Molly Guilbeault, ready to work at Leung’s counter

Molly Guilbeault, ready to work at Leung’s counter

Molly Guilbeault, at Leung’s

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I often slipped into Leung’s Grocery store at the top of Fifth Street in Courtenay, B.C. for a Denver sandwich at the lunch counter. There was something addictive about those sandwiches. Maybe it was the grease or the extra fresh onions. But I was hooked. I’d even take my toddler daughter there on weekends. She wasn’t a fan of the Denver sandwiches, but she loved their classic milkshakes.

On one particular Saturday, my daughter and I were sitting near the street end of the long 1950s-style counter playing eye-spy. The shelves behind the counter were jam-packed with stuff for sale: cigars, metal cigarette lighters, cribbage boards and other games, jigsaw puzzles and, of course, a display of fine pies. There were little signs tacked up everywhere with clever sayings.

While we waited, my favorite server stepped behind the counter. As she got ready to start her shift, Molly Guilbeault picked up a chrome napkin dispenser from the counter and used it as a mirror to apply her lipstick. I grabbed a picture at that moment. It’s still one of my favorite images.

George Le Masurier

Decafnation | Jan. 27, 2017

The Bench — scene from early Comox Valley youth football

The Bench — scene from early Comox Valley youth football

The Bench – early valley football

My high school football career in Paynesville, Minnesota, where I grew up, was less than remarkable. I think I hold the school record for the longest negative punt (don’t ask!). Football is big there. Kids start playing right out of grade school. I don’t believe there was any youth football played in the Comox Valley when I moved here in 1974.

But one day I came across these footballers, though I can’t say when or where. Perhaps some reader will know.This might be the beginning days of the Comox Valley Raiders, which is a well-run youth football program and part of the B.C. Provincial Football Association.

I like this photograph because despite the rag-tag equipment and a make-shift bench in the middle of nowhere, you can tell that these kids feel like football players. They’re wearing the gear. Getting dirty. I especially like the footwear of the boy standing on the left and, of course, the middle boy’s hair style.

George Le Masurier

Decafnation | Jan. 27, 2017

Social Studies 1.21.17

And you thought Trump’s inaugural speech was weird?

Incoming vice-president Andrew Johnson — ill with typhoid and probably still drunk from consuming the medicine of the day, whiskey — game a rambling speech in 1865 that bragged about crushing the Confederate rebels while President Abraham Lincoln sat horrified and speechless.

Ulysses S. Grant brought festive-looking canaries to his inauguration, oblivious of the -26C temperatures. About 100 of the birds froze to death. Richard Nixon didn’t do well with birds either. He had a toxic bird repellant misted over the parade route to avoid untimely droppings. Instead, the route was littered with dead pigeons.

And finally, William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech on record, more than 8,000 words, on a cold, rainy day. He caught pneumonia and died a month later.

What’s going on up in Cumberland?

Courtenay and Comox water system users issued another boil water advisory this week due to high turbidity in Comox Lake, its single source of water. The advisory warns that silt flowing into Comox Lake may negate the system’s disinfection process.

The primarily root cause, however, is the Village of Cumberland’s outdated dam water system, which allows excess flows into Perseverance Creek and causes the turbidity in the lake. Because Cumberland hasn’t fixed its antiquated dams, users of the water system are going to have to pay more than $100 million to install a new water filtration plant.

Meanwhile, Cumberland’s sewage treatment system continues to pollute waterways that flow into the Trent River and into Baynes Sound through the Trent River estuary. The village opted out of sewerage system planning with the Comox Valley Regional District, insisting beyond hope that it can secure funding to build it’s own treatment plant and discharge system.

Feels like Cumberland only wants to be part of the Comox Valley when they benefit exclusively.

Christy Clark Liberals wasted $2.6 million on lawyers

The B.C. Liberals spent $2.6 million on legal fees to defend Christy Clark’s unlawful legislation that attempted to prevent teachers from bargaining class size and support staff rules. But after 15 years in the courts, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor of the teachers. That money could have funded the hiring of 57 new teachers, or almost one extra teacher for eache of the province’s 60 school districts.

Social Studies 1.01.17

It’s a brand new year! Did you
wear diapers or red underwear?

When the Babylonians celebrated the first New Year 4,000 years ago, not one of them wore red underwear — as they do in Italy to bring good luck — or diapers — as some people do at Times Square on New Year’s eve due to the lack of toilets.

There’s a good chance the Babylonians drank wine, however probably not the sparkling kind, which is called champagne only if the grapes were grown in the Champagne region of northeastern France. Everything else is just sparkling wine. And, by the way, the man Perignon — as in Dom Perignon — didn’t invent champagne. He was a Benedictine monk who worked as a cellar master in a French abbey and implemented safety measures to keep the bottles from popping their corks prematurely.

If you drank a little too much champagne last night, you might take a tip from some people south of the Equator. In Cuba and Puerto Rico, it’s a tradition to stuff a big doll with the year’s memories. They call it Mr. Old Year and they set him on fire a midnight to destroy all of the year’s bad memories.

Julius Caesar created New Year’s Day on January 1 when he established the Julian calendar. But the Ethiopians didn’t get the memo. They celebrate New Years on September 11, and their calendar has 13 months. They’re currently in 2006.

Time to reuse some calendars,
and other fun with numbers

Tired of buying a new calendar to tape to your refrigerator door? Just an obsessive recycler?

In 2017 you can reuse calendars from 1899, 1905, 1911, 1922, 1933, 1939, 1950, 1961, 1967, 1978, 1989, 1995 and 2006. Those years have the same starting weekday and an equal number of days as the next year.

There won’t be another date this year with sequential numbers, or even in the rest of the 21st Century. The last one was on December 13 of 2014 — 12-13-14. The next one will won’t occur for 87 years.

Unless you love prime numbers. A prime number is any whole number greater than one that can’t be evenly divided by anything other than one and itself. In 2017, North Americans will have a sequential prime date on November 13 — 11-13-17.

2016 words of the year
left many people speechless

Surreal. Post-truth. Xenophobia. Whatever.

These words of the year have left your professor nonplussed.

The good people over at Merriam-Webster named “surreal” as their 2016 word of the year. Meaning strange or bizzare or having the “intense irrational reality of a dream,” a surge in online lookups of the word spiked after the U.S. presidential election.

The staid folks at the Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as their international word of the year, because use of the word skyrocketed after the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum.

They define the word as, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

One might question that definition, but can who say they don’t know that it’s not true? — at least with a straight face.
And, finally, the silly young people attending Marist College found that the most annoying word or phrase in 2016 was … “whatever.”

They college conducted a poll that found use of the word in casual conversation irritated 38 percent of respondents, which is down from 43 percent last year.
Among young people (yep, that’s still people under the age of 30), the most annoying phrase was “I can’t even.” Whatever that means.

Lame joke du jour
Q: What do reindeer always say before telling you a joke?
A: This one will “sleigh” you!

Thought du jour
“Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance – each beautiful, unique and too soon gone.”
– Deborah Whipp