My name is Rod Fraser. I’ve been writing this blog for almost five years, and at this point, there are almost 120 articles posted and ready to read. But as with all things, there is a beginning and an end. I plan to discontinue writing new articles for this blog at the end of the year. For those who have read all, or just a few of these articles, I thank you.

For those who haven’t read any, have a look if you’re so inclined. I plan to keep my website operating until February of next year.  If you have any comments on an article, or some other matter, send me an email at acute@post.com.

Danielle Smith – A Game Changer

While chatting with Ray a week or so ago, we briefly touched on the topic of Danielle Smith and her campaign to win the leadership of the United Conservative Party (‘UCP’) in Alberta.

Well, the votes are now in and Ms. Smith won the leadership on the sixth ballot with ~ 53% of the vote. Since the UCP has a majority in the Alberta legislature, Ms. Smith was sworn in as Premier on October 11, 2022.  She intends to run for a seat in the legislature in the rural riding of Brooks-Medicine Hat.

Read – Danielle Smith – A Game Changer

A Prairie Home Companion

I first heard about ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ during the 1990s, when friends started talking about this unusual radio show, broadcast live by Minnesota Public Radio on Saturday nights from 1974 to 2016. It was an old-time variety show with lots of music (especially folk), radio drama, and skits full of laid-back humour. In Canada, I believe it was broadcast on CJRT when it was part of Ryerson University.

The show was created and hosted by Garrison Keillor, whose segment, ‘News from Lake Wobegon’ was a favourite. I recall it opened with Keillor quipping, “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where the women are all strong, the men are good-looking and all the children are above average.” A funny line for a segment that proved to be very popular.

Read – A Prairie Home Companion

Excess Deaths – Covid-19 Vaccines

We are fast approaching the two-year mark since the Covid-19 vaccine was first available in Ontario. It was on December 14, 2020 when the first Ontarian received the shot. Initially, priority was given to health-care workers in long-term care homes.

By February 21, 2021, the Ontario government announced that all long-term care residents and staff had received their first dose. According to the Toronto Star, by April 10, 2022, over 12 million Ontarians received the required two doses, this being over 86% of the eligible population, five years and older. All in all, an impressive showing of medical efficiency in what was considered a health-care emergency. Indeed, these vaccines were approved by an emergency authorization (and still are), with only minimal human trials to ensure they were ‘safe and effective’.

Read – Excess Deaths – Covid 19 Vaccines

Graham Siebert in Ukraine

Graham Siebert at a Toastmasters’ Picnic. Graham is the white haired, slim, older guy in the middle row. His son Eddie is the young boy in the same row. Zoriana is his daughter (five-year-old girl to the far left of the bottom row).

*    *    *    *

Graham Siebert (age 78) is an interesting individual, who a decade or two ago, moved to Ukraine from America, with the hope of finding a new wife and starting a family.

He planned to earn his living teaching English as a second language, thinking it might be a good way of meeting an appropriate woman. Coupled with his Social Security income from America [received after age sixty-five), he felt Ukraine was an excellent place to live inexpensively and raise children.

To prepare himself for life in Ukraine, he initially learned to speak Russian. It was widely spoken in Kyiv at the time — almost as popular as Ukrainian. This turned out to be a mistake.  When the war started, the Russian language became unpopular. Graham was forced to redirect his efforts to learning Ukrainian.  This was no particular problem. — he is one of those people who seems to have a natural talent for learning languages.

Read — Graham Siebert in Ukraine

General Educational Development (GED) Certificate

After being discharged from the United States Navy on December 17, 1953 (after four years of service), my cousin, Ron Armstrong, then age 22, had this to tell me about his concerns and priorities at that time,

“I had one thing on my mind — to find a job as soon as possible. I reconnected with two friends from school and we decided to take the GED tests to help us find a decent job.”

“All three of us had dropped out of high school during grade ten to join the Navy. Four years later, when we were discharged, we knew a high school diploma was key to getting a good job on civvy street. Fortunately, the armed forces had pioneered a series of tests in 1942 that came to be known as the ‘GED’.”

Read — General Educational Development (GED) Certificate

Victory Gardens in the War Years

Advertisement for Victory Gardens during the War Years [1].

 ‘Victory Gardens’ were first promoted by the Canadian government during the First World War. While the research on those years is scanty, this is not true for similar gardens during WWII. There is a nice piece on them in the Canadian Encyclopedia and I found more information on such gardens in a number of online sources.

The idea was simple enough. The war required most of the available young men in the country for military service in Europe. This would leave a shortage of workers in the farms and factories that were expected to keep the war effort going. Women were hired to do some of this factory work. Older men and those exempt from military service did what they could to help. But factories were still short staffed and farmers were particularly hard hit. It was hard to grow food and run a farm without a steady supply of labour provided by young men.

Read — Victory Gardens in the War Years

Ben Fraser builds a House

The Fraser house built on the Pickerel Lake Road in 1953.

It all started in 1944 when my grandfather, Ben Fraser (known to us as ‘Papa’) noticed a farm for sale in a Toronto newspaper. It consisted of 200 acres of land, a small shack and a few outbuildings. The asking price was $300. Papa and his daughter, Helen McIntyre, decided to buy the property, sight unseen. Papa’s wife, Mary (known to us as ‘Nana’) was an active participant in this acquisition.

The transaction was concluded by mail, and shortly after closing, the family set out by automobile (from their home in Mimico) to take possession of their new property, near the village of Burk’s Falls. This was not an easy trip in 1944. It was a grueling ten-hour drive, along a two-lane highway north of the city — beyond Barrie and Orillia — to some 30 miles north of the town of Huntsville.

