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

28 September, 2010


I hadn't paid a visit to my alter ego, Old Humphrey, in quite some time.  Oddly enough, it was a bout of indigestion the other day that prompted me to seek him out.

"Hey Humph", I shouted, nudging my old friend out of a deep slumber.  "I've got this indigestion and nothing seems to be helping to relieve it.  Not even the old reliable baking soda remedy you gave me a while back.  Must have been something I ate, but I don't know...Any suggestions?"

"Ah huh!" came the old timer's reply.  "You've obviously forgotten what I once told you  -- look less to the food you eat, and more to the temper and frame of mind in which you eat it." 

"Well, you may be right as usual," I allowed.  "Was in a bit of a hurry when I tied on the feed bag at supper time.  Had a lot of things to do outside before dark and my wife was agitating about a couple of inside chores that I'd been neglecting as well...It all got me kind of stressed."

As Humphrey shifted his weight and leaned forward on his front porch swing, I knew there would be more sage advice forthcoming and I was not to be denied.  "So long as you are in a hurry, pressured, or in a bad mood, you may dine in vain on the finest roast of beef, the thighs of woodcocks and the breasts of partridges.  Nothing will suit your indigestion; the tender will become tough and the light will lie heavy on your stomach.  Understand what I'm saying?"

I understood and waited for the best yet to come.

"Let love, joy, peace and goodness abound in your heart as you are eating and take my word for it young fella, you will ere long be able to eat toasted cheese and barm dumplings with impunity."

"Thanks for that, Humphrey.  I was with you right up to the toasted cheese and barm dumplings.  Do you have a recipe for that too?" I added.
As it turns out, I think I will be passing on Humphrey's toasted cheese and barm dumplings suggestion.  I have a feeling that this traditional British culinary delight would not agree with me no matter how relaxed and loving I might be.

Toasted cheese (one of Queen Victoria's favourites, incidentally) generally consists of grated cheese mixed with beer or ale and served on toast that has been buttered on both sides.

Barm is the foam, or scum, formed on the top of liquor (i.e. fermented alcoholic beverages such as beer or wine, or feedstock for hard liquor or industrial ethanol distillation) when fermenting. It was used to leaven bread, or set up fermentation in a new batch of liquor. Barm, as a leaven, has also been made from ground millet combined with must out of wine-tubs and is sometimes used in English baking, i.e. Humphrey's dumplings.

I'll simply take my old friend's word for it.

26 September, 2010


Rosanne:  Was it Lyle Underbay who hit the game-winning home run for the Blue Jays yesterday?

Me:  No honey.  It was Lyle Overbay!

24 September, 2010


We bought Lucy a new bed a couple of days ago and she leaves it only to eat and to do her business outside.  It's nice when people (and animals) are happy with things that you buy them.

Thought for the day:  Satisfaction is found in other people's happiness.

23 September, 2010


They say to live every day like it was your last, to which I say boloney!  Live every day like it was your first...It takes the pressure off!

20 September, 2010


"As for me, I don't go places I'm not wanted," Ruth Lambkin, high school student, 1954.

"You cannot force a man to love another but they can learn to love one another," Dresden activist Hugh Burnett, 1954.

"This is a confusing time of conflicting emotions...Only the Christian way will lead to peace in our own hearts and in our nation," Ken Wright in a Letter to the Editor, Chatham News, 1947.

I have been at this writing business now for more than 50 years and I have arrived at a place where I think I understand my readers pretty well.  When it comes to history-related topics I have found that people tend to develop their own interpretations.  It is much the same with religion where personal views are generally based on a degree of comfort.

Current beliefs, social trends and racial background cannot help but play an influential role in how we perceive a past event or period in history.  The passage of time does soften the harsh reality of the past in many cases.  Then too, human nature often dictates that we suppress, or turn a blind eye to certain historical facts that tend to complicate or compromise our beliefs and remembrances.

It is interesting to note that there are a number of different traditional views of history, i.e the cyclical or fatalist view, the providential view, the spiritual or progressive view, the philosophical view, the cultural view and the materialistic view.  There is also the disinterested view, which is unfortunate and more common than we may like to acknowledge.

