Monthly Archives: October 2016

Gower Street’s Crooked Houses


Always feeling my part of Gower Street in St. John’s, Newfoundland, had something special, it is a thrill to see that sentiment shared in a gloriously original painting by talented Newfoundland artist Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara. Dubbed “Crooked As Sin,” with my old home, number 34, the tilted magenta-hued three storey among them, the painting started in 2014. That is when Keli-Ann did an art fund raiser project with St. Bon’s Elementary School where they created a bright and very textured collage of her drawing of what she called “these delicious houses on Gower Street”. The middle green house was the famous ‘Doyle house’ on CBC’s Republic of Doyle.

Reading her artist notes on the painting, I was tickled by the coincidence that the opening story in my Gower Street book told of my childhood experience breaking windows in that same “Doyle house.” Also, that St. Bon’s was my old school where I went from grade 1 to grade 11 when it was a college. My family lived at 34 Gower Street from 1920 to 1966. Here is a promotional poster on my book, released a year ago this month, and appropriately tilted as if for this occasion.


Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara

Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara

A visual artist and blogger, Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara has built up an impressive repertoire of highly original artwork since returning to her native Newfoundland in 2009.

Check her out also on Facebook as well as Twitter and Instagram.

And catch up on her busy life doings at her aptly named blog:


sandra-2014-capA print of Crooked As Sin came to me as a surprise gift from Sandra Fowler, present owner of 34 Gower Street, who is keenly interested in its history. In sending it, she noted that Keli-Ann “paints a lot of the places and houses (in) downtown (St. John’s) “and the objects are twisted, which is very unique! This one has our house, 34 Gower, in it. And when I saw ‘our,’ I include you and your family, even though your family sold it, it will always be yours, even if only in fond memories!”

Isn’t that something? A very special person, Sandra!



Where the Heck is Heckston

If you have any kind of sweet tooth, you’ll want to know the answer to that one.

Or even if all you crave is good old fashioned home made bread and pastries.

It’s a place we Ottawa-ites go to every once in a while to stock up on some of the tastiest

goodies to be found anywhere in the national capital region.

Just an hour’s drive from home, our specific destination is Sherry’s Kitchen, a sturdily built

roadside store chock full of provisions of all kinds.p1050596pcapw

It stands on the corner of the South Gower Road (county road 22) and county road 20. We get there usually by taking the River Road (county road 19) along the west bank of the Rideau River, and turning onto county road 22 which runs due south all the way to Cardinal on the St. Lawrence River.

Ample stocks of baked goods at Sherry’s range from whole grain breads to brownies. One mouth watering staple – pumpkin seed and cranberry – must be in great demand because supplies seem to have run out almost every time we drop by. My favourite goodies are the multiple varieties of freshly baked pies that thankfully abound on store shelves – all of excellent quality even when stored for weeks in the home freezer.

Finding such a treasure trove on a supposedly remote back road is a special treat for anyone who likes driving well away from the super highways. Try it sometime – travel the side roads through South Gower to Heckston, and share in the pleasures of home baking at its best. Sherry’s also opened a new outlet on highway 31 in Williamsburg – a most convenient site for us because that’s where we play golf at Cedar Glen.

We’re Here to Help

“We’re Canada. And we’re here to help!”

Doesn’t that bring me back? Years ago when I had one of my best jobs ever, I found myself in charge of a string of regional public affairs officers scattered across Canada from St. John’s to Vancouver. It was part of an overall Public Affairs group charged with managing communications activities of Transport Canada (DOT), then an impressively substantial arm of the federal government. Transport at that time ran all of Canada’s major airports, the entire air traffic control system and the Canadian Coast Guard, as well as being involved in such matters as federal port and harbours, road safety programs and transportation of dangerous goods. Many of these responsibilities such as airports and air traffic control were shed in later years.

fort-amherst-wI had joined Transport on a transfer from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, where I had enjoyed immensely most of my 18 year sojourn. Among the many chores I handled at DFO was liaising closely with regions, so I was comfortable moving into a similar role at DOT. One important change was becoming responsible for regional public affairs managers who reported to me as director of operations. At Fisheries, it had been an indirect functional relationship because regional officers – there called Information or Communications Officers – reported to senior regional managers.

One of the first lessons learned in approaching regional relationships was to avoid like the plague any vestige of talking down to these front line operators. Above all, never, ever, tell people: “I’m from Ottawa, and I’m here to help.” Yet many of my contemporaries tended to say just that. A common sense dictum, to be sure, as nothing was more essential than establishing trust and respect between the parties, and this only could happen by listening closely, talking about pros and cons, and mutually deciding what things could be done to fix what needed fixing. I did my best to abide by that policy, and it mostly succeeded. Yearly meetings at regional centres did much to build camaraderie. A 1987 sailing jaunt aboard the schooner Scademia in St. John’s was a big hit.

scademia-wHearing that “here to help” phrase recently from the Prime Minister no less makes me cringe with mixed embarrassment and outrage, as it smacks far too much of arrogance and no little condescension. Maybe it’s just an over reaction but, as the saying goes, beware those who come with smiling eyes bearing gifts before finding out exactly what really needs doing. Postmedia’s John Ivison branded the comment, made in addressing the United Nations, as “veering dangerously close to satirical fodder,” and recalled Ronald Reagan’s remark: “the most dangerous words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Getting along with regional folk, by the way, worked out very well for me, some of them becoming among my best friends. One told me touchingly, years after we had both retired, that he never forgot the fact that ours was the only home in Ottawa to which he was invited in all the years he came to town on business.