Take a walk down the Kilbarry writers block

By Manor Park Chronicle

Kilbarry Cres. has housed a quartet busy writers. From left to right, Mark Mueller, Dawn Bell Logan, Sheila Cornett and Glen Hodgson have been using their skills to explore everything from pre-Confederation Upper Canada to the world of professional sports. See page 36 of this edition to learn more about these writers and their books. Photo: Doug Banks
Kilbarry Cres. has housed a quartet busy writers. From left to right, Mark Mueller, Dawn Bell Logan, Sheila Cornett and Glen Hodgson have been using their skills to explore everything from pre-Confederation Upper Canada to the world of professional sports. See page 36 of this edition to learn more about these writers and their books. Photo: Doug Banks

As one walks their dog, pushes a stroller, runs or walks along Kilbarry Cres., there is no indication of the writers’ block section of the crescent.

The writers and their books are:

Glen Hodgson, Power Play: the Business Economics of Pro Sports

Mark Mueller, Hugo Frank in the Maelstrom of German History

myself, Dawn Bell Logan, Thomas Need: a Settler in the Backwoods of Upper Canada

Sheila Cornett, Hoping to Hear from You Soon: Canada War Letters, 1940-1945

Glen’s book is published by the Conference Board of Canada, while the other three chose the self-publishing route.

The writers reside in a cluster of homes, dubbed ‘the writers’ block’. Two live on one side of the crescent and two on the opposite. (However, Sheila has become and alumni of the Kilbarry writers’ block as she now lives elsewhere in Ottawa.)

All four writers delivered nonfictional accounts on topics ranging from the current sporting world to family history. Their books are not only treasured by family and friends but are also part of the national repositories of two countries; the Library and Archives Canada database of Canadian writers and, in Mark’s case, the Deutsche National Bibliothek.

Succeeding in pro sports

Glen Hodgon’s Power Play reached bookshelves in 2014 with great acclaim. It’s an examination of “why some professional sports franchises and leagues succeeded while others are disasters”.

This proved to be a popular topic as he and his co-author Mario Lefebvre engaged in both television and radio interviews across the country. Power Play focuses on the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Football League (NFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL), with less attention to the North American Soccer League (NASL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Both writers “had a passion for sports since childhood”. For his part, Glen grew up in a sporting family. His father was a memorable Manitoban who was a two times Manitoba Amateur Heavyweight Boxing Champion. In his youth, Glen played amateur sports at a highly competitive level. In many ways he continues to “stay in the game”.

Glen feels fortunate he can combine his profession as an economist with an interest in pro sports. Although retired, Glen continues to make observations about the hockey franchise scene. He recently wrote a Financial Post article entitled “New NHL arenas in Calgary and Ottawa better not cross-check taxpayers”.

Unearthing German roots

Mark Mueller did not intend to author a book on Hugh Frank. Initially, he wanted to discover more information about his paternal grandmother, Rosa Frank. In 1912, she immigrated to the U.S., leaving behind a baby boy (Mark’s father) who was born out of wedlock in Berlin in 1911 and adopted by the Mueller family.

In 2003, having established a Frank family tree with relatives in East and West Germany, Canada, and the U.S., Mark dropped the matter.

A decade later, after much archival research in Berlin, as well as in the districts of Weimar and Greiz in the central German state of Thueringia, the idea of a book emerged.

Hugo Frank, father of Rosa, was the owner of a prosperous textile mill in Greiz. But he established his business at the worst possible time—just prior to the hyperinflation of the early 1920s. He prospered but faced confiscation of the company by the communist regime in 1947.

The archival research was both time-consuming yet exciting, as Mark hunted for company records, adoption papers and personal correspondence covering this period of Hugo’s life.

Stories from relatives enhanced his research. The fortunes and misfortunes of Hugo Frank and his family are interwoven with German history, starting in 1871. The book covers three major wars, hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic, and the demise of three ‘isms’: monarchism, Nazism and communism.

Pioneering in the wilderness

Just a year ago, with the help of an editor, Dr. Ian Cameron from Carleton University, and Goose Lane Press in Fredericton, New Brunswick, I wrote Thomas Need: a Settler in the Backwoods of Upper Canada.

During many happy summers at Bobcaygeon on Sturgeon Lake, one of the Kawartha Lakes, I discovered Thomas Need, a pioneer in the area. After an abbreviated scrutiny of his accomplishments in The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, v. 12, Thomas Need received little attention.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was time for me to complete Thomas Need’s compelling story.

In this biography, Thomas Need takes his place in the Otonabee school of Pre-Confederation pioneer writers with his book, Six years in the bush, published in 1838. It was a slim volume, anonymous and overshadowed by other immigrant writers including Frances Stewart and sisters Catherine Parr Trail and Susanna Moodie. It was not until 1926 that Thomas’s authorship and his contribution to Canadian literature were revealed.

My book describes all these twists and turns, along with his feats of wilderness living in the open woods and by the “splendid sheet of water” of Sturgeon Lake. I focus especially on Thomas Need’s contributions to the early building blocks for Bobcaygeon and to the first lock on the Trent waterway.

Corresponding with ancestors

Sheila’s compilation and editing of Hoping to Hear from You Soon: Canadian War Letters, 1940-1945 arrived just before Christmas of 2023. Kilbarry Cres. is Sheila’s childhood home, and her family resided in the Kilbarry writers’ block of homes for more than 60 years.

Imagine Sheila’s surprise when she found “a great many handwritten letters in an old steamer trunk” in her mother’s Kilbarry Cres. basement. Sheila’s father, Don Cornett, served with the Royal Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War. He commanded a battery in the 4th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

In the cache of letters, there were more than 100 from Sheila’s father, addressed to her mother using her maiden name. His earlier letters, filled with the tedium of military training, were written on cream-coloured notepaper. The sheets were quite small and marked either “Canadian Legion War Services” or embossed with a symbol for the artillery; a field gun accompanied by a Latin inscription. After the Armed Forces landing in Normandy, the ubiquitous blue aerogram single sheets, with the imprint “Armed Forces Air Letter”, took over.

The Cornett personal letters anchor the Second World War for the reader, with a perspective sometimes overlooked by military history.

Extensive research

The extensive research for three of these works is now safely stored in various archives. Mark’s papers are in the Greiz Archives, Germany, while my own are at Trent University Archives, Peterborough, and the Cornett letters are with the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum, Canadian Forces Base, Shilo, Manitoba.

Regardless of the widely varied topics, all four writers and compilers showed great dedication and appreciation of their subjects.

So, as you make your way along Kilbarry Cres., you can think of these local achievements when you pass the writers’ block.

The article was written by Dawn Bell Logan with the co-operation of Mark Mueller, Glen Hodgson and Sheila Cornett.

Kilbarry Cres. has nurtured a block of writers comprised of (from left to right, Mark Mueller (ugo Frank in the Maelstrom of German History), Dawn Bell Logan (Thomas Need: a Settler in the Backwoods of Upper Canada), Sheila Cornett (Hoping to Hear from You Soon: Canada War Letters, 1940-1945) and Glen Hodgson (Power Play: the Business Economics of Pro Sports). Photo: Doug Banks
Although all writers of non-fiction, the Kilbarry Cres. block cover a diverse range of topics. Composite cover scan provided by Dawn Bell Logan