Chatham was the seat of Kent County, Ontario. I found Alan looking happier that when we last met and he found me thin and pale, not surprising given my recent past in a Mississippi jail. We spent a few hours talking before I fell asleep in his basement apartment in a typical house on a quiet street in Chatham, a town of 50,000. After lunch the next day, he came back to the flat and told me to get ready for a crash course in photography, particularly in the use a Crown Graphic, which seemed to be another model of the old Speed Graphic, one of those old-fashioned newspaper cameras in 1930s and '40s movies. Something I came to call my "six-pound press pass" because no one carrying such a thing could be mistaken for anyone else but someone from a newspaper. The lesson, which also included a session in film development, would lead to a weird incident, which then led to yet another that had us both fired a month later.
To understand the first incident, decidedly more comical than the second, one must understand the mechanics of these old-fashioned cameras and how they were loaded with film. Each piece of 4" x 5" film, with which it was loaded, was taken from a box in a pitch-black darkroom and placed in two film magazines.
One first entered pitch-black dark room, removed the exposed film of the already taken pictures from the camera magazines, placing each of these exposed film in metal frames, then lowered them into the developing solution. At which point one would take sheets of unexposed film from a light-tight box of 4" x 5" Kodak film while still in the dark, reload the now empty camera magazines by touch. That done, one would leave the dark room, to return some time later to finish the developing job, moving through the fix and wash baths before hanging the frames to dry.
The actual printing of the pictures would be done by the photo-engraving men. Unlike the Montreal Gazette, which used high quality metal photo-engraving plates, which produced good photo reproduction in the newspaper, the Chatham Daily News used greatly inferior plastic plates. To compensate for the heavy loss suffered at the photo-engraving stage, the paper opted for the Crown Graphic's big 4" x 5" film frame with a medium slow Plus X film and a fill-in flash so if used in the prescribed way, it came close to being idiot-proof. The fill-in flash, used in even bright daylight, got rid of awkward shadows which often spoil pictures. But with negatives the size of bedsheets you could usually rescue at least part of a picture and make it useful for publication.
So many of our pictures were left-to-right group shots of seven or eight people with all the names and titles included the end result in the paper had to be worth showing to friends and neighbours of the people in the shot or the exercise was a great waste of time. That's why my 1935 Contax camera, which was excellent and the envy of all who beheld it with a shutter speed of 1,200th of a second, was of no use. Even though 35mms were in wide use then, they played no role at the Chatham Daily News.
And so it happened to me on returning the darkroom for the final wrap, I switched on the light - and HORROR of HORRORS!!! I had forgotten to put lid on the film box, thereby exposing it, and wasting what would have been a week's supply of raw film for the entire staff.
This had to be reported to the managing editor, the kindly and eminently sensible Bob Dunlop, who very sensibly said this could not go on and next time I did it, I would be fired.
This led to my practice of taking off my trousers when I entered the darkroom, knowing full well I would not go outside unless I had them on again. That would remind me, if I needed reminding, to put the lid back on the film box, which tended to get out of mind because it was out of sight in the dark of the darkroom. Under this regime, all went well - for a time.
This was my second encounter with small town Ontario life. Chatham was about twice the size of Belleville and the newspaper the Daily News was twice the size of the Intelligencer in Belleville. Chatham, which had been the home of the world's most insignificant and remote Royal Navy base, was another bedrock of traditional Canadian anti-Americanism, but while Belleville's sources of resentment arose from the 1775-1783 American Revolution, Chatham's hostility arose from the War of 1812, a war that ran out of gas when Napoleon was packed off in exile and there was no further need for British to block US trade with France.
But not before the Americans committed and unprecedented act of burning down Toronto, then called York. It was the first time a civilised belligerent burnt down a civilised co-belligerent's town. So we reciprocated by burning down the White House and as much of Washington as we could. Of course, these days everyone does that sort of thing. In my cups, I have been known to remind American bistro buddies how we contributed their national anthem, recalling that the "rockets’ red glare" were our rockets.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was also said to have been lodged in Chatham's Kent County as it was the terminus of the "underground railway" and John Brown's rising at Harper's Ferry was planned in Chatham itself. I have wondered though whether this co-operation had more to do with screwing those damned Yankees and less to do with heart-felt abolitionist sentiments.
But fast forwarding to December 1964, I found myself distracted by the new Canadian flag debate and Alan utterly consumed by another national story, the Rev Russell Horsburgh affair.
As for my concern, once I was assured that there would be no official loss of the Union Jack, though technically correct in that it still would have an official role, but I was substantially mistaken nonetheless. Anyway, I accepted, without enthusiasm, the new flag with its two vertical red bars on either side and single red maple leaf on the white vertical bar in the centre, as the only way to get the French on board.
But I was persuaded to go along with the new flag - again a mistaken notion - because it was said the French could not join wholeheartedly in any Canadian endeavour under the Union Jack. So, if that's what was necessary to get them onside, I'd go along with it.
