Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Weiners and Royal Princes and Water Supply

The Prince of Wales and Mederic Martin 1927

Anthony Weiner was (is?) running for Mayor of New York. "Quit isn't the way we roll," he is quoted in USA Today.

He has nothing on Mederic Martin of Montreal...My mother (the little girl in this story) told this story. Her father was Director of the City of Montreal in the 1920's. The Mayor visited often. One day he came with his mistress and my mom, all of 5 years, asked, "How come you came with a different woman the last time?"

Or maybe it was the other way around. Montreal was a city infamous for its vice in the 1920's. That's what this true tale is all about... that and about WATER and the right to drink clean fresh water.

It is said that Mayor Martin liked to party with the Prince of Wales, David, when he visited the city. That's in this story too.

Milk and Water
 ©2011 Dorothy Nixon

This story is historical-fiction, a fake conversation between two real people, a dialogue that revives past events using the historical record and filters them through a prism of family myth.

In no way does the author intend to disparage the memory or reputations of any of the characters included in the conversation.

Milk and Water: A 20th Century Urban Dialogue.

1927 was Canada’s Jubilee year, the 60th anniversary of Confederation. To celebrate, 2 Royal Princes, David (the future Edward VIII) and George (the future Duke of Kent) took a month long tour of Canada.

Upon their arrival in Montreal at the beginning of August they were feted by the city administration. A public ceremony was held in front of City Hall, with Mayor Mederic Martin decked out in his ceremonial purple robes.

My grandfather, Jules Crépeau, the Director of City Services and his daughter, my Aunt Alice, watched from a perch higher up on the steps of City Hall.

The Royal Princes would remain in Montreal 36 hours, then travel across Canada and return to Montreal at the end of the month for four days of rest and recreation before returning to England.

The setting of this play, Milk and Water, takes advantage of this fact.

In 1927, the City of Montreal was at the peak of its influence, a bustling industrial and transportation centre, even if  some Torontonians disparaged the city claiming that, although happily situated for business, Montreal was corrupt to the core, French and ‘so hopeless’.

In the 1920’s the Americans had Prohibition and reportedly many crime bosses headed up North to control their empires from the island city in the St. Lawrence River.

Montreal had no Prohibition. The sale of alcoholic beverages was controlled by a Provincial Control Board.  Liquor licenses were handed out primarily to taverns but also to restaurants and hotels.

According to the final 1925 report of the Coderre Inquiry into Police Corruption, there were about 1,000 establishments in Montreal serving hard liquor without a license, not speakeasies in the traditional sense, but places still operating outside the law.

Montreal, Quebec, September 2, 1927.

A warm autumn night.

The Mayor of Montreal from his office at City Hall: Allo. Mr. Crépeau. C’est Mayor Martin. Vous êtes rentrer chez vous. Bien.

Jules Crépeau (from his home at 72 Sherbrooke West): Comment peux je vous aider, Monsieur le Mayor.

Mayor: Monsieur Crépeau. I will speak in English as I have a representative of the Royal Prince in my office.

Jules: D’accord. Your Worship. So will I answer in English. What is the problem?

Martin. Problem? No problem. I have a personal favour to ask of you, on behalf of our esteemed Royal guests. All in the strictest confidence, of course.

Jules: Comme toujours. As always

Martin: Do you remember that Westmount bloke with the bottled water company, the one with the bullshit name?

Jules: Thomas  Wells?  What’s bullshit about the name?

Martin: Not that name, the name of his company. Laurentian..ah

Jules: Spring Water.

Martin: Yes, the company that sells water it pumps from under Craig Street. Near our giant sewage collector.  And not from the Laurentian Mountains. So, bull shit.

Jules: Yes, well, I believe I have met him just recently at the Royal Reception.  

Martin: He’s the short older man with the very very tall young wife.

Jules: Yes, the amiable man with the very tall and very thin and very very outspoken young wife who criticized your appearance.

Martin: The same man.

Jules: What about him?

Martin: Well, we need some of his bottled water delivered tonight to a certain dance club in the midtown.

Jules: Why?

Martin: Because the Royal Prince might turn up there later on.

Jules: I understand.

Martin. The thing is, I would like 3 gallons delivered, merely as a precaution of course, but no one is to know. No one except this Mr. Wells – and you.

Jules: So he is to deliver it himself. Alone? The President of this company?

Martin: Yes. Discretion is of the utmost importance.

Jules: I see. But how am to reach him on such short notice.

Martin: I’ve already taken care of it. The thing is, ah, I would like you to meet him at 11.p.m. in front of the Mermaid Cafe.

Jules: 11. p.m? The Mermaid Cafe? But, I just got in, myself.  There was a meeting of the City Improvement League, and you know how those ferocious Presbyterian ladies never let you go home.

Martin : Unfortunate. Do you know the address of the Mermaid?

Jules: How could I not?  It’s got a (clears throat) certain widespread reputation.

Martin: Well, well. You are speaking about the excellent dance music, I presume. But the Prince will not show up until after midnight. He is tied up at some stuffy dinner party at the top of the hill, probably at Ravenscrag.

Jules: May I ask, with all due respect, why can’t His Royal Highness get his own people to bring the water. The Ritz Carleton has hundreds of bottles stored in the basement, I’m sure, what with this latest typhoid scare. The Radnor People of Three Rivers are the Official Suppliers.

Martin: The thing is, ah, this, ah, is not an official kind of outing. The Royal Prince is hoping to slip away from his handlers for a few hours.
 In fact, this is a personal favour he is asking me, as a personal friend.  Don’t worry, I will send over one of our more ambitious young police officers, un grand gaillard, to perform the heavy work.
All you and Mr…ah…Wells, is it? have to do is to stand outside with the water and wait. You don’t even have to go in. The Prince and his party will enter by the side door. Only then do you have the jugs delivered.

Jules: If it’s after 12 a.m., everyone enters by the side door, I imagine.

Martin: Well, be that as it may.  Apparently, there’s a very good Jazz band playing tonight, the Harlem Kings or Kings of Harlem.  The Prince is young. He has a keen interest in modern forms of music.
And you recognize all the city reporters.

Jules: But they recognize me, too, as the person who, just a year ago, announced to the entire Montreal Press Corps the firm new closing hour of midnight for dance clubs.

Martin: Jules. It’s the Royal Prince. Que voulez-vous?

Jules: Yes, of course. I understand.

Martin: You will be pleased to know, he specifically asked for you. His people thought you did a wonderful job organizing the official reception at City Hall a month ago.

Jules: You mean where we invited about 1,000 too many guests and where the Prince kept glancing at his watch and yawning between handshakes. I’m still fielding angry letters from society matrons who never made it into the reception line.

Martin: Well, yes, yes, That’s done then, I can count on you.

Jules: Certainement, Your Worship. (He hangs up the phone.)
Toujours quelque chose.

Little Girl: Papa?

Jules: Tu es encore debout, Marthe? Où est Maman?

