Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Jay (Fleming) Peterson's Maypole Dancing Artwork, 1940

Updated: Friday, May 11, 2012, 6:30 a.m.  See end of this post for some additional information provided by the University of Rochester Dept. of Rare Books & Special Collections.

As mentioned in my Jay Peterson (1920-1976) post, May 4, 2012, I have a scrapbook that contains my mother's artwork (from about 1936 to 1954).  One of my favourite items in this scrapbook is her drawing of people dancing around a maypole.

The Wiktionary definition for maypole is a "pole, garlanded with streamers held by people who dance around it to celebrate May Day" (April 12, 2012).  May Day is the "first day of May, a spring festival, a celebration of the beginning of spring" (Wiktionary, May 1, 2012).  The Wikipedia "Maypole" article says it "has been a recorded practice in many parts of Europe throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods, although [it] became less popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Today the tradition is still observed in some parts of Europe and amongst European communities in North America" (May 9, 2012).

The Book of Festivals (1937), by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, says that May Day celebrations, including use of the maypole, were "transplanted to the United States from British soil."  On May 1, 1628, the Puritans at Ma-re Mount held a May Day celebration, replete with dancers romping hand in hand around a pole made from an 80-foot "goodly pine."  Spicer also says that in the Americas, the custom of "merrymaking and gladness" on this day "has persisted through the years."  Perhaps this was true at the time Spicer wrote the book, but I suspect the practice is not as prevalent today.

My mother attended the University of Rochester from 1937 to 1941, culminating in her getting her B.A. in Art History from there (degree conferred June 16, 1941).  Here is a photo of her degree certificate, showing her maiden name: Jessie Royce Fleming (Royce was one of her first names).

And here is a scan of the card that she drew.  As you can see, she included the words "Stephen Foster Hall, Munro Hall, May 18, 1940."  I do not know why the event took place on May 18, instead of the customary May 1.  I did some research on the University of Rochester website; there is a Stephen Foster Hall and a Munro Hall at this institution, so I am almost positive she did the artwork while enrolled there.

Inside the card, as you can see in this scan, are numbers from one to 12, with the names of couples added in to nine of them.  I am wondering if the card was given to the dancers so they would know where they were supposed to be in the circle around the maypole.

The gold-coloured tassel that is wrapped around the spine is still in remarkably good shape.  There is an opening in the part of the tassel that extends above the spine, which is big enough for a hand to get through.  Did the dancers wear the cards around their wrists?

That is my mother on the right in the photo, creating some kind of snow sculpture.  Do not know who the woman on the left is.

This morning I sent an email, with the images in this post attached, to the University of Rochester Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation.  I asked if they could provide any additional information about maypole dancing at their institution in 1940, and am waiting to hear back.  The department receives many inquiries so it may take a while to get a response.  If I learn anything more, I will post it here.

Updated, Friday, May 11, 2012, 6:30 a.m.: Yesterday I got an email from Eileen L. Fay, Archives Assistant, Dept. of Rare Books & Special Collections, University of Rochester.  She sent me a link to a book written by Prof. Arthur J. May (1899-1968), entitled History of the University of Rochester (1968).  Chapter 16 of this book, entitled "Men and Women," provides a history of women's activities, e.g., they were first enrolled in 1900.  May Day Festivals, including a "May pole dance," became part of the women's "extracurriculum" starting in 1908.  Link to Chapter 16 is below:

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?Page=2322

Thanks to Eileen L. Fay for providing this additional information.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Charles T. Peterson (1913-2007)

[This post originally appeared on my MobileMe site, April 3, 2011.  It has been updated with some new information.]

Dr. Charles T. Peterson: "Ahead of His Time"

My cousin Susan McClocklin's partner, Jim McClocklin, gave my father's eulogy in April 2007.  Jim described my father as "ahead of his time--particularly concerning health food, fluoridation [he was anti-fluoride], the environment, and dentistry."

Bruce Mines Beginnings; Hard Rock Miner

Charles Peterson (right) hugs brother Harold, ca. 1913
This photo of my father was taken around 1913 at the family home in Bruce Mines, Ontario.  Charles (right) is hugging his brother Harold.  My father never let me forget he worked seven and a half years underground as a hard rock miner in Timmins and Elliot Lake, Ontario during the Depression.  It was his hard rock mining pay that helped finance his way through the University of Toronto Dental School.




