Back in the Day

Old Jan 8th 2023, 7:40 pm
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
Does anybody else here on BE remember party-lines?
Had a party line (back in the UK) in 1982.
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Old Jan 15th 2023, 5:50 pm
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Whereabouts was that? How many members? And, is it still working? Is anybody else familiar with the practice?
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Old Jan 15th 2023, 5:57 pm
  #168  
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
Whereabouts was that? How many members? And, is it still working? Is anybody else familiar with the practice?
Godalming, Surrey, UK. Just 2 addresses participating. Long gone, with the privatisation of BT.
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Old Jan 16th 2023, 11:05 pm
  #169  
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
Small world, Morpeth! Linda and I lived in Perth in 1971, while she was at the teachers' training school or whatever it was called. We lived in Claremont, and played tennis at the Dalkeith Tennis Club. Mixed with expats, mostly, including some "refugees" from the Bahamas where we had just left.

We enjoyed the year, though it was a financial disaster for me. The highlight for us was being part of a "safari" expedition of six or seven cars up to Port Hedland on the inland route and back on the coast road. Did you ever get up that way?
Did you meet anyone in Port Hedland? I worked there from May 1971 till January 1972 at Mt Newman Mining Co. I was an electronic technician and drove a mini moke around the site fixing or trying to fix stuff that died in the heat. Long hours, 60 a week, and lots of money in the bank at the end.
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Old Jan 16th 2023, 11:14 pm
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
Something else for "Back in the Day" - telephones. When I were a lad... except for holidays in civilisation, my exposure to phones was limited to our "party line", out in the bush, shared by twenty or so farms. Each farm was allotted a morse-code identity. Ours was Hannaford 2-S. The 2 was our line, the S was our number. Our set was attached to the wall in the lounge. When we heard three short rings (three turns of the handle by the caller), we knew it was for us, and answered it by talking into the speaker on the wall. Even if we were visiting a neighbour, we recognised the ring and answered it there. If it rang for someone who we knew was away, we answered it and told the caller. "Sorry, the Camerons are all away for the week. Who's calling? Oh, it's you Dave {Dave was the chap who ran the exchange down at the railway siding who was also our district's mailman). Who wants them?" If we knew the caller we might ask Dave to connect us and we would pass on the news. If we didn't, or if they were calling from somewhere distant, we saved everybody the horrendous cost of a "trunk-line" call and let Dave handle it.

It's a whole new world for phones today, isn't it? Privacy, for a start! On a party-line, we could secretly listen to everybody's conversations. If we wanted, which we didn't.

Does anybody else here on BE remember party-lines?
They were common in the UK but only 2 parties per line and they had selective ringing so you never knew when the other party was being called.

However I remember in a pub in a village north of Greymouth on the west coast of NZ in 1972 the phone kept ringing and no one answered it. Only later did I learn that it was a multi party line and each party had their own coded ring.
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Old Jan 18th 2023, 12:45 am
  #171  
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by winston_1
Did you meet anyone in Port Hedland? I worked there from May 1971 till January 1972 at Mt Newman Mining Co. I was an electronic technician and drove a mini moke around the site fixing or trying to fix stuff that died in the heat. Long hours, 60 a week, and lots of money in the bank at the end.
No, we didn't meet any of the locals. I remember a dance evening - a public one, I think - but we just hung around our fellow safari-people.

Yes, I can well believe the money was good! Places like that were always high-paid. Tell me: did you get around much, when you were there? See any of the local sights - the mountains south of you, for instance? Our drive up there from Perth was via Meekatharra and the famous Marble Bar - famous as the hottest place in Australia, at one time!
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Old Jan 18th 2023, 2:05 pm
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
No, we didn't meet any of the locals. I remember a dance evening - a public one, I think - but we just hung around our fellow safari-people.

Yes, I can well believe the money was good! Places like that were always high-paid. Tell me: did you get around much, when you were there? See any of the local sights - the mountains south of you, for instance? Our drive up there from Perth was via Meekatharra and the famous Marble Bar - famous as the hottest place in Australia, at one time!
Once I got there (the company flew me up from Perth) It was continuous work except when there was a strike on which seemed to happen quite frequently. On one such occasion went to Wittenoom, and on another drove to Broome which was little more that a village then, on to Derby and Fitzroy Crossing before returning as we heard the strike was settled. Never went to Marble Bar but I knew a few that did. Got the impression it was a bit rough.

When I finally left drove down the company road to Newman and had a look at that end of the system, then on to Perth via Cue etc.
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Old Jan 25th 2023, 8:46 pm
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On a website yesterday (NOT A BLOG! DON'T WORRY!), I felt called upon to defend the good name of the people of Turkey. My experience there - Back in the Day - was limited to a month or so fifty-plus years ago, when Linda and I first began travelling together. But we were travelling through town slums and poverty-distressed villages, where life had scarcely changed for centuries - and it won't have changed since our visit. People are people, I believe, and cultures are cultures.

In a town halfway to Mount Ararat, in late 1964, we were intercepted in the street while looking for a cheap hotel, and pressed to stay in a private home. Two small children were woken up and brought to meet us, and we slept in a bed still warm from their bodies. (Some things you just can’t argue about...)

We were snowed in the whole of the next day, and did what the natives did - sat around in a cafe sipping glasses of sweet black tea, waiting for the road to clear so we could hitch our way out. I hate sweet black tea, but what can you do? I stood up to buy my round, only to be confronted by a fierce-looking fellow with red hair who dismissed my money. A futile argument (sign language and shouting) ended by his thumping his chest while roaring "ME TURK!!" I glanced at the others, who gave me the slight shifting of eyes and head that says, "Let it go." His command of English impressed his friends enormously, so he got his money's worth, I guess.

In the villages, the sexes were segregated, pretty much., but in most places our very presence was exotic enough to put us beyond the reach of local etiquette rules. Linda was an honorary male, in effect. Once, though, she was invited (with a hint of desperation, as courtesy warred with custom) to go to the women upstairs in their harem. They had never had a foreign woman up there before, and she had a great time dancing the Twist with them. I was guest of honour on a chair down in the street watching the men doing their line-dancing. Ho-hum. The village schoolteacher spoke a smattering of German, as did I, and he translated every word he thought I'd said to him.

Some time later an English-speaker must have visited the village. In our mail at the Bank back in London (when we got there) was a postcard with a message in English, printed in block capitals. "WE HOPE YOU COME BACK. OUR WILLAGE PEOPLES LOVES YOU." Verbatim.

It doesn’t get any better than that.
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Old Feb 1st 2023, 11:49 pm
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Here's another snippet of our travelling days, this time from the USSR in 1965. A common practice of young budget travellers there in those days was selling Western clothing for roubles on the black market, often at night in back streets. Denim jeans were particularly prized by young Soviet citizens, for whom wearing jeans (in private) was super-cool. But every once in a while the local customer for their jeans was an incorruptible young copper. Then, the seller lost his jeans and everything else, and had to wire home for the fare out, plus a fine. It was a risky game, and the secret of playing the black market is always to minimise risk. Plan ahead. Buy currency outside the country and sneak it in. Linda and I had done this by buying our roubles at a bank back in Austria beforehand. (We had driven the Beetle up from Turkey to Finland.)

Some basic arithmetic skill is always necessary where tight currency-controls exist. You have to exchange enough at the official rates to hide the fact that you have acquired some illegally as well. If you live entirely on the food that you brought in, and your car gets sixty miles per gallon of the 20-octane dishwater sold at the local pumps, your exit-form will balance. Ours balanced - clear evidence that we had done those things, and lived saintly lives. We heard of one unfortunate fellow who accidentally declared more money on exit than he had declared on entry. Oops!
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Old Feb 3rd 2023, 6:03 pm
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Here's a context for our entry into the USSR back in 1965, copied from my report written many years later.

