Friday, July 30, 2021

Post 4050 - Friday Night Philosophical Thoughts

 Another day down. Yay!

The long weekend is here. Double yay!

Except, every weekend is a long weekend to me. So, there is that.

It was a quiet day. I picked up some meds at the local Guardian Drugs after lunch. Noticed that gas had gone up over three cents over night. Good thing I filled the gas tank on Thursday, eh?

We watched some stuff on the PVR today. Then watched MIB:International, the 2019 attempt to reboot the Men in Black films. It started off promisingly, but about half way through it succumbed to the silliness and absurdity of the original films. It also bored us. We finished watching it because we are not quitters, but it is a couple hours of my life that are gone forever with nothing to show for it.

I just spent 30 minutes or so investigating a 1932 double murder in Glace Bay. I can find no proof that anyone was ever arrested for the murders. I guess I need to go to the archives soon and find out.  

It occurred to me just now that I should add a third category of cold cases. Right now, I have subfolders labelled "Published" and "Unpublished" for both unsolved murders and missing persons cases. I should add a subfolder of, say, "Abandoned" for cases that have since been resolved or for which little or no reasonable information can be found, or there just doesn't seem any point of continuing. 

For an example of what I mean, this week, a missing persons case from 1999 was all-but solved when the woman's body was found. Her name was Arlene McLean. I have a note on my written file from a few years ago that her son did not want to talk to me, and I did not feel it would be fair to just rehash the same stuff from the newspapers that had been published over and over. Plus, Yvonne Colbert did a pretty good piece on the radio a few years ago about missing persons cases and spoke to Arlene's son. I felt I could not add anything to the case unless I could speak to someone about it or some other compelling information crossed my desk. It was in my list of things to do, a list that grows larger and not smaller. 

The only mysteries now are how her body ended up where it did, the water, and why it took the CBC and other media to report this story, since I heard about it nearly two weeks ago. There is little else to investigate here, so I will probably just put it in this proposed "Abandoned" category, as there is no article to write here and it is inappropriate to keep it in the "unpublished" subfolder and it will never be a "published" article. I have already moved the McLean paper file to one of my cold case binders with proper documentation spelling out what happened. Because I am an anal person and need to have this stuff documented, even though I am the only one who reads this stuff.

You see the things I think about? Hmm?

It is nearly 1:30 in the morning. I think I will turn in. Might be going for a car drive on Saturday.

See you then.


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Post 4049 - Thursday NIght Things

Hello again.

We had a decent day.

We went to Humani-T Cafe this morning. They close part of their business a week from Saturday but will wind down other aspects of the business during the month of August, maybe even into September. Patricia will really miss the place. 

They have been around in one form or another since 1986, when Supernatural Foods opened in Maritime Centre, lower level. They eventually opened a second location in the North End, where they are now, and years later consolidated the business there, closing the Maritime Centre store. It was hard to get to for customers, who increasingly did not want to go downtown to get their health food. There was also a place further down on Hollis Street called Mary Jane's Alternative Tastes, so perhaps the competition was not fun.

Along the way, they rebranded to Humani-T Cafe. 

We had a sandwich. Patricia had a spicy chicken. I had chicken pesto. I had an vanilla Italian soda. Patricia had some kind of latte I think it was. We shared a gelato. 

From there we drove over to the Salvation Army store on Strawberry Hill. I got a couple books including a copy of "Dutch Oven", a fairly well known cookbook of recipes from Lunenburg County. Also got a couple shirts and a couple pairs of walking shorts. 

We made our way to Bayer's Lake to the Chapters store. I got a mystery novel by Max Allan Collins, whose work I have been reading since the 1980's. I looked high and low for that new Dean Jobb book, only to learn that they are about the only place that does not have it in stock yet. They didn't even know the book existed until I brought it to their attention. The earlier Jobb book I told you about the other night, they said they couldn't keep in stores over the holidays as it was selling so well. They can't wait to get the new one. 

We returned home. Watched some telly. After the news was over I drove to the Guardian Drugs to get my migraine pill subscription renewed. They were busy so I will pick them up tomorrow. Returned home and mowed the front and back lawn, and then whipper snipped the places I couldn't reach by lawnmower. That five dollar whipper snipper is the best money I spent in a long time. Works absolutely great. 

I returned inside. We watched Jeopardy! LeVar Burton's week is nearly over. He is not the one for the full time job. Then we watched this week's "The Good Fight", which is as good as ever.

The plan is to go to the cottage either Friday or Saturday. Let's see if we can keep this promise.

I think I will turn in. You all have a good evening.

Talk at you tomorrow.




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Post 4048 - Wednesday Night Wanderings

It is all about the alliteration.

