Bob Carswell from MCHS has shared a memorable update

Bob Carswell has shared a delightful comment at another post; I’m pleased to share it here as an MCHS Biography entry.

I’ve worked out a tentative paragraph structure for this post, and have added links to posts from the Preserved Stories website that reference themes that Bob Carswell mentions.

Great to read you message, Bob.

Hi Jaan,

Haven’t spoken to you since the meeting in downtown Toronto after the 40th anniversary for MCHS. I see you are still alive. I was born in Harrogate, England in November 1944. My brother Jim who went to the High School of Montreal with your brother was born in 1943. We came to Canada with my mother, one of Canada’s 49,000 War Brides.

Military service

Those with children born to Canadian fathers brought 22,000 war babies like my brother and I. Both my parents participated in the military during the war, both became officers and both saw war action. My mother’s photo appears in the book Ghosts of Biggin Hill. Because of war service, they were treated as two individuals in the military which meant that no consideration was given to the fact that they were married to each other so they spent months on end apart at times. Such was WWII.

My first home in Canada was an apartment in a house in Pendleton, Ontario as a baby. My father had been posted back to Canada by the RCAF in June 1944 and as station adjutant was the last commanding officer of this Early Flying Training School with a staff of something like a thousand men and women, all waiting for the war to end.

He met me when I was four months old when they allowed a ship of wives to travel via the Azores to avoid any German subs as they headed to Halifax. Released from the RCAF after 6 years of service in the NPAM, Cdn Army Signals, CASF, RAF and RCAF, my father was ready to go back to work.

Lakefield College

A graduate of Lakefield College in Lakefield Ontario, he lost a lot of friends in the war. Settling in Montreal, he went back to P.S. Ross the accounting firm he had articled with before the war. After two years, a breakdown due to PTSD and a third child on the way, he joined Henry Birks and Sons in systems and methods.

Over the next 26 years before taking early retirement, he climbed the ladder to Office Manager, Assistant Secretary, and Secretary and Director of nine Birks companies. My mother never worked after the air force experience but contributed her hand as a volunteer to every cause going…most important to her, secretary of the Cartierville School Home and School while her 4 kids went there.

Our first Montreal home was a new apartment, in a six-plex on Laurentian Blvd, then called Reed Street, the main route north to the Laurentians. We lived there for about 5 years. Then Dad had a house built on Martin Avenue in Saraguay and we moved there in 1951. It was torn down in the 90s to be replaced by a modern stone house. My Kindergarten was at Mrs. Terrat’s home at Reed and Gouin Blvd.

Cartierville School

It closed when the houses on the east side going down to the bridge were torn down to widen the road. Names I remember, Mrs. Carpenter, Kindergarten at Cartierville School, Mrs. Talbot, Grade one, Mrs. Shields, Grade three, Miss Stanforth in Grades 5 then 6 (We did not get along), Mrs. Jackson in Grade 7 and Mrs. Findlayson, the principal.

One year, Grade four was a divided class across the street in the old Anglican church before the new one was built. I remember a pair of identical twins, Robbie and Wallace, one on each side of the class.

Mrs. Findlayson and I came to blows at times especially when I pulled my hand away while she was trying to strap me. I was an average student yet very bright. I could never understand why my brother got VG and I only got G on my report card. High school was worse.

I spent 3 years at the High School of Montreal, 3 years at Malcolm Campbell High School and 2 years doing another 13 credits at Sir George Williams Evening High School. I then went into SGWU heading for a B. Comm degree.

Sir George Williams University

After taking two summer courses, my company transferred me west. I returned to Sir George Williams University in 1969 full time and completed my degree. In my 50s I self diagnosed my learning disabilities which had plagued me all my life and had myself tested at the U of T. which confirmed it. When things went bad for me later in life, I took five years off and went back to school.

In total I have four Bachelor degrees and a fellowship in the Institute of Canadian Bankers, equivalent to half a degree….B.Comm (marketing); SGWU; Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (management) and Bachelor of Arts (film) both from York University and a B. Ed from the University of Toronto.

I have been doing my family genealogy for some 40 years now and have a skill that way. My roots are English, Scottish, Irish from both parts, and Swedish-Finnish, an interesting mix. I also reunited my mother and her sister after 62 years and brought them together for the last ten years of their lives.

Family history

My family history turned out to be a very unique one going from the London Docks to entertaining the Royalty of England. I too married an English girl that I met at a summer chalet at Montgomery Center, Vermont. We lasted 12 years together, separated and divorced about 9 years later since she wanted to remarry.

I have a son and daughter. My son is single, lasted in one relationship long enough in Toronto for that to destroy him and he then chose to do an MBA at the London School of Business in the UK in 2007. Setting up his own entrepreneurial firm, he is currently doing his part in a massive project for the British Government and will likely remain in the UK for the rest of his life. My daughter who lives in Victoria, BC works for the VIHA.

