Photography by Catherine Stutt
Flashback to June of 1980.
Our grade 12 class was about to be released upon the world. Many of us were returning for the now extinct grade 13 (oh, those days of elitism), and we were saying goodbye to classmates and friends, some we’d known since kindergarten, who were heading off to college or the real world.
For perhaps a dozen of us, we were graduating from Mr. Drew’s grade 12 enriched English. The year before, enriched English was introduced to the curriculum. Most of the students who chose this path did so because they were fond of English as a subject. Me, I was fond of not having to read Shakespeare. Save the letters to the editor, I get enough grief from our friend Bill Murtha, former head of English at East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton, who can equate Bonnie and Clyde to Ode to a Grecian Urn, neither of which are Shakespeare, but he’s a fan.
Grade 11 enriched English was fun. Mr. Denomy let my best friend Barb and me loose on the faculty and students for a linguistics project. No Shakespeare there. We sampled and tested and ran amok and landed an A+, thanks to Barb’s scholastic genius and my ability to ask questions that were absolutely none of my business. Nothing like a journalist in training.
A few years ago, someone asked me to describe the work of a journalist. It’s easy. We go places we’ve never been, meet people we’ve never seen, ask questions that are none of our business, and then tell complete strangers all about it. The good ones do it with integrity, compassion, and without hummus. Maybe without hubris.
These are real stories we’re telling, and they make a difference. They should.
Back to Mr. Drew.
Before we made our mass exodus, Mr. Drew shared words of wisdom, of which he had many. Mr. Drew had a wish for us. He wished we could, sometime as adults, which we all thought we were and looking back hope we are, take a summer and read. Just pick up a book, read it, and see where it led. Maybe it would lead to another book, maybe to another country, but he hoped we would have the opportunity to pursue a summer through literature. He also hoped we’d buy hardcovers.
A prolific author, his timing was spot on. After Star Wars debuted to insane acclaim, Mark Hamill eschewed the dark side and instead starred in Corvette Summer. Yes, that Mark Hamill, of Luke Skywalker fame. Corvette Summer was a fun summer date night movie, and those of us at Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School spent a smug season telling everyone about our intimate connection with Star Wars, Luke, and Corvette Summer because Wayland Drew wrote the movie novelization. We had no idea what that meant, but to us, it was gold. A few years later, Mr. Drew did the same treatment for Dragonslayer. He was a very cool guy.
Not to trend toward the Hollywood elite, Mr. Drew had balance. When we went carolling, we would hit his house and be invited into his library and treated to homemade fudge. One day in class, he told us of a summer excursion in Algonquin Park, where he and his photographer buddy and co-author of several books Bruce Littlejohn tried to ride a moose. Unsuccessfully, with no harm to Bullwinkle, but the story stuck.
Years after I miraculously graduated from three years of Shakespeare-free enriched English, I met Mr. Drew on the street. He introduced me to his good friend, Dave. Somewhere a bell was ringing, and it wasn’t the famous clocktower in downtown Bracebridge. “Mr. Drew, would it be okay if I called your friend Dave Dr. Suzuki?” I asked.
That was Mr. Drew. Golden Globes with Luke Skywalker Saturday night, a class full of grade 12 students Monday morning, whipping up a batch of fudge for carollers, and strolling main street with David Suzuki, all with the same wonderful smile, the same thirst for life.
ALS took Mr. Drew, and his funeral was held at a packed gymnasium at a now abandoned high school. The memories are there. Words to Mr. Drew were important. They were how we conveyed ideas, how we saved the planet, and stopped tyranny. They were how we connected as societies, and a tool for change.
Mr. Drew would have loved the challenges of Twitter, cringed at the ability to be harmful in 140 characters, and rejoiced in social media used for positive change. He would have been surprised this student is writing from the editor’s desk, and maybe gently noted some typos, sent some suggestions, and smiled that famous wonderful smile as he challenged us.
Mr. Drew would be happy with my library of hardcovers. He would be happy I was considering a summer of reading and adventure, and I think he’d be okay knowing we at County and Quinte Living were using words for good.
He’d be happy you’re still reading this. So am I. Thanks for that. Google Wayland Drew, grab some shade, and from both of us, thanks for turning the page.