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Mike Fitzgerald remembers his friend Al Pittman on the eve of the last March Hare in Corner Brook

Mike Fitzgerald found a friend in March Hare founder Al Pittman while the two attended high school in Corner Brook. As he has for nearly 30 years, Fitzgerald will be attending some of the poetry festival this weekend.
Mike Fitzgerald found a friend in March Hare founder Al Pittman while the two attended high school in Corner Brook. As he has for nearly 30 years, Fitzgerald will be attending some of the poetry festival this weekend. - Diane Crocker

When one hears the name Al Pittman the words that most often come to mind are poet, playwright, teacher and founder of the March Hare.

Mike Fitzgerald has another word to describe Mr. Pittman and that’s friend.

Fitzgerald, who grew up in Corner Brook, and a bit of all over, now lives in Steady Brook.

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The retired teacher and part-time taxi driver met Mr. Pittman, who died in 2001, in high school.

Back in 1954 at Regina High School the two formed a friendship over sports.

“He was a good athlete,” said Fitzgerald, and noted that was something a lot of people don’t know.

“He loved sports.”

It was mainly hockey, often played on a pond, but the friends also participated in some track and field and played a few games of pickup basketball.

But sports were not his only interest. An avid reader, Fitzgerald said Mr. Pittman even dabbled in writing while in high school. In Grade 11 or 12 Mr. Pittman directed a high school play.

Following high school Fitzgerald went on to attend Memorial University and St. FX in Antigonish, N.S. It was at a time when many young people coming out of high school in the city were starting to choose an education over going to work at the Bowater’s paper mill or for the Lundrigan company.

Mr. Pittman chose to go to work at the gypsum plant, but after a few years he pursued a degree at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick.

Throughout the years the two always remained in contact.

“We hitchhiked across the country in ’62,” said Fitzgerald with the memory bringing a smile to his face.

The friends left Corner Brook and made their way to British Columbia. They then took a bus to Los Angeles to see Fitzgerald’s brother. Altogether they were gone for two months.

It was also Mr. Pittman who encouraged Fitzgerald to move to Montreal and teach for a while.

“He loved life. He was very sociable and participated in everything that was on the go,” said Fitzgerald.

About three years after founding the March Hare, Mr. Pittman invited his friend to attend. Fitzgerald remembers attending his first one at the Blomidon Club.

“I found he was good writer, one of the better ones,” he said.

“It speaks for itself, everybody loved his poems.

The March Hare really was an extension of Pittman.

“This was the common man. He wanted it to be relaxed and not an academic pursuit. But now they had good poets and singers come in to talk, but he wanted it in the common man’s area, down at Casual Jack’s or the Columbus Club. He didn’t want it to move up to the university.”

Fitzgerald finds it a bit sad that this is the last March Hare, but for him they haven’t really been the same since Mr. Pittman died.

He’ll be in the audience at the Glynmill Inn on Friday night when Mr. Pittman’s ex-wife, Marilee Pittman, reads one Mr. Pittman’s poems that has meaning for Fitzgerald.

“The Cost of a Good Canoe,” is about how Fitzgerald and Mr. Pittman often talked of going on some long canoe trips. “That never occurred, the long trips in the canoe, but he did write a lovely poem about the idea.”

The poem references that if they are lucky enough they’ll be two old men together who’ve been friends for more than a lifetime, and talking about how they don’t make canoes the way they used to.

It’s the friendship that he misses the most.

“It’s a friendship that lasted and that in itself is a story,” he said.

“You know you’re lucky in life to have a couple of close good friends. Al was one of them.”

Fitzgerald said there are many stories that he could tell of that friendship and laughs that some are not for print.

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