My neighbor and schoolmate was Greg Saunders. From my bedroom window it was possible to climb on to his roof next door. It’s funny how, when you’re a kid, you don’t realize that many of the things you do without thinking could actually kill you. Anyway, Greg and I were destined to be good friends because we had the same birthday. At the time, I didn’t realize that was even possible.
One day Greg and I went hiking (in the city). We decided to go up Rideau Hill and have a lookout over the city. It was a long walk, over the 4th street bridge and up the long hill, which must have been almost a 90 degree incline. At the top we discovered an opening under the concrete parking lot of a recently built high rise apartment building. We made our way into the crawl space and ate sandwiches, while spying at the downtown office buildings in the distance, from our hilltop vantage point.
As we enjoyed the view, looking over the Elbow River, far down below us, winding its way beneath Rideau Park, we saw grey smoke rising from the greenery. Then flames. The hillside at the top of Rideau Park was on fire. We rushed from the secret crawl space to the hillside. I was a faster runner than Greg, because he was a bit fat. I heard him shout, as he huffed and puffed behind me, that we could put the fire out with our ‘cub know-how’. I wasn’t sure what ‘know-how’ he was talking about. I had certainly never learned how to extinguish a forest fire when I was at cubs.
Greg was a keener, and a nice kid, so I didn’t say anything. There was nothing we could have done. We weren’t even wearing our cub uniforms. Fortunately the fire department was at the scene by the time we arrived and there was no need for our ‘cub know-how’. Greg was kind of chubby, like this.
He was the friend that recruited me to attend the 51st Calgary cub pack with him. I had been in the 22nd Winnipeg pack, but that was before we moved again. I still had my uniform, so it was a good idea. We had our cub meetings in the basement of the United Church, like the gathering of a Secret Society or a Sunday School class. I met a kid named Ian, who apparently had a great singing voice though, to me, he sounded like a screeching bird. He had pasty white skin and was on the thin side. I also met a kid named John Pritchard. He was blonde, squared jawed and had the demeanor of a Gustapo Captain, kind of bossy. They were Sixers, Ian and John and Greg. I was just a Seconder, at the time.
The most fun I had, with the 51st Calgary, was going to the Jamboree at Midnapore. Our whole pack got to ride there on a school bus and spend the day doing sports and competing in different contests against other Cub Packs from Calgary. We ate hot dogs, drank Kool-Aid and spent the day trekking in the woods. The coolest event of all was the tire roll where teams rolled spare car tires down a big hill, in a race. John Pritchard got run over by a spare tire, on his way up the hill, but he didn’t die.
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