SUMMERSIDE - He was one of a kind and those who knew him spoke fondly about their friend, Stompin’ Tom Conners.
Conners passed away of natural causes at his Ontario home on Wednesday.
“I met him around 1960,” said Ray Goguen of Summerside. “He was between 25 and 30 years old. I was living in Toronto at the time and he stayed with me. I met him at a bootlegger’s one evening. It turned out we kind of hit it off. He had no place to stay so he stayed with me for a couple of months off and on. He didn’t have anything at the time. He just had a guitar, a shaving kit and the clothes he wore on his back.”
ew was between 25 and 30 yrears old. I was living in Toronto at the time and he stayed with me. I met him at a bootlegger’s one eveningHe was Eventually, Goguen took Conners to a tobacco farm owned by his brother-in-law in Port Elgin, Ontario. Goguen returned to Toronto and Conners stayed on for a while in Port Elgin
“From there he went to Timmons, Ontario, and that’s how he got started,” Goguen said. “In Timmons he stayed about five years. I never heard anything from him then one day I got some 45-rpm records in the mail from him. They were the first records he ever made.”
Goguen managed to stay in contact with Conners over the years.
“We kept in touch off and on,” he said. “I use to go up and visit him in Ontario. We were pretty good friends. The last time he was at Credit Union Place (in Summerside) he came to the house and we got some lobsters and stuff. He was a pretty good guy. He was set in his way and he stuck to it. He was very talented.”
Dorothy Bernard lives on Stompin’ Tom Road in Tignish, Conners’ childhood home, and she remembers times she spent with the Canadian music icon.
“He lived right next door to me,” she said. “I’ve known him quite a while then he went away. He never used to come home that often but I remember him coming home at one time when he was doing a show.”
Bernard learned about Conner’s death through a phone call from her son in Toronto.
“This morning the phone was ringing and it was him. He said ‘Mom did you turn your T.V. on?’ I said ‘no, I don’t turn my TV on this early in the morning. Why? He said Stompin’ Tom died. I was surprised when I turned on the TV I said Mother of God, Tom died.”
Bernard did see Conners perform over the years.
“He was a little hellion sometimes at the school, I know that,” she said. “He was comical. He would do certain things with the kids when they did play. He had come home one time and he had done a couple of shows. I remember him coming home one time and he did a show. We went to it and when I went in, he sort of looked at me and looked at me and he started to laugh. He said ‘Now I know who you are.’ Gave he a big hug and threw me up in the air. Everybody liked him. He was very kind and very friendly.”
Canada’s Revenue Minister Gail Shea, another Skinners Pond native, also recalled her experiences with Conners.
“Over the last number of years I have visited his house on a couple of occasions,” Shea said. “I was working with him on trying to do a development around his property at Skinners Pond. He was certainly a great Canadian, so patriotic and so concerned about the Canadian music industry.”
Shea recalled one memorable meeting with Conners.
“I had talked to him several times but didn’t really know him,” she said. “We had a bit of a published disagreement in the newspapers and I decided I’m just going to go to his house. He was really nervous about the meeting, he told me later. He said he hadn’t slept for two days in anticipation of the meeting that’s why I was only given a half-hour (to talk to Conners). But as we started to talk about the things we had in common – coming from Skinners Pond and we talked about all of the personalities that he knew and I knew.”
“We certainly hit it off,” she said. “And I can tell you I was there a lot longer than a half-hour and had an absolutely wonderful time. He was a really warm, caring person but mind you had lots of very strong opinions on things and lots of things he wouldn’t waiver on.”