Bill & Sue-On Hillman and Family
Sue-On's Annual Newsletters


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The Hillmans Annual Xmas Tome v.2004
Part of Our Xmas Greetings Feature at

Christmas snuck up on me, more so than in the past. I’m not sure if it’s because of “senior moments” or because we didn’t get any snow until December. But, thoughts of our families and friends are always with us, and we hope you all have had a wonderful year.
Celebrations in this household started in July with Ja-On’s graduation from Wellington Massage Therapy College. It was a challenging two years for Ja and his son Soulin, with school for both guys, day care and practicums, but they came through it all with flying colours! Bill, Sue-On, China, Soulin and Angela (Ja’s girlfriend) were able to attend the graduation ceremonies in Winnipeg. Ja-On received excellent marks as well as a substantial bursary. In August, the guys moved back to Brandon, much to our delight. As Ja had been doing his weekend practicums at Brandon’s elite Fitness Quest, he was invited to set up his practice there. Business is doing well, and he enjoys the challenge of working with a variety of clients:
Soulin also graduated - from French immersion kindergarten at Winnipeg’s Laura Secord School! He is growing up and we are so happy to have him closer to home. Soulin is in grade 1 at New Era, another French immersion school. Because Ja is still at work when school is out, Soulin goes over to the YMCA for after-school activities. He loves his swimming lessons, gym, and he is now into indoor soccer. We really look forward to the days he gets to spend at the “big house.” These two bachelors have been very lucky to have found Angela Patton. She has provided ongoing support for the last two years. Angela is an LPN, and studying at Brandon University's nursing program.
Robin has had a very interesting year. In April, he started a full-time position as IT Computer Consultant with the municipality of Red Lake, a gold-mining community in Ontario. One son moves back to Brandon, and another leaves! Housing is at a premium, as it often is in northern communities. He was only able to rent a 3-bedroom duplex . . . but it has given him some interesting roommates ;-)  His main work projects at the moment involve GPS satellite mapping and setting up a 911 system for the municipality.
However, in October, with full consent from his work supervisor, he took a three-week hiatus from his job to experience the most exciting opportunity of his life. Robin was selected by Frantic Films, as a result of his work and showbiz resume, Bill’s military Websites and his three uncles’ WWII experiences to become a movie star!

He had a most incredible three weeks acting in a WWII re-enactment film as a member of a Lancaster Bomber crew. Robin and six other young men lived and breathed the ‘40s while the film crew captured their experiences as aircrew going through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Along with four Canadians, the cast included one each from Australia, the UK and Mississippi, USA. They spent flight training time on historic BCATP bases in Picton and Hamilton, Ontario, then flew along with five veterans (all surviving members of a Lancaster crew) to visit memorial sites in England, Belgium and the Netherlands. One of the highlights was their visit to the memorial in Stone, England, for great uncle William Campbell and his crew.   Robin returned to Canada on Thanksgiving Sunday. We were able to meet him at the airport and spent the day hearing about his experience before his flight back to Red Lake. Since his return, he’s been much in demand by the media for interviews and talk shows. The 4-hour film will be shown on The History Channel and international markets early 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.
China had an excellent first year pre-med at Brandon University and was the recipient of several scholarships from the university. Before the end of first year, however, she changed her focus from optometry to medicine. Finding a summer job was a challenge, but again, her perseverance came through. In June she accepted a position with a private caregiver service, WE CARE. This was full-time shift work and her stamina and patience were amazing. Then, Brandon Regional Health Authority called and she was offered a position with the hospital, based on her career choice. She began her position in CSR on July 14. This department cleans, sterilizes, packages and sets up instruments for the operating rooms. Along with these two jobs, she was also doing many shifts as a volunteer with St. John Ambulance at fairs and public events in and out of Brandon. In August, she performed with Dad, Mom and Robin at the Brandon Folk Festival, and also performed as solo harper at numerous weddings. In September, she began her second year at BU, gave up her job with We Care, but she is still working at the hospital and St. John. Right now, she is knee deep in exam related stress. This is hard on the old folks too! She will be performing her Royal Conservatory of Music grade 9 harp exam in January.
Bill is working overtime, as usual, on many private and volunteer Websites. His greatest joy is working for and with the Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. (ERB, most well known as author of Tarzan and grandfather of American science fiction) and Danton Burroughs of Tarzana, Calif. At present, he has built and is building mega websites for the company as well as publishing a weekly Webzine . Paramount Pictures of Hollywood is producing a major movie based on the first ERB novel, A Princess of Mars, which is the company’s main focus. Musically, Bill makes time for his weekly jams out at the Cantina with several buddies, as well as playing lead guitar for a . . . wait for it . . . Contemporary Christian rock band which plays all over the province.. The two of us have performed for a variety of venues such as the Brandon Folk Festival and benefit concerts. Along with Robin, Bill was also interviewed by CKX-TV for a Remembrance Day feature in which he discussed the impact that WWII had on families who lost loved ones.
I have had a busy year, teaching English with international students at the university during the week, and two evenings a week with immigrants from Asia, Ethiopia, El Salvador and Mexico. These are lively adult classes, and as can be expected when there are several languages involved, it can be quite hilarious! For the first time in our university ESL dept., we have a student from Saudi Arabia. It's been a challenge with someone who doesn't speak any English and writes from the right to the left. However, it's very rewarding when we saw progress at the end of the first term.
Having a student from Arabia gave me the impetus to try out my cooking skills with some Arabic recipes. This brought such a smile to my student as he's been living on university cafeteria food. As a result of my involvement with a food forum:, I was invited to contribute a foodblog - a week-long food diary. This was a lot of fun and Bill has created a website of my efforts:  The timing was perfect as we were entertaining musicians from the folk festival, ERB friends, Dick and Ginnie Spargur from Ohio, Doug and Jean Denby from Toronto, as well as family who were home to celebrate my mother's 95th birthday. In November, we also played host to a food friend from the forum - Ben Hong. He and a hunting buddy, Paul Bailey of New Hampshire spent a week here in Brandon area hunting (without luck) for upland gamebirds. We had a great visit as Ben is a longtime Chinese immigrant sharing much of the same family history as my family. Even tho' Ben returned to New Brunswick empty handed, he surprised us with a shipment of live Atlantic lobsters!
Our year has been full of unexpected and rewarding experiences. We hope yours has been as wonderful. Here's wishing you all a Merry Xmas, much happiness and good health in 2005. Please know that our home is always open for a visit from you! 

Our Annual Xmas Card on the Web is at:

Bill, Sue-On and Family:

The Hillmans Annual Xmas Tome v.2003
Part of Our Xmas Greetings Feature at
Amazing! End of November, there’s hardly any snow on the ground, but  Xmas is still coming. Time to set myself in front of the computer to expound Season’s Greetings to our families and friends.

Do I start each year’s missive with “a hectic year” for this household? Well, it hasn’t changed. So, grab yourself a strong drink ‘cos here we go again!

