They're the people you might pass by every day . You see them in the grocery store, at the coffee shop, in church and at local events. You may be able to call them by name, but you don't much about them. They all have a story. SaltWire reporters from across Atlantic Canada decided to seek out these ordinary people, have a conversation and tell their stories — in 300 words. Welcome to 2 Minutes With, stories of the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.
Life with some high notes
He’s been playing guitar every day for years.
Should be learning faster, he laughs, as he picks up the instrument and lays it across his lap.
In a room cluttered with musical instruments sound flows as Phil DeMille’s fingers drift.
Wood worn in places; evidence of use.
It’s not his instrument of choice, however.
Phil DeMille at his home in Yarmouth County, N.S. ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
That would be the harmonica, which his father played superbly.
Although it’s not from his dad that DeMille learned to play it.
Not that his father didn’t influence him musically. He did. So did his mother, an Irish girl and a great singer.
His parents met while his father was stationed in England during the war. DeMille was born overseas in 1946 and raised on a Yarmouth County farm.
He didn’t make a career of music – he chose to be an educator instead – but music has been the backdrop of his life.
He thinks back to when he was a kid; relatives would come from the States for family get-togethers. Struck by all these adults gathered around the piano having fun, he wanted to be part of it.
As a teen, he was inspired by the Beatles.
Phil DeMille has played various instruments over the years, the harmonica being his main one. ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
Formed a band in 1971. Hourglass; still playing local gigs. He’s the only original member.
But it’s not just rock and roll.
St. Patrick’s Day weekend he did three Irish gigs.
Then there’s the annual summertime Coal Shed Music Festival in Yarmouth. He got it started.
At home, DeMille listens mostly to stuff from the 60s. The satellite radio playing almost constantly in the background.
He’s come a long way, from one of his earliest shows.
“I think we paid $25 for the use of the facility. It cost us something like $11 to play. But hey, that was a start. You don’t play music to make money anyway.”
Finding purpose in a familiar place
She’s spent a lot of time in hospitals.
She worked in two of them for roughly 30 years.
These days Amelia Anderson is a volunteer.
Once every two weeks she spends a few hours behind the counter at the hospital auxiliary gift shop in the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre.
Amelia Anderson volunteers at the gift shop at the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre a couple times a month as a means of keeping active – physically and socially. PAUL HERRIDGE PHOTO
“Can I have one of those Reese’s Pieces, too, dear?”
Another customer ready to make a purchase.
The cash register spews out a series of snappy beeps as Amelia’s fingers quickly punch in the numbers.
A squelching mechanical sound as the drawer pops open.
“Fifty, sixty, sixty-five.” Amelia counts out the change.
She retired 16 years ago.
In one corner of the tiny room, a cane dangles from the back of a chair, next to the counter.
Arthritis runs in her family – her father, most of her siblings, her son.
The cane helps her keep her balance.
Amelia has spent some involuntary time in hospitals, too.
Two years ago, she had a hip replaced. Before that, both of her knees were repaired.
Amelia Anderson. PAUL HERRIDGE PHOTO
“I didn’t find the surgery difficult but the (rehab) was hard. The knee is a lot worse than the hip to get done.”
Symptoms began attacking her neck 25 years ago.
“I can’t turn my neck any more than that, right,” she says, adjusting her head to one side ever so slightly.
Amelia started volunteering at the gift shop not long after she finished working.
When it’s quiet, she reads a book.
That’s not why she’s here, though.
She didn’t miss her job as an EKG technician. But she did miss the social interaction.
“You need something to do when you retire. You got to keep busy,” Amelia says.
Are you still working here now?” another customer asks.
“No, I’m just a volunteer.”
She wants to be here.
Reasons to be happy
- Tina Clyke comes from an extended family of hundreds – but she’s one of a kind
Tina Clyke smiles.
There’s a reason for that.
It comes from knowing family members are healthy and an appreciation of life’s simple pleasures.
Clyke is a familiar face at Prince Street Sobeys in Truro, greeting customers at the checkout with the cheery smile is her trademark.
Tina Clyke is a friendly face for customers at the Sobeys on Prince Street, greeting them with her trademark smile. FRAM DINSHAW PHOTO
“Definitely, my family,” said Clyke of what’s behind that brilliant smile. “I have no worries, no problems, going home every day I have food in my fridge. I have a place to live.”
Clyke started at Sobeys 14 years ago; a cousin helped her land the job.
Outside Sobeys, Clyke enjoys spending time with family in Truro, who number in the hundreds.
Her father was among 18 siblings, nearly all of whom had children. While some aunts and uncles had up to 12 kids, Clyke’s immediate family was small – just her, a brother and a sister.
At a recent baby shower, Clyke met 10 of her cousins; she has five nieces and nephews – and the same number of great-nieces and nephews.
However, she has no husband or children of her own, quipping, “I’m not ready for that.”
Indeed, Clyke feels she has plenty to be grateful for, between her job and her family, as well as the little things in life.
Working at Sobeys, she sees people in the store every day who do not have her good fortune.
“They don’t have food,” she said. “They don’t have their health. They don’t have a place to live.”
Clyke is also supporting a friend of hers who was recently diagnosed with ALS, but this again teaches her about gratitude.
“She has a great outlook on life,” said Clyke. “How can anyone be sad, when you have someone you know that is still living life to the fullest? It’s just amazing how well she is doing.”
Secrets of a TV Bingo caller
TV bingo caller Lance Smith is sitting on a secret.
Looney Tunes devils - Dizzy and Taz - tattooed where the sun don’t shine.
It seemed funny at 20.
Bingo caller Lance Smith was, as he says, “scared to death” to make a mistake during his first TV bingo appearance. Back then, viewers could see the caller. When the production changed to a one-camera operation managed by two people, the decision was made to have that camera solely focused on the caller’s hand. The tire builder makes sure the star of the show is camera ready every other Wednesday night. ASHLEY THOMPSON PHOTO
Thirty years later, this revelation causes fellow Mid-Annapolis Valley Kinsmen Club volunteer Brian Bent to erupt with laughter during a brief verification break in the weekly broadcast.
Luckily, the time for chit-chat is limited.
One winner for that game. Back to business.
The phone rings midway into the hour-long broadcast. Bent answers. Another winner – and a message for Smith.
“She said, ‘stop your laughing,’” Bent relays through a glass partition separating them in the seldom-used Eastlink studio in Aylesford, where they meet every other Wednesday at 5:40 p.m.
This banter merely draws another boisterous belly laugh and retort from Smith.
“Life is too serious.”
For 13 years, the Michelin tire builder has volunteered with the Kinsmen in between shift work and family time.
Mid-Annapolis Valley Kinsmen TV bingo caller Lance Smith and technician Brian Bent share some laughs before the weekly broadcast gets underway from the Eastlink studio in Aylesford, Nova Scotia. ASHLEY THOMPSON PHOTO
Because the father of five needs the laughs.
Kinsmen fellowship was first shown to him when his mother died. He took six to eight weeks off work to go back home to Alberta. A $300 cheque from the Kinsmen, to help with bills, when he returned.
The Kinsmen have been there in death and divorces.
“I met all of these guys and I had such a good time that I just kept coming back.”
So the tattooed, heavy-metal headbanger with a goatee that can tickle his chest and a soft spot for Sweet Caroline – ba, ba, ba! – calls bingo.
He likes helping others, and dreams of calling the winning number when a major jackpot is won someday.
If that day comes, he’ll have a message for the winner:
“I like Bud Light,” he joked, freeing the laugh that gets him in trouble every other Wednesday night.
Offering up his 10 cents’ worth
A dime doesn’t buy much, if anything, anymore.
But it can get you the latest work from the unofficial poet laureate of a small town in Nova Scotia.
Russell Welsh hits downtown Antigonish often — in all kinds of weather — on foot or pedalling his three-wheeled Schwinn bicycle, selling his 10-cent (price negotiable) poems.
His literary journey began almost 30 years ago. There have been many highlights. He’s more than $20,000 for the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia through the sale of bookmarks adorned with his words.
Russell Welsh writes while having his morning coffee at the Tall and Small Café in downtown Antigonish. COREY LEBLANC PHOTO
Where does he get the ideas, the inspiration?
“Off the top of my head,” he chuckles.
“I just sit down, start with one word and go from there.”
Simple tools; paper and pen.
A recent piece about Debbie Harry, lead singer of the 1970s band Blondie, is a perfect example of his eclectic material.
“There are an awful lot of subjects that I can breach upon,” he said, a sense of wonderment in his voice with that opportunity.
The White-Tailed Deer, one of his earlier poems, remains his favourite.
“That will always be my best poem,” he said.
His literary works also includes 200 mini stories. He dubs them “Canadian science-fiction horror comedies.”
Russell Welsh is a familiar face in downtown Antigonish. COREY LEBLANC PHOTO
“The idea is to take the edge off horror – to make it too ridiculous to believe, yet somehow frightening,” he explains.
Welsh recently reached a milestone – more than 101,000 “art pieces’ sold.”
“I am really proud of it.”
The money made – “peanuts”. The greater, more important, value is sharing his work.
“It is about getting the art out there.”
He is “happy and thankful” for the support he has received from family, including his mother, brother and two sisters, along with the people of Antigonish.
The wordsmith uses simple, yet powerful, words to express his gratitude.
Read Part 1: 2-minute reads - Part 1
Read Part 2: 2-minute reads - Part 2