There we were, rolling along the highway from Finland to Leningrad in the middle of a virgin forest with not the slightest sign of human habitation. Just the two of us in my Beetle, not another car on the road, and very pleased with ourselves for having put one over on the border guards. Yee-hah! So it was a bit of a shock to suddenly see a man in uniform standing in the middle of the road a hundred yards ahead, one hand up to stop us and the other holding a rifle in case the hand failed.

"Oh, those damn apples!" Linda cried, while my heart sank. At the border, the guards had wanted to confiscate eight or ten apples we’d bought with the last of our Finnish money; but we said we'd eat them there and then, and began to do so. Two serfs were instructed to search the car for any other contraband. On the back shelf they found a copy of Time Magazine someone had given us back at the hostel. Surreptitiously, with fearful glances towards the boss in the office, they studied every page in silent wonderment, this unspeakably evil symbol of Western decadence. They lost track of time until a roar from the office had them scrambling guiltily out of the car. We were waved hastily through. and entered the Soviet Union with the uneaten apples beside us.

How typical of the bloody KGB, now, to send a man with a gun to catch us with our smuggled goodies, two miles away from the safety of The West. What a rude welcome for a pair of innocent tourists! But actually, the man with the gun just wanted to check that we were who we were supposed to be. So we got to keep the apples - and, incidentally, the Soviet currency notes hidden at the bottom of a tin of English tea.

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Old Feb 8th 2023, 2:12 am
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A final report on our time in the USSR in '65... On the way out of the country, we reckoned we were sick and tired of pumping the tyres up every morning (they had received a bit of a bashing on back roads in Turkey a few months before), so we decided to get them fixed in Minsk, on the way out to Poland. A young Intourist translator drove with us to the city’s sole car-repair shop - a vast yard that catered for every car in the entire country, it seemed. Well! All the workers rushed over to inspect our tubeless tyres. No tubes? Impossible! What keeps the air inside? Ah, well, that was the present problem...!

After a lot of hooing and hahing, they cheerfully put tubes inside the hitherto tubeless tyres, and we were ready to go again! I tipped them generously with our illegal roubles (see story above), and Linda made the girl cry by giving her a new pair of nylons, carried unopened since London. (Nylon stockings in the USSR were as rare as tubeless tyres.) If she's still alive today, I bet she remembers us!
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Old Feb 8th 2023, 8:50 am
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Love these stories!
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Old Feb 8th 2023, 11:16 pm
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Default Re: Back in the Day

To digress somewhat, as offensive comedians go one has to go far to surpass the late Rodney Dangerfield, who could be so off-putting in his monologues, audiences at his nightclub shows were known to try to assault him while he was on-stage doing his act. A long, long time ago when I was doing one of my cross-country jaunts in North America (IRRC this would be 1979 or 1982) I happened to be in a casino in Las Vegas - I didn't gamble, but this was back in the 'gods' when if one dressed properly, hung about the poker machines and flashed a bit of green cash in the right places and at the right times a few free drinks would magically appear, served to one on a tray by a uniformed baby doll with a plastic smile with sides of salted nuts and pretzels, yes, those good old days now seemingly prehistory!

Anyway, Rodney was well into his deprecatory-to-everyone (including, many times, himself) self-dialogue and has just uttered no less than four of his signature "take my wife" jokes when a clearly inebriated patron stood up and lurched to the stage, intent on ramming the comedian's dental work down his craw. The guy actually made it to the stage and had just grabbed Dangerfield by the lapels when two burley bouncers materialized and carted this gentleman off to the parking lot.

An hour or so later I was at the bar (by then the free drinks had finished and I was at the bar when the comedian himself came in. We had a pleasant chat for twenty minutes, as I recall he told me about an exhibition of European paintings then in town and urged me to go to see it (which I did). I found him to be very knowledgable about good art and well read on the lives of famous American and European artists. In all, a vast difference from the suburban oaf he so fondly portrayed in his shows. A good example of what one sees and what really is.

