Tag Archives: life

Untimely death of off-the-wall radio mentor spurs memories of life lessons imparted

Untimely death of off-the-wall radio mentor spurs memories of life lessons imparted

Calgary Herald
Published on: April 14, 2016 | Last Updated: April 14, 2016 4:00 AM MDT

Reid Dickie was a mentor to a young Steve Burgess. ROSENA FUNG / SWERVE

Many pop-culture giants have died in 2016. David Bowie; Glenn Frey of the Eagles; Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane; Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire; Reid Dickie of Shoal Lake, Man. I realize that last name will lack resonance for most people. But in my world Reid Dickie was a rock star. He was that rare treasure some people find—a mentor, a role model. A personal giant.

Reid died on Feb. 21 in Winnipeg. My shock upon seeing his obituary on Facebook was twofold. There was the fact of his death at only 66, and the fact that other people had taken notice. But why wouldn’t they? Reid Dickie was a legend in Winnipeg circles, a pioneer of alternative FM radio, creator of bizarre music videos for the likes of Pere Ubu, and, later, along with his beloved late wife, Linda Tooley, the proprietor of the Corydon Avenue clothing store If You Have to Get Dressed in the Morning. Together they founded the DickTool Co. to showcase their art. As a young man he self-published a book of poems called Prism Prisons and later created an art piece by nailing copies of it to a wooden frame and leaving it outdoors all Winnipeg winter. He called it “Reverse Miracle—bad poetry treated badly.” One of his projects was titled “Typographical Man Beheads Himself With His Own Acts.”

So the fact that Reid’s death would be publicly noted should not have been surprising. Yet I was still surprised. Because in my illogical universe Reid seemed like a personal spirit, like the “familiar” of ancient mythology who acted as one’s otherworldly helper. My long-ago friendship with him was so much a part of my personal history that I forgot he also existed for other people.

I was 14 years old. Our family home in Brandon, Man. was just down the street from the headquarters of CKX Television and Radio. At the time, CKX was the only game in town in both of those media. Reid Dickie was the late-night DJ. Benefiting from the lack of management scrutiny at that hour, Reid would play an eclectic array of music that would have been remarkable even on a station that didn’t typically feature the likes of Paul Anka and Tony Orlando & Dawn.

One night I called to request a song called “Satori Part II” by the Flower Travellin’ Band. He dutifully spun it, then followed up by saying, “Yeesh, that was terrible.” (He had a case. It’s on YouTube. Judge for yourself.)

Incensed, I called back. We ended up chatting for two hours. He invited me to drop by the station some night. And I did. I would creep quietly to the phone and call first so he could leave the side door open. Then with a careful tread across creaky floorboards I would slip out the back door and down the dark street. Reid would buy me a soft drink from the station’s vending machine. I would sit in the control room while he spun records and we would shoot the breeze about music and whatever.

It all sounds potentially sordid. It wasn’t. Perhaps I was naive but, if so, I was also lucky. Reid was not seeking teenage groupies to satisfy dark lusts. He was a 23-year-old guy stuck playing records in the middle of the night in the middle of cultural nowhere. I was a precocious and enthusiastic lad with a lot to say, perhaps not all of it youthful drivel, willing to keep him company through dreary all-night shifts. We were pals. Unlikely ones, but still.

Reid was wise enough to worry about appearances. Part of my eager embrace of counterculture involved early drug use, and Reid was rightly concerned not to be seen as corrupting a minor. Still, he would allow me to visit his basement suite on Saturday mornings—Saturday was his day off. There I was introduced to his enthusiastic amateur art career. Reid was always doing something creative. Decoupage was a favourite medium—he would cut out magazine photos and create sweeping visual epics that he insisted told specific stories (which he would then explain while guiding you through the imagery). Reid was also the uncredited inventor of Toilet Art, which involved putting colourful kitchen ingredients into the bowl and flushing for a brief but brilliant effect (some elements, like uncooked spaghetti, would survive the catastrophe). Reid’s favoured perspective was the absurd. I recall listening to the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Frank Zappa among countless other discs on those Saturday mornings. He celebrated the bizarre and the ridiculous wherever they could be found or created. “Hello, freak!” he would greet me, and I knew there was no higher compliment.

