OTTAWA — Just like the old adage, “you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy…,” author Elliot Marshall, LEFT, says that “you don’t have to be from Cape Breton, or even from the Maritimes, to relate to the stories of small town living” in his recently published book, Once Upon a Story.
The book is the result of a lifetime of storytelling and observations
of human nature, combined with a love of the written word and a dream
to put the two together.
“Although I wasn’t a particularly good student, I always liked English literature, stories and poetry and thought I may have a chance to put them all together some day,” the Cape Breton native said.
Marshall, the youngest of 10 children, was six years old when his father died, leaving his mother to scrape by alone. He credits her tenacity and positive attitude for her successful parenting of such a large family in tiny Glace Bay, N.S.
Marshall’s siblings and their life and career paths are all described in this “autobiographical collage of stories that covers 70-plus years,” as noted on the book’s cover.
After spending some time away at university, Marshall returned to Glace Bay to take over the family clothing store, which he operated along with his wife, Helen, for several decades. There are stories in the book about adventures in the small-town retail business, as well as vivid descriptions of some of the characters who shopped at Marshall’s and anecdotes about small-town life.
There are chapters dedicated to special people that Marshall has encountered in his life, such as two young men who once worked part-time in his store and were both later killed in car accidents. Another is dedicated to his friend Barry Davis, a Holocaust survivor whom Marshall met after moving to Ottawa to be near his grown children and grandchildren, while another pays tribute to Rabbi Reuven Bulka, whose synagogue, Congregation Machzikei Hadas, the Marshalls attend.
Marshall has also reproduced the eulogy he gave at the funeral of his late brother, Jack Marshall, a former Newfoundland MP and senator.
An as-yet unpublished screenplay for a proposed television show has found its way into Marshall’s book, as have a number of poems he has written over the years.
“There are many chapters in my life, but what are my credentials to write a book?” Marshall asks in the introduction.
“I am not a journalist, not a preacher, not a teacher, nor am I an expert in any field; but I’m a thinker… Jewish themes and many Jewish personalities penetrate my stories. I welcome whatever feeds my curiosity. I experiment with stories, challenging and exploring life. Stories crop up when I reflect on my youth. I include relatives, old friends, old teachers from down home in Cape Breton, and famous people I admire and quote.”
Anyone who hails from Cape Breton is bound to enjoy a nostalgic walk down memory lane while reading Once Upon a Story, but Marshall is correct that the book contains enough variety and vivid description of small town life and people to entertain any reader.
Available in a few select bookstores in Ottawa, Once Upon a Story can also be purchased by contacting Elliot Marshall at [email protected]