Girl: Elle prie dans le salon, avec Florida and Cecile.

Jules: Tu dois prier aussi.

Girl: Je n’aime pas prier. C’est ennuyeux. Peux-tu me raconter une histoire?

Jules: No, Il faut que je sorte.

Girl: Juste une courte. Je pars pour couvent demain, tu sais.

Jules: Ah, Je ne peux pas ma chouette.

Girl: Mais je veux que tu restes.  S’il tu plait.

Jules: Nous avons eu des bons temps à Atlantic City, il y’a deux semaines.

Girl: Tu n’étais presque jamais avec nous autres. Toujours des meetings.

Jules: (He kisses his daughter). Les rendezvous. Bonne nuit, ma petite. Je promets de t’ammener au couvent moi-même demain.

(Slam of door)

Outside a dance hall: Montreal, somewhere South of Ste. Catherine, East of University and West of St. Lawrence Boulevard.

Two men, similar in age and build, both 60 ish, both about 5 foot 8 inches. Both with trim, athletic builds. Both sporting tall bowler hats.

Under his tall bowler one man has thin black hair and a deep receding hairline. Under his tall bowler the other man has a healthy head of curly almost wiry hair that is receding only slightly but greying most noticeably.

Both men are well dressed, in dark blue flannel business suits with white shirts with high-necked collars.  The balding man’s lapels are notched and thin, to match his blue tie. The curly haired man’s lapels are peaked and wide, also to match his red cravat.

The balding man’s outfit is a more conservative cut, the style worn by the Anglo businessmen of his social circle. The curly man’s suit is more à la mode, as they say, although still very appropriate for a man of his age and social stature.

These are men of the Upper Middle Class. The more conservatively dressed man is English Canadian, originally from Ontario.  The more fashionable man is French Canadian, born and bred in Montreal.

Both men live with their bossy wives in three storey townhouses in tony sections of Montreal, the Anglo man on Chesterfield in lower Westmount, the French man on Sherbrooke Street just a little West of St. Lawrence Street or Rue St. Laurent.  

The English man is Tom Wells, a businessman and President of Laurentian Spring Water. The French man is Jules Crépeau, a high-ranking City civil servant, the Director of Municipal Departments.

Crépeau arrives in a taxi. A Black Lasalle. He exits the car quickly without paying.

Wells drives up in a black Bentley that has three giant clear glass bottles in the back and a stack of yellow boxes on the front passenger seat.

Wells, nimbly for his age, emerges from is car. The two men meet and shake hands on the curb in front of The Mermaid Café and Dance Club.

Tom: I brought the bottles myself, as Mayor Martin instructed. But I can’t lift them, you know. Sciatica. Curling injury.

Jules: A constable is to arrive shortly.

The front door of the cafe opens and pours out some chattering patrons, two dozen or so, mostly young men and women; the young women in form-fitting flapper dresses with flying fringes and colourful cloche hats, and young men in shiny high-waisted suits with baggy pant legs.

In the background, a song plays on a Victrola. It is Hello Montreal by Billy Eckstein. A cheerful trio sings with static as accompaniment to the tune of Funiculli, Funiculla:

 Yamo, yamo, I think I want a drink; Yamo, yamo, there’s water in the sink.
 The sink, the sink, the sink, the sink, the sink;
 The good old rusty sink;
 But who the heck wants water when you’re dying for a drink?
 Oh, “We Won’t Get Home Till Morning” Is the best song after all,
 Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
 There’ll be no more Orange Phosphates,
 You can bet your Ingersoll,
 Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.

The front door closes as the last couple straggles out, just as a tall young policeman in dress blues, broad-shouldered and burly, arrives on foot. He crosses the street and walks toward the older men standing in front of the big black Bentley.

Jules walks up to meet the cop a few paces from Tom Wells and whispers a few words.

Jules returns to stand beside Wells. The cop takes up position beside the front door a few yards away, standing at ease with his arms behind his back and legs slightly apart.

Tom: How long do we wait, then?

Jules: (shrugging) As long as is required.
I have some crates, then, in the trunk. For us to sit on.
(Jules nods. He waves the constable over and instructs the young man as to the matter. Tom gives him some keys. The Cop goes to the car, opens the trunk, grabs a medium-sized brown crate in each hand and carries them past the sidewalk and places them on either side of the café’s front door.

The cop resumes his position a few yards away. The older men sit down on the crates. LAURENTIAN SPRING is written in upside down green lettering on the crates.

The more than middle-aged men squirm and fidget, turning away from each other, turning towards each other. Tom examines the streetlights, Jules the road directly in front. Tom adjusts his hat, Jules his tie. Then the two almost identical looking men turn to face each other – but obliquely.

Between them, the café front door opens and two 30ish women, looking the worse for wear, exit on wobbly ankles)

A voice from inside: C’est l’heure de fermeture. Rentrez chez vous, mes pitounes.

Another voice, more drunk sounding: Go home flour lovers.

(The two men inspect the women as they might a stray cat or dog, without any perceptible change in their expression.

Then a bolt lock on the front door is slid shut and a sign goes up in the window over Jules’ head: CLOSED! Over Tom’s head: FERME!

There’s a long pause as the men adjust to this slightly uncomfortable situation. Then finally…. )

Tom: (Yanking at his tie knot) Too hot for an autumn night.

Jules: Some like it hot…What does it mean, flower lover?

Tom: Too much make-up. Flour as in face powder. (He makes a motion with his right hand, as if powdering his cheeks, while pursing his lips.)

Jules: Ah. (After another long pause) So, you are the one who put that crazy advertisement in the newspaper?

Tom:  What advertisement? What do you mean?

Jules: The advertisement that said “Don’t drink filthy germ laden city water. Laurentian Spring Water is always the same, pure and wholesome. Do not wait until you are sick to drink it.”

Tom:  My sad Aunt Sally. That particular promotion was placed over four years ago.  You can’t possibly remember it word for word.

Jules: I remember it perfectly, believe me. This is my special gift.

Tom: Well, then, you must certainly be aware that we haven’t run anything quite like it since.

Jules: I imagine that warning letter from the City’s Avocat en Chef had something to do with it.

Tom:  No. The fact is we changed our advertising policy right about then. We started pushing our new line of soft drinks.  (He pulls out a bottle from each side-pocket and shows them to Jules.)

Jules: (inspecting cans) Soda Water and Sweet Ginger Ale.

Tom: No sir, we certainly didn’t cave to the threats from over at City Hall. (He returns the bottles to his pockets.)

You know, we’ve only ever received one lawyer’s letter from you people. Ever. And we’ve run a slew of newspaper ads along the same lives over the years. Promoting our bottled water. No, the most trouble ever we got, before that letter, were a couple of huffy phone calls from Dr. Laberge’s department.

Jules: Of course, The Health Department

Tom:  You guys couldn’t catch us on anything.

Jules: Yes, all your clever wordplay. “What chances you take if you don’t drink Laurentian water.” “The safest plan is to drink Laurentian Spring water.” Never quite lying, never quite telling the truth. Not slander, not in the legal sense. But slippery lies are lies just the same.

Even the name of your company is a sort of lie. Laurentian Spring Water. Your aquifer is under Craig Street. Right downtown in the business district. And there are underground springs all over the city.

Tom: Sure, but our well has the purest water, it’s a proven fact. The scientists at Macdonald College tested back it in 1909, the year of the last typhoid epidemic.

A Forgotten Bit of Colonial History

My grandmother,Dorothy Nixon, the co-author of this piece, died in 1972. Her personal collection of books was donated to the Malaysian National Library and seeded their Rare Malaysiana Collection.

I hardly knew my grandmother. She visited us in Canada just once in 1967. I wrote about it in a play, Looking for Mrs. Peel. You can find it by clicking on the link.

We didn't get along back then. I was only 12, and, sadly, we failed to discover the one thing we had in common, a love of books and good literature.

In 2003, I stumbled upon an online mention of my grandmother and the KL Bookclub (see below) which started me on this family project. 

Today, 7 years later, there are many many mentions online, especially in Google Books and Google Scholar, for many books on Malaya and Malaysia cite my grandmother and the Book Club as a source and resource.

Just this past week, in February 2010, I found yet another scholar/writer who admired my grandmother, Dr. Peter Moss.

He writes in Distant Archipelagos" Located beside these chambers (Selangor Club chambers) was my own personal Mecca, the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, established long ago to provide books for planters leading solitary existences in remote parts of the country who needed to keep their minds off the lack of sex and all to readily available booze. It was run by a wonderful old librarian whose name now escapes me, most of whose time was spent responding to requests for books which she packed in cardboard boxes and mail to outstation destinations via the post office.

I remember with great affection her astonishing knowledge of everything you needed to know about the history of british Malaya.

As a girl she had personally known Frank Swettenham and my hero Hugh Clifford, whose books, in their signed author’s editions, graced her private collection. Sometimes if the library itself didn’t have the same work she permitted me to read her own copy, valuaable as it was, so long as I remained on the premises.

 Many a pleasurable afternoon I spent in her reading room over A MALAY Romance or a Further Side of Silence." Dr. Moss's books are available at and he has a Facebook page.

Now here is the article my grandmother wrote, followed by many other bits of info I have uncovered over the past 7 years.

The Kuala Lumpur Book Club:A Pioneer

By Dorothy Nixon PJK (Malaysian award for meritorious service to society)and Gerald Hawkins OBE

Copyright the Malayan Library Journal July 1961. Reprint Rights Pending.

It faces the Padang and its neighbours are distinguished. The Padang is a major focal point in the Federal capital and has as its edges the main and impressive Government Offices done in Moorish, a Bank in Bombay Victorian, a Church in Victorian Gothic and a Club in the Pie-Temiar Long-House manner. Hard by and within brassie-shot are the dignified Supreme Court and the latest government multi-storeyed office which excuses its architecture by the adjective “functional”. These satisfy the needs of man for Faith, Order, Justice,Money and Society.

The largest library in Malaya stands erect and four square with this varied company , in it and ofit, to satisfy the intellectual needs of twentieth century man. It is a sodality as much as a library and for many years made it a point of honour not to possess the “Encyclopedia Britannica” because that was a reference book and the Club wanted books for comfortable reading. Also under the ban was and is Propaganda Literature.

 The Club refused to commit any such mental aggression and the members were expected to choose their books for themselves and form their own opinions without any external pressure or even guidance. Happiness has no history and like the Pickwick Club our origin is wrapped in obscurity.

At the turn of the century there was a small Government library in a room behind the Town Hall. It contained a few old reference books and was available only to Government personnel. A permit to use the room and take over the reference books was sought and granted. 

A group of European residents started to buy books and exchange them and, tired, perhaps, of lending books to friends who never returned them, cleared their bookshelves and dumped them in a common pool in the room and thus the Club was formed. The Selangor Government gave a grant of $1,8000 a year on condition that existing members of the Government library and all subordinate Government officers should be allowed to join the new Club on payment of 50 cents a month and without entrance fee. The Club grew slowly; the ordinary membership being, at the time, almost entirely European. After World War l it became more popular and in 1922 a part-time secretary was engaged.

In 1925 the Club moved to a room in the Mercantile Bank Building and nine years later to the Hardial Singh Building and it soon out grew these premises and in 1939 resolved to have a home of its own. The Selangor Government, well-disposed as ever to any sound educational project, granted a loan of $20,000 and the club moved to its present abode. 

The first instalment of the loan was repaid in June 1940, and, in spite of the war years which intervened, the payment of the 4% interest on the loan, and the heavy cost of rehabilitation, the final installment was paid back in October, 1945. 

Among the Presidents of the Club have been Mr. C Boden-Kloss, Dato F. W.Douglas, Mr. G. P Bradney, Rev. M. Harcus. Mr. C.W. Harrison, Mr. T. D. Ensor, Mr. C. G. Sollis. MR W. G. W. Hastings (clarum et vererablie nomen); Mrs. F.G. Flowerdew; Miss A. M. Doughty; Dr. R.S. Hardie; Mrs. C. Mills; Mr. Gerald Hawkins and Mr. C.H. Lee. Mr. S.W. Jones too a great interest in the Club, especially in the erection of the building. The present Secretary/Librarian (Dorothy Nixon) has held office since 1937.

The Club has expanded enormously since 1945, the membership having risen from 704 to 3,600 of whom 2,900 are Asian by April, 1961. A feature of the Club is its sight, on Saturday, of crowds of Asian children downstairs, and the reference section upstairs, full of students poring over reference books.

The club survived the days when reading was rare and when most of Selangor had little literacy, let alone English. If it has done nothing else, it can boast that it has fostered the habit of reading and cultivated a taste for good literature. It has blazed the trail for subsequent libraries. Te British Council, The USIS, the leading Schools and the University all have collections of books. Many Community Halls in the New Villages have well-filled book-shelves. 

The generosity of many kind members presents the Club with a large number of books. It has also been possible to pass on to newly-started libraries, clubs, and hospitals volumes which are surplus to requirements. Outside the Fiction section the many books (of the heavier type) are classified as follows: Philosophy, Religion, Social Sciences, Philology, Applied Science,

 The Arts, Games and Sports, Literature, Travel, Biography, History, Reference and Malaysia. There are also French and Malay sections. One of the best collections of Malaysiana in Malaya is available for reference.

The picture in the library shelves has changed considerably over the last few years as the Non-Ficiton section has expanded tremendously. In 1960, 5,210 volumes were added to the shelves, of which 2,310 were Non Fiction. 

