Past and Present

Recently I was reminded of my life at McClelland & Stewart, which I’ll simply call M&S. Thanks to Avie Bennett, I was able to run the grand old company from 1988 till 2004, until it was time to move on, and bequeath control to Doug Pepper and his successors. But the company then was so much at the centre of Canadian publishing that it was an unforgettable time for me.

And for the men and women who worked there.

There were about a hundred of us, and we were part of a large professional family. I remember that I made a point of beginning each day by walking around our office. It took up the 9th floor of the building on the North-east corner of University and Dundas (now the subject of major renovation plans). My daily circular wander, from office to office, proved to be amazingly efficient, turning me from a remote corner office occupant, available only through carefully planned official encounters, to a guy who was ready for a chat any time. Things got done.

And many fine books were published by our team, and many prizes were won. Simply listing the books we published – by authors with names like Ondaatje, and Mistry, and Davies, and MacLennan, and Mitchell, and Atwood, and Urquhart, and Munro – looks like boasting. But it is a factual reflection of the excellence of the books we published, up to and including the major non-fiction best-sellers we brought out by Prime Ministers named Trudeau, and Mulroney, and Martin.

And there was the unforgettable John C. Crosbie. He was so determined to publicise his memoirs, at M& S’s expense, that he and I came to exchange strong words about it. On the phone his Newfoundland accent did nothing to hide his disapproval of our reluctance to spend money, on him. “You goddam poblishers” he complained. “If you walk across a nickel lying on the soidwalk…..yer arse starts snappin’”.

I was deeply shocked.

The M& S links continued at an event last week. At St James Chapel on Parliament Street, a funeral was held for an old M&S friend, Doug Kehoe. Doug worked for many years in sales, as a specialist dealing with libraries and librarians. He was greatly loved, and his funeral should have attracted dozens of his old friends. It was indeed a well-organised event, with our old colleague Pat Kennedy speaking well about him, and bringing Doug’s charming essence back to life.

But, sadly, although lovingly supported by Doug’s husband, Richard, the funeral drew very few of his old colleagues. Who knew how many other old friends would show up?  I was there, but was disappointed. It was great to see Pat there, as large as life, and to run into Jenny Brandy and Betty Quan. But so many others remained outside our grouping.

Sadly, the truth is simply that the clock is catching up with us. I look forward to meeting other members of our M&S family……before it is too late. And I pass on my good wishes to our valued colleague, Krys Ross, as she works to bring support to her beloved Ukraine.

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6 comments on “Past and Present

  1. Pat Webster says:

    Yes, all too sadly, the clock keeps ticking. How I miss the M&S of old, along with those who made it as outstanding as it was.

  2. Peter Nosalik says:

    There is a special sweetness in your sadness. I’m at an age when I reflect back on the good ole days, and wonder at what we’ve lost. But then I learn something complicated from a young person and feel better about the future. That makes me hopeful.

    Thank you for sharing from the heart. I’m glad you were there to Doug and Richard and I thank you for remembering them in your post.

  3. theumbrellaguy@rogers.com says:

    Thanks for refreshing some old memories I cam recall so many of dealing with the production side starting with Peter Scaggs when M&S was located in East York I think it was Hollinger Drive Initially I was with E.B. Eddy selling paper We developed a special grade for manufacturing books Called Publishers Choice The paper was of a high bulk soft colour white as I remember the first title was a Farley Mowat book about a whale trapped in a pond in Newfoundland I think the Title was “ A Whale for the Killing “ Our great hero was Linda McKnight who told Peter to use this new paper

    Peter seemed to get great pleasure in giving paper reps a hard time

    Later I was the sales manager at T.H. Best a quality book manufacturer Mr. Doug Best the son of the founder attended the same private school with Jack McClelland and was a strong financial supporter There were several times I had to come to M&S to collect checks from Jack

    These were interesting time when the design staff moved their downtown offices at the corner od Richmond and Simcoe over a car glass shop and eventually moved to East York

    When the competition was moving to more automated equipment especially in pre press Best did not make the commitment

    I then had an offer to work with Gagne a fine progressive Quebec company who wanted to be active I the English Publishing market Again M&S were the leaders in our growth More then one publisher said “ if you can supply M&S you must be pretty good” then Avy Bennett took over and you know more about that the production of books was a different world but exciting We went for $128,000 to $22,000,000 m

    there is more but for another time

    cheers

    ron

  4. Jennifer Brandy says:

    Hi Doug, sorry for the delayed reaction. I too wanted to thank you for bringing light to Doug’s passing. I thought there would have been a few more M&S’ers there as he touched our hearts so dearly. I was so glad to see that M & S was represented, even though only a handful of us.

    Sorry I did not get a chance to speak to you and your wife, hopefully we will run into each other again, and hopefully, not in a similar gathering.

  5. marilyn luce says:

    very cowardly act on my part….I won’t miss another funeral. !! I met Doug Kehoe only a few times before he left M&S, but he was always kind to this new person on the reception desk.

  6. Patricia Kennedy says:

    Glad you sent this out, Doug! Thank on Doug K’s behalf.

    Pat

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