Allan McDougall

She is expecting her second child in October 2014. Her eldest daughter made me a grandfather for the first time 2 years ago. Funny as it is, her husband’s mother lives a couple of miles from me here in Toronto.

Jaan, You mentioned a school friend. You are talking about Allan MacDougall, 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.

[Bob refers at this point in his text to an excellent book that he has written, that has the potential to be turned into a movie. ]

I am also looking for people who would help me edit my other many books to make sure they make sense and address the problems caused by my LD problems.

No money though as I am just a poor author and artist these days. Well, that is probably enough for now. Let me know what you want to know about Cartierville School and I will try to answer it. Cheers !!!


17 replies
  1. Ulrich Laska
    Ulrich Laska says:

    Hey I went to Cartierville school. I will always remember Mrs Staniforth’s encouraging words, when she told me that I had promise. Then there was Mrs F the principal. I think she liked me. She made me the star of the Christmas play one year. I remember her bad breath and big buzoom as she fussed with my stage makeup. I went there from 4-7 grade, it must have been 1955-59. I liked that little school.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    This is a delightful overview, Ulrich. That’s a beautiful word picture that you present.

    I remember that learned to speak French, in our high school French classes, superlatively well, and that you went on to study architecture.

    I was delighted to read your message. I remember you from our days of 50-plus years ago at Malcolm Campbell High School. We may have run into each other from time to time in Grade 4, from about 60 years ago, which is the one year that I attended that great little school.

  3. Bob Killam
    Bob Killam says:

    Way back Bob and I were cubs at the Church of the Good Shepard wher my mother was akala ?sp. I recall his polder brother was excellent with a soccer ball. Bob may remember Carol Jones from Golf Ave.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      It’s a delight to know that the history of the cubs at the Church of the Good Shepherd remains in memory, even now. I remember there were Sea Scouts and Rovers in these communities as well.

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Bob Carswell has given me permission to post the following additional text:

    Thanks for your email. I am the guy that came up with the idea for the 40th MCHS school reunion even though I did not graduate from MCHS. I spent 3 years there and 3 years before that at Montreal High School and did not graduate from there either. My last 13 credits were earned at SGWEHS and I was granted admission to SGWU in 1965. I moved west for 3 years and returned full time to SGWU in 1969, married in 1970, left Montreal a second time in 1972 and came to Toronto.

    I have lived in and around the city for the past 42 years. I went back to school at varying times in my life, completed a second degree, an Honours degree in Business Administration in Management from York University, a Bachelor of Arts in Film which included 6 studio course in Art and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto.

    Today, I am retired, living alone in Etobicoke right on Lake Ontario and I am painting and writing. I turn 70 in November. For the past 40 years I have been researching my family history and over the past dozen years become a successful military researcher.

    I have written a dozen e-books all of which I am not promoting because of poor editing due to my dyslexia and right now I am one-third of the way in rewriting a Church of the Good Shepherd cookbook that my mother organized, typed and printed as a church fundraiser back then. I am hoping to publish it eventually as well.

    I currently live in a small apartment backing on to Lake Ontario. What more could I ask for. I hang my pants here so I refer to my apartment as MY PANTHOUSE BY THE LAKE. Why move north to find a house by a lake when I have a huge lake in my backyard. I am a grandfather these days with a 2-year old granddaughter living in Victoria and another on the way in October.

    My son is not married and lives in London, England working on contract with the British High Commission through his own entrepreneurial business which he set up after graduation from an MBA at the London School of Business in 2007. My sister Lesley lives in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and just became a grandmother herself.

    My older brother lives in Whitby and my younger brother John lives in Vancouver. I figure I am good for a few more years but like life, there are no promises. Many friends of my youth have already passed on.

  5. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Hi Bob,

    Nice to hear from you. I think I knew your brother better than you because we were closer in age.

    The name Carol Jones is familiar but I cannot put a face to her. Gary Mitchell used to live on Golf Road. I do not think my brother knew what a soccer ball was for. It was not one of his sports. I think you are thinking of someone else. The one person I do remember is Lynn Legge (Hennebury) who was a tomboy in her youth. She lived next door for some 15 years. We used to play baseball on the street and she could hit a good one. There were cubs, scouts and after the fellows got too old for scouts they formed sea rovers because several of Mr. Budden, the Scoutmaster’s sons had an interest in a boat over in Point Claire where they worked on it. I went to Quebec City in 1960 to receive my Queen Scout badge and certificate from the Lieutenant-Governor of the province. In the years that followed I also went there on ski trips.



