Can You Spare A Dime?

By John Swartz

Funny thing about this pandemic, despite all the free time to think, or just pay attention, things slip through the crack. By funny I mean odd, not laugh out loud, or even snicker.

Take the Leacock Medal For Humour for instance. Every year there is anticipation at this end for the announcement of the short-short list, the short list, and then for dinner to settle after listening to three finalist authors read from their nominated books, and watch – in past years – Leacock Associates president Nathan Taylor sweat while he preambles about the importance and honour of winning the medal while he tries to figure out if he actually put the envelope with the winner’s name in his suit pocket.

Then there’s the announcement. It must have been a sanguine moment last June, physically distanced by hundreds of miles from a nicely roasted chicken dinner when the winner…


Oops, somehow or other the announcement of the medal winner didn’t just slip through the crack at this end this year, it went completely un-noticed amidst the scads of emails from the City of Orillia, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the notices from the stunningly well performing premier of the Province of Ontario, various notices subscribed to and Jim Foster. There was no fanfare, no fireworks, no jubilation Heidi L. M. Jacobs won the medal for her novel Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear.

It’s probably because the announcement usually happens at an awards gala dinner, such as it is for Orillia when it comes to galas and dinners, and this writer is present – usually kibitzing with the nominees and perennial dinner emcee Ian Ferguson and I usually have to be ready to duck a spilled, or knocked over drink when the winner bumps the table jumping out of their seat with the mention of their name by Nathan and obviously there was no gala, no dinner, and no reason to later remember, or remember the next afternoon who the winner was and write something about it.

That was a fine example of a compound sentence. If you disagree, you must be an English teacher. Tough, I’m not changing it.

So apologies to Heidi Jacobs for the absent and usual glowing account of her magnificent win as others have received in past years. If everything else has to be different this year, why not this matter? At least she can take some comfort spending, or having spent, her $15,000 prize money. She can at least wear the badge of being the last medal winning author to have such a great sum to ‘invest’ in something.

What? You say. Yes, it’s true; the Leacock Associates have run out of money. Not completely, but darn close to it. You see, the TD Bank, which fantastically managed to carve out a portion of their quarterly profit to fund the prize money has fallen on hard times. Well, they fell on hard times three years ago, apparently, when they stopped funding the prize. I’m glad I closed my account decades ago before they ran into trouble. Maybe they were glad too.

The fine folks at the Associates dipped into their reserves and took after the City of Orillia to fund the prize Ms. Jacobs blew, or ‘invested’, but unlike the City they do not have a tax levy to rely on next year. There is nothing in the cookie jar kept in Brewery Bay just out of reach of anyone even noticing it from the dock of old Stevie’s re-built boathouse. Next year’s winner might only get a wet on the outside, and wet on the inside cookie jar (someone should have mentioned cookie jars are not water tight) for all their effort being the funniest in the land author, unless…

Heidi L. M. Jacobs did get to lick up her award.

Unless, the campaign starting today to raise money for the prize is a moderate success. SUNonline/Orillia received an email marked important (someone should have marked the medal announcement important – file that advice for next year) (while the brackets are handy, when the author finally does make it to Orillia to pick up the hardware and paperware maybe an email to anyone in the media is warranted)  people can surf on into their FundRazr (modern English, who needs it?) webpage and donate to make sure a Canadian author doesn’t starve. The runners-up get a small cheque as well, at least they did before this accounting error was discovered.

Mike Hill, the new president, and the board (members, not the loose one on the boathouse deck) are hatching a financial campaign plan to also get the book industry to pony up some money and hopefully find a sponsor for the grand give-a-way in subsequent years. I hear old Stevie wrote a story about banking and several about financial management. They should take at look at them.

So, if you have a couple extra bucks, or know someone who does, help keep the 73-year-old tradition alive, think of the children of the authors and donate.

(Photo by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia, Supplied) Main: Stephen Leacock’s bust with newly installed Mayor/Grand Chief of Mariposa Drew Hayden Taylor at the podium for the 2019 Medal for Humour gala.


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