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 series — when it was broadcast in the late 1970s. It starred a 50-year-old Gordon Pinsent, as Sgt. Edgar Sturgess, a career soldier at the turn of the twentieth century, living with his extended family in Tamerack, a small town near Peterborough, Ontario.

I enjoyed the series and its charming story very much. 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

My Blog – Four Years of Writing

Rod Fraser – Circa 2008

In the latter days of 2017, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to make a website ─ using WordPress as a template. Given that I had some familiarity with computers over the years, it wasn’t too difficult. I finished in the first few days of 2018, then posted ─ ‘Commuting on Your Bike’ ─ to my website in mid-January.

This was an article written years earlier for a newsletter I sent to clients. In those days, I was a chartered accountant. I wrote a monthly newsletter to keep clients informed of financial issues.

Often, I would sneak in articles on my personal life, politics and other matters ─ to mix it up.  As I recall, these were quite popular ─ a frequent topic of conversation, when I met clients for lunch.

Read — My Blog – Four Years of Writing


Niagara: One Hundred Years Ago

This short history of Niagara-on-the-Lake was originally written in 1892, by my g-g-g aunt, Janet Carnochan, a single woman who lived most of her life in that small community. She wrote it out long-hand, and had it printed as a chapbook, by a small firm in Welland, Ontario.

I have rewritten it on the 130th anniversary of its first printing. To keep it terse and pithy, I deleted a number of poems, a few non-essential paragraphs and I adopted a more modern writing style. For those who would prefer to read the original, click here.

Niagara-on-the-Lake was called Niagara in the nineteenth century (and Newark before that). I like the term ‘Niagara’ and use it in this article.

Read — Niagara -100 Years Ago

Too Young for University

It was only after knowing Don for a number of months, I discovered he was a student at Queen’s University, back in the mid-1950s. He made a success of his studies and never looked back. After graduating with a degree in chemistry, he was hired by General Motors, where he worked until his retirement many years later. It was just what he wanted: a job with regular hours, good pay and ample opportunities for promotion.

Don had a number of hobbies, including playing the guitar and singing, as well as a talent for drawing and painting. Later, with family responsibilities, and a desire to pursue these hobbies, he managed to balance his personal / work life rather well. While doing what he could to succeed at work, he didn’t overdo it. He had no desire to be a corporate man, always striving to reach the next rung of the ladder.

Read — Too Young for University

Losing a Friend over Covid-19

Rod Fraser carving with Don in 2020

From the time of the initial Covid-19 lockdown in early 2020, Don and I played a game of hide and seek with those that wanted us to ‘stay home and be safe’. While we didn’t flout the law, we skated very close to the rules, in order to pursue a social life and indulge our love of woodcarving.

In the cold weather, we met outside in our cars, opened our windows and conducted a decent conversation from car to car. And when it was too cold for that, we would find a private corner of the parking lot, sit in Don’s car and chat about the news, our world, and all that seemed to be wrong with it. A Tim’s latté in hand ─ we would hold court and engage in the greatest of conversations.

Read — Losing a Friend Over Covid-19

A ‘One-Man, One-Dog’ Protest

Victory Theatre and the Arcade – the site of the Protests

I recall reading a newspaper column a number of years ago, that spoke of young children ─ usually male and quite bright ─ who distinguished themselves early in life. The interviewer reasonably asked, “I wonder what happens to these boys in later life?”.

Well, replied the guest, “The others catch up. By the time these gifted youngsters are in their early twenties, their brighter contemporaries are a match for them. After all, there is only so much knowledge in the world. Some are eager to grasp its magic early in life ─ others come to discover its value later. I call these prodigies ‘early bloomers.’”

Read — A ‘One-Man, One-Dog’ Protest

Herb Popkie’s Early Years

Village of Calabogie in Eastern Ontario

My name is Herb Popkie. I was born in Eastern Ontario in late 1905, just ten months or so, after my parents — Fred Popkie and Annie Schisan ─ were married on January 2, 1905. It was not a happy marriage, though it produced two healthy baby boys. My brother, Reuben, was born two years after me ─ in December of 1907.

I mention Eastern Ontario as the place of my birth, rather than the small village where it actually occurred, because that part of Ontario is full of charming little villages, all with distinctive names.

Read — Herb Popkie’s Early Years

The American Civil War!

My wife and I have just finished watching the Ken Burn’s television series (9 episodes) called ‘The Civil War’. Over the years since it was first released in 1990, I believe I have watched it three times, each time finding new things about the war to puzzle me.

My main source of wonderment was why the United States and the Union Army fought so hard to keep the country together. It seemed the newly formed Confederate States of America was a sensible solution to the issues which divided America ─ the main one being slavery, which had dogged the country since its inception.

Read — The American Civil War!

A Story of Detroit

In the early twentieth century, Detroit was a magnet ― drawing people from all over Canada and the United States, for its high paying jobs. My great aunt and grandmother, Sarah and Hattie Middleton, were two such arrivals, looking for adventure and a higher standard of living. They traveled to Detroit from Toronto, Canada in 1905 and 1912 respectively. Hattie’s son, Gordon Armstrong, followed in 1925.

Read — A Story of Detroit

A Conservative Minority?

The recent Federal Election was decided on September 20, 2021 (or a few days later in a few select ridings ─ once the mail-in ballots were counted). According to pre-election polling numbers, reported by one day before the election, the expected popular vote for the various parties is set out below. The final election results, in terms of popular vote and seat count, are shown at the end of the article.

Read — A Conservative Minority?

Small Town Renewal – A Solution?

Small Town Ontario – An Example

During our weekly get togethers for wood carving, my two friends ─ Bob and Don ─ often object to my views on the state of the world. Over the past few weeks, they have taken me to task on a number of occasions on a topic that is close to my heart ─ small towns in Ontario: What has happened to them in the past and how they might be revived in the future?

Read — Small Town Renewal … A Solution?