Monday, May 22, 2017

HOCKEY REUNION AND HONOURING AN OLD FRIEND

            I woke up on the 1st of May and immediately breathed a sigh of relief as I took my first glances out of the window to make sure that the ground was only wet and not covered in a foot or two of snow. Remember the massive dump of ’11 and then a repeat in ’13? Yuck! What a way to start the month of May.
            We needed a nice soaking rain to wash the ugly off of the last vestiges of winter and get some things greening up. That we could use. What we didn’t need was another snow on the cawing crows. That can wait until those irritating bloody things are heading back down south next fall.
            Snow or no snow the golf course is opening up and baseball has begun. In other words…spring has sprung! Now all we need is some temperatures over the +10C mark and we’d be laughing.
            Even though the outdoor spring sports activities are underway good old hockey is not too far away from any Canadian sports fan’s mind. Right now we are into the second round of the NHL Playoffs and Major Junior Hockey’s Regina Pats are the Eastern Conference Champions and they’re headed to the Western Hockey League Finals with the hopes of winning the Memorial Cup-the holiest of junior hockey’s holy grails.
            Named for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the WHL’s Pats are the Canadian Hockey League’s oldest franchise beginning operations in 1917, and celebrating their 100th anniversary next season.  The club has competed in a record 12 Memorial Cup Championship games including the inaugural final back in 1919 before winning major junior hockey’s prize three times in 1925, 1930, and 1974. The Regina Pats will be hosting the Memorial Cup in 2018 their Centennial Season.
Sticking with the hockey and memorial theme I had mentioned a few columns ago that some old Kipling Royals and Pipestone Beaver alumni wanted to reunite to share some old hockey war stories later this year. Initially I had announced the date as the 17th of June but the event will be held on the 10th of June.
This event will be open to anyone and everyone. Anybody who has had any experience with organized sports teams know that just having players doesn’t necessarily make a “team”. Coaches, managers, training staff, permission from spouses, (if required), and moral support from a fan base are necessary for the success of any team so whenever there is a reunion it should be all-inclusive and this one is.
I had also mentioned that one of the main pushes to get this event going was the too-soon passing of Brian Gallagher last June. Brian played on both of these teams and his old teammates wanted to provide a memorial for him.
Brian was a great goalie and an even better person. Brian really loved hockey but I would have to say that his love of the land and farming even surpassed his love of hockey. Brian didn’t have a great tolerance for formal schooling but he was a well-educated man. He loved reading and learning and his knowledge of history, politics and science, to name a few, was astounding.  
When it was suggested, by Mark Toppings, Brian’s friend and teammate on both the Pipestone Beavers and the Kipling Royals, that the best way to memorialize Brian was to start an Agriculture School Scholarship Fund  it was the perfect fit. Decision made.
 Circle the date. There will be a fun golf game at Kingswood Golf Course followed by a supper and social at the good ol’ Kipling Arena. It will be a great time for a great cause.
“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.”-Rosa Parks, (1913-2005).


Monday, April 24, 2017

EASTER MEMORIES


            Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. In Christian religion Good Friday marks the death of Jesus Christ and it is a fundamental part of Christianity along with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

            Needless to say, as my father was a United Church minister, Easter was a very special time of the year around our home growing up. The religious aspects were lost on me, though, as my Easter revolved around the Easter egg hunt, the Easter candies and goodies and those old standby Easter favourites…the Oh Henry Easter egg bars. Oh man, I loved those Oh Henry bars! Still do!

            Sidebar here: are those bars that much smaller in size now than they were when I was a kid in the ‘60’s or am I just that much bigger? Hmmmmmmm. Perhaps a little bit of both.

            The other great treat at Eastertime was the Easter break from school. What school-age child doesn’t like a break from school? Oh sure, there were those one or two keeners that we grew up with who wished there was school every day but there was something just a little “off” with that kind of thinking to me.

            Because we lived in Saskatchewan and the Easter weekend moved around the calendar a bit you could either be making a snowman or getting a sunburn. Sometimes you could be getting both done at the same time! But spring is a great time of year to be away from school whether you were rafting in runoff water or playing street or “ground” hockey or bringing out the ball gloves and baseball bats for the first time in the year. 

            I was one of the younger siblings in our family and I recall anxiously waiting for my older brother and sisters and their families to come home for the Easter break. There was always a house full of people with lots of food, fun and frivolity. After I grew older and I moved away from home I joined my siblings and their families in travelling home to Mom and Dad’s house to celebrate Easter with them.  

            Debbie and I started our thirty-seven-year relationship right around Easter so this time of year is extra special for us in that regard, too. I recall one of the very first times that Deb had much interaction with my oldest sibling, my brother Jack. Dad and Mom were living in Coledale, Alberta, at that time, and a lot of my family members were gathered at their place for Easter. Dad and Mom had a big house and many of us were staying with them including me and Deb as well as Jack and his wife Susan.

            Just a little background note here: Jack’s wife Susan doted over him and did everything for him “just so” as he was a pretty particular guy with his food likes and dislikes and his clothing choices and the ironing on his pants and shirts which had to be exact as he was pretty darn fussy. I’m pretty sure that Susan even ironed Jack’s gitch and socks, for crying out loud!

