Thursday, November 15, 2018

Good things happen

I have to admit I wasn’t sure at first. It was about a few weeks ago I got a phone call from a fellow I remembered from several years ago. He was a reporter-editor on the mining beat.
Now in Northern Ontario you cannot get away from that. This is the heart of the Canadian Shield and the mines give up every mineral you can imagine from the gold in your jewelry, to the copper, silver and platinum in your electronics to the zinc that keeps your car from rusting too quickly.
Plus it is fun to witness the pouring a new gold bar like this one at the Bell Creek Mine in Timmins. 
So this fellow was kind enough to suggest I might want to consider applying for a job with a well-known mining journal.  I wasn’t sure. I like my work in the daily newsroom. It is challenging and there is always something urgent going on. The other thing about this job is that it is in Sudbury.
The fellow said he liked my mining stories and especially the fact I had experience as a hard rock miner.  I thanked the fellow and said I would work on it.
I think it was that night that I called Jennifer and had a chat. I told her about the offer and she was encouraging. I still wasn’t sure about the job. I think I was just getting too comfortable in the news game. Maybe I was getting too laid back and lazy.  A few days later, I got an e-mail from Sudbury asking where my resume was.  Truth is I had been working on it, but was so busy on news things I had not sent it in.
That night, I spruced up the resume, added a cover letter and dug up couple of old mining stories.
Next day I got a call from the company president. He said he liked my stories. So we had a chat and then we talked about people we both knew from back in the day; I mean wayyyy back in the day.
So he made a nice offer and said he would follow up with a letter.
So here I am now getting ready for the big move in the New Year. I am looking forward to the new gig but of course the best part will be spending more time with my family. You can’t put a price on that.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Invading their privacy ...

Private conversations are just that; private. I say that in reference to the now infamous Uber tape that appeared on YouTube showing a group of six or seven professional hockey players who were on a social outing and jumped into a van for transportation. During the ride, some of the players were talking among themselves and were bad-mouthing the coaching staff for the Ottawa Senators.
The Uber driver had an interior camera that recorded everything. The players were not aware of the camera. Some days later, the five-minute recording, complete with all the trash talk, appeared on YouTube. It caused something of a minor kerfuffle in some media circles. 
I think that’s wrong. Just because somebody said something in private that others might disagree with, it was not a serious matter that had to be reported. This wasn’t national security. This was not revealing anything important. It’s just sports for crying out loud. But still I think it was intrusive for the Uber driver to do what he did.
Thank goodness Uber agreed to have the YouTube recording removed and then apologized to the players.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Small world or what?

We were just having a chat in the newsroom with the city editor and managing editor about the different customs in different cities as Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day. The boss said he had been to so many and began rhyming off the names of different towns, when he said Portage La Prairie. Well, there you go.
Small world eh? I had to chime in about the fact that RCAF Base Portage La Prairie was Dad’s first posting when we all came back to Canada from France. It’s also the town where Debra was born, so I will avoid mentioning the year. I did however recall sitting by the CNR tracks in the north end of town near the Campbell Soup plant to watch the trains coming in – Steam trains they were!  It was a nice place with cold winters. 
Gary, and Ronald and I sure enjoyed some fun times there as kids…. Including the time we begged Mom to let us push the baby carriage over to the next block, where there was a big baseball game going on.  And then we came home. But we forgot the baby.  Hey, it was safe. It was all Air Force families. But when we got back home, mom was wild! Where’s the baby!? So we rushed back to the baseball field and sure enough we found Debra in the carriage right behind the home plate fence. No harm. No foul. LOL

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Hoping for toasty toes...

I haven’t given this much thought to winter in years. I think I am beginning to “feel” it a bit more these days. For starters, I take blood pressure medication which has the effect of making my fingers and toes feel cold. Doc said that was to be expected. So I live with it.
Also, when I was visiting Jennifer last week, I had the opportunity to buy a new winter coat. I call it my fall coat, because when real winter comes, I wear my parka. But my parka is just too warm for mild winter, anything that is minus 20 and warmer. So I put the fall coat on this week and it was warm, so I took out the liner. I like it.
Then I bought a new pair of leather gloves. My old ones were about five years old and had some serious holes that only a surgeon could repair.
But the real change has come with my Sorels. These old boots have been my favourites for roughly 40 years. I remember wearing my first pair of Sorels in the Arctic in December and they were fine. These boots are also perfect with my snowshoes. 
This is my second pair of Sorels. They're the original Made-In-Canada brand. Not the new ones that are made in China. 
They’re almost 20 years old and still in good shape. But I bought new liners this week. Not the usual felt-wool liners. I caved to modernity and bought a pair of those synthetic breathable liners.
They’re rated to minus 45. I don’t know how they figure that stuff out, but I know that from living in Timmins, there will be a few days that I will get to test that. I will keep you posted.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thankful ...

I hated the drive down on Highway 144 on Friday night. There’s always moose on the highway. But the trip was worth it to spend a couple of days with Jenn and her men in Val Caron for Thanksgiving. It’s always so relaxing there, and I go into total veggie mode with a few drinks, a bite to eat, with lots of conversation, laughter and even a few tears. My grandsons are so grown up now. Tyler is first-year university and Nathan is in his final year of high school. We used to have a tradition on Saturday mornings where we sat around in our jammies and ate chocolate cake. Well, I guess the boys are not interested in that stuff anymore, LOL. That’s okay, it was still nice to spend time with everyone, -- even if the Leafs lost on Saturday night.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The best day ...

I was pleased to get an e-mail last week from a friend informing me that CBC Radio is celebrating its 40 year anniversary in Northern Ontario.  I am happy to say I was a small part of that, having spent a few years as an associate producer and producer of the morning program, Morning North.  Then, many years later, after my stint with CTV, I was invited back to CBC as a contract producer and editor.

