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Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 27, 1996

Okay, here we are.  The final Throwback Thursday of July.  And for the first time in what seems like a long time, I can actually tell you that today's date is one that I lived through.  And while the event was a very scary one, it is a story that needs to be told.

Of course, before we get to that story, we've got to take a look at what else happened on the 27th of July.

1775 - The United States Army Medical Department is founded

1778 - The First Battle of Ushant takes place during the American Revolution

1789 - The Department of Foreign Affairs is established

1866 - The first permanent transatlantic telegraph cable is completed; it stretches from Valentia Island, Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland

1890 - Artist Vincent van Gogh shoots himself; he succumbs to his wounds two days later

1910 - Mexican-American actress Lupita Tovar (d. 2016) is born in Matais Romero, Mexico

1919 - The Chicago Race Riot begins, leaving 38 dead and another 537 injured over a period of five days

1921 - Researchers at the University of Toronto conclude that insulin does regulate blood sugar, leading to a method of treating, but not curing diabetes - the team was led by Frederick Banting

1929 - The Geneva Convention of 1929 is signed by fifty-three nations

1937 - Actor Don Galloway (d. 2009) is born in Brooksville, Kentucky

1940 - The first Bugs Bunny cartoon - "A Wild Hare" - is released

1953 - The United States, China, and North Korea sign an armistice agreement, effectively ending the Korean War - although South Korea refuses to sign, they pledge to observe the armistice

1964 - At least five thousand more American military advisers depart for South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, bringing the total number of American troops to 21,000

1987 - The first expedited salvage of the RMS Titanic begins - 75 years after the ship sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean

1991 - Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" begins the first of seven weeks at the #1 spot of the Billboard Charts

1995 - The Korean War Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington D.C.

2002 - 77 are killed and another 500 injured after a freak accident at a Ukrainian air show in which a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet crashes near a crowd of spectators

2003 - Comedian/actor Bob Hope passes away two months after his 100th birthday

2005 - NASA grounds the Space Shuttle after an incident during STS-114

2010 - Actor Maury Chaykin passes away on his 61st birthday

And turning one year older on July 27 are the following famous faces - Norman Lear, Will Jordan, Joseph Kittinger, Jerry Van Dyke, Anna Dawson, John Pleshette, Bobbie Gentry, Betty Thomas, Peggy Fleming, Maureen McGovern, Simon Jones, Roxanne Hart, Yahoo Serious, Carol Leifer, Bill Engvall, Conway Savage, Rebecca Staab, Juliana Hatfield, Julian McMahon, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maya Rudolph, Pete Yorn, Alex Rodriguez, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Taylor Schilling, Kenny Wormald, Nick Hogan, and Jordan Speith.

Okay, so as I said before, today's date is one that I was alive for.  And I remember it quite well.



The date was
July 27, 1996.

I definitely remember the night before this date.  That was the day that my father celebrated his fiftieth birthday.  At the time, we all went out to the Chinese food place we usually had big birthday and anniversary celebrations for.  This included Dad, Mom, myself, and my two sisters - one of whom was heavily pregnant with her first child.  It was a really nice night.  I was only 15 at the time, but I recall that the mood on July 26 was great.  We all dined on chicken fried rice and sweet and sour spare ribs, we were all talking about our summer activities, and by the end of the night, everyone was on a high.

(And yes, even though I was 15, the owner still gave us all free gum.  I talked about that during the last Throwback Thursday post.)



Because it was summer, and I was still technically too young to get a part time job (most places wouldn't hire you until you were at least sixteen in Canada), I stayed up late that night to catch part of the Summer Olympic Games.  That was the year that the host city was Atlanta, Georgia, and the first time that the games had been in the United States since 1984.  Admittedly, I'm not that much of a sports fan - and besides, I like the Winter Olympics much better anyway.  But since there wasn't really much to watch on television past midnight, I thought that I'd watch part of the coverage.  If anything, it might have helped me get to bed quicker.

At least...that's what I thought anyway.

Shortly after one o'clock in the morning, all hell broke loose with the sound of a gigantic explosion.

I still remember watching it as it happened.  I believe that the clip of a news reporter interviewing American swimmer Janet Evans, and all was going well until a loud bang pierced the air and sent everyone scrambling for safety.




That was the moment in which the Atlanta Olympic Bombing took place.  On July 27, 1996 at 1:20am.

The location of the bomb was at Centennial Olympic Park - a designated area designed as the "town square" of the Olympic Games.  It was here that athletes, their loved ones, and people who had gathered to watch the games could hang out.  Although it was past midnight and no sporting events were being held during that time, there were outdoor concerts being performed to keep the crowds entertained.  On the evening of July 26, 1996 and into the morning hours of July 27, the band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack were performing a concert for several thousand people in the square.  What the spectators didn't realize was that someone had planted a bomb in the area.

It was a bomb that was specifically designed to create a lot of damage to a lot of people.  Three pipe bombs surrounded by dozens of nails which would act as shrapnel to purposely injure as many people as possible.  The bomb was placed inside of a green field pack designed for people in the military, and placed near the stage of the concert underneath a bench.  Had it not been for one man, the damage could have been even greater.



You see, Richard Jewell, a security guard working at the Centennial Olympic Park at the time, discovered the green bag, and made the call to evacuate as many people from the area as possible until the bomb squad could come in to investigate, and thanks to Jewell's quick thinking, he managed to get quite a few people a safe distance away.

Unfortunately, the bomb exploded before the bomb squad could get there in time.  The blast killed one person, American Alice Hawthorne.  As well Turkish cameraman - Melih Uzunyol - died of a heart attack while running towards the scene of the blast to film it.  Another one hundred and eleven people were left injured from the bomb.

American President Bill Clinton was outraged at the attack, and made the statement that the person who was responsible for the bombing would pay for their act of terror.  And despite the fact that the bombing caused a massive disruption in that day's events, the athletes and officials all agreed that the Games should continue.

But who set the bomb in the first place?

Astonishingly, many believed that Richard Jewell was the one who placed the bomb there, and he was named as a person of interest in the event.  Jewell, of course, maintained his innocence, and he was never formally charged with any crime linked to the Olympic bombings.  Eventually, Jewell was exonerated and he was free to live the rest of his life.  However, he never forgave the media for putting him under intense scrutiny and he later filed lawsuits against NBC News, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and other media reports for damaging his credibility and falsely making claims that he was responsible.  He would later be honored by Georgia governor Sonny Perdue in 2006 for his role in saving so many lives during the chaos of the bombing.

Richard Jewell passed away in August 2007, at the age of 44.



The real culprit was a man by the name of Eric Rudolph, a then 29-year-old roofer/carpenter originally from Florida.  Not long after the Olympic bombings, two more bombs were detonated in the Atlanta, Georgia area - one at an abortion clinic, and another at a lesbian nightclub.  Investigations into both bombings revealed that the bombs were made of the same materials as the one found at the Centennial Olympic Park.  It wasn't until a third bomb was detonated at a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic that the FBI realized they were dealing with a serial bomber.  Fortunately, one of the people that was injured in the Alabama bombing gave the investigators a partial license plate of the person who planted the bomb, and with that information linked the bombings to Eric Rudolph.

It took authorities at least several years before they could locate and charge Rudolph with the bombings, but he was finally arrested on May 31, 2003 and was sentenced to four life terms without the possibility of parole.

As for his motivation behind the crimes, it was all to make a political statement for Washington to cancel the Games because of the government's stance on abortion - which could explain why his later targets were abortion clinics.

But despite Rudolph's plan to not only terrorize the athletes and citizens of Atlanta, Georgia - resulting in the deaths of two people and the slandering of another man), the Games still went on, proving that the spirit of Atlanta - and the Olympic Games - would still go on.  And that Olympic flame would burn even brighter.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Archie Titles I Wish They'd Bring Back

For those of you who have been reading this blog (and apologies to all of you for not writing in here for a few days - life has gotten in the way a smidgen), you probably all know that I am a major comic book geek - a label I've proudly worn since March of 1987 when I received my very first comic.

As far as what comics I've read, there have been so many titles that I have read.  I've dabbled in Harvey comics such as Richie Rich and Little Lotta, I've read mostly every Peanuts and Garfield comic strip, and I've even gotten into some superhero comics as well.  Things like Spider-Man, Batman, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Of course, my main love has always been Archie Comics, and I have quite a sizeable collection of well over three thousand books.  There are some that have a collection that is larger than mine, and many more whose collection is smaller.  But every single book in my collection has been collected with love and has been read and re-read about a hundred thousand times.  For I am one who believes that comics should be enjoyed and not sealed away in a plastic bag never to be read again.



Just recently, I have acquired a copy of Jughead With Archie Digest #6.  Prior to now, it was the last issue I needed to complete the whole set, and now I can boast that I have every single issue of that title.  In fact, I only lack just a few digests overall before I can make the claim that I own every single digest ever printed!  Not bad for someone who has collected the comics for over thirty years!



