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.
Continued from “My street kids daze” April 22, 2005 (click to read)
Street Kid Daze to Suburban Haze 1969-1971
Okay, where did I leave off? Yes, I had come to the juncture where I left the downtown to attend high school in the suburbs at Sir Fredrick Banting H.S (Banting). I had said that going to Banting was a mistake on my part, as I just couldn’t fit in…
Going to Banting for us kids from the Oxford St. W. – Wharncliffe Rd. N. – Platts Lane – Oxford Park areas meant taking a bus. A school bus was provided to pick us up and haul us up to the suburban school. I choose to receive bus tickets and take public transit to get to school. The reason for bus tickets was two fold; I could sell them to other kids for extra money and still sneak onto the school bus. When I missed the bus and had no bus tickets or money, I’d just hitch hike a ride up to school. The area I lived in was a rock solid working class neighbourhood and Banting was located in a then relatively new suburban area. With residential neighbourhoods named Sherwood Forest, Orchard Park, University Heights, and White Hills these were definitely middle to upper middle class in nature. They had the ranch style split-level brick house or a columned portico two-storey brick or stucco homes. We kids, who were bused in, lived in small-sided bungalows or older two storey brick houses with porches or verandas, as seen in the photo below.
My parents family home near on Wharncliffe Rd. N., London.
near Blackfrairs St. and Blackfrairs Bridge.Just a small digression, my parents home had been flooded in The Great London Flood; April 26-28, 1937; the Thames River flooded leaving 4000 people homeless and causing over $4 million in direct damage; roads and railways were flooded and businesses were closed, 17 people perished in this flood. I may write more on this topic in a future post but if you’d like to learn more please click this link (My friend Christopher Doty made an excellent award-winning documentary on this sad event; this is his website).
As I mentioned in my earlier writings, I was an immigrant kid raised in the rough East end of the city, I spent the first years of high school in a downtown school where I also hung out. Suddenly, I was attending a brand new school in an area that was all together foreign to me - suburbia. Yes, I had just made numerous friends with the children of the ruling elite of London. Nevertheless, all this was very new to me as a teen that hung out downtown panhandling for spare change and grew up E.O.A. wanting to be a biker like my grade school friends older brothers. Additionally, as mentioned in my previous article I was also already familiar with the use of hard drugs and the intravenous use of them. This is the backdrop to my going to suburbia and the two most difficult years of my then life. Two years, which even to this day I have spent all together too much time trying to figure out why they were so hard.
In the first year at Banting I did everything I could to fit in and feel at home. I ran for the office of Student Council and was elected class representative - no one else wanted the job. As a member of student council, I began a life long friendship with Tim Lawson who was Banting’s Student Council President at the time. As a member of Student Council, I represented our school at the Inter-City student council with Tim Lawson. As a member of that Inner-City Council, I’d meet Bill Paul its President. As a member of the London Student Council, I also went to Provincial meetings for all student councils in Ontario where I met Tim Robarts, the son of John Robarts, previously the Premier of the Province of Ontario. I had actually met Tim before through my circle of rich north London friends, mentioned in my earlier post. Tim was also a Londoner attending Central High School downtown (more on Tim later).
I was forever the over-achiever and wanted to prove that I was cool – I really just wanted to be accepted and this was a means in which I thought I could be. I was wrong because you can’t really be accepted by others until you learn to accept yourself.
The truth is these were truly troubling times for me. A number of serious issues arose in my life to which I was myopic, other than knowing the results they created in me, and how I dealt so poorly with them at the time.
The first of the issues started in my youth, incubated by a constant chorus from my father who would proclaim, “There is no God, and only money is God”. My father was a hard working person who gave up on his faith because God wasn’t answering his prayers fast enough and ignoring his dreams of wealth and prosperity. As a boy in Holland, dad would take me to miracle shrines in Europe, praying that I might receive healing for my atrophied left leg, which had been inflicted with Polio-Mytelus. Only years later did I myself realize that God had answered his prayers but the healing my dad was searching for was a physical one and this did not occur. My parents immigrated to Canada because my father had purchased the idealistic post-war vision that Canada / America was the land of milk and honey and everyone drove around in Cadillac’s handing out chocolate bars to each other. After years of holding down 2 jobs, breaking his back in the landscaping business and meagerly providing for his three children, he gave up on God. Maybe he just assumed that God had given up on him because his own myopia conveyed that God was not hearing his dreams and aspirations - which is not true. In the end, my dad equated the Catholic Church as a bunch of moneygrubbers with only one interest, getting more money – thus, Money is god. As a young boy, his father died when he was 14. The family had made a pact with the church to surrender their small parcel of farmland at my grandfather’s death to the church. In return, my grandfather would receive perpetual prayers and masses for him to enter heaven. This loss of the family land and his birthright also galled my father and reinforced his notion that the church’s only interest was money, thus god is Money. I think that after years of hard work in Canada, with no large financial returns to speak of, it pushed him to give up on God and search for money instead, not an uncommon occurrence in our modern world. I’m not going to use my dad as an excuse for my behaviour below, it wasn’t until I myself developed a relationship with the living God that I realized God’s nature was different than what I myself had presumed.
What I didn’t realize was that I had adopted his notion of money and it had slowly permeated my own sense of self esteem. Leading up to high school, I was very involved in my local parish of St. Mary’s Church (York St. at Lyle St.). When I went to C.C.H. I thought I had left my search for meaning behind, instead I choose to live a life of hedonism filled with drugs. The reality was that I was using the drugs and hedonism to forgo my search: the hedonism helped to distract me from the search and the drugs helped to dull the pain of not finding any answers. As I was crippled, I couldn’t find meaning in sports like many teens. I replaced sports with reading and read books, which only confused the search even more like Baba Ram Dass, Albert Camus or Aldus Huxley. In not finding answers, drugs seemed like the way to establish an identity and as I was liked by the children of the ruling class, who also appreciated drugs, drugs would take on new meaning to me, as they took on a large portion of my identity. Those of you who may have taken hard drugs know that you don’t find meaning in them, only a paralysis of looking for it. The drugs suppress any desire to look for anything other than the next rush. As I couldn’t find meaning in my life, my life took a turn for the worse and it started at Banting.
Storm clouds brewing over Sir Fredrick Banting H.S. London, Canada.
I started to look at my family and myself. If my dad’s equation that “god is Money” was true, what I saw was that we didn’t have much money, so that must have meant that we didn’t have much god or spirituality – we were poor and godless. With my new group of very rich friends and going to this upper-middle class school, I suddenly became ashamed of my families financial situation. The fact that I had been panhandling for spare change, that we lived in an old little bungalow on the wrong side of tracks all came home to roost. I wanted to be accepted by my new circle of friends for more than the drugs because I knew there was much more to the depth of my personality.
Even at Banting, my endeavours with politics seemed like a token reward, doing a job, which not many really cared about or wanted to do. I wanted to be accepted by all those rich kids sitting in their father’s fancy cars in the parking lot smoking dope all day. The fact I used drugs was mute on my schoolroom peers because being middle-class, they bought their own pot, but I hadn’t the resources to do so. Yes, my very rich friends shared drugs with me, but this was no burden to them as money truly wasn’t an object of concern for them. Suddenly, my world came crashing in. I had no money thus no god, I had no money thus no dope, and I had no dope or money thus no friends that I could make at school. I know now that I really had my thoughts mixed up but I hope you can understand the chain of events that would lead me to these erroneous assumptions and remember I was just 16 years old, whose judgment was clouded.
My first act to remedy my problems was to make a better friendship with Tim Lawson who shared political interests with me in the student council. Tim was the son of one of London’s oldest and wealthiest families, so rich they lived in a castle on a hill, which you could see from the schools front steps. Tim’s family was one of honour and very British in its makeup. His father a printing and banking giant was very involved in the military and he was a Colonel in the RCR and the Regiment. The British Royal Family would actually visit his parent’s house when they visited London. Being close to Tim meant that I always had cannabis, as Tim was a huge pot smoker. What I also got was a friend who was truly genuine and treated me with the greatest of respect - he saw in me what others could not. The depth of his person was one that looked at the soul and not the pocket book. Tim didn’t need to look at money or how much you had because that was not his concern, as he had so much money it seemed a mute point to him. He just wanted to know if you were interesting. Tim threw the greatest parties at his family’s home and everyone would come; it seemed for a time that I lived at the Lawson’s home instead of my own. Were it not for Tim I wouldn’t have had many friends when I went to Banting such was his friendship to me.
