Kids say the darndest things
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.