WE OLD RELICS

I have lost a great many gray hairs, and I do not regret one of them.

I am proud of every one. RIP.

This rumination comes to mind because yesterday I addressed a class of student teachers at Lakehead U. Young men and women ̶ kids, really ̶ just starting out. I do not envy them at all. Little do they know what lies ahead. Mind you, most of what lies ahead is good, as it was for me. Yet, if you asked me to re-live my life, I would run screaming in the opposite direction. Been there, done that. It was good, much of it was fun, but I have earned the right to be my age.

Fifty-five years ago I attended Lakehead Teachers’ College, and yesterday I went back for the first time. I had to be directed there because they have changed the name. Now it’s the Bora Laskin Building. I don’t remember him as a teacher. But, he must have done something right to be so honoured.

The prof who invited me, Walter Epp, is teaching geography ̶ or rather, teaching how to teach geography ̶ and exposes his students to as many geography-related experiences as he can. Last year he sent a group of students up to my home on Wildgoose Lake to pick my brains on being a writer and historian and a wanna-be geographer. Walter admires my historical-geographical novel, The Beardmore Relics, and it was, I believe assigned reading in one of his courses.

In the hour I had, Walter asked me to first reminisce about my attending the first graduating class at Lakehead Teachers’ College. Well, I didn’t say much ̶ I had a lot of ground to cover ̶ but I did mention that when I was attending Queen’s U to upgrade my certificate, I aspired to be a geographer. However, the labs were formidable, absorbing a huge block of a student’s time and energy, so I chose something easy ̶ English Literature. I have never regretted it.

I had 50-some slides in a PowerPoint presentation. I reviewed the history of The (historic) Beardmore Relics, starting with their discovery by a weekend prospector near the community of Beardmore in the early ’30s. I showed how, as a relatively young teacher, on my weekends in the fall of 1990, I set out to re-discover the discovery site, and succeeded. Then, after the great fire of ’99, when some 30,000 hectares of bush was wiped out between Macdiarmid, Beardmore, and Lake Nipigon, and all the vegetative landmarks had disappeared, I set out in the fall of 2009 to re-discover the site of my re-discovery of the discovery site.

In the next post, The Beardmore Relics, I recount all that stuff.

I segued into slides I took while researching The (literary) Beardmore Relics, focusing on locations in the novel that showcase the grand geographical and historical features of Lake Nipigon and the Beardmore region.

Foundations of the old Northern Empire mill, July 2009.

After the presentation, there was the obligatory applause. But I had to wonder what the students were really thinking. When I was in their shoes ̶ and I was, fifty-five years ago ̶ I too was addressed by some old fogies fifty-five years older than me, and some of those were my teachers (though I still don’t recall Bora Laskin).

I can still recall some of my thoughts from that long-ago time: I can’t believe that guy was once my age. What went wrong? And how much of what he is telling us can we really believe? How much is fake news (okay, we didn’t even know the term “fake news”, but we thought it). This old geezer is telling me he was recently sailing on the sixth Great Lake and canoeing and hiking and scrambling up a mountain in wild country and that he knows how to deter a charging black bear and . . . Aw, this is all an elaborate hoax by our beloved Professor. Are they late with that bell again?

As you can imagine, my presentation was a typical educational experience.

Still, I enjoyed it. I am a born teacher and a life-long student.

As I was leaving the Bora Laskin Building, I looked for some familiar landmarks. There’s a library in the extension (we had to use the university’s central library). The auditorium where we met regularly to hear old fogies speak, was locked. I couldn’t spot the entrance to the gymnasium, but a student I asked said it is still there.

The flower bed is gone where I buried an empty vodka bottle. But that’s another story.

Book cover, representing a view of Bish Bay on Lake Nipigon.

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
This entry was posted in LOCAL HISTORY, MY EXCURSIONS and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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