Oldest Hillman offspring, Ja-On is finishing his second and last year in a massage therapy course at Wellington College where he is receiving top grades.  From all reports by his patients, he is very professional and very adept at his work. His little boy, Soulin is a very mature 5-year-old. In the mornings, Ja takes him to his daycare at the YMCA beside Portage Place. He loves the gym and swimming facilities there. In the afternoons, Soulin attends kindergarten at Laura Secord French Immersion School. He is a bright little fella and keeps his grandpa and grandma on their toes. These two bachelors are living in Winnipeg but come home most weekends.

Younger son Robin graduated with a 4 year B.Sc. Honours degree in Computer Science in May. It was an exciting day for us as one of the perks of Bill being a professor at Brandon University was the opportunity to present Robin with his degree at Convocation. Robin was then assigned his own office and worked on an integrated GPS satellite mapping project for the Geography, Geology and Computer Departments at the university from early spring until the end of September. Hoping to see a bit of the world before starting a career in earnest he became a vagabond in October, and will be backpacking across Europe until Dec. 18. Trust the kid to come home for the presents! We were quite excited to hear of his adventures with the English band who backed us on our last English recording (they are now known as Raised on Rusks but were formerly called Desperado). Meeting them was a great thrill for Robin as he plays drums and bass on our shows and also plays with G.B. Peech and the Sidebanders, a blues band.

Baby China has grown up, and will be 18 come Dec. 5th.  She started first year pre-med at BU in September, and is pretty much acing this first term.  China and I drive to “school” together in the mornings. Since Robin’s car is available, she usually drives herself home when her classes finish around 4 p.m. Kind of nice not to have to worry about chauffeuring these days. She is aiming for optometry at Waterloo University in the next couple years. Music is still an important part of her life. She has performed with her harp, bagpipes and piano at several weddings and shows and will do a caleidh and a concert with us at the end of November.

Bill is taking a hiatus to devote more time for writing this winter after a tremendous teaching load in 2002/2003. He assumed a full professor’s teaching load plus four additional computer courses in the math/science dept. of the BU education faculty. Kept his 250 students pretty busy creating webpages, electronic portfolios, web-blogs, and in developing tech teaching skills to use when they go into their own classrooms. In June, the university sent him on 10 day PD/research trip to Tarzana, California. He was doing research on a subject close to his heart - Edgar Rice Burroughs, at Danton Burroughs’ invitation.  He was thrilled when Danton, grandson of ERB, decided to open storage vaults (sealed since 1979) holding never-before-seen treasures spanning a time period from the US Civil War to WWII and beyond. Can you imagine the thousands of pictures, tapes and photocopies he brought home? Since then, he’s been busy collating the new material for articles, book manuscripts and the thousands of Web pages he maintains. Bill continues to share the Burroughs Web pages with the world through his weekly online ERBzin-e. He is planning to return on another of his regular visits to California in the new year to carry on his research and work on TV and film documentaries, etc.

Toward the end of August, Bill and I took a road trip to the University of Louisville, Kentucky, where the annual world conference for hundreds of Edgar Rice Burroughs fans was being held. We haven’t had quality time together for many years, and it was a wonderful trip for us. Once a year, we get to renew acquaintances. It was especially enjoyable this year as Danton, Mary and Stacy Burroughs (Danton’s stepmom and step-sister) were all in attendance. Bill assisted Dan with his presentation of rare home movies and slides at the Ekstrom Rare Books Library Auditorium. Two other highlights of this trip were the awarding of the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award by the Burroughs Bibliophiles Board to Bill for all his dedication to the memory of ERB . . . and the celebration of our 37th  wedding anniversary, at a bistro featuring a live blues band.

In Sept, I started my second year of teaching at BU with the EAP (English for Academic Purposes) program. I teach level 2 writing every morning.  This term, I have 8 students (great t/s ratio!), from China, Mexico, Japan and Korea. The term ends in 2 weeks, then we start with new students on Jan. 5th. On Tues. and Thurs. evenings, I still work with immigrants in the provincial ESL program. This year, I have 14 students, all but two are from Ethiopia. The other two students are from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Our last class for this year is reserved for making unbaked cheesecake. I HAVE to get some cooking in there!

I DO miss the big kitchen at Soo’s and visiting with the customers, BUT…it’s wonderful to have time for the family, friends and myself. Although we are no longer involved in karate, I am still involved with qi-gong and tai-chi. Have to slow down the march towards old age somehow ;)

Music still plays a big part in our lives. We manage to do a number of concerts through the year and Bill and Robin jam every week with friends at Ken Daniels’ Cantina. I manage to join them on the nights I’m not teaching.

I see some of you have had to refill your cuppas. So, this may be a good time for me to close down for another year.

May your cups be always full, of good fortune, good health and happiness!

The Hillman Clan

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2003 Online Xmas Card at:
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XMAS 2002
Merry Xmas 2002 and a Happy New Year from the Hillmans
Another year, an event-filled 2002, is drawing close. You may not have heard from us for a couple of years, but that doesn't mean we haven't been thinking about you all. In fact, I have had Xmas letters written AND printed, ready for the post office... but somehow, there was never time enough to complete the final stages... envelope, stamp and post!

There were several major changes in our lives in 2002...all of them exciting and happy...

One of the reasons for our lack of correspondence had been lack of time. The opening of the Maple Leaf Hog Processing Plant depleted Brandon’s restaurant labor pool drastically. Soo's, like everyone in else in the area, had a difficult time recruiting not only Chinese cooks, but all support staff.  Our whole family had to fill in the gaps, with Ja and Sue-On shouldering the brunt of the physical labor. Twelve-hour work days were taking their toll on us. Then, in early winter of 2001, negotiations began with the bank next door, to purchase the entire Soo's block. The deal was struck and Soo's became a part of Brandon history on February 2, after 32 years of business under the same family and at the same location. It was both a sad and happy event but it enabled all of us to move on to other interests.

While this was happening, Bill, who had retired from high school teaching after 30 years, was recruited by Brandon University as a Travelling Professor in their remote campuses in northern communities. He was asked to set up and deliver courses in Communications, Computers and Internet, and Journalism. He started in January and was flying back and forth until the end of April. Needless to say, he can write a book or two from his experiences, especially in Pukatawagan, which you can read about in our website While he was home, every 2 weeks for 5 days, we took out all the equipment, decor, etc. from Soo's. Can you imagine removing thousands of pieces of bamboo that Bill single-handedly cut and nailed to the walls, etc, in 1994?!

Bill returned home two days before an April Sock Hop Reunion at the Keystone convention complex with old friend Bobby Curtola, Canada's Rock 'n' Roll Legend. It was a blast from the past performing with band members who toured with Bobby in the ‘60s. Another is planned for April 2003.

Since then, we have performed with Bobby at McPhillip’s Street Station Casino in Winnipeg and various other venues. Bill is also Webmaster for Bobby's website ... one of many he maintains.

