Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trick or Treat, Smelly Feet...

When I was a little boy growing up in Burnaby in the 60s, I was almost never allowed out after dark. There were a few exceptions. In the winter when it got dark after 5, I recall being allowed out to go to Cubs and Scouts, and I was always allowed to walk my dog, Prince. But on the whole, I was only allowed out in controlled situations.

So every halloween it was a treat when I was actually allowed to go out trick-or-treating with my friends. I can't recall when I first started being allowed to do this, but I suspect I was about 9 or 10. We'd put our costumes on, and go around the neighborhood, knocking on doors.

There were two things that we commonly said when the door was opened. Or at least there were two that we were "supposed" to say. We were supposed to say "Trick or Treat" or "Halloween Handouts". I'm not sure where that last one came from but I remember us shouting it. Being boys, we got a bit carried away with this, and somewhere we had a version of "trick or treat" that was a full blown rhyme. It went like this:

"Trick or Treat,
Smelly Feet,
Give us something good to eat!"

It had a melody, too, a common one we used for a lot of rhymes, but I don't know its name.

And "Halloween handouts" became "Halloweenian handouts".

These modified versions I seem to recall we saved for houses where we knew who it was, or sang it giggling and laughing as we walked down the street to the next house.

I do recall one house where an older man insisted that we give him a trick or a riddle before he'd give us a treat, and I vaguely recall giving him a knock-knock joke.

The other thing I recall was fireworks. We never had money for fireworks, but I usually had friends who did. I recall one Halloween, when I was 11, we had someone's jack-o-lantern, and we decided to see if filling it full of firecrackers and setting them off would explode the pumpkin.

Well, myth-busted! I was dissappointed in the lack of explosion, but there were very small bits of pumpkin flying everywhere, and a pretty strong burnt pumpkin smell in the air, and it made a lot of noise as it went off, but no explosion.

I'm sure some of the bigger fireworks would have done the trick, but being 11, we weren't allowed access to these without our parents around.

The candy we got was great. There were no mini candy bars like today. Lots of little candies, but when you got a chocolate bar, it was full sized. One of my favourite candies was the ones called rockets (they were called smarties in the US.) I still like them, because they have a strong tangy flavour.

My parents always went through my bag to make sure that everything was in order and looked OK. I don't know how real it was, but there were always stories of apples with razors in them, and other nasty surprises.

We never had a lot of money for costumes, but we always took the time to put something together that would clearly demonstrate that we had some imagination and put some effort into it.

Then, when that one special night was over, it was back to early bed times, and no roaming at night.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Music and Memories

Isn't it interesting how a song can pull back memories? I find this is especially true of those songs that I really enjoyed, and listened to while doing something fun, and then they dropped from the top 40, so you don't hear them often. Then one day, you hear one of them, and wham! The memories come back! Smells, feelings, emotions, sensations that you had forgotten: They all come flooding back!

Here are some of the songs that do it for me:

Beatles - Almost anything early:
One of the first days at school in grade one, I went home with a new friend, Steve, and he put on some Beatles records and started playing them. Once I got over the fact that his parents let him even touch the cabinet stereo, I found that I really liked those Beatles songs. Eleanor Rigby, Taxman, and so many others. Whenever I hear the old Beatles songs, they bring me back to Steve and I enjoying the Beatles.

Monkeys - Last Train to Clarksville:
I was a 7-year-old boy when the monkeys came out on TV, and I loved them! The first episode that I watched, they played this song. I had never seen anything like a music video, so to see them playing their instruments, and hearing those electric guitar sounds, I fell in love with them. It didn't hurt that they had great humour targeted to pre-teens like me. Hearing this song always reminds me why I loved electric guitars so much!

