And let there be light! Kevin McCorry has arrived in the world. A photograph of me in my bedroom in 1968.
The saga of my life opened in a hospital in Rivers, Manitoba, in central Canada on a frigid January 5, 1966. I have been told that I was overdue by a few weeks. Apparently, I, the first and only son and the first and only child of Mr. and Mrs. Edward McCorry, was in no hurry to come into the world!
Kevin was a popular name for babies born in the late 1960s, and my parents thought that its Scottish origins befitted the McCorry surname, which has a Scottish and Irish history. My father was born and raised in Nova Scotia, or New Scotland, Canada, where many McCorrys settled in the 1800s.
The combination of Kevin with McCorry may seem so rare as to be unique, but I have learned that there are at least five other Kevin McCorrys in the world. In Britain and in the U.S.. At this juncture, it seems that I can claim uniqueness as the only Canadian Kevin McCorry. I often wish that I had a more common last name! Constantly having to spell McCorry for people and seeing it misspelled as McCorey, McCory, McCurry, McQuarrie, McCarry, Corey, and, of course, McCoy, can be quite a tiresome ritual.
Rivers was the site of a Canadian Forces (i.e. Canadian military) Base. My father was posted there in the mid-1960s, and my mother worked as a nurse at Rivers Hospital before joining the Victorian Order of Nurses (V.O.N.). We lived in a mobile home and went to the nearby Manitoban city of Brandon on frequent shopping excursions. I have vague memories of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in Brandon. As is true for most people, my toddler years are not very clearly remembered, though I can recall attaining my first footsteps, riding a plastic car and being reluctant to progress to a tricycle, and spelling words like interlude with my letter blocks.
I was also impressed by recorded media: non-live television, vinyl records, and reel-to-reel audiotape. So impressed was I with the latter of these that I would unravel my parents' audiotapes! Among the musical pieces that I enjoyed were "Little Arrows", sung by Leapy Lee, and Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk". I played my "LITTLE ARROWS" vinyl record on my children's phonograph so many times that the little vinyl record player's needle reduced the vinyl grooves to nothingness! Later musical fancies included Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and HERB ALPERT'S GREATEST HITS, a curious mix of moody symphonic melodies and Southern U.S. jazz. For my birthday party in 1974 during Era 2, I played an 8-track audiotape of Herb Alpert music (I had HERB ALPERT'S GREATEST HITS on audiotape in addition to vinyl platter) as I and my cohorts in revelry were eating chocolate birthday cupcakes and my mother was snapshooting a series of instant photographs of our festivities.
My mother's parents, the Smallwoods (no relation to Newfoundland's famous Premier), lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in Canada's eastern Maritimes, and my mother, father, and I often travelled from Manitoba to New Brunswick by train.
Going eastward from Manitoba to New Brunswick, passenger rail lines in Canada ran through the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and entered New Brunswick by that province's northern and western frontiers. My mother and I stayed in Montreal, Quebec with a friend of hers for a day or two while we were going east from Manitoba to New Brunswick on one of our railway travels, and my only memory of being in my mother's friend's apartment is of eating French Creme cookies for breakfast.
Train. I was fascinated by this mode of transport. The exterior and interior appearance, the atmosphere (including the smell of the engines), the private berths and the bunk beds and tiny cakes of soap, and the restaurant cars of the trains belonging to C.N., Canada's passenger rail company, fostered a childhood love for riding the rails. One of the first things that I aspired to be was a train engineer. On one Christmas in my pre-school years (the Christmas of 1971, I believe), I asked for and received an electric train set. And the locomotive for that train set had the distinctive look (red front and diagonal white stripes on sides) of C.N.'s locomotives.
Alas, the electric train set did not stay operational for very long. But within that frame of time in which the train set was in working order, I played with it while such television shows as The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Beverly Hillbillies were being watched by my parents. However, when the Warner Brothers cartoons were shown on television, mainly via their principal avenue of presentation, i.e. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, in my places of habitation, no toy would distract me from the colourful televisual images. Watching reconstructions of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalments tends to be evocative of memories of my early childhood such as several of those mentioned here in my first life era memoirs, in addition to accentuating recall of many formative times in my age 7 to 9 time period in Era 2 from 1973 to 1975, during which the Saturday broadcasts of Bugs and the Road Runner constituted my most anticipated event of each week.
Because I was their only offspring, my parents were more protective of me than were parents of children of one or more siblings, and since I was rather sheltered in this life era from the rambunctious conduct of other youngsters of our neighbourhood, I was more naive and sensitive than they, a fact that my mother and father may have perceived and which prompted them to shield me further from the big, bad world outside of our cosy mobile home. A home which, by its name, implied movement from community to community. And this we did, a number of times, which was another reason why I had no friendships of note in my earliest years on Earth.
