Thursday, October 10, 2013


My first day in kindergarten, I was talking to the little boy sitting next to me in the semi-circle. Albert Fish didn't say much, I think, but teacher, Miss Scocroft, was suddenly standing over me with a hand towel.
Well, poor Albert was punished in spite of his innocence. Miss Scocroft tied the thin white hand towels over both our mouths and made us stand in the centre of the room. My very first day in kindergarten, humiliated and terrorized for speaking out of turn.
As far back as I can remember, I talked. I always had a lot to say and endless, endless questions. My Pop, George Rubin, was the target of most of my questions - "Daddy, why? Daddy, why?" And often, "Daddy, buy."
I walked by my Daddy's side all the time. He took me on long walks and we talked. I think these walks were in part for him, in part for me, and in part to give my mother a break from my pestering.
Pop took me to second hand book stores, and we talked. He took me to the movies, and we talked. "Ssshhh!". "Daddy, why? Daddy, who is that? Daddy, why did the bad cowboy do that? Daddy, can we get ice cream afterward?"
When I was eleven, my Pop went to work at Metropolitan News at 1248 Peel Street at the corner of St. Catherine in our hometown, Montreal. I called it "The Crossroads of the Nation". Our international newspaper store was known all over the world. We received postcards addressed to "The news stand, Montreal, Canada." Some compared us to the news stand at Times Square in New York City, but our store was bigger than that and we carried much more merchandise.
After school, I would go downtown on the streetcar and work by my father's side. I met people from all over the world and I started reading all the magazines and digests and comics and pulps.
At fourteen I quit high school and went to work at Metro full time. It was my alma mater, and my Pop was my mentor, my shelter, my teacher, my friend. I was always with my father and I was always asking questions.
Uncle Sam, the owner of Metro News, disapproved of my talking with the customers - movie actors, opera singers, politicians, impresarios, writers, world travellers, animal trainers. So much to learn. Sam seemed to always disapprove of me. He scolded me every time he caught me talking to a customer. "Next! Next!", he would demand. "Serve the next customer." So I questioned my own instincts and when I opened my mouth, I felt guilty - and afraid Sam would send me home.
It took decades, but I eventually began to see that people valued what I had to say. Important people - a judge, a lawyer - told me that people wanted to hear, to read what I had to say. Some people started paying me to speak, and learned people from far away places - doctors and scientists and ministers - started paying me to teach them public speaking and even to help them write their sermons and university papers.
And, as I studied the world and talked with many learned people, I became acutely aware of how wrong, how dangerous it is to be silent, how urgent and vital it is to speak up. I started to understand that what I had been saying and writing for decades was important and useful and respected.
The scared little girl in kindergarten could not have realized that she was like an acorn, a young sprout, and time and experience would nourish her skills, so that she might have important things to say to the world.
And then came the computer and the World Wide Web and blogs. No more handwritten letters to the editors. No more typed articles in triplicate with blue carbon paper. No more waiting to see if The Montreal Star or The Montreal Gazette editors would publish. No more silence.  Although the newspapers published hundreds of my Letters to the Editors, I was still limited by the whims of the editors.
Now I write and publish my blogs day and night. I speak without a muzzle. I write about what I think, what I know, what I have learned, what I believe. As of today, more than 115,000 around the world have read my blogs.
Silence just won't do.
Phyllis Carter

1 comment:

Phyllis Carter said...

Correction: The number of readers of my blogs (not including Mr. Nostalgia, Cliff Carter at as of today - October 10, 2013, is more than 114,700, not yet 115,000.