"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Saturday 27 June 2020


I told a story. Had to resist a number of tangents. Edited it and re-edited and finally stopped. I asked my grand-daughter to do a final edit and it was finished. The product of many days work. I am typing with one finger with the ipad on my arm. I have a keyboard and could be using it but it takes new co-ordination. I’m inclined to resist.

After the final edit of the post, I thought I would add a last sentence a single word appeared with two s’s instead of one. I tapped the word to remove one “s”. The whole blog turned blue. I tapped again to remove the redundant “s”. The whole post vanished. It’s happened before. But Stephanie has managed to retrieve it. Not this time. It has vanished forever. 

I once heard Mordecai Rischler say in an interview, once he had finished working a story, he never read it again. The obsession is obviously such, it will not let you go. You keep re-writing improvements. So, you have to cut yourself off. So, now I have to start all over and re-write the story. 

I was only weeks a Councillor. It was my first big battle. The town owned fourteen acres of land abutting the railroad, north of Wellington off Industry Street. It had been acquired by non-payment of taxes; a process that takes no less than three years. Provincial policy directs municipalities to dispose of properties redundant to their needs. Being a landlord is not a municipal role. 

So, the property was for sale but had not been advertised in a competition to obtain the best price.

Somehow a party, in the person of Dodie Hershkovitz, approached a councillor with a proposal. She had half a dozen small industries ready to locate in Aurora if she could buy the Petlavaney property. Eager for new tax revenue and employment, council were ready to sell. They’d done it before. When the arena burned down, they advertised the site to whoever would establish the best retail business. Sold it for a pittance. That would be sixty years ago. Several remediations of the site have been accomplished. The creek crosses Yonge Street at that point. Still it has never been developed. 

I did not agree with the proposal to sell the Petlavaney property. There were no guarantees the town’s interests would be protected. In an extraordinary move, councillors were invited to speak to the town solicitor, Tom Macpherson, on the phone during a meeting to be assured the town would in fact be protected. I declined the invitation.

Councillor Illingworth was my main protagonist in the debate. He muttered darkly about my socialist thinking. My support of the NDP was no secret. Bob Buchanan, the Banner editor, also an NDP supporter, took no editorial position. Buchanan took a year to familiarize himself with Aurora politics before using his influence. He was extremely helpful in how to conduct myself in debate. He was a veteran journalist in municipal politics and thoroughly conversant with rules and practices. 

The Town made an agreement of sale to Ms Hershkovitz of $35,000. They advertised a contract for a road and services that cost $35,000. On the day the contract was awarded, Hershkovitz sold the property for $75,000. It was sold to the owner/operator of the school bus service. It would be used for parked buses. No jobs would ensue and tax revenue would be minimum. It was not met with approval. It never happened, the land would remain idle.

Years passed. Elections happened, Dick Illingworth was the Mayor. I was out of office that term. A decision had to be made to re-locate the town works yard. It was situated on Wellington Street. It accommodated two rusty old Qaunset huts, a pile of dirty sand collected from the streets in the spring clean up. Vehicles in various stages of deterioration. Scrap metal collected by the work force and sold to provide Town employees’ children with a Christmas party. 

Town vehicles were used until no longer reliable. No capital levy funds were available to replace them whether or not they need to be replaced. If the need was dire, we borrowed from the water reserve. In short, the work yard was the biggest blight in town. It had to be re-located.

Guess the new location of the new Town of Aurora works yard....right...Scanlon Court, the former Petlavaney property disposed of by the town for effectively no advantage whatsoever. 

I was Mayor when the new works yard was built and presided over the opening. I never inquired how much the town paid for the site, I didn't have the stomach, and nothing could be gained. 

But I did have the personal satisfaction of knowing I was right and the advantage of that was to bolster confidence in my own judgement.

The second writing of this story is shorter and less elaborate. It may be less interesting but has no less clarity. I shall ask my trusty editor, Stephanie to edit once more and publish it without letting me at it again.

Wednesday 17 June 2020


Being defeated from political office is possibly the most unimaginably painful experience...until you’ve been through it a few times. Then you take nothing for granted and it only hurts for as long as you let it. But, it’s a unique experience. I’ve studied losers. They seldom repeat the exercise. Sometimes they leave town and go as far away as possible. The humiliation is too great to bear.

