It was at the beginning of summer holidays that two or three new girls could be seen wandering the roads around twilight.
In our little community of 400 or 500 people, two or three extra warm bodies represented a considerable increase in the numbers of young people seeking to interface. This was long before we had ever heard of that word, of course. But had we been asked to define it, the definition would have been nothing like the present one.
That applies to many modern terms which we would not have recognized back in the ’50s, but would have still been able to provide totally applicable definitions. Such was the genius of the young minds of my day. These would have included: software, laptop, hard drive, operational speed and website. There are others, but I prefer not to expand this line of thought, at least not at this time.
To the sophisticated people of a thoroughly modern era, this minor female influx may seem to be an insignificant event in the overall social scheme of things. Not so. Where there were no movie theaters, stadia, ballfields, pop concerts, rock ’n’ roll extravaganzas, parks and one or two other minor distractions for the younger generation, this increase in the nubile population was only slightly less significant than Woodstock.
At least to the boys it was. Not sure how the girls felt about it. These new additions to the roads came courtesy of their local cousins who walked the new girls up and down as if they were prizes to be won at a community fair, if we had known what that was.
I think the regular female perambulators of the nighttime roads looked a little askance at the new ones. They were, after all, the competition and nothing is more competitive than new competition, if you follow. Normally, the regular community girls might lead you in a merry chase up drungs, behind old sheds, through some trees or even underneath Uncle Jim’s old flake. If you were really lucky, they let you chase them into the store loft. But they never intended to be caught. Well, there were always one or two …
But suddenly, with the arrival of the “cousins,” the rules changed. Now the local girls were so easily caught that chasing them was no fun at all, especially when you didn’t know what to do with them when you caught them. I should point out that not too many lingered at that particular knowledge plateau for very long.
One of the problems, or should I say challenges, of pursuing young maids up and down the road whose faces you had not seen very clearly was that, well, you had not seen their faces very clearly. Oh shallow sexist youth! I admit it. Looks were really important to us. I understand that this is not the case these days when boys and girls care very little about how they look to each other. But we had not progressed that far. We wanted to know what we were getting into.
Only one way to find out — ye olde swimming hole. Commensurate with the arrival of the cousins from St. John’s or Grand Falls-Windsor (which it wasn’t in those days) came the warming up of the waters sluicing through the widened out part of the brook that was our pool. “Warming” was a relative term, as were “widened” and “pool.” Truth was, there were trout in that brook in July that hadn’t fully escaped the effects of January hypothermia. In fact, there were trout in that brook still suffering from the effects of the last ice age.
We had a time-honoured and effective process of surviving the water called “getting used to it.” Our pool was about 100 yards from the briny North Atlantic Ocean. We would make our way carefully to the water’s edge, carefully avoiding crabs and bergy bits until we could lower our adolescent backsides fully into the Labrador current. You lost all feeling in your nether regions within five seconds of immersion. The power of speech was likewise adversely affected, so that the only sound that came from your mouth was a cross between a high pitched scream and a throaty growl, the emphasis to either end of that scale depending on your gender.
Very few things powered by human muscle, bone and sinew can move faster than a 15 year old trying to get back to the lovely warm waters of a spring brook after being dipped in the cold Atlantic. That’s when we learned the truth of the axiom that everything is relative.
Once recovered, we would begin looking around for unfamiliar shapes and faces among those gathered around the water. It didn’t take long to spot them. Rarely did the reality of the next day match the first fine careless rapture of the night before. We’d discuss it in hushed tones. How could a few hours make such a difference?
It was much later in life that we learned beauty was more in the eye of the beholder than in the lines of a bikini.
When you get right down to it, many of the byplays and incidental social contacts we made back in those good old days of the ’50s taught us many of the most important of life lessons.
For example, one should not be making important decisions on things seen only in the dark and not examined in the harsh glare of day. That applies to everything from cars to girls to women to fine art.
We also learned that one cannot tell the difference between a blond and a brunette in the dark, assuming one wanted to, or for that matter which one had more fun.
I notice the same phenomenon takes place today, except it seems to be more grandchildren to stay with grandparents. The problem there could be Nanny or Gramps — or, God forbid, both — wanting to walk the roads with the young lady in question. Why shouldn’t they? Given the way things are today?
I wouldn’t let them out of my sight.
Ed Smith is an author who lives
in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.