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Rated: E · Short Story · Experience · #1673177
Memories of an Alberta childhood.

I grew up in a small town on the Alberta prairie. The Welcome To and Come Back Soon signs were on the same post. They rolled the sidewalks up promptly at six, noon on Wednesdays. Friday night was late night shopping, the stores stayed open until nine. It was almost a social event. Sundays, everything was closed, except for the Chinese restaurant. He stayed open seven days a week.

Nothing much ever happened. Time seemed to revolve around the four seasons. Spring was planting. Summer was lazy. Fall was harvest. Winter, it was hockey and curling. That's how the year was measured.

Summer meant out of school. It was adventure. Big plans made at night, whispering in bed, the light of a flashlight powered by Ray O' Vacs glowing from under the covers.

The week's activities were generally centered on the Saturday Matinee at the Rio Theatre. Admission was a dime. If a kid was lucky, they got a quarter. Ten cents to get in, a nickel for popcorn, a nickel for a drink, and maybe a nickel to use at the Chinaman's store where candy was measured three for a penny, two for a penny and packaged in little paper bags.

War movies were always a favorite. We'd spend the next week crawling around the bushes behind the house reenacting the movie. Westerns were always a big hit. The most exotic were Tarzan movies; nothing raised more excitement than seeing the King of the Jungle.

The worst was when the hero kissed the girl. Oh, how we would moan and groan. "Whose idea was it to put a dame in the movie?"

We'd cover our eyes and wait for the mushy stuff to end. Oh, if we only knew!

Days were spent gathering beer bottles to sell to Dickering Del for a penny apiece, or fifteen cents for a dozen if you had the case they came in. Fifteen cents was a chunk of change. It meant two popsicles, or the newest comic book.

Every day at noon the whistle at the refinery would blow. Kids all over the town knew it was time to head home for lunch. If the whistle blew at any other time, everything stopped. People would race outdoors and gaze towards the Husky Oil refinery, it meant something had happened. A fire would certainly be disastrous. Sighs of relief sounded all over town when the whistle stopped. Life returned to the hum drum normal.

We spent afternoons reading and rereading comics. The most avid of the collectors would keep their comics sorted by title and issue. Any time you went to someone else's house, you would check out their collection of comics. We were connoisseurs of pulp. Long discussions would be held on which issue was the best. Which character was the ultimate hero?

The Woolworth's store had a lunch counter. With stools. It was our saloon. We'd sally up to the counter, order a root beer from the bartender, well, waitress. We thought she was pretty old, probably twenty-two or so. She'd wink at us and say, "What'll ya have, boys."

We'd be feeling our oats and reply, "Beer!" And then giggle.

Our bicycles were our steeds, supersonic jets, and motorcycles, whatever the day called for. Miles and miles were ridden each day, riding here, riding there. Important missions were run, secret messages delivered.

There could be a war on between different factions. Cheap telescopes dug out for spying missions. Elaborate codes and passwords developed. Serious glances exchanged. It was time to go into battle. Ammo was gathered for the raid. A lookout screamed. We were under attack before we could mount our own offensive. Missiles rained down, overripe crabapples, tomatoes, old potatoes. Garbage can lids served as shields.

At the end of the battle no one would remember what the war was about. Laughter was exchanged and friendships renewed.

Evenings were the best. The Pre-Kast company built septic tanks. They were large box-like concrete things that they placed in rows, forming a large maze. The perfect spot for playing hide and seek. Hours were spent hiding, and then creeping to home base, trying not be caught.

As the sun sank below the western horizon, mothers could be heard calling their brood home. Goodnights, and see-ya-in-the-mornings were exchanged as everyone retreated to their homes. The most unfortunate ones would have a date with the bathtub.

Dreams, prairie dreams, flowing on the night wind. Listen to the whistle of the Trans-Continental roaring west, gaining speed. The cool breeze blows in through the open window. The air is sweet with moisture. Nothing moves, the town is asleep, waiting for the sun to bring it to life once again.

Dream on, prairie dreams,
Flowing on the night wind,
Selkirk and Red Fife,
Waving with the breeze.

Dream on, prairie dreams,
Weathered face, knowing eye,
Masseys and Cockschutts,
Runnin' through the night.

Dream on, prairie dreams,
Take me back home,
Dream on, prairie dreams,
The home of my youth.
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