Category: Stories

Citizen Boudreau

Citizen Boudreau 1

Loran Tweedie and I attended the biweekly meeting of Richmond County Council last night, where we met Lorenzo Boudreau, ago 90. It was Loran’s and my first time attending a Richmond Council meeting. It was Boudreau’s 854th. He’s been coming since 1984.

“To the best of my memory, I haven’t missed a single meeting,” he said.

His memory appears to be good. When Loran introduced himself, Lorenzo asked if he was Jack Tweedie’s son.

“Grandson,” said Loran.

“On January 29, 1953, Jack was working at Sydney Auto Parts.”

“He did work at Sydney Auto Parts,” said Loran, “but why do you remember that particular day?”

“Because on January 29, 1953, your grandfather loaned me $1,200.”

That’s about $10,400 in today’s dollars. Lorenzo used it to open an Irving gas station.



Video: A day in the life of Gottigen Street

Gottingen Street, Halifax, NS.

This is part of an interesting project by masters students at King’s Journalism School. It includes 21 Moments that Shaped Gottigen Street, a slide show featuring crucial moments in the city’s 250-year history (many of them new to me), and a thoughtful piece on the cultural tensions arising as the street undergoes gentrification (about which, more here).

The ground keeps shifting under journalism and journalists. This puts J-schools are under pressure to equip students with skills for an industry whose future no one can foresee with clarity—or unbridled optimism. This Gottigen Street project strikes me as a good response to that challenge.

H/T: Jane KansasShawn K. Thompson shot and edited the video; Rich Aucoin produced the soundtrack.


Which obit makes the news?

From a September 9 Facebook post by David Rodenhiser, marquee columnist for the Halifax Daily News until its demise in 2008, now toiling for Nova Scotia Power’s communications group.

In the Obituaries section of the Chronicle-Herald there are notices for no fewer than six veterans of the Second World War:

  • Joseph “Bunny” McLaughlin, army, who brought home a war bride in 1946
  • Jaleel “John” Laba, army, who later owned and operated Laba’s Discount on Gottingen Street for many years
  • Stanley Cairns, merchant mariner
  • George Haliburton, army
  • Adele Healy, RCAF secretary
  • Walter Shaw, army, wounded in Germany in 1945

There’s also an obituary for Cecile d’Entremont, who passed away at the age of 100, survived by a host of descendants including a great-great-great grandchild.

Meanwhile, leading all newscasts: a Halifax house cat has died of cancer.

In retrospect, one of the first steps in the long downward trek of newspapering came when papers began charging for obituaries, which had until the 1980s, been regarded as news stories. This prefigured, and can’t be blamed on, disruptions caused by the internet. It reflected a voracious appetite for revenue by newspaper chain owners like Roy Thompson and Conrad Black, who held little regard for the medium’s traditional service role.

John "Jeleel" Laba 1924 - 2013

John “Jeleel” Laba
1924 – 2013

Monetizing obits had the side effect of eliminating news coverage of the deaths of community members who were less than famous — people who had been injured in long ago wars, or run long forgotten working class retail establishments, or found their brides in war-torn countries far away. It made newspapers less useful, and usefulness turned out to be a commodity newspapers would ignore at their peril.

The late Esther Dubinsky of Sydney, co-proprietor with husband Newman of Whitney Pier’s legendary Sydney Ship Supply, was outraged when the Thompson-owned Cape Breton Post began charging for obits. The independently owned Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star held out for several years before falling in line with the industry trend.  Until it did, Esther instructed her children that her obit in the Post should read:

Esther Dubinsky died yesterday. For details, see the Chronicle-Herald.


A wordless man with much to say

For most of 2012, Mary MacDougall was acting community leader at l’Arche Cape Breton. That year, her birthday fell on a Tuesday, the night the whole community gathers to share supper, news, and conversation. That’s when Mary received an unexpected birthday gift from a man who has never spoken a word in his life.

[Video link]

Then there was the time L’Arche Core Member David Gunn decided to ham it up at a gathering where EMT’s were present, inspiring a bigger reaction than he bargained for.

[Video link]

You can subscribe to l’Arche Cape Breton’s YouTube channel, and follow l’Arche Cape Breton on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also make a tax-deductible donation to l’Arche Cape Breton (a registered charity) by sending a cheque payable to The Ark Community Initiatives Society, 3 l’Arche Lane, Whycocomagh NS  B0E-3M0.

If you’re near Sydney Saturday night…

Consider taking in the annual l’Arche Cape Breton Springfest at the World Trade and Convention Center, Membertou. It’s an evening of stories and songs  by the l’Arche troupe, together with delicious desserts and an auction featuring arts and crafts by l’Arche folks, and goods donated by l’Arche supporters.

L’Arche Cape Breton will share their gift of music and storytelling, while illustrating their incredible zest for life.

An evening to remember for just $15. Tickets at Wentworth Perk and the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop.

If you aren’t familiar with l’Arche, here’s a wee introduction:

Director and videographer: Naomi Cousins; Producer: Mary MacDougall; Artist: Anil Kumar; Musical score: Pius MacIsaac; Cast: Members of l’Arche Cape Breton.

Just a setting on the washing machine

“To love someone,” wrote Jean Vanier, “is to show them their beauty, their worth, and their importance.” That can be a tall order, but a few Halifax members of the Asperger’s Syndrome Parents’ Empowerment Network give it a good shot in this short video, produced by Halifax filmmakers John Hillis, Michael MacDonald, Caley MacLennan, Kimberlee McTaggert, Andrew Starzomski, and Amy Spurway:

H/T: Valerie Patterson

Antidote to Sunday’s disturbing GIRLS episode

Disturbing but brilliant, I should say. Here, Lena Dunham teams up with fashion designer pal Rachel Antonoff to produce a short “nature documentary” about best friends, starring Dunham’s sister, and narrated by Adam Driver.* [Video link]

[For some reason, the embed code for this video resists resizing, but you can click the ‘view full screen’ icon at the bottom.]

* No money shot warning required.

Want to see him pick your pocket? Want to see it again?

Adam Green has a wonderful profile of Las Vegas pickpocket Apollo Robbins in the current issue. The magazine also produced a companion video:

H/T Silas

Unspeakable longing

Cartoonist Kate Beaton has momentarily lapsed into prose, with a story about the Canso Causeway in a new Alberta-based literary magazine called, fittingly, Eighteen Bridges.

I once watched a travel show where Billy Connolly, the Scottish entertainer, journeyed across Canada. In Halifax, he expressed a distaste for the whooshing tartans, skirling pipes, and other superficial expressions of Scottishness, which he deemed tawdry and inauthentic. It was disheartening, because if he really wanted authenticity, he could have just called me up. I would have recited one of those tragic old Gaelic songs that have been a Cape Breton staple ever since Authentic Scottish People everywhere decided our national emotion would be “unspeakable longing.”

Would you like one where someone dies at war, I would have asked Billy, or one where someone dies at sea?

Please read the whole story, and the story within the story, here. Follow Kate’s doings on her Tumblr feed. And take a moment to read Kate’s only previous Contrarian appearance, one of the best works of art ever created about Cape Breton.