SKINHEADS, FUR TRADERS and DJS – a young man’s adventures in the 1970s

Canadian Kim Clark Champniss’s book is a great lad’s book – full of adventure, life choices, love and success. Somehow, he managed to write a GP, general public, version of the 1970s. However, his WordPress Blog is much more fascinating. If you know kids from 10 to 18 – or slightly older – they would enjoy reading his adventures and life choices.  He successfully helped me understand the cultural phenomena of skinheads: the high testosterone glee of fighting and surviving. His descriptions of everyday work life ‘up North’ by the Arctic Circle are excellent, while his DJ days are rather tame. Music flows throughout Champniss’s story of his youth.

In his blog, his intelligence free ranges from a Canadian Niagara Falls WWI internment camp to his love for libraries. I would love to read his second book: The Republic Of Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Roaring ’80s from Curtis To Cobain.   but internet foibles prevent me from ordering it. For now, his blog is my favorite. He writes beautifully:  intelligence balanced in harmony with emotion.

Young KCC

How did I find a Canadian icon while living in Portugal? Who hasn’t Googled their own name? I found one of my many names: A. Delaney Walker in Skinheads, Fur Traders, and DJs book’s section  ‘Acknowledgements’.

I remembered him from the both his and my first day in the University of British Columbia’s required composition class, September 1975. For introductions, I asked students to share a secret. Of course, I went first. I cheated. I told a childhood story about stealing money from the Catholic Church.

As a seven-year-old kid, my sister, two years older than I, introduced me into thievery.  Together, we stole money from the Catholic Church! (The place where people shove dollar bills and quarters through a slot to pay for lighting candles.  She taught me how to balance the quarters on a knife to extract them.)

Book Launch

Students then exchanged secrets.  Kim’s made many classmates’ eyes widen. He was honest, as were many students in that first writing class I ever taught.

Of course, I ordered the book. Champniss clearly communicates the emotional highs of being a skinhead:  fighting as well as eluding rivals through London’s underground system. I finally understood a reality that had confused me.

Further travels took him ‘up North’ with the Inuits and fur-trading. Then to Vancouver, British Columbia.

I kept reading, anxious to find me. Nope. But his description of another class with a Dept. of Creative Writing teacher was fascinating.

Kim Clark Champniss Interview

I was 25 when I taught him.  At 65, I was run out of Turkey, with a boss’s evaluation that would scare the bejesus out of anyone! Its awesome negativity shocked even me. How could such a teacher even exist?

The first year at Turkey’s Abdullah Gul University, I worked seven days a week for four quarters.  Twice I claimed a weekend, only to disappoint my writing students in being late giving them feedback.  At my age, I had been tired of incompetent people, so I freely and often challenged and argued with the Head of the Language School over the syllabus for four quarters. Finally, near the end of that first year he parroted EVERY SINGLE ARGUMENT of mine he had ridiculed,  To top it off, in his inglorious bastard of my evaluation, he refused to cite anything positive about me. And my input into the writing program.

That’s how more than 25 years of teaching ended.

So when I found my name listed under “Acknowledgements” in Kim Clark Champniss’s book Skinheads, Fur Traders,  and DJs, my life as a writing teacher was redeemed.

Everyone out there with a favorite teacher, say, “Thank you.”

I found my high school Latin teacher. I’m grateful she’s still alive in her 80s. I thanked her for saving my life during my tormented childhood. She was one of the very few adults in my teenage world who saw my pain and relieved it. Thank you, Sister Aloysius.

And thank you, Kim, for your acknowledgement.



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