Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

28 January, 2010

NEW SITE: CLAUDE KEWLEY AND SONS WERE RECRUITERS OF HOCKEY TALENT


NOTE:  Considerable change and adjustment has been made to the text and layout of the "THE KEWLEY STORY" since it was first published.  I am dictated by the unravelling of my memory and the impulse to make the reflective piece a little more personal.  If you checked out the new site a day or two ago, you might want to give it another read -- if interested.
 
In keeping with my goal of writing about interesting people and events, I introduce with this post a new site which tells the story of a little-known era of international ice hockey.  The role that Globe and Mail sports writer Claude Kewley and his four sons played in recruiting Canadian talent for the Scottish Hockey League, 1945-55, has been a well-kept secret.  Claude's eldest son, Keith, ultimately became a legendary coach in Scotland and was recently named to the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.  Keith (seen in accompanying photo, circa 1955), a brilliant hockey strategist, would later return to Canada where he established an impressive record as coach of successful Senior and Junior teams in St. Thomas.

*To learn more about THE KEWLEY STORY, click http://scottishhockey.blogspot.comIt's a story I believe deserved to be told.  You do not necessarily need to be a hockey fan to find it interesting.

25 January, 2010

PERFECTION IS UNATTAINABLE, BUT IT SURE AS HECK CAN HELP MOTIVATE US


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How is it that some of the best quotes come from people in the world of sports?


Take the subject of perfection, for instance.

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." --Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach.

"Tomorrow I'll be perfect."  --Dave Stieb, former pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.

"If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be."  --Yogi Berra, former catcher and manager of the New York Yankees.

At one point, very early in my life, I was naive enough to actually think that "perfection" was attainable and died a thousand deaths every time I fell short of that lofty goal.  It took quite a few years for me to accept the fact that I was not capable of perfection in the true sense but if I used it as motivation in my undertakings it helped me in achieving ultimate goals.  That is precisely what Vince Lombardi was saying.  By pursuing  perfection, we attain excellence.

I was well along in my newspaper career when I finally learned that I didn't need to be a perfectionist parse in order to succeed in life, but that I could succeed if I totally applied myself to being as perfect as possible.  In so doing I removed a lot of pressure from myself.  I even got to the point where I could live with imperfection in my life and in the life of others.  Like good old Yogi, the most quoted of all sports figures, put it...It's not a perfect world and if it was "it wouldn't be."  (Typical Yogispeak that leaves you hanging until you've thought about it for a minute.)

I think my perception of perfection (that rhymes, doesn't it) actually sunk in one day as the Prince Albert Daily Herald was rolling off the press.  We all -- editors, reporters, photographers, the composing room team, the press room, proof readers --worked very hard with that particular day's edition.  A rare occasion in publishing where everything clicks and comes together, dare I say, perfectly.

In pat-on-the-back fashion, I commented to my publisher boss that I thought that we had just produced the perfect newspaper.  "Don't kid yourself Dick," he responded.  "The perfect paper has yet to be printed."

We ended up both agreeing that newspaper production depends totally on input from imperfect humans, start to finish, and as such is never perfect.  There are bound to be warts and wrinkles, type gremlins, misspellings, innocent factual errors -- a dozen and one things that come out of the woodwork each day to drive newspaper management up the wall.

I never forgot that particular incident and it helped me accept the inevitable in publishing -- errors will happen, there will be mistakes -- but that does not mean we stop trying our level best to achieve excellence in our work.  That principle can be applied to everything in life.  
   
Dave Stieb was a classic example of someone who used a strong drive for perfection to get the maximum out of himself every time he took his place on the pitcher's mound.  During his illustrious career Dave pitched a number of one-hit and no-hit games.  In 1989 he had a potential perfect game (27 consecutive outs with no one reaching first base) broken up with two out in the ninth and final inning.  In the dressing room after the game he did not dwell on the hit that kept him from achieving the ultimate, rather he vowed: "Tomorrow I'll be perfect!"  It was that determined attitude that made Dave Stieb one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Blue Jays.

