Tag Archives: radio

Happy 25th to My Brown-Eyed Girl!

It was 25 years ago today, almost to the minute, that my water broke for the first time…what a strange feeling!  I was a couple months shy of my 25th birthday, and this kid was already 15 days late…I was ready to be done with being pregnant!  Most of my maternity clothes were winter ones, and Moncton, New Brunswick had been having a heat wave the previous two weeks…I only had two short-sleeved dresses that I could squeeze my swollen body into!  I mopped the mess up with a towel, and woke up Kaylee’s father to tell him the news.  Then we waited for something to happen.  And waited.  And waited…

Waiting for something to happen...

 

About lunch time, I walked down to the newspaper box around the corner and bought a paper, as per my usual routine.  I brought it home and read it.  Supper time came and went.  I consulted my labour coach, who suggested I call the hospital.  “Your water broke more than 12 hours ago?!!” asked the nurse in disbelief.  The memory is a little foggy, but I think she followed that with the politically correct version of “Get your ass in here!”

My labour coach, Mary Lyn, came and got us in her car…I brought along a beach towel to sit on to save her upholstery.  Once we’d arrived at the hospital, things went along pretty quickly…I was installed in the birthing room and an oxytocin drip was started intravenously to stimulate my labour.  My plan was to do everything naturally…we’d taken the Lamaze class, and I was not having an epidural!  I stuck to my stubborn plan throughout the four-and-a-half hours of hard, fast contractions…that’s what they called them in the class…sounds so much better than pain, doesn’t it?  My family doctor arrived at the critical moment, a surgical clip holding up his too-big scrub pants…the man probably weighed all of 125 lbs. soaking wet!  

Kaylee Marie was finally delivered at 11:32 p.m., all 9 lbs., 14 oz. of her.  She was 22 inches long, and had a mop of dark hair…her paternal grandmother’s Native Canadian heritage was evident in her colouring (eventually, Kaylee’s eyes would be brown).  I had planned to breastfeed the baby…she latched on immediately, and stayed there for the next 18 months, pausing only to sleep about 10 out of every 24 hours.  I perfected the art of dozing in our pink swivel rocker with a child attached…

Kaylee and I...two days old...

When she was 3 weeks old, I received a call from my doctor…there was a problem: Kaylee had a rare form of congenital hypothyroidism.  Luckily, they had been screening all babies born in New Brunswick for the condition for the previous ten years or so…if it hadn’t been discovered, Kaylee would have had a mental age of 4 for her entire life!  I remember taking her for her first blood tests at the hospital…I cried as much as she did when they poked a needle into my baby’s tiny heel, and filled little glass tubes with her precious blood!  The treatment for the condition was taking a synthetic thyroid hormone pill every day for the rest of Kaylee’s life.  Regular blood work every few months was also necessary to determine that the dosage was correct.  

Since Kaylee’s dad worked long hours at the radio station, I was her main caregiver…every day, we would go for a walk, often to the park nearby.  One beautiful summer day, I carried the stroller down the stairs (we lived in an upstairs apartment), and set it up outside.  I went back in to get Kaylee and the diaper bag.  Once I got the baby strapped in, I remembered that I’d left my purse sitting on the steps.  I tried to open the door…I had locked it…my keys were in my purse, inside the apartment…

There were no cell phones then, and I didn’t have any money with me.  I didn’t know my neighbours either, other than to nod as I went by…I saw one of those neighbours outside, and asked if I could use her phone to call Kaylee’s dad at work.  If you were paying attention, you might remember that I said he worked in radio…of course, he was on the air when I called.  I explained my predicament to the woman at the switchboard…she promised she would give him the message.  I don’t think I mentioned that we did not own a car, and the radio station was a half hour walk away…

I sat on our porch steps while I waited for what seemed like an eternity…there were definitely some tears shed (Kaylee cried a little bit too).  An hour-and-a-half later, we were no longer locked out of our apartment…I can’t remember if we ever went for our walk!

Kaylee got used to our walks…when she was about a year-and-a-half, I found her standing naked in our front hall, wearing only rubber boots and holding an open umbrella over her head.  “I’m ready to go for our walk now, Mom!” she announced.  After I took a picture (and put some clothes on her), we did go!

I used to buy Kaylee books all the time (this was long before I was in the book business!).  Her favourite was Peter Rabbitby Beatrix Potter…she had its text memorized and could “read” it along with me by the time she was 18 months old!  We were also frequent visitors at the library…she’s the only one of my kids who reads much now.