I realize now that the reasons for not having any friends, other than the few I did in Tim Lawson, John Channer and a few others, was that I made many of the problems myself. For some naïve reason I wanted to belong to what I perceived as the in crowd, the fast crowd, the ones with money, drugs and beautiful girls. I’m am not surrendering to the petit-bourgeois notions which were prevalent at Banting, such as measuring a person by the car they drive, where their cottage is, etc. but I realize that my underlying principles were mixed up as I mentioned with “god is Money”.Please forgive me yet another small digression. With the advantage of twenty-twenty hindsight I realize now some 35 years later that had I of had a better grip on my sense of self esteem and what made it, there where plenty of wonderful people who would of made life long friends at Banting. I sat next to a wonderful girl in Biology who received marks of 100%, she helped me all year, and it rubbed off with my own grades reaching A’s. I feel so sad that I’ve forgotten her name now (I never bought the year book - as I thought of Banting so poorly, it would have been like a book of martyrs to me – had I of had it I could of looked up her name.). In grade 12, she asked me out to a formal school dance like the turn-around and I agreed. I went to pick her up in my parents car and she was dressed like a princess, I pinned on the corsage off we went and I had such a sweet time with each other. What was I thinking to want to be in the “in crowd”, was it that they were the rebels? Truth is having a friend like that wonderful girl would have been much more rebellious because the others were just the status-quo in the early seventies. Banting, for all my resent also provided me with a stepping-stone that would form the rest of my life in a positive way. In my grade 12 year, I took art more as a “bird course”. We had a very young and beautiful art teacher named Ms. Gabriel; she instilled such a passion in me to love art that the following year I went to take “Special Art” at H.B. Beal (Beal). I had received a scholarship to go to a University through the Easter Seals (or something like Easter Seals I just can't remeber) because of my handicap and I wanted to study history and law. Before going to University and with Ms. Gabriel’s strong influence I wanted to take some art classes for a year and see where it would lead me. You know before the big commitment of HIGHeR EDucation. Instead it became a lifes dedication. There was no turning back on art once I went to Beal; which is downtown. You might say I came full circle but that’s in the next story.
Back to this story then…
With Tim, I could be honest about who I was and he just accepted me. With the other students who I wanted to be like and like me, I lost perspective. The underlying evil of evaluating a person based on class, so common at Banting, and my own mixed up ideas of money and self-esteem; it all pushed me into becoming a new person. A person I would adopt as myself for a few miserable years. It would not break until I went back downtown to school where I discovered art and then later when God revealed himself to me.
I began to lie about who I was on a pathological level. Between my parent’s home and the school, was a more moderately rich neighbourhood on Western Rd. that had much more desirable homes than the little bungalow we lived in. When people asked me where I lived, I told them I lived there, as it would also require a bus ride to get to school. I know it seems relatively innocent now but it caused a chasm between me and the potential of friends at Banting. If I went to a party and was asked if I needed a ride, I’d say no or have them drop me off in front of one house which I selected as my make-believe home, telling them I lived with my aunt. When they dropped me off, I’d hoof it the few blocks to my real home. I actually started believing I lived in this house because I started telling everyone I did. I even started telling my very rich friends (other than Tim) that I was living with my aunt there. Well you know were this leads, right down the road of destruction. I started to loose any self-esteem I had. I began to worry that people would find me out to be a liar. I couldn’t invite friends over to meet my parents because I was ashamed of our poverty, thus our godlessness. I built my character out of a series of lies so that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do anything for fear of being found out as a liar. What a mess, what a corner to paint myself in, how could I have become something I was not. The result was, I lost any sense of belonging to any group because of fear, I lost my self-respect and I gave up on any chances of building any really good friendships with anyone other than those few whom I had not earlier lied to.
The pain in my head started to smart even more than before, about being crippled and wanting to be excepted as normal, about being poor and thus the absence of god and the lies consumed any inkling of self-respect I had left. I was on a juggernaut to self-destruction. Then there were the drugs and the drugs could make all my problems seemingly vanish at least until the next time I needed drugs. This simple way of voiding the pain with the use of hard drugs would grow in the years until in my twenties, when I found myself being a heroin addict. I couldn’t speak to my parents because I was 16 and they were my parents. I had given up on the church at C.C.H. for drugs and hedonism so I didn’t go there either. A sad and viscous circle of my own design. What a mess! What a mess and it would only get messier.
Gerard Pas, April 23, 2005. London, Canada.
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To read the continuation of this story “Dazed by the Haze of adolescence” please click here.
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