You can go home again

My co-author, Susan Papp, and I attended a reading and book signing today at The Bookshelf, a wonderful bookstore in Guelph. Susan and I each read passages, we did a short Q&A with Frank Hasenfratz, the subject of our book, Driven To Succeed, and then Frank answered questions from the 75 or so people on hand.

Barb and Doug Minett, owners of The Bookshelf, have done a terrific job in a difficult industry. Their establishment – which also offers first-run movies and has an excellent cafe – is among the best independent bookstores in Canada.

For Susan and I, the event served as a bit of a bookend. We started this project two years ago and made many a trip to Guelph for interviews with Frank, who founded Linamar in his basement making oil pumps for Ford. Linamar now has 17,000 employees in eight countries. Susan also travelled with Frank to his native Hungary as part of the research while I did the business-related interviews in Guelph and elsewhere.

For someone like me, who was born and raised in Guelph, the event brought back fond memories of far-off times. When I was six years old, Guelph was such an idyllic place that I could do the one-mile walk from my house to downtown and home again all by myself. Among the attendees at the signing was a couple I’d never before met who now live in the house where I grew up on Metcalfe Street opposite St. George’s Park.

The Bookshelf, of course, did not exist on Quebec Street in those days, but two of my favourite destinations did. On the nearby corner was a candy and nut shop. I couldn’t afford to buy anything, so I’d go in and just enjoy the aromas until the owner threw me out. Then I’d go to the bakery, right about where The Bookshelf now stands, to watch them make donuts in a trough of boiling oil. For a nickel, I’d buy a paper bag of centres that had been punched out – the original TimBits.

If I close my eyes, I’m a boy again, digging into that greasy bag for the first tasty morsel on the walk back up the hill toward home.

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