Ria's now 30. I wrote about the cop car crash in 2008.
I know because last week, my wife Helena used a three-hole punch and old school binder to assemble and present me with all of the columns I wrote during the 12 and change years I was editor of Today's Trucking magazine, and the constable's car was among them. (Driving lessons learned the hard way. A crash course, but you were already thinking that.)
We're talking over 120 columns.
One of them was called Playing the Fuel Game, a diversion I invented driving Ria, her sister Ewa and Michel to high school en route to my office.
I tuned the radio dial to whatever number I saw on gas station price signs: "It started at a Shell near our home. Gas was $1.07.1 a litre. That's also the number for the classic rock station Q107. A block further, a PetroCan sign said 107.5, which, I discovered, is the freqency for 'Cool FM.'" 106.5 played hip hop. And..."At one point, the posted gas price took my radio dial to a station broadcasting the Roman Catholic Mass."
|IN YOUR FACEBOOK: Month after month of trucking fun|
Clearly, leafing through the three-ring binder I figured they also had to know about:
* The old Night Rider pinball machine I've been carting around with me for 40 years;
* How we learned to fight the French kids at St. Albert's School in Sudbury;
* Why, if you're getting a tattoo and you're, like, 18, you should anticipate the aging process and maybe have the tattoo designed like a MAD fold-in so what looks like an eagle when you're 18 might resemble a butterfly at 45, when you have extra skin.
* How many years I shared a bed with my late brother Tom, and how that affected the decisions I make on a day-to-day basis;
* How much time I spent practising "Vegetables on Parade" on my accordion so I could play it at the truck show in Winnipeg.
If Pete's Blog&Grille conducted a 23& Me, it would discover it is a direct descendent of the column. I'm really grateful to Newcom Business Media the publishing company for letting me keep the name even after I left the outfit; a fact that, you'll be glad to know, brings us to the reason I'm writing this.
Yesterday, Jan. 7, 2022, I received a message from my successor at Today's Trucking, John G. Smith. After wishing me a happy new year, John G. handed along the following message.
Hello Mr. Carter, I'm sure this may be a tough or impossible request, but I was recently made aware of an article you did focusing on my late Uncle, Wayne Johnston. He was a trucker from Cardigan, P.E.I., and worked for Kings County Construction (which happens to also be my current employer). I was able to turn that into a gift for my father, his youngest sibling, this past Christmas. It was without question the most moved I've ever seen my old man, and many of the rest of the family has reached out to me about being able to have their own copy of it. While I can copy it easily enough, I know everyone loves having an original, so I thought I would reach out to see if backissues/old copies are even a thing that can be tracked down. Worst case scenario, I wanted to let you know how much the article meant to his family and friends. It stirred up a lot of wonderful memories and for that, you have the thanks of so many people. Lastly, I've attached a copy of how it turned out framed, just so you can see the great gift it led to. It only seemed fitting to have it framed in his Kenworth blue. Thank you so much, Tyler Johnston
Nice letter, huh? The column Tyler's referring to is the 18th page of this wonderful collection. It was called titled "Wayne's Real World" but it's also an eye opening peek into Peter's real world. I love this letter and I never use the word love lightly.
Which reminds me. Here's one final indisputable shred of evidence that planet Peter's a place I wanna stay.
Among the 120-odd columns is a story about how to mismanage business, and it begins "I was in bed with the missus."
Read that again.
I wrote an actual business magazine column with real information in it that began with "I was in bed with the missus."
She stuck around!
And years later assembled this mind-blowing collection of magazine columns. For me. Life is one miracle after another.
(One final note: This entire adventure could not have happened without the assistance of Today's Trucking Art Director Frank Scatozza, who was on staff when I was editor and -- to the company's credit -- is still in charge of making everything work. If ever anybody wants to meet the emodiment of diligence, creativity and accommodation, ask and I'll introduce you to Frank.)
|THEY OUGHTA NAME A|
CITY AFTER HER:
My learned pal Victoria
You'd like her.
Victoria's specialty is animal law.
From her Vancouver base, Victoria acts on behalf of all creatures furry, scaley, and feathery.