Periodontist

After he finished dental school, Charles took further training, and became a periodontist (gum specialist).

Charles and Leith Peterson, Duncan, 1995
He served in the Canadian Army Dental Corps during World War Two, spending part of that time in Germany.  Around 1949, he started his periodontal practice in London, Ontario.  He had many articles published regarding his views on periodontia.  His fonds resides at the Archives of Ontario.

Around 1977, he retired and moved to Duncan, B.C., where he remained until he moved back East in 1997.  This photo of my father and me was taken when I visited him at Christmas in Duncan, 1995.  Dad is wearing a genuine Cowichan sweater.  The sweaters are crafted by aboriginals from the Duncan area.


"Tree Man"

"Living memorials" to Jay and Charles Peterson
Charles was known as the "tree man" to many people because of his love for planting trees.  The Peterson family lived at 283 Dufferin Avenue in London, Ontario from about 1950 to 1974.  My father's periodontist office was next door at 281 Dufferin.  In 1970, my father organized a rally against the trees being cut down in front of the family home, which was across from the city hall.  There was considerable media attention.  In the end, the trees were cut down because they were deemed to be too old.  The family home and my father's office were torn down around 1977, and in their place is the Metropolitan United Church parking lot.  Around the same time, two linden trees were planted in a semicircle of grass in front of the parking lot.  Leith Peterson took a photo of these trees on August 26, 2007 (above right).  A family friend considers these trees to be "living memorials" to Jay and Charles Peterson, and gives a boy scout salute whenever he goes by.


Peterson Family Tree

Peterson family tree documents, ca. 1970s

Throughout his life, Charles Peterson always stressed the importance of knowing who you are and where you come from.  In the 1970s, he produced two documents regarding the family tree: a booklet and a chart.  The chart traces the family history from 1756 to 1973.






"You Can't Stop Me Now"

Charles Peterson sitting on grave of great-grandfather, 1993
Eighty-year old Charles smokes a cigar, while he sits on the grave of his great-grandfather, Charles Lewis Peterson (1795-1876).  He did this because his great-grandfather disapproved of smoking.  Photo taken by Leith Peterson at the Primitive Methodist Cemetery, Hawkesville, Ontario, 1993.

Jay Peterson (1920-1976)

[This post was originally published on my MobileMe site, April 3, 2011.  It has been updated with a bit of new information.]

[September 27, 2016: The "Peter Perch" section was updated with the names of the two individuals who donated two different baby seats to Museum London.]

Art Historian, Artist, Teacher, Writer, Occupational Therapist and Cultural Activist

Jay Peterson, ca. 1935-1940

My mother, Jay Peterson, was born and raised in Owen Sound, Ontario.  Around the time she was 12, her family moved to Lewiston, N.Y., and later Niagara Falls, N.Y.  In 1941, she received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Rochester.  She returned to Canada and received her B.A. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto in 1943.  In 1943, she also married my father, Dr. Charles T. Peterson.  The couple initially lived in Regina and Saskatoon, while my father served with the Canadian Army Dental Corps.  In 1947, the couple moved to London, Ontario where my three younger brothers and I were born and raised.


Jay Peterson, ca. late 1960s

"Peter Perch" 

My brother, Don Peterson, sits in the baby seat, ca. 1958
Jay was active with a number of London Ontario organizations, including the Service League of London.  She invented a baby chair that was used as a fundraiser for the League from about 1958 to 1967.  It was initially called the "Babi-Sitter," then the "Portable Baby Seat," but most people who remember the chair refer to it as the "Peter Perch."  The chair was sent to scores of places in Canada, Switzerland, Italy, France, England, Bermuda and the United States.

An article about Jay and the baby seat appeared in Chatelaine magazine in 1959 and was also featured on CFPL-TV in 1958.

In June 2005, Museum London formally accepted a chair donated by Ed (Ted) Bartram.  This chair was included with the Invention to Innovation exhibition at the Museum that ran from February to August 2007.

