Up to that point I think my experience with panhandlers was limited to the odd drunk in the Ashuanipi Pit! Downtown 'Taranna', even in winter was maggotty with them! they swooped in on the two of us, but they were out of luck of course. We had nothing. Only our packsacks and some Drum tobacco!
We spent the day trying not to freeze to death by deeking into shopping malls and warming up. the whole day was spent killing time until it was time to climb back onto the train headed west.
Well, I'm off for a few weeks now and my online activity will be very limited...holidaze will do that. thanks very much for reading and commenting. Always fun. See y'all later on!
I don't know where I heard that first, 'the wild blue yonder'. Perhaps in a comic book or an old western or something. No idea. Point is, 'yonder' was a place that wasn't Labrador City, and as much as I loved the place, at that point in my young life, it wasn't a 'happening ville'. It seemed stuck, or I was stuck, or something. I suppose as comfortable as living in my hometown was, I was in need of adventure. I was excited about 'Yonder'.
Yup. the adventure had started. The WW2 Flying Ace guy is true! Called himself the 'Rabbit'! I want to believe it was true. Anyways Dorval was a lovely little spot... in the dead of winter...frozen and bleak. The pub wasn't too far from the train stop that we were boarding the westbound Via Rail at 11:59 pm (I was and still am amazed that the train schedule was down to the minute). I know I slept on the train but I don't remember what time. I had my head laid against the window like I used to when taking the QNS&L out of Labrador, feeling the rumble and the buzzing of the rails. The train gathered speed as we left Montreal Island in the past and the lights shining outside in the snowbanks eventually disappeared, only occasionally interrupted by a rural crossing. The whistle blowing was a sign to open my eyes again and try figure out where we were, then drift away again. By morning everything would still be different!
Hey all, I've just submitted two of the songs off of my 'Migration Songs' album into the Canadian Songwriting Competition! The proceeds go to the Foundation for After School Talent (FAST Canada). Winners to be announced March 2017. I'm kind of excited about this as I have never done this sort of thing before...a real competition! Wish me luck!
The competition is hosted by Songwriting Canada ( http://songwritingcanada.com/ ) and I'm pumped to be a part of it! You may have heard the songs before as they have been featured in this blog in the past but please, kick back and have another listen! Enjoy y'all!!
Yes we were a generation growing up in a boomtown and didn't even know it. We just thought it was normal to be working, making a good buck and having the ability to live our lives in the manner in which we saw fit. Some of us worked in family businesses, others at any of the local retailers and grocers. A few actually worked at jobs involving the Iron Ore industry with select suppliers and on and on. At the time I had graduated High School, did a kick at university and discovered that 'Lo and Behold, I wasn't quite ready for more schooling'. To make a long story short, I had settled into working at a local Sports shop. The owners were wonderful people and I was enjoying being kind of independent. At the shop I was doing ski equipment repairs and tune ups, engraving trophies, printing team t-shirts, sales, etc. and I even learned a neat skill! I learned how to string tennis racquets. Of course, there's a special machine and clamp weights and such...interesting though.
As the drawing suggests, all good things come to an end, and so it was with the Sports Shop. They couldn't afford to pay wages when sales were slow and I was let go. I was ready. I was feeling the confines of my hometown at that time and was longing for something exciting to do. Hell, it didn't even have to be exciting! Just not boring! This was the waning years of the 70's and things were happening 'Out West'. Guys our age were getting work out there at all kinds of jobs, and making excellent money! Getting laid off was a long overdue licence to head off into the Wild Blue Yonder!
That was a decent job, working at the Tool Supply. It was nearly always busy so the shift would go by quickly, and stock was turning over fast so there was always something to price, or unpack, or stack or whatever. And as an added bonus I learned what a lot of tools are, and what they're for (before anyone gets the idea that I'm some kind of 'handyman' tool guy I'll squash that right now. I ain't that guy!). I did some of my first commercial art work at that store, creating display materials and drawings to stick up on open spaces. Also, I did the company logo on the pegboard near the entrance. Not a huge job I'll admit, but I was learning and flying by the seat of my pants!
Ah, the old Pool Hall. Den of dens, basement billiards and pinball...and loud, loud music! Everyone dropped into the Pool Hall before setting off to where ever. This smokey room was our home base from where we could launch our assault on the world! I seem to remember it as a bit of an 'outlaw' land...the youth of the Town were in charge here, that's how it felt (even though in reality we were not in charge at all! The stern looking guys were! This was the hangout. Alcohol was not permitted, since nearly all the patrons were underage. Cigarettes seemed to be encouraged! It was really a bad place to breathe. And yet, it was here that we first realized our money was our own! We spent our hard earned wages on games of pool and snooker, playing poker pool, cutthroat and more. I really enjoyed the pinball games...especially after the Who recorded Pinball Wizard. I could hold my own, at least until I tilted!
We spent a lot of time just driving around in each other's cars. A typical evening after leaving the family home, would be to hang out at the Shopping Center for a bit, just to see who shows up, then pile into the 'vehicle of the night' and start to circle. We would drive along the near side of the center then a right turn at Dominion, up over the hill and by the RC Church. Another right down past the Library then right again across from the Town Hall and back into the Shopping Center at the Royal Theatre. After a while the driver would get bored and reverse the direction or loop down around the Ash' until eventually we would drive over to Wabush, or up to the Ski Lodge, or Duley, and so on. Through it all the music was blasting out and we were rockin'.
Here's the second installment of Sculpin Tickle Part Two.
Yep, we in Labrador City would all pile in the car and drive around all evening, hanging out, then take a trip to visit the guys spinning the tunes, then head back across the lake listening to the set list!
