what was still my favourite subject for my talk. The others were choosing controversial issues or mundane occupations for their talks; but, I chose space. Outer space. It was something on which I could speak with some authority and substantial enthusiasm.
Students in alphabetical order delivered their speeches over a time period of several days. My talk was somewhere in the middle. As had been the case in Grade 5, but with no visual aids, I gave a talk on space, this time discussing stars and planets, and managing to cover all essential information in the mere 3 minutes allotted. Of course, I had brought cue cards but did not use them much. My talk sounded spontaneous rather than planned, and I moved my eyes around the room as I spoke. I must been rather efficient, because on leaving the classroom that day, I was asked by Mrs. Brooks if I wanted to participate in the school public speaking contest. She said that I had done a very good job and that I was a prime candidate for a repeat performance in a larger contest. Of course, I accepted. And although I was considerably more nervous (also rather sick with a scratchy throat), I gave my talk in the contest with the same gusto, but did not win.
However, that I was selected as one of the top public speakers in my class was an achievement. One that has given to me a certain confidence in public speaking, at least when it involves subjects with which I have experience and affinity.
Tony, my one remaining associate from 1978-9, shared my enthusiasm for science fiction, and, in 1979 and 1980, we went to Fredericton's movie theatres to see many films. The Empire Strikes Back was most memorable.
The anticipation on the part of Tony and myself in advance of the release of The Empire Strikes Back to the movie theatre nearest us, was growing geometrically in the spring of 1980. I bought the blue-covered novelisation, written by Donald F. Glut, of the second produced movie in George Lucas' epic space fantasy at Westminster Books on a sunny Saturday morning in May of 1980 while by myself on a bus-conveyed shopping expedition in the downtown Fredericton area, and began my plunge into its imaginative text during school private reading times. I had acquired via special mail-in order the Boba Fett action figure toy. And one Sunday afternoon at the Pic N' Puff store, I happened upon a full-colour magazine version of the Marvel Comics adaptation of the movie, its cover a vibrant mix of orange-red and pure white with scenes on ice planet Hoth. I had insufficient funds on my person with which to buy the magazine, and was about to hasten to my home to obtain the necessary dollars when I saw a little boy noticing said magazine and imploring his mother to buy it for him. It was the only copy of the magazine that the Pic N' Puff store had on its shelf, but I was a bit reassured by the boy's mother's initially frosty reply to her son's plea of, "But mom, it's neeeeeewwww!" I hurried to my home and was back at the Pic N' Puff store in ten minutes with money in hand. But when I arrived there, the forlorn outcome was plain for my frustrated eyes to see. Said magazine was nowhere to be found, and one easy guess as to how that had come about! I was never to buy that Marvel Comic Empire Strikes Back magazine but did manage to find and buy no less than two copies of it (from the Pic N' Puff store, funnily enough) in the format of a paperback book, having same orange-red and white cover imagery as on the magazine. Tony possessed it in both formats.
I bought Starlog magazine issues with extensive coverage of The Empire Strikes Back in April, May, and June of 1980, along with the official magazine of the movie, which I acquired at the Fredericton Mall on a Saturday morning in late June, before going with my mother and father to my grandparents' house, where I had a very unnerving viewing of a 1-o'clock-to-3-o'clock movie on CHSJ-TV entitled Encounter With the Unknown. Narrated by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, it contained three stories of nerve-racking horror and suspense allegedly based on factual occurrences. The first of them involved a grieving mother of a misfit youth killed accidentally in a prank engineered by three college boys. The mother wreaked havoc upon her son's inadvertent killers by forecasting their individual deaths by land or by sky on the seventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first days following her son's funeral; one by one each of the grim prophecies came true. And the second story, the most haunting and unsettling part of this televised movie, concerned a hole in the Earth in the Missouri hinterland in 1906, from which emanates a ghoulishly hideous moaning noise and into which a father ventures in search of his son's lost dog- and minutes later following an agonising scream, he is pulled out of the hole, his eyes white, his disposition one of permanent insanity. I was aghast at the second of these scenarios as my parents and I came home that afternoon, and it remained foremost in my thoughts as I was showing to Tony the aforementioned Empire Strikes Back official magazine while standing with him at the foot of my driveway on that overcast Saturday afternoon.
In the accursed then absence (ATV's May 30, 1980 late-night showing of Destination: Moonbase Alpha excepted) of Space: 1999 on television stations in my area, The Empire Strikes Back had become in 1980 my Holy Grail. I had to have in my possession anything and everything connected with what Tony and I most simply and affectionately called, "Empire", including the movie itself in all of its visual splendour, an impossibility by any commercial means in 1980. Its premiere at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2, Tuesday, June 3, 1980, had been marked on the calendars of Tony and myself as a must-attend event.
First performance was to be at 6:45 P.M.. Knowing as we did the probability of there being a ponderous queue at the movie theatre doors prior to the first ever presentation of The Empire Strikes Back in Fredericton, Tony and I planned to meet after school at 3:30 approximately and then walk together to the Nashwaaksis Twin Cinemas, stopping en route thereto for dinner at the Nashwaaksis McDonald's, which was in close vicinity of the destination theatre. I impatiently awaited, as I always did at the oppressive and cliquishly exclusive centre of teenage ennui that was Nashwaaksis Junior High, the sounding of the intercom beep signifying end-of-school-day dismissal. I hastened to depart the school and begin my briskest possible walk to my house at which to deposit my books and gather some cash for evening's awe. And to my surprise Tony was nowhere to be seen on my homeward journey from school on the Crescent streets of Lilac and Linden, and his house on my street had evidently not been entered by him as yet that afternoon. I sat on my front step waiting for any sign of life from Tony's domicile or for Tony to come from the direction of Park Street School. I waited to no avail until a quarter after four o'clock. No telephone call from Tony had been received indoors by my father. I decided to go solo to the Fredericton North business district on Main Street, walking in the radiant June sunshine the streets leading to Nashwaaksis Place and the McDonald's restaurant and Cinemas Nashwaaksis. Perhaps Tony would rendez-vous with me at McDonald's. I ordered a McChicken and French fries and ate them in the seating area of the fast food establishment, peering often at the corner to the cashier area to see if Tony would appear there, tray of vittles in hand. I finished my meal with still no sign of my friend, and I was in no way surprised to find that there were people in line outside the theatre doors, parallelling the poster-adorned windows of the Nashwaaksis Twin Cinemas building, but the string of eager theatre patrons was not as protracted as I thought it might be, and my heart pumped fast with enthusiastic joy at the certainty that I was to be admitted to the fantastically imaginative extravaganza. After my first few minutes in the line, I saw Tony at last coming in my direction. He joined me, the six or seven people behind me in the line being less than pleased, I am sure, to have an additional person ahead of them. Of all of the days for Tony to have been in detention with his entire Grade 6 class, it had to be that one!
With the opening of the doors to the Nashwaaksis Cinemas, the line moved rather quickly past the lone cashier on duty, and Tony and I bought our popcorn and soft drinks and seated ourselves in the centre of Cinema 2, about one-third of the way back from the screen. Cinema 2 was filled to capacity when the curtain rose, and what we all saw far exceeded expectation. From the scenes of the convincing stop-motion-effected Tauntauns on ice planet Hoth to the rolling Hoth landscape seen subjectively from the interior of the Rebel Snowspeeder in search of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to the Imperial assault with the AT-AT Walkers upon the Rebel base on Hoth to the pursuit of the Millennium Falcon in a field of asteroids, one such nearly colliding with Han and company in the Falcon, to the amazingly believable, little Yoda on the jungle planet of Dagobah to the climactic sequence on the Cloud City of Bespin, Tony and I were popping our eyes along with everybody else in the movie house and gleefully exclaiming often at the sophisticated film-making techniques, the breathtaking scale and beauty of the film's visuals, and the almost non-stop action in space and on the mind-bogglingly astounding alien worlds. There had never been anything like this experience at the movie theatres before. I fell in love with The Empire Strikes Back, through and through, and it remains my absolute favourite movie of all time. And to add to the sublimely appealing effect, there were even some actors from Space: 1999 in it as Imperial officers. I did not immediately recognise them at first, because the milieu and costumes in which I was seeing them was so very different, but I liked General Veers immensely for his austere efficiency (that he was played by the same actor who was the ruthless Jarak in the "Alpha Child" Space: 1999 episode must have registered in my mind, too), felt like Admiral Ozzel was someone whom I had before seen meeting a ghastly end (and indeed he did, as monster fodder in Space: 1999's "Dragon's Domain"), and was also affected by Captain Needa, at whom the people in the theatre laughed when he said that he would be apologising to Lord Vader for the Millennium Falcon having escaped from him. Silly Captain Needa! We all know that nobody fails Darth Vader and lives. And so, the actor who was an Eagle spaceship pilot in Space: 1999's "Guardian of Piri" episode, had a death scene on the Star Destroyer Executor floor before the Dark Lord of the Sith. I needed a toilet interval nearly half of the way through the movie, and conceded to that need while Luke was about to enter a cave to confront the forces of evil. Tony and I laughed at Lobot, Lando Calrissian's assistant, whom we called "the ear muff guy", and although we both had the movie's adaptations in various printed forms, were still unprepared for the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke's father. At movie's close, Tony and I remained in our seats to watch the credit roll, and I was pleased to see the names of actors of Space: 1999 pedigree. We then exited the theatre through the door nearest the right side of the screen whose images had so captivated us for upward of two dazzling and thrilling hours! We emerged from the back of the theatre building in the late evening sunshine of early June, talking with highest adulation for George Lucas and all that he represented. Throughout the movie and especially in the immediate aftermath of that forever most cogent outing to a movie theatre, I coveted George Lucas' ownership of "Empire". I wanted to own it, too. For the time being, I had to settle for a novelisation and comic book paperback and awhile later the hardcover Empire Strikes Back Storybook, with pictures from the movie, and a commercially available audiotape with a very condensed version of the movie's storyline. We were promptly collected from the Nashwaaksis Cinemas for transport to our Linden Crescent habitat by Tony's parents, who were in their car with Tony's brother, Steven, and who all were curious about Tony's and my reaction to the film. The two of us were gushing with praise at every aspect of it, and someone, I do not remember who, said that "Revenge of the Jedi" was the slated title for the third Star Wars movie to be produced.
I would add that with my appreciation of seeing actors from episodes of Space: 1999 in movies such as The Empire Strikes Back or Nicholas and Alexandra, there was a feeling of longing, of aching to see them in Space: 1999 again. As I checked with a movie's credit roll and saw the names of actors with a Space: 1999 connection, I always smiled but at the same time lamented (often only to myself) the scarce state of Space: 1999 in my area of the world. In 1980, 1981, and 1982, there was almost no trace of it besides the appearances of actors and actresses in other productions, or a packet of bubble gum cards in a surprise bag, or a second-hand book or magazine on a shelf, or Destination: Moonbase Alpha.