One Aurora incumbent, Earl Stewart went to Australia for six months, sold his house in Aurora and went to live in Barrie. It’s not the same if you’re a first-time candidate. You can’t lose something you never had. When you’ve served a term and did the best you could, then it’s tough.

I came to think of losing as an end to a chapter and a new one beginning. I quite looked forward to discovering what lay ahead. Somewhere along the way, I picked up an impression of life being like a jig-saw puzzle scattered in front of me on a card table with a pair of invisible hands hovering above my head waiting to shift the next piece into place. I stopped believing in coincidence. I started believing in me.

It wasn’t my plan but I think letters to editors and other scribbles were a large part of my success and longevity in politics. My willingness to share my views were also. At one point I wondered if I’d rather be the story teller than the story. I never planned to be a politician. I was a candidate three times before being elected. Afterwards, the Banner editor indicated letters would no longer be welcome. He felt it gave an unfair advantage over other councillors. I didn’t argue though I didn’t see how it was an advantage when anyone had access but I had no option. Things evolved. In my bid for re-election, I heard two incumbents were campaigning against me in my own neighbourhood. Both were candidates for the County Council seats of Reeve and Deputy Reeve.

I decided, in my exuberance, if they were my opposition, I would compete against them for the Reeve’s office. I won....with more votes than the two of them combined. I was Aurora’s last Reeve in the last York County Council. I ran for Office of Mayor in the next election and lost. I really wanted to be a member of the first Regional Council.

During the interval, between terms, the Battle of Arnheim was commemorated in Canada. A disastrous paratroop drop caused the loss of thousands of young men in Holland not long before war ended. German mothers asked if they could be part of the commemoration. The Canadian mothers said no.

I did not agree and said so...in writing....to the Banner editor. My brother had been killed not long before the war ended. I claimed the right to speak for all the young sons, brothers and sweethearts whose lives were so wantonly sacrificed.

I received a call from Newmarket Era editor. I had not said my brother was killed. He asked and I acknowledged. We chatted for a while. Then I asked if he would be interested in a weekly column from Aurora. The two newspapers were separately owned at the time and competition was real and ferocious. Both editors were previously colleagues active in the Toronto area before being appointed editors to the two small locals.

While still in office, I was challenged once by an officer of Queen’s York Rangers militia. His wife was active in the company of cadets. We were making our way across the town park to the Armouries. They asked why I no longer wrote letters to the editor since being elected. Said straight out; “they must have served their purpose”. It wasn’t true but my attempt to explain sounded hollow even as I made it. I later realized the exchange was not intended as friendly.

When I asked the Newmarket editor if he would be interested in a weekly column, it never occurred to me until this minute, something like it might have been the purpose of his call. He said he would be interested. We should talk.

I took the conversation back to the editor of The Banner. He was concerned. As I thought he might be. I reminded him he had cut me off from writing letters to the editor. I told him of the exchange with the QY Ranger officer. I said I needed to protect my interest. My interest was a weekly column in The Banner. The editor was in a corner.

Dick Illingworth was a popular Mayor. Buchanan was his best supporter. He knew a weekly column from moi might not be to the Mayor’s absolute advantage. He resolved his problem by convincing Richard he should write a Mayor’s weekly column. So he did. He discovered he had a facility and continued as a contributor to the Banner and then the Auroran almost until he died. The day before, from his hospital bed, he discussed getting his weekly Bricks and Bouquets list in on time for the next edition. He was in his nineties.

So that’s the story of how I came to learn to write a weekly column. It could not be about politics and I had to learn on the job because quite frankly, I had no idea.

So that became the next paragraph in the book I was living.

Sunday 14 June 2020


I’ve been a prodigious reader for as long as I remember. Reading was the best teacher I found. I learned other things too; like a professional author writes a single story and all the rest being but variations on a theme.

Initially, I found Letters to the Editor were a satisfying outlet for strong opinions on anything and everything. I submitted to all 3 Toronto newspapers, The Telegram, Star, and Globe and Mail and published often enough to convince me writing had a place in my life.

My reading became selective. If the point of the story was not made in the first page, if it didn’t catch my interest immediately, it wasn’t likely to do so. Some successful novels were just a bunch of research strung together with a cast of unlikely characters. Many of them became movies.

