Preserved Stories Blog

Draft of an autobiography story: Jaan Pill (3); I refer to Wall Flower: A Life on the German Border (2015)

Click on the photos to enlarge them

This post is dedicated to the power of stories – a power that is demonstrated in Brexit, by way of many instances of how stories determine the course of our lives, for better or for worse.

The back story regarding the concept of an autobiography story can be accessed in previous posts in the category of Autobiography Stories.

We owe thanks to Graeme Decarie for introducing us to the concept of autobiographical stories, which has more resonance for me than the concepts of life stories and memoirs:

Graeme Decarie, retired Concordia U history prof, encourages us to write our autobiography stories

Mr. Decarie, who taught history at Malcolm Campbell High School (MCHS) in the early 1960s, and subsequently quit high school teaching to pursue a career teaching history at Concordia University, and who also had a career as a radio broadcaster, has recently suggested that MCHS grads get to work on their autobiography stories.

Power and influence

In previous posts, I’ve outlined a draft of parts of my own autobiography story. The draft for Part 1 of my autobiography story is concerned with episodic memory and attention, and with the nature of power and influence. These are topics of strong interest for me, as they are for many people. Part of the storyline, as it relates to power and influence, is related to frames and framing, which is also a topic of strong interest for me.

A related concept, as it related to power and influence, concerns judo as metaphor. As a child playing at recess in the snow, I learned one or two judo moves and practised them endlessly. At a conceptual level, I’m aware that every storyline has a pivot point; if you know how judo works, and if you don’t, as a writer you can use that pivot point to determine the direction of the story. That is to say, you can in a split-second flip the story around so that it proceeds in some other direction. That’s a feature of some stories – both fiction and non-fiction stories – that many of us much enjoy.

The novelist Graham Greene in his role as a screenwriter demonstrates a particular facility with this aspect of how stories are shaped – in fiction and in non-fiction, and in the borderland between fiction and non-fiction, which is the territory in which much of sense-making, in the course of everyday life, takes place.


The draft for Part 2 of my autobiography story is concerned with getting the words out, a feature of everyday life that it took me many years to learn, having lost, at age 6,  the capacity to engage in such a feat. I like to say that I learned fluency as a second language, at the age of 41. Technically, it was really a matter of learning a sixth language.

My first language was Estonian; my second language was Swedish (soon forgotten after I arrived in Canada in 1951); my third language was English; my fourth language was French, which I learned in a rudimentary way in public school and university; my fifth language was Latin, which I learned (again in a rudimentary way) in high school.

Thus learning fluency as a second language was, if you want to be technically correct about the matter at hand, really about learning fluency as a sixth language. For the sake of a presentation, however, I like to speak of learning fluency as a second language; that is a way of talking about the matter at hand that works out fine.

When immersed in a story we let down our guard

I can add a few notes to the draft for Parts 1 and 2. At a presentation that I made at a school on June 23, 2016, a student asked me about the black and white TVs that were a mainstay of life in the 1950s. I explained that in the “olden days,” the long-ago of my youth, my father decided that there would be no TV in our house.

As it turned out, about ten years later, in the 1960s, he did decide to buy a small black and white TV so that he could watch hockey games, but when I was at primary-school age, there was no TV in our house, which was located in Cartierville in Montreal.

For that reason, or for some other reason, I never got into the TV-watching habit. I have the sense that people get into the habit of watching TV, or of watching a screen, because that’s what they grew up with. I didn’t grow up with the habit of watching TV.

Preparations for the journey. Estonia, summer of 1944.

Preparations for the refugee journey away from Estonia in the summer of 1944. A family friend who made a similar journey has remarked it was like jumping out the second storey of a burning building.

I did watch some TV in the 1950s, because I would occasionally go to a friend’s house to watch TV on weekday evenings. I remember in particular a show called “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” about a dog who got into all manner of adventures, and a show called “Have Gun, Will Travel.” An page about the series describes it as “The adventures of a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.”

As I look back on these shows, what stays in mind is what I learned with regard to suspension of disbelief and the structure of stories. When I consider the storylines, these many years later, a couple of studies come to mind, chief among them a study entitled: Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (2013).

Another study that comes to mind, with regard to the TV series I used to watch from time to time as a child, is entitled: Extremely Violent Societies: Mass Violence in the Twentieth Century (2010).

Suspension of disbelief

Even now, if I’m watching a DVD of a movie on my laptop – I particularly like to watch film noir movies from the 1940s – I tend to watch it in 10-minute segments. That works really well for me. When I think about this topic, I’m reminded of the expression that, “When immersed in a story we let down our guard,” I have since high school been fascinated with the the concept of a suspension of disbelief as an essential element of fiction storytelling.

When I watch a show in 10-minute segments, I can move back and forth, from being immersed in the story at one point, to being attuned to my environment at another point. I like to move back and forth. The same applies to what is called non-fiction. If I’m reading a news article, I’m immersed in a particular frame of reference or storyline for a short time, and then I move on.

Boat on which my father and grandfather and other refugees made it across the  Baltic Sea in September 1944 during the Second World War

Boat on which my father and grandfather and other refugees made it across the Baltic Sea in September 1944 during the Second World War. Other family members travelled across the Baltic on a larger vessel.

Now, the idea of watching a movie straight through, such as an hour and ten minutes, is a somewhat strange idea for me. I’m aware that many people will sit happily for that length of time, in front of a screen, wherever the screen may be – that is, in a movie theatre, or in front of a TV screen, or in front of a laptop – but I do not make a habit of watching a movie straight through for such a length of time. I just don’t like sitting still for inordinate (inordinate, as I see it) length of time. I like to walk around, move around.

Part 3 of my autobiography story

I now proceed with the draft for Part 3.

A person’s engagement with the world has some influence on how closely they are listened to. My own engagement with the world is of a particular nature. Each person’s engagement with the world is of a particular nature.

My form of engagement has to do with the task of sense-making, or it can be called sense making. Maybe it can be spoken of as sensemaking.

That is to say, I have an interest in how words are used to make sense of things. In turn, I have an interest in how language works. Some of us, as I’ve outlined in a page about mindfulness meditation, like to have a strong sense of certainty about what is real, what is not real, and about how one should view this or that aspect of reality. I am happy to live with a degree of uncertainty, with regard to how situations are best perceived, and have a respect for, and enjoyment of, ambiguity. A 2015 study comes to mind:

Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing (2015)

Among the writers who have had a particularly strong impact on my life-long project, dedicated to the task of making sense of things, is the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman. Some years ago, I had the sense that, for all of my interest in the work of Erving Goffman, there would be no point in writing about his work at my website – because, who would care less about a writer from the “olden days.”

But then I noticed that he was still being cited, in books that I was reading, and so I decided to post some items about his life. That turned out to be a good decision; posts such as the following ones have been read by many, many people visiting my website in recent years:

Erving Goffman began his graduate work in Chicago in 1945

Erving Goffman’s “total institutions” warrant inclusion in a comprehensive theory of management

Boat on which my father and grandfather made it across the Baltic Sea in September 1944.

Boat on which my father and grandfather made it across the Baltic Sea in September 1944. My grandfather is on the right. He passed away in Sweden a decade later.

My family’s refuge story

Part 3 of my autobiography story is concerned with my family’s refuge story – which as it turns out, is a story about how I ended up in Canada and among other things helps to explain my interest in military history.

A couple of previous posts introduce the story; Part 3 will entail additions and elaborations of the theme:

My family fled as refugees from Estonia in 1944; they were among the ones who survived the journey to freedom

Online chapter by Tanni Kents in Estonian Life Stories (2009) describes her family’s postwar arrival in Cartierville

One of the great disappointments of my mother’s life, as she made a point of asserting in her above-noted life story, which is beautifully written and highly evocative, was that as her son I did not turn out to be a true Estonian, as she defined the term. Indeed, I did not. From my own point of view, her disappointment underlines the limitations of nationalism.

The needs and interests of the individual can readily come into conflict with the needs and interests of nationalism.

I much enjoy being Estonian, as I define the term. Estonian was my first language; as Estonians in Estonia and Canada have remarked from time to time, in the course of many years, my spoken Estonian has an unusual quality, for a person who has grown up outside of Estonia, in my case in Canada. That is to say, I speak Estonian without an Estonian accent.

As well, one of the interesting features of my speech is that my way of speaking Estonian is reminiscent of the Estonian language that people spoke in the 1940s. That makes sense, as it was in the 1940s that I learned to speak the language. When I was growing up and for the rest of my life while my parents were still alive, I always spoke with my parents in Estonian.

I speak an unusual, retro form of Estonian, without a western accent.

Another previous post is entitled:

Soviets deported over 7,000 women, children, and elderly people from Estonia on June 14 to 17, 1941 

Sense making takes many forms

Among my favourite recent books, with regard to the sense making project as it relates to my family’s refuge experiences, are Wall Flower (2015) and The Age of Selfishness (2015).

Wall Flower (2015)

Wall Flower: A life on the German Border (2015)

A blurb for the book at the Toronto Public Library website reads:

In August 1961, seventeen-year-old Rita Kuczynski was living with her grandmother and studying piano at a conservatory in West Berlin. Caught in East Berlin by the rise of the Berlin Wall while on a summer visit to her parents, she found herself trapped behind the Iron Curtain for the next twenty-eight years. Kuczynski’s fascinating memoir relates her experiences of life in East Germany as a student, a fledgling academic philosopher, an independent writer, and, above all, as a woman. Though she was never a true believer in Communism, Rita gained entry into the circles of the East German intellectual elite through her husband Thomas Kuczynski. There, in the privileged world that she calls “the gardens of the nomenklatura,” she saw first-hand the contradictions at the heart of life for the East German intelligentsia. Published in English for the very first time twenty-six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Wall Flower offers a rare–and critical–look at life among the East German elite. Told with wry wit and considerable candor, Kuczynski’s story offers a fascinating perspective on the rise and fall of East Germany.

[End of text]

Comment: This is a beautifully written study of life within the higher reaches of East Germany society in the years prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Age of Selfishness (2015)

The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis (2015)

A blurb for the book at the Toronto Public Library website notes:

Tracing the emergence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism in the 1940s to her present-day influence, Darryl Cunningham’s latest work of graphic-nonfiction investigation leads readers to the heart of the global financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham uses Rand’s biography to illuminate the policies that led to the economic crash in the U.S. and in Europe, and how her philosophy continues to affect today’s politics and policies, starting with her most noted disciple, economist Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve). Cunningham also shows how right-wing conservatives, libertarians, and the Tea Party movement have co-opted Rand’s teachings (and inherent contradictions) to promote personal gain and profit at the expense of the middle class. Tackling the complexities of economics by distilling them down to a series of concepts accessible to all age groups, Cunningham ultimately delivers a devastating analysis of our current economic world.

[End of text] 

Comment: As Darryl Cunningham notes, in the above-noted graphic non-fiction historical overview, the subject of the study grew up in Soviet Russia – and in her life’s work ended up retaining and demonstrating elements of a Soviet mindset.

She was convinced that she was rebelling in totality against the Soviet mindset, but what she was rebelling against was expressed within the totalitarian framework that was part of her early Soviet-childhood sense making processes.

Such events happen frequently, in my observation.

Totalitarianism in  its many forms, the mindsets of true believers in their many forms, populist political worldviews, propaganda, and in some cases public relations in its many forms, share a common  characteristic – namely, the perspective that evidence and facts can be conveniently ignored, as they get in the way of the story, of the frame, and of the framing process.

It is also a feature of history that, in the end, the evidence does at times, and in many cases after many generations of people have come and gone, make its presence known. To state the matter another way, from time to time, reality obtrudes.


Enough of the draft of my story. I am going for a walk and will do some gardening. Tomorrow I help with a clean-up of the Marie Curtis Park beaches:

Join us for a clean-up of the Marie Curtis Park beaches (east and west) on Sunday, June 26, 2016 from 10am to 12pm 


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Draft of an autobiography story: Jaan Pill (2); every year I make presentations at schools in the GTA about stuttering

The concept of writing autobiography stories is based on as suggestion by Graeme Decarie:

Graeme Decarie, retired Concordia U history prof, encourages us to write our autobiography stories

But don’t start with a scheme of any sort

In a comment at the latter post, Graeme notes:

“Start with little incidents, observations, etc. I started with the Dick and Jane reader. It turned out to be the theme of the whole autobiography.

“But start with any incident. Then, when you have enough, blend some of those incidents into the first chapter. It really isn’t hard.

“But don’t start with a scheme of any sort.”

Jaan Pill (2)

I’ve begun a Part 1 of an autobiography story at a previous post; my plan is to work my way through various segments and then figure out how it all goes together.

Episodic memory

My memory is of an episodic nature, as is the functioning of my attention.

The concept of putting together an autobiography story or stories appeals to me. The concept appeals to me even more than the writing of my life story or memoirs. In the larger scheme of things, I don’t see much point in writing a life story or memoir but the idea of writing an autobiography story does appeal to me. Graeme Decarie’s encouragement, for us to write such stories, is as well a source of motivation for me. My sense is that now is the time to work on it, as the time that remains for each of us is finite, and precious.

In recent years I’ve told my story, about how I overcame my stuttering, at schools across the Greater Toronto Area

In recent years, I’ve spoken to several hundred elementary school students, in schools served by the Peel District School Board and the Toronto District School Board, about the topic of stuttering.

So I can picture that one of my autobiography stories will be a blending of those stories – a large number of which I have audio recorded and video recorded, with a plan to put together a brief video based upon them.

At the current stage of my life, I’ve been retired from teaching for over a decade. At this stage of my life, I’ve been making at least one presentation about stuttering each year for several years now, at schools across the Greater Toronto Area. I’ve lost track of the number of years. In some cases I’ve spoken to just one class in a school; in other cases I’ve spoken to all of the classes at a school (with classes of students cycling through a school library to hear my presentations).

Every year, usually at the end of the school year, I meet a new group of grade 2, grade 3, or grade 4 students. I always speak about pretty well the same thing, always have some great conversations with the students and teachers, and in the process maintain a contact with the life of elementary school students that I otherwise would not have.

What a pleasure it is to meet with students of this age, and to have conversations with them in a classroom setting. I so much enjoy the entire process.

This is a key part of my autobiography story. In the course of my life, in my early years I stuttered severely. Sometimes I could not get out any words at all. But in time I found a way to deal with this and I subsequently played a key role, as a volunteer, in setting up a national group (the Canadian Stuttering Association) for people who stutter, as well as groups elsewhere in the world. The skills I learned, in a process that some people like to call community self-organzing, have stood me in good stead in all of the years that have followed, during which I have also turned to other forms of volunteer work.

Children are the future. What a delight it is to speak with them. Speaking with them once a year, in a classroom setting, is enough for me to keep alive the sense of connection with the experiences and perspectives, of early childhood, that were a part of my day to day life when I worked as a teacher.

Students enjoy my visits, and my storytelling about stuttering. The underlying message, which every child can relate to, is that if a person has a problem, it’s a great idea to deal with it head-on, and to persist until a solution emerges.

And that completes the draft for Part 2 of my autobiography story. I look forward to filling in the details and moving on to other stories. I thought about this topic, because I made such a presentation, of the kind that I’ve described, at Sir Adam Beck Junior School in South Etobicoke earlier today (June 23, 2016).

I encourage readers of this post to begin work today on the writing of their own autobiography stories.


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We seek contact details for L. Rhind (front row) who is in this 1961-62 MCHS photo

Graeme Decarie is at the far left in back row. Photo from 1961-62 Malcolm Campbell High School yearbook. Click on image to enlarge it. Click again to enlarge it further.

We have a message from Lynne H. on Facebook (Malcolm Campbell High School page): “Would be interested in finding L. Rhind. (Front row) My grandmother was a Rhind and I went to MCHS….#ancestry. Thanks”

Anybody who can help with this quest, please contact me through this website.


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The 2016 festival is over, but there’s always more Jane’s Walk!

Here are three ways to keep walking until next May >


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Local urban planning “Fair Process” overview has been prepared by David Godley of Long Branch

The following text is from the following document prepared by David Godley:


A Fair Process for Severance and Variance Applications

Restoring the balance between competing interests



1)That the Planning Department plan education sessions with the Committee of Adjustment members, focussing on due process, equality of participants, role in implementing City policies, and citizen engagement which encourages co-operation among various interests.

2)That the Planning Department continue their reform of processes based on issues raised below.



The Legal Framework

The Planning Act has 6 major purposes, two of which are:

(d) to provide for planning processes that are fair by making them open, accessible, timely and efficient.

(e) to encourage co-operation and co-ordination among various interests.

Long Branch Neighbourhood Association (LBNA)

This body was set up to promote the interests of citizens of Long Branch including conservation of character. It emanated from a community meeting on May 4 2015 held because of the frustration and anger of residents about the severance and variance processes and the results.

The Ontario Appeal Board

At that time the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) was seen as the ogre. It still is. There is no equality in the appeal process. The system ensures that those with money and power win. Essentially the citizen is powerless and has to depend on the Planning Department and the co-operation of the Councillor. Without citizens hiring legal and planning experts for $20,000 to $30,000 and opening themselves to costs, development is always going to be approved. This is the legalistic nature of the OMB. Their decisions have little relationship to good planning. The system is discriminatory.

In fact the process, as well as the product, that is destabilising Long Branch. The hope on the horizon is the change to Local Area Boards of appeal which should be operating later this year in Toronto. There should be a cut off for applications to be reviewed by the OMB so that LAB can move straight into deliberation when set up, the earlier the better. Written submissions (including cross examinations) with qualified planners adjudicating would eliminate unfair practices transferring over from OMB processes.

Local Democracy

Local democracy all but disappeared after City amalgamation. Citizen Advisory Panels were never implemented. We now rely on three politicians at the three levels of Government whereas in Long Branch Village days there were at least 15, most of them at the grassroots level. However the process of planning application offers a good opportunity for local democracy.

Community Meetings

The first steps towards this have been taken by an enlightened Planning Department by recommending community meetings prior to a decision. Previously the local process (as well as the appeal process) was adversarial and divisive. The adversarial process is the worst way to resolve issues and effect good planning; genuine planners recognise this. The resentment and wrath of the community is also beginning to be directed at the Committee of Adjustment as well as some administrative processes.

Favouring Development Interests

A basic element of bias is when an applicant says they agree with deferral to blunt opposition and then decide to proceed at the hearing. The Committee of Adjustment feel duty bound to allow a hearing to continue at the wish of the applicant rather than considering residents viewpoints or their lack of information. This undermines due process. A similar ploy is to switch plans at the last minute so those with interest are unable to comprehend the implications.

Access to Information

Another element is the comprehension of impacts. The Committee of Adjustment need to ensure that the public fully understand the impacts of a development and the information is readily available. Information sent out now is not sufficient to allow anyone to make informed judgments. Those affected have the often arduous task of visiting the Civic Offices during the day to try to make sense of the proposal and its impacts.

Observing Written Submissions

The Committee of Adjustment to their credit give weight to large turnouts of objectors which generally are a measure of concern. For example 31 people turned out from 36th Street to protest a proposal at #30 and the application was refused. But because the street was fatigued with the process only 4 came out to object to the proposal at #50. This was approved against advice from the Planning Department, Urban Forestry, LBNA and the Councillor. It is essential in a democratic society that people be able to shape their neighbourhood and this is known as the fifth test for variances in legal circles.

Full Information

Even now the information supplied is not enough to properly judge impacts. There is a need for clear plans of the size and shapes of nearby lots and densities, the street façade of the proposal in relation to the abutting properties (including permitted use outline) and a bird’s eye view. Otherwise it is almost impossible for any lay person to determine whether the Official Plan policies have been met. It is difficult for professionals. The digitisation of applications will help access to proposals but information provided is insufficient. Limited information was fine when minor really was minor.

Minor Variance

The Committee of Adjustment does not seem to recognise the imbalance of citizen presenters versus development planners and lawyers. They often seem to ignore the general intent of the Official Plan and zoning bylaw and substitute their own view of development. Neither the Planning Department nor the Committee give enough respect to the City’s definition of “minor”

“Small changes or exceptions to existing land use or development restrictions contained in the zoning bylaw are called minor variances.”

Interpretation has been changed over the last 5 to 10 years to favour development despite clear indication otherwise from Divisional Courts. There is no reason for the local process to follow the OMB which has been compromised by development interests.

Citizens Lack of Influence

This redefining of the term “minor” also has implications for neighbour impacts. While the street scene has greater public implications, the impact on neighbours is a planning concern referenced by the Official Plan and zoning bylaw. This seems to be given little or no weight by the Committee of Adjustment. The Planning Department also seem reluctant to give much weight to this aspect. Essentially this means that neighbours whose rear yard is overshadowed, overlooked, overwhelmed or have their views blocked are eliminated from the planning process.

