Convict Kane

In 1967, when I was 16, I told my mother that I was going to Los Angeles. Great things were happening on the Sunset Strip at the time, I really want to be part of it all, and for some reason she said fine.

I’ve wondered about this last part quite a bit over the years.

So with almost no money and a bag of sandwiches, I sat in a seat on a train from Orillia to Vancouver and then caught a bus to the border where the customs guy accused me of running away.

I told him to phone collect to my mother in Orillia and she would confirm that I was simply on my way to LA and not running away, which he did, and shortly after I was on the side of the highway in northern Washington with my thumb stuck out, heading south.

All it took to get to LA was a handful of nights sleeping in ditches and a bunch of rides, including a long and sleepy one with a farmer bringing potatoes from Idaho to either Watsonville or Salinas. We hardly talked the whole time, which was good. I was tired, and I wasn’t all that interested in potatoes.

Closer to LA I got on a bus and sat beside a nice female college student who felt sorry for me, and at some point when the bus stopped at a restaurant, she called her folks in the city to see if I could stay there for a few days. They said no.

From the downtown L.A. bus station I went directly to the Strip which was the scene of not only young people everywhere milling about, but also bands like the Doors and the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield playing at Pandora’s Box and all the other cool clubs. None of these bands I saw then, but whatever.

But one night I went to Whisky A Go Go (it’s still there), and saw not only the Youngbloods but also the Paupers, a great Toronto band who would play at the dance hall in my hometown Orillia from time to time. I also thought that maybe I’d meet a nice California girl at the Whisky and possibly get laid, but again, whatever.

I was on the Strip for about a week, staying in various dumps far from the good parts of West Hollywood, and being careful not to be out and about after 10 pm because Sunset was under curfew to those under 18 after huge riots had taken place there less than a year before. They made some sort of movie about this riot, called, aptly enough, “Riots on Sunset Strip”.

But one night, I think after the Youngbloods/Paupers show, I got sloppy, and while walking down the street around midnight, a cop pulled up and asked for ID. He saw that I was only 16, and the next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs that were way too tight, and hauled off to the cop shop.

At the station I asked the cops if they would phone Orillia, just like at the border, and have my folks take care of business. One of them phoned my mother, collect of course, and told her that I was arrested for breaking curfew and would be sent to a juvenile hall the following morning.

At juvenile hall, with big and impressive penitentiary-style walls, I turned over my clothes and wallet, which was all I had, and put on my new prison clothes. Then I was taken to a dormitory, given a bed and blankets, told the rules, and settled in.

It all kind of sucked of course, because I didn’t know how long I’d be there. Myself and a bunch of guys who were there for better reasons than breaking curfew, played cards and baseball, and I even had to take classes in a school room where I learned almost nothing about American history.

Then one morning, after about seven days, I was eating breakfast in the big hall when I heard my name called, and an official told me my parents had sent a plane ticket and I was leaving right away. So I left breakfast, got my clothes and wallet back, and was escorted to not only the airport, but right to my seat on the plane. They took curfew breakers seriously back then.

I got to Toronto, grabbed a bus to Orillia, and the first thing my mother said to me was that they weren’t mad, although they probably weren’t thrilled about having to buy a plane ticket because they were pretty broke I think.

I told a friend of mine who’s an LA cop about this a few years ago and he said that nowadays there’s no way they’d put a kid in juvenile for such a minor thing as curfew breaking. There’s way too many real criminals, and I’d just be taking up space.

Which is what I kinda thought at the time.

June 16 1967 – Monterey International Pop Festival, Monterey, California
July 14 1967 – Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood with The Youngbloods

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R.I.P. Gordie

Howe and Rocket

When I was a kid in the schoolyard, the conversation with my buddies would go something like this:

Rocket’s better.
Nope, Howe’s better.
No way. Rocket’s better.
Howe’s better.
Take off, hoser.
No you take off.
Shut up and your mother wears army boots. (Or words to that effect).

That’s what it was. Always the same thing. Rocket and Howe. Two completely different players, but Howe was the enemy and Rocket was my hero, so I won. And I’ve  known now for years that Howe was the better all-round player, but I didn’t then and I wouldn’t have admitted it even if I did.

In the 1990s I had breakfast with the legendary goalie Glenn Hall, who was in Powell River for the Allan Cup. Glenn was a teammate of Gordie’s in the 1950s with Detroit, and played against him while with Chicago and St. Louis.