 The total number of books in the club is approximately 130,000 and yet there are members who say “There’s nothing to read. I’ve read them all.” Our members are 1) local residents 2)district members residing from five to fifteen miles from Kuala Lumpur and 3) outstation members living more than fifteen miles from Kuala Lumpur. 

Delivery of books to outstation members is by rail and post, where necessary by air freight. Boxes or parcels of from four to seventeen books, according to subscription are sent to these members. 

We send as far North as Thailand and South to Singapore. Before the war we even sent as far afield (perhaps ‘asea’ would be more appropriate as Brunei and Christmas Island. During the “Emergency” we received many grateful letters showing that the Book Club was also helping fight the bandits in sending tidings of comfort and job to many isolated and beleaguered people all over Malaya. The bandits looted quite a number of our books and could balance their share of Marx, Lenin and Stalin with Shakespeare, Sheridan, Shaw, Conan Doyle, Julian Huxley, Dorothy Sayers, Lewis Carroll and Enid Blyton.

Subscriptions for members whether local or outstation are as follows: $14,50 per quarter for from eight to 17 books at any one time according to distance from Kuala Lumpur. Entrance fee $5.00. $10,00 per quarter for from five to 14 books, 

Entrance fee $5.00. $4.50 per quarter fro from three to seven books. Entrance Fee $2.00. Persons earning a total, in salary and allowances, of $200 or less per month pay $3.00 per quarter and no Entrance Fee. Students and School-children pay $1,00 per quarter and no Entrance Fee. For the convenience of members the premises are open for borrowing from 9:30 to 1:30 and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

 In 1959 a scheme of Group Subscription for schools was inaugurated with special terms to foster reading among the local children and it has been encouragingly successful. There are 870 children in these groups.

During the Japanese occupation, the Club was closed for some time and when re-opened no books were bought nor repairs done. Immediately after the arrival of the Japanese the building was used as a cookhouse and the books as fuel. Unfortunately, the books so used were from the new books and History shelves, leaving grievous gaps in the 1941 publications and the valuable history section. Every map and atlas was systematically seized. The doctors operated frequently to remove all medical books.The Malayan section was sadly depleted in fact we had few treasures left

. Fortunately, the Selangor Journal 1892-97, though very much worse for wear, is still with us. It has been impossible to replace the books from this section as they are out of print and the cost when obtainable is prohibitive. However a private collection of 900 Malaysiana housed in the Club is available for the use of students and research scholars. 

Continuous repair is necessary, especially in the juvenile section and this is a problem and often an unnecessary expense, owing to avoidable damage due to carelessness. Once upon a time we said that it was pleasant to record the rarity of theft and defacement, and that our membership included very few persons like Sheridan’s Lady Slattern who had a ‘very obvious thumb’. 

This cannot now be said. With the majority of membership of young people we now have much heavier wear and tear. The young of Malaya have yet learned that books are precious, to be treated with care and cherished as one of the most important assets in our lives. Our books, are, in the majority, obtained directly form London. We have there a long permanent list of authors whose books are dispatched on publication. To this staple diet we add ingredients of a more eclectic nature. The whole forms a vast meal, like a curry at a Malay wedding, enough to spare for all tastes.

The Club does other service. The Secretary has devoted quite an appreciable part of her time to instructing and training office librarians and secretaries of newly formed libraries. The Club pioneered modern classification in Malaya and is the only library with members in every State and the peninsula. It has therefore, a long and wide experience of the reading public. Though not a Public Library in the “FREE” sense, it fulfils the function of such an establishment by the amount of research done by the librarian for individuals and departments and th e help it gives to students.

A second story was added to the Club in 1956 as the book rapidly increasing in numbers, demanded lebensraum and more space was needed for research students.It now has a roomy reading room, only a small portion of which is air-conditioned. We have many valuable old books, unobtainable elsewhere in Malaya, which should be preserved and protected against our greatest destroyer of books, the humid atmosphere. Some day, when the money is available, we may have a sufficiently large air conditioned space to preserve what is in many respects a unique collection.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Editor's Notes A former rubber company employee who met Dorothy in the 60's, corresponded with me about Dorothy and the book club:

Most readers of my newsletter, he wrote, will have known your grandmother through the Kuala Lumpur Book Club. This was a subscription service and books were despatched to out-station members in a locked box about one foot cube. The Club had a key and so did the subscriber. The service was a tremendous boon, especially when was bottled up on an estate or tin mine during the Communist Emergency. There was no TV, the only good radio reception was propaganda broadcasts from Radio Peking and the press was very poor (now it is far better).

Your grandmother was Secretary during my day (1953 to 1969). One looked forward greatly to the arrival of the box. As well as books ordered it contained mimeographed sheets showing all the books available, with those one had ordered in the past ticked off. One returned it with the read books, with new selections noted. There were, I seem to remember, two rates of subscription, granting perhaps 6 or, alternatively 12 books a time. There was no restriction on the number of times the exchange was effected.

What was particularly appreciated was the way that your grandmother studied members’ tastes. Her study was detailed and subtle. One day, a book turned up in my box with a hand-written slip: “You might like this.” It was the Portugese satirist de Queiroz’ “The Relic”. I think she had noted that I had earlier asked for Ring Lardner Junior’s “The Ecstasy of Owen Muir”, also a satirical comment on Catholicism. On another occasion, the obscure American exoticist Frederic Prokosch’s baroque Renaissance chiller “A Tale for Midnight” appeared.

I don’t know if she was an academic by training but she used to help people engaged on serious research. I met her once or twice and I recall a small grey-haired women with a forthright manner ("Some of our books are bloody!") She was often seen in “The Dog” chatting with a couple of old male colonial hands. I know nothing about her earlier activities which is why I was so intrigued by Shennan’s reference to her.

My correspondent then discussed a recent publication,Murder on the Verandah, about the very same incident which inspired Maugham's classic short story The Letter. A particular passage in the book about the Kuala Lumpur Book Club makes him wonder about the author's motives.

What makes us suspicious, however, is a section featuring Kuala Lumpur Book Club. In those days, it purchased books as requested by its members (it had only 104 in 1909.) Lists of these requests were published in the Malay Mail and thus provide a record of members' tastes. Lawlor homes in with glee on trashy works such as "Adventures of a Pretty Woman" and "Imprisoned at a Girls' School, or The Private Diary of Montague Dawson, Flagellant" to demonstrate the paucity of imagination of local British society. Yet there was always plenty of good literature and works of local history on the lists sent in our own book boxes from the Club.


Gerald Hawkins is the author of a number of books on Malaya, some with Gullick. One title, written in 1958, is called "Malayan Pioneers." I wonder if this book contains my grandmother's story: I will go check. There's a copy in the Islamic Studies Library at McGill University!Whoops. Checked it out. It is aimed at Malaysian schoolchildren and has major historical characters. My grandmother's story has generally been written out of Colonial history. I've found dribs and drabs here and there.

Cecily Williams and Freddy Bloom, who are the women most cited when it comes to Changi Prison, Women's Section, failed to mention my grandmother in their oft quoted biographies and autobiographies,(from all I have read) even when they did allude to incidents my grandmother was directly involved in, like the Double Tenth.

I did find one lengthy account of my grandmother in a very well-written and cleverly observant book by Giles Playfair (published in 1943, while my grandmother was interned) called Singapore Goes off the Air. The book is about the 7 or so weeks this man, a BBC director, spent at MBC radio during the siege of Singapore.

He barely escaped when Singapore fell for good. He spent a lot of time with my grandmother who worked at MBC (she was the room mate of a key employee, Margaret Robinson) and he describes in detail how my grandmother was the only European at MBC who refused to evacuate.Click here and scroll to the bottom for the text.

Addendum: Sept. 2009. It appears the Malaysia Straits Times put its archives up on the web, with teasers.. I found many references to my grandmother, most related to cricket "one of Malaya's cricketeering personalities" and her career as librarian of the KL Book Club.

A woman writes in 51 that she is a new arrival and finds it amazing that there is no public library in KL, just the book club. In 1949 it is said that 'intelligent women readers are now using the book club, with almost half of subscribers Asian.'(SEE BELOW for full article.)

In 1951 a book mobile is enjoying success. In 1952 a director complains that most new fiction is of 'poor' quality, making reading 'a kind of opium for the literate.'

Another news item says that University of Malaya students have damaged books at the library and that Mrs. Dorothy Nixon has closed the air conditioned work room." Another article, on the same subject, claims the female students blame the male students... In 1934 subscription fees are raised to 5 dollars a year. That's because, as another article shows, despite being the only library in Malaya, it gets only a small stipend of 1,000 a year from the Selangor Government. (Raffles in Singapore had a library, another article suggests, but few Asians use it. In a letter to the Straits Times someone says that's a pity, that the books should be used for 'entertainment' as that is what 9 of 10 colonials read for, entertainment and pleasure.

The Book Club moves into the new building, beside the Royal Selangor club on May 20, 1940, a year and a bit before the invasion. (My aunt says that every day my grandmother's gentleman friend, a Mr. Hastings, picked her up after work to walk her to the club "all of 15 feet away."

In 1933, there are 14,190 books in the Book Club and the end of year revenue is 85.00 in the black.

In 1966, May, there is a tribute to my grandmother upon her retirement. Yes!!!! So my memory is good. I recall my grandmother showing my mom a press clipping about her retirement from the Book Club when she visited. I wrote about it in the original prose version of Looking for Mrs. Peel, but not in the play. (See below for full article.)

Tribute to a Book Club Pioneer

Straits Times May 1966:Reprint Rights Pending

Members of the Kuala Lumpur Book Club have learnt with regret of the recent retirement of Mrs. Dorothy Nixon, for nearly thirty years its secretrary and librarian.

Her advice and help have been constantly available to members, whether in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaya or as far afield as Thailand and Singapore.

Outstation members are particularly grateful for her tireless efforts on their behalf during the Emergency.

Younger members have appreciated her kindness in opening the Book Club for study during her off-duty days and hours.

The Schools Group Membership scheme has encouraged many boys and girls to cultivate good reading habits which last beyond their school days.

Her valuable personal collection of books and source material on Malaya, interpreted and illumined by her own thorough and extensive knowledge of things Malayan, has been at the disposal of all and sundry

The Book Club is not the same without "Mrs. Nicky" but many members, old and young, will see it as a continuing reminder of her long and devoted service.

signed Two Members.

>From the Straits Times April 1949.

There are many intelligent non-European women readers who have joined the Kuala Lumpur Book Club.. April 9, 1949 (from Straits Times)

This fact was given to me by Mrs. Dorothy Nixon, Secretary of the Club, who added that this increase has been most marked since the war.>

Half of the members of the book Club are Asian, and a representative proportion of this number comprise women.

That people all over the world are reading more and more is well known, but here in Malaya, where most non-European children aspire to an English education and where plans for new schools in English and a University make daily news, the demand for books is a flourishing off-shoot of a widespread growth in the interests and ambitions of Malayans.

The enthusiasm shown by non-European visitors to the Book Exhibition held in Kuala LUmpur gave further evidence of this.

I asked Mrs. Nixon what type of general literature appeals to women members. She told me that their tastes are very similar to Engish children when young, but by the time they leave school they are able to enjoy the classics and novels by such author as Jane Austen, Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy. "Somerset Maugham is a very great favourite with them, " she said. Other authors popular with Asian women readers are A J Cronin, J B Priestly, Francis Brett Young, Eden Philpotts, H G Wells. The series novels of English family life are also popular.

The essential thing with Asian children's reading is to provide stories, preferably with pictures, which have a background common to any nation.

Scenes of ice and snow are incomprehensible to a chld whose only idea of ice is as squares from a refrigerator.

Gee, my story. LOOking for Mrs. Peel is about how I met my grandmother in 1967 and how much we didn't get along. And, yet, I also became a literacy advocate. Here's a link to some pages of the Children's Literacy Resource Guide that I wrote.

April 8, 1951 Straits Times

The Kuala Lumpur Book Club has increased in popularity and gained in membership over the years until it now has a membership of over 1,500 with, for the first time, a majority of Asian Members.

Originally, the library was housed in a room behind the Town Hall, later in the Mercantile Bank building, and in 1937 in the Hardial Singh Building in Ampang Street.

In 1939, it was decided to build a modern library and $20,000 was borrowed from Government. In March, 1940, the new library was opened.

Unfortunately, the library was badly damaged on Boxing Day, 1941 by bombing and many valuable books were either ruined or damaged. Rehabilitation has been an expensive and slow business but most of the repairs have been completed.

The loan from government was gradually repaid and in October 1948 the final installment was paid.

This, considering the Japanese Occupation, was really a fine achievement.

Mrs. Dorothy Nixon who is ever ready with help and advice in choosing or recommending books for members, has been the hard-working secretary of the KL Book Club since 1937. The membership back then was 600. By 1940 it had risen to 1,100 and at the end of 1950 to 1, 500.

Mrs. Nixon said there were very few old records of the club available, but she understood the club had a humble beginning many years ago when two or three people began lending each other books. Thus the nucleus of the present thriving club began.

The club has for many years supplied books to outstation members, which have been sent either by rail or post to the various States in the Federation, including Singapore. Siam too has its members of the KL Book Club, who receive their welcome box of books usually selected by Mrs. Nixon, who hasa great knowledge of the type of book the various memebers prefer.

Before the last war there were members in far away Christmas Island , also in Brunei, to whom books were dispatched.

"I eagerly look forward to the day, " says Mrs. Nixon, "where there will be mobile libraries going out from the book club to the villages of Selangor and eventually even further afield."

Many books belonging to the Book Club disappeared during the Japanese Occupation, although when some sort of order was instituted out of those chaotic days, the library was reopened and continued to function under the occupation.