            Anyway, it’s Easter Sunday morning and we’re all getting ready for church and recently married Debbie comes along with my dress shirt and says, “Here’s your shirt, I’ve got it all ironed and ready for you” and my brother Jack looks the shirt up and down and says to Deb, “You call that ironed?” Followed by his loud, boisterous laugh! Deb took it in stride and ribbed him back but the story became standard Easter Sunday lore in the family.

             The torch has been passed in the family now, as we are the ones anxiously awaiting our children and their families to arrive for the Easter weekend to carry on the family traditions and it’s highly likely that some Oh Henry bars will be part of the festivities this time around, too.

 

“In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to our past and a bridge to our future,”-Alex Haley.(1921-1992).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

MOM'S FAMOUS WORDS

The other day I ran into a friend of mine who happens to be a regular reader of this column and she wanted clarification on a word or two that I had used in some past articles. Quite often I forget myself and use some of my Mom’s phrases I heard so many times growing up that they simply became part of my vocabulary and I bandy them about like everybody should know what I am talking about. I also make assumptions in my writing regarding the readers’ abilities to follow my dialog. Sorry about that. You know what happens when you ass-u-me something, don’t you?
I will have to reveal a bit of family history in order to fully explain how some of the words that I use became the norm in the language used in our home while the Hubbard kids were growing up. You see, Mom was a full-blooded Hungarian with English becoming a second language to her when she became school age. Dad grew up in a wholly English household where English was the only language used.
My Grandma Vedres, Mom’s Mom, knew some English but she pretty much stuck to her mother tongue as most of her family and friends spoke Hungarian a majority of the time. Let’s just say that she understood English better than she spoke it. 
Dad never really liked Mom’s family talking Hungarian together because he always thought that they were talking about him! To that end, the only Hungarian spoken around our house on a regular basis was when Grandma was over for tea or maybe if one of Mom’s siblings happened to be visiting.
That didn’t stop Mom from using the odd slang or a curse word or two in her native tongue when the potatoes boiled over or the stupid toaster burnt the bread. So we grew up with kind of a hybrid language with common Hungarian words and slang thrown in with the everyday English but Mom didn’t teach us the complete Hungarian language that she and Grandma spoke.
Now, after that long-winded explanation, the word that I had used a couple of weeks ago is more attributable to a Rose Hubbard-ism than it is an actual Hungarian term, I’m thinking, but “schmutrooking”, (this is my spelling of a word I heard many, many times but never saw in a written form), was the word Mom used when she described someone walking slowly and scuffling their feet along. Skulking, as it were. As in, “look at ol’ Sushinka schmutrooking down the street again!” Make sense? I hope so.
Those are the words I grew up hearing! That was just Mom. My Mom was a very funny woman with a great sense of humour. She was an accomplished story teller and her colourful language always added a little extra flavour to her tales. 
“All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.”-Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

IT'S REUNION TIME!


            I guess all of that talk about the 50th birthday of the Kipling Arena made me pretty nostalgic. It welled up a lot of memories of the past so you will have to endure one more column mostly dedicated to the theme of the Kipling Arena.

            Back in the 1970’s there was an abundance of hockey players and not just in Kipling, either. The Baby Boomers were coming of age and there were a lot of them. They were everywhere.

There were so many players back then that the younger minor hockey teams seldom had to leave town to find competition as they had a four-team house league in most of the age groups right here in town and they played against each other every Saturday morning.

Every now and then there would be a trip to a tournament or an “away game” somewhere and, to me, a road trip back then to Odessa or Indian Head seemed like it lasted forever for crying out loud and now we’re hiking eight and ten-year-old kids to Carnduff in the middle of the week? Times have definitely changed and I am digressing.

            In addition to all of Kipling’s minor hockey teams there were the Kipling Royals senior hockey team, the Pipestone Beavers Junior B Hockey Team who used the Kipling Arena as their home base and there was a “fall-through-the-cracks” Senior “B” team of guys who still loved to play the game but didn’t have the talent for the Royals or didn’t want to commit the time required to play senior hockey, or risk a job-ending injury in a body-contact league. The Senior B’s were a precursor to today’s Rec Hockey Teams playing in the beer n sausage leagues.

            After I finished high school I played more than a few games with the Senior B’s before joining the Royals for a few seasons but I didn’t get a chance to play for the Pipestone Beavers. Like many of my peers I tried out for the team but apparently the quota on string-bean right wingers with a soft backhand had been filled. Three years in a row. Again, with the digressing.

            In 2006 I helped organize a “Royals Reunion” and it was well attended and we had a lot of fun reminiscing, and, like many of these events we vowed to have one every five years or so. So far, we haven’t.

            I had many discussions with a lot of the old Pipestone Beaver alumni, too, many of which are still in the area, and it turns out that they have never had a reunion since the team disbanded after the 1976-77 season.

            Many of my close peer-group friends played with both the Royals and the Beavers and we share many, many hockey stories every time we gather for an occasion. Since the day I moved into Kipling Brian Gallagher had been one of my closest friends and he was an excellent goaltender for both of those teams. Brian passed away last June and as many of his old teammates and friends gathered to say goodbye we lamented the fact that we don’t meet as often as we should or as often as many of us would like. Again, the subject of a bigger reunion came up. This time we aren’t putting it off.

            So we are going to have the First Ever Kipling Royals Pipestone Beavers Hockey Teams Reunion on June 17th. There will be a golf tourney at Kingwood Golf Course, a supper and hours and hours of reminiscing and lying to each other about how good we used to be. A wobbly pop or two may be involved.