Last week I uncovered an old National Film Board of Canada film produced in 1954 seeking answers to a long-standing colour-bar racial discrimination issue in my hometown of Dresden.  The 30-minute production graphically illustrated the prevailing concerns and attitudes of the period, some of which were quite disturbing by today's societal standards.  I asked readers of my web sites if they thought an apology from the municipal council of Chatham-Kent, in lieu of a town council today, was due our Black black friends and neighbours of that period.  To date I have had only one response on the subject and that was from a former newspaper editor-publisher who had a distinguished lifelong career behind a news desk in Dresden.  I know others have views, but are reluctant to go on record.

It goes without saying that the racial discrimination issue was and is a sensitive subject in the Southwestern Ontario town of approximately 2,700.  A generation has passed, as has the colour-bar issue (thanks to legislation and litigation of the 1950s).  Life has carried on, a little more freely and humanely for some; others never fully understanding what all the fuss was about in the first place.  The matter is, as they say, history.

My worry is that a serious racial wrong has never been properly and publicly acknowledged and that Black people of that troubled period deserve an official apology for the rights that were denied them and members of their families, many of whom have long sense passed away.  To me it is a classic case of man's ignorant inhumanity to man.  I do not condemn nor condone the eight or nine Dresden business owners who denied service to Black people; they were otherwise good citizens who simply held fast to what they believed were "rights" of their own, as prejudicial as they may have been.

What I advocate now to all Dresdenites is to take a moment to put themselves in the shoes of their Black neighbours and to ask how they would react under similar circumstances if roles were reversed and what it would mean to them and the memory of late loved ones, if their community collectively said "we are sorry!" There is no better way to understand than to assume the yoke of another.

An apology which is sincere and real will always make things better, heal wounds and resentment, and strengthen and lengthen relationships.  I have felt "sorry" for first-hand deep hurt and embarrassment ever since my friend was refused a butterscotch milkshake in a Dresden restaurant one hot summer evening 56 years ago and I've never known how to relay those feelings.

To my friend now, and all others whose rights were similarly denied and thusly relegated to second-class citizen status because of the colour of their skin, I for one sincerely apologize.

How about the rest of Dresden?

Better late than never!?

19 September, 2010


Rosanne and I have been good to ourselves the past couple of days, maybe too good.

After six months of fairly strict dieting and weight loss we felt it was time to treat ourselves just a bit.  They say to do that once in a while you know.

We started out by celebrating our wedding anniversary Wednesday evening with a beautiful meal at one of our favorite restaurants followed by nice lunches at several of our old haunts on Thursday and Friday.  Rosanne gave in to the urge to have an apple cinnamon donut with her coffee at Tim Hortons today and, not wanting her to eat alone, I had a ginger-molasses cookie. Then this evening, what the heck, I picked up some amazing chicken and fish schnitzel, poroggies, fried cabbage and butter rolls from a new European takeout buffet that we had been wanting to try.

As we were cleaning up the dishes a few hours ago I suggested, "tomorrow (Sunday) we'll have to get back on our diets", to which Rosanne quickly chimed in: "No, Monday will be okay!"

I think we might have a problem.

16 September, 2010


It was quite by accident that I stumbled across a 56-year-old piece of film the other day.  It gave me a new perspective on a period in the history of my former   hometown to which I was privy but far too young to fully comprehend.

The film, "Dresden Story", was a historic and widely distributed production by the National Film Board of Canada that in 1954 sampled the attitudes toward racial discrimination against black people and brought the Kent County community kicking and screaming into the national spotlight.

By means of very brief background, if you were black and living in Dresden, or just visiting at the time, you could not obtain service at many of the downtown business locations.  This in a country that had abolished slavery decades before the American Civil War and that saw itself as a proud and welcoming destination for thousands of slaves who had escaped bondage through the Underground Railroad in the 1850s.

While many Canadians turned a blind eye to racial discrimination, often denying its existence, it was unquestionably present in the small town of Dresden that today still has a population under 2,800.  "The Dresden Story" began in the nineteenth century when the town lay at the end of the "underground railroad" for fugitive slaves and a substantial number eventually settled in the area.  Josiah Henson, upon whose life Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom’s Cabin was based, of course, is buried nearby.  

