Monday, June 7, 2010

1968: What a Year!

MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2010

Hello Sixteeners. This is the story of how I became an incorrigible and unrepentant newspaper junkie. It all started back in 1968 when I was an impressionable Grade 6 student. Every day a bundle of papers arrived at my school in suburban Toronto. Our teacher, a genial woman with a hearty laugh, advised us to keep a scrapbook of current events. She continually encouraged us to clip items of interest. For the first time, I learned about the purpose of an editorial page and all the various aspects of a newspaper. I listened intently and with wide-eyed fascination. At the age of 11, I was hopelessly and irreversibly hooked. It was the beginning of my life-long addiction to newspapers.

Each day I carefully perused the daily journal. Ah yes, 1968. What a year it was! Pierre Trudeau captivated a nation and I watched it happen. There were countless pictures of our flamboyant new prime minister. The man with the Roman haircut was everywhere and Canadians couldn't get enough of him. We took notice as he demonstrated his athletic prowess by swimming and diving effortlessly. We couldn't help grinning when we viewed  photos of our bachelor PM smiling shyly as women handed him roses and planted kisses on his cheek. He just oozed charisma and we started to believe that we had our own John F. Kennedy of the north.

Ah, yes, 1968. It was the Age of Aquarius. Flower power and youthful protests were the order of the day.  There were student riots in Paris.  It was also an Olympic year and skier Nancy Greene was our Canadian sweetheart, our hero. I carefully cut out articles about her gold medal victory in Grenoble, France and as the days passed, I filled my scrapbook.

In April of that year, the news became very solemn. South of the border, Martin Luther King was assassinated and there were race riots. Our class silently watched his funeral on a little black and white television. I noticed Bobby and Ethel Kennedy in the funeral procession, never dreaming that Bobby would be assassinated next.  In August, the promise of the "Prague Spring" was shattered as Soviet tanks entered the city.  As the year ended, we marvelled as Apollo 8 circled the moon.

Although many years have passed since 1968, I haven't changed a whit - at least as far as newspapers are concerned. I still delight in reading them and I have even developed my own system for doing so. Unless there is some momentous front page story, it is my custom to read the comics first. Then I focus on other matters such as international news, politics and sports. Long ago, I discovered that after a chuckle or two, stories about war, disaster and tragedy are much easier to swallow.

In addition to being a newspaper enthusiast, I am also a pack rat. I have several momentos from my early school days, including my kindergarten report card and my Grade 5 autograph book. For some reason, however, I neglected to save my Grade 6 scrapbook. That scrapbook exists only in my memory, but it has had a lasting effect on me.

I'll always be an unabashed newspaper reader because for me, being a witness to history is both enthralling and intoxicating. That is why my Grade 6 experiences left an indelible mark on my psyche. Although I did not grow up to be a news editor, I did eventually become a researcher at a newspaper library. As for my Grade 6 teacher, she took a maternity leave and the last time I saw her she was wheeling her baby in a grocery store. If I could speak to her today, I`d thank her for inspiring me.


The Chicago Blackhawks won convincingly last night in the fifth game of the Stanley Cup finals. Now I hope they can finish the job in the next game.

- Joanne