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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Not an Ordinary Day: A moment in time


November 27, 1977 is a day that I remember very well. It was the day my life turned in a very different direction. And never turned back. But more about that as I go along.


One thing I remember very clearly. It was insanely cold that day and that week and there was ice everywhere. Especially in Montreal, where they were holding the 65th Grey Cup. I grew up in Montreal and lived there at the time. But I wasn't in Montreal that day. I was in Toronto,  and more specifically, at the time of the game,  in Burlington, Ontario. I would end up living in Burlington about 4 months later. 
It wasn't the first time I had visited Toronto. I had done that numerous times by then. But it was certainly the first time I visited Burlington. A little less than two years later, I hoped I never saw it ever again. I have gotten over that. But I hated it. I should have taken the horrible weather that day as a sign that it was not going to be a pleasant stay. Which...it was not.
Back to the day at hand. We were in Burlington to look at houses to buy or rent, mostly likely rent, as we needed to move from Montreal. Mostly because the town was turning completely french and that was not going to work for us. We were also not getting much for our house, because of the quick move and the fact that the French had killed the market. So renting it was likely our only option.
I don't remember any of the drive from Montreal to Toronto. Or Toronto to Burlington. I remember the drive on the streets very near the townhouse complex. I was listening to the football game on the radio while my father navigated the very icy streets. All I really cared about was the game. I was a big CFL fan, and more specifically,  Montreal Allouettes fan. Two years before, they had lost a very close game to Edmonton. The only thing memorable about that game was a young woman who streaked across the field before the national anthems were played in more than minus 20 temperatures. The Allouttes lost a close game that day in that horrible weather, but they got their revenge in the horrible conditions that were the 1977 game.


I have a lot of great memories of being at my grandmothers house watching and listening to CFL games. But more about that later as well. 
As we got out of the car to inspect this particular townhouse, there was ice everywhere. Very similar to the conditions of the game.

The 65th Grey Cup, played on November 27, 1977 and also known as The Ice Bowl, was the 1977 Grey Cup Canadian Football League championship final between the Montreal Alouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos. The Alouettes beat the Eskimos by a score of 41-6.

Although Olympic Stadium was designed to have a retractable roof, and a roof was added in 1987, the stadium was open to the air in November 1977. As is common in late November, Montreal received a fair amount of snow and low temperatures before game time.

 I remember having to hold my mothers hand as we got out of the car. That is how dangerous the ice was. I don't remember much about anything other than the game or the ice from that day. The townhouse must have been okay, because we ended up renting it and living there almost two years before we moved to Toronto, where I have lived for almost 34 years now.
It became apparent that  The Alouettes were going to win. I had been looking forward to that all year. I either watched or listened to every game. Missing this game on TV was a very big deal to me. I certainly was not happy about it and I was probably very tough to deal with. I do remember listening to the game outside while my parents and sister toured the inside of the townhouse. I really didn't care. Not like I had a choice or say anyway. I did not. We were moving and this was going to be the place.
Most of the CFL games were on Sundays, and not televised, unless they were road games. I have very vivid memories of listening to the games on the radio and experiencing them that way. Except for one game.
My Aunt Esther (my cool aunt) who was my fathers sister,  lived upstairs in an apartment set apart from my grandparents house. The setup of her place was very much different than the rest of the house, which was extremely old and looked it. Modern would not have been a good word to use to describe the house. But my Aunts 'pad' was certainly modern. Like the kind you see in movies about 70's hip apartments of the era. She had one of those.
You had to walk up the stairs to get to it.  A set of long winding stairs. Once you entered, it was a different world. While the rest of the house was bright, this apartment had a dark, cool uptown pad feel to it. It was night and day to the rest of the place. My Aunt let me come up there all the time. She was single and lived alone. I didn't know it at the time, but she was a lesbian, which was very frowned on. So, she never brought any of her lovers around. There was no harm in having me up there. 
I remember she had a really big bed,  a circular type,  and then a massive color TV,  the kind that no one had in those days. One afternoon, she let me stay up there and watch a CFL game. It was a weekday and holiday, Canadian thanksgiving. A game between Toronto and Montreal. I think Montreal won. I am not sure. I do remember this: They had a very dynamic player called Johnny Rodgers. One of the first flamboyant players anywhere in sports. He was known as "The Ordinary Superstar".


 That day, he scored a few touchdowns, and did his customary celebration when he did. That is an image, in that apartment, that day, that I will not ever forget.


 Those were great days. It was highly unusual for the CFL to have a caliber of player of Johnny Rodgers. He was actually the top college player of 1972,  winning the Heisman trophy. Instead of signing for less money in the NFLhe chose to come to Canada. He was clearly the best player in the league from 1973 to 1976.


 Johnny Rodgers wasn't around for that game in 1977.  He had moved on to the NFL where he hoped to make his name there. He never did due to injuries. But, my memories will always be of that day when I saw him in my Aunts apartment. He was anything but ordinary that day.

November 27th, 1977 was no ordinary day in my life in what was a very extraordinary time. I have great and not so great memories from that period in my life. And to this day, I have never seen a second of that Grey Cup game. I saw every second of the previous 5 or 6, and the 10 or so after that 1977 game. But, this one time, all I saw was ice. And lots of it. 
For whatever reason, I was not meant to see it. I was meant to see what I saw, and go where I was meant to go. Those are the moments in your life as they happen. That is always the way it will be and always the way you will remember it. Just as I am remembering it now. There may and probably were many other things that happened that weekend and that day, and for whatever reason I don't remember any of them. 
We remember the moments in time that stick with us. That day has stuck with me for 35 years.  



 






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