JAIMIE VERNON – MY FAVOURITE YEAR: 1977

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Vernon_LightfootAside from the general malaise of the past 6 years (post-2008’s Economiclypse), I can honestly say that I’ve lived a pretty charmed life; Traveling extensively both as a tourist and as a musician, running a record label, running a music magazine and hobnobbing with music, TV and movie stars. I’ve got two awesome kids and an amazing wife. Some truly fantastic shit has happened to me over my 50 years and it seems impossible to nail down one or two that stand out above all others – the birth of my daughter (1994) and my son (1998) notwithstanding. But I do have a favourite year.

While 1975 had my first cross-Canada trip https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/jaimie-vernon-my-glacier-was-gone/ and 1976 had my first kiss https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/jaimie-vernon-spirit-of-76

It was 1977 that stands alone as the year that I came of age and began heading down the path that would shape me as an adult. In my pre-teen world I had been a cocksure, mouthy know-it-all. The kids I schooled with called me Egghead (I had an usually HUGE cranium) or Professor Kitzel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand I spent a good part of my alone time trying to figure out how to shake the brainy stereotype. But part of me wanted to hold onto that.

I was already confident around girls and found myself saying yes to any number of teen parties I was invited to. Something that ‘geeks’ just didn’t attend. But I had a secret weapon. Music. I was the kid with 7 inches…of vinyl. My record collection was becoming quite extensive and I was usually on top of the latest hits the minute they hit the radio.

In the winter of 1977 I found myself invited to my first Boy-Girl party – with no parental supervision. The girl that invited me to her party had a crush on me. She was a large gal but I always found her fun to be around and jovial like Queen Latifah. My friends were merciless when we slow danced to David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up On Us”.

Jaimie_Hockey1978I didn’t mind and when she trapped me in a back room of her parents’ basement, well, let’s just say I didn’t turn down her advances. The next day was awkward as I think she expected me to ask her to go steady. But, I was pre-occupied with school and the wind up of my House League hockey team’s play-off season. (geeks don’t play hockey either, don’t you know!).

My team eventually won the championship and the coach decided to throw a victory party at his house. He also invited some neighbourhood girls to even out the sausage-to-boob ratio and we found ourselves slow dancing with a lot of gals we had just met. It must have been how the U.S.O. dances worked during the Second World War. The difference here was that we didn’t end up marrying our dancing partners – we’d merely end up seeing them the following year in high school. Needless to say there was a lot of dry-humping when this came on.

1977 was Grade 8 – senior year of Junior High. Despite my desire to change how people perceived me, I still wanted to please my parents with good grades. I was pushing straight A’s. So much so that I landed myself in the regional finals of a Speech Writing competition held by Ontario Schools. I wrote a clever and punny piece about the cinematic rage at the time – disaster movies. My four minute shtick got a lot of laughs and I managed to place second in Ontario behind some kid that did a re-take of Bill Cosby’s “Noah” skit. I was robbed, I tell you.

Graduation 77cThat led the school heads to send me to an IQ-based competition where brainiac children around the province wrote exams to determine which school had the smartest kids. [at the turn of this century the EQAO exams became standard testing for kids in grades 3 and 6]. I don’t think I got the highest score but did so well that I was asked to be that year’s Valedictorian at the Grade 8 graduation ceremony.

It was also Awards night and I found myself the recipient of many of them – the most surprising to everyone being the award for being a member of the championship Senior Boys’ Softball Team; A true sign that I didn’t fit the egghead stereotype. Hockey had prepped me to be a team player. I had been doing that since I was 6 years old. In the summer of 1976 I joined a House League hardball team for one season to see if it was something I liked. I excelled at short-stop, it seems. I was small and stealthy on my feet and years of playing goalie in street hockey games gave me the co-ordination and glove work to hold onto a ball. The hardball team gave me a strong throwing arm. My tryout for the school team was a trial by fire. The tough kids laughed when I showed up. They weren’t laughing when I was still standing and others had been cut after one practice. I played short-stop there too. Once the initial shock had worn off by my schoolmates, I was part of a championship team. We won the pennant.

