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Dear Cindy,

I read on your Bio page that you're obsessed with the spelling of your last name. Why? What's wrong with Proctor? Those two O's are adorable. Embrace them!

Your fan,
another Cindy Proctor


Dear Nother,

Nothing's wrong with Proctor. Except it isn't my name. My name is Procter—with an E. Procter-King since I legally hyphenated it with my husband's surname. But Procter at birth. Plenty of people in my life don't call me Cindy. They call me "Procter." Or "Pricter." But the latter is rather rude, no? I get called "Procter" by friends who knew me when I was a girl because of my grade five and six teacher, Phil Michaelson (Gah, I hope I spelled that right!). He called all of us by our last names ("Wilson! Procter! Lauzon! What are you up to now?"). My friends and I got used to it and started calling each other by our surnames. So, despite that my dad's cousin's second son married a Cindy who is now also Cindy Procter, I still think of the name as mine. It's hers by marriage, mine by birth.

Dearest Nother, I truly appreciate your concern, and I could go into a rant about why I'm obsessed with the spelling of my last name. However, you see, I've ranted about the subject before. Lest you think I go searching on the Internet for opportunities to rant, I was in fact invited to rant about any subject I chose. The result was the following column, originally published at Shebytches.


I'm obsessed with the spelling of my last name. Specifically, the half preceding the hyphen: Procter (note the E). It's a simple enough name. Seven measly letters. Apparently, it rhymes with doctor, but is that any reason for nearly everyone I meet to misspell it as ProctOr? If we must get technical, "doctor" actually rhymes with Procter, not the other way around. How many people do you know who pronounce doctor like "dok-TOR"? Nope, they say "dok-TER." Like Procter. I'm fed up with the rhymes-with-doctor excuse. Doctor doesn't even rhyme with dok-tor, for Pete's sake.

I come by my obsession naturally. Because I’m weird—or so people tell me. If that's not a natural way to develop an obsession, I don't know what is. However, the longer version of the story begins with my great-grandfather moving to Canada from England (where they know how to spell Procter—I have a picture of the sign on Procter Street in London to prove it!) in 1887 and taking up 320 acres in 1892. His farm remains in the extended family. I live close enough that I can go dance on his grave if I want to (and I have—no one notices my gleeful self in the tiny family plot on a hill overlooking the land where my grandfather and his brothers and sister were raised). Until I was five, I grew up within whispering distance of both this farm and my grandfather's farm. The "community" was so tiny that 98% of us definitely knew how to spell Procter. No duh, we shared the name! It never occurred to me that the dastardly ProctOr spelling would haunt me the rest of my life and is probably the driving force behind my becoming a writer. My mission in life is to see Procter spelled correctly (you know, my way), and if the only route to securing my goal is by getting my name plastered on book covers, so be it.

I remember my mother registering me for grade one upon our move to "town" when I was six. The principal recorded my name, which my mother attempted to get her to write as Cindy Procter. Let's forget for a moment that the principal taught my father in a one-room schoolhouse on the family farm when he was a child and therefore should have known better, she informed my mother that my legal name must be Cynthia, because everyone knows Cindy is a nickname for Cynthia (uh, not necessarily). And then ProctEr magically transformed into ProctOr, because, well, she or some secretary after my mother corrected her wrote it down that way. For the next three years, my library card read Cynthia Proctor. Every time I looked at the thing, I wondered, "Who the dumb-puppy is this girl?" I’d cross out the Cynthia and correct the E, and all would be hunky-dory…until a new teacher happened along. Then—argh!!—I’d become ProctOr again.

I've met a woman with the last name Docter (note the E). When she spells it out, she explains, "Susan Docter, with an E." And her name gets spelled right. Whereas I can stand right in front of someone saying, "Cindy…(which, thank God, my mother didn't spell as Cyndi or Cindi or Cindee or whatever-else-have-you, because then I'd really be in a turmoil)…Procter-King. It's hyphenated, so I'll spell it for you." (Truthfully, I'm spelling it because I know what's likely to occur if I don't, regardless of the hyphen. And, even when I do spell it…) "P-R-O-C-T-E…No, sorry, that should be an E…An E. E! As in A-B-C-D-E. No, no, you wrote an O. It's an EEEEE!” Upon which the person usually looks up and says, "Did I?" Sigh.

