The Teenage Years

Published May 5, 2020 by A.J.B. Johnston

For many, the teenage years can be both the best of and worst of times, and sometimes one after the other like a roller coaster. That’s because it’s the period when we begin to figure out the world and our place in it. Hence the term, coming of age.

I didn’t fully realize it as I was writing the KINGS OF FRIDAY NIGHT, but I can now see in retrospect that the book is in large part a celebration of the teenage years my generation went through. Maybe that seems obvious, but while I was writing I was just writing, not stopping to think about what was coming out.

Now I can see that my version of the story of The Lincolns is essentially the tale of a quest; a search by a group of aspiring, teenage musicians to make music. That they did, and along the way they found not just their own distinctive sound but also their individual identities and a decades-enduring group ID as well. Meanwhile, down on many a dance floor across Nova Scotia and into New Brunswick, thousands of young fans were eagerly soaking up what the band was giving out: intense joy. It was incredible fun!

I am drawn to this reflection this morning because of our COVID 19 situation. Though everyone has been affected by the shutdowns, I tend to think the closures are probably hardest on teenagers. They are ready to get out there and explore, live and love; they want nothing more than to find out who they can be and where they belong in the world. How complicated that must be when nearly everyone else is two meters away!

I wonder if any of today’s teenagers would be interested in reading about a time, a half century ago, when there were no cell phones or social media, and people loved going to dances?

Here are three photos that speak to these ruminations. The first is a b&w shot that captures some of the spirit of the bygone era, peace symbols and all. Joy O’Brien sent me this photo recently. It presents a bunch of Truro teens standing in front of the town’s Drop-in Centre in what is thought to be 1968 (even though someone inked in 1969). Every person in that photo, I’m guessing, regularly went to Lincoln dances, except for the two little kids.

There are four people in the photo who are specifically named in the book. In the back row below the inked-in middle arrow is bass player Phisch Fancy (with a moustache). Also in the back row, the third and fourth heads to Phisch’s left, are Mary Topshee and Joy O’Brien, both of whom are quoted in KINGS OF FRIDAY NIGHT. And that’s Peter Cox, occasional guest singer with The Lincolns, in the center of the front row.

The color photos were taken in June 1968, just as my Grade 12 classmates were graduating from Truro Senior High. Craig Stanfield (in the white sweater) and Maxine Wallace (in the yellow dress) both shared some great memories of Lincoln dances in KINGS OF FRIDAY NIGHT.

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