Monthly Archives: October 2015

How’s This For Irony?

Went to our brand new community mail box for the first time the other day to pick up mail, and got home on time to hear the Canada Post moguls were cancelling the program. Shivering in their shoes no doubt in fear of the Trudeau 2 regime.

CanadaPostCommunityMailboxes4Not that it does us any good. Had our mail box keys shown up a few days later, we’d have stayed safely among the home delivery survivors.

Makes one think that government works these days much like a tortuously slow game of ping pong. One bunch gets in and dopes out a new set of supposedly enlightened programs; then a new bunch takes over, wipes out all the old gang’s handiwork, and draws up yet another new agenda. Public service agencies like the Post Office only strive to keep on the right side of the swinging door.

All we can say, perhaps, is don’t all lose sight of the ball!

And that ball is your everyday lowly taxpayer.

Book Launch Highlights – 2

As chronicled earlier, last week’s celebration of Gower Street, my affectionate new memoir about  growing up in St. John’s seven to nine decades ago, proved hectic but highly enjoyable. A productive book launch at Chapters and book signing sessions at area book stores brought in many dear and familiar faces along with new fans of my particular brand of nostalgia.gower_street_launch_12PW

Further pleasant reminiscences were in store at Memorial University’s School of Music, scene of MUN President Gary Kachanoski’s third annual Golden Celebration. Marking the 50th anniversary of graduation of Memorial’s Class of 1965, the event also recognized alumni counting more than half a century since graduation. My departure year was 65 years ago, 1950! Friendly greetings were exchanged with, among others, retired judge Bob Wells; former city councillor Dave Barrett, close Long Pond Road neighbour to my parents and sister Mary after their 1966 sale of our Gower Street home; Sonia May, widow of former MUN President Art May; Graham Skanes, former dealer in Newfoundland books; Dr. Ches Blackwood and his daughter Penny, MUN’s Alumni Director. 12140639_10153601805465482_A later opportunity for a rollicking recollection of fun times at Memorial came when I dropped in to see Newfoundland savoury king John Carter at his 160-year old home, scene of a memorable New Year’s Eve party recounted in Gower Street.

Getting out to Sunday Mass at Pius X Church brought dividends beyond the spiritual as cousin Pat Wadden ushered us into a Jamaica festival underway in the parish hall, meeting the parish priest, Father Earl Smith; Danny Dumaresque, an enthusiast for building an undersea tunnel linking Newfoundland and Labrador; and dear friends Fintan and Ann Aylward. A retired judge, Fintan was recovering from injuries sustained in a bad fall.

12108994_10153601805440482_Staying for a change at a downtown hotel on the marvellously named Hill o’ Chips, we lucked in with a splendid harbour view living up to the hotel’s name, a comfy bed, lots of good food and friendly service, and only one bothersome complaint. Friends phoning in were told this person Nix Wadden was not registered, but not mentioning there was a registrant named Ronald Wadden. Hazards of having a dual identity! Something about following privacy rules, a hotel clerk later contended. Yes, perhaps that, but more so a woeful lack of common sense.

Visits with my sister Helen at Kenny’s Pond Retirement Residence and delightful gatherings with Donna-Lee French at the storied Crow’s Nest, dinners with Garry, Margo, Jerry and Nick Cranford, Barbara Fitzgerald, and a Carter family fest hosted by Alvin and Anne Hayes topped off a most rewarding and enjoyable St. John’s week.gower_street_launch_17PW12079311_10153601805720482_

I never knew that launching a book could be so much fun! Book Launch Highlights – 2 gower_street_launch_19PW

Book Launch Highlights – 1

What a week that was!

Just settling back home in Ottawa after a bit of a whirlwind experience launching a new book at my former home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It’s a new book about old times – the 1930s, 40s and early 50s when growing up in North America’s oldest and most unique city.

The book launch for Gower Street: A Memoirgower_street_launch_1Pc2W proved a cozy affair at Chapter’s store, warmed by the presence of treasured family and friends and in the guiding hands of Flanker Press professionals Garry and Margo Cranford and colleagues.

Special thanks go to family supporters – my ever charming wife Madeline, my dear sister, Helen Carter (turning 91 Nov. 1st),20151014_191901PcW Bob, Jill and Christine Carter, cousins Barbara Fitzgerald, Pat and Kay Wadden, Joan Hann and Emma Brown, nieces Marie Wadden and Donna-Lee French and husband David. Old friends on hand included Gerry and Ruth Bowering, Fanny Brennan, Dr. Jim Seviour and former St. Bon’s, and Daily News, hockey star Cyril Power, while best friend Tom Howley’s nephew and niece, John and Mary Ann Howley, and in-laws from his wife Mary’s family, showed up to buy signed copies for family members. Other attendees included Larry Mahoney, who is writing a history of Art in Newfoundland which touches on my late sister Mary Brown’s artistic work before she moved to Ontario in the 1970s.

