Kids say the darn­d­est things

Northern Pen - - FRONT PAGE - Bob Wake­ham

When I de­planed at St. John’s air­port the other evening with my wife and 90-year-young mother, the three of us re­turn­ing from a trip to the States that had in­cluded a glo­ri­ous wed­ding and a num­ber of other won­der­ful fam­ily events, it was with that ex­tra bounce in my step that al­ways kicks in as I ar­rive home, to­tally con­tent to be back in New­found­land.

And I could hardly wait to hear of some rel­a­tively be­nign news of the past cou­ple of weeks in the prov­ince. The mass killing in Florida (still another tragic and twisted ex­am­ple of the Amer­i­can ver­sion of as­sisted dy­ing laws) and the ubiq­ui­tous cov­er­age of the inane but scar­ily suc­cess­ful cam­paign of Don­ald Trump had been giv­ing me the cold shiv­ers down south.

There is, af­ter all, a cer­tain nor­malcy that we al­ways pre­sume (per­haps naively) ex­ists in this land of ours, a de­light­fully mun­dane nor­malcy.

I re­call back in the early ’70s, my Un­cle Bill and Aunt Vera Judge of Grand Falls were pay­ing a visit in North­ern New Jer­sey to a for­mer res­i­dent of the pa­per mill town (as it was so proudly la­belled for al­most a hun­dred years), Mary (Bren­nan) Funge, and the top­ics of con­ver­sa­tion that evening re­volved around de­press­ing U.S. is­sues: the Viet­nam War, Nixon and Water­gate.

And Mary de­cided she had had enough.

“I’m sick of talk­ing about all this Amer­i­can shit,” she de­clared. “So tell us, Bill, about the lat­est news in Grand Falls.”

“Well, Mary,” Bill replied, in the droll tone for which he was well known. “Last week, a dog got killed on Monchy Road.”

Need­less to say, we all roared. A Bill Judge line or yarn of any sort could al­ways pro­voke a grand laugh.

So last week­end, af­ter our ar­rival back on the home­stead in Fla­trock, I thought I was about to have a sim­i­lar, every­thing’s rel­a­tive, dog-killed-onMonchy-Road chuckle when my next door neigh­bour, af­ter be­ing asked for the lat­est New­found­land news, be­gan to tell me about lawyer Steve Mar­shall declar­ing that for­mer premier Roger Grimes would not be per­mit­ted to play hockey at the for­mer Prince of Wales Arena (now owned by Mar­shall and a few other well-heeled town­ies) be­cause he had bad­mouthed his brother Ken Mar­shall, the for­mer chair­man of Nal­cor. (As the en­tire prov­ince had dis­cov­ered, Mar­shall and the en­tire board of direc­tors had re­signed from the Crown cor­po­ra­tion, but not be­fore sup­ply­ing CEO Ed Martin with a pink slip that guar­an­teed him a mighty hefty sev­er­ance pack­age).

Any­way, I re­al­ized soon enough that it was ac­tu­ally a true story, that this ridicu­lous Grade 7 bul­ly­ing tac­tic did take place, that it was one of those sto­ries you pray doesn’t make it to the main­land press, and be­come fod­der for another round of “New­fie” jokes.

Mar­shall, of course, is a close friend and for­mer le­gal as­so­ciate of Danny Wil­liams, and you might re­call that The Tele­gram’s man­ag­ing editor, Steve Bartlett, in­formed us last year that Wil­liams, the owner of the Ice Caps, had de­cided The Tele­gram would no longer have a booth at Mile One Sta­dium; not co­in­ci­den­tally, Bartlett im­plied, Wil­liams was in­volved in a defama­tion suit against the news­pa­per.

Thick-skinned, Wil­liams has never been known to be, and the men­tor had ap­par­ently ed­u­cated his pro­tégé in the child­ish meth­ods of pub­lic de­bate.

Now, no one would have blamed Mar­shall if he had gone on the open-line shows to chas­tise Grimes and defend his brother — tear the for­mer premier to shreds, if he was so in­clined. Get his mug on “Here and Now,” write a let­ter to the editor. Grimes is a big boy. He could have taken the hit.

But no sir, not our ado­les­cent lawyer; in­stead, Mar­shall ba­si­cally told Grimes: say nasty things about my brother, even if he’s a pub­lic fig­ure, then you’re not go­ing to skate on my rink. So there, take that. Go and play in front of your own house.

To be quite hon­est, I guess I’d have to ad­mit to a cer­tain iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with Mar­shall’s ac­tions; grow­ing up in Gan­der, we had our back­yard and our neigh­bour’s back­yard flooded ev­ery win­ter to pro­vide us with end­less hours of hockey. But we were picky. Any­one we didn’t like was not per­mit­ted near our out­door rink. “Go make your own rink,” they’d be told.

But, for the love and hon­our of Gordie Howe, we were 10 and 11 years old.

We had lat­i­tude: we were young­sters.

Steve Mar­shall is a mid­dleaged, well-ed­u­cated, sup­pos­edly ma­ture lawyer.

Well, you can cer­tainly delete “ma­ture” from his bio.

Wel­come home, Bob.

Wil­bur Fil­lier used to work in the mis­sion ma­chine shop when I first met him. He moved into a po­si­tion in the RT of­fice. Wilb was a won­der­ful per­son, but you never knew what was go­ing to come out of his mouth.

Like one day the weather was re­ally bad and no one was flying. There was a nurs­ing su­per­vi­sor, Mrs Clegg, for all the nurs­ing sta­tions and she used to make reg­u­lar vis­its to the sta­tions. There was never any love lost be­tween Mrs. Clegg and Wilb.

She kept com­ing to the RT and used to say to Wilb I think the weather is get­ting bet­ter, maybe we can go? This con­tin­ued on through­out the day un­til she came in and fi­nally Wilb got fed up with her and said, “Look, there’s no planes flying to­day. But if you want to go the broom is be­hind the door.”

With that Mrs. Clegg ran down the corridor of the out pa­tients de­part­ment and went straight to Peter for a meet­ing. She de­manded that Wilb be fired right away. To make a long story short, Peter and Joe had a great laugh over it, and Mrs. Clegg fi­nally calmed down, but she never came back to the RT of­fice any more that day.

The next day I took her to Rod­dick­ton. When­ever she was on board I would warn the nurs­ing sta­tion on the ra­dio, by telling them to, “Get the vac­uum out.” They would spruce the place up a bit be­fore she came. She never knew a thing.

I brought the pa­tient in with the help of the En­gi­neer, RT op­er­a­tors and the am­bu­lance op­er­a­tors, the nurs­ing staff of out­pa­tients, and fi­nally the doc­tors and their staff took over. They got the pa­tient healthy again. It was a team ef­fort.

Sadly, Wilb passed away a few years ago, much to ev­ery­one’s sor­row.

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