Preserved Stories Blog

Ethnography offers the opportunity to practise journalism, filmmaking, and screenwriting

I feel absolutely blessed to have access to the Toronto Public Library.

I feel blessed as well that I have access to Twitter and other online resources, and to CBC Metro Morning and The Current on my laptop and car radio.

I feel blessed, as well, that years ago, even before laptops and personal computers had been marketed, I gained experience as a freelance writer.

Natalie Edwards of Cinema Canada

After my many years of writing as a student reporter and editor, a kindly magazine editor – Natalie Edwards – sat down with me at the Toronto offices of Cinema Canada in the mid 1970s and proceeded to tear apart a manuscript that I had prepared for the magazine.

She showed me how to say in a sentence what I had said in three pages of double-spaced typewritten text. Because I knew I could write well, I didn’t mind having my drafts torn to shreds, so that I could learn to write even better. That experience also taught me that some of the best writing involves the work of many people working together to write the final text.

In those days I worked with an Olympia portable manual typewriter. Sometimes I would literally cut and paste pieces of paper as I worked on the draft of a text. When the draft was ready, I would start all over again, with the typewriter, and manually type out the final version.

Writing can be harder work than physical labour, in my experience

A few years later, working on a text for a tabloid newspaper, I had the experience of taking a vast amount of text and condensing it to fit within a specified word count. I recall at the time how hard the work was. By that stage in my life, I had worked in many jobs involving intensive physical labour. Yet putting that article together, cutting down on the word count, was physically more of a strain on my body/mind than all of the physical labour that I had performed until that time.

Once I had learned to get the job done once, to get an article into shape, it was much easier the next time, and the many times that followed.

Ethnography offers the opportunity to practise journalism

I enjoy reading about anthropology and ethnography because it’s a great source of diversion for me. Because I don’t work as an academic, I don’t have a stake in anthropology or any other discipline. My interest is purely in working with interesting ideas for my own enjoyment.

If I were offering advice to a young person interested in a career in journalism, I would advise them to explore the concept that many fields offer a person the opportunity to do what a journalist does.

Among those fields are ethnography and the practice of law.

Some of the best journalism I’ve come across has been based upon ethnographic field research or has taken the form of legal reports by lawyers who’ve been well paid to conduct inquiries about a wide range of contentious topics.

After all, what does a journalist require?

A journalist requires a job or contract, and an audience. Print and online newspapers and magazines currently don’t offer many opportunities. For that reason, if you want to get paid to write, get a job as an anthropologist. Or a lawyer. There are many great jobs around where you get paid to write, and what you write sometimes makes a difference in people’s lives.

What is the distinction between an anthropologist and an ethnographer? What is the difference between ethnographic field research and the research that a journalist conducts? You can figure out these fine points yourself.

First, find out who pays you for your work, if you seek to get paid for your writing

In order to make a living as a journalist posing as an anthropologist, you have to know who the person is who can get you published.  That person is sometimes known as a publisher. In academic work, the person may not have the title of publisher but it’s not hard to figure out who that person is.

Producers, publishers, and curators are all terms for the same function. A good introduction to this topic can be found at my previous posts concerned with the production of independent films, such as:

Sherry B. Ortner adopts a neoliberal framework to address the role of producers in independent filmmaking

If you want to know what to write, know your audience

As an anthropologist, you want to figure out who your audience is and what they are interested in. In other words, figure out the history of the discipline. If you need some help, a good resource is a chapter by Sherry B. Ortner in a book called Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory (1994).

The chapter is entitled: “Theory in Anthropology since the Sixties.” A key quotation (p. 382) reads:

“The anthropology of the 1970s was much more obviously and transparently tied to real-world events than that of the preceding period. Starting in the late 1960s, in both the United States and France (less so in England), radical social movements emerged on a vast scale. First came the counterculture, then the antiwar movement, and then, just a bit later, the women’s movement: these movements not only affected the academic world, they originated in good part within it. Everything that was part of the existing order was ques­tioned and criticized.”

[End of quotation]

Was that written by an academic or a journalist? What’s the difference? Does it matter?

If you want to make great films, get a job as a linguistic anthropologist

I have tremendous admiration for the film work of linguistic anthropologist Marjorie Harness Goodwin. The link in the previous sentence explains why.

I have never actually seen her films, but I’ve read her transcripts and they are awesome. They bring her movies to life. You don’t need to see the videos because you can read the detailed scripts.