Trees and Vegetation

Another serious consideration is that of preserving the tree canopy. A City of Toronto advert on bus shelters along Lake Shore Blvd. urges citizens to keep trees for their many benefits. Ironically over intensive development is denuding parts of the neighbourhood of foliage with both legal and illegal destruction. Many developers give scant regard to retaining vegetation. 50 36th Street is a well treed lot but the Committee approved the doubling of density without Urban Forestry comment. Urban forestry is not permitted to protect trees where they are impacted by an approval. This may even affect neighbour’s trees. The Committee of Adjustment frequently ignore the request for deferral by Urban Forestry and are jeopardising the City’s strong efforts to create a better tree canopy.


In addition all applications should have a condition that development be substantially the same as the submitted drawings. The community can then rely on what they see being at least similar to what they get. All “twin houses” should have a condition that they should be contrasted in design, and materials.



Level Playing Field

The Committee of Adjustment sometimes seems to have a blind spot on due process. Applicants choose the date of the hearing which is sometimes difficult for citizens to attend. The process is too quick for the public to assemble their thoughts. The deadlines were set prior to “minor” being promoted as including “major”.

There appears to be little recognition that by giving applicants extra rights that they are removing rights of those impacted. By law it is up to the applicant to prove acceptability of the development. In the case of new soldier houses for example the whole of the neighbourhood is negatively affected. This fortunately has been recognised by the Planning Department who together with the Councillor initiated an Urban Design Guideline Study. Every effort should be made to create a level playing field between competing interests. Community meetings are a valuable in achieving this.

Community Meetings

All severances and other complex applications especially where new houses are proposed should be subject of Community Meetings in a similar but less formal way to zoning revisions. Several “round the table” Community Meetings have been successful in resolving issues. The Community Meetings should be before the application is considered by Committee to prevent citizens having to attend Committee of Adjustment meetings twice.

The first time that applications are before the Committee, those concerned do not know whether the matter will be deferred or heard. So they have to be ready with their perhaps unnecessary presentations, sometimes waiting over four hours. The 7 or 8 hours the Committee of Adjustment members preside seems excessive where concentration is needed to review complex issues.

Urban Design

The Committee of Adjustment appear to go beyond the bounds of implementing City policy and in the case of Urban Design usually ignore Official Plan policies on this aspect. Urban Design issues (Official Policies below) seem neglected. Urban design takes precedence over density in Neighbourhood designations according to Official Plan Section 2. Decision makers appear to need help on “appearance” judgments by experts.

Change in the Committee of Adjustment Approach

The Committee of Adjustment has in the past been influenced by staff comments and citizen input. However recently some of their decisions seem to reflect more personal values rather than reflecting the legal and planning framework in which they are supposed to operate.

Letting Down the Electorate

Of particular importance to the residents is the notion of fairness. The overall way the process works at the moment is irrational. This is particularly so with the elimination of meaningful participation. The constant undermining of the Planning Act and Official Plan is a source of anxiety for residents.

Every time a severance is approved it encourages more applications. This leads to lack of trust in the system and of Government generally. Development, which has often been mistakenly approved by the OMB, is a permanent reminder of a system which crushes those with least power.


Staff of the City of Toronto is paid by the general public to take a balanced view of planning issues. By ignoring advice the Committee of Adjustment become a political force instead of a balanced adjudacative body.



Education of the Committee of Adjustment

It is essential to have the Committee of Adjustment grounded to their appointed function using comprehensive education sessions. It is also important for the Planning Department to continue their reforms to eliminate skewing of the planning process.

David Godley                                            June 15 2016

Extract from Urban Design Policies of Toronto’s Official Plan

3. New development will be massed and its exterior façade will be designed to fit harmoniously into its existing and/or planned context, and

will limit its impact on neighbouring streets, parks, open spaces and properties by:

a) massing new buildings to frame adjacent streets and open

spaces in a way that respects the existing and/or planned street proportion;

b) incorporating exterior design elements, their form, scale, proportion, pattern and materials, and their sustainable design, to influence the character, scale and appearance of the development;

c) creating appropriate transitions in scale to neighbouring existing and/or

planned buildings for the purpose of achieving the objectives of this Plan;

d) providing for adequate light and privacy;

e) adequately limiting any resulting shadowing of, and uncomfortable wind

conditions on, neighbouring streets, properties and

open spaces, having regard for the varied nature of such areas


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Conserving Long Branch – David Godley June 2016 Update Addendum

A previous post, based on my experiences as a Long Branch resident, is entitled:

How to prepare a 5-minute presentation to the Committee of Adjustment

Another previous post is entitled:

The question of lawn signs and the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association (LBNA), which is currently being formed 

Click here to access previous posts featuring input from David Godley >

Following text is from David Godley:

Yet another beautiful morning in Long Branch,

A “fair process document” has been sent to key personnel in the Planning Department and is attached:


Please feel free to agree or disagree [with the document].

Lawn Signs. A complaint led to a “blitz” of the neighbourhood by enforcement staff of the City with varying degrees of subtlety. One member of staff moved signs back behind the property line, another politely asked if this could be done. The signs carted away by tuck [meaning unclear] were returned. Thank you.

May 12, 2016 Committee of Adjustment Hearing from the Planning Department. [In David Godley’s email, the updates are in brown. I have not included the colour formatting, given that my time as a volunteer is limited.]

1. B9/16EYK, A76/16EYK and A77/16EYK – 4 Shamrock Avenue – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Neighbourhood Association (LBNA) recommended refusal. Staff are recommending refusal. Refused

2. B16/16EYK, A167/16EYK and A168/16EYK – 80 Twenty Third Street – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. LBNA recommended refusal. Staff are recommending refusal. Refused

3. A280/16EYK – 32 Twenty Seventh Street – This is an application for Minor Variance. The variances relate to FSI, front yard setback, building height, height of the first floor above established grade and platform size. Staff are concerned with the variance related to height. Staff are recommending the application be deferred in order for Planning staff to schedule a community consultation meeting, together with the Ward Councillor, to provide the applicant an opportunity to develop a revised proposal that is more in keeping with the existing physical character of the neighbourhood. Should the Committee choose not to defer the application and proceed in hearing the deputations, Planning staff recommend that the minor variance application be refused. LBNA recommended deferral. Deferred

Results April 14, 2016 Committee of Adjustment Hearing

1. A102/16EYK – 66 Ash Crescent – This is a Minor Variance application to permit an increase to the permitted floor space index. A new detached dwelling with an attached garage is proposed. Staff have reviewed the application and are of the opinion the four tests outlined in the Planning Act are met. Approved.

2. A125/16EYK – 87 Ash Crescent – This is a Minor Variance Application to permit an increase in gross floor area and a reduced front yard setback. A new two-storey east side addition and a second storey addition above the existing dwelling is proposed. Staff have reviewed the application and are of the opinion the four tests outlined in the Planning Act are met. Approved on condition as amended.

