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Who Am I?

Bob Drummond

I was born in Toronto on February 21st, 1929, the 3rd child of Harold and Vera Drummond (nee Gray)

In the early 1920’s my father was playing a guitar and singing in a band that played on the radio on Saturday nights. My mother came from a strict Methodist family and when they found out what my father did for a living, they proceeded to break up the relationship for a while, but the young people persisted. This prompted the family to find my father a “real” job by creating a small company of his own.  They were then able to marry.

Vera and Harold had their first child, Lorne, in 1926, their second child, Anne, in 1927, and finally their third, myself in 1929.  After each childbirth, my mother suffered from what was described as blood poisoning, there being no such thing as penicillin in those days. Five weeks after I was born my mother died of this affliction.

My brother and sister went to live with different relatives and I was moved from home to home during the next 3 years. (I learned in later years that the first 2-3 years of one’s life are the formative years so I now understand why I ended up somewhat nutty).

When I was 3 years old, my father had joined the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company as a salesman of rubber soles and heels, selling to shoe repair shops and he was able to bring the family together again with a house keeper to assist in looking after this young family.

When I was five years old, my father remarried.  My stepmother was Edith May Drummond (nee Simons) and she took on the formidable task of raising 3 young children while my father travelled from Monday to Friday selling Goodyear Tires throughout the Owen Sound area, returning to Toronto each Friday night. We had moved into a semi-detached home in the Coxwell-Danforth district which at that time was a some-what tough neighbourhood so I began my school years learning how to fight at an early age.

I also took to sports at a young age. I played road hockey virtually every day from October to April playing against different streets in the area. Because of this, I never really learned to skate properly as my playing surface was mostly the streets. I did play school softball though, and my position was the pitcher. I remember we did very well in the area but did not go far in City championships. At the same time I was learning the game of soccer at school. In my 8th grade at Earl Beatty Public School we won the City of Toronto championship for my age group which was about 12 years of age. 

I then moved on to high school where I attended Riverdale Collegiate Institute which was located in the Gerard-Pape Avenue area. You had to keep you head up and your eyes open in this school in order to get by without being clobbered for almost anything.  But we were good at football.  When I was in my 3rd Form (grade 11 now, I think) I played on the Junior team that won the City of Toronto Championship. In between sporting activities all these years I managed to pass and to progress ahead each year. This was considered a “must” in our household.

When I was 16, we moved to the west end of Toronto and I attended Humberside Collegiate Institute. I played on the Senior team two years in a row and we went to the City Championship game both years and lost both years to my old school, Riverdale. I managed to pass each year and graduated from High School in 1947. When I moved from the east end of Toronto to the west end, I could not get over how different my schoolmates were. Where in the east end everyone tried to be a tough guy, in the west end everyone seemed to want to have fun.  I took to this like a duck to water and I still have friends today from my old Humberside days.

When my school days ended, I began an electrical apprenticeship with a firm called Black & McDonald Ltd.  After 3 years and at least a year before I received my license to practice in Ontario, I was driving a service truck and servicing downtown buildings.  I did obtain my licence and continued to perform electrical service work throughout the city of Toronto.

In 1951 at age 22 I married Joan Ennis, my girlfriend from high school, and we had our first child two years later. After the birth of our second boy in 1955 I disagreed with the manner that the Electrical Union was performing and asked John McDonald, the President, to

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find me a position in the office. He did so and I spent the next 4 years learning all I could about business. We also had two more children during this period.

In 1959, Black & McDonald decided to open an office in Montreal. Without consulting with my wife, I asked for the position of District Manager and I was accepted for the position. Within two months I was away to Montreal. This put a strain on the marriage but to my wife’s credit, she did not complain. The family moved to Roxboro, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal which was predominantly English-speaking. By 1962, I had been named Vice-President for Eastern Canada.

