Candidates for currency

It brought a smile to my face. It made me prouder than I’ve felt about being a Canadian in a while. Although, I think we all might have felt better about the entire episode, had Ottawa considered making such a decision years ago. But there it was, the image of a Viola Desmond on the $10 bill. And when I saw her story in the news, I thought the comment from the Governor of the Bank of Canada was entirely appropriate.

“It was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman,” Stephen Poloz told reporters last Friday.

Duty to say nice things

Maud believed in pointing
Maud Montgomery believed in the pointing of duty.

Earlier this week, in the town where I live, there was a little incident on the main street. A car jumped the curb and ended up sideways in front of a few shops. I noticed it because the police were there. I ventured closer and saw a woman, I think the owner of the car, sitting on a storefront step. What intrigued me was that everybody gathering around had the same first reaction.

“Are you OK?” everybody asked the woman.

She appeared shaken, but otherwise all right.

To build a birthday party

The Confederation Train in 1967 - Tim Reid Collection.
The Confederation Train in 1967 – Tim Reid Collection.

As I recall, it was a summer morning. It might have been around the July 1 anniversary. It didn’t matter. That whole summer of 1967 had had a birthday feeling to it. In any case, I was just rising from a rare sleep-in. But even in my half-conscious state I remember hearing a sound in the distance. It was the diesel whistle of a locomotive approaching the level crossing in Pontypool, Ont., just south of where I was rising from bed.

“Daa. Daa. Da-da,” the diesel horn announced.

“What the heck is that?” I called out to my folks. And just as quickly as I asked, I realized that it was the first four notes of “O Canada” coming from that train whistle. About 15 minutes later, when I’d arrived at the station, where coincidentally the train stopped for a visit, I discovered it was the Confederation Train.

A Maud Maud world

New garden at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale, Ont., on Saturday, June 20, 2015.
New garden at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale, Ont., on Saturday, June 20, 2015.

It was getting late on Saturday afternoon. The chief dignitary at our event, the lieutenant governor of Ontario, had moved on to her next appointment. Most of the remaining dignitaries had left too. Only the volunteers were left cleaning up and chatting with us hangers-on. Suddenly a car pulled up and a couple emerged.

“Has the event already happened?” the woman asked. “Have they unveiled the sculpture?”

“The sculpture of Maud?” I repeated. “Yes, they have.”

“We’ve come a long way,” she said.

“Don’t worry. Just about everybody’s gone,” I said. “But the sculpture’s not going anywhere. She’s just waiting for you.”

All the world is his stage

OLIVER_TWIST_POSTEROur two families met during an elementary school production of “Oliver!” back about 1990. In the musical, our daughter Whitney performed the role of the old thief Fagin and Lisa and Conrad Boyce’s daughter Alida played Mrs. Bumble, the wife of the workhouse caretaker. Of course, the girls were great. I didn’t realize it right away, but Alida probably had an edge. She was coached by a man steeped in theatrical experience as an actor, director, producer and critic. In a note to me this week, Conrad described his own stage debut.

“I played my first role in Grade 1,” he wrote, “a Canadian history pageant (in which I was) Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal.”

No place like home

Uxbridge’s distinctive mini-Taj Mahal, erected by Thomas Foster in the 1935-36.

Over the weekend I travelled to Simcoe, Ont., to attend the 100th birthday of a veteran friend of mine. It was a wonderful celebration. Lots of friends and family dropped by to shake his hand, swap stories and enjoy his cake with a hundred candles on it. At some point during the afternoon, someone asked me where I was from.

“Uxbridge,” I said proudly.

“What’s Uxbridge like?” she asked. “Typical Ontario small town?”

Suffering for art sake

Jennifer Carroll as Maud. Photo courtesy Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario.

The great English poet and satirist John Donne called it a treasure. French impressionist painter Claude Monet considered it torture. American author Helen Keller said it was an inspiration. Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner claimed humankind could endure vast quantities of it, but that it resulted in greatness. Then there was philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s view of suffering.

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,” he said.

That which endures

Completely intact and with old cement attached, this Coca-Cola bottle emerged from the dust of another era of renovation.

It surfaced a few months ago. We found it along an old, stone foundation during some renovations at our house (built in the 1920s). And while this piece of history wasn’t nearly as old as the house, it dated back nearly that far. It was an empty Coca-Cola bottle. You know, those short, stubby ones, sometimes made of blue-green glass, but more often clear – the ones that were a perfect fit in your hand. Our artefact came from an era when the Coke slogan (c. 1938) was: “The best friend thirst ever had.”

Champions of a dream

Don Harron collaborated with Norman Campbell to produce the first TV version of "Anne of Green Gables" for CBC in 1956.
Don Harron collaborated with Norman Campbell to produce the first TV version of "Anne of Green Gables" for CBC in 1956.

It was 1956. Television was in its infancy. Canadian programs such as Cross-Canada Hit Parade, Front Page Challenge, The Big Revue and, yes, the Barris Beat, were new on the tube. This country’s actors, singers, dancers, writers and directors were just getting their show-business legs in a new medium. One of its rising stars, a multi-faceted comedic actor named Don Harron, happened to meet another up-and-comer, producer Norman Campbell.

“What am I going to do?” Campbell asked Harron. “I’ve got 90 minutes of time to fill on CBC TV and no program.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Harron said. “Let’s put ‘Anne of Green Gables’ on TV.”

A stitch seen around the world

Quilters Cupboard in Uxbridge, Ontario.
Quilters Cupboard in Uxbridge, Ontario.

Even in liberated communities, there are some areas still considered off-limits to certain people. Children aren’t often seen in pubs. Most women don’t hang out in repair garages. And men don’t generally frequent manicure and pedicure salons. The same could be said of men in sewing shops and the like. In fact, last Saturday afternoon when I decided to pay a courtesy visit to the Quilters Cupboard in Uxbridge, Ont., I got a predicable response when I entered.

“Hey ladies,” a voice announced from inside the store, “a man has just entered the shop.” Most got a chuckle out of the remark. Me included.