In the 1960s, there was a television series that featured a female lead character who owned a book store on the main street of a small town. The store owner had a quiet dignity about her that imprinted itself on the tone and feel of her store. That image of a small town bookstore has stayed with me for a long time and has had a direct impact on the lifestyle of my wife and myself. We both love books and we have lived in many different places over the years. Whenever we moved, among the very first things we looked for were the local library and the independent bookstore in our new town.
After years of moving around, we finally settled down in the lower Ottawa valley and Almonte, Ontario became our home. Within the first week we had library cards and, much to our great delight, we found a gem … a bookstore that felt just like the one described above. Near the bottom of the hill, on a main street that has been featured in several films because of its small town ambience, Mill Street Books presents itself with a classic front window display of what is on offer inside … books, music CDs that feature local talent, and jigsaw puzzles (a magnet for my wife). The store owner is a friendly woman who likesto chat and who knows her books.
If you like books and you live in or travel to the Ottawa area, I highly encourage you to visit Almonte. It’s not far from Ottawa, it’s what a small town was meant to be, and … it has Mill Street Books.
(The store also has a website … just type Mill Street Books into your Browser).
In the years that I attended the University of Ottawa, it was always my intention to go on to law school once I had finished my BA program. I had been focused on this goal from the early days of high school. However, in the final months before graduation I came to the realization that I was tired of academia – tired of the classroom, tired of the constant study and tired of the incessant worry and consternation that came with the anxiety of ‘exam week’. I wanted to do something. While I was trying to figure out what that something was, one day I stopped in front of the Canadian Forces recruiting centre on Sparks Street in Ottawa. My father and uncles were WWII and Korean vets but I had never thought of joining the military. It wasn’t on my radar screen. But I went in anyway, and guess what? Three decades later I retired from the Canadian army having moved my wife and myself over large portions of the world and having served the country and served with soldiers in some very interesting jobs and situations. There were so many things that made an army career worthwhile, but the one thing that I enjoyed the most was the peoplewith whom I served.
I do not believe that I could have found a career anywhere else where the people – as individuals and as a collective body – were as dedicated, hard-working, intelligent and patriotic as the folks with whom I served. These were people who accepted the demand of ‘service before self’. They were people who did their duty on a 24/7 basis with an understanding that their service was governed by the premise of ‘unlimited liability’. These people made the best of what they had when what they had wasn’t what they needed. These people helped their fellow countrymen in times of disaster and in times of need. They traveled overseas and faced dangerous and life-threatening situations to help the people of other nations. They built schools and dams and they administered medical help. They protected the innocent and they cleared minefields and they provided humanitarian aid. These people were cheerful in trying times and said some of the most memorably funny things that lightened potentially dark moments.
These people were someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin or close friend.
And these people are now veterans. Some have retired into lives of comfort and ease. Others need help. My part in this will be to use proceeds from my books in support of those who need assistance. If you buy one of the books, thank you … and I hope you enjoy the stories.
It has been a considerably long road that I have been on, but it finally got me to where I have wanted to be for a long while… publishing stories as novels for those who like to read.
I know exactly where this road started. In primary school we had a teacher who was older than the others, and to a very young class of students in grades one to three, she looked like Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz. She was strict, very demanding and she inspired fear in anyone who didn’t pay attention in class. Year after year, we fervently hoped that she would be replaced by a teacher with a more gentle and tolerant temperament. That didn’t happen, and I am now forever grateful that it didn’t. The reason is simple. By the time my classmates and myself finished primary school, we were able to spell, to parse sentences and to write essays and short compositions that were well constructed, readable and often interesting. We were taught about literature that existed beyond comic books, and when she read to us in class — we listened. We listened intently because her love of literature transformed her into someone other than our “grammar teacher.” Years later, when I went up on stage to get my university diploma for a BA in English, my first smile was for my parents in the audience. My second smile was in memory of Mrs Gladys Hackett… my primary school “grammar teacher” at Saint Barbara’s Primary School at Camp Picton.
It’s taken a while, but now that I am retired and have the time to write, I hope that the stories will find an audience for two reasons. First, it would be the source of great personal pleasure to give people a chance to spend some time with interesting characters in interesting situations. And second, if any profit is generated from the books, it is my intention to donate most of it in support of military veterans in need. For those of you who help this cause – thank you.