By Millie Duncan – Killam, Alta.
It was 1951 and at nine years old, I’d just learned in school how to write a friendly letter. I’d determined I would write to my cousin in Canora, Sask.
Earlier in the day, I’d discovered a postage stamp on a letter which had somehow evaded the cancelling machine and was clean as a whistle. I carefully steamed the stamp off of the envelope and glued it on to a new envelope.
I wrote my letter, put it in the envelope, and sealed it. It was ready to go to town and off to my cousin. I was very proud. So proud, in fact, I hurried to the kitchen where my father was and said to him, “Guess what dad? I made four cents today!”
Postage in those days was four cents and I vividly recall the orange postage stamp with King George on it. My father asked, “Well, and how did you do that?” and I told him how I’d steamed the stamp off of the envelope.
Disappointment was terrible feeling
Father sat for a long time and then he said, “Go to the cupboard and get a stamp. Now put it in the stove and burn it. In this house we do not steal, and most of all we do not steal from the government!”
I did as I was told and felt terrible. From the look on father’s face and from his voice, I could tell he was very upset with me. I was very much a daddy’s girl and to have him disappointed in me was terrible.
It was a lesson in honesty that I carried with me all of my life and often told to my students as I went on with my life as a teacher.
Fast forward to the 1990s, when I was back visiting in my hometown. I had gone to an auction sale and enjoyed it, and the visiting with new and old friends, that happens at an auction.
An elderly gentleman came and stood near me and asked if he could sit beside me. As the chair was empty I readily agreed. He asked if I was from Rosthern and who my parents were.
“He knows about the stamp”
I told that I didn’t live in Rosthern, but had been born there and I told him who my parents were. He said, “I thought so. I knew your father very well. He was the most honest man I ever knew.”
A million emotions raced through me in that moment. Pride was one. Who doesn’t like to hear such a compliment about their father 50 years after his death?
Strangely enough, my first thought was, “he knows about the postage stamp.” Ridiculous as it seemed, it is what I thought.
In fact, I don’t remember what else we talked about because I was so busy trying to figure out if he could know that I had once stolen a stamp!
I’m sure he didn’t know, but it gives me pause to hope that I have lived my life in such a way that, some time 50 years down the road, someone will say that I was the most honest or cheerful or brave or happy or some other kind of good person.
We honestly never know what kind of impression we are making on those around us, so hopefully we all try to make a good impression.