RCW 139: You Must Remember This - A Dueser's Story

A retrospective by Lynne Collinson

Hello everyone! It’s been a few months now since the convention, so the title You Must Remember This is quite unnerving for me as I thought I had forgotten everything! However as soon as I started to type and think of the people I met and the fun I had thousands of miles from home, the memories slowly returned. Bear in mind this may not be 100% accurate nonetheless!

This aptly named convention weekend was much anticipated not only by die hard convention attendees, but also by the many new fans of our beloved show who had heard tales of these almost mythical Toronto gatherings. After lots of “no more conventions ever”, “no one will want to come”, and “it will be a very scaled down affair”, the committee succumbed to virtual thumbscrews and arm twisting and delivered an excellent 25th anniversary weekend! There were many similarities to the former conventions, and a few differences too which was to be expected.

Where to start… for the first time, the convention had a supporter in the form of Encore+, a YouTube channel dedicated to showing old Canadian television series. Encore+ ran a competition in advance of the convention weekend for a lucky Canadian to win two attendee tickets to RCW 139: You Must Remember This. This meant that the convention attracted fans who didn’t know these gatherings existed, and also meant that we had some interesting articles in the convention (goodie) bags, donated by Encore+. It also meant there was a life-sized cardboard cutout of Benton Fraser in attendance, along with Encore+ representative Paulina who turned out to be a big fan of the show!

Not only was this convention held earlier in the summer than in the past (late July as opposed to mid-August), but we had a different venue too, as the normal hotel on Bloor was under renovation. It didn’t disappoint. The Courtyard Toronto Downtown was a convenient venue and for those of us who stayed there, the rooms were comfortable with good views and the added bonus of a Tim Horton’s close by.

We had lost some of our friends since the last convention: Fliss Pugh, fan, supporter, helper, contributor, and organizer. Kevin Rushton, stunt man and Dueser friend. And Kevin Klee, two-time attendee and loyal fan. Convention passes had been made for them and hung from the wall lights in the main convention room. In keeping with the “You Must Remember This” theme, attendees were also asked to contribute their memories of previous conventions and of the show. This memory wall soon filled up with memories such as:

  • Finally getting to meet all my Due South friends in person
  • Raising money for charity
  • Jay Semko playing Cabin Fever
  • All the RCW birthday cakes
  • The husky playing in the snow during the bus tour in August
  • Tom phoning Tony

And many more. There are just so many to name. So let’s talk about memories from this year! Here is a day-by-day summary.

Day 0 - Thursday 25 July

Typical from the last few conventions, early arrivals had the opportunity to discover the intriguing Distillery District and explore some of the filming locations from The Blue Line, Bird in the Hand, Victoria’s Secret, and many other episodes. Led by veteran tour guide Tom, it was a super place to visit and to have dinner after the tour - and to catch up with other attendees on events from the last five years, since the last convention. Although we had a bit of rain, the weather was much better than the cold and blustery Thursday evening that we had the last time we did this… in 2014. It was therefore a great start to the RCW 139: You Must Remember This.

Day 1 - Friday 26 July

As usual, registration was the opportunity to get excited every time another old friend walked through the door. There were lots of photos being taken and chatter everywhere.  Of course, the many bemused new attendees were not left out as they too were accosted by welcoming fans wanting to complete their sets of trading cards. Nora did a scholarly job checking the register (well, she does work in a school library!) and handing out the coveted goodie bags, sustained by a tempting box of Timbits. There were a few new young people this year, including the young Wanamakers who looked like they had a fabulous time – it was great to see the next generation of Duesers at the event.

Delving into the bags, we were rewarded with the aforementioned cards (the theme was moments from previous RCW 139 conventions, which I thought was a nice touch), a beautiful A4-sized poster featuring a design based on an episode, a bracelet handmade by Tina from Sweeden, the usual t-shirt, a photograph, a pen, an Ace Leary baseball card, a shining Due South 25th anniversary pin, some badges (as we Brits call them) from Encore+, and also from them a sticky thing for the back of a phone which I believe is called a pop socket. And of course the bag itself was a special design!