A few weeks before Bill was slated to "go north" again, BU Faculty of Education assigned him to Assistant Professor with the Math/Science Dept. where he took over their computer department. He is teaching Technology & Computers in Education and Internet for Educators ... quite a heavy load with 100 students this term and 125 next term. But he enjoys it :) Before classes began in September we flew to Los Angeles where we attended a SciFi convention and Bill taped a half-hour interview with PBS for a three-hour documentary they are compiling on author Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bill is considered somewhat of an authority because of the work he has done with the Burroughs family in Tarzana and the thousands of Web pages he has created on ERB.

Older son Ja-On and his little guy Soulin are now living in Winnipeg. Ja is taking a two-year course in massage therapy. He was happy to get out of the kitchen as it was wearing him down physically. Soulin is now four and is attending a day care at Portage Place YMCA. He loves it – especially the field trips around the city, the swimming pool and the gym activities. He’s obviously inherited his dad’s love of the marial arts and fitness. We miss them as we only see them every couple weeks. Soulin still calls 41 K Soulin's house. It is always a joyous welcome when they come home. Ja-On is doing an amazing job with his little boy.

Second son Robin is completing his 4th year in computer science and geology. He was fortunate to work for two summers with our buddy, Kerry Morris's software development company in Winnipeg. Robin, who has played trombone with the BU jazz band since high school, organized the horn section for the Curtola Sock Hop Reunion. To add to his musical versatility, he taught himself bass guitar this year and is performing with a local blues band when he is not performing with the Hillman Band. He joins Bill and other friends jamming every Thursday night, whether on drums or bass. I’m afraid that he has developed his dad’s eclectic tastes in music and collectomania.

China turned 17 Dec. 5 ... no surprise party like last year. She got her driver's license in April but is holding off buying a car. Grade 12 and all her other interests are keeping her very busy. Musically, she passed her grade 8 piano exams and will be doing her grade 8 harp exam in the spring. I think the lessons are starting to pay off as she is playing harp, bagpipes and piano at weddings and numerous other venues. In between, she has taken / is taking classes in knife making, archery, fencing and kickboxing. She still wants to be a knight, but realizes that she will need a good day job... So, she will be heading off to BU in the fall with a possible slant towards optometry. She needs to stay close so she can "continue" to look after her pal, Atticus, a Great Pyrenees dog we adopted in one of my senior moments.

This will be our second Xmas without Nana Louise ...the lady who kept traditions going in our family. Louise was with us when she passed away in November, 2001. She will always be missed, especially at this time as she took so much joy in watching the family after Santa's visits.

Sue-On enjoyed the summer as a lady of leisure... pure bliss. I don't miss the long hours of Soo's but do miss the customers, many of whom became friends… and the big kitchen! In September, I started teaching English on the BU campus in the EAP program (English for Academic Purposes). Classes consist of International students from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan and Korea. I teach every morning at the university and two evening ESL classes with landed immigrants. In this class, I have students from Ethiopia, Paraguay, Guatemala, Korea and China. It's been a learning experience! Classes start again Jan. 6.

To those of you who never gave up on corresponding with us, keep those cards & letters coming!

To you all, we wish you a Merry Xmas and a Happy and Healthy 2003 :)

Sue-On, Bill and Family

XMAS 2000
Apologies to all to whom we owe two-years-worth of Christmas cards. A stack of last year's unsent newsletters and Xmas cards still remain in our "to-do" tray . . . we promised ourselves that we would send out last year's newsletters before we started this year's -- so there ain't much new news posted here. Obviously we've been kinda busy -- suffice to say it was a good year, and we're all healthy and happy -- and we wish all the best for the coming Year of the Snake to our friends. Below is last year's letter . . .  which we'll leave up until we have something more to add. And, if you want some really old news you can check out this year's all-consuming project: our career bio. The first segments, which contain hundreds of photos and clippings from our scrapbooks, are posted at:

XMAS 1999
Hello Everyone,
I have been running around madly, coordinating bookings for the various banquet rooms, setting special cater menus and scheduling staff to handle different parties . . .  MUST BE XMAS!!! SO!  Merry Xmas and the Very Best to You and Yours in the year 2000…the Year of the Dragon.

Someone once said that life slows down after 50…don’t think they meant age! The pace seems to have picked up since our grandson arrived in our midst. Ja has primary care of 19 month old Soulin this year. The house continues to look like a daycare…as we make frequent trips to the “toy shop” at the farm. We are glad we saved all the Fisher Price toys, etc. from when our kids were small. Soulin is a bundle of energy from morning ‘til night. He keeps us laughing just watching his antics. Of course he will be the smartest kid ever! I have a suspicion he will be a “pack rat” just like the rest of the family, from the looks of his toy box. He comes by that trait honestly . . . the HILLMAN side, of course?

Ja-On is following in his Dad’s footsteps, juggling several “hats” at the same time. He is back at Brandon University, continuing as head cook and supervisor in Soo’s kitchen, teaching music at our local music store, and most importantly, being Daddy to Soulin. He’s pretty good at changing diapers when he can’t con anyone else to do so. After much prodding from Dad, Ja is finally getting back to a first love – writing. His novel is being posted  in our website as it is being written. Ja took a couple weeks off this last June and travelled with his girlfriend Cora to Germany, for her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. This was his first major trip without his parents….and he had a great time! Ja often sits in with his sax at Soo’s gigs – great to have some saxy sounds in the band.

Robin graduated from Crocus Plains Regional High School with honours in June. He also won the Louis Armstrong award for top musician of the year in the school’s jazz band. Robin is enrolled at Brandon University, in computer science and music. He was selected for the university jazz band again, as bass trombone in this his second year.

Private lessons thru’ the university are helping him hone his technique. Robin had his first paying gig a few weeks ago, as trombonist with the pit band for a local high school’s production of Little Orphan Annie. His room is getting smaller everytime I peek in there (I dare not GO IN!). He says “the computers just followed him home”… Robin continues to be the congenial host at Soo’s on the weekends. He often sits in with the band as drummer, giving Mom a much needed break. Both Ja and Robin will join us for the New Year’s eve gig at Soo’s.

China-Li graduated with honours from Kirkcaldy Heights school in a beautiful Chinese dress she discovered while on Spring vacation in Honolulu. She is attending grade 9 at Crocus Plains HS. Band has been replaced by commercial art and her teacher is delighted with her creativity. Her first project was of paper mache, a 5 foot coiled dragon…no small scale for this kid! Music is still a focus China, with harp on Tues, piano on Thurs and bagpipes on Sat. She is hoping that her new harp will be under the Xmas tree, then she will use it to perform during intermissions at the New Year’s Eve gig. She wrote her music theory exam last week and will perform her practical piano exam in January. In highland dance, she tested with flying colours for her silver medal in November, in her new Campbells of Argyle tartan kilt. She is a charming young lady and works as hostess at Soo’s on the weekends.