"Then a hyphen," I'll say. "And then King." Half the time, the person glances up again and asks, "How do you spell that?" "Um, King. K-I-N-G. Like the guy who sleeps with the Queen…if he weren't a prince. You know, if he ruled. If she weren't living so darn long. If the British male monarchs didn't have such evidently weak constitutions that Queen Victoria, Elizabeth I and II have all outlived them—maybe then we peons across the pond would know how to spell King!" (Sorry, little digression.)

I've tried explaining the spelling by saying, "Procter. With an E at the end, not an O." I made that mistake with the editor of the student newspaper during my university days, while attempting to squeeze out the correct spelling for the by-line of the one and only story I ever penned for the guy (I couldn't in all conscience continue writing for an editor who spelled my name wrong—besides, I had better things to do, like visit the SUB Pub). He wrote my name as "Proctore," then smiled and said, "Oh, is that French?" No, you're a moron! Thankfully, the dweeb-on-a-stick completely neglected to give me a by-line. That's okay. It was a crappy story, written after a long night at the SUB Pub.

This is what I don't understand. I appreciate that somehow, somewhere along the line, Proctor became the more popular spelling. I realize you won’t find "procter" in the dictionary, whereas "proctor" is some sort of university student exam supervisor, but, but…I'm not a noun or a verb, I'm a person, damn it! A ProctEr. In the name of all that's unholy, can someone tell me how, when Procter and Gamble is one of the largest companies on the continent and they spell the name right, the rest of North America bungles it? Look at the fine print on the toothpaste or laundry detergent in your house. Study the credits for the sponsor of your favourite TV soap opera. It’s ProctEr and Gamble, not ProctOr-Silex. Yes, that bleepin' small-appliance manufacturer possessed the foresight to plaster the abominable spelling of ProctOr all over our toasters instead of in miniature print on toothpaste tubes that no one notices is there!

All right, all right, I know I'm bordering on neurotic, but imagine your world devoid of the E. Without Es, the Wheel of Fortune would sound like a Dr.-Seussified Italy: Whool of Fortuno. Sleep would become sloop, and mean would soon moan. Surely, you sense my despair? When pushed to the edge of my sanity (not a far distance, I assure you), dealing with Procter-abusers in the following manner usually/sometimes/maybe-30-%-of-the-time results in the correct spelling of my name (ah, victory, she is fleeting!)...

I'll receive a missive with my name invariably misspelled:

Dear Cindy Proctor-King,

Please immediately forward your overdue payment of ten dollars to ADDRESS LABELS PRINTED BY MY PET ROCK, or we will be forced to send a big, bloaty guy named Geoffrey to your place of business to pummel you.

Yours, Ted Green

Grrr. I write back:

Doar Tod Groon,

It will bo a froozing day in holl whon I sond you ton dollars for tho pioco-of-crap addross labols with my namo misspollod! I’vo callod you throo timos now trying to roctify tho mistako, and oach timo ProctEr gots spollod wrong! If anyono namod Gooffroy appoars at my placo of businoss, not only will I call tho cops, but I will toll ovoryono I know sooking a roliablo firm to print thoir addross labols that ADDROSS LABOLS PRINTOD BY MY POT ROCK is dofinatoly not it.

Cindy Procter-King

I may never receive the correct address labels, but at least I've made my point. And if you think I'm obsessed with the spelling of my name, let me introduce you to my friend, Line.

© Cindy Procter-King, October 2010.





Dear Cindy,

I know this isn't a writing question, but I hope you'll consider it, anyway. No offense, but you're not what I'd call famous. Your grandfather kind of was, though. Well, among history buffs. Among Canadian history buffs, I should say. Well, among followers of People Who Live Forever. I'd heard of him, anyway!