But let me get to the heart of the story about one of the best days we ever enjoyed with live radio. It didn’t start out very pleasantly.
It was September 7, 1990. It was the morning after the Ontario Election when a huge upset had taken place. Bob Rae had defeated Liberal premier David Peterson. Now you have to understand that elections are big things in the news business.  Whoever gets elected sets the game for your city, your province or your country for the next few years.
Okay so in the days leading up to our election results broadcast I have to say we were stunned to learn that CBC Toronto had been given approval to cover the province. This was ignoring CBC Thunder Bay, CBC Windsor, CBC Sudbury and CBC Ottawa.  
This meant our morning show would be pre-empted in favour of giving the Toronto crew the broadcast from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.  Of course, the journalists in the smaller stations such as ours were livid. We protested, but without any backing from management, we got nowhere.
Only CBC Ottawa was able to complain loud enough to get back the right to cover its own territory. Not us. We would be allowed roughly five minutes each hour to insert news from our region.
That morning we all arrived for work well before 6 a.m. Of course we were excited at the news of the political upset. But that was soon tempered by the fact we pretty well had to sit on our hands and listen to Toronto. We were told to be ready in case Toronto gave us the right to switch back to our own station. Fat chance that would happen.  There was clearly a line between broadcasters and the bureaucrats.
So there we were;  myself, host Peter Williams, newsroom staffers Bill Catalano and Sherry Drysdale, noon show host and producer Benita Hart and our technician and operator Kenny Kauffeldt.
We sat in the front office with the big window overlooking Mackenzie Street and griped and moaned about not being able to do our own broadcast.
Little did we expect how bad it would be. Just as the 6 a.m. World Report news package ended, CBC Toronto came online with a quick wrap of the election upset the night before. Part of the coverage including breaking away to a live report from London, Ontario the hometown of defeated premier Peterson.   
Imagine our surprise when the poor reporter described he was broadcasting live from a local arena in London where the Liberals had been expected to celebrate Peterson’s victory. The reporter said there was no one else there. Just him. Well Duhhhh! It was so embarassing to listen to this. 
So the hour progressed. At 6:30 we did our own regional news wrap and then a brief insert on the local election results.
I remember clearly as we sat there around 6:45 a.m. griping how bad the Toronto broadcast was. Sherry said something like I wish we could just do our own show. Kenny said, “we can”.
I looked at him with surprise. He looked back at me and said anytime you want to switch back to local just tell me and we can go to a local broadcast.  I thought, well they keep telling us to be “risk takers”. So let’s see how this works.
I quickly looked at the faces around the room and asked, do you think we could pull off a good local show?
The response was immediate. Of course, and then they began jumping in with names, phone numbers and story lines and interviews. It was exciting as hell. I looked at the clock, knowing we had about 20 minutes before going live.
One of the reporters was already on the line to Nickel Belt MPP Floyd Laughren to get Bob Rae’s private phone number.
So things were in motion. We pulled together a bunch of live interviews, including an exclusive with the new Premier BEFORE CBC Toronto got him on live. We had live chats with all the newly elected candidates.  We didn’t look back. It was a great program. For the next two hours we did seat-of-the-pants live radio and it worked.
Just before 9 a.m. our host Peter was wrapping up the show with final comments. Kenny was rolling the music to mark the end of the show. The boss came into the studio with a big smile commenting on how good the show sounded.
“When did Toronto give you the okay to cut away to local?” he asked.
“They didn’t,” I replied.
His face dropped. He was horrified.
I knew my ass was in trouble, but I have to say, it was so worth it. It was the best day.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Advice :)

Dropped in to see the doc on Thursday. He said keep an eye on your blood sugar. Dropped in to Timmies on the way back to work. I got a dark roast coffee with NO SUGAR! I deserved a reward for that I figured, so I got a SMILE cookie too! LOL

Friday, September 14, 2018

Old glass. Nice photos...

So yes I am pleased with a decision to resurrect one of my older Nikon cameras. The cam is six years old and I had to send away to Amazon to get new batteries.  I read a recent article talking about many shooters (journo-talk for photographers) bringing out older film camera lenses that seemed to have pretty nice glass and then using them on the newer digital cams. Well that sure got me thinking because I own a fabulous old Nikon 50MM 1 to 1.4 lens that is so perfect, you’d swear it came from heaven.  This is the same lens sent to the moon on Apollo 11.
 This is the same lens LIFE magazine and National Geographic shooters used all during the 60s and 70s around the world and in Viet Nam. One of the biggest differences is that it is not an auto-focus lens, so everything is manual shooting.

 I tried it out this morning on the flower garden beside my apartment building. I was pleased. Then I went out to a mining executive’s lunch and shot photos.  I also shot backup photos on a newer cam, but the city editor chose the photo shot with the older lens. The detail was amazing! You can count the guy’s whiskers. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Covering the PM

Well I don't often get the chance to cover a PM. Mr. Trudeau came to Timmins this week and I was assigned to get photos and a story. Unfortunately, the media was told there would be no questions, just cover the speech. We were also told we had to get our photos from a riser stage located at the back of the venue. I didn't agree with that, but I didn't complain... as the speech was ending, I mentioned I would like to get up front for some better pictures. One of the interns with the PMO grabbed me and said to follow her. We scooted through the ranks of RCMP officers and other serious looking folks with stern faces. I was able to get very close to get some good shots. The speech was about 20 minutes but the PM spent twice that much time working the crowd, signing autographs and posing for selfies. Things have changed.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Flying north ...

I was advised by a trusted friend to start writing more stuff on this blog because it will help in the event I ever decide to write something more permanent. In more than four decades of reporting news in Northern Ontario, I have enjoyed some memorable times. I was watching Netflix tonight when I noticed part of an episode where folks were flying in a DC-3 airplane or a Dakota as many folks like to call them. My first flight in a DC-3 was in December 1975 with Austin Airways.  Austin had several of these old reliable airplanes for the simply reason they were reliable. On this particular occasion, we were flying from Timmins to Moosonee along with members of the Timmins Fire Department who were bringing toys to that community as part of the annual Toylift Flight, where the firefighters would bring toys to the James Bay coast communities. The sun was shining but the morning was bitterly cold. As we sat in the Timmins terminal waiting for the plane, we were advised it was being brought back into the hangar because it was too cold to start the engines. The temperature was still about minus 40. About an hour later, I think it was around 9 a.m. we were told we could board the plane.
And so we did. Some minutes later, the plane was airborne and we were on our way North. Interestingly, the two cabin crew members handed out sleeping bags and blankets we could wrap around our legs and feet, because it was so cold.
One of things people liked to see when flying out of Timmins was the huge Texas Gulf open pit mine. And so it was that folks all peered out of the right side windows to catch a glimpse of the pit.
That when many of us noticed there was a significant amount of oil leaking out of the starboard engine. It was running down the engine cowling and along the wing. There was really a lot of oil there. So myself and a few others called on the cabin crew members to take a look.
The one fellow leaned over our seats and looked at the oil coming out of the engine. His face did not betray any concern, but he immediately walked to the front of the plane and went into the cockpit where the pilot and co-pilot were.
Moments later, one of the pilots came into the cabin and leaned over the seats to see the engine. The oil was still leaking. The man didn’t say a word. He turned and went right back into the cockpit.
In less than a minute we could all feel the plane turning. Yes, we were heading back to the Timmins airport. That seemed to be reassuring.
Suddenly, the oil leak stopped. It just stopped. We let a cabin crew member know that the oil leak had stopped. He went right to the cockpit. Sure enough, the plane turned and was back on a north bound course, heading to Moosonee.
We all looked at each other and began laughing. I won’t ever forget that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A sparkling day ...

Rarely have I done a news story on the birth of a mine and then, ten years or so later, the death of a mine. I was up North in the James Bay Lowlands today to cover the 10th anniversary of the De Beers Victor mine, the first and only diamond mine in Ontario.
It is a success story in the sense that the company has spent billions of dollars to create the mine and run it -- but it has also earned billions more by recovering 7 million carats in diamonds. But the mine will soon be depleted and by this time next year, it will be shut down.
I was first here in 2008 when the mine officially opened and there was a lot of excitement. Hundreds of new jobs. Hundreds of millions provided to the First Nations. And so it went. For the past ten years the glitter of diamonds has provided wealth and comfort to so many people. I am on holidays this week, but I couldn't pass up the chance to visit the mine again to see how it has developed; now more than a thousand feet deep.

And so things change and all new mines eventually die. But before De Beers leaves this area it must leave the land in good shape. And so there was a tree planting ceremony to symbolize the fact that the company will continue to spend money on a massive land reclamation project. They event provided a tree sapling so I can plant my own tree. 
Each visitor was also given a nice little chunk of Kimberlite ore. That's the type of volanic rock where diamonds are found.

That's a good thing. It means the company will be allowed to keep mining in other parts of Canada. Oh by the way, I chatted with De Beers Canada president and CEO Kim Truter today. He said the process will start again in a couple of years with a new project in Nunavut. I asked how much money would be spent and how long that mine would last.
Truter smiled and with his thick South African accent he said "It's early days my friend, early days."

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Hot summer. Whisky yes. Vodka no.

