Legends of Myself 42

Posted on March 29, 2012


Continued from Legends of Myself 41

42.  Prince Rupert, 1958:  Rain, Cookies and the Pony Express

In what is beginning to look like a theme, in 1958 I still don’t remember the rain in Prince Rupert, no more than during my previous stay.  Weather is small talk, I suppose, unless you are wet or you can pick it up and throw it.  Small talk seldom makes the histories, and I guess Old Pop must have kept me capped, gumbooted and dry.

But at least in 1958 there were rumours of rain….

Among the Tsimshian, when someone wanted something remembered, they brought in as many guests as possible and fed them.  I suspect food and drink worked for my younger self as well.  I can recall various unremarkable breakfast cereals which I ate, none of which are anyway exotic today.

Yet in a place that styles itself “the City of Rainbows” (because even when the sun is shining, it’s still raining somewhere in sight) I remember neither drop nor drizzle of the 100 inches (more than 2.5 m.) of rain that fell on our little town that year.  As it did every year.  A portion of which must have fallen that summer and autumn on 8th Avenue.

And even on me, I suspect.

 I recall Dad’s Cookies (a product I favoured for the name alone) when that franchise still pretended a Scottish theme.  There was a kilted Scotsman depicted on the back of the box one time, which I carefully cut out and folded according to the directions given, propping it finally on a shelf—where, remarkably, it looked exactly like a cardboard kilted Scotsman cut from the back of a Dad’s Cookie box.

 I also remember Old Pop bringing home—I recall it only once—a bottle of Camp Coffee, an actual Scot product, also with a kilted Scotsman depicted on it—seated—a turbaned Sikh standing by him with a tray.  Just as Aunt Jemima has since traded in her mammy-scarf for pearls, today the turbaned Sikh on the label has traded in his tray, sat down and joined the Scotsman for coffee.

Camp Coffee is actually mostly chicory—real coffee was not for Tat or other children—and I remember drinking it with canned milk and water in a manner similar to cocoa.

If the trick to memory is food, then the way to remember the weather is to serve it up with food as well.  Hot dog day—free hot dogs for every kid on Saturday down at McClymont Park—was weather dependent, which, in Prince Rupert, made it a 60/40 chance.

Plan B was to be announced over the radio.

I had been to McClymont Park numerous times.  It wasPrince Rupert’s principal park and Hays Creek, draining the lands at the foot of Hays Mountain, ran through it.  It was about a third of a mile (half a kilometer) north east of where I lived.

In the days leading up to Saturday, I remember monitoring the skies anxiously.  I don’t remember whether it rained or shone that week, but I do remember worrying about it.  And when Saturday arrived, I recall that the focus of my anxiety changed.  I stopped worrying about the sky and started worrying about the radio.

I don’t think our home actually had a radio.  I was dependent on being near one or hearing from someone who owned one, and I was afraid I would somehow miss the announcement of Plan B.

Logically, from my change of focus (and subsequent events) it did indeed rain on hot dog day,Prince Rupert, 1958.

Memory stubbornly refuses to supply a photograph.

But I do remember Plan B.  That was the day the Pony Express came to 8th Avenue.

War broke out, beginning later that afternoon.  No one was safe, up hill or down.  Shots were fired from behind every mound and tree.  Duels were fought on the street.  Arms proliferated, guns, even occasional bows with rubber-tipped arrows.  Cap guns were of course best, but pointed fingers—with explosive sound effects applied orally—were probably more common.  It was Pony Express fever.  The mail would get through no matter how many outlaws or Indians had to die.

Plan B was, of course, a 1953 movie showing at a the Capitol Theatre, “The Pony Express,” starring Charlton Heston as Buffalo Bill Cody, Forest Tucker as Wild Bill Hickok and Pat Hogan as Chief Yellow Hand, a wild Indian.

Pretty much every kid on 8th Avenue saw that movie, and it accordingly obsessed us for weeks.

Continued @ Legends of Myself 43

Posted in: autobiography