This did not touch Alan at all, because he was embroiled in another issue - the Reverend Russell Horsburgh affair. Alan had befriended the man, already convicted of five of eight morals charges, contributing to the delinquency of minors. He was then out on bail and awaiting appeal, which was shortly to go against him. He ended up doing less than a year in jail before finding a lawyer who had the conviction overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada as a gross miscarriage of justice by the lower courts of the province of Ontario.
Horsborgh lived a short distance away from us and was out on bail at the time pending appeal. I remember him sitting at his kitchen table looking forlorn talking to Alan about a scheme to interview teenage witnesses in the hope of securing exculpatory evidence.
Looking at the evidence, Alan's version of the case rang true with me, concluding that if "the Rev", was guilty of anything, it was criminal naivety. Why the Rev was hired at Park Street United Church remains a mystery because he seemed the sort they never would have wanted, being radically minded, wanting to break down borders, being forgiving of most everything, when the bulk of the congregation were not like that at all. It was rated the second most powerful church with a high representation in law enforcement and the legal profession, society's least forgiving and most judgmental. The Rev also annoyed them by bringing in radical speakers to address regular Sunday evening lectures including someone called the "Red Rabbi" from Toronto.
Convinced of his guilt, Margaret Gunning, aged 10 at the time, recalls in her online blog that her family were among the Rev haters: "My parents found him repellent. I remember standing outside the church after choir practice and hearing drunken teenagers yelling for 'the Rev', which was his nickname with the kids. These kids weren't tipsy, they were holding each other up, vomiting-in-the-bushes drunk. One kid called another kid 'Boozy Bozo'.
"I remember my Dad's best friend calling the Rev a 'psychopath', and my mother saying, 'well, you know what they found upstairs in that apartment. Empty whiskey bottles. . .and worse'. I didn't understand the reference then, but I am assuming, from my perspective today, that she meant condoms."
Alan's story, and one the Supreme Court of Canada came to accept, was the Rev's gang of troubled youth came to Saturday night dances under his supervision. But above the church hall was the vacant but furnished curate's apartment. The door was locked, but kids made short work of the lock on their way upstairs where they partied on under the cover of blaring music of the dance floor below.
All went on undetected until a 14-year-old girl became pregnant and became the focus of the case. She turned on her boyfriend who turned on the Rev, fully encouraged to do so by the police and the crown prosecutor, for whom these were welcome tidings indeed, as they served to expel Horsburgh from their church. So, it was alleged that the crown would "go easy" on the kids if they could deliver these tales in court, which many allege were well-rehearsed fabrications staged managed by the prosecution.
Disturbingly, one newspaper account of the trial reported: "The youth also told of an occasion at a church dance when he said he had seen two people leave the dance and go to the apartment. He said that he informed the Rev. Mr. Horsburgh, and that he and the minister "snuck up the stairs" to the apartment, turned on the lights and found a boy and girl indulging in intercourse.
"He said they watched for '10 seconds, until the man told us to turn out the lights'. He said the minister turned out the lights and left.
"The Rev. Mr. Horsburgh sat beside his attorney with a pad of paper, taking notes on the testimony, and at times looking with a slight smile at the witnesses." said the report.
Reacting to Margaret Gunning's anti-Rev blog entry in January 2017, one Paul Chefurka wrote: "I don't know if anyone will ever read this comment, but I just wanted to say that I had the remarkable good fortune to marry the girl who at the age of 14 was at the heart of this scandal. She and her erstwhile boyfriend both had nothing but kind words for the Rev. She was just as rebellious, adventurous and free-spirited as she described the Rev himself. Unfortunately, she died a number of years ago, but she left an indelible mark on me. Whether Horsburgh was guilty or not depends on what community you were part of, I guess."
Following Alan's lead, I joined him to find teenagers who might help to spring the Rev. Alan made the first contact and I joined him when we picked up in a car with four teens, including one girl. We soon were in a convoy in a light snow fall of four other cars filled with teenagers and playfully nearly sliding into each other. We drove to one end of town and then turned around and drove back again. This we learned was called the "drag" - simply going back and forth through town, a process enlivened somewhat at red lights when the kids in one car would jump out and scamper to another car in a scene reminiscent that movie "Grease" - Grease with snow.
We did this a few nights but learned nothing of interest, and would retire for a drink. There was a problem - comme toujours! - With the drinking laws of Upper and Outer Canada.
Alan and I were roughly the same age, though his birthday had just passed in November and mine had yet to come in June. Ironically, I was underage, but didn't look it, and Alan, was now of legal age, 21, but didn't look it either. So, the bartender would ask him for ID, and then just-in-case, ask me, and then refuse me a drink.
