When I was 15 my parents moved across the north end of Toronto from the safe little enclave that was Parkway West to the wilds of Weston just east of the airport. I lost all my childhood friends in that one move, as I was too young to drive. Fortunately for me I quickly fell into a clutch of new friends all centered around music and literature. The lit crowd – Gail Burgess, Mike Fuhrman, and Pat Johnstone – helped me to develop a far deeper understanding of what would eventually become my career. Instead of passing notes, Gail, Pat and I would pass around the latest drafts of the poems we were writing and talk about Dostoevsky. Mike would later become a writer for Canadian Press.

The music crowd kept me sane through those turbulent teen years and gave me a sense of identity as I learned to play guitar, write music, and sing for our band, the Echoes of Tyme. Bob Macko, our drummer, would pile our pitifully small clutch of guitars, drums and amplifiers into his tiny little Mini, and off we’d go with Bob Trimble our lead guitarist, Mike Fuhrman on keyboards, Mike Dick on rhythm and John Holt playing bass and harmonizing on the vocals. We did rhythm and blues and loved Bob Dylan and the early Stones songs like King Bee, and You’d Better Move On. We played mostly in Legion Halls where nobody much cared if we drank or smoked pot.

None of us were any good but we did have a lot of fun and a fairly steady group of girlfriends that followed us around. Yorkville was alive with music in those days from The Mandela and Ronnie Hawkins, Gordie Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell and we hung around there picking up riffs and just soaking in the joy of that vibrant music scene. I hated being shipped off to Ottawa in Grade 13 and spent most of my weekends hitching back to Toronto to hang out with my friends. I totally bombed that year as a consequence and it was four years before I got back to university. During those years I gradually lost track of all those friends except John, who shared a flat with me on upper Christie for a while.

John was working at Manulife at the time, where he met and later married Bonnie Oxtoby. He was never much interested in coming with me on my many travels during those years, but he was always good enough to find room for me whenever I got back to Toronto and his friendship grew increasingly important to me. Once I got to Guelph I encouraged him to return to university himself and get a teaching degree; he encouraged me to consider teaching Industrial Arts instead of English as it would be a lot more fun. He was right, it was!

After I landed a job teaching shop at Scott St. Public School in St. Thomas, I recommended him to a friend who hired him for the shop position at Central in St. Thomas, a position he held until he retired. He was the best man at my wedding, and the only friend I insisted on inviting to my daughter’s wedding. I have known him now for 55 years, longer than anyone living except my brother and sister.

A few days ago my friend John Holt turned 70 and celebrated the event with his wife, Bonnie, their two sons and their wives, Bill and Golli (in the foreground) Mike and Kate, My 70th is not far behind. For all that our paths in life have gone in different directions; John has remained one of the cornerstones in my life. He connects me to my past, and reminds me of the value of excellence and the richness of the age in which were fortunate to have lived. He is a kind and good-hearted man, an expert craftsman and an accomplished cook. He is also a faithful father, husband, and friend. If you are reading this John, I wish you all the best on this milestone. Thank you for your friendship. I treasure the privilege of having known you so long.