And surprising but welcome attendees included gower_street_launch_10PcWJack Harris, MP for St. John’s East (until, regrettably, a few days later!) and present 34 Gower Street owner Sandra Fowler, with her daughter. A goodly number of Gower Street books were duly signed and sold following Garry’s kind introduction and the author’s few words of thanks and a brief reading. Photos by Christine Carter, Marie Wadden and Flanker’s Peter Hanes did much to enhance the experience.

Following days featured brisk book signings, ably supported by Margo and Garry Cranford, at the city’s gargantuan Costco, as well as Coles at the Avalon and Village Malls and an experimental showing at Pipers in Kelligrews, scene of many juvenile adventures recounted in the pages of Gower Street. gower_street_launch_9PcWSome heart warming encounters leavened book signing events – one man dropping off a 1950s New York Newfoundland Weekly clipping which listed among Newfoundland Club members its treasurer, Ronald G. Wadden, my father’s youngest brother. Gerry “Turk” Murphy reported on a warmly endorsed mention that was made of my new book at a well attended St. Bon’s alumni reunion on the previous night. Lorraine Kenney Maher, whose smiling face greeted me on my first VOCM reporting job in 1953, dropped by after hearing me – where else? – on VOCM.  Old pal Alan Caule came by for a chat, and school mate Jack Kearsey with brother-in-law Edgar Porter drove out to Kelligrews for hearty recollections of old times.20151014_191809PowerW 12107274_10153601805385482_

Friendly media interviews enlivened my days in telephone calls with VOCM’s morning man Brian O’Connell and Backtalk host Pete Soucy, and a studio interview with CBC Radio Weekend’s Angela Antle. Television exposure beckoned with a wide ranging NTV studio interview with Jim Furlong for his well known Recollections program on Newfoundland history.


More to come shortly in Book Launch Highlights – 2

Newfoundland’s Book Bonanza

As an Ontario resident who only gets to Newfoundland on occasional visits, I have for a long time been amazed at the volume, variety and overall quality of Newfoundland books to be found. By that I mean books written and/or published by residents, or former residents, of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Call me old-fashioned but “Newfoundland” to me includes Labrador.)

Bookstores in Newfoundland always display, quite prominently, large numbers of local books, and it would appear they sell a goodly number of them as well. I would imagine that the on-line trade shows a similar trend. The fact that there are quite a number of Newfoundland publishers pumping out a steady stream of books each year bears out this view, and may it always be so!

In Ottawa where I live, locally produced books are more likely to be seen at writers’ group meetings and occasional book fairs, but one has to hunt around to spot them in commercial bookstores. Not that the area does not produce writing talent, but best sellers, national and international, dominate the market with little room left for home grown fare. All too many of those that are produced are of the self-published variety, obliging writers to struggle endlessly to achieve readers’ attention, and actual purchase.

2015-catalogue-page-16WCounting myself extremely lucky to be among Flanker Press’s array of published authors this year, I welcome their constant focus on facilitating the telling of stories that reflect the thoroughly unique culture of Newfoundland’s present, past and, hopefully, its future. This year’s Christmas catalogue displaying the impressive range of current publications aptly illustrates this theme.

Further evidence of the relative well-being of book publishing in Newfoundland comes from a knowledgeable source, Carolyn Guy, Executive Director of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association:

“There are two parts of the country where regional publishing is alive and well – BC and the Atlantic. We are the two parts of Canada where the consumers can be counted upon to support local writers and local books. I was speaking with my counterpart in Ontario earlier this week and when I mentioned something about literary heritage she laughed – she said she wouldn’t be able to use that line while lobbying there because no one would care, but I use it here all the time and most people get it and respond. ”

“… booksellers in Ontario don’t promote a new book by an Ontario author to the same extent that we get excited about a new author from our region and that is heightened in that author’s home province whether that is Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.” Indeed, she remarked, many of this region’s biggest name authors have fought with being classified elsewhere in Canada as regional writers – especially when they were new authors.2015-catalogue-page-8W

So let’s keep it up!


Rants Can Work!

Ranting and roaring about perceived ills in our society may or may not do some good, so it is rather nice to find out that sometimes it works!