At the present time, there are somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 books in the well stocked library shelves, covering all types of reading, and new books are constantly being added to the shelves.

The success of the book club is due, in many ways, to the undoubted interest and hard working activities of Dorothy Nixon. Nothing is too much trouble, however small the request may be.

Interned in Singapore during the war, her suffering at the hands of the Japanese is well known. She returned to Malaya in 1946 after a recuperative period in Britain. Apart from seeing a mobile library added, Mrs Nixon says there are hopes of adding a second story to the existing building which will provide an adequate reading room.

Looking for Mrs. Peel *beginning. The complete play is available here LOOKING FOR MRS.PEEL: a Play for Radio

with new information on the Double Tenth Incident at Changi Prison (Civilian Internment Camp) during WWll. Based on a true story. Dialogue by people is recreated by me, generated from my -or my grandmother's -point of view and is speculative and not intended to cast anyone in a bad light.

Based on a true story, as they say, or a 're-imagining of a mostly true story with some fictional elements based on historical memory and record, personal memory and family myth.'

All Rights Reserved Copyright Dorothy Nixon 2008. Students and Teachers may download and reproduce any part for educational purposes (not for profit).

"The keynote of this whole case can be epitomized in two words: Unspeakable horror. Horror, stark and naked permeates every corner and angle of this case from beginning to end....Opening speech for the prosecution. Double Tenth Trial as reported in Malaya Straits Times."

Looking for Mrs. Peel Play COMPLETE with audio visual enhancement

A Tale of Simple "Worth" or the Gypsy's Warning

"Cross my hand with silver pretty lady, if you'd see,
What the future holds in store for you and how soon you will be free,
Cross my hand with silver (if you have none don't be shy)
I'll take it out in food or booze (or Gordon's Special dry)
Just cross my hand with silver or call at Cell Fifteen
With any simple offering, (be sure you are not seen)
No cumshaw ever comes amiss but if you have it handy
The fates show true benevolence if first well laced with brandy,
The lines engraved upon your palm are clear as mud to me,
There's fame and food and fortune and a journey on the sea
But a lurking danger threatens and a white-haired lady frowns, (It isn't Eve or Nella and it isn't Mrs. Chowns.)
Fate draws a veil across the name, but one thing's plain to see,
The danger is averted if you put your shirt on me."

Scene One: Nixon Living Room Montreal November 1967

SOUND: Television, (Murdersville episode of The Avengers TV Series from November 1967) someone being dunked in water and crunch of eating

Voice on TV: (sx water) You could spare yourself this Mrs. Peel. (sx splash)You know what we want (sx Splash) Who knows you are here?

Martha: Dorothy , depeches-toi,come say goodbye to your grandmother. This is your last chance to see her. She’s leaving for the airport very early tomorrow morning

Dorothy : (sx crinkling of cellophane bag,crunch of junk food being chewed)

Martha: And, adjust
the rabbit ears on the TV for Heaven’s sake,. All that interference. Mrs. Peel's face is covered in snow!

MUSIC: Red Rubber Ball. The Cyrkle 1966

Scene Two: 2008 kitchen near Montreal Canada

SOUND: food sizzling on stove, radio din, phone ringing to the tune Brand New Key

Dorothy: Blair. Get my cell, would you?

Blair: (distant)grunt

Dorothy: Aghh. Geez. (sx clunk of pan) Hello?

Denise: Dorothy. It’s your Aunt Denise.

Dorothy: Hi. I know. I was just thinking of you, actually. I’m listening to a BBC Documentary - about My Lai. On my laptop. 40th anniversary of the year 1968.Big year in the US. Of course, 1967 was our big year -here in Canada.

Denise: Radio Four, I presume. We never miss The Archers. I’ve rung to say that I received Mother’s war memoir in the post today. I want to thank you for returning it so promptly.

Dorothy: Wow. That’s fast. I just scanned the pages and saved them to CD. I still have a tonne of research to do before I can make any sense of it. Especially the spy business. Did you see that snippet I sent you from the 1963 Malaysia Who’s Who?

Denise: Yes, I did.

Dorothy: But did you notice the twenty year gap? It says Dorothy Forster Nixon: Born 1895 County Durham; Quaker Co-educational School; land girl in forestry WWI. Then it jumps to librarian,
Kuala Lumpur Book Club 1935-present with mention of internment at Changi. Nothing about her domestic life as a rubber worker’s wife.

Denise: No I didn't. Odd. Well, I can't thank you enough for all you are doing for my mother.

Dorothy: Well, Granny didn’t get the recognition in the UK. No OBE or flattering obit at her death like the others involved, But she’ll have this, my humble family tribute. I’ll dedicate it to everyone
written out of history.

Denise: Yes, to think that the grandchild with whom she had the least rapport is doing the most to keep her memory alive. Must ring off. Short of breath these days. Give my love to your mother.

Dorothy: I will. Bye now. Hmm. The grandchild with whom she had the least rapport. That’s one way of putting it, I guess.(sx plunk of fan, frying sound turns into applause)

Scene Three:
Clanranald Elementary Auditorium,Montreal 1967

SOUND: Applause

Teacher (sx mike): Good work Mark Luxenberg and Rebecca Birenbaum. The top students at Clanranald Elementary for 1966/67 . Assembly dismissed. Have a great Expo summer. And please don’t lose your report cards on the way home. Here's Bobby Gimby to trumpet you home (sx scratch of record CA NA DA Song on cheap record player over PA system)

(sx vague sound of birds, children and car radios fade in and out as Ingrid and Dorothy walk by.
"C'etait Bits and Pieces par le Dave Clark Five. A Suivre Light My Fire, Les Doors...

US President Lyndon Johnson meets today with Russian Premiere Alexsei Kosygin in New Jersey at what is being dubbed the The Glassboro Summit....

(sunny ID-jingle) CFCF 600 Montreal...

Silky Woman's Voice:There's a new look in telephones. The new look is the princess phone. It's little, it's lovely, it's light. It's so slender it can fit anywhere.)

Dorothy (VO): 6th grade down. One more year of elementary school to go. I walk the two blocks home to my family’s untidy upper duplex apartment on
Lemon Creek Road in the dingy Snowdon district of Montreal (with its row upon row of unadorned brick buildings and only two landmarks worthy of the designation: the glamorous bejewelled Art Deco Snowdon Theatre and the glaring globoid Orange Julep Drive-in Restaurant)in the company of classmate and neighbour Ingrid Singh. Bombay born, Ealing raised, one of the many exotic new Canadians coming to live in my neighborhood.

Dorothy: Let me see your report card Ing.

Ingrid: Let me see yours first.

Dorothy: Nothing to see. Very good in every subject. Not one teacher comment.

Ingrid: Well, I got five excellents.

Dorothy: And a page and a half of teacher comments, I bet.”Ingrid talks back in class and teaches the little ones how to say words like douchebag. Please wash her mouth out with soap.”

