back to intros

Flo Frank Interview Transcript

Sept. 15
Flo Frank
Common Ground Consulting
Box 39
Meacham, Saskatchewan S0K 2V0
H - 306-376-2220

Dave Beckwith:

 …well, I'm interested in getting the stories, rather than a description of the process…

Flo Frank:

Good, since it's been my experience that the process changes, depending on the story. As the story evolves, so does the process. I'm very leery about cookie cutter approaches to things because in the real world that's not how it works.


Well, I think we can learn from best...Well, I don't even like the term "best practice". You know our national network is doing a bit of a debate about what is best practice. I like the term promising practice, and we can learn a lot from that, and if that gets called a model then it's frozen. I think our language around organizing, around community development is sadly lacking. So I make up words, and your poor transcriber may hear some of them!

I'll give you sort of the sweep of the questions. They run from what do you do, to how did you get started, and why do you do it. What do you think of your work, what sustains you. What have you learned and what are some important milestones.

Oh, those are beauties.

So, you can see the direction that we're going. They're easy questions.

Yah. It's the easy questions that people like us have a hard time answering, like Where do you live? Where are you from? How many kids do you have? You know, things that most people know. Well, it's good actually that you're asking those questions because I get asked those questions quite often. And I fumble around and I change the answer depending on the audience, quite often. But I, and maybe you've hit the age, too, where you're starting to realize where a lot of it came from. Last night talking with Sky helped. Ley (Ward, Flo's partner) and I talked after you left. I was talking about my son and what his life was like. I wondered what the answers would be from my son's perspective. Where is your ambition for your son. I took him to rallies and demonstrations, and he's a compassionate person, but not in the field of social change. I hadn't thought about that until last night.

Where did you grow up?

Well, I was talking about the island and I suppose in many ways, that's where it came from. My parents were actually the first people on that island, and when the Toronto land authorities were reclaiming the island, they were the ones who organized people to fight them. They were the ones that took on city hall, and set up what wound up being a forty year battle, which got settled about 5 years ago, in terms of whether or not its lease could be renewed.

What was the name of the island?

Algonquin Island, it was a Toronto island. Most people know it, as being close to Center Island which is where the Mariposa Festival is held. It's a beautiful island, and one part of my heart says, well of course, the people in a huge urban area like Toronto need as much park land as you can have. And here are these residential people that are living on this island that they've had since 1945. They built their homes there. So part of my heart says, well, those people had a deal, a hundred-year deal, and somebody went back on it, because park land has been more valuable. On the other hand, I'm thinking, hmmm, there isn't very much park land, and what would it hurt these people to have to move. But my people were some of the original settlers in an urban area. So, I haven't thought about that in the last while.

And do you remember that fight?

Uh, huh, Clearly I remember. But I usually talk about, well, when people say, How did you get started? Often times I say, well, I grew up in the arctic and I learned how people lived there and I was interested in anthropology and sociology and so I went to school and studied community development and more or less, here I am. But that's not how it was at all, although, part of me thinks it is. What really happened is that I was born into it. On the little island that we lived in we had a very strong central community. There were about 30 families that chose to live on that island. We had a community hall, we had a church, we had seven or eight community events a year, parades and fire works. My dad, aside from being a contractor and a cabinet maker was also the clown, a magician, a story teller, a gatherer of people and a rounder of the troops. But I would never have thought about that until these recent years. So, yes, I remember that. Don Messer was one of my dad's friends. I don't know if you know who he was, but he was a fiddle player on television. And Don Messer and the Islanders were a kind of a show that came on before Ed Sullivan on CBC. Well, one of my dad's friends was Don Messer and he and Charlie Chamberlain used to come over to our house and visit and play music. The first thing that I remember, you know, there was quite a bit of talk, but I was a very young kid, but I know there was talk about our home...of those people across the bay that I never really saw. I only went across the bay for the Santa Claus parade in December. But those people across from the island, they wanted our land. Now I had just a seven year olds concept of ownership, but I had a concept of belonging, and I knew that we belonged there and they didn't and they wanted us to be elsewhere. And the first thing that I remember about that is my dad and Don Messer and Charlie Chamberlain drinking beer at our kitchen table and my dad saying, well you've got a television show. Don, why don't you just tell them that the people over here on this island, we've got a right to be here. And I remember Don Messer saying, Gee, Fred, I'm not sure how I can work that in, he said, I'd probably lose my job, but it would be worth it. And that's the first time I remember hearing anybody suggest that they would lose a job. I didn't know what jobs were, but I knew my dad had one, sort of, and if he had one then he could lose it because of what you might say on television. The reason I remember that is that I asked my mother if we would be hearing Don Messer talk about the island on his show. It was a music show, and, as a matter of fact, there was very little chit chat other than, where does this song come from? And my mother said that possibly she thought it might happen. And sure enough, about two weeks later, we started hearing Don Messer say things like, And this is going out to my good friends the homesteaders over on Algonquin Island and good to you people and here's a song, and away he'd go. So he didn't come out and say his political opinions, but he used it to say that these are my friends and if you like me, you....

Did he lose his job?

No, no he didn't, because he didn't make any political statements, he just dedicated songs every week to the people who lived on Algonquin Island, and their struggle. So, how did I get started in all this. You tell me! Don Messer using his television show. So that was the first memory that I recall. And I didn't think of that too much until last night when we were talking about Sky's project and that if this were forty years ago, maybe she'd be interviewing me, and I would say, I don't know what a social activist is. I have no idea what social justice is, but I certainly knew in our household, what was right and what was wrong and what was politics and that's because that's what we talked about. And that would be how my son was raised. And that will be how he is raising his son.

Is your son in social justice work?

No, no he's not. In terms of what he does for an income, he's not. But he is quite active as a volunteer. He's a business man, he runs a security company and a contracting company, and he also is in theatre. I would never describe him as a social activist, but I would describe him as a fairly knowledgeable person. He knows how to approach issues in a very reasonable way, and he is someone who has a very solid opinion about global issues, environment, poverty, those kinds of things.

So continue on with your story, if you would.

