Guest Post by Neill McKee – as Part of the WOW Blog Tour “Kid On the Go”


I am honoured to be part of the WOW! Women of Writing Blog Tour for  Neill McLee’s book Kid on the Go

Today Neill is visiting my blog to share his wonderful guest post “ Writing a Memoir About My Hometown”

Welcome Neill!

Writing a Memoir About My Hometown
I left my hometown, Elmira, Ontario, Canada, in 1965 for university and have only returned for brief visits with family since that time. On the one hand, I have fond memories of my 19 years in this place that served as the foundation of my life, and determined the direction I’d take. On the other hand, I recall an industrially-polluted environment that often stank from the production of chemicals such as DDT, the insecticide that is the basis of Rachel Carson’s ground-breaking book, Silent Spring, as well as the herbicides—2,4-D, then known to us as “Weed Bane” and the stronger 2,4,5-T, marketed as “Brush Bane.” This chemical pollution, stinks from many other factories, including a slaughterhouse, and the aroma of manure from nearby Old Order Mennonite farms and their horses in town, provide factors for my repeated attempts “to escape” to more pleasant places, imaginary or real—an underlying theme of my book told with humor and my own illustrations. Ultimately, I do leave for the verdant Island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia.

easterly winds      old ben

Easterly winds brought chemical “gifts”                                     Old Ben’s never ending clean-up job

When I began to look back at my years in Elmira, I discovered that in the early 60s, the town’s chemical factory was making those same two herbicides as ingredients of the U.S. Army’s infamous “Agent Orange”—an instrument of death, genetic defects in fetuses, long-lasting illnesses and effects on the environment of Vietnam and Laos. Like most people in town, I knew nothing about this at the time. Today, most residents of Elmira don’t want to dwell on this history, or the fact that the town had to close down its deep-water wells around 1990, due to decades of chemical seepage into the soil. Since that time, water has been piped in from the nearby City of Waterloo.

The population has expanded from around 3,000 in the early-50s, to about 12,000 today. The chemical factory is still present, but with more environmental regulation. Elmira remains a thriving community—not a rust-belt town. I decided to only make a brief mention of Agent Orange in the appropriate chapter since it really was not part of my memory. But I researched the matter thoroughly, reading articles and contacting people who had participated in the clean-up of all the factories past “sins,” and wrote a more thorough treatment in a postscript, along with some other issues I felt readers would like closure on.

After publishing Kid on the Go!, I decided to contact the editor of my hometown’s newspaper. In 2019, his paper had done a good review of my first memoir Finding Myself in Borneo, and I wondered if he would like to do an interview or review on this new memoir—a stand-alone prequel—since it was mainly about living in Elmira from the mid-40s to mid-60s. The editor and I had a chat on the phone and I asked him to review the book. He did so and came out with a pretty fare write-up, although he never mentioned Agent Orange, as I expected. Book sales have gone up and no rotten tomatoes yet!

2 thoughts on “Guest Post by Neill McKee – as Part of the WOW Blog Tour “Kid On the Go”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s