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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Duo honoured as multicultural ‘icons’ Napanee’s Kathryn Snider, Martin Millin to be honoured in advance of 10th annual festival BY SETH DUCHENE Editor

While Napanee’s Multicultural Festival is aimed at celebrating cultural differences and bridging racial and ethnic divides, some Napanee residents were doing that decades earlier. At the 10-year anniversary of the festival this year, however, those who helped to break down racial stereotypes and prejudices in days gone by will get their due recognition. This past week, the organizing committee named longtime local residents Kathryn ‘Kay’ Snider and Martin Millin as two of

the four community ‘icons’ for the annual celebration. In 1965, it was Snider and her family who welcomed Millin, a Jamaican ex-pat who came here by way of Britain to find work. Millin, a welder by trade, found a place to stay at Snider’s boarding house right after his first day of work at Napanee Ironworks. It had been a whirlwind week for Millin, who left his job in Sheffield, England on a Tuesday, flew to Canada on Thursday, and started working in Napanee on Monday. “(A friend) told me the best place to go was Kay Snider’s boarding house,” recalled Millin.

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“What I remember about Martin was that he was the first black person I ever saw, really,” said Sharlene Wyatt, Snider’s granddaughter, recalling Millin’s arrival when she was a child. The colour of his skin, however, didn’t for a moment make her or her family hesitant to welcome him. “We just accepted him like he was just one of the family.” In doing so, Kay was passing along a maxim she had learned in her own childhood when she was growing up in the mid-western U.S. “She was always taught that there was no difference in people, (regardless) of their colour. They were always taught that. So, she wouldn’t think anything at all (about taking Martin in),” said Carol Thielman, another one of Snider’s granddaughters. Carol said she can remember one time when Kay’s intolerance to the racially intolerant was put to the test. “I do remember being at Grandma’s one day… and Grandma was really mad. We would never see stuff like that. But she was angry at a woman… who told her she should kick the black man out of the house. She said, ‘Nobody is going to tell me who is going to live here.’” Wyatt and Thielman recall another instance when Millin, while accom-

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The proprietor issued a public apology after the incident. The owner of another local bar, meanwhile, advised him he could drink at his place any time — and even gave him a beer on the house. “Some (people) were friendly, some were not. It was the same in Britain, too,” Millin said. The Sniders certainly fell into the ‘friendly’ category, and Millin and his family and the Sniders enjoyed a close relationship over the years. In fact, it was on Kay’s

advice that Millin embarked on a second ‘career’ as a landlord. In the early 1980s, Millen purchased a group of homes along the south side of Bridge Street near Mac’s Milk. “(Millin) said the best thing he ever did was to accept the advice to buy (the apartments), because in the end Martin owned that whole block. That’s quite an achievement,” said Cortwright Christian, Multicultural Festival founder and organizer.

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panied by their fathers, was asked to leave a local drinking establishment. My father said, “Well, if you don’t want to serve him then you don’t want to serve me then. We’re leaving and we’re never coming back.” They never did. They never went back,” said Wyatt. Thielman added that the request for Millin to leave didn’t sit well with many other Napanee residents, either. “There were a lot of other people in Napanee that never went into that business again,” she said.

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Martin Millin (left) and Kathryn ‘Kay’ Snider became fast friends when Millin first arrived in Napanee in 1965. The pair still visit each other regularly. Snider and Millin are two of four ‘icons’ to be honoured this June.

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