No. 1 skeletons

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Emply glass milk bottles.My head is full of different types of memories. Some are good memories, like playing hockey on the pond with my dad or my mom taking me to get my ears pierced. Other memories are sad, like when I had to say goodbye to my friends and move to a new community a couple of hundred kilometres away. I also have memories about things that once didn’t made sense to me but I’ve since clarified them over the years.

In Westville, NS in the mid-70s, there was still a milkman. Carton and jugs of milk were sold in the store but the milkman also delivered milk in glass bottles to homes around town. My family’s house even had a cut-out in the wall of our entryway for the milk. Every morning my parents put out a sign that either said “No” (they didn’t want milk) or “Yes” (they wanted milk). When the milk came, the full bottles were put on the shelf in the entry way. The milk was kept fresh with a cap, a cap that had No. 1 written on it. When six-year-old me read that, I was confused.

Huh? No one is supposed to drink the milk? Why not? I asked my parents about this and they explained to me that the N and the O were short form for the word number. The milk people were declaring their milk as Number One – the best milk to drink. Oh. Sure?

Apartheid was another thing I struggled to understand. Dad and me (I might have been seven) were shopping for a birthday present for mom and we went into a nice store. I found a glorious shiny brass plate and thought I had struck gold. It was perfect.

“No,” said Dad. “This was made in South Africa. We don’t buy anything from there.”

“Why not?”

“Because of apartheid. The government there doesn’t treat black people fairly.”

I’m sure my father gave me a more lengthy history lecture but I couldn’t understand why this South Africa would treat its people terribly. However, the lesson was learned and my world both widened and shrank at the news that not everyone is treated equally.

Red Skelton’s name was a head-scratcher for me as a kid. On a March break trip to Florida, my family was visiting John’s Pass, a touristy fishing village. Red Skelton, the comedian and early TV performer, had an exhibition of his art there and was also there in person.

“I just met Red Skelton!” said my mother.

Red Skelton with artwork,

Red Skelton with artwork, 1948. Macfadden Publications.

“Who?”

I had interpreted the artist’s name as Red Skeleton. Why was mom so excited to see a bloody skeleton? How was this guy even alive?

“He’s a clown who paints clowns.”

That did not make the image in my head any better.

Knowlton Nash is another figure I had a hard time figuring out many years before I became a journalist myself. When my family was in Ottawa staying at the Chateau Laurier, Nash was staying at the same hotel. There was some sort of world conference going on and the CBC anchor was either covering it or part of it. My mom spotted him in the hotel gift shop.

“There’s Knowlton Nash!”

Nolltown Gnash? I looked over the man my mother was (covertly) staring at and saw a blond haired man with huge glasses. He’s an icon in the media world where I’d end up later in life but as a tween girl, I had no idea why this man was worthy of being recognized. And what was up with those mammoth glasses?

Nowadays, I can just google anything that muddles my brain. But back then, when computers took up a lot more space than the palm of my hand, I had to work things out for myself, skeletons and all. Interestingly enough though, my own last name never caused me any nor my playground playmates any confusion.

“Tell me a story, Lea Storry!” they’d shout to me at recess.

Thankfully, my parents didn’t call me Rita.

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