Saturday, February 27, 2016

THAT OLD CHURCH SAVED MY LIFE!

            During a recent visit with some old friends we naturally started reminiscing about bygone years and the many people, places and events that have affected our lives over time. As our day-to-day lives play out we never really know how much our lives will be affected by a particular moment, or a person, place or thing until we reflect back on that moment’s significance years later.
            As a general rule, during these sessions of “remember when”, discussions of the memories will trigger other memories about different people and different times and there is a snowball effect as the more one remembers the more one remembers, if you know what I mean, and soon things that you didn’t think you would ever recall are being recalled. Depending upon the peer group gathered one can relive events from high school, or significant family function events or your sports teams’ past accomplishments or how you fooled the heck out of ol’ Jimmy at work that time.
            The subject of the recent closing and subsequent sale of the Windthorst United Church was an event that triggered numerous memories for me, my wife and the group of friends who had gathered for that recent visit. You see, the Windthorst United Church would loom large in my life. My father, Rev. Lowell Hubbard, was the United Church Minister in the Kipling-Windthorst Pastoral Charge from 1970 until 1980. In 1975 my wife’s Confirmation into the United Church of Canada was held in that church with my Dad officiating at the ceremony. Debbie and I were married in that church in 1981, with Dad performing that ceremony as well.
Now those are some very significant life events indeed but my recollections took me back to some events that led to that church literally saving my life. Not in the figurative sense, either, but in the real physical sense.
It was about forty-years ago when a close friend and I decided on an ill-advised road trip on about the coldest day of the year after a nice long stint in the Kipling Hotel bar. Didn’t I tell you that it was an ill-advised trip? Now listen to the story and try not to judge.
The facts are that mostly drunk, almost men are not really, really clear thinkers at the best of times but at 1:45am on a Sunday in the middle of a Saskatchewan winter their combined IQ would be hovering about the level of the temperature, I’m thinking, which would have been low…very, very low.
Now you’ve got the picture. Anyway, two drunk, nineteen-year-old males headed out for food or girls or a party somewhere…thing is, we’re not exactly sure where we were going, but the half-ton truck we were driving broke down just outside of Windthorst merely minutes into our journey.
The short walk into town nearly froze us to death to begin with and with nobody answering their door at that awful hour we were pretty darn close to hypothermia and then digit loss would come next and then…who knows?
Well, we were at our wit’s end when I remembered that they never actually locked church buildings. Not back then, anyway. They don’t call them sanctuaries for nothing, I guess. What a blessing it was that the door opened when we finally got to the church and we cranked the furnace up and a long while later we finally warmed up enough to pass out. I will spare you the details of the headshaking reaction of my Dad and some of the congregants the next morning when they arrived for the early Sunday service to find the building occupied. Reactions aside, that church saved our lives.
I was happy to hear that Nick and Loreen Windjack had bought the old church. Word has it that they plan on hosting music concerts and special events there. Good for them, share the pleasure. Hosting events that bring joy, pleasure and laughter is a much better fate for a church building, which has been serving the community since 1911, than to see another window darkened building sitting empty in another small town in Saskatchewan.

“We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.”- Winston Churchill (1874-1965).

GOOD OL' DAYS MY ARSE!