Bill is busier than ever since retirement from teaching…did you really expect anything else??? Don’t know how he does it, but he manages to keep Soulin happy as well as churning out incredible amounts of work for various websites. To date, he has created close to 1,000 websites which include a weekly Classic Science Fiction online magazine, Edgar Rice Burroughs reference sites, Education sites, Lancaster Bomber & WWII Tribute, the Hillmans, and virtual tours of SOO’S, the  Commonwealth Air Training Plan Air Museum, the Manitoba Dragoons & 26 RCA Army Museum, BMHC Museum, City of Brandon, etc. Waiting at the door are various well-known artists and writers who want his expertise in creating websites to showcase their talents.
(Most of the sites can be accessed by going to )

Bill, Sue-On and China spent a few days in Honolulu during Spring break in March.The beaches were wonderful. We spent several days driving all over the island, in search of places where ERB lived while he was war correspondent in Honolulu during WW11.

Bill had 2 dream trips this year. In June, China and Sue-On accompanied Bill to his first Edgar Rice Burroughs conference, or a DUM DUM as it is called in ape language. This event was held in Tarzana, where ERB, the creator of Tarzan lived. Upon our arrival in California, we were met by Mary Burroughs, ERB’s daughter-in-law, who took us out to dinner. Bill and I had visited the ERB office in Tarzana back in the 70’s when it was managed by ERB’s son. This year’s gathering was held in conjunction with the release of Disney’s animated Tarzan. As special guests of Disney, we were privy to a “premiere before the Hollywood premiere” at the Disney Studios. Other activities allowed us to meet in person many of the people Bill has been e-mailing with few years. It was a fun time and plans are made to attend future gatherings!

Thru’ the wonders of the internet, we received an e-mail from Don Mitchell, representing the people of Sandon, England. He was looking for information regarding William Gavin Campbell, who was pilot of a Lancaster which had crashed near their village a few days before the end of WW11. The people felt these young men who gave their lives defending England were never recognized and were planning to dedicate a memorial in their memory. Mr. Mitchell had searched for Strathclair on the internet and found Bill’s website about the community – so they asked him if he could provide any information about the Campbell family. This was so incredible … William Gavin Campbell is Bill’s uncle, his Mom Louise’s younger brother!

Louise and Bill flew to Sandon, Staffordshire, England the last week in August, in time for the dedication of the memorial on August 28. On their eight day stay there, they were treated royally by the members of the local British Legion. Louise, being 81, was up to everything they had in store for her! The second day there, she had a life long dream come true: to visit her brother’s grave at Blacon Cemetery in Chester. Enroute, she did a half-hour radio interview on BBC Midland Radio. A few days before the ceremony, they participated in the “laying of the stone”.  The trip also provided an opportunity to visit with old friends, Keith and Margaret Jones who drove down from the North East to participate in the ceremonies. The day of the dedication was a beautiful sunny day. The ceremony was held in the field where the Lancaster crashed. Many dignitaries, both British and Canadian attended. The stone is set on the road side next to the field. Sue-On, waiting anxiously for news at home, received the surprise of her life, when she received e-mail from a total stranger, who had just attended the ceremony. He sent her pictures of the fly past of the Memorial Lancaster and the Hurricane, a half hour after the service!!! After the ceremony, Louise was interviewed on BBC television for their nightly news programme. The two travellers arrived home on Louise’s 81st birthday -- very tired but full of incredible stories.

Sue-On has full days, every day! I try to wear several hats too…but I get so CONFUSED! Mornings, I am Grammy to Soulin, and watch all the shows like Teletubbies, Cajiou, Sesame Street.  I love my mornings with Soulin…the ONLY quiet time with lots of cuddles, reading and playing. By noon I am working the dining rooms at Soo’s. Most of our customers are regulars and expect special treatment. I need a DATA BASE to keep track! I might get home for a 20 minute catnap before the supper rush. By 11 PM, I try to get on line to keep in touch with chat pals I have known for the last four years.

One of the treats for myself this year was a Qi-Gong workshop, with a master from Vancouver. This is for stress relief and recharging. I found it really worked!!! After the weekend, I felt a lot of work-related stress “cleansed” and re-energized like the Eveready Bunny. Now, if I can just schedule time between 5 and 7 am, in a quiet section of the house to practice my Qi-Gong…

I am looking forward to playing and singing again on Dec 31, as well as the slower pace after Jan. 3. This gig will be special with all three kids joining us for the first time. We hope to have more occasions like this in 2000.

It’s Dec. 15 as I write this missive. Let’s see if I can get it away before the snow arrives! We look forward to hearing from each and everyone of you…so keep those cards and letters coming!

Best wishes,
The Hillmans: Sue-On ~ Bill ~ Ja-On ~ Robin ~ China-Li

December '98
Jan.28 to Feb 15, 1999..."could be an explosive and expansive time...change will be the keyword this year...all other signs will feel the restlessness of the Tiger’s influence...motivating key changes in many key areas of life...Although some tense nerves will abound, the RAT, Monkey and Dragon will cheerfully come along for the ride in 1998...Good news for my strong Horse...who has been so strong armed and overcome with crisis and drudgery...not to mention nil appreciation for his artistry...this year will be a time of great change...the closer to 1999 Cat/Rabbit year we get, the brighter life will look to this gentle soul..."

WHO said the Chinese don’t know what they are talking about... with all these barnyard animal stories!!!  I, for one... am a convert..."grin"...

Ja-On, the 20-year-old Horse in our family, brought the “ key change” into our lives this year -- he transformed us into GRANDPARENTS... Soulin Jayson Lee Hillman was born May 17, at 8 lbs. 14 oz.  Number 41 Kensington Crescent has become a daycare! Along with parenting duties, Ja has taken over the full time position of Kitchen Supervisor at Soo’s’ for this year. He has completed two years at Brandon University and plans to transfer to Assiniboine Community College for business administration courses next year. In preparation, he has taken the Soo’s books into the computer age. Music remains a big interest as he continues to teach sax and clarinet at the local music store. Any spare time will find Ja at the local fitness centre working out with his friends.

Soulin, the Tiger and the newest member of our family, shares his days between his Mom's and the Hillman homes. When the baby isn't staying full-time with us, Ja picks him up in the mornings before he goes to work and later, one of us takes Soulin back to his Mom when she gets home from school. Yeh-Yeh (Bill’s official Chinese designation for Granddad), shares the load of parenting when Ja is at work. Soulin is now 7 months old and is a beautiful big boy...looks so much like Ja when HE was a baby. Needless to say, he is getting lots of stimulation in this household...and he is the centre of everyone's attention. Initiation into music has begun. He is already trying out the piano and strong vocal cords!