Part two is, now here we were living on this island where there was a yacht club and my mother played bridge three times a week and it was like utopia. I go back now and I look at this and I think this was an incredible place. It was only in recent years in speaking with my colleagues about how they were raised that I appreciate that actually I could have been raised under a cabbage leaf, because where we lived was utopia for children. The duchess and the drift water fox were my parents, and they loved each other madly, but they came from two completely different ways of living. My father was a bit of a traveler and had a pretty big imagination but he came out west to see about some job as the oil boom was happening and he saw the Rocky Mountains. He came back and said, well this is it, Violet, we've got to go west. This is where opportunity is. She said there was no way she was going out to the frontier. Now, this was in the mid fifties, so it wasn't exactly the frontier, but I think Edmonton had a population of about 60,000 people which is 60,000 people and no yacht club, and no bridge club. For her it was the frontier. We landed there and long story short was, he then discovered the north within two weeks and then we were living up in a place called Uranium City, which is in the northern part of Saskatchewan, bordering on the Northwest Territories. We were the first white family there, first or second white family. That was the first time that I knew there was quote, Indian, end quote people in this country. I had actually probably never seen anything other than white people. I was seven and a half years old, but in traveling in the States, we had a bit of an education about different ethnic origins, but, here I was in a community where we were the minority. We lived in a tar-paper shack, there was no school. My father loved it. My mother didn't. She didn't like the uranium mining. She read about it, she decided this wasn't healthy and hauled all of our tiny butts out of there. She just said no, we won't be staying here. That was my first lesson about environmental quality. Why are we moving, Mommy? The water is going to be poisoned here was her answer. It was bad enough that we had absolutely nothing to do here, and nothing that we can contribute, but we are not going to get poisoned with uranium. So at the age of eight I knew about uranium and water poisoning and that's why we moved south to Edmonton. Over the next year and a half my father continued to work on a part-time basis, half a year up in the arctic. He would work in a number of the far northern places including Labrador, and I would go with him. I spent from October until the beginning of May in school in the south and my marks were always high enough that I could then leave and I would go up north with him. My mother and sister stayed home. So, when I'm up north with my father, I notice that there's a completely different social structure there. I'm living with the different First Nations people, since my father would make sure that it was a family that we stayed with. And so for four or five months of every year I lived either on the land or with people that had a completely different social structure, completely different cultural structure. Languages were different, and values that were very very different. It was like a bit of a schizoid life. Half of the time we lived in the south in Edmonton, going to school like a normal, middle-class kid. And the other half, I was up north, on the land roaming around on trap lines and whale hunting, and you know, all those kinds of things. So that for me became normal. And the reason that's important is that I learned a great deal about social justice in the north. In the sixties, you know, several of my friends were taken in trucks to school. They hauled them, they basically gathered them up, to do what was a policy for government that perhaps had the right intention which was to provide an education but in fact it didn't work out culturally. For me it wasn't just observing that or reading it in the paper. I have friends. I'll tell you the story about my friend, call him Albert. Albert is Catholic, and his brother is Protestant. And the reason is that they got put in different trucks the day they got picked up to go to school. And I got picked up and put in a truck, too. Now, they weren't asking, who are you, and did you belong. You got put in the back of a half ton truck and driven 200 miles away. As we were getting sorted out, they noticed that I wasn't aboriginal. Which I am, I guess I'm metis, my mother was aboriginal. But they were, I guess, surprised that they'd picked me up, too. They didn't know who I was in particular and they were asking my name and I wasn't giving it. I knew social justice and activism., and I said, I don't have to give you my name, and I needed a lawyer and you better be calling my father, I need a pay phone. I was about ten years old, but I knew a bit from television that I was entitled to a phone call and I wanted a lawyer, and I wasn't giving them my name or any other thing. I had actually wound up in a Catholic truck, which is how I got to know my friend. My father did come, the next day, and, incidentally there was hell to pay. But it wasn't just for me, it was for all the other kids that didn't have a chance to say good-bye to their parents. You know, one of our singer songwriters sings a song called Proud Metis, and it's about being scooped up and being taken off to a boarding school, residential school. So I almost had a residential school experience, but over the years I've stayed friends with Albert, who is catholic because he wound up at the catholic school and his brother's a protestant because he wound up at the Protestant School. The two of them went to school 350 miles apart and neither saw their families again for the first three years. So, at the age of, no, I must have been eleven, ten or eleven years old, that happened and I stayed friends. I'm fifty-one years old now, and Albert and I are still friends. I know that that has caused all sorts of grief and problems in his family. Not even just the residential school syndrome , but the fact that he is catholic and his brother is Protestant and the family is split and he had no choice - in Ireland you have a choice. He had no choice, he was just grabbed up,and he got put in the truck. That was the first thing that I remember, the anger. and I was eleven, and I was soooo angry. Sooo angry, that I think that was probably my, uh, my catalyst around social justice. Now later I found out that there were many things to be angry about and the sixties came just in time for me to have a platform and a forum to express my anger around poverty and women's rights. See, I didn't know that women weren't equal. I wasn't raised that way and if I stayed in the south I might have caught on a little sooner. But I was raised in part in the north and women are equal, as a matter of fact, they're revered. The role of young women and the role of children is highly accepted. I didn't realize that the rest of the world was any different. And in our family we were treated with respect, and mother my sisters and I were always treated with respect. So I had a hard time realizing and understanding that there were women's issues and that this just wasn't safe. And the first one that caught my attention in that way was about not having equal pay for jobs. I thought, now how can this be? They can't, there must be some law, it just seems so assinine.

I see.

Right? Um, so that caught my attention. So I'm angry as a child about social justice in the north and particularly because nobody in the south acknowledged that there was anybody up there. You know, I was actually in geography classes where they would say, and here is White Horse, and Yellow Knife, and there's nothing up above there. And I'd say, excuse me, there is, I can give you their names. You know, that was considered to be insubordinate by the way.So that's the childhood. As a young woman, I got married at seventeen to the boy next door, a highschool sweetheart, and at the age of nineteen became pregnant. I was working for a big steel company as a receptionist and I was doing the thing of going to school and working and it was suburbia.

Where was this?

This was in Edmonton. Then, a big surprise to me, I became pregnant. Well, I was a married woman, so there was no social chaos in our family or anywhere else, not that there would have been. At that time, and this is where I got another eye full of social justice, my employer told me that I was terminated the minute that I was showing that I was pregnant because they couldn't keep pregnant women on staff. I remember this very clearly, the guy's name was Ralph Smith. He can be named. This big fat, puny old corporate guy, you know, more money than Croesus. Now remember that I'm nineteen years old, so he was bigger and more powerful in my opinion then. But he had big gut. And he told me, and I said, well when would we know whether I'm too pregnant. And he laughingly said, when you put your toes to the wall and your stomach touches the wall, it's time to go. And I said to him, would all the men in this office have to do the same thing? And he looked at me and at first he glared and then he said, he said, I guess that I'd be packing my bags then, wouldn't I? And I said, you probably would be, and he said, but I'm not giving birth, and I said, no, but you're going to die of a heart attack. All I'm doing is giving life. You are taking yours. And I remember getting a letter on my file saying that I was insubordinate.


