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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Canada Invades the U.S.A. - 1952

By William Weatherstone of The Diesel Gypsy

(A true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the adolescent innocents.)

It was the Labour Day long weekend of 1952, where both the Canadian and American holiday coexist. The two locations in question are Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., a 90 mile trip.

At that time, Toronto’s drinking age was 21 while Buffalo’s drinking age was 18. It was an annual ritual for the Canadian youth (starving for a beer or more) to migrate to Buffalo to terrorize the area for three days with the usual youthful exuberant.

Now onto the historical (hysterical?) event.

While still a little underage for even the New York rules, we dressed and looked older and passed for legal age in the drinking establishments. It was Friday, the beginning of the long weekend when all the guys piled into their (or borrowed) cars and headed south to the States crossing into Buffalo from Fort Erie, Ontario.

There were three of us who had to work half a day on Saturday and could not join the migration south. On Saturday afternoon, we cleaned up, packed a bag and took off in my old, 1947 Buick. It was about supper time when we landed in Buffalo.

The hotel where we all congregated was the famous Richford hotel right in central downtown, which was close to any and all action within walking distance.

It was about 9PM by the time we got in and ready to party. The three of us had to catch up with the early birds and promptly headed to the nearest night club where most all the gang was deeply involved in a party.

Being three hours late for this bash, I for one figured that I should catch up and be in sync with the first wave. I immediately ordered a zombie (which consists of a numerous layers of different types of rum, so I’ve been told).

After three of those mind exploding drinks, it was time to move on to bigger and more wonderful experiences. Where else but the local burlesque theater? What more could a drunk 17-year-old-boy ask for than to view real women in action.

It was a stimulating, mind-bending experience and worth every minute of it. It must have been because 60 years later it is still ingrained in my mind like a Technicolor, Cinescope movie.

It was time to retire for the night (2:30AM), so staggered back to the room and flaked out on the bed. It was only about an hour later that I woke up and crawled to the bathroom on my hands and knees, stuck my head in the toilet and dumped all my previous acquisitions into the bowl, while flushing constantly during this process.

When all the eruptions subsided, I crawled back to the bed. While still on the floor, I ran my tongue through my mouth and to my horror found that my front teeth partial plate was missing.

Oh no! That was as far as I got then passed out again. Waking up at 6AM, I dragged Ron and Ernie out of bed and said that I have to find my teeth; I think that I flushed them down the toilet.

We pulled ourselves together and headed out in search of my lost teeth. This was on Sunday morning and after getting directions from the hotel desk, we headed out for the sewage plant.

Finding the place, we banged and kicked the steel door for what seemed an eternity, then it finally opened and one giant, ugly guy opened up and said, “What the hell do you kids want?”

I of course, the leader of this gang, told him in my demandingly, forced, husky voice, “I lost my teeth down the sewer and I want them back, we are here to retrieve them!”

Response: “Are you kids Canadian?”

“Yes, why?”

“Go home.” Then the big steel door slammed shut.

Discouraged, we returned to our hotel.

In the meantime, how am I supposed to be Don Jon dressed to the nines but without any front teeth?

Just to talk straight, I got a package of Dentine gum and chewed it up and formed a replacement to my plate. The speech problem was solved, but looked like hell.

The partying carried on into Sunday night. Two of us were returning from another drinking session, waiting for the elevator. The door opened and Jerry (the big guy in our group) was in mortal combat with a local bully.

The lobby became a battle zone for a time. He polished off the opponent (as usual) and we carried on back to our room for a continuation of our happy holiday excursion.

The reason for the fisticuffs was that there was a German kid in the crowd who was being attacked by a local. His father had been in the Luftwaffe and shot down and killed in the war. The local took offence to the kid's heritage and subsequently (after Jerry’s intervention), ended up out cold on the floor. The cops did not sympathize with him either.

Now, Monday morning was approaching and the booze was still flowing. We had brought along a portable record player and were drinking and dancing in our room with the door open. (The music was a chick magnet.)

Another gang from Toronto approached me to bring the record player down to their room. After rejecting their most cordial invitation, a fight broke out, and all hell broke loose.

Well, as usual we all were ejected from the hotel and had the choice of leaving the country in peace or “Do not pass go; go directly to jail.” So being young law-abiding Canadians, we chose to promptly leave the country, and did so.

As I checked out of that famous Richford Hotel, the manager, there to witness our departure, smiled and told me, “See you again next year, Bill. Bring some teeth with you next time, Okay?”

Another of one of my historical memories.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thanks for sharing..it is wonderful how episodes of our youth stay with us..I had a reunion with two friends from early to teen ager days..I saw them both over 50 years, they never saw each other again after l958..we met on street outside restaurant in midtown Manhattan, much hugging, little tears..we sat down in restaurant and it seemed as if we had all just come down from the roof of l38 West 62nd St where we sang Kitty Kallen, Kay Starr, Hank Williams, The Platters..ah bless the 50s...
We hardly ate what we ordered and the two hours flew by in a flash..As I was reading your piece, I wondered if you had stayed in contact with those guys...there still were burlesque houses around city city in the 50s and boys in neighborhood always found ways to sneak in there...I always wanted to see what the show was, of course, never got to..we lived in great times, didn't we?

William - Nice story!

I think most of our coping mechanisms were developed through stuff like this. Did you ever find your teeth?! - Sandy

Great story and interesting history lesson regarding international relations in there too!

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