Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maritime Reunion Association

Back in 1980 or 1981, a group of Maritimers in Calgary created a thriving group called the Maritime Reunion Association. This purpose of the association was to provide social and recreational opportunities for Maritimers who were arriving in Calgary and lacked the support systems they had back home. We organized baseball and football leagues but, let’s face it, Maritimers also love to party and have fun.

At its height in the early 1980s the MRA as it was known had over 600 members, it’s own clubhouse and a paid recreation director who tended to the day-to-day business and organized monthly dances. We’d rent a community centre and hire Maritime musicians to play for us. We’d try to tie into the touring schedules of Maritime bands and there was usually a bagpiper or two to start us off. These events became very popular and lots on non-Maritime Calgarians showed up, too.

We also had a Grand Reunion each summer. The year I was president of the MRA, that reunion took place at Rafter Six Ranch in Kananaskis County. We had 3,500 people show up for a weekend in the sun, a lobster dinner – and lots of good music. We flew in our crowd favourite, the Minglewood Band to close the show. By then the crowd had been listening to groups such as the Powder Blues Band and Doug and the Slugs and other popular groups of the day since early afternoon.

Our budget for that one event was somewhere in the vicinity of $135,000 – for a weather-dependent event! And the weather had to be good in various part of the country. We had lobster suppliers in the Maritimes building our supply of lobster in lobster pounds on the East Coast. Air Canada then had to fly it to Calgary on the day of the event. We had ordered about 10,000 pounds of lobster.

The day of the concert the lobster landed in Toronto and Air Canada called us to tell us that they couldn’t get it to Calgary due to the weather situation in Toronto. All we could think of was 3,500 people sitting in a sunny alpine meadow, drinking beer all afternoon, and we were going to have to tell them they weren’t going to get the lobster they had paid for! Finally, after many phone calls, Air Canada said they could break the shipment down and sent it out on two planes.

I loved being part of the MRA; I met a lot of wonderful people; we even managed to get on national television a couple of times. That year I was president, we had a cash flow of around $250,000 all managed by a small but dedicated Board of Directors.

So are you wondering what triggered this trip down memory lane? Two things actually.

It was July 4th this year before the fog lifted enough for Saint John to stage its July 1st fireworks. July 4th was a lovely summer evening and my friend Sandra and I headed down to the Market Square Boardwalk in the inner harbour to see the show. As we walked past the stage where performers entertain the patrons on the patios of the various restaurants and bars that line the Boardwalk, I was catapulted back in time to an early 1980’s MRA event at Calgary’s Hungarian Centre. We had brought Matt Minglewood and his band in for a show. Near the end of the evening a very pregnant young woman was invited up on stage with the band. She sang with an unbelievable style and a voice I could never forget. I even remember that she sang Caledonia. Her name was Theresa Malenfant and over the years I would occassionally hear her on the radio when I was back home.

On July 4th, as Sandra and walked in front on the little stage on the Boardwalk, Theresa walked out on the stage and began to sing. The moment was pure serendipity. After Theresa’s set was over, I waited to speak to her and tell her how she had blown me away all those years ago. She remembered the evening and told me that son she was carrying is now 27 years old! This wonderful encounter was followed by fireworks over the harbour. Another perfect summer evening in Saint John.

The second event is the current leadership race for the leader of the Progressive Conservative party in New Brunswick. One of the candidates for leader is Rob McLeod, who was a hardworking member of the MRA Board the year I was president. I have been reading Rob’s regular commentaries in the local newspaper since I arrived. The little bio clip at the end said he was president of the PC party, a fact that I didn’t find surprising as his father had been a Cabinet Minister in Richard Hatfield’s government. But last week Rob resigned as party president and two days ago he announced his candidacy for party leader. Way to go Rob! Who knows maybe a former MRA colleague will end up as Premier of the New Brunswick one day.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Getting Fit

OK, let’s get this straight right up front – I do not like exercising in the least! When I went to school, the girls always had to wear skirts; we did not sweat (a mild “glow” was sometimes acceptable) and the cool girls did not join team sports. Our high school gym periods consisted of square dancing and the like. At least that’s the way I remember it. The result of all this is that I lost touch with my body somewhere along the way. How else can I explain the excess pounds that have somehow appeared, unbidden, while I wasn’t paying attention?

So I decided on my birthday in September 2007 that it was time to get fit. I joined the World Health Club in Calgary and signed up for 24 sessions with a personal trainer. I loved my trainer Maureen but I hated going to the gym. It would be nice to report that I’ve lost all that weight and now participate in triathlons but sadly that is not the case. I have lost ten pounds though and I’m happy to see the scale head down instead of up. And I do have more energy so that’s a bonus.

