Senior Living: Newsletter keeps old friends in the loop

Well-researched Montreal correspondence holds all the news that’s fit to print

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How lucky can I get? No, I did not win the lottery, but I am the lucky recipient of a newsletter that I enjoy reading. The newsletter is put out by Harvey Grossman and is addressed to his classmates from the Class of 1947 at the High School of Montreal.

I have met fellow writer Harvey at the meetings of the Montreal Branch of the Canadian Authors Association of which both of us were members and he, at one time, president. Over the years our acquaintance developed into friendship with him and his wife Eileen. This is how, awhile ago, I got onto the mailing list of Harvey’s newsletter.

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Harvey started writing his twice-yearly newsletter some years ago. The latest issue is number 25.

At first a newsy account of classmates’ doings — and their number has sadly dwindled over the years — the newsletter now contains 20 or so pages, filled with material worthy of a fine publication.

Harvey, a fine writer, takes his task seriously. While not computer-savvy, he does his research the old-fashioned way, visiting bookstores and checking endless library shelves to find information for his chosen topic.

Of course, class news is still one of the features of the newsletter, including the sad task of penning obituaries. The pages are also enlivened with photos, cartoons and quotations related to the topic at hand.

Harvey’s interests are wide-ranging and his newsy commentary might include up-to-date topics like the situation in Ukraine, climate change or perhaps the explanation of the word COVID (an amalgamation of CO for corona — crown — and VID for virus).

Or, it could be an essay on the great Saint Francis of Assisi, whose name the present Pope chose on ascending to the papacy and whose poem, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace” is beloved and often quoted.

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So what are Harvey’s favourite topics? A serious lover of classical music he also sneaks in an article or two on that subject. It could be Joseph Haydn’s Creation, a magnificent oratorio composed for voices and orchestra and based on the book of Genesis. We also find out that both Mozart and Beethoven were friends of the composer and that; in fact, Mozart addressed him as “Papa.”

A more contemporary composer featured could be Britain’s Gustav Holst and his masterpiece, The Planets. There are seven movements in the work, each depicting a planet’s character, from the clamour of Mars to the exuberance of Jupiter and the mysticism of Neptune. Reading this analysis, one has the desire to hear this hour-long masterpiece.

A lifelong lover of Latin — instilled in him during his high school years — and of Roman and Greek culture — Harvey penned An Excursion into Latin. Quotes from the poet Horace, plus additional Latin phrases such as “Carpe diem” (seize the day) give us a peek into that long-ago world (it also made me realize how much of my high school Latin I have forgotten). We also learn that, as a sign of status, Roman emperors and high society conversed in Greek, not Latin.

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Once initiated into the classics, Harvey pursued reading classical works by Virgil, Homer and Ovid though, admittedly, in English translations.

Closer to the present and to home, Harvey reminisces about that famous High School of Montreal. Founded in 1843, the school boasted, in Harvey’s day, a large gym, indoor swimming pool and planetarium. It also provided a fine education in various subjects, including Latin, mathematics and science. Harvey also credits his high school education for instilling in him a love of English poetry. “High school imprinted on our formative years a life toward love and maturity,” he writes.

In those days, of course, Montreal High was segregated into boys’ and girls’ schools. Harvey relates that two smart people, Doug and Annabelle, managed to outwit the system, meeting on the dividing line between the schools. A daring act that eventually lead to their marriage.

Here’s to the High School of Montreal Class of ’47 and keep those newsletters coming, Harvey!

P.S. to last month’s “wake up” column. Use your judgment and be COVID- and health-protected.

— Alice Lukacs writes the Life in the 90s column

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