Robin, our Rooster, at 17 years old, is in his final year at Crocus Plains High School.  His proud accomplishment this fall was being accepted into the challenging Brandon University Stage Jazz Band. He is playing trombone in this group, as well as the CP Jazz and Wind Ensemble. The middle years band teacher approached him to tutor students in trombone techniques, but time just didn’t allow. Main interest, academically, remains computers...and he hopes to pursue a career in that field. Robin is growing up...and needless to say...has attracted the “ladies”...He continues to work at Soo’s so he can afford his favorite toy...his CAR!

China-Li, the Ox, is our LATEST teenager as of Dec. 5. Now the trouble everyone tells me. BUT, she keeps herself so busy...(as Mom keeps her fingers crossed!) This will be her last year at Kirkcaldy School down the hill. Being in grade 8 has put her into many positions of responsibility in school activities. Her expertise in computers was recognized this year when her excellent work with spreadsheets was used in workshops to show teachers what CAN be done with kids. China continues to pursue her talents in music...piano, trombone, bagpipes, vibes. She has outgrown her first folk harp and we are in the process of having a bigger concert harp built. Highland dance keeps her hopping as well. She hopes to start work at Soo’s soon...but unlike her brothers, she doesn’t want to start at the bottom...dishpit!

Bill... the older Horse...well...what is retirement!? In his second year of “free-time” he is still trying to find that free time! Drudgery has definitely NOT been his problem. He has become a formidable WEBMASTER on the Internet, not only in his constant creating spirit for the WebSite of his Edgar Rice Burroughs and SF pulp fiction characters, the SOO’S page, but more recently, also websites for the City  of  Brandon. (  The University Geography textbook that he contributed to, continues to do well and is into the third printing. Music has, unfortunately, been pushed to the back burner...but we will keep it simmering. Sue-On keeps talking about a ‘revival group” of the old rock’n’roll guitar bands...we will see what 1999 brings.

Bill continues to wear his many hats as restaurant bookkeeper and caterer, carpool Dad for China’s many activities, as well as the latest’s greatest Yeh-Yeh! Soulin has adapted well to granddad’s routine and vice versa. They are great pals and have even gone for “jogs” with Soulin in the Snuggli pouch. Soulin does not like to sleep when he is at our house as he is too busy watching Bill at the computer, running between the VCRs trying to tape several programs at the same time, dubbing music for the restaurant, laundry, changing diapers and putting up Xmas lights. YUP! Sue-On added a couple more strings this year!

Nana Hillman continues trucking along in her Marquis. She celebrated her 80th birthday this last August with a family dinner at Soo’s. Bonnie and Michael were home for a few days in Sept. and we were happy to have had a short visit with them. Nana still lives in the seniors' Ellice Lodge in Strathclair. Bill gets up to see her as often as time permits...and to check on the farm. We have started dreaming about moving “home” Sue-On is already planning her new kitchen! Nana will be in Brandon to share Xmas with her first great grandson. Wonder if he will have trouble waking up?

My Mom can still climb the stairs to our house for her weekly visits. I think the added attraction of a great grandson has been great motivation.  Po-Po celebrated her 89th birthday in August this year. My sister Sue-Sem, her daughter Ilym and son-in-law Paul and their two children, Brendan and Alana were home to celebrate with a dinner party, also at Soo’s. Ja-On was in charge and did us all proud with his culinary skills.

Now...this 50-year-old Rat...reaching this “ripe old age” and becoming a grandmother all within a couple months...WHEW! I survived! and after the initial enjoying this new phase in my life immensely.

The restaurant is still my main “employer” and an enjoyable one. Although there were no “main events” in the city like the Summer games, this year has seen a building boom in Brandon. The new Maple Leaf hog processing plant is in the building phase right now, along with lots of new homes being built. This has brought a steady stream of workers into Soo’s for the buffet. The food industry is invading the city with several new establishments. Luckily, we specialize.

Chatting on the Internet is still a lot of fun for me. Many of these friendships, based on teaching careers, have been maintained from the beginning three years ago. This summer, my pal, Kevin Carroll and his family from Porterville, California, came for a visit with our family. We met for the first time in San Francisco two years ago. We just picked up the conversation where we left off! Now, my objective is to meet my pal Karen in Malaysia... Got to keep collecting those Air Miles! Bill has even dabbled in chat, with his Edgar Rice Burroughs pals. We hope to participate in a gathering of his group in July down in L.A. where they are to be guests of the Disney Corporation at a Hollywood premiere.

We have heard from several of our friends and relatives through e-mail. ( We hope you will all try this medium to keep in touch if possible. Meanwhile, I will set a precedent and get this missive off almost on time. One of these years I will fulfill one of my Rat Characteristics - get things done RIGHT on time. Visit our Internet Xmas site at:

MEANWHILE, we wish You and Yours a Merry Xmas and all the Best in 1999!
The Hillmans: Bill, Sue-On, Ja-On and Soulin, Robin, China-Li.

December '97

December 17, 1997
Hello Everyone!
Got the itch today at last..and thought I’d set down a few thoughts about 1997 to catch everyone up with what’s been happening in the Hillman household. It’s been difficult to think XMAS as it is so like Spring outside. We are having a BROWN XMAS!!! NO SNOW! Santa is going to have one heck of a time with the sleigh...better put on roller blades!
The BIG NEWS RELEASE this last year is ...Bill’s RETIREMENT from teaching...after 32 years in the same school!!! We made the decision this Spring that we really didn’t look forward to another winter of driving to and from school in the dark. After 32 years of dedication to the same was time to relax. RELAX??? what is THAT!? Bill has enjoyed his years of teaching...spreading his work space from one classroom to three! He spent months cleaning out his too numerous file cabinets and closets of material collated thru’ the years. The staff and students held a retirement BBQ for him and a colleague who also retired; presenting him a beautiful set of Winchester windchimes. Thank goodness they didn’t sound like the school bell! Bill is actually a kept man for the next few months...he is not eligible for pension until February. He gets to eat at SOO’S for free...!

Bill is busier than ever with retirement (as most of you would expect)...just with different jobs. He is helping out a great deal in the restaurant. Rest easy! He’s not cooking! Bill handles all the book work and catering, which allows Sue-On more time to deal with other aspects of the business...We were having shortage of staff problems for awhile so Sue-On was able to go back to the cooking part of the time. This has been quite enjoyable. Bill has also had some time to pursue his in his one of his favorite authors - Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. He has been feverishly “co-writing” what started as a parody on Tarzan, and pulp magazine heroes, with a fellow ERB fan, from down Texas way (they’ve completed 75 zany chapters so far). Those of you with Internet access may want to check into our WebSite for his writings:

 is our WebSite address) Be prepared for lots of laughs!

Early in the fall, after many hours of organizing and collating by Bill, we released our latest CD, containing all the early recordings that we did in the 70’s Canadian studios. This CD has 33 songs! over 75 minutes of music. It has been well received as it contains many songs from our performing repertoire. Many of our restaurant guests have been to our dances all over Manitoba...They read the insert and want to dance again to the same melodies! He is now working on a biography of our performing years to accompany a future boxed set release of 3 CDs.

