Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Out of the closet

During my recent visit with my parents, I helped my mother clean out a closet. Not just any closet, though -- MY closet, in the room that was once, briefly, my room, in the year between when my parents moved to this town & house and I finished graduate/journalism school, and when I got married, some 33 years ago now. (My sister usually stays there now, when all of us are home.)  It wasn't ALL my stuff in there, of course -- my mother had added & subtracted items in the years since then, and I hadn't really looked at anything in it in a good 30 years -- but I knew what was there.

Sort of. I thought.

What I thought would be there: a brown cardboard carton, containing my childhood/teenaged journals, which I was really hoping to find and take home with me. For whatever reason, it wasn't there. (Perhaps it's been moved to some dark corner of the basement crawl space...??).

But I did find lots of other stuff -- some I remembered, some I didn't.

Among the items I found:
  • all my old childhood/teenaged scrapbooks, from which I plucked a few special theatre programs and newspaper clippings to save for posterity. 
  • a box full of complete issues and clippings from the weekly newspaper I worked on as a reporter, in the year before I got married. I tossed the full issues and kept the clippings for my portfolio. I don't think I'll be returning to work anytime soon, if ever, but just in case... 
  • cards -- Christmas, birthday, Valentine -- mostly from my university years, from friends, dorm floormates, aunts & uncles, grandparents, even my sister (!!). 
  • a huge box stuffed full of letters from friends and penpals. I think I kept every one I ever got. Oh my gosh, people, we used to WRITE LETTERS. Long, fat, letters, written BY HAND... my ones to my penpal in New Zealand (who sometimes comments here) sometimes ran as long as 100 pages or more, as were hers to me. I shredded some and threw out most of the rest, but kept a few.   
    • Among the letters were a surprising number (more than I remembered) from boys: old boy friends and boyfriends/love interests, including friends/band buddies I hung out with at school (lost touch with most of them; miss them & wonder what they're up to now??);  the first boy who kissed me, when I was 15 (I Googled him and he now has a fairly high-ranking job with the United Nations...!), my Grade 12 Ottawa trip crush from British Columbia (who wrote to me through my first year of university before our correspondence fizzled out), and my pre-dh boyfriend (who wound up marrying my next-door residence neighbour from that time :p and, I think, now resides in B.C. ).  
Most of the paper stuff (and there was a LOT of paper...) went into the recycling bin. Well, pile. (Well, pileS, plural.)  There was way too much to fit into the bin for the weekly recycling pickup, so we had to load everything into my dad's car, drive it to the local recycling depot and unload it there. It was hard to get rid of so much of my past -- especially all the letters -- but (as with our move to the condo last year) I knew it had to be done. My parents may be downsizing themselves, sooner than later, and won't have room to keep all this stuff for us anymore. Heck, *I* don't have the room to keep all this stuff anymore either. And I don't have any kids of my own to eventually unload it on either. Not that they would have been interested in it...

So I took a fond last look through things (yes, I hadn't looked at it in 30 years, but I still knew it was there, you know??), took a few photos of some of the more amusing/special items, gritted my teeth -- and then out it went. I whittled everything down to two smallish boxes (think the size of a large Christmas gift box from the Gap) & a bag of letters. It was too much/too heavy to take everything home on the plane with us this time (besides, my minimalist dh would have had a fit...!) so I took a few things home with me now and will bring a few more home with me at Christmastime.  Beyond my own things, I helped my mother go through the stuff that was hers (toss/donate/garage sale). The stuff we went through was previous crammed onto two shelves above the clothes on the rod;  we cleared out the top shelf entirely and you can actually see bare space on the bottom shelf now. ;)

Box of old letters, sitting on top of carton of old newspapers & clippings.
It's partly empty in this photo, but was packed full when I opened it.
These all got sent to the recycling depot. 

All this paper -- newspapers, scrapbooks, old cards & letters
(plus the empty boxes they were stored in)-- went to the recycling depot. 

