wmthomas-sliderI hosted a literary event last week at which the wine was supplied by Niagara College. The wine was good, but the idea that college kids can major in wine these days took me back a bit. College kids making, tasting, swilling wine? For full credit! Really!?!

I attended Waterloo Lutheran University in the late ‘60s and although there was plenty of wine involved, I assure you it was not supplied or even condoned by the faculty. I can just imagine if it was. There I would be in the Waterloo Lutheran University gym on registration day wondering first of all why I was here. I really had no desire to attend a post-secondary school but I remember my mother saying: “But Bill, you could be the first Thomas to go to university!” Not a real resounding endorsement for the Thomases who had come before me. It was like many have tried, but grade 10 proved to be a mountain too high to climb.

So there I would be, living my mother’s dream and speculating out loud what I should major in — English? History? Philosophy? — “Oh, hi there, how are you?”

This to a pleasant woman sitting at a table marked “Wine-101.”

“Would you like to join our course? It’s all about wine.”

“Well let me just take say .05 seconds to think about that. Okay. I’ll join.”

Then she would hand me the course curriculum and registration form and I would say: “Gee whiz, are girls allowed to take this course, too?”

And she would assure me the wine course is completely co-ed and I would push my luck with one last question: “Ah, not that I know anything about the stuff, but would there be even a modest amount of medium-grade marijuana involved in this course because let’s see one, two, three — yeah, that would pretty much fulfill all my social and scholastic needs from now until I graduate from here in eight or nine years.”

“And if you have a pizza oven, then I could just sublet my apartment and move right into the lab!!!”

Wine made and supplied by the school I attended?!? That being the case, I could have shaved about $100 a month off my Mateus Rosé budget. If you attended a Canadian University in the ‘60s, there’s a good chance you also belonged to a devoted sect of followers who worshipped at the altar of Mateus Rosé, the sparkling, pink, poor man’s Champagne. And that altar was adorned with candles jammed into the neck of the Mateus bottles.

Remember that … the candles, a bottle of cold Mateus, a plate of warm brownies and the next thing you know you’re lying on your back on the living room carpet making animal shadows on the ceiling when you notice all that crazy light is coming from the drapes which happen to be on fire. And what valuable lesson did I take away from that potentially fatal experience? That a nearly full bottle of Mateus, when violently shaken, does the work of a small fire extinguisher.

Once in a while, Robbie Misener and I will sit around and reminisce about the good ol’ days at Waterloo Lutheran University and frankly, not a lot gets said because neither of us remember much about that period in our lives.

Oh, wait. There was one night we will never forget known as the “emergency pizza incident.” At some point, the delivery guy got tired of us trying to pay him with IOU’s and the pizza place cut us off.

So one night, we decided to make our own pizza. We laid out all the ingredients on the kitchen counter — pizza dough, jar of sauce, cheese, mushrooms, pepperoni, Mateus Rosé and a hunk of what appeared to be chewing tobacco and pen tops.

I was in charge of chopping up the peppers and scraping out the seeds with my thumbs — and these were not just any peppers, but Jamaican peppers, and not the red ones but the evil green ones you could almost use to weld metal.

At one point, I began to tear up from the heat rising from my bowl of chopped-up peppers and … and that’s when I thought it would be a good idea to remove my contact lens. Yeah. Robbie says I made a noise that caused Amish dogs to cock their heads and start barking in St. Jacobs. Yeah, try explaining how that happened to the only nurse on duty in the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Try explaining that although your eyes are as red as raw meat and swollen shut and the pain has spread to your brain, you can somehow still find it in you to giggle.

I still enjoy a glass of Mateus Rosé once in a while but that other stuff, that slow-burning, hunk of brown, unidentified substance inhaled through pen tops … I don’t do that anymore. I often wonder how I ever survived the 1960s, but I can tell you one thing for sure, if I had majored in wine, I would not have.

For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of Wainfleet, go to www.williamthomas.ca.