I guess I wasn't the only one who was getting a little bit nostalgic about local carnivals of winters’ past like Kipling’s Snow Ball Days and the Moose Mush Winter Festival at Moose Mountain Provincial Park as more than a few people that I have run into this past couple of weeks had read a recent Humble Opinion column and mentioned to me that they, too, had recently been talking and thinking about the "good ol' days".
My late father-in-law, Arthur Lewis, had a little different view of what constitutes “the good old days". In fact, I will recite a famous family quote from A. G. Lewis when he said, with a twinkle in his eye, I might add, "Good old days my arse! Walking between two horses so I wouldn't freeze to death as they pulled a wagonload of firewood ten miles back home up the Dalzell Road from the Pipestone Valley in a zero visibility blizzard wasn't what I'd call "good". Point well taken.
I think we all know what he means, though. As much as a nostalgic, romanticized look back on a simpler time when neighbours helped neighbours and people hadn’t lost so much human contact rings true, the “good old days” weren’t without their hardships and stresses either.
I think every generation has its version of “the good old days”. Depending, of course, on your point of view. My parents and my wife’s parents lived through droughts and wars and infant mortality and lacked a lot of today’s conveniences and modern medicines but they often looked back on their earlier times as “better days”.
I’m a Baby Boomer and I have grown up with all of the modern conveniences and medicines and everything but we’ve had our share of wars and droughts and world upheaval and all of the stresses of living in today’s hectic world as well.
So if I had to draw back to a “good old days” time in my life I would have to go with the carefree days of my late teens and early twenties which just happen to coincide with the entire decade of the 1970’s. Back then, before a wife and kids, and my father’s authority was slowly eroding away, I had a run of a few carefree years there.
Playing senior hockey in town, practices going until midnight, or later, most of it off the ice, if you know what I mean? Poker games, deer sausage, dressing room shenanigans with many a happy pop thrown in. Ah, those were the days. We even played the odd hockey game, too. Between the parties, that is.
Back then, it seemed like you only had to work one day to afford four days of partying and now you need four days of work to afford one night of partying. That’s if you can still do it.
I did a little cost of living comparison on goods and services costs between 1975 and 2015. Taking the cost of a house, car, education, gas, food and entertainment in to account in 1975 dollars and calculate it to 2015’s cost and then compare it to 2015’s actual costs the comparison shows that expenses were up while median income was down. Go figure.
            A new car was $3,800.00, a new house $48,000.00, (USA survey), a movie was $2.00 a ticket and gas was .25 per litre. Average Median Income in 1975 was $12,686.00 which equals $56,000.00 in 2015 dollars but the actual 2015 Median Income is $5,000.00 a year less at $51,000.00. Hmmm.
            Every era will have its good times and its bad, I suppose, and every generation will pass the torch to the next and that generation will carry on the tradition of looking back and finding a time in their lives that were “the good old days”.
This “Woe Is Me Time” was brought to you by Nostagia Inc. a subsidiary of The Both Ways Uphill Conglomerate.
“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.”-Doug Larson (1926-).


WINTER BLUES NOT SO BLUE


            I guess this season’s El Nino is stronger than the last El Nino which occurred in 1997-1998 making this 2015-16 edition a “Super” El-Nino. Whatever you want to call it, the results have given us above average temperatures and below average precipitation here on the Western Canadian Prairies and, depending on your preference, it may be a good thing or a bad thing.
From my perspective, after back-to-back winters with bone-freezing temperatures, this season’s milder temperatures and lack o’ snow have provided a nice break, but I don’t own a snowmobile or a snowmobile repair shop or a snow removal business or anything like that, but, you know, you can’t make everybody happy and even I have missed my snowshoeing a bit this year, but, then again, sacrifices have to be made.
            Now that Ground Hog Day is upon us and one of the mildest Saskatchewan Januarys on record has passed us by there might not be so much pressure to escape the winter blues with a hot holiday destination. Mind you, the weather hasn’t been so hot in a lot of the hot spots so maybe a Stay-cation isn’t such a bad idea this year after all.
            Back in the day, though, you didn’t really hear every second person telling you they were heading to Hawaii or Jamaica or Mexico or Cuba or the Dominican Republic for a week or ten days to escape the miserable winter. Sure, there was the odd couple or a rich family that headed somewhere tropical but most people stuck it out at home and made the best of the winter. Did you know that in 1970 Cancun Mexico only had three residents before they started building up the tourism developments on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula? That’s right, three residents and now there are close to three quarters of million people living in Cancun. That was merely 45 years ago folks. But I digress.
            Remember the old winter festivals and carnivals that communities hosted as a distraction to the long winter? During the 1970’s and maybe even into the 1980’s there was an “if you can’t beat it join it” kind of attitude and many area communities hosted some kind of winter festival. Kipling had its Snow Ball Days and Kenossee Lake held the Moose Mush Winter Festival and there were the regional Pipe-Si-Cana Games, too.
            The old festivals had a variety of winter activities like broomball, jam-can curling, snowmobile drag races, pillow fights, (two people facing each other on a log beating the you-know-what out of each other with pillows), regular curling, hockey, and the list goes on and on. Most of the festivals ended with a big cabaret with a live band and the participants partying well into the night. It doesn’t seem like we’ve got the gumption to do that kind of thing anymore. Too many other things going on, I guess.
            So if you aren’t jumping on a plane to warmer climes you might be interested in what the old groundhogs have to say when they make their appearance on February 2nd. I say groundhogs as there are many of the prognosticating rodents being called upon to say whether we’ll be getting an early or late spring. Punxsutawney Phil, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam, Balzac Billie or Buckeye Chuck, to name just a few, will be called upon to make their predictions. Unfortunately, Winnipeg Willow will not be one of the participating groundhogs as she passed away only a couple of days before the big event.
            Remember now, if the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow then spring will come early and if it does see its shadow then winter will persist for another six weeks. No one has said what happens if the ground hog dies suddenly just before the 2nd…the apocalypse is upon us perhaps? As always, time will tell.           