            We will be recruiting help and we will be calling as many of the old team members as we can so if anyone would like to volunteer or pass on any names of teammates past follow the contact information at the bottom of this article and let me know.

“What can ever equal the memory of being young together?” –Michael Stein, In the Age Love.

THE RINK-HUB OF A SASKATCHEWAN COMMUNITY


            The Kipling Arena is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. As with every other town, village or rural community on the Canadian prairies that constructed curling and skating rinks the Kipling Arena became one of the main focal points of the community. Residents really needed somewhere to go to while away the long, long Saskatchewan winter hours. You know, we were adapting to the elements, you might say.

            Did you know that Saskatchewan has more indoor rinks than Ontario? We do! Mind you, our weather may factor into that, don’t you think? There was a statistic that I read while I was in the recreation field which stated that Saskatchewan had more indoor rinks, especially artificial ice rinks, than the entire country of Russia. I am not sure if that statistic is still true today, but still.

            The rink has changed significantly in many ways since its opening day. Artificial ice was installed in the 1970’s and dressing rooms have been renovated or constructed continually over the years improving the amenities of the facility. Many rink improvement projects have been completed throughout the years through government grant monies, local municipal support and, of course, the backbone of any community…its users and volunteer base.

            I remember the pre-artificial ice days of the early 1970’s. I was a linesman for most of the Junior B Pipestone Beavers’ home games and we were still using hand scrapers to clean the ice between periods of the hockey games and they only flooded the ice during the second intermission. It was the same for the Kipling Royals home games.

            Volunteers would hand-scrape the accumulated skating surface snow into windrows and then shovel the snow out of two hatches in walls at the south end of the rink. These hatches were also an excellent way to sneak in to the rink to scoot around unsupervised while the place was closed. If one was prone to doing that sort of thing, mind you.

            Back then there was an old barrel and boom contraption that was used to flood the ice. A hose came up out of the basement at the north end of the ice and they filled a barrel that was attached to a bike-wheel cart and it had about a ten foot boom across the back where flannel was draped to smooth the heated water as it flowed out of the boom. It was pulled by hand and it needed about three barrels to do a complete flood, I think. It was interminable!! It took forever!

            Many a time I shivered and froze through two periods of hockey in a rink that was always ten degrees colder inside than it was outside only to sit for thirty-five minutes in a cramped hot referee’s room and have to reacclimatize myself to the frigid conditions all over again. Ditto when I was playing hockey for the Royals. I hated going back out for those third periods in -25C conditions.

            Back in my high school days the last event of the skating rink season was the Kipling High School broomball tournament. There was usually one to two inches of water on top of the remaining ice as we ran around soaked to the gills slipping and sliding in rubber boots, as no one had broom ball shoes. It was freezing cold, soaking wet FUN!

             Yes, when I think of the Kipling Arena I think of fun. I had a lot of fun times in that rink and I don’t think I’m done having fun there. Happy 50th Kipling Arena and here’s to 50 more!

“The Rink. A place where I’ve laughed but also where I’ve cried. Had my biggest successes and my biggest failures. It is where I belong.”- Pinterest Pin.

Monday, March 6, 2017

HAPPY 50TH KIPLING ARENA!

            It was with great interest that I read last week’s Citizen coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the construction of the Kipling Arena. Currently the “rink” may not meet the mid-to-late1960’s level of being the centre of the community’s universe, (53 rink bonspiels!! my goodness), but it is still a very vital structure as well as a cornerstone of our community.
            50 years! It seems like such a short time ago in our history but a lifetime ago in our memories. As they say, “if those walls could talk”, my, my, my what stories they would tell.
            The Kipling Arena was barely three years old when I crossed the threshold for the first time in 1970. I spent an awful lot of hours in that facility in many different capacities throughout the years. Fan, player, coach, referee, linesman, ice maker, PA announcer, bonspieler, cook… I even worked out of the Parks and Recreation Office in the northeast corner of the waiting room for four years from 2002-2006. I know that building intimately.
             There were numerous times when I sat alone in that massive wood structure while it seemed as though the walls were trying to talk to me. I wasn’t sure what they were saying but there was a lot of creaking and cracking and moaning and groaning going on in there. Most people would be a little spooked being alone in that old building with those noises going on all the time but I felt that if there were any spirits floating around the Kipling Arena they’d just be the ghosts of fun-seekers past. You know, benevolent spirits still having fun in a building built for that very purpose…fun…and in that capacity, it has been and continues to be a resounding success.
            I am reluctant to name names while talking historically about bygone days in our community, knowing full well that I will miss someone significant, but I can’t help but mention a few people from my early, early days in the rink. A few of the rink-dwellers from back in the day who made an impression on me for various reasons.
            People like “George Baker the Caretaker”. If you were to tie all of the skate laces together that George Baker tightened up for every little skater over the years they would stretch for miles and miles and miles. Ol’ George could skate like the wind, too. He loved skating.
            Then there was Frank Kashmere with his ever-present grease dripping burger flipper in hand standing in front of the hot grille cooking burger after burger after burger always with a smile on his face and a gruff-voiced tease to a waiting customer. Dare I say a cigarette ash may have found its way onto the cooking surface a time or two? Nah…
            Frank’s brother, Steve “Choopy” Kashmere, was another rink caretaker and he had a spot on the top bench at the south end of the waiting room bleachers where he’d hold court and critique the abilities, or lack thereof, of the hockey teams currently playing on the arena ice. Most of the time whatever they were doing was wrong! And Choopy was probably right.
            Most of my time at the rink was spent on the “skating” side but I had my share of wobbly pops in the curling lounge, too, over the years. I’m a terrible curler but I can bonspiel with the best of ‘em. Or could…that is.
            Safe to say some of the happiest moments in my life have happened in the Kipling Arena. So many memories. So many friendships made and moments enjoyed.
One column dedicated to 50 years of history seems inadequate so you’ll have to tune in again next week for “Kipling Arena 2-Point-Oh!” There are more stories to be told.