After several years in retirement, Dave actually attempted a comeback in pursuit of that elusive perfection that had motivated him for so long, but after a season in a secondary role he finally left the game for good knowing that his best was no longer good enough.  In the end we all face reality in our lives, better if we can move on with grace. 
"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."  --Vince Lombardi  

There is a tendency in today's society to put too much pressure on young people to be perfect at school, in sports and in their social lives.  Performance should not be judged in terms of grades, marks and records, but on how hard the young person has worked and how much they have improved.  Young people should know that it is okay to be themselves, that they do not have to be what they think others expect of them in terms of actions and appearances. 

Life should not be about the need to be perfect.  It should be about being true to one's self and being the best person possible in all endeavours, utilizing all God-given gifts to best advantage.  And being proud in spite of the certain imperfections that exist in all of us. 

One student who gets the point has written:  "If you have extra skin under your chin, don't wear a ponytail.  It will just make it worse."  In other words you are unique, don't spoil it all by being superficial.  If you were perfect, you wouldn't be! 

I'll be the first to admit that this Wrights Lane post is not a perfect piece of prose...After all, I am only human.  Next time I'll be perfect! 

"A principle is the expression of perfection, and as imperfect beings like us cannot practise perfection, we devise every moment limits of its compromise in practice."  --Mohandas Gandhi 

23 January, 2010

"SOME OF US HAVE TO GIVE MORE"


I sat down to the computer this evening with intentions of writing a piece on "perfection" but I have temporarily placed the idea on hold.  I was just too distracted and disturbed by the flow of news coming out of the devastated country of Haiti more than a week after the cataclysmic earthquake that is being felt around the world.  Out of every catastrophe, however, there is always a glimmer of hope and never has a photograph  told a story more effectively than the above which was published in the Toronto Star today.  The camera lens of Matthew McDermott captured the real-life miracle of seven-year-old Kiki, his arms outstretched, his sunken face beaming as he was pulled from the rubble in Port-au-Prince covered in dust, exhausted and dehydrated -- but ever the victor. 

The boy and his sister had been trapped beneath the ruins of an apartment building in the Haitian capital for eight days.  The jubilation being expressed by rescue workers and Kiki's mother reaching out to him as he was pulled to safety says more that any words ever could.

The remarkable rescue was perhaps the most poignant in days, coming at a time when hope for finding more survivors was fleeting.  North Americans have been responding admirably to the catastrophe but the Haitian need for help and support will go on for years.  Rosanne and I discussed, with some frustration over dinner this evening, how we might make a contribution to Haitian relief given our limited resources.  "If everyone in the world contributed $10.00, just think of what could be accomplished," Rosanne suggested prompting my reservation: "Only trouble is, not everyone has $10.00 to give."

"That's why we have to give more!" Rosanne replied with conviction. 

My ill-timed essay on perfection will wait for another day.

21 January, 2010

WE'RE FINDING FRIENDS OLD AND NEW TRAVELLING ON INFORMATION HIGHWAY


This is a Thomas Kinkade painting passed on to me by my good neighbour Brian D. Cole in one of his regular dispatches.  It is rumored to carry a miracle and they say that if you pass it on, you will receive a miracle in return.  Reluctant to miss out on any potential miracle, I'm publishing it in Wrights Lane today.  *(Click photo to see it rain.)

IT IS INDEED A SMALL WORLD

Without going into major detail, I came across a very interesting individual yesterday while doing some Internet research.  Michael Langlois is a native of the Detroit River French settlement communities of LaSalle and River Canard in Windsor-Amherstburg area and  a respected communications specialist.  He is also a first cousin of an old friend and baseball teammate of mine, Paul Langlois.  We made an instant connection with a resultant exchange of a half dozen emails.

Paul Langlois, a gifted pitcher, and I were members of the St. Thomas Elgins of the Senior Intercounty Baseball League during the summer of 1957.  Not only were we best friends and teammates but we shared the same boarding house in St. Thomas (the home of our second mom, Gladys Reid) and the interest of Detroit Tigers scout Pat Mullin.  We kept contact for a good 15 years after that baseball season but, as is so often the case, eventually lost contact.

I was delighted to learn that Michael was Paul's first cousin and in fact their family homes were situated side-by-side when they were growing up.  Paul was a few years Michael's senior and would regale him with his baseball exploits.  Sadly, Michael advised me that Paul had passed away some five or six years ago.

