Archives for category: Military

campfollower coverarmybrat


“You are not from anywhere in particular but you are all a part of the same community.”
“You might get itchy to move every couple of years, or, conversely, never want to move ever again.”
“You’re very patriotic. You cry at the national anthem anytime, anywhere…You probably touch, even fondle the tank now sitting as a monument in your town’s armoury square.”
“You have to catch up to the real world at some point but the adults we became carried this base-brat upbringing with us.”
“The moving on, excitement and anticipation was the best part of growing up military… Just the scale, geography and weather were different.”

Review of Camp Follower: One Army Brat’s Story

“Life happens everywhere. We all get there in the end. It’s the stories that we live and share along the way that make things interesting.” So writes Canadian author Michele Sabad in the introduction to her first book Camp Follower: One Army Brat’s Story. The first sixty years of her life happened in Calgary, Edmonton and Cold Lake, AB; Dortmund, Germany; Goose Bay, NL; Yorkton, SK; Kingston, Brantford and Petawawa, ON; and Aylmer, QC. In her 194-page, four-part, big-print book we journey with her as army brat, air force wife, hockey mom
and retiree. She lived in rented quarters on military bases, sometimes beside a runway, with her young mother, sergeant/recreation director father and three younger brothers. With an easy style, detailed descriptions and sense of joy in her craft she shares more than 40 short stories of her memories of moments along the way. One I love is, “The moon landing happened when we were in Goose Bay. July 20, 1969. Of course we didn’t watch it on TV but I remember it vividly. On such a pure black cloudless night in Labrador, the moon was brilliant. Although only in waxing crescent phase that night, we could still see the outline of the whole moon against its fluorescent quarter. My brothers and I imagined the men walking on it at that exact moment. We jumped up and down and said we could see them.” By age 18, Sabad was engaged to be married, worked four nights a week as a swimming instructor and graduated from high school in the town of Petawawa as top student and
valedictorian. She tackled the problems of adjusting to the real world, finishing her education, helping her air force husband get a degree, earning a living and raising a family. She had a long, successful IT career as a systems analyst with the Canadian government and then as a consultant. Thanks were due to a calculus course she toughed out to “keep my options open,” although the guidance counselor had advised her to drop it. Upon retirement she and her husband acquired something she had never had before: a hometown! At last, she lives amid a variety of people who may include the elderly, those with special needs, relatives perhaps and, some day, grandchildren. One of their two grown sons with his wife has also bought a home in Aylmer, QC. Sabad likens her careful observations, faithful recording and perceptive comments on her army-brat upbringing to “inventing anthropology.” The reader is enriched by the inside information, critical analysis and points of identification the book contains. Camp followers have existed ever since humanity has sent people — historically men — off to fight wars  on behalf of the societies, cultures or countries they represent. This way of life is pursued by about 10 million Americans (fewer Canadians) today. Yet, because of changes in society and the military, Sabad’s unique experiences cannot ever be repeated.  Her book is far too good for you to deny yourself the pleasure of reading it. Whatever your age, you will have a delightful growing-up experience all over again as the author generously and skillfully shares her own journey. Review written by Margaret Kell Virany
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Happy Reading and Writing from Cozy Book Basics!


Memorial or Remembrance or Veterans’ Days come and go, but a love that rose out of the ashes of a World War shines on. It recently inspired an official reviewer for to give  it a 4 out of 4 rating and recommend it as “a rare treat for the modern generation”.


Here is what it  says:

“How does it feel to see life through the eyes of our ancestors? Primitive? Romantic? Or down right sacred? For me, a culmination of all three.

This is indeed an unusual love story, a tribute to innocent and pure love. There has been no dramatization of this love story, no passion forced, yet the hard journey of two souls are depicted in their own words. The protagonists were from two different backgrounds. Kathleen Elizabeth was the daughter of a city councillor in Portsmouth, England while Jack was a farmer from Cookstown, Ontario, Canada. Though he was a farmer’s son he signed up to open a Methodist teaching and preaching mission at God’s Lake, Manitoba. His main aim was to evangelize the Aboriginals. Jack was no weakling and he had to go through many hardships in his daily lifte . . .

Jack knew he had to provide a good example to get their trust and love. He set up schools where he motivated the students and their parents to start learning. His school started with one kid and slowly it built up in strength to 21 kids. He started making a difference. . .

Kathleen on the other hand was studying at medical school after her sweetheart died in World War I. Then she had a nervous breakdown and started managing her family’s bakery café. Though she liked Jack, she felt she could not lead the hardships of that kind of life. She refused to marry him when he asked her for the first time, much to the dismay of her family. But that started a series of correspondence between them.

It is quite romantic the way Jack would wait for her letters. How much trouble he had to go through to get those letters! Maybe this story is not passionate in the telling sense but I found his actions in order to get the letters not only passionate but also emotional. It might be difficult to be a knight in shining armor but to love someone across the globe takes a lot of determination and loyalty. A rare combination in today’s world.

How they eventually meet and marry and Kathleen faces the hardships of the journey are written beautifully in their diary which is beautifully presented by Margaret Kell Virany.

This is a very difficult piece to present to the world. It carries a part of your heart and you cannot twist it in any way without taking the authenticity away from the raw emotions of Jack and Kathleen. It has been a pleasure to glimpse the world through their eyes. A rare treat for the modern generation indeed!”

Quoted from

Thank you for visiting. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon,  Goodreads or my website.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

I’ll be at La Foire des Artisans at  Galeries d’Aylmer on Sat., Nov. 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to chat and sign copies of my books. Michele Szabad will be there too to sign copies of her newly published sensation on the life of an army brat.


image002John Ambrose Campbell Kell, 1897-1988

Veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve Who Saw Active Duty in and after World War I,  1917-19

Thank you for visiting. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon,  Goodreads or my website.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

I’ll be at Britton’s Glebe, 846 Bank St., Ottawa on Sat., Aug. 9, 2014, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to honor the WWI 100th anniversary. Please drop in if you would like to chat and pick up a signed copy of my book.

 USTrip 021

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride: A Call of Love in the Wilderness

  • Genre Historical nonfiction romance
  • Theme A call of love in the wilderness
  • Description An incongruous encounter of knightly and ladylike norms and ideals with northern Canada‘s vastness and aboriginal culture
  • Setting  Bleakness everywhere. The whole world was bleak in the aftermath of  the senseless killing and hateful destruction of World War I.
  • Heroine Sensitive, genteel Kathleen Elizabeth Ward of Portsmouth, England‘s promise and promises had been shattered cruelly. At age 25, her immediate crisis was to avoid spinsterhood and raise a family in spite of the devastating  reality that almost all the eligible men were dead.
  • Hero John Ambrose Campbell Kell (called JACK) was left the money for a college  education instead of staying on the farm in Cookstown, Ontario, Canada like his father and older brothers. Hopes for fulfilling his dream of finding a wife were bleak; city coeds didn’t take to his theology degree and plans to go north.
  • Community At first glance,’ bleak’ would aptly describe the Indian reservation at Oxford House in northern Manitoba. The people were poor and had little contact with the outside world except through missionaries and selling furs to the Hudson Bay Company.

Plot A tumultuous transatlantic courtship begins in fits and starts. The setting changes to optimistic views of a young country and a renewed church as the twenties roar on. A cariole, the ancient Alaskan ancestor of the toboggan (nubougidan), and a small, smart horse called Tommy help achieve impossible dreams. (The horse in the picture above is Big Lad.)

Conclusion After over 90 years of life each, 61 of them married, Kathleen and Jack died and went to heaven, leaving scraps of their story behind in case somebody else could use them.

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Kathleen’s Cariole Ride is the perfect book to upload for your vacation. Amazon customers say:

“It is a beautiful love story, quick read and meaningful pictures that really capture your heart. I’m not familiar with the Canadian landscape, but this makes me want to research more!Stephanie Brown Aquino, San Dimas, California

Pausing on a Canoe Trip up the Old Fur Trade Route in Manitoba, 1928

“This book on the author’s parents and their short sojourn in Northern Canada 90 years ago breathes life into a picture of native relations, missionary fever, and northern living some 90 years ago. I found the story to be captivating and enjoyable – the story line is clear and focused, and it is written with a sense of excitement and involvement that captures the reader’s attention. The fact that the author is writing a brief history of her own parents in rough living conditions and with a different set of cultures shows how much the background of our north has changed in less than a century.  Robert D.  Brown, Toronto, Canada


Thank you for spending some of your valuable time reading this post. Please browse around and, if you like, write some comments.,,,,

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Mount Wellington from Lindisfarne, Hobart

Mount Wellington from Lindisfarne, Hobart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I have too many books and am getting on in years, I thought it would be a good idea to buy  a Kindle reader.  Downsizing to an apartment or a retirement home would be easier if I could carry up to 1400 books with me in my purse or one hand.

