October 10, 2005
This week, we have a story written by Art Boudreau, from Victoria, BC. Art won the 2005 Canada Post Literacy Award for Individual Achievement in British Columbia. He started work at a young age in fishing, trapping and construction. Orginally from Nova Scotia, he moved to BC about 25 years ago. Art started fishing, then worked in a warehouse. He then lived on the streets and moved to a beach. Then he went tree planting on the West Coast and the interior of BC. He moved to Nelson, built a cabin in the woods, and lived there for three years. Then he moved back to the coast and lived in a cabin on the beach. He met his wife and moved in to town. He got a job in a tree nursery that grew nine million seedlings a year. Then he had a work accident and injured his leg. He could not work, so Workers' Compensation would not pay him unless he went to school and learned to read and write. Art is happily married with a lovely wife and three lovely girls.
Art wrote a book that was launched on June 15, 2005 at Victoria READ Society, where Art is enrolled in literacy classes. See the announcement about "Elephant Mountain", here : http://www.readsociety.bc.ca/whatsnew/launch/invite.htm
I was born, in 1957, the fourth child in a family of six in Little River Harbour, Nova Scotia. My father's first language was French though English was spoken in the home in respect for my Scots born and raised mother; needless to say, learning at the French speaking public school was a challenge.
In my family, everyone pitched in; I started work at a young age setting snares and traps in the early mornings and carrying on through the woods to catch the school bus - shotgun and all - from the time I began school. Every season brought its own industry from berry picking, fishing, duck hunting to Irish mossing; I was learning about survival and life everyday but nothing about reading and writing. School was just another place to survive in and protect others at. I never made it past grade six. In truth, I shouldn't have got that far. An English kid in a largely French-speaking Nova Scotia school, and never an academic star, I was allowed to drift behind.
If you were a bit slow in learning, you were considered stupid. They'd tell you, "Go work on the fish boats." As soon as I was old enough to leave, I quit and went to work in fishing, trapping and construction - always something physical. I had no choice; I couldn't read or write. I guess I could write 'Hi, how are you' and that's about it. I coped with illiteracy the same way you muddle through in a foreign country, ask directions, and keep on asking until you arrive at your destination. Live hard - play hard was the way of my growing up years; became a defense against embarrassment. Being unable to read a menu in a restaurant, fill out forms, medical documents, having to ask what words meant, people looking at you as though you are 'less than'; these were the background colours of my world.
One of my first adventures away from the safety of the familiarity of my home territory was when I 'ran away' (or rather joined) the circus. I traveled throughout the Maritimes and saw a lot of living and learned much about human nature. I became a life long student in the study of human nature - no reading of words required! As I learned to read people and built upon my natural skills and abilities - I can take a mechanics book and if there are pictures I can deal with it; I have a mechanical mind so I can tear an engine apart and put it back together - I rambled and meandered through the next few decades, with my limited reading and writing skills, by working in labour industries. Life was never stable though.
[This story was taken with permission from the Victoria READ Society website. It is an excerpt of Art's story.]