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Will the real Michael J. Fox please stand up

Avoiding errors: a perilous pursuit
(Image Wikimedia)

Being a writer/journalist isn’t always easy and you do risk the chance of being wrong – yes, I have an apology to make.

In 2012 I published a researched article on famous folk who had at one time called Kitimat home. One prominent name mentioned was Michael J. Fox, the Hollywood actor who in recent times has been afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease.

It has become known to us through folks who know Michael J. Fox’s family that this isn’t true, that he and his parents were from Edmonton and Burnaby and that at no time were they in Kitimat.

In fact, Michael was born in Edmonton as Michael Andrew Fox in 1961. According to his bio, he later adopted the J as a tribute to legendary character actor Michael J. Pollard.

So there we go – I didn’t investigate this thoroughly and made an error for which I am sorry.

This brings me to another point about the pitfalls of researching history. Often the facts are hazy and rumours abound. Why was our community convinced that Michael Fox was their own hometown boy? There has to be something to it.

As I was researching notable Kitimat folk, yours truly was told by several people that Michael J. Fox, the actor went to school here, at Cormorant, and was in Mrs. Marie Gairdner’s Kindergarten class.

I had no reason to doubt my sources – but on second thought how many Michael Fox’s are out there in Canada? There must be hundreds. On further investigation, I learned that yes, a Michael Fox really did live here.

Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School teacher Dan Striker tells me he was in Michael Fox’s Grade 2 class at Cormorant. Dan recalls Michael lived on Albatross Street but moved away with his family at the end of the grade.

Now Dan was born in 1962, so we assume his grade two chum Michael Fox was also 62-vintage whereas the famous actor was born in 1961. So there you go, you know what I know. It doesn’t seem like our Michael Fox was the famous Michael J. Fox.

But as for other notables besides Bjarni Tryggvason the astronaut, Alison Redford the premier and Neil Worboys the provincial union leader, there were a few I missed. Although we can’t claim Michael Fox the actor, we can claim Tom Wilkinson the actor. He was a Kitimat student and his British-born dad was an Alcan worker for a while.

Researching local history has no master guide – you have to use good judgement, listen to a lot of stories and sort out fact from rumour. When mistakes are made you usually find out quite quickly – in this case, it took over seven years to sort this out.

With local history, sourcebooks are rare and you have to be bold. It’s inevitable mistakes will be made. By the way, what does a writer do when he discovers a book he has been selling for over five years contains an error? It’s impossible to undo, of course, but rest assured that the error will be corrected in reprints of Kitimat Chronicles Book #2.

As much as we try, we’re not perfect. History can be a murky subject but we must keep probing and asking the good questions and celebrating our past. Some local mysteries never seem to find answers. What about the pioneer piping at Minette Bay Marina.

The pipes we think were connected to the old Golden Crown Mine site up the slope from there. But what was their purpose?

What about the old pilings near the point at Moon Bay. They are visible at low tide. Are they really part of the old Clifford Wharf from 1910? These kind of mysteries are hard to solve

Our heritage is an intriguing topic filled with questions and possibilities and of course errors will be made.

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About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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