Originally published March 22, 2012
NOTE: Please read Part 2 before reading this post – thanks!
On our way to Turkey Point, we stopped to pick up Dude at his Uncle’s farm – which was about a mile down the road from the village. Dude’s Aunt and Uncle were sitting on the front porch, so everyone jumped out of the cars to say hello and chat. I was surprised at how friendly everyone seemed – they all appeared genuinely happy to see each other. Dude introduced me to them – as Saint – and mentioned that I was staying at Ma Jacobits’ place. As we said our goodbyes, Dude’s Uncle winked and told us to behave ourselves – his wink was not only an acknowledgement that he knew what our plans were – it was also a “wish I was joining you fellas!” kind of wink.
Although it has been more than 45 years since first driving the several miles from Vittoria to Turkey Point but I can still picture the route in my mind.
In the car with me that night, was John, Ernie, Buzz, Bobby and Dude. Dude and I were the only students – the other guys had all quit school when they turned sixteen. They all had full-time jobs but I can’t remember where or what they did for a living. I do remember that they all hated their jobs and seemed to prefer partying to working.
We drove west a few hundred yards, and then John stopped the car. Ernie jumped out of the passenger side and ran to open the trunk. Seconds later, he climbed back in – all smiles – with a 12 pack of cold beer. He started opening the bottles and passing them around – it was the first time that I had ever seen a bottle opened with a Zippo cigarette lighter!
As John drove the car, he mentioned that he was in the process of converting his car from an automatic to a standard transmission – with a “Hurst ” floor shift – and would I want to help? Although I loved cars – and knew the names and models of every car built by each of the Big Three automakers – I didn’t know anything about engines, transmissions, brakes or for that matter – how cars “worked”. I quickly agreed to help John and we all “toasted” the project by hitting our bottles together. It didn’t matter that I would be of little or no assistance to the project – I was thrilled to be included as one of the guys!
After driving west on Charlotteville Road 4 for a few miles, we turned south when we reached Turkey Point Road. A few minutes later we entered Turkey Point Provincial Park and continued driving until we came to a “secret side road”. John slowed the car while the rest of the guys searched to ensure that there were no vehicles behind or in front of us – and when the coast was clear, he drove down the side road until we could no longer see the main road. We all jumped out of the car – and joined our buddies from the other car, who had arrived a few minutes before us – and continued drinking our beer. Ernie opened the trunk and pulled out another “case of 12” and we sat around listening to the C&W music blaring from John’s car radio. The guys explained that this secret side road was actually one of several fire routes built within the Park. And aside from the odd maintenance crew – the road was primarily used for “drinking and/or parking (romancing)”.
After drinking a few more beers, we got back into the cars and continued driving south through the Provincial Park until we reached Lake Erie. We turned right and there is was –Turkey Point Beach! It was an exciting sight – the sun was still shining – and as we headed west, there was a beautiful beach on the one side of the road and numerous cottages, motels and food/refreshment stands on the other. There were hundreds of young people walking down both sides of the road – most of them wearing swimsuits – and although it wasn’t the 10 girls to every guy ratio that I had previously been promised – it was definitely the place to be!
We parked the cars and started a walking tour of the beach and then later, we crossed the busy road and walked back until we reached “Green’s Booth” – a large food/refreshment stand. The guys explained that this stand had the best food on the beach. They also indicated that Ted Green, the guy that owned the place, was also a bootlegger. And although I had certainly heard of bootleggers, I had never seen one before, let alone ever bought beer from one. This fact made the beach even more exciting – buying beer from a bootlegger became another goal of mine. There was a large crowd of people, in several lineups to get food – but I didn’t see anyone getting beer. The guys told me that you had to go behind the refreshment booth to Ted’s trailer if you wanted beer – and he only sold to people he knew and/or trusted.
After having an excellent hotdog and French fries, we walked down the road until we came to the next famous spot on the beach – The Willows Dance Hall. It was an old building – that was used for Bingo during the week and dances on the weekend – and usually with live bands from Simcoe and/or Brantford. On the door was a very large and muscular bouncer – he was rumored to have won several Golden Gloves (boxing) titles and was from Buffalo, NY.
The rest of the night was a blur…………
When I awoke, it was morning. I was lying on my bed – in my clothes, without the slightest idea of when or how I’d gotten there. I got up and went to use the washroom. As I stared into the mirror, I was shocked to see my face and shirt covered in dried blood. “What the hell happened last night?” I asked myself. It was also at that point that I started to feel the pain of my first “hangover” and “the Fear” of not being able to remember who or what had done this to me. Was it one of my new buddies? Or was it the big bouncer at The Willows?
A few minutes later, I walked into Ma’s restaurant and there at one of the tables sat Dude, John and Ernie. They all started to laugh as I pulled up a chair – and I started to feel my cheeks and ears turning red with embarrassment – still not aware of what had happened the night before.
Bobby, the driver of the other car with us last night, got up from the table he was seated at and came over to me. “Hey Saint, I’m sorry about last night” he said, with a concerned look on his face. And then everyone in the restaurants started laughing – which seemed to make him even more uncomfortable. He then went on to explain that I had “passed out or went to sleep” on the beach, so he and one of the other guys carried me back to his car and put me in the back seat. Later in the night, on our way home, Bobby lost control of the car and hit an embankment on the side of the road. I was flung against the back of the front seat – with my face – and that’s where the bleeding nose came from. When they got back to Vittoria, they carried me to my room and put me to bed.
I started to smile – relieved that everything had turned out okay or at least reasonably so. Although there was considerable damage to the front of Bobby’s car, nobody else was injured. And as scary as the whole incident could have been, I, in typical teenager fashion, was happy to have “passed” yet another, rite of passage on my journey to adulthood.
However, the feeling of happiness was soon replaced with a much darker feeling of “the Fear” – of being unemployed – and with no source of income. I walked over to the jukebox, put in a quarter and picked 3 songs – knowing that music would at least make me feel better – as it always has……..
To be continued…..