He eventually escaped to Winnipeg and, while I visited sometimes, we lost touch. Long after his radio career ended he launched a blog, readreidread.wordpress.com, that revealed a deep love for prairie landscapes and architecture. He published books: Manitoba Heritage Success Stories, Carberry Heritage Walking Tour, and a novel, Play the Jukebox. After decades of silence I was amazed and delighted to get a LinkedIn message from him last year in response to some update I had posted. “Way to go Steve! Nothing but blue skies and green lights ahead. Be happy, Reid.” I answered but got no reply. I did not know he was unwell.

During my teenage years, Reid had been my cool older friend, a source of personal pride, a badge of hip, evidence that I could hold my own with a genuine grown-up hipster. What I was to him I can’t say. Nor did I realize at the time what effect our friendship would have on me. It was more profound than I could have grasped at the time.

It seems most obvious in the fact that I would later spend 15 years on my own trek through Western Canadian radio, spinning my share of vinyl on lonely overnight shifts. But my radio career never seemed to be Reid’s most important influence. He used to tell me, earnestly: “Remember—you can be anything you want to be.” That stuck. More important still was Reid himself—his values, his example, the means by which a role model shapes your life.

Reid was brilliant but not particularly talented. No matter. He lived the creative life with full commitment. He neither had, nor to my knowledge ever sought, financial comfort. Reid possessed the true spirit of the artist—his greatest desire was to live a life of creation. That was the example I found most enduring. That’s why he has always loomed so large on my personal horizon.

And even more crucially, he cared. He took an interest. Reid Dickie saw something in me that he considered worth encouraging. Simply by granting me respect and acknowledgement, he provided me with an entree into a larger world. That’s the generosity of spirit at the heart of mentorship. Young people who find such angels can count themselves among the luckiest.

I can’t live up to Reid’s standard. Good role models do that, too—remaining forever just out of your grasp so that you must always keep chasing. I wish I could have spoken to him again. I hope he understood just how much I appreciated his friendship and support. A young person could have no better example.



Filed under Uncategorized

Reid’s first novel now available at McNally Robinson


With gratitude and love I dedicate this book to my parents, Helen and Bruce Dickie, whose gifts I used every day of my life, and to Linda, who lit my way.

Available now at McNally Robinson


Moments away from puberty, young Jim Crawford begins to discover how his newly effervescent maleness gives fresh meaning and expression to manhood in his family, friendships, community and beyond. Set in a small Canadian prairie town just as the tumultuous social and cultural changes of the 1960s begin, Play the Jukebox is a character-driven story entwining bright wholesome and dark pathological expressions of masculinity. As his own unique gifts reveal themselves, Jim learns the heights and depths to which men will go to defend family and future and how shared experience creates diverse forms of camaraderie between men and women.

Jim’s life revolves around pop music and records. The 45 – the little record with the big hole – is king; radio disc jockeys, record players and jukeboxes spin the seven-inch discs constantly. He discovers intimate links between hit songs and his own development as he travels from town to town changing the records in jukeboxes with Percy Peel, a mystery media mogul who leaves lasting impressions on Jim. As they did for millions of 1960s youth, The Beatles play a defining role as one of Jim’s change agents.

McNally Robinson: If you are coming into one of our stores, we suggest that you confirm that the book you want is in stock by emailing the location nearest you: Grant Park, Saskatoon, or by phoning the location nearest you.


Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Fiction, Friendship, grief, Hope, Humour, Love, Manitoba, Manitoba Heritage, Movies, Music, Prairie People, PRAIRIES, Radio, shaman, shamanism, Spirit, Winnipeg, Wisdom

Mayo = Life

I don’t know the author of this but it has appeared with variations online for awhile. This is my favourite version. The empty mayo jar equals our empty awareness.

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.
‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.’
‘Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked. ‘The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.’

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Humour, shamanism, Spirit, Wisdom

Quote of the Day

“There comes a time in life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but HAPPY. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”
Source Unknown


Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Life and Life Only, Love, Wisdom

My Memories of a Ghost Town

Reid Dickie

Part 2 of 3


This article about Hayfield along with a store picture was supplied to the Souris and Glenwood Municipality history book, published in 2006.

    I may be the last person alive who ever lived in Hayfield, Manitoba.

    My parents (Bruce and Helen Dickie) and I moved from Margaret, Manitoba in 1952 when they purchased the Red and White store in Hayfield. I was three years old. Dad bought grain in Margaret for Pool Elevators after he returned from the war and wanted a new experience.

