Tale Bearer: More Stories from Them Times to be launched Oct. 25
Tale Bearer: More Stories from Them Times, written by Island storyteller David Weale of Charlottetown, is the sequel to one of the author’s most popular books, Them Times, which was published 20 years ago. Tale Bearer is available for $19.95 at bookstores and some other retail outlets across the Island. The launch is Oct. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Y-Lofts in Charlottetown.
© Guardian photo by Mary MacKay
Prince Edward Island storyteller and author David Weale of Charlottetown has heeded the calls from his cache of collected Island stories and published Tale Bearer: More Stories From Them Times. This book is the sequel to one of his most popular books, Them Times, which was published 20 years ago.
Some people collect material things like classic record albums, antique cars, or old coins.
But for Prince Edward Island storyteller and author David Weale of Charlottetown, the currency in his invaluable collection is vintage vignettes and stories from the early to mid-20th century.
And, for the past two decades, they have been whispering write-me, write-me sweet nothings in his ear so they could be brought to literary life.
“They did for years. Every time I went down in the basement where I keep all my story binders — there’s a whole wall of them — to find something I would think that ,” says Weale, who is launching his new book, Tale Bearer: More Stories from Them Times, on Oct. 25.
“It was like they were saying, ‘It’s time, David, it’s time. You need to get these out there.’ Red Magazine has been great for that because I can use a lot of material that I have in my storytelling publication. But I knew there was material like this, like Tale Bearer, that if I
didn’t get it out there that I was going to take it to the grave. . . .”
Weale has been collecting story material for decades through his travels and from his former students in the social and folk history course he used to teach at UPEI, as well as own experiences growing up in rural P.E.I.
“Even though that earlier period was almost over when I was a child I still did live in that old culture for about 15 years. It became the foundation of my whole writing career — those years as a child living in those little farming communities and knowing people from them,” he says.
“I have tremendous affection, I suppose the way every person does, for the culture of my childhood because as a child people might be poor and there might be all kinds of problems but you’re a child and the world is full of wonderful things.”
Tale Bearer is the sequel to one of the author’s more popular writings, Them Times, which was published 20 years ago.
“That’s why I called the introduction ‘Love Letter’ because my son said to me one day, ‘Are you still writing that love letter about Them Times?’ And I smiled but that’s exactly what I was doing. I was expressing with affection what I remembered and what I had gathered from that period,” Weale says.
Highlighted within Tale Bearer are traditions that are so entrenched in local culture that they are as normal as breathing. For example, there is the cup of tea that was standard in the daily life of Islanders in both good times and in bad, and the method of boiling it and then adding more bags as the day went along until there was little room left for liquid.
“One old guy told me ‘The tea was so strong at our place you could trot a mouse across it,’” says Weale, who used this particular tradition to start off his series of Tale Bearer stories.’”
“It was a ritual. It’s just so basic to that period. Some stories in there don’t apply to everybody but a cup of tea applies to everyone, even the children. The children were not very old before they were drinking tea. Many kids were addicted to tea by the time they were 10 or 12 years old,” he adds with a laugh.
Weale also brings to life a rich cache of unique Island characters, including Uncle Jose — otherwise known as Joe MacDougall of Kildare — the local Paul Bunyan of tall-tale telling, who has been gone for 40 years.
“That’s a very enjoyable process because there were such characters. It was a storytelling culture and there were a lot of characters that people told stories about and there were a lot of characters who told stories,” Weale says.
“I loved a lot of those old eccentric ‘bent nail’ kind of characters and to get back into these stories, it’s like they live again.”
Books such as Tale Bearer, which help keep alive and document that element of P.E.I. culture, will become even more important as society changes, Weale adds.
“Every culture has a mythic past, every culture has a something that they think of as ‘Oh yes, that is something that really is who we are.’ Even though we are in this high-tech civilization, which is now the same all over the world, people are going to be asking, ‘But who are we? What is our true nature? What is our true story?’ And when that happens they’re going to think of ‘them times’ because that is the mythic period of P.E.I. history,” he says.
“I feel really good about getting it down so that when people are looking for that they will read things like Tale Bearer and they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s where we came from.’”