Cutting presidential ties

The first title in a row of books of questionable value is the John F. Kennedy narrative, Death of a President by William Manchester.

Fitting, I think, as I peruse the garage sale of soon to be ex-University of Calgary president, Terry White.

I somehow expected more than ancient pots and pans and peculiar knick-knacks from a man who controlled U of C for five years. Mrs. Susan White nips my grandiose expectations in the bud.

"That’s all it is," said Mrs. White.

Just a garage sale. Ex-presidents have junk just like the rest of us, and when the time comes to vacate the presidential palace (a modest home in Varsity Acres) they need to get rid of it the same way as the rest of us, she said.

"We want to get rid of as much as we can so I don’t have to pack it," Mrs. White stated in her commanding, ever-enthusiastic voice. She and her husband will soon begin a new life off the dole in a home in Royal Oaks, west of Arbor Lake. What a pain.

"You know, it seems as soon as you move in, you’ll have to move out," mused Mrs. White. She and Dr. White must be moved out by July 31 so incoming president Harvey Weingarten can move on in. The Whites have occupied the house since 1996.

I marvel at the amount of junk two people can collect in five years. Mrs. White gazes nostalgically at the piles of miscellany. One box contains "presidential ties," denoted by a masking tape label bearing the price: 50 cents each. A gold-plated U of A Speech and Debate Club pen is up for grabs; a neighbourhood kid turns down a starting price of 25 cents.

In the collection of books for sale, alongside Death of a President are a diversity of titles involving the dead American icon, and an oddly out-of-place Sherlock Holmes anthology. Perhaps White intended to use the great detective’s techniques (with or without Watson) to find the elusive few million dollars that could have prevented tuition from increasing.

President White himself was nowhere to be seen. Using my own keen sleuthing skills, I ascertained that he was off attending conferences and visiting relatives in Southern Ontario. He was therefore unable to comment, provide any say in Mrs. White’s gleeful redistribution of his worldly goods or defend any of his ties. I got one for free. To my chagrin, it wasn’t the diamond-patterned tie worn by Dr. White in a picture that bears the apt caption: "Terry in the Tie with Diamonds."

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