storyteller, broadcaster

Archive for March, 2012

“You played it for her, you can play it for me.”

First the trailer as audiences first saw it in 1942.

Casablanca trailer

Can it really be 70 years since Bogie and the rest of that amazing cast did their thing on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank? Casablanca continues to reign as the favourite movie of a majority of those who have been surveyed over the past few decades.

Do I remember the first of the 40 or so times that I have seen it in my life? Like it was yesterday. The year was 1956, and I had just turned 9. Dad let me stay up and watch it with him one Saturday night, much to my mother’s disapproval. I think her negative feelings were generated when he shared with both of us, the circumstances under which he first saw Casablanca . He was living in London for 18 months prior to D-Day, serving with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. My Dad, Andy Currie, was every bit the movie nut that I turned out to be. In that regard and a few others, the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree.

So, one blacked out night in war torn London, Dad and a buddy traveled to Croydon to catch this new flick with Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Two nights later the theatre was destroyed by a German rocket, and more than 30 movie goers were killed. The story was not lost on me as a young boy, even though I still wasn’t terribly clear then how I arrived in this world.

Nowadays when you can speak to your smartphone and it will play anything on the HD screen including this cinema classic, it doesn’t seem to have the same magic it once had. In 1965 when I was a freshman at St. John’s College in Winnipeg, I rented a 16 mm print of Casablanca and screened it for a group of my fellow students. It was definitely “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” for several of us. Carrying those three reels of film in my car for two days was as if I suddenly had possession of Aladdin’s lamp.

By that stage our faces were clearing up and some of us were even discovering the agony of losing a love that seemed oh so right. We definitely knew how we got here. It was about that time that Paul McCartney was writing the song that would go on to be voted the ‘best love song of the 20th century’ in a couple of different polls.

Do you think he might have been watching a certain movie just before he put the words and music on paper?

casablanca-yesterday-beatles

In the immortal words of Tom Wolfe “It could have happened that way”.

When all is said and done “We’ll always have Paris”.

Returning to Winnipeg, an NHL city ..

A month from now I will be traveling east on the Trans Canada, bound for Winnipeg. How I wish I had a buck for every time I have made that drive since our family motor trips in the mid-1950’s. How I wish there was still train service between Winnipeg and Regina.

This upcoming trip at the end of April will mark the second time I have returned to Winnipeg after living in Regina. I first moved to Regina to live on Valentine’s Day 1977. I was a cocky 29 year old radio broadcaster who was hired by the Armadale Siftons to run the newsroom at CKCK radio.

Fairly quickly this Winnipeg lad who had grown up with the Blue Bombers, embraced the green and white, the beloved Roughriders. The Curries have been a football family, as I’ve often written about. It was the only team sport that I was played at a competitive level, winning a Manitoba high school championship in my last year at Kelvin in 1964.

My connection to hockey is not as strong. I was an ankle skater whose career as a team player ended about age 12. I have certainly been an enthusiastic spectator over the years, and I was delighted to see the Winnipeg Jets rise from the dead in 2011.

Here is one of the more unique celebrations of the Jets’ history in Winnipeg, from a splendid choral group called Camerata Nova.

Just before Christmas, I had the good fortune to attend my first game involving the new Winnipeg Jets. What a grand night it was at the Phone Booth, the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg where Eaton’s used to stand. They beat the once mighty Montreal Canadiens 4-0 that night.

In their first season back, the Jets were a fabulous home team, but a less impressive road record has resulted in a finish that won’t go beyond the regular season.

Hey it could be much much worse. Right Leaf fans ?

It’s scary getting around Regina sometimes ..

The longer I drive and walk in Regina, the less safe I feel. Tuesday of this was particularly bad.
Just after the morning rush, a 24 year old woman was struck by a vehicle and seriously hurt on Victoria Avenue, right by the Hotel Saskatchewan. It appears that one vehicle stopped for her as she attempted to cross the busy street, but another one didn’t and the result was terrible.

A few hours later I’m driving to the YMCA on 13th Avenue. Smack dab in the middle of the intersection at 13th and Smith, which is controlled by a two-way stop, a man was pouring gas into his pickup truck from a jerrycan. He had run out of fuel and simply couldn’t go six feet further!

He also seemed totally oblivious to the traffic hazard he was causing. Thirty feet further west, a school bus was picking up pre-school kids from the Y, and he was stopped in a driving lane with no warning signs or flashers deployed.

Illegal parking of that sort is an epidemic in Regina. The one-way streets in the charming but strange neighbourhood where I have lived for the past five years have always been an accident waiting to happen it seems. I long ago lost count of the number of bicycles that I have almost collided with as they approached me the wrong way on a one-way street.