More memories, albeit scattered, of these inaugural years of my life include seeing my mother and father laughing at an episode of the World War Two prisoners-of-war situation-comedy television series, Hogan's Heroes; closely, shyly, timidly accompanying my father while he drove a school bus as one of his assigned duties at Canadian Forces Base Rivers; laying in my little bed and thinking, wondering, about the seasickness remedy (and a spiked variant thereof) imbibed by Sylvester the Cat in a room with a Red Cross on its door, in the Warner Brothers cartoon, "Tweety's S.O.S.", wherein Sylvester is chasing Tweety Bird on a passenger ocean liner; watching Sesame Street episode segments with a Muppet detective character name of Sherlock Hemlock; and playing with my toys and walking within the narrow yard alongside the McCorry mobile home in its various locations. I rather vividly remember a sunny Saturday afternoon on which I was in our mobile home's narrow side yard and pacing about in anxious wait for the appointed start time of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour some while later that afternoon.
Also inducing me to contemplation and imprinting upon my mind through television viewing in this life era were the imposing and forbidding food processing factory into which two gophers came in search of their confiscated crops in a further cartoon on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (in same instalment thereof as "Tweety's S.O.S.", actually), Yogi Bear's quest for sustenance in a stylised cartoon campground encroached-upon by man in cartoons of the Yogi Bear television series mostly shown in French as Yogi l'Ours, and the first scenes of A Charlie Brown Christmas (the annual classic television special which I believe I saw for the first time with CBC Television's 1970 broadcast of it), specifically the scenes of children skating on a pond and a melancholic Charlie Brown and his friend, Linus, walking in a snowfall set amongst foreground and background imagery of gorgeous and compelling colour palette. The ability of television to grab my attention and stir me to cogitation was very much in force in my life's first years.
By way of depictions such as these and several others, I was first introduced to some of the less than positive facets of human existence, quite often by subtle implication. My young mind did not entirely comprehend the meanings, but I was compelled nonetheless. I was always compelled, whatever be the connotation in what I was watching. And as I will delineate, some images on television would frighten, even terrify me, and at the same time impress me quite significantly. At times in my childhood, I would posit supremely optimistic outlooks on the universe, but there would also by times be a contrasting awareness, disturbing to me, of fallibility, mutability, or vulnerability. I suppose that all people do in their young age grapple mentally with such dichotomy in the world. But in my case, for a number of years, nearly all such rumination was done without the presence of any fellow youngsters. Impressions were most powerful, and sometimes I would have nightmares.
In later life eras, I would have friends with whom I could share reactions to entertainments, but I could still be alone in the degree, in the extent of my response to what I had seen, especially if it was connected somehow with impressions received in earlier years. My friends could develop a similar fancy for a work of entertainment to which I had become attached, and they could be encouraging of my interest in it, follow it- maybe even watch it- with me, and be willing to hear my identifiable reactions to it. But the amount and nature in some cases of my aesthetic and philosophical responses might not be kindred or understood. Even if I could satisfactorily put them into words, which was frequently beyond my capacity for communicating. At least one quarrel started because a friend did not understand my peculiar fixation on a particular concept. I failed to satisfactorily explain it, and he was not in empathy with me about it and became annoyed. And my "reading" then of his annoyance and its cause was far from precise, also. So, we simply fought.
And I would have a consuming yearning to possess the entertainments that had affected me, my efforts to acquire them dominating my thoughts by times. And I had a tendency toward introversion that began at a very early age (naturally, I suppose, considering my only-child, friendless state), such a tendency melding with my solitary deliberations about affecting entertainments and with my seeking to acquire them.
To a boy who spent his earliest years friendless and who could on occasions be completely wrapped in his own concerns, the forming of lasting, close relationships was to forever present quite a daunting challenge. It always amazed me how easily other people found and built friendships, and how the long-term retaining of their friends posed not the slightest complication. The process of meeting someone, leaving- if possible- a lasting, positive, first impression, and proceeding to join that person in whatever we agreed to do together, with mutual trust and respect arising naturally in the sharing of experiences, usually required a longer period of time for me than it did for nearly everybody else- and an inordinate amount of initiative and patience on the part of the other person. Most people found it easier to befriend others who were not as diffident as I, and they did so, without showing the slightest interest in quiet, seemingly standoffish Kevin. Some who were inclined to look in my direction with an eye to becoming pals, were quite possibly discouraged by my tendency to introvert and by my timidity at reaching out to them.
As I grew older and a bit more confident in socialising, in small groups or one-on-one situations at least, I became better at the practice of friend-making. But I would still lapse at times into the resigned, timid person that I had used to be, holding back and being slow or tentative to respond, which could and probably would leave friends wondering as to the quality of our relationship and the extent of my fondness for them. To be buddies with me requires patience, flexibility, understanding, acceptance, and, above all, an outgoing, easy-going personality. With people who lack these qualities, I have found friendship, if it does develop, to be quite turbulent, fraught with frequent misunderstandings and rather lengthy periods of chilly estrangement. And even with those persons, not very many, who do meet these criteria, I could still be quite a frustrating and disaffecting cohort. My perception of the cause-and-effect relationship of my actions, or lack of them, and the occasionally less enthusiastic than usual response of a friend to seeing me, was seldom crystal-clear. I would jump to the conclusion that my friend was moody, bi-polar, or just did not like me on a particular day. And I would respond by being offended, backing away. A friend would then have to determine entirely on his own, why I was acting like I was, be forgiving, and approach me again in a thoroughly outgoing manner. Again, not very many people have it within them to be so very generous with their patience and perseverance- and to regard their friendship with me as being important enough to go the distance, as it were, for me. Some do, for awhile, but their capacity for patience and forgiveness eventually becomes exhausted. In retrospect, I cannot blame them for leaving me behind. I do in fact salute them for tolerating my less sociable conduct and accepting me for who I was, for as long as they did.
