Norm Thomas and Jim Blake were having lunch one day at the Dominion Hotel. They aren’t entirely sure who had joined them, but both agreed Patrick Walshe was in attendance.
Blake said they were talking about things going on in the community and, “Norm, as he does, was telling a story about something that went on in his life, which was salient to our conversation. And Patrick said ‘oh my goodness, Norm, you should really be getting these stories down. Have you ever thought about writing a book?’ and Norm said ‘well, I’ve thought about it, but that’s a lot of work’. And I piped in and said, ‘hey, Norm, I’ll help you with that if you want’. Five years later, here we are.”
The two launched And Then a Door Opened at Castle Antiques Aug. 7.
Thomas said the question was “how do you talk about 90 years in a book?” He said he suggested going by decades; the dirty 30s, the fighting 40s, the fabulous 50s, the scintillating 60s, the sloppy 70s and so on.
Blake wasn’t convinced. So, Thomas suggested using social events. But, again, Blake wanted to know more about Thomas’ story. Thomas thought they could work his story around the decades and social events.
They started but Thomas conceded it was hit and miss. He said Blake finally just said, “stick to the story, tell your story, and I’ll work in the rest.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
The memoir weaves through 90 years of family, social change, the United Church, and community action.
In introducing the event, Carolynn Coburn recalled how Thomas came to the community as an interim minister of the United Church Pastoral Charge of Minden, Carnarvon and Maple Lake in 2003. He encouraged the formation of the ongoing outreach committee. He was also an integral part of a group known as Permafrost, that fought a provincial government decision to close the Frost Centre in 2004. Thomas was also involved with the children’s water festival, Friends of Ecological and Environmental Learning, and toastmasters.
While she didn’t have time to talk about everything he had done, Coburn said it was a “flavour of just how involved Norm has gotten in our community.”
She said he had an insatiable curiosity, was a storyteller with an amazing memory, is a fast friend, and cares deeply about his families and friends, sharing their successes and disappointments.
Coburn met Blake around 1997 when the women’s shelter closed for lack of sustainable funding. That led to the formation of the Haliburton Community Co-operative, which she described as “a significant player in community development in the County.” He is also involved in U-Links Centre for CommunityBased Research, Dance Happens Here, and the new sports hall of fame. He’s an artist, a consultant to the Haliburton County Development Corporation, curator of the sculpture forest, a part-time faculty member at the college, a facilitator and more.
“So, you see, I’m pretty fond of these two community members’ par excellence,” Coburn said.