Glenn Cochrane: Memories of a kinder, gentler time

When I was but a lad growing up in Hamilton, I used to hang around with my contemporaries at the Shorty Green, which was located a few blocks from where I lived. Shorty Green was the popular name which we called the small water fountains that were a fixture on many street corners in my native city, and they were a welcome sight indeed on a warm summer day.

The fountains were low enough that kids could reach them easily, and they were connected to the underground domestic water supply by pipes protected by a sturdy metal column painted green. Hence the name Shorty Green.

In addition, for some reason young girls were not attracted to the site and this was an important consideration for seven-year-old boys which was the average age of my contemporaries at the time.

When I look back, I realize those fountains were symbols of much gentler times, but such times have not disappeared entirely and for proof I take you now to the intersection of Wineva Avenue and Queen Street.

Three times a day, all through the school year, that area is ruled by a school crossing guard named Nellie Gilbert, and she sees to it that her youthful clientele gets to where they have to go in orderly fashion. With
help, of course, from a number of parents and guardians, all of whom have slightly concerned looks on their faces that do not disappear until school lets out at the end of June.

Nellie’s guardianship does not go unnoticed and every year a small army of youngsters such as Victoria and Rachel show their appreciation with a small gift and a great big hug.

I turn my attention now to a change in picnic patterns that I view with
growing concern. There was a time not too long ago when preparations for a family picnic were as simple as can be. Mom made about 75 peanut butter sandwiches, aunts and uncles showed up with home-baked cookies and cake and off we went to the nearest park which had hot water available for Grandma’s tea.

It’s a whole new ball game these days. The serviceable sandwich made with unassuming white bread has disappeared, to be supplanted by elaborate repasts of breaded pheasants and Chicken à King, all of it prepared on broilers twice the size of the Little Engine That Could.

Several hours later, at the end of the picnic the air-conditioned tent is taken down, the surplus pate de foie gras is distributed all around and a draw is held for the left over champagne. Then everybody agrees that it is good for the soul to get back to the simpler things in life. Meanwhile, a bemused onlooker takes another bite out of his peanut butter sandwich and reflects on the changing times.

I chanced upon my old pal Bootsie Faraday recently, and am pleased to report that he is in good health and doing well in the world of finance. As you may remember, he encountered a series of setbacks recently, but has bounced back as he always does. I do not know the details of his latest endeavor but as near as I can figure out he appears to have established a system where he obtains the teeth from department store dummies and sells them to retired hockey players.

Bootsie grew a trifle furtive when I asked him how he acquired his ersatz choppers so I let the matter drop because it has been my experience that when he gets testy he begins flailing about in a most destructive way so that’s always a good time to move on to other matters.


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