“They Left Us Everything!” by Plum Johnson

Featured at the Canadian Club of Halton Peel Dinner

“They Left Us Everything!”   by  Plum Johnson
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Janet Bedford

Janet Bedford is a broker with Royal LePage in downtown Oakville, with 20 years of real estate experience. Along with helping her clients find the perfect home or sell their home, she is often found photographing the many events that take place in Oakville. She has written extensively for various publications.

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Maria Johnson, or Plum, as we all know her, was awarded this year’s RBC Taylor Prize for excellence in Canadian non-fiction for her memoir and her first book, “They Left Us Everything”, chosen from 128 submissions. Plum is the only daughter and oldest child of Anne & Alex Lind and was 6 when in 1952 the family, including the first 2 of 4 brothers, moved to Oakville where her parents had purchased a 23-room rambling house at the foot of Trafalgar Road with a great verandah overlooking Lake Ontario. Her mother named it “Point ‘O View”.

The Canadian Club of Halton Peel hosted a dinner last week with over 200 members and guests, all meeting at the Oakville Conference Centre, to celebrate Plum’s RBC Taylor Prize and to hear the delightful tales of Plum’s home and her family’s life in Oakville and to enjoy her reflections, humour and lessons learned while cleaning out the family home.

“I wanted to be an author all my life.” Plum says. “I wrote like crazy. My mother saved everything I wrote. Looking back on our parents’ lives makes us look at our own … and it’s when we look back at our lives … that we discover it.” Plum came to clean out her family’s home with a few garbage bags, thinking that her task would move along very quickly. She ended up spending more time there than she ever anticipated; she lived in the family home for over two years and learned that it is “never too late to learn who you are”. It became a journey of discovery – one she has shared in her book, the prize-winning memoir, “They Left Us Everything”.

Plum told us “After the home was sold it was completely remodelled and, although that left some sadness for us, we were fully aware that it opened the home to new life. An intriguing twist is the fact that the family who bought their wonderful old home also have five children and the parents share the same wedding day as Plum’s parents. She also said that the Prize has really “done amazing things for me – the Prize puts you on the map and opens doors. It made me realize “Why not … Think Big!”


Plum Johnson does think “Big” and always has. In 1983 she founded KidsCanada Publishing, pioneering the first parenting publications in Canada. Her flagship news magazine KidsToronto won multiple international design awards and in 1992 Plum received the Professional Publishers Association Award of Excellence for her monthly editorial column. In 2002 she co-founded Help’s Here, a resource magazine for seniors and caregivers. Plum is also an accomplished illustrator and portrait painter.
Amongst many others in the audience was a group of avid readers, The Swansea Drive Book Club. According to Marg Milley, their book club “had just met last month and discussed Plum’s novel – over tears and laughter!” She said that the members, who all live on Swansea Drive in Oakville, thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and the lively presentation by Plum Johnson”.

After a summer break, the Canadian Club of Halton Peel will kick off their 30th season on September 24 with Stephen Leahy, award-winning International environmental journalist and author of Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products (published October 2014).

For more information about the Canadian Club of Halton Peel and its upcoming season of dinner speakers, contact the President, Barry Wylie, at barrywylie1@gmail.com or 905-827-6302.


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