So yes we have had a hot summer so far this year in Timmins. Hell, there are forest fires all over the North. So I have enjoyed some nice beverages lately. This past week I was making iced tea and adding a bit of vodka. I was told that makes a nice drink. It does. Then a co-worker said vodka is nice with just ice for sipping. He went on and on about Grey Goose vodka and how nice it is. So I tried sipping vodka. Just vodka. With ice. Yuck! No thank you. I will stick to whisky thank you. I had the same conversation in June when Neil came to visit. He loves his Tequila. We had a chat about how there are some excellent versions of Tequila that are good for sipping. I was polite. I listened. Quietly. But truthfully, no way Jose! So i have to sign off. It is Saturday night. Netflix movie time. With whisky!

Friday, August 03, 2018

Amazon package arrived

So yes my package arrived from Amazon. It's my new computer battery and yes it works like a charm. It arrived four days early. The price was less than half the price quoted to me by the manufacturer. I have been assured this battery is just as good as, if not better, than OEM. So I will watch it carefully and if there are any problems, I can always return it for the refund. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing since I means I didn't spend my money locally. I will struggle with that.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Using Amazon

Shopping locally is important for me. It is usually local businesses that support the newspaper company I work for. So I like to give back. I was surprised this week when I was shopping for specific items to learn that a few local businesses did not carry the item I wanted. I am finding a few stores will say, Oh we can order that for you.  But then they will charge a fee for ordering and delivery.  One younger store clerk said, Why don't you try Amazon? He actually looked the item up and found what I wanted. At a much cheaper price than I expected. The nice thing about Amazon (Yes, I have ordered before) is that they give a refund if you don't like the product. No questions asked. So if you don't mind waiting three or four days, Amazon is not a bad way to go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer is good. So is beer ...

Okay, so one of the good things happening this very hot summer is beer. I noticed it this past week since Neil left a few cans of beer in my fridge. I am not a big beer drinker; only three or four a week. But I do like different tastes. Neil and I are the same that way.  (I should mention he also bought me a fabulous bottle of Irish whiskey!)I got tired of the old corporate beers years ago. Besides most are owned by American companies now. I don’t go to the Beer Store anymore because it is owned by the Americans too.
Two things have happened recently. One is the hot, hot summer we are having in Ontario. The other is that Ontario finally relented and we can buy beer in many grocery stores here. It makes it easier to pick up a couple of beers when I am out buying stuff for supper. I like to try different brands, mostly lagers and pilsners. I am not a big fan of hoppy ales.  So I like beer, but I am not brand loyal. Beer companies hate guys like me. The other good thing is that I am seeing more and more craft breweries, producing very nice local beers. Jenn calls them weird beer.
On some really hot days, nothing is better than enjoying a cold beer in the evening. Usually one 500 ml can is enough. So yes, beer is good, and so is the summer. Cheers.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Happy Canada Day eh.

Canada Day weekend in Timmins has been one of the best ever! My children – they’re sure not kids anymore – showed up to have some fun in Timmins. And they sure did. Jennifer and Neil made my weekend by being here. And I was pleased to do whatever I could to spoil them. They even managed to hit a few pubs, see some old friends and dance the night away. Although they’re not sure which pub was the last one! Anyway, they’re the two best kids on the planet and I enjoyed every minute being with them.
The weather was looking a bit iffy this afternoon, with thunderstorms in the forecast. Despite that a lot of local folks are off to the Stars and Thunder festival to see Sons of Maxwell, Matthew Good, Our Lady Peace and Bryan Adams. Sounds like it will be a good time.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trump's legacy...

So this is the photo by John Moore of Getty Images that shocked hundreds of thousands of Americans to realize their president was wrong. A two-year-old child crying in fear as a border guard does a pat-down search of the child's mother. For Trump to authorize this kind of action shows that he is so non-presidential. At best, he might be a pimped-up middle manager who surrounds himself with sycophants because he has money, left to him by his daddy. Way to go America.  In the months and years to come, it will be revealed that Trump has serious mental health disorders. Not that there's anything wrong with mental illness.  Except you shouldn't be president.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Frayed cuffs and other things...

Finally. This week I threw out a shirt I bought about five years ago. It wasn’t always like this.  I was getting fed up some years ago with my clothing because no matter where I went to buy, there were always frayed cuffs, frayed collars, buttons falling off, things like that after only a few months.  
So I bought several shirts online from L.L.Bean five years ago. They were a bit more costly. But they sure lasted long. It got to the point that I was getting tired of seeing photos from a few years ago and realizing I was wearing the same shirt! But the shirts just kept looking good, no frayed threads, no lost buttons, nothing like that. Finally this week I was taking one shirt out of the dryer when I noticed the collar had frayed… by just a few millimetres! That’s all it took. Shirt in the garbage. 
Now I have to start planning to buy some new shirts. Problem is the Canadian Dollar is worth only 75-cents in the U.S.
So I will have to look for sales and discount days – something that LLBean is generous with. I am not worried about the Trump tariff thing. He is an idiot.  People say he will change his mind.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Good times

It was such a good week. I don’t say that because of the Ontario election,although I am glad the Liberals got the boot. It was good because Tyler graduated high school, with honours and as an Ontario Scholar. I was so proud of this guy for making his parents so happy. It was just the nicest time to spend with Jenn and her men. It was also so nice to see Don and Denise Alexander as well. I was happy to make the drive down to Sudbury, but I had to rush back to Timmins to cover the election. It was the biggest election upset in years, but I couldn’t stop telling everyone I met that my oldest grandson graduated high school. People looked at me, like, that’s no big deal. Oh yeah. Well. Okay. It’s a big deal to me.

  Scott, Tyler, Jennifer and Nathan. 
 Tyler and Nathan.
Len and Tyler.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Politics is becoming so polarized these days. Here in Ontario we have a provincial election happening in June and a city election happening in October. So here’s the thing. There was a time when people would talk politics among friends, over a beer or even at the dinner table. Things rarely got out of hand. Sometimes they were even funny. I remember once telling my grandmother I had done a news interview with Brian Mulroney. She looked at me, smirked, and said, You’re saying that like it’s a good thing. I had to smile.
But now people tend to go too far, saying all sorts of things about their favourite politicians and then being not-so-respectful of their not-so-favourite politicians. The worst of it is that this  becomes part of the social media game and people begin sniping at each other if they don't agree with their candidate. It’s getting really bad, and sadly I am seeing comments from friends and acquaintances that make me wonder about them.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What a pain the A$$

Passwords are such a pain. I wish technology could come through with some sort of device or method to make all this password stuff go away. Just getting into this blog took three tries because I made a tiny error on one of the few favourite passwords I use. Yes, I confess. I use a few passwords over and over. Even at work, we get reminded every three months to change our main password. So I have worked out a system where I keep the main "word" but I keep adding a few little characters to it, such as & or * or # just to mix things up.  I know of one fellow who changes his by the month, passwordJANUARY, then passwordFEBRUARY, then passwordMARCH and so on.
I know that the iPADs have come up with thumb print and eye scans, but I am told that adds significantly to the price. My smartphone uses a graphic password, where I have to match two images on the screen.I like that, but on a couple of occasions in the freezing cold, it hasn't worked properly and then I have to rely on a backup consisting of words! Arrrrghhh! (Hmmm ... there's a password!)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Heartbreaking ...

I was sitting in the office briefly Saturday morning when Tom the managing editor dropped in. He was obviously pre-occupied but then mentioned out loud that another person had died in the bus crash in Saskatchewan. It was awkward, but we had to talk about it. Heading out on the team bus to a hockey game on a winter night is such a Canadian thing. Whether you live in Nova Scotia or the Yukon, there is not a Canadian family I know of that hasn’t experienced that, whether it’s the team bus or even the fan bus that follows it. What happened is something that so many of us has wondered about; worried about and then maybe offered a quick prayer when everyone got home safely. I know in Timmins there was a change put in place many years ago when the players didn’t have a team bus. They went to an out of town game in a convoy of private cars. Sadly one the cars was in a crash and some young hockey players died. After that, it was decided from that point forward that all teams would travel by bus. Sadly bad things happen, no matter what choices you make. I know that yesterday my immediate thoughts were about Tyler and Nathan and how many times they have travelled to out of town tournaments and hockey games. My heart still breaks for the boys in Saskatchewan.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Messy, yes, but it tastes great.

So I am quite pleased with new Melitta ‘Pour over’ coffee maker. You take your ground coffee and put it into the cone-shaped holder along with a paper filt. Then you pour boiling water into the cone. It then drips quickly down into your coffee mug. I find I am able to make a nicer cup of coffee than in my Keurig machine. Except yesterday during lunch I poured the cone full of boiling water and then accidently bumped the whole contraption with the kettle. Darn! There was coffee and boiling water all over the countertop, the stove top and then then down into the space between the stove and the wall. Arrrgh! What a mess.  But … it still makes an excellent cup of coffee.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Enjoying the Olympic Games

I was mentioning to Claudette the other day that the newer version of mixed-doubles curling might become so popular someday it could out rank regular curling. We have really enjoyed watching the Canadian team of Lawes & Morris perform so well at the winter Olympics. We watched every match.  The competition against the OAR was particularly entertaining. The game really moves along quickly and it is quite entertaining to watch. And this morning we learned that they have won the gold medal. So pleased.

Monday, January 29, 2018

I am feeling better this week. Really. It has been two weeks now since I slipped on the sidewalk out on Cedar Street and fell, landing on my back. I mean, I really took a flip. My left leg shot out on the ice just under the snow and I went down, hard. It knocked the wind out of me and for a couple of seconds I couldn’t breathe. That was scary, so I flipped over onto my front to push myself up. I grunted. And I breathed. I didn’t bother getting checked out because I figured if I could get up okay, I would be okay. If not I would just lay on the ground and call 911. LOL. Besides there is a flu outbreak and I didn’t fancy sitting in the emergency room with all those people coughing and sneezing.
I am better now. The next day I dropped into a sporting goods story and found some shoe spikes. Wow, what a difference. They cost $35, but they really work. They stay on your shoe by a heavy elastic strap. When you go into a store or building, you just flip up the spikes and you don’t damage the floor.  You know I take this seriously when I spend money on something when I could easily purchase a very nice bottle of whiskey for the same price.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Waiting for news...

I think I know how people in Olympic communities feel as they wait to find out whether their city or town has won the right to host the games. Timmins is among four cities invited to submit a bid to build a new smelter or metals refinery to process chromite.  That’s the main mineral located in the Ring of Fire mining area in the James Bay Lowlands. The value of the deposit is estimated in excess of $50-BILLION. Yup, that’s Billions we’re talking about. If Timmins wins the bid for a smelter, well we’re talking many hundreds of millions of dollars in local investment. And jobs. Lots and lots of new jobs. That would be helpful. So lots of folks in town are crossing their fingers. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Yes, I am jealous.

So get used to reading the name Jada Yuan. You may not know of her, but last week she was picked for the best job in the world ... in my opinion. She is an almost-40 freelance writer who has been hired by the New York Times to travel the world for a whole year and report on what she sees. Yuan was selected from more than 13,000 job applicants. She will be travelling to 52 cities around the globe and will write stories on her experiences. Nice work if you can get it. Yes, I am so jealous.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pencils and stuff.

This goes back to journalism school when we were all taught to carry pencils because in Canada, it gets cold and your pen will freeze. If you have to take notes, a pencil will never freeze. That was sure in evidence last week.  

Things change. All the reporters I see these days have voice recorders built into their smart phones.  I have this feature on my phone, although I am not certain how to use it. What I do use is a very reliable Sony voice recorder that picks up every comment, even in a crowded city council chamber or in a courtroom, if allowed. I also record all the phone calls I get into the newsroom. 
Although I am peeved now that my primary recorder crapped out on me this week. I am using a backup now.  I had the main recorder for about four years, so it’s not so bad. I will have to purchase a new one. Wish I had known about this during Boxing Day sales. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Pay the working poor!

I want to weigh in on the minimum wage debate in Ontario. The Liberal government has implemented this is oh-so-obvious vote-buying bid. But it is still something that should be done. Raising the wages of the working poor is not something that should be debated or argued. It was overdue. I would have preferred to have seen a straight up income tax exemption for anyone on minimum wage. Not a tax exemption for people who can bring in a list of tax deductions, but an exemption if your pay stub shows minimum wage.

I don’t care that some small businesses will feel the pinch. Deal with it. Raise your prices, find efficiencies. Cope with change or get out of business. I have already decided I will not go to Tim Horton’s because of the way they treat their minimum wage employees. I will also accept that I may have to pay a little more to accommodate those businesses that choose to work with the new minimum wage.

Friday, January 05, 2018

I like tea. Real tea.

I went into a new tea shop in Timmins today. It was so cold outside, I welcomed the idea of a fresh cup of tea and a snack. Aline’s Tea Shop is not that new, but it is new to me. I had heard good things from other folks and decided to try it. I really like that we are getting a few more boutique style eateries in downtown Timmins. So I asked the pleasant lady for a cup of tea, telling her I like the plain orange pekoe tea. She had a shelf without about 30 big jars holding all sorts of different flavours of tea. Some of them smelled quite different. Not necessarily bad, but certainly not something I would drink.

So here’s the thing. They were not really blends of tea. They were all sorts of herbs and flavours. But I like the ordinary tea, that comes from the familiar Asian tea leaves. Usually it is known as black tea. Orange Pekoe is a grade of black tea. Everything else is an infusion. Anyway, we found a plain black tea and it tasted very nice. Only after I explained I wanted ordinary black tea like the grandmas in Nova Scotia would drink. I also had a couple of home baked cookies. Very nice. I think I will go back and bring a couple of Red Rose tea bags with me. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Can we make stoner jokes anymore ?

I honestly don’t know what to think about this legalization of marijuana thing. On the one hand it seems innocent enough. People want to enjoy a nice mild mood altering drug; maybe in the same way I enjoy a glass of Scotch every now and then. Whoa, wait a minute. I enjoy Scotch a few times a week! I tell myself I enjoy the taste. And I have proven that a few times to myself by not buying certain brands that taste a bit too wild. I also found two distinct brands to my liking and discovered they were blended – years apart—by the same man.
So what makes this different for the person who might enjoy smoking a joint? Not much I guess, but I fear the problem will go beyond that to the stupid stoner who enjoys his weed only because he can get zonked. That also happens to alcohol drinkers, but I argue that this does not make it right. Alcohol is very strictly controlled. I hope this also happens for cannabis users. So here in Canada we will soon find out whether this is a sorry Liberal decision (redundant use of the word sorry) or whether it is something we can live with.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Happy, happy ...

