It is a whirlwind in here



Major University Reunion Ends In Virtual Reality

I had some designs on actually attending this significant University Reunion a number of years ago. I did know it was on its way. A pandemic covering the world put a stop to that.

But, since my graduation year hit a milestone, I decided to see what was going to happen online. I fully accepted that the lobster boil was not going to be on the menu.

When all is said and done, this past weekend’s events were fine enough. Zoom takes one to sundry places and I heard a couple of talks, and saw a tour of the campus. Not greatly different – I knew where I was. One residence built in my graduation year has since been totally renovated. I have not.

I was /was not surprised by the number of participants at the class reunion of my year. Twenty (20) to start the hour, seventeen (17) at the end. One of whom I actually knew. I said my two cents worth in passing.

I regret not sharing this story at the time, but didn’t want to hog the hour.

I had gone to a couple of earlier reunions , one where I was told by a server of the lobster boil: “I like your style.” I believe I was being praised for my gusto.

It was at my first reunion that this event happened. Tables were set in long rows, filling a hockey rink surface. Each table (and in certain places, a number of tables)had a large sign announcing the year of graduation. My year had three tables end to end, the year on each of them. I’d guess seating for 50 -60 folk. All the place settings were there, and each table had three bottles of unopened wine present. What was lacking were members of my graduating class. I would say there were fewer than a dozen.

And even they started to trickle away, I assume a few went to sit with friends. I know a number went to sit at the table where Anne Murray was seated. She was getting, I believe, an Honorary Degree (and a literal carved wooden chair). She was a legitimate graduate from years before, in Physical Education.

So, shortly before the food was served, I was left by myself at my Graduating Class table. But with most of that wine (some folk scooted off with a bottle or two). Decent hefty red – Marechal Foch.

I believe I finished two bottles.

At the end of the meal, there were ceremonies. I believe that is when Anne got her chair. However, there was something called “The Roll Call of the Years” I quickly discovered that, when each year was announced, all the folk from that year stood up at their table, by their year sign, and were applauded by everyone present.

I sat alone at my table.

I did not wish such attention paid me, but I had a dilemma. What was most obvious, to keep sitting (for everyone could read the class year), or to stand on my own?

Ladies and gentlemen, it helps to have two bottles of Marechal Foch giving you good cheer.

I rose from my seat at the announcement of my year and clasped both hands over my head, waving enthusiastically. I was cheered to the rafters.

I was even asked by a couple of other tables if I might want to join them.

I declined.

There were still unopened bottles at ‘my’ table.

Gap Year Sets You Loose Upon The World


I was pleased as punch when I realised the other day that I had taken a Gap Year many years ago. And I was surprised to find that ‘Gap Year’ is a term which started in the 1960s. I rather thought it was from Academia in England from centuries ago.

I was correct to associate Gap Year with travel to new places, or a time to do good deeds. But also – happily – it was also a year between high school and university for students to take a turn in the real world through gainful employment.

The latter was me – admittedly edged forward by the fact that my Algebra marks were deplorable. I got an almost immediate job as an Apprentice Plate Maker in a printing shop. I doubt such a job exists anymore.

My job was two-fold. I placed negatives of photos and text on a metal plate, that had a mixture of chemicals hardened to its surface. Then I placed the metal plate, with negatives, in front of two burning pieces of a substance I no longer remember. They looked like two large and thick pencils. I believe an electrical current set the pencils alight, and the resulting, concentrated fire, burned all the chemical surface off the metal plate, except for the part covered by the negatives. The end result was a metal plate with nothing but the required image upon it.

The metal plate was then coated in ink, which only adhered to the raised image. The image was then transferred to paper and cardboard, making logos (we did many spice labels) plus photos and text. There would be a separate metal plate created for each different colour.

Thus went my Gap Year, which lasted fourteen months. No travels of the world, and no altruistic attempts to make the world a better place.

But I did help sell spice.


In The Heat On The Way To Dachau


This heat (which seems to be a stubborn fixture) takes me back to my university days, when I worked on a farm in Germany in lieu of getting into a Goethe Institute. It was a particularly hot summer, and much was made of it. I am very glad I am not working there this summer. It was not particularly taxing farm work. I could describe how I painted apple trees with a chemical compound to keep foraging sheep at bay. Or how I escaped from the midst of a herd of bulls after breaking my whip on one of their backs – but I won’t.  However, if ever I  get to my memoirs . . .

After the farm I travelled through Germany and parts of Europe,  mostly by train.  One of my stops was Munich where, as often as not, I stayed in a Youth Hostel. And there I met the Jewish gal on her way to Dachau. She was from the US and not on a work experience as was I. Dachau was a specific destination. She either borrowed postage stamps from me, or I from her – I don’t remember though I know we exchanged them.  We had the part of two days together (no – no night) and then she was on her way. I don’t remember if she asked me to accompany her to Dachau, but I think not. Although I was on my way to Britain to visit relatives, I believe I could have taken that extra day.

As it was, we exchanged addresses and upon our return home we wrote letters. And, as it was, we arranged a visit to my New Brunswick home from her New England home.  That was quite a leap for less than twenty-four hours together. And, she must have been a bit concerned when, as I drove her through thick New Brunswick woods after sunset  after picking her up at the airport, I stopped in the middle of nowhere for two hitch hikers. I remember the deep smell of pine from their clothes, as they had been working in the woods.

She stayed with my parents and I four days (no nights there, either – though there were a couple of parked car intervals). She told me that when her mother was talking to her grandmother on the phone about the trip, she heard her grandmother bellow across the room “IS HE JEWISH?”

Thus does memory flow from a post card.

I don’t, alas, remember her last name (this being some years ago). At the time she was studying to be an air traffic controller. Whether she  became one and whither she went I do not know. When I last communicated with her she was attending Brown University. She did not discuss Dachau with me.

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