Knockdowns of pedestrians are all too common in the Queen city. Many parties can shoulder at least part of the responsibility. I’m not into blaming the victim, but some folks who walk the streets in this community seem convinced that they are protected by some kind of special angel. They jay walk all over the place, and step out from between parked cars without the slightest glance in either direction.
They step out at pedestrian crosswalks without pushing the button to get vehicles to stop.

The city could doing a much better job of designing crossings. Warning signs and flashing lights should be much more prominent.

Motorists make illegal turns all over the place. They run red lights as if they have some kind of ‘entitlement’. They talk on handheld cellphones which has been against the law for quite a while now.
I see little evidence that Regina’s finest are doing much to improve the situation. They seem to spend a huge amount of time ‘fundraising’ with speedtraps.

In general, I’m left with the feeling that traffic safety is not a high priority. Presumably the message is driven home to young school children, but why isn’t it a priority of some sort with the rest of us?

In the abscence of better awareness programs, let us all try to be more careful out there .. please !

Tear off that scarf and burn it !

Talk of the Town Commentary .. March 22, 2012

What’s wrong with this picture ?

 

Image

I have a red scarf like that which I have enjoyed wearing for several years. My plan now is to burn it. Graham James used the scarf to avoid showing his face as he came and went from a courtroom in Winnipeg.

 He is Canada’s most notorious pedophile, and a never-ending disgrace to our favourite past-time. Most of us cannot begin to understand what goes on inside the mind of a sexual predator like James. Hopefully his story has yielded some valuable lessons. Hopefully the people who hire coaches are more careful and thorough in screening such men before placing them in such a position of trust. Did Judge Catherine Carlson get it wrong when she sentenced him to two years for his multiple assaults on Theron Fleury and heaven knows how many other young hockey players? I’m betting that she has had many second thoughts about her decision to not allow cameras in court for the sentencing, especially after seeing that ridiculous photo with the red scarf.

 Legal experts say James will likely be out of prison before Christmas, since he will undoubtedly qualify for parole after serving one third of his sentence. Sheldon Kennedy, the first of the victims to stand up and blow the whistle on his former coach, may have put it best. He said no sentence can ever restore what he and the other men have lost because of the actions of this man. It’s been more than 15 years since Kennedy made his bold move. I wonder if he realized at the time how many more times he would have to relive his nightmare and what it would do to him.

 We do know that pedophiles are masters of manipulation. Graham James has manipulated Canada’s justice system a number of times. Judge Carlson may be another of his victims. But as others have pointed out, when it comes to sexual abuse, we’re not dealing with a justice system. Rather it’s a legal system. It has many flaws when it tries to deal with so many offences.

 It has been a very dark and difficult 12 months for the game that Canadians love so much. Here’s hoping we have at least come to realize that people like Kennedy and Fleury are heroes that all boys and girls who lace on skates should look up to.

Where will all the jobs go ?

Talk of the Town Commentary .. March 19, 2012

I was visiting in Winnipeg on the weekend. Like much of the prairies, the weather continued to be unbelievable – more like May than March. But it was an ugly heartbreaking Sunday for more than 300 people who thought they had secure jobs in the city’s aerospace industry. A company called Aveos, which repairs and maintains a number of planes in the Air Canada fleet, closed its doors in Winnipeg and elsewhere with almost zero advance warning. In total, more than three thousand jobs were wiped out across Canada. Aveos was created in 2007 when Air Canada consolidated its maintenance and repair division into a stand alone operation. When the former crown-owned airline was privatized twenty years ago, the government of Brian Mulroney secured commitments from the new private owners that these valuable skilled jobs would be maintained in this country. Winnipeg was one of several centres who breathed a sigh of relief at the time. The airline was born in Manitoba capital before World War Two, but over the decades the city has struggled to maintain a healthy aerospace industry. Located smack dab in the middle of North America, it would seem to be a ‘no brainer’ that Winnipeg should be an aerospace hub. But working against that have been the wonderful forces of globalization. Never mind that a ‘centre of excellence’ has been carefully nurtured in this vital sector. We live in a world that is frequently reduced to a ‘race to the bottom’. If it can be done cheaper somewhere else, then that’s where the work will go, and there’s no need to be gentle or fair about it. That’s what happened with hundreds of workers at the Caterpiller locomotive plant in southern Ontario a few weeks ago. The employer said “Sign a contract that pays you half what you were making before, or watch those jobs disappear to the U.S.” That’s exactly what happened, and the politicians were powerless to do anything about it. The rumours about what Air Canada will now do are all over the map. There are suggestions that the work will initially go to non-union plants in the U.S., but before too long the work will move to Mexico. One can imagine similar concerns in Saskatchewan as the forces of the global economy determine the future of Viterra. It makes you wonder where it will end, and who will get to turn out the lights.

