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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autobio Part 2; Joe College arrives in Burlington

There was about a month left in the school year when we arrived in Burlington and the advantages of the school system in Kitchener were soon apparent. A fellow classmate named John Anderson was assigned to take care of me and he put up his hand and said to the teacher, "He's writing." In Kitchener we started writing in Grade Two, whereas in Burlington this was to come in grade Three. Still, it was my sister who truly impressed, and they moved her from Grade Three to Grade Five, whereas I went from the second grade into the third with my classmates, as it was felt I didn't provide the extra effort that my sister did. She got an ego boost for sure but it hurt her later with regards to emotional considerations, as she was a lot younger than her fellow students when they hit puberty a few years into the future.

Burlington worked for me right off. I became fast friends with Mike Barnes, who also lived in the 640 Guelph Line building (when I lived at 2386 New Street in my middle grades, Mike was right there, with his mom Anne and dad Archie, across the courtyard at 2400 New Street). Mike could drum Wipeout on his desk with the best of them and he and I shared some great childhood laughs, and played a lot of road hockey. He went on to have a career with the Canadian Armed Forces, and was the first of many Michael's I would be blessed to know and befriend in my life.

When we moved to 2068 Prospect Avenue near Brant Street, I was still able to attend St. Joseph's Separate School, and about this time my dad started working for promotional and management firm Les Stanford and Associates, where he handled the Bobby Hull account and the Miss Canada Pageant. One day I got called at school and asked to go home and get ready to be picked up for a CCM Hockey Equipment modeling assignment, for the launch of their new Bobby Hull Line. The pictures from that day and a subsequent shoot were used in posters that appeared in every sports shop and magazine ads that filled the newsstands. It was my first brush with semi-fame or local notoriety (I was known as the kid who knows Bobby Hull), though I had earlier done radio ads and played Linus on a Peanuts radio serial in Kitchener, for CHYM. I don't remember any of my Linus lines, but in a safety commercial we recorded when I was about four or five, my sister Debbie and I would exclaim in unison:

Summer holidays are here, and we can't always watch out for you, so please, watch out for us, and drive safely.

In the summer between my second and third grade school years, some grade four and five kids took me along Guelph Line to Fairview street and an empty lot that backed onto the railway tracks, and there we played spin the bottle. I was fascinated and frightened, the beginning of a long, emotional road for me when it comes to love and sensuality. I may only have been called upon to kiss a couple of times, but these were wild and enchanting days for the new kid in town, and I was on my way.

My first girlfriend, in Grade Three, was Cathy Ingram. She was a cute little dirty blonde and her father was a brilliant illustrator. I had bought her a dimestore ring and she wore it to school and one day the entire class is out in the hall lining up at the water fountain and the teacher asks Cathy, "Where did you get the pretty ring?" to which she blurted out: "Joey gave it to me". The whole class turned to look at me as they burst into laughter, and the razzing went on for days. Guess that was my first lesson in discretion, though I'm not sure I learned all that much.

I started playing softball (also known as fastball) when I was around nine years old also, but hockey was my real passion, and rock'n'roll was not far off in my future. By the time we moved to New Street, my sister and I were avid students of the Top 40 charts, and bought every single we deeply loved, taking turns at lead vocals.

Diana Ross and The Supremes...

It was 1968.

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