So far this New Year has been crazy cold, but hey that’s kind of normal in this neck of the woods. I am pleased though that the figure-8 skating rink in Timmins – Sk8te Hollinger -- has such wide public support. Was so impressed yesterday when a bunch of teenagers took over the rink for a few hours of fun. Those kids acted like minus 30 was nothing.
I was out at the park last week and took a couple of nighttime shots, but it was too cold to spend too much time out there. Besides I lost my favourite leather gloves and so my hands get colder more quickly.

New Year’s Eve was pleasant. Claudette and I visited Louise Anne and Fred to enjoy a cheese fondue. I have to admit that in all my 63 years I have never before had a cheese fondue. Wow. It was delicious. Poor Fred had to work day shift at the mine, so he went to bed early. He has to get up at 3:00 a.m. and the drive to the mine is an hour away.

We are TV bingeing again. After watching the Netflix series Scandal, and Suits and The Crown, we begged off TV for a while, unless hockey was on. We have discovered an interesting Netflix series; The Blacklist with James Spader and Megan Boone . Quite entertaining. Check it out.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Quite the year eh?

I think the most dismaying part of the past year has been running into people who say, well Donald Trump is not so bad. Leaves me wondering. There were probably people back in my parents' day who were not worried about Hitler too. When people are complacent or choose to ignore stupidity, then bad things can happen. Oh I am sure I will hear about that comment.
Oh well, that being said, I can say that the past month has been nice in many ways. Claudette and I traveled to Sudbury to spend a couple of days with Jennifer and her family last week. That was relaxing and enjoyable. It was nice to see the boys, to see Scott and to see Denise and Don.  We missed meeting Victoria and her boyfriend who were on their way to Timmins. Likely, we passed by each other on the highway Christmas morning.
While it was great to visit Jenn and Scott, I have to say I still miss their dog Buddy. He was always there to greet me when I arrived in their driveway. More than once this Christmas I glanced out of Jenn's kitchen window expecting to see Buddy running through the snow or patrolling the yard.
Jenn had to work Christmas Day at the hospital, but we were pleased to wait until evening to have our gift exchange. Jennifer's FitBit showed she had done more than 15,000 steps that day! Regardless, I am proud that Jennifer is working to help other cancer patients.
It was nice to see Jenn and family earlier in the month when the boys had a hockey tournament in Timmins. This is the last time Tyler and Nathan will be playing on the same team. Nathan turned 16 in November and Tyler will be 18 in April. But it was nice just the same to see the boys enjoying the game. The team won the gold medal, again, in Timmins. Both boys did well, scoring often. In one game, Tyler scored a hat-trick, getting three goals!

I have been super busy at work as expected. Postmedia has not been the corporate savior many people were hoping for. They closed several newspapers in Southern Ontario in the fall. While we were spared layoffs here in Timmins, they have not hired anyone new to replace people who moved on to other newspapers. The effect is the same. Oh well, we struggle forward.
I think the worst part is that our news work is coming under increased scrutiny from the social media know-it-all keyboard warriors who like to think they know better. When they see a story they "disagree" with they label it fake news. If only they knew how much research goes into fact-checking and other steps to ensure our information is accurate. I have been saving screen captures of their comments to hold them accountable if they try to backpedal. They're just as bad as Donald Trump and his tweets.  2018 will be an election year in Timmins, and I think some of them might try to run for office. God help us. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fashion? I don't think so.

I bought a nice down-filled parka 10 years ago. It keeps me warm. Here’s the thing; I rarely wear it unless the temperature drops below minus-20. You don’t need a parka unless it gets really cold. I know that. I live in Northern Ontario. I travelled in the Arctic, in winter. About 30 years ago, I had another parka. It was also down-filled, made by Woods. It lasted me 17 winters. It was an excellent winter coat.  So now as I look around I see that parkas have become a fashion thing on the streets of Toronto. Are you kidding me? Toronto? I guess that upsets me. Parkas are not a fashion thing. Or they shouldn’t be. It is just a lousy reason to drive up the price, and I predict the quality will suffer. I hear people are already unhappy because parkas use goose feathers and coyote fur. Give me a break. Hopefully this fad passes soon.  

Apple crisp, revised ...

I think everyone in the Gillis clan knows how to make Aunt Sadie's apple crisp. For me, the recipe is part of my DNA I think. So last week I mentioned to Claudette that apple crisp would be a nice dessert for the weekend. We were standing in the grocery store. I picked up several fresh apples and made sure Claudette had all the other supplies at home. But I really didn't. I forgot to ask if she had any rolled oats. Anyway, the time came to make it. I peeled the apples and set them aside to prepare the "crisp". You know, flour, brown sugar, butter ... That's when I noticed I didn't have the rolled oats. Claudette came up with a couple of package of Quaker instant oats. Good, but not enough. That's when I thought that maybe another breakfast cereal would help. Claudette had Special-K. So we "crunched" up half a cup of Special-K. It worked. OMG, the crisp was so perfect. I think that's part of my future recipe from now on.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Windchill of minus 20!

I was more than pleased Saturday morning when at least 200 Timmins people coped with some cold and snowy weather to attend the Remembrance Day event at the local Cenotaph. Some people are suggesting we should hold the event indoors. And there have been times I would agree with them. A local cop who was directing traffic mentioned that it is only half an hour out the year to put up with a bit of discomfort to honour our veterans. Good comment. I also liked seeing folks carry on the tradition of placing their own poppies at the monument, kind like their personal Act of Remembrance.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A little bit of gold ...

I enjoyed myself this week when the folks at Lake Shore Gold (Tahoe Timmins) poured their millionth ounce of gold. I am always amazed at the idea of gold. Here in Timmins, the entire city revolves around it. If you’re not mining it, you’re selling things to keep the mines in operation whether its fuel, shovels, trucks, timbers or tires. There was a time that the mines spent millions of dollars propping up the local economy. Then it became tens of millions of dollars. Now it’s hundreds of millions of dollars … all for a metal that doesn’t rust, doesn’t tarnish and is non-toxic.
Here’s the best part. People always talk about the Klondike Gold Rush. Well, that was indeed a rush, but it is tiny compared to Timmins. Lake Shore Gold  opened its mining operation in Timmins less than 10 years ago, finding gold on the west side of town,  nearly 100 years after the other big mines opened. The geologists keep saying there is lots of gold in Timmins that hasn’t been discovered yet. All they have to do is find it. By the way, the gold bar weighed in at 55 pounds ... $1.2-million.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Protest is okay ...

So I have been thinking about the NFL players protest of going down on one knee during the playing the U.S. national anthem. I am okay with it.  It is really quite a peaceful, and respectful, form of protest. They’re not setting buildings on fire. They’re not blocking streets. They’re not out looting department stores. They’re taking a knee.

A lot of people seem to forget that people have the right to protest in the U.S. and in our own country They people who are protesting seem to be legitimately upset with the way blacks are being treated in the U.S.   So let’s face it, some of the police services in that country are totally out of hand and out of touch with reality.  Kinda wish Martin Luther King was still around. And if other people are upset with a few football players having a protest, hey get used to it. The land of free. The home of the brave. Get used to it. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ron and Matthew's big adventure :)

I was more than pleased this week to have Ronald and his son Matthew drop in to Timmins on their cross Canada trip from B.C. and Alberta to RCAF Trenton. Matt is being posted from the base at Cold Lake to the base at Trenton as his air force career continues. Ron flew out from Comox and met Matt in Saskatchewan to continue the trip.  Claudette was a great host putting on a nice dinner of ribs and chicken while I made sure the fellows enjoyed a bit of beer and whisky.  It was great to re-live some childhood memories and perhaps more amazing, to wonder how we managed to survive some of those childhood adventures.