Ingrid: H! Ha!. So, what do you want to do when we get home. Go up to Queen Mary Road and play Monkey See Monkey Do?.

Dorothy: Nah, too hot.

Ingrid: Wanna go see if that one-legged hobo is still living in the backseat of the blue Firebird in the used car lot?

Dorothy: Not allowed. And he's not a hobo. He's a war veteran.

INgrid: Spy vs. spy then?

Dorothy: Ok. But I wanna be Emma Peel this time.

Ingrid: No. I get to play Emma. I’m from England. You can be Agent 99 or Honey West.

Dorothy: I wanna be Emma. You’re from India. I’m the one who’s REALLY English. I’m a tall Yorkshire girl, just like Diana Rigg. My dad says.

Ingrid: You said you were born here in Canada. And your father in K-u-a-la Lum-pooor.

Dorothy: Makes no difference. My grandparents are from Yorkshire.

Ingrid: Is you grandmother tall like you and your dad?

Dorothy: I dunno.

Ingrid: Well,I’m much much MUCH prettier than you, so I still get to play Mrs. Peel.

Dorothy vo: Right, then. So Ingrid,with her shimmering swell of jet black hair, flawless mocha skin and blossoming Swedish curves, gets to be Emma Peel, as usual. That's because Emma Peel is really Diana Rigg, an English lady who is undeniably the most beautiful – and possibly the best TV actress on either side of the pond. At least according to critic Cleveland Amory in the April 28, 1967 issue of TV Guide Magazine, the very same issue I have tucked away as a keepsake because April 28, 1967 was also the opening day of Expo67 Montreal’s wonderful World’s Fair.

Ingrid: So, Emma goes undercover at the British Pavilion at Expo where she hides out with the Mary Quant mannequins. She’s watching out for Russian spies who want to kidnap…ah…Queen Elizabeth when she visits in two weeks.And Honey is a double agent working in the Russian Pavilion.

Dorothy: I’ve been to the Russian Pavilion. All it has inside is machines. Why can’t Honey hide out in Thailand? Their pavilion is shaped like a golden dragon boat.

Ingrid: Don’t be daft. Nothing happens in Thailand. So, my flat is the British Pavilion and your flat is the Russian Pavilion and our bedrooms are where we send our top secret transmissions. On pink princess phones.

Dorothy: I don’t have a princess phone.

INgrid : It’s pretend!

Dorothy: Next week I won’t even have a bedroom.

Ingrid: Why?

Dorothy: Because my Yorkshire, well, Malaya, grandmother is finally coming for a visit and she gets my brother’s bedroom and he gets mine.

Ingrid: Is she coming for Expo? Is she coming to see the Queen?

Dorothy: I guess.

Ingrid: Where are you going to sleep?

Dorothy: On a cot in the dining room.

Ingrid: So, then. You’ll finally find out if she’s really tall or small.

Scene Four: Lemon Creek Living Room

SOUND: Announcer on radio

Announcer: ( This is Roger Scott broadcasting live on location from Expo 67 Or Girl Watching Central.( sx cheesy wolf whistle sound effect)Everywhere you turn a gorgeous young thing in a sarong, sari, or kimono. Still it takes more than a beautiful face and perfect proportions to be a hostess at the fair. All 240 Official Expo hostesses speak both English and French…and have some college; And lucky me,in a minute, I get to interview two leggy birds from the British Pavilion whose miniskirts are the envy of all the Expo hostesses, (ID. CFOX. MontreeeeALL The Island City) But first this word from Clairol.Who writes this shit?
(sx radio: Sad-sack women's voice: Oily hair?? My hair is so oily this big man from Texas came up and asked if he could invest. PSSSt. Good news for you; fade)

Marthe: Mark. Dorothy. Come to the window. They’ve found a parking space right in front.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Can you see a Resemblance?

Unknown girl. This is a tiny tintype, the size of a dime, framed in a large embossed piece of pink paper. I don't recognize the girl as an adult: from what I can see she would be a fabulously beautiful woman. Although there is something about that gaze that is very familiar.

Maybe it is Margaret Nicholson, born 1853.

 If it is, this is her great great great granddaughter. Is there a resemblance?

I am writing two books while I blog, Threshold Girl about a college student in 1911 Montreal and Milk and Water

Marriage is central to this story, or the pursuit of marriage. Because this is REAL LIFE and not fantasy or wish fulfillment, not all the heroines of this piece end up 'happily ever after'. Well, none do, because happily ever after does not exist.

And not all the heroines of this piece fit into 'categories' such as the plain, good one, (well, Flo does sort of fit) and the beautiful, shallow one.. No beautiful  Edith Nicholson was not shallow, etc. The Nicholson women are real people, with a mix of characteristics, some sort of cliche, but most not.

The little girl in the tintype above, who lived her life as a wife and mother, has similar genes to her great great great granddaughters, who may be dancers or scientists. The same potential...

This is an age old theme in literature, conveyed ably in those inter-generational epics like East of Eden, so I am doing nothing new thematically (hubris to think otherwise).

Well, really it's all about nature/nurture and that's an old debate. But I am treading new territory in that these letters -and technology- are allowing me to explore the nature/nurture issue in a slightly different way. (The fact that I know the descendants of these people also helps.)

There is a school of thought, (American) that ANYTHING can be achieved with the right character. This is hoo-ha, of course. It's all about being the right person, in the right place and the right time, and having luck on your side.

Character has a place to play as the contrast between the characters of Marion and brother Herb prove.(My idea.) The Nicholson saga proves that you can do everything right and still have to struggle, even in a time of great promise and prosperity. Or does it?

Crockery through the Century

The same meal in two different colourful plates. 

I grilled some cheap whitefish on fennel and pears in the bbq using a lemon, coriander and sea salt seasoning. I thought it was delicious! 

My husband ate son said he didn't like white fish, so I ate his, which tasted GREAT too.

Quite a few years ago I attended a dinner party where the hostess used unmatched plates and serving dishes, bright and beautiful, to set the table.

I thought it all looked just divine.

I asked her where she had got all the pretty plates.

She said from a famous Montreal discount store on St. Laurent (the name escapes me). They were remainders.

The store had just gone out of business.

"Too bad," I said.

I love bright plates, (obviously).

I love the idea of mixing up the patterns, too.

When we were married my husband and I couldn't decide on a wedding pattern...he liked the dark plain ones, I liked the bright busy ones.

We ended up with something, in yellow-brown ick, that neither of us liked. The plates are down in the basement now, in a box, too high-cost to throw out.

See? Ick! An expensive pattern, too. What were we thinking???

Well, the other day I was renting a car at the Avis beside Village de Valeurs in the West Island and I dropped by, saw some bright plates and bowls in a variety of eye-pleasing patterns and bought them.

When I returned the car, I bought some other ones.

 1.99 a plate. 1.00 for the bowls.

I've been enjoying mixing and matching ever since. (I can't wait to go back for some more!)