We developed counter-measures which had hit-and-miss results, the best being I would go in order a beer without difficulty and Alan would join me, sit some distance from me, order a beer, be "carded" as they say today, get his beer and join me. Even if they again became suspicious of me, they dared not question me because they had already served me the beer and were liable for prosecution.
In the Province of Quebec whence we came, we were both legal as the drinking age was 20. Not that it mattered as no one was too fussed about drinking. Rather, the moral questions of our day for which there were strictly enforced rules was to ensure that no one below 16 could see a movie except for those few films designated "for the entire family", e.g. Snow White, Bambi etc, and that all doors accessible to the public, shops, theatres and apartment buildings etc, must open outward and not inwards - and that no one in Quebec - man, woman or child - could legally eat or possess margarine.
The first two prohibitions were enforced to prevent a recurrence of 1927 Laurier Palace theatre fire in which 78 children died trying to flee, but were blocked by crushing themselves to death against doors that would only open inward. Less dramatically the margarine ban was an expedient to protect more expensive Quebec butter.
Back in Chatham our scheme to have a drink, while an improvement, was not flawless. It worked two thirds of the time and we were running out of places, this being Chatham not Montreal with its vast number of bars. Being reporters, we lived separate lives, going out on assignments provided by the desk. There was one female reporter there too though she was largely responsible for finding local copy for the women's pages, but apart from that, there was little difference in our day-to-day functions. She too wielded a bulky Crown Graphic with its heavy battery pack Sungun and made use of the darkroom.
So, it was on one day that I had my trousers off at a precaution in the dark room to remind myself to close the still opened film box, when she came in to develop her film. While it being in the dark together was not unusual for the sole female in the office to be alone with one of the half dozen males that might have been in there, it was my first time and definitely the first time with my trousers off. I had put my trousers on at high stool one would sit when the developing at a more advanced a stage. I was just working out a plan how I would put on my trousers on unnoticed in the pitch-black dark room, when she exclaimed:
"What the hell is this?!" as her hand went to the top of the stool and felt my trousers, belt and buckle.
When it dawned on her what had happened, she fled with a stream of "oh-my-gods!!" out the double doors of the darkroom. I hastily put on my trousers and was about to follow her with earnest reassurances, when I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to fumble in the dark to cover the soon to be exposed box of film. I then went to talk to her but she wouldn't speak to me, but at least kept quiet enough so I looked as if I had made an unwanted pass, which had happened before so there was nothing extraordinary about the suspected event.
When Alan came in from a job moments later, I told him what had happened and he laughed uproariously, not able to contain himself as he went over to her to explain. As my the threat to my job over the exposed film box had been the butt of jokes around the office for a couple of weeks, this added delightfully fresh fodder to the story. While embarrassing, it at least got me off the hook as a suspected sex fiend.
But the drinking problem persisted, that is our inability to buy a drink in Chatham with ease. Then Alan thought he had come up with a solution. He had managed typeset the wording of a Nova Scotia Liquor Pass, which looked like a credible document with our earlier dates of birth and sufficient space for photo ID. The problem was the photo ID. We took high-resolution pictures of each other, but the photo-engraving machine wasn't producing satisfactory results. Alan was quite mechanical and figured out how it worked. But the devil was in the details. Every time he tried to photo-engrave our pictures, they were washed out. Too much light came from the two super-bright arc lamps, which acted as camera flashes. We never saw a time when the arc lamps were anything but superbright as we passed by the photo engravers next to the dark room. Nor could Alan find any adjusting mechanism, like a lens aperture closure that might have reduced the light.
Frustrated, he reasoned that results would improve if he shut down one of the arc lamps. This was done by putting a bar of soap in one of the arc lamps, each of which had vertical electrodes which flashed lightening-bright bolts of electricity one to the other. Photo-engravers always left a smell, I had long imagined would linger after an execution in the electric chair.
While putting the bar of soap seemed to have the desired result, though the lighting was uniformly off centre in the two photographs if they were ever compared it would be noticed. But I said this was unlikely because the ID cards would be produced at different times from different wallets. We thought we would resume the operation the next night and would spend what remaining time there cleaning up and removing the evidence.
That's when Alan discovered a "problem". The source of the new peculiar smell was from the bar of soap in the arc lamp, which now drew our attention from the qualified success of the experiment. It also flashed through my mind that this smell likely duplicated the one from the electric chair as I recalled the Nazis made soap from the bodies of death camp victims.
The bar of soap had melted and flowed into the crevices of the arc lamp defying our efforts to clean up or even to get the lamp to flash again. At last we went home to wait upon events. The next day, it wasn't long before the photo-engravers were screaming about the damage, and Alan went into Bob Dunlop's office to fall on his sword. As Bob thought I had something to do with it we were both sacked on the spot and told to leave the building immediately.
The next day, Rev drove us to Toronto where they both spent Christmas, Alan to see college friends as I hitched back to Montreal to an uncertain future.