Now president of Diversified Communications, Michael has been in the communications field since 1976 and has established an outstanding reputation as a top independent  issues management and communications skills consultant and provider of high-level strategic counsel.  He is also a Toronto Maple Leafs fan of the highest order and hosts his own web site Vintage Leaf Memories of which I became an instant follower.

If you are a hockey fan, visit Michael's blog  http://vintageleafmemories.blogspot.com/.  He has a soft spot for 1960-1970 vintage Maple Leafs, but he regularly posts widespread commentary on current National Hockey League action and news.

Yes, there was another Huff -- Neil

Following along with the "small world vein", in the adjacent column I have published a message from James Huff of Wawa, Ontario.  James very kindly expressed his appreciation for publishing information on his uncle, Bruce Huff, another friend and former baseball teammate of mine from good old Dresden.

James is one of seven siblings of Neil (Bruce's younger brother) and Sharon Huff.  Dresdenites who grew up in the 1940s and 50s will remember "Neily" following in the shadow of big brother Bruce.  Neil was not overly interested in sports but at an early age showed an aptitude for what turned out to be a lifetime passion -- auto mechanics.

After high school, Neil (shown in a class photo, 1953-'54) married Sharon who was a Chatham girl.  He found employment as a mechanic with the Ministry of Lands and Forests (later to become the Ministry of Natural Resources) and after a period in Sudbury moved his family permanently to Wawa,  north of Sault Ste. Marie.  Wawa, of course, is a small community with a history rich in mining, forestry, the fur trade -- and big families.

Neil and Sharon celebrated their 50th wedding anniversay last year and James tells me that their five daughters and two sons have produced 18 grand children at last count.  While James stayed in Wawa to raise his family, his brother and sisters have spread out to distant Windsor, Whitby, Hamilton and Sault Ste Marie.

Neil has been retired for about five years and now operates a small local wrecking yard, A1 Repair and Salvage, where he spends his time "tinkering and puttering, when the weather is good."

Neil Huff is to be envied, not only for his wonderful family, but for finding his Field of Dreams in the form of a wreckage yard on Tremblay Flats Road at Highway 17 North where he feels at home doing what he loves most -- tinkering with old cars.  Kind of like brother Bruce who finds his Field of Dreams in any baseball sandlot or hockey barn.

Kids from Dresden have a way of doing pretty well for themselves, don't they!

19 January, 2010

NOT TOO LATE TO REPAIR OUR WORLD

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"Tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse."

The above is a French expression when translated into English means: "Everything passes, everything wears out, everything breaks."

Just think about that for a moment.  Computers crash, cars give it up, washers and dryers give out, furniture and clothing wear out.  The reality of things wearing out is a fact of life that applies to absolutely everything, including our bodies and our ability to function and to sustain life on our planet.

The good news is that much of the aforementioned can be repaired or replaced.  There was a time when failure of our vital organs meant sure death, but today even those can be replaced thanks to modern medicine and technology. 

The bad news is that the world in which we live is showing signs of breaking down and wearing out, to the point that if we are not careful, it may be beyond repair.  Our efforts to save our environment may well prove to be too little, too late.  Oh sure, we can pay lip-service to buying time and cleaning up our act, but it will take much more than good intentions.

The recent devastating tragedy in Haiti is just one more indication that our world is in trouble.  Combine that with other major earth quakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, global warming and the troubling melting of our northern icecap and you need little more evidence.

The scary part of all this is that up to now, we in this part of the world have been relatively lucky in that we have escaped the devastating disasters experienced in other parts of the globe.  I don't think that I am alone in worrying that we are living on borrowed time.  Realistically, there is danger of the law of averages catching up with us sooner or later.

There is another concern too and it is that we have been using up the Earth's resources to improve our lives, while our children and grandchildren will be forced to live in a deteriorating environment that endangers their existence.  We have gobbled up natural resources and services assuming that they were free and would always be available to us. It is now absolutely essential that our current generation changes its ways, otherwise continuing consumption will undermine the very ability for the ecosystems to provide the goods and services we need.  Poorer countries where people are dying of thirst, hunger and disease, are already paying the price in this regard, and will continue to do so. 