Peter Rabbit (photo from franshouseofdollsandtoys.com)

Kaylee did not inherit my love of bugs…she was three when she was freaking out about an insect flying around the bathroom.  I said, “Don’t worry…it’s just a fruit fly looking for an apple.”

Tearfully, she replied, “Well, give him one!”

Kaylee was in the first official kindergarten class in New Brunswick…she loved it, and her teacher, Mrs. S.  I went in every Friday afternoon after lunch to volunteer in her class…after an hour with 25 5-year-olds, I had a whole new respect for the job that teachers do!

When Kaylee started Grade 1, I put her in French Immersion, since we lived in a city where 1/3 of the people spoke French, in a province which was officially bilingual.  She was like a sponge, and was making fun of my limited French by the time she was 7!  “No, Mom…that’s not how you say it!”

When Kaylee was eight, her sister, Anna, was born…she was excited about being a big sister, but it wasn’t an easy transition for her.  She had been an only child for a long time!  I tell people that Kaylee was a “teenager” from the time she was eight…not easy for either one of us!

Kaylee, age 8...behind that innocent smile lurked the beginnings of a teenager...

Her father used to get free tickets to a lot of concerts, and when Kaylee was ten, we took her and Anna to see The Rankin Family…after the concert, we took them backstage to meet the band.  The Rankin girls made a big fuss over our kids…to this day, Kaylee and I still go to see them perform when they come to town.  Great Big Sea is another one of her favourite bands.

Kaylee inherited the bad knees that women in our family all have.  She was eleven when she was walking across our living room and fell down without warning.  A visit to the emergency room confirmed that her knee had collapsed, and that Kaylee had actually broken a one-centimetre piece off her kneecap when she fell.  They gave her a nice cast, and sent her home with crutches.  An appointment with the orthopedic surgeon was scheduled, and a few months later, he did arthroscopic surgery on both her knees to correct her “floating kneecaps.”  In Grade 7, I got a call from Kaylee’s middle school.  Her knee had collapsed again, and she had fallen down the stairs.  After another trip to the hospital, she came home with her leg encased in fibreglass…at least fibreglass was lighter than plaster!

Hope was born when Kaylee was 12…she loved her new little sister!  Kaylee was a big help with Hope when she was little…I will always be grateful to her for babysitting her two sisters while I was working (her father’s and my marriage had broken up by then)!       

Kaylee’s teenage years were not happy ones…we butted heads constantly, and she and Anna fought…a lot (I remember making frantic calls to her father in Ontario begging him to talk some sense into her!).  She was as stubborn as I am…the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!  For a while, Kaylee hosted an online radio show, and flirted with the idea of going into radio…her father worked hard to talk her out of that one! 

Kaylee as a teenager in the light of her computer screen...

Kaylee was about seventeen before she turned into a “human being” again.  She got her first job at Bulk Barn.  Working hard was good for her…she used to come home exhausted from cleaning all day, but she was happy to have her own money!

I was not happy when Kaylee decided at eighteen to get a tongue ring…luckily, her boyfriend at the time told her he didn’t like it, so she let it grow over.  I still love that boy…

That same year, Kaylee decided she wanted to move back to Moncton…she arranged to get an apartment with her best friend, and we packed up her stuff and took her up there.  Three weeks later, she called and told me that it wasn’t working out, and she moved back home again.

In December of 2006, she met Scott online on Plenty of Fish.  They were “an item” by January of 2007.  By then, Kaylee was working in a call centre uptown…she arranged to share an apartment with a friend she worked with, and moved out that spring.

Kaylee and Scott in their early dating days...

 That fall, my mother died…Kaylee was devastated…as the first grandchild, she and my mom had been close!  I didn’t have the money for plane fare to Ontario…it was Kaylee who bought two tickets for us with her credit card (I repaid her later), and helped me pack up my mother’s estate (along with my brother and sister-in-law).  When we returned, Kaylee got a small tattoo on her wrist in honour of her Gramma…

Kaylee and Gramma...Kaylee was about 5 in this picture...

Today, Kaylee and Scott are the parents of my 20-month-old granddaughter, Elise.  They have their own house about 25 minutes away, and come to see us every couple of weeks.  Kaylee is a great mom, and is perfectly happy staying home with the baby (I was itching to go back to work by the time my kids were 18 months).  She uses cloth diapers for Elise, and they’ve been teaching her sign language since she was an infant.  Kaylee has her own website promoting contests open to Canadians (she’s been entering, and winning, every contest she can find since she was in her late teens – she won a Vespa scooter a few years ago).  Kaylee loves 80’s music, and is vocal about human rights issues (homophobes had best be silent when Kaylee’s in the vicinity!).  She is also the Coupon Queen, hunting online for the best deals on groceries for her family.  Kaylee inherited my love of cooking and baking, and hates cleaning up as much as I do…luckily, Scott takes up the slack in that department!  Kaylee gets exasperated sometimes when I give her vague answers when she calls me to get my recipes!  She and Scott frequently entertain friends in their home.  Kaylee dabbles in photography and has thousands of photos and videos of Elise!

Kaylee with Elise...April, 2011

Kaylee and I are a lot closer now than we were when she was a teenager, although I often have to find out things through Facebook (like when she got pregnant, for example!).  I am proud of the young woman she’s become: smart, strong and loving!  Happy Birthday, Kaylee Marie!  I love you!

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Some Oscars People Aren’t Talking About Today…

I was one of a very few people who didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night.  To be honest, watching a bunch of people wearing shoes that cost more than I spend on food in a month doesn’t excite me.  I also prefer books to movies…always have.  That being said, I decided to do an Oscar piece today, but I am dedicating it to “Oscars” I find infinitely more interesting than the Hollywood ones:

1. Oscar Brand.  Born in Winnipeg in 1920, Brand moved to the U.S. as a young man.  In addition to being a folk singer, songwriter, and author, Brand is also the host of the longest running radio show with the same host: Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival has aired on New York’s WNYC-AM almost every Saturday night since December 10, 1945.  From 1963-67, Brand hosted a Canadian TV show called Let’s Sing Out! which featured previously unknown Canadian singers such as Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.  Another one of Brand’s numerous claims to fame was serving on the original board of the Children’s Television Workshop, which was behind the creation of Sesame Street.  It is said that the “Oscar the Grouch” character is based on Brand.  Over his long career, Brand has composed more than 300 songs, and released nearly 100 albums.  His songs have been used in movies, TV and stage productions, and even commercials.  Brand is the author of seven books, including Songs of ’76: A Folksinger’s History of the Revolution.

An Oscar Brand album cover from 1961...

2. Oscar Howe.  Born on a Plains Indian reservation in South Dakota in 1915, Howe overcame physical and emotional obstacles to become a well-respected artist and sculptor.  The young Howe began drawing before age 5, but was discouraged by his father, who confiscated his pencils and proclaimed art “foolish”.  Howe switched to using charcoal from the stove, and when that was also taken away, used sticks to draw in the dirt.  Like other natives at that time, Howe was sent to an Indian school, but was sent home at age ten because he had a severe, disfiguring skin disease complicated by a case of trachoma, which threatened the boy’s sight.  There was no money for medical treatment, so Howe used commercial soap every day for months until his skin cleared up, and the eye affliction abated.  He went back to school, graduating in 1933.  After securing a job on a road crew, Howe came down with tuberculosis…this led to his enrollment in the Sante Fe Indian School, where he was chosen to participate in an art program known as The Studio.  Howe’s first painting sold for 50 cents…half the money went to the school.  After graduation, he taught art at the Pierre Indian School, the school that had sent him home.  Howe later was an art instructor at the Pierre High School.  After serving overseas in WWII, Howe became Professor of Art at the University of South Dakota.  In 1958, he sent one of his most innovative paintings to a national Indian Painting Competition at the Philbrook Museum.  It was rejected as not being a “traditional Indian painting.”  He sent a scathing letter to the organizers, which was enough to move them to change the rules to allow for individuality.  Howe died in 1983. 

The title of this Howe lithograph is unknown...I like it...

 3. Oscar Pistorius.  Pistorius is a Paralympic athlete known as “the fastest man on no legs” and the “Blade Runner.”  Born in South Africa in 1986, Pistorius was missing both fibulas, so a decision was made to amputate his legs halfway between his knees and ankles when he was 11 months old.  As a boy, Pistorius didn’t let what many considered to be a disability slow him down…he played rugby, water polo, and tennis in school, as well as being on the wrestling team.  After sustaining a serious rugby knee injury in 2004, Pistorius was introduced to running, and hasn’t stopped since.  He holds the world Paralympic records in the 100, 200 and 400-metre events and has competed against “able-bodied” athletes and won.  Pistorius’ career has been filled with controversy because some people in the sports community felt that the Cheetah Flex Foot prothesis that he uses to run give him an “unfair advantage.”  After failing in his bid to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, Pistorius is now focussing on training for the 2012 Games in London.  When he’s not training, Pistorius will be modelling, having signed up to be the “face” of Thierry Mugler’s men’s fragrance, A*Men.