 

 

My Famous Classmate

originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press in late March 2005

by Roger Currie, a Winnipeg writer + broadcaster
………………………………………………………………………..

I’ll bet you did not know that I am in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? This is a fun little story which I have been dining out on for years. You see there’s this fellow who really IS in the Hall of Fame, and we were in the same room at Kelvin High School in grade 11 way back in 1963-64. You might have heard of him. His name is Neil Young. Part of Neil’s exhibit in Cleveland is his grade 11 yearbook .. and my picture is on the same page. Pretty lame, huh? Told you it was a little story.
2005 was a difficult year for Neil. He promised that if the Junos ever came to Winnipeg, he would be here and would perform on the show. So plans were made to give him a very prominent spot on the program when the big show took place at the brand new MTS Centre. But less than a week before, Neil had to cancel. He had surgery to repair a brain aneurysm. It was not something to fool around with, but Neil managed to finish an outstanding new album called Prairie Wind before going under the knife. Then in mid-June Neil lost his dad. 87 year old Scott Young was a well known Canadian writer, author of several books including Neil and Me which he wrote about his famous son in 1984.
Neil and I were not what you would call close at all. Truth is Neil didn’t have that many close friends at Kelvin, unless they were into music. Academic studies certainly took a back seat to playing his guitar and writing songs. Neil spent two years in grade ten and was starting his second attempt at grade eleven when he dropped out of school for good in the fall of 1964.
He was tall and skinny and without much physical strength. He had polio as a youngster. His somewhat frail health was largely unknown to our phys ed teacher, Mike Kachmar. Mike was also the football coach, and in gym class he could have been mistaken for a military drill sergeant as he whipped us through sit-ups, pushups and other such torture. I recall more than one occasion when Neil was in agony and Kachmar spared him no quarter. Many years later, Neil made a triumphant return to Winnipeg performing a sold out concert at the Arena. During a quiet moment about halfway through the evening, Neil recalled his ordeal in gym class and unloaded on Coach Kachmar in colourful language which I won’t repeat here since it might scorch the page. Kachmar gleefully recalled it as “my five minutes of fame”.
I remember Neil as a fairly shy loner, an introvert even. But like many a successful performer he came alive in the spotlight, on the stage. At Kelvin, he gave a number of memorable impromptu performances in the gym and the cafeteria, and I remember them as being very funny. One song in particular called A Letter to Freddie stands out. Freddie was Fred Hodgkinson, the vice principal of Kelvin, who gave Neil more than a few detentions for his various antics.
By 1963, when we both reported to Mrs. Mollard’s grade eleven class in room 34, Neil Young had already formed his most notable Winnipeg band called The Squires (see photo). Being a painfully shy guy who wasn’t much for those community club dances that Winnipeg was famous for in the 1960’s, I don’t believe I ever saw the band perform. They made one notable 45 rpm recording featuring two of the first songs Neil ever wrote, The Sultan and Aurora on the flip side. It was recorded by engineer Harry Taylor at CKRC in the late summer of 1963. It certainly got played to death in the Kelvin cafeteria, and on the local airwaves of CKRC. All of the fellows who worked at CKRC then have memories of Neil hanging around the station, but not one of them had any inkling that he might become a superstar in the music world. Boyd Kozak had just started at CKRC in 1963. “I was working 8 to midnight, and Neil would come in and sit at the back of the studio when he got tired of his band mates. He was very much a loner and could not be described as a sparkling personality. He sure smoked a lot of cigarettes”, Kozak recalled in an interview.
In more recent times Neil Young has turned to a much more wholesome lifestyle. He once turned down a very lucrative tour of central and South America when he learned that a major sponsor of the tour was a tobacco company. He has been a tireless proponent of Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid efforts, and a quiet supporter of many other causes.
Let me end this reminiscence with a few thoughts about that darkest Friday so long ago, November 22nd 1963. Neil and I sat about three seats apart writing a major chemistry test for Dr. Golubchuk that afternoon. Just after the test papers were handed out, the P A system interrupted with confirmation of the news that changed the world. U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been killed by an assassin’s bullets in Dallas Texas. At that moment, I looked up and gazed around the room. Some of the girls were crying. Neil and I looked at each other with expressions that spoke volumes without any words. Why on earth were we trying to do this stupid test? I’m sure we both failed that day, but what did it really matter?

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