Let’s hear it for literacy

Literacy has always been the loser in the education lineup at Fort High, but now the school insists the parents pay attention. They might decide to help out after a meeting tonight.
Ontario demands better English scholars.
Personally, and considering that literacy became essential to my own career as a journalist, I am grateful for having the right teacher here in Alice Morrison before I finished high school at 16. And others came earlier.
My own parents were an illiterate immigrant married to an easterner who never got past about grade three, there being no compulsion for going to school in Ontario in her day. My folks got by as well as most while hoping to push me into higher learning.
So, Alice had her hands full teaching English with a classfull of people who regarded literacy as something to be more or less avoided. One time she posted the marks after a test which made me her happiest student!
I had become the only one who passed although my mark was only a mediocre 59. I usually hand in a passable essay.
Eventually, I went on to study journalism after the war, mostly because a close friend also was going to the new Carleton University in Ottawa. I believe Carleton has sent the majority of our editorial workers to the Fort Frances Times ever since.
As for Fort High, journalism prospects always have been few and far between. One was Don Gillmor, who left for Minnesota U a year after I graduated and became a professor there eventually, following a stint with the Winnipeg Free Press.
Don wrote a book on journalism and the law, which I’m told became a famous textbook to help keep reporters out of jail.
Gillmor’s name accidentally was omitted from this column in a very brief list of local bookwriters last week, Fort High not being noted much for turning out authors, either.
Let’s wonder whether literacy can come alive there after lying more or less dormant all these years. Come on, Fort High, if you can excel at everything else, including sports, show us we can be proud in the world of letters also.
Writing will someday prove to be the easiest thing you could do, besides giving you a chance to let off steam occasionally in a way many of your fellow citizens won’t even attempt. They need spokesmen.
The pay for literacy on a production basis has never been very great but look at the opportunities nowadays with TV and computers opening great new markets. The bucks can be there today, if that’s what it takes to turn you on!
• • •
For the first time since his junior Royals folded, there was a new junior team in town as fall arrived on schedule last Friday. It brought in a touch of rain to dampen the hundreds of mourners who came to Knox United Church to bid farewell to Jim Witherspoon.
Even without considering his son, Mayor Glenn, who used to wear the goalie pads, and other sons sharing that popular district name, the crowd would certainly always come together for Jim, who became our busiest gasoline dealer on his good nature alone.
But then there was his outstanding sports patronage and his humanitarianism as a C.P. & T. volunteer in charge of crutches and wheelchairs for the Elks Lodge. Looking back now, Jim could have been selected our citizen of almost every year.
We didn’t see slim Jim around much in recent months, his health having become shaky, but I bumped into him one day many months ago with his old chum, George Armstrong, at George’s gravel pit when the sun was shining strongly on them both.
I believe they were schoolmates at Burriss and that neighbourhood might have been their makings. And you might remember that a lot of good baseball got played in Burriss, and that Jim sponsored young teams here for years while George also would pick up bills for little hockey teams.
Both could jockey the trucks we needed, too, although their roads diverged while Jim wheeled his tankers and Armstrong went in for road building equipment. Jim did so much of his own repairs that he decided to open his shop behind his pumps and never turned anyone away.
George had his own big shop at his pit where Jim could tell him about all the physical training that kept Jim so fit.
They died in the fullness of time only months apart and so many friends will relate their loss. And if you don’t know about Burriss, that’s a pity because it bred many of our strongest as well as longest-lived men and women up there on the headwaters of the La Vallee River.
The Burriss legend began with a sizeable migration from Kentucky led by a minister using an Ontario land grant, and many of those pioneers we learned toiled here for almost a century.
Jim would be disappointed over missing the first game of the new junior hockey season which has just started out of town. He got his Royals going soon after our all-conquering senior Canadians passed from the scene.
The Royals filled the void until our high school Muskies started romping over Ontario.
The team featured “Huffer” Christiansen and Danny Johnson, who both went into professional ranks. The Royals enjoyed support of easily half the town before succumbing to mounting expenses which always accompany imported players.
Now our ice palaces will be filling again as our old hockey fans come back for more. And the stories will fly about all those wonderful personalities like Jim and George, who made past winters so great here in exciting Atlantis.
• • •
Our International bridge was still crowded Saturday, almost two weeks after the terrible slaughter. It was as if everyone believed that best safety would be at home from now on and holidaying is a thing of the leisurely past.
Unexpectedly, the Americans must have almost all gone south while the northbound Canadian traffic was still clogging the bridge. Both sets of inspectors were being efficient and very courteous.

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