So what can you and I do about all of this?  As a society we cannot give up striving for a new (repaired) world without natural catastrophes, without sickness, without crying, without pain.  Granted, our current world IS passing away, but who's to say that it cannot be repaired or replaced?

We CAN begin this very day to reverse the damage that has been done in our world.  We CAN be proactive and give priority to early warning and detection measures.  We CAN motivate our politicians and we CAN do our own small part to conserve and adjust our own lifestyles.

We CAN weep with those who weep.  We CAN feed the hungry.  We CAN heal the sick.  We CAN find justice for orphans and widows and the vulnerable of the world.  We CAN minister grace at every opportunity without blame or censure.

And when we cannot be physically involved, we CAN do what my 18-year-old grandson did last week --donate his own savings to a Haiti relief fund. 

We CAN also pray...a lot!

And we CAN enjoy and make the best of each day, being thankful for our many blessings.  While we are at it, we CAN give somebody a hug -- just because.

16 January, 2010

WHAT IS THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH? SO HELP ME GOD, I'M NOT REALLY SURE

How can you find truth when you don't really know the truth about "truth" itself?  A good question, right?

I set out recently to find the definitive meaning of truth.   It has been a difficult, even frustrating, exercise in contradictions.  Is truth subjective or objective?  Is it relative or absolute?  Is truth a hard fact that cannot be refuted, or is it merely something that the majority agrees upon?

Truth has been a topic of discussion in its own right for thousands of years.  It is one of the central subjects in philosophy and one of the largest, and as such is beyond my limited ability to define.  I spent countless hours studying the major theorists of truth and trying to understand truth in logic.  In the end I am left clinging to my original theory that truth is, on one hand, what you want to believe and, on the other, not always what you want to believe.

When you stop to think about it, who was ever appointed as the keeper, the custodian, the true dispenser of God's illimitable truth?  Many indeed are moved and so called to be teachers of truth; but the true teacher will never stand as the interpreter of truth for another.  The true teacher is one whose endeavor is to bring the one being taught to a true knowledge of self and hence of their own interior powers, that they might become their own interpreter.

From Eastern literature comes the fable of a frog.  The frog lived in a water well from which he had never strayed.  One day he had a visit from another frog whose home was in the sea.  Once in the well, the visitor was greeted with a series of questions:  "Who are you?  Where did you come from?  Where do you live?"

"I am your long-lost cousin and my home is in the sea," was the prompt answer.

"The sea?  What is that?  Where is that?" asked the host frog in the well. "It is a very large body of water and not far away," came the quick response.

"How big is your sea?"  "Oh, very big."

"As big as this?" asked the well frog, pointing to a little stone lying nearby.  "Oh, much bigger," he was told.

"How much bigger, then?" 

"Why the sea in which I live is bigger than your entire well, in fact it would make millions of wells such as yours."

"The well frog was not impressed.  "Nonsense, nonsense; you are a deceiver and a falsifier.  Get out of my well.  I want nothing to do with any such frogs as you."

The frog in the well was living in his own truth.  He was not prepared to accept the visitor frog's truth that may well have set him free of the confines of the well.

Closing one's self for whatever reason to potential truth is self-damaging.  There is also danger in arrested growth caused by taking all things for granted, without proving them for one's self merely because they come from a particular source.  This is caused by one's always looking without instead of being true to the light within, and carefully tending to it so that it may give an ever-clearer light.

With the brave and intrepid Walt Whitman(*), we should all be able to say: 
"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

On reflection, it may be wrong to expect certainties in life.  Truth in the end, may well be simply what the voice within tells you. We should never stop listening to that inner voice and never lose sight of the accompanying light within.

I wish I could be more definitive.
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(*) WALT WHITMAN, 1819-1892, was a controversial and influencial American poet, essayist and humanist.

13 January, 2010

JIM SKINNER HANGS UP TAPE MEASURE AFTER 55 YEARS IN CLOTHING BUSINESS



BEFORE AND AFTER -- Jim Skinner at the time of his retirement late last year, and in a Lambton Kent District High School photo as a Grade 9 student, 1953-54.

