[I published this and the two following posts on my new Facebook Author Page recently. However, in creating that page, I made at least three mistakes. First, I created another page by mistake, which I call my “dummy” page — a reflection on my skills, not on my Friends. Next, for some reason which ranges far beyond my understanding, I cannot invite Friends to my Author Page. And third, I started treating my Author Page like a blog. Big, big mistake. A Facebook page is NOT a blog. THIS is a blog. You are now reading my blog. What I am doing now is transferring three blog-friendly posts from Facebook to this venue. Enjoy!]
1 — Selwyn Dewdney
[Dated July 17] The new book I cracked yesterday, blew me away. I had turned to Chapter 11, “Packing on the Pic”, and the first line read: “Teaching in Ontario secondary schools in the 1940s was about as lucrative as supervising garbage collection . . . ”
I began teaching in Ontario elementary schools in the late 1950s, and I resembled that line. The author is the late Selwyn Dewdney, and over the next few posts, you’ll be hearing more about him. If the name doesn’t strike a chord with you, it should — if you care at all about the history of Northern Ontario.
But more on Selwyn later.
Here’s the first paragraph from his Chapter 11:
Teaching in Ontario secondary schools in the 1940s was about as lucrative as supervising garbage collection or working as a plumber’s assistant. As well, prewar salaries were paid by the working month so that summer holidays always created a financial chasm that somehow had to be bridged. Every June, as I now remember the process, I’d go to the bank and crawl into the manager’s office on my hands and knees. “Please help me keep a roof over my starving wife and children.” After an eternity of grave consideration, he would let a few dollars slip through his fingers. Nowadays the bank managers are the ones on their hands and knees. “How much would you like? Five thousand? Ten thousand?
For the first twenty years of my teaching career, at some point every June, I called on my banker to tide me over the summer. Olga and I were raising two children, and we had no money coming in for July and August. And unless the school board advanced us some salary at the beginning of September, we didn’t see a paycheque till the end of the month.
How does this book, let alone this paragraph, relate to my writing?
Well, as it happens, a chapter in one of my books, The Annals of Goshen, deals with this issue. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 8, “Volunteerism”:
I landed my first job with the highest-paying school board in Canada, $3,100 per annum before taxes. That worked out to $258.3333 per month before taxes.
That first year I had a wife and child and another on the way, so only $265.4444 per month went for groceries and nappies. That left (How much? That can’t be right.) left over for luxuries such as rent, and clothes, and aspirin. Lots of aspirin.
It was a struggle to make ends meet. In fact, I can truthfully state that the ends were rarely within commuting distance of each other.
So you can appreciate how Selwyn’s words struck a chord with me.
In fact, his whole chapter, “Packing on the Pic”, foreshadows my current writing project (one of my current writing projects), the third book in the Kennet Forbes series (working title: The Manitou Firebird).
It is really uncanny . . .
As if his ghost is looking over my shoulder.