Tag Archives: nostalgia

The Mill Manager’s House


It was, I recall, spacious and modern,
open and elegant, and so very, very uncluttered.
My friend Dave lived there and I stayed over some nights,
pauper to the manor come, I as alien to it as it was to me—
so young, the wonder of it, I didn’t even know to yearn for it.

To be honest, I had forgotten it
and now I see they’re going to tear it down—
that is, after all, the lesson of that town:
life found and lost in the same grand way.
Most heartaches are like that,
especially the ones you push behind,
until they catch you—
and then you can’t help yourself,
lesson-learned or not
or whether you are still that innocent.

I was born, bred and buttered (as they say) in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Canada. It was, when I was young, a mill town, the main industry being a once world-class pulp-and-paper mill that produced newsprint for some of the world’s most prestigious newspapers. My father worked there most of his life, and I for a short time too, off-and-on as a laborer and then as a student engineer. The mill operated for well over a century and was integral to the area. But it is gone now, shuttered over a decade ago and torn down since. I’ve mentioned it before, in Labour Day.

Don Parker (his wife was Doreen, a lovely lady) was mill manager in the early 70’s, and so got to live in an especially luxurious house on a local estate. I had known their son, Dave for years before even that, and essentially the story of the poem is exactly as stated. Dave stayed with y family occasionally, and I with them.

That house made me feel awkward; it was elegant on a scale and in a style beyond anything I had ever known. I was shocked by it, I suppose. Today I probably would not think twice about it, and as the poem says, until I saw the story of its eminent destruction I had forgotten all about it; the memory of how it had once made me feel came back in a rush. But that is the power of memories, I suppose. And poems.

Thank you for reading The Mill Manager’s House. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken directly from the CBC article about the building being destroyed. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

 

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The Royal Stores


I remember him only as a child would,
a tall, brusque, pine-knobby man
with a big, bristle mustache
and red stains on the front of his apron.

At my request he took the hook
down off the pillar to fish
for a lean haunch in a wooden barrel,
weighing it on the big, white scale
at the end of the hardwood counter.

Tearing a sheet of butcher paper
from a roll hung high, he tied it
with a pure white twine also pulled
from the magic of those heavens.

I stared, fascinated, as he scrawled something
on the package with a grease pencil
and nearly jumped when he snapped the string
with a mighty and swift tug of his bare hands.

Put it on…(God! What’s her name? I panicked,
Not Aunt Vi!)…Violet Jackman’s account,
I squeaked and started the long walk back,
having earned my treat of the sweet red meat.

So did we learn, all us little people then,
and all of it long gone now, just memories,
old histories to us who were there, soon lost—
hold on and let it all go, let it go…
Like that twine, which I still can’t snap like that,
I’ve tried.

My sister doubts this memory and I may well have confused a trip to the store for our Aunt Vi  with a recollection of going to the Royal Stores with my mother or father.  My sister points out that the walk from my aunt’s house to the Royal Stores was the farthest of all the possibilities, and that she would probably have sent me to the much closer Ryan’s Cash and Carry; and that the name on the account would have been my uncle’s, George Jackman, he being the bread winner. Or, at most, that she would have sent me to the Co-op Store, where she was a member.

Still, my memory is what it is, and I present it to you for all that a flawed piece of reflection it may be. We are all the little things of little people in little places.

My sister reminded me of many more things of the little town where we grew up:

Of Garl Morrisey’s pharmacy where you could get ‘floats’ made in paper cups, and who bought a Volkswagen Beetle and parked it outside, so that his enormous Newfoundland dog, Patty, would have a place to rest. That shop later moved next to the movie theater and became Winslows and is now Grand Falls Pharmacy; the original storefront then became a camera shop where I bought my first serious equipment.

Of the bakery that was imaginatively called The Bake Shop (owned by Miss Sally Spicer) where two of my other aunts worked; that was next to the soda bottling plant and both down from the local paper, The Advertiser, now long out of operation and the building gone. There was a shoe store in that area too (another aunt worked there) but that was somewhat later. It too is gone.

Of the fact that Aunt Vi’s best friend was Et Hunt.

Of the fact that in the Royal Stores (not to mention Stewarts in Windsor) there were no cash registers. All transactions were put in a little cage and run by wire to “the office” where change and/or receipts were made and returned the same way.

There is no Royal Stores today, the company is long out of business and even the building is gone; all that remains is a gravel parking lot.

Thank you for reading The Royal Stores. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is from the The Exploits Valley Royal Stores post of the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company blog and is used by permission. It is circa 1960s, the era of the poem; the Royal Stores is the blue and white building on the far right.

To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

Poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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One-hit-wonder

In a weak moment of optimism
I thought I could build a patio of four terraces,
in stone, in my lifetime.
It had become, by then, a misery of heat, humidity and sunburn,
sodden shirts, squashed fingers, stinging eyes and sore back.

But it was there on that patio,
from a neighbor’s open window, that I heard it,
a song I’d not heard in years—
a great melody, played incredibly, sung wonderfully,
the perfect summer moment…

Recorded by accident, I recalled, on a whim,
with the wrong personnel late at night.

It was almost lost and then released anyway,
more by indecision than design.

My wife found me later, laughing to myself,
slapping down rock with abandon.
God, I love to sweat!