Friday, September 08, 2017

My knife ...

Few people these days understand the importance of a pocket knife. While on vacation last week, I ran into one of those pseudo-urgent situations where I had a bottle of refreshment and no bottle opener. And it wasn’t a twist-top bottle. I was flummoxed! I always carry my favourite little slim Swiss Army Knife, but for the life of me I could not find it. Maybe some lucky person will eventually find it. The thing is I always like to have a knife not because I want to cut something, but because they’re so useful for other things. Such as opening a bottle of refreshment. 
As it turned out, we enjoyed our refreshments but had to resort to primitive methods to open the bottles. So as part of our holiday travels, there was a search for a new pocket knife, whenever there was a convenient moment. This included Toronto, Niagara On The Lake, Ottawa and even Kanata. On the final day of our travels, we stopped in North Bay at the mall there to see about other things. As I was walking along, Claudette pointed at one of those engraving shops, where you can buy all sorts of things for engraving. I walked in an inquired about their selection of pocket knives. Bingo! I am now the proud owner of a genuine Swiss Army Pioneer.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A grim memory ...

I was on the road today to cover a story in a remote area of Northern Ontario up on the Abitibi River. I came across this bronze monument in tribute to 10 people who died in a plane crash in 1976 at Abitibi Canyon.  It shocked me back to reality. I remember the crash. It was a Labour Day weekend. I was the first reporter at the scene.  The wreckage was still burning. I had never seen dead bodies at a crash scene before. It was grim.

Monday, August 21, 2017

And so it continues :(

I know I have written this before, but I honestly don’t know how long Trump can go on as president, the way he carries on. He has made a mockery over everything presidential and he doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. I think he mentally ill. Not that there is anything wrong with being mentally ill. But people should just know.  His key people are leaving every week. What do they know that we don’t?  Why do I care. I am not American. Well he has the nuclear launch codes and with that other wacko in North Korea I don’t what to think anymore. Thank God for the New York Times, the Washington Post and other responsible media outlets for keeping us informed.

The beginning of this month was fun. Neil came home for a visit and it was nice. It was also a chance to meet Lee Ann, his girlfriend. Two very cool young people. It was great to spend time with them and nice of Neil to get out to see as many cousins and aunts and uncles as he could.  He also got to spend some time with Jenn and her family, which she said she really enjoyed.

So holidays are coming up soon and I think I will head to southern Ontario. I hate the traffic and the air pollution, but I think a couple of days at the Canadian National Exhibition might be fun. I haven’t been down south for a few years, so it will be a change of scenery.

The summer has been good so far, not too hot. Although there were a few days I longed to jump into a cool northern lake. I did that a few times last summer. I must learn to appreciate the North more. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July stuff

Well what a month July has been. We have had some amazingly hot days, but surprisingly cool nights. Claudette has air conditioning at her place, but on a few occasions it has be cool enough overnight you’d want to put the heat on!
I haven't done it yet this summer, but I am craving a hot, hot day where I will be inspired enough to go swimming in a pristine and cold Northern lake. 

It is very possible that the Stars and Thunder event held in Timmins last month will return in 2018. I had a chat with the key promoter Ron Sakamoto and he said he is ready to return. City council has had only brief discussion of on it, but five of the nine members of council have indicated they’re willing to see it return next year.

Winery tour. That’s one of the things I am looking into. There are lots going on in Southern Ontario, but I am told there is also a whisky tour. Stayed tuned.

Summer has also been nice so far because we now have a grocery store in Timmins that sells locally produced ales and beers from around Ontario. I love this stuff. Sleeman's Original Draught and Honey Brown ales have spoiled me. Also, I don't know if my taste buds have changed or what, but I don't seem to fancy "hoppy" ales anymore.  

Neil is coming to Ontario next week! Yup, he is vacationing here in the Liberal east. Yes, this is where our Liberal premier sold out our publicly owned hydro company and now the Liberals are buying a coal fired hydro plant. Southern Ontario folks voted this person in as premier. I wish we could cut Southern Ontario off from the rest of the province and set it adrift in Lake Ontario. LOL

We have tiny little flies in the North called no-see-ums. We have people in the south called no-smart-ums. 

Observation: As I get older, I get crankier. And I don't seem to care! LOL

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy 4th ...

Well happy 4th of July to all the good Americans out there who manage to carry on despite the foibles of their fearless leader. We must respect our American friends and allies as much as possible no matter how crazy their government. That’s all I am going to say for now. I always enjoyed going to the U.S. and meeting ordinary everyday people.
That being said, I have to say Canada Day in Timmins was a blast. We had the wrap up to the eight day concerts and fireworks and it was one of the best things to ever happen in this town. It was great to see everyone in such an upbeat mood for a whole week. Even the Sons of Maxwell were back home to perform... and they gave a shout-out to Glen MacNeil!
I have to admit that Claudette and I were getting a bit tired of going out and partying every night, but we sure had fun. The weather wasn’t perfect, but after awhile, it didn’t seem to matter. When you’re with people and everyone seems to be having a good time, no one cares about the weather.

So I saw Johnny Reid perform for the first time and now I am a big fan. Keith Urban was okay, but Reid stole the show in my opinion. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Great kickoff to Stars and Thunder

Was more than pleased this weekend to take in the opening of the Stars and Thunder event in Timmins which kicked off with a huge St. Jean Baptiste celebration. The fireworks show provided by Team France was outstanding. Last night we saw Sass Jordan and David Wilcox. Fireworks were by Team Italy. Tonight Tom Cochrane and Red Ryder take the main stage. It’s nice when a small town like Timmins steps up and tries something new. Otherwise we’d all be in our rec rooms watching re-runs of Bonanza or hovering over Facebook trying to think of something clever to say. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Too many e-mails.

OMG people are going crazy with e-mails and twitter. So I was feeling proud of myself recently when I brought my work e-mail account down to about 200 in the Inbox. So I got busy on some special projects and ignored the e-mail account for a couple of days.
There are now more than 600 in the Inbox. The really important e-mails from my key sources automatically go to my phone, so I thought I wasn’t missing much. But there’s the thing. I have to give each note a quick look to figure out whether to keep it. Every now and then, there is something really important that comes through. Problem is that everybody and every group out there is sending out e-mails now. If the Liberals put out a news release, the Cons and NDP feel they have to react to it. So they put out their e-mails. And if there is a looming labour dispute, such as the possible LCBO strike in Ontario, you can expect half a dozen e-mails every time somebody squeaks. So everybody has an opinion on everything. And they have to tell everybody. Crazy. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cod chowder

Talking about food, it's interesting to find out what others have NOT tried. Claudette and I talked recently about the importance of eating more fish. But it is so hard to find fish you can trust. For reasons I have written here before, I don't trust fish from China. So we were at the fish counter on the weekend and bought some fresh (Well, as fresh as you can get in Timmins!) Atlantic cod. Picked up some cream, red potatoes, corn on the cob, green onions, celery and more. A few hours later, we were enjoying a very tasty and filling cod chowder along with some homemade biscuits. Claudette had not ever had a chowder before, but she said she liked it!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Amazing Ernest Hemingway stories...

So I saw this online with the Toronto Star, telling about Hemingway's time at The Star. I was going to post just the link, but I decided it was important enough to run the whole story. Credit: The Toronto Star.  