Glenn had also faced the Rocket and Orr during his Hall of Fame career, and because he lived near Edmonton and still involved in hockey in various ways, was as familiar with Wayne Gretzky as practically anyone.

I asked who he thought was the greatest ever and he didn’t hesitate. Howe, he answered, because he could do it all, and the others couldn’t.

I didn’t tell Glenn his mother wore army boots.

But Howe could do it all. His wrist shot was something to behold, his passes pinpoint, his deft scoring touch like few others, his unequaled on-ice intelligence, the unparalleled respect he rightfully earned from other players.

And tough? You want tough?

My friend and former co-worker Gilles Gratton was a backup goalie during the 1974 WHA Canada-Russia Summit Series, and he told me about the time Gordie’s son Mark was leveled by a Soviet defenceman in dastardly fashion, so much so that an unsteady Mark initially skated to the wrong bench and had to be steered to the right one by Soviet players.

Not long after, Gordie just happened to skate by the player who nailed Mark, and the guy just happened to end up with a broken arm and was gone for the series.

You didn’t mess with Gordie or his kin.

Players in the NHL, WHA, or Russia didn’t go in the corners with Gordie. They timidly poked their sticks at the puck and then got the hell out of there before one of those famous elbows crushed their faces.

He did it all, legally or not. There was absolutely no one like him.

Several years ago Howe came to Powell River for an autograph signing and the prices charged for his signature were incredibly outlandish. Way higher than normal, maybe because Powell River is fairly isolated.

I was astonished at these abnormal prices and I wrote a column about it for the local newspaper in which I wasn’t very nice, coming down hard on him and the grocery store where the signing was held.

I regret that I did that. Extraordinary prices or not (and they were), this was a fine and friendly fellow, a legendary man, possibly the greatest hockey player to ever play the game,  and he was there trying to make a buck. What an asshole I can be sometimes.

Now he’s gone and it’s a sad day for me and you and millions of others. I can almost hear angels in heaven’s schoolyard: “Rocket’s better”. “No, Howe’s better.” “Take off, hoser”.

Gordie & Rocket

More To The Roy And Brian Spencer Story

Spencer

A new email adds greatly to an old story.

In 2008 I wrote about former NHLer Brian Spencer and the tragic events surrounding his dad when CBC decided to air a Vancouver-Oakland game instead of the Leafs and Chicago, which was Brian’s first NHL game.

Brian’s dad, Roy, furious at not being able to see his son in this huge moment in time, decided to bring a rifle to the local TV station, where he would be gunned down by the RCMP.

You can see the full story here – The Sad Story of Roy Spencer and his son Brian.

Today I received an email from a woman named Carole Fawcett who was working at the TV station when Roy Spencer burst in, and I appreciate very much her taking the time to describe those horrific events.

Here’s her email:

Hello

I was at the actual event in Prince George, where I worked for CKPG Radio and Television. Just wanted to clarify a few details about the Roy Spencer incident.
He had actually been calling the station all day asking where the game was going to be showed. He was very abrasive and rude I remember being told. He came to the station that night, and once in the door, lunged toward me (I was at the reception desk), wrenched the phone from my hands, banging it against my face in the process. Then he went further into the station. Fast forward to the TV studio where he had us all lined up with his gun pointed toward us and told the TV Switcher to shut down the TV which he did – so all people watching in Prince George would have had their TV’s go black. He told us he had killed (said he was a commando in the war) and would do so again and that we were NOT to put the TV back on the air. He threatened one of the staff members and then subsequently all of us. Unbeknownst to him, Fiori D’Andrea had managed to call the police before he got to the television studio. So, when he went outdoors, the RCMP said – “Halt – or we will shoot”……………and he ended up wounding three RCMP officers. He was killed in the process. He was suffering from serious mental health issues…………………..and his ability to be rational was long gone.

Of course in those days there was no help for staff and we were expected to be back at work the next day.

Just thought you may want some details from someone who was there.

Carole Fawcett, MPCC, CHt
Master Practitioner in Clinical Counselling
Clinical Hypnotherapist

Perry And The Old Boys

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Habs greats Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, Claude Provost and Jean Beliveau show their hipness as they pose with legendary crooner Perry Como.

For those of you who are too young or just not up on your music history, Perry Como went from being a barber to an international singing sensation in the 1940s and ’50s mostly. He was as relaxing as they come. So relaxing that I’m falling asleep just talking about him.

