Monday, 5 November 2012
A Trip Down memory lane . . .
When I was a little girl the world seemed like a very large place. It took forever to get any place (are we there yet???) and time often stood still. The most formative years of my Early childhood took place on a tiny Canadian Airforce Base, about 2 hours North of Winnipeg, called Gimli. That is where I lived from the age of 4 until I turned 11.
It wasn't a very large base . . . there were probably only about 8 streets, and possibly about 400 houses, if that. It was an Airforce Base which had been established during WW2 for flight training purposes, closed down in 1945, and then reactivated in 1950 to be used as a Jet Aircraft Training Station. My father was an Aircraft Electrician. I had a childhood whose days were punctuated by the screeching sounds of jet aircraft flying over head and loud bangs from planes breaking the sound barrier. The night sky was filled with a multitude of stars . . . and the flash of the base search light which light it up in a streak of light which passed overhead like the flare of a flashlight . . . here one minute, gone the next.
We knew everyone on the base. Which house they lived in. How many children. All of their personal details. It was just like living in a small town. We cared about each other. Although the world at large was a very huge place . . . our tiny community was a very small place . . . an intimate place. Home.
Of course those were in the days when if you did something wrong, the neighbor who saw you do it felt free to chastise you about it, and would tell your parents too . . . so you would catch heck about it not once, but twice. All of the neighborhood children played together. We were just one huge group, with varying ages. In a situation like that were most people are living really far away from their extended family's . . . your neighbors and friends become your extended family.
As with most small bases in those days . . . Gimli was the name of the town which was very close by, and much larger . . . we would travel into town as a group once every two weeks. My mother didn't drive and that was where she did her grocery shopping at the local IGA. Of course we would tag along. Sometimes we would go into the store with her, and other times we would be left sitting in the car whilst she shopped on her own. My father always went to a local restaurant for coffee while she was shopping. My father got paid every second Friday and so these shopping expeditions always happened on a Friday night right after work, early in the evening before my father went out with the "boys," which was his weekly habit for most of my childhood years.
My mother used to save grocery stamps in a book. I think she probably got a number of them each time she shopped and would save them all year. Just before Christmas she would redeem them for Christmas presents for us children. One year my sister and I got matching high chairs for our dolls. At one time they had a scheme going on where you purchased this scrap book type of book, which was filled with pages that had spaces on them where you could collect animal stickers. We each had one and every time my mother shopped she would buy us each a package and when we got home we would glue them all into our books in the requisite spots . . . and learn something about the animals at the same time. The idea was to collect all of them, and if I remember correctly, we did manage to do just that. I had that book for many, many years afterwards.
Of course these days, if you were to leave your children in the car while you went in shopping you would be seen as a bad parent and be in a lot of trouble with the authorities . . . but it was just simply the way it was way back then. Nobody really thought anything of it. In the warmer months, we would roll down the windows to the car and sit in the open windows, looking across the roof at each other as if we were looking at each across some great canyon . . . it was just another adventure in a life which seemed full of possibility and adventure.
We were always under strict instructions to not leave the car and as the oldest . . . I was in charge. So if anything went wrong . . . I was the one who would be in trouble. It didn't matter that I was only a child myself. One time my sister left the car and went missing. I remember it very clearly. I was so afraid, but I daren't leave the car to go tell my mother because I was afraid that if I did my brother, who was five whole years younger than myself, would disappear too. You can well imagine the hullabaloo when my mother came out to the car with the groceries and my sister was missing!! She was finally located in the back of the IGA, going through the discarded boxes and bins, off on an adventure of her own. A cardboard box in those years was like magic to a child . . . and she had found a veritable fortune in cardboard boxes!
I don't think either one of us got through that day unscathed . . . or un-punished. My brother of course . . . was innocent.
My sister was often very adventurous like that. One time she and my brother both disappeared from the yard. I was left at home to guard the house, in case they returned, while my mom and dad went out in the car looking for them. There were visitors due any minute and my mother wanted to make sure they found someone at home when they arrived. Being such a small place it wasn't long before they located the missing pair, and I can remember seeing my father driving his big car up the street with my brother and sister running behind the car following it . . . my sister in a torrent of tears because she knew she was in big trouble . . . my brother laughing his head off at this big adventure he was having. Once again, he was the innocent party. He had only been following her.