Once, when I was nine, I wrote an essay about a movie I’d seen during the summer. The assignment was an essay about a vacation. We never went on vacation. A family picnic or a day at Largs was the closest we got. Sister Eugenius could hardly hide her disdain. The movie was The Four Feathers and I ended my essay, as taught, with a line from a poem.

“For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever” from a Mountain Brook. I was nine years old for Goodness Sake.

My choice was not appropriate, she sniffed. I was already feeling self-conscious about not being able to afford a family vacation. I was not pleased with the negative review.

Later in life, last thing at night, after the lights were out and I was in bed, at ten minutes to eleven, I listened to a Book at Bedtime on BBC radio. A reader read for ten minutes from a successful novel. That was before television and I thought it was better than television. I could imagine it better than television could produce it.

Later still, I watched a program on Arts and Entertainment, an hour long interview of successful writers responding to questions from university students, about their daily writing routine

I knew I had a facility. I’d been doing it a long time; Letters mostly. For family members in the beginning. Except for reading, nothing gave me greater satisfaction than writing. Had there been further guidance or encouragement and without WW2, my path might have been charted along different lines.

Huge tomes, like Michener and Leon Uris were favourites. Then I discovered the deeper the tome, the more pages were filled with minute descriptive details. If I turned over several at a time, the tale continued without skipping a beat. Some books kept me reading all night, to creep into bed before daylight, so no-one would know I hadn’t slept. Then I’d be sorry it was finished and wished there was more.

After buying a home in Aurora, the Banner Editor called to ask why I didn’t write letters to the local newspaper. I didn’t need to be asked twice. More water flowed under the bridge and more years of life experience, I did some news reporting. I learned the value of brevity and that a news item is not like a school composition or essay. It has to fit into a space left over from advertising which is the real business of newspapers.

Over a period of eleven years, I wrote a weekly column for two different newspapers, acquired a few more skills and discovered humour in writing. Then, after more years, along came social media. Now, I write to my heart’s content. But most of what I write has a narrow interest. I’ve written a few tales of my childhood and been asked for more. But my childhood was difficult. I’m the last survivor of my family. I can’t write fiction, and I don’t want to delve too deeply. “Don’t go where the guilt lies” advises comedian George Carlin.

I suspect much written by professional authors as fiction, is reality with real characters given fictional aliases. Students are advised to write about what they know.

Mordecai Reischler is successful. Many of his books have become movies. His stories are peopled with characters from life. He describes them with accurate, cruel detail. So much so, that relatives, friends and other associates recognize themselves in his stories and hate him for doing it. It’s a terrible temptation and he obviously doesn’t try to overcome. He’s remorseless.

It’s taken a long time to acknowledge I can’t write fiction. I can only write reality. For a while, I thought maybe the short story might be my genre. I bought a couple of anthologies of award-winning short stories to see what I might learn. But they’ve failed to catch my interest. Since I started this post, I’ve compelled myself to read a couple of dozen from a Canadian anthology compiled by Jane Urquhart.

They are short because they have no beginning or end. Almost all are written by librarians and teachers and journalists. Judging by the vocabulary, some seem to be written to impress other librarians and teachers and journalists of the author’s erudition. Maybe judges of the competitions are from the same sector.

I like words. I hear melody in phrases and sentences. But I don’t hear any lilt in the short stories I’ve read so far. If it were not for this post, I would have put the book aside without finishing a single one. They are dull, they are dreary and they end without ever catching my interest. If it’s the reality of the authors life, it’s a dull, uninteresting, pedantic existence.

So my search continues. In the meantime, I write a blog, I comment on Facebook, I get an argument going wherever I can and probably infuriate a few people along the way.

I believe I may have concluded my search. I may have been writing my life story since I bought the computer. In bits and pieces, scattered here and there...in comments and replies and memories stirred by post cards and photos of the ancient pre-medieval town where I was born and lived my childhood, my mother’s childhood and glimpses, through my mother’s eyes, of my grandmothers and great grandmothers lives.

I have been in the attic room where my great-grandfather spent his last years until the age of a hundred, more than a hundred years ago, reading letters and assisting with government forms and discussing political headlines with members of the Irish Catholic community who had not had the benefit of learning to read and write. My mother’s last memory was of him sitting up in bed, with a long white beard wearing a red stocking cap providing the service that was his responsibility.