I would further state that my fascination with Space: 1999 (which had its start in Era 2) was a gateway to interests, several of them emerging and growing within this life era, in many other imaginative entertainments. Entertainments of acting cast including people who were in Space: 1999. Entertainments with similar production design. Entertainments with same style of visual effects, with some of the same sound effects, or with comparable sensibilities in depicting futuristic or otherworldly habitats, cultures, or means of transportation. Whether they be the Star Wars movies, Superman, the James Bond films, or an opus like Les Filles du ciel, aired-on-CBC-French-in-autumn-of-1979 francophone version of the short-lived 1975 Anglo-German television series, Star Maidens, whose production designer, Keith Wilson, worked on Space: 1999. Sometimes, simply being situated in space was enough to capture my dedicated attention. Star Trek, for instance, had little in common with Space: 1999 in acting and aural-visual aesthetic departments, but it being set in space with many, many alien worlds encountered, appealed to me in somewhat the same vein as did Space: 1999. Somewhat. To a lesser extent, but somewhat. If something was produced in Britain, the greater the probability of a Space: 1999 connection. If produced at Buckinghamshire's Pinewood Studios, greater still.
Star Trek was not airing on television at my "Terran coordinates" in any of the years of this life era. It would televisually resurface in autumn of 1983 in Era 4. My only immersion in the Star Trek universe in my life's third era was via books, via Star Trek- The Motion Picture (a quite turgid and tedious affair), via one episode ("The Enterprise Incident") viewed and audiotape-recorded late one Sunday afternoon during a December, 1980 stay in Toronto, and via a handful of episodes available in late 1981 and early 1982 on RCA VideoDisc. But even with such limited means of reference or experience, together with memory of seeing mostly third season Star Trek episodes in 1977, Star Trek was an interest of some significance. One of the ancillary interests that filled the gaps left by absent primary entertainment interests (e.g. Space: 1999) on television and in printed media.
Era 3 was a transitional time frame and for most of it many of my primary favourite entertainments were not being shown on any television station available to me in Fredericton. With Tony's support and encouragement, I delved into alternate universes, i.e. those of other works. Star Trek's was one such. Star Wars' was another. And Star Blazers'. I also saw presented on television many a movie that I had previously seen at the cinema or which was completely new to me, and Tony and I would talk about them on the morrow, or on the morrow's morrow. For example, Starship Invasions (which I saw for the first time at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 with my parents on a Friday evening in mid-January, 1978) aired on ATV/CTV on a frosty Sunday afternoon in early 1981, and I audiotape-recorded it from that broadcast and memorably chatted with Tony about it when we two were together en route to school on the next day. And 1978's faked-mission-to-Mars thriller, Capricorn One, was shown on NBC (and on Bangor, Maine NBC affiliate, WLBZ) in May of 1980. Also audiotape-recorded and discussed a day later. The much-heralded, much-anticipated television miniseries, The Martian Chronicles (with Barry Morse of Space: 1999 and many more veteran actors), was presented on CHSJ-TV in the evenings of three consecutive Saturdays in autumn of 1980. And then there was Moon Zero Two (1969), a made-in-Britain "space Western" set on the Moon and with Space: 1999's Catherine Schell in one of the leading roles, telecast by ATV on a Wednesday evening in spring, 1981.
And more 1980 and 1981 television viewing experiences are memorable, several of them involving Sunday broadcasts, such as CBC Television's repeat showing of 1978's What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! one sunny, frigid Sunday afternoon in early 1980 (Tony and I were at my house in the living room, watching that together), or evening family movies on ABC (and Bangor, Maine ABC affiliate, WVII) like 1974's Benji, or a shown-on-CBC episode of The Muppet Show in which guest Alan Arkin drank some "Ultra-Powerful Jekyll-Hyde Potion", or an ABC News sixty-minutes-in-length television programme about the future of space exploration, or CBC special broadcasts like Take Me Up to the Ballgame (a half-hour cartoon television special about a baseball game in an off-Earth location) and SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back (an hour-long look at the making of the visually very impressive second Star Wars movie).
It is amazing, even confounding, how apathetic and cynical my school peers were in 1980 toward the new Star Wars film. None of them had attended the June 3, 1980 premiere of it or had much interest in seeing it at all- and zero inclination to hear, much less respect, my impressions of it. Grade 8 (1979-80) was by far my most hated year at school, and my peers were the primary reason for that. The final few weeks of school in Grade 8 were diabolical, as one classmate, name of Robin, delighted in spitting at me as he passed. I had to constantly be wary of him and be ready to dodge his expelled saliva when he came close to me, in addition to weathering his verbal attacks. I despised him, needless to say. And nearly all of my other classmates. I was developing something of a misanthropic attitude as a result of my Fredericton school experience. But I still had hope for the future, that there would yet come a day in my lifetime at least some segment of the human species would achieve a stage of development of which I could be proud, leaving behind the degenerates, the low-lifes, the smutty, physically and verbally abusive members of our Earthly society to wallow in their depravity. I had not as yet determined just how much of the world was of the latter category of the human condition. However, as far as school was concerned, I resolved to withstand whatever adversity was flung at me, my interest in the very things of which my peers were so contemptuous being what kept me morally afloat in a tide of scorn or indifference.
There were, for sure, others at school who were treated much worse than I was, but that was seldom comforting, because from the way that those others fared at school, I had a benchmark for abuse that I had to constantly strive never to reach. Try as I did to become quite skillful at baseball- and around home I did become that somewhat, at school in Physical Education classes, I remained virtually impotent in the batter's box of the Nashwaaksis Junior High School field house's indoor-baseball-designated section, unable to hit the ball out of the "infield", if I hit it at all. And on the defencive half of the innings, I was forever put in the "far outfield" with the girls. In Grade 9, I was coaxed into being the upper part of a piggyback racing team, my partner being the tallest person in our class, if not our entire school grade, and after our first practice for the event, he threw me off of him before I could crawl off of him at my own pace. I landed flat on my back on the field house floor, the wind knocked fully out of me. It followed that I said no to being in the race and opted instead to be one of the student officials during track-and-field day. That way, I at least had my dignity and a sense of safety from injury. In fact, I think I was respected in this instance for my decision, at least by a sizable number of classmates. What had been done to me was utterly uncalled-for, especially as I had been trying to abide by the wishes of my classroom peers.
By rights I should not care about my peers and their opinions where I was concerned, because I simply did not like those people. I had not the slightest inclination to want to be part of their cliques. They after all still had no favourable regard for much of anything that appealed to me. But I also did not want to be the most reviled, most ridiculed, most bullied person in our school. So, I had to be mindful somewhat of the prevailing attitude where I was concerned and to not too much stoke the fire of peer disapproval. I suppose that is why I relented at first to my classmates' summons of me to be in the piggyback race. And it was a mistake, as circumstances proved.
Tony and I went to see "Empire" again several times, and I brought an audiotape recorder to a drive-in theatre in 1981 in an attempt to audiotape the movie, only to be thwarted when the machine chewed the tape and stopped recording before the Bespin segment of the movie began. Other films that impressed us greatly were Moonraker, Superman II, Meteor, The Black Hole, and Outland. Even the notoriously lame Starcrash (seen during a matinee on a sunny Saturday in June, 1979) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century impressed us with their spectacle. Two films which we were not able to see due to R-ratings were Alien and Saturn 3. We often watched Saturday morning television together, including The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show, Jason of Star Command, and What's New, Mr. Magoo?.
Some additional memories of television viewing in 1979 and 1980 included seeing Woody Allen's satire on crime dramas, Take the Money and Run; Rendez-Vous Hotel, a CBS television movie of the week vehicle for Bill Daily (of television's I Dream of Jeannie) in which he is the frazzled owner of an upper-class hotel soon to be visited by the United States' most renowned and fearsome critic of the hospitality sector; Streets of L.A., a television movie shown on CHSJ one Saturday evening at 7 P.M. while I was ill, and which was about a Los Angeles career woman determined to exact from a Hispanic group of vandals a payment in full for her car's tires that were slashed by said vandals; and Cry of the Penguins, with John Hurt as a young ornithologist assigned to McMurdo Sound in Antarctica to observe the mating and feeding habits of the most dignified fowl of the southernmost continent and its surrounding waters. I remember watching the last of these as a late-night movie on CHSJ whilst I ate a McCain chocolate pie. Also recollected is an occasion in which I was eating pizza pie into the wee hours of the morning. My mother was away to a V.O.N. evening meeting, and prior to WAGM's running of the original Twilight Zone television show ("King Nine Will Not Return" I believe was the episode transmitted), I mixed, kneaded, and baked for myself a Kraft sausage meat pizza. Why? I was hungry and found the pizza mix on the kitchen shelf. My mother was surprised indeed when she arrived at home shortly after midnight to see me watching Rod Serling's uncanny anthology entry about an aeroplane in the middle of a desert and feasting, slice after slice, on a pizza.
A festival of old James Bond films during the Christmas season of 1980 and early January of 1981 at Fredericton's Gaiety Theatre (which later closed in 1982) afforded to Tony and I the chance to see Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man With the Golden Gun, and The Spy Who Loved Me. We viewed (though not us together) From Russia, With Love on American network television, minus several key scenes, plus Live and Let Die, You Only Live Twice, and, in August, 1982, the fabulous On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which became a favourite. Dr. No was not seen until I had my first videocassette recorder, a Panasonic, in May, 1982, and rented the movie from a nearby club. At that time, videotape rental outlets were called clubs.
In the summer of 1980, I joined Tony in collecting bubble gum cards based on The Empire Strikes Back. We had already assembled all of what was offered in the Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica bubble gum card series, along with some of Superman and The Incredible Hulk. Also, oddly enough, packets of Space: 1999 bubble gum cards could sometimes be found in surprise bags being sold at the Pic N' Puff store. I stapled my Empire Strikes Back bubble gum cards in sequence into a Camp Fire note book. The most problematic cards in the Empire Strikes Back bubble gum card range were "A Gathering of Evils" and "Joined By Dack", while "Artoo's Bumpy Landing" was ridiculously easy to find. During this time, Tony moved to his Woodmount Drive home, and he did so while Michael was visiting me. Tony and Michael never met, and I doubt would have been friendly with each other if they had met. They would have been as incompatible as I now was with Michael.
Summer of 1980 was generally one of quite good quality, though it paled in comparison to all of my Douglastown summers and some of those to come in Fredericton. Tony was away for only a few weeks at the most. He and I together converted my basement into a hotel approximating its format of the summer of 1978, this time offering to our "customers" an audiotape heard with headphones, of either an extremely condensed, commercially available audio recording of Star Wars or the first 8 minutes of Destination: Moonbase Alpha, which I had wholly audiotape-recorded from a late-night transmission on ATV that June. Joey one day attended our hotel with a friend of his who shared my first name and surname initial. Tony had a T-shirt that he wore often in 1980 with a picture of a Jawa from Star Wars on it. I scoured the city's bookstores, sometimes with Tony in my company, sometimes not, for more television- and movie-related publications. One sunny, mid-summer day, I lost my bus fare and walked all of the way to home from the Fredericton Mall. I remember being particularly mesmerised by the Star Trek Photonovel of the episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and the eerie, silver-eyed transmuted Enterprise crew members featured in that very early entry in the Star Trek television series. I also discovered the James Blish Star Trek episode novelisations and sought to purchase all 12 volumes thereof. Volume 12 with its full episode appendix listing and James Blish obituary was the first of the numbered Star Trek books that I purchased one thundery evening at the Fredericton Mall, from which I rode a bus to home. I encountered Joey in the entrance to Zellers in the Fredericton Mall on one of my shopping expeditions and recall on numerous other such times in the Fredericton Mall sitting by myself at the canteen squares at designated places in the mall corridor and sipping a drink as I examined the book that I had bought from Beegie's Bookstore. After some searching to no avail, by way of on-foot transference from Fredericton Mall to Regent Street Mall, I found Star Trek 8, containing the novelisation of "Where No Man Has Gone Before", at Westminster Books in the Fredericton downtown core. Joey proposed to buy my Star Wars action figures to help me to pay for yet more of the books I sought to buy, but I declined his offer, in that I was not ready as yet to part with the toys that I had sought so avidly to acquire just one and two years earlier.
