Hippies, picnics, and “The Man”

Posted on June 9, 2010


In case anyone was wondering (and I can’t imagine anyone was), this is what my friends and I were like as teenagers.

One summer, Ian, George, Greg, Trevor, and I decided we wanted to have a picnic. We lived in Malton, a suburb of Toronto which, at that time, was essentially its own little village. But while fields were within easy reach (Trevor had a car — a new addition to our group), we’d settled on a local community park. The ground was even, and it was large enough that we could find a place well away from the houses so as not to disturb the neighbours.

It was three in the morning, after all.

That's "Freshie" -- not Kool Aid.

Flo (my mother) helped mix up a jug of Freshie, the Canadian version of Kool-Aid, while the rest of us made sandwiches.

The year is 1969. We’re in our late teens and not one of us has what “The Man” would consider a respectable hair cut. Trevor has a veritable mane that hangs all the way down to his ass, but mine is a close second. The others, while not quite in the same league, have hair at least past their shoulders.

As we’re driving to our selected destination, a police car appears, flashes its lights and the cops inside wave us over.

One of them walks up to Trevor’s window, leans in (as I now realise, for a good whiff of the air we’ve been breathing), and asks, “Where are you going.”

“To the community park,” Trevor tells him, and the rest of us nod in what we hope is a convincing manner.

“And what are you planning to do in the community park at this time of night?” the cop asks, pointing out what he considers a rather glaring obstacle to the logic of our story.

“We’re going to have a picnic,” several of us shout.

The cop pulls his head back.

“A picnic?” He says.

There isn’t even much inflection in his voice. It’s like doesn’t know what kind of expression to have for this.

“You’re going on a picnic at three in the morning,” he says, perhaps hoping to find clarity simply in restating the premise.

“Yes,” I said.

How I remember the picnic basket.

I was in the back seat with the picnic container. I can’t remember what kind of container — I’m sure it’s not the Victorian picnic hamper I have in my memory — but it was something made more-or-less specifically for picnics. Possibly from K-Tel.

Anyhow, in an effort to provide evidence of our truthfulness, I shoved the picnic container to Trevor, who opened it up in front of the officer.

“See?” said Trevor.

The cop looked at it, then started shifting things around. He opened a sandwich, sniffed it, re-wrapped it. And then he found our flask of Freshie.

He smiled.

“And what’s this?” he asked.

“Freshie,” we chorused.

By this time we’re thoroughly enjoying ourselves and looking forward to the growingly-obvious denouement.

“So,” he said, “you won’t mind if I have some?”

Mind? Hell! If he hadn’t asked, we’d have been forced to pour it down his throat. I was passing  a couple of plastic cups between the front seats to Trevor before the cop had even finished his question.

“Take a cup to your partner, if you want,” I said.

He didn’t. He just poured a small amount into one of the cups, sniffed it (I’ve often suspected that cops have to go through a special olfactory course before they can graduate), and cautiously took a sip.

“It’s Kool-Aid,” he said, absolutely baffled.

“It’s Freshie!” shouted Ian rather angrily. He was a staunch Canadian patriot who took personally any slight to his country’s achievements.

That was us: born to be wild.

While I didn’t feel this was the appropriate time to engage in a political argument, the cop, fortunately, didn’t seem to be listening.

“You’re really going on a picnic at three in the morning, aren’t you?” he said, and started to smile.

“Want to come?” asked Trevor.

He shook his head, waved a dismissive hand, and headed back to the cruiser.

“They’re going on a picnic!” he called over to his partner. “For real!”

And we did.

For real.


For more tales of my trouble-making days as a youth, see also:
First Punch and On Forgetting.

For more on my three friends, see: The Importance of ‘Last Times’.

For more on “Russel,” see: Russell vs. Prince of Darkness, and Russell’s Eyes.