My parents and I moved to New Brunswick in 1969 when my father was transferred to the Canadian Forces Base in Chatham. Chatham and Newcastle were twin towns on opposite sides of the spacious Miramichi River, with neighbouring villages Nordin, Douglastown, Millbank, Loggieville, and Nelson-Miramichi, all also situated along the beautiful river. Our mobile home was positioned for a short time inside of a trailer park adjacent to the Bathurst highway along the northwest fringe of Douglastown, which was directly across the Miramichi River from Chatham and a few miles down-river from Newcastle.
My mother worked at the V.O.N. office in the Miramichi Regional Hospital, and while we were residents of the trailer park next to the Bathurst highway, I stayed daily with the Nickolitian family, who had a house just beyond the limits of the near-Bathurst highway trailer park. The Nickolitian children were several years senior to me. All that I remember about my many hours as a guest of the Nickolitians is that one of the daughters had green eyes, Romper Room was watched on television at 10 o'clock, and the Nickolitian canine one day bit me- and I bled, resulting in a fear of dogs. Now, this is a surprising revelation, for all who have read my Littlest Hobo Page!
In 1970, we moved to a trailer park in Newcastle. Our mobile home was located at the back of the trailer park, and railway tracks were a short distance behind our place, through a clump of trees on a slight incline. I used to run up to the tracks to watch the trains pass. To the right of our trailer was a wooded field, where acquaintances sometimes flew kites.
Due to my mother's weekday work schedule, I was the responsibility, Monday through Friday, of Mrs. Waye, a lady who lived just outside of the Newcastle trailer park. Her two sons, Jimmy and Willie, collected comic books, and I loved to read them. Jimmy was the same age as myself, but our temperaments were drastically different. He was verbally and physically aggressive- and rather intimidating. I learned quickly that it was in my best interest to cooperate unconditionally with him to the extent that, in our relationship (one of necessity rather than one of choice on either of our parts, I believe), he was dominant while I was passive. This was no doubt a significant factor in the development of shy aspects of my personality. Certainly, lack of siblings and a dearth of friends and interaction with peers in my earliest years also contributed to my shyness, which I would gradually, though by no means entirely, overcome in more agreeable surroundings.
The more agreeable surroundings to which I refer, would be in the village of Douglastown, where I was to live from 1972 to 1977 (Era 2). Miramichiers have a reputation for modesty and friendliness, which I believe is indeed very true. But within the Miramichi area, there are, I believe, differences, variations in the congeniality of the populace. Douglastown seemed to me to be a friendlier place than Newcastle, with Chatham friendlier than Newcastle but less so than Douglastown. I think that this has something to do with Newcastle being more city-like in its distribution of homes and businesses and in its function as an administrative hub for the Miramichi region. The New Brunswick capital city of Fredericton, consisting largely of bureaucrats and university professors and a service sector catering to officious types, tends to be a Jones-competing-against-Smith community of upward-mobiles seeking "coolness" or permitted entry into coveted, exclusive cliques. As such, Fredericton is a much less accommodating and accessible place than is the Miramichi, as I was to discover in years to come (in Era 3). Within the Miramichi, Newcastle is slightly more bureaucratic than is Chatham, which was, in the 1970s, a military and industrial community. And Douglastown, being semi-rural in those years and offering a more relaxed pace of life, was the true centre of Miramichi hospitality.
My memories of Newcastle are mostly of being rebuffed and of lingering- or languishing- on the outside of the action among the pre-school inhabitants of my trailer park or of timidly accompanying Jimmy on some of his outings to join his friends, who lived in houses along the perimeter of the trailer park. All of them clearly had no interest in my joining them and tolerated my presence only because I was with Jimmy as per his mother's wishes. On one day, Jimmy and his colleagues were building a tree house. I was reticent to join them, and sensed that I was unwelcome to do so in any case. I kept somewhat distant from Jimmy and company whilst they collaborated on the construction of their arboreal place of assembly, and soon returned by myself to Jimmy's mother at the Waye house, outside of which was a vast field where I helped Mrs. Waye to extract yellow beans from her garden. I also recall going with her to a neighbour's house and standing next to her in her kitchen as she cooked lunch and going with her into a downstairs apartment (the Wayes lived upstairs in a split entry, two-story apartment dwelling) to do her laundry.