Of course, the Jughead With Archie Digest has not been printed for quite some time.  The last issue was #200, which was published twelve years ago. 



And later in 2017, we're going to be saying goodbye to Jughead and Archie Double Digest.  To me, this makes me sad, because Jughead was always my favourite character, and now he won't have his own digest title for the first time since 1974.



There is a bright side to this, as replacing the Jughead and Archie Double Digest title is a new one entitled the "Archie & Me" Digest, which is set to release its first issue in October.  I'm actually excited about this as the original Archie & Me title was a 32-page comic that ran from 1964-1987, and it depicted all of the crazy adventures that Archie shared with Mr. Weatherbee.  

And it got me thinking...what other titles do I wish Archie resurrected? 



Now, everyone knows that Archie has recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, and that many of the Archie titles have been rebooted in a new art style.  This, coupled with the success of the CW show "Riverdale", has sent the company into a new, daring direction.  However, the company is starting to revisit the classic look that made them famous, and I appreciate the fact that the company is trying to appeal to new fans and old.  But we all have our wish lists over what titles we'd like to see come back.  Here's my list of eight titles that I hope return in some format.



1.  LITTLE ARCHIE

I wouldn't care if it was in the form of a 32-page comic or a Double Digest.  Little Archie was my introduction to Archie Comics all those years ago, and it will forever have a place in my heart.  I know that most of the artists who worked on Little Archie are now deceased, but surely with all of the new talent that Archie has, they can figure out how to bring the series back.  There are still plenty of stories to tell, and I think that there is still a place for Little Archie in this world.



2.  ARCHIE'S STORY & GAME DIGEST

One of the things I loved about the Story & Game Digest was that it was brilliant to take with you on long car rides.  The book had comic stories to keep you laughing, but it also had puzzles and games that you could play while passing the time.  Or, even better...if they would just release a book that had nothing but puzzles and games - similar to the short lived Archie's Activity Digest, that would be even better. 



3.  BETTY'S DIARY

There was always something about Betty's Diary stories that I loved.  I think it's because prior to the series debut in 1985, Betty was kind of disregarded as a goody two shoes character who always came in second best to Veronica.  But with Betty's Diary, we learned that Betty had a lot of layers, and that she was capable of feeling all sorts of things.  I can see a lot of people reading Betty's Diary and being able to relate to a lot of the things that Betty was going through.  It was a highlight of 1980s Archie that really needs to come back.



4.  VERONICA'S PASSPORT

Some of the biggest moments of Archie have taken place in the Veronica title, which ran from 1989 until 2011.  It was the title in which celebrity guests made appearances, where Veronica went into outer space, and where the first openly gay Archie character debuted.  But my favourite issues of that title were the first eighteen issues, where Veronica visited several different places all around the world from Africa to Switzerland (and everywhere in between).  A collection of these stories were published in a digest title called "Veronica's Passport", but I think there have been enough stories where Veronica has visited the world that it could be resurrected.  Come on Archie, make it happen!



5.  ARCHIE ALL CANADIAN DIGEST

Once upon a time in the summer of 1996, Archie released a collection of stories in which Archie and the gang visited Canada, and for this Canadian fan, it was the highlight of his collecting experience.  The problem was that only one digest was ever released.  And considering that it's been 21 years since that book came out, I think we're long overdue for a second edition.



6.  LIFE WITH ARCHIE

I'm not talking about the recent magazine series which ended with Archie getting shot to death (not kidding about that either).  I'm talking about the original series in which Archie and the gang find themselves in the most ridiculous situations (saving people from murderers, foiling kidnap plots, stopping drug trafficking), and come out the victors.  Sure, the plots were extremely farfetched, but I loved the stories, and if they can bring back Archie & Me as a digest title, they can do the same with Life With Archie!



7.  ARCHIE'S CHRISTMAS STOCKING/BETTY & VERONICA CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR

Seriously, a regular holiday title would be a pleasure.  I looked forward to getting a Christmas comic in my own Christmas stocking, and it makes me sad that they don't have anything like this.

Although some digest titles have released special holiday themed issues, I think we should have something like "Archie's Holidays Digest".  It could be released every few months and celebrate holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, the 4th of July, Halloween, and Thanksgiving!  I think that would be very cool!



8.  JUGHEAD DIGEST

Okay, so I know the reason they cancelled the Jughead digests were because of low sales.  But I still hold out hope that the Archie Comics people will reissue another Jughead Digest title one day.  I can hope anyway.




Any other ideas as to what books you'd bring back?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 1973

So, there's an obvious choice that I COULD make for today's Throwback Thursday posting.  But, I decided that I would choose another topic instead because it would challenge myself - and because thousands of other bloggers are probably reminiscing about the first time that a man walked on the surface of the moon.

