Uploaded Treasures

I have a "box of treasures" - trinkets that I've had since... well, forever. In the interest of preserving/uploading my memory, here's the contents with commentary.

Oakley Centre

Oakley was a "gifted and talented" school I attended in Calgary from grades 4 through 9. When I started in September 1981 it was an experiment with a mere three "homerooms" (one each of grades 4, 5 and 6), sharing the Dr. Oakley School building with a program for special needs children. By the time I "graduated" in June 1987 it occupied the entire building and covered grades 3 through 9, and the school was closed at the end of that year. (A band of classmates composed and performed a song with the refrain "We were the first ones here and the last to go" at the grade 9 grad dance.)

The school's official opening was not until March 1982 - until then, I guess it didn't count. I was one of two students chosen to hold the official ribbon (the other was Roma Sarkar?), and I was given one end of the ribbon as a memento afterwards, annotated by one of the staff in her distinctive calligraphy:


By the time the classes had expanded to encompass Grade 9, there was a student council. When I was in Grade 8 (?) I ran for class VP in what my memory tells me was a joke - posters made by friends touted "Josh and Bill the Cat" and "Josh and Opus". I lost (of course). The next year, classmates ran for various positions. Two of the "cool kids" (not my crowd; yes, I was a geek at a geek school) gave out buttons to wear to express support - I kept these for some reason. I seem to recall they didn't win.


Here's one of two official pins that were made. The unicorn had been chosen as a school symbol in the first year after receiving multiple submissions in a contest. (I submitted the Greatest American Hero logo, but lost.) The eagle was adopted later as the symbol of the school sports teams (once we had those)... because the gymnasium already had an eagle painted on the floor from the building's previous life as Dr. Oakley Junior High.

I had a second pin with the same images but the text "OAKLEY CENTRE HONORS" - it was lost because I actually wore those things for a few years after graduating.


Ceramic unicorn - I believe this was a gift from my parents circa 1985.


Classic Geekery

I was actually introduced to Dungeons & Dragons before attending Oakley in 1981. The rough chronology that I remember is that my father was telling me about a possible special program I could attend the during the summer of 1981, and we stopped by an summer program (at the Bird Sanctuary?) where we saw students playing D&D. My dad: "It's a game you play without pieces." Me: "WTF?" (well, perhaps not those words.)

At Oakley I got hooked - didn't play much (my family lived towards and everyone bussed in to Oakley, so getting together with friends was a chore). Instead, I got absorbed into the world and rules. Most of my allowance from the 1980s was spent on D&D books and Dragon magazine, all later sold (for way, way too little) to buy Traveller books (which I still have). And Transformers. Which I don't. Pardon me, I'm getting teary eyed...

Anyway, on that note, these nicely illustrated mythological creatures paper clips were gifts from my parents, circa 1984.


While at Oakley I also got hooked on Doctor Who - I think my parents may have said "check out this show" or maybe I had my own TV by then. It gave me something to do during art class, at any rate:


We just showed Caspian his first episodes of Doctor Who - The Invisible Enemy. He loved it! (Although he was sleepy staying up late for Fourthajuly fireworks.) He appreciated the cheesy special effects, and liked K-9. Muahaha, our work is complete!

In one weird twist, when I was in Grade 8 the Drama teacher put out a call for anyone interested in joining a Doctor Who Fan Club at Oakley - my friends and I were stunned, since the Drama teacher was an artsy woman, not a geek like us! We joined and somehow (probably because I had a long scarf that my grandmother had knitted for me) I ended up elected president. I lent nearly all of my collection of Doctor Who books to the club, and never saw them again. :( My friend Chris Haddon and I also made a life-size Dalek costume (out of a tri-fold) and a remote controlled K-9 (cardboard over a remote control jeep).


Nothing survives those particular escapades. But I still have these DWFCA trinkets - a liquid crystal color-change pin that still works, and a membership card. Anecdote: on a trip to England in 1987 with my family I dropped the card in a shop, but the proprietor tracked me down (a few doors down) to return it. Tourists.


More artwork, circa 1985 - "Ode to a Brain"


Middle Geekery

At some point I when devouring sci-fi/fantasy novels I discovered Xanth (I think my mom hooked me up with Golem in the Gears). And then the Orn/Omnivore/Ox novels. These introduced me to several concepts, including Conway's Game of Life, but also the Hexaflexagon. Here are the hexaflexagon and tetraflexagon I made, circa 1987:


For Christmas 1987, the teacher of my "Striving To Reach Excellence Through Challenge" (STRETCH) program at Crescent Heights High School class got me a Battletech novel; she was particularly insightful, as a classmate was into the game. I dabbled a bit, but never really got into it...


...but I did make a second brief foray into painting lead miniatures. (The first involved a ranger and a dwarf, which ended up smears of brown and green. They are thankfully lost.) The back-story I cooked up is that a Locust (the spindly one) had a desert camouflage paint job, like the novel cover. The Warhammer sported an Arctic camo job. When the Marauder and Rifleman joined to form a mercenary Lance they took on similar themes.


I tried for a more traditional camo on the Stinger and Stalker; the Hatchetman is intended to evoke Alien. Yeah, I won't quit my day job.


Late Geekery

This takes us past high school to life at the University of Calgary in 1990. Which begat finding a job at the computer terminal help desk, which begat having a UNIX shell account (well, Multics first, then UNIX - yes, I was briefly a multician), which begat trying to rename a file with "rn"... which it turns out invokes "readnews" for perusing USENET, which was how I discovered the Internet. By 1991 or so the U of C had upgraded to a T1 line - gobs faster than the 2x56k line that was the sole link in 1990. And I was consuming bandwidth connecting to MUDs, primarily PernMUSH.

My character (Joshua - I wasn't that creative) started off as an apprentice Starcrafter - I programmed a movable telescope - and part-time map junkie. By the next year I'd impressed a bronze dragon named Mnedranth (isn't that the best Pernese dragon name evar?) at Ista Weyr and became a wingleader. Here is the wingleader knot and badge showing the Starscorchers Wing logo - the Ista Weyr emblem with a bronze on the left, the Red Star and the Dawn Sisters on the right. The badge was a custom piece ordered online... via email - this was pre-Web!


In the spring of 1992 I flew to a "Gather" in Washington DC of about 30 other PernMUSHers. After visiting the Smithsonian Air and Space museum ("our dragons are as big as that airplane? wow...") we saw The Lawnmower Man. Oh, that was quite the event. I sorta-kinda hooked up with Christine (her boyfriend was there, so it was complicated.) and that summer flew to Florida to visit her - she was working at Walt Disney World. We both wore Ista Weyr shirts; someone in EPCOT saw us and shouted our way "Pern Shirts?!? Cool!!!" Mine is in storage somewhere.

After burning out on Pern and lapsing into Narnia, a side interest in technology suckered me (somehow) into Star Trek. I'd actually been fairly dismissive of trek geekiness online prior to about 1994 - "get a life" and all. But then I got into rec.arts.startrek.tech and wrote some FAQs since the existing ones weren't to my taste, and... well, that's a whole 'nother set of stories. Ah, ASCII art.

Anyway, at some point I received this pewter Bird of Prey as a gift - possibly from my sister:


Geeky communicator pins - one might be Susan's:


And the Type I phaser from ST:TNG - by Galoob:


The other key tool in becoming a fully fledged geek was the "fortune" command which would spew out entries from the Jargon file (among other pearls of wisdom). This was my isolated introduction into geek culture... done amidst clearing paper jams from the dot matrix printers in the room. But not the ImageWriter IIs, which rarely jammed. I still have a fetish for those.

But I digress.

I also collected comics while at the U of C - but mostly Aliens and Predator series by Dark Horse. A high school classmate named Cameron Farn was also a big fan. At one point I helped him do a full head cast so he could sculpt a Predator mask; we visited the house of one of his friends who was seriously into SFX (and had a huge Cinefex collection, getting me hooked) to do the cast - went very well, we didn't suffocate him.

I still have the comics - in storage - but also have these lapel pins. I actually wore the queen pin on my jacket in the early 90s.


By the late 90s, of course, I was graduated and at Microsoft, and the hot SF property was Babylon 5, so I had to have a ranger pin. I was wearing this when Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and David Brin stopped by Redmond, WA for a signing for the Second Foundation Trilogy, and Brin recognized it. Squee!


Jewelry and Such

Class ring from Crescent Heights High School. Not much to say about this - I'm not a huge fan of jewelry - usually one item, tops, and this was never worn. In fact, until Su and I got married, I never wore a ring.