If you want to excel as a screenwriter, get a job as a linguistic anthropologist

In the previously noted link, I describe the great scripts that Marjorie Harness Goodwin has created.

Among the scripts, or more precisely, transcripts, that she has created are descriptions about how bullying in school-based cliques, the subject of Goodwin’s linguistic anthropological research, actually occurs. Such a script gives a person a much better sense of what bullying, intimidation, and harassment entails than some general description based upon interviews and surveys.

A recent podcast at CBC The Current provides information about technical advances applicable to ethnographic research

In the link that I’ve noted earlier, I speak about how GoPro equipment can be used in future refinements of groundbreaking linguistic anthropology research.

This topic is treated at much greater length, and in a much more interesting way than anything that you have read in this blog post, at a Nov. 18, 2014 CBC The Current podcast entitled: Journalism project uses virtual reality to recreate Syrian conflict.

This is a great podcast. I recommend it highly.


Posted in Communications, Historiography, Military history, Newsletter, Toronto | Leave a comment

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

I was doing a Google search “Cartierville School Preserved Stories” and came across the English translation of a chapter in Estonian Life Stories that my late mother Tanni Kents had written. I’ve read the Estonian version, but had not seen the English version for some years.

The chapter highlights the story of a particular family that ended up in Cartierville after the Second World War. Given that the family was living in Cartierville, one of the sons graduated from Malcolm Campbell High School. The other son, two and a half years older, graduated from the High School of Montreal.


Posted in MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories, Newsletter, Toronto | Leave a comment

Additional comments from Graeme Decarie – regarding Saraguay, Cartierville School, and Marlborough golf club

Below are edited excerpts from recent email discussions with Graeme Decarie.

St. Hubert

Jaan Pill: Do you have any interesting archival photos from Cartierville, from your own childhood and school days, including any photos of the creek, that you could scan in high resolution?

Graeme Decarie: Oh, my childhood wasn’t in Cartierville or anything as grand as St. Laurent. I grew up between St. Denis and St. Hubert, just north of Jarry on a street called St. Gerard. Cartierville was a hike in the country. I don’t recall ever seeing buildings until somewhere near the old, Belmont Park.

And beyond that was the suburb Mr. Leroy lived in (I’ve forgotten the name of of it, but lots of our students came from there.) Except there was no suburb there when I was a kid. It was a forest – which had a creek through it. My father used to take his scouts camping there. And I would go with them as young as six.

My father showed me a big field there that had been a polo field for rich Montrealers. And I used to caddy near there at a golf course called Marlborough. The big, family thrill for the summer way out in the country was a rented place in St. Rose.

By the way, St. Hubert has it’s name – NOT after a saint. The farmer who sold the land to the city about 1900 or so sold it on condition the city name one of the streets after him. His name was Hubert.

Cartierville School

Jaan Pill: I also remember a child in my class in Grade 4 at Cartierville School who lived in a very nice house by the Back River, a huge house with a big lot. I learned quite recently that his grandfather was the local physician, and learned a bit about what he did in the course of the subsequent years.

Bob Carswell provided a great update for me:

“Jaan, You mentioned a school friend. You are talking about Allan McDougall, cousin to Jamie Duncan, and part of the old Saraguay family there. It was his grandfather Dr. Duncan that delivered my own father into this world. Allan moved out to Vancouver, set up a book distribution firm and ended up the North American distributor for the Harry Potter books. He is also a on the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Library System along with a good friend of my youngest brother, also in Vancouver.”

Crystal Springs

Graeme Decarie: Great to hear from Bob Carswell. I remember him and his brother very well. I even remember Cartierville school. It was a larger version of the first school I attended, a four-roomer called Crystal Springs. (At the turn of the century, there was something called Crystal Springs at the North end of Jarry Park. I guess the school was named after it, as was the mission church just up the street that we attended – Crystal Springs United.)

The district I was trying to think of that was a thick forest and had a polo field was what is now called Saraguay.

Marlborough golf club

Jaan Pill: These are stories that are part of Montreal history. I used to caddy at the Marlborough golf club as well. I think it was $1.25 for a day’s work, including the tip.

Graeme Decarie: I got close to that. I think mine was 75 cents for a “caddy in training”, and a buck for an experienced one.

Jaan Pill: Possibly a kid made a little more money if they carried a bag instead of just pulling it along on wheels.