3. A187/16EYK – 29 Thirty Eighth Street – This is a Minor Variance Application seeking variances relating to lot coverage and floor space index. A new detached dwelling with an attached garage is proposed. Staff have reviewed the application and are of the opinion the four tests outlined in the Planning Act are met. Approved on condition.

4. A203/16EYK – 57 Twenty Fifth Street – This is a Minor Variance Application seeking variances relating to floor space index, side yard setback, front yard setback and eaves setback. A second storey addition is proposed. Staff have reviewed the application and are of the opinion the four tests outlined in the Planning Act are met. Approved

5. B75/15EYK, A667/15EYK & A668/15EYK – 2 Ash Crescent – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Staff have reviewed the application and are recommending a deferral to provide the applicant an opportunity to have further discussion with Planning staff and the community to develop a revised proposal that is more in keeping with the established physical character of the neighbourhood and more in accordance with the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-laws. Approved on condition.

6. B2/16EYK, A13/16EYK & A14/16EYK – 30 Thirty Sixth Street – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Staff have reviewed the application and are recommending a deferral to provide the applicant an opportunity to have further discussion with Planning staff and the community to develop a revised proposal that is more in keeping with the established physical character of the neighbourhood and more in accordance with the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-laws. Refused.

Reviewed Applications in Long Branch

1. B77/15EYK, A692/15EYK & A693/15EYK – 42 Exmoor Drive (on the edge of Long Branch) – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Planning staff are recommending that the applications be deferred in order for the applicant to submit revised plans that would be more in keeping with the purpose and intent of the Official Plan and Zoning By-law. LBNA recommended deferral. Approved May 12

2. B8/16EYK, A73/16EYK and A74/16EYK – 2 Shamrock Avenue – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Staff have reviewed the application and are recommending refusal. Hearing date – TBD

3. B11/16EYK, A95/16EYK and A96/16EYK – 9 Thirty Eighth Street- This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Staff have reviewed the application and are recommending a deferral to provide the applicant an opportunity to have further discussion with Planning staff and the community to develop a revised proposal that is more in keeping with the established physical character of the neighbourhood and more in accordance with the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-laws. Hearing date TBD

4. B12/16EYK, A121/16EYK and A122/16EYK – 50 Thirty Sixth Street – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Planning Staff recommend that the consent and related minor variance applications be deferred in order for Planning staff to schedule a community consultation meeting, together with the Ward Councillor, to provide the applicant an opportunity to consult with local area residents. LBNA recommended deferral. Approved May 12 Councillor requested to appeal on behalf of the City and to provide Legal and Planning Services to support.

5. B17/16EYK, A174/16EYK and A175/16EYK – 20 Elton Crescent – This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Staff have reviewed the application and are recommending a deferral to provide the applicant an opportunity to have further discussion with Planning staff and the community to develop a revised proposal that is more in keeping with the established physical character of the neighbourhood and more in accordance with the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-laws. Hearing July 7

6. B22/16EYK, A257/16EYK and A258/16EYK – 28 Twenty First Street. This is an application for consent with associated minor variances. Staff have reviewed the application and are recommending deferral. This is a unique case where the proposed lots meet the frontage and area requirements of the zoning by-laws. Staff are of the view that the proposed houses on each of the newly created lots represent over development and are seeking a deferral to provide the applicant an opportunity to have further discussion with Planning staff and the community to develop a revised proposal that is more in keeping with the established physical character of the neighbourhood and more in accordance with the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-laws. Deferred May 12

10 Garden Place. 14 41st Street. 88 Laburnham – Approved May 12

78 29th Street – Deferred May 12

Applications for July 7 2016 Committee of Adjustment

16 25th Street

9 Meaford Avenue (severance)

93 Lake Promenade (new)

20 Elton (severance)

77 26th St (new)

New Applications

82 27th Street (severance)

48 Elder (severance) This is pushing the boundaries by asking for semis in a single family only zoning district on a 42 feet frontage lot.

This would open up a whole new ball game if approved.

Appealed to Ontario Municipal Board

20 Garden Place (severance)

30 36th Street (severance)

2 Ash Avenue (severance)

80 23rd Street (severance)

OMB Hearings

4/5 July 10 am, OMB Offices 56/58 Ash (severances) Thanks to those who noticed it missing from my previous list.

7 July 10 am, OMB Offices 9 Atherton (severance)

[Additional information regarding David Godley:]

I am an independent retired planner who is trying to achieve an equitable planning process.

I have been helping residents in Long Branch and elsewhere with planning issues pro bono since 2006 when my Committee of Adjustment terms were finished.

I am not a member of the LBNA or for that matter the Lawn Signs group.

Please keep me in touch with anything that you think my 100 or so recipients might wish to know.

Please also let me know if you prefer not to receive Updates.

[If you wish to receive email updates from David Godley, please send him an email at]


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Draft of an Autobiography Story (1): Jaan Pill; we owe thanks to Graeme Decarie for suggesting the format

Jaan Pill. Source: 1962-63 Malcolm Campbell High School yearbook

In a previous post, I’ve discussed Graeme Decarie’s recommendation that Malcolm Campbell High School grads start working on their autobiography stories.

One can think of this as a task that Mr. Decarie has assigned for each of us – and that includes those of us who never attended Malcolm Campbell High School.

Whatever high school you attended, you are encouraged to get to work on your story.

A short version of a part of my story appears in a post entitled:

MCHS bio for Jaan Pill, class of ’63 

Below is a draft of another part of the autobiography story that I’ve begun to write.

The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence (2016)

Some people like to focus their efforts on seeking to dominate and control other people; my own preference, instead, is to help bring people together, on a small scale in pursuit of shared interests, when I can.

A chapter in a book I’ve been reading recently – Chapter 3 of The Power Paradox (2016) is entitled “Enduring Power Comes from a Focus on Others” – comes to mind, when I think about the role of power and influence in our lives.

Practising judo in school yards in the 1950s

What I learned as a child, at recess times in elementary school – at Cartierville School and Morison School in Montreal in the 1950s – has served me well.

I refer, in this context, to what I learned about a judo move, that I perfected as a result of constant practice, whereby a kid can flip another kid through the air, so that they land flat on their back in the snow.

Another judo move, which I also enjoyed practising, involved listening – and sensing – when another student was running toward me from behind, in the snow, intent on knocking me to the ground from behind. At the last instance, as my opponent came charging toward me, I would duck down and the student would trip over me and sprawl in the snow in front of me.

I have kept these judo principles in mind in the years that have followed, and have on occasion had the occasion to apply – metaphorically speaking – versions of them.

Many forms that memory can take

The other thing that I have learned, as I look back on things, is that memory can take many forms. I do not have what can be described as a photographic memory. I do not remember a great many things from the past. My memory is more of an episodic nature. I remember details here and there from the past, and I’m aware that each instance of remembering changes the memory of the detail. Overall, what I remember are the patterns, and where the details (such as I remember) lead to.

