Ted Barris invited to join honoured neighbourhood

Meet “150 Neighbours,” and be inspired by the stories of those who work tirelessly to enhance community for all residents in a way that makes this uniquely Scarborough, and uniquely Canada.

“150 Neighbours” is a photo-documentary series marking Canada’s sesquicentennial, celebrating local accomplishments as part of our national festivities. This social-media driven and crowd-sourced campaign has featured 150 Scarborough community and nation builders—past and present—over 150 days, from Saturday July 1st to Tuesday November 28th.

For more information about the “150 Neighbours” doc and a short feature about the invitation to join, go to: http://www.150neighbours.ca/ted-barris/

Beyond the Wall Tour – June 10-23, 2018

On Jan. 19, 1989, the head of the East German state exclaimed, “The Wall will be standing in 50 and even 100 years.” Ten months later, both he and the Berlin Wall were gone. For 40 years, concrete and wire had physically divided a Germany already ruined by WWII. It had often brought the Communist Bloc and the Western Democracies to the brink of another world war. Perhaps most important, its existence and its demise changed Europe.

From June 10 to 23, 2018, the wartime experience before the Wall, the Cold War deadlock during its existence, and the nature of the Europe since it came tumbling down, are the focus of Merit’s “Beyond the War” Tour.

Again, co-hosted by award-winning author and historian Ted Barris and his wife Jayne MacAulay, the tour gives travellers a unique exploration of stops in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany where war, politics and people knew a history that can only be touched to be understood.

Please use this link for full itinerary and travel details: http://www.merittravel.com/product/eastern-europe-beyond-the-wall/

It’s more than Scarberia

Aileen Hill, one of 150 Scarborough Neighbours honoured.

I wouldn’t have known that she was my neighbour. But it turns out that in more ways than one, she and I have been connected. First, we have both supported the arts and those who create them. Next, we are both the children of immigrants. But for me the surprising aspect of our neighbour connection is that Aileen Hill and I both have Scarborough roots.

“I was born here,” she told me, “then, moved with my family to the Caribbean, but have now come back to Scarborough.”

Ethics versus life

Carol Off reading at Blue Heron Books & Brunch event, Nov. 12, 2017.

Last Sunday morning, I watched a seasoned journalist get uncharacteristically emotional. Previously a foreign correspondent, a reporter who’d covered hostilities in the Middle East and a long-time current affairs radio host, Carol Off’s eyes welled up. She recalled, in 2002, convincing Asad Aryubwal, an Afghan father of five, to go on-camera to expose the warlords the U.S. military was courting to overthrow the Taliban.

“Asad’s courage in speaking out was rewarded only with the calamity when, in response to (my) documentary,” Off told Zoomer magazine, “Afghanistan’s most powerful warlord sent a death squad to kill him.”

Simple actions. Astonishing results.

Leslie M. Miller, lieutenant in the Canadian Corps.

The padre stepped up to the lectern this past Sunday morning in Shedden, Ont. The audience at the community centre for the Remembrance service settled into silence. The clergyman unfolded his papers, that I thought would contain a prayer, a piece of scripture or perhaps the words of a hymn. But, no, he looked out at the assembly of cadets, veterans and the public in the audience and introduced his Nov. 11 thoughts this way.

“From simple actions, come astonishing results,” he said.

Retail apocalypse

A few weeks ago, I sat down with an old friend. He’s retired now. But when we met 30 years ago, he was a happy, enthusiastic and very upbeat employee in a Canadian retail success story. But when we chatted recently, he shook his head in amazement.

“I cannot believe that Sears is going under,” he lamented. “When I worked there, it seemed as if we’d go on forever.”

Teach our sons

It’s not just about showing sons and grandsons … but about teaching them too.

The young man was showing off in front of some of his buddies. The conversation shifted from small talk to basketball – one of his favourites – and then to some of the women in his college class. At the time, I was one of his instructors, and he didn’t know I could hear pretty much everything he was saying.

“Oh, you know what they say about women,” he joked. “They’re like city buses. If you miss one, there’ll be another along in a minute.”

A Legacy of Liberation

Fog obscures the Saar River that U.S. troops crossed in February 1945.

We got up to the historic site early that morning. And the sun was out. There was a clear sky up where we were on the hilltop overlooking the Saar River, in Germany. But the air below us, immediately above the river itself, was so clogged with fog we couldn’t see the spot where the historic river crossing had happened. I wondered out loud what it looked like beneath the fog.

“Here. I’ll show you,” said a man who’d stopped by to watch us look into the valley. And he pulled out a map of the river valley and he pointed. “The Americans came from the far side, crossed the river, and attacked up these slopes.”

Wounds a dressing can’t heal

Al Theobald was raised in a home in Borg, Germany, used in 1945 as a first-aid station for U.S. medics.

We walked in single-file behind our guide. The street in Nennig, Germany, opened into a market square as the young man leading our tour painted a wartime picture of this town 72 years ago. He pointed to the homes tucked neatly around the intersection. Then, he said because of the battle being waged between German and U.S. forces here during the Second World War, that civilians had been evacuated.

“Well, that’s not entirely true,” a quiet voice said behind me. I turned and a man I didn’t know, but who was travelling on the same tour, added, “Some of the civilians refused to leave.”

Adding a chapter

Alex Barris’s ID card when he was 21 years old and at war.

On my last day of classes in 1964, with nothing left to teach us, my Grade 9 phys-ed instructor just gave us a bat and a ball and told us to go play some baseball work-ups. I loved playing shortstop, the position my dad liked most too. Not long into the game, however, the catcher and I chased the same infield fly and we collided head-on. I broke my nose, lost some front teeth and was knocked out cold. I spent several weeks recuperating at home in bed. My father happened to be writing in his office at the house, so he spent time trying to distract me from my pain by telling me stories. It wasn’t long before I popped the big one.

“Hey Dad, what did you do in the war?” I asked.