Except this one, picked up on a trip to Disneyland in 1985. My friend, Travis Smith, invited me to come along - he had twin sisters who could play, but his parents let him bring a companion. That was an amazing adventure - he did and I flew down to Montana in a small plane to join the family, and we drove in a Toyota Minivan through several states and actually stopped and did touristy things along the way. Like stopping at a copper mine, and buying a ring which actually turned the skin green.


The other things I remember from the trip: Staying at the Disneyland Hotel. Being short of cash when we actually had to buy tickets, and waiting in the "two day" ticket line (on the now-demolished DLH monorail platform entrance) until Travis' parents said "don't be silly, we're buying!". Rocking the Skyway car so that they had to stop the ride. (It was my idea. Sorry Travis. I was an idiot.) Sleeping at a working ranch on the final night before flying back to Calgary - trying first in a fly-infested trailer, then trying in a room in the house full of smelly snoring ranchers.

No good stories about the rest of this junk, though. The panda pin is from when the Calgary Zoo had pandas visit in the early 1990s. I think the RAF pins are from my grandfather.


My mom got this for me when I was born - a commemorative 1973 "Mountie" silver dollar. I found the 1973 Mountie quarter later.



This box was a "random Christmas gifter" present while I was in the high school "drama society" circa 1989. My gifter turned out to be Kirsty Galbraith, who I'd actually attended first grade with (my parents remembered, and I actually found a "journal" note I wrote circa 1979 saying that, basically, the rest of my class was really really slow at their workbooks, except Kirsty), then later joined me at Oakley when I was in grade 7, then Crescent Heights. Despite all that, we were just acquaintances. You know - girls are icky!


Random crystal pyramid. No idea - probably a Christmas gift.



Best. Kinder. Surprise. Evar. This assembled into a flywheel car - you rev it up and it runs.


Kaleidoscope. My relatives Pat and Robin Tufts were big into these in the 1980s, so it may be from them. They're the "cool ones" of my parents' circle of friends.


Koosh. No eyes. Single colors. The original.


Wind-up robot. These were popular circa 1984.


Gobot - Spay-C. My favorite. Last year I hunted down another one for Caspian online, since he is not going to play with mine.


Lightweight rubber eggs, for juggling. After learning to juggle (via the Klutz book) circa 1986 I actually taught a class at Oakley for two semesters, and performed as the leader of a jester troop at the school play in 1987. (Written by classmates, it was a time travel epic - kids wind up in the middle ages due to some magic thingy, you know. It included songs composed by the students, including "Girls Don't Play Ball" which still goes through my head). For Christmas dinner, 1986, we pile into the car and head to my grandmother's house. I have these carefully concealed these in my pocket. After arriving, I quickly duck into the empty kitchen, plant them in the refrigerator, then go socialize. About an hour later I head into the now crowded kitchen, start chatting, casually open up the fridge, and get them out. And start to juggle. My grandmother goes pale, and the rest of my relatives look nervous. Then I intentionally fumble and the "eggs" fly everywhere.


Toy gyroscope. And not one with a stupid string you have to wind.


Muzzle from an Astro Magnum (a pre-Transformers transformer; or possibly the Radio Shack version) - I really hope the rest is in storage.


Corgi space shuttle, with opening cargo bay doors and retracting wheels.

Corgi Shuttle

Found this guy on a playground. Thought he was cute, no idea what the toy actually is.


Assembly puzzles; I think the blue one (the stella octangula) is from a Christmas cracker. The other one was a stocking stuffer.


Tops. One of them has a "holographic" pink sticker - that was so trendy circa 1989.


Composed while listening to Retro Arcade Radio.


  1. I believe the Doctor Who Fan Club would have been started in your grade 7 year, since I would have been in grade 9, and I was the librarian... which makes me feel bad because of your books (which I remember). My contribution -- three books, four comics -- were also never seen again. Not sure what happened there.

    I also believe that you were the one who got me into D&D, or were at least part of my first group. I still play when life permits.


  2. You're forgiven, Josh. I tell that story now, about the time I almost ended up in Disney Jail... and it was really nice going on the whole adventure with you.

    1. Thanks, Travis! It was a blast. Pass along a "thank you" to your parents?

      I still feel guilty now that the Skyway is gone. Was it our fault? Ah well.


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