DECADENT BDAY SPEECH – 2013
This year, I reached a milestone birthday, and I gave a speech to the dear friends and family who honoured me by attending my Decadent Toast and Jam, a musical celebration at the Dominion on Queen in Toronto, April 28th, 2013. A few of them asked me to share the speech I gave about growing older, so here it is:
Recently, I received an advertisement on a torn-out magazine page in the mail from an anonymous friend for a miracle wrinkle remover. S/he wrote a personal note beside it saying “This really works! Try it!”
I had reason to believe this “friend” can’t know me too well. Firstly, because my wrinkles are few and far between on my face – and secondly – because I don’t believe in trying to erase signs of aging by plastic surgery, or any other means. To me – wrinkles are badges of honour. And we should wear them proudly as we age.
I know, I know – you’re likely thinking – “You’re in a business where youth and appearance are key factors in success or failure” and that is true. However – I’ve HAD a wonderful career, and though the money-making aspects of it have ebbed, I’m still enjoying making music and singing as my “expensive little hobby” (i.e. – today, if you want to perform it’s “Pay to Play”).
Yes – I do look younger than my years – but I’m convinced that is because I sing a lot (working those facial muscles) and laugh a lot – and I use Mary Kay moisturizer daily. I’m not ashamed of my age – so I’m not going to do anything drastic to try and fool people. Inside I’m still a bratty teenager, while on the outside I’m a little rusty and creaky – but I’m still having fun. Age is just a number, and you’re only as old as you believe you are.
There are certain traits for which people of a certain age are notorious. I don’t exhibit all of them – but I do admit I often look back on the “Good Old Days” with my cronies. And in many respects they WERE the “Good Old Days”.
I REMEMBER THE DAYS WHEN:
- WE KIDS WERE LEFT TO OUR OWN DEVICES, AND WERE SHOO’ED OUT THE DOOR EVERY DAY TO PLAY WITH OUR FRIENDS UNTIL WE WERE CALLED IN FOR LUNCH OR SUPPER
- WE PLAYED IN THE CEMETERY – (then, a farmer’s field where the gravestones hadn’t been erected yet); WE RAN AND JUMPED IN THE SAND DUNES, AND WILD PATHWAYS THAT LED TO THE HUMBER RIVER BEFORE THE HOUSING BOOM TOOK AWAY OUR PLAYGROUND
- FARMS WERE STILL AROUND US
- WE COLLECTED SIX-QUART BASKETS FROM NEIGHBOURS FOR A FARMER WITH A MARKET GARDEN THAT WAS PART OF THE PARKLAWN CEMETERY. HE WOULD PAY US 2 CENTS FOR EACH BASKET, AND WITH OUR NEWFOUND RICHES, WE’D GO ONWARD TO POP’S VARIETY STORE ON GRENVIEW AND BUY BLACK BALLS, COMIC BOOKS AND ALL SORTS OF CONFECTIONS.
- WE WALKED TO AND FROM SCHOOL WITH A FEW FRIENDS EVERY DAY, RAIN OR SHINE
- WE COULD GO AND SKATE, OR GET A GAME OF BASEBALL HAPPENING AT “THE OLD SCHOOL” – A BEAUTIFUL OLD SCHOOLHOUSE WHICH WAS STILL STANDING ON THE EAST SIDE OF PRINCE EDWARD DRIVE IN TORONTO
- 04 Run and Play – THIS IS A SONG I WROTE FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN, TO DESCRIBE TO THEM WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO GROW UP IN THE 50’S
- MY FRIEND MARLEENE AND I WOULD BIKE ALL OVER OUR AREA OF ETOBICOKE WHEN WE WERE ONLY AROUND TEN YEARS OLD
- WHEN WE WERE OUT OF THE HOUSE, OUR PARENTS DID NOT MICROMANAGE US – BUT WE SURE HAD A LOT OF DISCIPLINE IF WE DID THINGS THAT BROKE THE RULES – AND THE NEIGHBOURS WOULD “TATTLE” IF THEY SAW OR HEARD SOMETHING. IT WAS A GOOD COMMUNITY.
- YOUTH GAVE US A SENSE OF INVULNERABILITY, AND DEATH WAS THE FARTHEST THING FROM OUR MINDS
- WE SMOKED OR DRANK ANYTHING WE WANTED WITHOUT WORRY
- WE NEEDED NO PILLS TO TAKE (EXCEPT BIRTH CONTROL)
- DOCTORS WOULD RENEW PRESCRIPTIONS AND GIVE ADVICE OVER THE PHONE FOR NO CHARGE
- DOCTORS WOULD MAKE HOUSE CALLS IF YOU WERE TOO SICK TO VISIT THE OFFICE.
- ALL PHYSICALS, EYE EXAMS, ANY HOSPITAL TESTS WERE FREE
- NOBODY IN CANADA WOULD GO BANKRUPT FROM PAYING FOR LIFE-SAVING TREATMENTS LIKE MEDICATIONS NOT COVERED BY OHIP, OR BY OUR MEDICAL PLANS
- PRESCRIPTIONS WERE FREE OF SERVICE CHARGES
- I COULD SIT DOWN ON A CHAIR WITHOUT EMITTING A LOUD GRUNT
- EVERY NEW PAIN I FELT DID NOT CAUSE ME TO THINK “YIKES! IS THIS IT??”
- THERE WERE NO BANK FEES EATING UP YOUR SAVINGS
- A CHILD’S BANK ACCOUNT COULD SIT FOR YEARS, EARNING INTEREST, AND NOT BE DEPLETED TO NOTHING BY SERVICE FEES AND DEDUCTIONS
- SAVINGS WERE ALWAYS GROWING AT THE BANK
- I EVEN REMEMBER WHEN THERE WAS NO SALES TAX! (in the early ’60’s it was a shock when we had to start to pay 2% on purchases)
- WASN’T A PROFIT MAKING BUSINESS – IT WAS RUN FOR THE PEOPLE, AND FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL WITH THE AIM OF MAKING OUR COUNTRY A BETTER PLACE FOR EVERYONE TO LIVE.
- IT WAS RUN WITH HONOUR, INTEGRITY, RULES AND REGULATIONS THAT WERE ENFORCED BY WATCHDOG ORGANIZATIONS
- THERE WERE NO PARTISAN ADS FOR POLITICAL PARTIES – JUST ADS ABOUT WHAT PARTIES PROMISED TO DO FOR US.
- THERE WERE ENFORCED ETHICAL REGULATIONS IN THOSE DAYS – NO SMEARING ALLOWED
- PRE MIKE HARRIS – YOU COULD GO WALKING OR SHOPPING WITHOUT BEING BADGERED AT EVERY CORNER FOR SPARE CHANGE – OR BUY A PAPER FOR THE HOMELESS – THERE WERE NEXT TO NO PEOPLE SLEEPING ON THE STREETS
- PROVIDED HOUSING, SERVICES AND CARE FOR THE POOR AND DISENFRANCHIZED
- WE WERE TAUGHT TO SPELL CORRECTLY, AND USE PROPER GRAMMAR.
- TESTS HAD TO BE PASSED BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT LEVELS
- ERRORS WERE MARKED ON TESTS, AND MARKS DEDUCTED, SO THE STUDENT COULD LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES, AND GROW IN EXCELLENCE
- MUSIC WAS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM
- POST SECONDARY TUITION WAS AFFORDABLE, AND DIDN’T LEAVE YOU IN HEAVY DEBT FOR YEARS AFTER GRADUATION
- TEACHERS’ STRIKES WERE UNHEARD OF
- EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES WERE PLENTIFUL, AND ADDED TO THE FEELING OF THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY AND SPIRIT
MAKING A LIVING:
- 95% OF THE POPULATION GOT A JOB AFTER HIGH SCHOOL OR UNIVERSITY, AND WE HAD THE SECURITY OF KNOWING WE COULD SUPPORT OUR FAMILY UNTIL WE RETIRED – FREEDOM 55?????
- BEFORE NAFTA THERE WERE JOBS FOR MOST OF THE POPULATION – INCLUDING JOBS IN MANUFACTURING
- YOUR WORKPLACE PROVIDED PENSION AND INSURANCE COVERAGE
- STANDARDS OF QUALITY AND EXCELLENCE IN OUR PRODUCTS WERE OF PRIME IMPORTANCE, AS WAS CUSTOMER SERVICE IN ALL CANADIAN RUN COMPANIES.
- MADE IN CHINA? THE EPITOME OF “CHEAP” IN MY CHILDHOOD (we also believed if we dug deep enough, we could dig a hole to China.)
