Wednesday, December 05, 2012

In Conversation With...Millard Charman

First published in the November 21 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

Millard Charman has a dream.
“I’m very anxious that this be included in your write-up,” he says to me as we sit in the sunroom of his home overlooking Wallace Harbour, “because I’m getting on to my last days and I want somebody else to take over because this is a big dream of mine. The golf course won’t be complete until this is done.”
The 96-year-old former owner of Charman’s Home Hardware in Wallace is talking about the Northumberland Links on the Gulf Shore Road. In 1953, Millard and three friends decided they were tired of driving to Amherst to golf.
“One day, we were coming home and we decided this was foolish, that we would build a golf course. By the time we got home from Amherst, the plans were all made. We struck the ground running. The four of us built it in two years. It’s the pride of my life.”  
The expansion he’d like to see on the 200-plus undeveloped acres the golf course owns is, to say the least, ambitious. 
“My vision for the golf course is another nine holes right behind on our own property. Next to the new nine, we’d like a luxury hotel. Next to that, we’d like a home development with 90 homes. It’s beautiful land up there, lots of water.”
His vision encompasses a swath of land from Aboiteau Road to the race track on Miller Road and ends with the development of several existing entities, starting with the golf course, into “something wonderful.”
Millard Charman has a wish. 
“I would like an extension on this lifetime,” he says. “If I could get another 20 years, I’d get some of these things done. Since I can’t do that, I would like someone to take over for me. Oh, there’s so much to be done around here.”
This from a man who has filled his 96 years with more than a few unique experiences. 
He ran for county council in 1937 at the age of 21. 
“One day, I was with a bunch of boys and we were talking, ‘We should run and get those old fogies out of there,’ so two of us decided we would run. Just like that. Well, the other fellow gave up so it turned out I was the only one elected. I stayed in for three 3-year terms.”
One of those terms occurred while Millard was serving overseas in World World Two.
“I was an air crew mechanic. I was in the south of England for two and a half years.” 
After returning  home, he ran for council for a third term, helped build the Wallace Legion and Cenotaph, built a golf course, took over his father’s store, met and married his wife of fifty years, then retired in 1975 because Pearl had a health scare “so I thought I should sell out and let her have a good time. She’s 90 now and still going strong.”
He has owned a home in Florida for 40 years and this will be the last winter he and Pearl spend down south because the cost of health insurance is getting too high. 
According to Millard, Wallace hasn’t change a lot in his lifetime. 
“There are fewer businesses here. All the families have changed. My grandparents had 11 children and they were all brought up here and now I’m the only Charman left in Wallace,” he tells me. “We’re very fortunate to have a good class of people here. We don’t have a lot of crime in Wallace. A lot of nuisance things but no real crime. No murders.”
But he sees the population of the village in steady decline so he suggests that Viagra be distributed for free to people in Wallace.  There is a shocked silence – from me – then Millard laughs and laughs. His suggestion is incongruous with the rest of our conversation, with his articulate and gentlemanly demeanour, but it is delightful to hear this unexpectedly hearty laughter. 
Although he admits to not knowing the secret to a long life – “I haven’t figured it out yet” – I’m guessing a good nature and a community-minded work ethic might be part of it. 
As I’m about to leave, Millard points to a framed photograph on the wall next to the door. It shows two elephants who look like they’re chasing a lioness.
“I didn’t take that photo,” he says. “I was standing next to the guy who did.”
The photo is from a safari in Africa. 
All of a sudden, a whole new story emerges. Millard and Pearl have travelled around the world twice. The first time,  seven years after they married, they were gone for almost three months and witnessed a moment in history. When they hit the Middle East, Millard and Pearl unintentionally landed at the start of the Arab-Israeli War in 1967. 
“We were there, by accident, for the Six Day War. We weren’t able to do anything but sit on the plane and wait to leave.”
Since that tour, they’ve travelled somewhere in the world every year; last year, they went on a 20-day cruise around South America
“The only place I never went to was Russia but I was never particularly interested in going there anyway,” Millard tells me. 
96 years old, 50 years of marriage, 3 games of golf a week, two times around the world, one world war. And no regrets. 

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