Tag Archives: Gordon Amsterdam

School Lunch

As a young child growing up in Calgary and couple of miles from school, my mother would pack our lunches in those little metal lunch boxes. I somehow don’t remember spring and summer lunches and I think we would do that walk home: twenty minutes in each direction and twenty minutes for lunch. But winter was a different story. I remember being in grade 1 or 2 and late every day for a week because my little legs couldn’t slog through all the snow.

So we’d go with the little lunch boxes. I think there were butterflies on mine. The thermos always had hot chocolate made will milk. The sandwiches (often with Velveeta cheese–ick!) were wrapped in wax paper, not saran wrap. After all, they’d be eaten several hours after being made and saran wrap was more expensive. There was probably an apple or an orange. Calgary in the winter when I was a child, didn’t have a host of the exotic fruits and vegetables that we take for granted now. In fact, the vegetables were pretty limited. I can’t stand frozen vegetables to this day, cooked mushy and tasteless (thank god I never had to experience canned veggies).

By junior high (grades 7-9), we were big enough to walk home for lunch or take it to school. Obviously lunch was not a big part of my childhood memories. I don’t recall whether I brought it or went home. I suspect I did both. But by high school, we were too cool for lunch and going home. On sunny, warm days I did still go home. I wasn’t a rich kid and made my money babysitting, or later, working in the movie theater. But by grades 11 and 12, there was usually one or two people who had a car. Sometimes we went to McDonald’s (I never did eat the burgers.) or drive off for a bowl of won ton soup. There was a mall near the high school so we had a few places to pick from.

There was also the school cafeteria in high school and we sometimes ate there. And sometimes we brought our lunches. I remember Gordon Amsterdam with his chocolate spread and sprinkle sandwiches, or the ones that were nothing but lemon curd on white bread. I think there was one vending machine, or maybe I’m just hallucinating it. I don’t recall ever buying pop from it and that’s all it would have held. No sandwiches, no soups, no salads, or even chocolate bars. There was a store close by for many of those items.

These days, the schools have so many machines. I suspect that the wee tots still get to bring their lunches in whatever cool lunch box/bag is the style. For that matter I have one now with Kali on it. I would use it but I usually bring soups that are in containers bigger than the thin lunch box and don’t do well tipped on their sides. In fact, the Kali box would only be good for sandwiches and cut up apples as it’s not deep enough for most varieties of lunch.

I don’t tend to eat sandwiches very often and I still don’t drink pop (soda) very often. Lunch is in whatever opaque bag I have. Lulu Lemon is one trendy lunchbag. I don’t use it for the fad setting but it is a good size for lunches. I imagine there are a lot of kids today that buy their lunches in cafeterias. That was a luxury once, even if it was cafeteria food.


I suppose I’ve gone on about lunches because I’m making up my annual fall time soups. An easy way to bring something nourishing without having to waste precious sleeping time in the mornings.

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Back in the USSR

In high school our gang of girls that would hang around together, spend time at each other’s homes watching TV and discussing boys. Common wardrobe of the era and in Calgary was jeans, T-shirts and those lumberjack shirts worn as jackets, or jean jackets. Marie, Debbie, Kathy, Cathy, Robyn, Leslie, Joanne, Heather and Joyce made up the main group of girls. The guys varied; some were friends and some boyfriends. We would get together at someone’s house and the guys who played guitars would twang away, half-heartedly working on something while the girls tried to come up with band names.

None of us sang. None of us played instruments so we dreamt of our stage careers and how we could play tambourines or rattles while the guys played. It never amounted to much but jamming musically and verbally. I think my boyfriend, Randy, may have been one of the players but mostly we just had a place to hang. There was the guy with the black Beatles style haircut and the somewhat hawkish nose. There was Gordon Amsterdam who had a penchant in school for eating chocolate spread and candy sprinkle sandwiches. Gordon was blond and slim so this nutritious diet didn’t seem to do much damage to his weight. There was Lorne and…I remember so few of the boy’s names but Gordon’s always had that mysterious espionage-spy sound to it. James Bond meet Gordon Amsterdam.

One of the houses we often went to was Ollie’s. Ollie was pronounced like the “O”in Olaf not the “O” in Oliver. Where we knew Ollie from I’m not sure as he was slightly older than our high school going selves and he didn’t seem to be in school. But then my boyfriend was two years older than me, a world of difference in those days. He graduated and worked in a bar. I looked older than I was and would often get into the bar, especially if he was along.

So perhaps Ollie was Randy’s friend. Ollie was quiet, shy really. Most of our boyfriends still fit the gangly filling-out stage but Ollie was solid and muscular, well-formed, dark haired, tall and probably could have had any girlfriend if he had ever noticed them. He didn’t. Even when we were at his place (it might have been his parents’) he seemed oblivious. What mattered to Ollie, the only girl he seemed to care about, was his car. He spent loving hours on it, his head under the hood. I’m sure it was a classic but I can’t remember what it was. Still, Ollie cherished it.

In truth, while we daydreamed about being a band, hanging in Ollie’s basement on old couches and mattresses, taking illicit substances (at least for the age we were) all we really wanted was a place to be. Most of us couldn’t hang out at our parent’s without them checking in. Malls were the only option and got boring pretty quickly. We could smoke, drink, just chat and maybe neck with our boyfriends. And there was Ollie, the quiet one, the guy from Russia, who worked on his car and obsessively played the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR.”

I can’t remember or even picture most of those guys now, but Ollie was a vignette, who rarely participated in a conversation, yet still memorable as a guy out of place and time even then.

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