A deep love of Northern Ontario infuses the writing of Leaside author and retired North York history teacher and curriculum consultant Andy Thomson.
“I grew up in Sudbury and my extended family had a connection to a remote lake alongside the Spanish River where my grandfather, W. B. Plaunt, had operated a lumber company during the 1930s,” the author told Leaside Life. “After the mill closed, he renovated one of his former logging camps on Lake Pogamasing for his family to spend our summers. I soon learned through my canoeing adventures in the surrounding lakes that there was a lot of history to the area. Fortunately for me, my mother and my uncle also had an interest in the area’s history and they kept records, photos and stories. I discovered that we were living in an area that was a microcosm of the development of the Canadian wilderness. To share my findings, I wrote and published my first book, “Pogamasing, The Story of a Northern Lake.”
Andy told us that his writing developed out of a personal desire to share the stories of the people and places that resonated most with him. It was on his many adventures canoeing and hiking on Lake Pogamasing that he came across numerous artifacts from bygone times. The old logging cabins, dams, and boom chains finally spurred him to act on his decision to pursue the history of the lake. He sat down with his uncle and a tape recorder and got started learning the many stories about the area. That coupled with his love of research set him on a path through archives and historical film footage until he was ready to begin his own work. Many of his uncle’s historical films can be viewed at Andy’s website, www.pogamasing.com.
The author’s second book was more personal. “My mother’s younger brother, Donald Plaunt, enlisted in the RCAF in 1941 and after becoming a bomber pilot, was killed in March 1943,” he said. “Fortunately, he was a prolific letter-writer, and after I found his 150 letters which my grandparents had kept, I knew I had to share his story. There were also some compelling connections which motivated me to write this book.” Andy’s biography, “Write Soon and Often, The Life of a Bomber Pilot Through His Letters Home,” was published recently.
“In some ways the biography that I have just written has given me the opportunity to honour my uncle, just one of the 47,000 young men in the Second World War who gave his life to preserve the quality of life we enjoy today,” Andy noted, reflecting on Canada’s celebration of its 150th anniversary and renewed interest in the country’s history.
You might think writing would be second nature to an academic. But the author says that writing has never come easily to him. “For my personal writing, I followed W. H Auden’s principle of ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I’ve written.’ As a result I had to do a lot of writing, and rewriting, until I was satisfied with the final product.”
Over the years, this passionate northerner has become an equally passionate Leasider, with strong ties to the community. Andy and his wife moved to the area in 1982 after searching throughout Toronto for the right community and being attracted to Leaside’s small-town feel. Once their two children were old enough to enrol in community sports leagues, Andy became a coach in the boys’ hockey team and the girls’ softball league. He enjoyed these roles especially because they allowed him to grow closer to many other members of their neighbourhood and strengthened their bond with the Leaside community.
Simon Day wrote this article.