Was it stolen valour?

Unknown to historians, Charles Loewen addressed the logistical challenge of landing an army in wartime France.

Early in 1943, the military planners in London, England, coped with the ebb and flow of the Second World War, but they did so secretly. Squirrelled away in his tiny office at the British War Office, an experienced Canadian-born artillery officer grappled with a logistics problem about an upcoming military operation. But the stress proved overwhelming for hm. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t focus. To switch his mind off before bed, he tried reading detective stories. Then, he tried something completely different.

“I set up a fly-tying table,” Charles Falkland Loewen wrote in his memoirs, “and before going to bed sat down to tie a fly or two. I found that this absorbed one’s complete attention … and really unbuttoned my mind from current problems.”

My “famous” friend

Howard Walker never considered himself a wartime hero. But he was to a lot of Centennial College students.
Howard Walker never considered himself a wartime hero. But he was to a lot of Centennial College students. (Photo courtesy Matthew Wocks.)

With some people I know, there are delicious rituals enjoyed when we meet after not seeing each other for a while. For some it’s a real bear hug or a genuine slap on the back. With others it’s a heart-felt handshake. Then, there is one friend with whom I’ve established a unique greeting, in this case an exchange on the telephone. Depending upon who’s calling whom, our phone conversations always began the same way.

“Is this the famous Ted Barris?” he would ask.

To which I’d respond, “Is this the famous Howard Walker?”

Making memory permanent

Today a tourist trap, Checkpoint Charlie between 1961 and 1989 trapped East Berliners inside the Iron Curtain.
Today a tourist trap, Checkpoint Charlie between 1961 and 1989 trapped East Berliners inside the Iron Curtain.

During a college class the other day, I wanted to give my broadcasting students a sense of the power of television as tool of influence in the 20th century. I chose something in their lifetime – the fall of the Berlin Wall – in 1989. That’s when the Western media began covering the activities of dissidents in East Germany, I said. And that sparked the popular uprising that pressured the Communist regime to open crossing points at the Wall. To make sure my students understood the context, I asked if everybody knew the basis of the Cold War.

“Was Canada involved?” one of my students asked.

Still a noble profession

The keys to ethical journalism
The keys to ethical journalism

Last winter, during one of the daily meetings with my staff at the Toronto Observer (the online newspaper produced by senior journalism students at Centennial College where I teach), one of my student reporters faced a dilemma. We had assigned her to attend the funeral of Sgt. Ryan Russell, the Toronto Police Service officer killed by a stolen pickup truck with a snow plow. It was too late for her to get a press pass to the funeral. So how, she wondered, would she get into the ceremony?

“Do I hide the fact I’m a reporter?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “It’s a public funeral. You should be able to get in. But if they ask you not to take photographs, respect their wishes.”