- THERE WAS NO OUTSOURCING OF JOBS TO PEOPLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES WHO WOULD WORK CHEAPER.
- 75% OF THE POPULATION WAS PART OF THE HEALTHY MIDDLE CLASS
- THE MEGAWEALTHY PAID THEIR SHARE OF TAXES, AND THEIR INCOME WAS GENEROUS, BUT NOT IN THE STRATOSPHERE
- UNIONS WERE HEALTHY, AND THEY WORKED HARD TO MAKE SURE THERE WERE DECENT WAGES AND WORKING CONDITIONS FOR THEIR MEMBERS. TO PERFORM SOME JOBS, TO BE A UNION MEMBER WAS A MUST.
- CHILDREN WERE TAUGHT MANNERS, ETHICS AND MORALS AT HOME, SCHOOLS AND CHURCH – AND IT WAS A FAR MORE CARING AND CONSIDERATE SOCIETY
- FACE TO FACE, OR TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS WERE OUR WAY OF COMMUNICATION. (OR MAIL IF YOU WERE STRAPPED FOR CASH)
- GUNS WERE NOT ON THE STREETS IN CANADA – ONLY IN THE U.S.
- WE HAD NO KNOWLEGE OR FEAR OF TERRORISM (Although we were afraid the Russians may come and nuke us someday)
- THERE WAS A LOT MORE TRUST IN EACH OTHER, AND IN THE DECENCY OF OUR WORLD.
ROADS AND DRIVING:
- PEOPLE DROVE BY THE RULES
- AMBER LIGHTS MEANT – SLOW DOWN AND GET READY TO STOP
- RED LIGHTS WERE FOR STOPPING
- STOP SIGNS WERE FOR STOPPING
- TRAFFIC CALMING SPEED BUMPS DID NOT EXIST
- THERE WASN’T A TRAFFIC LIGHT AT EVER CORNER, AND TRAFFIC COULD FLOW
- MOSTLY EVERYBODY SIGNALLED THEIR TURNS AND INTENTIONS
- EVERYONE HAD TO HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENSE, AND INSURANCE, AND THE RULES WERE ENFORCED
- RUSH HOUR WAS FROM 4 – 6.
- I could make it from my Riverdale home to Roy Thomson Hall in 20 minutes, and get easy parking at the many lots around the hall ($5 for the night). Now the parking has been replaced by condos. 🙁 It takes over 30 minutes to get there, and parking is from $10 – $25 for an evening.
- TRAINS WERE FREQUENT, NUMEROUS AND EASY TO CATCH, AND TAKE ANYWHERE (I used to catch the Sunnyside train to get back to McMaster after a visit home to Etobicoke. There were direct connections to small out-of-the way places – and every one of those towns had a train station)
- I LOVED THE SOUND OF THE TRAIN WHISTLES, AND CHUGGING OF THE STEAM TRAINS WHEN I WAS A CHILD
- TAKING A PLANE FROM PEARSON (THEN MALTON) WAS EASY – WITHIN MINUTES YOU WERE CHECKED IN AND AT THE GATE READY FOR TAKEOFF. NO LINEUPS, STRIP SEARCHES, BAGGAGE CHARGES.
- MEALS AND DRINKS WERE FREE ON MOST FLIGHTS
- USED TO BE KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE WORLD AS ONE OF THE CLEANEST CITIES ON THE PLANET
- OUR TRANSIT SYSTEM WAS SECOND TO NONE
- THE SUN WOULD SHINE ON OUR DOWNTOWN STREETS, AND WE DIDN’T HAVE TO CRANE OUR NECKS TO SEE THE SKY
- WE COULD SEE AN UNOBSTRUCTED VIEW OF OUR BEAUTIFUL LAKE FROM THE GARDINER EXPRESSWAY
- WE HAD SOME BEAUTIFUL OLD BUILDINGS IN THE CENTRE OF THE CITY (NOW WE’RE THE CITY OF GLASS, AND EXPLODING BALCONIES.)
