Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tough Times

A wedding song we played for you,
The dance you did but scorn.
A woeful dirge we chanted, too,
But then you would not mourn.

We've all heard the quip about the similarity between weddings and funerals and how they succeed to bring people together. The same may be said about Christmas.  Christmas reignites an interest particularly in young people. Though I turned 70 years old in December and I shall shortly be officially retired from the practice of law for a full five years, I haven't completely lost touch with or excluded myself from the present.  Nor its projection upon the future. As I contemplated the destiny of my two young nieces (in their early thirties) it made me recall some details of my past.

In June of 1976 I first climbed the open staircase from 74 Mill Street in the Town of Almonte to the second floor law office of Raymond A. Jamieson, QC. The office was antique to an Olympic degree.  Mr. Jamieson began practicing law around 1921 when he graduated from Osgoode Hall. Significantly you will notice from the above composite that the women of the class are assembled together rather than alphabetically as were the men. Little did I then know at 27 years of age that subsequently in 2014 my own law practice would succeed to Ms. Evelyn Wheeler, the first female lawyer of the entire County of Lanark in the Province of Ontario. Evelyn was called to the Bar in 1982 (exactly 6 years after I had done so in 1975).  Both she and I began our law careers in the Town of Almonte with Michael J. Galligan, QC who together with his partner Judge Alan D. Sheffield themselves succeeded to the practice of R. A. Jamieson, QC. In 1978 when I struck out on my own I purchased the hardware and lease (but not the files) of Mr. Jamieson's practice from Galligan & Sheffield. I paid $10,000 - my first bank loan - exactly what my predecessors had paid Mr. Jamieson. It turned out that it was largely a distinction without a difference because by assuming Mr. Jamieson's old law office I effectively appeared to have taken over his entire practice.

Though initially when I plugged Mr. Jamieson's law practice upon his retirement in 1976 his legal secretary Mrs. Evelyn Barker (wife of the former Land Registrar Jack Barker) remained at the office to facilitate the transition, she was replaced by my own first assistant Mrs. Jennifer Thomson (who parenthetically 12 years later worked in Evelyn Wheeler's office before moving to an administrative post with the Corporation of the Town of Almonte; and who now resides on Jamieson Street).  Mrs. Barker was a remarkably accomplished assistant. She used only a typewriter (computers didn't even exist at that time as far as the public was concerned). The photocopier was a Gestetner.

The washroom was on the third floor - to which one ascended by yet another old wooden staircase.  When seated on the throne one could look between one's legs through a hole in the floor and see the top of Mr. Jamieson's desk in the office below. His office had a narrow storage closet which housed a multitude of old documents (Crown Patents, deeds under seal and wills) as well as a hide-a-bed.  It wasn't until I moved to my new office at 77 Little Bridge Street and was removing the old books from his bookshelf that I discovered many empty or partially empty bottles of booze stored behind the books.  Some of the contents of the bottles had gone mouldy with age.

Of even greater amusement to me was the antique heating system of Mr. Jamieson's office.  It was an oil burning stove.  The stove regularly flooded. Mrs. Barker inserted an entire roll of toilet paper into the device to absorb the overflow before reigniting the burner.

Though I ensured to retain many of the valuable artifacts of Mr. Jamieson's office I mistakenly allowed Bell Canada to collect the telephone which had been on his desk throughout his long practice.

In the photograph below of my new office you can just barely seeing the large ceiling lamp which had been in Mr. Jamieson's office. There was another identical hanging lamp which his son John Jamieson took to his cottage on Clayton Lake. The books which are shown on the shelves were from Mr. Jamieson's office. The map on the wall was of the Town of Almonte from 1893. Reputedly it was expropriated by Mr. Jamieson from the Town Hall when he had been Clerk. The two desks (large and small) were both his.  I was told that it was on the large desk that Albert T. Gale, Realtor first instructed Mr. Jamieson to "do up the writings".

Regrettably I don't have a photograph of the large Goldie & McCulloch safe which was in Mr. Jamieson's office and which Drummond Bros. (house movers) hauled out of the second floor window and carted across the street to my new office.  The story is that Mr. Fred Larose (whose daughter Jo Anne married Glenn Kerry, son of John H. Kerry, Funeral Director who had been avidly supported by Mr. Jamieson) took three days to move that ponderous safe up the stairs to Mr. Jamieson's second floor office. When I sold 77 Little Bridge Street the safe remained in that office.  Drummond Bros. had also installed steel support beams under the floorboards in the stone basement to protect the safe from collapsing.

Though my law practice in Almonte sometimes extended beyond the boundaries of the Town, for the most part I dealt only with clients and lawyers in the immediate area. The notable exception was my frequent dealings with Mrs. Cindy Edmonds (nee Metcalfe) who previously worked as legal assistant for Mr. Paul D. Courtice, Barrister &c. in the Town of Carleton Place, Ontario; and Mr. N. Alan Jones, Barrister &c. who subsequently hired Mrs. Edmonds to assist him after Mr. Courtice retired.  Jones and I were among the first to use fax machines, memory typewriters and computers in the County of Lanark.

Jones said: “When I first started out we used typewriters. Then it evolved into word processors and computers. And now we are in the age of electronic registrations. At one time you had to go to the registry office in Almonte. Now you can do easily do searches by computer. There has been an enormous amount of change.”

Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette, July 4, 2016

What started this ramble was my assertion that the future of our young people matters. I am very proud to commend the work of the people who continue to provide legal service in our immediate community. Mrs. Edmonds is likely the most senior legal assistant (echoing the competency of Mrs. Barker of Mr. Jamieson's office). I hope Mrs. Edmonds will forgive me for posting this unfavourable photograph of her (the only one I can find) but knowing as I do how comical she can be, this inadequacy will no doubt be overlooked!

I have also had the pleasure to deal first hand with Mrs. Angela Giles, Mrs. Janice Blackburn and Mrs. Jennifer Postma of Ms. Evelyn Wheeler's office.

Without question or qualification these young people have afforded our community the highest level of legal service. Given the duration of their involvement in the community one can only marvel at the corporate fortuity! As I consider the challenges which face the upcoming league of young people in our society it presents a formidable prospect.  Yet one need only recollect the humble beginnings for each one of us and the effort seems less terrifying.

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