We were sitting on a gold mine and just didn’t know it. Why didn’t anybody tell us?
Whenever we got a chance outside school, we’d throw Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe cards against the school’s brick walls to see who would come the closest. We did the same with Doug Harvey and Frank Mahovlich and Jean Beliveau and all those helmetless, legendary, magical names of yesterday. In fact, we ruined pretty well every card we owned. We’d bend them and put them in our bicycle spokes and wrap tight elastic around them, and of course fire them against walls.
We’d buy our cards at a little kiosk at the corner where the two main streets met, a place run by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the man who worked there couldn’t see a thing. I always wondered how he did it – taking money, making change, reaching for the right thing stacked among so many other things.
We could’ve taken anything within reach at that little store and that man would never know, but we didn’t. We were there to spend five cents a pack on cards and try to get our sets completed. And we’d usually get them all, or lose most of them by doing like I said; firing them against hard walls to see who got the closest.
These cards would be worth thousands and thousands of dollars now. Rookie cards of every name you’ve ever heard of from the NHL of the 1950’s got dinged and bent and mud splattered on them. We loved our cards, but you always hurt the one you love.
And I think how it would have been if I’d kept some of those five cent packs still in the package, never opened. Visions of dollar bills dance in my head, and it’s making me dizzy. I remember when I was about eight years old and I needed only one card to complete my Montreal-Toronto set, and on a winter evening my dad came home from work with about fifty packs for me so I could finally find that one missing card. I imagine what those fifty packs of unopened 1958 cards would be worth now and my eyes widen. I was holding on to gold and no one told me.
Of course, my mother and all my friends’ mothers eventually did their spring cleaning and threw our cards out. It’s what mothers did. They fed us, taught us, and threw our cards out. They were born to throw their son’s cards out.
We were just goofy kids throwing cards against walls until girls got interesting, and anyway, we were of a different mindset. For us, keeping Jacques Plante and Tim Horton mint, or even keeping them at all, didn’t really matter. It was the game that counted. Getting rich just wasn’t in the cards.