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“I may be going to Russia for the Star,” Ernest Hemingway wrote his mother in a 1922 letter from Paris, “. . . am awaiting orders from them now.”
As it turned out, Hemingway never went to Russia for the Toronto Star for reasons that remain unclear.
But what is clear, in new letters just published or about to be published, is how dependent he was on the Star for money, mobility and access to places and events that he eventually shaped into stories and novels.
In four years of writing for the Star, from 1920 to 1924, in Toronto and in Paris, he travelled extensively — “10,000 miles” in one year, he wrote to his family, some on the Orient Express.
The details are contained in some 6,000 letters, 85 per cent of them never before published, to be issued in the coming decades under an ambitious program called the Hemingway Letters Project.
“Being a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star allowed Hemingway to get out and see contemporary postwar Europe in a way he wouldn’t have had he simply been traveling as a tourist,” says Prof. Sandra Spanier, a Hemingway authority at Penn State University and lead editor of the project.
“And he wrote things up for the Star that he later worked into fiction.”
Scott Donaldson, one of America’s leading literary biographers, says the Star gave Hemingway a chance — and great latitude to choose subjects and style.
“He was very, very lucky to get that kind of freedom,” he says. “Their recognizing his ability to do it and giving him that chance is what made that experience so valuable.”
Hemingway the reporter was competitive from the get-go.
In one letter, pencilled from the Star newsroom in 1920, Hemingway told his parents that he had scooped the competing Globe on an important story. The competition was forced to follow him the next day with a lead editorial.
“Mr. Atkinson who owns the Star complimented me on it,” Hemingway wrote.
In 1922, returning to his base in Paris from a conference in Italy, Hemingway boasted to his mother, “Got back here last night after skimming the cream from Genoa.”
And to his father he scribbled on a postcard of the Italian port, “If you’ve read the Daily Star you know all about this town.”
In 1923 his mother wrote asking where he was heading next.
“I don’t know,” Hemingway responded. “It depends what I hear from the Star.”
The first volume of Hemingway letters, dating from 1907 to 1922, was published by Cambridge University Press last fall. Volume two, from 1923 to 1925, will appear next year.
Originally, the project planned to publish 12 volumes. Now it expects 16, as more letters continue to surface.
With detailed annotations to the letters, the project aims to deepen readers’ understanding of Hemingway’s development as a writer from childhood to his suicide in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961.
The Hemingway who emerges from the early letters is filled with youthful exuberance, thrilled to be traveling through Europe and proud of his journalism.
He kept his Star clippings — neatly trimmed and blemish-free — all his life.
And he sent a stream back to his parents in Chicago, whom he had persuaded to subscribe to the Star.
Hemingway arrived at the paper in January 1920 hoping to freelance. He was an unknown 20-year-old with dreams of becoming a novelist.
His timing was fortuitous. Founder Joe Atkinson was trying to build a world-class paper based on great writing and scoops, with a showcase weekend edition known as the Star Weekly.
The freewheeling Weekly, in particular, demanded colour and human drama.
Hemingway delivered both in spades.
By 22, he was the paper’s European correspondent.
But by 24, following a clash with a senior editor bent on breaking him, he was gone.
He left the paper in anger, going on to become one of the world’s most famous authors and winning a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
But he always carried with him the memory of being a foreign correspondent for the Star. It was the highlight of his journalistic career.
Managing Editor John Bone and Star Weekly Editor J. Herbert Cranston trumpeted his work, playing it big and promoting it with in-house ads touting Hemingway’s achievements and worldliness, sometimes promising readers that their roving correspondent would deliver the news “through Canadian eyes.”
Hemingway had an obvious incentive to travel: it paid more. For stories from Paris Hemingway earned only modest per-word rates. But for out-of-town assignments he made $75 a week plus expenses.
At the time, it was cheap to live in Paris. Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, were paying $20 per month for a small, cold-water flat near the Pantheon and could live on as little as $1 a day.
In one article Hemingway told of how Canadians could live in Paris “very comfortably” on $1,000 a year.
Still, Hemingway wasn’t above double-dealing. On at least two trips he filed regular dispatches to the Hearst newspaper chain, much to his wife’s chagrin, under a secret arrangement that paid him well, though not as well as the Star.
Managing editor Bone caught him at it — but forgave him.
Hemingway would later wax nostalgic about those years in his posthumous memoir, A Moveable Feast.
But while the story of Hemingway’s journey to Toronto begins in 1920, he nearly came earlier — for military training.
Another newly published letter reveals that an 18-year-old Hemingway, desperate to get into World War I, approached Canadian army recruiters in Kansas City in 1917.
American forces had rejected Hemingway because of his poor eyesight.
At the time he was working as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star.
In a letter first published last fall, Hemingway told his sister Marcelline, “I intend to enlist in the Canadian Army soon,” calling the Canadians “the greatest fighters in the world,” and adding, “our troops are not to be mentioned in the same breath.”
In the end, however, the Kansas City Star sponsored a Red Cross Ambulance unit and he set off for Italy. There he suffered serious wounds, was decorated by the Italians and returned to America in January 1919.
While speaking of those experiences later that year to a women’s group in Petoskey, Mich., where his family kept a cottage, he captivated Harriet Connable of Toronto, whose husband, Ralph, ran the Canadian arm of F.W. Woolworth’s department stores.
The Connables needed a companion and mentor for their disabled teenaged son who could stay with him in Toronto while they vacationed in Palm Beach, Fla.
Hemingway would be paid $50 per month, have the run of the Connable mansion at 153 Lyndhurst Ave. — near present-day St. Clair Ave. W. and Bathurst St. — and be able to dedicate time to his writing.
Arriving in Toronto before Connable headed south, Hemingway persuaded Connable to get him an introduction at the Toronto Star.
Connable did, and Hemingway did the rest.
He befriended writer-editor Greg Clark, who introduced him to Star Weekly chief Cranston, and soon Hemingway had four unsigned pieces in the paper, then his first bylined story ever — about getting a free shave at a local barber school.
In seven months at the Kansas City Star, Hemingway had never earned a byline.
In Toronto at the Star Weekly, he started at a half a cent a word, earning $5 for a 1,000-word piece. In time, his rate doubled.
Memorably, he wrote a scathing satire on Mayor Tommy Church mooching for votes at a boxing match at Massey Hall.
“We’re out to get the mayor,” Hemingway wrote to his father, “. . . and I’ve been riding him.”
On winter evenings, Hemingway tried skating on the Connables’ rink and played pickup hockey with a small group of friends that included the Connables’ daughter Dorothy, the chauffeur’s son, college student Ernest Smith and others.
Hemingway befriended writer-editor Greg Clark, pictured above, who introduced him to Star Weekly Editor J. Herbert Cranston. The rest is history. TORONTO STAR
In warm weather, he played tennis and rode the Connables’ horses along Bathurst.
Hemingway found Toronto expensive and complained that “the Doggone Star” paid him only once a month.
But he was having “fun,” he wrote his parents, and getting published.
When trout season opened, Hemingway, who was religious about fishing, thanked the family and set off in mid-May for Petoskey and the streams of northern Michigan.
Still, he continued to file regular pieces to the Weekly, including one on how Canadians were getting rich running liquor from Windsor into prohibition-era Detroit.
After a spell of boring writing for an in-house magazine for a shady Chicago financial institution, he wrote Star managing editor Bone in October 1921, asking to come back.