Oscar Pistorius

4. Oscar Quam.  Born in Minnesota in 1887, Quam was known as “the professor of duckology.”  He started a family business making duck calls and decoys in the 1920’s, which his children kept going until 1972 (Quam died in 1969).  Quam believed in charging a fair price for his work: the average call cost between $2.50 and $3.50 in the early 1940’s (fancy inlaid ones might cost $15)…Montgomery Ward ordered 10,000 of the $3.50 ones.  Quam also taught duck calling techniques on radio shows, and wrote for outdoor magazines.  His original duck decoys were made of wood, but he later switched to cork, which was lighter.  Here’s a recording of Quam demonstrating some duck calls:

Quam Duck Calls  

5. Oscar Rejlander.  Born in Sweden about 1813, Rejlander is known as “the father of art photography” and studied art in Rome before trading his paintbrushes for a camera.  He moved to England in the mid-1840’s, where he opened a portrait studio in Wolverhampton.  Rejlander was a friend of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), and later created one of the best-known portraits of him.  Undertaking many experiments to perfect his work, Rejlander is credited with inventing combination printing (each print consists of images from several different negatives) in about 1853.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were patrons of Rejlander’s, and among others, purchased a copy of one of his most controversial works, The Two Ways of Life.  In 1862, Rejlander moved his studio to London and continued experimenting with double exposure, photomontage, photo retouching, and retouching.  He also did popular “social protest” photos of homeless street children.  In 1872, Rejlander’s photos illustrated Charles Darwin’s book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.  Rejlander died in 1875 after a serious illness.

Rejlander's "Poor Joe"...this portrait is a re-enactment of a scene Rejlander saw on the streets of London...

  I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into the world of “Oscars”…more fun for me than boring celebrities dressed like waiters!

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The Rock…Nice Place to Visit, But…

It snowed today in St. John’s, Newfoundland (my deck here in Hammond River is hot enough to burn my bare feet!) – this makes me glad I don’t live there any more…

Photo taken today in some poor St. Johner's back yard...

I left my parents’ home in Prince Edward County, Southern Ontario, for St. John’s in November, 1983.  I was going to join my boyfriend, who had gotten his first full-time radio job at the new station, CKIX-FM, or “Kix Country” as it was known.  I think I flew to Halifax, where I traded the comfortable jet I’d been travelling on for a noisy turboprop abomination known as the Hawker-Siddley.  After a very rough flight, we landed at the St. John’s Airport, where I was met by my happy boyfriend (we hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks!).  The weather was cold and grey, which I would discover was a pretty much constant condition in St. John’s.  As we drove to a very nice bed & breakfast near Bannerman Park, I looked at the scenery – multicoloured frame houses (every colour – usually pastels)  jammed close together lined the narrow, hilly streets of St. John’s.  Brick houses are not often seen on the Rock.

A typical downtown streetscape in St. John's...

While my boyfriend was at work, I spent my days looking for an apartment…I finally found one on Casey St., near the downtown area.  Our new home was two rooms (a kitchen and living room/bedroom)  and a bathroom at the top of a long staircase in a four-plex in a working-class neighbourhood.  The back yard was tiny and treeless, and the house was so close to the sidewalk that we didn’t even have a front yard.  For these “luxury” accommodations, our rent was $300/month, plus heat (oil) and hydro (when I got my first apartment in Saint John, New Brunswick fourteen years later, I was paying $400/month for a 3-bedroom flat with a dining room and a double back yard!).  Our landlord’s first name was “Emerson” – I’d never met a man named that before.  We went to the local thrift shop, and bought a used bed and a small TV- it was our only furniture for quite a while.  My boyfriend worked evenings until midnight – we used to watch TV until 2 or 2:30 in the morning, and then go to bed (Newfoundland has its own time zone which is an hour-and-a-half later then Eastern time – all the TV shows come on really late).  We also acquired a cute striped kitten that someone was giving away…we named her Mandy.

This was our street...we lived on the right hand side...downtown was at the bottom of the big hill...

