Sunday, 29 August 2010
The little blue man (Part Five of a Google Map walk through an Edmonton childhood)
View Larger MapI am old enough to remember a time when kids wandered free throughout their neighbourhoods. I don't think we were at any greater or lesser risk for being snatched by strangers. I mean, the reason a kidnapped child is big news is because it's a relatively rare occurrence; then, as now, children were more likely to be snatched by members of their own families, abused by people they trusted, and die in car accidents.
So I ranged pretty well where I wanted, provided I returned home at the appointed times. I was required, of course, to say where I was going. My destination was usually the local playground which featured wooden swings you could stand up on, wooden teeter-totters (see-saws) where you could strand or drop your partner if you had the weight advantage, and a rather marvelous summer programme with teen-aged counselors, organized games, crafts and races, and regular visits from a group of acting students from the University of Alberta who called themselves "The Playground Players". A sign posted on the playground shelter would advise us of their arrival and they would trundle across the field drawing a cart of make-shift props and wearing colourful strolling-player-type costumes. I thought they were wonderful. I still remember an exchange between the giant and his wife in their fractured version of Jack and the Beanstalk:
"What's behind your apron?"
"My dress! It's new! Do you like it?"
"What's behind your dress?"
We roared. Very risqué stuff for little kids.
On more ordinary days, the counselor, a charismatic girl who couldn't have been much more than eighteen but who was as old as the hills as far as I was concerned, led us through summer-camp sorts of activities. My favourite was a game called "I Come From Edmonton" where the leader (usually the counselor) would parade around the inside of the circle singing:
I come from Edmonton,
Jolly, jolly Edmonton!
I come from Edmonton.
Here she would stop in front of someone and both would swipe their hands and scissor their feet to the words:
Can you feel the heat?
I smell your dirty feet!
On the last word she'd jump 180 degrees, holding her nose, the child would grab her waist and they'd march off to collect another kid in the circle until all were in the train. Marvelous stuff. I must have been pretty easy to entertain.
Our counselor also regularly serenaded us with a goofy surreal ballad about a persistent little blue man who stalks the hapless young women he "wuvs". I was far too young to know that this had been a novelty hit in the fifties for Betty Johnson and had been written by Fred Ebb and Paul Klein, the men behind Cabaret, and later, Chicago. Here's Petulia Clark's version:
(This is my continuation of the exercise suggested by John Reid at his blog Anglo-Celtic Connections.)