A big pleasure for a small price.

I bought this pattern, not because it goes with my whimsical mix/match idea, but for its nostalgia value,  because it's the pattern we had in our home in the 1970's.

And this plate too. I display it because my grandmother bought it for us at Christmas 1967, on her first and only visit. Mikasa. I remember liking the pattern back then. I didn't like her so much.

And I kept this plate below (my aunt's) because I felt it had a 50's flare and it did! The set designers used it on the BBC period piece The HOUR!

Below pretty plate that reminds me of my aunt, so I kept it. She loved floral patterns and this one is just her era, the 40's. 

 Patterns on plates can be like that, remind you of the person who owned them. Maybe if I ever have grand children, I will be remembered as the crazy plate lady. That would be nice, wouldn't it?


|Here's a still from a super 8 of My aunt Flo at a WWI memorial, I think. 

And last is a classic Willow plate that belonged to my grandmother, so circa 1900.

A cousin has some plates from the set, too and says she'd never eat off them, the toxins, etc... but I assume they are healthier to eat off of than the newer ones being manufactured  today.

It seems as if the plates presume a meat and potatoes and vegetable meal, but I might be wrong.

Love Stories, E-books and Fatal Fires in Canada

Gary Jewell's pretty song, When will you see me?  I used it to back up a 'promo' for Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

It's historical fiction.

I took fact and I embellished it.

Chapter 2: I Survive

But, first, let’s go back to the beginning. But which beginning? The beginning beginning? The I AM BORN beginning? (To once again invoke David Copperfield, which despite appearances, is not my favourite novel. Middlemarch is.)

Easy enough. I am born in January 1884 in a green clapboard rental house in Melbourne, Quebec. 10 months after my parents’ marriage.

I know this because I have been told and also because the proof resides in ink strokes in my father’s Store Book for 1884.

His household accounts that he kept from 1882, before his marriage to 1921, the year he passed away.

Fifty years of family accounts, kept in little black books.

It could be claimed that the entire story of our family is told in these pocket-size volumes, the practical side at least. The down-to-earth work-a-day side.

I was born in early January 1884 because the store book has an entry on the 7th, inserting baby’s birth 25 cents. I have survived my first challenge.

Under that breast pump 75 cents. Breast shield 25 cents. Along with one quart of milk 5 cents, a loaf of bread 10 cents, a gallon of coal oil, 25 cents. Two cords of wood 8 dollars and 35 cents. 11 pounds of oatmeal 38 cents. One dozen herring 20 cents. 1 ½ pounds of steak 15 cents. And rent 25 dollars a month. The staples of bodily existence then and today: shelter, heat, light and daily bread....

Here's a page from the family accounts 1883. Stove lifter. 10 cents.. Remember them? If you are old enough. I only saw wood stoves when on vacation. We kids liked to play with the stove, the lifter, the whatevers you lifted up..not elements, round things that got hot.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Taking the Plunge and Buying Tickets for the Rogers Cup

My son wants to see Grigor Dimitrov play at the Rogers Cup, and I have no objection to it. (Quoting Mr. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice.)

Well, I took the plunge and bought some tickets for the Rogers  Cup Tennis Tournament in Montreal...

My son is around for a few weeks (for my other son's wedding) and he wants to go...and so do I.

An old friend who recently passed away loved her professional tennis, but she had no interest in sitting out in the hot sun at a tournament. So I never got to go with her.

Anyway, not sure what to do, I read the FAQ on the Rogers Cup Uniprix Stadium website...and I figured out enough to buy the  tickets, a bit like pulling teeth, with a time - limit.

I finished just under the wire, with a few seconds to go, which is no big deal because there's still a week to go before the start of the Rogers Cup.

Note to web form designers: Many people these days DO NOT HAVE HOME PHONES!

I bought seats at the secondary stadium. (They tried to get me to buy junk food in advance, but I would not. Gee, the main reason I like tennis is cause the players are so fit!)

Here's the thing, when it came down to it, down to putting my money where my mouth is, I decided the players I'd most like to see play are Gasquet and Janko Tipsarevic and maybe Marin Cilic. (I even surprised myself.)

I can see the big 4 anytime, all the time.. on TV. And del Potro too.. I think I'd spend all my time taking pictures if I watched del Potro...

My son wants to see Grigor Dimitrov if he can, and I have no objection to it. He also likes Gasquet and Tipsarevic. So we're on the same page for now.

So I bought morning session tickets for two days and am crossing my fingers. The first 8 seeds get a by (is that how you spell "BY"... and Gasquet is 9th seed... but players may yet drop out.

And there's some controversy concerning Cilic and (I quote from the French press who quote from the Croatian press) about "an ill-conceived use of glucose." Did he eat a Twinkie?

Good grief! I haven't been to Jarry Park since the Expo Years.

Many happy days and nights were spent on the hard seats of the bleachers there. 2.00 a ticket, if I recall. (or was it 1.50?) Rain or shine. Heat or Cold. Even,sometimes, snow. Chanting Alou, T'es Fou! (Before he was traded to the Expos.)

 I came in all the way from the northern suburbs by bus and metro with my brothers or other friends.

My brothers sometimes got an automobile lift with Ted Blackman, the excellent sports reporter, who lived near us. He had his manual typewriter in the car, I recall my brother saying.

That's how baseball used to build a fan-base, by letting kids in cheap. No more.

And if I want to see a hockey game (not that interested) I have to go to Tampa Bay,Florida where I am told they almost give the tickets away, with free hot dogs.

Years ago I worked as a radio copywriter and I wrote a personal advertisement for Dick Irvin (who usually wrote them himself) and he thanked me (he was a gentleman) and offered me hockey tickets.

(It was my job, he didn't have to.)

To this day, I regret my answer. I asked for baseball tickets, instead. And I had been a big hockey fan! I just didn't like going to games at the Forum. I got vertigo in the steep stands. I couldn't sit in the nosebleeds, as they called them. I would feel  as if I were about to fall onto the ice.

 I should have answered this: "I can't watch hockey games live because I need the play-by-play. That might have made the legendary sportscaster happy...Anyway, my friend who just died also knew Dick Irvin, at one time. She had an Uncle who played for the Canadiens. She said she sat beside Dick the press box when they were both kids.)

I've only been a tennis fan for 4 years. My sons used to talk a lot about the game and the players. I had put them in lessons as youngsters where they got to practice at high noon on the hot court at the 'club' in  our leafy 'burb.

These past few years, my friend was always talking about the likes of Federer and Monfils..(pronounced MON FISS not MON FEEE as MacEnroe says...doesn't that sound like a bit from La Cage Aux Folles?)  during our luncheon dates... so I turned the TV to a tournament when at home.

I remember it was the final of the French Open where Li Na won. I can still see her falling to her knees.  "I could watch this," I said to myself.

I still like Li Na best of all the women players.

At that time, I didn't even know there was a top Canadian player, Milos Raonic.