A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Lindsay.
Those of us of a certain age will remember, back when our local radio station was on the a.m. dial, the noon in memoriam announcements.
Growing up, weekday lunches, which we called dinners, began with this ritual. One of us would race to turn on the countertop radio. The meal was timed so that we were eating our Kraft Dinner or canned soup just as the somber organ music stopped, and the announcer started reading the death announcements.
Using a bit of ironic gallows humour, my mom always called it ‘happy hour.’ Now before anyone feels compelled to write and tell me how horrible and insensitive my mom is, I will note that after 30 plus years working in the hospital, my mom volunteered to do end of life palliative visits, staying with people who had no local family, so that they wouldn’t die alone. The name was just a joke, but the content was beyond important to us.
I remember marveling at how my parents seemed to know everyone ever mentioned on the program. As the names and details of the dearly departed were read, there would be commentary and additional knowledge shared: This person was the mother of an old neighbour; that person was one of Grandpa’s taxi customers; another related to a second cousin by marriage. Everyone, even in death, seemed connected in my small world.
And while there was frequent laughter at my childhood dinner table, the five minutes of happy hour was not a time to goof around. That was a line that wouldn’t be crossed. And we all knew about that line, thanks to a notorious relative. It may be apocryphal, but when my larger-than-life great uncle was a local DJ, he was fired on air for being (allegedly) intoxicated and announcing the obituaries as a sports score between the funeral homes.
But as actor Steve Allen once famously quipped, tragedy plus time equals comedy. So I probably find humour in that unverifiable story now.
When I got to university I would share the noon radio obituaries as an example of how small and uncool my hometown was, as people who first leave home often do. But over time, as I have gotten ever statistically closer to being the subject of an obituary, I have changed my views.
I realize now that happy hour was just one of many little, often weird things that made living in a small town different and special. And while that difference may sometimes lie in special annual events or physical attractions, it’s often the ‘characters’ and stories that set us apart. They give a feeling of community that I, for one, have never found in big cities or in the echo chambers of social media.
So to all in the (sometimes whacky) community I love, I wish you a Happy New Year.