Ya gotta love the l960s. I Love Lucy after school. Basketball practice after supper. Gangs of 13-year old girls picking up one and then the other girlfriend and then the third or fourth to roam the airforce base of eight streets (we thought it was gargantuan) with maybe seventy-five PMQs (we thought the Primary Married Quarters were a town).
We also thought we were rich, privileged and to be envied by the town of Portage la Prairie about five miles away - just because we had our own swimming pool and gymnasium where we learned the best of athletics from corporals and sergeants and young buck buﬀ airmen teaching us the forward pass.
But it is that word, PMQ that was the Einsteinian equation of confusion that gob smacked us a gang. Mostly because of Mr. & Mrs. Ken and Paulette Gibson. (not their real names)
We loved her. And whenever we were roaming the streets on frozen winter nights - you know, the vast, bald prairie - at 40 below zero — we would always end up at the Gibsons because Paulette was usually in a black peignoir negligee situation and 13 year old girls were really just learning about sex and being sexy. Paulette was definitely sexy. Our mothers definitely were not.
It was pretty simple for us. Paulette got the adoring husband who poured her a ‘special’ drink when we came over to sit on their couch in our gum boots and straggling scarfs, mittens and ear muﬀs. We smelled awful, coming home from basketball, but we couldn’t resist dropping by. We were always invited to come around. We could never believe we were so entertaining, but for some reason they actually looked forward to our visits. Or so they said. Surreal, was not a word I was familiar with at the time, but now that I am writing this down, surreal doesn’t begin to cover it.
What the hell did we know? Only that a black bra seemed to make Ken the nicest man in the world. Our dads were definitely not the nicest guys in the world.
We always got a treat there, too. They always had treats. Our mothers never had treats for a gang of girls. Trying to squeeze an extra rice krispee square was like negotiating a peace treaty. You just didn’t feed a gang of girls, roaming the streets in below freezing weather Manitoba.
We all wanted to be Paulette when we grew up and would talk about it on the way home. We didn’t know much about boobs or how they really worked, but we knew Paulette did. We all kind of needed to know something about it all especially when fat Joey Bishop tried to grab your bra strap instead of your arm in square dancing. He really loved himself and swaggered like he was the cutest guy in grade 8. Barf. We were all repulsed. But still; the boob thing…
One day, my mother was on the phone and I listened in. “Did that hussy finally get kicked oﬀ the base?” I stopped in the kitchen to look at my mom who always looked ragged and haggard - except on Sundays when we went to visit ‘the Lord’ - while my dad was snoring. He never came with us. I somehow knew who she was talking about as I listened in. There was a nastiness in my mother’s voice that Paulette would never be party to. When my mom got oﬀ the phone I didn’t ask her who she was talking about. Instead, I felt kind of sorry for my mom in her raggedy clothes because I think she dressed like that to piss oﬀ my dad. Which worked. It was an ugly atmosphere. Thinking of Paulette and Ken cuddling took my mind of it.
It was Shelley who confirmed my suspicions that night, three months after our weekly reveries of hot chocolate and black negligees. began. “Yeh, my mom called her a slut.”
“What does she know?” I asked into the night.
“Mom said it was because she wasn’t really Mrs. Gibsons. They weren’t married and these are PMQs.”
“I never understood that word.
“It means Primary Married Quarters, and you have to be married to live here.” “Yeh, but they were happy, doesn’t that count?”
“Not in the airforce.”
Our nights were forever after; boring. We would, of course, find out all about boobage, but without what we thought would be the expert knowledge coming from Paulette in her black negligée in the middle of frozen nights on the vast, bald prairie.