The stuff on the left is all that remained after the purge.
(The stuff on the right either got put inside one of these boxes, or thrown out too.)
I took the pile of letters and some items from the two boxes home with me.
The rest went back into the closet to be retrieved at a future date (when I have more luggage capacity).
*** *** ***

There was one particular box I held off opening until near the end, because I knew (more or less) what it contained. First of all, if you have no idea who the Bay City Rollers were...don't tell me, I don't want to know, lol. (I feel old enough already!!)  They were not the "new Beatles" (as some optimistically proclaimed them -- although they inspired similar hysteria to the early Fab Four) -- but I would certainly say they were the Backstreet Boys/New Kids on the Block/'NSync/One Direction/(you get the idea) of their day -- which was MY day, when I was in my mid-teens in the mid/late-1970s.

I distinctly remember packing my "Roller gear"/paraphernalia away in that box, & thinking that someday, I would have a teenaged daughter who was equally crazy about some boy band and who would tearfully accuse me (as I once accused my own mother) that I JUST DIDN'T UNDERSTAND how she felt. And voila!!  I would produce The Box, and show her that, oh yes, I most certainly did. :)

It was a fun fantasy while it lasted...

Although I tossed the majority of the box's contents, I still wound up keeping:
  • a fan fiction story (although the term didn't exist back then) that I wrote (in longhand, having not yet learned to type and word processors not invented yet). (I haven't re-read it -- yet?? -- and I'm sure it's embarrassing as hell -- but I can't bear the idea of shredding it yet either...)
  • a huge, rather risque (especially for a teenaged girl in 1978!) fold-out poster that once hung over my bed, sent to me by a British penpal (believe me, we didn't see this kind of stuff in the pages of Tiger Beat or 16 Magazine back then, lol), of my favourite Roller (Woody, the bass player, who usually wore yellow Macleod tartan and was barely out of his teens himself), wearing nothing but a smile and a very long, strategically placed tartan scarf. ;)  (Similar to this one -- but mine was b&w.) 
  • the stub of my BCR concert ticket -- the very first concert I ever attended, at the Winnipeg Arena on August 15, 1976 -- exactly 41 years ago today!! (15th row on the floor, $6.50) -- framed on a tartan background, along with a half-inch snippet of Woody's shoelace, which a Roller friend had clawed from his running shoe while he stood onstage. :)  The frame sat on my dresser beside my bed, along with a favourite framed photo of Woody, during the years of my Rollermania.   
  • two favourite buttons -- one bought and one homemade (scotch-tape a favourite photo over an existing button & then cover it with tightly stretched plastic wrap for that glossy finish, & scotch tape THAT on the back...). (I had an entire container full of buttons, a small tartan-patterned cookie tin that had once contained shortbread... I think it came from Marks & Spencer, when we had M&S stores in Canada...)
  • and my Roller jeans (which I wore to the concert) -- a pair of jeans with the cuffs rolled up, mid-calf, trimmed down the sides and on the cuffs with Woody's favourite yellow Macleod tartan. I actually tossed them into the garbage bag at first -- but then I talked to my usually unsentimental sister who said, "Oh, I saved mine. No way I was throwing them out -- I HANDSEWED that stuff on!!"  I promptly went out to the garage, opened the garbage bag, & fished mine out, lol.  Not only did I also handsew on all that trim too, I made a pocket patch out of a scrap of material that I embroidered with a heart & Woody's name.)  
"The Box," opened for the first time in 30+ years! 

View of the side trim & personalized pocket patch,
all hand stitched by yours truly. 

Framed concert ticket stub & treasured snippet of shoelace. ;)   
Writing this post has made me nostalgic. So now, for your viewing/listening pleasure/amusement ;) here they are, direct from the Seventies, a couple of songs (not necessarily their biggest hits or best-known, but the ones I thought were most apropos for this post) from... (you guessed it)...

(Previous posts about cleaning out my parents' crawl space in the summer of 2009, here and here.)


  1. This whole post made me smile!

    Aaaah, Woody ... ;-)

  2. PS. I found this ... reasonably up to date photos of them now. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3249760/Bay-City-Codgers-gig-ended-punch-Forty-years-heart-attack-stroke-stint-rehab-original-boy-band-back.html

    1. Yes, I saw some of the press coverage when they had their reunion a while back, and I watched a few of the reunion concert videos while I was looking for ones to post here. Kind of a sad story in the end -- so much we didn't know as young innocent teenagers...! -- but it was fun while it lasted...!

      There's a great book (published in 1999) called "Bye Bye Baby" by Caroline Sullivan, about her experiences as a Roller fan. My British penpal (with whom I'm still in touch) sent it to me, although it was later available here in North America.