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MILLS, Edith S. – Chipman, NB


“Don’t be ashamed when you fail. The standard of education in New Brunswick is lower than that in Ontario,” said the principal of THE SIR JAMES DUNN COLLEGIATE & VOCATIONAL SCHOOL to me in 1963 where my father had moved us.

I passed with honours.

My friend Jane Jacobs, author of the pivotal book THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES, stated in an interview in THE GLOBE AND MAIL, “I had wonderful teachers in the first and second grades who taught me everything I know. After that, I’m afraid, the teachers were nice, but they were dopes…I have a lack of ideology, and not because I have an animus against any particular ideology; it’s just that they don’t make sense to me…they get in the way of thinking. I don’t see what use they are…University and uniformity, as ideals, have subtly influenced how people thought about education, politics, economics, government, everything…We are misled by universities and other intellectual institutions to believe that there are separate fields of knowledge. But it’s clear there are no separate fields of knowledge. It is a seamless web.”

Like Mrs. Jacobs I learned almost everything I needed to know from my first and second grade teachers.

My first grade teacher in Minto, New Brunswick asked us to draw stick figures. She was the wife of the principal.

“You are an artist,” she said when she saw mine. I had put breasts on my women and our gear on my men. From then on daily she encouraged me. School was fun.

“You have a dirty mind,” said my second grade teacher when she saw my stick figures. She beat me to make me stop. I refused.

In second grade I learned the first important lesson of my life. I knew had I been doing something wrong my first grade teacher would have told me. At seven I learned a teacher could be wrong. Native Americans teach when we beat a person we pound the badness in.

The beatings I took in grade two pounded the badness in deep.

Only it was not badness.

The final important lesson of my life came from Edith Mills who was my English teacher in Chipman, New Brunswick from Grade 9 through 11 where she also was my home room teacher.

She thought I had the makings of a good speaker. She entered me in an Oratorical Contest in Sussex, New Brunswick.

What impressed her most about that contest was when one of the student speakers used the word “unmitigated.” She talked about the surprise of hearing such a wonderful word. I vowed one day to give her that surprise.

Came the day I was called to speak extemporaneously to the class. That’s a $20 word for, “Off the cuff.”

Now Mrs. Mills was a stern teacher unafraid to send us to the office for the strap when we were out of line.

As I spoke I saw a word coming up which if used at that time carried the penalty of the strap. I looked for another word. There was not one. I said to myself, “You’re getting the strap today.”

The next day another student called to speak used the word I had used. He was sent to the office to get the strap. I was furious.

“Are you trying to make me look like teacher’s pet?” I asked her.

In words I have never gotten she said, “I watched you choosing. I watched you accepting the responsibility of your choice. You were right. It was the right word. He was just walking through the door you opened.”

In that moment for the first time in my life I understood the difference between liberty and licence.

Liberty accepts the responsibility of the action. Licence always thinks it can get away with the action. Licence says, “He did it. I can do it.”

A few years ago I was invited to speak at The University of New Brunswick in Frederiction. The people who had invited me asked if they could have the mayor of my home town, Minto, honour me.

I said, “On condition my grandmother Mabel Smith, my aunts Janet and Anne Hartt and my former teacher Edith Mills be there.”

Above is the Mayor of Minto, myself and my mother’s mother Mabel Smith. Her husband was a blacksmith. The car killed that trade plunging my mother’s family into abject poverty. My grandmother washed floors and cleaned houses to feed her family. The ladies she cleaned houses for were shocked that the cleaning lady’s grandson got so honoured. She was a strong woman. I love her.

They were.

I told Mrs. Mills what the principal had said to me when I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie about the standard of education in New Brunswick being lower than that in Ontario. I told her I passed with honours.

She said, “Maybe he said that to spur you on.”

I replied, “I don’t think that man had it in him to consciously play the part of the gadfly.”

She looked at me with the unexpected sudden shock of wonder. I had just used a word she rarely heard and used it completely in the right context.

I knew I had just achieved one of my goals.


Over a beer in her home Jane Jacobs said, “The best part of what you offer is what you have to say.”

I said, “Hearing that from you is better than receiving an Academy Award.”

Mrs. Jacobs said, “I would not say that.”

I replied, “I would. I know the calibre of the people who vote on those things.”

Last year by chance I found myself listed among the top fifty male orators of all time.

I like to say, “That and $50 will buy you a case of beer.”

It’s too bad Mrs. Mills has gone to glory.

It would please her much to know that.

The standard of education in New Brunswick produced a man recognized around the world for the quality of his work. People in New Brunswick have every right to be proud.

Toronto animation artists and fans don’t come to my programs. Why? Because they don’t wish to hear what I have to say. Chuck Jones is the one the Masters of Animation. As can be seen from this card what I have to say was very close to his heart. The people closest to us (family, friends, people who live in the same city and time) are the ones who least value us. Ignore them. Leave them behind.

When I invited Friz Freleng to Toronto in 1980 local animation artists and fans told me they were not interested in meeting him, that he was old hat and had nothing to teach them. Mr. Freleng’s work won him five Academy Awards. I brought him to Toronto to teach me. I learned a lot from him. That Christmas when I called him Friz said, “You are the finest host I ever met.” Now that is a compliment. Do what you do for yourself.

–Reg Hartt.

For twenty years one man has been doing everything he can to do me harm. Unlike in the maritimes where such a person would be quickly corrected in Ontario people copy the Pharisee and Scribe in Jesus’s parable of THE GOOD SAMARITAN. ,     


James Jacobs “My mother loved Reg Hartt.”


Jane Jacobs “ Stamp Out Fun”


Jane Jacobs Welcomes Bob Clampett to Toronto


Jane Jacobs “Dopes”


Jane Jacobs on writing


Jane Jacobs “Speak about what you want”


Jane Jacobs “We are mislead by universities”


Jane Jacobs “The economies of cities”


Jane Jacobs “The Death And Life Of Great American Cities”


Jane Jacobs “Cities And The Wealth Of Nations”


Jane Jacob “Incompetent By The Time We Are Prepared”

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