In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus.
As we get older we think more about the past and how simple life was when we were young.
Bob Dylan’s 1964 song said it well: The times they are a changin’. Some changes have been for the better but there are others that are ridiculous. Here’s one example. Last spring, an honour student on Montreal’s South Shore was expelled for taking a pocket knife to school. The Grade 12 student said he forgot to take the pocket knife out of his pack after doing chores on the family farm. The youth was expelled in the middle of his final year. He had never been in trouble with the law before.
The family turned to Montreal civil rights lawyer Julius Grey after the school board decided the youth could no longer attend regular classes, instead allowing him to take individual lessons with a tutor two days a week.
I’m glad I grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s. It was customary for boys to take pocket knives to school. Some boys even carved their initials into the wooden desks and both boys and girls stuck chewing gum on the bottom of their seats and desks. And get this, long before technology gave us realistic games for kids that allowed for simulated predatory gun fighting electronically, North American youngsters took their cap guns to school. Cap guns were fired during recess. Playing cowboys and Indians in the dirt was how kids spent their playtime in decades past.
When I was in Grade 9, a classmate wanted to buy a new .22 caliber rifle repeater and would sell me his single shot .22. Most farm boys had a .22 in those days. I didn’t.
The following Friday when Eganville and District High School let students out at noon for a football game, the classmate and I walked over to his house on the other side of town. I bought the rifle, which wasn’t in a case, and walked through town, down main street and hiked the three miles home holding the rifle. Police weren’t alerted that a youth was walking through town with an exposed rifle. This was in 1963. Can you imagine if that happened nowadays? To be fair, there has been a lot of gun violence and murders committed over the years by guys with guns so people are edgy when seeing someone with a gun.
I recently saw a photo of John F. Kennedy campaigning in rural West Virginia looking for support in a primary in 1960, precariously perched on a highchair to deliver his speech.
Here, seemingly alone in a crowd, JFK talked from a kitchen chair as, mere feet away, a young boy absently played with a realistic-looking toy gun.
In many aspects this photo is proof of how the times have changed. Simpler times, as noted by the entire scene. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, candidates cared a significant amount more about regular folks and the value of a potential voter. Gone are the days of a presidential candidate or any politician for that matter making a speech standing on top of a high chair.
The caption underneath the photo said the boy was drinking water from his squirt gun. Kids were allowed to play with toy guns back in the day, even at school or at public events. Toy guns were marketed as looking as close to real guns as possible. Those were the days when life was so much simpler. I’m glad I grew up then.
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer and writer.