In 1980, I continued in my favouring of Tony over Joey in situations in which, it seemed to me, I was presented with an either-Tony-or-Joey decision. In 1979, I had at Tony's behest turned Joey away from my door, and in 1980, I remember one morning specifically during which Joey was with me and I walked with him in the direction of Tony's Woodmount Drive house and once there abandoned Joey so that I could, as prearranged, visit with Tony and compare Empire Strikes Back bubble gum card collections. I could kick myself a hundred times over for this. Hindsight is precise, of course, and my empathy now for Joey back then is quite strong. But in 1980, the state of things as I then perceived it was that Tony was my best friend, and the three of us, Tony, Joey, and myself, were not a compatible threesome. Tony did not want Joey in our company. It was not because Tony was possessive of me and wanted me to himself. Such a thing was contrary to Tony's persona. Rather, he did not like the significantly younger Joey and viewed Joey as an encumbrance to our shared concentration of attention upon whatever was of interest to us or whatever project on which we were occupied. One such was an audiotape rendition of The Muppet Movie with Tony and I providing the voices and Kermit the Frog's movie-introductory "Rainbow Connection" song requested by us of the radio station CIHI to open our version of the first theatrical film to star the exuberant characters of The Muppet Show; Tony and I, together with Mike J. had seen that movie one weekday afternoon in late summer of 1979 and were quite inspired by the cross-continental travel of discovery and ambition undertaken by Kermit the Frog and his growing group of friends and soul-mates. Whatever possessed us to want to do something so bizarre as to audiotape our voices as those of the Muppets, I do not know.
I ought to have been much, much more considerate of Joey's feelings and opted for him over Tony some of the time back then. I can only claim my ego-centric mindset, inability to see beyond my immediate concern of Tony being my best friend, and my then as yet still insufficiently developed capacity for relating to others' sensitivities as the combined cause of such deplorable conduct of mine. The day would come when Joey would be my preferred buddy, but in 1980 I still did not foresee that. The effect of my repeated "brush-offs" aggravated by the tendency of the neighbourhood children sharing his year of birth, to exclude him from their fun, saying, "No joiners," whenever he would be seen approaching them, had to be taxing to Joey's belief in people and to his sense of place in our suburban world- and would by 1981 change Joey into a quite volatile, often very angry youngster. And he would be avoided as much for the hostility he carried with him as for the unwillingness of the boys of his age to include him in their already-begun games. In the summer of 1981, I recall him being nasty toward me a couple of times, hitting, pulling me to the ground, and sitting on me, and my wanting to be away from him in consequence of such incidents.
By the early 1980s, I was finally starting to gain some measure of an ability to understand others' feelings, to empathise with others, to put myself "in their shoes". However, I was still anything but a genius when it came to "connecting the dots" between my words or actions, or lack thereof, and those of others. At best, I was only proficient at critically observing myself and situations through the eyes of others approximately 5 percent of the time, and that was when selfish considerations did not cloud my capacity for doing so. Inevitably, though, it became clear even to me that Joey was being unkindly and hurtfully banished by the boys of his age in our neighbourhood, and I did indeed think it unfair of them to act so snobby toward Joey. One weekday evening in the autumn of 1981, in a yard on Epworth Circle, which was adjacent to Woodmount Drive, I was standing and talking with Tony at a distance from the action before us, watching as the neighbourhood youngsters in Joey's age bracket, some five or six of them, were ganging upon Joey and dragging him on the ground and down a grassy and muddy slope. Joey rose to his feet, pulled up his jeans, glared fumingly at the others, and staggered toward his bicycle, departing the scene of his harsh exclusion as the boys jeered at him. Tony would have had assumed a dim view indeed of any immediate move on my part to comfort Joey or speak on Joey's behalf, and I was as yet unprepared to risk my still best friendship with Tony, to say nothing of the probable caustic backlash against me from Joey's detractors of that evening. Still, I felt a distinct feeling of kinship with Joey over how his peers were acting toward him, and felt like a first-class idiot for having turned him away or abandoned him in favour of Tony. Even I, dense as I was, understood what was inducing the sullen, explosive, aggressive edge to Joey. And beneath his layer of austerity was, it appeared, an enthusiasm for many imaginative works of entertainment and a desire to follow somewhat in my footsteps and, whenever circumstances- or my decisions- permitted, to be with me in whatever I was orchestrating.
I had my first ever yard sale on Saturday, October 31, 1981. Joey had seen me preparing for that event on the day before it. Later in the afternoon on said Saturday, several hours after I had ended my yard sale, following a vending of many items such as encyclopedias, a complete set of stereo equipment, several books, and many of my Star Wars toys, I was walking by Joey's house and saw him in his driveway having his own small-scale yard sale. A very affecting effort of duplication of my activity of the day. Joey and I then went to my house, where, in my basement, Joey glanced over the pile of books that I had been unsuccessful at selling at the yard sale, and he was quite surprised to learn that I had relieved myself of virtually all of my Star Wars action figures. When I, with the proceeds from my yard sale together with my parents' generosity, had an RCA VideoDisc player atop my television set together with a growing amount of VideoDisc software and had begun showing my collected movies and television episodes- at no monetary fee- to all comers, Joey was keenly appreciative of the opportunity to at last really see movies and television shows as presented at my home. The formidable persona that he had adapted to himself would dissipate as he enjoyed what was being shown to him- and others- via my VideoDisc player. Only a day or two later, however, he would be pulling to the ground and pummelling disrespectful schoolmates of his. He had become a very complicated and dynamic personality. And the attention that I began giving to him in that autumn and the following winter and spring was noticed by him and guardedly reciprocated on an occasion-by-occasion basis.
Before early 1980, the McCorry floor model colour television had always been situated in our living room. My mother in January, 1980 decided to experiment with putting the floor model television in one of our house's back rooms (the one in which my bed was not located). The television was there when the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episodes, "Cruise Ship to the Stars" and "Space Vampire", aired for the first time. It was back in the living room for awhile and then was returned to a back room den placement sometime in March. I remember watching the Edge of Night episode with unhinged actress Nola Madison (played by Kim Hunter) confessing to the murder of wealthy socialite Margo Dorn (Ann Williams), on our television when it was in its second den position, a position that it would occupy until late 1981, when we moved it to the other side of the den. That floor model television would never again be in our living room. As the den changed rooms a few times, the television did, too, but it stayed in the den until April, 1984, when it was in the same room as my bed. Everything seen on the screen of that television from March, 1980 onward was seen from somewhere in our house's back rooms.
Tony and I had summer, 1980/spring, 1981 Cine-Audios in my bedroom, and I used my film-projector-like reel-to-reel audiotape machine to play my sound-only movies, among them The Bad News Bears in "Breaking Training", the James Bond thriller, Live and Let Die, and The Black Hole. There was a boy named Jason who at one of my Cine-Audio shows asked for a glass of Coca-Cola and promised to pay the 25 cent fee that I applied to it at a later time, and by my calculation of compound interest on his unpaid debt, he owes me a fortune. In summer of 1980, we had a new addition to our Linden Crescent surroundings, name of Troy, who was three or four years junior to me and who seemed to many of the boys of the age group of 4-6 years younger than myself, to be quite the epitome of the Arthur Fonzarelli (of television's Happy Days) brand of self-assuredness and "cool" worldliness. As was the case with Andre, I found that loyalties among younger associates tended to shift like a slide-rule, depending on whose disposition seemed most "in line" with their most current conception of the desirable older person. Troy and I did socialise quite cordially, and he went with me one day on the bus to shop at King's Place mall and at the malls atop the Fredericton South hill. Troy also attended my summer, 1980 Cine-Audio presentations of The Bad News Bears in "Breaking Training" and The Black Hole. As has already been stated, The Black Hole had been audiotape-recorded from an audio speaker at a drive-in theatre, and all other movies in my collection of audiotapes had been audiotape-recorded from broadcast on television, The Bad News Bears in "Breaking Training" and Live and Let Die being two such movies.
In September of 1980, I returned to Nashwaaksis Junior High for Grade 9 rather hopeful that now that Tony was in Grade 7 and therefore also going to that same school, that I would have a visible companion and ally at last and that my detractors would desist from their intimidation and invalidation. But to my dismay, Tony chose for several weeks to associate with members of his age group and not to be with me in the school yard or in the school foyer in the mornings. There was distinct consternation on my part about that. By the halfway point of that school year, Tony was associating with me in the mornings in addition to walking with me after school to either of our homes. But I was anything but inspired by the length of time that had to pass before Tony would be seen with me by the student body of Nashwaaksis Junior High. Grade 9 was better than Grade 8 for me, thank goodness, although it could still be very taxing indeed upon one's patience and coping-with-ostracism capacity. A smug pair of studious minions of the school's "brainy" clique, named Arvind and Mike, the latter of whom was my local newspaper carrier, used to delight in spreading gossip about me, including false allegations of my asking stupid questions of our Health teacher, and in telling me that the school's most notorious bully wanted to pound my face into the back of my head. For several weeks in the spring of 1981, Arvind and Mike had nearly everybody in the school, including many persons whom I had never met and who by all rights ought to have no knowledge of, much less any quarrel with, me, to address me with the nickname of "Cosmic", which was meant to be synonymous with "nerd" or "geek". Until Craig with some choice words in my defence in 1982 consigned both Mike and Arvind to their minuscule, contemptible place and silenced them once and for all, my two enemies were relentless in their ridiculing ways.
On Sunday mornings, WLBZ, the Bangor, Maine NBC affiliate television station received on our Fredericton cable television dial, was in 1980 and 1981 rather interesting in what it offered on its local, i.e. non-television-network, schedule. On Sunday mornings, WLBZ's programming day commenced with some religious evangelist content, followed by The Little Rascals, The Jackie Gleason Show, and 10 A.M. movies such as The Alien Factor and No Survivors, Please, interspersed by some rather downbeat Public Service Announcements. There was a time in 1980 when Bugs Bunny and other Warner Brothers cartoons were shown on WLBZ on Sunday mornings at 11:30. "Hurdy-Gurdy Hare", "Bowery Bugs", "Napoleon Bunny-Part", "Which is Witch?", "Rabbit Hood", and the Road Runner cartoon, "Guided Muscle", were some of the cartoons offered. The Great Money Movie was WLBZ's weekday suppertime attraction, with such diverse and delectable selections as the Blondie movies from the 1940s, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, two-hour Planet of the Apes television movies culled from episodes of the 1974 television series, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century two-part episodes edited into television movies, The Time Machine (1960), and The Pink Panther (1964) and Return of the Pink Panther, the latter preempted by coverage of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II.