 “We didn’t realize that we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”-from Winnie the Pooh.

Monday, February 20, 2017

FEAR MARKETING WORKS.

             They call it “Fear Marketing” or “Shock Selling” and it’s used as a marketing tool to scare people into buying a product or service or not buy a product or service, depending on the product or service, of course.
             You know, like the advertising on cigarette packages with the emaciated patient lying in the hospital bed with hours left in their life or someone with advanced mouth cancer. Ewwww. Shocking, awful pictures but hopefully they are effective in deterring anyone from continuing to smoke or to pick up the nasty habit.
             Now, I am not being judgmental here as I’ve had my share of cancer sticks over the years but I have quit and I’m uncertain whether the pictures on the packs ever deterred me from buying another pack of smokes because I’ve known since I started smoking in the 60’s that it was not good for my health. That said, the pictures made me uncomfortable enough to avoid looking at those ugly images every time I bought another pack of smokes. But I still bought the smokes.
             The strategy can work, though. Fear mongering can even get you elected President of the United States. You tell America over and over and over again that a Muslim is going to kill them or a Mexican will take their job and they’ll believe it and they will even elect you President of the Excited States to protect you from those evil doers regardless of how irresponsible and reckless that philosophy is. Sorry about that…that’s a massive subject for a couple of thousand pages of diatribe in book form. I’ll move on.
             Those cigarette pictures are a not-so-subtle Fear Marketing tactic but the A&W ads telling us about their beef, chicken, bacon and eggs being anti-biotic, hormone and steroid free is a milder form of scare tactic. A milder form, yes, but according to A &W’s Chief Marketing Officer the “Better Beef” marketing strategy, which they have been using since 2013, has been very successful for them.
             Here’s the thing, though, according to Dr. Reynold Bergen from Canada’s Beef Cattle Research Council a 75-gram serving of beef from cattle treated with hormone implants contains two nanograms, (ng~one billionth of a gram), of estrogen. He says, “A person would need to eat 3,000,000 hamburgers made with beef from implanted cattle to get as much estrogen as the average adult woman produces every day, or 50,000 hamburgers to get as much estrogen as the average adult man produces every day. Also, considering there are about 45,000 ng of estrogen in 75 grams of white bread, the bun probably has far more estrogen than the beef!”
             This is textbook marketing, then, if the people are actually sucked into thinking that eating the non-antibiotic/hormone/steroid food stuffs is healthier for them. It’s a fast food restaurant people! HELLO! They’re not selling you health food in there. This isn’t tofu and chick peas, you know. It’s greasy old burgers and breakfast sandwiches all loaded with the healthiest of all food groups….BACON! If you were really, really concerned about putting something healthy into your bodies you wouldn’t be in the lineup at the A&W. Just sayin’.
             I guess it’s working for them, though, much to chagrin of the Canadian beef producers as most of A & W’s beef comes from somewhere other than Canada. Dr. Stuart Smyth from Saskatchewan’s SAIFood (Sustainable Agricultural Innovations & Food) calls the marketing strategy A(mbiguous) & W(rong) saying the marketing campaign misleads consumers about beef production in Canada. However, typical to today’s world, the information presented to the public does not have to be true and accurate, or anything, it just has to be effective.
“Money coming in says I’ve made the right marketing decisions.”- Adam Osborne author (1939-2003).

Monday, February 6, 2017

THERE HAVE BEEN SOME CHANGES

So it's been a few months since I dedicated any time to this blog as there have been some changes in my life since the middle of November, which, coincidently, was the last time I did some work on this page.
On the 15th of November, 2016, I was given a choice of taking a new role at Seed Hawk Incorporated, where I had been employed since September 11th, 2006, or take a severance package due to the company's "restructuring". I took the severance package as I was ready to move on to the next stage in my life anyway. It had been a good decade at Seed Hawk and I was ready for something new.
I was getting my ducks in a row for an opportunity I was going to pursue in the spring of '17 when I received a phone call out of the blue asking me if I would be interested in a project to open a new private liquor outlet in the town of Kipling. Best Cellars-House of Spirits will be opening in May of 2017 and I am going to be the General Manager of the brand new store. I'm pretty excited about that.
This shared information is only provided as an excuse for ignoring my blogpage. I have posted some of my most recent In My Humble Opinion pieces and I will pledge to be more current here. If anyone is listening or cares.

IT'S TIME TO BUILD A SKATING RINK

            Back when our three children were younger and they were just getting their skating legs under them I would build a little outdoor rink on our garden spot for them to practice on and they spent a fair amount of time out there zooming around. It seems like I did that every year for years and years but I think it was only five or six times before the kids had other things to do and/or a whole great big indoor rink to do it in.
            Now the tradition has been passed on and I’ve got to flood a rink for the Grandchildren. I haven’t built one of those little rinks in quite some time but now that the Grandkiddies are getting their skating legs under them I decided, with very strong persuasion from their Grandmother first, to build a rink in the side yard for them.
            This winter hasn’t been the best for rink building, though, even if you use the cheating method, as it was either too cold or too warm, if you can imagine. I had the opportunity to be a professional ice maker during my Parks and Recreation days but these backdoor rinks are a whole different animal. Thus the “cheat”.
            Making ice sounds like the simplest of chores, doesn’t it? We live in Canada for heaven sake. You pour water where it’s freezing cold and…voila!....ice! Well, yes and no. In an indoor rink you have a mostly flat floor with boards and a refrigeration system cooling said floor to the exact right temperature and you have a variety of hoses and boom sprayers and all kinds of stuff to make the job a little easier.
            There are a few more obstacles when you’re building a skating rink in the outdoors, the least of which is that it is…outside! The first time I did it on the garden it took hours and hours and hours of building up the ice to get a good seal on the ground and cover up all of the lumps, (I didn’t say I was a smart ice maker, did I…should have spent a bit more time leveling that ground before freeze up…duh).
            Anyway, that’s when I discovered the old rink-in-a-bag trick. Yup, rink-in-a-bag. You buy ‘em at the local hardware store and they come in a few different sizes and you kind of level the ground some and lay out the soon-to-be-rink-bag, then you stick the garden hose in the filler hole and fill the bag, which looks like a giant see-through air mattress by the time it’s full, and then you go do something fun while the water bag freezes solid. Could take hours…could take days. They weren’t that big as a rule, 10 feet by 20 feet and few inches thick, so I would just put two together to make it a bit bigger.
            I am happy to report that this year’s version of our little outdoor rink is finished. Finally. It was a real struggle at times…fighting the snow and then it was minus a-bazillion and then the stupid bag didn’t fill right creating a void bubble and damn you gotta hate those void bubbles, and then it started melting, but, you know, other than that, it went okay, I suppose. It’s done.
            The Grandchildren will get their first skate on the finished product this weekend and old Gramps is going to get his skates on, too. We’ll have a little wiener roast over the fire and drink hot chocolate and skate with the lights on. It’s going to be great!
            With all of my whining and sniveling about our nasty Canadian winters I am still a Canadian boy at heart and, as with all things, you just have to make the very best of any given situation and enjoy the simple pleasures whenever you can.
“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.- Anton Chekov (1860-1904).

WATCH OUT FOR THOSE CHIZZLERS!

            Here’s a question for you. Since when do “Boxing Day Sales” last a month? How the heck does Boxing Day start in the middle of December and last until January 15th? Hm? Perhaps someone should Wiktionary “day” for an actual definition.
            And what about all those poor souls who camped out in the snow and sleet so they could crash the doors as soon as things opened up on the morning of the 26th? Hm? I’d be a little choked if I froze my you-know-what off sitting outside a store waiting for the big Boxing Day deals only to find out that I could get the same deal on the 14th of January!
            I know, I know, it’s all marketing; it’s all about the hook, you know? It’s the lure of the advertising. “Boxing Day Sale” says cheap, cheap, cheap even when it isn’t. The same people are probably in charge of the “Back to School” sales in the middle of July, too. Then again, you know what, it must be working or it wouldn’t be happening. You know what ol’ P.T. Barnum said, don’t you? “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
            It’s all salesmanship, folks. I’m sure it’s been going on since the first cavemen were trying to sell or trade off their old clubs and fur clothing and such.
           “No, no Grog…it’s a great club!! All the blood n guts and such on it just means it WORKS! That’s all. The smell goes away after a while anyway. That guy over there’s shiny new club hasn’t killed anything!! You gotta buy mine.” And so it began.
            We’ve all run into that sales guy once or twice over the years, haven’t we? Whether they were selling cars or advertising or brushes door to door there has always been someone willing to schmooze the money right out of your wallet. And they are so good at it that you know that they know that you know what they’re doing and you still let them do it anyway!! My good ol buddy, Smoothy, calls these guys “chizzlers”. And there’s one of those born every minute, too. Or so it seems.
             In fact, there’s one who is going to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States this Friday the 20th of January. You have to hand it to him, though, that has to rank as one of the world’s top-five all-time best chizzles, if that’s what you’d say chizzlers do. What a bill of goods he sold, eh? They will be analyzing that campaign in every marketing and promotions class for the rest of eternity!
            How did he do it? How did he insult, slander, slam and alienate so many people along the way to one of the biggest upset political victories in the history of political victories? I do not like the man, nor his politics, but even I grudgingly admit that his election result was admirable. In a way. He sold it! And they bought it! And may I add…Lord help us.
            I hope the planet survives long enough to prove me wrong. I really do. I hope he nails it! I hope it turns out great! I hope he’s an awesome President. And I really, really, really hope it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors and I sure as hell hope we haven’t all been chizzled.

“Nobody is gonna love you like you. You're gonna be your best salesman.” American musician T.I. (1980-).