On to the USSR. In December 1973 I was there for a month, to Moscow, St Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) and Kiev, courtesy of a friend who was then managing a travel agency in Toronto specializing in everything-included tours to the Soviet Union. Intourist then gave them one free tour to sell with every 30 they sold and as it happened they had a sellout group of about 90. So I was given a free ticket.

I went by train to Montreal and we flew out on an Aeroflot jet in the midst of one of the worst winter blizzards Quebec had seen in 50 years, which didn't faze those Soviet pilots at all. Service on the flights was spotty to say the least. Heating in the cabin was not the best and we were all given a thick woolen blanket to stay warm. One ordered a drink and got a half liter of whatever was asked for. Food was so-so. Air hostesses were bionic welterweights who spoke no English at all but were masters at using the word "nyet!".

After a 12 hour flight we were in Moscow at 3.30 AM and after being "processed" by immigration and customs (which took almost no time at all) we were led to the bar and plied with Georgian champagne until sunrise when busses arrived to take us to our hotel in downtown Moscow. My room was spartan but well heated and comfortable and the window offered a view of St Basil's and part of th Kremlin, but to my chagrin I could not open it for a better view and photos. My Russian friends told me all the lamps in the room were probably equipped with microphones and to be ultra careful what we said or did. Much of the latter consisted of drinking alcohol which flowed like water everywhere we went. Many of the tourists in the group stayed drunk for their entire stay, which I suppose was one way of dealing with the stress of travel.

The entertainment was lavish. Music nights and cabaret every evening, oceans of champagne, attentive waiters and waitresses, snacks on call and a lot of dancing. My Russian friends had family visiting them and I was introduced to and talked with many Russians who told me of trying to get by in a period of great shortages, almost no consumer items available, poor transport, travel restrictions and meddlesome bureaucracy. Yet all took pains to explain how better it all was. The older family members had lived through the Second World War and all had lost parents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters in the brutal battles against the German invaders. Yes, they told us, times were difficult, but it would eventually all get better, they believed. The authorities told them so. Hm.

It was the end of year period and everywhere we went the Christmas decorations and New Year's celebrations were lavish and enjoyable, but like so many others visiting there at that time, I quickly discovered that life in the then Soviet Bloc evolved not so much around quotas and productivity but rather getting by and scavenging what you could. Taxi drivers always offered to sell and buy an amazing variety of items not usually available in the shops (which going by the ones we saw were all but barren of any consumer goods anyway). A Dunlop lighter and a half empty can of Ditto lighter fluid got three of us a half day's taxi excursion to the Tsar's royal complex out of Leningrad. The porter at my hotel in Moscow did a deal to buy my well-worn Levis for enough rubles to ensure we ate and drank well for a week. Small gifts of American $1s and $2 at the right time opened many doors otherwise closed to regular visitors in small galleries and museums. I recall having my photo taken (sadly I've long ago lost the negative) of myself sitting at Leo Tolstoy's writing desk in his dash in suburban Moscow. A $2 tip to the captain of a Tsarist era gunboat anchored near the Hermitage in St Petersburg (as I've always preferred to call it) allowed me to see the entire ship including the engine room. As I made my way down the narrow winding ladders into the depths of that boat, I recall thinking how small Russian navy boys must have been in the 19th century, I was far from being the buffalo I am now but it was a tight squeeze for me to fit into all those confined spaces.

