85. Prince Rupert, 1961: Schools, Comics, Tickets and Canary Wallpaper
When I returned to Prince Rupert in the spring of 1961, I also returned to Roosevelt School, to finish grade five where I had begun it. It didn’t feel like a return particularly. I wasn’t placed in the same class, and I didn’t recognize the teachers. In fact I wasn’t to encounter that experience—of returning to school as returning to friends—until high school. Before then I always returned to strangers.
The one important exception in Prince Rupert was my friend David. Not that the distinction mattered, really, but he was not so much a school friend, as a friend from home with whom I went to school. Because of course my father had settled us again in the rooms above the Grand Café, where, as the son of one the owners, David lived too. I suppose the rooms above the Grand were a home for me, too, of sorts, and the places around it my neighbourhood.
Eddie’s Newsstand next door immediately assumed its former role as the go-to place for candy and comics. My taste in comics was undergoing a transition then. I suppose Sugar and Spike, toddler characters who spoke their own special language to each other that adults couldn’t understand, were still part of my reading, and Richie Rich, “The Poor Little Rich Boy”, and his ilk. But now I was also reading the Flash, who could run at the speed of light and vibrate his molecules through walls, and Green Lantern, who chanted, “In brightest day and darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight” while charging up his power ring, or the Justice League of America, which had pitted Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and mascot “Snapper” Carr against Starro the Conqueror, a giant starfish, in the JLA’s debut the previous year. (Spoiler: I think they killed it with quicklime, which is fatal to even interstellar starfish, obviously.)
I was also reading at the library. The room that I shared with my father had one bed which my father and I shared by day and by night. Often by day we would lie on the bed side by side reading whatever we’d taken home from the library.
I don’t remember any details of what I was reading, but I know that my father was reading Shaw that season. I remember this because my father got into the habit of pinning George Bernard Shaw quotes to the walls, handwritten on half-sheets of canary copy paper. For a while, one wall was papered with such quotes, although I honestly don’t remember a word from any one of them. I think Shaw was mostly above my head, relevant to a political world having nothing to do with the experience of childhood.
There was a hotplate in that room, there must have been, although I can’t directly remember that detail. One day my father came home with two brown bags full of groceries, one in each arm, and complained as he put them down, “You can’t buy anything for ten dollars anymore.”
Dad was always complaining about Prince Rupert prices. Corrected for inflation over more than half a century, we’d probably be wailing too. Not corrected for inflation, memory laughs.
I remember also returning to my occasional habit of taking in Saturday matinees at the Capitol. You could buy books of tickets and save money, which I never did, or you could buy books of tickets and sell them one by one for a slight profit, which is what the Grand Café did. The advantage of buying there was that you didn’t have to line up to buy tickets at the box office, which was completely worthwhile to me.
I remember purchasing one such ticket one day, and while walking the two and half blocks to the theatre imagining arriving, and the usher tearing up my ticket as I went in. Unfortunately when I did arrive I realized that the ticket was in multiple parts in my hand already, ripped in half, then ripped in half again. I had done it myself.
In 1961 apparently, I was already absent-minded.