Well, the ones who focus on historical events, anyway.

So, we know what topic I avoided...and yes, you'll see it on this list as well as other things that happened throughout history on July 20.

1738 - Canadian explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de la Verendrye (try saying THAT name five times fast) reaches the western shore of Lake Michigan

1848 - The first Women's Rights Convention concludes in Seneca Falls, New York

1864 - The Battle of Peachtree Creek takes place during the American Civil War

1871 - British Columbia officially becomes the sixth Canadian province

1917 - The Corfu Declaration is signed

1919 - Sir Edmund Hillary (d. 2008) - the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest - is born in Auckland, New Zealand

1934 - During the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934, police open fire upon striking truck drivers, leaving two dead and sixty-seven wounded

1935 - Thirteen people lose their lives when a Royal Dutch Airlines flight enroute to Frankfurt, Germany crashes into the Swiss Alps

1938 - Actress Natalie Wood (d. 1981) is born in San Francisco, California

1940 - The first California freeway - The Arroyo Seco Parkway - is opened

1943 - British actress Wendy Richard (d. 2009) is born in Middlesbrough, England

1950 - Harry Gold pleads guilty to spying for the Soviet Union by passing secrets from Klaus Fuchs

1964 - Singer Chris Cornell (d. 2017) is born in Seattle, Washington

1968 - The first International Special Olympics Summer Games are held at Chicago's Soldier Field

1969 - Apollo 11's crew makes the first manned landing on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men in the universe to walk on the surface

1977 - The CIA releases documents under the Freedom of Information Act that proves that it had engaged in mind-control experiments

1982 - The Provisional IRA detonates two bombs in Hyde Park and Regent Park in London, leaving eight soldiers and seven horses dead, and countless others injured

1991 - EMF's "Unbelievable" tops the Billboard Charts

1997 - The USS Constitution - a Navy frigate - celebrates its two hundredth birthday by setting sail for the first time in over one hundred years

2007 - Singer/television personality Tammy Faye Messner dies at the age of 65

2012 - Twelve people are killed and seventy others wounded when a man starts shooting inside of a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado

And for celebrity birthdays, the following people are turning one year older today; Heather Chasen, Mike Ilitch, Sally Ann Howes, Cormac McCarthy, Diana Rigg, Kim Carnes, Carlos Santana, Jeff Rawle, Marcia Hines, Moira Harris, Radney Foster, Frank Whaley, Terri Irwin, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Josh Holloway, Sandra Oh, Colleen "Vitamin C" Fitzpatrick, Omar Epps, Judy Greer, Erica Hill, Elliott Yamin, Charlotte Hatherley, Gisele Bundchen, John Francis Daley, and Julianne Hough!



I think it's great to see so many celebs celebrating a birthday.  Unfortunately, some people have also died on this date in history, and I plan on writing a tribute to him right here.  He passed away on this date in history forty-four years later.  July 20, 1973.

Before I get into that, I want to tell you a little bit of a story regarding my own personal memories.  And, no...it has very little to do with today's date.  I wasn't even born then. 

What I can tell you is that when I was younger, we had a little Chinese food place in town where my family frequented a lot.  It was run by a guy named Ming, and I have so many memories of going to that place as a kid.  The decor was dated, but very befitting for a Chinese place, there was a retro style jukebox that hadn't been updated since 1984 but still worked, and every time we paid a visit, he'd always give all of us kids a free package of Wrigley's gum. 

(I was always partial to Juicy Fruit.)

Now, most of the time we ordered out...but on the rare occasion we dined in, the television set inside the restaurant was always playing some kung fu type movie.  You know, the ones with lots of punches and kicks, and HI-YAH's?  Turns out that Ming loved movies like that, and often featured films that had one of the greatest actors and martial artists that ever lived.

And I'm not talking about Chuck Norris either.  He's still alive.



No, I'm talking about Bruce Lee.  The San Francisco born/Hong Kong raised actor was one of the biggest pop culture icons of the 20th century, and he is responsible for influencing many people all over the world to learn many forms of self-defense, whether it be judo, karate, tae kwon do, or Jeet Kune Do - the form of martial arts that he founded! 

Many of his movies became huge box office smashes.  "Enter the Dragon", "Fist of Fury", "The Big Boss", and "Way of the Dragon".  I suppose that the dragon would be a creature that would best be linked with Bruce Lee though.  He was born on November 27, 1940 - during not only the Year of the Dragon, but the hour of the Dragon as well.  In ancient Chinese customs, that signified a strong and fortuitous omen.  It meant that Bruce Lee was destined to achieve greatness in everything that he did.

