The Memoirs of Gerard P. Pas
These are the autobiographical writings of Gerard Pas.
They have been written in non-sequential order.
All texts and images remain the copyright of Gerard Peter Pas ©
Read all of Gerard's written memoirs by clicking here.
My Street Kid Daze 1969-1971
1969 the year I first went to high school
I would like to preface my short history below by saying that I am not trying to brag in this post. It is not about who was first, whom I know, and what I did as a young man. To the contrary, this is a history of pain that would almost erode my being and take my very life from me.
As a teen of around 14, in my first year of High School, I started to hang out in downtown London. I went to Catholic Central High School (C.C.H.) for grades 9 and 10. C.C.H. is a core area school just minutes from the main downtown intersections of Dundas St. and Richmond St. In truth, the term “hang out” might even be somewhat generous as what I really did was become a street kid. To be fair to my parents, I was not forced to live on the streets - my parents have always loved and provided for me even in those difficult years. My parents disapproved of my activities but by then I was in complete rebellion against them and I would have done it whether the liked it or not. My dad also drank too much back then and I didn’t like being around the house when he was drunk. My dad and I worked out those problems some 20 years later and I have always loved him, just not as a drunk - he's crazy but that's tolerable. My poor mother, I don’t know how she could just keep on loving all of us three back then, but she did – bless you mom.
As it was, I just choose to start spending all my time downtown with the friends I made there. As I had not gone to a grade school in the new neighbourhood which we had just moved to, I also had no friends there. Downtown seemed like the right choice, it was a poor choice, but it is part of the makeup, which makes my history and me. My parents house is located some 15 minutes walk from the downtown, just west of the Thames River across the Blackfriars Bridge. The fact I went to school downtown and that we lived so near contributed to the ease with which I could hang out downtown.
Downtown London in the late sixties still had many of its early Victorian buildings and every block retained its urban makeup. Back then, everyone still shopped downtown and it was the centre of activity. Today many of those grand old buildings have made way for new development or sadly an array of large parking lots to support London’s current suburban profile – people work downtown but live and shop in the suburban malls. During the sixties and early seventies London was also used by various corporations as a test site; the first Canadian MacDonald’s Restaurant was opened in London as a test. For many years statistics proved that, London was the richest city in Canada and staunchly conservative: so it is no surprise that they would market test here. London at this time had one of the first shopping malls in Canada, located downtown at Clarence St. and King St.; it was rather un-creatively called "The Mall". I would spend altogether too much time at The Mall’s doors pan handling for money “Got a spare quarter, even a dime, please”. The money would be used to play pool, see rock concerts at Wonderland Gardens or for drugs. I did my first hit of Acid LSD at the age of 15 (it still came as a sugar cube back then), I purchased it from another kid at The Mall. I was earlier introduced to soft drugs like cannabis at C.C.H. as a means of entertainment and yes it was 1969, just squeaking into the so-called sixties. Drugs and drug culture had become an integral part of my young life.
These would become difficult times for me as I tossed like a leaf back and forth in the current of indecision and hedonism. By the time I was 14, I had already concluded that I did not fit in with the norm of young people my age and I didn’t. As I was crippled, I was never chosen for sports teams at high school, so I substituted it by reading. By the time I was fourteen, I was already reading books, which most wouldn’t read until University. Books such as Aldus Huxley, Baba Ram Dass’ (Richard Alpert) “Be Here Now”, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey and the beats. The nice thing about downtown is that the main library is there and if I did anything wisely at this age, it was to make use of it. I was not stupid just distracted and the discovery of drugs were more like a means of dulling my boredom. That would of course change but I was still somewhat naďve at the time, which only proves knowledge is not wisdom.
Being downtown virtually most of everyday, I came to know every alley and square inch of the core. I could navigate on diagonals through the city blocks as I knew every turn and backway. On hot summer days, I’d hook up with friends at Victoria Park and use more drugs. Canadian winters made being downtown harder but I’d hang out at a pool halls or at the Mall. The city opened a Drop in Centre at Richmond and Queens St. in the summer of 1970 so I would just go there. I actually met some rather interesting people at “The Drop in Centre”, like Tom Lodge a local DJ, who would come down and explain Buckminster Fuller’s ideas of geometry, adding his own spin. Tom Lodge would go on to be a founder of Fanshaw College Creative Arts program in broadcasting and recording. Mostly, the “drop in” was another place to hang out and do, or get drugs, which I began doing in copious amounts. On a hot summers night my idea of having a good time was to panhandle a few bucks, get stoned, and hang outside of the York Hotel - listening to the music. The York Hotel was known then simply as The York. The York was a hotbed of counterculture activities with bands like The Nihilist Spasm Band playing on Monday nights (read my: Monday, March 07, 2005; “Hugh McIntyre 1936 – 2004 Nihilist Spasm Band”). The York had a little restaurant attached to the back and you did not have to be of age to go in and order food or drink coffee. Through the door of the restaurant, you could see into the bar and view the acts playing their music. This was my favourite place to be as I met some of the most interesting people in London there during this time. Pink Orange Band would play there and I met all the band members in the restaurant and began hanging out with them even though they were easily 5 years my elders. They would later become Thundermug and actually had a hit song in Canada called “Africa”. Anyway, the York was the place to be and I was there, if only loitering outside or in the coffee shop as a young teen. I also met some of London’s most notorious drug dealers here and as I didn’t have money I found ways of just being in the crowd when they went out to smoke a joint or take stronger drugs. After a while, the dealers got to know me and I even started going to their parties as someone who chilled at the York.
