The Brockville Boys

The Brockville Boys, from left: Gord Johnston, Dave Cody, Ron Base, Calvin Prescott.

 

The old home town is just not the same.

The apartment where my brother and I lived above the Bank of Commerce at 98 King St., W. in Brockville is still there. I stand across the street and stare up at the window where nearly fifty years ago I sat in my bedroom dreaming of someday, somehow, becoming a writer.

But further along King Street, the Recorder and Times where Managing Editor Sandy Runciman gave me my first daily newspaper job, is no more. It has been transformed into condominiums.

Next door, Ritchie’s the smoke shop with pool tables in the back where I wasted many hours of my youth, remains a smoke shop of sorts, but they’ve taken out the pool tables and now use the space for storage.

Across from the Recorder and Times the big Woolworth’s stands empty, a blighted eyesore on the street. I used to stare down into the front of the store from my desk in the newsroom, watching Sue Grant, the local beauty who worked summers as a cashier, plotting how I might somehow meet her.

(I finally persuaded City Editor Harry Painting to print a story about students working at summer jobs and hurried across to interview her. To no avail. Sue had more sense than to be interested in a tongue-tied teenage reporter.)

A lot has changed in Brockville. But the Brockville Boys haven’t changed at all.

Calvin Prescott and Dave “Batman” Cody and Gord Johnston, not to mention that tongue-tied reporter, look exactly the same as they did when they attended the Brockville Collegiate Institute. The stories of their exploits remain fresh and funny as if they happened yesterday–which, of course, they did.

The guys I knew in high school are still, after all this time, the guys I knew in high school. What we liked about each other then, we still like about each other today.

Other Brockville Boys are scattered about the country. Bob Johnston and Mac McLellan are in British Columbia while Rob Wilson practices law in St. Catharines. We all ended up on different journeys, experienced varying degrees of success and heartbreak, loved and lost, raised children, became grandfathers.

None of that makes much difference.

It is the past that brings us together, and when we are together that past is the present. Because it is, we discover all over again how special is our friendship and how enduring.

I doubt I could have survived high school without the Brockville Boys. Together we conspired to skip classes, launch midnight rambles, attend all-night horror movies (“Five Pic Horror Spectacs”) at the Capitol Theatre, searched out dates for Saturday nights at the Tiki Club, and shoveled endless amounts of Chinese food at the Happy Garden Restaurant.

We made weekly forays across the Canada-U.S.A. Bridge to Ogdensburg (or “the Burg” as everyone called it) where the minimum drinking age was eighteen (as opposed to twenty-one in Ontario).

Not to forget the drive-in porno movies in New York State; sex on a big outdoor screen seen for miles around, viewed by a carload full of wide-eyed innocents (“Get your goodies,” a strange foreign voice urged between shows over the not-so-loud speaker attached to the car window).

When I think back on our exploits, what I remember most is the laughter; the endless laughter (and perhaps a few beers). Those guys rescued me, and maybe we rescued each other, from what otherwise would have been a miserable teenage existence in a small town that at the time seemed cut off from the rest of the known world.

And just as they made life more bearable way back then, the Brockville Boys still make it bearable today.

Driving from Toronto, I found myself overwhelmed by the sadness of friends who have exited far too early this year. There has been too much sickness and death, fueling the gnawing suspicion that maybe, just maybe, we are getting old.

But sitting around on the porch at the welcoming old house Calvin and his wife Linda own,with night falling, bathed in friendship and memories, thoughts of death evaporated, and the years fell away.

We were young again. Life lay ahead of us, not behind. Possibilities were infinite. We laughed into the night. Wives looked at us blankly. But we knew. We knew. We were off on another midnight ramble. Old friends, together.

The way it has been. The way it will always be.

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About

Author of "The Sanibel Sunset Detective" and "The Strange." Ron spends part of the year on Sanibel Island, Florida, where he writes detective novels featuring private eye Tree Callister. When he is not in Florida, he resides outside Toronto, Ontario with his wife, Kathy.

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13 comments on “The Brockville Boys
  1. Erin Ruddy says:

    Very touching. but I had no idea you DRANK BEER and WATCHED PORN!

  2. Bob Johnston says:

    It was “Get your goddies before the next film comes on. So good it makes all others look like Walter Disney. And you guys in the second row, stop honking your horn and flshing your lights everytime you see some boob.”

  3. Bat says:

    Ron
    Still brimming with laughter and recollections from out get together last week…indeed it is and will be, our blessing that long term memories are the last to go!

  4. Calvin Prescott says:

    Ron (Inspector Base!)
    Well, it is obvious why you became a writer and the rest of us did not (although we have all had a few shining moments in this domain over the years) This write up was truly quite beautiful and captured so many thoughts and memories that I know we all share – thank you for that. We are all blessed in so many ways. I look forward to our next get together.
    Calvin

    • ronbase says:

      Thanks, CP…I coudn’t agree more; we are blessed…and I’m particularly lucky to have such a great friend out there in Mallorytown (or is it Rockport?)…

  5. James Tickel says:

    Best wishes Ron!!

  6. linda martin says:

    great story

  7. David Glazier says:

    Ron, thanks for the great memories of the ‘wonder years’ at BCI. It was good to think back on those times …but sad to see how the main drag has fallen on hard times as a shell of it’s former self.
    Dave G. (Korea/Calgary/Grenadier Island)

    • ronbase says:

      Thanks, Dave…Great to hear from you. King Street is a sad spectacle these days…the Recorder and Times gone, Woolworth’s long since closed and an empty shell…Still, it was fun to go back, at least for a weekend…

  8. Bob Newell says:

    I new gord and dave from our old days at Algonquin in Ottawa. Gord and I were Junior Forest Rangers together in Thunder Bay in 1965. Please have them get in touch with me.

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