I have been very remiss in not sending congratulations along to little Jimmy Skinner on his retirement from the men's clothing business. 

As unbelievable as it may seem, our boy "Clem", as he was known to Dresden high school chums, recently ended a 55-year career of selling suits, coats, sweaters, socks, ties and underwear to a faithful clientele established over the years.

Jim (I don't think I ever called him Clem) and I go away back.  Away back to the year 1954 when I encouraged him at 13-years-of-age to come to work with me part-time at Art Bowen's Clothing Store in good old Dresden.  When I left Dresden on New Years eve in 1955 to seek fame and fortune in professional baseball south of the border, Jim applied for my job as store manager and got it.

Jim was later to explain that he first sought his parents' approval before applying for the job.  "My mom and dad said: 'Well, if you're going to have a full-time job, you won't be hanging around the pool room as much, so okay/'."  That first $22.00 a week job served as a spring board  to a career in men's clothing that would last a lifetime.  Really, Jim's story is one of a small town boy making good, with emphasis on the word small.  At 15-16 years-of-age Jim stood five-foot nothing, but what he lacked in stature he more than made up for in personality, heart, desire and perseverance.

At some point in 1958 Jim noticed an ad in the London Free Press for a job at Hudson's department store on Dundas Street East in London.  Jim confided in me that he did not get the job the first time he went for an interview, in fact he did not get it the second time either.  "I just wanted to work at Hudson's no matter what, and I kept coming back for a job until they finally hired me," he explained.

In 1962, he married Judy Halman of London who just happened to also be in the fashion business in downtown London.  By 1966, Jim had worked his way up to the position of buyer for the menswear department and 12 years later, he and another long-time Hudson's employee teamed up to buy the store from the Shapiro family.

A six-year foray under the Hudson's banner resulted in the Shapiro family taking the store over again and Jim branching out on his own with Skinner's Men's Wear, just a short distance east on Dundas Street.  Another three years later, the store was moved to slightly larger quarters at 700 York Street.

The dynamics of men's wear retailing has changed drastically over the years and Jim saw the writing on the wall.  "Judy and I both had health problems last year and she finally told me, 'You've been in this business for 56 years; don't you think that's enough?'" Jim told The Free Press in an interview at the time of his retirement just before Christmas.

Letting his wife's words sink in, he was finally ready to agree with her and rather than risk his store's name in the vagaries of an uncertain future, decided to close the business rather than sell it.  After one last pre-Christmas clearance sale, he turned the key on the front door of his store and walked away for good.  I'm sure he struggled with mixed emotions as he drove home that last night, one of the last of a breed of independent haberdashers in London -- and in Canada, for that matter.

I can't help but wonder where Jim will buy his underwear and socks in the future...Walmart, perhaps?  I bet that very thought crossed his mind and he stocked up his closet at home.

Jim's brother-in-law Gary O'Flynn of Wallaceburg informed me the other day that Jim and Judy are currently basking in the sun on a beach in Cuba.  It will look good on them.

You did well Jimmy boy!  Enjoy your retirement...You deserve to take it easy after all those years of wearing a tape measure around your neck and selling, selling, selling -- yourself as much as your merchandise.  Either way, your customers got a good deal!

12 January, 2010

EVER HEARD OF ICE CREAM APPETIZER?

As it turns out, I'm a glorified short order cook in our house and it is not without its challenges.

It was just a couple of hours ago...The time was 12:20 p.m., roughly 2 1/2 hours after a rather late breakfast.  "I'm starving," Rosanne announced.  "I'd like a tuna melt for lunch and don't dillydally -- I'm really hungry." 

Typically slow to react, I paused for a second to consider her request (order?).  "Get going," she barked, "And while you're at it get me an ice cream cone to tide me over.  If I don't eat right away, I'm going to be sick."

Now, I readily admit to being an enabler when it comes to facilitating my wife's food cravings and spontaneous needs -- that's part of her/our trouble.  But ice cream to tide her over til lunch in about 15-minutes time?

I pretended not to hear her. 