In June 2016, Museum London formally accepted a second chair donated by Catherine McEwen.  This additional chair has slightly different features from the one donated in 2005.


Nativity Scene Artwork 

Jay Peterson's nativity scene artwork, ca. 1953
Jay Peterson created this artwork around 1953.  The reason I know this is because it is included in a scrapbook of her artwork that I have.  The scrapbook originally belonged to my maternal grandparents, and my grandfather marked in dates on most of the pages.  I believe this nativity scene was originally to be used for dinner place settings, because the names of my grandfather and two great-uncles were on the bottoms of the three that I have.  I cropped out the name on one of them, added the artwork to a template, and got the resulting work copied and printed as Christmas cards for 2010.  Have had many compliments from the recipients of these cards.


"Moo Cow"

"Moo Cow," August 2008.  Photo by Susan Wallace.
Jay was friends with playwright/poet James Reaney (1926-2008) and his wife poet Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney (1925-2012).  In an article published by Theatrum in 1990, James Reaney referred to my mother as a "cultural pillar of the town."  When Jay was on the board of the Western Fair in 1965, she commissioned marionette plays by Reaney and London artist Greg Curnoe (1936-1992).  In 1965, Jay designed the marionette "Moo Cow" for Reaney's Apple Butter play, which was produced at the Western Fair that same year.  "Moo Cow," along with most of the other marionettes from the production, is now housed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  For more information about Reaney and Jay's Apple Butter collaboration, go to:
www.jamesreaney.com/gallery/puppets


Life Celebrated by Poem

Poet Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012) penned the poem that is on my mother's grave at the Leith [Ontario] United Church cemetery.  The inscription is a fluid rendering of Thibaudeau's original version, which was a circle (shape) poem.  The initials "MGB" stand for Marydel (nee Garretson) Balderston who did the calligraphy for the inscription.  In 2005, Balderston passed away in her 91st year.

Inscription:

Jay Peterson's grave.  Photo taken by Leith Peterson, ca. June 2006.
Jessie R. (Jay) Fleming Peterson
             (1920-1976)

We remember mainly her
hands skillful and reaching 
out to us all;
She put our thoughts into
actions into expressions that
go onward, she saw so clearly
the picture that was
intended and painted us all
into it somewhere
stroke by loving stroke.

                               ~ Colleen
       MGB


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Hollywood Documentary to Showcase Pirate Radio Deejay Tom Lodge (1936-2012)

Tom Lodge, April 16, 1936 - March 25, 2012 

[Photos of Tom Lodge courtesy of Tom Maguire.  Photo of Chris Peterson courtesy of my brother Stu Peterson.]

As mentioned in my March 19, 2012 (updated March 25, 2012) post, entitled My Mother Jay Peterson (1920-1976), My Brother Chris Peterson (1954-2009), Tom Lodge and "The Ship That Rocked the World," my mother and brother Chris got to know former Radio Caroline head program director/top deejay Tom Lodge after he moved to St. Thomas, Ontario in 1968.

Tom Lodge on the Radio Caroline deck, ca. 1964-1967

After founding and then directing the Creative Electronics (later the Music Industry Arts) course at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario for nine years, Lodge traveled to India to pursue his interest in Zen.  He was a disciple of a series of Zen Masters, and spent many years meditating.  On January 10, 1999, he experienced what mystics call the "Enlightenment," and, as a result, his name was changed to "Umi," which is Japanese for "the Sea."  A community, or Sangha, formed around him called Stillpoint.  At Stillpoint (located near Santa Cruz, California), he gave daily Satsangs, and played the clarinet and lap steel guitar.

Tom Lodge, ca. 2009

Unfortunately, around May 2011, Lodge was diagnosed with colon cancer.  He decided to get treatment from the naturopathic Budwig Center in Spain.  The treatments helped, but were expensive.  Jacqui Tracy (Willow), a graduate of Lodge's Fanshawe program, (1978-1979), visited him in California in May 2011, and decided to help him raise money for his treatment.

