Tuesday, September 18, 2012
REMEMBERING PETER LOUGHEED
Peter Lougheed died last week. Though many people remember him for many things, in recent years it has not been possible for me to hear his name without recalling the summer I helped to make him Premier. It was the summer of 1971 and I was 17 years old. Voters in our riding, Sedgewick-Coronation, had voted Social Credit for as long as they could remember, and they weren’t about to change their votes for some upstart lawyer from Calgary. Our local town was called Lougheed, named after Peter’s grandfather, and my folks thought it was time for a change. My dad looked around the village of Lougheed for a candidate to run for the Progressive Conservatives. Finding one, he and a few others put the wheels in motion. Mom was designated as full time volunteer at the election office. I was designated as cook and bottle washer. We were farmers. Summer was the time when there were men to cook for. Early that summer peter Lougheed announced that he would be kicking off his campaign in Lougheed. My family was over the moon. “Write a song,” commanded my parents. “We’ll have a parade.” So I wrote a song, to the tune of Has Anybody Seen My Gal. My song said, Herb Losness For The Lougheed Team. “Call up Gail,” commanded my parents. Gail was my best friend in high school. She was going to be a nurse. I was going to be a social worker. Her home town was Hardisty. Peter Lougheed’s grandmother was a Hardisty before she married a Lougheed. Gail and I were about as geeky as two teen-agers could be. Geeky was what they wanted. Both of us loved old-fashioned music. Our moms were handy with the sewing machines. Soon we were outfitted in Conservative colours, orange hot pants and blue tights. I got out the old accordion. Gail and I climbed onto parade floats singing Herb Losness For The Lougheed Team. For fillers, we sang a Johnny Cash song about the disintegration of a musical group with conflicting political leanings. Late August found us standing in a crowd of thousands on the parking lot of the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Other constituencies had sent singers for their own songs. I pumped up the accordion and we shouted ours over the din. Then we all went inside, far too many of us for the fire regulations, to cheer wildly at anything and everything Peter Lougheed said. It was election fever at the pitch. Election day arrived. The people of Sedgewick-Coronation voted Social Credit. The rest of Alberta voted for Peter and the Conservatives have reigned ever since. Later that year, I turned 18 and earned the right to vote. So far, that is my only experience working actively on a political campaign. For Gail and me—both of us volunteer church pianists in later life, it’s a memory that never fails to bring a good laugh. And though you might wonder about the ethics of enlisting help from campaigners too young to vote, I don’t think I felt abused. Just amused, and involved.