Saturday, November 26, 2011

Child of the '60's

[image from google]

I was a child of the '60's, but I was raised in small-town Kelowna, which was still back in the '50's. Just as I have never owned a car that was in the same decade I am, I seem to have always been living behind the times, never truly catching up.

When the times, they were a-changing in larger centers, conventional churchy Kelowna held the reins tightly on its teenagers. The mores were strict, constant admonishments were laced liberally with Guilt and Fear, and while music was beginning to tanatalize our senses and rustle through our imaginations, we were kept tightly leashed. Being a Bad Girl was not even remotely possible.

It was like American Graffiti - exactly like American Graffiti - on Friday nights. Girls climbed into snazzy two-toned cars with huge fins,that smelled of talcum powder and Brilliantine (remember duck tails?), grinning boys with pink faces behind the wheel, and the procession would begin: up one side of Bernard Avenue and through City Park at the end, then trolling down the other side, seeing who was out with who in all the other cars.

In my world, kissing was all that went on when you "parked", though I remember being shocked when I double dated with a long-time slightly older couple and they made out hot and heavy in the front seat while my date and I sat uncomfortably in the back, each looking out our respective side window. Pepsi, his name was, a short little guy with no discernible pep, which was, at that time, a good thing, given his prim and clueless  date:)

I remember stopping by the radio station after school to request a song to be played for the current boy I was dating, and going home to listen to the program. I had a little box record player, and a growing collection of 45's and 33 and a thirds. It was rock 'n roll, love, bee-bop-a-luba, she's my baby, and at the sock hops, one boy and I danced such a cool swing routine that everyone would fall back and form a circle around us to watch. Sigh. Innocent times.

There was a rumor that a few hippies had actually dared to camp in City Park, and the appalled adults related with grim satisfaction that the City Fathers had made short work of them; they were evicted from town immediately, and told  never to return. What were hippies, I wondered?

It was in the '70's, when I found out. By then, I was unhappily married, and had three small children, living as conventional a life as it is possible to live, in Kitsilano on 3rd Avenue in Vancouver. One block up, on 4th, gloriously beaded and attired, free, beaming, long haired  young men and women were wandering up and down. They didn't work, they just lived, with a sense of self I was still at least a decade away from developing. It was all love and peace and incense and flowers, and I so wondered how they had escaped the burdensome life I lived. How did they learn to be that free?

My spirit was unconventional, but I had been conditioned and programmed to funnel myself into a small box with no horizon. I kept longing to fly, but first had to extricate myself from the cage I had been lured into.

It took me some time, but eventually I wandered into a coffeehouse and experienced some of that alternative lifestyle, among the beautiful gentle people. It was the '80's by then. And in 1989, I made a stunning leap to Tofino and there they were again - my people.

It might have been a convoluted journey of trial and error to find my way, given such a sheltered beginning. But I look back to those days of innocence and safety with affection. My grandchildren live in a world where they are exposed to too much - to everything - and they have no protective shield with which to lace their dreams with hope. Too much Reality to allow for magic. And drugs have the power to seduce young lives away into oblivion.

Will they look back on their childhoods one day the way I look back on mine? I dont see how they can and I mourn that loss of innocence for them.


  1. I think they will. You tell a familar story... but hopefully whatever road we walked, we arrived at "grown up" just in time. And now on to the "winter" of our days. We will look back fondly, and forward with assurance for where we have been... the best of times, and the worst of times... and still we have far to go before we sleep...

  2. I enjoyed reading this, Sherry. :-) My young life was somewhat sheltered too. I look back on parts of it with the same fondness. Innocent times indeed.

  3. Well, I was definitely sheltered from the 'ways of the world.' And in a way I feared what was out there, probably rightfully so, though drugs didn't appear in my 'neck of the woods' until I was post college; though in larger cities and on both coasts it was certainly different. I liked my growing up years, have no regrets. I found the hippies fascinating, but only the LOOK....not the lifestyle.

  4. Sherry, I wasn't so much behind the times but always had the feeling of not fitting in or of being of a place not mine.

    So seek and you will find. There is no timeline or limit to this.

    Annell, great comment.

  5. Pepsi with no pep... love that.

    I agree, Sherry. The times are harsh. It's hard to protect our children without holding them prisoner in a sterile, quiet house though.

  6. Surely there's some middle ground between restrictive conventionality and over-exposed worldliness. I don't think either extreme is to be envied much.

  7. Ah, Sherry, you have written my past. The only difference is a small but continental one. I lived an almost identical youth, but in a big city about as far from Kelowna as you could get and still be on the same continent. Miami was enormous by comparison, but I lived every single thing you described. I think that no matter where you lived, there was magic in the air. I mourn the loss of that magic for today's young.

  8. First ... my friend, I t is hard for me to describe the pleasure that reading this peace gave me. I was filled with smiles, not because our lives took similar paths for they did not. But because somehow underneath it all I know that we are sisters. And that made me tear up.

    Fireblossom speaks of middle ground. I think that perhaps the answer is love, the sort that builds within a child self confidence. The sort of love that allows one to explore as child, allows flexibility but lays down real boundaries. Again love is the answer ... a love that allows parents to give up much of their free time to develop their children, allow them to win and allow them to lose.

    I really loved this piece.


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