YOU STOLE A CHRISTMAS LIGHT? A CHRISTMAS LIGHT?

            Remember last week when I quoted good ol’ Kin Hubbard about how the Christmas Spirit packs up and leaves town quicker than a circus? Guess what? Our house just experienced first-hand evidence of that very thing and it was right in our own front yard, too.
            You see, Deb, being the Christmas light lover in the house, went out and bought one of the latest laser projection lights and installed it to shine on the front of our house which sits merely inches, (or centimeters if you insist), off of the town sidewalk on Main Street. The light had to be situated very close to the sidewalk in order to shine on the house correctly. With meticulous care Deb set the thing up and was proud as punch when it worked and sparkled up the house quite nicely.
             Because of the light’s proximity to the sidewalk I asked Deb if she thought someone might walk away with the thing as it was sitting right there for anyone to just pluck from the yard and slink away. “A Christmas light?!” she asked incredulously, “Who’d steal a Christmas light?”
             "I don’t know. I hope no one will take it,” says I, “But you never know. It’s just sitting right there.” Famous last words, eh?
             So, just like the Christmas Spirit…there it was…GONE! Some fool, or fools, took off with our Christmas laser light. Merry Christmas…jerks! Thanks a lot! And a Happy New Year to you, too! May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits! You stole a Christmas light! A Christmas light!
              So here’s the thing, folks, if someone else buys something and has it sitting in plain view for everyone to see and its still on their property, regardless of its proximity to the town property, and someone other than the owner decides to permanently remove the item…it is called stealing. It’s the Ten Commandments 101, people. “Thou Shalt Not STEAL”.
            Now, I’m sure everyone has pilfered something at one time or another in their life. You know, change from Mom’s purse, a toy that looked better in your toy box than your cousins, a few smokes out of Dad’s pack, a roll of orange lifesavers off of the counter at Conn McCann’s General Store in Marquis, Saskatchewan in 1966, nothing specific, mind you, but you know what I mean. Still stealing…still a sin…but are there not levels? Hmmmm? Just sayin’.
            My apologies, Dear Reader, here it is not even two weeks into the New Year and I’m starting off on the wrong foot. The Negative Foot. As we cruise into a new year I was hoping that we could start off a lot better than where 2016 left us- untrusting, cynical, scared, selfish, negative…the list goes on. It is early in the year, however, and besides, maybe the thieves grabbed the light while it was still 2016 making it typical of the year just past while hope still remains for 2017. Why don’t we go with that, okay?
     We here at the Hubbard house wish the Christmas light thieves a short wonderful time with our light. With any luck at all it would be nice if the thieves installed the light in front of their house for one Christmas season only to have it stolen by someone else to use the next Christmas season and then someone else could steal it for their house the next year and then on and on it would go so many houses would get to experience the lovely light show which only the Hubbards have paid for. Sound like a plan?
“I don’t know if that’s a year’s bad luck, or if that’s how it works. But stealing a Christmas tree-that can’t be a good thing, karma-wise.” Adrian McKinty, Irish novelist, (1968-).

THERE GOES THE OLD CHRISTMAS SPIRIT AGAIN!

            There it was…gone. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is nothing but fading memories now. To quote the famous, (maybe he is-maybe he isn’t related), Frank McKinney (Kin) Hubbard, who stated that, “Next to the circus there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out quicker than the Christmas Spirit.” A little cynical, I know, and I wish he was wrong, but for the most part he’s got it right.
             I know that Christmastime can be a strain for many folks and some just don’t get it, or don’t want to, but for the many, many Christmas Season lovers it’s a magical time of the year that we wish could go on for a little while longer and I also wish we could bottle up some of the Christmas “Cheer” portion of the season to be released throughout the year as needed.
Of course, I’m talking about the “Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Others” portion of the Christmas “Spirit”. Then again, “if wishes and buts were candies and nuts it would be Christmas every day”, or something like that, and, if it were Christmas every day then it wouldn’t be extra special now would it?
             Now, it is time for us to put the decorations away and take down the tree for its eleven-month storage term and then we will turn our attention to the New Year and all the possibilities that it will bring.
             What have you got in mind for 2017? Have you started to crochet that massive Canadian flag as a celebration of Canada’s 150th Birthday? No? You were thinking of something else, maybe? A stuffed Canada goose or beaver for the mantle, perhaps? No and no? Suit yourself then. I’m not exactly sure how I’d like to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday but there are ample opportunities available and only one’s imagination should be holding one back.
             Canada’s 150th Birthday Party Budget is set at 210 million dollars or, if you are using official government mathematics that number should be doubled, but, whatever the budget, Canadian communities from coast to coast will be participating in many varied festivities so it shouldn’t be hard to find an event that will suit your celebratory tastes. For details on what is happening where, visit the Canada 150 Website to find art, music, sport and cultural events happening throughout Canada in 2017.
             Other notable events in 2017 include the opening of the new Mosaic Stadium in Regina this summer. Regular ‘Rider faithful will be very happy with the new digs, I am sure.
             On August 21st, Canadians will have an opportunity to see a rare solar eclipse. Weather permitting, the entire country will have the opportunity to view an eclipse as the moon passes in front of the sun, casting a shadow on the Earth’s surface.
              It cannot be January of 2017 without mentioning the inauguration of USA President Elect Donald Trump. Still hard to believe, you know? But as they say, “it is what it is”. My hope for 2017 is that we here in the Great White North remain the quiet neighbour and content ourselves with glimpses over the fence at the zany neighbour’s antics while avoiding being collateral damage.
              I am looking forward to 2017. Every year is a challenge on good ol’ Planet Earth and this year will be no different. I’ll take every day I get. One foot in front of the other and on we go forward into a new year.
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

