23 June 2009

(Probably Not) The David Lewis Centenary

Youngsters David Lewis and A. M. Klein

Recognition today of David Lewis, né Losz, born sometime around one hundred years ago in Svisloch, Russia. The Canadian Encyclopedia has Lewis' date of birth as 23 June 1909, but family biographer Cameron Smith tells us that the happy event likely took place a little over three months later. In his Unfinished Journey: The Lewis Family, Smith writes that 23 June was 'the first date that popped into David's twelve-year-old head' when confronted by a Halifax immigration officer. The Parliament of Canada website provides the same date, without comment, and muddies the water by placing Svisloch in Poland. In fact, the town has been Russian since 1795.

While Lewis isn't thought of as literary figure, he did count a number of writers among his friends. A. M. Klein was a pal from his days at Montreal's Baron Byng High School. Lewis' first book, Make this Your Canada, was co-authored by F. R. Scott. There followed another couple of titles: A Socialist Takes Stock and Louder Voices – the latter introducing the term 'corporate welfare bums', for which he is, perhaps, best remembered. Lewis was working on his biography when he died. What he did manage was published posthumously as The Good Fight: Political Memoirs 1909-1958.

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