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Time softens our memories

Even memories of the Great Depression can be fond ones

I guess we can safely assume we have survived another winter and what passes for spring in these parts. I remember clearly as a child, my summer began on Firecracker Day or as our political masters called it, Victoria Day.

May 24 was much more than an exciting holiday with a great ending.

It also marked the beginning of summer, of donning short pants and possibly new running shoes, of rooting out the stash of marbles and beginning the marathon and myriad games we played. It meant long evenings after dinner watching or playing pick-up baseball games and the eagerly awaited shrill whistle of the horse-drawn chip wagon.

For our younger readers, I must describe these wagons.

They were the original fast food outlets, about the size of a modern SUV,  small and hellishly hot for the poor man inside surrounded by a deep vat of boiling fat for chips, a grill to cook hotdogs and a popcorn oven. The wagon also had a small locker with a limited supply of soft drinks sitting on a block of fast-melting ice.

The whole operation was surrounded by a strong unforgettable odour consisting of old horse and his natural functions, frying chips, popcorn and grilled hotdogs, all harassed by a heavy collection of flies. I consider myself lucky in that they were not banished as unsanitary until long after I grew up. They were an indelible experience.

We all know that time and distance soften the ugly parts of our memories.

The childhood days I remember so fondly took place in the deepest part of the so-called Great Depression. There were few women in the workforce so an unemployed breadwinner meant no medical or dental care, no new clothes and sometimes, for some, no food except in the breadline at the religious charities. Small problems like a broken pot handle or a ripped pair of pants can be catastrophic when you have no money.

I’ve often wondered why childhood memories linger so long and strong compared to today when last summer’s activities are a distant, dim memory if recalled at all.

Perhaps young minds are less cluttered with old experiences and like a clean blackboard  have lots of room for new stuff.

William Shakespeare had something nice to say about summer and a special lady when he wrote the following sonnet: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

I think most women would feel good about themselves as the subject of such a little masterpiece.

We don’t hear lyrics like that from most of today’s over-hyped musical performers.

In deference to local real estate values, I no longer wear shorts in public and some might say that I lost my marbles years ago.




Harvey Dorval is a regular News columnist.