I made friends with several Russian-born Canadians who were visiting the homeland for the first time since they as children and their parents had managed to get out, decades before. They spoke fluent Russian and we wandered everywhere to and fro in the cities, they chatting to the locals and I quietly making notes and taking photos We quickly figured out we were being "shadowed" by security officers and on two occasions we made friends with them, to the extent of paying for their lunches (they always sat at a nearby table to ours and seemingly ignored us, but we knew they were quietly noting everything we did and said) and on occasion coffee and even vodka. In the end we were never stopped or questioned and when time came to leave, nothing whatsoever took place at the airport. So they must have decided we were harmless and just tourists going about looking at things. Back home the Royal Canadian Mounted Police declined to pay me a visit or invite me in for a half day of pointed interrogations. So we must have been seen as the inconsequential we really were - I hope.

Above all else I remember Moscow as grey and dreary but how charming and cultured Leningrad turned out to be. Food was inexpensive and ordinary in the capital but outstandingly good in the northern capital of high culture. Every second day we would escape to the legendary Metropole Hotel which was not far from the Kremlin for more exotic fare. A seven course lunch in that hotel's Mongolian Cafe was heavy in protein dishes but only two vegetables, onions and cabbage. Otherwise our "prix fixe inclusive" lunches were three courses and dinners four courses and all awash with Georgian red wines and champagnes at very affordable prices, as if keeping us overfed and well lubricated with alcohol was a way for the authorities to control us.

Out of the tourist places the realities of life were somewhat different. The GUM department store had good stocks of so-called "luxury" items (most easily found in any supermarket in Canada, so all quite unexciting to me) and In the small shops and the workers' markets I saw the locals were fortunate to be able to buy one or two withered oranges and small chunks of cabbage. Meat was nonexistent, there were no cats or dogs to be seen anywhere and I recall thinking those must have long before ended up in the oven...

After the New Year and a lavish party awash with yet more champagne we flew home in early January, again in a series of blizzards. I ended p with a suitcase of gadgets and gewgaws which I gave away to friends - somewhere at home, I suspect in a box in the garage I still have a few metal pins denoting the Great achievements - and in my case I did get two notable experiences. Leaving the Metropole in Moscow one evening I ignored a red light and walked across a busy street, which earned me a stern lecture and a jaywalking ticket (I still have it, framed and on the wall of our study) from a bear of a policeman in a military greatcoat who relieved me of one rouble fifty as a fine, posed for a group photo with us and slipped a US$1 "tip" in his pocket. Further down the street we saw a boiler-like machine dispensing beer and champagne in communal glasses (which were attached on a chain to the main machine, so preventing theft of same) for one rouble. I availed myself of two glasses of champagne which I recall cost me three roubles - two months later the entire party in Toronto came down with hepatitis, likely from the communal glass from which we all drank. That laid me low for five weeks and in many ways results din my moving first to Vancouver and California for a year, then to Australia, but those are other stories and best told elsewhere.

I still have all my photos of this journey. In 2022 I found my stash of negatives taken during that trip and I finally put in the effort and the time (it took many hours) to scan the hundred B&W negatives of this memorable once in a lifetime journey, all shot on Kodak Tri-X with a Rolleiflex TLR in those long gone days when film was the way - all mostly underexposed as the winter light in Russia was dim to say the least. So many experiences. Or as someone far more literary (and literate) than I has written, "ah, the memories!"


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Old Feb 9th 2023, 4:32 am
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
To digress somewhat, as offensive comedians go one has to go far to surpass the late Rodney Dangerfield, who could be so off-putting in his monologues, audiences at his nightclub shows were known to try to assault him while he was on-stage doing his act. A long, long time ago when I was doing one of my cross-country jaunts in North America (IRRC this would be 1979 or 1982) I happened to be in a casino in Las Vegas - I didn't gamble, but this was back in the 'gods' when if one dressed properly, hung about the poker machines and flashed a bit of green cash in the right places and at the right times a few free drinks would magically appear, served to one on a tray by a uniformed baby doll with a plastic smile with sides of salted nuts and pretzels, yes, those good old days now seemingly prehistory!