So there we are. And it's true, I couldn't stay working, I couldn't stay working because I was pregnant This was a female disease, apparently, that corporate Canada didn't want. There was no U.I. on at that time for pregnant women. You couldn't get birth control pills without your parents' signature, or a wedding certificate in most doctors, and there were no birth control centers. So, while I was cooking a baby, I started to work with social activists in what we called street agencies. I don't know if you have those in the states, but they were alternative agencies to what the government provided. So for example, the government provided welfare but it didn't provide adequate policy so we had an organization called Humans on Welfare, which helped people buy washing machines. The policy said you couldn't own a washing machine, you couldn't buy a washing machine, even if you saved all your pennies and gathered potholders. If you went to the laundry mat, you could have money to do your laundry. But you couldn't get that money if you had a washing machine and you could never get enough money to buy a washing machine. How stupid is that? So this was the combination being let go because I was pregnant; the fact that women made less money; the fact that people on welfare couldn't buy washing machines; and that you couldn't get birth control if you were a sexually active person, weren't married and didn't have a parent's signature and you were under the age of 21. All this added up to complete nonsense. And then news of the Vietnam War came. So there was just stupidity upon stupidity upon stupidity upon atrocity that caused me, then, to change my course of studies into, what I wished had been, political activism. But there was no such course, so I took community development. So, that's the beginning of the story about how did you wind up with a degree in community development. When you think about the combined effect on the young mind that those had, and the access to media and understanding then about politics I got, you can begin to understand. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was our new and young Prime Minister. Now, he was an interesting character. I actually met him and his wife on a couple of occasions and it caused a bit of tension in our family because my father did not like the man or his politics. I was under age - the voting age was 21 and all of this happened, by the way, before I get to the age of majority. By the time I hit 21 I think I'd pretty well seen it and done it and worked in corrections and jails and with heroin addicts and the poor, because that was my field of study and my field of interest. So along came this prime minister who said, I have a youth agenda. He created a huge program called Opportunities For Youth which was an employment program to take the heat off the baby boomers who couldn't get into university, who couldn't get a job because everything was full. Now, Canada had a secondary backlash anger about the Vietnam war, but we also had our own anger in that there were more of us than there were seats in classes. There were more of us than there were places in the labor market. And there were more of us floating around the country with long hair going to music festivals and providing the inspiration about peace and justice and making love and those kinds of things which appealed quite nicely to my sets of values. So they hired all the street agency people, the king pins across the country for this youth program, to give away millions of dollars to young people to do whatever they wanted to do that related to work. They didn't have to go find a job, they could create a job, they could start a business, they could paint pictures of churches, they could do theatre. You know, the way I got this job is kind of funny, too. I was working at the university in urban studies, as a post grad, and working in corrections and building a district in Edmonton called Strathcona, which had been scheduled for a freeway to go through it. Strathcona is the historic part of Edmonton and it could have been a freaken freeway! They were going to put a freeway right through Whyte Avenue, right through a university area right through the most historic, beautiful river valley area, they're going to put a freeway through. So here we go again! This is when I realized that I did in fact have a high horse and I could jump on it and ride like the wind, and I did! I was surprisingly articulate for one so young. I wound up being invited to go to talk shows and speak my mind, which was a wonderful invitation because I wanted people to hear what was going on. The end of that story is that we gathered the troops, we had a thing called a "charrette" where we expected 150 people to come. 1200 people came - the media came, the government came, and we handled it. We designed what is now one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Edmonton, and the freaken' freeway goes around through the industrial area which is where it should go anyway.

They found a way.

Yes. We also got the beginning of light rapid transit in the city. While I was working on these particularly important projects, the government announces the Opportunities For Youth program. Millions of dollars for young people, come and create your own jobs. Well, I tried to find information about it and couldn't, but I decided in my own mind that this was a buy-off, in my mind I thought that this new Prime Minister was trying to buy off youth unrest and we should have none OF IT. So, my boss, Gerry Wright, who was the professor of urban studies at the university got invited to come and do an analysis of this new job creation program, there had never been such a thing. He was invited to come to CBC news and do this. And away we went, he said, you come with me, Florence, and off we went. He was a wonderful human being, very bright, very committed. He wound up being an alderman and died a few years ago. We get there and he said, you know, I've always hated t.v. cameras, you go. And so,

This was a setup from the start.

It was! And so, here I am, on national news. And I'm not shy, and I don't really think it's national news. I'm telling the whole country, do not, DO NOT take advantage of these programs. They are buying off the youth unrest. By the way, I'm not quite 21 yet. And they quoted me, and of course, it was a quiet night on the news and my dad, he's up in Tuktoyuktuk sitting in a bar after work and he's watching the news, and somebody says, hey, look at that young girl up there just giving what for to that ---


Sorry! That Prime Minister Trudeau! Who people, you know who weren't liberals didn't like.


And my dad said, hey, that's my daughter. And he said, she voted for him. As a matter of fact, I did, and don't tell, but I lied about my age to go vote for this young prime minister, and then he pulls out this program to quell youth unrest and it was sheer bribery. I started off badmouthing it, and they played it two nights in a row because the first night they quoted me as being of the University of Alberta, but in fact the University of Alberta did not hold that opinion. So they had to run it the second night - Florence Frank, public citizen.


