Sunday 29 March 2020

January 1990: Bye Bye Blues Gala Premiere

In January of 1990, Mom and I attended what was probably the world gala premiere of the wonderful made-in-Alberta film Bye Bye Blues,written and directed by Edmonton-born Anne Wheeler and starring Innisfail-born Rebecca Jenkins. The fact that the premiere was held at Edmonton's iconic Princess Theatre, on the city's historic (and still-thriving) Whyte Avenue made it all the more special.

Mom and I bundled up in coats, scarves, touqes and boots that bitterly cold January night. Even as late as 1990, winter was winter in Edmonton. We took a cab to the Princess from our apartment in the Bonnie Doon area. It took us a while to get there. Because when it gets bitterly cold and snowy in Edmonton, the roads do tend to be a trial.

When we got there, the atmosphere was unlike anything we had ever seen.


News crews.

Speeches from Wheeler and Jenkins.

All this hoopla for a movie made in Edmonton and Alberta?

It was my first notion that a very vibrant arts scene existed in our city and province.

And the movie, based on the experiences of Wheeler's mother, features Jenkins as Daisy Cooper, a '40s wife and mother raising her son and following her dream by becoming a singer in a dance band while her husband Teddy (Michael Ontkean) is away at war, thereby providing an income for her and her son. The band is run by travelling American musician Max Gramley (Luke Reilly). Naturally, complications ensue.

As well as the movie is written by Wheeler and scored by the late, great Alberta musician George Blondheim, for me it was a perfect opportunity to quiz Mom about stories she may have heard from that era as she was growing up. She told me about my great-uncle Adrien, who proudly served in WWII. And it was wonderful for us to be able to bring my grandmother and Mom's mom Lucille to the Princess a few months later when Bye Bye Blues played again. She confirmed to us that the spirit of togetherness and pulling together in tough times was accurate, though she was uncomfortable with what she considered one or two of the movie's "racier" elements.

But I certainly enjoyed the time we all spent together listening to and swapping stories, and being able to be brought back to a time, via the silver screen, to a time when people pulled together and sacrificed because it was the right thing to do.

Does that sound familiar in these times?

Some months later I was able to attend Bye Bye Blues: The Concert, which featured Ms. Jenkins, Mr. Blondheim and several renowned and outstanding Alberta musicians playing and singing songs from the film, as well as a few standards with our world-renowned Edmonton Symphony Orchestra  It was the first time I heard '40s-era torchy songs live, and will forever remember Mr. Blondheim's heartfelt quip from the stage that he was grateful to be up there, after he first saw the ESO with Procol Harum from the balcony back in 1971.

This one's for you Mom.

I love you.



Wednesday 11 March 2020

November 1981: Pepere and Memere's 35 th Anniversary Kitchen Dance

I remember a very cold weekend in November 1981.

I don't think global warming was a factor then..brrr!

Anyway, Jacquie and I traveled to St. Paul for the weekend with Mom and Dad, to see Grandma Lucille and Pepere Walter.

The trip to St. Paul takes just a little over two hours.

And in 1981, families usually took one of these iPod descendants...

...on a trip to pass the time.

And like most music lovers in 1981, we had this tape...

There was no music star bigger than Kenny Rogers in 1981.

Except for maybe Neil Diamond or Alabama.

We brought the tape and player into the house.

A few of our uncles and family friends happened to be there too.

After pleasantries and hugs were exchanged...

...Dad plugged in the player and started the tape.

First song on the tape?

You guessed it..."Lucille"!

Probably Kenny's  biggest hit other than "The Gambler".

And the one with the infamous lyric:

"Ya picked a fine time to leave me Lucille".

Not something you would expect a couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary to dance to.

But that was just what our dear Lucille and Walter did.

Right there in the center of their warm and cozy kitchen.

The song has a somewhat waltzy tempo.

So they waltzed.

But by the end, they were in each other's arms, as in a slow dance.

Perhaps remembering their first dance back in 1946.

And it was unforgettable.

And beautiful to watch.

I know it's early.

But Happy Anniversary Memere Lucille and Pepere Walter!

This one's for you guys.

And for Mom.

Your loving grandson,


Monday 9 March 2020

Summer 1986: Expo!

Expo 86 is by far the biggest trip I have been on  (so far anyway)

And certainly the most fun!

It was truly fortunate circumstances that allowed Mom and I to travel to Vancouver with a group from our church at the time, led by Father Ray.

Off we went in a large van: Mom, myself, Jeannine and her daughter Andrea, and our friends Irene, Eugene and David.

We weren't going to worry about Klondike Days that year.

Because we were sure that Expo was going to be something quite special.

And it certainly was. 

Absolutely worth the three-day road trip to get there, with stops in Lacombe and High Prairie included, so I could visit Dad for a few days.

Even worth the hour of silence daily on the road ("No Mike, even though your Sanyo Sportster has earphones", Mom advised,

But hey, there's lots of fine and wonderful scenery to take in in BC.

Trees, peaches and cherries oh my!

And once we arrived at the Expo grounds for our two-day visit, it was truly a world-class affair.

Pavillions from every country imaginable...

The McBarge (the line was too huge, so we didn't go on it).

My first cinema dome experience, which I believe was premiered at Expo.

Roller coasters, birds and speedboats all around me!

As well as a cross-Canada IMAX 3D presentation.

The flying birds in that one sure were cool!

First-time karaoke in a professional recording studio on the grounds called Studio 86!

The song? Karma Chameleon, by Culture Club.

A side trip to Stanley Park, a slice of paradise in the heart of Vancouver. Hopefully it still is!

But most importantly....

Mom and I got to spend about a week in BC seeing and doing great things with great people.

People who made sure that I had a good time.

And who also made sure that she had assistance in her desire to help me get around Expo's massive area.

I love you Mom.

This one's for you.