I don’t know if this is my imagination, or if it’s something that happened in reality. I picture that sometimes a caddy would carry two bags and get double the money. Or maybe would carry one bag and pull another on wheels.

I spent a lot of time in the caddy shack, waiting. There was a man who was in charge of sending out caddies. There didn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to his selection method.

Graeme Decarie: You got double the money for carrying two bags. I did it only once.

Elmer Lach was a member of that golf club.

[End of excerpts]

For additional posts regarding Graeme Decarie and MCHS please do a Google search for “Graeme Decarie Preserved Stories.”

If anybody can locate archival photos – aerial photos or other photos – to share regarding the locations discussed above, please let us know.


Posted in MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories, Newsletter, Toronto | 7 Comments

We welcome additional biographies from MCHS 60s graduates and staff

We are very happy to add more MCHS biographies to the MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories Category at this website.

Altogether, we have four Categories related to MCHS at the Preserved Stories website, listed at the left of the landing page:

MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories

MCHS 60s Facebook links

MCHS 60s REGISTRATION: Please make your cheque payable to MCHS 2015

MCHS 60s Reunion & Celebration of the 60s


We notice from site statistics, and from Facebook comments that we’ve read, that many people like to read the MCHS 60s biographies that we’ve posted to this site. We look forward to adding many more of them – including one from you!

It’s a delight to read the biography of a classmate or teacher that you last spoke with 50 years ago.

Any MCHS 60s student or staff person is most welcome to send in a biography, as an email to me at – we will post it at once. We can scan your yearbook photo, if we have a yearbook available for the year that you appeared in the yearbook. Or if you have a jpeg of a photo of yourself from age about 17, we can use that.

It’s also great if you can send us a current jpeg photo of yourself, to add to the biography.

If you have a biography already at, it would be great to have a similar text posted at the MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories Category at the Preserved Stories website. Please send us such a text directly, along with a jpeg from Before & After. (We don’t want to copy a complete text directly from or from any other site.)

Organizing team

We much appreciate your support for the efforts that the reunion team is putting in to organize the reunion.

It’s a great team of volunteers – with key organizers located near Boston, in Langley (B.C), in London (Ontario), and across the Greater Toronto Area – and we also so much appreciate the fact quite a few people have been adding great comments and sharing great information from decades ago at the Preserved Stories website.

We look forward to meeting you at Old Mill Toronto on Oct. 17, 2015.


The registration process is discussed at one of the above-mentioned links.

The basic details are:

The reunion database that Diana Redden and Howard Hight have created will serve as the registration form.

If you wish to add your name to the database, and have not yet done so, please contact Howard Hight at

The registration fee is $150 for single tickets and $250 per couple. That is, if you’re registering as a couple, $150 applies to an MCHS 60s graduate or staff, and $100 applies to that person’s spouse.

Please make your payment in Canadian currency, payable to MCHS 2015.

Please send your registration fee to:

Diana Redden
4487 – 222A Street
Langley, B.C.
V2Z 1B2

Please make an effort to register sooner rather than later, so that we will have a good indication of our attendance, which will determine how many meeting rooms will be required for the reunion.

Meetings of the organizing committee

The MCHS 60s Reunion & Celebration of the 60s organizing committee met on Oct. 29, 2014 at the Boston Pizza at 190 Gateway Park Drive in Kitchener.

Our next meeting is on Nov. 26, 2014 at 11:30 am at the same location.

If you’re eligible to attend the reunion – that is, if you attended MCHS at any point in the 1960s as a student or a teacher - you are most welcome to join us at the organizing meetings. We welcome your participation, and your input. If you want to join us through Skype or similar means, let us know.


Posted in MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories | Leave a comment

Klaas Vander Baaren has added a new comment at “Cartierville School in Montreal”

Klaas Vander Baaren has added a new comment at Cartierville School in Montreal.

By way of bringing your attention to his comment, I’m posting it as a separate post.

In the process, I’ve added spacing between the paragraphs and have corrected the spelling for Morison. I learned some time back that the correct spelling is with one “R.”

Klaas Vander Baaren wrote:


I’m glad didn’t gather my thoughts until now. All the previous comments triggered more memories so I can be a little more detailed and literate with my memories.

I definitely have a Dutch name. I was born in Utrecht.

