I Remember Harold. Who Wouldn’t?

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I’m not going to bore you with all my childhood memories. For one thing my childhood was over seventy years ago and even a brain the size of mine has some limitations. I’m not like Peter C. Newman who must have gone through life with a tape recorder under his hat – or in Peter’s case, his beret.

I remember funny things that happened when I was a kid. Sometimes though, events that I thought happened begin to blur and I start to wonder if I was really there or if I had somehow written myself into someone else’s life. That isn’t entirely unknown when you start looking back a few decades. We hear the same story so many times we actually begin to think we were there.

I remember four of us teenage boys were driving around town in a ’37 Chevrolet one warm summer’s evening. (I know I was there – or at least I think I was there. Now I’m beginning to wonder.) We saw a girl getting undressed in front of an open window. (I’m sure I remember that.) Years later, so many guys could recall the same incident I’m convinced we couldn’t have been in the Chev. It would only hold 5. Well maybe 9, but it would have been tight. That night we must have been packed three-deep in a school bus or riding on a flatbed trailer with bleachers. It doesn’t matter anyway. The driver blew the horn and the girl turned out the light. We never forgave him. He died a few years ago and none of us went to his funeral.

In Grade 1, our class at Duke of Connaught won a prize for something – what I’ll be damned if I can remember. First prize was an artillery shell about 8 inches long. It was wartime and I guess a bullet was a hell of an award. I can barely picture a cute little girl named Diane sitting in the front row of our class photo – all smiles and clutching a brass missile that could knock down a Stealth Bomber in her pudgy little fingers. The last time I saw something that shape and that long it was on a shelf in the Love Shoppe in Yorkville and the batteries weren’t included.

Isn’t it odd we remember some of the kids but not all? I can still picture a boy in Grade 5 named Harold. I’m not going to tell you Harold’s last name in case he grew up to become a Director of the TD Bank and seizes my account.

Harold was (I have to put this delicately since he may still be alive), let’s just say Harold was different. Harold shaved his eyebrows off. I have no idea why, a forerunner of the skinheads of the 80s and 90s I suppose, but I was certainly impressed with his sense of adventure.

Harold was one of the boys from school your mother didn’t want you to invite home for dinner. His missing eyebrows made his eyes pop out like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. He always looked surprised. It was hard to concentrate on macaroni and cheese when Harold was sitting across the table staring at you.

Harold’s greatest claim to fame, however, wasn’t his missing eyebrows, nor his goofy glasses (coke bottle bottoms with wire frames). Harold liked to pick up fresh horse buns and chase the girls down the street. Horse buns were part of your life in the ’40s. They were everywhere, on the road, on your garden, in your shoe, and after Harold left, in your hair. To this day, my definition of a Renaissance man is a gentleman who will pick up a newly minted horse steamer in his bare hands. Sad to say, I haven’t met all that many.

I lost track of Harold years ago (I think the authorities must have put him away, or had him put down at the behest of his neighbours) but I often think of him. In your travels, if you ever come across a director of the TD Bank with no eyebrows with fingers so long they drag on the ground; ask him to give me a call. Just a call; I don’t want him dropping by. I still have my hair. I don’t need my scalp fertilised yet.

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