David’s Dream

Posted on November 2, 2018 under Storytelling with no comments yet

This story was previously posted in 2014. David Miller left us yesyerday and what a legacy he left behind. Thank you David for your tireless efforts to make Antigonish a better place to live.

 

“I have an idea.”

And with those few words, a twenty-six year conversation began between David Miller and me.  David and his wife and soul mate, Aida Arnold, arrived in Antigonish in 1988 to open a McDonald’s restaurant.

I was on Town Council at the time and had three small children.  A fourth was soon to follow.  McDonald’s quickly became a magnet for families, especially families with youngsters like ours.  David and Aida became engaged in the community almost instantaneously.  And we are all the better for it.

Sometimes you have to step back from the forest to see the trees.  They saw the great potential that Antigonish town and county had at their fingertips, right from the word go.  And they have both been bringing ideas, energy and enthusiasm to many worthwhile endeavours since the day they landed here.

Aida was one of the driving forces behind “Communities in Bloom”.  Just walk around town and see all of the beautiful flowers hanging from posts and buildings, or overflowing from boxes adjacent to shops and stores along the Main.

During the recent street fair held in the downtown core, I was talking with an old neighborhood friend who spends her summers here.  Aida happened by, and once introductions were made, my friend said that in all her travels, the McDonald’s in Antigonish was her absolute favorite.  I don’t think it was because of the fries.  Their fries are always the best, whichever outlet you go to.

No.  It wasn’t the Big Macs either.  Our local McDonald’s franchisees festooned the interior of their building with local art and brought it to life with beautiful and unique landscaping outside.  I agree with my friend.  I have never been to a McDonald’s that was more esthetically pleasing or welcoming.

For many years I heard David talk about the local cultural scene.  He was always passionate in his support of actors, musicians and all manner of artists and artisans.

And, he had a dream.

On many occasions he asked me “What can we be doing to promote the area?”  Recently, he answered his own question with the creation of the Antigonish Art Fair.  While he will point out, in his self-effacing way, that many others were responsible, he was, and is, the driving force behind this bold new initiative.

The Antigonish Art Fair has begun with a series of five “Art in the Park” events, showcasing the immeasurable creative richness of our community.  The idea is to turn Antigonish into a cultural mecca; a not-to-miss destination for art tourism.

The Fair was launched a few weeks ago.  I had a bird’s eye view of the proceedings, acting as Master of Ceremonies.  The event was held at Chisolm Park, on the banks of the Brierly Brook.  Staring out from the gazebo, I could see dozens and dozens of artists showing their works.  There was a children’s corner and lots of tasty food from around the world. The dignitaries cut the ribbon and moments later, David’s dream unfolded like the first flowers in spring.

We were entertained by an eclectic mix of entertainment on the stage at the gazebo. Everything from very young Highland dancers, to a fire eater and belly dancers.  Chisholm Park is named after the late Mayor, Colin Herman Chisholm.  As I watched the belly dancers, I smiled, wondering how Collie Herman would have enjoyed this particular exhibition.  He would have thought it was just fine.

The Antigonish Arts Fair is up and running.  We are thankful for David’s vison and unbridled enthusiasm.

Stealing a line from McDonald’s, “We’re lovin’ it”.

Thanks, David.

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Give Them Credit

Posted on October 18, 2018 under Storytelling with 3 comments

 

(Note: This story was previously published in April 2014. In honour of International Credit Union Day today, it is being republished)

 

By and large, women are running the economy.   By and large, men are ruining the economy.  The good news in Canada is that many of our governments and businesses are led by women.  They are trying desperately to mop up some big messes.  A new broom sweeps clean.

I made a trip to my local credit union the other day.  My mission was quite simple; to empty the contents of our safety deposit box and shut it down permanently.  We hadn’t used it in eons and thought that it was time to pass in our keys.   It had been so long since we visited it, in fact, that we weren’t quite sure what was in it any more.  “Did you find anything valuable?” queried my wife.  “Lint” was my reply.

