I was recently asked what was my earliest memory in my life.
As soon as I had some time, I made a coffee, took it to the living room, sat in my comfy chair and started remembering. Little snippets of my life as a very young boy living in Regina, Saskatchewan, came to mind, but they were just one off scenes or events. None of them were enough for a short tale until I remembered my first picnic. I took several days to bring the complete memory back, but I managed to do so and decided to write this essay as my memoir of the event.
In 1949 the Lakeview United Church Annual Picnic was held in the town of Lumsden, Saskatchewan. It was Fall and the weather was good to us with clear skies, warm temperatures, and little wind. The tree leaves had just started to yellow and the air carried the smell of smoke from the bonfires around the picnic grounds. I was five years old, and Mom and Dad brought me along to the first picnic that I can remember.
The lunch was hot dogs and beans, a meal that I’d never had before. I liked the smoky taste of the hot dogs and asked Mom why we didn’t have these at home. She just smiled and went on talking to some other women. Later she explained that hot dogs were alright, once and a while, but they weren’t very good meat.
After the plates and utensils were gathered by the older kids, the sports started.
I wasn’t much interested in anything competitive at that time in my life, but Dad convinced me to enter the foot race for my age group. I still remember how anxious I was, certain that I would be a failure.
First, the girls had their race, then I heard the call for the four and five year old boys to line up at the start. I looked down the line and was intimidated by a few of the older boys who I thought towered above me.
“Ready, Set, Go!” We were off. Initially, I didn’t care what happened, but as a couple of the other boys started getting ahead of me I thought, I can do better. Dad had told me to not look at the others in the race, but to look straight ahead at the finish line, so that’s what I did. I ran with my little legs as hard as I could to the finish line, crossing it feeling happy the race was over.
Just then I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder and the man who grabbed me said, “Way to go, Jack. You came in third. Come with me and get your prize.”
I had no idea what the prize was so I followed his guidance. Three of us stood together in front of everyone. We had first, second, and third place ribbons pinned to our shirts and each received a ticket for a free ice cream cone. Mom and Dad came over, elated that I had done so well. Believe me, I was elated as well—imagine, wee Jacky Blair winning something.
I thought that double decker vanilla ice cream cone was the creamiest I had ever tasted.
As we drove home, back to Regina, I sat in the back of our 1938 Chev. thinking that was the best day, ever.