ONE GOOD STORY LEADS TO ANOTHER

My last blog lamented the recent destruction of the Mono Lino Typesetting building on Toronto’s Dupont Street, where Barry Broadfoot’s revolutionary TEN LOST YEARS was typeset, way back in 1973. In turn, that story has produced a very interesting response from Gillian O’Reilly.

My friend Gillian was an important member of the book trade for many years, and was once the Editor of “Canadian Bookseller”. That national magazine of our booksellers was prepared in-house. Then – TADA – the files, ready for typesetting, would be sent to Mono Lino.

I’ll let Gillian take up the tale:—

“Because I lived near Mono Lino, I would occasionally take the files to the company instead of having them picked up at our office by the sales rep.

One winter morning I walked up the steps of the company, and the door was opened by a smartly dressed young man who asked if I worked there. I explained my purpose, and he said, earnestly, “I’m from Coopers & Lybrand.”

My brain did not immediately register that this was an accountant standing at the door. I was rapidly, and without success, trying to process the confusing thought “I didn’t know Coopers & Lybrand did typesetting”.

The young man at the door hastened to explain that the company was in receivership.

Stunned, I retreated, and from a payphone I contacted the Canadian Booksellers Association with the bad news, but with the help of our now-unemployed sales rep we quickly found a new typesetter and got the next issue out. And I often think that I was one of  the first Mono Lino clients to learn that the company was no more.”

 

A fine story. Many thanks, Gillian.

And I should add a note to stress how seriously we at Doubleday Canada took the enthusiasm of the old-pro typesetters for Barry Broadfoot’s first book. They were so excited that we signed Barry up to start travelling the country with his tape recorder to gather stories for a second book of oral history — SIX WAR YEARS — long before TEN LOST YEARS was published.

Thanks, Mono Lino.

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A PIECE OF BOOK HISTORY BITES THE DUST

On the north side of Dupont Street in Toronto, just east of Bathurst Street, stood an old red-brick factory.
Until this week.
Now the former printing shop has been torn down, to make way for what is promised will be attractive “Condos”. So what once was part of a sturdy old industrial part of the central city is swallowed up by the advancing residential Annex from the south.
Why should this matter to people outside Toronto, or to those who are not city planners? Because that old, anonymous red-brick building played a huge part in transforming the world of Canadian books.
The man behind this shift was Barry Broadfoot. He was the former Book Review Editor at the Vancouver Sun who had quit his job in the hope of writing a new kind of book that would transform Canadian History. With a tiny tape recorder in his hand he had criss-crossed the country in his Volkswagen Beetle, asking ordinary people “What happened to you in The Depression?”
Their extraordinary answers became TEN LOST YEARS, 1929-1939: Memories of Canadians Who Survived The Depression.
Along the way, however, there was a major transcribing and typing challenge for Barry, and a major editing challenge for me. In STORIES ABOUT STORYTELLERS I talk about how the ratio of stories we cut out, messily, was about 40 to1. I also explain that Barry “was a fast, inelegant typist who resented conventions like using upper-case letters at the start of sentences, and his typewriter sometimes made holes in the cheap paper, so the pages were arguably the ugliest ever submitted in the history of Canadian publishing,”
This led to major problems when the manuscript went off to the typesetters in their sturdy red-brick building on Dupont Street.

I go on to explain the process. “In those days, children, people typed manuscripts, then they were edited with marks in pen or usually pencil, and then they went to people called “typesetters, WHO RETYPED THE WHOLE MANUSCRIPT, from beginning to end. In this case, the ill-typed, heavily edited manuscript was so illegible that the typesetter-printer (Bob Hamilton, whom I worked with later) pleaded with me to set up shop in their building so that I could translate the constant tricky words right on the spot.
“And there — if I had any doubt about the power of the stories in the book — I received inspiring confirmation of the book’s appeal. The typesetters — hardened old pros — simply could not get enough of Barry’s stories, and talked excitedly about them over coffee and lunch. It was clear that we were on to a winner.”

And what a winner TEN LOST YEARS proved to be. It sold over 200,000 copies, in hard-cover. It established oral history as an exciting new form of Canadian non-fiction. It made Barry Broadfoot a major new author. And, to be to selfish, it helped to launch my publishing career.
And it left me nostalgic about that old building on Dupont Street, and wanting to honour its passing.

Stories About Storytellers on stage: Barry Broadfoot

Thanks to Candida Paltiel at Mining Stories Productions and her team, we’ll be featuring weekly snippets of Doug’s one-man stage show. In this week’s clip, Doug talks about Barry Broadfoot.

For upcoming performances of Stories About Storytellers the show, head to the events page. For more on Barry Broadfoot, see chapter 5 of Stories About Storytellers.

An excerpt on Barry Broadfoot on the Canadian Encyclopedia blog

There’s more Stories About Storytellers to enjoy on the Canadian Encyclopedia blog. This week share in Doug’s “Hollywood moment” as he’s presented with a manuscript he knows is a bestseller. To read it, head over to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

(Have you missed the previous excerpts? You can still read the selections on Brian Mulroney, Mavis Gallant, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre TrudeauStephen Leacock and Alice Munro.)