   Hayfield provides my earliest firm memories. The country general store my parents bought was a huge two-story rectangular building with shed-roof wings, slat siding and Red and White Store emblazoned across the front. We bought the buildings, not the name, from Mrs. Canning after Mr. Canning passed away. Thereafter it became Dickie’s General Store though the white with red trim remained. As you came over the rise traveling west on Hayfield Road, the store, blazing white in the bright sun, stood against a rolling landscape of crop and fallow making it impossible to miss.

Front view of Dickie’s General Store in Hayfield. Note the handpump-style gas bowser. The child in the picture is me.

    The store, which faced east, had a flat roof and façade with a central entrance and sidelights bracketed by two large multi-paned display windows. The sidelights sported large Coca-Cola decals. On the façade a pair of narrow rectangular windows opened into the second floor. The wing on the south housed vehicles, the one on the north a storage area with its own entrance. A windbreak of trees to the north and west of the store helped protect it from inclement weather.

    Don’t mistake Hayfield for a town or even a village. It was mostly just a store. Besides my parents and me, just two others resided in Hayfield: the hired man, Lawrence Murphy who rented a room from us and an older man named Dave Rogers who lived in the only remaining house in Hayfield. More cats and dogs than people lived in Hayfield.

   On the main floor, our store sold groceries, dry goods, house wares and a few farm supplies. A soft drink cooler – the kind with a tank of cold moving water holding drinks like Kik Cola, Wynola, cream soda and a myriad of Stubby flavours – stood next to the front door. Customers came in from the summer heat, opened the large lid of the cooler and either poured over the vast variety of drinks or reached right for their brand, likely Cokes all clustered together. I accumulated a huge bottle cap collection from the sticky catch bin of the cooler.

    At the rear of the store, a post office offered the services of the Royal Mail. Mom was the postmistress and Dad delivered the mail to the local farms. In winter, he drove a horse and cutter, in summer he used a half-ton. The post office was the only place off limits to me, federal property and all – there and Lawrence Murphy’s room upstairs in the corner, personal property and all.

    Oiled wooden planks, likely original to the place, covered the floor of the store. I recall the slightly chemical smell of the crumbly green stuff we put on the floor before we swept it. In front of the store in the parking lot was an Esso gas bowser, the kind with the glass tank overhead into which you hand-pumped with a handle the required number of gallons then gravity pulled it into the tank.

   We lived at the back and above the store. Behind the store were our kitchen, family room and mudroom. A crude summer room led off the kitchen. Our bedrooms were upstairs, my parents in the front corner, Lawrence’s in the opposite back corner, mine along side Mom and Dad’s. These bedrooms all opened into a huge living room with linoleum floor and four wood frame windows across the south side We never had much in the way of furniture up there (our financial situation was modest at best) so I rode my tricycle around and around in the bright airy empty room.

    In one upstairs corner down a short hallway, a dusty storage room housed an enchanting assortment of things from the store’s past. A moveable type printing press, in pieces but with the type open and available to my little fingers sat next to store displays for products that hadn’t been made in decades and a few personal effects of families who lived there before us. I’m not sure why but my parents completely ignored this room and its contents. It became my secret place.

    The mysterious and intriguing thing that turned the storage room into a secret place was not left behind by a person. On the sill of a west window, I found the perfectly preserved skeleton of a mouse, bleached white by the sun. It provided my first exposure to death encountered suddenly in an unexpected place. I remember how the sheer brightness of the tiny bones reached out and grasped my attention, how I would stand and stare at the glowing white structure, arranged like jewelry on the grey wooden ledge, the sun pointing slanty fingers through the slowly moving dust.  My young imagination strained to picture those frail dry bones supporting a tiny body in a soft fur coat, tail sweeping back and forth, warm life pulsing inside. Over the years, I watched these fragile bones turn to a soft white powder.

This promotional item from Dickie’s General Store is a small first aid kit in a plastic box containing an antiseptic solution, cotton absorbent, a spool of tape and basic first aid instructions.

      By the time we arrived in Hayfield, only a short section of the raised grade across the prairie remained to remind you that railway tracks once ran through here. At some point Hayfield had at least one elevator but all that remained of it was a metal grain bin set deep into the ground, its shiny slanted metal sides gaping and open to the sky, a great danger to anything that fell into it. It usually held enough water in the bottom of the hopper to drown a child, a constant worry to my parents. I recall Mom’s frequent warnings not to go near the hopper. It was the most dangerous thing I ever encountered in Hayfield.