A concurrent thing that I have learned has to do with the role of stories in determining our view of the world, and in determining how a person can use stories to help to bring people together.

Start of my story

That is the start – this is my first draft – of my autobiography story. I owe thanks to Graeme Decarie for suggesting that MCHS grads get to work on their autobiography stories. I have, with the post that I have just written, begun to write mine.

I encourage you to start to write your own story. It begins with just getting a few words down on paper, or on a screen. Somebody will thank you, years from now, for the story you have put together.


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Graeme Decarie, retired Concordia U history prof, encourages us to write our autobiography stories; here’s Graeme’s Chapter 1

Graeme Decarie is at the far left in back row. Photo from 1961-62 Malcolm Campbell High School yearbook. Click on image to enlarge it. Click again to enlarge it further.

Graeme Decarie’s impressive and evocative MCHS Bio is outlined at a previous post:

MCHS Bio for Graeme Decarie, who taught for three years at Malcolm Campbell High School 

Click here for previous posts about Graeme Decarie >

Graeme’s suggestion, that MCHS grads get to work on their stories, has prompted me to begin  to work on my own story.

Each of us has the opportunity to put together our story; today is the day that I have begun writing my own autobiography story – as a subsequent post indicates.

I encourage you to start your own story today as well.

But don’t start with a scheme of any sort

The comments section  (below) offers some useful pointers on how to proceed; in a comment (see below), Mr. Decarie notes:

“Start with little incidents, observations, etc. I started with the Dick and Jane reader. It turned out to be the theme of the whole autobiography.

“But start with any incident. Then, when you have enough, blend some of those incidents into the first chapter. It really isn’t hard.

“But don’t start with a scheme of any sort.”

Recent conversation with Graeme Decarie

Graeme Decarie: I’ve been writing (very slowly) an autobiography for my children. So far, it runs to some 75 pages. But I began by writing very short (1 or 2 pages) starting with ancestry, birth, earliest memories.

I thought of sending one of those short ones to Preserved Stories to encourage readers to start their own.

Jaan Pill: Yes, it would be good to post some of your autobiography stories to Preserved Stories as a way of encouraging others to write their stories.

The more stories get written, the better.

Graeme Decarie: I have, off and on, been writing an autobiography. (It’s hard to find the time when I have a long blog to pump out every day.)

It’s for my children. And I think it’s good for kids to have something like that. So – some MCHS grads might be approaching an age when they might want to think about.

I began with memories, and a bit of what I knew of family origins from the family tree. I now have 75 pages and I’m barely thirty.

Now, I’m putting these 75 pages into chapter form. It seems a workable choice that you might want to try.

So here’s a sample of the introductory chapter (a very brief one, and still in rough form.) It began by collection bits and pieces – the Dick and Jane reader from grade 1, first memories, that sort of thing.

[In the text that follows, headings have been added for ease of online reading]


In the beginning, there was the Dick and Jane Reader, authorized by the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal as the official text for grade one. The first page was a big picture of a neat, white bungalow with a big, green lawn. The bungalow had steps with two railings, and a clean path to the sidewalk where a boy stood, smiling. He was very clean and neat, too.

At the bottom of the page, it said: “See Dick.”

The next page had a picture of Dick running. The words at the bottom said, “See Dick run.”
Building on that theme, the next page said, “Run, Dick, Run.”

Then there was another picture, this time with a neat, clean girl in front of the neat, clean bungalow. The word at the bottom was, “Jane.”

Then the next picture showed Jane running ; and at the bottom it said—-well, you get the drift. Jane’s appearance on stage was followed by that of Spot, their neat, clean dog. He or she (the illustration was unclear on this point) was a runner, too.

It was all fiction; and doubly so for us kids in grade one of Crystal Springs School, a four-room brick schoolhouse in the Villeray District of Montreal’s North End. We knew it was fiction because none of us had ever seen a neat, white bungalow – or a lawn. Nor had we ever seen a Dick or a Jane each dressed in clean clothes that fit, and each with his or her very own room in the neat, white bungalow.

Most of us lived in tiny flats on the second storeys of masses of brick that stretched without a break on every side as far as our world reached. Each pair of these second storey flats had a balcony with a steel staircase that started out the end of the balcony, then curved out to the street.

Twelve dollars a month

The ground level flats were for people better off than us because there was only one flat downstairs for two upstairs. In our case, the landlord lived downstairs. With twelve dollars coming in from us every month, he could afford more handsome quarters than we could.

Each upstairs flat had two rooms. The front room was my bedroom. It was also my parent’s bedroom. And it was the living room for guests, who sat on the couch – which was my bed.

The back room was the kitchen with its coal stove for heat and cooking, and a small kitchen table that visitors sat around in winter. (The front room was too cold for visitors in winter, so cold that my windowsill did the duty of the fridge we didn’t have. Many of our wealthier neighbours had ice boxes which were refilled with blocks of ice delivered by horse-drawn wagons.)

The kitchen was also the radio room. That made it important because radio ruled. The whole family would sit for hours to hear Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and The Shadow. The favourite chair in the room was a stuffed one that could lean back a bit. It was also my sister’s (Winnifred’s) bed.

There was no hot water. There was a tank for it. But lighting the gas jet under the tank was out of the question because that could run up a bill of ten cents or even more. That sort of money was reserved for more tangible luxuries. You could get six chocolate marshmallow biscuits at the corner store for ten cents. (My mother, for some reason best known to herself, would always take just one bite out of the first biscuit, then gently put it back in the bag with the others. My father would happily eat all six.)

Coal stove in kitchen

The water situation eased up in winter because that was when we had the coal stove in the kitchen going. On Saturday bath night, my mother would put a tub of water on the stove. Then, all four feet ten of her would stagger with a tubful of boiling water to dump it in the tub. There, once I mixed in an equal amount of cold water, I could lie back and soak in some lukewarm water that almost went up to my ankles.

But the stove-heated water was only for the coldest of months. Most of the year, Winnifred and I would get into our bathing suits on bath night, and splash in the cold water pretending we were at the beach.

In winter, the stove was allowed to go out every day right after supper.

To the end of their days, my parents turned off the heat at night, even on the coldest nights, often opening the windows wide. When I was away at Acadia University, I went home one Christmas, and stayed with them. I woke up at two in the morning, the cold driving right through the bone.

My parents had, of course, turned off the heat after supper. Then my father, always the last one to go to bed, got the idea I must find my bedroom stuffy. (This would have been about one a.m. – when I was sleeping the sleep of the virtuous.) So he had opened my window to the 40 below zero night.

My mother, nee Jessie Miller, was a Scot born at Kilmarnock, though the family originated farther north as generations of farm servants near a highland village called Taynault. She was a twin sister to Margaret, and one of six children (including Daniel, John, Dolly and Tilda) to be crammed into the tight budget of Daniel Miller, a tailor. (Daniel’s name at his christening was Donald; but changing names was a common and casual matter in the highlands.)