The university geography book that Bill contributed a chapter to...has sold very well and is into the second printing. He is hoping to do more writing on other interest research, local geography etc. Some of our neighbors think Bill has way too much time on his hands. Our house is light up with “a thousand lights” for Xmas! There is always a slow flow of traffic at night...a sight to rival Xmas Vacation with Chevy Chase! Climbing precariously on unsteady ladders is not really Bill’s idea of fun...but Sue-On always cajoles him into “just one more string and that should do it”...!

Ja is into his second year of university, in computer science and loving the social life! He worked full time again this last summer at Soo’s and still works many hours when not in classes. We depend on him a lot. Music is still very much part of his schedule...teaching sax at our local music store. We keep thinking that we may get time to jam a bit...but you know the restaurant biz...and of course...young men’s schedules are SO BUSY!
Robin, our newly turned 16 year old (as of July) is driving! This has relieved a lot of driving duties for Dad. The schedule would have been VERY hectic as Robin is involved with music 4 days of the week...besides performances. He is involved in the Jazz Ensemble, CPExpress - the school’s rock band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz band as well as concert band. His instructors have been so impressed with his trombone techniques they encouraged him to request a semi-pro model for Xmas! Robin is in grade 11 this year and doing very well. He has grown a lot this year. Seems like we are forever buying LONGER jeans for him!

China-Li...well...those of you with a warm spot for all things Scottish should be happy to hear this...China is now learning BAGPIPES! Yes...that’s right...bagpipes. She was performing highland dance at a concert last March and heard the pipes up close...decided that she’d like to try them. Mr. Roy, a neighbor down our street plays with a pipe band, and was delighted to have her as a student. She is progressing well and we have since purchased a set of pipes. It is rather strange to see pipes amongst all the guitars, brass and drums! She hasn’t given up her harp and piano, and through the school band program, has also taken up the trombone, as well as ORFF instruments (vibs...etc). China turned 12 this December and is in grade 7. She is very involved with school activities...peer support, yearbook, drama, etc.

Bill’s Mom is still trucking along with her Marquis (the car, that is) and living in the senior’s lodge in Strathclair. Now that Bill is retired, she doesn’t get to see him as often. He tries to get up to see her and check on the farm as often as his busy schedule allows. Mom seems to be more comfortable “in her own bed” so we don’t see her in Brandon as often as we used to. She will be spending Xmas with us. She takes great joy with her grandchildren, especially watching them struggle to wake up for the presents after Santa deposits his goodies!

My Mom is still spry as ever...and keeps tabs on all members of her family. We haven’t seen her as often these last few months as I have had to work Wednesday nights when we normally have her over for the evening. Ken and Rebecca took her to visit sister Sue-Sem and her family last July. She, like Bill’s Mom, feels most comfortable in her own home, so will not be going to Sister’s place in Vancouver this winter.

Finally, to this Ole Gal...still chatting on the Net and having a hard time keeping chat acronyms out of this letter. The restaurant keeps me busy as ever. We were short of staff for a little while so I had to step into the kitchen a little more. It was quite enjoyable, actually, getting into that part of the biz again. It is just like riding a bicycle... once learned...never forgotten. But then...I never rode a bike much! Our customers find it reassuring , to actually SEE me cooking AND eating what I cook!

We have had a very good year, first with Canada Summer games. There were thousands of tourists and participants in the city. It was great fun talking to people from all over Canada... to see all those young athletes in friendly competitions. Both China and Robin were involved in the entertainment part of the Games... China in a dance troupe and Robin with his Crocus Plainsmen marching band. In November, Brandon hosted the Canadian Olympic Curling trials for a week. Again, there were people from all over Canada. It was a common sight to see competing rinks eating side by side in Soo’s at the end of the day!

Besides all the tourism , the city has been booming with construction. Simplot, the big fertilizer plant here...built a whole new complex. Besides employing many locals, they also had to “import” many specialists, from the states, and all parts of Canada. Some of the guys come to Soo’s several meals a week and have become almost family! It is interesting to hear their accents and try to guess where they are from. In the spring, Brandon will be getting a new hog processing plant, Maple Leaf Foods. The construction will bring in many workers. and when completed, will provide for 2200 jobs! Do you think Soo’s may have to expand?! Let’s just hope the boom stays ‘til I can RETIRE!

I hope to get this out to you, our friends and family, before Xmas day! Guess I can’t say “Mail Strike” now... So...if I am to make the deadline... I will close in wishing you all...A Joyous Xmas and Healthy, Happy and Prosperous 1998!

Would love to hear from ALL of you...either thru’ the “snail mail” or “e-mail”... Our e-mail address is :
Best Wishes!
The Hillmans Bill, Sue-On, Ja-On, Robin and China-Li 
December 10, 1996
Write annual Xmas tombe early
Find and make sure address book is not listed as missing
Get Xmas letters out BEFORE Xmas.
Get Xmas letters out by CHINESE NEW YEAR if above fails
Clean the house THEN put up the Xmas tree
Pay up last year’s credit card purchases BEFORE new purchases!

MERRY XMAS!!! Everyone!
As you can see..I am TRYING to fulfill the first item of priority on the above list....and the second item is already assured! Now.. the rest...well...we will just have to wait and see...won’t we?

1996...what a year of changes it has been! and has kept us all busy...busy..busy!

Let’s start with Ja-On (Jay to his pals). He had a busy and enjoyable final year with Crocus Plains High School, with academics and MUSIC. With his flair on the tenor sax, Ja played in the CP concert band, jazz band and CPXPRESS, the school’s well known rock band. This group, headed by seasoned musicians, Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Perkin, have produced many musicians that went on to make good in the entertainment field (Angela Kellman of the Farmer’s Daughter etc.). This provided the students with a venue to showcase the skills they acquired with private lessons. Thru’ out the year, the bands performed at the WestMan Centennial Auditorium, all the schools in the Brandon division, various festivals in Manitoba as well as other provinces(more on the results of the festival performance later)..and last month, the Jazz ensemble performed for Prime Minister Chretien in Winnipeg. Thru’ this experience, Jay was hired by Ted Goode’s Music to teach tenor and alto sax as well as clarinet! Graduation was in June with Ja being one of 250 graduates from his school. It was difficult to get sentimental at the CP graduation as there were so many kids and parents that we didn’t know. Ja was invited as escort to the Strathclair graduation by Melissa Glenn, a classmate that he grew up with. This was great as he had grown up with all the kids in that group( but his girlfriend thought otherwise...). His Dad was invited as guest speaker for this class...and he spent hours making a special presentation video which left not a dry eye in the whole place! It was good to see Ja with all the kids with whom he started nursery school! I was VERY SENTIMENTAL at that graduation....knowing all the kids...fed many of them at the farm...and parents who are friends. Thru out the summer, Ja learned how to cook all the items on the Soo’s menu under the tutelge of our head cook. He worked over 50 hours a week and was a great help to us. He is a responsible young man and we are very proud of him. In the Fall, Ja started first year at Brandon University in the Arts program, with interests in computers and business. It is so hard for kids to decide what to pursue for a career these days, but maybe we will have someone to take over Soo’s in the next few years!? These days, he still works many hours at Soo’s for us, and enjoying his Ford Probe, on which he spends ALL his speakers, new CD systems...etc. He is a young man, out to enjoy life!!!