By the end of World War II blacks constituted close to 20 per cent of the approximately 1,700 inhabitants, but several restaurants, barber shops and pool halls habitually denied service to them (sustained perhaps by the traditional British freedoms of association and commerce, which were interpreted to mean that a proprietor had the right to decide who to serve and who to hire).  Blacks were able to attend only one place of worship in town, the Queen Street Baptist Church.  Very quietly and deliberately, the town had become one of the most racially segregated communities in Canada.

One of the Dresden area blacks to champion civil rights in the town was Hugh Burnett, a World War II army veteran who owned his own carpentry business. In 1943 he sent a complaint to the federal Minister of Justice about racial discrimination in one Dresden restaurant in particular. He was informed that the government could do nothing. Then, about 1948, he launched a lawsuit against the prominent restaurant owner, although he did not proceed with it, probably because in the wake of the pre-war Supreme Court decision of Christie v. York the law provided little leverage.

At about this time, Burnett joined with a number of other Dresden-area blacks to form an organization called the National Unity Association (NUA).  Just prior to the municipal election of 1948 a delegation from the NUA asked Dresden’s town council that a non-discrimination policy be a condition of local business licensing. Although a number of Ontario municipalities had already passed anti-discrimination bylaws, in Dresden the proposal moved forward with what has been described as glacial slowness.

The white segment of the town's population, for the most part, chose to ignore the issue -- the majority going so far as to deny that it existed at all.  The sentiment:  "We have nothing against coloured people...They just have to know their place," was frequently repeated.  There was also a commonly-held belief that the flames of the discrimination movement were being fanned by "trouble-making outsiders -- the Jewish community and Communists."  The prevailing consensus was that drawing attention to the matter did more harm than good.  Stories in Toronto newspapers, the Windsor Star and Macleans Magazine were vigorously protested.

So it was that the appearance of a National Film Board crew in town in 1954 was generally frowned on.  In spite of local resistance and difficulty in rounding up opinions of local citizens, commentator Gordon Burwash was finally able to organize two discussion panels for the regular CBC show "On The Spot"and some interesting and telling opposite viewpoints resulted in the above 30-minute film production.  In the end, the rights and wrongs of the issue were left to the viewer to decide.

In viewing the film many times over in the past couple of days and with the benefit of hindsight and maturity, I experienced mixed emotions.  I was nostalgically drawn back in time by views of Dresden's downtown area, the high school that I attended and familiar faces of town folk, many of whom have long since died. 

Not too surprisingly, the two panels disagreed on the origin of racial discrimination in the town.  The black panel was consistent in the belief that it had been going on for more than 100 years while the white panel felt that it was something that had come to light only in recent times.

I was impressed with the calm, rational demeanor of the black panel members in explaining their side of the issue.  The common thread running through their comments was opposition to colour-bar practices and simply the fact that they wanted to be treated as equals in the community in which they lived, as was their legislated right.

Mr Burnett, a member of the black panel, conceded that "you can't make a law to make one man love another, but they can certainly learn to love one another."  It was generally agreed that education would be the key to overcoming any racial ignorance.

The white panel, consisting of a Baptist minister, several businessmen, a school principal, a newspaper editor and one of my next door neighbours, struggled to articulate the root-cause of discrimination in the community and appeared to be carefully guarded in their comments.  The school principal who taught me in Grade 8 and for whom I had great respect, disappointingly alluded only to outside interests aimed at causing trouble in the community but when asked by the panel moderator if he had definitive knowledge of outside involvement responded: "No, I haven't."

My neighbour suggested that one of the concerns in the town was that of inter-marriage, prompting the minister to say that his church was not against mixed-race marriage but that generally he would counsel against it.  "In the end, it is up to a couple to make their own choice," he added. 

One of the business representatives, a barber, said he felt that he had been placed in a bind because if he allowed coloured people into his shop he would lose his white customers.  When pressed to be more specific on the actual number of customers who had verbally threatened to withdraw their patronage, he was only able to offer:  "...A substantial number," later adding that many were "fine Christians".

There seemed to be unanimity amongst the six white panel members that no one could be forced to do something (i.e. the business owners refusing service) that is against their personal beliefs, "rightly or wrongly" as my soft-spoken neighbour put it.

Interestingly business executive Horace Cluderay, in a closing comment to the expressionless and sober white panel, presented long-ignored food for thought:  "The only solution, as I see it, is to sit the sides down in fellowship and brotherhood to discuss matters in a reasonable way as Christians..."

The film was produced in the very early stages of television news commentary, but it was well done and balanced considering the resistance to it in Dresden at the time.  It is a genuine piece of history that accurately reflects the attitudes and opinions that prevailed as late as the mid 1950s in an otherwise quiet, benevolent Christian community.  The film is worth viewing now in the light of passage of time and conditions as they exist in society today.

In the end, it took hard-fought litigation to ensure that discrimination in Dresden would come to an end.  I am not aware of the sides ever sitting down to work out their differences and misconceptions.  Blatant discrimination was suppressed and racial equality just seemed to evolve with the passage of time.  Several plaques have only recently been erected in town to recognize the fight for equality and in particular the role played by the activist Hugh Burnett.

It should be noted that Burnett, falsely accused of  Communistic leanings, was finally forced to leave town in the wake of a business boycott and threats to his life and that of his family.  He is said to have died a broken man.

At the risk of awakening old injustices, but in a spirit of true conciliation and healing, it is still not too late for the Chatham-Kent municipal council of the day to issue an official apology to the surviving members of the black community for the racial discrimination suffered by them and members of their families. It would be the right(s) thing to do!  I would be interested to hear from other Dresden natives on this suggestion.

*As noted on my Facebook page:
   We may not have been directly implicated in many of the social ills of the past and present, but by the nature of association we should accept the responsibilty of lending ourselves to the ultimate healing process for the benefit of all mankind.

12 September, 2010


I have been preparing a number of special "artist's recognition" tributes for the Dresden Virtual History Group.  The most recent is a flashback on one of my cousins, Jack Sharpe who was a gifted singer back in the 1940s and '50s.  Regretfully his voice was never recorded that I know of, but take my word for it -- today he would be a recording artist or Broadway star.  To learn more, click

09 September, 2010


I thought that I would have some fun with these photos of my Grandfather Nelson Perry (top) in our garden in Dresden in the late summer of 1944 and me in my Southampton garden today (September 9/10).  Obviously I tried to duplicate the 1944 photo as much as possible.  Grandpa Nelson and I were partners in a virtual market garden in the 1940s (my Dad Ken also helped out).  We grew literally everything but our main vegetable items were potatoes and corn which I sold door-to-door in Dresden and did pretty well at it too.  I have also posted the photo of my gardener grandfather on my Dresden: Father and Son Turn Back the Clock web site, complete with the names of people I sold to -- Lots of fun and good memories, to be sure!

08 September, 2010


In taking a trip around the horn a time or two, most of us have managed to gain some perspective on life and have learned to focus on what is really most important.  Many of us too, have thought about past choices and how things may or may not have happened differently.

Not that we necessarily second-guess ourselves but in reflective moments, of which I have many, we tend to think "if I only had it to do all over again"... 

I hear frequently from a chap by the name of John Reese who claims to have made a million dollars in Internet marketing.  Generally, I take what John says under advisement, but the other day he came up with an interesting philosophical concept.

"I've come to realize that life really is shorthand and it's passing by in the blink of an eye," he states.  He went on to explain that recently he has been engaged in a mental exercise that he highly recommends for everyone. "Whatever you are doing today, or with your days right now, imagine eventually being 10 years into the future. And imagine being able to get into a Time Machine and visit TODAY (10 years earlier). Would you want to be doing now whatever you were doing then? Or would you wish you had spent those days doing something else?" he asks.

It took me a minute, but I was finally able to wrap my mind around what John was suggesting and quite simply it was that it is never too late to tackle something that you have always wanted to do.  Mind you, I have always wanted to own a motorcycle but I am sure it would not be a wise move now at my age.  Some things are just not practical or in our best interests, given the fact that we are not as young as we used to be.

I see merit, however, in taking on a long-suppressed challenge if it is a reasonable one and that you can get started with it in some small way that can be accommodated in your life at present time.  Fulfilling a lifetime dream or ambition can be a gratifying experience.

You know what?  I might still get that motorcycle -- providing I win a lottery.  Now there's a lifetime dream for you! 

06 September, 2010


Dramatic changes in weather conditions around the Great Lakes this past weekend saw temperatures drop drastically and winds reach gale-force proportions along with heavy rains.  My poor miracle Sunflower that had survived so many storms and setbacks this summer was beaten to the ground once again.  In the photo below roller waves splash into the rocks along the Lake Huron shoreline at Southampton.  Sadly for cottagers and tourists the long Labour Day weekend has not been conducive to sunbathing, swimming or fishing.  No doubt a lot of "good books" were read, however.

04 September, 2010


In my last post I wrote about "being one's own best friend" and a motivation to be personally "good enough".  It was a worthy and noble bit of prose that, in retrospect, reveals itself to me as none other than an awkward and strangely-worded attempt to justify my bloggings.

As with so many things in life, after writing and publishing most of my Wrights Lane items, I am left wondering if my effort was good enough to be of interest.  In exposing vulnerabilities and innermost thoughts and experiences, will I be taken seriously?  Will my message have any impact?  I struggle with the possibility that I fall short not only in my writing, but in other aspects of life as well, so by nature I am a second-guesser and wonderer. 

Are my expectations unrealistic or do I lack a degree of self-esteem?  Am I too hard on myself?...Perhaps a resounding "yes" to all of the above would be quite in order.

You can imagine, then, the significance of the following words from fellow blogster Lorianne DiSabato from her "Hoarded Ordinaries" web site:

"...Part of the allure of blogging, of course, is that it is a democratic genre.  You don’t have to be good in order to do it. Blog-reading is addictive because like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. There’s a random delight in hearing an average writer suddenly soar or a wondrous poet lament over a bout with writer’s block. We read (and write) blogs not because our writing is great everyday: we read (and write) blogs because everyday it’s great to be writing.  Both writing and photography are ultimately human acts, expressions of our human need to notice and be noticed. A blog doesn’t have to be good to be engaging; it simply has to be true."

What impresses me most about Lorianne's reassuring blog statement are the words "average" and "true" because my literary work is most assuredly average and I always place  emphasis on truth and engagement.

It takes one "hoarder" of ordinary thoughts and skills to appreciate another and to be reminded
that at least it is "great to be writing every day" and to share what is on our mind from a creative perspective.

Don't get me wrong though, I still strive to be "good enough" at what I do and to be my own best friend for the reasons stated in the post that follows -- and to satisfy a personal internal need to notice and to be noticed.

We bloggers are strange people.  Some of us more so than others!  We require allowances.


I find myself frequently saying rather off-handidly about someone, "Oh, they are their own worst enemy."  I have even thought the same about myself a time or two. 

For some reason, the realization just hit me that in reality we can be our own worst enemies or we can be our own best friends.  In the degree that we become friends to the highest and best within us, we become best friends to those around us; and in the degree that we become enemies to the same highest and best within us, we literally become enemies to all.  We're really not talking rocket science here, are we?

In the sense that we open ourselves to the higher powers available to all of us and let them manifest through us, we serve as transmitters of inspiration for others.  In this way we all have the potential to be redeemers -- and best friends

As one who has matured in the craft of writing, I subscribe to the precept:  "Look into thine own heart and write.  Be true.  Be fearless.  Be loyal to the promptings of your own soul."   For the most part I have become my own amanuensis, writing my own self into my work.  I can put no more into my humble literary efforts than what I myself am.

Having made the forgoing declaration, I pray that what I am is good enough at times to reach hearts, to stimulate, to enrich, to bring a little joy to the lives of others.  I can do that only if I am my own best friend.

Please accept the friendship that is within me as it continues to emanate from Wrights Lane (subsequently Facebook) and onto your monitor screen.  May there be an ultimate mutual manifestation for those with whom we share.

02 September, 2010


I've had a lot of wild life visit my back yard in Southampton, but never a Snapping Turtle.  This young lady was just passing through from her home in Fairy Lake which is just below my property.  I tried to feed her some cherry tomatoes from my garden but she was not the least bit interested.  She had other things on her mind, like maybe trying to find a good spot to lay her eggs.
Question:  How much room do you give a Snapping Turtle?  Answer:  "As much as it wants! -- especially if it is an unexpected intruder in your back yard.   

"...Besides, I'm heading for that cucumber patch over there.  Oh, right, turtles don't like cucumbers, but what the heck; I might find something else interesting."

"...Well, okay, go ahead and snap one.  I'm not going to hold this pose much longer.  Cheese!"