Our downstairs neighbours were a young married couple with a new baby boy – Brian was doing pre-med at Memorial University.  We became good friends – I spent a lot of time talking to Ruth (I never did find a job!) and playing with the baby.  Brian and Ruth were from the country, and had their own special dialect, which took us quite a while to understand completely Instead of “Where is Bob?”, Newfies say: “Where’s Bob to?”.  Instead of “Sally is doing her laundry”, the Newfie version is “Sally’s after doin’ the wash” (pronounced “warsh”).   We were lucky the laundromat was just down the street, because we didn’t have a car!

It was at Brian and Ruth’s that I first tasted moose meat, which Ruth had “bottled” (Newfie for “canned” – I wish I had a tape of Ruth saying “bottled” – it has a completely different pronunciation over there).  I have loved moose meat ever since.   They also introduced us to “boiled dinner,” which is a mix of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and turnips.  Another night we went down for supper, Brian made Chicken Cordon Bleu (which is not a traditional Newfoundland dish – I think he was just showing off – it was good, though!).  Brian and Ruth used canned milk a lot – fresh milk is so expensive (as are fresh fruits and vegetables!).  One Newfoundland “delicacy” I refused to try was cod tongues – I liked fish, but not enough to eat that part of the body!  I never had “fish and brewis” (pronounced “bruise”) either – it just looked gross!

Cod Tongues...ewww!

We made some good friends at the radio station…my boyfriend’s boss and his wife invited us to their New Year’s Eve party.  A lot of people are familiar with the potent drink that Newfies like known as “screech,” which is dark Jamaican rum.  That night, we were introduced to another Newfie tradition called “swish.”  An online dictionary of  “Canadianisms” defines swish as: “A kind of liquor made from putting water into barrels that have previously held some sort of alcohol (whisky, brandy, whatever) and letting the alcohol leach out of the wood. Drunk by university students who like to go blind.”  Also in attendance at the party was the guy who did the night shift at the radio station (midnight to six a.m.): Snuffy was a cowboy/musician from Texas (I have no idea what possessed him to move to Newfoundland, but I think he’s back home now).  He had imbibed quite a bit of swish before leaving for his on-air shift – his boss ended up coming in for him to finish up after Snuffy passed out!

Imagine drinking liquor made in this swish barrel...

On our strict budget, eating out in St. John’s consisted of walking down the street to the Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken (picture Colonel Sanders in a skirt) and bringing home some chicken legs and fries.  Once, we ate at a sitdown restaurant on Duckworth Street, but I can’t remember its name – I don’t think it’s there any more.

Mary Brown's Famous Chicken logo...

Other entertainment consisted of going with my boyfriend to shows the radio station was sponsoring at local bars – I do like Newfie music!  We also saw the movie “Footloose” with Brian and Ruth – we went out dancing at a bar on George St. afterwards.  I still love Kevin Bacon!

Footloose poster...

Without a car, we depended on our feet or the bus to get us where we needed to go…we rarely took a cab in St. John’s, because the transit system is excellent – there’s a bus every ten minutes on the main routes.  Snow removal, however, was a different story: I have a vivid memory of walking down LeMarchant Street to Dominion get groceries in February: the snow was thigh-deep, and as I trudged miserably along, ice pellets were bouncing painfully off my cheeks.  My only thought was: “What the hell am I doing here?”

This is a pretty typical St. John's winter scene...

One time in the summer, Brian and Ruth borrowed a car and took us to visit their friends near Torbay – it was a beautiful drive – I remember lots of rocks, trees and cliffs – it was the only time I ever saw the Newfoundland countryside.  We enjoyed Brian and Ruth’s friends too…they were a delightful old hippie couple (I say “old” but I was in my early 20’s at the time – they were probably in their late 50’s!).  The man was one of Brian’s professors at MUN.  We had a picnic in their yard.

This picturesque photo is typical of the Torbay area...

It was in Newfoundland that I decided to get my ears pierced – I’d never had it done as a kid.  I convinced my boyfriend to get one of his done too – I thought it would look sexy!  Off we went to the beauty salon – I opted to get his “extra” earring put in my ear (two holes in my right ear), since we were paying for it anyway.  The actual piercing didn’t hurt much, but boy, it was painful turning the earrings for the six weeks afterward (my boyfriend ended up letting his grow over because he kept getting cysts).  My first pair of earrings were little black telephone receivers I bought at the cheap department store downtown (kind of like Woolworth’s, only grubbier).

Unfortunately, the pierced ear didn't make my boyfriend look more like Harrison Ford...

Soon afterwards, my boyfriend got a job offer at a radio station in Moncton, New Brunswick, and the longest ten months of my life came to an end!  The people in Newfoundland are great, but the weather and the cost of living there suck!

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