I did not wander anywhere, unless you count going out to get the mail, which is maybe 50 feet from my front door. I otherwise did not leave the property today. 

This means we have not gone to the cottage yet. The latest plan is to go on Friday, but that may change as well. We are retired and don't like to keep to a particular schedule, unless we have a meeting or something.

Because so many of you have asked: no, I still have not found any more of those delightful Model M keyboards out in the wild. It was pure happenstance, plain dumb luck, that I found this here one at that thrift store for 50 cents a couple of years ago. It was intact. No buttons missing. And working as beautifully now as it did when it was manufactured in 1989. I still go to thrift stores and look in the section that has old computer parts, because every thrift store has a section that sells old computer parts. I think it is the law.

I think part of the reason these keyboards are hard to come by around here is that people have got wise to their value and either sell them on ebay or whatever, or one of the many people who know what they're worth hoard them and sell them to people like me who want them, charging outrageous prices for the privilege. 

There is such a joy to typing on these keyboards. Takes me back to the 1980's when I used them all the time because there was no other type to use, unless you used one of those keyboards that came with those primitive laptops from the period. But, no, otherwise, you were using these clunky keyboards. These memories are tinged with bad times but plenty of good ones. 

The actual typing is a pleasure that is hard to describe to those who have not used such a keyboard. They use the crappy ones that come with desktop computers and which you can get for a couple of dollars in any store that sells used computer systems. People just think the new keyboards are the bomb, and have never had the experience of using an actual keyboard designed for typing on. 

Anyway, I am still looking for a couple good Model M keyboards. Let me know if you have anything like that on hand. You know how to reach me, but this is the best way

It is past one ayem. I think I will call it a night. Wanna get up sort of early to check out the Humani-T Cafe which is closing for good in a week.

See you tomorrow.



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Post 4047 - Tuesday Night Thingies

And how was your day?

We both slept in later than we meant to. The CPAP machine has a funny effect on me. I wake up for a few minutes and decide to go back to bed "for a few minues". Next thing I know it is several hours later. If you care, my AHI, average hourly incidents, was 1.3, which is a far cry from the 42 it was in the Autumn when I had my sleep test.

Around mid-afternoon we realized we had taken nothing out of the freezer for dinner, and we needed to get some groceries, so we went to Swiss Chalet on Lacewood Drive for dinner. As far as we can recall, we had not been there since February or March when a few of us retirees had lunch there.

A great dinner under our belts, we went to the nearby Superstore. I bought the new Frank as I like to have a paper copy of my articles for my records. The article looks great. It is the type of content that if I were just a reader, I would want to read over and over again. I may not be a Dean Jobb, whom I fully acknowledge to be a superior researcher and writer, but I do my best. And since we are mining similar ground, super vintage Nova Scotia true crime, I feel I should be up on his latest work. My focus is on unsolved crimes, though. Dean doesn't do much of that. 

Speaking of Dean, I see that he has yet another book coming out. He has now two books of shorter pieces about crimes "from Nova Scotia's past". Here they are, side by side, taken from Dean's Twitter post.



So, the one on the right, "Daring, Devious & Deadly", I already have. The second one, "Madness, Mayhem & Murder", I only learned about this evening. I will probably get it, but I am pretty much convinced that he is just repackaging content from three earlier books he published in the 1980's and 1990's. Those books, in turn, were reprints of articles he did for the Chronicle Herald for many years. These more recent books will consist of reprints of reprints in other words.

That is, assuming that the new book is reprinted material from back in the day. I have seen the list of content for this new book and I have to compare it with the earlier trilogy of books to see if there is anything in the new book not in the older ones. 

I am not upset about this. I know what I am getting. I just wish he had stated that the 2020 book contained stuff from earlier books. And if this new one continues that tradition, he should come out and state that, too. I can't be the only one who knows about these old books, and owns them. It is hard to avoid these books at church rummage sales and fleamarkets.

I am keeping the earlier books, Bluenose Justice, Crime Wave, and Shades of Justice". At least one of them contains some pretty good research tips and named some Nova Scotia newspapers I had not heard of before, most of which are at the Archives for easy perusal. 

Anyway, I will come across as a bitter person if I keep going down this path. I wish Dean Jobb nothing but success. And in ten years or so, he can re-package the books yet again and I will still be here noting the re-re-re-reprints.

We got home and watched the news and then Jeopardy! LeVar Burton had apparently got some constructive feedback after he taped his first episode recently. He decided to dial things back a bit, but it had mixed results. He still sounds overly excited when someone gets something right. 

Off topic, I know, not that this blog has a particular topic, but I think Burton's behaviour about how much he wants the Jeopardy! gig to be unseemly. He has been everywhere open lobbying for the full time job. I do not consider him to be the best candidate, though. Several others I felt did a much better job. We'll see if his wife gave him more feedback after the second taping and whether his performance when the show is broadcast on Wednesday night.