    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      You mentioned a background near the London Docks. Do you have any Degerlund’s in your past? (I’m following my family tree and a “Bob Carswell” who now lives in Canada, was mentioned

      • Bob Carswell
        Bob Carswell says:

        Hi there,
        I am the Bob Carswell with Degerlunds in my family. I have an extensive tree that goes back to the 1600s courtesy of someone I met years ago via email. She had done extensive work on the extended family there. Send me an email
        How are we connected?

        • Jaan Pill
          Jaan Pill says:

          I am most pleased to know that through this website, from time to time people can share important information going back many centuries, with regard to family trees!

          I am also very pleased, Bob, that you have shared so much valuable information, about such a wide range of topics, each time that we get together for coffee. You serve as a tremendously valuable resource, for any person who seeks information about the past.

  6. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Bob, it’s wonderful to have these additional updates. You have travelled widely. It was great to meet with you and other MCHS alumni about a decade ago in Toronto.

    As you may know, Lynn Legge is on the MCHS 60s Reunion organizing committee. I remember Gary Mitchell by name, but can’t picture where I know the name from. Possibly from elementary school.

    I’m pleased to know of your progress on the Church of the Good Shepherd cookbook. When it’s competed, please let us know how we can order a copy.

    It’s a treat to know these details about your brothers and sister. It’s been a good 50 years and more since I last saw them, back in Montreal.

  7. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Lynn Legge has added this comment, which I’m pleased to pass along, with her permission:

    Still playing ball, road hockey and soccer with my grandkids, helping bringing up another generation of tomboys – worked out well for me – Lynn

  8. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Bob, can you tell us how the “buck-buck” game went?

    The story about the game reminds me about what I learned as an elementary school teacher about the power of games.

    Years ago, when I was still teaching, the school in Mississauga, Ontario where I was working implemented what was called the PALS (Playground Activity Leaders in Schools) program as a way to create a good “social architecture” for student interactions at recess and as a way to develop positive leadership skills.

    The program teaches schoolyard games that all kids used to know, and encourages active participation of students who would otherwise wouldn’t be much involved with games with other students.

    The PALS program at our school was highly successful. Kids learned all kinds of schoolyard games that in the past were passed down from one generation of school kids to the next. There was a whole book of games, that had been put together as part of the PALS program.

    Some of the teachers at the Peel District School Board, where I worked, were experts in how to teach the games and worked with staff and students at different schools to implement the program. I was so impressed. I just loved seeing the kids picking up new games and having a great time playing together at recess.

    School games are like folk songs. It’s wonderful when there’s an archivist who comes along and records the game or the song, in some way, in order to keep it alive for future generations to play and enjoy.

  9. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Hi Jaan,
    I will have to beg your forgiveness on our plans for coffee on Thursday, January 29th as I have done something to my foot and I am literally unable to walk on it. I have had a lot of major operations in my life but I have never felt an excruciating pain like this one before. I literally drag my foot around hoping I can make it to and back from the bathroom without screaming or collapsing on the way. I am hoping to recover in a few weeks but until I know the situation, I have cancelled all of my plans for the next 3 weeks at least in the hope I recover.

  10. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Message to Bob Carswell, Jan. 27, 2015

    Hi Bob,

    Please know that I can well understand that your first priority is to recover from your foot injury. I look forward to meeting with you for coffee when the circumstances are favourable.

    I’m off to a meeting this morning to a meeting in connection with the 400th Anniversary of the first European glimpse (that we know about) of Lake Ontario:

    September 2015 marks the 400th Anniversary of Étienne Brûlé’s arrival at the mouth of the Humber River

    Wishing you speedy recovery,


  11. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Well it is now May 2nd, 2015 and I just came across this last entry on Preserved Stories. I thought it would be good to add an update to the saga of my sore foot. It turned out to be a severe case of gout brought on by kidney failure, a result of over medication by my previous doctor. I ended up in hospital shortly after my last post and spent nine days there while they realigned my medication. I had already left that doctor because the regular 2 hour waiting period was just too much to bear any longer. I am glad I walked out.

    Now I go to a doctor’s appointment and I arrive 5 minutes before my appointment and he sees me right away. While he had started to change my medications, one by one. the problem with gout required immediate attention which the hospital undertook. I have more confidence in this new younger doctor that the previous doctor. Today, I still get minor signs of potential gout attacks and during this past week I had to deal with a gout attack in my big toe, but nothing is as bad as the episode that put me in hospital.

    My life has been full of operations but I have to admit, having a concussion, having my tongue stitched up, having my tonsils and adenoids removed, dealing with learning disabilities, being hit by a car, losing a kidney, breaking my neck, having both hip joints replaced, having needles into my lung and subsequent lung collapse are nothing to the pain of gout in your feet. Trust me on that one.

    The end result is that I left hospital with a single kidney operating at 30%….something that could last until I die or not. In the first two months I was able to improve the function by 10% but that only meant 33% and as the doctor said, you will never get back to 100%, the damage has been done. So that is where I am today and on June 1st I will learn if I have been able to maintain that level or not.