Although I was heavily engaged in my work, I did find time for sports.  I took up the game of curling with a vengeance and curled competitively whenever possible with a very good team curling out of the Glenmore Curling Club.  By 1965, I had built a winter place in Vermont and was taking my family skiing each week-end.  My curling team replaced me and went to the Briar Championship representing Quebec that year.  That,   gentlemen, is very humbling.

By 1969, things were becoming somewhat unsettled in Quebec with mail boxes being bombed, etc. And so, I asked for a transfer and the firm posted me to Kitchener-Waterloo. I enjoyed my stay here with its special perks such as a membership in the Westmount Golf Club but my relationship with my wife was breaking down.  In 1974, I left my wife and family as well as Black & McDonald Ltd. and opened a small business organization in Toronto comprised of a car rental company and an upholstery supply company.  And then, in 1975, I met the love of my life, Bev Abbey. 

I met this divorced mother of 3 young children at a trailer park at Musselman’s Lake, about 20 minutes out of Toronto, and my life changed forever.  She was the kindest, most loving person I had ever met and I could not believe that I deserved this wonderful person.  After dating for 6 months, I moved in with her and her children.  I was still in the car rental business at that time and I did not own a car, as I had about 30 cars and some trucks at my disposal.  It was not until many months later that we realized the neighbours must have been chuckling, thinking Bev had a different man each night because there was a different car there each night – sometimes they thought she probably caught a trucker if I happened to bring a truck home.

In the Fall of 1979 I asked Bev to fly with me to Vancouver to the wedding of my nephew.  While there, we drove throughout B.C. and Alberta and loved the country.  We decided to move to B.C. as soon as it could be arranged. Some friends of mine owned a firm called Acme Sign Supplies and offered me the job of opening and operating a branch in Vancouver. Within six months we had sold or closed our businesses (Bev was a practising psychotherapist) and sold the house and we purchased a home in West Vancouver in the Spring of 1978 for $ 89,000.00 overlooking the ocean. Acme was a wholesale supply house to the electrical sign manufacturers and I covered BC and Alberta from this office.  In a short time, Acme Sign Supplies was the second largest business of its kind in western Canada.

In 1983, Bev and I married in a quiet ceremony in a hotel in Vancouver with 26 family and friends in attendance.  Bev’s daughter, Denise, was her Bridesmaid,  and my youngest son, Paul, was my Best Man. This was the happiest day of my life.  We went to Mazatlan, Mexico for a honeymoon and we continued going to Maz for the next 24 consecutive years. From the winter of 1989, we would fly there for the winter and from 1994 onward we drove to Mazatlan each year for our 4 month stay.

In 1989, at the age of 60, I retired from business.  My father had retired at age 61 and lived a few short years until he was 67.  I always thought that had he retired at the normal age of 65, he would have had only 2 years of retirement living. It didn’t seem right to me to work all your life for a few years off in retirement so I planned to retire at 55 but found we couldn’t afford to until I was 60.

After I retired in 1989, I took on the role of Executive Director of the newly-formed Electrical Sign Association of B.C.  As I had been a supplier to the sign manufacturing companies rather than a competitor, I was able to recruit members from throughout the province. I handled this small job for about 3 years after retirement.

By this time I was deeply involved with politics having joined the Reform Party of Canada shortly after its founding in 1987. In 1996,  I was elected President of the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast Electoral District for the Reform Party and in 2000 for the Canadian Alliance Party, which was the forerunner of the Conservative Party of Canada. Politics remains a very meaningful part of my life today.

In the early 2000’s, I began performing with a seniors group in Vancouver called Seniors Acting Up.  We would travel to senior residences and care centres where we would sing Broadway songs and tell risqué jokes. We were well-liked as we were different from the usual choir singers.  I would also play my baritone ukelele and sing songs such as “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” and “Music for a Colonoscopy” with this group.

I also began a small musical group called “Just Us” and we played in a community centre each Friday afternoon.  It began with 3 of us and when I left B.C. in October 2010, they had a farewell party for me and there were 16 musicians playing and 65 in the audience singing and dancing. Music had become a big part of my life.

Bev and I enjoyed travelling. Almost from the time we met we started to travel to different corners of the world.  We travelled to the Caribbean, to almost every country in Europe, and to Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan in Asia.  We travelled extensively throughout Canada and the United States and Mexico.

As stated previously, we wintered in Mazatlan, Mexico for 24 years. Needless to say, we had many friends there which made our winter vacation very enjoyable.  By a strange set of circumstances which I will not go into here, I found myself in 2006, at age 77,  doing a 25 minute comedy routine once a month in a night club called “Canucks”  operated by a Winnipegger for an audience of Canadian-American holiday-ers who were mostly seniors. Starting a new career at this age, alone on a stage in front of 200-250 drinkers, was very exciting and I soon lost all fear of performing in front of an audience.                                                                                              

I would like to interject a short, related story here. In 1993, I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer and underwent an operation to have my prostate removed. When I was returned to my room in the hospital, I stopped breathing and Bev ran to get help.  Needless to say I survived and Bev told me about this the next day. Upon hearing what happened, I immediately thought of a song written by Kris Kristopherson “Lovin’ Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”.  It became our love song and I sang it to Bev many times over the years.

Now why did I tell you that story ?  My comedy routines were made up of funny songs and risqué jokes.  Bev asked me why I never sang a serious song.  I replied that the audience was more inclined to funny songs, but to surprise her, at the conclusion of one of my routines, I told the audience the story of my cancer and began to sing this love song.  I had just done a 20-25 minute routine without a word on a piece of paper – strictly from memory – when I came to the 3rd line of my love song to my wife – and forgot the words. The place went very quiet while I struggled to remember, then I asked Bev to come up on the stage and help me.  She did and the words immediately came back to me.  We returned to Maz in November 2006 to March 2007 and I performed once a month as I had done the year before.                                                                                           

On October 3rd, 2007 my lovely wife, Bev, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which quickly spread to her lungs. On November 29th, 2007 this wonderful lady died of this terrible disease and I still miss her as much today as I did 4 years ago.

In the Spring of 2010 I made the most difficult decision I have made in my life – to move away from the wonderful North Shore of Vancouver where I had lived for 32years, where I had many, many friends, and where I belonged to many organizations, including the Probus Club of the North Shore. Why did I chose to relocate to the Kitchener/Waterloo area?  I have 5 children or step-children and 9 grandchildren in southwestern Ontario, while 2 stepchildren and 3 grandchildren remain in B.C. but they are on Vancouver Island. In November 2010, I moved into the Bauer Loft Condo building on King Street in Waterloo.

Since coming to Ontario, I wanted to continue being as busy as possible to reduce the loneliness that I am prone to feel since being on my own.  I have joined this Probus Club as well as the Confederation Club of Kitchener/Waterloo.  I convinced a couple of other musical acquaintances to meet for a jammin’ session at the 404 Wing Legion Hall in Waterloo which has grown to include 15-20 musicians as well as a small audience each Wednesday evening.  I again call this group “Just Us”.  From this group, I asked 3 others to join me in a small group called “Just a Few of Us”.  We visit retirement homes and care centers and sing old songs from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s while encouraging the audience to sing along with us.  It gives me a great deal of pleasure to see the enjoyment the residents get from these sing-a-longs.

We were at a retirement home last week when a little old lady came running into the common room lifting her skirt and shouting “Super Sex. Super sex.  Super sex”.  She stopped in front of an elderly man sitting at a table and again said “Super sex”.  He thought about this for a second and replied, “I’ll take the soup”.

That, gentlemen, has taken you through my life from the womb but not quite to the tomb. At 83 years of age, I do not know how long I have to go, but I will keep singing and laughing as long as possible.  Last week I went to my doctor and asked him to lower my sex drive. He said, “At 83 don’t you think your sex drive is all in your head”.  I replied, “You’re damn right it is. That’s why I want it lowered”.

Gentlemen, it has been a pleasure to address you this morning. I hope to get to know you all better in the years to come.

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