In the years in which this was the state of affairs, I recall seeing a Moon landing; trick-or-treating in a Bugs Bunny costume (chaperoned, of course, by my mother); fretting on many a Saturday afternoon when baseball or football games or other live sports events typically exceeded their allotted broadcast time (2 1/2 hours, for the baseball and football games) and caused The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour to be joined already in progress, sometimes by as much as 45 minutes; playing cars in the sand with Jimmy; and watching such weekday daytime television shows as Sesame Street and The Friendly Giant at the Wayes' place and Batman, Rocky and His Pals, Le Roi Leo, and, of course, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, on Saturdays at home. I remember The Galloping Gourmet airing after The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on several Saturdays in 1971. For a time, i.e. autumn of 1971 and winter of 1971-2, there was also a Bugs Bunny and Friends television series shown on weekdays within the dinner hour. I can envision my mother collecting me at the Wayes' place on a number of days as an instalment of Bugs Bunny and Friends was starting.
Seeing a multi-eyed Muppet monster or watching Wile E. Coyote swallow a bottleful of earthquake pills was unsettling, but a cartoon ("Hyde and Go Tweet") in which tiny Tweety Bird changed repeatedly into a large, evil-eyed beast due to exposure to a liquid gave to me disturbing dreams. My grandparents brought a plush toy to me when I was ill for a short time in a Fredericton hospital, and the toy was a large husk of a bird with eyes that reminded me of the transformed Tweety!
On a number of occasions I observed as the local youngsters, oblivious to my presence, flew kites or played children's games around a wooden shack on the Newcastle trailer park grounds. Further, I recall there being a hay ride on a sunny summer afternoon, the horses and carriage moving through the trailer park and passing by my mobile home abode. I wanted ever so much to climb aboard the hay ride carriage and enjoy the event with the boys and girls, but I was resoundingly denied permission to embark upon the hay ride vehicle, and I ran to my home, deeply upset at the rebuff.
My cautious and diffident attempts to find acceptance among the neighbourhood youngsters being consistently spurned, I retreated ever further to my television viewing experience, most especially The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on Saturday afternoons- and that suppertime, weekday run of Bugs Bunny and Friends. I remember the Saturday sports coverage continuing to wreak havoc upon The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and a cartoon, "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide" (the one with Sylvester drinking that disturbing transformation formula and frightfully removing the swagger from a brutal bully bulldog), joined already in progress following some live sports telecast, my first glimpse of the Merrie-Melodie-Looney-Tuney cartoon action on that day being a scene of a monstrously transformed fly advancing menacingly to a laboratory door and slamming said door shut.
I also remember a Sunday evening animated cartoon television special called Dig, which was about a boy and dog falling into a large hole to somewhere, and, regularly on Sunday evenings, Adventures in Rainbow Country, a produced-in-Canada outdoor excursion television series starring Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny in the James Bond movies) as the widowed matriarch of a family owning and operating a lodge in the wilderness of northern Ontario. The Beachcombers, the iconic, 18-year-long-running Canadian television opus about Pacific-coastal, stray-log-seeking boaters, replaced Adventures in Rainbow Country in the Sunday evening viewing slot in 1972. I vividly remember the evening when The Beachcombers premiered.
A recurring set of television images and sounds back then was that of a Public Service Announcement from the Department of Health and Welfare (of the federal Canadian government, I would hazard to guess), which was identified in on-screen text at the end of the Public Service Announcement. A distinguished-looking man in a fancy suit and a woman of grace and a discernible sophistication were shown dancing elegantly to a waltz on a stage. Both of them had a cigarette in their mouth and became increasingly distressed as their coughing due to cigarette emission intensified. The gentility in their countenances eventually gave way to a look of baseness and sickness. They continued dancing. Until their coughs became so severe that dance was replaced by stagger and their coughs reached a crescendo of desperate gagging, before a freeze-frame and the notation of the government department from where the Public Service Announcement had originated, was printed on screen in capital letters. The images and sounds of the Public Service Announcement were disturbing to me, and anti-smoking Public Service Announcements, as this one was, would continue to have such an effect upon me in my next subsequent life era. They were severe and dire in their depictions and tended to intimate a duality in human nature. Sophistication and corruption. People clearly striving for the former and succumbing to the latter. A physically transformative duality, by times. Rather the same duality that was, that would be, manifest repeatedly, and sometimes more monstrously, in animated cartoons in my experience. My understanding of it was far from developed, though.
As my commencement of Grade 1 was approaching, my parents became rather anxious at my cloistered life potentially handicapping me from fitting into the social milieu of elementary school. To provide what they thought would be ample opportunity for me to mingle with other children, they, in the first months of 1972, enrolled me in Sunday School at a Newcastle church, on Prince William Street just below the intersection with the King George Highway, the main road in Newcastle. At that church, I have memories of going to a series of downstairs rooms with rows of desks, chalkboards, and colouring books. All but one of the other children there were ignorant of my presence. The one young fellow to give to me attention was both my namesake and a resident of Douglastown, a place to where I was soon to move.
One weekday evening in early-to-mid-1972, before the six o'clock news, after my mother had collected me at the Wayes' house and brought me to our humble home, a New Brunswick television station (either CKCD- Campbellton/CKAM- Upsalquitch or CHSJ- Saint John, the former of which airing Bugs Bunny and Friends and the latter thereof televising a 20-minute block of cartoons designated as simply Bugs Bunny) showed a Bugs Bunny cartoon, which I learned more than 17 years later was entitled, "Hyde and Hare". The cartoon's title probably was shown that evening, but I retained no memory of it; I probably could not read fast enough to process the words in my mind.