Wasn't he the guy who went tandem skydiving for the first time at the age of 100? Wasn't he the last surviving veteran of The Great War in British Columbia when he died? You used to have a story about him on some website, but I can't find it anymore. Why not?

Curious in Canada


Dear Slightly Rude Canuck,

You're quite right, when my grandfather was alive, he had his own page on my website. After he passed away, I kept the page but didn't link to it. I thought I could just direct interested parties there. I wound up receiving more requests than I expected, so on what would have been his 110th birthday (August 18, 2009), I posted his story on my former group blog. That blog has since shut down. That's why you can't find the page.

Thinking about it, his story does connect to writing. He had a can-do attitude, which is very necessary for writers—published or unpublished—and which is why I list him on my Bio page as one of my heroes. Thanks to you, I'm now posting that former group blog article here. So, you see, S.R.C., rudeness sometimes pays off (don't think I didn't notice that ditty about me not being famous). Who said Canadians are always polite? S.R.C., it's people like you who live to break stereotypes. For that, I commend you.

Here's the post:

You're Never Too Old...

To follow your dreams. Repeat after me: You're never too old to follow your dreams! If someone scoffs at you, turn a deaf ear. If you hit a brick wall, dust yourself off and try again. Persevere! Works for me. Today is a very special day for me. It's the birthday of one of my heroes, my grandfather, William "Duke" Procter. The Duke is in quotation marks, because it's a nickname. The story goes that when he was a toddler he strutted around like the Duke of Wellington, so his father tagged him "Duke," and Duke he remained until the day he died, December 14, 2005.

Duke Procter, 106 years oldIf Duke were still alive, he would be 110 years old today. Which sounds unbelievable until you consider that he didn't die until he was nearly 106.5 (after 100, those halves become important again). Okay, so the years after 105 are all downhill. At least they were for Duke ("Grampa" to me). To be honest, the years after 103 aren't a cake walk, either. Neither are the years after 95. But when you're determined and you're blessed with good health and you truly and honestly believe that you can do anything you set your mind to...well, you pretty much can.

When I want to say, "I can't," I think of Duke. You see, he didn't just live to a ripe, old age in remarkably good health (unless you count the prostate cancer, but when you're diagnosed in your mid-nineties, the odds are pretty good it ain't the cancer that will kill you). He lived life with a vengeance. He embraced it wholeheartedly. When he died, he was one of the last three Canadian veterans of The Great War (as in WW I) and the last surviving veteran of that war in my province. Probably the only reason he survived the war was because, by God's grace and not Duke's choice, he didn't fight. He enlisted at 16, trained hard, and traveled to England with the rest of his battalion. While they waited to go to France, where most of his battalion would eventually die during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, it was discovered that not only was Duke underage but he knew how to fell trees. They needed men (boys) like him to log in Scotland for wood for the trenches.

Duke did not want Duke Procter, The Great War to go to Scotland. He signed up for the war because he was sick of logging and farming. He wanted adventure, he wanted to see the world. He wanted to fight. The irony is that if he had been sent to France, he likely would have died at Vimy Ridge. Instead, he lived for the boys who fought when he was told he couldn't. He lived for his friends who died.

When I was about 10 or so, I learned Grampa was born in 1899. I remember having a conversation with him where I challenged him to live until at least 2000 so he could set foot in three centuries. Not many people get that chance. He laughed, but as he aged I realized, "Dang, he just might do it." Years later, I learned that the 21st century didn't technically start until 2001, which, gulp, tacked on another year for Grampa, or he would lose my challenge. Silly me.