After some considerable time making new friends and harassing old ones for trading card swaps, we played a bingo-type icebreaker game and had a go at the carnival games - you needed good aim and a sharp eye for these…in other words, the skills of a Mountie!

And talking about a Mountie, rumours were spreading that the guest panel was going to consist of just one person… Benton Fraser himself. Or rather, the real Paul Gross and not just the cardboard cutout. Following an exciting introduction by Stephane and the committee, our first panelist was… of course, Paul Gross! He was welcomed with cheers and hearty applause. He admitted wryly he had no idea what to say, so it was straight to the questions. Looking very stylish and not too unlike his alter ego, he seemed genuinely happy to be there and regaled us with amusing anecdotes and updates on new projects. He talked about how many well-made drama programs were on television these days and how much content is produced in north America. He explained how just after he finished Tales of the City (the first miniseries!), he was sent the script of the pilot for Due South and really enjoyed it, so was happy to take on the role. He told stories about Gordon Pinsent and recalled funny moments, as well as the curse the show suffered from for not burying a caribou. He said he was very grateful for all of us still remembering Due South after so many years. He entertained us and made us laugh for well over an hour, at the end of which Stephane presented him with a model log cabin and a proclamation from the mayor saying congratulations on Due South’s 25th anniversary. Before he left us, Paul posed with cardboard Benton for a few photos.

What a start it was to the convention! It was only appropriate that Paul’s Q&A a was followed by a tasting of his favourite chocolate: KitKat.  An RCW 139 tradition that dates back to the 1990s, there were plenty of KitKats on offer from all over the world - some more tasty than others! While the KitKat tasting was taking place, some of us continued to play the carnival games and achieve a high score… there were prizes on the line!

Later that afternoon, it was time for Due South Cinema… a slightly fancier episode viewing which this year was sponsored by Encore+, who provided some tasty popcorn treats for everyone. As I have said before in my write-ups - there is nothing like sharing favourite episodes with a gang of like-minded people who can speak the dialogue in tune with the actors, laugh at all the jokes, and sigh at all the sad parts.  The two episodes we saw – North and All the Queen’s Horses – were voted on by fans prior to the convention, and have some of the most memorable lines in them. My favourite because I love the poem is:

Ray: Aah, moil, toil, who cares?

Fraser: Robert Service, apparently.

Vecchio: Who's he?

Fraser: The poet.

Yes, I am the annoying person who is whispering dialogue. But in the company of other Due South fans, I am never alone in doing so.

After a little break, we had a couple of events remaining in the evening. First was Due South Jeopardy!, the fourth convention in a row where we had the chance to play this popular and usually hilarious team game. We answered questions about Music, Episode Names, RCW 139, and more… and in the end, it was The Team Who Knew Too Little - Lucy, Lauren,  Erin,  Tiffany , Suzanne,  Mike, and Elissa – that won the game and the prizes! What a fun go it was.

We had an added treat after that, when Stephane was kind enough to show us the beauty the area he lives in with his presentation: Living in Labrador - A Year in the Canadian North. It was mostly stories about pictures, and that was perfectly all right. Labrador is quite a place.

And that was Day 1… another amazing start to a Due South convention. But did we ever doubt that it would be?

Day 2 - Saturday 27 July

Up bright and early, the Duesers marched with Stephane in the lead and John on point through downtown Toronto to The Patrician Grill for breakfast. Going to this famous (for Duesers, anyways!) diner is another RCW 139 tradition, and this year we had nothing but beautiful weather to walk down. Upon arrival, it was a scuffle for the Victoria booth, which I think Stephane and Katie got… all I know is I never get to sit there! But that’s OK because the entire place is so iconic. Fortified with pancakes and maple syrup, we listened to owner Terry’s stories about the scenes that were filmed there, and then we posed for the customary group photograph before making our way back to the hotel via some areas where shooting for a yet-to-be-revealed new action series was happening – something with a Greek name I think.