A few years back I got the bright idea to draw a cartoon a day for a year, never actually considering how really long a year can be when doing a task like this! The idea was to capture the past and tell the story of the early years of Labrador City, a mining town built in Western Labrador by the Iron Ore Company of Canada. This would be a kind of memoir as I recollected the experiences myself and the other kids of town lived through as we came of age during the 1960’s and 70’s.
I called the strip ‘Sculpin Tickle’, a fictional place in my mind which represents to me a cultural homeland or an ‘all encompassing’ community. I commenced to draw ‘with both tails wagging’ so to speak. Well, to my credit I made it nearly nine months before the rigors and influences of daily life brought the project to an unceremonious halt. I am happy with the volume of thoughts I did manage to preserve and I thoroughly enjoyed all the comments I received from friends and strangers alike who were reading this strip.
Note: the earlier strips are on this site under their own tab!
Ever since shelving this project it has annoyed me that I did not complete the 365 panels I had originally intended, nor did I actually bring any closure to the story and as everyone knows, endings should never be left dangling. In the time since I’ve wondered how I might close the loop. I’ve considered a darker, Part Two of Sculpin Tickle (which up to this point dealt with the brighter aspects of life in Labrador West) in which I would discuss the issues of substance abuse, broken homes, relatively high suicide rate, and so on. This avenue I’ve decided would be too depressing to relate and I would certainly struggle to discipline myself enough to complete.
So here and now I find myself on the road again, working three weeks of every month on a shipbuilding gig in Quebec, far away from my home on the Island of Newfoundland. This affords me some time to progress further in the project, a task that I feel is important to complete as it not only relates our story in Labrador West, but in effect tells a story similar to many other mining towns within the Canadian Shield that sprang up during the last half of the last century! I think that is reason enough to continue for the pure personal and historical account of those times.
And so I begin now, to pick up the story a few years on and I hope to show how some have stayed, some of us have moved on, some have returned, and yet, throughout it all the consciousness instilled in our psyches; that feeling of being a part of something that only a small number of people have ever experienced, has permeated into every aspect of our lives, careers and families.
As a child the word ‘Feminist’ meant little more than hazy black and white images in the newspaper. Images of semi-hysterical women, mouths agape, angrily screaming towards the photographer’s camera, all the while burning their undergarments and waving placards expressing solidarity with other women doing the same. These newspaper photos generally sat next to similar photos showing angry mobs of long haired people calling for the United States to get out of Vietnam, or Laos, or Cambodia or some such place that meant not much more to me than coloured countries in the Atlas. These events in the news barely registered on my radar. I was collecting stickers and articles about the race to get to the moon, Sputnik be damned!
Then, as I grew into a teenager I became more politically and socially aware. I didn’t fully understand why the US was in southeast Asia, but I knew that all those fellows around my own age shouldn’t be forced to be there, killing and being killed. I sure as hell wouldn’t have wanted to be told I had to go! As for feminism, my first real exposure to the concept of what was happening was John & Yoko’s song on their 1972 release Sometime in New York City. “Woman is the Nigger of the World” sent shock waves around the world! I might add that in this day and age of ‘political correctness’ that song would be censored as entirely offensive to just about anyone! But the truth of the matter is this; it took courage to call out the wrongs of the world, and it still does. Their song coupled with an increasing understanding of the ways of the world, nudged me into looking a little deeper into the issue of women’s rights. I was in grade nine.
In its essence, women’s rights meant equality with men. Imagine my shock when I realized that women did not have equal rights with men!
Let me back up a bit…I was raised in a (I think) typical Newfoundland family where mother and sister had every bit as much say in the domestic affairs of the household and anyone else. Everyone was expected to pull their share of the weight (I am guilty of evading the dishwashing whenever I could, but that was not a gender thing, it was a ‘teen doesn’t want to do it’ thing – besides, I shoveled my share of snow). My environment was apparently way ahead of a large portion of the world in terms of gender equality, I just didn’t realize it. It was only later that I clued into the fact that women actually had to organize into the Suffrage Movement and fight for the right to vote in Canada, something they were denied until 1916 and in some provinces even later. The story is a similar one in those one would consider ‘forward thinking’ countries worldwide. More shockingly, in some countries women are still treated as chattel!
Once I grew up (or what passes for growing up...let's call it 'aging') I soaked up some experiences, managed to get an education, became more 'worldly' and have concluded that I was born and raised, and most certainly still am, a Feminist! I believe in equal pay for equal work; equal rights and equal opportunity. In fact my line of business is very heavily loaded on the masculine side (shipbuilding and technical design) but in the thirty odd years that I've been in this racket there's been great strides towards gender balance in all of the engineering fields. Not only that, the capacity that I normally work, as a contractor for hire, the women that do the same work as I get exactly the same rates! I'm not saying that this is always the case but its been my experience that this is so. And if it isn't it certainly should be.
I have a son and daughters, equally sharing in all that I have and I've raised them to respect one another as people, and to respect others as people, not on the basis and bias of gender. I hope that I've instilled a work ethic that will help them get what they desire and I see no reason that either of them, son or daughter, should tolerate anything less than total equality. Men and women are different in many ways, but not in equality nor gender based rights. These rights are Human Rights and we should all live by them.
I know lately that there's been some conflict in the press where female journalists have been ridiculed, put down, harassed and have had many other distasteful acts prosecuted against them. To those women I say Keep it up, do not bow down to the bullying of anyone who would see you belittled, and accept nothing less than total respect. And also take strength that you are not alone in this. There are far more feminists than there are antagonists in a true free society.
I remember an old cigarette advertisement (Virginia Slims?) that stated “We’ve come a long ways baby”. Well, that's true, although having equal rights to die of lung cancer is not much of an endorsement in my mind. But there's still a long ways to go.