On October 16, 2011, two fundraisers were held--one in Austria (organized by Lodge's son Lionel), and the other at the London (Ontario) Music Club.  The latter event was arranged by Lodge's and Chris's friend, Tom Maguire, as well as Tracy.  Maguire read out a statement from Lodge at the London benefit, in which Lodge said (in part):
The question I keep asking myself is how can I totally express my gratitude.  First of all when I first came to this area in 1968 with the evening deejay job on radio CHLO and I had such a warm welcome from so many people when all that I was doing was playing the music I loved.
Then the enthusiastic support I got from London's high school students when Chris Peterson's mother, Jay, invited me to put together the Creative Arts Festival at the Western Fair in 1970.
It really means a lot to me that Lodge remembered my mother's and Chris's support for him.

The London Music Club benefit was an open mic event that included performances by Lodge's sons, Tom Jr. and Brodie.  I attended and enjoyed it very much.  Dennis Siren captured the fundraiser on video; it includes Maguire reading Lodge's statement.  You can find the video on youtube.com under Lodge Fundraiser 2011.mov.

Despite the cloud of cancer hanging over his life, Lodge's silver lining arrived in early October 2011, when he "signed on" with Speakeasy Films out of Hollywood.  This film company is working on a feature-length film, called The Ship That Rocked (the same title as the 2003 and 2010 editions of Lodge's book).  Speakeasy bought the rights to Lodge's book.  The producers are planning to include many of the original tunes by the musicians who first got their airtime on Radio Caroline.  They also interviewed Lodge at his home in California, ca. March 10-12, 2012.  Then the film crew were off to England to "interview the rock stars, the deejays and all those who were involved with Radio Caroline."  The doc is supposed to be released in May 2012.

Lodge announced on his blog, on March 12, 2012, that he had "less than a month to live."  On March 25, 2012, he passed away peacefully, with his wife Delphi at his side.  I was very sad when I learned he would not be around to see his documentary on the big screen.  But he left this world, knowing that Cashbox Magazine (which published an interview with him on October 9, 2009, and which also published a tribute to him as its cover story on March 23, 2012), plans to give out "The Tom Lodge Legacy Award" for the first time in 2013.  This annual award will include a monetary component.  Tom Lodge's family will be helping to choose the first recipient of this award.

Chris did not live to see the increased recognition that has come Lodge's way in the past year or so.  He died on September 25, 2009, and the 2010 edition of Lodge's book, which is dedicated to Chris, was published almost a year later.  But Lodge's and Chris's legacies will be celebrated together in the main hallway of "D" Block at Fanshawe College.  There are plans afoot to put up a "Tom Lodge Studio" name-placard above one of the three Music Industry Arts recording studios.  There are also plans to put a poster, that Chris prepared of Lodge's history in broadcasting, in a glass-front display case in close proximity to that studio.

James Reaney, a London Free Press entertainment columnist, has written about Lodge and Chris quite a few times over the years, either in one of his columns or on his blog.  In his January 21, 2011 column that showcased the 2010 release of The Ship That Rocked, Reaney noted that this edition was dedicated to Chris, and that Chris "believed in Lodge and his story for decades, and worked on the project tirelessly.  Late in his life, he was pulling in support for Lodge's ship of rock.  Chris knew it was a terrific read and would eventually get out there.  Chris was right."

Chris Peterson in motion, ca. 1970s

And Lodge was right in recognizing that his life had been an adventure.  In his March 9, 2012 blog post, he said:
Dear Friends, Some of you know I have cancer.  This is an amazing adventure.  I have done so much in this life.  Cowboy, arctic ice fisherman, author, gold miner, broadcaster, radio correspondent, deejay, festival organizer, drop in center manager, teaching the exploration between creativity and technology, professor, seeker, real estate salesman, pilot, author again and Zen master.  I am full, I am content.  What a gift.  Thank you.

Tom Lodge, ca. 1964-1967

Graham, Sandy.  "Tom Lodge: the Man Who Rocked the World."  March 23, 2012.  Cashbox Magazine.  <http://cashboxcanada.ca/>

Hahn, Chris and Kathy.  "Tom Lodge and Radio Caroline."  October 9, 2009.  Cashbox Magazine.  <http://cashboxcanada.ca/tom-lodge-and-radio-caroline>.

Lodge, Tom.  "Stillpoint Zen Community-Blog."  March 9 and 12, 2012.  <http://www.umiji.org/blog>.