Anyway, Rodney was well into his deprecatory-to-everyone (including, many times, himself) self-dialogue and has just uttered no less than four of his signature "take my wife" jokes when a clearly inebriated patron stood up and lurched to the stage, intent on ramming the comedian's dental work down his craw. The guy actually made it to the stage and had just grabbed Dangerfield by the lapels when two burley bouncers materialized and carted this gentleman off to the parking lot.

An hour or so later I was at the bar (by then the free drinks had finished and I was at the bar when the comedian himself came in. We had a pleasant chat for twenty minutes, as I recall he told me about an exhibition of European paintings then in town and urged me to go to see it (which I did). I found him to be very knowledgable about good art and well read on the lives of famous American and European artists. In all, a vast difference from the suburban oaf he so fondly portrayed in his shows. A good example of what one sees and what really is.

On to the USSR. In December 1973 I was there for a month, to Moscow, St Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) and Kiev, courtesy of a friend who was then managing a travel agency in Toronto specializing in everything-included tours to the Soviet Union. Intourist then gave them one free tour to sell with every 30 they sold and as it happened they had a sellout group of about 90. So I was given a free ticket.

I went by train to Montreal and we flew out on an Aeroflot jet in the midst of one of the worst winter blizzards Quebec had seen in 50 years, which didn't faze those Soviet pilots at all. Service on the flights was spotty to say the least. Heating in the cabin was not the best and we were all given a thick woolen blanket to stay warm. One ordered a drink and got a half liter of whatever was asked for. Food was so-so. Air hostesses were bionic welterweights who spoke no English at all but were masters at using the word "nyet!".

After a 12 hour flight we were in Moscow at 3.30 AM and after being "processed" by immigration and customs (which took almost no time at all) we were led to the bar and plied with Georgian champagne until sunrise when busses arrived to take us to our hotel in downtown Moscow. My room was spartan but well heated and comfortable and the window offered a view of St Basil's and part of th Kremlin, but to my chagrin I could not open it for a better view and photos. My Russian friends told me all the lamps in the room were probably equipped with microphones and to be ultra careful what we said or did. Much of the latter consisted of drinking alcohol which flowed like water everywhere we went. Many of the tourists in the group stayed drunk for their entire stay, which I suppose was one way of dealing with the stress of travel.

The entertainment was lavish. Music nights and cabaret every evening, oceans of champagne, attentive waiters and waitresses, snacks on call and a lot of dancing. My Russian friends had family visiting them and I was introduced to and talked with many Russians who told me of trying to get by in a period of great shortages, almost no consumer items available, poor transport, travel restrictions and meddlesome bureaucracy. Yet all took pains to explain how better it all was. The older family members had lived through the Second World War and all had lost parents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters in the brutal battles against the German invaders. Yes, they told us, times were difficult, but it would eventually all get better, they believed. The authorities told them so. Hm.

It was the end of year period and everywhere we went the Christmas decorations and New Year's celebrations were lavish and enjoyable, but like so many others visiting there at that time, I quickly discovered that life in the then Soviet Bloc evolved not so much around quotas and productivity but rather getting by and scavenging what you could. Taxi drivers always offered to sell and buy an amazing variety of items not usually available in the shops (which going by the ones we saw were all but barren of any consumer goods anyway). A Dunlop lighter and a half empty can of Ditto lighter fluid got three of us a half day's taxi excursion to the Tsar's royal complex out of Leningrad. The porter at my hotel in Moscow did a deal to buy my well-worn Levis for enough rubles to ensure we ate and drank well for a week. Small gifts of American $1s and $2 at the right time opened many doors otherwise closed to regular visitors in small galleries and museums. I recall having my photo taken (sadly I've long ago lost the negative) of myself sitting at Leo Tolstoy's writing desk in his dash in suburban Moscow. A $2 tip to the captain of a Tsarist era gunboat anchored near the Hermitage in St Petersburg (as I've always preferred to call it) allowed me to see the entire ship including the engine room. As I made my way down the narrow winding ladders into the depths of that boat, I recall thinking how small Russian navy boys must have been in the 19th century, I was far from being the buffalo I am now but it was a tight squeeze for me to fit into all those confined spaces.