But in the main, for me, something was lacking with television circa 1980. Newly-produced Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Galactica: 1980, and The Incredible Hulk were a "mixed bag". Galactica: 1980 was abysmal. The Incredible Hulk (which was shown on Friday nights when WAGM would deign to patch into its CBS television network feed) held my interest, though many of its episodes were rather run-of-the-mill fare. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, though mostly off-Earth in setting, was not of a calibre approximating that of Space: 1999. I felt distinctly detached (and especially feel so in retrospect) from what was then on the slate of currently produced television. Most particularly that in the prime-time broadcast hours. Even such ancillary interests as those aforementioned were not of the same effect upon me as my Era 2 favourites. And this, together with the rather detached style of friendship offered by Tony, does tend to produce something less than a sentimental banking of memory. My favourite television series of the 1970s had, one by one, been removed from broadcast. I would fantasise about their triumphant return as widely watched and appreciated reruns, but for the time being, such was only fantasy- and I clung to it as much as I did to the memories and my appreciation of the fancied works. To be sure, my longing for Douglastown and my way of life there was conjoined with my aesthetic and imaginative fondness for the likes of Space: 1999, Spiderman, Rocket Robin Hood, The Pink Panther Show, etc.. Meanwhile, I settled for The Incredible Hulk, thrilling to the anger-triggered metamorphoses of Dr. David Banner, and thinking about the circumstances of those transfigurations on the Saturdays after each Friday night Incredible Hulk viewing. WAGM would frustrate me by preempting this often formulaic but always interesting television show at the most inopportune times. For instance, I did not see the first half of the most famous two-part episode about Banner and his alter-ego battling another man's evil "Hulk" creature, and it was not until 2001 that I was able to see the 2-hour episode in which Banner marries a hypnotherapist played by Mariette Hartley (of the Polaroid camera commercials) and "Homecoming", in which Banner goes to his childhood home on Thanksgiving. Le Mutant, a weird and wonderful, moody 7-part television series of near-future Earthly intrigue on CBC French on Saturday evenings at 8 P.M., and WLBZ's servings of Planet of the Apes, amongst other things, on The Great Money Movie helped to sustain me over this for the most part somewhat dismal time. Many of my childhood favourites were absent from television in my area during the turn of the decade from 1970s to 1980s, and that was for sure a drawback to the triumphant gaining of cable television at home. Bugs Bunny was of diminishing interest as I had evidently exhausted the amount of before-unseen cartoons on CBS' 90-minute Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show, the package of cartoons thereon becoming tedious as the same cartoon shorts were offered year after year, while several of the cartoons that I had known on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBC and wished that I could again see, seemed never to appear anymore. And others were severely butchered by censors. WLBZ's syndicated Bugs Bunny cartoon broadcasts, although with different cartoon selections from those on CBS, were finished almost as soon as they were slotted, and the transmission quality of WLBZ left much to be desired in any event. Signal was often missing when weather conditions were at all inclement. And if mid-summer atmospheric conditions were conducive to it, interference from television signals from distant broadcasters could overpower the transmissions of WLBZ, and those of WVII and WAGM also.
For Space: 1999, all what I had were the recorded-in-1980 audiotape of Destination: Moonbase Alpha, very few surviving audiotapes (e.g. of "Dragon's Domain" and "War Games") of CBC English's broadcasts, some 30 audiotape-recordings off of CBC French, the episode novelisation books and four original novels, a few colour comic books and a black-and-white comic magazine (Charlton Comics' Volume 4), my deteriorating steel toy Eagle purchased from Levine's department store in 1978, and a few other gradually disintegrating items, plus temporally receding memories of the visual presentations on television. Every attempt to persuade a broadcaster to transmit a repeat run of this television series was fruitless (as yet), and I was frustrated even in my effort to purchase Starlog Publications' Moonbase Alpha Technical Notebook via mail order. Apart from some successes in the Toronto bookstores during my December, 1980 time in Toronto, Space: 1999 was becoming elusive in any capacity. Starlog Magazine, which had never been satisfactorily favourable, let alone faithfully accurate, to the fabulous universe traversed by Moonbase Alpha, eliminated its "Gerry Anderson Space Report" feature in early 1981, replacing it with something called "In Syndication" that was promised to be inclusive of Space: 1999 but which never mentioned it for as long as I kept attentive to what Starlog was printing. I found that Space: 1999 tended to be a guarantee of frustration and heartbreak, and I dared not bring a Space: 1999 book to school, for that would amount to an open invitation to be berated without mercy. Star Trek and Star Wars were considered reason enough to look disdainfully upon me as Arthur Fonzarelli did upon Ralph Malph in Happy Days. It was truly a dismal time for an aficionado of Space: 1999 and outer space fantasy, and the other entertainments on which I had been weaned and that I had grown to love. Even Star Trek had been missing in New Brunswick for a number of years, with the releases to the theatres of Star Trek- The Motion Picture in 1979 and Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan in 1982 probably raising many an eyebrow and young person's query as to what Star Trek had been.
Autumn of 1981 was to witness a positive reversal of fortune on my yearning to again see on television my favourites of bygone years, with the return of both Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood to the televisual airwaves of New Brunswick. ATV had evidently forfeited the broadcast rights to both of those animated cartoon television shows, allowing CHSJ to purchase such rights. Spiderman became a weekday afternoon attraction on CHSJ, with Rocket Robin Hood being again a far-fetched and delightful facet of Saturday morning television viewing.
For the time being, in 1980 and early 1981, I still had my intensive interest in The Empire Strikes Back, and on television there was many a James Bond movie to watch. The Spy Who Loved Me, an aquatic Moonraker, the second James Bond film that I experienced (Moonraker being the first), was audiotape-recorded by me off of WVII on a Sunday evening while I was on Grade 9, and I found the Christopher Wood novelisation for it (I already had Moonraker's novelisation) on the shelves of United Book Store late one slightly inclement Sunday afternoon. By 1981, I had bought every Ian Fleming James Bond book. Each one of those had a front cover with a woman sitting or reclining on a giant gun.
Again, my mother, father, and I went to Toronto, in December, 1980, with a railway train being our method of transport to and from Canada's largest city, and we stayed at the Delta Chelsea Inn, near to Yonge Street. I combed the first- and second-hand bookshops, again for anything to do with Space: 1999, and also for anything pertaining to my newer interests in the Star Wars and James Bond films. In 1980 and 1981, I was amassing a huge collection of television and movie "tie-in" books, which were mostly resold in October, 1981 at my first yard sale, to fund my investment into videodisc and videotape collecting. In addition to repurchasing several Space: 1999 episode novelisation paperbacks while in Toronto in 1980, I located and bought some hardcover Space: 1999 novels (Alien Seed, Android Planet, and Rogue Planet) at World's Biggest Bookstore on a street perpendicular to Yonge. One or two of the repurchased paperbacks were also procured there. And after an afternoon's trek with my father to the C.N. Tower, I entered a collector's store called Silver Snail, from which I purchased Starlog Issue Number Two. Long had I sought that issue of Starlog for it was dedicated foremost to Space: 1999, the only issue in Starlog's whole publishing history to concentrate chiefly upon Space: 1999. And from a Coles Bookstore on Yonge, I acquired the James Bond book, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, and Starlog's Science Fiction Aliens and Fantastic Worlds "Photo Guidebooks".
I bought some Star Trek books also. All told, I was rather happy with what I had acquired in those days that we were again in Toronto. On our railroad transportation back to New Brunswick, while we were eating in the train's dining car, I was given by a conductor a cardboard representation of a VIA Rail passenger train car, which I rather fancied and retained for years. We returned to home to find that the first snowfall of that year had hit Fredericton, and we had to wade our way through the snow in the driveway to reach our house. My father cleared the snow from behind the car, and he and I went to a kennel to collect Frosty.
In January of 1981, I had braces put onto my teeth. On January 6, the day after my birthday, I was to go direct from school in the afternoon to my dentist's clinic (from one torture chamber to another) and endure an ordeal of multiple tooth fillings, requiring a series of piercingly agonising needles in tender areas, few of which were sufficient to numb the harsh and seemingly interminable pain inflicted by the drill. I remember going to my grandparents' house with my mother after this Spanish Inquisition, watching the climax of a stabbing-with-hand-puppet murder mystery on The Edge of Night. I remember being extremely relieved to be through my dental surgeries, although I had another appointment with the same dentist a week later for more of the same. I next had to lay on my orthodontist's cot for an entire morning as the braces were applied to my teeth, and then went with my father in the middle of a snowstorm to the Sobeys grocery store in the Fredericton Mall for foods that would be easy for me to chew with the metallic encumbrances in my mouth, and then my memory is of being at home, trying to adjust to my new condition while watching the "Bedrock Hillbillies" episode of The Flintstones and feeling relieved to not have to go to school in the afternoon because the heavy snowfall that day had resulted in cancellation of the day's latter half's classes.
I continued to go to school only for the amount of time required, involving myself in no extracurricular activities. Participation in Scouts, learning how to skate, and artistic undertakings all "fell by the wayside" in the move to Fredericton. I had come to detest school in a way, but my way thereof was rather different from that of my peers. They hated school because they were, by and large, uninterested in learning and wanted to laze around. I wanted to learn. But not in an oppressive environment where I had to maintain a low profile for fear of being verbally or physically assailed. And not in so heavily regimented a curriculum as was imposed at Nashwaaksis Junior High. Like everyone else, I was ecstatic at the possibility of a prolonged teachers' work stoppage starting in mid-June, 1981, when I was in Grade 9. There were only a couple of weeks remaining in that school year, but the less time that I had to spend at school, the better, especially when pleasant weather had arrived. I was also hopeful that the teachers' walk-out would delay school's opening in the autumn, for I was anything but eager to go to the enormous Fredericton High. But to the bitter dismay of all of us, the walk-out only lasted one day, a Friday, and the announcement came on the following Sunday evening that weekend-long negotiations had resulted in a settlement of the labour dispute. With some pique over this unexpected and unwelcome development, I stewed as I watched and audiotape-recorded The Pink Panther Strikes Again on its ABC television network broadcast that Sunday evening.
At home, I persisted in having Cine-Audios for the children in the neighbourhood. And in June, 1981, in the midst of the teachers' labour dispute, I started a weekend matinee and weekday evening series of "one-man" performances (with partial audio provided by cassette audiotape) of such things as Star Wars, Earthquake, and some James Bond movies, as the basement was converted into a theatre. Actual video shows became possible in November, 1981, when a videodisc player was within purchasing reach (videocassette recorders at that time were still above a thousand dollars in price, while RCA CED videodisc machines were close to 800 dollars). But the limited selection of videodisc titles on the market left me frustrated. Goldfinger was shown to excess, and my friends and I grew quickly jaded by it.
