Sure, I’m a Forty-niner!

I once qualified as a “forty-niner,” although I never knew Clementine in that old song! It happens that 1949 was my graduation year from the first class for journalism ever to attend Carleton College in Ottawa, later Carleton University.
As part of our education in the nation’s capital, we toured the Bytown Inn (Bytown being Ottawa’s original name), and while at it, we also reconnoitered the Hull nightclubs on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river—purely to practise our French, you understand.
Ottawa being more than half French, I needed some French for selling shirts on Saturdays in Freeman’s department store, next to the Parliament buildings and close to Lower Town, which was fully French speaking.
So when customers requested “Un chemise blanc, si’l vous plait,” I was ready for them with a white shirt (fortunately for me, white shirts were by far the most popular colour).
Actually, I was making out okay financially, everything considered, with my tuition and living expenses being covered by the government as I was a war veteran.
My monthly room rent was only $15, and I would buy meal tickets for the full month from Barbarasso’s convenient restaurant where, because the operator found out my dad was Italian like him, I’d have a standing invitation to enjoy spaghetti with his friendly family every Sunday.
His cafe was in the Glebe, where I lived and attended college. It also was close to the airport, where I was coaxed into volunteering for the parachute team! Although this was good pay, I never made the first jump because our team was too full and the schedule too tight.
So, back to college, where I was impressed with our chief instructor, Wilfred Eggleston, then the dean of the parliamentary press gallery and a very professional newsman.
The reason I remember that name was his presence coincided with a humorous book fresh out at the time, “The Egg and I.”
So, of course, when we got him as guest speaker at our graduation banquet and made our class comedian, Cliff Johnson from Fort William, our program chairman, Cliff had to introduce our austere guest by referring to their relationship.
He opened with something about “The Egg and I,” which got everyone howling. Cliff was memorable, too.
Barbara Ann Scott, Olympic skating champion, was our guest of honour that night!
Anyway, now I’m learning some of our Fort Frances high schoolers have sights set on Carleton, including perhaps my own grandson. I’ll wish them as much good luck as I enjoyed there—along with the hope that its female students are just as pretty as those we knew in the days of the “forty-niners!”
Some of them might even know their way around Hull, where I’m told that the “Chez Henri” is still in business! And, if they can find a certain Italian restaurant, tell the operator I still have fond memories of the Barbarassos!
The Glebe, where I roomed for three terms, was a pleasant neighbourhood where my landlady’s name was Claxton. As a United clergyman’s widow, she shared a three-storey home with her only son. She called him “Clacky” and yelled for him at the top of her lungs regularly.
He did not appreciate this whenever someone else heard her at it, he said, but if he made her cranky, she would jump into the old family car and sometimes become involved in accidents. Once she even smashed into a home across the street!
Just because people you might expect would have class because they occupy the nation’s capital, don’t expect too much superiority to show sometimes, because people are just people wherever they may live.
But Ottawa was good experience for me with my quite different background!
And I must mention my granddaughter, who is enrolled in the third year of nursing at the University of Ottawa with only one year before graduation. She invited home a boy last summer and from what I could learn from both of them, Ottawa has changed some.
Yet there is still skating on the Rideau Canal—one of the leading wintertime recreations. And no, he did not speak French.
• • •
While I have appreciated the Myers family for three generations, I never expected all that birthday cake Monday morning that John Myers had his helpers pass around in my honour to all his coffee guests at McDonald’s.
And then I was floored when they all got in on singing “Happy Birthday” to me!
So, when Mary Lou, their hostess and busiest gal, staggered me with a big kiss, too, well that was extra icing on the cake.
John arranges all this for any of his regular customers whose birthdays he hears about, so little wonder his is such a popular coffee stop.
His parents were just as well-liked when his father, Rusty, operated his flying service after returning from the Second World War. I once was employed by Rusty’s father, Frank, in his lumber and paint store across from the papermill gates.
George Nault later managed this and Rusty would come along with a smile that brightened that whole end of town—same as John does for us today.

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