The recent move by Barack Obama to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba brought back a flood of memories of the day that I first heard the name Fidel Castro.
It was New Year’s Day 1959, and I was 11. As usual in our house, everything revolved around football. Iowa was winning the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, but the game was interrupted by breaking news about ‘regime change’ in Cuba. Fidel Castro came down out of the hills, leading a revolution that toppled a corrupt dictator named Batista.
Who could possibly have imagined that the story would still be unfolding in 2015, 56 years later. Life was good for an 11 year old in 1959. I certainly didn’t have many thoughts about what the world might be like in 2015. We watched that Rose Bowl on a 17 inch black and white TV, marveling at how clear and bright the live picture was, coming all the way from California. We didn’t have any use for the channel changer, and there was no way to record the game and watch it at a more convenient time.
There were no other screens of any kind in the house, and our telephone was wired to the wall with a rotary dial. It was mostly on a wired rotary dial phone that our news about the Cuban revolution was relayed over the dear old CBC by reporters in Havana and Washington.
Just like 2015, New Year’s Day fell on a Thursday in 1959. Two days later I rode a bus all by myself to the Central Y in downtown Winnipeg. Like every Saturday, I swam naked with a bunch of other 11 year old boys.
Later some of us went to a Saturday matinee at a neighbourhood movie house. Can’t remember the picture, but it may well have starred Clark Gable or Gary Cooper. They were not destined to live much longer, but at that moment in time they were on top of the world.
What a different world it was, 56 years ago.
I’m Roger Currie