On becoming a teen, ‘things got a little strange’

By Marjorie Morden Kemp – Saskatoon, Sask.

Adolescence is that time of life when each new day is a learning experience.

The brain continually stores away knowledge and the body chemistry changes rapidly. It is a time to explore, a time to play.

Sadly there are young boys and girls who never had a happy childhood, just as there are others who never left it. Thankfully, I fit somewhere in between.

I grew up in Courtenay, B.C. during the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. It was officially incorporated as a town on Jan. 1, 1915, and eventually designated a city in 1953.

Courtenay, B.C. in the 1950s.

A safe, friendly-oriented community with Lewis Park just across the bridge at the end of Main Street featuring ball diamonds, running tracks, jumping pits, as well as an outdoor swimming pool.

Although the town had a number of business establishments, the two that stand out in my mind were the two movie theatres: the EW and the Bickle – probably because the Bickle seemed to be the place where every kid spent Saturday afternoons.

Admission cost less than at the EW which seemed to cater more to adults. I can almost smell the popcorn and taste the soft drink as we kids packed the place like sardines all yelling and screaming at the Perils of Pauline, and laughing with utter abandon at the antics of cartoon characters in Looney tunes and Merry Melodies. A whole afternoon of fun cost just 25¢.

Movies were merely a diversion from all the other activities that went on in my neighbourhood, 9th Street, just off Cumberland Road.

All the kids played together, boys and girls, without any distinction as to gender. If you could hit a softball, run the bases, or shag a fly ball, there was always a spot on the scrub team which we played on a wedge-shaped vacant lot at the end of our street.

We’d also wile away the time playing kick the can; run sheep run, hide-and-seek; hopscotch; skipping; and spin the bottle … along with other diversions such as chores.

At dusk you could hear the parents calling the children home.

All too soon the days of youth flew by as we reached that magic threshold of becoming a teen. I turned 13 during the summer of 1953 and things got a little strange for me.

On the way home from school one day, my best friend, June, confided the startling revelation of how babies were made.

Rattled right down to my toes, I blurted, “I don’t believe you.”

“It’s true,” she replied confidently. “My older sister told me.”

Stunned with this new concept right away I thought, “Oh my God! Is this how my father made me?”

I was so upset I couldn’t even look at my father for a week and I wasn’t about to ask HIM if it were true. He must have thought I was going through a phase or something. And June was no longer my best friend.

Reflecting back to those days of innocence, parents, for the most part, didn’t engage their kids in talks about the facts of life. We learned by trial and error, it seems.

One day a bunch of us were playing spin the bottle in Myrna Cooke’s backyard. On this occasion, the spinner was Myrna’s brother, Leonard Cooke, 14. The bottle stopped pointing at me.

Now Leonard was a tall, skinny blond boy – a likable sort but not particularly good-looking. I felt no attraction to him at all. Nonetheless, the rules of the game said he must kiss me.

Expecting a friendly peck on the cheek, Leonard instead planted this wet, lip smashing kiss directly on my mouth. I was astonished, not to mention somewhat revolted, by this action!

Leonard must have thought it okay for a few weeks later he asked if I would go to the movies at the Bickle with him on Saturday, his treat. Well, of course I said yes.

This was a big deal for me money-wise, so I leapt at the chance to save my 25¢ cents a week allowance.

We were sitting in the theatre watching the show, munching away at the popcorn, when he reached his hand over to mine. I thought he wanted some of my popcorn. Not so. He wanted to hold hands.

Hold hands?! Good grief, I had expected nothing more than enjoying a free show with a friend, and now he wanted to get romantic!

Absolutely not, I informed him. I don’t know who suffered the most embarrassment, me or Leonard.

Needless to say, Leonard never treated me to a movie again.