I believe we were in the same class for grades 2 – 4. I recognize the teachers‘ names. Mr. Lawrence is someone I also remember though not well. And Mrs. Finlayson. I managed to get into enough trouble that I received the strap from her each year. I remember her crying as she dealt out the punishment my last year.

My time in Cartierville School started after we moved from Ahuntsic to 8th Avenue in Roxboro. Fred, we no doubt shared the exciting bus rides to school. The three memorable things I remember about the bus:

- If the snow was deep enough, the bus would get stuck on 8th Avenue since it was rarely plowed and we would get the day(s) off.

- One day the bus slide through the intersection of Somerset and Gouin Blvd and broad-sided the bus. No serious injuries.

- If you were late for the bus, it was gone and you would hitch-hike home. I remember doing it a number of times without incident. I can just see a school allowing that today.

I finished elementary school at Morison School when we moved from Roxboro to 2 blocks from the school. From there we moved to Barnes Street at the top of Somerset. Couldn’t get away from the area. That’s where we lived through my time at MCHS. More about my life in the autobiographies for the reunion.

Mr. Carswell,
I am so glad you put in a reply. Our connections are numerous. First, the Katiens. That’s where we first connected, at one of their parties where Paul Jr. and us kids ended up in the games room. Do you have any contact with Paul?

Then there was the Birks connection. My mother was a real estate agent for many of the Birks executives moving to Montreal. All though you parent’s connection with her through the Katiens. And your dad was instrumental in getting my wife Nancy her first job, at Birks in the back office, after we graduated from Acadia and moved back to Montreal. Please get in touch with me at I just visited mom for her 94 birthday 2 weeks ago in Morrisburg, ON.

Hope to see all of you in 11 months.

[End of text from Klaas Vander Baaren]


Posted in MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories, Newsletter, Toronto | Leave a comment

Graeme Decarie has found his copy of the 1962-63 MCHS Highlander and shares additional recollections

[I will add additional photos at the post later; for now, I'll begin with just one photo, of Mr. Talbot.]

In the following text, I have used just the first initial for a couple of students, in order to respect privacy of information. In the event we get the okay to publish the names, from the students who were mentioned, we will publish them.

[The items on square brackets are notes added by Jaan Pill.]

Please note: In the event we have infringed upon anybody’s privacy by mentioning names, for people who don’t want to be mentioned, please let me know at once and I will remove the names

Please note as well: The MCHS 60s Reunion & Celebration of the 60s REGISTRATION information can be accessed here.

The event, which is open to any student or staff who was at MCHS at any point in the 1960s, will take place in Toronto on Oct. 17, 2015.

Please make an effort to register sooner rather than later, so that we will have a good indication of our attendance, which will determine how many meeting rooms will be required for the reunion.

Graeme Decarie has found his copy of the 1962-63 Highlander

The following text is from Mr. Decarie:

I have found my 1962-63 Highlander – so I can fill you in on a few more people. [An earlier set of recollections can be accessed here.]

First, I issue a very belated apology to [B]. (He must have graduated in 1964 or 65). In grade nine, I punished him for swearing at me. He was always a likeable kid, and the punishment was unnecessary. (funny how that can stick in one’s head for over sixty years.)

Then there was [B2] who I kicked out of a YMCA day camp. We were at Mount Royal, and he went home without telling me. I spent hours looking for him on that damn mountain. But I shouldn’t have kicked him out. I should have had him shot at dawn.

Alan Talbot

Alan Talbot. Source: 1962-63 MCHS yearbook

Alan Talbot went on to become head honcho at the school board and, by all reports, was first rate. My memory of him was the first parent’s night to welcome them to the new school, and to set up a Home and School Association. There were about a thousand students that first year, so we set up almost 2,0000 chairs in the gym. We also line the wall from the back entrance to the stage with box after box of flowers. All us teachers got our academic gowns on for a ceremonial procession. After a delay of some minutes to make sure everyone had arrived, we paraded in.

There were nine parents there.

After the ceremony was over and people had left, we teachers took off our gowns and, one by one, left. Then, as I passed the gym door, I heard someone singing in the gym. I looked in. There was a trail of flowers on the floor that ran halfway to the stage. At the end of the trail was a happy Alan Talbot, brandishing a pair of shears. And as he clipped, he was singing….

“Where have all the flowers gone…”

[You can access the words to the song here.]

Jack Leroy

Jack Leroy. Source: 1962-63 MCHS yearbook

Jack Leroy I first met when I was a student at Montreal High. Jack had begun teaching there in the glory days when it had students like Oscar Peterson and Christopher Plummer – so Graeme Decarie was quite a comedown.