Of course, it didn't quite start out that way.  When Lee's family settled in Hong Kong, it wasn't the easiest time for Lee.  Although he excelled in the studies of martial arts and became quite skilled in a variety of techniques, he often used it for the wrong reasons and was frequently getting into trouble at school for fighting.  The decision was made to send Lee back to America in hopes that he would build a better life for himself and so he would stay out of trouble.  He returned to San Francisco in 1958, and a few months later relocated to Seattle where he enrolled as a student at the University of Washington.  While there, he fell in love with another student, Linda Emery.  They married in 1964 and had two children together, Brandon and Shannon.

Everything seemed to be going his way...until 1973.

1973 was supposed to be a big year for Bruce Lee.  He had just completed the filming for the movie "Enter the Dragon", and was scheduled to begin the dubbing for that film on May 10, 1973.  But the session was interrupted when Lee suddenly collapsed at the dub studio.  He had been complaining of headaches, and was experiencing seizures, and he was immediately taken to hospital for examination.  The doctors at Hong Kong Baptist Hospital ruled that Lee was suffering from cerebral edema - a swelling of the brain.  Through the use of mannitol, the doctors were able to reduce the swelling of his brain, and he was discharged some time later.  However, this was merely a warning sign of what was to come, and by July, time was about to run out.

The afternoon of July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong for a dinner meeting with actor George Lazenby to discuss the possibility of working together on a future film project.  At two o'clock, Lee met with producer Raymond Chow to talk about the making of the film "Game of Death", and worked together until four.  At that time, Lee and Chow drove to the home of Lee's colleague Betty Ting Pei, who was a Taiwan-born actress.  They had a look at the script for a couple of hours before Chow had to depart for a dinner meeting.

Shortly after Chow left, Lee began complaining of a headache again, and Ting gave him a drug that contained both aspirin and a tranquilizer known as meprobamate.  At 7:30, he decided that he would try to sleep off the pain and took a nap in the bedroom.  But when Lee didn't show up for the dinner meeting, Raymond Chow went to check on him and found Lee unresponsive.  He was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in hopes that he could be revived, but by then it was too late.



Bruce Lee had died.  He was just thirty-two years old.

It would take a while to determine the cause of death, but when Lee's body went in for autopsy, it was discovered that his brain had swelled considerably and the weight of the brain increased by 13%.  It was later determined that the painkiller that Betty Ting Pei had given him was the likely reason that he died, as unbeknownst to everybody including Lee, he had a severe allergy to the meprobamate that was inside.  It was labeled a "death by misadventure", but really it was just a tragic accident.

Of course, this didn't stop some people from trying to speculate what really happened to Lee, and some of the theories that were thrown about ranged from slightly possible to completely off base.  These theories ranged from Lee dying from a cannabis overdose, to a curse being implement on his family, to a dangerous gang from Hong Kong orchestrating his demise.  But the sad truth is that Bruce Lee went out with a whimper...not a bang.  And perhaps the greatest tragedy is that he died when the entire world seemed to be aligning with him.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Video Rental Stores - The Best Way To Temporarily Expand Your Gaming Library

One of the highlights of the weekend as a kid was being able to do practically anything my heart desired.  Well, within reason anyway.  As much as I would have loved to have sprayed graffiti all over the town with a can of purple spray paint, I'm fairly sure the local police would frown upon that.

Of course, I had to make sure that all of my homework was done before I could have the freedom to do what I wanted (though admittedly, I would purposely wait until Sunday night to do some of it because I couldn't be bothered to work on it during the weekend.)

Kids: Don't be like me.  Do your homework as soon as possible.  You'll save yourself the stress of typing out an eight page history essay while pulling an all-nighter the day before the assignment is due - though, I did get a B+ on that paper, so what do I know?

Anyway, my favourite activity when I was a kid was to go down to the little convenience store around the corner from where I used to live as a kid.  I believe it was called Darling's Variety.  Aside from spending part of my allowance on Salt and Vinegar potato chips, I'd use the rest to rent a video game that they had in stock.

And yes, there was a time in which you could rent video games for the low cost of $2.25 per day!



To be fair, they also had movies as well, but I was never really into the box office scene as much as I was the video game scene.  Besides, the little store I went to had a limited selection of both.  Sadly, that store closed up when I was in the sixth grade, and after that I would rent games from some of the local video rental places and from major chains like Blockbuster or Jumbo Video.  I tended to prefer Blockbuster a bit more though, as they let you rent games for a whole week.  Which came in really handy given that you cannot beat "Final Fantasy VI" in one day.  At least, not without eating, sleeping, or peeing anyway.