I made friends with several Russian-born Canadians who were visiting the homeland for the first time since they as children and their parents had managed to get out, decades before. They spoke fluent Russian and we wandered everywhere to and fro in the cities, they chatting to the locals and I quietly making notes and taking photos We quickly figured out we were being "shadowed" by security officers and on two occasions we made friends with them, to the extent of paying for their lunches (they always sat at a nearby table to ours and seemingly ignored us, but we knew they were quietly noting everything we did and said) and on occasion coffee and even vodka. In the end we were never stopped or questioned and when time came to leave, nothing whatsoever took place at the airport. So they must have decided we were harmless and just tourists going about looking at things. Back home the Royal Canadian Mounted Police declined to pay me a visit or invite me in for a half day of pointed interrogations. So we must have been seen as the inconsequential we really were - I hope.

Above all else I remember Moscow as grey and dreary but how charming and cultured Leningrad turned out to be. Food was inexpensive and ordinary in the capital but outstandingly good in the northern capital of high culture. Every second day we would escape to the legendary Metropole Hotel which was not far from the Kremlin for more exotic fare. A seven course lunch in that hotel's Mongolian Cafe was heavy in protein dishes but only two vegetables, onions and cabbage. Otherwise our "prix fixe inclusive" lunches were three courses and dinners four courses and all awash with Georgian red wines and champagnes at very affordable prices, as if keeping us overfed and well lubricated with alcohol was a way for the authorities to control us.

Out of the tourist places the realities of life were somewhat different. The GUM department store had good stocks of so-called "luxury" items (most easily found in any supermarket in Canada, so all quite unexciting to me) and In the small shops and the workers' markets I saw the locals were fortunate to be able to buy one or two withered oranges and small chunks of cabbage. Meat was nonexistent, there were no cats or dogs to be seen anywhere and I recall thinking those must have long before ended up in the oven...

After the New Year and a lavish party awash with yet more champagne we flew home in early January, again in a series of blizzards. I ended p with a suitcase of gadgets and gewgaws which I gave away to friends - somewhere at home, I suspect in a box in the garage I still have a few metal pins denoting the Great achievements - and in my case I did get two notable experiences. Leaving the Metropole in Moscow one evening I ignored a red light and walked across a busy street, which earned me a stern lecture and a jaywalking ticket (I still have it, framed and on the wall of our study) from a bear of a policeman in a military greatcoat who relieved me of one rouble fifty as a fine, posed for a group photo with us and slipped a US$1 "tip" in his pocket. Further down the street we saw a boiler-like machine dispensing beer and champagne in communal glasses (which were attached on a chain to the main machine, so preventing theft of same) for one rouble. I availed myself of two glasses of champagne which I recall cost me three roubles - two months later the entire party in Toronto came down with hepatitis, likely from the communal glass from which we all drank. That laid me low for five weeks and in many ways results din my moving first to Vancouver and California for a year, then to Australia, but those are other stories and best told elsewhere.

I still have all my photos of this journey. In 2022 I found my stash of negatives taken during that trip and I finally put in the effort and the time (it took many hours) to scan the hundred B&W negatives of this memorable once in a lifetime journey, all shot on Kodak Tri-X with a Rolleiflex TLR in those long gone days when film was the way - all mostly underexposed as the winter light in Russia was dim to say the least. So many experiences. Or as someone far more literary (and literate) than I has written, "ah, the memories!"
Thanks JD, I visited Russia twice very briefly, and your post reminds me how how different the world was before the 90's . Travelling in Europe or Asia in the 1970s much different than today.
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Old Feb 10th 2023, 12:11 am
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Indeed the 1960s and 1970s were several different worlds ago. In trying to recall events in my early (young) life I find it difficult to organize my thoughts into coherent "chapters" even with the help of the sketchy diaries I kept then (I still have some of these). Unusual thoughts keep surfacing, more the day to day interactions I had then than the deeper and more meaningful emotional involvement. And as for the romantic well... let's not go there.