He was now married and unemployed, and his creative writing was going nowhere. He dreamt of returning to Europe, which he had seen only briefly in WWI.
Bone was keen to have Hemingway back.
So they struck a deal, and by December 1921 Hemingway and Hadley — the model for the immensely popular novel The Paris Wife — set off for France with the promise of bylines in the Star from across Europe.
The Hemingways were immediately smitten by the City of Light.
In a just-published letter, dated Feb. 15, 1922, Hemingway wrote to his mother, “Paris is so very beautiful that it satisfies something in you that is always hungry in America.”
Fifty years later, in a rare set of tape recordings kept today in the Hemingway collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Hadley told a biographer that Hemingway had been her guide.
“He opened up the world,” she recalled. “He was very tender and sweet.”
He was also hard-working. When he wasn’t assigned by the Star, he was weaving the threads of his journalism and his life into prose and poetry in a small room down the hall in their apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine.
And he was ambitious. There was an artistic “happening” in Paris in the 1920s — celebrated in the recent film Midnight in Paris — and Hemingway was determined to be part of it.
Originally, he had planned to go to Italy, where he had been during the war. But Hemingway had met the American writer Sherwood Anderson in Chicago.
Anderson told him that the place for a young writer isn’t Italy right now, it’s Paris,” says Penn State’s Prof. Spanier. “‘That’s where things are happening.’”
While the Star provided him the means to support himself, Spanier says, Anderson provided him letters of introduction.
Within weeks, Hemingway was dining with Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Ezra Pound and James Joyce.
Soon, Pound was shopping Hemingway’s poems.
In the years since, Paris has become part of the Hemingway legend.
So has bullfighting — a Hemingway passion that first saw print in a front-page piece in the Star Weekly.
Hemingway had visited Madrid and Pamplona in the summer of 1923 and participated in the famous running of the bulls. Cranston gave it all the play he could.
“Bullfighting Is Not a Sport — It Is a Tragedy,” the headline read.
“That piece in the Toronto Star was his first working out in print of that material which would show up in his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, in 1926,” says Spanier.
Today that article, and many of the nearly 200 Hemingway wrote for the Star, can be viewed — not touched — in a securely locked room, under constant supervision by a senior archivist, on the fifth floor of the JFK Presidential Library. The clippings are kept under protective plastic.
In the literary world, they are precious documents.
So in early 1923, when Hadley announced she was pregnant and preferred not to give birth in Paris, Hemingway’s return to Toronto was natural.
He had enjoyed his earlier stay there. He was highly regarded at the paper, where he had friends, and could provide his family a steady income.
Assignments from the Star had always “brought in good money,” he wrote his friend Bill Horne. But now he had to provide stability during what he called, “The First Year of the Baby.”
A steady income of $75 a week would help.
But he also confided to Gertrude Stein that he was uneasy about being a father. He was too young, he said, and did not want to leave Paris.
Hemingway decided they would live in Toronto for one year, and he lined up a Paris apartment for their return in October 1924.
The Hemingways arrived in Toronto in September 1923 and put up at the Selby Hotel on Sherbourne St.
What Hemingway did not know was that he was landing into the middle of a vicious intra-office feud between managing editor John Bone and city editor Harry Hindmarsh.
Hemingway would be caught in the crossfire.
As he explained later to a biographer in an unpublished 1952 letter, Hindmarsh “hated Bone and hated me because I was a project of John. R. Bone.”
Although Hindmarsh was technically Bone’s assistant, he had enormous clout: he was owner Joe Atkinson’s son-in-law.
Hadley’s first letter from the Selby Hotel, dated Sept. 14, 1923, was filled with optimism — and news. She told Hemingway’s parents that a “small new Hemingway” was on the way. They were sure it was a boy and due in late October or early November.
“The Star people are so keen about your son,” she wrote reassuringly. Friends at the paper couldn’t do enough. Greg Clark and his wife had arranged for their own doctor to look after her. And Greg and Ernest were heading out fishing on Saturday.
“I think we shall love many things about Toronto,” Hadley wrote.
But she also noted that Hemingway had “rushed” into work and on his very first day, Sept. 10, 1923, was sent to Kingston to cover a sensational prison break.
Hemingway’s next-day account was gripping, fast-paced and filled with compelling detail and colour, a first-class piece of journalism under pressure.
It was splashed across the front page. But Hemingway was denied a byline.
Then, things worsened.
Three weeks later, he was sent to New York to cover the arrival of former British prime minister David Lloyd George. He was reluctant to leave Hadley in their new apartment at 1599 Bathurst. She was, after all, in her last weeks of pregnancy.
Those fears were well-grounded.
As Hemingway was returning to Toronto by train on Oct. 10, 1923, from his New York assignment, Hadley gave birth to their first son, John Hadley Nicanor, at Wellesley Hospital.
“I was fine,” Hadley recalled years later. “And Bumby (John) was quite something. And then Ernest came in, in tears and sobbing because he hadn’t been there.
“That’s the kind of a guy he was . . . frightfully sensitive. It was a misty, misty occasion.”
Then, things got even worse. While in New York, Hemingway had missed a story that Hindmarsh and Atkinson thought important: the deputy mayor of New York had belittled Britain, and the Star’s readership was largely of British stock.
Hindmarsh hauled Hemingway in and dressed him down, and a shouting match erupted during which Hemingway said any work he would do for Hindmarsh would be with “the most utter contempt and hatred.”
He was on shaky ground now, he wrote Ezra Pound.
Soon Hemingway was reassigned to the Star Weekly and began plotting his return to Paris.
He had complained of staid, conservative Toronto from the day he returned.
But the legendary “Hindmarsh treatment,” as Star staffers called it, put him over the top.
Hemingway blamed Hindmarsh for working him relentlessly, for “spiking” (killing) his stories, and most pointedly, for assigning him out of town when his wife was about to give birth.
Now, he was furious at Hindmarsh, the Star, Toronto and Canada as a whole.
The country whose uniform he once wanted to wear was now “the fistulated asshole of the father of seven among Nations,” Hemingway wrote Pound.
“It is a dreadful country,” he wrote Sylvia Beach, friend and owner of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company.
To Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas he wrote, “It was a bad move to come back.”
Hadley recalled later that Hemingway had told her, “If I have to stay with him (Hindmarsh), I’ll go crazy.”
Hadley replied, “Let’s leave.”
Hemingway submitted his resignation, effective Jan. 1, 1924.
They would have to break their six-month lease on the Bathurst St. apartment, for which Hemingway said in a letter to Pound they were paying $125 per month.
In a final, generous gesture, the Hemingways hosted the wedding of fellow Star writer Jimmy Cowan and his bride-to-be, Grace Williams, in the Hemingways’ apartment on Jan. 12, 1924. Hemingway was not only best man but he supplied the liquor from a local bootlegger. A Star announcement whimsically reported that the wedding had been celebrated “very quietly.”
The next day the Hemingways left from Union Station for New York, boarding the Cunard liner Antonia for France on Jan. 19.
There was, however, one more concern. The Antonia would stop at Halifax, and the Hemingways worried that police might board looking for them. They still owed between $250 and $375 in rent.
“We skipped out,” Hadley said later. “The boat did stop at Halifax, but no police came on.”
The Hemingways divorced in 1927.
A year later, John Bone died of a heart attack in the Star newsroom.
Harry Hindmarsh went on to become the most powerful man in Canadian newspapers, elected president of the Toronto Star in 1948.
Years later, Hindmarsh was reported to have said that he had “made a mistake” in the way he had dealt with Hemingway.
But Hemingway never forgave him.
“I would like to propose that Harry Hindmarsh should burn in hell,” he wrote in an unpublished letter in 1952.
The author never set foot in Toronto again.