Round Table talk on NewsTalk 1290

One of my Round Table discussions with CJBK’s Ken and Lisa.

From the Baldwin brothers to hydro to unions and Bob White.


Letters remind us of pain of war

Allen Olimer
Allen Olimer

I have just received a great gift from a man related to the Olimer side of our family by marriage.

Thanks to Clark Hooten, I have precious letters my uncle Allen Olimer sent home from the front lines during World War II.

He was killed in August, 1944.

There is also a letter from Allen’s sister-in-law Violet, writing to let her family members know of his death. It is truly heartbreaking.

In reading the letters, I wonder if we have really learned anything about the horror of war?

The rhetoric from politicians and other world leaders leaves little doubt that the two world wars are fading from collective memory and the generations that fought in these wars can no longer convey the pain.

We must remind our leaders, every chance we get, that going to war is not an option.

From my great-aunt Vi to relatives in Bracebridge Ont.: “We just had some terrible news. Allen was killed in action Aug. 8. Further information when they have it. It is almost too much to bear. I would have phoned only I did not want to upset mother. Well there is not anything to say or do. Love Violet.”

Record-breaking weather brings out signs of early spring

swifties three (1)

Over the last few days when London has hit record temperatures, I’ve noticed moths and other insects emerging.

Will we continue to have warm weather right through till March? It looks that way. But the long-range outlook shows two weeks from now returning to highs of 0 degrees.

The mild weather has all kinds of people outdoors enjoying nature so we’ll take it while it lasts.

Wanted to share a poem about the inspiration of nature as an example for humans to follow:

The awareness of the bees and insects

Inspires me to a higher

Intelligence of life unfolding

Intricately, beautifully, mystically,


I am of nature, but I fight

It.  Thinking too much when bee-ing

Is simply the highest form of intelligence.

What you may not know about Sir Frederick Banting


As people around the globe celebrate the 125th anniversary of Sir Frederick Banting’s birth on World Diabetes Day, his famous discovery often overshadows his service to country and his other talents.

It was here in London, Ont. where Banting had his medical breakthrough that led to millions of lives being saved around the world.

At his home at 442 Adelaide St. N. – site of what is now the museum Banting House – the doctor scrawled a note to himself in the middle of the night about his theory on insulin.

It was 2 a.m. on Halloween 1920, a Banting House article notes, when “Banting woke up and wrote down the 25 word hypothesis that would permanently cement him in the minds of people everywhere as the man who discovered insulin.”

As London is the birthplace of insulin, I’ve had the opportunity to write about Banting in the past.

Did you know Banting served in both World Wars?

Banting served in the Great War as a doctor, and during the Second World War, Banting used his medical knowledge to assist air crews. In 1941, he was heading to England on a mission when the plane he was in crashed in Newfoundland. Injured in the crash, Banting attended to the pilot before he died. Banting was 49.

That age is significant because Banting had planned to make a significant change in his life.

Banting was a talented artist, some say one of the best amateur painters in Canada. He planned to devote himself to his art once he turned 50. Unfortunately he never made it to that age.

Banting was friends with Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson and the pair would take painting excursions to places such as the Arctic, Georgian Bay and Quebec. It was likely on a trip to Quebec that he painted the above artwork, Village in Winter, which was purchased by Banting House for nearly $24,000 in 2010 from an auction.

On his painting trips, Banting would sometimes register under a different name because he had become so famous. To learn more about Banting as an artist, see my story about him published in the London Free Press at the link below.

A good read about Banting is Breakthrough: Banting, Best and the Race to Save Millions of Diabetics. It’s a narrative about his life based on historical facts.


My uncle’s sense of humour endured despite his silenced voice




“Indestructible” – that’s how my brother described our Uncle Bud  (Bronice Sylvester Rumleski) when we found out he had developed pneumonia following cancer surgery and was in the critical care unit.

After all, he had already beaten cancer once and following his surgery last week, doctors said the second tumour had been successfully removed. He had suffered a stroke 15 years ago and lived independently despite a paralyzed right side. And with a heart rate of 188 beats a minute when he was rushed into ICU following his pneumonia diagnosis, he somehow survived that too.

But despite his sharp mind and a fight in him that was unparalleled, his body finally gave out. A massive stroke left him unconscious. We prayed and cried and then said good-bye when there was nothing that could be done for him.

But such a force of life was Uncle Bud – Bunny we called him when we were kids – that even though he could no longer talk when the breathing and feeding tubes were inserted, his nurse said to me, “He has a great sense of humour.” That was Uncle Bud – always laughing, joking, a quick wit. It was remarkable to me that she picked up on his humour despite a silenced voice.

Bud was the second oldest of eight children who grew up with little on a farm outside of Matheson in Northern Ontario. While they all worked hard on the farm and struggled to make ends meet, there was an enduring love and a love of music. All of the kids were musical and Bud played guitar and sang. It was music that sustained them.


