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Canada's Oldest Blogger
An interview with former TV presenter Donald Crowdis, 92
Eric Shackle (Shack)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-16 11:32 (KST)   
OhmyNews's oldest reporter, Eric Shackle (87), in Sydney, Australia, interviews Canada's oldest blogger, Donald Crowdis (92), in Toronto, Canada.

What made you decide to become a blogger, and when was that?

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My blog originated from a conversation I had with a family member back in April 2006. We were talking about various things, including the on-line world and all the unpublished writing I had done. Suddenly it all came together, and "Don To Earth" was born.

Do you feel your self-imposed task is worthwhile?

The answer to that question is a resounding "Yes." Blogging is an opening to the world, and an opportunity for all kinds of ideas and reactions to be expressed. Before blogs, how could one reach such a wide audience so easily?

I read this in the Canadian National Post: "Mr. Crowdis does not own a computer right now (although he is planning to buy two). He writes his blog entries longhand at his kitchen table in the morning.... Then he mails them across the country to New Brunswick. There, a family member types them into a computer and posts them on Mr. Crowdis' eclectic blog, Don To Earth." Isn't that a roundabout way of doing it? Can you use a typewriter, or a computer keyboard?

Well, it's not a bad solution for now, until I get properly set up again. My keyboard skills are good, but I also enjoy writing longhand.

How long does to take you to compose a story, how long does it take before it can be posted by your relative in New Brunswick? How often do you post a fresh item?

There's an incubation period for most articles. I have a list of topics, and I make notes on these topics. Once an idea has matured, I take it from the list and produce an article. The final writing stage takes at most half an hour. Then there's about a week delay in the mailing process, but that's fine. I write a few articles each week.

You invite readers to add their comments. Do you receive much feedback?

Yes, the responses have been very numerous, and very positive. Some of the readers obviously put a great deal of thought into their comments.

I've read that you're a survivor of the 1917 Halifax explosion, that killed more than 2,000 people and was the world's largest artificial detonation until the first atom bomb test in 1945. As you were born in 1913, you would have been only four years old. Do you remember it?

I like to say that I remember remembering. Some things are very vivid. I recall being found in the wreckage of our house, and then being transported with my mother in a wheelbarrow to an immigration hospital (I wasn't injured). My sister was walking beside us.

And I remember living in multiple foster homes over the next two years (I still know the names of at least two of the families), before our family was back together again. It was such a pivotal event that in part my answer is: "How could I not remember?"

You hosted Canada's popular natural science TV series "The Nature of Things" when it made its debut back in 1960. Can you recall some of the highlights or funny moments?

Hosting "The Nature of Things" was a wonderful experience. There were great moments, and many great guests. Specific incidents don't come to mind right now, since it was so long ago. I would have to look into my files to pick out a few that stand out.

David Suzuki is now the host of "The Nature of Things." Do you watch it every week, and what do you think of it now?

No, I don't watch "The Nature of Things" very often. In many ways, I feel that the show has changed to promote Suzuki. I don't think he is as much the author of the content as I used to be, or as he used to be when he began as host.

You were curator of the Nova Scotia Museum for 25 years, from 1940 to 1965. In those days, most museums were pretty dull places to visit unless you happened to be a dedicated scientist. Was yours like that?

I began as curator, but as the museum grew, my position became that of director, and I oversaw curators who were responsible for different parts of the museum collection.

I think the museum was a pretty interesting place for the public, and they must have agreed, because we drew in a lot of people. We had a strong presence in the media (radio, television, newspapers) in those days, and we kept inventing things that put us at the forefront of many museum developments. For example, we had the first public planetarium in Canada.

We also had some very innovative designs for fish tanks that were copied by much larger aquariums. Overall, it was an exciting and active place to be.

Why did you you move from Nova Scotia to Toronto, and where would you prefer to be today?

I moved to Toronto in 1965 to take the position of associate director for the project that became the Ontario Science Centre. There was Federal money to be given to each province for the 1967 centennial of Canadian Confederation, and I expected that the Nova Scotia money would come to the Nova Scotia Museum.

Instead it was directed to the medical school of Dalhousie University, which was very disappointing, since we were struggling to do so many wonderful things at the museum on such a limited budget.

Around the same time, a friend was urging me to join the executive team for this huge project in Ontario. So I made the move. However, without question I would much rather be at home in Nova Scotia today. But for a variety of reasons this is not an option right now.

©2006 Ronda Crowdis
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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