A Memory

Published in a newspaper / magazine in Vancouver, Canada sometime in the late 70s. Written by LD.

Interview with J. Lentell, 13th March.

As a young woman growing up in Rhodesia, Africa, I eagerly awaited the morning newspaper – The Rhodesia Herald. After a cursory glance at the headlines I would turn to the (domestic) personal column to get my daily fix of John Lentell’s “Daily Piece”. Some of my favourites I had cut out, saved and brought with me to Canada. A sampling follows.

FRIDAY’S Piece
“Regret cannot come today;
have not yet got home yesterday.”
(Telegram attributed to employee during
traffic crisis.)

John Lentell

TUESDAY’S Piece
Don ‘t drink Rhodesia dry!
John Lentell

WEDNESDAY’S Piece
An advertisement in the Herald said – “Accept Jesus and really live. For details phone 26282.” When I telephoned a voice said “I’ll give you his phone number on the farm and you can phone him there! I don’t know much about it to tell you the truth.”
John Lentell

MONDAY’S Piece
The best contraceptive is a glass of cold water;
Not before or after, but instead.
(Pakistan delegate at International Planned Parenthood Conference.)

John Lentell

Yesterday I had the chance to chat with that household name from Africa – John Lentell.

When he arrived at Vancouver Airport wearing a deer-stalker cap “with flaps to xeep my ears warm in your cold climate” and a Harris Tweed overcoat, one was hard pressed not to inquire as to the whereabouts of his colleague Watson.

In the airport lounge this 51 year old man, talked easily about his long trip from Rhodesia (via England and New York) but declined comment on the current political situation in Rhodesia. “It is well established that one does not criticize one’s host country, or in abstention, one’s own country when abroad.”

Born in Barnstable, Devon England, John Lentell migrated to Rhodesia in 1951 at the age of25. He ran a successful import business and worked in youth groups, welfare organizations, cultural and political groups. He tried to break through the barriers of race and colour and in the sixties made headlines by ‘adopting’ the three year old son of a nationalist leader placed in ‘restriction’ for 12 months by the Rhodesian government. As a result, John mentions that he suffered severe loss of business, his family was threatened and his car damaged by a petrol bomb. He was quoted in the Herald as saying “The incident has failed to undermine my political convictions.”

He was nominated for a Parvin Fellowship at Princeton University in 1964 and his list of personal friends in high places reads like an International Who’s Who.

But to thousands of Rhodesians, John Lentell is best remembered for his daily “piece’ in the personal column of the Rhodesia Herald.
“I was the only person whose name appeared without fail in the newspaper every day of the year.”
His pieces pleased and infuriated.
They ranged from philosophical quotes to humorous anecdotes. Little old ladies (and people like me) collected them in scrapbooks; letters to the Editor denounced them.

“SIR: John Lentell’s daily pieces have been aggravating me ever since I noticed that they appeared with monotonous regularity. Must he keep on wasting money in a self-centered effort to educate the public of Rhodesia, which I presume is his intention.”

Students discussed his motives in psych. classes and letters poured in to his home.
“Dear Mr Lentell,
You do write the most stupid rubbish we have ever read …..”

Dear Mr. Lentell………is it to convey truth? Is it to amuse, or is it to satisfy your ego and to let you feel that 50,000 readers or more are not reading the “piece” but looking for the name – John Lentell.” Signed – CURIOUS.

I asked John if he had an answer for ‘curious’. “Positive thoughts need an outlet” he told me. “It was mainly frustration and the need to communicate. Until the time I started Pieces (8 years ago) I’d been involved in public affairs sufficient to consume an excessive ego. Once that ceased, due to the uprooting of my family because of my involvement with Rhodesian politics – I needed another outlet.”.
“Also” he mentions with an almost impish smile – “I was in the type of business (now antiques and furniture restoration) which could benefit from this original form of communication, or advertising.”

Because of the daily ‘pieces’ John Lentell is recognized wherever he goes in Rhodesia by simply stating “Hello – my name is John Lentell”.
He did just that to the taxi driver as we left the airport building and headed for Maple Ridge. For the first time in years, he received a blank stare!

This leaves me to speculate about what could be in store for Vancouver ….. this man has to feed an “excessive ego”.

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One thought on “A Memory

  1. Hello, I have this old travelling trunck with the name JP LENDELL wrtten on with “British Railways to ..TAUNTON” and “Rhodesia Railways to Table Bay Docks” stickers. It’s from Zimbabwe. Could it have belonged to the John Lendell you’re mentionning. Best regards. Raphael Hudelist from France.

    Like

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