The cartoon opened in a park, where Bugs met a generous, carrot-providing, little man, who, to my six-year-old mind, seemed to be working as a "rabbit-feeder". Bugs and the man flirted, and I thought that he said to Bugs, "I'll be your doctor," before he carried Bugs to a doctor's place, a Dr. Jill's (again, I could not spell very quickly at that age; so, I did not correctly read the name on the signboard above the doorway as that of Dr. Jekyll). I thought they were going to play doctor. In this context, which I discovered years later was not the correct one but only an interpretation from a five-year-old's perspective, Bugs and the "rabbit-feeder" assumed the respective pretend roles of patient and doctor. Bugs played the piano in a "waiting room" while the man went into a room marked "laboratory"- dimly lit and filled with eerie test tubes and beakers. When the man saw a glass of fizzing, red liquid, he launched into a bizarre act of adoration and denial. I could not understand it, though the laboratory imagery, reminiscent of that in "Hyde and Go Tweet", conveyed to me cause to become tense. When he started drinking the liquid, I knew for certain what was to happen. Not even Bugs Bunny was free from the horrors of that transformation formula!
I was petrified by the events that followed as Bugs- the usually imperturbable and in-control Bugs- frantically fled from a horrible, knuckle-dragging, green monster into which the man again and again transmuted. The man kept changing into a monster with clear potential for unlimited mayhem, and while the man was the monster, what had become of his awareness, his consciousness? I found that direction of enquiry to be especially creepy. Bugs' fright was palpably intense. And then at the end of the cartoon, Bugs himself turned green and monstrous!
After the cartoon concluded and a news broadcast started, I pulled myself up from the floor and walked dazed into the kitchen to join my mother. I struggled to eat supper as the events of the cartoon kept replaying in my mind. And I started having dreams that would persist into my ninth year, dreams in which a friend or acquaintance would drink the potion and involuntarily change into a green-skinned maniac, and when he returned to normal, I would be frantic to distance myself from him before he changed again into the green monster.
My mother urged me to visit the Miramichi Regional Hospital where she worked, to look at the laboratory and to prove that Hyde formula was not real. But the sight of the beakers and test tubes upset me all the more. I even for a time mistook the word, library, for laboratory, and with sight of an old-fashioned library in Newcastle (the Old Manse Library), I thought that a doctor had a laboratory of horrors therein, and one in the hospital, too. The design of many of the houses and other buildings in Newcastle was curiously correspondent to the architectural style of background or foreground edifices in Warner Brothers cartoons, "Hyde and Hare" included, along with "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide", "Hyde and Go Tweet", and "Birds of a Father"- wherein naive Sylvester Jr. learns from a book prominently labelled "Cat Psychology" that, contrary to his amiable rapport with a winged, blue friend, cats must stalk and kill birds, while a culturally refined Victorian house is seen in the far background. I was constantly reminded of cartoon imagery (be it imagery of mirth, as it mostly was, or imagery, sometimes, of unsettling import) as I looked out the windows of our car at the Newcastle homes and business district stores that we were passing, my experience with the real world and the cartoon visuals blending in my mind, intertwined in memory. It follows that my recollections of cartoons on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and the weekday Bugs Bunny cartoon compilation television shows can be very evocative of what it felt like to be a very young boy living in the Miramichi region- or visiting my grandparents in the old-fashioned West Plat area of Fredericton, the bulk of my childhood, indeed almost an entire lifetime, ahead of me.
For some reason, "Hyde and Hare", the Bugs Bunny cartoon that had so frightened me, was not one of the most frequently shown, because I was not to see it again for the next seventeen years, although I was a loyal viewer for nearly all of that time!
On the day that my mother brought me to the Miramichi Regional Hospital to observe the laboratory there, I was playing cars in the sand at the foot of the driveway to our mobile home. She had just arrived home in her car and had evidently conceived the idea of showing the laboratory to me, at some moment in time during her work day. Stepping out of the car, she approached me with the idea and was quite determined that I proceed with it. I did not require very much prompting, actually, as I had a curiosity, albeit steeped in trepidation, about the look of a laboratory outside of the world of animated cartoons. It was a sunny, bright afternoon. Presumably late in the spring or early in the summer of 1972.