She has fought to get an elephant out of jail and a dog off death row. Whether they're warm-blooded, cold-blooded, four-legged, two-legged or no-legged, all creatures big and small have the good-hearted Victoria in their corner.
And this year, at least around these parts, she won more than a court case. She won Christmas.
Before I tell you how, we gotta go back almost four years. I'd landed a job at The Lawyer's Daily and my wife Helena celebrated by announcing "Congratulations on the new job Peter!" on a sign in our front window.
More than announcing my cool new position, the sign was also a non-nuanced telegraph to the neighbours. Helena's mate got a real job! We also still have a land line. I think H is partial to it because gets me off the couch,
But that's beside the point.
|SHE TALKS FUR THE ANIMALS:|
Her honour Judge Iris presiding
For as long as I can remember, Iris watched the world through that window. Then, after the sign arrived, Iris worked it, for more than two years!! (See here.)
At one point, Iris referenced Victoria the animal-loving lawyer.
|IRIS THE MUSE: Victoria's clients could teach us|
all a thing or two.
My late mom Huena Carter (nee MacIsaac) was a singing machine.
| MY DAD THE GROUPIE: |
Huena sang. All. The. Time.
She had a pretty voice, too. Probably soprano. She wasn't trained, and I don't recall her, like, you know, ever belting it out. Huena simply sang just loudly enough that anybody within 15 feet of her could hear.
But she sang all the time.
Huena sang as she baked gingerbread cookies; she sang when she threaded sheets and other laundry through the wringer washer; when she rocked babies. And probably as she was knitting her trademark ambidextrous mittens, which of course could be worn on either hand.
Seems to me Huena sang as much as she talked
I also know that after she left her home in Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and migrated as a single woman to the city of Sudbury to study nursing, she sang to fight off loneliness. I know that because for a few years near the end of her life, she kept a sort of a diary, in a notebook my wife Helena bought for her and in which Huena made mention of that very fact.
At one point in the early 1940s some officious hospital supervisor told Huena that if she insisted on singing while at work she'd be sent home and wouldn't be able to finish school. Singing in the hospital, he said, was just wrong.
Happily, Huena reported, a local physician who I figure probably had a crush on her, came to Huena's rescue and defended her right to sing.
She sang on.
Her repertoire was vast and ribald. And she adapted her favourites.
To wit: In Nat King Cole's hands, the song Honey went like this:
"I'm in love with you, Honey,
Say you love me too, Honey
No one else will do, Honey,
Seems funny but it's true.
"Loved you from the start, Honey'
Bless your little heart Honey,
Every day would be so sunny,
Honey, with you"
Here's Huena's rendition, which I like a heck of a lot more:
"I'm in love with you, Peter
Say you love me, too, Peter
No one else will do, Peter
Seems funny but it's true.
"Loved you from the start, Peter
Bless your little heart, Peter
Every day would seem much sweeter,
Peter, with you."
Speaking of, another of her favourites, she didn't have to adapt. Eddie my Love was made to order for my older brother. "Eddie my love, I love you only only.."
Another Huena hit? A delightful item about a soldier with a severe stutter. Goes something like this:
You're the only g-g-g-girl
That I adore.
"When the m-moon shines
Over the c-cowshed
I'll be waiting for you by the k-kitchen door."
Remind me to ask my wife, a speech and language pathologist, if she finds that one as much fun as I do.
Many of mom's go-to's were old Scottish ballads like Donald where's your Troosers?
"Let the wind blow high let the wind blow low, through the streets in my kilt I'll go;
All the lassies say 'helllooo' Donald where's your troosers?"
I'm thinking my eldest brother Pat named his youngest son Donald only so he'd get to hear Huena do that one.
What's really important is that when I needed all those lyrics for the purpose of this blog, they were right there where I needed them at the forefront of my brain. I started writing this about half an hour ago. Not one lyric did I have to look up.
My singing mom engraved lyrics to Wild Colonial Boy and Bell Bottom Trousers in our brains right beside the words to the Our Father and the St. Clement's church Sunday Mass schedule. (9:00 a.m., 10:30, noon. If you slept in past noon you'd have to go to a suppertime French mass up at St. Eugene's.)
Sometimes I think my mom had so many kids just so she could come up with songs for each one of us.