Robin! He’s off to Jolly Ole England this Dec. 27th!!!! I mentioned that the Crocus school bands peroformed at various music festivals in Manitoba as well as out of province. Well! at one of the out of province festivals, they were spotted by a music scout from the City Of Westminister, England, and because they were so IMPRESSIVE became THE FIRST CANADIAN SCHOOL BAND to be invited to perform at the 14th annual LONDON NEW YEAR’S DAY PARADE and MUSIC FESITVAL!!!! They leave Canada on Dec. 27 returning Jan. 3. Ja was to go as well...but decided that he couldn’t afford the time. Robin is involved with the concert, marching, Jazz and rock band. He will be performing at various venues, one of which is the Wembley Hall New Year’s Eve Gala for the thousands of participants. He will be in the first row for the marching band, as he plays the trombone!!! The parade route is 3 miles long, and will go around the Parliament buildings, Tower of London, Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, etc. Wish we were going also, but with the was impossible...Robin tried out for the drummer postion in the rock band CP XPRESS...he is good...but because he is still a junior, the postions were filled with senior students. He will get his chance next year but for now, is one of the “bone” guys. Robin is in grade 10 and taking a couple of courses in accounting...maybe Dad and Mom will not have to do all the book work pretty son is the cook, the other will be the accountandt/bookeeper... Robin is still with the Air Cadets and is teaching acouple courses to the younger cadets. Spare time is filled with computer stuff..and skiing season just started. He is washing dishes at Soo’s on the weekends and saving his money for London and another ski trip to Fernie, B.C. in February. He and Dad have been busy doing web sites for the Hillman Family. If you have INTERNET, check out our homepages listed in our address....

CHINA!!! Well, we already have a cook, and an up and coming accountant...guess she will have to take over Mom’s “Dragon Lady” role. She finally got to have last year’s birthday party! (Does this mean we still owe her one party?) China turned 11 this past Dec. 5 with a party at a local family arcade centre. Mom had a ball reviving her pinball skills!!! Mrs. Davidson is her grade 6 she was also her teacher for grade 5 (I think they belong to a mutual admiration club!). She is doing very well ...way ahead of her grade level. Mondays are filled with Treasure Chest Theatre...I think they are doing Alice in Wonderland this Spring. China wants to be Cheshire Cat! Tues evenings are piano and harp lessons with Ms. Germani. They have been exploring Celtic songs on the harp. Ms. Germani, by the way, is a harpist with the Winnipeg Symphony. Sunday is Highland dance classes with Mrs. Sharon McIntosh. The class performed for McKenzie Seeds 125 birthday celebrations this summer. Do you think the Scottish is coming thru’? China finally got a closet in her room. Our karate sensei and good friend Bruce Dunning made China an armoir which took 4 guys to move!!!! It is seven feet tall and five feet wide! China says “other kids have bedrooms...I have a closet!!!” It is big enough for her to sleep in...maybe it is like The Lion and the Wardrobe”? Don’t lean in too far!!! Her annual trip with cousin Quinn took them to Minneapolis with rides on the biggest and scariest roller coaster ever! China had a thrill in her braces off!!! and now, can chew gum and eat nuts! But...there IS a down side to this - she will have to have them back on again when all her new teeth grow in! In the last two months I think she lost four baby teeth. Does this mean she is growing up on us? We have and are surviving two teenage will the girl teenager be different? Anyone out there with words of wisdom!?

Bill is into another year of teaching in Strathclair Community School. The divison sprung for a computer networking system this summer so he spent a lot of time co-ordinating the efforts in his school. They have also been hooked up for INTERNET for classroom use. Bill spent the summer and many evening now downloading “stuff” from the NET for the students to work with. He and Robin worked for many days and nights on our family homepage...the fruits of which is LONGER than my XMAS epistle!!! So..if you have access to INTERNET and want to chaek out the pages...make sure you have at least a couple quarts of your favorite brew! He even set up a website for the school. As I mentioned, Bill was asked to be guest speaker at this year’s graduation. It was appropriate as these are the kids that went to school with our son Jay. It was an emotional effort for him and one that was shared by all who were in attendence. He wrote a song and collated a video with contributions from each of the students. (The song, speech etc. from this is accessible in our homepage) Each of the students received a copy of the video as a keepsake. He did a wonderful job. The chapter he wrote on Strathclair and area for the Brandon Univeristy geography Dept. was published by University of Manitoba Press this summer. This text will be used in Universities and schools through out Canada. It was thrilling to see his “words” published in another genre...other than recordings and lyrics! The documentary that CBC ‘s Coleman and Company produced on us last year was shown again,reformatted as “couples” thing for Valentines day. Later in the summer, it was shown across Canada as a summer replacement.

Bill’s Mom, Nana, doesn’t get to Brandon as often as we all like...but Bill is able to check on her when he is at work. She is enjoying her apartment and coffee time with her friends in Strathclair while acting as chauffeur for many who are not able to get around otherwise. Bonnie, Michael, Noelle and Michelle were home to Manitoba for a couple of weeks this summer. We hadn’t seen them since 1992, so it was a joyous reunion for us all! Mark and Ian were busy with their summer employment and were unable to come with the family. The girls have grown up, and Michael and Bonnie looked well. We miss having them closer to home. It is rather difficult to just drop in for a visit when they live in Saudi Arabia!!!

My Mom, PoPo celebrated her 87th birthday with a dinner at...SOO’S! She is spry and still challenges the stairs at the Hillmans on Wednesday evenings. Brother Ken and Rebecca went to Vacouver for an orchid show this summer and Mom was able to accompany them for a visit to daughter Sue-Sem’s. It was a treat to see grandaughter Ilym, husband Paul, and great grandchildren Brendan and Alanna; a couple of sweethearts!

As for myself...the restaurant is still the main BOSS! Business is brisk and keeps me on my toes. I really enjoy the customers...many who have become friends on a first name basis. I was talking to a family on Sunday and they introduced me to the fourth generation of their family that have been visiting Soo’s, either in Newdale where Dad had started...and in Brandon! We will be playing for the 3rd. annual New Year’s Eve Dance at Soo’s again...with pals Barry, Kerry and Kevin and several other musician friends we have met since moving into Brandon. We try to perform somewhere several times a year...just to keep our fingers nimble and to get together with the guys. In July, we played for the National Elks Convention dance. It was a blast! On Saturday mornings, the dance floor is cleared for the weekly Tai Chi class. The group is small..averaging around 8, but we enjoy the workout as well as the social time around a cup of Chinese tea..or the treats that one of the students brings from her garden...fresh strawberries!!!! Internet CHAT is still a favorite relax time. I am still chatting with the people that I “met” a year ago, from California, New York, Chicago, Ohio etc, as well as Malaysia,Brazil, Netherlands. This year, thru much pre-arranging via e-mail, I was able to connect with a friend from Strathclair high school days, Dennis Mclean , who married a japanese girl, Kumiko and residing in Japan. It is funny as his Mom will visit the restaurant and I will relay messages back and forth thru’ e-mail or chat on line. It is a lot faster and cheaper than long distance phone calls!