            “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”- Victor Hugo-(1802-1885).

THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

            With the recent deaths of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Members David Bowie and Glenn Frey I reflected back on how their music careers more or less paralleled my own life. I listened to a lot of David Bowie throughout high school and not so much since, but The Eagles were a group that provided me with the largest portion of the soundtrack to my adult life.
             It’s not like we were on a first-name basis or anything but the shock of Glenn Frey’s passing at merely 67 years-old really caught me off-guard. I didn’t even know he was sick. I guess he had been battling numerous health issues for years before undergoing surgery in November. Surgery that, ultimately, he would not recover from as he passed away on January 18th, 2016. Again, it was a shock.
After listening and following these types of stars’ careers for years and years a familiarity is built between the performer and the fan. We don’t know these people but feel as though we do as we have followed their careers and lives and allowed them to come into our living rooms and bar rooms and on our car radios as they provided the background music to the lives we were living.
Of human beings’ five senses they say that the sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger but I’m thinking that sound, or music more specifically, is a pretty strong catalyst for memory as well. Just think of any song and it will take you back to a specific time that you heard the song or you might even have multiple memories of a song that you heard at different times in your life.
So it is whenever I hear The Eagles where Glen Frey takes the lead vocals in songs like “Take It Easy”, “Lyin’ Eyes”, “Tequila Sunrise” or “New Kid in Town”. Depending on the Eagles song being played, it might take me back to the Bar, Bar at Kenossee Lake during its ‘70’s heyday, or the driver’s seat in the Eldon’s Bakery delivery van that I drove four days a week for my first fulltime job after high school. Remember when Moose Jaw’s 800 CHAB radio was the coolest station on the air waves?
 “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles and “Love Hurts” by the band Nazareth played over and over and over on the limited song list on the juke box in the old, old Kipling Motor Inn. Most of all, though, it’s the 1977 Eagles’ album Hotel California which provided the background music to a summer of fun with Ronnie Balogh along with many, many friends at Frank and Helen Balogh’s cabin at Kenossee Lake. From the bits and pieces that I can actually remember it was quite a summer. Oh boy, that was some kinda fun!
I was just entering Grade 9 at Kipling High School when fate would bring Glen Frey and Don Henley together in California. There would be many other band mates in The Eagles but it was Frey and Henley’s writing talents that distinguished the group and made it one of the best-selling bands of all time. The band played together for the whole decade of the 1970’s and broke up for fourteen years before reuniting in 1994 as they continued recording and performing live shows until Frey’s death. Their last concert performance was on July 29th, 2015.
I’ve had The Eagles playing the background music to my life for close to 45 years. Although he’s moved on we will always be able to access Frey’s musical talents triggering fond memories of days gone by and time well-shared.

“All it takes is one song to bring back a thousand memories.”- Facebook Quote.