The People and Random Events that shape our lives (Part 2):

After moving to Ottawa my vision deteriorated rapidly to the point where I could no longer see what was written on the blackboard at school. Not one to complain, my parents only discovered it when they were told I was failing grade 2.

We lived on Prince of Wales Drive (Hwy 16) in a suburb of Ottawa called Courtland Park. In those days, Courtland Park consisted of six streets completely cut off from the rest of Ottawa by farmland, the Experimental Farm being on the North (Baseline Road) side of the suburb. We were also not connected to the city water in the early days. On the west side was an artesian well. In the winter, the community set up a large skating rink beside the artesian well with a small shack to put your skates on and warm up. I got carried away playing hockey one evening, hadn’t noticed how cold it was, and froze both ear lobes such that they looked star-trekish for a number of days.

We were bussed in to the Carleton Heights public school further up the highway and then later took the city bus to high school. If you wanted to go into town, you took the bus to Carling Avenue and from there a street car took you the rest of the way up Preston Street and beyond.

There weren’t a lot of people my age in our neighbourhood – just Brian Hassard and myself. Brian was more of a co-conspirator than a friend. My Dad wouldn’t allow anything remotely dangerous to go on around our house. Brian’s parents on the other hand were educators so I assume they felt that anything Brian did was educational. They seemed completely oblivious to the fact that play for the day might for example consist of blowing up garbage cans in their back yard.

Dad was cautious but didn’t check to see what was going on in our unfinished basement so prep for a project was sometimes done in our basement and then executed in the more educational surroundings of Brian’s back yard. One project was a small howitzer built from a 2 foot piece of copper pipe with tin from a tin can soldered to the bottom and a hole drilled in it so you could drop a lady-finger down so the fuse would stick out. A larger fire cracker that nicely fit in the tube had it’s fuse taped so that it acted like a delayed fuse. We lit the lady finger, it propelled the larger fire cracker and at the same time lit the larger fire cracker – timed with the fuse delay to go off when it came back to the ground – usually in some other neighbour’s back yard.

One halloween brainstorm: the Hassards had a vacuum cleaner that you could reverse connect, fill with flour and blow it out the mail slot at the trick or treaters to turn them into white ‘ghosts’. We tried it once and it worked so well that we never did again (didn’t want to overplay the educational angle and ruin a good thing).

By the time Brian and I were 11 or so we had moved on to other things.

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