Since his moving to Woodmount Drive, Tony's presence in my life had become less and less prominent, at all times of the year. Summers seldom were our best time, but July and August of 1981 were abysmal. By 1981, I scarcely ever saw Tony on weekends. Practically never on Saturdays, and for at the most a couple of hours on Sundays. On weekdays, except for the few evenings in June of 1981 when I had the James Bond play performances in my basement with which Tony assisted me, I only saw Tony for an hour after school, or in the summers an hour or maybe two hours after lunch. Somewhat more than that if we were going to see the occasional movie together at one of the Fredericton theatres. While Family Feud was being shown in the summer on WVII, the Bangor, Maine ABC television network affiliate at 1 P.M., Tony would venture from his house to mine for a routine visit. And we would sit and talk for the umpteenth time about our shared assessment of some movie or television show or about there being nobody in our midst with whom to play a baseball game or some such thing. If I wanted to see Tony in the evening or on summer mornings, I would have to go in search of him, sometimes finding him with his brother and his brother's friends. There were yet still some good times to be had with Tony. On the first Friday of summer in 1981, just two days after the school year had finally concluded, Tony and I went by bus to the mall area atop Fredericton's southern hill to see the matinee premiere of the James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only, at the Plaza Cinema 1. I had read that movie's comic book adaptation during the final day of school that year, and although it diverged significantly from its predecessor, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only still had adventure in exotic locations and plenty of action. Tony and I sat in the sunshine on the concrete steps leading to the Plaza Cinemas, and were admitted to our destination theatre in ample time to orient ourselves and ready for the exciting spy fare. We need not have worried about securing seating in an optimum part of the theatre, for the crowd at the Plaza Cinemas that afternoon was quite small. After the movie, we went to Orange Julius in the Fredericton Mall for a hot dog and then rode a filled-to-capacity rush hour bus to home. From that day at the movie with Tony, I had reason to think that summer of 1981 might be one of quality. Alas, it was to be mostly lonely and mainly boring.
Tony and Steven's family went to Toronto and were gone for almost all of July and some of August. Prior to that, my grandparents and parents and I went by car to visit with my uncle, aunt, and cousins in Elliot Lake, Ontario. That was a memorable vacation in that I watched many television programmes that were no longer seen in New Brunswick. On Sunday at 5 P.M., the Global television network's affiliate in Sudbury was showing the same episodes of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour that had been run by the CBC in the early 1970s. Instalment 18, with "The Windblown Hare", "Tree Cornered Tweety", etc., was telecast during my 1981 stay at Elliot Lake. We also went to the lake, picnicked on Kentucky Fried Chicken, and ventured in a motorboat onto the lake. Our travel to and from Elliot Lake brought us through North Bay and Sudbury, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec. And also Quebec City along the beautiful coast of the St. Lawrence River. I sought to buy some books during our passage through some of these places, but all that I was able to find was Bjo Trimble's Star Trek Concordance. Frustratingly, no Space: 1999 books could be found at all, and I had to adapt to that as a sign of the times, Space: 1999's heyday being years in the past. Travel was not going to be any longer necessarily lucrative in my quest for anything Space: 1999. At least, not with travel to modest-sized cities like North Bay and Sudbury. Or even Montreal. Once back in Fredericton, I languished away countless summer days, excruciatingly bored, almost always by myself. After Tony had returned from Toronto and showed to me all of the science fiction and space fantasy materials that he had acquired there, we did not do much. Several 1981 summer afternoons were characterised by the two of us or just me sitting on my front doorstep and complaining about the lack of happenings on Linden Crescent. The two of us did several times go to the Nashwaaksis Twin Cinemas to view again and again our film favourites, The Empire Strikes Back and Superman II. Joey, myself, and some other young inhabitants of Linden Crescent a few times played Tic Tac Dough in sand, one of us acting as the host, with a hidden dragon, location known only to the host, that surprised the contestant looking for a Tic and a Tac on nine squares. On the whole, though, the summer of 1981 was one of dull lethargy, with high school looming on the calendar in early September.
Near the end of summer, 1981, I discovered an interesting storyline on General Hospital, the four o'clock daytime serial preceding The Edge of Night on the ABC television network. John Colicos, best known as the evil Baltar on Battlestar Galactica, was Mikkos Cassadine, a wealthy industrialist with an underground tropical island headquarters from which he hatched his apocalyptic plan to freeze Port Charles, New York with his invention- carbonic snow. The television show's three heroes, Luke Spencer, Laura Webber, and Robert Scorpio, infiltrated the Cassadine lair to stop Mikkos' diabolical scheme, with Mikkos being locked and frozen within his own snow-manufacturing apparatus. Tony and I revelled in this science fiction scenario, which continued into September, and Spiderman web-swung back into action in his classic 1960s television series rerun Monday through Friday at 4:30 P.M. starting in September, 1981.
Tony and I went one day near the end of the summer of 1981 to the newly-opened Wendy's restaurant on Prospect Street and then to the matinee showing at the Plaza Cinema Two of Under the Rainbow, a comedy movie about midgets causing calamity in a hotel of the 1930s; it was of interest to us only because Carrie Fisher of the Star Wars movies was in it and because the movie trailer for it had been shown in advance of the re-screening that summer of The Empire Strikes Back, of which Tony and I indulged ourselves at Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 in August of 1981, and which I had sought in vain to audiotape at a drive-in theatre performance later that same month, the audiotape recorder going haywire at the start of the Bespin Cloud City part of the movie. After our viewing of Under the Rainbow, Tony and I walked all of the way from the Plaza Cinemas to our homes, down York Street to downtown Fredericton and across the Westmorland Street Bridge (then only recently built and as yet unopen to car traffic).
A handful of things aside, summer of 1981 had been eminently dismissible. For me to not want a repetition of it should go without saying. I had been friends with Tony, with him my best friend, for a number of years. Although he and I had been separate for far too many summer days, the amount of time we did spend in each other's company from 1978 to 1981 had been quite substantial, enough for us to know each other's perspectives, impressions, and opinions on practically everything, and so much of these were simpatico that it was as though we were talking to ourselves for much of the time. Add to this a diminishing number of newly produced entertainments at which for us to marvel and derive fresh insight, and a run of days during which he and I, if we were together, did little else but lament about our boredom. And the outcome was for me a powerful awareness of fatigue and ennui with what had been the status quo for several years, along with a wish for something different- and a much better summer to come in 1982 than what I had endured in 1981. And Joey, a few years older than he had been when I first became acquainted with him in 1979, came back into the equation as a likely buddy of some considerable importance.
In several respects Joey was quite the anti-Tony. He was not inclined, as Tony was, to reject people for being affectionate. Tony was increasingly reserved in how he responded to me and to things of shared interest, and had in any case never been much given to expressions of appreciation and fondness for one's friendship. Or mine, anyway. Joey, however, would speak- or act- his mind; if he did not care for the way that people were behaving toward him or toward persons or things that he respected, he would physically express his discontent, and if he liked what was being said or done, he would demonstrate his esteem with a hug. There was a refreshing forthrightness about Joey. He would state his affection as freely as he would any disaffection. He was as yet uninitiated in most of what I enjoyed to watch, and I found it quite positive and reinvigorating to be with him as he experienced many of those entertainments for the first time ever, with me by his side and in fact providing to him the opportunity to view many of those entertainments.
In the winter months of 1982 as I was having VideoDisc shows for my younger neighbourhood cohorts, Joey was willing to go that proverbial extra mile to be there for me "ahead of the pack" and to "lend a hand" in my preparations for a show. It is now clear to me that he wanted more than anything to be my assistant or partner on all such endeavours. Truth is that he reminded me more of Douglastown and of the quality of friendship there than did anybody else in Fredericton. In the 1980s, Joey was the only friend who consistently called me on the telephone. Tony had abandoned that procedure by 1980. In fact, by 1983, Tony had completely stopped visiting me at my house, whereas Joey did so- and daily in the summers. Joey's ascension to the level of best buddy was the most defining element of an era change.
The school year of 1981-2 as I was in Grade 10, coming home in the afternoons to watch Spiderman and planning Sunday afternoon screenings of selections from my videodisc collection, was when my rediscovery of Joey was in progress. I had not been looking forward to going to Fredericton High School, and it was, as I expected, an overwhelmingly huge place of often difficult learning, within which I became quite lost in the crowd, and as usual a loner therein. Fredericton High School was at that time the only senior high school in the city. Its size was dictated by the need to house and to educate every school-going aged-15-and-above youth in the Fredericton region. In its academic wing, it had three expansive floors of classrooms, including chemistry and biology laboratories and the like, and its Industrial Arts and Business Administration wings were two-storied. It had, of course, a large gymnasium, a cafeteria, and a library. It even had a bookstore. The washrooms had giant sprinklers spewing hot water that were activated by a press of a foot on a lever. I had to be bussed to and from this hulking school every day, and until the Westmorland Street Bridge was opened to motor vehicle traffic in October, 1981, the always congested Carleton Street Bridge meant slow progress to school each morning.
My average mark early in Grade 10 dropped by at least fifteen percent from Grade 9. My friends were in junior high or elementary school, and I was separated from them all day. For several months in Grade 10, school bus three did not bring me home until about 4 P.M., and I had only an hour before supper with which to socialise and/or to watch television. I soon quit riding bus 3 and boarded a much-swifter bus 101, with which I was able to reach my home by 3:40 P.M.. I was transported to school in the mornings in Grade 10 by bus 91 at the foot of Melvin Street. Different school bus routes were instituted in the autumn of 1982.
For the most part, I sleepwalked through my high school years, especially Grade 11, which I scarcely remember, usually managing to earn respectable but not outstanding grades. By that point of time, I was bored by almost the whole thing. Only modern history, geography, and Grade 11 English (reading Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451) were interesting against the tedium of teenage life in which I just did not feel that I belonged. I was pestered and teased by a few of my homeroom peers in Grade 10, but after that, I was left to finish my school years without further unpleasant incident. I devoted my attention to my friends around home, all of whom years younger than me, by playing weekend or weekday evening street baseball, showing movies and television series episodes, and entertaining them at home.
The daily ritual of going to high school involved riding yellow bus in the morning, eating lunch at Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King (the Fredericton outlet opened while I was writing my final examinations in Grade 10 in June, 1982), or Orange Julius (in the Fredericton Mall, across Prospect Street from the high school), and scrambling, with no time to return to my locker, to catch bus 101 (which departed Fredericton High many minutes before bus 3) to home at day's end. In the years that I was in Grades 10 and 11, I always came home anxious to see what episode of Spiderman would be aired at 4:30 on CHSJ. I was also very addicted to the crime-drama serial, The Edge of Night, which still ran at 5 o'clock.
I remember in Grade 10 braving the bitterly cold late autumn and winter winds of Fredericton's Prospect Street as I walked from Fredericton High School to Wendy's restaurant for a chili lunch, thinking en route thereto about what Spiderman episode I had seen the day previous on CHSJ and which one might be transmitted that afternoon. Some days, I went to Prospect Street McDonald's for a McChicken and recall counting the minutes of my final morning class (Mathematics) until the intercom would sound its dismissal signal, and then race to the McDonald's franchise near the school before the onslaught of teenagers of similar appetite descended upon the harried personnel of that fast food restaurant. I would be at home at 4:30, with Tony usually with me following his day in Grade 8 at Nashwaaksis Junior High, as the two of us watched Spiderman.
The return of Spiderman to television in New Brunswick was the first time that an entertainment from my earlier childhood had achieved a comeback of this kind. The Mikkos Cassadine storyline on General Hospital was finishing, and Tony and I were delighted to have Spidey's crime-fighting or jaunts to otherworldly locales to anticipate each and every weekday. As ATV had begun doing toward the end of its run of this television series years previous, so CHSJ continued the practice; by this, I refer to the jumbled order of episode broadcast. The first two episodes to air on CHSJ in September, 1981 were "The Menace of Mysterio" and "Horn of the Rhino", and then some of the double-story first season episodes. Tony and I wanted to see the Ralph Bakshi-produced, "pier" episodes of Seasons 2 and 3 and were growing rather impatient for those. On the Friday of the second week, Season 2's "Thunder Rumble", an episode seldom having been shown on ATV, was telecast on CHSJ, and with that showing, the episodes of Seasons 2 and 3 started becoming more prolific on the Saint John broadcaster's airwaves. "Down to Earth" of Season 3 was transmitted on the following Monday. Next, there was a mixture of "web" (Season 1) and "pier" (Seasons 2 and 3) episodes for the few weeks to come, until the broadcast format settled into a "web" episode on Wednesdays and "pier" episodes on the other four weekdays. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the episodes selected for transmission. "Spiderman Meets Dr. Noah Boddy"/"The Fantastic Fakir" and "Fountain of Terror"/"Fiddler On the Loose" were repeated quite early in CHSJ's run of the television series, and "Down to Earth" and "Spiderman Meets Skyboy" also were shown a second time before several other episodes were aired once on CHSJ. To Tony's and my frustration, many of the episodes that we most wanted to see kept being held back, as an augmenting number of episode repeats and "triple-peats" and "quadruple-peats" were foisted upon us. We did not know in advance what episode would be airing on any given day. It was not until after opening sequence and song that we discovered what CHSJ would be presenting to us. "Criminals in the Clouds" was shown on Remembrance Day, and "Diamond Dust" two days after that, and between them CHSJ's repeat of "Return of the Flying Dutchman"/"Farewell Performance". By this time, repeats were increasing in frequency, and "web" episode broadcasts were becoming more common than the Wednesday-only offering of them that had been experienced for close to a month. CHSJ did not show "Up From Nowhere", "Swing City", "The Golden Rhino"/"Blueprint For Crime", "Rhino"/"The Madness of Mysterio", "King Pinned", and "The Origin of Spiderman" until the repeats were upon us in a multiple-days-per-week way. And by mid-December, first-run-on-CHSJ episodes were nowhere to be found. My favourite episode, "Blotto", had not yet been on CHSJ, and nor had "Rollarama", "Specialists and Slaves", "To Cage a Spider", "Diet of Destruction"/"The Witching Hour", and some others, whilst Tony and I were becoming annoyed (with plenty of tongue-clicks and sighs) at the tiresome appearances of "Horn of the Rhino", "The Night of the Villains"/"Here Comes Trubble", "Thunder Rumble", "Down to Earth", and "Spiderman Meets Skyboy".
The winter of 1981-2 was the snowiest and coldest one through which I had ever lived. On a couple of consecutive days in January, 1982, the temperature was minus 33 degrees Celsius in the daytime, with a wind chill factor registering at fifteen degrees colder than that. School was cancelled on those days due to the cold, and on one of them, a Tuesday, "Kilowatt Kaper"/"The Peril of Parafino" was the Spiderman instalment on CHSJ- an instalment that had not been on CHSJ until then. Tony was not with me on that day, and nor was he there in my television room on the next day, Wednesday, during which my hopes for a trend of first-run-on-CHSJ episodes were seemingly dashed with the "quadruple-peat" of "The Night of the Villains"/"Here Comes Trubble". The day after that was Thursday, January 21, 1982. My locker partner at school, one of my ridiculers in Grade 10, hid my snow boots, delaying my exit from the school so that I would be too late to board the early-departing-for-Nashwaaksis bus 101. I had to wait outside in a queue in the cold for bus 3, which was later than it usually was. I did not arrive at home until close to 4:15, and I was fuming with indignation and resentment. I sat in front of my television by myself as an advertisement for Walt Disney on Sunday evenings preceded the start of that Thursday afternoon's Spiderman episode. And it was "Blotto"! Its first time on CHSJ, and first time for me to see it again since 1978. My anger over what had happened at school shifted instantaneously to elation, faster than the title card for said episode could disappear to reveal the inaugural city-buildings-from-above perspective of the long-desired Spidey story. Tony was not with me on that day, but that was consistent with his history with me, for he had not been in my company either when my favourite, scary Warner Brothers cartoons were offered on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show. He had not even at his home seen that day's broadcast of "Blotto" and was dismayed when I informed him on the next day that it had aired at long last on CHSJ. That next day, Friday, "The One-Eyed Idol"/"Fifth Avenue Phantom", another first-run-on-CHSJ Spidey television series entry, was transmitted, before the eyes of Tony and myself. It looked most encouraging that on the week to follow the other hitherto withheld-on-CHSJ episodes would finally surface. "Rollarama" did rumble through the airwaves of CHSJ on the Tuesday, and I remember thinking that "Specialists and Slaves" would come next on the Wednesday, but, no, on that day on Spiderman was the "triple-peat" of "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension". No further first-run-on-CHSJ episodes came our way until a worn and faded, splice-riddled "Specialists and Slaves" emerged from who knows where during March Break week. "The Terrible Triumph of Doctor Octopus"/"Magic Malice" was unceremoniously telecasted for the first time on CHSJ later still, in mid-to-late March. Tony still was not with me when "Blotto" aired a second time- and then a third- on CHSJ in the spring months of 1982. Curiously, one of the first episodes that Joey watched with me on live broadcast (i.e. not a videotaped recording of mine) was, indeed, "Blotto".
A word now about CHSJ's quality of presentation of the Spiderman episodes. Dreadful, most of the time. Blotches of black tape on the film prints in advance of every commercial interval, splices galore on many of the films, hairs on the films, inconsistent colour saturation, and some episodes having their "Next Week" promotional part, but most not. Almost each time that an episode would air, it would be from a different film print. The third broadcast of "Blotto" was from a film print missing the episode title card. One of the myriad-of-splices film prints, of "Super Swami"/"The Birth of Microman", had the two stories therein reversed in sequence- and the title card of "Super Swami" gone.
In autumn of 1981, my parents finally relented to my agitating for a full audio-visual medium for collecting, archiving, and showing to friends and others of my neighbourhood my favourite entertainments. However, videocassette recorders were still in the thousand dollar price range, and when the RCA corporation unveiled what it touted to be the future for video technology, the RCA VideoDisc, that was supposed to be superior in audio and video to magnetic media, more durable, and most importantly for me at that time, more affordable, I jumped at the opportunity to join the VideoDisc revolution as my first foray into the realm of the videophile, especially when I read on a pamphlet what was slated for release onto RCA VideoDisc within the next two years, including every James Bond and Peter Sellers Pink Panther movie. Goldfinger, which I had yet to see, was already in the stores, along with the original Pink Panther (the one, released in 1964, with David Niven as the Phantom). These were in my first wave of VideoDisc purchases together with my RCA VideoDisc player, which was bought on Saturday, November 28, 1981 from Wacky Wheatley's Television and Stereo, at that time in the Smythe Street K-Mart Plaza. It was bliss to have at my fingertips the means to watch something whenever I wanted to do so, however many times that I wanted to do so. My mother and father struggled to pull me away from the television set for meals and to do my school homework. There I was in my television room that weekend with my VideoDisc player and purchased VideoDiscs of Goldfinger, two Star Trek volumes containing in sum "The Menagerie: Pt. 1", "The Menagerie: Pt. 2", "The City On the Edge of Forever", and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", The Pink Panther, The Love Bug, and a Charlie Brown television special compilation, and my parents insisted on an adult-oriented movie for them to see for the first time, and what they selected was Airplane!.
Virtually every single one of those VideoDiscs was defective, some worse so than others. They had skips, places where the video and audio would jump rapidly through a scene or through several scenes. The flaw to the RCA VideoDisc format was all too evident that first weekend. The VideoDiscs were read by a needle like that on a record player, and even though the VideoDiscs came within a cartridge protecting them from exposure to dust and fingerprints, the tiniest scratch caused by stacking during shipping or negligence at the manufacturing plant, would trigger frenetic skipping. Wacky Wheatley's offered to replace the problem VideoDiscs, and the replacements, most of them of better quality, gradually trickled into my possession over my pre-Christmas school examination period, Christmas vacation, and early January. A second wave of purchases included Planet of the Apes (the original theatrical movie with Charlton Heston in the lead role, that I had seen for the first time on television- on WVII to be precise- on the afternoon of Sunday, December 24, 1978), The Bad News Bears, Star Trek- The Motion Picture, and Shane. Planet of the Apes was in terrible condition, and no satisfactory replacement was ever received.
I had a first time ever bona fide movie performance, picture and sound, in my television room on Sunday, November 29. It was The Love Bug, the endearing Walt Disney Productions film about a speedy Volkswagen with a mind of its own. Joey was in attendance at the show with two other boys. Tony had helped to bring viewers to the show. I had sent him to Joey's place, among others. Joey agreed to come, and he approached me at a run when he saw me at the foot of my driveway; he was that excited at the prospect of at last being able to watch a movie at my house- and for no admission fee, of course. Through the showing of the movie, Joey was periodically examining the shell cartridge in which the VideoDisc rested when not in use, studying its every detail, as I observed his curiosity with appropriate blend of amusement and affection, and he glanced at me frequently with an approving smile.
For Christmas that year, 1981, I received some movie theatre tickets and signs bought by my parents from Paul Burden Limited on Fredericton's Queen Street, and to my chin-dropping surprise, a motion picture film camera. Had I received a gift such as the latter six or seven years previous, I would have been euphoric, but by 1981 my interest in creating and showing my own film reels had been completely replaced by my ardent enthusiasm for assembling a personal library of favourite movies and television shows on a collectible audio-video format. Still, the thought behind my parents' gift was profoundly affecting.
In the afternoon of a snowy New Year's Day, 1982, I had a further VideoDisc presentation, consisting of two Charlie Brown television specials, You're in Love, Charlie Brown and There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown, and the James Bond opus, Goldfinger. Joey was again there, this time with a group of about 6 young fellows, everybody laughing lovingly at the audacity of James Bond's first really extravagant spy adventure, Aston Martin ejector seat, decapitating bowler hat, bomb in Fort Knox and all. During Goldfinger's latter half, Joey became rather restless and began looking under chairs and my sofa and pulling out from under those some discarded wrappers for After Eight chocolate covered mints that my grandfather usually bought for me for Christmas. Joey was demonstrating his interest in having an assistant's role in my VideoDisc shows.
On Sunday, January 10, one day after New Brunswick had been shaken by a mild earthquake, I showed The Bad News Bears, preceded by another two Charlie Brown television specials, It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown and You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown. For some reason, Tony and I had some difficulty that day in netting a crowd of viewers. Joey was the one person to join Tony and me in my television room, and he adored the main attraction. There was not a single moment of the movie when his attention wavered. He was captivated, completely engrossed in the rousing story of the Bears. He evidently found the scenario of rough-and-tumble, agony-of-defeat-and-joy-of-victory sandlot baseball to be rather more accessible than the often wildly fantastic world of James Bond. And the titled team of socially lesser regarded boys and one girl, altogether a group of underprivileged and appropriately irascible characters, including their coach (played to perfection by Walter Matthau), becoming contenders and challenging the most prestigious, most arrogant boys for the yearly pennant, provided for Joey an ideal means for juvenile identification with and cheering for an underdog. Joey looked at me from time to time and smiled, the twinkle in his left eye and his nodding head signifying that I had scored a 10 out of 10 for him where that day's movie selection was concerned.