So two nights, this is all over the national news. And a week later, I'm in my office and in came government people. MEN in suits with briefcases. I thought, oh, my god, they've come to do my taxes. They're going to arrest me, it's the revenue or something! And they were from government, they wanted to talk to me and I was terrified. They sat me down in a room and they said, we have a proposition to make. And I said, oh, what's that, and they said, we'd like you to come and work for us in the Opportunities For Youth program. We need a provincial manager. And, I said, how dare you? How DARE you come to me with this? And they said, we dare because we are hiring some of the best organizers across the country. We understand that you are the coordinator of the group of eight - street agencies and you understand young people. I said, of course I do, I am one. And I said, but I wouldn't touch your job with a ten foot pole! I was single mother at this time and a student and I was making probably 3000 dollars a year. I was poor. They said, the pay starts at 15,000 a year plus expenses, and you'll have complete discretion over all the funds and you'll have 5 million dollars to hand out to all of these organizations, wherever you personally see fit. If it's not you it will be someone else. You have 24 hours to decide. That was my very first situation, and probably the very worst one in my life, that I had to wrestle with conscience. And I did, I wrestled with it for about 25 seconds, to be quite honest. And I thought, he's right. If they don't hire me they're going to hire someone else. It really truly wasn't about the money, it was the reality that for the first time, I had a chance to be on the inside, not on the outside, carrying the signs. Wouldn't it be interesting if I could divert that money to STOP - which is Save Tomorrow, Oppose Pollution -- STOP had this huge agenda around environmental matters and no money. There was an organization working with corrections that was just getting off the ground, remember there were no grants in those days. There was nothing for money. Everybody volunteered. They were trying to help people who were coming out of jail, sort of get back into a healthy lifestyle. There were kids who were needing playgrounds. There were all sorts of things that I, through my work, knew about. And here came 5 million dollars. Maybe I could deal it out. Right? And make sure that the people who were activists got the money, to be activists. So I phoned them, I said, who has to approve what I decide? And they said, well, at this point, nobody, but over time, you know, you couldn't for example fund a weapons purchase or something. (Which incidentally we wound up doing by accident, with the AIM group in the States! We accidentally wound up having a group seize Fort McCleod. But that's neither here nor there.) Anyway, I took the job. And I realized two things, One, this prime minister was sharp. After he handed out a year of money to every young person in the country that he could, he lowered the voting age. He signed every letter saying that your job is brought to you by me, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and by the way, I'd really like your vote next year. He scooped up the largest majority that this country has ever seen. So that was my first involvement with seeing the political issue first hand, and if I hadn't been there, I wouldn't have believed it. But it was true. The second thing for me, and this is where the good news and the bad news comes on why do we do this because there's no straight lines. The good news was , yes, we did put money into the hands of a lot of people, some of whom are still operating today Big Brothers and Big Sisters; Alberta Barter Theatres; some of the youth agencies that have been operating came from this money. A lot of the corrections programs came from this money. We sustained them at the time. So that's the good news. The bad news is that it was the beginning of the end of volunteerism in the communities, and I had a part to play in that. I don't know whether the answer would have been different if it had been done differently, I wasn't the only person involved, there were ten of us over time in the province of Alberta, there were 40 of us across the country. Interestingly enough, many of us still stayed as friends, and we're helping up the next generation. The young man that called last night when you were here for dinner, his father was the regional director for British Columbia, I was the director for Alberta, and for a while, the prairies. We've stayed friends over these years and now his son is coming into our CED Network. So here we go, another generation. So that's the story, the whole of it.

And so, from that job, what did you do next? Let's just get the narrative outlined.

Well, I guess after that, that's where my career became quite diversified. I did that for a while and I wound up moving up the ladder because I was female, I spoke French, I have aboriginal ancestry, all the right things. Everything but a limp. So I was destined within the federal system to become what they called S.X. category which has no senior official in Ottawa, you know. And they were fast tracking me along that way. So, here I was, at this point now, I'm 25 years old, and I'm making three times as much money as my father ever made in his life. It's going pretty fast and I don't like what they're doing, they started to change the program structure. They started doing what I call.. Band-Aid aid. now this is where integrity reigns supreme. I'm actually pretty proud of this part, we had started funding Lead Corporations which were actually community development corporations with long term funding. Then in came another administration that said, no, we're only funding 3 month projects, nothing twice in a row, etc, and I said, this sucks! This will not accomplish anything in terms of addressing these issues in this country. But I was talking to the wind. And so I quit. I packed up my son and we moved to the mountains. We stayed in the mountains in a quiet life and I managed a bar for a while and I set up a company that did, I suppose we call it consulting now. At that time what we were doing was helping with industrial adjustments. It was a logging community, with a small independent mill. Some big lumber company came in and wiped out all the little lumber mills, including my uncles'. It cost him a fortune. The big mill came in and there the economy went, the community was changing. Now without realizing that there were people around the world who did this for a living, myself and a couple of other people said, this isn't right. Shouldn't we be planning, instead of just waiting for a company? There was a huge strike that happened and it knocked our little town on its knees. Logging towns are logging towns and the economy is you know, sustainable only to the degree that you can look after yourselves. But when the big mill came in, lots of outsiders came, union workers, and the wages went up and so they weren't hiring our local people too much anymore, and besides this was a big fancy computer mill and most of our folks didn't know how to do that. And then there was a big strike. And the prices in Japan went down. Here we are, hillbillies, you know, our biggest news is whose cow calved and all of a sudden we understand that the market in Japan has some impact on our lives and I'm saying, this makes no sense. The biggest concern was whether this would effect the price of beer. Well at that point it didn't, but what it did effect was the ability to buy beer. And after about three months, the central interior of BC was in a complete decline. I remember this clearly, one of my best friends was a manager of a bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. His name was Art Kendall. He was a young manager, first time manager, working his way up the system. Here he is in what he thinks is going to be just a nice soft touch job, but he's in a community where the economy collapses and he had to put signs up on the bank saying, please do not drop your keys off. If you can afford to keep the insurance on your house, if you can afford to keep the power on this winter, we can renegotiate your mortgages, at no interest. Do not leave - the sign said - do not leave your R.V.'s in the parking lot - do not leave your boats in the parking lot. The bank was getting people bringing back things because they couldn't afford them anymore. Bankruptcies were rampant. There were suicides, there were fights, you know, domestic violence, and there hadn't been particularly significant numbers of social problems before that.

What year are we talking about?