Here is Bud, right, with my father and my grandmother.

As he grew up and ventured out on his own, Bud worked hard at different jobs, including in a mine. Working all week below the earth, he would come out on weekends and spend his paycheque on others. His generosity was a lifelong trait. If he was down to his last nickle, he would give it to you. He loved giving to others and never cared how much he had.

Uncle Bud married and he and his wife had a baby named Eddie. Baby Eddie died before I was born in a car crash that also claimed the lives of Bud’s father- and mother-in-law on Highway 11 near Kirkland Lake. On trips up north to visit our extended family, my mother and father would point out the rock on the highway where Bud’s family was killed. It stayed with me my whole life and I thought about the pain he must have endured.

Before he had his cancer surgery, Bud asked that his ashes be spread at the farm near Matheson, at the graves of my grandparents and in Kirkland Lake, where little Eddie’s body was laid to rest. Decades later, Bud still wanted to be close to his baby.

Along with his humour and generosity, I will remember the patience Bud developed later in life. Because his right side was immobile, he was taken to a retirement home. But he wasn’t content there. He moved several times until his sister found him a perfect little apartment on his own in Brantford. Bud was determined to live independently and that he did.

We all worried about him being on his own. There were limitations to what he could do. It once took him two hours to get his suit coat off after a formal outing.

But Bud proved he could do just about anything an able-bodied person could. He took up arts and crafts. It amazed me that his good hand, which had a tremor, could delicately glue tiny beads on his artwork or paint or use a screwdriver to assemble things. He once constructed a tiny boat inside a glass jar.

Of course, everything he made, he gave to others. This rough-and-tumble guy, who used to be strong as an ox, developed a serenity and spiritual side through his art that was beautiful to behold.

And when I reflect on my uncle’s life, I will never forget that day he came to my rescue when I was stuck in a creek on the back of our property. I was about 13 and my brother and I were exploring.  As we waded into the stream, I became stuck in the mud and couldn’t move. I started to panic because there was water all around me and I couldn’t get out. My brother went running up the hill to get help.

I will never forget the next scene for as long as I live.

We had a fence at the back of the house, before the property sloped down to the creek. I looked up to see Uncle Bud hurdle that fence like a track athlete. He came sprinting down the hill full tilt. He waded into that creek and he grabbed me in his strong arms and pulled me free.

Thank you Uncle Bud. My hero. RIP.


Writing the ending for classic summer song


We often get songs in our heads that stay stuck, sometimes for days.

For me, it’s been Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. It started last week as the kids went back to school and the replay button in my mind is still on. It has made me ponder the song. And it certainly brings back memories for me.

I love the phrase, “Sun goes down alone” on the empty beach. It captures the melancholy so well of the carefree summer days that inevitably give way to  fall and the return to routine jobs and school.

I also  wonder about the outcome of characters in certain songs. What happened? Did they live or die? Did true love last?

I’ve decided to write the ending for Henley’s Boys of Summer.

As you may recall in the song, the singer is longing to get back together with his brown-skinned girl with her hair pulled back and her Wayfarers (sunglasses) on.

He sees a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac while he’s driving, referencing the Grateful Dead, and it reminds him of his love.

A favourite band when he and his girl were a couple.

He tells her he will love her after the boys of summer are gone.

So this is what happened.

Some college boys arrive in a resort town for summer jobs on a construction crew. They spend their off hours at the beach, playing volleyball, watching the sun set each night, throwing footballs around in the water, chasing girls.

Wayfarers woman gets a crush on a particularly amiable guy. She decides to act on her infatuation. She dumps the singer and hangs out with crew guy and his pals. It’s fun, intoxicating. There are lots of parties, romance, steamy summer nights. Feelings are intensified as only happens in the summer season with its easy-going feel and weather made for creating memories.

Singer is crushed. He spends his summer lamenting the lost love and as it draws to a close, he pens this hit tune.

He’s willing to take her back, no matter what. He promises he’ll still love her after the boys of summer are gone. He sings that he’ll show her what he’s made of.

He drives by the empty beach. He drives by the girl’s house – home of her parents – but knows she’s not there. She has gone back to school with plans of getting together with her new boyfriend every weekend. He’s at a different school but promises they can make it work.

They stay together through to Thanksgiving but the distance is too much. Brown-skinned girl is dumped.

She doesn’t go running back to her singer though, who continues to write other songs but never hits the same groove he had with Boys of Summer. He does well but this song is what defines him.

A couple of years go by and they meet up in the same resort town. He has become a banker and she sees him when she goes in to pay down her student loan.

There’s something about the suit, the business manner, that really appeals to her. She’s learned that boys of summer do come and go. She’s grown up. She longs for stability.

He invites her to see a Grateful Dead concert. She hesitates but decides to go.

It’s the first of many dates for them again. They re-kindle their romance. She can’t understand why she ever left him.

He can’t believe he actually got her back.