So impressed was Joey that on the next Sunday, he telephoned me in the morning to ask if I was going that day to have another afternoon's offering of entertainment via VideoDisc and offered to come to my house and help me in the preparations for that afternoon's VideoDisc show. Joey and I cooperated in cleaning and vacuuming the television room, its carpet and its furniture, rendering it spic-and-span. When Tony arrived at my place after lunch and found Joey there assisting me, he was certainly surprised. Joey telephoned each of the possible attendees to ask if they wanted to come to the show. I was at a loss for an attracting VideoDisc to present on that day. All that I had were the ones that I had already screened, plus Shane, Planet of the Apes, and one of the Star Trek television episode compilations. Dubious about a movie about the Wild West or the slow pace of the science fiction items appealing to Joey and to the one person whom he had been able to corral into attending my VideoDisc performance, I opted for a repeating of Goldfinger, which was rather less positively received on this second time that I gave it a spin in my VideoDisc player for an audience.
On the following Sunday, January 24, I went to the Nashwaaksis Cinema 2 to see Time Bandits, a fanciful British movie about thieving midget time travellers and in which there were appearances by Sean Connery, Ian Holm of Alien, and many of the famous Monty Python comedians. And there amidst the chomping of popcorn and rows of seats, I encountered Tony, who had come to the same movie theatre for same purpose. Tony and I came upon each other again at a movie house when I was at the Plaza Cinema 1 in December, 1982 to view the dire Trail of the Pink Panther, a half-baked assembly of outtakes of the antics of the late Peter Sellers from the earlier movies in the Pink Panther film oeuvre of Blake Edwards. These would be the last times that Tony and I would ever be together in a cinema to watch a movie. Thereafter, we never again asked each other to accompany on a movie viewing outing, and never again were coincidentally going to the same theatre on the same day for the same movie showing.
On Sunday, January 31, I re-launched the VideoDisc shows with the format of a club, with everyone attending my Sunday afternoon VideoDisc presentations being a club member. I created cards of membership for everybody and distributed them from my closet which I had converted into an office. First gathering of the new VideoDisc viewing club was for TALES FROM MUPPETLAND, a combination of television specials featuring Jim Henson's unique and innovative mating of marionettes and hand-puppetry, which consisted of The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, in which four farm animals- dog, cat, donkey, and rooster- abused by their owners, giant "human" Muppets, become a tuneful travelling troupe and come upon a shed in the wilderness that happens to be the hideout for their three former masters, who have become bank robbers and who are scared senseless by the music generated by the animals that they used to own, and the explanatory-by-its-title Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. The first of these Muppet television specials, introduced by Kermit the Frog, had my filled-to-the-brim television room exploding with laughter as all eight of the children therein, including Joey who was sitting on the floor right beside me nearest the radiator, delighted in the endearing and funny story before their eyes.
TALES FROM MUPPETLAND constituted the most popular VideoDisc show that I ever had, although the one on the following week was a close second.
Starting with TALES FROM MUPPETLAND and the re-launch of my VideoDisc shows, I was cataloguing those VideoDisc shows, listing everyone in attendance at each of them. I remember working on such during some free time in Geography class at school.
One day as classmates and I were awaiting entry to our classroom for Geography, I overheard a couple of them conversing disparagingly about Spiderman and CHSJ's arguably frustrating broadcast sequence of the Spiderman episodes, i.e. some of the episodes run more frequently by CHSJ than others. While I was in accord with them, absolutely, as regards CHSJ, I of course was not in alignment with their unfavourable opinion on Spiderman (opinion comprised of complaints about quality of cartoon animation, repetitive web-swinging scenes, etc., i.e. the refrains of unappreciative Spiderman viewers). One episode that they were referring to specifically was "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension", it having aired on CHSJ on the previous day for a third time.
February of 1982 was to be an unremarkable month for CHSJ's offerings of Spiderman in my estimation as there would be no first-run-on-CHSJ episodes aired in it. Just episode repeats, "triple-peats", and "quadruple-peats". But with my greatly attended and enjoyed-by-all VideoDisc show of TALES FROM MUPPETLAND on January 31 and the positive augur that day for my re-launch of the VideoDisc shows, I began February with rather a strong amount of joie-de-vivre. And the next VideoDisc show, that of February 7, would also prove to be highly successful.
Finally, RCA had released to its VideoDisc range a James Bond movie to go with Goldfinger on my shelf. From Russia, With Love was expected to arrive at Wacky Wheatley's on pre-order on the Thursday preceding my next week's videodisc show. As providence would have it, school was cancelled that Thursday due to snowy weather, but the descending snowflakes were insufficient to stop me from going to Wacky Wheatley's and acquiring the James Bond movie about Istanbul, the SPECTRE crime organisation, and the Sean Connery-enacted James Bond riding the Orient Express, together with the long-awaited replacement VideoDisc for my earlier purchased defective second volume of Star Trek. Both VideoDiscs were in perfect condition, and I was ecstatic over that. My planned, announced-on-the-preceding-Sunday, highly anticipated showing of From Russia, With Love on the afternoon of Sunday, February 7, 1982 was an unqualified success. I had some misgivings about slower pacing and the rather less grandiose schemes of the villains, but everyone in my television room, amongst them Tony, Steven, and Joey, loved every minute of what they saw and heard.
I followed From Russia, With Love with a further showing of the James Bond movie series entry to come in direct sequence to From Russia, With Love, that being Goldfinger. Yes, Goldfinger, again. Then, my two volumes of Star Trek on the next two weeks, followed by a repeat of From Russia, With Love and a general (i.e. encapsulating all interations of my VideoDisc shows) "quadruple-peat" of Goldfinger. Joey was at that particular Goldfinger show, protesting most vocally at the pointlessness and weariness of yet another presentation of Bond's tussle with the 24-karat ambitions of Auric Goldfinger, and was climbing the walls during the two hours that the movie was playing. I promised never again to show Goldfinger and kept true to my word. By then, everybody, including myself, was tired beyond belief of Auric Goldfinger and his raid on Fort Knox. Next was two weeks of Charlie Brown, including television specials such as It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! and Life is a Circus, Charlie Brown in a second RCA VideoDisc release of the misadventures of the lovable underachiever and his conceited, anthropomorphic canine. Then, the original Pink Panther movie, The Odd Couple (its Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon theatrical film version), The Return of the Pink Panther, and The Muppet Movie. We were considerably into April by the time that the last of these was screened on a television with VideoDisc. And it was shown at Tony's place using his RCA VideoDisc player (yes, he and his family had one, too, for a time) whilst my machine was being repaired for a faulty needle mechanism, which was part of a sequence of events that would bring me to the end of my tenure as an RCA VideoDisc accumulator. More on that to come.
After supper on the Wednesday of March Break week of 1982, I went by Fredericton Transit bus to the mall area of Fredericton South and to Wacky Wheatley's, where I purchased the RCA VideoDisc of the final, two-part episode of the 1960s television series, The Fugitive. And immediately upon my return to home on that day's evening, my mother and I watched The Fugitive- "The Judgement: Pt. 1" and The Fugitive- "The Judgement: Pt. 2". The RCA VideoDisc was almost faultless, and the two-part episode was highly enjoyable. I was viewing The Fugitive for the first time, having known of it but never before having occasion to see it. Barry Morse, Space: 1999's Professor Bergman, was in The Fugitive, as I had learned sometime prior to that evening, and it was a pleasant experience watching him as Lieutenant Gerard, the relentless pursuer of wrongly-convicted jail train escapee, Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen), Gerard in "The Judgement" finally accepting Kimble's account of what happened on the night of the murder of Kimble's wife and helping Kimble to find the killer, a one-armed man.
The final RCA VideoDisc that I was to acquire was The Return of the Pink Panther. In April of 1982.
My VideoDisc player one day went haywire while I was watching The Return of the Pink Panther, which in all VideoDisc copies that I could find of it, had a flicking hiss to the audio throughout the first flip side of said VideoDisc. My VideoDisc player's needle skipped violently on one playing of this VideoDisc, jumping through the first side at breakneck speed, and the VideoDisc player obviously had to be repaired. And when it was returned to me a couple of weeks hence, I inserted into it The Return of the Pink Panther and found to my bitter dismay one long skip on the first side, ergo that my VideoDisc of The Return of the Pink Panther had been ruined. With that, the camel's back had been shredded into a million fragments. Bye-bye, VideoDisc. Hello, videotape.
Wacky Wheatley's agreed to refund me for all of my VideoDiscs, and I was able to sell my VideoDisc player by way of a classified advertisement in the local newspaper. In late May of 1982, my father and I purchased a $800 Panasonic videocassette recorder from Video Home Entertainment Centre in the York Plaza near the Pic N' Puff store. A handful of coupons for free videotape movie rentals came with the machine, which like nearly all videocassette recorders of that time period, was a workhorse. It was very weighty, built to last for years. It was top-loading, had a mere two recording/playback heads, no noise-free pausing or reverse or forward scan, and inconsistent seamless editing capacity. And for remote control, all that it had was a pause button wired into the front of it, with just enough cord for the pause button to be operated by its user in a chair no more than a couple of feet away from the television. But the videotapes played in it did not skip, and I could record whatever I wanted to record from all received television stations.
First thing that I watched by way of the videocassette recorder was a rental videotape of Dr. No, the James Bond movie that launched that series of films, and the first time ever for me to experience said movie. I came home late from school one overcast day (I was late because school bus drivers were picketing, Fredericton High School refused to close during the bus drivers' labour stoppage, and we students had to ride public transit busses that were much slower to reach destination and also did not have schedules aptly compatible with school dismissal times; something of a long and convoluted story, this- but I think that I have described it saliently). I would say that the day was Thursday, May 27, 1982. I came home with the knowledge that my father would be bringing the newly purchased Panasonic videocassette machine into our home that afternoon before he went to work at approximately 5:45 P.M. (and he had already left for work by the time that I arrived home). It was sitting atop our television set, and next to it was the rented videocassette of Dr. No, which I promptly watched and enjoyed and coveted to own as I sat alone in our house (my mother did not come home until rather late in that evening). Next to be watched by way of the new videocassette machine was Peter Sellers' second Inspector Clouseau outing, A Shot in the Dark, also a hitherto unseen movie of curiosity to me. And then, on a sunny weekend in mid-June, Superman II and Arthur, the latter rented with the former from Video Home Entertainment Centre because my mother was interested in the acting of Dudley Moore as the titled chronically inebriated millionaire. I remember many of the neighbourhood youths, some of whom would never deign to attend an afternoon of entertainment offered by me via any other medium, congregating at my house that Sunday afternoon to view Superman II from the rental videotape. It was an informal movie showing if ever there was one. My television room was in quite a mess, and I did not start playing of the movie at a specific time.
Possession of a videocassette recorder was something of a rare privilege then, in my area. I would note that Tony and Steven also had a videocassette recorder by that time (late spring of 1982), them having abandoned RCA Videodisc at almost the same time that I did. Their videocassette recorder was an RCA brand machine with a few more "bells and whistles" than my Panasonic had, but with much less reliability in recording multi-generational copies without loss of vertical synchronisation and a broken picture.