ANOTHER NEW YEAR IS HERE

           Once again we are closing out one year and ringing in the new one; bye-bye 2016, hello 2017! It is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Anyone can go to any channel on their television set to see the past year’s news highlights from the Zika virus outbreak to USA President-Elect Donald Trump’s election victory and everything in between, (you, Dear Reader, will have to assess which you find scarier the Donald or Zika).
            2016 was a year of change in my world. This past year saw me finish out my ten-year term in my 50’s as I turned 60 a couple of weeks ago. They say that 60 is the new 40 but I don’t know who “they” are and “they” are probably not 60 and I say that “60 is the new 40” is a load of hooey. But that’s just me. I’ve been 40 before and I’m pretty sure it’s not this. At 40 I could go all night without several trips to the loo, I didn’t require “progressive” lens in my glasses, (“progressive” being a subjective term, mind you), hearing aids were something my parents wore and most of the time I knew exactly why I went out to the garage!
            There was also a big change on the career front for me as my ten-year term with Seed Hawk Inc. finished in the latter stages of 2016. I was a young-ish man of 49 when I started working at Seed Hawk in 2006. It was a great ten years and seeing as how change is the only constant it was time for a change. Other than a decade long employment term at Quality Millwork and Building Supplies in the 1980’s and 90’s Seed Hawk had been my longest employer.
             In other family news our oldest daughter announced that her and her hubby would be expecting child number three near the end of March this year. Yay! One of the most tremendous results of the aging process is the addition of Grandchildren to one’s life! There’s something else that’ll make you realize that 40 isn’t the new 60 as you try to get up off the floor after playing with the Grandkids. Youch.
             As we greet the New Year it is also the traditional time of the year for personal improvement resolutions. You know the routine…live healthier, have less Road Rage, lose weight, pay down debt, be nicer…that kind of thing. Did you know that the most popular New Year’s resolution is for people to “Enjoy life to the fullest”? What were you doing up until now? “I’m doing okay with enjoying my life around the 64% level but maybe I could take it up a notch or two…maybe even go all out and try to enjoy life to the fullest but should I leave a bit in the tank? The fullest might be hard to reach…hmmmm…”
              As for me, I have not pledged any new resolutions for this New Year but I am looking forward to some new adventures, challenges and changes. Good luck with your personal resolutions and I hope you all have a wonderful 2017!

 “The past is your lesson. The present is your gift. The future is your motivation.”-Unknown.

60?....60?!!


             On the 12th of December I will officially be finished with my 50’s decade. That’s right; I am turning 60 years old on that day. A good friend of mine told me on the occasion of my 50th birthday that the good news about turning 50 is that I hadn’t died in my 40’s. Ditto for turning 60, I guess.

            Another good quote that I have heard about the aging process has been attributed to many different sources but when I heard the quote for the first time it was from the famous baseball pitcher, Leroy “Satchel” Paige who, at the young age of 59 years pitched four innings for Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Athletics in 1965, said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” I like how you think Satch!

            The date on your birth certificate is only one factor in determining age. Yes, one’s age number is the recorded time you have been on Earth since your birth but many other elements come in to play when determining age; the most important of which would be genetics.

            I only have to look at the differences in ageing between my Dad and my Mom to see the hard evidence of that. Dad had a long history of heart ailments and passed away at the relatively young age of 72. To me, Dad looked closer to 90 years old than to 70 when he passed. Mom, on the other hand, always looked a decade younger than her age, just like her mom, and she still referred to her age-peers as “old fogies” right up until her death at 91 years old. I’m hoping that the majority of my genetics come from my mother’s side for obvious reasons. Time will tell.

            I wasn’t the only one born in 1956 so I’ll give you a list of some notable people who share their birth year with me. Actors Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Andy Garcia and Maureen McCormick, (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia from the Brady Bunch for those of you who weren’t a teenage boy in 1970). Sports stars Joe Montana, Larry Bird, Martina Navratilova, Sugar Ray Leonard and Bjorn Borg were also born in’56, just to name a few.

            1956 was also the year of the Hungarian Revolution which was a revolt against the government of the Hungarian People's Republic and its Soviet-imposed policies. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. These events greatly affected a number of people of Hungarian heritage in Canada, many of which were living in the Bekevar-Kipling area.

            Other notable events from 1956 were: Elvis Presley’s first pop single “Heartbreak Hotel” was released, Rocky Marciano, the heavyweight boxing champion retired undefeated at 49-0, IBM releases the first computer with a hard drive, the board game Yahtzee first came out, Certs, the first breath mint candies hit the market and stats showed that 80% of American homes had refrigerators by 1956. 80%?...wow.

            The average price of a home was $22,000.00; the average income was $4,400/year; a new car would set you back about $2,000.00; gas sold for .22 cents a gallon; bread was .18 cents a loaf and a postage stamp cost .03 cents; coffee was .69 cents a pound, chuck roast was .33 cents a pound and a six pack of beer cost $1.20. Hmmmm.