After MCHS, he became principal at Barclay. I didn’t see him for many years. In that time, he had become a priest and then a bishop at a sort of breakaway Anglican church in Niagara Falls, though he still maintained a home in Saraguay. Then, one evening – it must have been close to 1980 when I was working at Concordia and living in Point Claire, there was a knock at my door. It was Jack.

He grinned the old grin. But I knew at first glance he was dying. He knew it, too. We talked for a bit then – I’m not sure – either I took him to the hospital or I took him home to his daughter so she could take him to the hospital. He died within days.

Mrs. Jelinek and Mrs. Rosenberg

I saw Mrs. Jelinek sometime about 1990. She looked exactly as she had in 1963. The same is true of Mrs. Rosenberg (Soryl Shulman.)

Bob Hill

Bob Hill went back to school, just as I had, to get either an MA or a PhD. I’m not sure which. Then he taught history at John Abbot CEGEP where he was the big force behind the teachers’ association. He also developed a sideline, performing Jewish music for Jewish weddings and other occasions. As always, he was a quick learner, and soon mastered singing in Yiddish. He’s a very versatile guy.

The last time I saw him was a good twenty years go – still looking youthful and cheerful, but pale and losing weight. He had been suffering bouts of cancer. When I moved to New Brunswick, he moved to some place in the townships. We corresponded for a time; but I haven’t heard from him for a good, five years.

Mr. Kelly

I’ve had no contact with Mr. Kelly. But a long, long time ago, I taught his daughter at Concordia. Like her father, she’s quite tall. Unlike him, she was stunningly beautiful.

Students: Peter McAllister and Linda Colluci

I saw Peter McAllister about 1980 in a supermarket in (I think) the West Island. He turned into a very, very big guy. I was so happy I had always been polite to him in school. Peter was one of more than a few students I taught at Parkdale, too. I noticed Linda Colluci on the first page of the yearbook.

Lynda Spence and Barclay Allan

I last saw Lynda Spence a long, long time ago when she was a nurse. happily preparing to shave Mr. Saul’s (you know) for an appendix removal. Later, in the 80s, I think, we were in touch by either letter or phone.

She had married Barclay Allan, and had been in touch a student whose name I can’t remember I should because she became quite famous. (She had a very successful singing career with a group called The Bells. Received the Order of Canada for work done to help women with breast cancer,) And, Lynda told me she had recently married a childhood sweetheart, and was now living in BC. [If any readers recall her name, please let us know.]

Diane Fagg

Diane Fagg was a student in some night course I was teaching. I recognized her immediately. She hadn’t changed a bit. This must have been in the 1980s, and she was, I think, living in Pointe Claire.

Marilynne Sinclair

Marilynne Sinclair became, I think, a teacher at MCHS. Not sure about that. [Correct: She did become a teacher. A younger friend of mine was in her class at MCHS.]


[End of text from Graeme Decarie]


Posted in MCHS 60s Biographies & Histories, Newsletter, Toronto | 6 Comments

Sherry B. Ortner adopts a neoliberal framework to address the role of producers in independent filmmaking

In previous previous posts, I have discussed Not Hollywood (2013):

Not Hollywood (2013) focuses upon the production of value in independent filmmaking

Producers are energetic people who are really good at getting people to say yes, Sherry B. Ortner notes

As I begin to work on the current post, it occurs to me that brief texts may at times have more appeal than longer ones.

As Chapter 5 proceeds, Sherry B. Ortner, whose early work focussed on the Sherpas of Nepal, notes that a high proportion of independent producers have elite educational backgrounds.

In contrast, a significant proportion of independent filmmakers have little or no higher education.

She notes that the proportion of women producers was nearly zero in the 1970s and is currently nearly 50 percent.

Ortner refers (p. 153) to the view that the role of art gallery owners “is analogous to the role of independent producers in the film world.”