Then again I'm such a slave to science I recognize that one of the reasons Huena had so many kids was that my equally Catholic dad Tom really liked when Huena sang.
|BROTHERS IN ARMS: Or in cigarettes, which |
can be just as important.
|NOTHING TO SEE HERE FOLKS:|
Imagine experiencing this junk for the first time!
|TOWER OF BABBLE: My mom would deem|
Google Translate a gift from God.
|TUNNEL VISIONS: Who doesn't|
dig bomb shelters?
I'm talking the Diefenbunker.
It's a four-storeys deep underground nuclear bomb shelter conceived in the late 1950s (just like me) then operated as an actual military installation until the Department of National Defence decommissioned it in--get this--1994! The thing has been a museum since 1998.
On the fun/educational/weird scale, the Diefenbunker rates 11.5 outta 10. If you're a boomer, you'll be inhaling the forced reminiscence and memories. (Black ashtrays beside every black dial phone do it for me.) Several of the rooms will remind you of the best scenes from Dr. Strangelove like the one where President Mervin Muffley, played by Peter Sellers, says "Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. It's the war room!"
Younger visitors to the Diefenbunker'll come away with even more material to make fun of boomers with.
That's all the details you're going to get here. If you're looking for like, you know, facts, go here.
Meantime, here's how I learned to love the fallout shelter.For some reason, I feel connected to John Diefenbaker. Maybe it's because he was prime minister the year I was born. I know all the words to the old Stringband song Dief will Be The Chief. He's the one who thought this thing up, back at a time when lots of people thought communists would commence bombing any second. The Diefenbunker, Dief figured, would provide shelter for 400 officials and soldiers (including the governor general, thank goodness) for up to 30 days after the big one hit. But whoever turned the place into a tourist attraction went to great trouble to include other people's perspectives. During our tour I noticed one of the wall displays showed lyrics to a 1950s anti-bomb-shelter song that I've reposted in the photo at the end of this blog, so you, too, can sing them yourself, to the tune of Sweet Betsy From Pike.
Barrie'n me emerge
|HASHTAG A ED OF HIS TIME: |
Eddie and me on the steps of bus #55
I and my brother Eddie and a few friends called this assortment of nailed together pieces of wood a treehouse, which is like saying a pile of soggy old newspapers and ripped magazines is a "body of research." But never mind that.
You had to climb a ladder to get to our quote unquote treehouse, and sometimes, to ensure that nobody who wasn't welcome got in, we would invent a secret password. Clever huh?
This next part's beside the point, but who knew back then that inventing passwords would become such a critical life skill? Ditto typing! I am a pretty fair typist, but it's because I took high school typing to get into journalism. Here's something even better: Once in j-school, I earned a real university credit in "shorthand." While other first-year students were studying molecular behaviour and, like advanced calculus, I was learning shorthand.
Meanwhile, back at the treehouse...
Can you think of a more effective way to keep your treehouse safe from invading strangers than a password?
Let's say a guy--let's put him in his 40s--climbs the ladder to where Eddie et al are. Just for fun let's say the stranger's wearing a white short-sleeved polyester shirt, clip-on neck tie and the sort of trousers that reached down to just above white socks--my friend Roman Stankiewiecz used to call them "water in the basement pants." He pokes his head up out of the tree's crotch and asks to join us seven-year-old boys in our treehouse.
|OUR TREEHOUSE: (Computer simulation by the author)|
We would say, "Do you know the password?"
Us: "Sorry, you can't come in"
Him: "Dang!" and down the ladder he'd head.
I guess on the off chance Mr. Water-in-the-basement-pants somehow knew the password, we would have had to have let him in. But it never happened.
Something really weird unrelated thing just occurred to me.
At various stages of my little boyhood, in addition to being a (lousy) treehouse builder, I was:
- a cub scout;
- an early morning newspaper delivery boy (which saw me visit all manner of strangers' doors);
- an altar boy;
- a 12-year-old pageboy in Toronto which meant regular commuting alone on Greyhound buses between Sudbury and Hogtown, which is what a lot of people call Toronto;
- At one point, I spent a year at an all-boys school.
And nothing bad ever happened.
I wonder if it's because I was really good at passwords.