We also watched a few episodes of "Schitt's Creek" tonight. We did not really watch the original broadcast. Just thought it was one of those unfunny cBC comedies, of which there is a multitude. But all the EMMY wins and the adulation made us decide to watch it from the beginning on Netflix. It remains a hard slog in places, but we have made it to season four. 

The show is seldom laugh-out-loud funny but maybe it was never designed to be that way, which is fine. I was never designed to be a sports jock, a fact beaten into me when I was young and which I cheerfully acknowledge to anyone who will listen. That is all fine. The show has a sweetness to it. Some of the ancillary characters are fun to watch, especially the guy who plays Bob, the man who owns the garage that the patriarch used for a work space. Did you ever notice that he almost always half runs into a scene? 

But here we are in season four, and we still don't get why the show is so revered. Does something happen in the second half of the show's run that will convince us that we are doing the right thing in investing all this time to watch this show? 

It is now pushing one ayem. I think I will turn in. You all take care of yourselves and see you tomorrow.


Monday, July 26, 2021

Post 4046 - Monday Night Ramblings

Well, here it is, past 12:30am, technically Tuesday morning.

I had a quiet day. We did not go to the cottage today. In a day or two, I guess. 

We watched some stuff on the telly. I made dinner, consisting of barbecued salmon, mashed potatoes and mixed veggies. The potatoes I used, while purchased recently, were developing a fair amount of rot already. I don't know if that is characteristic of potatoes at Sobeys this summer or not. I am glad we only got a small bag of them.

I have the subject for my next cold case article. I just have to assemble my notes and write the thing. A hint as to its subject: I will incorporate a line or two from an email from the executive director of the Atlantic Jewish Council.

Over the weekend I put away the Frank Johnson notes and his service records and Vava's death certificate in the binder I keep for them. Yes. I have so many notes, and printed off so many copies of Stephen Kimber's murder-suicide pdf that I filled an actual binder! 

For those who care, I have seven binders in my home office full of notes about cases I have already written. There is another binder with notes about cases I need to research more and then write about.  And I have an "active" clipboard I got a church rummage sale a few years ago for about 25 cents, which has notes on cases I am actively working on. I carry it with me when I go to the archives or the library. I have a second, similar clipboard for when I do my occasional media interviews and podcast appearances. Let us not mention the dropbox cold case folder with thousands of documents in it, okay? Okay. We won't. 

Yeah. I know. A bit much, ennit?  

I am going to turn in. Long day, with not much accomplished. I like these days sometimes.

See you tomorrow.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Post 4045 - One Last Thing About Frank and Vava and Nadia Johnson

I forgot to mention this last night. 

After my article with all the good information about Frank and Vava Johnson went live, I received an email from the British Ministry of Defence. It was in response to an email I had sent them a few days earlier, asking if they knew anything that could point to Frank and/or Vava being spies against the British government. 

Royal Navy Report Writer Clive Clarke wrote back and stated that what they had sent me was the "only documentation" they had on hand. There was nothing else to send along. "There was not a specific file" on Frank Mills Johnson, other than the military service records they had sent me in May. 

They looked through what they sent me in the same way I did. Clive wrote that this document "gives no indication... of what could be considered treasonous activity". This activity "would have resulted in criminal proceedings of the most serious nature". 

He then suggested I contact the National Archives, and sent me to a broken link, but I googled it and found them. 

Clive went on to tell me that "certain materials regarding courtmartials" and so on are at those Archives. If I cannot get there myself, I can engage a researcher to search on my behalf, and at my expense. There is also some content online, and that can be requested at no cost during the pandemic. That is, assuming that I googled the correct website. 

The last things he told me were that "some documentation... may still be subject to secrecy legislation", and that he could not offer any more suggestions. 

I wrote back and thanked him for his time and asked him to verify the website link but haven't heard back. I likely will not. I gather they get a lot of emails and a guy writing from "across the pond" is not a big priority for them, especially when it concerns a local case from nearly 80 years ago. 

So, unless I poke around in the archives, or get someone to do it for me, this is likely the end of the line. But since there is nothing in Frank Johnson's military service records mentioning anything treasonous, or any kind of spy work, or anything like that, just the inappropriate things I did see on the service records and reported in Frank Magazine the other week, I do not think there is anything to find. The talk that either Frank or Vava, or both, were spies, was just a juicy tidbit one of the detectives on the case mentioned in an old police report that Ron Grantham picked up on years later and reported to Stephen Kimber, who included it in his e-book about the Johnson murder-suicide.

