Memoirs, Or Shadows Of What Has Been
By Peter Landry

Chapter Ten, Sports & Cars: 1957-59


I have in the very first Chapter told of my father as being very much involved in sports, mostly: wrestling, boxing and rowing shells on the Northwest Arm. He was 43 when I was born in 1941. By then, or not many years after that, he had given up all active participation in sports. His job with the Halifax School Board as its Director of Physical Education, however, meant he was very much involved in encouraging and in organizing intramural and inter-school team-play in all the regular sports. It is interesting to think that only once did he ever ask me in what sports I might be interested. I recall, from my earlier years, when my father and I were on the side lines of a football field while a game was going on. He suggested, maybe I might like "Football." I replied that I had thought about that, but I was not interested. My thought was, as I might have expressed to my father at the time, is that one courts serious injury in order to achieve the object of the game. The object is to take the ball and run with it with at least half of the players on the field running you down with the intention of crushing your bones and driving your head into the ground. I thought that hockey was near as bad. No, such team-play was not for me. I willingly participating in any sport where I was competing against the clock. I could swim and won a few meets. I went skating, regularly. Enjoyed gymnastics. Anyway, my father hardly pressed me about any of it. But, for that matter, we rarely had discussions about anything. I never learned how to swing a hammer or screw a screw. And while we are at it, I should say, I never saw my father with a book in hand. He was, however, I very busy man in the community; and "Doc" or "JT" was very much liked in the community. He was on City Council for a period of time. He was a member of the Kiwanis Cub, and, through it, was involved in "Rainbow Haven," a place which gave disadvantaged kids an opportunity to go to summer camp. A good many Saturdays he spent in the rinks and gymnasiums helping out kids in organized team-play. Something through the years I observed with other men, was what I came to observe about my father. To those outside of the family, he was friendly and helpful; in the family things were different. I, frankly, was frighten of the man and he give reason on occasions to be so. Oh! He provided for the family, got along with mother and the girls, careful with all of our diets, and did not drink or smoke. My three brothers were older, and I am not sure my father reacted to them as he reacted to me. More than once, a brother would tell me to recognise the signs of his resolve and back off before I went too far.

As a kid, it is hard to get to know your parents. I had my mother figured out fairly early on in my life; my father not so much. What were his thoughts that pressed upon his soul, the passions he felt, and the motives on which he acted? I do not know, as I never did get to know my father.

Beginners License

On March 14th, 1957, I became sixteen years old. It was time for me to get a Beginners License and learn how to drive a car; certain of my friends were doing so. The first thing to understand, is that my father had a greater than usual attachment to "his" cars. (My mother did not drive, ever, in her whole life.) I never saw any of my brothers and sisters behind the wheel of my father's car. I determined that the youngest son would break the mould. My persistence paid off. (My father regularly told me, that, if nothing else, I was persistent.) He would allow me to get a Beginners License, and, he would teach me to drive. The first lesson was to occur in his 1956 black Chev. Now, we had a rather awkward way of getting to the garage. It was located at the back of the house. One had to drive in the driveway from the street, along the side of the house, down a bit of a slope, along the back yard then a sharp right and into the garage. We did not have much of a lawn in the backyard, most of it was taken up with this circuitous driveway. To the right of this slope, just mentioned, which brought one down into the backyard, was a small rock garden to hold the bank. Well, the day had arrived. The car was positioned just outside the garage door. It was pointed in the right direction so I could drive it along the short distance of the backyard, then up the slope along the side of the house bringing the car to the edge of the street. This was my first try at it. I never made it to the edge of the street, indeed, I did not get beyond the house. Under my father's direction, he in the front passenger seat, I drove along the backyard then turned the wheel to bring the car up the slope. Unfortunately, the left rear tire caught in the rock garden to the left. What loomed ahead to the left was the concrete foundation of the house which I valiantly tried to avoid by turning the wheel to the right. The rear of the car had its own idea as to where it was going. And before you knew it I crashed into the concrete foundation causing a serious dent and several scratches to "my father's" car. My first thought was to get the door open and run rather than to face my father's wrath. Surprising to me, he was very calm about the matter, nothing much was said then or after about the affair. I never drove another car until I bought one a few years later. Maybe, for my father, the trouble of fixing the car was less trouble then having his teenage son driving around the city in "his car."