I recently found this nearly lost gem several backup-layers down, deep in the bowels of an old directory I was about to purge. It dates from 2006 and while I remember the incident, I cannot, for the life of me, remember the song that sparked it! And if you are wondering, yes, I did eventually finish the patio, all four terraces of it. 🙂

Thank you for reading One-hit-wonder. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in our garden on one of the terraces. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Like being there


Mom bought our first color TV in ’67,
so we could watch Bob Gibson personally
best the Red Sox in the World Series.
She loved baseball to be sure,
but she loved it even more on that Trinitron
(although, to be fair, the image was fuzzy
and the too-much-red/too-much-green worse.)
Still, I’d run home from school as fast as I could
so we could agonize over every pitch and play.
In the final inning of the final game,
I cursed a few times and not only
didn’t she notice, but she cursed along too.

Sometimes in life, it’s not about the doing,
but about the done and who you were with at the time.
Which is why, I suppose, I don’t watch baseball anymore.

September is the anniversary of my mother’s passing. In honor of her memory and her favorite time of the year—the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season and the start of the playoffs for the World Series—I decided to post this poem. My only sibling, my sister, gives it a “perfect!” So there.

Read on only if you are a baseball nerd… 🙂

The ‘Impossible Dream’ Boston Red Sox team of 1967 (at the time, the first winning Red Sox team in a decade) was formidable, anchored by future hall-of-famers Carl Yastrzemski and ace pitcher and Cy Young award winner Jim Lonborg. Yet, despite this, their making it into the World Series at all was a near miracle, since in the last weekend of regular season, four teams were in the pennant running, separated by 1 game apiece.

But then, when the Sox got to the World Series, they ran into Bob ‘Hoot’ Gibson‘s St. Louis Cardinals. The seven game series that followed was one of the most entertaining, nerve wracking, nail biter series of all times. After 4 games it looked like the Cards were a lock, but the Sox fought back and won the next two, forcing a game-of-the-decade showdown, only to face Gibson on the mound and lose, yet again, to him. With 3 wins (rare for a pitcher in a 7 game series) and even some productive hitting (also a rarity for pitchers) Gibson was the well-deserved Most Valuable Player of the series. In an odd twist of fate, Boston’s ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was not broken until 2004 (despite attempts in ’75 and ’86) when they swept the Cardinals for their first World Series since 1918. Meanwhile, St. Louis is second on the list (after They Who Shall Not Be Named) for most Series wins, 11 out of 19 appearances.

Thank you for reading Like being there. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is a domain free stock image which I blurred and then oversaturated the reds and greens. That sure bought back some memories! To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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The privilege

The snowstorm is since gone,
the driveway plowed, the sidewalks cleared
and the curbside gaps cut for each door.
I’ve shoveled out and cleared off the woodpile
and am lugging in the last load
when I glimpse him, 50 years gone,
standing there in the bitter white-on-white.

It snowed then, in that place, at that time,
in my mind, even more so than now:
mountains of the stuff so that it took
hours and hours to dig yourself out.
It was cold then, too—shivery, wet, break-your-back cold,
with the snow caking your mittens
and your arms leaden with the lifting. How I hated it.
But I did it.

So I wave to him, that little one
and smile as I lift the last of the firewood onto the porch.
I get it, dad, I get it.

What can I say? An absolutely true story, exactly as written. I was bringing firewood in from the woodpile after having cleaned up the snow from a recent snowstorm when my mind drifted back to snow clearing as a child those many years ago. So much has changed—so little has changed.

Thank you for reading The privilege. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at our home, but of a storm several years ago. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Hats did

hats

Men cannot wear hats anymore.
Caps, yes, but caps are low brow,
a statement in a statement that no one
seems to care they are making.

But hats—men’s hats—they are the relic of
a choice that was once close and dear
but is now long and gone, lost forever.
No one sells them, no one knows how to block them
and nowhere, anymore, will you find racks to hold them.
And when men do try to wear them,
they never know when to remove them,
when to raise them and certainly not when to pull them down.
The art of it is clearly lost.

Still, they lasted longer than politeness,
you have to give them that,
if nothing else.

up

I struggled with just the word ‘politeness’ and wanted, in fact, to use ‘common politeness’ instead, mostly because ‘uncommon politeness’ (think of the famous who detest each other, but who still make nice for the cameras) seems to be alive and well. However, it never scanned properly and in the end, you have to go with what comes well off the tongue.

Thank you for reading Hats did. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

The photo is in the public domain. Poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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George Harrison’s 12 string Rickenbacker

up

Fit once for merely banging around
it rests somewhere I suppose,
in some display, old, worn,
rubbed and cracked, perfect in every way.
Unable not to, in my mind’s eye, I reach out,
hitting the barrier of glass, if not memory:
and there—innocently enough—it cries, laughs,
is loud but strangely far away, one grand chime,
singing and running, happy once again, once more.
I can always, I thought, if I want, when I do,
be back there for an hour in a second.
But then?

It was a world, but it was just a world
and is a world now going, soon gone,
no regrets—well, some—but that gets you nowhere
so no, none. I smile as I reach out again,
soon gone. But not now, not today,
not yet, not gone.
Play on.

That opening chord and scene of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night: what a perfect memory for that era.  (Not to mention the granddaddy prototype of all music videos!) If you don’t know it, check it out here on YouTube. It was made possible by George Harrison acquiring a unique sounding 12 string electric guitar, made by Rickenbacker. (In fact there were two, an early prototype and a full production model.) It is hard, today, to understand what a powerful and trend-setting effect it had on popular music. For one example: so impressed by the sound was a young musician, Roger McGuinn, that he bought one and founded the legendary 60’s band The Byrds around it.

Thank you for reading George Harrison’s 12 string Rickenbacker. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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