Back in the 1980's, while working with The Newfoundland Herald, I wrote an in-depth profile of Al Clouston, who died in 2004. In fact, I played a role in taking Al in a new career direction around that time. Al had a couple of books and albums on the market and was doing some gigs as an after-dinner entertainer. I was looking for a new humour columnist and suggested the idea to Al.
He was quite hesitant and refused, in fact. "I couldn't do a column every week," he said. "There's no way."
So I suggested that he take material from his book, re-write it into a column format, then give it to me for further editing. He agreed, rather reluctantly, but it worked exceptionally well. Al quickly developed a wider fan base, and soon came into his own as a writer, providing fresh columns written from scratch. It was inspiring watching this man, who was in his seventies at the time, take his career in a fun new direction.
During that interview for the Herald profile, Al told me a great little story that originated through his previous career experience selling insurance. He insisted it was true.
I do not know the date, but it happened when wire messages were the standard mode of communication.
On this day, a message was received at an insurance office in downtown St. John's. It was from a merchant around the bay, and it said:
"Urgent. Fish plant is on fire. Need insurance immediately. Stop."
The insurance people scratched their heads, then prepared to reply with the unfortunate news that insurance didn't work that way. But before they had an opportunity to send it, another wire message arrived:
"Further to previous. Fire is now out. Please cancel insurance. Stop."