On becoming 10

Uxbridge Cosmos, first edition, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005.
Volume 1, Number 1 – Uxbridge Cosmos, first edition, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005.

It sort of creeps up on you. You’re conscious of existence in the first few years. Important moments stand out. Some prove to be highlights. Others not. But, because it’s such a formative time, all the events in one’s first 10 years are instructive. I know. I was once 10 years old. And one thing I remember about becoming 10 was a first step toward adulthood.

“OK, Ted,” my mom and dad told me that July. “Here’s your first pet dog. She’s completely dependent on you. And you’re completely responsible for her well-being.”

Liberation not a moment too soon

Ninety-nine percent of the time Larry Mann performed in studio, on camera for voice-over to make us laugh.
Ninety-nine percent of the time Larry Mann performed in studio, on camera for voice-over to make us laugh.

Most of the time, Larry D. Mann was a comedian. In the 1950s, when I met him, Larry would warm up audiences for my father’s television show, The Barris Beat, on CBC. He also appeared in comic sketches on the show. His perfect delivery of punch lines, his deadpan facial expressions and his huge guffaws broke up every audience he ever met. Once, however, Larry Mann made me cry. He described a day in the spring of 1945.

“We weren’t prepared for what we saw when we arrived at the concentration camp,” he said. “We couldn’t get in the front gate because there were bodies, hundreds of bodies, piled up like cordwood. We hadn’t seen the pits yet…”

Ted Barris writes Foreword to new book Syncopated: Black Stories

In a new book of biographies (compiled by author Ed Brown) about Black musicians in Canada, Ted Barris was invited to write the Foreword.

The star attraction was not in the house that night. While many others – the luminaries of the Canadian jazz scene – performed on stage, perhaps the country’s best studio and jazz concert drummer of the day was absent. In fact, it was because he was absent, that all the stars came out. It was in 1967 when Toronto-born musician Archie Alleyne suffered serious injuries in a car accident. He was not able to work … at either of his jobs.

“I didn’t have a car, so I had to carry my drum kit on streetcars and the subway,” he told my father, Alex Barris, back then. “I’d play from 9 at night to 1 a.m., get home with my drums by 3 a.m. and be up four hours later to go to my day job.”