Memories


The Gifted Program

The Barenaked Ladies have been the topic of many conversations this past week, so it's no surprise their reuniting for the Juno Awards came up in last Friday's Open Mike. Commenter mrmojorisica linked to this video featuring interviews with Steven Page and Ed Robertson.

There it was, a quote from Ed Robertson that triggered a primary school memory. Here's the line I completely related to.

We were in this gifted program together, and I always felt like I was there by mistake.

Here's what I remember... I remember a series of standardized tests in grade three. Then, more tests. These were one-on-one tests where the examiner would present problem solving puzzles, have me put pictures in the correct order, and ask a hundred other such questions. I just did what I was told.

The end result was the gifted program. Starting in grade five, one day a week I would hop on a bus and subway and make my way to a school near Bathurst station. I did this for four years. I honestly never felt I had a choice. They told me where I was supposed to be and that's where I went.

I felt the way Ed Robertson felt for the entire four years. I was in this program with the school board's brightest students and I always felt I was there by mistake. These kids were geniuses, your classic eggheads, and I felt like an imposter.

I understand why the gifted program would be perceived as a good idea, but I despised the segregation. Kids in your regular class resented the fact you got a day off and were treated special. I despised the attention.

In grade nine, I was still told to show up for the program, but after the first meeting I asked if I could opt out, was told I could, and promptly did exactly that.

It's funny how you could spend one day a week for four years in a program and completely suppress the memory until you watch a feature on the Barenaked Ladies and it all comes flooding back.

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Blinky Used to Talk!

I love writing about Blinky. In the early 80s, Blinky the Police Car was everywhere. He and Elmer the Safety Elephant were primary school staples.

I remember Blinky blinking, but I forgot Blinky used to talk. Thanks to my pal Retrontario, here's raw footage from the 1981 Santa Claus Parade with Blinky's voice on proud display.

As an added bonus, you can see Uncle Bobby in that footage. I'll never forget the Uncle Bobby story Retrontario told me in episode 167 of Toronto Mike'd.

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McLaughlin Planetarium

I remember countless school trips to the McLaughlin Planetarium when I was in primary school. It was an amazing place to learn about the stars, planets, and cosmology.

I watched La La Land yesterday and there's a scene in a planetarium that took me back to the 80s when we all took our planetarium for granted. The McLaughlin Planetarium, located just south of the ROM, closed in 1995 and is currently slated for demolition.

An article on blog.to suggests the McLaughlin Planetarium could be saved afterall.

Spearheaded by Jeff Balmer, an ex-pat professor of architecture at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, the efforts to prevent its demolition are rooted not just in its architectural pedigree, but also its use-value.

"In a perfect scenario, U of T would work to resuscitate the Planetarium to its original purpose," Balmer explains. "During its decades-long period of operation, [it] was highly successful, both in terms of its educational mission... and in terms of its financial performance."

planetarium

La La Land, by the way, is excellent.

lalaland

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I Witnessed a MuchMusic Reunion

Last night, I was at The Royal Cinema for an event billed as MuchMusic Retro Mixtape. It was a discussion with Christopher Ward and fantastic video collections curated by Retrontario. Along the way, other veejays from the era would take the stage to share stories. It was awesome for this nostalgia addict.

In addition to Christopher, who was my guest for episode 202 of Toronto Mike'd, the following veejays made appearances:

  • Michael Williams
  • Laurie Brown
  • Denise Donlan
  • Kim Clarke Champniss
  • Master T
  • Simon Evans
  • Ziggy

It was three hours of great stories, vintage videos and a wonderful trip down memory lane. And I finally got a picture with the first MuchMusic veejay.

Christopher Ward and Me

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Built for Speed and Rio

1982 was the first calendar year in which I purchased music for myself. Prior to then, the only music in the house that didn't spill out of the radio belonged to my parents. But in 1982, I purchased one album on vinyl and one album on cassette tape.

The vinyl I bought was Duran Duran's Rio. "Hungry Like the Wolf" was the single that sold me. At the time, I thought it was the coolest track, ever. Then, I heard "Save a Prayer" and "Rio". I loved this album.

duran-duran-rio

At the time, I kept hearing this track on CFTR by the Stray Cats called "Rock This Town". Prior to this period in my life when I discovered Top 40 music, my diet had primarily consisted of Golden Oldies music from the 1950s found on compilation cassettes purchased at gas stations. I think this primed me for rockabilly and the Stray Cats scratched the itch. I bought Built for Speed on cassette and played that side one like crazy.