SCTV did a really funny bit on Como where he (played by Eugene Levy), sang while in bed and on the couch and chair, which you can see below.

My mother and father liked him, he was definitely a big talent, but I preferred a bit more up-tempo stuff. Heck, almost anything was livelier than Perry’s music. Elevator music is heavy metal compared to him.

But these Habs legends seemed like they liked him. And I’ll even go as far as saying that the Pocket, Moore, Provost and Beliveau might have even made out with their wives sometimes to Perry Como’s soothing voice.

Clay And Liston In The Kitchen

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My mother and I had this special time when we’d listen to the radio together in the kitchen. I miss that.

We listened to music and the news and even the odd earth-shattering thing, like that morning when we heard about four fellows in Liverpool who wore their hair down on their foreheads, and who could sometimes sing high notes like women. The announcer, on Orillia’s CFOR, then played a record, and suddenly the Beatles were now in our lives.

We listened to something else pretty darn big too. The two Cassius Clay – Sonny Liston fights, when Clay was young and over the top motor-mouthed, and who was probably going to be smashed to smithereens by the big, strong ex-con Liston.

Liston was mean, powerful, and the World Champ, and he looked like he’d done his share of dumping bodies into deep lakes. Clay was gonna be in big trouble, like the Russians would be in the 1972 Summit Series.

I suppose it was Howard Cosell telling us through the radio that Clay was quick, how he danced and confused the big thug, and we realized that the young fighter was basically putting his money where his mouth was. It was a huge surprise.

Just like that, the young fellow who bragged, “After the fight I’m gonna build myself a pretty home and use him (Liston) as a bearskin,” had skinned the big bear, like he said he would, in February of 1964, the same month the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show.

A year later, in the rematch, with mom and I back at the radio, Liston refused to come out of his corner in the first round after the phantom punch, when he may or may not have been tagged by Clay and which kept him in the corner, and which officially made the guy a bum and Clay a hero.

Two big fights, the legend of Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali was born, and now it’s sad to hear of his passing. He was larger than life, a great boxer, a great man.

But it’s also bittersweet to hear this news. Because remembering the kitchen table with my mom and the radio makes me happy.

 

 

 

Toilet Door Pride

The next time you see metal toilet doors like the ones below, please keep in mind that Bruce Traviss and I used to put doors like these together, and we were good.

We were good and we were fast, and there were certain ways of doing things. Those things didn’t just assemble themselves you know.

We made those doors at an Orillia factory called Porcelain and Metal, and sometimes it was almost hard work.

But I wanted the best doors for you, because you were worth it. If you were alive then.

Hopefully modern day toilet door people show the same pride.

I was also motivated, because I was saving to go to England where I hoped to get a job making sure all the Beatles wives except Yoko were comfortable while the boys were in the studio.

What goes into toilet door making?

As the various parts of the doors came down the assembly line from the paint room, Bruce and I would spray the insides with black glue, attach a bunch of cardboard strips, fit the fittings, put it all together, and send it on its way. Then we’d do another and then another and then a whole bunch more.

We were so good at it that we had our night’s quota finished after a few hours and were able to smoke a lot and catch mice in barrels for the rest of our shift.

We always let the mice go of course. We liked the cute little bastards. I still like them and I hope Bruce does too.

I did this job for a year or so, saved my money, and in November of 1968 took the Empress of England ocean liner to England with another friend, Robin Metcalfe, where we stayed for much of the winter and spent my washroom door money on beer, fish and chips, rent, and a cool John Mayall show in a dingy club called Klook’s Kleek.

Hopefully the next time you feel like kicking a metal washroom door or writing terrible and sometimes funny things on it, please keep in mind that somebody out there worked hard putting your door together so you’ll have a comfortable and private stay as you empty your innards.

Always remember – buried inside those metal doors are a bunch of cardboard strips and a lot of black glue, which you can ponder as you sit.

And if the lock doesn’t work, it’s probably not the door assembler’s fault. Although it could be I guess, if the assembler isn’t as good as Bruce and I were.

Below, the Empress of England that Robin and I sailed on to England. My ticket was bought thanks to the doors.

Three Stories From Way Back

Three short stories on this April day as we enjoy all the Canadian teams in the playoffs.

Beef cattle, farm pond, Oklahoma

My friend and I (he doesn’t like me talking about him so I’ll just call him Fred), stuck out our thumbs in Vancouver back in the fall of 1969 and began to slowly make our way across the country to Orillia.