Generation X

In this book Ortner, who, unlike some observers, views “neoliberalism” as a useful analytic tool, is working within a conceptual framework that she outlines (pp. 151-152) thusly:

  • Neoliberal economic policies starting in the 1970s favored a com­bination of deregulating American business and finance and cutting back on state-supported public services. The effect has been to create a polarization of the American class structure, with a few people moving up into, in some cases, rather spectacular wealth, and the large majority of the middle and working class either sliding down or hanging on by their fingernails. Generation X was the first generation to feel the effects of this economy.
  • Technically, of course, Generation X refers to everyone born starting in the early 1960s, but in reality it was a class-specific term refer­ring to young people in the now precarious and insecure middle class. Independent filmmakers tend to come from that class/generation loca­tion, and I have argued that many of their films speak from and to the anxieties of that time and place in the class structure.
  • Independent pro­ducers are on the whole also demographically part of Generation X, but most of them come from the more successful part of that class location, the handful of the (upper) middle class that made it up through what might be thought of as the neoliberal funnel.
  • The breakout of independent film in the 1990s may be seen in part as a product of a productive synergy between these two elements of the newly configured middle class in neoliberal America, more versus less successful, more versus less secure.

[End of excerpt; I have set the longer original text into shorter paragraphs, for ease of online reading]

Elements that go into making a good independent producer

Based on her research, Ortner notes (p. 155) that “having good taste, having a good personality and a knack for ‘relationships;’ and having a lot of personal drive/forcefulness/ perseverance (what social scientists often call ‘agency’) are the core ele­ments one needs to be an effective and successful independent producer.”

She adds that “all of these are closely tied to the high-capital backgrounds – whether material or educational or both – of independent producers.”


Posted in Film and sound, Newsletter, Toronto | Leave a comment

Not Hollywood (2013) focuses upon the production of value in independent filmmaking

As I have noted in a previous blog post, Chapter 5 of Not Hollywood (2013) is concerned with the production of value in independent filmmaking.

Among the films Ortner discusses is Charles Ferguson’s No End in Sight (2007), which is rated 8.3 at IMDb.

Review of Not Hollywood (2013)

Many online reviews of the book are available. A review by Martin Fradley at of Not Hollywood (2013) is of particular interest. The book and the review together make for a valuable package.

The review questions Ortner’s reliance on the belief that “the pessimism and ironic distance of many indie films is symptomatic of a GenX sensibility.”

The review asserts, as well, that in her discussion of films that “engage with the realities of life at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum,” Ortner avoids discussion of particular “celebrated figures … whose work is characterized by casual affluence and … elitist solipsism.”


A definition of solipsism refers to: “1. Philosophy. the theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist. 2. extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.”

The review concludes that Ortner’s book offers a “detailed, often insightful and clearly-written overview” of the characteristics of American independent filmmaking.

The production of value

In the introduction to Chapter 5, Ortner notes (p. 147) that “it is the job of the independent producer to find the most interesting and creative filmmakers, with the most interesting stories to tell, and help them make the best film they can.”

The producer, she adds (p. 148), enables filmmakers to “facilitate their vision.” In this regard, she discusses how independent producers create the value that is a defining characteristic of successful films.

She notes that the young independent producers who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s “display a distinctive sociological profile,” which she links to specified social and economic conditions that prevailed during those decades.

As the chapter proceeds, Ortner focuses upon “the production of value in both the Bourdieusian sense – let us call it ‘symbolic value’ – and in a more substantive sense” (p. 149).

Life at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum

Excellent, evidence-based resources concerning poverty include:

On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City (2014)

Race, Class, and the Postindustrial City: William Julius Wilson and the Promise of Sociology (2004)

Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City (2013)


Posted in Film and sound, Newsletter, Toronto | Leave a comment

Producers are energetic people who are really good at getting people to say yes, Sherry B. Ortner notes

I’m really pleased that I learned about Sherry B. Ortner as a result of reading a reference to her work in Marjorie Harness Goodwin’s study, The Hidden Life of Girls (2006).

Among Ortner’s books is New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of ’58 (2005). Because it’s one of the few books, that I’m interested in, that is not available at the Toronto Public Library, I’ve bought my own copy.

Ortner notes (in Notes to Chapter 1) that she decided, early on, “not to organize the book simply as a series of life histories” (p. 297). Her approach, instead, is to connect the individual stories, of the Class of ’58 from her own high school, “to some larger historical narrative.” That’s a great way to work with life stories.

I find the book of interest in helping me to understand the life stories, as many that I happen to know, in bits and pieces, of my classmates from the Class of ’63 at Malcolm Campbell High School – and from the 1960s cohort in general, from this particular high school, which opened in the early 1960s and closed in the late 1980s.

Producers are energetic people

Producers and curators are key players in getting things done in the world.