This was in 1981-1983. The whole economy collapsed. And that was the first time I'd ever seen a community collapse, like just, boom. And the joke used to be, jeese, we have all these toys, snowmobiles, and boats, and R.V.'s and no time to play with them because we're busy logging. I've got my own opinions about logging, but never the less, that's where I lived. To the degree that the small independent mills could use the wood, it was probably sustainable. The mill that came in was 25 times bigger than all the independents combined and it was all automated and they weren't paying people 12 dollars an hour, which was a very decent livable wage, they were paying some of them 23 or 24 dollars an hour. It was just craziness, I'd never seen such a thing. So, there I am, I'm living in a community that the economy has collapsed in and I watch the self esteem of that little town go right down the toilet. Mine included. I wound up in personal bankruptcy, as did half the town. Family breakdown was common, relationships were falling apart. SO, what we decided to do was reinvent ourselves. And in a very unsophisticated way, we did. I brought people together, the college of New Caledonia hired me to teach adult upbringing. It took me three weeks to figure out that adult upbringing was not what was on people's minds. What was on their minds was how are we going to live through this? Many people were on welfare and had been for the first time in their lives. So we put this together and we figured out, hey, by golly, we have a guaranteed annual income here. You know, we're on welfare, we've got an income! Why are we sweating this? Why don't we just not tell anybody that we're on welfare and why don't we start the companies and do what we know, let's use this as an income, to do whatever we want to do. You know, that was kind of interesting. Not everybody bought into it, but certainly, 20 people did. What I wanted to do was design a different valley. Look at the Robson valley and look at what are the possibilities for different kinds of economies? Of course the natural one was tourism, because it's only an hour from Jasper and there was potential for all kinds of stuff. There was already skiing going on. And the people said, ah, gee, we don't want tourism here, you know? Gee, you know, hmmm, strangers will come. So that was a bit of battle, and that's the one I chose. Others chose to make pottery, some people set up market gardens. Others, you know, people did different things. So we used that time while we were, many of us living on social allowance, to use that time to rebuild the economy. Which we did. Incidentally, Valmount, BC is now one of Canada's gems in the tourism crown. Now I don't think that's necessarily a good thing, either, because we lost a quality of life but the economy is diversified, property values are up. My friends who used to be loggers now own golf courses and motels and restaurants and they're all doing very well and so are their grandchildren. So that created my interest, then, in communities, and their development and rebuilding economies. I'd had some experience through government at that time and working with people in career choices. At that point I wound up with a fairly diverse experience background in helping individual people, working with organizations in distress and organizing organization, the networks, and then, helping rebuild communities from the inside out. And people thought that at that time I'd turned flighty, I couldn't make a choice about what is it I do for a living. Do I manage bars, am I a career planner, am I a family counselor, do I work in social matters, do I work in the field of political justice, what is it that I do? And I didn't know. It didn't matter, there was no name for it. Imagine my surprise when a few years later I discovered that there were names for these things. I had a degree in community development at that time, a degree in marketing and international marketing or diplomas in career development and I had two fairly significant experiences in rebuilding neighborhoods and large communities. And wasn't that wonderful because at that time in the country there were entire communities beginning to feel the pressure of not having diverse economies. So I got into the business of community development and CED. Now, when I left Valmount, by this time its 1985, the economy is recovering a little bit. I got a call from the federal government, saying, would I like to come, please, because I had done such a good job with this youth programming and would I like to come and be the mastermind behind another youth program. This was the first in the country to be managed outside of, what we know now as HRDC and it was going to be managed in the department of the environment and forestry. Because of my background, I had my grading certificate in BC and I worked in the mill, so I knew that industry. It was a one year program for youth and the environment, they were to create jobs for people over the age of 50, having to do with the outdoors, forestry and environmental renewal, uh, repairing damage. It lasted one year and they just thought that HRDC was a better department to manage all employment programs. So, over we went. I did not, however, go over, but went to the provincial government in Alberta. The reason they hired me even though I was a Fed, or had federal experience was that they were starting to now do negotiations, federal provincial negotiations on labor market transfers. Provinces were saying, Feds, give us some of that money. Feds were saying, if you want program dollars, match it dollar for dollar, and all of these interesting policies started to surface. The whole issue around too many people being on welfare, trying to get people off U.I. the U.I. reform thing was starting to surface. There was a big market developing for private businesses, small business support. And Oh, would I like to come over and work with them? I started off as their director of policy, wound up as their ADM managing all of their employability programs for the provincial government, and negotiating federal, provincial deals. So that was a real learning ground, too. And right from the Charlottetown accord, which put the constitutional matters on the table in this country and with that jurisdictional responsibility shifting from federal, to provincial, to municipal. There I was, again, swimming in this most magnificent pool of knowledge and learning, doing risk analysis for the transfer and trying to figure out the shell game, where is the money? I learned a great deal. That was also when the health transfer started to happen, health reform, welfare reform, UI reform, reform, reform, reform. Out came a language that we currently use now which is integration, one window shopping, all of that stuff. So, I wound up doing some of the risk analysis, some of the evaluation on it some of the design work. I did that for about five years and decided, you know, it's time to go back. I kind of go inside, outside. I'd been on the inside of government for a while, it was getting pretty creepy. And by the way, I still think it is. It's going to straighten itself out, but it was getting pretty weird, there were too many people in there thrashing around. The best place for me to be, then, was on the outside. Throughout all of this I've managed to maintain my own company. So, I focused most of my energy in the past eight years on community economic development looking at it, um, through the community development lens, primarily with organizations and communities that are in decline or making changes into what will serve us for the next fifty to a hundred years I hope. So that's it. That's how I got to here, in a little tiny nutshell. Those are the main things.

The question that is next on the list is, What do you think of your work?

I think it's critical. Not my work, in the sense of me, Flo Frank, I think OUR work is absolutely critical. And the reason that I think that is that for the past thirty years, any time I've seen social change occur, it has happened because there are two or three kinds of people. The ones who tell the news, who describe the situation, and are able to do the analysis of what's wrong with that. And that's part of my work. I do some trends analysis, too, to predict what do we think might happen, if this and this and this are a fact, right now, and things continue the way they do, then, therefore... I call that where as, where as, where as, therefore. So that being able to scan the environment, do a bit of analysis, that's critical. The second piece of work that we do is to help organize people, bring them together, to determine for themselves, is this acceptable, or isn't it? And if it isn't, what do we do about it? That's critical. And then the third part, and this is the three pieces of what I've done all my life. The third part is, once we figure out what ought to be done, how do we mobilize, how do we get the resources, or the attention or the influence we need in order to make that happen? And those are the three things I've done all my life. And that's what I help teach people, or help facilitate with processes. So I don't have the word, but I have three very clear things that I know how to do. I can scan environments, form analysis, I can bring people together and help translate, so that there is some kind of common ground, (that's where my company name came from,

Common Ground,

And the third thing is to rally the resources to mobilize the idea. Now that can be as simple, Dave, as a person wanting to make a career change or it can be as complicated or complex as fifteen or sixteen communities. The piece that I'm working on right now up north involves the whole northern part of this province. Two-thirds of the province, eighteen provincial departments, six federal departments, 54 municipalities and first nations governments, probably 180 business sectors are involved. About 400 young people, and 18 different cultures, all trying to work towards leveling out the playing field even more. So that gets complicated.

I'll bet it does.

But, probably the biggest things, in terms of why what we do is critical, has to do with these organizations who come to reduce their dependency on government money. What they do is important. What we do is important, but if you're at the whim of government funding and policy of the day, we lack continuity and there is a loss of credibility. So a lot of what we've been doing in the last 10 years is to help build that entrepreneurial spirit in organizations that are dependent on government funding. That's not easy work. That's tough work.

Let's talk about where the money comes from. You're talking about where the money comes from and not being dependent on government resources.