Shortly after my purchase, our church’s  annual Spaghetti  Dinner & Used Book Sale came up,  an event not to be missed, with the best sauce in the world cooked by two scoutmasters. I wolfed down the pasta, Caesar salad and cake, then, full of sales resistance, I approached the book tables.  I was here just to browse.

Moments later I fell for a fantastic  six-pound tome, still in its original royal blue and white dust jacket with a picture of a steamship on it. It was 11 1/2″ high, 8″ wide and 1″ thick.

Harry Price’s The Royal Tour 1901 is an account of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall’s nine-month world tour from the perspective of a crew member. The book is handscripted on heavy parchment paper with  170 exquisite, delicate, colorful  drawings of ships, people, animals, birds, landscapes, seascapes, ceremonial arches erected specially for the royal couple, charts, logs and imaginative title pages.

Small wonder I was ensnared, its contents were so relevant to me. The author is shown wearing a tropical ordinary seaman’s dress uniform, as my father wore in World War I. The HMS Ophir sailed from Portsmouth, UK, where my mother was born. Price’s Wikipedia biography says he was born in a caul, which is fabled to make a person drowning-proof, and so was my sister.

But more than that, I’m planning to publish an ebook on my husband’s and my road trip all around America in a Prius and I need to look at other travel books to see how they’re done.

Price must have known his book risked being a boring, repetitive, ultra-patriotic  paean to the British regime. He saved it by including his own illustrated story of going off ship and climbing up and back down Tasmania’s 4170-ft Mount Wellington in one day. It was an impossible feat but he had made a bet with his buddies.

When he reached the summit, he hoisted the flag he had bought before he set out. To plant it, he used  a stick he had found along the way and carried with great difficulty. He needed to produce proof of his exploit for the other members of the crew to see.  Unfortunately, it was a French flag because all the stores were out of Union Jacks, due to the Royal Tour.

Now that’s a story worth buying, even if you are already loaded with books and have no guarantee of always owning a coffee table.


I can’t give advice about falling in love, but I can tell you how to write a book that shows readers how it’s done. I was lucky to inherit 72 onionskin love letters, half in my mother’s handwriting and half in my father’s, which had logged 200,000 miles.

If someone’s old love letters fall into your hands, and you wish to write, look at them as coupons to be redeemed. Take them to the store of your memory which is open 24-7, even while you sleep.

Work at your computer every day during the hours when you are at your brightest.
1. Don’t ever think the letters can be published as is.

2. Sit down and be their first patient, receptive reader.

3. Open separate, numbered chapter files in your computer under “Love…”. The order is chronological, in chunks of weeks, months or years.

4. Consider what genre you are writing in (Nonfiction or Fiction? History or Personal Memoir? Biography or Autobiography? Confession? Love Story?) This is important. It gives your material a theme, a slant, an organizing principle, and eventual title.

5. Judge what’s most interesting in the letters and place segments of exact quotation into the appropriate chapters. The continuity will come later, as you are inspired in your sleep.

6. Make a note of things to be checked or researched on the Internet, in photos, from surviving friends and family members. Find out more about well known people or events cited, unanswered questions, contradictions, intriguing assumptions, etc.

7. Pin down the facts. Return to the drawing board. If you misconstrue one thing, your whole story will become skewed and false. Even a work of fiction must be convincing.

8. Start back at the beginning each day, always looking for a better word and making sure you keep up the pace. If your attention droops you are boring the reader and that’s the worst sin.

Finding the love letters when I was 69 turned me into a busy researcher and author. My ‘reference library’ was at home in old albums, photos, knapsacks, journals and lantern slides, as well as relatives and family friends. A Book of Kells and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride resulted, as well as enough work and pleasure to last for the rest of my life.