   North of the wooden store, two small sheds and a barn, all with gable ends, sat next to a corral. The last building in the row, a big wooden hall, provided me with endless hours of amusement. (This was formerly the Hayfield church.) The hall consisted of a large room with rectangular windows along both sides and an open raised stage at one end. Used for storing lumber, the place was full of planks in piles. I found some old drums left behind by a band that made music there at some previous time. The skins were broken but I can recall standing on the stage all alone banging on the drums with a stick singing at the top of my lungs to my captive audience of old planks.

   Being an only child in a rural setting without nearby children, I became a self-amusing kid, my performances to old lumber an example. I roamed the area with our black lab, Jet. Mom could always tell my whereabouts because she’d see Jet’s black tail above the tall grass or crop and know her son was safe. 

   left: Bruce and Reid at front door of Dickie’s General Store in Hayfield, 1955  below: Mom in front of store 1955

    Cats abounded in Hayfield. I recall one rainy day racing back and forth from barn to house excitedly reporting every new kitten our cat Freckles produced. A few barn cats tried to keep the mouse population under control.

     Southwest of the store, a dilapidated wooden fence encircled a space for an ice rink in winter, another hint of Hayfield’s past. Unused by the time we arrived, Dad would cover a small section of the rink with water, clean off a smooth patch with a rusty old ice scraper and let me skate. I learned to skate on this bumpy ice by pushing a small kitchen chair ahead of me.

     In summer, wild windstorms swept in from the northwest or, more scarily, from the east. Dust devils as big as funnel clouds came swirling across the black summer fallow, lifting cones of dry dust into the heat. The wind would pop out a pane of old glass in the upper floor of the store, sweep through the place looking for egress, punch out a window in the back room downstairs and continue its desperate journey across the prairie. I have jumbled, frightening recollections of the wind and thunder pounding outside while we frantically held pillows to the windows on the storm side of the house. On more than one occasion, the weather became our enemy, vulnerable as we were out there.

    Dickie’s General Store would be the last store in the old building. Newly mobile, people found Brandon nearby, alluring and centralized. Our country store was obsolete. In the fall of 1957, we held an auction sale liquidating the stock. Dad found a job running a Texaco consignee business delivering bulk gas and fuel oil to service stations, farms and homes in and around Shoal Lake, Manitoba out on Highway 16. He moved there first and we followed a month or two later. I don’t know the arrangement but Lawrence Murphy stayed on as caretaker of the Hayfield buildings. He may have run the post office for a few more years after we left. Later Lawrence lived in Souris.

The store and all the remaining buildings in Hayfield came to a sad but useful end in the 1990s when firefighters in training from Brandon and Souris used them for practice. They set the buildings on fire then put them out, set them on fire then put them out, and so on until they were gone. It brought a tear to Dad’s eye when I told him the details of Hayfield’s demise but we agreed the cause was worthy and a fitting finale.

Helen Dickie passed away in 1993, Bruce in 2001. They lie side-by-side in Shoal Lake Cemetery. I make a living as a freelance writer, working out of Winnipeg although since my wife Linda passed away, I am trying to retire. My areas of interest include urban and rural architecture, history, heritage issues, music and spirituality.

My years in Hayfield, ages three to eight, were formative in my life and in the world. Humanity emerged out of the darkness of a great war into a time of sunny optimism when hope invaded our hearts and souls. The future glowed with promise and prosperity. Somehow, that sense of optimism filtered through to our little family and gave us the strength we needed to move and survive in a new town.

Though I consider Shoal Lake my hometown, Hayfield, Hebron School and the Brandon Hills left indelible impressions. That was where the mysteries of life and death revealed themselves to me in obvious and subtle ways, where I learned lessons that are still useful and relevant to me every day. Hayfield is gone but I expect its lessons will last a lifetime.

A bluff of trees in a cow pasture and the grade of the lane suggest Hayfield but its only a suggestion against the big prairie sky.


Filed under 1950s, Family, Ghost Towns, Linda, Manitoba Heritage, Prairie People


Need to feel hopeful today? Click picture.


Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Hope, Spirit