I guess this is a little further to the thought about the three important things that we do. For 10 years now, I've worked with organizations on this, in part because I worked for the government giving the money out and knowing that that's a fickle fate, you know, the policies of the day change and priorities shift. Anyone who has ever worked in community, in community organization, knows that they're at the whim, the virtual whim. Part of what we've been doing is to help organizations, and NGO's, non government organizations, to become more entrepreneurial and where possible, generate revenue. An example, right now I'm working with the Alexander Community Health Center in Calgary. They are a community clinic with a mandate to provide health services to a fairly poor and needy population. But, they adopted a community development approach in the past year. That means go to and deal with some of the determinants, health determinants beyond illness or preventing physical and mental problems, meaning that you can be sick because you don't have a job. You can be sick because you don't have a house that's that safe, because you have a relationship that isn't safe, so they've expanded their mandate to include all things that are community. Healthy people equal healthy families equal healthy communities. And so they've adopted that mandate. Well, I think they're kind of trend setters in that way but they've taken it one step further. The reason that they're doing this is in part because the health care system is being revamped and it's in trouble in this country. I'm not even going to make a statement about that because there are so many dynamics involved. The fact is that they deal with people who often times do not have a health care number. They're either new Canadians or refugees or they never had one, or whatever. So, the health care system itself, isn't helpful. And the second thing is that one of the reasons that the health care system is in trouble, several of my friends are medical doctors and this is what I understand from them, is that, doctor's are paid per call. The more calls you have a day, the more patients you have in in a day, the more money you make. No matter what, they can only bill a certain amount for certain services and the whole thing becomes quite crazy making, if what we need to do is provide more time with your patients than 10 or 15 minutes. So, what The Alex has done is it's put their doctors on salary. This means that they can spend as much time as they need with every person who comes in. If what that person really needs to talk about is their housing problems, as opposed to the spots on their belly, then that's what happens, and the doctors refer them to counselors to community development workers, to whowever they need, but the doctor is always in. Now that's revolutionized how people see that center. And it wouldn't surprised me if then in time they understand health to be much broader then illness prevention. Underneath it all is that they're still somewhat dependant on grants, money from government, money from foundations, money from charitable organizations to maintain this kind of service. What we've just recently designed is what we call a community economic development model. The Alexander Community Health Center is going to set up and run a place called Suds and Savings, which is a laundry mat. Okay. Now what does a laundry mat have to do with health? Well, quite a bit. One because it's something they need in that neighborhood, and because it's a business and they intend to make a profit, and the profit they make is going to go back into servicing some of their other programs that are currently on step. They are also going to set up a training center, where they will help other health organizations learn how to do community development and community economic development. So they'll be providing a service to the people in the community that need it, and charging less money to the poor and more money to those who can afford it, in order to run a business which will be a profit maker. From that little laundry mat, we project there will be a thrift store, a clothing store that will come because that's a natural contingent to a laundry mat, and from that there might also be a woodworking shop where things can be produced and sold. Much of it would be donated, the laundry, the washing machines donated by corporate Canada, you know, things like that. So, that's an example about how organizations change their financial engine. Now, not every non-profit in the country should be out there setting up bistros and laundry mats, but where it does tie into the mandate, why not make a profit, why not make a business. And so that's an example of some of the work we do.

One of the things that you said when we broke is that you have some experience in business?

Yes. Aside from sort of the sorties into and out of government, I've owned and operated seven businesses, six successful businesses, and the seventh I would say is successful too, in that I experienced corporate bankruptcy

A valuable part of your portfolio!

Well, it was, it was very very valuable to learn that. In fact you can't work with business and you can't work with people if you haven't been to the wall and hit it and said, you know, I'm still alive, and it wasn't funny at the time but you know, you live through it. I've formed a variety of businesses from very large coffee houses or a night club to an antique furniture refinishing business and a marketing and advertising company, a consulting company, and managed some apartment buildings.

I see you're an executive producer of a c.d. as well.

Yes, we currently own EON music, which is a record label and a recording studio, as well as Common Ground Consultants, which is a resource grouping people. So we've got those two and we're share holders in our local dinner theatre, which is also a business that's making money, and when you can make money in the arts, I'll tell you, Dave, you can make money at anything. So I bring that edge, that profit is not a four letter word. I really, really believe that in the next ten years, in terms of how we as communities thrive and grow in a healthy way it's going to be in a certain degree dependant on renewing our volunteerism, renewing the ethics of family and community as being healthy for us and becoming less dependent on government for grants and funds. And government becoming less dependant on us for taxes. That's where I think the whole thing ties beautifully from back in the seventies where I started with, not really understanding the relationship with the government handouts, because they hadn't really occurred in a way that I could relate to. I'd say, well that was all well and good. And there is a place for them, and it's an important place and there are certain things in communities that government should pay for, the government being us. As tax payers, I have no problem paying for arts and theatre and for youth and everything else, but some of it should be done by communities some of it should generate its own revenue.

Now, you said before, when I said, what do you think of your work, that it's not my work, it's our work. Who do you include in that us, who are your colleagues?

Well, my direct colleagues, I guess… well, let me start with a big question, How big is love? Who is involved, who isn't involved? When the work we do is about building people and building strong communities and building strong organizations, it's everyone. But who are my direct colleagues? We operate out of a community of 89 people, this is my home.

The town of Meacham?

The town of Meacham. Which is not far from Saskatoon, and it's a little agricultural arts community as if those two things are related, but they are. Fifty percent of our economy is based on third generation agriculture, and fifty percent of the economy is in the creativeness area of first generation artists. So it's an interesting mix. My colleagues in the immediate area, in my company, there are anywhere from three to five of us who work here full time on a project to project basis. We have more work than we need to have. I'm connected then, to a larger network of people, who are not official partners because we don't need corporate structure, but I work with 7 other companies in Alberta and the Yukon as direct colleagues on the work that we do. In addition to that, I'm part of several national networks, the Canadian CED network, and then there are fifty organizations across the country whose focus is to promote and advance community economic development. They're my colleagues. We work together on policy matters, on elevating CED. I belong to another network in the province of community development specialists whose mandate is to work to make sense out of limited resources. In addition to that I'm part of a national organization called CEDTAP which is actually a funding network from the McConnell Family Foundation. We're one of the sixteen technical assistance providers in the country that are funded through them. That work joins together a number of technical assistance providers and a number of communities, because its money is to provide technical expertise to various communities as they require it. So those are some of my associations. Now, having said that, that's when I think about it in terms of the specific projects. Part of my work is to do training, key note addresses, television shows, etc., to kind of get the word out. The first would probably be increasing awareness and generating interest. Now, when that happens, that's when everybody comes in. For example, two weeks ago I was working with a group of health practitioners, 250 of them. They were expecting 60 people at the training seminar, 250 people came. I'm part of an international group of people that work in Equador and they work in the States. So whatever the specific work is, that's one thing, but it's connected to any number of other things. So, on a smaller sense in the local area I work with three or four people, on the provincial level I work with, oh, 150 if we had to put a gang together. That's what I call these community developers, I call them gangs. If we had to put a gang together and we had 150 people that we could call within 5 minutes to put them together for social action.