Austin Healey 3000

While we are on the subject of cars, I now must mention Pal's Austen Healey. Pal was my brother, at least my family knew him as "Pal." He was christen Paul. My mother explained that he got his nickname "Pal" by the doctor who attended at the birth. The doctor saw his initials on one of the clinical notes, PAL (Paul Anthony Landry) and passed Mum's little Pal to her, saying, "Here is your little Pal." The name stuck. At a very young age Pal came down with something or other which caused him to lose every hair in his body, a condition known as alopecia universalis. He became permanently bald from head to toe, much to his embarrassment in his young adult life. While there was a ten year difference between us, I was often his side kick when he thought he might like to have one. We have seen the example of me traveling with him to Detroit and back (he, 24; me 14). We will see next how we did a number of sports car rallies, together. (He never knew a girl, until he met his wife in the United States, to where he had moved many years ago and settled permanently. He has kept up very little contact with the family through the succeeding years, a shame, really, as we all loved him very much, especially his mother.)

I have already made mention of Pal's first car, an Austin A30, in which we made the round trip to Detroit in 1955. The image to the left is a 3000 with the oval grill somewhat different than the earlier version which Pal bought: the Austin Healey 100 with its "V" shaped front grill. Other than that it was just as is depicted including that wonderful colour scheme, exactly like Pal's. The "100" was introduced in October of 1952. The name "100" came-about by being able to break the 100 mph barrier. I calculate that Pal's was bought new through the Austin dealer in 1957. I figure it was the first in Halifax. The 3000, I have learned, was produced from 1959 through 1968. Pal's Healey always managed to turn heads. It was the envy of most of the members of the Halifax Sports Car Club. In the good weather rallies were held. Pal and I joined in, with yours truly in the passenger seat with clip board, stop watch and maps all ready at hand. I was not really very good at figuring out where we should be and at what time we were to be at the various check points. Pal was very patient with me and fun was generally had by all.

So, What was happening on the world stage in 1957? The Hamilton Watch Company introduced the first electric watch. Wham-O Company produced the first Frisbee. Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, published his most famous book, The Cat In The Hat. John Diefenbaker became Canada's 13th prime minister. The Ford Motor Company introduced the Edsel on a day which the company proclaimed as being "E Day"; it was the biggest automotive flop, ever. Have Gun, Will Travel, premiered on TV. Leave It To Beaver also came to the big tube. Canada's Avro Arrow (CF 105) was unveiled to the public; it was a delta-winged interceptor jet aircraft. A Japanese built car come into the North American market: the Toyota. That December, the Boeing 707 flew for the first time.

A certain young culture, originating with young Latinos in California, was making its impression with the young people in Halifax. For the young men, the style was to wear a zoot suit, which consisted of a flamboyant long coat with baggy pegged pants, a long key chain and shoes with thick soles. I had my pants pegged at the cuff, I think somewhere between ten and twelve inches; also, I think I manged to purchase the new look in leather shoes, but just in plain black leather. My father did not seem to notice the shoes; but the pegged pants -- well, my father was not impressed and there was to be no more pegged pants.

An event which I recall was the marriage of John to Colleen Courtney in 1957. Colleen was my father's secretary and he was instrumental in getting the pair of them together. I was in the wedding party. The pictures pretty much tell the story.

Three memorable songs of 1957: The Great Pretender by The Platters, The Wayward Wind by Gogi Grant, and Wake Up Little Susie by the Everly Bros.


With the beginning of 1958, the American space programme got off the ground, so to speak. On January 31st, the first successful American satellite, Explorer 1, is launched into orbit. That May, a formal North American Aerospace Defense Command agreement was signed by the United States and Canada. Alaska became the 49th state to join the union. And, as if to lend emphasis to the claims that the United States had on the northern polar regions, the nuclear powered submarine USS Nautilus became the first vessel to cross the North Pole under water. In April, Castro's revolutionary army was closing in on Havana. In July, five thousand United States Marines arrived in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, with the American aim being to protect the pro-Western government there. There was a change in the chief job at the Vatican: Pope John XXIII succeeded Pope Pius XII as the 261st pope. As the year drew to a close, it was recognised, that, for the first time, total passengers carried by air exceeded total passengers carried by vessels at sea.

On March 24th, 1958, Elvis Presley enlisted and became a private in the U.S. Army. He was to be stationed in Germany for the next two years; after which, in 1960, Presley returned to his fantastic musical career. As for the big songs that were making the rounds (there are so many, I break my three song rule): At the Hop by Danny & The Juniors, Witch Doctor by David Seville, Claudette by Everly Brothers, Poor Little Fool by Ricky Nelson, Tequila by The Champs, and finally Beep Beep by The Playmates.

I passed from grade 10 to grade 11 at Saint Patrick's High School. I will come to giving some details of these high school years when I tell of my early adventures with Louise.


P & Brother John

And so we come to 1959, the last year to be reviewed in this chapter of my life. In Cuba, Fidel Castro was in charge; and, without hesitation, it seems, the United States recognized Castro's government. On February 3rd, a chartered plane transporting musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Roger Peterson and The Big Bopper went down in foggy conditions near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all 4 occupants on board, including pilot Roger Peterson. The tragedy was later termed "The Day the Music Died," popularized in Don McLean's 1972 song "American Pie." A new little toy, for girls, showed up in the toy stores: The Barbie doll. In April, NASA announced its selection of 7 military pilots to become the first U.S. astronauts. On June 26th, Queen Elizabeth II and the U.S. President, Dwight Eisenhower, attended the opening ceremonies of the Saint Lawrence Seaway linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The Soviet Union, still ahead in the "Space Race," on September 14th, further strengthen its position with the launching of Luna 2; it became the first man-made object to crash on the Moon. And then, in the next month, Luna 3 sent back photos of the far side of the Moon, for the first time ever. A useful invention for women: the pantyhose came on the market. Xerox introduced a plain paper copier. Hawaii was admitted as the 50th U.S. state.

In 1959, a couple of engineers, one of them had worked for Texas Instruments, were determined to make more out of less. They invented the microchip -- so important in the development of the electronic age. With the impetus of WWII, the computer come into being during the 1940s. Improvements brought more and more pieces and components to the computer which could easily fill an entire room. "The monolithic (formed from a single crystal) integrated circuit placed the previously separated transistors, resistors, capacitors and all the connecting wiring onto a single crystal (or 'chip') made of semiconductor material [such as silicon]."

Saint Marys

In June of 1959, I received a pass from grade 11 at Saint Patrick's High School. I could have gone on to grade 12, what was then called a senior matriculation. However, I could start my university education and enter into my first or freshman year. That September, I started in at Saint Mary's University. It was a much different institution than it is these days. It consisted of one large building on the south end of Robie Street with a rather large field in the back, which, since my time there, has been filled up with one building after another. The left wing was where the resident students had their rooms (many from the "The New England States.") I was not in residence; I was a "day-hop." In the right wing, the Jesuit priests lived. It was a Catholic institution run by the Jesuits, though there were a few lay teachers. The courses a student took, I believe for the first two years, were set and mandatory. If I recollect it correctly, of the five mandatory courses, included was: Theology, English and French (I had a tough time with French). I will come to describing my early university career in the next chapter.

Here are some interesting statistics: An average car cost $2,200; gasoline, 30 cents a gallon; a house, $18,500; a loaf of bread, 20 cents; Milk, $1 a gallon; a postage Stamp for a letter, 4 cents; the average annual salary, $5,500.

In late 1958 our residence on Quinpool Road was sold. We moved to the suburbs, Flemming Heights, handy the "The Dingle". I was not consulted on the move (I would have preferred to stay where I grew up; close to schools, theatres, and my old friends). My mother wanted a modern house with a modern kitchen; and, she got it. Within a year my parents sold the property and moved back to the peninsula just off of Dutch Village Road on Somerset Avenue. I lived there for about a year. In 1960, to which we will next come, a life changing event occurred and I moved out of my parents' home.

Among the Movies for 1959: Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston and Jack Hawkins; Some Like It Hot starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and, the curvy blond bombshell, Marilyn Monroe; and, North by Northwest starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, directed by the inimitable, Alfred Hitchcock.

As for the big songs: Kansas City by Wilbert Harrison, The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton, Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin.

[Pictures, 1957-59]

NEXT: [Chapter Eleven, University & The UNTDs]


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2011 (2020)

Peter Landry