- GARBAGE WAS COLLECTED TWICE A WEEK
- MAIL WAS DELIVERED TWICE A DAY, AND ON SATURDAYS TOO
- THE COUNTRYSIDE WAS ALWAYS WITHIN A 30 MINUTE DRIVE OF THE CITY
- OUR MAYORS WERE DIGNIFIED, AND FULL OF INTEGRITY, AND LOVE FOR OUR BEAUTIFUL CITY
- MUSICIANS USED TO BE ABLE TO MAKE A LIVING
- THE MUSICIAN’S UNION ACTED ON BEHALF OF MUSICIANS TO ENSURE THIS
- CLUB OWNERS WERE OBLIGATED TO PAY BANDS, IN ORDER TO BRING IN MORE CUSTOMERS FOR THEIR BUSINESSES. THERE WERE VERY FEW COVER CHARGES. CONTRACTS WERE SIGNED, PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS MADE – AND THERE WAS HELL TO PAY BY THE AFM IF A CLUB OWNER RENEGED ON PAYMENT TO MUSICIANS.
- 6 NIGHTS A WEEK GIGS IN CLUBS, WITH A DECENT WAGE – MADE FOR SOME REALLY TIGHT BANDS
- PEOPLE ACTUALLY WENT OUT TO SEE LIVE MUSIC, A LOT!
- RECORDINGS, TV SHOWS AND JINGLES – CONTRACTS WERE SIGNED, 2% WENT INTO A PENSION FUND, RESIDUALS AND ROYALTIES WERE PAID FOR TAPED SHOWS, COMMERCIALS, RECORDINGS.
- BEFORE NAFTA – JINGLES AND MUSIC TRACKS HAD TO BE RERECORDED BY CANADIANS IN ORDER TO BE ALLOWED TO AIR (I used to be a singer for CTV’s “Stars on Ice” – a show where celebrity skaters would come to CTV in Agincourt, and perform their routines on an ice rink built in the studio. The music they skated to were hits of the time, and at that time in the 70’s and 80’s – the CRTC ruled that all music for Canadian shows and commercials HAD to be re-recorded by Canadian musicians and singers. Hence – I would have to try and clone vocals of pop stars of the day – Diana Ross, Irene Cara – and many others. If we recorded a commercial for a product with a jingle made popular in the US, we had to re-record that as well, by an all-Canadian cast. Those were the days when Canada took care of their own, and made it possible for us to make a good living).
- PEOPLE HAD TO LEARN HOW TO SING PROPERLY, AND IN TUNE IF THEY WANTED TO BECOME PROFESSIONALS
- SONGWRITERS WOULD RECEIVE GOOD COMPENSATION FOR RADIO PLAY AND TELEVISION USE.
- THERE WERE NUMEROUS RECORD STORES WHERE YOU COULD BUY RECORDINGS (out of which artists were compensated)
- THE RADIO– RADIO PLAY AND EXPOSURE HELPED THE SALE OF RECORDINGS, AND TO MAKE THE HITS
- CHUM CHARTS
- JURGEN GOTH ON CBC WOULD PLAY ANYTHING I RECORDED WITH HAMPTON AVENUE, THE CHOIRGIRLZ OR AS A SOLO ARTIST. (That exposure helped to sell a lot of recordings, and allowed a diverse audience to hear my projects)
- WORKING IN TORONTO, VEGAS AND ATLANTIC CITY WITH PETULA CLARK – WHEN THERE WERE STILL FULL 15 PIECE BANDS ONSTAGE, AND NOTHING WAS PRETAPED.
HOW THE WORLD HAS CHANGED FOR THE BETTER? NOWADAYS –
- WOMEN IN AMERICA AND EUROPE – WE’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY! OUR WAGES HAVEN’T REACHED PARITY WITH MEN, BUT WE’RE UP TO 70% (WHOO HOO!)