Located along the King George Highway in Newcastle, the Miramichi Regional Hospital was a construction of the second decade of the twentieth century, when Victorian architectural styles were prevalent in building design. So, again was there an edifice of my early youth in the Miramichi region whose Victorian appearance meshed in my mind with the Victoriana of structures in cartoons. And one cartoon most particularly. "Hyde and Hare". The hospital laboratory on one of the upper floors had in it all of the measuring bottles and chemical mixture containers that had been distinguishing characteristics of the disturbing chemical workshop in "Hyde and Hare". And also that in "Hyde and Go Tweet". The cheerful, personable disposition of the young woman working in the laboratory, to whom my mother introduced me and explained my peculiar nightmare-fuelling fascination, did not help to shake me free from disturbing impressions. Quite the opposite to that was the outcome of that afternoon trek to the laboratory. I mean, Bugs' "rabbit-feeder" friend was agreeable, very much so, when he was not transformed into that green-complexioned monster. But to my mother's credit, she did try to impress upon me that laboratories are benign places devoid of horrible appearance-changing and personality-changing substances. She tried. Yes, she tried. To my mind, though, perhaps she may have been unaware of some terrible, shadowy secret of the scientific profession. Just that the idea of such a thing existed was disquieting enough, with the laboratory that I saw in the hospital that day giving to it rather a tangible reality. My nightmares would grow more frequent and more vivid.
Danger signs (the skull and crossbones) were another unsettling fascination. A more agreeable impression was formed by the melodies of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. My father had a vinyl record of some of their music, and some of the vinyl record's selections ("Lonely Bull", "Mexican Shuffle", "Tijuana Taxi", "South of the Border") emphasised Mexican culture and utilised Mexican styles of energetic musical "beat" or rhythm. The selections were a Southern U.S. jazz with heaps of Mexican flavor in tuneful composition. I loved them. And I think such love led eventually into a fancy that I had for Mexican culture portrayed in a certain episode of The Flintstones seen by me in the latter half of my second life era. A particular strong memory associated with that Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass vinyl record was of me listing to the final selection ("Zorba the Greek") on the vinyl record's second side before going to Sunday School one overcast Sunday in spring of 1972.
I later had vinyl records of my own with music from the Osmonds ("Crazy Horses"), the Beatles, Ray Stevens ("Ahab the Arab"), and Sammy Davis Jr. ("The Candyman"), in addition to such "kiddie fare" as The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, 1001 Dalmatians, and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". And given to me by my parents for Christmas in 1971 (the same Christmas on which my father received his vinyl record of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass music) was a vinyl record with children's songs, and I remember being especially appreciative of "The Little Engine That Could", one of the more renowned songs on that Christmas-present-for-Kevin vinyl record.
There was also a stirring passage of music on a Sesame Street segment in which a flower, dripping with dew or early-morning rain water, slowly opened to greet a new day and the camera zoomed outward and panned leftward to show the plant atop a building in a large city.
One morning, my mother and I were descending the stairs in a building in downtown Newcastle. She was carrying me and lost her footing. We fell to the bottom of the stairs, and it was a miracle that neither of us was seriously hurt! We went to hospital to have ourselves examined, and our injuries were pronounced minor. We arrived back at our mobile home, and I switched our television to on-mode and saw the Sesame Street flower segment described in the paragraph immediately preceding this one. I found the music used for that segment, i.e. Vivaldi Guitar Concerto in D Major, Second Movement, to be quite soothing to my jangled nerves.
Another memory which imprinted upon my earliest impressionable brain a lifelong fear of my car running out of gasoline, was an incident in which that precise thing happened while I was accompanying my father on a shopping expedition to a meat market in Nordin near Douglastown, and we were returning to our trailer park home, approaching the Cove Road that led to the entrance to the trailer park. We were on the King George Highway where there was a dip in the road, with a magnificent, forested cove on one side and the bulging Miramichi River on the other. The Cove Road was ahead to the right when our car came to dead stop. I asked my father what was wrong, and he pointed to the fuel gauge which was completely shifted in the direction of the letter, E. Evidently, he had thought there to be enough gasoline in the car's tank to reach our home and subsequently go to the nearest service station for a refill, but he had overestimated the remaining fuel supply. The feeling of being stranded on the road, even though home was only a short distance away, was palpable, and I was more than a little upset. Fortunately, in no time at all, a Good Samaritan came along and transported my father and I to the closest service station for a container of sufficient gasoline to complete the remaining distance to home and then to service station for a full replenishing of the motor-powering liquid. Ever since that day, I have never allowed a fuel tank to run anywhere close to the letter, E, and have been quite the pest as the passenger in a car whose driver has allowed the fuel gauge to come perilously close to the letter, E.
In addition to the meat market in Nordin, there was a place in downtown Newcastle to where my father went to buy meat. It was a meat market and grocery store. The lady running the grocery store part of that downtown Newcastle business sold penny candy, which always sweetened the experience of going to there, as my father and I awaited my father's requested cut of meat from the butcher. My father and I continued to go there in the first couple of years after we moved out of the trailer park in Newcastle.
Also in downtown Newcastle was a photography studio on the floor above a photography and hobby store located in the Newcastle town square, and my mother brought me there one day to have a portrait-sized photograph done of me. The photographer was a kind man and very obliging of my mother's desires for the portrait-sized photograph. That was in spring of 1972, I seem to recall.
Printed signage outside of establishments was fascinating to me as I was into my sixth year of life. Sparked mostly by how Dr. Jekyll's name had been displayed in that scary Bugs Bunny cartoon, this particular keen interest had me regarding with wide-eyed wonderment the signs, especially protruding and hanging ones, outside the entrances of businesses in downtown Newcastle. And when the signs and the buildings to which they were attached had a Victorian look to them, all the more intent was my fascination. My mother assented to my placements of printed signs on the archway of my bedroom in our mobile home. And the word, laboratory, marked on a narrow, rectangular sign protruding outside of an entry way was, for me, both unnerving and compelling.
