Wolfsonisms and More

Filming Stanley Mission

We worked for about a week in Stanley Mission. The closest place to stay was in La Ronge. It was about an hours drive north to Stanley Mission.

When you arrive at the community of Stanley Mission, the church is on the other side of the river.

Every morning when we arrived Joe Roberts and other men from the community met us at the river. They ferried us and our gear across to the church.

There was no restaurant in Stanley, only a small store. We bought snacks there. For lunch we brought food with us from La Ronge.

One morning Joe Roberts told us that he had asked some friends to see if they could catch some fish for us for lunch. The fisherman know the river well. They did not disappoint us. They caught a nice bunch of Pickerel and made a feast for us!

Richard Diener directed this episode. He was busy filming and didn’t see how the fish was being cooked. It was so nicely done, without a hint of greasiness, Richard thought they had somehow baked the fish.

We made 26 episodes of Edifice & Us. For me, the lunch that day was the best food we ate during the series. The fresh Pickerel that day was the best fish I have ever eaten.

Much thanks to Joe Roberts and all the community people that took such good care of us during our stay. They made filming the Church at Stanley Mission a real pleasure.

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Good Spirit

You never know where you are going to throw out your anchor. In my case, I was living in Saskatchewan for quite a few years before I accepted that this was it, the place I would call home, the anchor of my life.

A big reason I am still in Saskatchewan is my lovely wife and friend Penny. This photo was taken in September of 2003. Penny and I wanted to spend a few days in a cottage for our 10th anniversary. We found a place on Good Spirit Lake. It’s about a 3 hour drive northeast of Regina, close to Canora.

The lake is very shallow. The boats in the photo that are away from shore are on boat lifts. The lifts have to be placed offshore for there to be enough water to launch a boat. There is a Provincial Park at the south end of the lake. There are some very interesting sand dunes off to the east of the public swimming area in the park. Penny and I enjoyed a hike along the dunes.

Close to the cottage we were staying in the shoreline had a lot of interesting features. The sand was eroded in interesting patterns. You can see the purple sand in these photos. It reminded me of the purple sand along the shore of Candle Lake northeast of Prince Albert.

The thing that amazed me most was a gathering along the shoreline that I had never seen before. It made me wonder if this is an annual ritual.

Do Ladybugs have a family get together at the shore.? Have they come for a special nutrient found in purple sand? Or do they just gather to die before the winter? I’m sure I could find the answer on the internet but I just enjoyed seeing them there and taking a few photos.

It was a great get away and anniversary celebration. When we left we took lots of ‘good spirits’ with us.

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The Don

This is the Don CeSar hotel. It is about a mile north of where my family lived in Pass-A-Grille.  Penny and I love walking up the beach to the Don and having an overpriced drink at the Beach Bar. It’s a great way to enjoy this fabulous hotel without renting a room.  

This is not what the Don CeSar looked like when I moved to Florida in 1959. Then it was a rundown office building whose pink color was barely discernable. It was hard for me to imagine that it had ever been anything else. 

The Don, started life when Thomas Rowe had a dream of building a pink castle.  In 1924, he purchased 80 acres of land on the Gulf of Mexico in what is now St. Pete Beach.  Rowe’s ‘Pink Lady’ opened in 1928.  It soon became a favorite of the rich and famous such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Al Capone, Lou Gehrig and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  By World War II the hotel had become run down.  The Army bought the Don CeSar and turned into a military hospital.  After the war, it was repurposed as a Veterans Administration Office.  In 1967, the Veterans Administration started pulling out and the building was soon empty.

For the years it was abandoned, on the south side of the building, there were tall stacks of claw foot bathtubs.  I wonder if any of those survived.  

Then we heard the news that Don CeSar was going to be torn down.  No one was interested in an old, decrepit, ‘Pink Lady’. I must admit I had trouble imaging that the building could be rehabilitated. But I didn’t want to lose it either.  It marked the start of Pass-A-Grille.  Everything south of the Don is an historic area and no tall buildings are allowed. There were lots of memories from the old Don. It was a great place to go to the beach.  In my high school days it was a wonder place to have a bonfire and party on the beach at night. By the time we graduated, bon fires were banned on the beach.

The Don CeSar, even with its faded paint was a landmark visible along the coast and out to sea. My friend Richard and I often snorkeled on the beach at Pass-A-Grille.  On one of those days we had a plastic blow up raft.  We had been diving for a while and rested on the raft looking out to sea.  I don’t know what we were talking about but we talked quite a while.  When we turned around to look at the beach and saw the Don CeSar.  It was much smaller than it should have been.  The breeze and the current had taken us quite a ways off shore.

We weren’t concerned.  The two of us with our fins on could hang onto the raft and easily get back to shore. We started kicking.  After about a minute the cheap plastic raft split open and totally deflated.  Rick and I looked at each other.  I guess we are going to swim in.  

Rick, with his long legs was a faster swimmer than me and led the way.  It would have been a long swim but doable without the current.  But the current from the outgoing tide was trying to pull us further out.  About three quarters of the way in I was exhausted and didn’t think I could make it.  But I kept going.  When I got to where I could stand up I could barely walk to the beach.  It was a close call.  Being around the ocean as much as we were taught us that you always have to respect the sea. That day taught us to keep an eye on the shore and landmarks like the Don.

I heard that Don CeSar was only days away from the wrecking ball when a group of hoteliers saved it.  The Don CeSar reopened in November of 1973.  It is an amazing piece of architecture that was almost lost. It’s once again, the Pink Lady, frequented by celebrities and has been the location for many films.

There are a lot of new memories for us locals.  When my kids were growing up we often stopped at the ice cream shop on the ground floor.  No bonfires on the beach but we had a Boca Ciega class of 1966 reunion there.  

One of the best memories is my sister’s wedding.  The ceremony was outside near the beach.  Then there was a great dinner and dance in the ballroom. 

The story of the Don whetted my interest in architecture and preserving historical properties.  That eventually led to the television series, Edifice & Us. I would have loved to do an episode about the Don.  I made a couple of inquiries but that hasn’t happened yet.  

One day you may get to visit the Don CeSar as a guest or just for a walk through. I hope these photos and the story will help you appreciate the value of preserving heritage properties.    

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The Big Easy

Royal Street in the French Quarter, New Orleans on July 7, 2015. I spent four years in New Orleans at Tulane University. I learned a lot from Tulane and as much from living New Orleans. It was Penny’s first trip to New Orleans. She immediately fell in love with the city. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone going through life and not visiting New Orleans.

If you are going to NOLA for the first time, don’t go at Mardis Gras! Yes, Mardis Gras is exciting but New Orleans is exotic and fun year round. During Mardis Gras the city is too busy to get into all the fantastic shops, restaurants, bars and historic sites. Of course, no one knows when there will be another Mardis Gras and what it will be like.

This was the first time I’d been back to NOLA since 1980. The city had been through some big changes like the 1984 World’s Fair and Hurricane Katrina. There were many differences but a lot had stayed the same. That is part of the charm of New Orleans, it manages to keep its historic architecture and culture alive. We went to some of my old haunts that looked virtually the same as they had in 1970 when I graduated. We walked around Tulane campus and some was quite familiar but most of the campus I hardly recognized.

For those of you who visit New Orleans some of the best places are rarely found by tourists. I highly recommend leaving the French Quarter to get a Po-Boy sandwich at Domilise’s. It’s located at the corners of Annunciation and Bellecastle Streets. When Penny and I walked in it felt to me like I’d time traveled. One of the women working behind the counter had been there when I was living in NOLA in the late sixties. The only change I could see was the cash register. It was the shop’s first electronic cash register. They had only had it for a couple of weeks and were still trying to figure it out. The area was hit hard by Katrina. Within days, Domilise’s was providing free food to people in the neighbourhood. They survived Katrina. I’m betting Domilise’s will survive COVID-19.

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Day 7 Photo

Why are these people so happy? They have spotted the public health team driving into the village. The team is coming for a well baby clinic. The photo was taken in a village in Mozambique. I’ve seen this scene in many villages. When this team arrived, the women sang to them to welcome them to the village. The contrast to North America is striking. Here people organize against vaccination and public health professionals are often set up as the enemy, even during a pandemic. We have a lot to learn from people in developing countries.

The team weighs the babies and performs other measures to check the children’s development. They also provide vaccinations when needed and Vitamin A drops that help prevent blindness due to severe Vitamin A deficiency in many people’s diets in this part of Africa.

I encourage everyone to question authority including the advice from public health experts. But question using critical thinking to weigh what is known and what is not and the validity of the sources. If you do you will discover that vaccines are a major reason that our life expectancy has increased. Stay informed and stay educated and learn to be critical of half baked arguments.

It will be interesting to see how North Americans react if a COVID19 vaccine is developed. I think it would be great if people in Canada and the U.S. started singing to thank all the health workers who work hard to keep you healthy and who often are risking their lives for you.

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Vermont Day 6

This is a typical Vermont scene. There is nothing special about the photo. It seems there is a photogenic moment around every corner in Vermont. Still, there is something about the photo I find special.

I was in Vermont working for Vermont Dental Care my first year out of Dental School. The program provided care for underserved children. There are a lot of great things about Vermont and I was tempted to settle there. Then it became clear to me that I would never be a Vermonter. Vermonters talk about the new people down the road who have been there for 30 years.

