When I was in my early twenties, I took the leap of returning to school. I wanted to study journalism, so I applied at Sir George Williams College, now Concordia University, in Montreal. I had not been in school since I was about 14 years old. It was a big step.
When I made my application, I learned that I could not study journalism until I had taken a basic course called English 101. So I did that first. It was the first challenge. The applicants were to sit in a classroom and write three pieces, each taking three minutes, on any subject. Cold. I panicked. I had never been confronted with such a challenge. My mind was totally blank. I just couldn't think of anything to write. I remember that I finally wrote one piece about a lady with a feather in her hat. I haven't got a clue what it was about.
Somehow I was accepted into a class with foreign students called a "remedial" class. The first thing the teacher did when she entered the class for the first time was tell us that she never, ever, gives any student an "A" because "nobody deserves it." We were off to a great start. I struggled through the classes. It was not a pleasant experience, but I was determined.
One day everything changed. My husband and I took a trip to the CNE - Canadian National Exhibition - in Toronto. There we had the privilege of seeing Danny Kaye perform in a huge open stadium. The outstanding thing that I remember about that performance is that when the sky grew dark at twilight, Danny Kaye asked everyone in the audience of hundreds to strike a match. It was a sight I will never forget. Like stars in a country sky, the stadium was studded with lights. It took my breath away.
As soon as I got home, I wrote about Danny Kaye's performance. It was the best thing I had ever written, I thought - exciting, warm, spellbinding. I was thrilled.
Clearly my English teacher was not. She asked me to step out of the class into the hall with her and there - she accused me of plagiarism !
I was shocked ! Why would I plagiarize? I was paying for my course out of my own hard-earned wages. I was only taking that one course and not for any credits. Why would I cheat?
Well, nothing came of that accusation, but I was so upset by it that I contacted the registrar and asked to be transferred out of her class.
Fortunately, I was then placed in a class where I was able to function - to the extent that I started writing for the school newspaper, The Georgian. I wrote many pieces. One was called Ode to a Coffee Bean, another was about a person who finds himself in a science fiction situation, and another was a humorous piece about the Russian concept of the Troika. I can't recall the details after all these years, but I am sure there are copies of these articles among my many, many files.
One day, while I was at work, I received a call from the editor of The Georgian. It was one of those phone calls that you dream of - like the time I learned I was given a part in a stage play called "Never Darken My Door" - or the time when I was about 16 and impresario Eddie Feigelman sent me a telegram saying I was accepted to sing at the Red Cross Blood Donor's Marathon - or the time CTV's Thrill of a Lifetime accepted my request to make my husband's first record album. But that is a whole other story that you can read about on my blog - Mr. Nostalgia, Cliff Carter - at http://cliffcartermrnostalgia.blogspot.com.
The call from the editor of The Georgian was to inform me that I was to be awarded the Sir George Williams Silver Medal for Journalism for my contributions to The Georgian. Was I ever surprised ! I didn't even know such a medal existed. On the night of the awards ceremony, the editor called my name and I went up on stage. There he handed me a small box and whispered in my ear - "Don't look. The box is empty. I forgot the pin in my desk." And so I played my role - and followed the editor to his office afterward to collect my precious Silver Medal for Journalism.
Now here's the rub,. On October 7, 1996, Dawn McSweeney stole all my most precious valuables, all my best jewellery and personal sentimental items left to me by my darling husband - and all my pins - including my Silver Medal for Journalism.
And so we fight on - day and night. It is after 3:30 A.M., January 6, 2011 as I end here. There are more than 250 articles on this blog and many more on the Dawn McSweeney Robbery Case blog at http://dawnmcsweeney.blogspot.com.
As you can see, I have no trouble writing anymore. Or fighting.
Phyllis Scrapper Carter