Most prominent genetic traits of pit bulls

Soon after my mother was born, the family moved to London where, according to a family tale that seems to be true, her father made the coronation robe for King George V. The less often told part of the tale is that uncle Johnny stole and sold some of the gold trim.

Daniel Miller’s wife, my grandmother, was a woman whose face, body, and personality had echoes of the most prominent genetic traits of pit bulls. She had been a dressmaker and, presumably, had met Donald Miller through her work. About 1910, the family somehow scraped together the money to migrate to Canada. My grandfather went a year early, then sent for the rest.

They settled at Montreal because that was where the ship stopped. A flat, much like the one I grew up in, was found in the east end of the city. From there, Daniel Miller walked to work six days a week. On Sundays, he walked rather further to Montreal’s Chinatown, where he was a lay preacher at a mission. (At five cents each way, tram fare was out of the question.)

Then, in the great flu epidemic of 1917, Daniel Miller, the illegitimate son of a farm servant, born and raised in a highland but and ben (two-roomed cottage), died. His widow immediately took all the children out of school, and sent them to work. My mother, 12 at the time, went to a big house in the expensive enclave of Westmount. Every cent she earned for the next dozen years and more would go to her mother.

She later became a telephone receptionist, and then a stenographer. For the rest of her life, she rarely mentioned anything about her years before she met my father. And she never said a word at all about the servant years. But she never forgot them.

When my sister, Winnifred, was offered a summer job looking after a family’s child at their country cottage, my mother was humiliated and angry. “ No. That tells you what they think of us. They think we’re the class that has to go into service.”

My father was one of five boys – Irvin, Malcolm (my father), Alex, Alan, and Youbert. Their father, Alec, had a small, incinerator business based on an invention by his father. “The shop” as we called it, was a sheet metal faced building that stood at the back of a yard filled with rusting, scrap iron. My father was to live half of his life within a twenty-minute walk of the shop.


My grandfather always seemed to do well, enough so that he had a car when cars were still a luxury. My grandmother always had a full time household servant. Their home was just a short distance from ours and, though bigger than ours, was still decidedly working class. They could have afforded more. I don’t know why they didn’t.

My grandfather cared only about two people – his wife and himself. The boys were no more than cheap labour for “the shop”, and never would be more. Irvin and Alec realized that early, and struck off on their own. For the rest of their lives, they visited their parents, at most, once a year. Their children visited even less often.

Allan recognized what his father was. But he stayed with him, anyway – to look after the office, and to siphon money into his own pocket. (He was the first of the sons to have his own house and a car.)


My father was the only one who remained loyal to his father. I have no idea why. It cost him heavily; and he got neither reward nor thanks for it. Worse, my grandfather tried to stop my parents’ marriage – not because he gave a damn about it but because his wife loathed my mother, and would spend the rest of her life gossiping about her. She encouraged my sister and I to visit her often, probably because it was her way of slighting my mother.

My parents married at the tiny, mission church of Crystal Springs United in August of 1932 when my father, in a good week, made three to five dollars. On the night of August 26, 1933, my mother felt the coming of labour. My father walked to his parents’ house to ask for a drive to the hospital. His father refused.

My parents set out for the walk to the streetcar line on St. Denis, and then the long ride to Pine Ave, and the walk up the steep hill to Royal Victoria Hospital. There, on August 27, I was born. I was, of course, promptly diapered by a nurse. Years later, I learned that was the only diaper I ever had. When the doctor presented his bill, my father just shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I don’t have a cent.” Nor did he.

Three dollars a week

Business was slow, so my father’s salary had been cut to three dollars a week. He had been doing odd jobs of manual labour for the city, like shovelling snow to (just) get by. Meanwhile, my grandparents still drove a car, and kept a maid.

I was told that my father used to walk two miles to a charity depot every day to get free milk for me. But it wasn’t enough. I was once taken to emergency, suffering from malnutrition. But, of course, I remember none of that.

Baby sister

Of my infancy, all I remember is being held by someone outdoors, and my father coming toward us, his face and eyes lit up by a smile. In the background was a streetcar. My mother would later identify that as our Boyer Street home. I also have a vague memory of my carriage/crib, an elderly vehicle made of woven reeds. I remember peeking into it to see my baby sister when I was three.

Continuous memory began to form when I was about four, when we were living on de Gaspe. (We moved frequently, and always within the same district. I have no idea why. But I do remember, from age 6, my father and I carrying all the family possessions along the street. Luckily, there were few to carry.)

I remember, on a long walk to country cottage in Montreal North, a woman who had only two fingers on her hand giving me a banana. It was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen or tasted. To this day, a banana has special appeal for me.

Playing on the street, age of four

I remember playing on the street, unsupervised, by the age of four. It wasn’t as risky as it sounds because there were very few cars in our district. Bread and milk were still delivered in horse-drawn wagons. So was coal, and ice for the rich people who had ice-boxes. The garbage wagons were horse-drawn, great, square boxes, each on two, huge, wooden wheels. And the cry of the rag and scrap man was a daily sound as his wagon rolled down the alley.

My first friend, Stanley Short, lived just a few doors away. I once had supper at his house. We sat at a tiny, child table, and each had half a chocolate marshmallow biscuit for desert.

One summer day, Stanley and I were playing cowboys in the vacant lot across the street. As I raised my finger and shouted “tow, tow” (the French style of “pow, pow”), a pair of fingers gripped my ear, and hauled it, followed by me, across the road and up the stairs.


My mother, though attending the moderate, United Church, still carried in her veins the blood of the Calvinists that were her highland ancestors. Playing cowboys on Sunday was forbidden; so I was hauled, still walking backwards, all the way to the kitchen where the strap hung.

But I had an ace in the hole. I had already had enough instruction in the rules of Presbyterianism to know that God decided long in advance what we would do. It wasn’t up up to us. We were predestined to do whatever we did. And, as I remembered that, I opened the case for the defence.

“I couldn’t help it. God predestined me to play cowboys today.”
The grip on my ear relaxed a little. My mother loved a religious discussion. I felt a rush of joy as the flow of blood to my ear was somewhat restored.

“You’re right,” she said. “you’re absolutely right.”Then the flow of blood abruptly cut off as she added, “And God predestined me to strap you for it.”


By the time I was five, my sister was close to three, and she was playing on the street, too. I remember that well because my mother always warned us never to accept anything from strangers on the street. One day, when my sister was playing well down the block, a grocery boy on a bicycle offered her an apple. I grabbed her hand, and pulled her away.

A few months before my sixth birthday, we moved again, this time to a flat beside a coal yard on Berri St. This one was first floor – but only half of the first floor. It had a dank, earth-floored basement that scared me. One night, I dreamed I was going to the basement. A giant rat stood at the basement door, wearing a red uniform with brass buttons. I tried to ingratiate myself with him by telling him how nice he looked.

It was in September of that year that I started school in grade one at Crystal Springs.School. On day one, I was dressed up in my best clothes. They were not new. New clothes or new anythings were a rarity in our home. But they were washed, And they fit. Mostly.