In a number of the months of the first half of 1972, I, as previously stated, went to Sunday School in Newcastle, and there met another Kevin who lived in Douglastown. I did not then know that he and I would later be classmates at Douglastown Elementary School and would in those years become friends.
In July, 1972, my parents and I moved out of our mobile home and into a house in Douglastown. I have memories of riding in the back of a truck containing some of our belongings, disembarking the truck, and walking in awe inside the not as yet fully furnished house. To a boy who was accustomed to the small-scale rooms of a mobile home, the house was like a castle! Ceilings were higher. I had two rooms to choose from for my upstairs bedroom. Entered into by the house's back door, there was a spacious kitchen separate from the dining room, which led into a seemingly vast living room, on one side of which was a stairwell that had a 90-degree turn two-thirds of the way up, as it led to the upstairs. And there was a basement, a veranda, a patio, a two-storey garage adjacent to but separate from the house, a quite spacious, fenced side yard, and a backyard bordered by a string of evergreens. The front yard was magnificently shaded by three fully-grown trees. The house was ideally situated on the main road in the village before the road dipped over a mini-tributary to the Miramichi River. The river itself was a short distance behind our house. A gravel back road separated our yard from that of an old church hall on the riverside and from the home (also along the river) of a younger fellow named Michael, who was to be my closest friend. Across the dip in the main road, on the same side of the road as our house, was Douglastown Elementary School, which in the 1800s had been a shipbuilder's home. It looked like a large house, with a portable classroom behind it, on the riverside. Douglastown Elementary School only went to the end of Grade 5, with one class for each grade. In early 1973, with the addition of a second portable classroom, one room in the main building was converted to a library.
My mother, father, and I moved to this wonderful home in Douglastown two months before I began Grade 1 at Douglastown Elementary. Said my grandfather in a July, 1972 entry in his diary, "The McCorrys have an impressive house." A vague memory that I have, which was revisited with a reading of my grandfather's diary many years later, was of staying with my grandparents in Fredericton in the summer of 1972. They had quite the abode themselves, an old-fashioned, brown, two-storey house on Fredericton's Saunders Street between Smythe and Northumberland Streets. I have recollection of sitting in the front veranda while my uncle Fenton read to me a children's text-and-picture book about a custard pot overflowing and flooding a house. I also remember sleeping alone in a back room on the ground floor of my grandparents' house and looking out a window and seeing the distant and elongated backs of the row of houses on the next street. There was a cartoon on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour called "Canary Row" that opened with a camera pan across some San Franciscan Victorian architecture, of which the old-fashioned houses in my grandparents' neighbourhood in Fredericton reminded me frequently. As did the word, row, which I tended to associate with city blocks of houses like those in the vicinity of my grandparents' house.
On a particular visit to my grandparents in Fredericton (during which I mirthfully rode my tricycle on the sidewalk of Saunders Street), for some reason I remained there for a few days after my parents returned to our new home in Douglastown, and the plan was for my grandfather to bring me in his car halfway from Fredericton to Douglastown, rendez-vousing with my father in the town of Doaktown, some 60 of the 100 miles between Fredericton and the Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham Miramichi region, with me switching cars from my grandfather's to my father's, and for my father to bring me the rest of the distance to Douglastown, and my grandfather to return to Fredericton. But they missed each other at the meeting point, and my grandfather completed the journey to Douglastown, going past our house there and eventually stopping at a general store a quarter-mile or so past the Chatham Bridge, on the road leading to Millbank, Bartibog, and Neguac. I think that my grandfather used the store's telephone to contact my grandmother in Fredericton to enquire whether she had heard from my father, and I guess that he was informed of my father turning his car around at Doaktown and driving it back to Douglastown. A short while later, the rendez-vous happened outside my Douglastown home, I was transferred from grandfather to father, and my grandfather returned to Fredericton. It was a memorable experience, even if I may be somewhat cloudy on some of the details!
In my earliest days as a Douglastown resident, I passed some time with play with toy cars outside the front door of our new house, and I fancied the look of the automobile service station in Nordin on the King George Highway and tried to replicate the appearance of that in miniature in my toy car play. Toy cars, by the way, constituted one of my first acquisitive pursuits. And in this respect at least, I suppose that I was a fairly ordinary young boy. Said acquisitive pursuit of toy cars would predate my yearnings for possession of books and of recordings-on-media of my favourite television programmes. The motivation to own that which I fancied had its beginnings quite early in my life. And my aesthetic tastes for imaginative opuses would flower alongside my desire to acquire.
I also have memories of regarding in those, my early Douglastown days, our impressive new home from various perspectives, including one from the other side of the road at the southern end of the wooden bridge that ran over the Miramichi River mini-tributary separating my home area from Douglastown Elementary School.
