Tag Archives: Empress of England

The Best Ashtray

ashtray

I’ll bet you’re saying to yourself that you’ve had better ashtrays than this one. Maybe one of those nice glass ones, or one on a fancy stand.

But this is the best ashtray in the world so forget about it.

It was sent to me from my old friend Bruce who ended up with two of them and knew that I’d need one. That’s what old friends do. Sometimes send ashtrays.

The porcelain beauty (although Lucy doesn’t see the beauty) came out of a closed factory in Orillia, Porcelain and Metal, or “P&M” as everybody called it because it was shorter and there’s nothing like shortcuts in life.

I worked there with Bruce, one of several jobs I had after dropping out of school after grade 10, and Bruce and I did the graveyard shift in the Fiat department, assembling metal toilet doors. We became toilet door superstars.

I’d also been saving enough money to sail on a ship to England with another friend when I’d turn 18 in that fall of 1968. And the toilet door gig was easy, mainly because the person at P&M who decided how many we needed to do in a shift was slightly off in the math and Bruce and I had the quota wrapped up in the first two or three hours.

After that we caught mice in a barrel and watched them run around for awhile, then let them go. Or we’d put our feet up and talk music, and hockey of course, because Bruce was and is a Habs fan.

Maybe we used this very ashtray on our dozen or so smoke breaks every night. (I quit years ago).

That fall I sailed to England on the Empress of England with my friend Robin and spent much of the winter there. At one point we knocked on the door of the Beatles’ Apple offices on Savile Row, and when a women answered, I asked if the boys were in. She said no.

Robin and I also saw John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers at the Klooks Kleek room in the Railway Hotel, a place where Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, the Rolling Stones, and most of the other well-known London musicians had played at some point, usually before they became rich and famous.

The night we saw Mayall, his guitar player was Mick Taylor, who not long after would join the Stones when Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool.

It was a big experience, that trip to England, and it was all thanks to my job in the Fiat department at P&M, making toilet doors with Bruce and catching mice in a barrel.

Now I have an ashtray from that fine old Fiat toilet door department, on display in my display case.

The best ashtray in the world, regardless of what you and Lucy think.

Klooks Kleek

 

 

 

 

Toilet Door Guy

Above is a photo of Robin Metcalfe and I when we sailed to England on the Empress of England in November of 1968. (that’s me on the left, in the lighter jacket. I had just turned 18). It was a great trip and all that, we spent a good part of the winter there, but equally important is the fact that I worked for a year in a factory in Orillia assembling toilet doors with my old buddy Bruce Traviss, saving enough money for this trip.

Today, I’d like to explain how to assemble a toilet door.

These are the metal types, like below, which you’ve opened and closed all your life, and sometimes wrote graffiti on. We worked from 5 pm to 3 am, and we started by setting up one side of the door and spraying black glue all over the place. Then we stuck thick cardboard strips in it, put the other side on, inserted metal pieces along the sides to hold it all together, then sent it on a line to the paint room and started again. The quota was easily met every night and we had enough time to catch mice in a barrel, watch them run around for awhile, then let them go and assemble more doors. The job paid about $2.50 an hour and before I knew it, I had enough money for the trip to England!

Now every time you open or close a metal toilet door, you’ll know that inside is black glue and thick strips of cardboard. You’re welcome.

The Year I Paid Absolutely No Attention To My Team

003 This is my passport photo taken when I was 17. If you look closely you can see pimples.

I was getting ready to go on a big trip, which ultimately would cause me to miss almost the entire Montreal Canadiens 1968-69 season including playoffs. I’m unable to talk about Rogie Vachon and Gump Worsley in goal and rookie coach Claude Ruel winning the Stanley Cup in his rookie coaching season and most of the other details in that year, mainly because I wasn’t around.

