Posted: August 1, 2021
In the spring of 1973 I graduated from Champlain High School in Ottawa, Canada. That was forty-eight years ago. And about a week ago I received a note from my longtime buddy (and classmate) Jim H. who still lives in the Ottawa area, letting me know there was a movement afoot to have a reunion on October 2nd , the first for our year.
Wow. A high school reunion. There are few things that conjure up such a mix of emotions. I know that for some the nine weeks from hearing of this until the actual event will be the period to: lose 40 pounds, get a facelift and win a Nobel prize for physics. Well, I never was much good at physics. Physics and a few of the other sciences did various cameo appearances on my high school F column with the regulars Math and French. Yeah French, and I have a French heritage. I am kind of squeamish when it comes to surgery so that puts the face lift out of the question for me as well. Forty pounds? I think it might be easier to get that Nobel prize in the nine weeks.
Now while high school is a pretty crazy time in the evolution of teenagers it was particularly strange in that period when I was there – 1968 to 1973. Yes, that is a five year period because at the time Ontario Canada offered a four year high school diploma for anyone wanting to pursue the trades or community college and a five year diploma for most people who aspired to go to university or had parents with such aspirations for their offspring. I had such parents.
And what was happening in that 1968 to 1973 period? Well at the beginning of that period the Cold War was still hot, the war in Viet Nam was heating up as both a war and effectively a civil war in the United States as well, and Martin Luther King had just been murdered in April of ’68. In 1969 gay rights in Canada were opened up, the Americans put a man on the moon, and by October 1970 the War Measures Act was used in Canada to try to manage the FLQ, a Quebec liberation group. Women were fighting for their liberation, race relations were poor, particularly in the U.S., and as we now know, the Canadian Government with the Roman Catholic Church ramped up both the Residential Schools and the forced assimilation of our indigenous peoples with the sixties scoop. Shameful. It really was a very screwed up time on most fronts and many of us had parents who had no idea how to cope with the perspectives their teenagers were developing regarding many of these issues.
In contrast to those turbulent times the soundtrack for our high school life was amazing. It started with The Beatles releasing The White Album and then Abbey Road and the Stones releasing Beggars Banquet and Let it Bleed. Led Zeppelin was formed. By the summer between grade 9 and 10 we had Woodstock. If you are new to this website you may want to look back in the archives ( MY VERY FIRST POST, posted December 14, 2013) to Jim C’s Woodstock experience and the recent follow up to that (WOODSTOCK: 50 YEARS LATER, posted August 15, 2019). Every week a new album would come out that today would be considered epic. And as if to celebrate our graduation in 1973, Pink Floyd released The Dark Side Of The Moon.
Of course, that flood of new music was also reflecting growth on some amazing music from before and I have great memories of sitting at Jim H’s living room listening to Gene Vincent Rock and the Blue Caps Roll, or his fathers Dave Brubeck albums.
And that’s the really fun part of memories. It is not just the music but the link of that music to what we were doing at the time. I have fond recollections of lounging in the dark listening to the Moody Blues in Myles C.’s basement after a warmup joint outside, and singing along to The Who, Rush and Black Sabbath while riding in Bo M’s amazing Datson 240Z with the music just loud enough to have the whole city turn to listen.
Ahh, the cars. Bo always had a nice ride, as his dad was in that business and Bo would clean the cars and sometimes bring them home. Jim H’s parents had the ’66 corvette stingray fastback, and Steve Z. got a brand-new Corvette for graduation. The rest of us mortals, rode bikes, motorcycles, took transit, walked, borrowed our parents’ cars or had really old junkers. I had an 80 cc Yamaha motorbike, that spit and coughed and farted all the way to wherever I was going. My main man Jim C. had saved a lot so that in January 1970 when we both turned sixteen, he had bought a three-year-old Volks Beetle and drove it to the driving test – Yeah, don’t ask. He delivered pizza with it part time and loved that thing. But one sunny Sunday morning in August of that year on a tight bend near his parents’ cottage he rolled it. That turned him on to doing autobody and worked on a lot of other guys cars over the rest of High school.
For some of us we did not do high school well. At the time, what we now call Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was in its early stages of identification and treatment, and the confusion for most practitioners was that some inflicted with this had a big attention deficit while others had not as much but a lot of hyperactivity. For most of us with it , the identification only came much later than high school, after some seriously disastrous experiences. I have ADHD but unlike my buddy Jim C. who was given an extra dollop of the H part I got an extra dollop of the AD part. It meant that I was laid back and identified as “mentally lazy” and he was identified as “overwound”. I just cruised through high school failing stuff and for him the behaviors are as if you took a regular kid, gave him a bunch of amphetamines, a couple of double espressos and send him off to school each day.
He channeled it into track and field – literally to run it off. I, on the other hand, would self medicate. Both of these techniques work to a degree but only partially. Each of us only figured out we had this later in life and much too late to have a very positive high school experience – at least academically.
Our high school was a little weird as well. We had a real range on the socioeconomic front – some not very well off, some exceedingly well off and most of us in the middle. When we were in grade 10 the school board decided to turn our school into a Francophone school and the English school would be phased out. We were the second last graduating class as the year behind us was the last intake of the English students. I think it was a Canadian application of the U.S. bussing program that had been so successful. LOL.
The result of this phase out of the school’s intake was that each year the scale of the student body dwindled, and as normal attrition was also occurring with some families who would move away, the number of students in our year also went down in size, as no new families moving to the area could have their kids join us as this strange orphaned school. There were positives to this small size of course in that we were a tighter group and could do some things that at the time were unique like moving the whole bunch of us (students, teachers, admin people) to camp together, but in general we could not put together a football team or have as many extra curricular clubs etc.
Looking back over almost half a century is also scary. We look at the choices we have made, the experiences we have had since high school and how we might have done things differently. I spend a lot of time writing on this website reflecting on life, looking back and looking forward. I think if this reunion happened twenty years ago I would have been pretty uptight about it, but now it has been so long it is just a novelty that we have made it this far and will be fun to get reacquainted. But it has taken me this long to get to that point that I can see my high school years more objectively and pull out those positive memories. It is as if over the years I have gone through a set of slides and year after year thrown out one or two of the bad memories only to be left with mainly slides of the good times and the positives that have come out.
Forty-eight years is a long time. That number has significance for Jim as he retired on his forty-eighth birthday and significance for me as the trip we did in June 2004 was En Plein Airs forty-eighth trip moving people to safe points as I described in THE NEW MILLENIUM, posted March 26, 2017.
My buddy Jim C. has a lot of travel points and has got me a ticket to come over, see my doctor, dentist, and go to the reunion. The flight is by way of Ireland so Ciara is joining me for that leg as both of us need to sign statements at the police station regarding the death of her ex husband and then she is staying on for a few weeks as she needs to do something to keep up her medical accreditation. I will be in Ireland for just a day and then off to Canada for a few days of quality time with my doctor, dentist, and people I have not seen in about five decades.
I am now off to the library to sign out a bunch of physics texts.
P.S. As regular readers know I don’t usually put in pictures of myself as I like to keep a low profile but here is one of me from my high school days in grade twelve or grade thirteen. I am going to spend some time trying to find some images of my classmates and if they are cool with it, I will post them here as well.