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Around the World

Powell River writer and singer-songwriter Pat Buckna began his music career in Calgary in the 1970's, spent a number of years in the Arctic including a stint as a photographer-reporter for a community newspaper, and was responsible for bringing over 750 performers to the NWT pavilion at Expo '86. In 2019, he wrote and published Only Children - A Family Memoir - and runs a small recording studio on Texada Island. He lives in a small Canadian coastal community two ferries north of Vancouver, BC. 

Karen wedges the toes of her penny-loafers into the wire mesh halfway up the chain-link fence and lifts herself, and her black-rimmed glasses, up into the air. She blows her whistle at Pengelly and me. Karen, a prim and proper girl in a plaid skirt with small pleats and a long- sleeved, frilly white blouse buttoned to the neck, is our Safety Patrol Supervisor. She loves wearing the safety belt, the whistle, and lanyard. Karen is a pain.

The next morning Mr. Churchill, the vice-principal, calls us out of class and down to the office.

"Yesterday, instead of crossing with Karen's safety patrol, you two jaywalked in plain sight, is that true?"

Karen spotted us crossing 13th Street a block and a half down the hill from our school, or so she says.

"Of course not, sir," I say on our behalf, staking my honor-student reputation against Karen's accusation. Pengelly—as we'd agreed earlier—remains silent. Churchill shrugs his shoulders, says nothing, and sends us back to class. We avoid Karen's crosswalk for the next few weeks.

That fall, Pengelly and I join the Safety Patrol team and it's Karen who shows us how to properly fasten our yellow belt over our shoulders, where to pin our silver badges, and how to march in unison.

"Arm UP, sign OUT, two, three, four, STOP, two, three, LEFT, feet together, two, three, arms UP, sign OUT, eyes forward. Wait for the crosswalk to clear. Arm DOWN, repeat the sequence backwards and stand at ease until the next group is ready to cross. You got that?"

Despite Karen being our Patrol Leader, this job is important and gets us out of class fifteen minutes early every afternoon. Later in the spring, our patrol is chosen to put on a demonstration at the Palace Theatre during the Saturday matinee. Most Saturdays, different teams from different schools march proudly across the Palace's former vaudeville stage and endure the jeers, hoots and taunts of our ungracious peers only there to watch this week's episode of The Phantom, Lone Ranger or Buck Rogers.

Pengelly and I put on our safety patrol uniforms and ready ourselves to execute our crosswalk routine, determined to demonstrate how proficient we are. I'm so fat I barely fit into my belt and as I start across the stage, I trip. Howls of laughter erupt from the crowd. The whole thing is a bust and I regret having agreed to do it. Karen is not pleased.


The following week at the matinee, a special guest, the National Duncan Yo-Yo Champion, silences the crowd with dozens of amazing stunts. He Walks the Dog, Hops the Fence, Tumbles Over the Falls, Rocks the Cradle, Slaps the Baby, and to top it off ends with an amazing Man on the Flying Trapeze.

"The secret, boys," he says, "is this Duncan Yo-Yo. It has a slip string that allows the spinning Yo-Yo to rotate indefinitely at the bottom of its line until a wrist-flick summons it home."

He lets us examine his special Yo-Yo and we marvel at the cellophane packages of slip strings. He tells us we all can become regional Duncan Yo-Yo Champions.

"Next year, a competition will be held here. You aren't gonna want to miss that."

He sells dozens of wooden Duncan Yo-Yo's to us at a very special price. An excited group of would-be champions leaves the theatre, pockets bulging with yo-yos, extra slip strings, and illustrated instructions for the Ten Most Popular Tricks.

The blue edges of my Duncan yo-yo soon become chipped and pitted after a few weeks of Walking the Dog along the eight blocks of sidewalk to and from school. I'm on my third slip string before I master the Creeper.

One morning at Pengelly's—the day that will end my Yo-Yo career — I discover that Around the World is really an outdoor trick. Pengelly's mother likely already knew this before she demands that I hand her my blue Yo-Yo and bends down to pick up the pieces of the shattered ceiling light fixture in Pengelly's bedroom.

~ Pat Buckna, author of: Only Children: A Family Memoir — available as a Kindle e-book and in paperback.

Check out Pat's mew album "Singing My Songs For You."






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