Here was a man who took up horseshoes (seriously, not just as a thrice-a-summer affair) at the age of 75. He eventually became the oldest competing horseshoe player in Canada, as in playing in tournaments...somewhere around age 97 or 98. He built a horseshoe pit in his front yard and played every day, alone or with others (if they dared challenge him) until 105. When my grandmother was alive, they squaredanced. She died a month shy of her 89th birthday, but Duke wasn't ready to give up his dance shoes. He loved to dance. He continued squaredancing until he was 103. He was very popular, too. There were a lot of widows at those dances. They needed partners. Duke was happy to oblige. Every single week. Duke learned to bowl (five-pin bowling, which apparently only exists in the Great White North—the balls are smaller and don't have finger holes) at 92. Ninety-two! My grandmother had died, and he needed more to do, you see. So he took up bowling, played in two leagues a week, and earned his last strike at 104. Not bad for a newbie.

Duke Procter Receiving The Queen's Jubilee Medal, age 104He drove until 101, put in a huge garden every year, and canned his own fruit, which he ate everyday, until past age 100. He's been the subject of more than one documentary, and had a song written about him (Over 100 Years on the CD SMALL TOWN VAN GOGH by Dale Boyle). He lived in his own home until 105, when a bad fall put him into an old folks' home. He'd had a bad fall at 103, during a trip to Vancouver to receive the Queens Jubilee Medal for his service in The Great War. He spent his time in the hospital instead. That was it, we thought. He wouldn't recover. But he rallied and returned home, receiving his award via a personal visit from a Canadian senator several weeks later. He was proficient in survival, you see. After all, he had brain surgery in his sixties after a tree fell on his head. I'm not making this stuff up! He changed his winter tires himself in his nineties when a phone call to the tire shop revealed it would take too long to have it done for him. He had things to do! He had to go vote (we were having a federal election). He didn't have time to waste sitting in a tire store.

It just didn't occur to him not to believe in himself. Which was why, when my cousin took skydiving lessons and then suggested to Grampa that he should go tandem skydiving for his 100th birthday, by golly, he took her up on it. (Tandem skydiving is when you're strapped to the instructor, who pulls the cord). Grampa wasn't feeling well around his 100th birthday, however. Certain medications for his prostate cancer and other considerations were taking their toll. We held a massive (and I mean massive) squaredance for his 100th birthday, and he wobbled on his feet as he walked to his seat of honor on the stage (oddly, he danced easily enough). We feared this birthday would be his last. A little over a month later, at the age of 100 years and 40 days on September 27, 1999, permission from his doctor in hand, he went tandem skydiving, all right.

Here's his landing:

Duke Procter skydive landing, September 27,1999

And here he is celebrating with the dive team after the dive:

Duke Procter following skydive at 100 years and 40 days old

Note, he's standing on his own two feet (he's the bald guy in the middle).

Grampa became somewhat of a Canadian celebrity for a bit there following this skydive. As he aged, he'd get telephone interviews for newspaper and magazine articles (he appeared in Canadian Living, our equivalent of something like Family Circle or Good Housekeeping), and McLeans (our equivalent of Times or Newsweek). I was visiting him during one such newspaper interview. The guy was old, around 103, and, okay, sometimes his memory was foggy. The interviewers were always interested in the skydive. This one asked Grampa if he broke his leg during the landing. I was a few feet away. I heard Grampa try to explain that he landed okay, but the interviewer confused Grampa's story about breaking his leg a good ten years earlier when he fell off his roof while cleaning the gutters (again, not making this stuff up!) with him breaking his leg during the landing following his skydive.

Cindy with her grandfather, Duke Procter, Christmas 2004Let me set the record straight: he broke his leg falling off the damn roof in his 90s, not skydiving at 100!

There, I feel better now.

Well, I've rambled. Which isn't unusual. I inherited it from Duke. But I still smile, I still get a tear in my eye, I still feel my heart swell with love and pride when I think of him. And whenever I feel down, whenever I feel like I just can't go on, that following my dreams is too hard, that I keep hitting brick wall after brick wall and it's not worth it, I can't do it, I think of my grandfather. And I know that I CAN.

Duke finally died of old age and a series of small strokes at 106, several weeks after hip surgery as a result of a fall in his room in the middle of the night at the old folks home. His heart continued beating a good ten minutes after he stopped breathing. 

Now, go forth and follow your dreams!


©Cindy Procter-King, August 2009



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