by Richard Hughes Liddell
Beaton Public School
December 18, 1958
career as a disc jockey will start and end on this night with the
uttering of my very first sentence.
my shy nature would prevent my presence at the microphone, but this
is the Hugh Beaton Safety Patrol Christmas Dance and the captain
of this fine organization is none other than yours truly.
I carefully reach into my radio bag of tricks and in a voice crackling
between baritone and falsetto (puberty has struck!) scream, Okay,
lets start this dance off with a Snowball and since this record
is called Donna lets have those two lovebirds,
Donna Fenton and Reggie Moriarty, as our first couple.
there is a hush followed closely by a gasp.
you jerk! someone shouts.
disc starts to revolve and Richie Valens sings:
Donna, oh Donna.
had a girl, Donna was her name,
if you saw her, youd never be the same,
I love my girl, Donna where can you be?
sheepishly observe that at this moment, this Donna, as in Fenton,
would rather be anywhere else on earth than in the arms of Reggie
and that feeling is reflected in Reggies eyes.
my family is constantly accusing me of never paying attention to
daily personal events. Well it appears I had the same problem back
in 1958, because three days prior to this dance, Reggie and Donna
had a shouting match in the hallowed halls of Hugh Beaton thus dissolving
their going steady. Everyone in the school students,
teachers, secretary, janitor, nurse absolutely everyone knew
about this except Richard Hughes Liddell.
ostrich had removed his head from the sand just long enough to embarrass
two of his friends, plus himself, and now I quickly relinquish the
microphone to Mr. McCallum and rush away desperately seeking more
sand into which to bury my head. Instead I find Joanne Norwood,
one of the Safety Patrol lieutenants and a bubbly extrovert, to
take over as disc jockey. Then I go into hiding.
are two other events that I remember from that terrible dance. The
first occurred after I left the stage. My friend Richard Blake was
one of Santa Claus (played by Max Succee) helpers and I pleaded
with him not to give me a gift and force me to return to the stage.
Dont worry Liddell, Richard said, There
isnt a gift for you. Great! The captain of the Safety
Patrol at a Safety Patrol dance and no gift!
second event: Audrey Stewart was the only girl who would dance with
me after my blunder. Way to go, Richard, she chided
me as we headed to the dance floor but away from listening ears
she whispered, Dont worry, it was an honest mistake.
night was dark and the moon was yellow and the leaves came tumbling
Lee is about to start and my life, because of Audreys
comment, begins again.
Grade Eight class had a twenty-fifth reunion in 1984, and I was
able to joke about what happened long ago with Donna, Reggie, Joanne,
Max and Mr. McCallum. Unfortunately Richard and Audrey could not
laugh with us. Cancer took Audrey - that short, dark curly-haired
friend of mine. After public school she went to Harry Guppy School
of Commerce so our paths did not cross often, but I do remember
her as a paradox. She could be tough and tomboyish and cute and
friendly at the same time. I dont suppose I will ever understand
women and Audrey was no exception. Im sorry shes gone.
friend Richard Blake was born on June 7, 1946, four days before
me and ten days before the famous Windsor tornado. (King Richard
the Lion Hearted was a great English crusade warrior, so Richard
was a very popular name for post war babies.) We went through public
school and high school together and were both in the orchestra and
in cadets. After high school, Richard joined the Air Force. One
summer, when I had returned from college, Mom told me he had died
in a plane crash. I think of him often, particularly every June
how simple events can shape and mold your future. Because of that
fateful dance and because Reggie got hit by a car while I was captain
of the Hugh Beaton Safety Patrol (thus causing the Elmer the Safety
Elephant flag to be removed from the school for six months), a pall
fell over my tenure as leader.
that time, I have never sought the leadership of anything. I am
a great committee member, a spokesperson for a cause or someone
whos ready to help in a variety of endeavours but never a
leader its much too stressful!