Miss Flower

My mother walked me to the corner where we turned right, and turned again at St. Gerard to a short street called Mistral (less than a year later, we would move to St. Gerard St). Then it was a left for a couple of streets along Mistral to a wire fence surrounding a play area with a low, brick building in the centre. My mother told me to remember the way because I would be on my own from that morning on.

I lined up with the other kids at the door to the green porch that led to grade one. I took the last seat in the last row. Miss Flower, the teacher, called for me to come forward, and sit in the seat in front of her desk. As I walked forward, Stanley Short hissed, “Teacher’s pet.”

But it didn’t bother me. I didn’t know what it meant.

(Many, many years later, I would meet Miss Flower at the hand-shaking lineup after I had led the service at a church. She told me she had asked me to sit in front because I seemed such an innocent chipmunk in a rough class that she wanted to protect me.)

Carol Roberts and Esther Jones

It was in grade one that I met Carol Roberts and Esther Jones, the first loves of my life. Esther became a phys ed teacher. Carol, last I heard, became a hooker.

I also met George Root, my best friend for the next seven years or so. He became a railway policeman.

That’s also where I also met Dick and Jane. And Spot.

But they weren’t real. They were in a book. That’s why their clothes looked so new and tidy. That’s why they had that nice, little house with a lawn. It never even occurred to us to wonder whether they used newspapers instead of toilet paper, or salt instead of toothpaste. Why would it? They were just story people who never had to use a toilet or brush their teeth.

I did well in grade one, then looked forward to a great thrill. A member of our church had a shack way out in the country in St. Rose near Rivieres des Prairies (about 15 kilometres from home) where there was a free beach. We could rent a shack, improbably called Killarney Cottage, really cheap for a week with outhouse, water barrel and furniture and everything all included..

I loved it. There was a wooden dance hall built on piles right on the beach. And at night, they sometimes showed cartoon movies on a big bedsheet hanging from a line.

They looked healthy, like Jack and Jill

It was early in the week when, walking back to Killarney Cottage from the beach, I passed a wire fence that surrounded a big, neat lawn with a nice, white house. I recognized it right away. But this time it was different. There were real children playing on the lawn. I went closer, gripping the wire to stare through at the children. Their clothes were neat, so neat they looked new. And they looked healthy, just like Dick and Jane.

I don’t know how long I stared at them. They even had their very own swings and a slide. I knew I couldn’t ask to play with them. I just stared. Then, at last, I turned back to the path.
It was still a story book world. I couldn’t be a part of a storybook world. I sensed, even then and with only a slight regret, that I would never play with Dick and Jane. Not ever.

New horizons, wider possibilities

But that moment is what this autobiography is all about. My whole life would be formed by chance meetings with Dicks and Janes and Spots, each set of them more alien than the one before. At each step, I learned of new horizons to life, wider possibilities, new values, new attitudes. And, with a lot of luck, it all worked out to a fuller life than I could have imagined.

But, like that day I stood clutching the fence and looking on, I always knew I could never become one of them. Nor, as I would also learn, did I want to.


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Posted in Autobiography Stories, MCHS 2015 Stories, Newsletter, Toronto | 4 Comments

Suspicious person reportedly asking student to go to a car near Seventh Street Junior School

I have been informed of an incident near Seventh Street Junior School in southern Etobicoke on June 20, 2016.

It was reported that a suspicious person – described as an older white male driving a dark grey, two-door car – appeared to be following a male student as he made his way to school on the morning of June 20.

The boy was walking along Fifth Street near Morrison about 8:40 am when he was called to go to a man’s car.

The boy removed himself from the situation at once and reported to the school what had occurred.


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In Search of the Third Man (2000) provides a back story for The Third Man (1949)

For several weeks I’ve been reading In Search of The Third Man (2000) by Charles Drazin.

I’ve also viewed the DVD entitled The Third Man (1949) – The Criterion Collection. The latter Third Man DVD is available at the Toronto Public Library.

First I viewed the DVD, then read The Third Man (1950)by Graham Greene, and subsequently read In Search of The Third Man (2000).

The latter book seeks to separate fact from fiction – that is, it discusses accounts by the novelist Graham Greene, the director Carol Reed, and others – regarding how The Third Man (1949) was made.

Uncritical repetition of false information

Before I read the book, I had the sense that local histories often feature incorrect information that a writer has included in some published work, and that other writers have subsequently repeated uncritically.

I was delighted, therefore, to learn that such repetition of false information is not confined to the writing of local histories. Charles Drazin provides evidence, in his study entitled In Search of The Third Man (2000), that indicates that accounts by actors, producers, and other individuals can similarly involve the spreading of incorrect information.

Drazin describes (pp. 80-81) a case where Orson Welles provided an “embellished version,” featuring “appropriate embroidery,” of the influence that Welles had on the direction of The Third Man film, in which he appeared as an actor; Drazin notes (p. 80):

“One would let such false accounts pass were it not for the tendency of other writers uncritically to repeat them, until soon they receive widespread acceptance as the truth. And now they’re being perpetuated in the electronic age. It was irritating, although not surprising, recently to look up the film on the Internet Movie Database and read, under the heading of ‘trivia’, the following comments: ‘Orson Welles wrote all of his own lines in the picture and practically directed the scenes in which he appeared.’

“Carol Reed was Welles’ equal as a director, albeit of a very different kind. To say so may be to fly in the face of received opinion, but then it is opinion as often as not received from such distorted accounts as [Charles] Higham’s. Reed did whatever was necessary to achieve the effect he wanted, occasionally – this much is true – indulging Welles’ sense of self-importance: ‘There was one take,’ recalled Bob Dunbar, ‘when Orson kept on saying, “Well, I could do it better,” and we went to take 37, and Carol just let him go on. Carol knew he was going to use take 3, which he did, and it got worse and worse.’ [20]

[End of excerpt]

Creativity and innovation

The storyline in The Third Man (1949) hinges on a situation where a person who was believed to have been killed, and whose body was allegedly buried, turns up alive and well at a critical juncture in the narrative. In the film, as many critics have noted, many elements work together well – including the zither music featuring The Third Man Theme.

Military history

Among the back stories that the film and novel touch upon is military history.

Click here for previous posts about military history >

The work of the historian Richard J. Evans is of particular interest in understanding the events that led to the postwar circumstances that The Third Man (1949) references. A post highlighting the latter historian’s trilogy of studies related to Nazi Germany is entitled:

Narrative helps us understand Germany in the 1930s (Richard J. Evans, 2003)

The topic of espionage is also discussed in In Search of The Third Man (2000); a relevant post in this regard is:

The True Intrepid: Sir William Stephenson and the Unknown Agents (2001) 

Local history

A recent local history that I’ve put together – History of Long Branch (Toronto) – DRAFT 4 – outlines a typical instances where incorrect dates have been circulated, and continue to circulate, when one writer repeats uncritically some assertion that some other writer of local history has made.


By way of relating the present to the past, a June 20, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “German nationalism can only be contained by a united Europe.”


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