What kind of action did you take?

At this point in time it was moving toward policy on community economic development, on other instances it's been around multinationals and some of their influence to our quality of life. Oh, a few months ago there were 250 people brought together to look at, I've forgotten the acronym now, genetically modified foods, you know, those kinds of matters. So, within the province there's that, within the prairie region, I guess when you called, I was thinking, well where could I help connect you and with whom, given your time. I don't have a strong network in Quebec, particularly, but I do have in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Sask., Alberta, B.C., Yukon, and NWT and Nunavut. So, we can put gangs together any time we need to. My network is wide.

And how often do you put the gangs together?

Quite a bit, quite a bit. That's one of the things we need now is more gangs. Now, sometimes a gang is a focus group for a training seminar. I would say 30% of my work is putting gangs together. Well, more than that if I think about communities. I mean gangs in a very positive way. I've done some work in Chicago with groups working to help young people in gangs and I learned a great deal about that. I think the organization was called Safety in the Streets. They taught me a bit about what constitutes gang membership and it has to do with identity and connection and self esteem and confidence and having a motivating drive and so that's community development. You know, the business I'm in I guess is forming gangs and making dreams come true! I kind of hope it's for the right reasons, and usually it is. So it's not an easy question to answer, who do I work with. On an international level, I've done some work in Equador, in South America and Central America, in part around alleviating poverty. That's a real complex issue itself, too, it's not one issue, it's many. And in S. America the work was in trying to compete with the big multinationals by community based economic ventures. How can a group of 30 people set up a cooperative that generates enough jobs and enough revenue to provide decent incomes for people in their communities when big logging companies are coming in. That was the Valmount story coming back in again, and offering 5 times the income to a very small group of people which disrupts the social balance. Everything I think I learned must have been in the first three or four years in terms of social injustice, economies collapsing and behavior. Uh, as human beings we respond to things in a very interesting way and if we can harness that then we've got an engine.

Does that describe your work, then?

Some of the work in the last two years we've done has led to a consensus that I've run into. If we keep kicking it up a level, can we get to agreement as communities, as nations, as whatever on some of the basic priorities? Without it getting too mushy, we agree on life. So somewhere there has to be something you can hang your hat on. So over the past two years, we've come up with a list of somewhere between 7 and 10 things that people have agreed to in terms of priorities that folks can buy in to for quality of life, and for the future. One of them has to do with the reduction of poverty. That's the top one that always comes up, we have to reduce poverty. Now, keep in mind there's no solutions here, just simply what can we agree to, and it doesn't matter whether it's a community or whether it's a group of communities or whether it's a nation, I think these things are very similar. The second, you know, it's not in order, but another one has to do with preparing youth for their futures, not for ours, but for their future. Another one has to do with improving infrastructure, systems and policy. Another one has to do with supporting quality of the environment, so that the air we breathe, the food we eat doesn't kill us. That's kind of important, I like that one!


Simple. No problem. But in the top seven, one that I was absolutely delighted to see, because of my own personal biases (and I kept testing it because I didn't want to keep it on their because I like it, I wanted to make sure that it was true) was support for recreation arts and culture. We have to begin to value that and pay for that and not necessarily expect that it makes money, right, because it needs to help and improve the quality of life. Now one of the reasons I believe that this is happening isn't because we've suddenly become more sophisticated, it's because more and more in this province in particular, the influence of aboriginal people is being accepted. And they don't, nor should they ever, consider anything in economic development, or community development without looking at their culture, without looking at their future, their group, their music, their stories, their dance, the way they are, the language, etc. And so, when I started to see this appear in primarily white communities I was very very pleased because it's usually said that this recreation, and the arts and the social thing, yah, yah, I'll pay for that I guess. But people are starting to recognize that as important. So back to that little town that's half agriculture and half arts - it becomes a very interesting study area. But it is critical, and how we, this is this big we, everybody, do our work, and I think it has to involve more music, more storytelling, more theatre, more demonstrating how can we say we're about healthy anything if all we do is sit around drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and don't go outside for a breath of fresh air and haven't a clue when our kids birthdays are.



If we don't walk the talk then we have to give up the reins. I'm noticing a real shift with my colleagues, and over the past five years, and I think because many of them have become grandparents. You know, we may have spent too much time on the road for the higher good, when our children were little. But we seem to be getting called home in a big hurry because of these grandbabies that are being born. I'm delighted with that, and I don't think that it's just because of grandbabies. I know that when I take my grandson's hand, I really, really want to be able to take him to a play or to a drumming workshop or things like that that I recall as a child that I seemed to have missed somewhere in the middle when my kids were growing up. And I think that's what's going to bring us closer. And all of that is to say that I believe, you cannot do this work unless you're of it, you know, it has to be all you, it can't be something you do at someone or with a community and you're not there. So I really really believe that the arts, music, culture, resonate for many of us, because we're looking for a better pace in our lives, a better quality in our lives, more connection to community. And nothing brings a community closer together than doing a show.

My next question was going to be, and we've begun to address this really, is what is it that sustains you in your work?

I guess belief is one of the things. I believe that this is right and I believe that what we do matters. What sustains me? I never really think about it because it's not a job, it's not my work, it's … incidentally, I am not a workaholic, I never have been particularly. I've worked harder some years than other years, but it is of me. I do it, whatever it is, because that's who I am. So what sustains me then has to be everything that makes me as a person happy, which is my quality of life, what I eat, where I sleep, the relationships that I'm in, what brings me pleasure, what angers me. Interestingly enough the same things anger me now that did thirty years ago. My son said something, oh, he was in high school at the time, this was about ten years ago. And he was starting to realize through his school that the world was not a crooked place. Now he knew that anyway because he lived in our house, and had dinner at our table. But, he came home one day, and you know, he's not a cheeky boy, but he said, you know, mom, you guys dropped the ball. I said, which guys? And he said all you folks, did you back off, or what? Things are still screwed up, why aren't you organizing? And you know he was right, at that time we weren't organizing, we were trying to change policy from the inside. We weren't as angry, we weren't as active. And what I'm seeing is a complete resurgence of the energy. The way that I know that is that in the last three years there's been a total increase in the number of people and organizations, community groups, training sessions, government departments, where one of the things they want to learn how to do is how do you lobby? How do we become effective advocates? And so the word advocacy is appearing now. It gives my heart comfort. What sustains me is the thought that maybe, what goes around comes around and what we're going to be producing in this next generation and in myself and in this next decade are really good appropriate advocates. That sustains me, because I don't think we've ever done it properly. I don't think we've ever done it well.

