life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
sports heritage

Richard Hughes Liddell (enjoying some cuddles above) grew up in South Walkerville during the ‘50s and ‘60s “My recollections of that era are sometimes exaggerated,” he says, “sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant but always fun. To those of us who knew these times in a place called Walkerville, we were ever so lucky…”

The Garden Party

by Richard Hughes Liddell

Where Richard ponders why the farmer always brings the most endowed mini-stallion for the pony ride

Well folks, it’s that time of year again – the Hugh Beaton Public School Garden
Party. I have joined the ranks of Casanova because I have two dates from my Grade 7 class for this event: Laurie Levine will accompany me in the afternoon, playing all the games in the girl’s schoolyard, and Ann McKenzie is my date for the dance.

My Grandmother is a bit concerned on both fronts for she is a staunch Methodist who begrudgingly became United in 1925 and Laurie is Jewish and Ann is (shudder) Catholic, but after checking to make sure I didn’t possess any engagement rings, Gram reluctantly ties my tie, gives me two dollars and lets me go into this religious upheaval.

Let’s see, two dollars is going to go a long way since the Fish Pond is only 5 cents, the pony rides are 10 cents and hot dogs are a dime as well. So I put one of the dollars in my back pocket for the dance and start to splurge on Laurie. She wins a Japanese fan at the Fish Pond and I win a magnifying glass. (Fortunately for the ants of the schoolyard, it’s a cloudy day.) And then we head over to the pony rides, but as we approach we notice a group has congregated in front of one of the ponies. Question: since pony rides are for kids, why does the farmer always bring that one well-endowed mini-stallion to these events? Perhaps it is an attempt by the school board to teach us something about anatomy and the facts of life, since they certainly won’t spend a lot of time on the subject in future science and health classes. All the boys are giggling uncontrollably and all the girls look disgusted and have that “get me to a nunnery” look about them. From the look in Laurie’s eyes, I realize I have just saved 20 cents. “Let’s go to the White Elephant table,” I suggest, but as we get close, John Pelton, Laurie’s date for the dance, approaches and suggests Laurie start with him early since he won’t be able to stay for all the dance. She looks at him; she looks at me. I give her my best come-hither look, which I guess is lacking for the next thing I know, I am alone. So what does every rejected grade 7 male do when he is abandoned at the garden party? He heads back to that pony so he can giggle with all the other boys.

The dance: 6 hot dogs, 4 pops and 5 brownies later, this less confident Casanova is pacing about the dance floor looking for his date. He spots her at the far end of the auditorium and, as the CKLW Disc Jockey, Bud Davies, starts Jimmy Rodger’s “Honeycomb,” I feel for my comb, run it through my Brillcream-soaked locks and coolly, I mean coolly, saunter over to Ann. She spots me and grabs my arm and I think the dancing is about to start, however, she whispers,” My cousin is here from across town and would you mind if he joins us?” (Funny in my ménage-à-trois fantasies, I always pictured two girls, not two guys.) Quickly I figure this is much better than Laurie’s rejection, so I boldly accept.

I don’t remember much more about the evening, except that Ann’s cousin was a real cool guy who taught me how to make some strange noises with my armpit. (Those guys across town were always ahead of Hugh Beaton with the neat stuff.) I also remember Ann asking if either one of us wanted to dance to which we both replied, “not really,” so she wondered off and the last I saw of her she and John Pelton were dancing. (What is it with this guy?)

After the dance, my Gram met me at our front door and although she sympathized with my rejections, I know she felt pretty good and started to point me in the direction of Methodists. As I got ready for bed, she did ask me what we talked about and I said,” Oh, we just talked about a pony and stuff…”

Postscript: Rock ‘n Roll drove my parents crazy just as Rap drives me crazy today. I remember rushing home from Hugh Beaton every day in the late ‘50s and putting on American Bandstand with Dick Clark. My sister and I would jitter bug the afternoon away. We got to know all the regulars: Arlene and Kenny, Justine and Bob, Pat Molitari. At my first sock hop at Walkerville Collegiate in 1959 I assumed my sister would want to dance with me. However, I was rebuffed by her since she was in grade 12 and in no way wanted to be seen with her nerdy brother, let alone dance with him.

In the mid-‘70s there was another “Garden Party” at Madison Square Gardens in New York City attended by a lot of Rock ‘n Roll stars from the ‘50s and ‘60s and thousands of their fans.
Rick Nelson was one of the celebrities known by everyone of my generation from the Ozzie and Harriet Show and who became a Rock ‘n Roll singer. Rick was not content to rest on his laurels from the ‘60s and had changed both in appearance and style of song. Most of the fans in attendance were there to reminisce and when he started singing his version of the Stones “Honcky Tonk Woman,” he was booed off the stage.

Licking his wounds, he took some time off and then penned wonderful lyrics, which, once music was applied, became his all-time hit. Out of adversity sometimes success soars and the chorus of Ricky’s song is another one of those life lessons:

But it’s all right now
I learned my lesson well
See you can’t please everyone
So you’ve got to please yourself.
-Rick Nelson



©1999-2015— Walkerville Publishing — All Rights Reserved