Writing what you love

March 2019

In 1967, Alan Wade borrowed $100 from his grandmother, packed up his ’64 Austin and made the move from Welland, Ontario to Fort William for a history teaching job at Westgate Collegiate. The move wasn’t without its moments. The car broke down twice on the drive and by the first day of school after Labour Day, he had 50 cents in his pocket. When he told the bank manager at the downtown Fort William Bank of Montreal of this dilemma he got a loan with “no hassles whatsoever.” This act was a fitting introduction and welcome to a new community that Alan is happy to still call home over 50 years later.

“It’s the isolation that makes Thunder Bay so special,” Alan states. “I can’t find another community of this size that is as isolated as Thunder Bay is.” As a writer who focuses on the history of his adopted community, Alan says he finally realized that so much of what he wanted to write about was “right under my nose.” He finds the sense of place in Thunder Bay adds to its uniqueness. As someone who was always interested in archaeology, he was fascinated to know the story behind the physical objects that archaeologists in our local area uncovered on their digs. He remembers his excitement when Jon Nelson, an archaeologist with whom he worked in Upgrading at Confederation College, invited him to visit the Cummins Site. It was at this archaeology area where he picked up a taconite scraper. Holding this item in his hand encouraged Alan “to peek into the lives of the group as a whole who had made tools such as this one.”

His growing interest led him to publish a book about what he calls the Prehistoric Lakeheaders. He calls it a lay person’s guide to archaeology. His book is about the “first three groups of pre-Euro Thunderbayans- the Stone Tool, Copper Tool, and Pot Maker Lakeheaders- and what they have revealed to us about their lives through their “left behinds.”

Alan Wade calls putting this book together over the past two years a labour of love. He wrote more than six hours every day over those two years. When he held the published book in his hands he said the feeling was hard to describe. He says, “After all, I had prepared my first manuscript of a book in 1973 and here I was, at 74 years old, finally contributing something in print that I produced!” Wade has published his work through Amazon, so he says that the book will always be available as an e-book or in hard copy. The world of publishing is very different from what it was way back in 1973.

Leaving some kind of legacy is important to Alan Wade. He feels that producing something in print is humbling because he realizes that his words will outlast him. He talks of a visit with Louise Thomas, widow of Ahnisnabae artist Roy Thomas, who sells Roy’s work at the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery. She tells Alan that continuing to share Roy’s work is important to her in honouring his memory and his artistry. Alan’s wife, Jo-Anne, whom he married in 1988 after meeting at a dance, comes from the same community as Roy Thomas, Long Lake #58 First Nation. Alan believes that Thomas’ work, including the mural, “The Relatives” on the outside wall of the Thunder Bay Shelter House, provides an important lesson for our community today. “It reminds us that we need to help everyone to live harmoniously together”, Alan says.

Alan knows that this book won’t be his last. There are more stories to tell of our past and Alan Wade is up to the task one word, one page, and one year at a time.

Nancy Angus is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Bayview. Contact her at nangus@shaw.ca

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