Still I was considering spending a second year in Vermont. I enjoyed the work but the money was awful even for a new dentist. I thought I deserved more than the standard raise in my new contract. I got a flat no. And the Director said I had to decide by tomorrow if I was signing or not.

I was sitting in the backyard trying to decide what to do when the phone rang. It was a man with a British accent calling from Saskatchewan. I thought everyone in Saskatchewan must have an accent. He asked me if I was still interested in working in Saskatchewan. I had read that Saskatchewan started a children’s dental program that used dental therapists. I loved the concept and wrote a letter saying I’d be interested in working there. That was more than a year earlier.

I’m sure I sounded over anxious when I told him I was still very interested and his timing was great. I had to make a decision about my current job tomorrow. He said he couldn’t make me an offer until I came up for an interview. I took a gamble and didn’t sign on for year two in Vermont. I got the Saskatchewan job which paid six times as much as Vermont. More important, it was the best dental job in the world for me. That’s why I moved on from dentistry when the Saskatchewan Children’s Dental Program was dissolved by Saskatchewan’s Grant Devine government. And, I have to say, the people in Saskatchewan are a lot friendlier.

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Lighthouse Day 5

This was taken somewhere along Cape Cod around summer, 1972. I was with my wife Billie visiting a friend from dental school in Boston. While in Boston we met my friend’s Uncle, the Cardinal. That’s another story. We also drove out to Cape Cod to beach and tour for a couple of days. This photo was taken with my Nikkormat. It was a great camera and tough. It took its bumps from Africa to the Arctic and just kept going. After 30 years it had some issues. I moved on to digital.

I remember Cape Cod being fun and interesting. There was always a party somewhere, day and night. We were at a party one evening and someone told us conspiratorially that he had something very special. You might think it was illegal. The big deal, he had just driven back from Colorado and had a couple dozen cans of Coors Beer. I’d never heard of it. Other people were really excited. Coors back then was only sold in Colorado. I tried one. Nothing special then or now.

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Day 4 Travel Photo

This is Merry’s Pier on 8th Avenue in Pass-A-Grille, Florida. The body of water is Boca Ciega Bay. If you turn around so your back is to the Bay, the beach on the Gulf of Mexico is a one block walk. The houses across the bay are on Tierra Verde a wealthy island community.

When I moved to Florida it was called Hubbard’s Pier. I would often go down to Hubbard’s Pier to watch the party boats and charter boats return from fishing trips. If they caught fish, the deck hands would get busy cleaning the catch. They made filleting look quick and easy. As they worked pelicans and gulls would crowd the pier hoping for a bit of fish.

The Pier was renamed after Captain Merry a long time resident of Pass-A-Grille. His grandson went to school with me for a while at Sunshine School. His name was Terry Merry and he had a sister Mary Merry. If you are in the area, Pass-A-Grille is worth a visit and while you are there walk out on Merry’s Pier.

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Day 3 Travel Photos

It took two photos of the lovely Van Dyke Cafe. This is the first picture. I call it Miami Vice. The second picture is the one I posted as a travel photo, Miami Nice. It was April, 2007 and I was with Penny in Miami Beach visiting a friend from University. He took us for a walk on the Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach. There were a lot of interesting sites along the way. The Van Dyke was the one place that was storybook beautiful. Years later I decided to print one of the photos. Like in the movie Blowup, I zoomed in on both photos and was shocked by what I discovered. Below is a closeup of the man crossing the street.

At first I thought the man in the white t-shirt was reaching for his wallet. Looking more closely I saw that it was a gun. I have seen lots of pistols in back pockets and this is definitely a gun in his hand. I’m thinking he was an undercover cop but perhaps he is a neatly dressed Good Guy. Either way, we were close to danger and had no idea.

In this photo the guy with the gun in his hand is to the right of the entrance behind the hedge. It appears that his right arm is still in the same position. It’s an interesting story but I’ll never know the ending. On a final sad note, I Googled the Van Dyke Cafe a couple of years ago. It is listed as closed, permanently. At least this lovely moment is preserved.

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Welcome to NYC

I call this photo, Welcome to NYC! I was with Penny and Tim and Abbey in Times Square, May, 2004. We were in New York screening Weyburn: An Archaeology of Madness at a festival. We went into the Bluefin and got a great table looking out onto Times Square. It was worth the very expensive drinks and snacks we had. I knew the NYPD cop saw me taking his picture. But it wasn’t until I looked at the photo later that I realized he was staring right at me and had his hand on his gun. Is that how they treat all tourists or just the ones with long hair or those with brown skin? I’m hoping the Black Lives Matter movement will reform the cops in NYC and beyond.

Another shot from the Bluefin. This one has turned out to be quite popular and is hanging in a few peoples homes including mine.