The Saturday afternoon panel is normally a highlight of RCW 139, and this year’s did not disappoint! This was a large one consisting of newcomers Chris Moulson (Assistant Location Manager) and his wife Jackie Alexander Moulson (Production Assistant), occasional attendee Daniel Kash, and the RCW 139 “regulars” – Michael Bowman, Tom Melissis  and Catherine Bruhier, who had flown all the way from Los Angeles just to be with us. It is always interesting to have a mixture of behind the scenes people and actors. Learning about the different jobs there are in the film and TV industry is really fascinating, and Due South is no exception.

There is a video on YouTube of the session (as well as the other sessions, if you want to hear exactly what was said). Chris and Jackie, who met on the set, had so many funny stories to tell.  Tom, Catherine, and Daniel seemed happy to be together again, and talked about shared acting experiences and their memories of being on the show. I was particularly impressed with Tom who remembered the names of at least a third of the attendees in front of him (but we almost expect that from him by now!). Needless to say, it was fun and informative, and everyone enjoyed their tales. The panel members very kindly stayed behind afterwards to sign photos and to chat further. Not surprisingly, the afternoon went by so quickly and it was already time for the traditional RCW 139 Gala Dinner – held for the ninth convention in a row, dating back all the way to 1996!

Thankfully, Jackie, Chris, Michael, and Daniel were able to stay on for the dinner, which was wonderful as usual. A chance to dress up and share a table with people from all over the world, with friends you haven’t seen in years and with new friends, to learn about each about and eat a mixture of delicious Ukrainian, Italian, and Canadian food (as would be served at the Kowalskis, Vecchios, and Frasers, of course). The evening ended with our fifth ever group photo, which was first started in 2008 by Catherine and David Marciano – and by now you get the idea that there are a lot of amazing traditions at RCW 139!

And that was already Day 2. It’s crazy how quickly time was going by.

Day 3 - Sunday 28 July

The third day started early again on King Street, with a walking tour of locations led by our incredible tour guide Tom – back for yet another event. At some previous conventions, we had been on a bus tour of filming locations but this time around, a walking tour was planned. Which gave us a better opportunity to see the locations in detail. As usual, this, was a very informative tour and although landscapes and buildings had changed, it was still possible to imagine some of the scenes from our favourite program. The weather was perfect for the outing – as it had been all weekend.

Back at the hotel, the afternoon kicked off with another panel, consisting of Bob Wertheimer, the season 2 producer who worked on North and All the Queen’s Horses, David Thompson, editor during the first two seasons, Christina Cox who played Caroline Morgan in Free Willie and Vault, and Catherine Bruhier once again. What an awesome panel it was, with so many new insights on the show!

After autographs, the ever generous Duesers spent the rest of the afternoon spending money on some marvelous souvenirs and memorabilia in the silent auction, with the best items coming in the live auction. There really were some wonderful items, including Fliss Pugh’s collection sent from England by her son Martin. Some lucky people got to take home treasures such as a beautiful quilt, items knitted by Diane, crocheted Mountie bears, an RCW guest gift pack, a book of press clippings, episode posters , a picture of Fraser by Erin, and Shirly who won a framed print from the Moulsons of a cartoon hat with “She shot me in the hat, Ray” caption to it. Among other great items, of course. It was a wonderful way to end the convention – all the money raised, nearly $5000 of it, will be donated to worthwhile charities.

And just like that, the weekend was over. It was a very sad time when we all had to say our goodbyes to each other, swap emails, and promise to keep in touch… and hope for another convention in 5 years time.

The most important memory I have taken away from these Due South conventions is that we all share a love for a program that had friendship and loyalty as its core principle; writing and acting that led you to care for the characters and witness how they cared too. And the examples of that friendship live within us all and that is why we keep in touch even though oceans and mountains and cultural differences might separate us; we still find time to check up on each other, to rejoice at marriages, promotions, and births, and grieve at losses.

Finally to the committee who put in a huge amount of work before, during, and after the convention, our gratitude and respect.  Stephane, Sarah, John, Megan, Katie… Thank You Kindly.

-Lynne Collinson

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