I must admit my bias towards credit unions, as my father was the long-time manager of our local institution.  Even though it usually isn’t necessary to visit the teller most of the time, with ATM’s and on-line banking at our fingertips, I still find myself being drawn to the wicket and will even patiently stand in line on ”cheque day”.   This is when senior citizens receive their Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security cheques.   I now have a legitimate right to be in this lineup.

In a world that is becoming increasingly cold and impersonal when it comes to business, credit unions have somehow managed to retain the personal touch.  This, of course, is born out of the roots of the cooperative movement which, sadly, has seen better days.  Our local co-op grocery store fell victim to the times not too long ago.

On a busy day you pick up a lot of news while standing in the lineup at the credit union.  When it is quiet, you can engage the teller, who feels almost like next of kin.  Once the topic of the weather has been covered, the conversation usually moves to family and community.  And even though the credit union has grown and competes with all of the major banks, there is still a feel to the place that makes it different.

All businesses should have an information desk.  As a male consumer and a non-shopper, there is nothing more disconcerting than entering a store and being unable to find someone to give you directions.  It’s almost like I have a sign on my back which says “please ignore”.  The women who staff the information desk at the credit union are like air traffic controllers, carefully guiding young and old (increasingly the latter) to their final destination.  And when you need a few minutes to rest, they have a comfortable chair and the morning newspaper.

I still collect loonies and toonies in a small steel container.  Every few months I roll the coins and carry them down to the credit union.  It gives me an excuse to chat with the women who run the place.  Let me make it perfectly clear that women are the backbone of all financial institutions, not just the credit union.  Let’s give them credit where credit is due.

 

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Just Listenin’ to the Radio

Posted on September 22, 2018 under Storytelling with 23 comments

Joe Chesal and Gerard MacDonald

So long Joe and Gerard. Thanks for the memories.

(This story was first published in 2013)

 

Real men don’t eat quiche.  But they do make their own dough.  No, not that kind of dough.   I’m talking dough that turns into real, home-made bread.   It is Saturday morning.  My beleaguered wife is a tax preparer and while she slaves away seven days a week during the initial rush, I take over the domestic chores.  The first load of laundry is on the go.  Ditto for the spaghetti sauce.  Love letting it sit all day in the slow cooker.  And just last week I dusted off an old recipe and have decided to make my own bread.

I flick on the local radio station just as I am kneading the bread for the first time.  On any given Saturday you will get either Joe or Gerard as your host.  These guys have been at the helm since around the time of Adam and Eve.  And they are old pros at their craft.  I don’t know their ages for sure but I’m guessing they are my vintage because they happen to play the music that I grew up with.  As I wait for the bread to rise, I grab a coffee and the New York Times crossword puzzle and settle in, with “Take it to the Limit” by The Eagles playing in the background.

If you want to feel the rhythm of a small town, turn on the radio on a Saturday morning while you’re doing your chores.  It is a pleasant mixture of music, news, local events and announcements.  Nowhere else but in small town Canada will you hear that bingo has been cancelled due to a death in the community.  They must sell a lot of cars on a Saturday because invariably there’s a live feed from one of the car dealerships.  And then I hear the Dave Clark 5 pounding out the lyrics to “Glad All Over”.

No Saturday would be complete without the buy and sell segment.   And when spring rolls around, my wife and her ilk wait breathlessly to hear about the yard sales.  Only in a small town would you get the “lost dogs” report.  Spencer Davis belts out “Gimme Some Lovin’”.

Is the entire globe fixated on weather?   Back when I was growing up, weather just happened.  You knew there was bad weather by looking out your window.  Nowadays, it appears to be an obsession.   And despite all of the sophisticated weather tracking devices, my arthritic knee is the best gauge of all.  Just after the umpteenth weather report, the Beach Boys ramp things up with “Help Me Rhonda”.

One thing is absolutely certain on a Saturday morning.  You’re not likely to hear any rap music.  Joe and Gerard just don’t seem to be rapper kind of guys.

As I’m taking the bread out of the oven, Anne Murray is crooning that old favorite “You Needed Me”.   I look at the bread and the bread stares back at me as if to say “You kneaded me”.  Is there anything better than warm bread just out of the oven?

Yes.  Joe and Gerard.  Like an old pair of slippers; familiar and comfortable.

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