Re-Tour Day Eight: Sioux Lookout to Winnipeg, then two events

Snow, snow, and more snow, then high winds. Driving difficult but simple enough once we got the rhythm. Seven hours to travel 440 kleacocks.

The very latest we could arrive at the Fort Garry Hotel to meet our obligations there would be 2:00 pm. We arrived at 1:58. Precision driving!

Met there by Winnipeg storyteller Sue Proctor, who invited us to stay at her home, an unexpected and most welcome invitation. Comfort indeed.

In the evening the University Women’s Club at their Ralph Connor House: wonderful meal, wonderful audience, wonderful conversations. Some expressed determination to read more Leacock. That’s what we want.



Re-Tour Day Seven: Sioux Lookout Day One and Only

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

We arranged to come here when we thought we might travel by train. We might have cancelled when we decided to drive, but chose not to. We are glad we did, because we received a wonderful northern town welcome and had a most excellent time. Meredith the town’s culture and museum manager a real gem.

Two events: a talk with high school students in the afternoon, a rare and special treat, and then an evening concert in the Legion Hall. A warm audience indeed including Annie, daughter of friend Irene on Bruce Peninsula.

A memorable day.

Re-Tour Day Six: Thunder Bay Day Two

Skeleton Post, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A very busy day indeed — four events — Lakehead University, Port Arthur Rotary Club, Thunder Bay Public Library Mary Black Branch, and Thunder Bay Museum.

This may be the busiest day of the whole Re-Tour.

Leacock is proving interesting and entertaining, but whether that will help much with the memory problem remains to be seen. As in battle, the immediate outcome is one thing, pursuit quite another.

Re-Tour Day Five: Thunder Bay Day One

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

The remaining 300 kleacocks from Marathon to Thunder Bay passed without incident. We were under way shortly after 8:00 am and arrived well before noon, and sought lodgings at the Prince Arthur Hotel, where Leacock may have stayed, and certainly performed, on the very first day of his tour. We were made most welcome by Manager Tony Scarcello and the gracious Ixela at the desk. It is indeed the best kind of hotel for our Re-Tour, being pleasant in every aspect and deeply authentic.

We checked in with our Public Library contacts, and made our way to our afternoon event at the Brodie Street branch. This kind of event — called “Dr. Leacock I Presume?” was designed as a briefing, primarily for the press. But none such appeared, and we had two members of the public instead. We improvised a presentation for them, with incomplete success. Back to the old drafting board.

This evening we do “A Field of Mariposies” at the Waverly Branch, which is at least familiar ground.

Tomorrow is a really busy day, perhaps the busiest of the whole Re-Tour, with four events, quite various. More on that afterwards.

Re-Tour Day Four: On the Road from Orillia towards Thunder Bay

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Written from Marathon Ontario: A skeleton post as after 988 kleacocks driven today I feel very much like a skeleton.

As we crossed the CPR tracks east of here I could only think of Leacock rolling through the same place 81 years ago.

Nothing surprising on the drive, quite some rain between SSM and here, unending procession of beautiful rocks and fascinating trees in varying mixtures and configurations. Wonderful to see the white pines sticking their tops up over the hardwoods on Highway 69. The great pine forests are returning, will return if we give them the chance.

Re-Tour Day Three: Orillia Day Two

Only one event today, instead of the two we had planned.

The concert in the evening at the Leacock Museum went very well, with 22 people present and apparently enjoying themselves.

We had intended to hang out at the Public Library around mid-day, but ran into a crisis with our Leacock display, one of whose large panels broke. We therefore had to replace it, and the other large one, because we couldn’t match the originals. This took quite some running around, followed by hasty re-arranging with the help of facilities at Staples. We made it, but the Public Library went unvisited, much to the disappointment of at least one person who came looking for us. We were fortunately able to explain things to her later.

Afterwards back to base near Craighurst with more conversation and gracious hospitality until we went to bed rather later than would be convenient the next morning.

If anything of lasting Leacockian significance happened this day we haven’t thought of it yet.


Day Two: First Orillia Day: Events and Conversations

We started the morning with a “Dr. Leacock I Presume?” event at the Leacock Museum, with Jenny, Alex and Tom. It turned into more of an harangue than a workshop, because they were delightfully receptive and wanted to know all that we had learned in the months past. This was an harangue well harangued, because these are the folks who will interpret to visitors at the old Leacock summer home.

Then on to the Public Library for an “Unsolved Riddles” talk-and-tell, with a lively group of five. It has occurred to us, and we said to them, that Orillia is perhaps the most difficult place anywhere to talk about Stephen Leacock, because he is someone they know, at least by local reputation and, in the case of the tourist people, by some extent of branding. The Stephen Leacock they know is theirs, and they are perfectly entitled to hug him to their breasts, and to resent efforts to import another one. Stephen Leacock is wide, he contains multitudes (cf. Walt Whitman) and the one they remember is quite okay with us.

He is not the one we carry, however, and we would like them to know about him, and perhaps even elaborate their own. Because local memory and branding tend, quite naturally, to somewhat more diminished, simply through the natural processes by which local memory and branding become established and maintained. The Stephen Leacock of Sunshine Sketches has become immensely important to Orillia, in many ways, not least because many people believe that Mariposa is, or may be, Orillia.

Our Stephen Leacock tries embrace the man of the other 52 books, the 1,500 articles and pieces, and the 800 public lectures and speeches, the man of well researched and serious ideas as well as humour, the man of The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and the Plan for the Depression as well as My Financial Career and all the others.

So far no one has risen up to smite us for our attempts to enlarge on the local guy, wo we’ll keep doing it. I suspect that our interactions with the Orillia Leacockians are only beginning, even though the supper concert tomorrow will be the end for this round.

At the very least we will be back to wade through the magnificent Leacock Museum collection. We will be suggesting that a little TLC for the collection, and particularly its catalogue, would serve the community and Canadian literary interest well, would attract the right kind of attention, and might even make them a doubloon or two by attracting people to it. Preservation is vital, cataloguing is vital, interpretation is the revenue generator. The facility and its park are glorious. We can only admire what Orilllia has done with them. Much work remains to take advantage of the base they create.

Stephen Leacock would not want to be thought of simply as an personage of cultural heritage, although he is that. He would not begrudge Orillia its desire to make money and live well out of his work. After all, he did that, and spread the benefit around liberally. Orillia deserves its share, which is within reach, with simply a little investment in money and effort.