11 January, 2010

SIMPLE B.C. FISHERMAN "HUCK" SUZUKI WORKED ON FARMS IN DRESDEN AREA

                                                                                                                         

Fishing boats owned by Japanese Canadians were seized by the government in 1942 and moored at Annisville Dyke on the Fraser River.  Below is a copy of  the British Columbia Security Commission notice which announced a policy of wholesale evacuation of Japanese Canadians from the so-called defense zone.

The Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers in British Columbia, carried the obituary last week of Hachiro "Huck" Suzuki, referring to him as a fisherman's son who lived a simple life in a small float house on the Fraser River.  As is so often the case with obituaries, there was so much more to Huck's story.  To do this genuinely nice, simple man justice it is necessary to turn the calendar back 68 years.  A 20-year-old Huck and his older brother Deo, you see, were swept up in the greatest mass movement of humanity in the history of Canada -- the evacuation of Japanese Canadians, or Nikkei Kanadajin, from the Pacific Coast following the declaration of war on Japan in December, 1941.

The year was 1942 and by the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, nearly 23,000 people of Japanese descent made their home in Canada, principally in British Columbia.  Three-quarters of that number were naturalized or native-born citizens working primarily in the forest industry or as fishermen and merchants.  Much of white British Columbia regarded the Nikkei with suspicion and hostility which escalated after the declaration of war.

Unquestionably influenced by Britain's fear of possible invasion, the cry to rid B.C. of the Japanese security threat was taken up by provincial and municipal governments and influential local newspapers.  Tensions mounted and early in 1942 the federal government bowed to West Coast pressure and began the relocation of Japanese nationals and Canadian citizens alike.  Male evacuees were sent to road camps in the B.C. interior, to sugar beet projects on the Prairies and in Ontario, or to internment in a POW camp in Ontario.  Women and children were moved to six inland B.C. towns created or revived to house the relocated populace.  The living conditions were so poor that citizens of wartime Japan even sent supplemental food shipments through the Red Cross.

So it was that the Suzuki boys found themselves in Southwestern Ontario working on farms in the Dresden area.  Calling on a work ethic instilled in them as a result of being raised by strict parents in a family of 13 children, Huck and Deo proved themselves to be conscientious farm hands, earning the respect of their employers who paid them a paltry average of $10.00 a month, after deductions.

It was not until 1949, four years after Japan had surrendered, that the majority of Nikkei were allowed to return to British Columbia.  By then, most had chosen to begin life anew elsewhere in Canada because their property had long before been confiscated and sold at a fraction of its worth.

Deo chose to remain in the Dawn Township area and established a home in the town of Florence.  He became a pillar of the community as post master and local historian, even serving as public address announcer for Florence Chicks softball games.

Huck, however, (seen in the above photo) returned to his commercial fishing roots on the coast of British Columbia in 1949 after the lifting of retention policy restrictions.  He married Clara Maeda on December 5, 1951 in Ladner, B.C. and lived most of his life on the banks of the Fraser River, bringing up three sons in a tiny float house.  He retired at the age of 76.

Friends knew Huck to be a quiet, kind and generous man.  In the obituary, Huck's sons stated:  "We grieve as we must, but there is peace in our hearts knowing our lives will never be the same, but better and so much richer for the gift our dad has given us.  We will carry his legacy of pure, radiant love now and forever more."

Hachiro "Huck" Susuki, 1921-2010, overcame injustice and discrimination to live a quiet, peaceful, loving life doing what his heart desired.  As with the age old story of another carpenter tuned fisherman, there are many lessons to be learned from the life and experiences of this humble Canadian citizen. 

Special thanks to old friend Bob Peters in Burnaby, B.C. for contributing to this item. 
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NOTE: In 1988, 111 years after the first Japanese entered Canada, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized to Japanese Canadians and authorized the provision of $21,000 to each of the survivors of dreadful wartime detention.  It doesn't hurt to review our history with all its warts and wrinkles from time to time.  LEST WE FORGET!
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09 January, 2010

BILL, MEL AND ME: THREE GUYS FROM DRESDEN IN TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS

Some faces from the past tend to haunt me.  I have never talked about it before, but two individuals from my youth (roughly 60 years ago) still have that kind of lingering effect on me.

