1966 was, in many ways, a pivotal year for me.  It was my final year in elementary school/introduction to high school.  It was the year I first met Jane.  It was another great year in pop music.  And Canadians were anticipating the celebrations associated with the country’s centennial (1967), including playing host to the world at Expo ’67 in Montreal.   Internationally?  Walt Disney passed away that year.  Popular films included Torn Curtain (Hitchcock) and A Man for All Seasons.  The U.S. was further mired in the Vietnam conflict.  Preoccupation with John F. Kennedy’s assassination continued in the form of Manchester’s Death of a President.  The broadcast and use of colour television became far more widespread (although we were still about six years from experiencing it in our own home).  Here are a few personal memories from the year…

I  Grade Eight

A mixture of feelings about that one.  An odd class.  Several sixteen-year-olds (one drove to school some days!)  Some very gifted students and many who were not academically inclined.  Not the most congenial group to teach… we “went through” several local ministers who tried to provide weekly religious instruction.  The principal (newly minted) was my former grade five teacher (that year was his first year… promotion was quick for male staff who survived).  He was also the grade eight teacher and made rather extensive use of the strap as a threat and the means to address wayward behaviour.  At the same time there was a freedom that came with the grade- partly derived from educational philosophy of the time (cf. Hall-Dennis Report).  I enjoyed the individualized reading lab and watching (for educational purposes?) the occasional afternoon movie.

Our class descended on the city in May of 1966.

Our grade eight trip to Ottawa was notable for several reasons.  If you do a search you will discover that on May 18th, 1966 a man (named Paul Joseph Chartier) accidentally blew himself up in a washroom at the Parliament Buildings.  He had intended to explode it in the House of Commons and entertained the notion of becoming the next prime minister.  Well… we were out walking about in the city at the time and heard the explosion.  It was a more relaxed era and our principal/teacher allowed us to spend a portion of the trip roaming the city by ourselves.  I also recall going to two movies with the class (A Patch of Blue and My Fair Lady).  Our class was housed at the Lord Elgin, one of the more venerable hotels in the city.  I was (happily) placed in a room with John and Billy… two of the more responsible types of the male contingent.  However it was soon discovered by other students in the collective that all our rooms looked out over the flat roof of an adjacent (attached) building so that, by climbing out the window of your own room, you could in fact visit with any other room on the floor.  And, for whatever reason, one evening our room became a hub for visitors from other rooms… or at least until we received a knock on the door and were informed by a displeased security guard and our terse principal that such activity was forbidden and the participants subject to removal from the hotel.

You will notice from these anecdotes an absence of remarks about the historic/academic elements of the trip.  Interesting what we remember, eh?

Our grade seven class (sorry, don’t have a grade eight class picture). We don’t look scary, do we?

As I observed earlier, this year was also my first year of high school and that meant not only a different physical environment… it also meant a different set of students.  At that time our village contained only a small “academic” high school (mainly those considering university in their future) while those wishing to pursue technical, commercial and industrial training were bussed to a nearby town whose high school had that focus.  So the grade nine year included a handful of my elementary acquaintances and a large proportion of students from other area schools.  Added to that was an invitation from my new school for students to participate in a multiday field trip to Montreal in order to explore the 1967 World’s Fair.  More of all that later (when I formally get to 1967)… sufficient to say that the new school year promised to be an interesting one.

Looking forward to Expo ’67 in Montreal…

II  Jane

We first met in the fall of ’66.  Our small church had just asked a Rev. Lambert to be its pastor/minister.  He brought his family for dinner to our house on the occasion of my 14th birthday (well, almost… it actually fell on a Monday that year).  And that day I met Jane for the first time.  Somewhere about the house (still haven’t located it) I have a fuzzy b and w Polaroid snap of Jane and her siblings on our front step… along with neighbour Debbie.  If  I find it I’ll post it below.  On that day began a friendship which would grow… and it continues to grow…

III Music

What can you say about 1966?  Any year that has Good Vibrations, Wild Thing, California Dreamin’, Summer in the City and Groovy Kind of Love (amongst many many others) can’t be all bad.  (Check out a sample chart here…)  Oh yes… and Cherish.

Oddly enough, when I first heard the song I wasn’t immediately drawn to it… but after a few listenings I was hooked by its dense unusual harmonies and perfect expression of male adolescent (in my case) angst.  When I was asked “Whats your favourite song?” by a student on the eve of my retirement from teaching I replied (honestly) that I had so many I probably couldn’t pick just one.  But I also said that, if you asked my 14-year-old self that question, I would immediately reply “Cherish”.  And so it remains a favourite.  I’ve even devoted portions of several posts to the song and its composer, Terry Kirkman.  He recently wrote about the song in the context of the time for the Huffington Post.  You would find his perspective on the song, the group and the music industry of the time interesting.

He has written other articles… the second being a tribute to musician Doug Dillard.  In the article he mentions singing Just a Closer Walk with Dillard et al.  Although it has little direct bearing on 1966, I thought I’d play a verse myself…

An extended p.s.

Looking in a history reference book which chronicles major events of each year (timelines from about 4000 B.C. to present) I noticed that it mentions four songs from 1966- Born Free, Eleanor Rigby, Strangers in the Night and Ballad of the Green Berets.  I’m not going to embed the YouTube links but, if interested, check them out… only because they reflect the odd, broad spectrum of popular music at the time.  I will post the link to several of my favs of the year below…

Coincidentally, when The Association regrouped in the 80’s they did a very good cover of Walk Away.

The Rascals performing one of the first of a string of hits in later ’60’s.

I mentioned these guys in the context of another hit… Magic Town.

Don’t you love these live performances of the period?

And guess what… I did manage two posts this month!


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