A Look Back: Video or It Didn't Happen

Drew Hasselback '86
Drew Hasselback '86, is a lawyer and journalist in Toronto. He has worked for The National Post, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, and is currently with Global News. 
The video camera was an exotic luxury in the mid-1980s. As we travelled Europe during our year, 1985/86, we might see the occasional tourist — usually a dad in sandals with dark socks — shouldering a boombox-sized camera as he tried to film his family in front of Canterbury Cathedral or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Such technology was beyond our reach. For us students at the time, there were no cell phones that could shoot high-definition video for TikTok. We might have a few scattered snapshots in photo albums, but for a lot of us, our most vivid memories are stored on the grey matter hard drive behind our eyes and between our ears. Those memories are fading as the years tick on, and will be gone when we’re gone. 
Yet the class of 1985/86 has one shot at immortality. A camera crew was at the school on October 16 and 17, 1985, to film a promotional video, and you can still see it on YouTube. The colours are washed out and the images are grainy, but that gives the video its charm. These rare, fuzzy images of our teenage selves from a prior century have a dreamlike quality, like the sepia-tinged photos you might have of your great-grandparents. We’ll be 18 forever, or for at least as long as there is an internet. 
We might relish the video today, but it definitely wasn’t made for us. Our video tour through Neuchatel is accompanied by a 1970s soundtrack that is out of sync with our 1980s vibe, and a script that was obviously directed more at prospective parents than eventual students. “The relatively conservative way of life is reassuring for the young,” the narrator says at one point. “Yes, you must learn to budget your time, for Grade 13 cannot be all play,” he says at another. The way I remember my year, I’m not sure I got those memos.
We knew the video shoot was a big deal because it was one of those rare occasions that the Salon, usually a forbidden zone in the Foyer, was opened up so we could be filmed pretending to use it. The school also paid the cover charge for us to attend the Frisbee nightclub — and on a school night, no less, when we really should have been at home in our pensions, pretending to do our homework.
I made notes about the shoot in my diary. My roommate was Ian Gordon, and apparently his father was visiting from Canada, because I record that before the evening shoot, his Dad had taken us out for dinner and I had steak — a rare treat in Switzerland. “We then went to La Cave aux Moines” — one of our favourite pubs — “where we pretended we were having fun for this promotional video the school is making. The next ‘on-location’ sight [sic] was the Frisbee, a real rockin’ joint where everyone dances to A-Ha.”
There’s no live sound to the video. So when I appear in the video, strumming my guitar in the Foyer basement, you can’t know that I was actually playing a Neil Young song, and we were singing about someday getting old while searching for that Heart of Gold. 
Nearly 40 years on, we have indeed aged. Some of us might even be wearing dark socks with our sandals as we try to get our own teenagers to pretend they’re having fun at Niagara Falls for that pic we want to post on Facebook. And we’ve found that gold: rare video that, for some of us, captures the only moving images that can prove to our kids and grandkids that once upon a time, we were just teenagers too. 
As the saying goes, “video or it didn’t happen.” It happened, and we got it on video
Neuchâtel Junior College offers the unique opportunity to study Canadian curriculum abroad. While living in Switzerland in a French community, students enjoy an international education through travel and experiential learning in Europe. Gap year and Grade 12  high school students gain international experience and develop independence and life skills that prepare them for university and the global workplace.

A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap