Truth Be Told

December 2019

Truth be told, I like the darkest season. Not for its chilly weather, but because it calls out to my primal side. It’s a once-a-year reminder that we are all travelling in a circle, solstice to solstice and back again for however long we have. There’s a simple beauty in that. A cosmic wheel. Nature’s game.

And yet with each passing year, it gets ever harder to take in the starry dome. More lights keep going up, dimming the constellations overhead. We now have to travel far from our cities and towns to get away from the artificial glow—so we can take in the real thing: the sparkling sky expanding from the ancient origins of everything.

Truth be told, a little holly jolly is fun, it really is. But too much is … well, just that. The decorations and jingly tunes have long since moved from December to November. Surely, they’ll stop there and leave October alone. Won’t they?

It is no surprise that Joni Mitchell’s “The River” grows more popular every year. More than 500 singers have covered it so far. A melancholy melody and a soulful storyline are factors in its popularity, but it’s the ear-catching opening that starts things off: “It’s coming on Christmas,” followed by the longing to find a river “to skate away on.” Who has not longed for their very own river when caught in some mall for far too long, or been unable to do everything on the to-do list?

Truth be told, what we call “the Holidays” is not much of a holiday. We may not be going to our regular jobs for those few days, but Holiday work is often more tasking than any regular toil. A holiday from the Holidays anyone?

A sister-in-law once remarked: “Wouldn’t it be nice if Christmas was like the Olympics?”

“What do you mean?”

“That it comes round only every fourth year.”

Truth be told, my body gets less keen on winter each one I make it through. Warmth has become my limbs’ preference, indoors and out.

That’s an admission tinged with regret. Many cherished memories happened outdoors in winters past. I loved to build snow forts, tunnels and igloos as a kid; and loved it even more as an adult, excavating and piling up white frozen crystal structures for my kids. Sweet as oranges, those moments were—where the doing was more important than any end result. I should dust off my mitts and snow pants and get back out there with my grand-kids.

Truth be told, I haven’t owned skates for more than a decade. I gave my last pair away, thinking I was done. Which means: I guess I am. Yet I recall some mighty fine moments gliding on ice.

Like the sunny lunch-hour my buddy Ken and I laced them up on the Fortress of Louisbourg’s Barachois Pond. Two historians passing the puck back and forth beneath the watchful eye of the spire atop the King’s Bastion Barracks gave the outing a surreal effect.

Then there was the perfect day on Morrison Lake, between Sydney and Louisbourg. That day, Ken and I and my two sons, Colin and Michael, skated miles on a vast sheet of glistening lake ice. Miss a pass or score a goal through either set of boots as nets and you had to skate five minutes to catch up with the endlessly gliding puck.

As good as those outdoor moments were, even better was one early morning at Sydney’s Whitney Pier Rink. Something had happened, I no longer recall what, but it meant that Colin, Michael and I were the only ones in the dark rink, other than the guy opening up the place. The three of us hurried to put on our skates and then had the barely lit oval kingdom all to ourselves for maybe half an hour. It was a father’s dream and maybe that of two sons. Up and down the ice, with the lights slowly rising to their full glow, we passed the puck back and forth until others began to arrive as well. Our pure play-time had come to an end.

Truth be told, truth can have many faces, sort of like the ever-changing moon, except it’s on a 28-day cycle and our truths are not. 

One thing that is true for us is that we are together on this little blue planet of ours for whatever time we have. Alone we may sometimes feel, but we are all hurtling through the starry heavens at incredible speed heading we know not where. It truly is spaceship earth. Enjoy the ride.

New Photos

December 2019
A huge number of people helped out my research on The Lincolns.

One chain of individuals lead me recently to the Dalhousie University Archives. Thanks to a tip from the last person in that chain, Stephen Archibald, I found in that archives a contact sheet of photos of the band playing at Dartmouth High in 1967-68. I have a attached snap of the overall sheet of thumbnail images.

The photo shoot came about when the Dalhousie Gazette (Dal’s student newspaper) sent several photographers (including Stephen Archibald and Doug Hiltz) over to Dartmouth to check out the Truro band.

Several of the images they took that evening are great—and will likely end up in the book. There is more atmosphere and mood to these photos than many of the ones with which we are all familiar. These shots are fresh and new, though taken over a half-century ago.

Advance Publicity

November 2019

Here below is the advance publicity from Nimbus Publishing for the book of mine to be released in the spring of 2020.

ISBN: 9781771088480 ITEM: NB1459

Kings of Friday Night

The Lincolns

   Author:   A.J.B. Johnston  
   Publisher:  Nimbus Publishing

Early 1960s Truro, Nova Scotia, was a town divided: East/West, Protestant/Catholic, Black/White. Only one thing brought everyone together: a Lincolns’ dance. Over a span of ten years, Truro’s legendary “kings of Friday night” played their trademark rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and soul, not just in Truro but at dances and on campuses from Yarmouth to Sydney, Nova Scotia, and north to Sackville, Moncton, and Saint John, New Brunswick. In the process, The Lincolns changed the lives of small-town kids clamouring for a beat that would move their feet, their hips—and ultimately, their hearts.

Award-winning author A. J. B. Johnston brings personal recollections and nostalgic delight to the tale of Truro’s unforgettable rock stars. Through interviews and first-person stories, and featuring photos of the band’s evolution, The Lincolns will stir fond memories for the band’s countless loyal fans. Featuring a foreword by John MacLachlan Gray and an afterword by Frank MacKay.

Kings of Friday Night

November 2019

Nimbus Publishing has completed its design for the cover of my 20th book. Hope you like it!

I have to say that I have never had as much fun researching or writing any book as I did with this one. It was the first time I was writing about a period I had actually lived through.

Hats off to Colin Smith for the fun cover design.

Heartfelt thanks to John MacLachlan Gray for the terrific “Foreword.”

And thanks to the spirit of Frank MacKay for closing out the book with his touching “Afterword.”

Dozens of people contributed stories and images to the book. Thanks to you all.

The rest of the book—the interior layout and back cover—have not yet been designed. Nimbus expects to have the book ready for the spring of 2020.

Task Force Update

October 2019

Last evening at the Dartmouth Sportsplex was a public engagement session for the Cornwallis and Indigenous Commemoration Task Force.

A second session takes place tonight at the Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre on Gottingen Street in Halifax.

Those of us on the Task Force are immensely grateful to everyone who has attended the different public engagement sessions. We are aiming to wrap up our work as soon as possible and make our recommendations to HRM City Council. My guess is that will happen before we have gone very far into 2020.

Task Force on Commemoration

October 2019

Public Engagement

Phase Two: October 2019

The Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History is hosting phase two of public engagement to seek public input.

Residents are invited to join facilitated conversation circles to discuss how the Halifax Regional Municipality should recognize and commemorate Indigenous history. 

As part of this important discussion, participants will also be asked what we should take into consideration when commemorating history in general.

The sessions will take place as follows: 
Monday, Oct. 28 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Zatzman Sportsplex 
Tuesday, Oct. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre
 
Both facilities are accessible.

A notetaker will be present to capture the conversation at each table. 

Those interested in participating are asked confirm their attendance as space is limited for these sessions. Please RSVP online:
RSVP for Dartmouth session at Zatzman Sportsplex
RSVP for Halifax session at Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre


Can’t make the engagement session? Share your thoughts via email to clerks@halifax.ca