Remembering my summers of ’61 and ’62 with music

Tonight I came across a box of about 150 old 45 RPM records that I had not listened to for a very long time.  I ended out picking out several that were songs I listened to in my early teen years – pre-Beatles – from the summers of 1960 to 1962.

They reminded me of warm summer nights at our cottage at Bluewater Beach on the outskirts of Goderich, Ontario.   My friends and I would gather in the evening on a piece of dirt behind the Nothof family cottage and set a record player in the window so we could hear. We would dance to the same few records over and over. And over.

There was a restaurant on the highway that had a Juke Box and every month some guy would come and change the records.  We would find out when he was coming and ride our bikes out to the restaurant and he would sell us the records he was replacing for a quarter.  Treasures.

Tonight when I listened to Elvis singing I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You I could close my eyes and sway and sing the words and re-live dancing huddled over Ruth Ann Nothof.   Where is she now?

The music brought back such vivid memories. Almost sixty years ago and the recollection is as clear as a bell.  I still know all the words and even know where each little scratch is on the record.  Several of the records have little pieces of adhesive tape with my name written on them.  My writing has not changed that much in all those years.

What a treat (on the eve of my 71st birthday) to spend an hour or two with this music.  And to remember these moments from my youth.  Could be yesterday.


Here are just a few of the songs I listened to.  Do you remember any of these?

Check them out below.

Roy Orbison – Crying – July 1961

Elvis Presley – I Can’t Help Falling In Love with You – October 1961

Freddy Cannon – Palisades Park – April 1962

Don Gibson – Sea of Heartbreak – July 1961

Beach Boys – Surfin’ Safari – October 1962

Ricky Nelson – Today’s Teardrops – March 1962

Everly Brothers – Til I Kissed You – January 1960

Del Shannon – Runaway – January 1962


Smiles and tears – Remembering Dennis

I love visiting schools in Africa. The kids are so warm and friendly and joyous and welcoming.  No exception last month when 20 CanAssist supporters visited 10 schools in Kenya  and Uganda on our expedition to CanAssist associate communities.

Our last stop was at Hope for Youth School near Mukono, Uganda.   It was so much fun.  Even though the school was not open yet after a winter break, students (past and present) and teachers and community members came out to greet us and, once again, we were feted with song and dance and even a skit about how CanAssist is helping with latrines and sanitation in Africa.

We were all up dancing and clapping, lead by a young fellow who was a recent graduate of Hope for Youth and now in high school.  With drumming by the students and Dennis Sserugo rhythmically blowing on a whistle we hooted and clapped and danced together. It was joyous.

We were saddened to learn from the school that Dennis was been killed this week in a motor vehicle accident.

Hello John,

With deep sorrow I bring to you sadDennis1_edit news of the passing away o our dear student Dennis Sserugo, the boy who was blowing the whistle in the traditional dance during your recent visit. He was studying in Secondary school and was being sponsored by on family in Nanaimo.

He was hit by a speeding taxi that swayed off the road as he was walking to school with his friends in the morning hours. The taxi ran off and they could not trace it. He did not die instantly, so uncle David, our school administrator did everything possible to rescue Dennis by taking him to Mukono health center where they could not handle him. They referred them to Mulago main referral hospital in Kampala and they were recommended to use an ambulance. Immediately they reached Mulago hospital, Dennis was pronounced dead from internal breeding.

As you may have some knowledge about our systems, getting a car from our village to Mukono health center, then the process of getting an ambulance and the distance from Mukono to Kampala with the usual traffic jam on the roads, you could really see that probably, he would have survived. 

He has been among the children who stay with my mum and has been a hard working boy, who had the desire and motivation to become a Doctor. We will miss him but we thank the good Lord for his life until now.

If you can, please help and pass on the message to a few friends whom you visited with, some may remember him.  

Peter Nsubuga

This news has touched those of us who revelled with Dennis a few weeks back.  In Canada, with good roads, available emergency services and accessible trauma centres, he may have survived his internal bleeding.

My global family has suffered a loss and I mourn with them. But I also will remember an afternoon of great fun we all had together not that long ago. And Dennis, blowing that whistle.

CanAssist will soon be constructing a kitchen facility for the Hope for Youth School.  We will make this addition to the school in Dennis’ memory.


Savouring every last drop…

I’ve spent the past couple of weekends sitting on a commode chair – the lid closed – visiting my father who is in University Hospital in London Ontario. Dad is 94 years old. His body is wearing out. He is been very lucky to be extremely active and independent up until the last few weeks. At the end of July he went with me and my daughter and granddaughter – four generations – to see Crazy For You at the Stratford Festival and three weekends ago, he spend a couple of days at my brothers cottage in Kincardine. He just reluctantly gave up his internet account last month, disappointed that he would have to miss out on Facebook messages. We have told him we would read them to him when we visit.

But his old body seems to be edging toward its expiry date.

For the shifts of the new caregivers that have never known him but now look after him, he is a frail, blind, teetery, somewhat muddled old man. I brought an old photograph to his room and put it over his bed so they could remember that he, indeed, was once young like them.

L and S 2  sepiaThe picture is one of my favourites. It was taken by a London Free Press photographer in late December 1945. It shows my dad returning to Canada after being in Europe during World War II and being greeted by my mom at the train station. They had not seen each other for 2 1/2 years. By mid 1946, they were married and remained together until my mom passed away over 60 years later.

The old man in the bed seems to be a different person. But I know that underneath his frail, deteriorating body, the essence of that  young soldier still exists. 

stew 1a 5x7

It is difficult to watch someone who has been so independent and “in control” of his life become totally dependent. A few weeks ago, dad said to me “it’s not being dead that bothers me, it’s the dying part”. In addition to being sad that dad is suffering one indignity and loss after another in an accelerating  cascade, I  also reflect that living to a “ripe old age” is a two-edged sword.

Dad was initially admitted to the cardiac ward of the hospital and, as such, receives a “cardiac” diet. He keeps asking me where dessert is. “Is there any cake to go with that?” he asks as I spoon in the canned fruit cocktail. So I smuggle in donuts from the Tim Hortons shop in the lobby.

Whether it is a pre dinner gin and tonic or life itself, Dad is working on savouring it to the last drop.

Whether it is a pre dinner gin and tonic or life itself, Dad is working on savouring it to the last drop.

Last Friday he insisted that in a cupboard somewhere in the room there was a bottle of Beefeater gin that he had purchased last week.  He really wanted a gin and tonic before dinner.  On Saturday I went to the liquor store, bought a  little bottle of gin and a couple of tins of tonic, smuggled two  glasses from the hotel that I’m staying at into his room, got the nurse to bring us a bit of ice and we had a gin and tonic before dinner.  He sat back and enjoyed it and ate a good supper – complete with ice cream and a cookie.  

And why not? He’s earned it.