    If nothing else my life may end on dialysis. That’s okay too, I guess it may have to be part of my life’s journey. My grandmother died at age 56 of the same thing, one kidney removed the other failing due to uremic poisoning. Without dialysis death was the only solution in 1949. From all indications, I suspect I got her genes, something to do with malformed lower organs. It killed my cousin’s son who was born with exposed lower organs. There was nothing that could be done for him except to care for him for the six months that he lived. Sad but true.

    For the first 16 years of my life, I got side aches whenever I ran and I did a lot of running. Graeme Decarie was my running coach one year. He saw my abilities and helped me along. I won 7 ribbons in 7 races and ran almost 4 miles at my top speed that day, side aches and all.

    Coincidence would have it that he was my Grade 10 history teacher the year I returned to school on December 1st of the year I had my kidney removed. We would meet again years later when he came to dinner at my brother’s place in Kingston while they were both doing their PhDs at Queens University. I was visiting for the weekend.

    Talking to a group who largely did not go to the 2000 reunion, maybe only Graeme Decarie will remember the events leading up to that event. On the Friday evening everyone gathered at a restaurant on Mountain Street to register for the reunion. After a bite to eat there, we then went up the street to a disco place for a bit of Friday night dancing.

    I remember the unusual structure of the place and after being inside and studying the architecture, I said to my sister that I thought the place was previously a mortuary. I said to her, “Imagine if someone came in here and realized that it was the same place that they buried their grandmother out of previously. ”

    Weeks later while going through my genealogy records I came across my own grandmother’s death certificate only to realize that it was the same address on Mountain Street in Montreal and that I was addressing an issue that some mysterious force had led me to say what I said to my sister that evening. I am not a religious person but sometimes you really have to work hard to understand the coincidences that go on…was this one of them or were forces at play that we do not understand yet…..sort of like something from the Twilight Zone.

  12. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Wonderful to read your message, Bob. Life brings us so many experiences, some more enjoyable than others. I like your story about Mountain Street.

    Today May 2, 2015 was an active day for me. First in the morning I was involved with a Jane’s Walk led by Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Peter Milczyn. The walk title was “Spaghetti Junction – The Farewell Tour.” It turned out beautifully. We had a rough start because the portable amp that I had brought for the event was not working but we had things under control pretty quickly.

    It was also a good technical lesson for me. I’ve heard of an interviewer using three audio recorders to ensure there’s a backup in the event something goes wrong. I can understand that approach to things, as I get more experience with sound recording and sound amplification technology.

    Turned out to be a defective mike cable, which I was able to get replaced without losing too much time, at the start of the walk. It was great to have the properly functioning equipment in place. It’s a treat when things work well.

    I prefer a portable amplifier for such events, rather than a megaphone. The mike is easier to handle for extended conversations. I have plenty of posts about this particular Jane’s Walk, and other Jane’s Walks, at my website and the information is easy to find using the internal search engine at the site or using Google.

    In the afternoon we had a Jane’s Walk in New Toronto entitled “New Toronto – Then and Now.” My friends Mike James and Brian Liberty led the walk. Mike grew up in New Toronto in the 1950s and had great stories to share from those years, as did other walk participants including a gentleman named Ron who was born in 1932, if I remember correctly what he said. The past was brought to life before our eyes, as we walked along the streets and recalled events from the 1950s and beyond.

    New Toronto was like a little village in those times. Long Branch was a separate village. Mimico was a still other village. The kids in each village knew the boundaries, and knew to stay within them. That’s an aspect about New Toronto that Mike James has shared with me in the past. It’s a concept that has always stayed with me. I like that sense of geographical boundaries, in that part of the world, in that particular postwar era.

    One of the stories that was shared concerned women who worked at the Campbell Soup plant – which is still in operation. In the 1950s, one group of women had as their specialty the daily dealing with garlic. That’s what they worked with, all day long, at the plant. When they would get on the bus, one of the walk participants explained to us, the women who were working with the garlic would be directed by the bus driver to kindly sit as far away from him as possible, because the smell of garlic was otherwise going to get on his nerves in a big-time way.

    Brian Liberty, who’s younger by a few decades than Mike James and I, will lead Jane’s Walks in our local neighbourhoods in future. I will help with the technical end of things, such as the posting of talks at the Jane’s Walk website, but my own days of leading walks, and Mike’s days for leading walks, are gone and past. It’s time for a new generation of walk enthusiasts to step forward. Leadership succession is an important part of volunteer work, I’ve been learning, with the passage of the years.

    In the evening I had the good fortune to see the movie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015). It was a great movie, in my experience of it. It addresses themes related to the passage of the years that are familiar with quite a few of us.

    And now it’s back to on the MCHS 2015 Reunion.


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