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Sunday Newsletter 2000-23Su.

December 3, 2000.

Way back in the late seventies, and into the first five years of the eighties, I was working my way up through the ranks of Woodwards Stores Ltd. I went all the way from stock boy to buyer. As a buyer I was responsible for all the music and a lot of the entertainment products for the stores. My career began at a time when Woodwards was still expanding from the 19 stores they had in BC and Alberta when I joined the company. The chain was in direct competition with The Bay, Sears and Eatons, all seeking to be crowned the winner in the Western Canada retailer sweepstakes. By the time I left in 1985, there were 26 stores and plans in the works for three more. Yet by the end of the decade, Woodwards was no more. What was it that reduced the once mighty retail giant to a mere footnote in commercial history? Perhaps they failed to adjust to the times. Who knows? Just what does any of this have to do with anything? Well, besides providing the all-important introduction to today's newsletter, it gives a little bit of background to our biography this week.



= Contest winner
= Question of the week
= Biography
= Did you know?
= Quote of the week
= Place names
= Canadian statistics
= Humour for this week
= Pet peeves
= Answer to this week's question
= Preview
= Links



It was pretty easy to judge the winner of our latest contest. The winner is the only person who sent in an entry, even after we extended the deadline. You'll never guess who it is. His name is Gary, and he lives in North Vancouver, BC. Sound familiar? He wanted to give someone else a chance to win, so he actually didn't enter until after we extended the deadline. At his own request, we initially disqualified his entry because he has recently won a prize from us, but since his was the only entry, he has won the prize fair and square. Check your e-mail Gary. I'll be in touch with you to arrange delivery of your prize. We'd like to tailor our contests to you, so if you have suggestions, please let me know at john@factscanada.ca .



This lady has spent the last 14 years with MuchMusic. She started out as an on-air host and then became the station's music director. She went on to the general manager's position before becoming vice-president. She was responsible for the launch of MuchMusic's sister station, MuchMoreMusic. Recently she accepted an offer to become president of Sony Music Canada. Who is she? Answer near the end.



Edna "Deanna" Mae Durbin.

Until I started at Woodwards, I had never heard of this lady. However, she had by that time displayed an uncanny ability to sell many albums and cassettes from our shelves. (I'll bet a few of her songs on CD are being sold today.) You see, our clientele comprised mostly of "older persons", and the music we sold was proportionally tailored to cater to this audience. (Yes, we also sold Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin and Canada's Guess Who.) As such, music by Zamfir, Nana Mouskouri and Pavarotti always sold well, as did Deanna Durbin's. I did not challenge this fact and kept on purchasing the product from a fellow named Bill over at MCA Records, one of our suppliers, and it continued to sell. Now that I have an opportunity to delve into her life, I am pleased to present the following brief synopsis for you, our avid reader.

Born December 4, 1921, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ms. Durbin's life may never have taken the turn it did if her British-born parents had not moved to the Los Angeles area in 1922 in an attempt to salvage her father's health. Back then, LA was a mostly sunny and smog-free place, and many so-called ill Canadians moved there during the twenties, seeking a resurrection or at least a retardation of their physical problems.

As a child she acquired the nickname "Deanna". Her voice began to garner much attention and, in early 1936, she was in a competition with another child star: one Judy Garland. The two vied for many of the same recording roles in "movie land". As the story goes, Deanna was signed by MGM to perform adjacent to Ms. Garland in a movie short (about eleven minutes) called "Every Sunday". After the production MGM cut Deanna loose. This firing lead to Deanna becoming the "saviour" of Universal Pictures. MGM's decision to cut loose Durbin was supposedly a result of an alleged remark by Louis B. Mayer. Mayer was one of the two M's in MGM Studios. He was purported to have said, "Drop the fat one", apparently referring to Garland. The order was misunderstood however, and Deanna was axed. Garland's reward was a lifetime contract with MGM.

The money-strapped Universal Pictures studio snapped her up and immediately cast Durbin as Penny Craig in the movie "Three Smart Girls". The revenue from this film and her next venture, "One Hundred Men and a Girl", saved Universal from bankruptcy and lead to Universal's quick casting of Durbin in two succeeding films. One reviewer is quoted as saying, "Thereafter Deanna made one film after another. But fair is fair when watching her films nowadays: they are super-sweet fairy tales. I regard Deanna always as a naive Cinderella who burst out in song at the most arbitrary moments." Deanna's films were the product of a different time. These "super-sweet fairy tales" represent, to many people, a time when life was more gentle and less complicated, and so shouldn't be judged in the context of modern film.

In 1939 Durbin reprised her role as Penny Craig in the movie "Three Smart Girls Grow Up". She and the movie were such a hit, that she shared the 1939 Academy Award for a Juvenile performance with screen legend Mickey Rooney. After a few more movies and numerous album releases, Deanna reprised the "Miss Craig" role once again for the 1943 movie "For the Love of Mary". She stunned the tinsel-town crowd by then retiring. At the tender age of 22, at the height of her career, she simply walked away from it all. For a star of her stature this took a tremendous amount of courage -- Hollywood was not known for being a forgiving place. All she wanted was to be able to slip away into anonymity.

After the failure of two marriages, in 1950 she met and married Charles Henri David in France. Mr. David died in March 1999, and Deanna still lives in a small village near Paris trying to avoid some of the visitors she still gets. There is actually a Deanna Durbin Society, known to members simply as "DDS", which originates out of England. This international fan club, with a considerable roster, consists largely of elderly members, although it does have its new devotees. Information about the society can be obtained from:

Mrs. Jutta Fagan
The Deanna Durbin Society
13 Mayfair Court
Mayfair Close
The Avenue

For a nice black and white photograph of Ms. Durbin that captures the essence of an era long past, please go to this link.



Have you ever wondered why all the states in the United States are sub-divided into counties? Have you noticed that the only Canadian counties I refer to are located in the eastern provinces? Why do British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut not have areas designated as such? Well, read on and I will try to shed some light on this territorial oddity.

In the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, a county is a division of land belonging to a lower class or rank, or having secondary boundaries. The term "county" was first established in these provinces (the earliest Canadian provinces) after the British model for land demarcation. This was done for a variety of reasons, including the principal advantages of property registration, local judicial courts, local municipal administration, and electoral district perimeters. It was simply easier in these early days (and we are talking of a time long before Canada was even formed as a political entity in 1867) to govern and administer in particular defined regions.

In Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, the historic county structure is now used only in property descriptions, with remaining functions being managed through reorganized provincial and municipal structuring.

In Nova Scotia, the county remains a rural administrative unit, with some of the counties being divided further into districts for municipal purposes.

Ontario has retained many of its counties as judicial segments or boundaries, with some counties uniting for this purpose. Wellington represents the typical structure of a county in Ontario: there are 22 municipalities, one city (Guelph), four towns, five villages and twelve townships in Wellington County. Embraced by the county designation, these communities work together and receive the benefits collectively given by the province for such services as road work, building inspection, senior citizen homes, social services and school boards. The sparsely populated northern part of Ontario, defined as being north of Muskoka and Algonquin Provincial Parks, is organized into jurisdictional districts rather than counties.

Quebec completely reorganized its county system in 1979, resulting in a change from the 71 former counties into 95 MRCs (an abbreviation of the French for "regional county municipalities"). These 95 MRCs, along with three urban communities, are governed by one regional administration. This municipal structures oversees some 1500 cities, towns, villages and other designated settlements.

Alberta is the only western province to adopt the county designation, where thirty municipal counties and twenty municipal districts have various administrative and educational functions.

In British Columbia the word county is used only in reference to the County Court system and how it is divided.

The Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory and Nunavut refer to counties as districts or rural municipalities.

So, are you any more informed on this issue, or did I just confuse you even more? In my mind things are a bit clearer, but I would still prefer a more uniform system. I will soon look at the differences between cities, towns, villages, hamlets, settlements and much more.



"The Canadian North is the only place where nature can still claim 'to rule'. The only place as yet but little vexed by mankind. All over the globe there is spread his (mankind's) noisy failures; the North alone is silent and at peace. Give man time and he will spoil that too!" --Stephen Leacock, humorist and historian, 1937.



Shakespeare, Ontario.

This town is located just west of the halfway-point between Kitchener and Stratford, Ontario, along Provincial Highway 78. Route 78, as it becomes at this point, is the result of the convergence of Highways 7 and 8. As implied, Shakespeare does indeed owe its name to the fabled British writer.

Situated in Perth County just 13 kilometres east of Stratford, Shakespeare was first settled by David Bell in 1832. Its post office was known as Bell's Corner until 1848. Four years later, because of confusion with another Bell's Corner in Ontario's Carleton County, the province's first postmaster, Alexander Mitchell, proposed a renaming of the settlement. Being such an admirer of the Bard, he thought that the name, Shakespeare, would pay appropriate homage to the literary genius.

So Shakespeare it became. The town still carries the name, but the historical facts regarding the naming have been contested. In 1905, postmaster J.W. Donaldson, stated that he had first hand "particulars" about its naming and reported that John James Edmonstoune Linton, a teacher in the region circa 1834, was the first to propose the name.

Today, possibly to sidestep the controversy, historians credit both gentleman and give each an historical footnote when discussing the renaming of Bell's Corner.

Although the name Bell no longer carries the cachet it once did (how soon we forget), it does have a personal meaning for me. Bell was my paternal grandmother's married surname. She, born a Yates, married a MacDonald in 1910 at the age of 15. After his death she remarried a Bell, maintaining this surname until her death in 1970.



According to the 2001 Canadian Global Almanac, the following statistics pertain to Canada:

Area -- 9 976 140 sq km.
Coastline -- 243 791 km.
Population placement -- 80% of our population is concentrated within 160 km (100 miles) of the US border.
Land use -- 54% forest and woodland, 5% arable land, 3% meadows and pastures, and the remaining 38% is categorized as "other".
Population -- 31 006 347 (July 1999 estimate).
Age spread groupings:
- 0-14 years -- 20%.
- 15-64 years -- 68%.
- 65 and over -- 12%.
Population growth rate -- 1.06%.
Net migration annually -- 5.96 migrants per 1000 population.
Ethnic groups:
- British -- 40%.
- French -- 20%.
- Other European -- 11.5%.
- Aboriginal -- 1.5%.
- Other -- 27 %.
Religious denominations:
- Roman Catholic -- 45%.
- United Church -- 12%.
- Anglican -- 8%.
- Other -- 35%.
Birth rate -- 11.86 per 100 000 population.
Death rate -- 7.26 per 100 000 population.
Infant mortality -- 5.47 deaths per 1000 live births.
Life expectancy at birth -- 76.12 years for males, and 82.79 years for females.
Literacy -- 99%.



Have you lost faith in your fellow humans yet? No? Well read on. Here is a list of some of the dumbest questions asked by tourists at Alberta's Banff National Park. Yes, they are all allegedly true, as heard at the information kiosks manned by Parks Canada staff.

1. How do the elk know they're supposed to cross at the "Elk Crossing" signs?
2. At what elevation does an elk become a moose?
3. Tourist: "How do you pronounce 'Elk'?" Park information staff: "'Elk'." Tourist: "Oh."
4. Are the bears with collars tame?
5. Is there anywhere I can see the bears pose?
6. Is it okay to keep an open bag of bacon on the picnic table, or should I store it in my tent?
7. Where can I find Alpine Flamingoes?
8. I saw an animal on the way to Banff today. Could you tell me what it was?
9. Are there birds in Canada?
10. Did I miss the turnoff for Canada?
11. Where does Alberta end and Canada begin?
12. Do you have a map of the State of Jasper?
13. Is this the part of Canada that speaks French, or is that Saskatchewan?
14. If I go to BC, do I have to go through Ontario?
15. Which is the way to the Columbia Rice Fields?
16. How far is Banff from Canada?
17. What's the best way to see Canada in a day?
18. Do they search you at the BC border?
19. When we enter BC, do we have to convert our money to British pounds?
20. Where can I buy a raccoon hat? All Canadians own one, don't they?
21. Are there phones in Banff?
22. So it's eight kilometres away. Is that in miles?
23. We're on the decibel system you know.
24. Where can I get my husband really, REALLY, lost?
25. Is that two kilometres by foot or by car?
26. Don't you Canadians know anything?
27. Where do you put the animals at night?
28. Tourist: "How do you get your lakes so blue?" Park staff: "We take the water out in the winter and paint the bottom." Tourist: "Oh."

Thanks again go to Derek, who sent this little bit of humour in to me.



It is this section that gets the most responses from readers. I do encourage even more "peeves" to be sent in so I can make this a weekly installment. This week's peeve comes in anonymously, probably trying to protect a vehicle from harm, and states:

"I hate those arrogant people who park their vehicles across two parking stalls in order to (presumably) avoid damage to their select vehicle. I believe that damage from other vehicles (doors being the main culprit, or bumps) will happen anyway, because many drivers are simply poor judges of space. I propose those that wish not to be part of 'our' society park their vehicles as far away from the venue they are attending as possible, leaving the prime stalls for us mere commoners. This is most evident at movie theatres and shopping malls. Please have respect for others."



Who is this behind-the-scenes music diva? None other than... 44-year-old Denise Donlon.



Like the meat you used to get in your sandwiches when you were a kid (or in the stew in the army), this Friday's Feature is still a mystery.


In the coming weeks I am planning on giving the newsletter a distinctive Christmas feel. If anyone has any Canadian Christmas stories, or truly Canadian stories relating to Christmas, please send them my way. I can be reached at john@factscanada.ca. Until then....



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