Of course, nowadays you'd be hard pressed to find a store that still rents videos and video games.  These days, sites like Netflix have cornered the monopoly on movie renting and streaming.  As well, there are literally hundreds of sites that offer free emulators that you can use to download video games - not to mention purchasing games directly from the Internet for the XBOX, PlayStation, and Nintendo.

But back in the days in which I was a kid...the idea of renting video games was just absolutely magical.

For one, my family was not flush with money by any means.  They couldn't afford to buy a new video game every month - and I certainly didn't expect them to either.  I mean, this is coming from someone whose first video game system was ten years older (and you can read about that story by clicking
HERE - one of the first blog entries I wrote, matter of fact!).  I saved up to buy my Nintendo for several months when I was nine, and it was so worth the purchase!



Because once I had the Nintendo in my possession, it opened me up to a world of endless possibilities.  Or, at the very least it allowed me to rent video games.



I still recall the first video games I rented from Darling's after I bought my Nintendo.  As it turned out, I still had enough money to rent three games from there, so I settled on "Bubble Bobble", "Tetris", and "Rampage".  Yeah, quite the triad of games.  One game you shot at everyone with green and blue bubbles, one game you tried to make lines with coloured blocks, and one game you tried to destroy the entire United States one skyscraper at a time.  It was great!

Of course, I had to make sure that all the games were returned by 1:00 the following afternoon, because if I didn't I'd be billed for an extra day, which the nine-year-old me couldn't afford.

Well, at least until Super Mario 3 came out...then I rented it every other day until I received the game as a Christmas gift!


So, what are some of your favourite stories involving video rental stores and video game rental stores?  Feel free to share them here!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Commonwealth of Memories

As I look at the calendar, we are midway through the month of July.  The season of summer has officially kicked off, and for every student between the ages of 5-18, this means that the summer is theirs to do whatever they want to do.  They can go to summer camp, they can swim in the pool, they can eat so much ice cream they develop permanent brain freeze.

Or you could just waste time reading a book underneath the shade of a gigantic tree.  Or, I suppose nowadays, kids can take out their mobile phones and play "Candy Crush" underneath a tree.  Or, so I've heard, anyway.

Of course, summer vacation only lasts for a few precious weeks before the schools reopen and kids begin another year of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  It was a time of year that I simultaneously loved and hated.  I loved the idea of starting a new school year and buying school supplies...but I hated the idea of summer ending and having to spend the next nine and a half months with classmates I may or may not have liked. 

But what happens when your school decides not to reopen in the new school year?

Well, in the next couple of years, some students will be faced with that prospect...at least in my province anyway.  Several schools will be closing over the next three years because of low enrollment, and many schools will combine their student populations to form one school. 

And one of those schools that is on the chopping block happens to be my old elementary school.



Apparently, it will be closing along with two other elementary schools in the area and all of those students will be going to the remaining schools in the city.  There's talk of demolishing at least one of these school buildings and rebuilding a larger school to accommodate most of the displaced kids. 

Now, I have no idea what will happen to my old elementary school.  I don't know if it will remain open until the new school is supposed to be built, or if it will close at the end of the 2017/18 school year, of if it too will be knocked down.  There's a lot of questions flying around, and I'm not even sure if I have all the facts straight yet.  But I do know that the announcement made me think about my time at Commonwealth Public School, and how many memories I have associated with that place.

I guess I would like to use this piece to talk about my experiences, both good and bad, as a student at Commonwealth P.S.  That way, even if the school does close and ceases to exist, I'll have a digital memory of it here.

I attended Commonwealth as a student between the years 1987 and 1995, and for the most part I do have some good memories of the place.  There were some moments that I really would rather forget about though.  The bullies who picked on me every day.  The first grade teacher who tried to break me as a person.  The fact that I could never get a grade higher than a C minus in phys ed.  The blasted disciplinary chart that made all of us hate the letter "X" for ten years after the fact.  Yeah.  All memories that I want to forget.

But there are a lot of memories that stand out in my memory for all the good reasons.  Consider this a scrapbook of my time at Commonwealth P.S.  A real window into what elementary school in Canada was like in the 1980s and 1990s.

So, what do I remember most?



Well, our school colours for one.  I think we were one of the only schools in the entire province of Ontario whose school colours were royal blue and Orange Crush!  Not exactly the most beautiful of colour combinations, was it?  I suppose the orange made sense as our school mascot was the Commonwealth Cougar...but cougars had black spots...not blue.  At least it's something to remember.