It is also possible that Eric Dennis, whose diaries and notes Kimber was able to scrutinize, scribbled something about them being spies, based upon scuttlebutt, rumour and innuendo he had heard but wisely chose not to report. That would have been a rumour in Halifax at the time of the murder, and the deeply unfortunate timing of Vava's accident fueled such speculation. 

The truth is much more prosaic, but still ultimately tragic for all parties. Frank Johnson did what he did for the reasons I specified in my piece. They were not spies. Nadia was a pure victim caught between Vava's aloof indifference toward her, and her father's evil intentions and mental health issues. 

Read the article in the current Frank and you will see for yourself.

Like I said last night, unless something concrete comes up, or my editor tells me to spend a bunch of time and money on this file to chase down the spy angle, then I believe this decades-old mystery to be solved.

See you tomorrow.




Saturday, July 24, 2021

Post 4044 - Finding Nadia's Grave and Other Saturday Things

Hope you had a good day. We did.

We went to the Windsor Street Farmer's Market, where we only got a bag of coffee from the new roastery in Beaver Bank, which we had never heard of before. 

From there we drove to Carlton Street and parked the car. I wanted to drop by and say hello to Nadia Johnson. Let her know that we think we solved the mystery behind her murder.

The new issue of Frank Magazine lays out all my research, which took months to wait for and quite a bit of time to sift through and then write. You will have to buy the magazine or read it online to see these details, but suffice to say that I feel it dispels most of the mystery behind this 1943 murder-suicide. Read it and let me know what you think.

It occurred to me that some of you may give enough of a darn that you might want to visit their graves, to spit on his and respect hers. Just know that Frank is not literally buried there. Record keeping was faulty back in the day, especially for the pauper's section of the cemetery, and Frank's actual burial spot is unknown, but is apparently within 10 feet of Nadia's. 

So, on Saturday, I recorded the following video, which shows you just where they are buried. I left a couple blog business cards at her headstone, so you'll know you're in the right place if you go there in the next day or so.

Make sure you start at the Carlton Street entrance or you will have a much more difficult time finding their graves.

Patricia thinks I am obsessed with Nadia. I would not be the first person to do so. Retired Halifax cop, the late Ron Grantham, certainly was back in the day. They used to play together, and he continued to sneak access to the official file long after he became an officer. I think he was the one who popularized the theory that Frank and his wife Vava were spies, based upon what he said he found in those old police files. 

Robert MacNeil of the PBS MacNeil-Lehrer Report spent the first dozen or so years of his life in Halifax, and also knew the story of the murder, and I think knew Nadia. In recent years, he tried to solve the mystery and hit a brick wall or three. His hope was to write some kind of historical novel about the case.

And Stephen Kimber's e-book about the murder-suicide was extremely thorough and one could get the impression that he was, at least for a time, obsessed with the story. If I ever see him again at Superstore, I will ask him. 

So, am I obsessed? I think I was, but now that the story seems to be nearly solved, I think I can let it go, or at least give it the old college try. 

This video, shot on Saturday, I hope to be my last word on the subject, unless something extraordinary on the case presents itself.

From there, we went to the Public Gardens for 90 minutes or so. I have visited the Gardens for more than 30 years, and I swear, every time I go, I find something I hadn't noticed before. This all made for thirsty work, so we had a couple of Italian sodas. 

We wandered over to Jean's Restaurant on Spring Garden Road. I had been there before. Patricia said she had and seems to remember the time we were both there together, but I don't recall that. At any rate, we both had a small wonton soup, which could have been a meal. We also each had the Saturday special, chicken or beef hunan with chicken fried rice and egg roll or spring roll. Ten dollars. A heaping plate of food was put in front of each of us. I ate somewhat more of mine than Patricia did of hers but a large portion of our victual went home with us. 

I have not been to every Chinese food place in town, but Jean's is clearly one of the best and provides excellent food value. We will go back there, soon. The server told me that they will actually deliver to Timberlea as well, if you pay an extra $5 surcharge. Good to know!

We returned to the car and made our way back home. Stopped off at the drugstore. Noticed there will be a couple of yardsales on Sunday. And then returned here. Watched the last two episodes of "Good Girls", which ended disappointingly. The show is no more. There was hope of returning for one last abbreviated season, but apparently Christina Hendricks and Manny Montana hated each other so much that NBC decided to use it as an excuse to cancel the show. 

Tonight we watched "Gunpowder Milkshake" on Netflix. The stylish aspects of the violence were highly reminiscent of Tarantino's earlier work, but the violence was offputting to Patricia. I think there will be a sequel. And then we watched "Night School", starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish. A decent time filler on a gloomy and foggy Saturday night.

It is now 1:30 in the morning. Really should turn in and get up and pack for the cottage. 

You all have a good evening. Talk at you tomorrow.