____.   The Ship That Rocked the World: How Radio Caroline Defied the Establishment, Launched the British Invasion, and Made the Planet Safe for Rock and Roll.  Savage: Bartleby, 2010.

____.  The Ship That Rocked the World: the Radio Caroline Story.  Santa Cruz: Umi Foundation, 2003.

Peterson, Stu.  "Christopher Peterson (1954-2009)."  <http://christopherpeterson.wikispaces.com>.

Reaney, James.  "Peggy McKillop & Tom Lodge, RIP."  March 27, 2012.  James' Brand New Blog.  <http://blogs.canoe.ca/brandnewblog/general/peggy-mckillop-tom-lodge-rip/>  

____.  "Pirate DJ rode the waves."  January 21, 2012.  London Free Press.  <http://www.lfpress.com/entertainment/columnists/james_reaney/2011/01/20/16959986.html>

____.  "Pirate radio DJ 'leaves wake.'"  March 27, 2012.  London Free Press.  <http://www.lfpress.com/entertainment/2012/03/26/19550621.html>

Monday, 19 March 2012

My Mother, Jay Peterson (1920-1976), My Brother Chris Peterson (1954-2009), Tom Lodge and "The Ship That Rocked the World"

Updated: March 25, 2012, 5:15 p.m.

[Most of this post originally appeared on my MobileMe site; it was published April 3, 2011.  However, I have added some photos that were not in the original post, along with some updated information.  The photo of my brother Chris Peterson and the photo of Tom Lodge interviewing the Beatles are courtesy of Tom Maguire.  The photo of Chris Peterson, Stu Peterson and Jamie James is courtesy of my brother Stu Peterson.]

From 1964 to 1967, a British subject named Tom Lodge was head program director/top deejay on Radio Caroline, which was a ship.  The ship was anchored in international waters off the coast of England, licensed by Panama.  Since it was in international waters, it did not require a government license.  Nevertheless, the British government said the vessel was a pirate radio station.  Lodge and the other deejays played music that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) did not consider suitable.  However, millions of enthusiastic listeners tuned in day after day and night after night.  The careers of the Stones, Animals, Kinks, Who, Yardbirds and Jimi Hendrix, among others, were launched on this ship.  Lodge's March 25, 1966 interview with the Beatles has won its place in the annals of rock and roll history.  But, in 1967, the government tried to shut down Radio Caroline.  It shut down all the other pirate radio stations, but failed with Radio Caroline.  Despite periodic interruptions from governments and weather, Radio Caroline is still going today.

Tom Lodge interviewing the Beatles, 1966

Lodge moved to Canada in 1968, and became a CHLO Radio deejay in St. Thomas, Ontario.  Around 1970, London, Ontario artist Greg Curnoe (1936-1992), introduced Lodge to my mother, Jay Peterson.  My mother, in turn, introduced Lodge to a number of people.  These ever-growing connections led to Lodge's teaching the Creative Electronics course (which later evolved into Music Industry Arts (MIA) course) at Fanshawe College, from 1970 to 1979.

Jay Peterson, ca. 1960s

Tom Lodge's entry in Peterson family guest book, May 11, 1970

Lodge also met the rest of my family, and became good friends with my brother, composer and musician Chris Peterson.  Chris and Jamie James were the first to record in the Creative Electronics studio.

Chris Peterson, Stu Peterson and Jamie James jam in the backroom of the Peterson family home, ca. 1970s

Chris felt the Radio Caroline story should reach as wide an audience as possible, and he spent a great deal of the rest of his life helping to bring that about.  He wrote the foreword to Lodge's 2003 book The Ship That Rocked the World: the Radio Caroline Story.  In 2010, Lodge released an expanded edition of his book, entitled The Ship That Rocked the World: How Radio Caroline Defied the Establishment, Launched the British Invasion, and Made the Planet Safe for Rock and Roll (ISBN 978-0-910155-82-3).  This 2010 edition is dedicated to Chris.  The book's foreword is by Steven Van Zandt, and the back cover carries endorsements by Pete Townshend, Ray Davies, Paul McCartney and Spencer Davis.  For further information about the book, go to:  www.shipthatrocked.com.