Beatles - Hey Jude:
At about 9 or 10 years old, my best friend Steve and I formed a "rock band". I had my mother's $10.50 American General Supply guitar (like a dollar store special), and Steve had a guitar that he played "lead" on. I made maracas out of two meat pie tins, pidgeon feed and staples for Steve's little brother, and one of our friends had a drum set. At one point I seem to recall having about 8 or 9 of us singing together. One of the songs we did that we thought we were pretty good at, was Hey Jude. Hearing this song reminds me of how much fun it was to play music with friends who love music! Actually, there is a version done by a group from Europe called "Kids will Rock You" that really clicked (because of the kids voices - it somehow really brought it back to me!)

Neil Diamond - Shilo:
I think I primarily liked this song because of the first line, "Young child with dreams..." It seemed like the singer was missing being a child (and I was, for the most part enjoying it so much) that I felt sorry for him. It didn't hurt that he had a great voice and could project emotion with it. I loved this song. When I hear it, I can remember exactly that wistful feeling that it brought when I was little.

Joni Mitchel - Both Sides Now:
This one was in the same category as Shilo. It really works for me, and when occasionally I hear it, it takes me back to being little.

Badfinger- No Matter What:
A couple of years ago, I think it was Jack FM that played this song. I'd almost forgotten it. When I was little growing up, I often didn't pay attention to who the artists were, I just loved the songs. This was one of those bands that snuck past my radar, but I knew all their songs and loved them. The moment I heard it, WHAM! I was an 11 year old in swim shorts, at Lobbly Park, playing in the wading pool with some friends, trying to avoid the scary teenagers, but enjoying their transister radios pumping out Badfinger!

Jefferson Starship - Miracles:
I really loved this song when I was a teenager in Mission, BC. One night I was camping with two Mission Scouts at Weatherhead creek in Davis Lake Provincial Park behind Mission, and we had a little transister radio. We were lying in our sleeping bags on ground sheets with just fly sheets over us. There was a light rain coming down, and the creek about 50 feet below us rushing loudly along. We were chatting and listening to the local rock station and they played this song. Now, on the odd occasion that I hear this, I'll recall the smell of mosquito repellant, sweat and wood smoke. I recall the feel of the damp mountain breeze blowing over my face. The sounds of the mountain and the creek, and the feel of freedom that hiking and camping whereever I chose brought me.

The Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight:
This is another case where I had to look up who wrote the song. My best memory that this song brings back is a Mission Scouts Family Camp that was held at Golden Ears Park Campsite. We were at the campfire with all my friends, Chris & Joan, Gordon and so many others. We decided to try to sing this song with all the after time. I was playing my guitar with it while we got all kinds of aftertime going. We had a good group who could sing and it just came together really well. I think we sang it for about 10 minutes! That was one of my favourite campfires! This version of the song takes me back there every time!

Don McLean - Amercan Pie:
This song was one of our favourites for campfire. We did the shortened for-radio version of the lyrics. It was my friend Gordon's favourite song. When I hear this song, it brings back memories of many campfires, including the one mentioned above. I like Madonna's version, too, but somehow Don McLeans' original feels like the best, to me!

McCartney & Wings - Venus and Mars:
Actually, just about every song on the album with this name has the same effect on me. My sister bought me this album for Christmas when I was 16. In addition to really liking several of the songs, including the title song, I loved the zany lyrics. Magneto and Titanium Man worked for me, as did Spirits of Ancient Egypt. And several of the songs had that driving rock and roll sound, and great guitar parts that just worked for me!

Al Stewart - Year of the Cat:
This song reminds me of my time going to BCIT in Burnaby. I was living with my brother and going through some interesting self-discovery (not exactly thrilled with all I was discovering at that point). But there were also lots of good things happening in my life, and this song seems to just bring back those good things, and leave the bad ones in the dust. That works for me.

So that's my list of top songs for bringing back memories. I probably like other songs more, but these have a nostalgic aspect to them that is pleasant to experience. They seem to be best enjoyed from time-to-time. If you hear them too frequently they stop bring back the memories and become too current. I like to trigger those memories, so I'll just keep them in the back cupboard, and bring them out from time to time, so they keep their edge!