Late at night in Swift Current we hopped on a boxcar and rode for several hours until we saw the lights of Moose Jaw in the distance. We’d been warned that if yard security caught us we would end up in jail and that would’ve sucked, so we needed to jump off before the train reached the end.

As we began to slow down, Fred said we should jump and off he went, right into a cow pond that got him drenched from head to toe and smelling like a sewage plant.

About twenty seconds later, the train came to a complete stop and I walked off.

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tooth

My friends and I used to drink Four Aces sherry (95 cents) and other such marvels, down in the bush with the hobos. These old hobos would sit in their clearing deep in the forest, grumbling and cursing but not really talking a lot, with their campfire burning and bottles emptying, and we’d join them because it was safe as we were usually underage at that time.

After guzzling my Four Aces on one of these visits, I threw up and staggered out of Hobo Jungle, but minutes later realized that I’d lost my false tooth and plate. So I staggered back through the bush in complete darkness, and somewhere along the line put my hand down on the ground.

Although I couldn’t see a thing and was blind drunk, my hand landed right on my false tooth.

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In grade ten my school organized a class trip to Ottawa, but students had to have half-decent marks to qualify.

I didn’t qualify.

But I really wanted to go on the class trip, so I rounded up my friend Craig Ortiz and we hitchhiked there instead.

At the start, just outside of Orillia, we hid in the ditch as the school buses with all those students who were smarter than me passed us, but because we were lucky with rides, we beat those buses to Ottawa. At the Lord Elgin Hotel, where they were checking in, we surprised everyone and were allowed by the teachers to sleep on the floor of someone’s room.

It was good fun I think, but hitchhiking back sucked and Craig and I ended up at the Lindsay police station where we asked a cop if we could sleep in a cell that night because it was freezing cold, and he obliged.

Back at school, Craig and I were each given a month’s detention.

 

 

The Dream Is Dead

About this year’s Montreal Canadiens?

I don’t wanna be stick boy anymore.

My idea of doing just that for one game only, thought up when I was a kid and kept alive all these years because I’m an idiot, is now dead. This team doesn’t deserve my stick boy skills.

I don’t want to ride around as a passenger on the Zamboni or be a flag boy anymore either, regardless of the fact that these things seem to be reserved for kids.  I always thought the kid thing was unfair and a slap in the face to old bastards like me.

Molson beer sucks, although it’s neither here nor there because I’ve given up drinking. But if I still drank, it wouldn’t be Molson. If I walked in to a bar and they only served Molson, I say gimme some prune juice, it’ll do the same job.

The Bell Centre sucks too, and I wouldn’t care if it sank into one of Montreal’s medium size sinkholes. There’s no memories there, maybe just the 2010 postseason, and it happened mainly because of a Slovak goaltender named Jaroslav Halak.

The Bell rocked that spring. But so would’ve the parking lot of Mundell’s Funeral Home in Orillia if the games were played there.

I’d like to say I wouldn’t care if it burned to the ground but concrete doesn’t burn well. And I’d hate to see Jean Beliveau’s old seat get torched.

And people say, oh, the wonderful Bell Centre, soaked in atmosphere! We’re looking at an ordinary rink like all the other ordinary rinks in the league, where fans for the most part sit on their hands, empty their wallets, and put up with music so loud that people in Europe shut their windows.

Have you been to the Bell Centre? If you have, you’ve probably noticed all the old photographs lining the walls in the corridors.

Guess what, kids. Those pictures are cheap photocopies. The originals, hung with pride at the mighty Forum, were auctioned off to collectors with deep pockets. There’s even some originals left if you’re interested. Big beauties sold by Classic Auctions, ready to be hung in man caves instead of the Bell Centre where they belong.

Ownership was too freaking cheap to use the originals from the Forum. Another kick in the groin to passionate fans.

Management of course sucks. Coach Michel Therrien needs to steal a propaganda poster from a North Korean hotel, and the only thing I can think of that Marc Bergevin has done well was buy out Scott Gomez.

I was proud of Bergevin that day. But you or I could’ve bought out Scott Gomez with Molson money too, so it’s not that big a deal I guess.

And I know I’ve shown the letter below a half dozen times or so, but it’s sort of related to the story and maybe some of you haven’t seen it. So I’m just going ahead and posting it because I don’t care.

And this was centre ice at the Forum, before the league mandated that all centre ice circles have the rink name wrapped around the circle to remind us where we are in case we forget.

Forum above

Below, a smaller Montreal sinkhole.

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