65 Years Young

Jun 2016

By Doreen Marion Gee

As I turn 65, I have never felt better. The youthful imp inside is thriving. Everything has come full circle and I am doing the things I want to do – as the person that I was meant to be. As always, my upbringing in James Bay is the eternal river that flows through my life, influencing every thought and action. From 1951 onwards I have witnessed many changes, some good, some not so good.

On a cloudy day in November 1963, all the students at South Park School were let out early to mourn with their families over the murder of John F. Kennedy. Loved world-wide, Kennedy embodied youthful hope and a sense of integrity in an uncertain world. Times have certainly changed; in today's world, I cannot imagine any world leader's death impacting school children across the globe. It was a different zeitgeist back in the sixties and seventies – a passionate intense time when people were deeply concerned about 'justice' and were not afraid to raise their voices and demand solutions to social problems. It seemed simpler then: when something was wrong, no amount of rationalizing would make it right.

I am definitely a child of the sixties and seventies, especially James-Bay-style. The general milieu in our neighbourhood was one of frenzied activism – residents stormed City Hall when developers threatened to deface the sky-line with highrises. Locals insisted on better social services and got them. Small wonder that I am a 'feather-ruffler' by nature and a social activist. My political zeal was born and bred in the shadow of agitators and social champions. Sometimes I feel that we have lost that precious sense of moral outrage and righteous indignation in our present impersonal texting and multi-tasking world. However, the fire still burns in James Bay. Even a hint of unreasonable development and the JBNA activists are ready for action. And where else would park-lovers staunchly defend their green gem if anyone dares defy the commandments of the “Hanging Judge.” Which is precisely why I am so proud of my native community by the sea.

In many ways, though, the “good-old-days” were not so wonderful. I remember my best friend limping down the hallway carrying a heavy basket of milk bottles at South Park School. Immunizations were still relatively new and it was heart-breaking to see this beautiful young girl disabled by polio – just like many other children. It was also gut-wrenching to see kids suffering with conditions that would be easily rectified today in our accessible medical system. Living in a time before universal medical care was like being in the middle of a horror movie – constantly throwing the dice to keep the monster at bay. Life today is light years away from those dark ages – we are truly blessed to have universal access to health and wellness.

It seems that as the years pass, some things get better and some things don't. It is always a trade-off. There were never any homeless people sleeping in Beacon Hill Park when I was a child. But over the years, James Bay has grown incrementally and has flourished with the development and beautification of many previously desolate and unsightly areas. This is definitely progress but it comes at a cost. As more people come, real estate and rental prices skyrocket – leaving many people behind and lining our sidewalks.

At this milestone in my life, I am just happy that I can still visit the place of my youth, and I am starting to truly appreciate Ray Bradbury's words, “Stuff your eyes with wonder . . . live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds.”

 

Source: Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451.”