When I reached Saint John, I joined a Good Life fitness centre. They have a three-month membership in the summer aimed at students and it fits the bill for my time here. My sister and my friend Sandra both go there so I do have company from time to time. But I have to confess that what I enjoy most is Good Life’s showers. There’s nothing like being on the road or living is a small place to make one appreciate large luxurious shower stalls and unlimited hot water.

My friend Dianne tells me that when she and Mark travel in their travel trailer, they find out where the local recreational centre is when they first pull into town. The next morning they go for a swim, have a nice hot shower, eat “the breakfast of champions” and then head on down the road. They’ve found this a wonderful way to start their day.

When Dianne and I started this trip, Dianne took on the cooking duties. Dianne is a gifted cook and I was more than happy to let her do the meal planning and cooking. If fact, if the truth be known, I attribute some of my weight gain to Dianne’s fabulous sticky buns and rich desserts! Dianne, too, is now concerned about fitness and weight loss but not at the expense of good food. So she’s modified her tasty recipes and developed new ones.

We, too, started our day with Dianne’s “breakfast of champions” – a dish she developed to help Mark bring down his cholesterol. (It worked.) Here’s Dianne’s recipe:

In a cereal bowl add:
· Cooked oatmeal (steel cut oats are best but we opted for packets of instant oatmeal for convenience’s sake)
· A layer of Honey Nut flavor All Bran (sweetens the oatmeal and adds more fiber)
· One-half a medium/large apple cut up (skin on- more fiber))
· A generous measure of cinnamon
· A splash of low fat milk

You end up with a bowl full of fiber that tastes yummy and is both filling and satisfying.

Dianne’s “breakfast of champions” has become my regular breakfast now and I love it. Those wonderful showers are a lovely reward after my work out at the gym. Maybe I don’t have to enjoy the exercise. Perhaps it’s enough to just do it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thin Places

They don’t call New Brunswick “The Picture Province” for nothing – the scenery here is magnificent. Everywhere I go I think, “Oh, I’d love to have a little house here.” I should be posting pictures on this blog but somehow I get caught up in the moment and don’t even get my camera out! Even though I grew up here, I am still filled with wonder and awe at the beauty of this special place.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sandra and I headed down the coast to St. Andrews for the day. A St. Andrews’ day-trip is de rigueur for those who visit the southern part of the province.
St. Andrews is a coastal town where well-heeled English Montrealers summered in their large summer homes (mansions is a better description) at the turn of the century. The women and children would arrive by rail with their trunks and household help to enjoy the more moderate coastal climate. The men would join them when they could. The wonderful old summer homes have by and large been well kept and are still occupied today.

The CPR also has one of its resort hotels there. The Algonquin is of the same vintage as the Banff Springs though not so large or quite so grand.

St. Andrews' main street is lined with shops and art galleries and Sandra and I went into all the shops on the water side of the street, stopped for lunch when we ran out of shops and then poked in all the shops on the other side of the street!

There are many other things to do in St. Andrews (whale watching tours, a visit to the Kingsbrae Gardens, golf) but Sandra and I headed back to Saint John along the coastal route. We went through fishing villages such as Maces Bay, Beaver Harbour, Dipper Harbour. We stopped in Penfield, the blueberry capital of the province and bought blueberry muffins that were still warm from the oven.


This week I went to Cambridge-Narrows, a lovely village on the Washademoak Lake. This is where Leslie and Todd and the girls are staying in a rented cottage. I visited with them on July 1st and spent the night; this week they are in PEI for the “All Things Anne” festival. I spent a couple of nights parked at their cottage and dunking myself in the Lake trying to keep cool. The temperature was in the low 30s.

I then headed up the Acadian Peninsula along the western shores of the Northumberland Strait. Again I took the coastal route feasting my eyes on the villages, harbours and small towns. I ended that journey in Kouchibougauc National Park where I camped overnight. Kouchibouguac boasts the warmest ocean water north of Virginia – by mid-summer the water temperature at its white sand beaches reaches 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yesterday I poked my way back down the coastal route stopping in Shediac for lunch. Last night, after a supper of lobster rolls at the Reversing Falls restaurant, my sister Shirley and I sat on Saint's Rest Beach on the Bay of Fundy and watched the breakers roll in. We marveled at the sound the water makes as it rolls back out to sea over the smooth pebbles on the beach.


The world is full of “thin places” if we can be quiet enough or intentional enough to find them. Thin places are those places where the veil of the earth becomes almost transparent, where we can touch God or all that is good, where our heart tells us the universe is unfolding as it should. New Brunswick is full of thin places.