August 17 and 17th day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Time is marching on so I must not tarry. Time waits for no one. I thought I would change my routine and come to my keyboard earlier. Someone asked posed the question “WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DID SOMETHING FOR THE FIRST TIME?” in her post yesterday. It did get me thinking about how I’ve lived my life. Have I lived it? Was/am I adventuresome or was/am I a stick in the mud?

When I was 17 I certainly did not feel confident or adventuresome. Indeed, I felt very lacking in those areas. Back in Grade 7 and 8, boys asked me to dance at school dances. Grade 9 seemed to be the cutoff date. I became a wallflower so I stopped going to dances. I envied everyone else for their normalcy. I became aware of my differences, my Chinese-ness. Our life was the cafe, school and home. We had none of the travel out of town, to the lake, get-togethers with other people in town except with our cousins.

Thinking back now all these years later, it is a wonder to me that I was sassy enough to invite myself to a penpal, Gail’s home in Winnipeg. We had met on the plane to Japan when both our mothers and us immigrated to Canada. Our mothers had exchanged addresses and kept in touch. In my teenager’s loneliness I started writing to Gail. In 1967 the Pan American Games were being held in Winnipeg. That was my reason to ask for an invite for a visit. I’m not sure if I had any intentions of seeing any of it.

My friend’s grandfather Harry had a restaurant on Main and Portage called Chan’s Cafe. I had the audacity of asking for a summer job which I got. More surprising than anything, my mother agreed to let me go. So I headed out on the Greyhound Bus to Winnipeg. I never did see any of the Pan Am Games. Mostly I waitressed the afternoon to evening shift the whole summer till it was time to come home for school. Gail had the day shift. I never saw much of Winnipeg except the airport. My friend’s father had one of the cooks drive me home after our shifts. Gail’s mother felt responsible for me and didn’t trust me coming home alone on the bus. The cook taught me to drink coffee, smoke and showed me the airport.

I was a very young and innocent 17. I couldn’t get into trouble if I had wanted to. I can’t remember if I worked 6 or 7 days/week. When you are working an afternoon/evening shift, there isn’t too much time to get into trouble. But I had a clandesdine date or two if you can call matinees that. That’s when I saw Clint Eastwood in The Good, Bad and Ugly. The other matinee was with Kirk Douglas. I can’t recall the name but Kirk was butt naked in it.

7 thoughts on “WHEN I WAS SEVENTEEN

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this story! I was in elementary school during the period you’re writing about. My dad loved the westerns – “shoot’em ups” is what he called them. We went to see “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” at the drive-in. Such simple and wonderful memories.

  2. Hi Lily
    I spent a lot of my teen years in Winnipeg. I have cousins in the city and when my father was in the hospital in Winnipeg, my mother, brother and I would stay with our aunt who lived just off of north Main Street.
    In 1967 I went to Expo 67 in
    Montreal with some friends from Toronto. It was an exciting time to be learning about this wonderful world.
    Blog on.

    1. Thank you, Doug. Expo 67 would have been exciting to see. I’ve been to Quebec City long, long time ago. Driven thru Montreal but did not stop.

  3. This is a wonderful story. It sounds like a great summer. Winnepeg is one Canadian city that I would like to visit. And I am a fan of Clint Eastwood’ movie. And I miss drive-ins too.

  4. I loved your story. It really made me smile (and I think I was getting into about the same amount of trouble as you when I was 17, which is to say not so much. It sounds as though you had quite an adventure in Winnipeg anyway. Thanks for sharing.

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