A storyteller silenced much too soonCanadians from coast to coast lost a familiar, and iconic, voice last week with the death of Stuart McLean, longtime host of CBC radio’s The Vinyl Cafe.
For two decades, McLean delighted fans with stories about Dave, a humble record store owner with a penchant for misadventure, and his wife, Morley, along with their two children, Sam and Stephanie.
There was also the family dog, Arthur, whose death in one of McLean’s many stories sent ripples across the country as those listening were flooded with memories of pets here and gone.
Until its hiatus in late 2015, CBC audiences tuned in Saturday mornings and Sunday at noon to the week’s Vinyl Cafe offering, and the popular story exchange segment.
It was a staple in countless homes or automobiles, as upon McLean’s death, having succumbed to melanoma, countless listeners shared stories of roadtrips with McLean travelling along with them.
Though he wasn’t physically in the car or truck, his easily recognizable voice made it seem as though he was.
Ahead of two shows at the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg in 2012, McLean took some time to chat with the Winchester Press, and then reporter Matthew Uhrig.
“I feel very strongly about the things that we Canadians have done together to build this country into what it is. I have tried in my quiet way to reflect and talk about those values, and to slip them into conversations.”
That was one of many standout quotes from the interview that made it into the subsequent story.
Our region found itself included in a few McLean stories, since the writer spent some time here years ago when researching for his book Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada.
In another tale, McLean tells the story of Orma Melvin’s first encounter with Maynard Helmer in September 1946. Melvin arrived in Winchester as a 23-year-old newly minted teacher, instructing courses in English, French, and physical education at the village high school.
Helmer was well known to many in the village, someone who today would be described as having developmental disabilities. He’d eventually earn the nickmame “The Boss,” always seeming to be at the scene of the village’s latest happening. This was his town, and a plaque in the 100 Club Park says so.
These were the types of stories McLean told, and we the audience are richer for them.
So, like his shows would often end, so long for now, Stuart, so long for now.