Chris Peterson, ca. early 1970s

I plan to do another post which will contain information about some exciting new developments, e.g., there is a documentary being produced out of Hollywood about Lodge and Radio Caroline.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Canadian Copyright Law's Fair Dealing Provisions and www.leithpeterson.ca

Updated April 9, 2015

I own the copyright to all my posts and any use of my writing is only in terms of Canada's fair dealing provisions, as stated in the Canadian Copyright Act.  These provisions include:

• "research or private study" (Section 29)
• "criticism or review" (Section 29.1)
• "news reporting" (Section 29.2)

Any other use could constitute infringement.  For further information on fair dealing, please refer to the Canadian Copyright Act on the Government of Canada site.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Having the Name Leith Has Been a Mixed Blessing

(This originally appeared on the blog portion of my MobileMe site, in a post dated August 12, 2011.)

Leaf, Leif, Kleith, Lieth and Leitch--these are just a few of the numerous misspellings I get for my first name Leith.  And don't get me started on the mispronunciations!  As you can probably imagine, I spend a fair bit of my time explaining to people where my name comes from and what it means.  As a result, I have amassed quite a bit of information, some of which I will share in this post.

Leith has several meanings as a Gaelic noun, including "share," as in "leith mar leith," or "share and share alike."  Leith is also the name of the port of Edinburgh, Scotland.  As a proper noun, Leith has been transformed in Gaelic to mean the "moist place" or "river."  This latter definition is appropriate, as the mouth of the Leith River empties into the Firth of Forth at the Leith port in Scotland.

But I am named after a place on the other side of the Atlantic--a village called Leith--which is about six kilometres east of Owen Sound, Ontario.  When I was growing up, I spent many summers at the Peterson cottage at Leith.

Although I have many happy memories of my time at Leith, Ontario, having the name Leith has definitely been a mixed blessing.  From the Valentine's cards in public school addressed to "Leaf," to the too-oft ribbing about my Viking connection (Leif Ericson), there appears to no end to the ways people can distort my name.  As no one seems to have any trouble getting Keith right, I've tried explaining my name is like Keith only with an L.  Then I get Kleith.

Leith is usually found in the boys' and not the girls' section of the what-to-name-the baby books.  I constantly get Mr. Leith. . .and I'm a Ms.  (But in recent years, a number of people have told me about other females named Leith, so maybe more baby books will start adding it to the girls' section).

I know the "i before e except after c" jingle has been thoroughly engrained into most people's minds because I have great difficulty convincing some people that my name is an exception to the rule.  In fact, a few insist on spelling my name Lieth despite my protestations.

But there is nothing that will get me more peeved than those who persist in spelling my name Leitch.  Now tell me, how many parents would give their daughter the name Leitch?  I've lost track of the number of times I've spelled out my name very slowly, and what do people put down?  You guessed it.

Problems with my name usually happen in waves.  Things will go along swimmingly for a few months, and then there will be a rash of "Leithal" errors.  About nine years ago, I got so fed up that I decided to publicly air my grievances.  The result was my two published articles in the London Free Press (2003) and the Owen Sound Sun Times (2004).  Each article dealt with a different facet of the situation.

This public venting seemed to help reduce the number of blunders.  In fact, I thought the worst of it was behind me, but, alas, I was wrong.  Yet another wave soon beset me.  One night, after a horrendous week of them, I dreamed that I was face to face with God and Satan in the afterlife.  God insisted on spelling my name Lieth, and Satan contended my name was actually Lethe.  (Lethe (pronounced Lee'thee) is the mythological name for one of the rivers that flows through Hades; drinking of its waters makes people forget their time on earth.)

I was so angry with God and Satan for distorting my name that I informed them I was going to create a whole new society in the afterlife.  At that point, the alarm went off and I woke up.  I raced to my desk and wrote down the details.  The result was "Leithal Knocks," a 10 minute staged reading performed at the Grand Theatre's Playwrights Cabaret in 2005.

I hope this exposure to my Leith lore will inspire an increase in the correct spelling of my name.  And to others who have unusual names and suffer like I do, let's encourage those around us to ask, when they don't how to say or spell our names.  Even though this approach does not always work for me, it does eliminate a few bloopers.

My Central English Teacher, Louise Wyatt, and "Write, Write, Write"

(This originally appeared on the blog portion of my MobileMe site, in a post dated April 7, 2011.)

Louise Wyatt was my Central Secondary School English teacher in Grade 12.  I remember her as being a formidable force, a person not to be crossed, but also an inspiration.  She made English classes interesting in a way I did not think possible.  Her enthusiastic recitations of John Donne's poems still play on in my memory.  An even stronger recollection is when she stood up in class, swung her arms back and forth, and said "r-h-y-t-h-m" over and over again.  From that day forward, I never had any trouble remembering how to spell that word.

But some important advice from Miss Wyatt never resurfaced until decades later.  During Christmas 1997, I visited my father, who then lived in Duncan, B.C.  A friend of my father's, writer Frank Hird-Rutter (1928-2003), paid a visit to my father, and chatted with both him and me.  Hird-Rutter encouraged me to read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (1992) because he was convinced I should write more.  In fact, he was so convinced I should do this that he loaned me his copy of Cameron's book.

On the way back on the plane, I read it and concluded he was right.  Then I started reading Carole Shields's novel, The Stone Diaries (1993).  Shields acknowledged the help of a number of people, including Miss Wyatt.  That's when my former teacher's advice resurfaced.

Miss Wyatt retired in 1969.  Shortly before I graduated from Grade 13 in June 1970, she came into my home room and placed a book in my hand.  It was called Write, Write, Write.  She said she was giving me this book as a graduation gift because she thought I should get into my writing seriously.   I thanked her for the book and told her I thought that was a good idea, but I wanted to wait until I had more experience, like when I was in my 40s.  Talk about serendipity!

On April 9, 1998, I phoned Miss Wyatt, who was by then in a nursing home.  I told her the good news that I was getting into my writing.  I also told her that I had lived for 12 and a half years in Northern Ontario and the Northwest Territories.  She said she thought living in the North was "a wonderful way to learn the truth."  I asked her if I could visit her, but she said she wanted me to remember her as she was back at Central.  I was glad I was able to have that conversation with her before she passed away, at 92, in 2000.

In 2003, Central celebrated its 125th anniversary.  I did not attend, but I read London Free Press columnist James Reaney's January 26, 2003 column about when he was at Central (the same time as me, actually, although we were in different classes).  He mentioned "the mighty Miss Wyatt" who had "touched the lives" of former premier John Robarts, radio personality Max Ferguson and environmentalist David Suzuki.

In fact, Suzuki included Miss Wyatt in a 1998 CBC-TV Life and Times documentary about himself.  Her influence on him is also recorded in a 2004 article.  In both Suzuki's and my case, we had lost touch with Miss Wyatt for decades, but we eventually rediscovered her influence on us.  Unfortunately, in 1996, I gave away the Write, Write, Write book.  But the following year, I embarked on a journey that Miss Wyatt and I had both foretold in that Central home room many years before.

"The Politics of Suffering" - Fascinating Read

(An earlier version of this first appeared on the blog portion of my MobileMe site, in a post dated February 21, 2011.  I have updated the original with additional information.)

For more than 40 years, Peter Sutton worked as an anthropologist and linguist with the Australian Aborigines.  He grew more and more disillusioned with the situation there, and penned the book, The Politics of Suffering:  Indigenous Australia and the End of the liberal consensus (2009).  He argues that certain traditional approaches to such matters as violence and sorcery have had a detrimental effect--particularly when combined with welfare dependence and substance abuse. 

Sutton's book proved to be so much in demand that a second edition was issued in 2011, with an additional foreword, plus an afterword by him.  Both the first and second editions of the book include a foreword by Aborigine scholar, Marcia Langton. who agrees with many of Sutton's concerns.  I see numerous parallels between what he says and my experiences with the aboriginal situation here in Canada.

My "Clans and Tribes in the 21st Century," "Violence Against Aboriginal Women" and "Part Two of Two - A Delectable Lie, A Tree and a Way Forward:  Multiculturalism and Aboriginal Policy Compared" posts at my other website, http://www.counterpoise.ca, make reference to Sutton's views.