I was anything but content to rent videotaped movies. I wanted to own them. Prices at the time were obscenely inflated, but I was determined to have a collection of my favourite entertainments. Magazines offered discounts on some desired movie videotapes, but I was reluctant to chance the mail-order process of acquiring them. I attempted a recording of a James Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun, from an ABC network television broadcast, but I did not accept the presence of commercials or the poor and obvious editing spots that would have been yielded by pausing the recording on every transition to a commercial sequence. Tony offered to buy the recording of this Bond movie for the price of the originally blank videotape (at the time, even blank videotapes were quite costly: $20 for a T-120- and $30 for a T-160) and the proceeds from that contributed somewhat to purchase of my first two pre-recorded videotapes, Battlestar Galactica (the theatrical film version of the premiere episode of that television show) and A Shot in the Dark, both used, rental videocassettes not in pristine condition. I remember obtaining Battlestar Galactica on one of the final examination days of the 1981-2 school year. I crossed the sprawling football fields of Fredericton High School in the warm June sunshine one afternoon en route to the K-Mart Plaza to meet my father there, our immediate destination being Fredericton North's Video Home Entertainment Centre for a purchase of Battlestar Galactica. The picture was skewed at top of screen on my television set and vertically rolled quite easily, but I was still gratified to have as my initial videotape movie in my collection something situated in deep space with plenty of futuristic hardware and some spectacular visual effects. A Shot in the Dark came later, approximately a week into the summer holidays. It was purchased by me from the Medjuck's department store on Prospect Street with money earned from lawn cutting and the $25 prize that I had been awarded for highest mark in French in Grade 10 (my interest in Cosmos: 1999 was still reaping quite a harvest where my grades in French class at school was concerned; French was the only subject at high school level in which I excelled).
With my videocassette recorder, I was intent upon videotaping Spiderman from CHSJ-TV. "The Winged Thing"/"Conner's Reptiles" was my first videotape-recorded Spidey acquisition sometime in late May of 1982. Because reliably clean edits were seemingly next to impossible with my machine, I did not bother to try to achieve a polished, first-generation (i.e. direct from broadcast) recording of any Spidey episode. I left the commercials in my videotape recordings, hoping that eventually I would have the means of seamlessly removing them. Sadly, the quality of reception nose-dived at about this time. For more than a week, there was some rather intense sound distortion that discouraged me from even attempting a videotape recording, the result being that I missed episodes such as "Home" and "Horn of the Rhino". CHSJ's telecine apparatus had smudges and dirt on its lens, all of which were visible throughout all episodes of both Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood. And Fredericton Cablevision had instituted the peculiar practice every weekday from approximately 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. of putting lines of audio-video noise on all television stations, the lines flashing like clockwork every second and tracking upwards on the television screen, and when they would reach screen top, the whole image would bounce and then the lines would appear at screen bottom for another upward cycle. At the same time, the picture on CHSJ especially, became noticeably grainier, improving immediately once the lines stopped flashing, usually toward the end of the 4:30 P.M. transmitted Spidey episodes. I never did receive a satisfactory answer from my cable television service provider for this extremely annoying compromising of quality that did last through the remainder of the 1980s. Many Spiderman episodes on CHSJ were marred by this phenomenon, exceptions being those episodes shown on rainy days and in the middle of winter, when the lines were gone, and the sound and picture were at their best.
Amazingly, I was in late May and in June of 1982 able to videotape about a dozen Spiderman shows without the lines. "Blotto" (a film print that was missing the episode title) was next to be successfully videotaped, and then "Neptune's Nose Cone", "Cloud City of Gold", "Criminals in the Clouds", "The Spider and the Fly"/"The Slippery Doctor Von Schlick", "The Menace of Mysterio", "Up From Nowhere", "Never Step On a Scorpion"/"Sands of Crime", and "The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian"/"Scourge of the Scarf". Those are the episodes that I definitely recall retaining on my videotapes for the summer of 1982 after CHSJ pulled Spidey from broadcast as soon as the school year ended. CHSJ completely by surprise showed "Menace From the Bottom of the World" on a Saturday morning early in July, and I was of course unprepared to videotape that. After "The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian"/"Scourge of the Scarf" on Wednesday, June 23, CHSJ bizarrely transmitted two Rocket Robin Hood episodes ("From Menace to Menace", "The Eternal Planet of Romarama") in Spidey's airtime to finish that week, and then for the duration of the summer, The Marvel Superheroes was on CHSJ each weekday at 4:30.
As desirable as Spiderman was for me as a videotape acquisition, Space: 1999 remained my most fervent wish. Now, having procured a videocassette recorder, I was in a position to at last own a collection of Space: 1999 episodes. Only one problem. None were, at the time, available on pre-recorded videotape or on broadcast television anywhere in my part of the world. In June of 1982, I wrote letters to both CHSJ and the CBC, asking most urgently for a rerun of my favourite television series. CHSJ replied first, bluntly saying that unless the CBC television network with which CHSJ was affiliated opted for a repeat showing of Space: 1999, there was no chance of it gracing the televised airwaves of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The correspondence received from the CBC was rather more heartening. It was not a, "Yes, we would be delighted to rerun Space: 1999." Neither was it an out-and-out no. Something to the effect that, "Your suggestion has merit, and we will look into the feasibility of it." With this letter to the CBC, I had, I think, laid the groundwork, or contributed somewhat to doing so, for one of the most gratifying facets of the era of my life to follow.
Yet, however encouraged I might have been by the CBC's reply to my letter in 1982, I still had no definite promise or frame of time for a re-engagement with Moonbase Alpha's trans-spatial odyssey, and so pursued other avenues for adding Space: 1999 to my videotape collection. I found in a magazine an advertisement for L.A. Films, which was offering, among other things, Space: 1999 episodes! I remember while running outdoors during Physical Education class in the last weeks of Grade 10 thinking about how awesome it would be to have Space: 1999 on videotape transfers from 16-millimetre film prints bought from this L.A. Films business. Especially the "Dragon's Domain" episode. How such transfers could be done, I did not know. But as usual where Space: 1999 was concerned, I was disappointed, in that L.A. Films mailed to me a response to my letter of enquiry about its advertisement, telling to me that it had no Space: 1999 episodes in stock. I was offered a deal on Star Wars, however, which intrigued me for only until I learned a week or two later that George Lucas' far, far away galaxy was coming to prerecorded videocassette, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Video, later that summer (1982). As Twentieth Century Fox had also, through its subsidiary, Magnetic Video, released ITC Entertainment properties like The Return of the Pink Panther, Capricorn One, and Saturn 3 to the home videotape market, I thought that a letter to that organisation regarding Space: 1999 might, just might, bring about- or help to bring about- the breakthrough that I sought. But the reply that I eventually received from Twentieth Century Fox was that home videotape rights to the Space: 1999 television series were unobtainable. Though constantly denied, it seemed, an incontrovertibly positive answer to my queries, I persisted in my desire to have Martin Landau and Barbara Bain in their bell-bottom, beige slacks and zippered sleeves amid futuristic sets and imaginatively "far out" concepts and lavish alien planets and hideous alien creatures on videotape in some capacity.
I was also resolved not to have another largely abysmal summer like that of 1981. In June of 1982, I saw Craig playing a game of catch with his young buddy, Adam, on their part of our street and approached the two of them about the possibility of having a game of baseball if we could find a fourth person for a two-against-two contest. We found Kelly, the girl who lived a couple of houses across the street from me, and the result was the start of a series of Craig-and-Adam-versus-Kevin-and-Kelly baseball games on the street in front of Craig and Adam's homes. A frustrating run of games, for sure, but it did result in Craig seeing me as a likely participant in all of the neighbourhood games of baseball and of other sports that he was able to arrange. And in the summer weeks to come, as I had a badminton net in my backyard, people from Craig's assembly of friends in addition to Joey and some of the boys in his sector of our neighbourhood flocked to my turf to play singles and doubles games of one of the few sports that I had been able to master.
Most important was that my increasing affinity for Joey was being returned by him, and during a baseball game in mid-June one evening on the section of our street along which my house was situated, Joey and I were teammates and winning quite ably. He was cheering and expressing his pleasure at how the game was proceeding for us. Then, my mother came out of my house and said she would be going to the York Plaza Shopper's Drug Mart and asked if I would like to come with her. Joey wanted me to do otherwise; he was pleading with me not to leave the game. And being the dimwit that I much too frequently was, I left the game. I did not even invite Joey to join me on the outing to the store for a candy treat. I just joined my mother in her car and departed the scene. Joey was rather snappy and dismissive toward me for some time after that evening, including the day of his birthday, Thursday, June 24, and its morrow, Friday, June 25, when Joey and a group of his friends had a slumber party in his backyard tent. While I was with Tony in Tony's backyard close to noon hour on Friday, the 25, Joey with his party's entourage passed through the trees separating part of Joey's Linden Crescent backyard from that of Tony's on Woodmount Drive, and Joey delivered a stingingly negative comment about my rather thin physique. It was, I now understand, his way of expressing his displeasure over my actions on the evening of the baseball game. On the following Sunday, Joey was in the mood for mending fences. I encountered him after supper that day on the street while he was riding a tiny bicycle (not his usual one). He expressed interest in earning money to buy a variety of personally sought items, lauded my wish to do likewise, and thought my suggestion that we start a lawn-mowing operation for this purpose to be quite a good idea. He and I planned to start our grass-cutting venture on the next morning, and we did. The concept of it was two-fold-ideal. Not only would I have some cash to support my videotape purchases, but I could gain that money in hours spent with the person whose friendship interested me most in 1982.
Commencement of the summer of 1982 marked the end of Era 3 and the beginning of Era 4. Elements for a distinct, new period of life were now in place. Videotape collecting and recording. A welcome increase in the playing of neighbourhood baseball and other games. And most significantly, Joey becoming closer to me than ever before. The result was that 1982 was the best summer to be had after several years, and it was to be improved upon further by the summer to follow it. Not even the defeats in baseball on Craig's part of our street or my still unsuccessful efforts involving Space: 1999 could dampen my spirits. And those aspects of my experience were on the verge of turnaround in any case.
I was now a videotape collector, rather popular in my community for my provision of bona fide movie and television episode performances in the comfort of my television room- and badminton and other sports, too, plus a more and more witty turn of phrase. Instead of languishing alone or with Tony on my doorstep and complaining of the ennui of exclusion in suburbia, I was regularly sought as a player, co-worker, and affectionately regarded buddy. My social and academic situation at school was unchanged, but I always looked forward to evening and weekend- and occasional after-school- visits with younger friends. For years to come, I was happy. Although smitten by television and the capabilities of video technology, I spent most of my autumn, spring, and summer time outdoors, at work and at play.
Television programming and my life experiences did certainly continue to be interconnected in this third era of my life. Therefore, I offer Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1977 to 1978, Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1978 to 1979, Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1979 to 1981, and Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1981 to 1982. Therein are television listings for specific days ranging from the first full day in 1977 after I moved to Fredericton from Douglastown, to one of the first days of summer vacation of 1982.
McCorry's Memoirs continue with McCorry's Memoirs Era 4: He's a Pitcher and a Scholar and a Sci-Fi Fan (1982-7).