What's it going to take to do that?

To do it properly, to do it well?


Well, I guess the things I started with in terms of, what do we do? We have to generate awareness and translate the environment, in a way that makes sense so that we can find common ground in order to then find solutions. Where I think perhaps, we need to quit focusing is on getting consensus, on making sure that everybody's in agreement before we do anything. This is it, I'm getting T-shirts printed that just say, Just do it! Because we've dithered around, we've pondered, we've reviewed, we've studied, we've hand held, we've integrated, we've done everything except actually get down and do it. I learned early in life that community development and social justice mix. It's people who don't agree, doing things that make sense. And I think that as long as our intentions are clear, and there is the word that I've mentioned, trying to get 5, 6, 7 things that we agree on, and move toward it. So that's what it's going to take, we have to quit obsessing about getting everybody involved or getting consensus, not that that's not a good thing in it's own place. But we're talking about reform here. And when you start reforming, you're not going to get agreement, this isn't lala land. You know? So, I think we need to work for the common good. And when we can find 3 or 4 things that we can agree to, that should do it. And, If we don't do that, I think what we'll begin to see is people lose their confidence. The young generation, the new generation, here I'm starting to talk like someone with gray hair, but it's true, they're an impatient lot, as were we. And the biggest mistake we can do is think that we're leading, we're not leading. All we have is a bit of wisdom, a few tools, and we should just pass them over there and just do what we can do with the influence we've gained over the years. So I think we need to let go of it, too.

Are there any questions that I haven't asked that I should have?

I think maybe, if I have one parting comment, it would be that, we have to invest right now, in our young people, and teach them how to be good community citizens, to be good community activists, and how to have those three sets of skills that I mentioned our company does. We have to teach that in school. That is one thing, one thing, that will change, I believe, over a long period of time and sustain. It needs to start in the school system, build confidence, outline career choices and citizenship in a way that young people are born into. We count on families, why can't we count on communities to provide that. I mean, I'm distressed that there are so few young people who are actively engaged or interested in social justice. There are many who are interested in environment. But nobody wants to be a politician. I don't blame them, nobody wants to be us, by the way, either, because they saw what our lives looked like and they said, quite frankly, I don't want to do that. We did some research, oh, five years ago, looking at 2000 young people. There were lots of things we learned about that, but in these 2000 interviews, what we discovered was that young women in high school wanted to get married and have 4 children and stay home and raise kids - a lot of them do, not all of them, but a very large number, not to say it's a trend. And we had to go quick and interview the boys and say, hey, you know, 30% of these young women over here think they're going to marry somebody, have four kids, and stay home. Who do you think is going to support them? Like, where are you with these things? And you know, almost an equal amount of the boys said, yes, that's what we want, too. That's interesting. From that might come stronger communities, but I don't know that it will change policies. Because that's kind of fifties mentality, mind your own business and stay home. I applaud people who believe that raising a family is the most important job, because it probably is. But somebody has to take the baton about changing policy on a national, provincial, national, international level. I believe that's part of the work you're trying to do. And so what we need to do, we have to hold hands, and make a commitment to it, and incidentally, p.s., pull the money out of our own pockets to do it. Until we do that, we're not communities. I don't recall there being a government grant in the seventies to protest the war in Vietnam. I don't recall anyone paying us to do that. I don't recall anybody giving us money in order to write papers and hold teach-ins. So that's what I believe, we have to be committed, and we have to put our money where our mouths are. The good news is that the baby boomers are aging and out come all sorts of resources and connections and, so my last comment is that I believe that we're on the threshold of really making a difference and we just have to remember what's important. When we're retiring, I hope we're retiring around conference tables as much as we are around golf.

Any last stories?

I have to tell about the most incredible day of my life. When I started at the university, I was taking sociology because that was the closest thing I could find to understanding people. There was this big announcement saying, we are starting a program in community development sign up and be there in the morning. I got up at 5 o'clock in the morning, rode my bike to campus, and I stood on the step because no matter how many thousands of people were going to be there, I was going to be in the group that got into this class, and the program that would eventually lead to a degree. I the end, there were 2 of us that wound up in the program. What I really wanted to understand was how do people behave in community, but what I learned, was infrastructure, freeways, how many people it takes to warrant a shopping center and how you build parks. So all those kind of infrastructure, engineering kinds of things I learned. Which have over the years served not at all, other than to know that they're important. But, I was getting discouraged and thought, well, you know, I had a baby, and a husband that was not particularly supportive toward it, he thought I should be at the farm, raising the kids and living on the farm. And I thought I should be changing the world. At any rate, so I was getting quite discouraged and I had no support and decided that what I would do was drop out of school, and go do the right thing, you know, go live the Canadian dream, be a happy mom and good wife and live on a farm. I was going to go and see my professor about it and a friend said you know, why don't you give it until the end of the week? This was a Wednesday. And I remember very clearly he said, besides, we've got this really neat day tomorrow. You know, cause there's this guy coming, we gotta go hear that thing at noon that scientist guy and then we've got the concert at night. And I said, okay, and I didn't know, it was my first year at University, and I wasn't sure. Anyway, here's the most incredible day of my life. I went the next morning to meet with my professor who said, I'm so glad that you're here because one of my friends from California is coming back and I think you would like to know this man, his name is Buckminster Fuller. Bucky, and my professor, Gerry Wright, were old friends. I didn't have a clue who Buckminster Fuller was, so I spent two hours with him. The most fascinating man I'd ever met, and of course, I'm charged at this point, I'm not telling this professor I'm quitting! What did I come by for? Oh, just to see you, thought I'd say hello. And he said, well, listen get over to the lecture hall because you're going to want to pick up David Suzuki. Bright young scientist guy, you're going to like him, Florence. He's the kind of guy that you should get to know. He's going places. So at 10 in the morning I met Buckminster Fuller. At noon I went to hear a young guy named David Suzuki talking about all the things in the world about environment. This is still the same day. And that night we went to a concert which was a benefit concert. I didn't know anything about the person who was playing, but it was, you know, pay a couple of bucks and go. And there I heard Buffy St. Marie. Buffy St. Marie was the first aboriginal performer that I had ever met who was a professional performer and she sang songs and that was it, that was the most incredible day of my life. Buckminster Fuller, David Suzuki, and Buffy St. Marie all in the same day and I never ever thought about quitting again.

Marge Piercy has a poem that ends with the line, "who could eat a day like this and not be filled up?"

Ahh, exactly, yah, I love that. Can I have that? So that was the most incredible day of my life.