            My philosophy is to enjoy every day one is given in life and my age crises came and went a long time ago. The most important day is the one you are living. 60 is 60 and like Satchel says, if you don’t mind, it don’t matter. I am grateful for another day, another week, another month, another year or another decade, and, God willing, there will be other significant birthdays to celebrate for me down the road.



“Live your life and forget your age.”-Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993).

             

WHAT I REMEMBER ABOUT THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS


            With the recent passing of the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and then the announcement that Fidel Castro, Cuba’s leader from 1959-2011, had died at the age of 90 on November 25th, I was reminded of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the planet was on the brink of World War III.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13 day, (October 16-28), confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey with the consequent Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. Along with being televised worldwide, it was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into full-scale nuclear war. Eleventh hour tense negotiations between USA President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev averted an all out war.

Our family was living in Lethbridge, AB and I was only five-years-old in October of 1962 but I can still recall the television coverage, the tension in the household, and the air-raid siren tests that only added to already heightened national and international tension. Keep in mind that this scary standoff was taking place merely seventeen years after World War II had ended and the horrific memories of the devastation of that conflict along with the atrocious after effects of the nuclear bombings of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in people’s minds.  

Some historians have sited this as John F. Kennedy’s finest hour in his all too short stint as the President of the United States. His patience and hesitance in escalating the crisis through aggression went against most of his advisors advice, including his brother Robert, then the US Attorney General. By not invading Cuba or further antagonizing the Soviet Union, thermonuclear war was averted. It must also be noted that Khrushchev did as much to defuse the situation as Kennedy.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the earlier global events that would define a decade simply known as “The Sixties”. The decade of the 1960’s was one of the most influential, controversial, fascinating, and, scary decades in the history of the world and the Cuban Missile Crisis was only at the beginning.

The Civil Rights Movement, prominent assassinations, the Vietnam War, the Counterculture Revolution, Anti-Vietnam War Movement, Feminism, the Black Panthers, the Cold War, the “Race to the Moon”, the “British Music Invasion and later psychedelic rock all melded together making the decade of the sixties explosive and memorable for anyone who grew up during those tumultuous times.

Fast forward to today and the world’s stability is once again under duress. The actual availability and need for an online “Global Conflict Tracker” to keep one apprised of all of the global conflicts currently happening is a sad statement of the worldly state of affairs unto itself.

There were people in both Kennedy and Khrushchev’s camps that were absolutely convinced that they were going to witness the end of the world as we knew it. In reality, we are barely five decades removed from that precipice and the world’s stability is still under continuous threat.

This gloom n doom nostalgic walk through the past was brought to you by an old Baby Boomer who is worried that if we don’t pay attention and learn from our history we are bound to repeat it. Let’s hope it won’t be too difficult to find cooler heads among our world leaders should similar events occur today.

“History repeats itself. First as tragedy, second as farce.”- Karl Marx (1818-1883).






THE ONE CONSTANT IS CHANGE


             Change can be sudden or change can be subtle but as Greek Philosopher Heraclitus stated a few hundred centuries ago, the main characteristic of change is that it is constant. Change is constantly happening.

             Another characteristic of change is that you don’t really know when it’s going to happen. That, of course, depends on the type of change. Take a change in the weather, for example, you know that it is constantly changing but there has yet to be a system developed that can correctly determine when the change in the weather will occur and by how many degrees. Oh sure, they’re ballparking it all the time but nobody has really perfected the art of the deadly accurate weather forecast and when they tell you that they have…well, they’re just stringing you along.

            Some changes you can deal with offhandedly and some will knock you on your arse in a heartbeat. Say you get the dreaded diagnoses of some incurable disease and that sudden change in your health will affect dozens of lives in a matter of seconds. And, sad to say, all too many of us have shared stories in that regard.

             Humans’ physical appearance changes every day but the change is kind of gradual until one day you are shaving and you look into the mirror and you wonder when the old man in your reflection took your place!

            In a recent conversation I had with our youngest daughter she reminded me of something that I had said to her that one day when I was a good parent. She had gone through some personal trauma and I had said to her, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” Hmmmm. Good advice, if I do say so myself. That quote is attributed to Lou Holtz, an American football coach.

            I also recently read a saying that says that your past doesn’t exist and neither does your future. The only moment that you experience is here and now. So be here now. Accept the changes and roll with the punches.

            So, things change. I have probably shared this information with you so bear with me while I share it again but in twelve years of public school I had attended five different schools in two provinces. That’s a lot of change. I went from having “a” (uh) classmate in Grade 6 in Marquis Public School to being bussed into Moose Jaw in Grade 7 with about sixty of us Baby-Boomers in our grade sharing two large classrooms in Lindale School. That was a bit of an adjustment, I’ll tell you that. From a one-room country school to an overcrowded city zoo.

            Apparently, I’ve had a few varied career choices over the years as well. I changed things up often, I guess. I was a farm hand, drove a bakery van, went to brick laying school, never laid a brick again, construction labourer, store clerk, worked in a glass factory making stubby beer bottles, among other kinds of bottles and jars, drove a Pettibone trackmobile moving rail cars around a railcar repair depot, purchasing agent, estimator and lumber sales manager, rec director and a maintenance man. I wonder what I’ll be when I grow up.

           

            I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”- Jimmy Dean (1928-2010).