There is a good chance that very few of my Dresden friends will even remember Bill Malvern and Melvin Travis.  As far as I know there was no connection between the two during their Dresden days.  Bill was a good 10-12 years older than Melvin, but later in life they found themselves sharing something very much in common -- mental illness.

Melvin and his friend and big brother neighbour, Donald Dudley, were both members of my "Bull" Patrol in Boy Scouts.  Melvin was inclined to be a bit slow and had a perpetual runny nose.  He was also shy and reluctant to participate in Scout activities without considerable coaxing.  As leader of the patrol, I always felt sorry for him and tried to pay special attention to him, but I always suspected that I was not completely making an inroad.

Bill, on the other hand, was a bit of a town character.  He worked with horses, drove a pretty sporty car and hung around with us younger guys for a couple of summers, particularly on the baseball field.  Too old to play on our teams, he liked to shag flies in the outfield during practices and when he would catch a fly ball he always announced: "Just call me Skyhook Bill!"...So we did..."Skyhook" it was.  After all, we're talking about Dresden, the nick name capital of the world.

My dad, Ken, the coach of our bantam team at the time, kind of took a liking to Bill and asked him if he would umpire one of our games.  Bill readily agreed and did a surprisingly good job.  From that point on, Bill was our umpire of record, even travelling with us for road games.

Over the course of the following winter something happened to Bill. Rumor had it that he had consumed some bad liquor at the race track in London and he seemed to drop out of sight.  Without going into detail, a very unfortunate Melvin eventually ran into some difficulty and became a ward of the province.

Some six or seven years later I attended a Senior "B" hockey game at the St. Thomas-Elgin Memorial Arena and I spotted a familiar face in the stands at one end of the rink.  I recognized the face as belonging to Melvin Travis, my old Boy Scout buddy.  I immediately walked over and sat down beside him.  "Hi, Mel!  How're you doing?" I asked.

No response.

"It's Dick Wright," I insisted.  "Remember me?"

Again, no response.

As I looked around at others in that particular section of the arena, I realized that I had unknowingly joined a group of patients from the Ontario Psychiatric Hospital in St. Thomas.  Embarrassed and the recipient of some strange stares, I patted a still silent Melvin on the back and sheepishly made my way to the other side of the rink.

From my new distant vantage point, I noticed another familiar face a little higher up in the hospital section.  Sure enough it was good old Bill Malvern.  Discretion seemed to dictate that I not make another attempt to renew acquaintances at that particular time and place.

As sports editor at the St. Thomas Times-Journal, the following year I was asked to be guest speaker at the Ontario Hospital's annual sports award banquet.  I presented two awards that evening, one to a very proud Bill Malvern who had been named "floor hockey coach of the year" and the other to a still shy Melvin Travis, "house league most valuable player of the year".

Two guys from Dresden, happy as all get out in a world that I did not belong in.  "Thanks again!" Bill shouted as I left the hall that night.  I don't think he remembered me and I resisted the temptation to ask if he did.  Maybe it was just as well.

In spite of the lump that I still get in my throat, I choose to remember Melvin and his floor hockey coach, Skyhook Bill, the way I last saw them, proudly clutching their trophies and accepting congratulations from a cluster of admiring fellow patients.  God bless their souls!

NOTE:  I regret that I am not absolutely sure of the spelling of Bill's last name.

06 January, 2010

INSERT LOVE IN THE WORK YOU DO

I know people who literally hate their work, in fact I have been in that position a time or two in my own life.  The reasons for doing work that you do not love are many and varied, but generally we endure the situation for purely financial reasons -- we have mortgages, we have families to feed and we feel compelled to keep up with the Joneses.

As idealistic as it may seem, it is not always possible for some of us to be involved in employment that we truly love or which gives us complete fulfillment.  We have to do a great many unpleasant things in life as a means to an end, but I have found that if we do them in the spirit of good intentions and with a kind heart, they are really not that bad after all.  We can avoid dwelling on how much we hate the work by thinking instead about the things we earn as a result of doing that work.  It's all about rationalization and positive reinforcement.