I still remember those six songs. "Rock This Town", "Built for Speed", "Rev It Up and Go", "Stray Cat Strut", "Little Miss Prissy" and "Rumble in Brighton". I loved them all.

Stray Cats Built for Speed

What was the first album you ever owned?

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Ontario - Yours to Discover!

My pal Ed (Retrontario to you, pal!) has uncovered a clean copy of Roland Parliament's 60-second version of "Ontario - Yours to Discover".

As a child of the 80s, I remember this tune well. It was an earworm of sorts that still randomly spills out of my mouth from time to time. Now we can all enjoy the full minute version of this retro Ontario jingle.

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Back Catcher vs. Catcher

I fell in love with baseball during the summer of '83 when I caught Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth calling Blue Jay games while spending a couple of weeks at my uncle's cottage. I was hooked.

Around this time, I was playing tee-ball. In my tee-ball league, the catcher was called "back catcher". In primary school, I played for the school's softball team, and the position was still referred to as "back catcher".

Tom and Jerry never called it "back catcher", they just called it "catcher". I'm well aware it's just "catcher", but I still periodically call it "back catcher". It just slips out after being implanted in my cranium at such a young age.

Does anyone know why we called the position back catcher instead of catcher? Is it a Canadian thing?

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Time Machine

I was catching up on some work last night when I saw this tweet from TSN1050 host Mike Richards.

Immediately, I knew what game he was watching. It was my game. It was the final Maple Leafs game of the 1980s and I was in attendance at Maple Leaf Gardens to witness the most exciting game I'd ever seen live.

It was 6-1 Bruins, and my buddy Joe and I were playing the funeral march over a megaphone he had smuggled in. We didn't get to many games, so when you got a dog, it hurt. And there were plenty of dog games in the 80s.

When I saw this tweet from Mike Richards, I turned on the television and tuned in LeafsTV. I got to relive that night in 1989 and it was as glorious as I remembered.

Vincent Damphousse scored late in the second period to make it 6-2, and that's how it stood with 5 minutes left in the third. Then, Gary Leeman scored, and Luke Richardson scored, and Ed Olczyk scored. Suddenly, it was 6-5.

At this point, it felt like we couldn't lose. Eddie O made sure of it, with a nifty breakaway goal to tie it up late. Then, in OT, Mr. ALL HEART whacked home the winner. Leafs win! Leafs win! Leafs win!

I spent last night in 1989. That wasn't a tweet, that was a time machine.

December 30, 1989 - Maple Leafs

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How I Experienced the City 25 Years Ago

I went through an old bin of stuff I've saved for decades, throwing some stuff out and keeping a few priceless gems.

In this bin of memories I found a couple of guides I received 25 years ago. One is entitled "Cycling Skills" and taught me the rules of the road as a young cyclist in this city. I found this little booklet invaluable as a teen navigating the downtown core at all hours of the night.

20151226_130517_HDR

The other was the 1990 TTC Ride Guide. If I wasn't biking, I was jumping on the subway. I loved the subway and mapped my routes with this handy guide.

Ride Guide

Sadly, the TTC Ride Guide isn't much different today as it was in 1990.

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Ode to the Video Store Guy

My kids will never know a world without the internet. As far as they're concerned, it's always been there, a pervasive connection to a massive database of facts and myths. Periodically, I'll remind them that I didn't surf the web until university.

When I was 13, my buddies and I rented lots and lots of movies on VHS. We frequented a few different shops, including one that somehow remains open to this day, and we almost never knew what we were going to rent until we got there.

There was no IMDB.com or Rotten Tomatoes, so we relied on the video store guy. Each store had a very knowledgeable video store guy who watched everything and would recommend films depending on our tastes. I still remember the day he recommended we rent The Toxic Avenger.

It was the perfect movie for a bunch of 13-year old guys. It was horrible, but in a good way, with a little T and A sprinkled throughout. It was a Troma film, and led to a long period of Troma rentals. Class of Nuke 'Em High, Surf Nazis Must Die, if it was from Troma, we rented it.

I recently re-watched The Toxic Avenger, and it's as bad as I remember it. It's also as enjoyable as I remember it. If you're in the mood for an hour and twenty minutes of "so bad it's good" fun, you can watch The Toxic Avenger right here.

Thanks, video store guy.

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