I did also find a healthier crowd to hang around with at this time. The Smale brothers opened a café (aka coffee house) in the downtown called Smale’s Pace on Clarence St. They played entirely folk music with acts like Perth County Conspiracy and David Bradstreet. If I could beg for enough money and get it, I’d go here on a Friday night and listen to the music while drawing the musicians as they played. I got to know the owners well and after a time they just started letting me in for free as they new I didn’t have the cake to pay and I was okay; messed up maybe but not violent and I could speak the language of hippy as I had read many of the books by that time. Smale’s Place was a good place to be but the York was the danger excitement I craved for and I would develop an even stronger relationship to it in the years to come. I did nevertheless meet interesting people at Smale’s Pace, some of whom I still see from time to time even now some 35 years later.
circa 1971 — entering grade 11
In those days, Catholic schools did not receive funding for grades 11 through 13. In my grade ten year at C.C.H. I had grown long hair, which at the time (1970) in parochial schools, was still somewhat frowned on. Because I had long hair and so did my circle of friends, it was wrongly assumed by the schools administration that I was a dope dealer. The vice principle called me to his office and straightforwardly asked if I was dealing drugs, to which I answered no. Truth is I hadn’t any money or I wouldn’t have had to panhandle downtown. He didn’t believe me and told me in no uncertain terms that if I were to return to C.C.H. in my grade 11th year, my life would be scrutinized beyond what was thought to be reasonable. As I wasn’t selling anything and barely had the scratch to buy cigarettes let alone grass, I felt unjustly treated even if it was true that I was using drugs. When it came time to decide where I’d go to school for grades 11 – 13, the above event and our families lack of money made the decision that much simpler - I would attend a Public High School at Sir Fredrick Banting H.S. in London’s North-West.
What a mistake I made in choosing to go Banting. This was a suburban school in the heart of upper-middleclass London and if ever I didn’t fit in, this was the place. Please remember, I was raised in the East end of the city, a very rough place (“My youthful biker memories of London EOA”). I had been going to school downtown and spending all my time there. Now I was suddenly being bused up to a suburban school, to a class of people whom I only knew because my dad cut their lawns. Yes, I made some life long friends at Banting, like Tim Lawson, but overall I just couldn’t fit in with the rest of the students, as much as a teen tries to fit in. I suddenly not only felt that I didn’t fit in but I started to feel despondent about it and then drugs provided an even greater way to escape. Escape I did.
In the summer of my grade 10 year, I went to summer school downtown at H.B. Beal H.S. (where I would later study art) and I met a young man who came from the ruling rich of London. We got along well and he asked me up to his house in North London, where I did go. There I met some of the children of the very richest and most powerful families in London. They had tons of disposable capitol and nothing they desired was out of reach. What most wanted were hard drugs like amphetamines. I know now that’s not what they were really looking for but like myself it provided a distraction from their own personal pain. During this time in the early seventies, London also had a counterculture nickname of Speed City. Speed City because you could virtually find a cornucopia of speed (amphetamine) in this city. I began to shoot (inject) speed with the rich an idle. I didn’t have the cash but they didn’t care, they were happy to have someone to do it with and I was there eagerly, so they shared it with me. I also became a master with the use of a syringe, which made me the one many asked to inject them. This would be my first foray into hard drugs, with the sons and daughters of prominent doctors, businesspersons, and professors from the University. Funny thing was that one of the kid’s fathers actually started one of Canada’s biggest drug stores; yes, he was the biggest user of the lot of us, known to us as Wiener a good Jewish boy. We'd drive over in someone’s fathers Lincoln Continental or Jaguar and shoot speed in Wieners living room after school. They would take me to their cottages, when their parents were in the city, and we’d party all the while.
I don’t want to mention names here because I’m not really writing to expose anything or anyone, other than my own being lost and how I got there. Here in lies the rub, why did I need to surround myself with people of wealth, why didn’t I fit in at school and why turn to drugs. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy trying to figure those factors out and have for the most part found answers, which I’ll share with you in later posts to come. Suffice it to say, I was a very mixed up adolescent, on a slippery slope and it would get worse before it got better. With a new high school and this new circle of friends, I would take a temporary leave from the downtown, returning there when I started studying art, and moving there when my studies of art ended. More on this some other time.
Gerard Pas, April 22, 2005. London, Canada.
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