Another book by Ortner is Not Hollywood: Independent Film at the Twilight of the American Dream (2013).

It’s most interesting to read about filmmaking from an ethnographic perspective. Among the topics that both Goodwin and Ortner address is agency.

Goodwin (2006) addresses agency as it relates to cliques and bullying. Ortner in turn addresses agency in the context of American independent film “at the twilight of the American Dream.”

Agency in Ortner’s usage (p. 158) refers to a number of interrelated ideas revolving around self-confidence and the capacity to make things happen. The chapter in question is Chapter 5, “Making Value.”

If you have the opportunity to read Goodwin and Ortner, I recommend them highly.

A note regarding cliques

Marjorie Harness Goodwin uses the concept of cliques in a way that makes the term useful for analytic purposes; it is used in a way that is free of any particular positive or negative valence.

The Hidden Life of Girls (2006) highlights the activities of a clique made up of popular girls at an elementary school, as they interact with other students, and with adults, in a wide range of settings in a school environment, over an extended period of time.

Goodwin cites several authors whose understanding of the characteristics of cliques corresponds with her own understanding of the concept.

She notes that Adler and Adler (1998) describe cliques as “friendship circles whose members tend to identify each other as mutually connected” (Goodwin 2006: 76). The latter authors argue that cliques 1) maintain a hierarchical structure; 2) are dominated by leaders, and 3) are exclusive.

Goodwin also notes that Eder and Parker (1987) assert that cliques include the most popular children, who are most respected by those of their age grade.

She adds that Adler and Adler (1998) argue that cliques in peer groups constitute a culture that is unique in its own right, and that at the same time serves as a “staging ground for future adult behavior.”


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I should think it would have to be about MCHS, and about the long process of growing up and older. – Mr. Decarie

MCHS Student Council, 1962-63. That's Mr. Decarie on the far left of the photograph and Mr. Saul on the far right. Source: MCHS 1962-63 yearbook

I’ve had the good fortune to be in touch with Mr. Decarie, who taught at Malcolm Campbell High School until the end of the 1962-63 school year, after which – he made the decision on the first day of school in 1963-64 – he went back to school to get his MA and PhD.

Graeme Decarie – whose blog can be accessed here – has given permission to share his recent email messages at the Preserved Stories website, for which fact we owe many thanks.

Among the topics we have discussed concerns what he would share, if he were speaking to attendees at a reunion such as the MCHS 60s Reunion and Celebration of the 60s.

With regard to the latter reunion, taking place at Old Mill Toronto on Oct. 17, 2015, Graeme Decarie, who started teaching at Parkdale in 1957, comments:

“I’m not sure what one would say to an audience like that. I should think it would have to be about MCHS, and about the long process of growing up and older. It should be as personal to them as possible.”

The photo above shows Mr. Decarie along with other members of the 1962-63 MCHS Student Council. You can enlarge the image by clicking on it. Click again and you can enlarge it further.

Military history

I’ve shared with Mr. Decarie the fact I enjoy reading about military history, and that I have read with interest the work of Donald Savoie, with regard to governance issues in Canada. Graeme Decarie replied, with regard to these topics:

  • I taught a course in military history at Concordia. As to Don Savoie, I am not one of his admirers. He always takes a position completely in agreement with Irving Oil. In universities in general, big business has largely taken over. It knows nothing about education – but it’s very interested in getting control over what is taught.
  • For those who went to Parkdale School, it’s very multi-ethnic, now. It’s also showing its years.
  • And I can at last tell a secret. I never finished high school. I failed grade ten, and was failing eleven when the school gestapo started checking my many notes for absence and raised awkward questions about the signatures. So the principal called me down.
  • “Let’s face it, Decarie”, he said. “You have no brains at all. It’s time to go get a job.”

 [End of comment from Graeme Decarie]

High school credits

You can read more about Mr. Decarie’s back story at previous posts (see below). I will continue our discussion – including about how Mr. Decarie finally got his high school credits and his BA, before continuing on with graduate studies – in subsequent posts.

Graeme Decarie taught grades 7 to 11 for six years. Loved it. Then went back to school for an MA at Acadia & PhD (History) at Queen’s

Graeme Decarie mentions that Mr. Hanna was principal of a high school way up the Ottawa River

Graeme Decarie (teacher at Malcolm Campbell High School) recalls Raimbault Creek, the stream that ran through Cartierville in the 1960s


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