After some weeks of anxiety that summer (1972) at not having any friends, I walked to a water pump in front of the old church hall behind our house and tried to operate the pump, and an amiable voice called out, "Need some help?" Johnny, a boy almost the same age as myself, and who, with his younger brother, Rob, was staying each summer with his grandparents two houses up the road from ours, was reaching out to befriend me. I reciprocated, and we introduced ourselves. We were being watched by a darker-complexioned boy three years my junior playing cars in his driveway. That younger fellow, Michael, would be my closest friend in my years in Douglastown, an outcome helped certainly by our proximity (his family's house was situated behind ours) and our year-round ability to visit each other.
Johnny and I walked up the driveway to the garage next to my family's house. Using a piece of chalk, we wrote our names on the sides of the inner arch of the garage's entry. On the following sunny morning, as I was sitting on my house's back steps in wait of Johnny's arrival, Michael walked up my back driveway to approach me and introduce himself. A short while thereafter, Johnny appeared with Rob, and Rob and I met for the first time.
And for the number of weeks that we had together before Johnny and Rob had to go back to Ontario, Johnny, Rob, and I played in the garage, turning it into a library or a store, which Rob pretended to rob (there is a pun in this, me-thinks) as we played cops and robbers. Michael joined us for some of our play. I quickly discovered that Michael did not really like the company of Johnny, and such would not change. The result was that there were instances of two-way and sometimes three-way (i.e. inclusive of me) quarrelling. Which, I suppose, is natural for youngsters.
Johnny and Rob's grandparents, when I visited them in 1989, had a picture of Johnny and Rob in a portable rubber swimming pool sometime in the summer of 1972 after they had met me. And I was a short distance behind them in the picture. Evidently, I had joined Johnny and Rob for a swim. But I have no recollection of doing so. Immersing myself in water was not common practice for me, beyond bathing in the bathtub, and even then, I did not allow the water to rise to a level with which I was not comfortable. I became distinctly averse to water after a harrowing incident in an indoor public swimming pool at C.F.B. Chatham on February 8, 1975 (the same Saturday that instalment 22 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, with "The Hasty Hare", "Claws For Alarm", "Home, Tweet Home", "Terrier-Stricken", etc., was shown), where I was to be taught how to swim but was not advised not to jump into the swimming pool without proper initiation to underwater conditions. I panicked underwater, ingested a substantial amount of the chlorinated water, and was terrified. I fled the swimming pool area and never returned. Thereafter, whenever I was submerged in water from my chin downward, I would hyperventilate, involuntarily. Even being squirted in the face by hose water or being caught outdoors in a deluge of rain on a windy day would trigger the same frightening reaction. An induced and intense case of aqua-phobia, I guess.
By the remit of the Victorian Order of Nurses, my mother would go on house visits to patients, and my father and I had to wait in our car, sometimes for what seemed to me to be eternities, for my mother to conclude her nursing work at each location throughout the Miramichi, most memorably in Chatham and Loggieville. We also, years earlier in Rivers, Manitoba, awaited my mother's exit from a house where she was receiving ceramics lessons, and I was the recipient of my mother's first project in that shapely art, a teddy bear lamp, which was to be in my bedroom through most of my childhood. After moving to Douglastown, I was also presented with a custom built wooden toy box with a sticky paper outer covering adorned with images of cartoon dogs with legs and feet like those of Huckleberry Hound and Walt Disney's Pluto. And to complete young Kevin McCorry's new Douglastown sleep chamber (located on the top floor of the right side of the house above the driveway) was a Captain's bed with a nursery rhyme image quilt assembled by my grandmother, and a grey plush toy dog.
I remember receiving my "booster" inoculations along with Jimmy as Mrs. Waye brought us to the Newcastle town hall on Castle Street across from the downtown square, where the needles were being administered. Jimmy wailed as his upper arm was penetrated, while I endured the painful, arm-jabbing process with nary a sound from my grimacing mouth. That would have been before the move to Douglastown. I recall on another day going with my mother and father to an office building behind the Newcastle courthouse on Prince William Street, where they were enrolling me in school. I did not understand what all of this was about, but the groundwork for a new beginning was definitely being established.
Since television programming and my life experiences do have a quite intricate interconnection, I am offering Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1966 to 1971 and Television Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces: 1971 to 1972. Therein are television listings for specific days in this first era of my life.
As my pre-school years were reaching their end, my parents and I were settling into our new home, and I was building a number of important friendships, a transition of life eras was clearly occurring. Whereas 1966-72 was for the most part an era of seclusion from friendly fellows of my generation, in Era 2, I would be finally stepping out of my sheltered cage, as it were. Douglastown was to be the place where I could at last find acceptance and my first stable, close friendships, and it was also the location where I was most extensively influenced by what I viewed in entertainment media.
Era 1 had left me rather disadvantaged, my social development being significantly behind that of most other children, and my resultant shyness preventing me from promptly settling into the school setting and initially impressing my schoolmates. Era 2 would see an improvement in sociability for me, but it would not come easily or swiftly.
McCorry's Memoirs continue with McCorry's Memoirs Era 2: Where am I? In the Village of My Childhood (1972-7).