Friday, January 3, 2014

Ted, Jim and Brenda meet the Prime Minister

This is a photo of Banff, a small town in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I have spent many years in and around Banff but the best year was 1972, a time where nothing could go wrong.

But first, a little history.

I keep close contact with almost all of my friends from Windsor, where I grew up from age 13 to 29 and last week-end had a chance to catch up with Ted Lindsay, who still lives in Windsor which is across the Detroit River and the now infamous city of Detroit. It's where, at 23, I got a job in the mailroom of the local TV station, CKLW-Channel 9. I had told the general manager I would be there forever but really, I was only going to spend the summer and go back to college in Detroit.

That changed the first day of work. I walked around the offices and the studio and realized this was my calling, to use a tired expression. I knew this would be my life.

I stayed in the mailroom for 2 months until an opening in the film editing department which I took and he replaced me. Editing consisted of cutting and joining commercials on film.

He also sold me my first 35mm camera, a Nikkormat, in the Nikon family. The first photo I took is of a raccoon in a cage. We became part of the newsfilm crew which consisted of a reporter, a cameraman and a soundman.  Ted was already a photographer but I was completely new to it.

 Brenda appeared around 1970 and got a job at the TV station and we married in 1971. In 1972 we took time off and went to a film course in Banff, in the heart of the Canadian
Rockies, a dream place of the arts,everything from music to writing to acting and more.

The course would last all summer and we would share a tiny cabin outside of the town when visitors might be passing through. Ted was one of them.

And that's when we met the most famous person in Canada, and quite famous in other countries as well. He was our colorful Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, in many ways our version of JFK.

We had heard Trudeau and his very young wife, Margaret were in town, that being Banff but didn't really care. Instead we decided to take one of the film cameras from my class and pretend to be filming something so that we could ride free up the famous gondola that takes people to a 6000 ft mountain. The gondola manager agreed as long as we would give him a copy of the film. Our camera had no film but we didn't say that.

When we reached the top, I noticed some of the people didn't look like tourists. In fact they looked completely out of place wearing bad suits. Security people. RCMP, you know "Mounties".

Trudeau and Maggie (as people began to call her) suddenly arrived with more mounties in cheap suits. All three of us, Ted, Brenda and I had cameras so we snapped away. Finally I decided to approach them, after all I worked in his campaign in 69 and covered him several times as part of the news crew.

You need to remember that this, in Canada, was like walking up to the President in the USA. In 1972 they weren't as paranoid as now. I approached with tea in a cup and introduced myself and who I was. Immediately Maggie spoke first, "I knew you were a professional
photographer. She began asking questions about the camera and where we were from. Brenda and Ted were nearby and were taking photos of us.

What was weird is that Maggie and I were doing most of the talking, she was around my age, maybe younger while Trudeau, I believe, was in his 40's. Here was the country's most famous person standing quietly as Maggie and I talked. Finally a mountie interceded and my little meeting with them was over. 

After they left, some tourists asked if we filmed them, which we couldn't, because we had no film. Just our still cameras and we took a lot of those. Later I gave some photos to the gondola manager with the idea of having a lifetime ride on the Gondola. Last time I saw the photos, they were still there after all these years.

That summer of 72 was one of my best summers and I still keep in touch with Ted and with Brenda, both of whom agree it was a grand time. Years later, Maggie became a photographer herself and lived a wild life for a while. She's still around and has produced a new Trudeau, Justin, who will probably be the next leader of Canada. And he's got his dad's heart and soul.

1 comment: