The history of Campbell River is awash in stories of good people doing good things for our community.
Margo Cormack, a commercial bookseller from 1972 to 2004, made books available to us. But it was the way that she did it that charmed and thrilled. She drew herself up, tall and wise, and pronounced with a dash of urbanity and sophistication that drew us all in. Yes, we sought her advice and listened to her opinions. And, we bought her books.
In the early 1980’s my first experience of Page 11, situated originally on 11th Street, was when I took a small group of children on a school outing to hear a thrilling adventure. We crammed into the tiny store and shivered with appreciation as the story unfolded. My second event in her store was a cocktail party with none other than Margaret Atwood, a warm up for a lecture at the old North Island College. Toronto was nothing compared to our city, I felt. We were on the cutting edge!
Over the years Margo and her staff brought famous Canadian writers, Michael Ondaatje, Michel Tremblay, Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat and Jack Hodgins, to the city. Our community has become a community of mature readers. A high level of literacy is part of her contribution to us. We now have an annual writers’ festival, an independent book seller, Coho, lots of charity books sales, several used book outlets, writers’ groups and writers’ workshops in our community. Our outstanding growth in this sector of our community life owes some of its vitality to Margo, her beloved Ken and her staff and friends.
“I’ve had my day…focus on the modern books sellers,” she advised. “Acknowledge Ruth Ozeki”, whose “Tales for the Time Being” was short-listed for what Margo called, “The most important book award, the Man Booker.” “Recognize Alice Munro’s achievements”, she exhorted.
Yes, Vancouver Island women have made a difference to the life of Campbell River, our Canadian culture and to readers of English world wide. But, Margo served us. For this, Words on the Water will take a moment Saturday night at the festival to applaud her contribution.