TripDownEast1Summer came and instead of going back to hardball, my folks decided to take my sister and I on a road-trip to Prince Edward Island and back. I was initially excited as my Grandmother had shown me the prairies and mountains in 1975. But this was going to be 10 days in a car with my family. It was a bad idea. My folks don’t travel well. Together. Or with kids. We were caught in a massive windstorm in downtown Montreal for one. That invoked the “let’s get away from these Frogs” slur from my Mom. We saw the traditional roadside attractions in Moncton and Halifax (world’s longest covered bridge, Magnetic Hill and the reversing tides). Cape Breton was a whole other matter as my sister threw up on most of the Cabot Trail back roads. And when we got to PEI – which required taking a ferry in those days – the nightmare grew exponentially.

Jamboree1977On the first hill from the docks my Dad realized the brakes had gone on the car. We spent the day in a repair shop getting them fixed. By the time we were fed and back on the road looking for a hotel (you never needed reservations in the olden days), it seems there were none to be found. Nor motels. Or bed & breakfasts. What my folks didn’t know was that it was the annual NATIONAL Boy Scout Jamboree from July 5-12 on the island and the keynote speaker was his Royal Highness Prince Charles. 66 miles wide and this island was now home to 20,000 Boy Scouts. Night had fallen and there was nowhere to sleep. My folks started pounding on doors. We found a farm that took us in. My folks were given a bed in the main house. My sister in the living room. I slept on the curved seats of a breakfast nook. I awoke in the morning to the frightful visage of a horse head looking down at me from an overhead window. Seems the animal frequently came to get breakfast treats. I was PEI_beachscared shitless.

We finally made it to the Atlantic Ocean. It was worth the stress of the trip as we found ourselves frolicking on the reddest beaches the world has ever seen (it’s why PEI potatos are so rich tasting). Well, except my sister. She got stung by a jellyfish. I don’t think there was any part of the trip she enjoyed. I appreciate, even to this day, the effort my folks made to help us see the beauty of our country.

Back at home I soon noticed a rather cute blond-haired girl wandering about our townhouse complex usually with kids in tow. I asked my buddies who she was and they weren’t sure but Jump_Jaimieseemed to think she was a babysitter of some sort. Cindy Grove was her name – which I soon found out by boldly going over and asking her (much to the chagrin of my tough-as-nails buddies). As summer wore on we ended up going steady. I was in pre-teen lust. She lived in a neighbourhood called Bendale exactly halfway between where I was living and where I had originally grown up in Scarborough. It was accessible by bicycle. So when we weren’t gabbing on the phone during the day – we once clocked an 8 hour conversation which got me in a lot of shit with my parents – I was riding to her place by bike and hanging with her and her older sisters. I recall our ‘song’ was Alan O’Day‘s gag-worthy double-entendre laden “Undercover Angel“. We were too young to know what any of it meant.

We attempted to keep the relationship going into our first year of high school but it was way too hard to keep it afloat as I was back to playing hockey, maintaining a paper route and Weird Sciencekeeping up with my grades. She was drifting away and eventually hinted that she was interested in someone else. I got the hint. I was heart-broken. But not heart-broken enough to date her best-friend’s cousin who she introduced me to. What could go wrong?  Well, the girl was from British Guiana which was pretty exotic from my naive perspective. But she barely spoke English. Turns out her Brit parents had her in French Emersion her entire life. It was cute the way she would say my name – Zshay-meee. And when she insisted I touch her, admittedly massive, breasts. I was seriously intimidated. It was a set up. Cindy had known how aggressive this girl was and thought it would be funny if this gal came onto me like a pitbull. I made my escape. Leaving them both behind. Cindy and I would reconnect briefly in the 1980s where she apologized (and we almost dated again) but I’ve permanently lost touch with her now. Here’s hoping she has had as charmed a life as me.

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers - Game SixThe Fall of 1977 proved to be my last as a hockey player as I was quickly starting to grow very quickly into my body leaving me susceptible to leg injuries and eventually with two useless knees. However, I went out in a blaze of glory – racking up 6 goals for the 1977/1978 season which included a hat trick in the best game I ever played. I recall at the awards banquet ceremony in Spring 1978 going up on stage to collect my trophies and leaving my former team-mates slack jawed as no one had remembered me ever doing such a thing; I was always the slow, middling wingman who set up shots for our star centerman to score. I knew I’d accomplished what I did. The league knew I’d done it too. It was nice to leave the stereotype behind forever. I never played hockey again. Instead, I took up the guitar. Mwahahahaha…

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com orhttp://www.bullseyecanada.com

 

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