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I Was There:

Moosejaw This Week ,Saskatchewan
Couple publishes veteran's memoirs - by Mark Caughlin

Although Frank Proctor wasn't able to see his project through to its very end, he's got two faithful family members to finish his work for him. His daughter, Pamela Proctor, and his son-in-law, John Roper, were in Moosejaw this week to promote his memoirs, I Was There.

But the couple has done much more than promote the book: seeing a clear need to get the book into print, they actually got into the publishing business to have it made. "For anyone who goes to the trouble of writing a book, you need to publish it," said the younger Proctor, who said her father felt it important to share with others what he'd learned in his lifetime.

Born in 1902 in a small coal mining town in northeast England, Proctor emigrated to Canada in 1928, where he worked the grain harvest in Kincaid, Saskatchewan. He later settled in Regina and at the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the Regina Rifle Regiment. He was among the troops that landed on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day.

"Somehow it keeps us really alert to understand these things - the attitudes that got us into that war to begin with," said Proctor.

Upon his return to Canada, Proctor moved out to British Columbia, where he riased a family, opened his own business, and eventually became an oil painter of some renown. While much of the book focuses on his war experience, Proctor has two chapters describing his days in Kincaid, working for the Haist family.

"By now, the sun was extremely hot, far hotter than we had ever experienced. In fact, our calling in England as coal miners made us more or less accustomed to being shut off from the sun," the author writes in a chapter called Life as a Canadian Harvester. "And these endless bundles of cut and tied wheat were laying, it seemed to us, eternal. They stretched as far as the eye could see. To the farmer, it was usual. Finally, he asked us if we had ever done any stooking. Of course we replied in the negative."

His time in Saskatchewan clearly had a major effect on his personality. "He would have been perfect to come to the Festival of Words and talk about his book," said Proctor. "Dad was a Saskatchewan type of person. For instance he would say hello to people he would meet on the street and consider that important."

In order to get the book published, Proctor and Roper first tried to go through a publisher, but that didn't work out too well. "We hired a publisher, which then went bankrupt," said Proctor. They attempted to find other publishers but no one else was interested. "They wrote nice letters back, " she said, but that didn't help get the book published. "So we decided to go ahead ourselves." The two already owned a company in Gibsons, British Columbia, where they live, which specialized in sail training and teaching about nature and marine ecology.

The first step was to prepare the manuscript. They hired a woman to put the book on a word processor which took two years. "This was a project that Dad had written by hand. He was a good hand writer but still she took two years," said Proctor. The woman would go visit Proctor when elements of the manuscript were unclear.

His daughter realized the book would need to be properly edited, but despite the fact she had the skills, she couldn't do it herself. "Because it was my Dad, I couldn't just start cutting it up," she said. So the couple hired a relative, Bill Tindall, an academic with extensive writing experience in the health-care field. He did some re-structuring and cut out some repetitions. Proctor then spent a summer at the library, checking facts and place names. When that was finished, she and John found a woman with desktop publishing experience to put the book together.

The results are rather impressive, so it's unfortunate the author, who died in March of this year, was never able to see it. "We selected a finer quality paper and slightly larger type", said Roper, who said they hadn't originally planned to include photos, but were able to do so when they decided to do the book themselves.

Reaction to the book has been positive, especially because of its valuable military history. An advance copy was presented at a reunion of the Regina Rifles last month, and many veterans ordered copies of the book. During their visit to Moosejaw they took copies to 15 Wing and reported that Cpl. Jeff Noel, who's preparing a book on the history of the armed forces, was very interested in the book. Later in the year Proctor and Roper will take a copy of the book to the War Museum in Ottawa.

 

I Was There how to order I was there

An AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frank Proctor

Edited by
William N Tindall & Pamela Proctor


Published by tmi Publications, Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada

email: tmi Publications




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