It is crucial to understand, too, that you cannot get anything without giving something.  With that age-old truth foremost in our minds we can simply give ourselves over to the work that we either choose, or are required, to do.  Don't hate it -- love it!  Love, after all, is the most important ingredient in life and in our work.

Liberate your love.  Spread it out and keep giving it away -- to the product or service you are contributing to, to your fellow workers, to your family, and mankind in general.  It is contagious and it will come back to you, that much has been proven time and time again.  Liberated love expands our soul, gives us energy and strengthens us physically...It helps us stay the course under less than ideal circumstances.

Love is the salt that savors the whole and drives away the mists so that the sun may eternally shine though in everything we do.

I've tried my hand at a lot of things

I have had many jobs in my life, none of which paid a lot of money, and I always found it necessary to have an extra iron or two in the fire in order to make financial ends meet. Sadly, it was not something I loved to do, rather I opted to do it because I thought supplementing my income was an economic necessity.  In hindsight, that may be the reason I did not totally succeed at some things...Often I found myself working more and loving it less.

I may have set a record for part-time jobs in one lifetime.  Looking back now, the effort I gave to part-time, extra curricular activities, certainly detracted from my full-time employment.  Simply stated, I came dangerously close at times to over-extending my energies and in the process spread myself a little too thin.  Consider for instance:

-- For several years I worked part-time in a clothing store, evenings and weekends.
-- Operated a janitorial/cleaning service, evenings.
-- Undertook freelance writing assignments.
-- Sold cemetery plots on part-time basis.
-- Serviced a Kids' Korner toy distributorship.
-- Sold nutritional products on two separate occasions.
-- Served as security guard in numerous venues for a number of years.
-- Worked in landscaping one summer, simultaneously attempting to establish an in-home public relations consultancy.
-- Was a licenced chauffeur, driving limousines.
-- Shuttled rental cars at Pearson Int'l. Airport.
-- As a sub-contractor, read hard to access gas meters on weekends for Consumers Gas.
-- Paid statistician for a number of sports leagues.
-- Umpired baseball for two seasons (made $900.00 in my peak year).
-- Delivered the Globe & Mail newspaper, early a.m.
-- In retirement, was a lay preacher for recent two-year period (two Sundays a month).

And those are just a few of the part-time jobs that I remember.  There are several short-lived efforts that I choose to forget.

What did I gain by doing all of this on top of my regular employment as a newspaper editor and public relations practitioner?  Absolutely nothing in the end.  It certainly would not enhance a resume, if I needed one now at my advanced stage of life.  My bank account does not reflect all the time and effort, although I guess I did pay a few bills along the way. 

I must have had nervous energy, and a degree of restlessness, particularly 20 years ago when experiencing that man thing known as the mid-life crisis.  I can't believe the amount of sleep that I lost at one time and still do, for that matter.  In retrospect, I am hard-pressed to explain why I found it necessary to do some of the things that I did. 

One thing that I can say is that I have tried my hand at just about every job imaginable...And learned a lot, especially about attitude and the importance of love in all vocational undertakings.  Just ask the folks at Revenue Canada about how they used to LOVE me every year in April.

Wonderful, isn't it, how we can spread love and share the wealth?

03 January, 2010

EVERYONE NOT SO YOUNG, YOU'RE JUST...

Judging from the reaction to my last post, I'm not the only one who is having some reminder that they are now officially, old.  The scary thing is that I've heard not only from people in my own age bracket, but some who are much younger.

Quite honestly, I think just about all of us begin to wonder: "Why is everyone so Young?" about the time we hit the 40 mark.  You know, the kid at Tim Hortons who calls you sir or ma'am, the police officer who looks like he's a high school cadet, the doctor who you'd swear is playing dress-up and the minister or priest that looks like they just stepped out of Sunday School.  Eventually, rationalization sets in when we accept the fact that "everyone is not so young", it's just that we're getting old -- and older.  Call it cold reality!

A scene from the movie Catch 22 always comes to mind when the subject of young vs. old comes up. 

Yossarian:  He was very old.
Luciana:  But he was a boy.
Yossarian:  Well, he died.  You don't get any older than that.

All I can say to anyone over 40 is: "Have fun with it!  Ya ain't dead yet! 

If you are under 40:  "Your time will come!"