When this picture was taken I was working in a factory, having quit school, and was saving my money. I worked for a year in this dirty, stinking old place, but on November 22, 1968, a month after I turned 18, myself and a friend took a train to Montreal, boarded the Empress of England, and sailed for seven days and seven nights until we reached Liverpool, England. My thoughts weren’t on the Habs at all. They were filled with swinging London, the Beatles, long-legged lovelies in mini-skirts, Carnaby Street, and of course the great British bands like the Stones, the Who and the Kinks. The sounds that had come out of there while I was stuck in Orillia, and all the photos which described to me a special place where kids were cooler than cool, drove me crazy until I knew I needed to go and see for myself.

From Liverpool we took a train to London because that was ground zero of all that was good and cool about England, and we took a room at the YMCA. (A few years later I also stayed at another YMCA in Sudbury,Ontario, and I don’t know about now, but I can tell you, YMCA’s aren’t the Ritz.)

I had no idea what was happening with my Habs and I’m ashamed to say it, but I suppose I didn’t really care at this time. We were in England and that was all that mattered. While Beliveau and the Pocket Rocket zigged and zagged and the team geared up for the playoff run, I ate fish and chips, looked at double decker buses, and wondered how my hair looked. And at one point we went to the Beatles’ office on Saville Row, knocked on the door, and asked a lovely young secretary lady if the boys were in. She said no, and to this day, I’ve wondered what I would’ve done if she’d said yes.

We traveled up through the Midlands in the dead of winter, into Derby and Nottingham, hitchhiking from the other side of the road of course, and I recall sleeping standing up in a phone booth one freezing night. We also got beds at a Salvation Army shelter for the down-and-out, and it was the two of us with heavy woolen blankets over top of us, listening all night to old, homeless men snoring and burping and farting and talking drunken gibberish. But the thought of these wine-soaked, tobacco-stained creatures quickly vanished from my mind when we went to a movie house somewhere to see a young Brigitte Bardot in “And God Created Women.”

We were in Swinging England! My friend bought a Victorian top hat at a flea market which he wore around when it wasn’t wet and windy. And we saw John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at a jam-packed Railway Tavern, a place that only months later would become the nightly home of a new-formed band named Led Zeppelin.  

STC1969Back home, I didn’t know it at the time but the Canadiens were rolling along to a first place finish, with big Jean Beliveau ending up second to Phil Esposito for the Hart trophy as league MVP. Yvan Cournoyer finished with 87 points, just five ahead of Beliveau, and Tony Esposito, who of course became a huge star in Chicago, was a Hab this year and replaced Gump Worsley in goal when Worsley had some sort of nervous breakdown. At least, this is what I’ve read. I don’t know because I was over there, doing my best to be cool.

And in the playoffs, the Canadiens first swept the Rangers, beat Boston in six games, and took out St. Louis in four games to win their 16th Stanley Cup.

There’s just not a lot I can tell you about this season. I was busy.

001 003


The Things I Find In My Closet

011

I pulled this out of a box in my closet the other day. It’s just a few little things I’ve held on to over the years.

There’s a “Nixon For President” button, which is funny I suppose because I never liked the dirty rotten scoundrel. Did anybody?

A button/ribbon for the journey to the moon in July of 1969 with Neil Armstrong and the boys.

A plastic spoon I saved from the ship, Empress of England, that I took from Montreal to Liverpool in 1969.

A gum cigar that says “Win with Dick.” Nixon again, sorry about that.

A Russian Habs pinback that looks like an ordinary pinback except that’s it’s Russian and it’s old.

A Habs Stanley Cup pinback from 1986.

A pinback showing Pierre Trudeau giving the finger.

A nice metal Forum pin.

A 1987 playoff ticket stub from the Forum, a game I was at involving, I think, the Quebec Nordiques.

A Che Guevara pinback made from leather.

A WHA ticket featuring the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Nationals sometime around 1974.

A couple of Forum matchbooks.

A Habs/Oilers pin when they played an exhibition game in the 1980′s for charity in Ottawa.

A couple of 1988 Calgary Olympics pins.

And a beautiful handmade silver Habs pin my ex-brother-n-law had made for me for Christmas many years ago. I miss my ex-brother-in-laws.