I also remember earning these lovely blue and orange felt patches for my involvement in the school concert band.  The blue ones were for arts and science achievements while the orange ones were for athletics.  I played the baritone from sixth to eighth grades and took part in several school concerts.  I still remember the day when the eighth grade baritone player bailed and I had to play the solo as the only seventh grade baritone player.  I pulled it off brilliantly.



Mrs. Barclay was the school librarian during my entire tenure at the school, and I remember that our library at that time was in the basement.  It's a wonder none of us ended up with asbestos poisoning!  Though the crown jewel of the old school library was the red bathtub that was placed in the center of the reading area, and how all of us kids would fight to see which ones would spend library period in that bathtub.  Of course, the tub wasn't real.  It didn't have water hookups.  It was just a cool way to read books.  Oh, and I earned this nifty certificate for my research skills when I was just seven years old!  Not bad, huh?



I still have quite a few of my awards from when I attended Commonwealth as a student.  In sixth grade, our teacher would hand out Certificates of Achievement each week to those students who were mostly well behaved during that time.  I admit that I didn't get as many certificates as I would have liked, but that was because I was still a little bit rebellious against authority figures - stemming back to my grade one nightmare teacher.  My sixth grade teacher was a sweetheart though, and to this day, Mrs. Woodfine has always been my favourite elementary school teacher.  She helped me get into the idea of writing my feelings down, which helped me a great deal.  So if you want someone to blame for the last six years of this blog, blame her!  (Just kidding.)



Commonwealth P.S. was also one of the places where many of us learned how to use a computer for the first time, and I can recall dozens of instances where I'd play all sorts of games such as "Number Munchers", "Type Away", and my personal favourite, "Pick-A-Dilly Pair".

(Coincidentally, I was the champion of that game in second grade...and I NEVER LOST ONE MATCH.  EVER.)



For some reason, this song was also a key part of my second grade learning experience.  I have no idea why it has stuck in my brain for so long, but kudos to Carole King for making Chicken Soup with Rice so musically appealing.  For some reason, a lot of Commonwealth memories are associated with second grade.  The Mouse and the Motorcycle, McDonald's Day, giving Warm Fuzzies to our classmates...as well as being hospitalized for an asthma attack and missing my class photo that year...and speaking of which..



One part of school that I had a mixed reaction to was class picture day.  Above is the class picture that I took back when I was in grade five.  Let's just say that 1991 wasn't a kind year for me...or anybody else for that matter.



Then again, 1995 wasn't much better.  This was my grade eight graduation photo in which everything went wrong.  My hair was a mess, my face had broken out, and let's just say it's a good thing I was wearing that robe because I had accidentally squirted ketchup all over the white dress shirt I wore.  Why didn't they have our grad pics taken BEFORE lunch?

Of course, the good thing about graduation was getting that diploma which allowed us to pass into the world of high school - which admittedly I despised with the fire of a million suns, but the 14-year-old in me didn't see it as such.  And I had a great time at the grad dance.



Though, I should clarify...he wasn't my date.  This happens to be my best friend from those days, and twenty-two years later we're still very tight.  Probably one of the only people I can truly say that about.

Now there are some memories of Commonwealth P.S. that I have no photos of (or very few), so I can only describe them here using my words.  Any of my classmates that are reading this, I hope this list brings back some fond memories.  Here's a list of 40 that I can think of spur of the moment.



1.  WALKING TO THE CENOTAPH EVERY REMEMBRANCE DAY
2.  BEING THE "B" IN BRAVERY AT THE REMEMBRANCE DAY ASSEMBLY
3.  MY JUMP ROPE FOR HEART POSTER WHICH ENDED UP IN THE SCHOOL ART GALLERY
4.  THE COMMONWEALTH P.S. WINTER OLYMPICS FIELD DAY
5.  THE ANNUAL CRAZY HAT BARBECUE
6.  THE ANNUAL TEACHERS VS. GRADE 8 SOFTBALL GAME
7.  TRAIN SAFETY ASSEMBLIES
8.  USING "EAT OR CHEW" CARDS IN MADAME MORGAN'S FRENCH CLASS
9.  THE DIMOITOU PUPPET IN FRENCH CLASS



10.  THE DIMOITOU PUPPET SUSTAINING HEAD TRAUMA AFTER A CLASSMATE THREW IT AND THE WHOLE ACTIVITY CART DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS
11.  GIVING "WARM FUZZIES" TO MY SECOND GRADE CLASSMATES
12.  SCHOOL FUNDRAISING