Case in point ( a moderate rant uttered in this blog early this year about charities which waste untold dollars on sending gifts of one kind or another to charity donors. In my house, we’ve adopted a policy of cutting off donations to those organizations who persist in this lamentable practice.MS-mailerP1050651PW Yet another unwelcome mailer from the otherwise admirable Multiple Sclerosis Society, offering a shiny nickel as inducement to return a generous donation, touched off this long simmering venting outburst.

Another of the worst dunning culprits, sadly enough, was the Canadian Cancer Society, which I had been supporting for many years. I had written several times to the Society complaining about the deluge of solicitation mailers, only to be totally ignored. Giving it one more try, I was at last pleasantly surprised on receiving a meaningful acknowledgement in an e-mail exchange last March. Jennifer Lee on behalf of CCC’s Donor Relations unit, accepted my complaint with the assurance that she had updated the organization’s records “to show that you no longer wish to receive further solicitations from the Canadian Cancer Society.” Guess this worked as, six months later, Cancer Society solicitations no longer darken my mail box. I am so relieved that I might even support them again.

Going a step further, Ms. Lee suggested that I contact the Canadian Marketing Association to inform them of my request. As she noted, “the CMA offers a Do Not Contact service that enables consumers to register a name and address in order to eliminate future direct mail solicitations sent by member organizations. The Association’s phone number is 416-391-2362, or you can visit their website at

Do-Not-Contact001PWSure enough, I contacted the Canadian Marketing Association, dealt positively with administrative assistant Hilary Reid, and registered for the Do Not Contact service. So far the process appears to have been effective in halting the flow of unwanted postal pestilence. A few organizations to which I have made donations in recent years have been bothersome but I am about to warn them against multiple solicitations or I will cut them off too.

So there may be hope for us all!

Memories of Max Keeping (2)


0004891[1]It happened in Bewley’s Café in Ireland one summer’s day in 1979. My wife and I had stopped in to sample “the finest cup of coffee in Dublin,” as touted in our faithful Arthur Frommer tourist guide, “Ireland on $15 a Day.” (Yes, those were the days!)

Savouring our flavoursome brew and cream-filled pastries, we suddenly looked up to see two familiar faces last encountered in a favourite Ottawa watering hole – Max Keeping accompanied by Eileen McGann. And they were just as surprised to see us. We had met quite often as fellow enthusiasts of Irish music, usually at Molly McGuire’s, the boisterous Rideau Street pub famous for foot stomping celebration of celtic airs and ballads.

Elaine, whose talent agency was a prime mover in running that popular venue, had a yearelaines001W before opened her own pub-restaurant, aptly known as “Elaine‘s,” on Bank Street south at Sunnyside. We were there among her many invited guests at its official opening, with Max Keeping of CJOH-TV as the M.C. A Dublin group, South Country, and Fiddler’s Elbow from Londonderry, were the featured performers. A native of Low, Quebec, Elaine some years later revamped the Bank Street showplace under a new name, Erin’s Restaurant and Dining Lounge. (In later years, she moved to Vancouver, changed her name to Catholine Butler, and got involved in The Celtic Connection, a newspaper promoting Celtic arts and music.)

Chancing upon each other in that rather exotic Dublin eatery somehow stuck in Max’s memory because, almost each time he and I came across each other in subsequent years, he would always start off saying “Remember that time we met in Dublin…” Guess it was just part of his constant interest in people.

A special occasion bringing us together took place in 1983 in a venue I frequented in downtown Ottawa, the National Press Club of Canada. Max was not a member but I asked him to take part in a Newfoundland Night some NPC friends and I were organizing as a fund raiser, not for charity but for the club! He cheerfully accepted, and agreed to respond to a toast to the news media.

387[1]That was a sumptuous affair, with 150 guests, featuring prime Newfoundland fish and seafood dishes expertly served by Press Club staff and outstanding entertainment by talented musicians from the island and a celebrated roster of invited speakers. The provincial government of Newfoundland, the Newfoundland Fish Trades Association and the federal Fisheries and Oceans Department contributed valuable support. Fishery firms donated seafood supplies, wine and beer contributions came from Newfoundland sources. DFO seafood consultant Cathy O’Brien came from St. John’s to advise on preparing Newfoundland dishes. Eastern Provincial Airways through then owner Harry Steele provided passage for the musical group, Barking Kettle.

Surprisingly perhaps, seasoned broadcaster and master of ceremonies though he was, Max Keeping yielded the spotlight role to CBC’s Harry Brown, invited from Toronto to MC this event. 544864_10150966311411913_1176175877_n[1]Harry Brown2Leading off the presentations, Harry regaled his audience with a lengthy but hilarious repertoire of jokes and stories drawn from his Newfoundland experiences. Rising when his turn came in response to MP Roger Simmons’ toast to the media, but still thinking about Harry’s performance, Max leaned over to me and whispered wryly “How do I follow an act like that?” His speech was lively as well, but he knew when to keep it short. Earlier, Senator Bill Doody, a school mate of mine, exhibited samples of his dry wit in toasting the province of Newfoundland, to which provincial cabinet minister Len Simms aptly responded.

Max and I met a few times in later years, and he generously arranged a late evening TV interview about my first book recollecting my media career. While our pathways seldom crossed, I marvelled along with all Ottawans at his prodigious contributions to community welfare. I am very glad to have known him.

Memories of Max (1)


Max Keeping

Max Keeping

Although we had known each other for years and were both expatriate Newfoundlanders, Max Keeping and I did not cross paths very often in Ottawa. Yet I always felt in some ways close to him because of our shared background and occasional mutual contacts.
For one thing, I like to think that, if I had one small claim to fame as a onetime newsman, it was the fact that Max Keeping succeeded me as de facto sports editor of the St. John’s Telegram.
This happened early in 1955 when I got a call from Steve Herder, then managing editor of the paper his family owned, asking me to cover sports, especially hockey, during that busy winter season. I had a full time job writing and editing newscasts carried on VOCM Radio in St. John’s. So this would be a part time affair, keeping track of sports, but especially hockey in a somewhat sports mad capital city. The reason he asked was because the former sports editor had suddenly quit, and they had no one on staff to take on the job.
Hockey was especially important because that was the year when city and inter-city competitive hockey leagues began their very first season in the newly built St. John’s Memorial Stadium. Funded largely by public donation and dedicated as a Memorial to world war dead, the modernly equipped stadium boasted something entirely new for St. John’s hockey players and fans, a regulation sized artificial ice surface. City hockey had survived in cramped natural ice conditions at the St. Bon’s Forum ever since fire destroyed the capital’s Arena in 1941. My four months on that exciting sports beat was a lot of fun.
Max Keeping came on the scene as a 14 year old reporting on high school sports for the Telegram but moving swiftly onto covering city wide sports activities. Displaying from the start that keenness of spirit and facility at reporting that marked his entire career, he was hired full time and, by May of that year, was doing so much that my part time services were no longer required. Within two years he became sports editor. By 1961, he moved on to VOCM doing sports, news and music, and headed off to Halifax two years later. His spectacular career as newscaster and community fundraiser in Ottawa began in 1965.
A year or so after my move to Ottawa in 1966, I got in touch with Max, then gaining prominence as a newsman with CFRA Radio, to invite him to be a judge for a “beauty” competition, choosing the proud lady to serve as Miss Fisheries. More of a popularity contest than one of mere beauty, it was an annual social event in the Department of Fisheries of Canada, where I was an Information Officer. Never loath to admire comely ladies, Max kindly accepted and got a quirky news item out of it as a bonus. Greatly to our embarrassment, and mine especially as head of the competition committee, the proud banner displayed to honour winner Donna Elford read “Miss Fihseries.” Max got a great kick out of it, and duly reported the gaffe in his next newscast. And I learned the hard way to swallow the public relations world’s contention that there’s no such thing as bad publicity!

Who’s Who Back When

Gower Street email invitation

Editors at Flanker Press have made much of the number of names that appear in the manuscript of my book, Gower Street, soon to be given its public launch in St. John’s, NL. As they put it “…the story… is a veritable who’s who of Newfoundland in the years leading up to and immediately following Confederation.”

Not so sure about that, but there are plenty of them in a 12 page Index inserted at the end of the book. It also touches on place names and organizations and the like, but there do appear lots of Newfoundland family names ranging all the way from Abbott to Woodfine. None of this crossed my mind in writing the thing, but I guess it helps current readers who may relate, genealogically or otherwise, to the persons mentioned.

It used to be drilled into young reporters’ heads to work in as many names as possible when writing a story, just as long you spelled them right. One example cited in the book was the popular Mudpuppy gossip column carried in Memorial University’s student newspaper, the Muse, which tossed in as many student names as possible in covering social events and supposed romantic goings-on.

Just as a random sampling, readers may see: Andrews, Armstrong, Aylward, Basha, Bastow , Browne, Buckingham, Coates, Doyle, Fowler, Kearsey, Ledrew, Lewis, Moore, Munn, O’Brien, Puddester, Sparkes, Tilley, Tucker and even a few Waddens.

May be some there you know!

Copies of Gower Street will appear shortly on bookstore shelves, and the official book launch takes place at 7 p.m. October 14th at Chapters, 70 Kenmount Road in St. John’s. Everyone is welcome.

For more information go to: