Sunday, February 17, 2013


In the late 1960's, I had a private meeting with John Diefenbaker in his office across the street from the Houses of Parliament.
13th Prime Minister of Canada
      In office - June 21, 1957 – April 22, 1963
I had asked to meet Mr. Diefenbaker and I was surprised when, a short time later, I received permission. My  young daughter and I went to Ottawa. It was Valentines Day.
I was also surprised when Mr. Diefenbaker met with us alone in his office. Just the three of us. I was surprised again when I realized that he knew who I was. There were no airs about him.
He was disappointed that I was a Liberal supporter and he asked me what the Liberals had ever done for Israel. He was disappointed that Jewish voters did not seem to favour the Conservatives who he believed were kinder to our interests.
We had bought him a single red rose. He said it was the first Valentines Day gift he had received. He was touched. A very human person.
My daughter also gave him a lovely cowery shell to bring to his wife, Olive. He held it gently in his hand as we took pictures.
I found John Diefenbaker a very gentle, modest and courteous gentleman.
As a youngster, I was always on the scene, at the stage door, backstage, wherever great people were doing great things. I collected autographs and I touched greatness.
My Pop started collecting autographs for me at our family's international newspaper store, Metropolitan News, even before I started working there at age eleven. I am who I am because of everything my father taught me. He loved meeting people.
I waited a very long time at the stage door at the Seville Theatre in Montreal in freezing cold and, after all the other fans had given up and left, the movie actor, Mark Stevens, let me in.
Johnny Ray touched me as his bodyguards virtually carried him from The Seville.
Shirley Booth signed her autograph bracing my book on the trunk of a car on Cape Cod. 
Paul Robeson talked so kindly with me at Plateau Hall, even though I was just a girl. 
I also met the great tenor, Jan Peerce, and the concert pianist, Jose Iturbi, at Plateau Hall when I was not yet 16 years old and, decades later, I met Jan Peerce again with Myron Cohen in their dressing room at Place des Arts with my darling husband, singer of love songs, Cliff Carter. Cliff and Myron Cohen compared notes about their ages and birthdays and columnist, Ted Blackman, reported the meeting in The Gazette on October 23, 1979. I have all those precious things in my scrap books.
I was not just an autograph collector. I was nourished by greatness. I blossomed on greatness. And so, I wanted my daughter to experience the magic touch of people who accomplish great things through their talent and benevolence and courage. I took her out of school from time to time to meet great people. That was the education I had.
I rushed my daughter through one room after another backstage at CTV in Montreal chasing down the mayor of Jerusalem,Teddy Kolleck. When his bodyguards saw us, they seemed alarmed. I called out that we were Jewish and not enemies and Teddy Kolleck gave each of us his autograph and warned us not to do anything like that again.
I took her out of school one afternoon to meet Jean Vanier. This great Canadian gave us his autograph. He wrote in the tiniest script. His autograph is a true refection of the man.
I could write volumes about the many great people I have met. I am still inspired by these memories.
Phyllis Carter

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