Writing the story

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Work on this history of the Ragnarokr leather shop began in June 1978 when the Multicultural History Society of Ontario accepted a proposal by Philip and Mary Mullins to interview and tape twenty American draft dodgers. The Society provided a tape recorder and agreed to pay the interviewers $20 per tape. In October 1978 Janice Spellerberg and Mary began interviewing members of the American exile community in Toronto for the Ontario Multi-Cultural Historical Society. Over the next four months they taped interviews with Mary Burdick, Tom Bonanno, Madelyn Averitte, Abraham Blank, Steven Bush, Brian Dragon (of Sparta), Daniel Hennessey, Don Holman, Ken Hopper, Laura Jones, Kent Lawrence, Philip Mullins, Michael Ormsby, Janice Spellerberg, John Phillips, Fletcher Starbuck, Gary Stephens, Frank Tettemer, Jimmy Wilson and Dave Zimmerman. Janice transcribed one or two of the interviews before handing the tapes over to the Multi-Cultural Society.

In the fall of 1978 I learned that Laura Jones and John Phillips of the Baldwin Street Gallery of Photography were planning to publish some of their photos of Baldwin Street. To compliment their work, I undertook to write a history of the American exile community of Baldwin Street. As a starting point, I compiled a six-page chronology of events that I believed were important to the community, distributed it to 23 persons and awaited their response. In March 1979 Mary Rauton and Laura Jones participated in a symposium at York University called “Camera in the City”. They used excerpts from Mary’s interviews with American draft dodgers and Laura’s slides of Baldwin Street in their presentation.

By the fall of 1981 four people had submitted additions to the six-page chronology written by Philip Mullins in 1978. The responses from Steve Bush, Janice Spellerberg, Colleen Mullins and Mary Rauton Mullins were added to the original chronology and mailed to 25 persons between March and June of 1982. The chronology had grown to 22 pages in length. When I returned to Toronto in 1986 I interviewed Dave Humphries, Helen Gilbert and Ruth Lyons, all of whom were involved with the Baldwin Street community. The information they provided was added to the third version of the chronology.

In June 2000 I resumed work on the history of Ragnarokr that I had begun in 1978. In 2001 a number of people from the Ragnarokr community assembled in Austin, Texas for a wedding. After the wedding about 15 people met to discuss maintenance of the rural property the Ragnarokr commune had purchased in 1970. Following the meeting I sent eleven periodic mailings between April 2001 and September 2003 to 18 individuals. The mailings evolved into the history of Frostpocket, the Ragnarokr "farm". The story of Frostpocket is Chapter Six of this history of the Ragnarokr leather shop. Copies of the other mailings are included in the Appendix under the title Frostpocket News.

As a result of interviews at weddings in 2001 and 2003 the third version of the chronology grew to 59 pages. Because of its length the 3rd chronology was never printed but it is the basis for this History of the Ragnarokr Cordwainery. The third version of the chronology is in the Appendix under the title Ragnarokr Chronology.

In 2005 I wrote the bulk of the history of the leather shop. In November and December I mailed CDs to 15 individuals with the text of the story and a number of other files containing background material. Four individuals (Don Holman, Bie Engelen, Carol Huebner Venezia and Mary Rauton) responded with corrections, additions and photos. In 2006 I rewrote the story, added more background material and reorganized the material.

It is not intended that this will be the final version of the story. Another, third version of the story will be prepared as other individuals submit additional corrections, additions or photos. At some point the story will be placed on a web-server and will pass into the public domain.

This story is dedicated to Mary Rauton and her son Randy without whom the Ragnarokr Leather Shop would not have existed.

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