Thirty years ago, in a Midget hockey game at the Samuel Moskovitch Arena in Cote Saint-Luc, I was skating down the ice for the hometown Cougars trying to get by Hampstead Hornets defenceman Mark Alper. I was knocked off balance against the boards, fell hard and crushed two vertebrae on the spine. For several weeks I lay motionless on a hospital bed at the Montreal Neurological Institute, received physiotherapy and luckily walked out of the hospital in one piece.
Within six months I was virtually back to normal, but there were a number of repercussions from this injury. Because I had to give up my post as a counsellor at a children’s day camp, I filled my time doing two things that summer: launching my career in journalism at The Suburban by writing about a local softball league; and becoming addicted to a daytime soap opera. Yes, it is true. In 1979 I began watching the Guiding Light on CBS. It even became a bonding exercise between myself and my grandmother, she of blessed memory. Grandma Mary filled me on the previous 40 years of episodes and when I missed a show she even took notes for me on the plotlines.
This Friday the Guiding Light will officially go off the air. Over the years I have become aware of several Montrealers who shared my passion for the show. When I posted a note about the show on Facebook last month, several of my "friends" offered some of their memories.
Honestly, I do not know how to describe my feelings as the show winds down. This is an addiction I tried to kick on more than one occasion. I was in high school, Grade 11, when it all started. The bell would ring at 3 p.m. and I would race for the bus, usually getting home in time to see the final 45 minutes. We had one VCR in the house, the earliest versions, and my brother would often cruelly switch the channel to ABC. I would arrive home, horrified to see an episode of General Hospital taped instead of Guiding Light. I went to CEGEP at Dawson College and the old Viger campus near Old Montreal. Two blocks away was the Berri bus station, where for 25 cents per 20 minutes you could actually watch a small television attached to a chair. I took that route on more than one occasion.
In 1994 I realized a lifelong dream. While in New York City for a conference I reached the publicist for Guiding Light and talked my way on to the set, which at the time was in an office building not far from Broadway. While I have had the good fortune to meet many celebrities in life, this experience virtually left me speechless as I sat down to talk with the likes of Kim Zimmer (Reva) and Frank Dicopooulos (Frank), pictured above. From high school, to CEGEP, university, marriage and parenthood, Guiding Light has remained a constant in my life. No matter what time I got home, I knew I could forget my own problems by focusing on the unrealistic lives of the people from the fictitious town of Springfield. On days where I simply did not have time to see the entire show, I fast forwarded and pretty much read lips or reviewed the summaries online.
On Friday my addiction will be kicked. It’s a day I never saw coming. Tune it to CJAD (www.cjad.com) at noon Friday when I will talk about Guiding Light on the Kim Fraser Show.