Back then the Russians in Russia were so friendly. Not so much in Moscow where everyone seemed to be scrambling around to earn a living. In St Petersburg (Leningrad), much more so. I discovered a neighborhood not far from my hotel where many students congregated in small cafes to drink coffee and discuss the ways of the world, and hung out there until late at night throughout the five days we were in that charming city. Not once did I see any Soviet security men shadowing me, but I'm sure they were there, maybe discussed as musicians...

At the end of our stay there, part of our group wanted to (and did) fly to Moscow, mostly as the wives insisted the shopping in the capital was much better. Those of us with little interest in Soviet consumerism 1973 style opted for an overnight trip by rail, which I greatly enjoyed. We were given comfortable compartments with cozy berths, I was lucky to have mine to myself which meant I could spread out my things and sleep in comfort in the lower berth. The train's restaurant and bar carriage operated 24/7 so vodka, red wine, champagne and snacks were available all night. Again I don't recall any human surveillance but possibly the spittoon in my berth may have contained a hidden microphone. At any rate anybody assigned to keeping an official eye on me would have had a boring time of it, when I wasn't on one of th many tours organized for us or out to lunch or dinner I mostly lazed around in my hotel room, read books, drank red wine and champagne or socialized at the bar. this was in the depths of winter and baby, it was cold out there, like -20C...

In Moscow and Kiev (oddly, not so much in St Petersburg) we had several Inourist guides who had attached themselves to our group. I recall they were mostly young women, all madly attractive, speaking perfect English and with minds like computers. None drank alcohol or smoked or told us anything personal about themselves. All kept a careful distance from the visitors and were super careful to not be with us at crucial times like in the bars.

In Moscow I went with a group of singles (unmarried men tourists) to another hotel not far from ours. I believe it was called the Intourist. There in a basement bar we were introduced to a dozen prostitutes, all attractive women in their 30s. Again they spoke perfect English and were quite candid in what they said to us. One told me "we know everything we have to know about you" which put me on my guard. I didn't indulge and I don't remember if any in our party did. Certainly nobody disappeared from the tour group and it seems no-one ended up in a gulag, so it may be that happy endings took place and all ended well in the end...

As I wrote before, I have few memories of Kiev. I recall it was warmer there and there was no snow, but it mostly rained, not showers but in bucket loads. We all had heavy winter coats and the sudden change in climate and temperature brought colds and 'flu. One woman in our group had to be hospitalized for a week with a mysterious ailment - typically nobody saw fit to tell us and even more sadly nobody missed her, we were all too busy socializing and making inroads into the seemingly endless Soviet stocks of alcohol.

The tours we were taken on were haphazard. I suffered an afternoon at a university where we were shown all the main buildings but not allowed to meet any students or even to talk to them. More to my liking were the evenings at the opera, the ballet and music recitals as tickets were included as part of our tour. I also visited the dashes of many celebrated writers, notably Tolstoy at whose writing desk I was able to sit after "gifting" an attendant with a US$2 bill. I recall thinking, hey, this may be where Leo wrote War And Peace! and feeling so literarily elated... Also the summer palace of Peter The Great and that of the last Tsar Nicholas at Tsarkoye Selo to the south of the city. I had the guidebooks (written entirely in Russian but with beautiful photographs) of both and kept these for many years, but they have now disappeared - maybe somewhere in our garage, I must go and look. I still have the photos.

These exotic journeys, also my travels in Europe, the Pacific and Asia before it all turned into mass transport of mostly uninterested people to and from hotels and shopping malls and glitzy cafes and of course the endless trip to airports, took me to many different worlds. I remember them now and at times I wonder, gosh, what planet was I living on then? So much has changed, in all ways.
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