- BIRTH CONTROL ALLOWS CHOICE FOR WOMEN WITH LIFE DECISIONS
- SMOKING IS NOW CONTROLLED – EASIER BREATHING FOR MOST OF US
- THE INTERNET – INSTANT COMMUNICATION, ACCESS TO INFORMATION
- TELEVISIONS – BIG FLAT SCREENS ARE A BIG IMPROVEMENT OVER 14”
- OLD ESTABLISHED NEIGHBOURHOODS LIKE MINE – STILL BEAUTIFUL
- DIGITAL RECORDING – MUCH EASIER (THO NOT AS FULL OF QUALITY) THAN ANALOGUE, AND A GREAT BLESSING FOR SINGER-SONGWRITERS
- DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY – FAST, EASY, SAVES STORAGE SPACE, AND IMMEDIATE REWARD
- CARS – A LOT MORE COMFORTABLE AND ENERGY EFFICIENT
- FAMILY AND GRANDCHILDREN
- GOOD FRIENDS
- KIND LOVING PEOPLE WHO INSPIRE ME
- I HAVE GOOD HEALTH
- SMILES, HUGS, HOPE FOR A BETTER WORLD
- I LOVE MY HOME
- I LOVE MY CITY, AND MY COUNTRY
- I LOVE THE FREEDOM I HAVE AS A WOMAN LIVING IN CANADA
- I HAVE GREAT FAITH IN GOD’S PLAN FOR ME
- MEMORIES OF A GREAT JOURNEY
- MUSIC – THE ABILITY TO STILL SING, ARRANGE AND BE PART OF THE MUSIC SCENE, WHILE COLLECTING A PENSION – THANKS TO ACTRA AND TMA (AND OF COURSE THE GOVERNMENT)
- PRIVILEGE OF HAVING WORKED WITH, AND FOR GREAT MUSICIANS LIKE MY BAND HERE (BILL KING, DANIEL BARNES, RUSS BOSSWELL AND TONY QUARRINGTON)
- ROBBIE RETTBERG – SO GLAD TO SEE YOUR FACE, ALL THE WAY FROM L.A. WE’VE MADE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC TOGETHER IN THE PAST, AND I’VE LEARNED SO MUCH FROM YOU.
- SINGING WITH GREAT SINGERS – LIKE SHARON LEE WILLIAMS, LYNNE DERAGON, HEATHER KATZ, MARY ELLEN MOORE, BRIAR BOAKE, SAM BROVERMAN, AND NUMEROUS OTHERS WHO COULDN’T BE HERE TODAY.
- MENDELSSOHN CHOIR – AND THE PRIVILEGE AND EXQUISITE PLEASURE TO SING GREAT WORKS WITH ONE OF THE GREATEST CHOIRS ON THE PLANET
- HAMPTON AVENUE – THE BRILLIANT SINGERS WHO WERE IN IT, AND STILL ARE
- THE UKULELE – AND ALL MY UKE FRIENDS WHO CELEBRATE THIS GREAT LITTLE INSTRUMENT EVERY WEDNESDAY TOGETHER – RIGHT HERE AT THE DOMINION ON QUEEN
I HAVE BEEN TRULY BLESSED – WITH A RICH, CREATIVE LIFE, AND I HOPE AS I ENTER MY NEXT DECADE I’LL HAVE THE ENERGY AND HEALTH TO KEEP IT GOING AS LONG AS I’M ABLE, AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO STOP.
THANKS FOR COMING – ALL OF YOU THERE WILL BE CAKE SERVED
AND NOW – THE FINAL SONG OF THE SET – A SONG I WROTE ABOUT “THE ONE MORE BIRTHDAY BLUES”.
You are invited to make your own comments, and add what you remember from the “Good Old Days”, and I’ll add them to the lists above.
Deb, very well thought out and put! Even though I’m just a couple years behind you (or so), I was taken back to my childhood with many of your memories.
I grew up, and still live, in Etobicoke in the Bloor/Prince Edward area. I often shopped for comics or candy as a kid at Pop’s variety store. It’s still there and I still visit occasionally.
My Mom’s church group had Don MacInnes visit last week to talk about growing up in The Kingsway. He owned MacInnes Pharmacy, now an LCBO! You probably remember when the LCBO was an A&P, Swiss Chalet was Loblaws and at Bloor & Royal York Shoppers Drug Mart was a Dominion and the bank on the opposite corner was Woolworth’s. Just across the street and a bit west was Pirri’s Market.
Thanks for inviting me to share your special day!
Thank you, also, for all you’ve done to contribute muchly to the Canadian music industry!!
I certainly remember the days of the A&P and Loblaws. Woolworths was on Bloor West of Royal York, and Kresges was beside the bank on Bloor, east of Royal York. I had my first summer job at the Kresges soda fountain. I also remember Bordens on the south side of Bloor just west of Prince Edward – you could get cones, banana splits, and my favourite – butterscotch sundaes.
We used to have cherry cokes, french fries and gravy at the Kingsway Restaurant after school.
I remember when Royal York Rd. United Church was a little clapboard one room sanctuary with the Sunday school in the dark, musty basement.
And a whole lot more. Growing up in Etobicoke was fun.
Debbie – this was beautifully written and thank you for reminding me of the good ole days. xo