13.  SCHOLASTIC BOOK FAIRS
14.  PLAYING "SCRABBLE" IN 8TH GRADE LANGUAGE ARTS CLASS
15.  LEARNING HOW TO PLAY THE "STOCK MARKET" WITH DR. DIVIDEND
16.  GRADE 8 FIELD TRIP TO TORONTO TO VISIT CANADA'S WONDERLAND AND SEE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
17.  5th GRADE POOL PARTY AT MR. HASKIN'S PLACE
18.  LEARNING HOW TO SLOW DANCE AT MY FIRST SCHOOL DANCE
19.  HAVING MY FINGER BROKEN BY A BOWLING BALL IN 4TH GRADE GYM CLASS
20.  HAVING KIDS ASK ME HOW TO SPELL WORDS...AND REGRETTING NOT CHARGING THEM FIVE CENTS PER LETTER
21.  USING RACCOONS COLOUR CHANGING MARKERS EVERY DAY IN SECOND GRADE
22.  SCRATCH AND SNIFF STICKERS - WE ALL LOVED THESE!
23.  THE BATHROOM KEYS WE USED IN SECOND GRADE
24.  GETTING AN INDOOR SUSPENSION FOR DEFENDING MYSELF - HEY, THEY WEREN'T ALL GOOD MEMORIES!
25.  BUILDING A DIORAMA OF A MOUNTAIN RANGE IN SIXTH GRADE
26.  RUNNING FOR CLASS REP DURING SCHOOL ELECTIONS...AND COMING IN DEAD LAST!
27.  CONTRIBUTING TO THE 5TH GRADE ENVIRONMENT MAGAZINE OUR CLASS MADE - AND REALIZING THAT I LOVED WRITING
28.  GETTING THE HIGHEST MARK ON THE WATERLOO MATH CONTEST IN 7TH GRADE - A FLUKE, SINCE IT'S MY WORST SUBJECT!
29.  THE CURVED YELLOW SLIDE THAT I ONCE FELL OFF OF AND SKINNED MY KNEE ON
30.  READING BUDDIES!



31.  MAKING AN ELF IN FIRST GRADE THIRTY YEARS AGO...AND REALIZING THAT I STILL HAVE A BUTTERSCOTCH CANDY INSIDE SAID ELF THAT HAS REMAINED FOR THIRTY YEARS!



32.  THIRD GRADE BEING THE "WINNIE THE POOH" YEAR - EVERY ACTIVITY WE DID SEEMED TO INVOLVE WINNIE THE POOH!
33.  OUR FIRST GRADE TEACHER GETTING STUCK IN THE STORYTIME CHAIR - THE FIRST TIME I LEARNED THE DEFINITION OF LASER GUIDED KARMA.
34.  SECRET SANTA EXCHANGES - I STILL HAVE EVERY GIFT I EVER RECEIVED!
35.  KIDS WHO TRIED TO TEASE ME BY POPPING BALLOONS IN MY FACE KNOWING THAT IT REALLY BOTHERED ME.  REAL MATURE, GUYS.  FORTUNATELY, I AM IN TOUCH WITH NONE OF THOSE MORONS.
36.  THE SCHOOL JANITOR, MR. MCMILLAN.  HE WAS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE GREATEST LISTENERS/PIANO PLAYERS THE SCHOOL EVER HAD AND HE WAS MY FRIEND.  HE DIED THE YEAR AFTER I GRADUATED.
37.  TRYING TO BURY A KID IN THE KINDERGARTEN SANDBOX.  YEP.  THAT HAPPENED.
38.  DOING A FACEPLANT IN THE ICY PAVEMENT IN GRADE ONE AND NEARLY BREAKING MY NOSE.  I WAS NOT GRACEFUL.  AT ALL.
39.  SEEING MY THIRD GRADE TEACHER, MR. PORTER DRESSED IN A KILT AND PLAYING THE BAGPIPES ON REMEMBRANCE DAY, 1989.

And finally...

40.  TO THE FEW FRIENDSHIPS THAT I HAVE MAINTAINED SINCE THOSE YEARS...AND HOW MANY OF YOU WERE DECENT AND GOOD PEOPLE WHO DESERVE THE BEST.  AND HOW I WOULD RATHER HAVE A REUNION WITH YOU GUYS THAN THE STUCK-UP SNOTS I ATTENDED HIGH SCHOOL WITH!  THANKS FOR MAKING MY TIME AT COMMONWEALTH P.S. SEEM MORE BEARABLE!