Talkin’ ’bout my generation

This is my weekly newspaper column. Things you should known:  Michael Bliss was born in my hometown, and is a celebrated author of national stature.   He was a History Professor at the University of  Toronto and is “one of Canada’s best known and most-honoured biographers”. Here is a little bit of his story entwined with a little bit of mine and our hometown:

“People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Why don’t you all f-fade away (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)”
~ “My Generation”, The Who

What is a generation? From my spotty research, a generation can be as little as twenty years or as long as thirty-three. When The Who sang “Talkin’ ‘bout my generation’, they were of the age group that trusted no one over thirty. That generation (of which I am at the tail end) is now over twice that age. And while many of us still hold to some of our “revolutionary” beliefs, the “trusting no one over thirty” philosophy has died a thousand deaths.

What brought the whole question of generation to my mind was the opening chapters of “Writing History” by local boy made good, Michael Bliss. In those first chapters he paints a picture of the town of Kingsville just a few years before my time—but a Kingsville I recognize if not wholly, at least in part. Born in 1941, Michael, depending on your definition of generation is a half to a third generation older than I, and seeing Kingsville through his eyes and memories is an interesting tutorial in (fairly) recent history.

One of my favourite passages in his book is one in which he describes himself as a small boy experiencing his town while wheeling around on his trusty tricycle. He lived on Main Street in the block between Division and Spruce in the beautiful brick home torn down to the chagrin of many a town folk to make way for new development. I remember walking by the house many a high school noon hour and seeing a sizable cat sitting on the front lawn. The cat was famous for sporting one green eye and one blue eye. At that time Dr. Bruner had taken over the medical offices where Dr. Bliss, Michael’s father had his practice at one end of the house.

Here is Michael’s tour of the block that was host to his home: “The centre of my world was our big brick house on a double lot on the north side of Main Street, half a block east of the Four Corners.” (I love how he capitalized the Four Corners, giving them their proper due.) “When I grew old enough to expand my territory by tricycle—like Matt Goderich in Hugh Hood’s The Swing in the Garden—I would turn right, pass by the Kingsville Fire Department, then Babcock’s Restaurant, then a tobacco warehouse in the old Methodist Church, then the Kingsville Hotel, and finally reach the post office at the Four Corners. When I turned left, I passed a half a dozen homes with chestnut streets in their front yards, then reached the end of the block at Spruce Street.” When he was a little older and “finally allowed to go all the way around the block on my tricycle, I would peddle very fast past the pool hall, a hole in the wall of one of the town’s oldest brick blocks, whose proprietor, grey and cadaverous, would sometimes be standing on its doorstep, seemingly afraid to come out into a world of breathable air.” (Just a personal note here—I had a green tricycle upon which I had many an adventure thus can so relate to Michael and his tricycle—it was a magical vehicle which took me where I wanted to go as fast as my little legs would peddle. Had I run across the cadaverous proprietor once though, I would have probably changed my route.)

I recognize a few of the places that Michael talks about but am fascinated by the Kingsville of yesteryear of which he devotes about a quarter of the book. His descriptions are rich with nostalgia; and in the words of author, David J. Bercuson, his memories about the small town where he grew up “have a canny sense of time and place…. (he) manages to put his readers inside his story”. He is a wonderful story teller—something I did not particularly expect from someone who has written such tomes as “The Discovery of Insulin” (which may be a page turner in its own right).

In his preface he says somewhat modestly: “Almost every life is interesting enough to sustain a book if you know how to write it and if there is one person curious enough to start reading.” I am not sure what took me so long to pick up this book. Finally and gratefully, I have started reading it at the urging of Mr. Simon Vreman who lent me his copy. Admittedly I am only on the beginning chapters, but seeing my Kingsville through Michael’s eyes is illuminating—it reveals some of the foundation upon which our thriving little town continues to build itself.

 

 

About these ads
Published in: on May 6, 2014 at 11:23 am  Comments (17)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: http://onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/talkin-bout-my-generation/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s always interesting seeing the history of your own town through a previous resident’s eyes. It gives you a different perspective to consider.

    • and one you could not have experienced because the previous resident is older

      • Exactly :). It’s interesting to see how things have changed – sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better.

  2. I would love to read this book….going to download it on my kindle. I love how you weave a book review into your column…..ever the book lover!

  3. Geez now I gotta read it

  4. It’s a long time since I last heard that song, but now I can’t get it out of my head. :) The book sounds fascinating, Lou.

  5. I seriously want to read now :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  6. “Almost every life is interesting enough to sustain a book if you know how to write it and if there is one person curious enough to start reading.” I love that. I wish I’d written it because I’ve thought it a thousand times. It’s nice when local boys make good, isn’t it?

    • I loved that line too–and have often thought it myself–I would like to be local girl made good soon

  7. One theme that is true for all generations and gives us somethng in common and comes from the same source.

    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

    Although I’d venture that we improve only slowly, history shows it to be indomitable. Add to that, there is a joint enjoyment of much of the old music, Some of it speaks just as well now as it did then.

    Have good day. :-D

  8. Sounds like an interesting book, especially since you can identify with so much of the local history. I agree with the quote that most lives are book-worthy. What’s that saying? Truth is stranger (or maybe more interesting) than fiction? Seems spot on! ~ Sheila

  9. How wonderful it must be to have a memory of his childhood like he does. I agree with him that if everyone was able to do that there would be a lot of interesting stories…. Diane

    • so true–he is a published author of some note so I guess this was not much of a stretch for him


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 630 other followers

%d bloggers like this: