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Conversation with Lynn Johnston Part II

My notes on Lynn’s final “chalk talk” at the Library of Congress were too long for one post.  This is Part Two.  I will point out the highlights and the time markings in case you want to see them and then add my comments, where appropriate after the cut.

31:14

Lynn talks about doing cartoons for her doctor when she was pregnant.  By the time Aaron was born she had done 80 drawings, which is frankly, more than the number of times a woman visits her obstetrician when she is pregnant.  It implies a certain obsession, so there is probably a little more to this story than Lynn tells.

32:15

Lynn draws another picture of hairy Doug except with many circles under his eyes because he drank so much.  She redoes the drawing because she says she needs to enjoy this.  She talks about how Doug did the “What do you do all day?” lines she has previously given John / Rod for when he comes home and finds the baby has taken all the mother's time.

33:15

Lynn draws a picture of herself as a “waif of a kid who did not stand up for herself.”  It doesn’t look like her or Elly.

33:23

Lynn tells the story about how Doug married a voluptuous script assistant at the TV studio with her massive boobs.

“I wish the four of them would live happily ever after.”

33:46

Lynn launches into a story about meeting a doctor from McMaster up in Whitehorse, because they were there to visit some musical friends of her partner.

My comment: Interesting that they were not in Whitehorse because her partner was performing there.  Paul Lucas gets no mention by name in this lecture.

34:16

Lynn talks about Dr. Dave, the only surgeon in Whitehorse.  She then proceeds to tell two outrageous stories that are typical of Lynn Johnston when she is just making stuff up.   One is about dismemberment.  The other is about having implants removed and that relates back to Doug’s wife.

My comment: As you might expect, Dr. Dave is not the only surgeon in Whitehorse.  However, they have had staffing issues.  My source:

https://whatsupyukon.com/family-learning/Yukon-families/check-ups-for-stuffed-noses-and-arms-legs-and-bellies/

Dr. David Storey surgeon at Whitehorse General Hospital

https://www.yukon-news.com/news/whitehorse-general-hospital-is-in-crisis/

I started practice in the Yukon in 1974, at which time we had over 100 hospital beds. We had a psychiatric ward as well as medical and surgical wards and a pediatrics ward. We had two full-time orderlies. At any given time we had the two general surgeons working, as we do now.

35:06

Lynn mentions that her partner has lost part of his middle finger and she shows her right hand.  It took a while for me to confirm this because it appears Paul Lucas is short on the middle finger of his left hand and not his right.  I found this video, but because it is from Facebook, I don’t know if it will show here.   You can see he has a stumpy middle finger on his left hand.

https://www.facebook.com/marieedithlu/videos/10157800073899951/?t=8

35:40

Lynn says Doug left her for Rose, the lovely, voluptuous script assistant

My comment: This is sort of a new story.  Lynn has never mentioned the name of Doug’s wife before or her profession. Script assistant is a problem though.  The definition:

http://getinmedia.com/careers/assistant-script-supervisor

The assistant script supervisor (script assistant) will not oversee filming but shall work under the direction of the script supervisor to complete numerous related tasks during production.

This job seems to be more for film and TV show work and not for TV news that Doug did in Hamilton.   We know from IMDB that Doug Franks did some TV and movie work after he moved to Vancouver, but I have checked each item in IMDB and I cannot find a single Rose who worked on those same productions.  For that matter, I can’t find a single Rose in IMDB listed for script or camera work.  I do understand from my brother-in-law that IMDB generally only includes what you (or your people) put on it yourself, so it could very well be incomplete for a cameraman working in Vancouver on TV shows in the 1980s.

Lynn made the claim in The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston that Doug had left her for a specific person (in contrast to other alternate claims that he left her because he didn’t want to be a father (10th anniversary) or he left her because he had multiple girlfriends (Tom Heintjes’ interview and several Lynn’s Notes)).   While I can believe that Doug may have left Lynn and married Rose, we may be seeing Lynnglish at work when Lynn talks about him leaving her for Rose.

Lynn has told us previously that Doug left her everything he couldn’t get on his motorcycle as he went straight back to Vancouver.  Unless Rose was in Hamilton and agreed to move with him to Vancouver, the more likely possibility is that Doug met Rose in Vancouver when she was doing script assistant work on some TV show or movie production where the profession would be more appropriate.

35:45

Lynn talks about how she got a call from her doctor, Murray (Enkin), and then her usual story about how he said, “Kid, you got a book.”

36:29

After setting up this event as all post-Doug, Lynn throws me off with this story:  While Lynn has often maintained that she was not married to Doug when she produced “David, We’re Pregnant”, she inadvertently spills that the title father, David, was chosen because Lynn did not like the name of “Doug” her husband.

36:36

Lynn thanks the United States for seeing her potential when her publisher in Minneapolis sent her 3 little books out (to the syndicate).   Not the publisher.  The United States.  Yes, Library of Congress audience, that little bit was for you.

37:05

Lynn drops the 20-year contract lie for the first time and then repeats it several times, while also criticizing the syndicate for expecting her to sign it without the help of a lawyer.

37:15

Lynn says:  “In the meantime, I had met my second husband.”

37:33

Lynn retells the old “The first time she met Rod was at the airport while carrying baby Aaron in her backpack” story and places it chronologically after she published her 3 books and after she got her “20-year contract”.

38:36

Lynn say she married Rod Johnston who was in dental school.  She talks about Rod’s wish to work in arctic villages doing dental work.  Lynn talks about giving up her life in Hamilton to follow Rod.

My comment: Not to rehash this point too much, but Lynn’s first post-Doug date with Rod Johnston would have been in the second year of his getting his Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster that he needed in order to enter dental school  However, he was in his first year of dental school when Lynn and Rod married.

39:51

Lynn sets getting the 20-year contract in the mail to be a time after Rod graduated from dental school.  She tells her usual story about sending 20 comic strips as an audition.

41:00

We get a new story.  Rod’s original plan for doing dental work was to live on a train when he wasn’t flying his plane.   Lynn says she insisted on living in a house.

My comment: A train?  How would that work?

Lynn describes Lynn Lake as “as far north as you can drive in Manitoba.”    North of 56.  Temperature would go down to 50 below in the winter.  There were 800 people in the town.

My comment: I don’t expect Lynn to be accurate here.  She is trying to make a point about the town being small.  However, when Lynn was there in 1978, the population was about 3000 people.

https://winnspace.uwinnipeg.ca/bitstream/handle/10680/970/155-1988-Walker-LynnLakeandNWManitoba-WEB.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

From 1951 through to the mid-1960s the town expanded and peaked at a population of about 3,000 in 1975; since then the decline has been rapid. The town has lost over half of its population in a very short period. The reason for the establishment of Lynn Lake was the existing ore body and not much has changed in the past forty years. The original mine was replaced by a second, Fox Lake, in 1961, and for the next 25 years it provided the focus of activity for Sherritt Gordon Mines. It experienced a rapid decline from 1983 and was finally closed, December, 1985.

42:09

Lynn says it took her about 6 months before she was “Get me out of here!”  She begins to refer to Lynn Lake as “arctic”.  Subarctic is correct.

42:21

Lynn tells the story about the terrible woman (Lena) at the grocery store till whom Lynn badmouths after she leaves the store only to have the woman call her up and tell her the criticism got back to her.  I don’t know any Lena from before.  The only other Lena in Lynn’s stories is the real estate agent who found Lynn her property in Corbeil.

43:00

An edit cut occurs in the middle of the story as if someone decided there was a part of this story that did not need to be in the library of congress video.  It occurs just as Lynn gets to the point of badmouthing Lena, so it really makes me wonder what Lynn said about her that was so terrible.

43:22

Lynn does her standard “Lynn Lake land of adulterers” comment.  Lynn repeats her usual line about “steal a man’s wife, but don’t touch his woodpile.”

43:35

Lynn draws a picture of Rod / John and talks about how you can see her hands shake and that’s why she doesn’t draw the strip anymore.  Unfortunately for Lynn, I can see her hands really well and I don’t see any shaking in her hands or in her artwork.  The lines are very clean and precise.

She then draws a picture of herself and Aaron.   Aaron is basically new-run Michael.  She draws him twice, but the second picture is essentially the same as the first.  The drawing of her however, is nothing like Elly.  She has a rounded face and the hair is cut short.

44:19

Lynn talks about how Aaron was 5 and led a Grade 1 walk-out in school which was turned into a play by the Lynn Lake teachers.   I think I had heard this story before, but I cannot find the reference.

45:28

Lynn talks about how they had dinner parties in Lynn Lake where you had to make something you never made before.  It sounds intriguing until Lynn drops the line about how you couldn’t look on-line for something as one of the rules.  Sorry, Lynn.  Back in 1979, there was no on-line.  I thought the story sounded suspicious.

Lynn realizes she has made an error and she says they would look in the Lynn Lake Library which had about 11 books.

My comment: I expect the people currently working at the Lynn Lake Centennial Library would disagree with that characterization

45:57

Lynn Johnston says the editors specified that For Better or For Worse was going to be like Hi and Lois and Blondie and The Family Circus, only they wanted the real deal, i.e. more like a real family.

46:27

Lynn draws a picture of Katie and then says, “Oh no, that’s April” and removes the picture.

47:00

Lynn draws a picture of Elizabeth and gives her the curly hair that her daughter did not have.

47:15

Lynn talks about how Lena, the grocery store clerk worked in a grocery store that was located under the dental clinic.   I seem to remember seeing a picture of Rod’s clinic in Lynn Lake, but I cannot find it to check this.

47:44

Lynn makes the amazing claim that children in Lynn Lake would come by her house for food and clothing, particularly those kids who lived in a tent city in Lynn Lake.  Clothing was hats and scarves.  She does not point out that the tent dwellers were mainly Native families as is pointed out in this article:

https://winnspace.uwinnipeg.ca/bitstream/handle/10680/970/155-1988-Walker-LynnLakeandNWManitoba-WEB.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

For a short period in the 1970s many Native families lived in a 'tent city' on the edge of the townsite; more recently, housing researchers have spotted squatters in empty apartment buildings. This transformation puts Lynn Lake at an important moment in its transition. Any initiative to answer these housing problems is best understood in the context that as services are expanded for Native people, the more in-migration will result due to the extremely poor working conditions in their own communities. For example, the more adequate housing provided, the more likely people will move in looking for similar accommodations.

The Encyclopedia of Manitoba

- Page 436

known as the "Tent Village People,“ a group of families who lived in camps where the town of Lynn Lake now stands.

My comment:   I can find nothing to disprove this story, so good on you Lynn for doing this.

48:48

Lynn correctly identifies Aaron’s current age as 46.   She recollects that his favorite memory of Lynn Lake was Lynn’s lunches, because the other kids were envious of his food choices.

49:00

Lynn recollects Katie saying that she would switch off her lunch with a kid who made sugar sandwiches, because she preferred the sugar.  Naturally this is followed up by Katie meeting the guy in Toronto years later where he tells her that he would not have had a meal each day if it weren't for her mother.  This is a typical Lynn kind of statement and of course it is nonsense.  Katie would have only attended kindergarten in Lynn Lake, so there was no long term feeding via lunch swtiching.

49:50

Lynn talks about how Connie was going to be the nemesis who had it all, while Elly was going to be like her mother, forced into staying at home and not having a career.  Because Lynn lived in a small town she realized that nobody is all bad, nobody is all evil.

50:23

Lynn jumps to talking about monsters and gooey aliens and wondering what they do when they have some days off.   She says it is the other side which you can see if you go to a small town.

My comment: This analogy seems to be saying that in big towns you don’t get to know people, so you can easily assume they are all good or all evil; but in a small town you get to know people so you know that they are not all evil and not all good.   If this is what it took for Lynn to learn this, I am glad she learned.  I suspect most people do not have to live in a small town to learn this.

51:11

Lynn mentions it has been 40 years since she started her comic strip and she is amazed that it is still going.  Me too.

51:40

Lynn said the town closed down because the mine closed and everybody had to leave.

My comment: Oh, Lynn.  Lynn Lake has a much smaller population than it did when you lived there, but it still exists and has people in it.

51:56

Lynn compares living in Lynn Lake to working in Peru.  She mentions a Dr. Jim and talked about his psychiatric work on that trip.  Dr. Jim is apparently was there in the audience for Lynn’s talk, because she points to him.

My comment:   This is obscure, but I have the reference.

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Nine

The only mention of Dr. Jim is on Day Nine of Lynn’s travelogue to Peru for which she wrote 10 days of notes back in 2010/11

I dragged myself out of bed to discover that my voice had become a whisper. It was my turn to say the morning prayer and I happily passed the honor to Dr. Jim who eloquently filled the bill. I have no trouble with public speaking, but for some reason I find it hard to speak to God in front of an audience.

I wondered at first how our two psychiatrists would handle emotional concerns when we were there for such a short time. The answer was soon evident. Alcoholism, thoughts of suicide, spousal abuse and endless poverty were things people wanted, needed to talk about. It didn't take long for Drs. Jim and Paul to find themselves quite busy.

52:30

Lynn talks about her connection with her readers through the letters, the well-wishing, and the gifts.

53:00

Lynn talks about the Lawrence story.

Lynn says her brother-in-law is gay.

My comment: This is shocking because I thought Lynn was estranged from him for being on Team Rod in the divorce.   The last time she talked about Lawrence she did not mention Ralph.

53:19

Lynn talks about Michael Vadeboncoeur (last name not mentioned because she probably does not know it) playing Peter Pan in local productions because he was so small and feather-like.   She said he used to complain about the wedge they would fly him around on.

Lynn repeats the same story about Michael that she did most recently where he was murdered for a stereo and a bicycle by a homeless kid he gave $40 to.  She goes even further by saying that not only did the police take a “one more predator off the street” stance about Michael, but also defended the murderer.  That Michael’s partner died of a broken heart is repeated.  He worked 4 years to get justice for this awful murder.   This time Lynn called Michael the day he died and then she called Paul (his partner in a different building) and Paul did not know what had happened to Michael and why he was not responding.

My comment: The new stuff is even worse than the old stuff.  The police not only did not defend the murderer but they tried to get him tried as an adult.   I did not think it was possible for Lynn to be more offensive with this story, but I should have known better.

55:10

Lynn then uses this miracle of magic phone-calling when someone dies to talk about the energy that connects everyone together.   Bleah!  If I had been there in person, I would be coughing ::Liar!::

55:50

Lynn says she told all the editors that they would provide alternate material to print instead of Lawrence, if they wanted it.  That’s a little different from the last time when she claimed they sent out an alternate package along with the Lawrence comic strips.

My comment: It seems important for Lynn to note that they did not blindside the newspaper editors, but she can’t keep the story straight about what they did to avoid blindsiding them.  As before, I believe they did nothing at all and they took grief from the editors about it.

56:00

Lynn tries to draw Lawrence and gets a character that looks a lot like Ted McCaulay.

57:10

Lynn repeats the story about how a small town newspaper editor had kids who were beaten up and dogs that were spray painted because of the Lawrence story.

57:55

Lynn repeats the story about how the Halifax Herald is the only Canadian newspaper to drop the comic strip due to Lawrence.

58:20

Lynn reads letters from fans, but these are all Lawrence story reaction letters, some of which we have seen before.  They are still pretty good.

1:00:02

Lynn talks about the Custer’s Last Stand comic strip.



1:00:25

Lynn talks about Farley and draws his picture and compares him to her first husband.

1:00:48

Big new story. Lynn talks about a recent meeting she had with her first husband, now 85, tall, skinny, yellow, gaunt, and using a walker.  He wanted to get together and talk and he said, “Can we be friends?  Can we please be friends?”  She says she put her arms around and said, “You bet.  We can be friends.”  She says this last part chuckling.

My comment: 85 for Doug is a surprise for me.  I thought Doug was 30 when he married Lynn at 20, but apparently he was 33.   Lynn’s last comment about how she could be friends with Doug is filled with so much Lynn-style sarcasm, I would not even need to have heard all the rest of her presentation in which she bashed him over and over again for being stupid to know that she didn’t mean it.

I suspect that someone has been working behind-the-scenes to get Lynn to resolve her anger with Doug, Rod, Beth Cruikshank (coming up), and Ralph Johnston.  I suspect the reason for this is the grandkids.  Kate would still have ties to her dad, aunt and uncle and maybe Kate has come to realize it may be in her grandchildren’s best interest not to have a grandmother around who is constantly saying terrible things about Rod, Beth, and Ralph.   Lynn gets wistfully romantic when she talks about meeting Rod and she does not drop an “ex” in front of her relationship with Ralph or Beth.  That’s good progress.

I suspect that Kate may have even tried to get Lynn to make peace with Doug Franks, but judging from the lecture, this met with failure.

1:00:28

Back to Farley.

1:02:04

Lynn tells her usual story about how she couldn’t license her characters because of their ages changing.  April and Pampers, for example. Lynn says that Farley was her most marketable character.

Lynn’s sister-in-law who is a veterinarian said she had to let Farley go as a hero because he was old.  Then she tells the usual Charles Schulz story that goes with this.  Schulz says you can’t kill the dog.  He’s a signature piece.  He’s an iconic character.  That stupid little girl.  Then the usual business about the Oklahoma City bombing coming out the same time Farley died.

My comment: Shock that Beth gets a positive mention as a sister-in-law and not an ex-sister-in-law.

1:05:31

Lynn asks them to tell her when it is time to quit and they immediately tell her it is time to quit.  They are so fast with this, it is funny.

Lynn finishes with the usual business about how she created Eddy to replace Farley and the fan complaints about not getting Farley neutered gets a laugh.

1:06:34

Lynn finishes by complimenting herself for still being relevant enough to get a show at the Canadian Embassy.

My comment:  As far as Lynn talks go, this one was pretty downbeat and depressing.   There is not much mugging.  There were not as many of her usual jokes.  Lynn never got to the move to Corbeil or the move to Vancouver.  She didn’t even mention the Reuben and she didn’t name-drop Cathy Guisewite.   On the other hand, her ability to remember how to draw her characters is even more diminished than before, and I can see why she would need to stop.

Lynn mentioned the suicide thing often enough in this talk for me to get the strong feeling this is the real reason she has to have people around her at all times.  If Lynn has issues with depression, it could explain why she feels she needs so much praise.    I have long suspected she would eventually reveal the real medical problem that caused Kate to move to live by her for seven years, and this may have been that moment.



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