ARMCHAIR ARCHIVES – In quest of the magic formula of being positive

Back in the day, the Armchair Mayor looks for something positive to write about.

 I foolishly neglected to mark the date on this clipping but, given the references to Expo, it was written in 1986. It puts the lie to those who claim I have gotten grouchy in my old age; fact is, I’ve always yelled at clouds. Maybe that’s why I got into the newspaper business. We’ve lost a couple of the very positive people mentioned in this column — Ian Clark in 1999 and John Dormer in 2017. They’re missed.

I’VE BEEN HEARING a lot lately about being positive.

Rothenburger, they say, don’t be so damn negative. This town needs to think positive. Surely you can write about good things.

Well, I do try to be positive, when I can find something to be positive about, but sometimes it’s hard work.

There are people in Kamloops who don’t have to search around for the bright side of things. It comes up and smacks them right in the face, automatically.

When you run into a super positive individual bursting with the wonders each new day has to offer, doesn’t it make you feel a little better? Sure it does.

We all know about the Mike Lattas, those go-gettum chuckle types who never seem to stop moving. Latta, while he was criticized constantly as mayor, will be remembered as one of the best “ambassadors” this city ever had.

Now that he’s out of politics and into Expo, he has even more opportunity to be positive.

Politicians, after all, have a problem with them being super-positive people, because one of their jobs is to criticize what other politicians and public servants are doing.

Nelson Riis and Ivan Jakic, for example, wouldn’t exactly be classed right now as super positive.

In Kamloops, the ranks of the super positive — as in, above and beyond merely positive — are thin, but they are definitely there. Perhaps a dozen citizens qualify.

One of them, maybe even the found of positivism in Kamloops is Ian Clark, who gave the city its first radio station, has served in many public capacities, and maintains an intense interest in his community even though he has been retired from an active business life for several years.

Clark is the epitome of good manners. Praise is his forte.

“Thanks ever so much,” he will say, “for your gracious comments and the wonderful help offered so generously by your esteemed newspaper. Good gosh, you’re doing just a really bang-up job, Mel. This city needs that kind of unselfish contribution. Keep up the excellent work. Thanks ever so much.”

That glowing tribute may have been delivered for publishing a one-inch notice on a meeting of the King’s Men or one of his other groups but, by golly, how can you come away from  a conversation like that without a spring in your step?

When I leave this world, I would like Ian Clark to deliver the eulogy.

Barrie Campbell, the Western Canada Theatre Company’s public relations person, is even more animated than Clark. When she talks, she kind of sings. Watching and listening to her in conversation, you can see enthusiasm spilling out like champagne, all bubbly, as if each minute were a celebration.

Campbell has trouble analyzing her positive attitude.

Somehow, she approaches each new day as a challenge. She sees the negativism in Kamloops and sympathizes with people who are hurting because of the economy.

Kamloops, Campbell feels, needs one good, solid sign that things are turning around. Something to grab onto, to get the ball rolling.

When that happens, count one Campbell to lead the singing of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

John Dormer, B.C. Tel’s PR man, is a definite candidate for Positive Person of the Year. Any year. When you ask John how things are going and he replies, “Busy, busy, busy!!!” he means it. And he loves it.

He works on the philosophy that “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

If you could think of 100 organizations doing community work, Dormer would belong to all of them. The United Way, Kamloops Wildlife Park, Scouts, Expo Society … if it needs money to be raised and about 25 hours a day of volunteer work, call John. When the Rotary Club guys get together for lunch, John Dormer leads the Happy Buck parade.

“Oh, fantastic!” was his reaction to my question about being positive. For the next 25 minutes, he reeled off the good things about Kamloops — the people, the parks, the climate, the outdoors, the resources — without ever repeating himself.

He has no particular secret to being positive. “It’s just my nature. It’s easy to accentuate the negative. But it’s easier to smile than it is to frown. If you smile at everybody they’ll smile back.”

Ross “Hi Guy” Phelps is another one who walks around all day spreading good cheer like a benign virus.

Phelps quit his job as editor of That Other Newspaper a few years ago to sell Amway full time. He’s now into insurance.

“Hi, guy!” says Phelps when I call him. “How’s it going?!!!”

“I am in quest,” I say, “of the secret of being positive.”

“Ah,” he says knowingly, “the magic formula!”

He explains, enthusiastically, that being positive doesn’t come natural to everyone. Being negative comes natural. You have to work at being positive. “Totally.”

Phelps works at it by reading books and listening to tapes on positive mental attitude. Then he puts it into practice.

“Given all circumstances, people are basically in control of what they do.” That’s the first thing you have to learn. Positivism, he says, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you expect to succeed, the more you will succeed.

Does this man ever get depressed selling something called “life” insurance to people who have to die before they can collect it? “If there’s value in what you’re doing, if you’re doing a service, then you feel good about it.”

If Kamloops wants to turn itself around, it has to remember the old half-empty versus half-full glass of water trick. Think half full. Be positive.

“Thanks, Ross. I feel a lot better now. Have a nice day.”

“There, you see?”

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, alternate TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s been writing columns about Kamloops since 1970. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9489 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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