Read — Ben Fraser builds a House

T. Eaton Co. Limited

It’s a sad happening when a person of my years (all seventy-five of them) does a search at the library for Timothy Eaton and finds no hits. The computer helpfully asked, if perhaps I meant to search for Timothy Dalton?

Well, no I didn’t. Timothy Eaton was a successful Irish immigrant to Canada, who started a retail empire that improved the lives of his customers, employees, and the country itself — over the half-century that he lived and worked in Canada. Timothy Dalton, on the other hand, is a retired English actor, few have ever heard of.

Read — T. Eaton Co. Limited

My Week with the Flu!

Older Man Suffering from Flu

I report that one week ago, I came down with the seasonal flu. Due to the interest in all-things ‘Covid’, I thought readers might like to learn of my experience. For those who think flu puts one at death’s doorstop, it might be heartening to learn how I breezed through the week, even though I am now seventy-five-years-old and unvaccinated.

Read —  My Week with the Flu!

Cash Friday

It only took a massive rain and wind storm on the Victoria Day weekend to convince me Canadians should fight to keep using paper currency and coins for their day-to-day commerce. Recent newspaper articles claiming Western governments are planning to convert us all to digital currencies suggest a worrying trend.

Government lobbyists argue we should give up cash altogether, and use debit and credit cards for all our purchases. This would save the cost of issuing paper money and coins, and we would all be better off. I wonder? This would allow our betters to choose who has access to debit cards and bank accounts (and when). What could go wrong?

You only had to experience our 48-hour power outage on the long weekend — or consider the 31,000 customers that were without electricity for seven days in Ottawa — to see this is a bad idea.

Read — Cash Friday

The Charter at 40 Years

On April 17, 1982, I watched a news program, when Queen Elizabeth signed into law ‘The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’, along with the rest of the constitution. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was there as well, to sign it on behalf of the Canadian government.

For those who wonder why a prosperous and successful country like Canada was signing its own constitution, some 115 years after Queen Victoria brought the country into existence with the British North America Act, a little history is in order.

Read — The Charter at 40 Years


Ryerson Changes its Name

Statue of Egerton Ryerson

After working three years for the Royal Bank of Canada after finishing high school, I enrolled at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in the summer of 1967 to study business administration. It turned out to be a good choice.

I later qualified as a Chartered Accountant, ran my own accounting practice for over 30 years, and earned a MBA from Syracuse University in New York State (through part-time studies). All this was possible because of my earlier schooling at what was later named Ryerson University.

This past week, Ryerson University formally ended its association with Egerton Ryerson (1803 – 1882), a giant of a man who lived and died in the nineteenth century. The school has now changed its name to Toronto Metropolitan University — a name surely chosen for its anodyne characteristics. As a graduate of Ryerson, it is enough to make one cry.

Read – Ryerson Changes its Name

A Gift to Last

I watched ‘A Gift to Last’ — a very enjoyable CBC television show — when it was broadcast in the late 1970s. It starred a 50-year-old Gordon Pinsent as Sgt. Edgar Sturgess, a career soldier at a time just before the turn of the twentieth century, living with his extended family in Tamarack, a small town near Peterborough, Ontario.

It made quite an impression on me. So recently, while shopping in a second-hand bookstore, when I noticed the book on which it was based, I bought it then and there, and read it this past week. What a great novel. What a lovely Canadian story. I couldn’t wait to sit down and write the review, which you happen to be reading today.

Read — A Gift to Last

The Bridge on the River Kwai

I recently read Pierre Boulle’s novel, ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, a good story of some 157 pages, set in the jungle of Burma during the war years of 1942-43 — at a time when British soldiers (among others) were interned by the Japanese and forced to build a railway across Burma to contribute to their war effort.

This novel was written in 1952, and the film, based on the same novel, was completed in 1957. It was quite a success, winning seven academy awards, including best picture. The director was David Lean. I recall seeing the film as a twelve-year-old child, thinking it one of the best war films of my — admittingly — short life experience.

Read — The Bridge on the River Kwai

What you can do about Inflation!

Since I am seventy-five years of age, the inflation of the past year has not been a surprise. In the 1970s, when I was in my mid-twenties to mid-thirties, Canada and the United States experienced high inflation for over a decade.

From an average inflation rate of 2% for most of the 1960s, it increased to 5.4% in 1969. Then it moved up to 6% in 1970, 12% in 1975 and hit a high of over 14% by 1980.  It was quite alarming for those of us who lived through it, in that it was accompanied with high unemployment, which averaged 7% during the 1970s.

Read – What you can do about Inflation!

Groundhog Day: A Film Review

This film is pure magic. Originally filmed in 1992, many people (including me) have watched it a number of times. It stars Bill Murray (Phil Connors, the weatherman), Andie MacDowell (Rita Hanson, his producer), and Chris Elliott (Larry, the camera-man).

On one level, this story is quite simple and funny. Phil, Rita and Larry are a television crew that cover the weather. Each year for Groundhog Day, they drive to a small town in western Pennsylvania, to see if a groundhog, called ‘Punxsutawney Phil,’ is going to see his shadow.

Read – Groundhog Day: A Film Review

The Mayor of Casterbridge

A week or so ago, my brother mentioned he had just watched ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ on DVD. He told me he first read the book, while in high school during the 1960s.

The book was written by an English author, Thomas Hardy, in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It is a well-written story of some 362 pages. I expect today’s readers will find it easy to read and enjoyable.

Read – The Mayor of Casterbridge

Robbie Burns: A Lovely Life

Portrait of Robert Burns

Today is the 263rd birthday of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). He wrote about his many loves during his short life — in largely personal terms. If you were a sweet young lass who turned Robbie’s head, more often than not, you’d find yourself remembered in one of his charming poems.

Read — Robbie Burns: A Lovely Life