It used to snow a lot in that area in the Winter. The snow would often arrive before Halloween and not disappear until well after Easter, and it would be deep, deep . . . deep. Every street was lined with huge drainage ditches, which were to collect the inevitable water that would be around in the big spring thaw. In the winter, they would be piled high with snow, cleared by the big snow blower that would go around the streets, seemingly every day. It would rise in huge banks that were fun to walk along, like you were walking on top of big cold mountains, and of course in the spring thaws . . . they would melt and fill the ditches with water . . . my brother almost drowned in one one year. He had been playing out in the front garden and when my mother went to check on him, he was in the ditch, the only thing showing was his little white sailor hat which was floating on the top. My mother could not swim, but she managed to get him out, and he lived. After that the ditches were deemed dangerous . . . and actually they really were quite dangerous.
I can remember being terrified of the snow plow in the winter. They were huge machines, which sucked in all the snow and then spit it out through a kind of blasting tunnel onto the sides of the roads. Stories had been told about children who got sucked up with the snow and then blasted out in bits on the other side of the road. Scary stuff. when I heard the snow plow coming . . . I ran for safety.
In the summer time they would drive a truck around the neighborhood blasting out DDT to kill the mosquitoes, or at least control them. Mosquitoes are at their very worst early in the morning and in the twilight hours after supper. There was many a morning that I awoke to the droning sound of the mosquito killer going around the houses and to the smell of DDT wafting through the window screens . . . and of course there was many an evening when I ran along behind the machine with all of the other children in the neighborhood following it on it's journey through the PMQ's . . . with all of that DDT wafting around us, saturating our faces, hair and noses . . .
Nobody ever thought anything of it. It was quite simply one of the little pleasures and another of the adventures we had in our very small corner of the world, and I expect it was the same in most small towns. Nowadays the very thought of a group of children doing anything like that would strike dread into the hearts of any parent. But back then . . . it was nothing. My father used to clean his hands after work in transformer oil, which was loaded with PCB's, and nobody thought anything about that either.
One of my favourite shops to go to was the local Rex-all Drug Store. It was in downtown Gimli, right on the corner down near the wharf. (Gimli was situated right on Lake Winnipeg) I can remember saving my allowance up for weeks and weeks at times and then being allowed to go into the Drug Store and spend some of it. Of course in those days a Drug Store was for many things . . . there would be a soda fountain and cafe counter and all sorts of seeming treasures to a child on it's shelves. That is where I bought my first fountain pen, along with what seemed like a year's supply of turquoise colored ink. The pen had a little bladder in it. You would take off the outer covering and dip the nip of the pen into the bottle of ink and squeeze the bladder to fill it. Another thing I remember buying was a wooden pencil box, with a lid made of a sliding wall of interlocking pieces of what seemed like wood, but was probably cheap bamboo. It slid up into the top, exposing all of the pencils inside and was painted in exotic Chinese letters, trees and flora . . . the very height of sophistication I thought.
But the thing I loved the most that I bought there was a plastic Indian Piggy Bank, to replace my old black plastic pig which was falling apart at the seams. It had a real feather on top of it's head and a coin slot in it's back to push the money in to. I had it for many, many years. It was the holder of dreams and promise for me . . . I wonder what ever happened to it . . .
Oh those were the days . . . buying four cent Popsicle's from the milkman in the summer, waiting for the bread-man to deliver the bread and hoping your mum might splurge and buy a packet of doughnuts too . . . hanging out with the gang . . . being put out the door in the morning to play . . . with the only instructions being to be home at meal time, when your tummy started to rumble. Running through the sprinkler on hot sunny days to cool off . . . sitting at the window and looking out it with longing and boredom on rainy days with nothing to do (but you didn't dare complain or your mum would find you something to do, and it wouldn't be fun either) . . . movie matinees for a quarter on Saturday afternoons, all of your dreams wrapped up in a plastic Indian piggy bank.
What a charmed childhood we had . . . those really were happy times. I would love to hear some of your childhood memories. Please do share them with us in the comments section! It would be great fun to read them!
Must dash and get in the shower now ( I love saying that!) before Todd wakes up. I wish for each of you a day filled with promise and dreams, and happy memories.
Baking in The English Kitchen today . . . Swedish Cinnamon Buns!