The Hillmans, as a family took a weeks vacation to Los Angeles last March. It was a much needed family time and we had a fun filled week. Any of you who have ever travelled with the Hillmans will know, that one has to return home to have a REST! We had a rental car, and travelled south to San Diego and Tiajuana, did the Hollywood trip, along the coastal area for the surfers, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry museums, and of course...Disneyland!!! March 1997, we will go to San Francisco for a week. Jay, unfortunately will not able to go as he will be in University. Do you suppose he will be disappointed to have the house all to himself?!!! I think he is already planning his own vacation...

Now!!! if I hope to at least try and complete the remainder of the TO-DO list, I’d better close for this season! We wish you and your family a MERRY XMAS of LOVE and ALL THE BEST FOR 1997!

Sue-On......Bill......Ja-On......Robin......China-Li.....THE HILLMANS!

Sue-On's Old News
November 23, 1995 & December 18, 1995 January 7, 1996
Merry Xmas and a Ho! Ho! Ho!
Snow came on the first of I thought I should start my "Xmas book" early... while my address book is still around...Some of you may or may not have received last year's letter as my book took a holiday behind the cedar chest... so I am sending a copy to all just to cover the bases! Better grab 2 or 3 jugs of your favorite brew if you have to catch up on two years!

HECTIC is still a key word in the Hillman household...with a slight change in TONE as we now have TWO TEENAGERS in the house...Both boys are attending Crocus Plains Regional High school. Jay (as he is called by all his friends...) is in his final year and very much into the music scene. He is playing tenor sax with the concert and jazz band, as well as CPExpress - which plays popular music from rock to country. They put on a concert on Tues. and very timely... played a 20 song medley of Beatles material. Of course the parents all can identify with that! He had a chance to work as senior cadet staff at Cold Lake this summer... but we really needed him to work at the restaurant...( truth was we missed him too much last summer) so he worked 40 hours a week for Soo's. Jay got a taste of all facets of the, hosting, preparation of food stuff, cooking and deliveries. No injuries until this weekend when he sliced his thumb. I couldn't look so one of the cook's bandaged him up! He cooks up a MEAN CURRY... suffer for days after from the burn. Career wise... probably still headed in the computer direction... university in Brandon next year... Right now... blondes are very important! Grew up on us while we weren’t looking. He's taller than me altho' that's not too hard! But he's the same height as his Dad. Bill's looking forward to Jay's hand-me-down designer clothes!

Robin too is taller than I am. He is in first senior year or grade 9 and also very much into music in school.(His music teacher is very impressed with his trombone techniques.) He was away to Junior Air Cadet Leadership camp in Penhold, Alberta this last summer and thoroughly enjoyed himself... even the camp food that Jay was relating horror stories about. His Saturdays are booked as dishwasher and bus boy for Soo’s. Gives him some spending money to indulge in his hobby - collecting comics. Yes, him too!!! Wonder where he got that passion from? We got hooked up to Internet this fall and Robin has been very involved with SURFIN’ the Net... He found a couple of “activities” that have gotten old Mom here hooked(more on that later!). He spent some time learning to program in BASIC - by reading books and programmed a game called COMMA MAN and his Dad was impressed enough to use it with his classes in Strathclair. Now he is learning to program in C++ and HTML. Don’t ask me what they are...I’m the only illiterate one here when it comes to computers. Has been busy these last few days setting up a homepage for Internet. Maybe you’ll soon see a homepage for Soo’s if you’re hooked up too! Got some new ski gear this Xmas and will be heading off to Fernie, B.C. for a school ski trip towards the end of January.

China-Li is now down to only one hour of music lesson a week... not by choice but because Mrs. Carnahan retired after this summer. Miss Germani is still her piano and harp teacher. They put on a lovely Xmas concert this year. Her “spare hour” is now filled with highland dancing with Mrs. Macintosh, Orff ensemble, recorder ensemble and choir with Mrs. Cooper at school. Last March her theatre group put on Wizard of Oz. China was a wonderful Wicked Witch of the West...”I’m melting!!!!!” This Spring they will be doing Treasure Island. She will make a dangerous pirate. Lucky China got to go on another trip with cousin Quinn and family all the way down to Dallas, Texas. She was away for about 2 weeks and we sure missed her. When she returned, the local mental health wellness association invited her to participate in making a video to be used in all grade 5 classes - to teach self esteem. We all attended the premier showing in October and it was great! Especially the out-takes! China is still very much into skiing and also a Net Surfer. She certainly knows more about the computer than Mom. She has such a helpful personality. As she is in many of the advance classes in school, her teacher often asks her to help the weaker students. She certainly is a girl who aims to please all.

Bill is fighting a bit more with the snow driving to work this year as it came so early. The geography book to which he contributed a chapter is being published now and will be used in all the universities across Canada. We are looking forward to reading it in print. He spent most of the summer collating all the tapes and songs from our recording sessions in England. It was a lot of work writing away for copyright releases before we could send the tapes to the CD pressing plant. The product finally arrived in time for Xmas and is selling well. A friend of ours took photos in front of our house for the cover... with all of Bill’s 20 guitars! CBC-TV out of Winnipeg got wind of his collecting habits and after hours of planning, came out in May to spend 2 days filming with us. He overwhelmed them with his collection of old radio shows, records, books, magazines, comics, guitars, videos, guitars and his unique teaching style. In one day we had to clean up three years of dust at the farm house as they wanted to film there too. We filmed one day at the farm, then 6am the next day we were filmed doing karate on our upstairs deck!!! Now the neighbors are really wondering about us! They also filmed the kids at music and working at SOO’S. They even followed us to a gig for the Manitoba Motor Vehicle Dealers Association at Elkhorn Ranch, Clear Lake that evening. It was shown in November all over the West and gave us a lot of publicity. Many people did not know we were involved in so many things. Got some unwanted publicity, however, about a month ago when our picture appeared on the front page of the Brandon Sun... “Armed Robbery at Soo’s”. A frightening experience we hope we’ll never encounter again. Thank goodness no one was hurt.

Bill’s Mom had quite a year. She hadn’t been feeling very peppy all spring and couldn’t figure out why. She kept gasping for breath and getting lapses of memory. Finally we got her down to the hospital in Brandon and had to rush her to emergency. Her heart rate was down to 32/minute! The lack of oxygen had been affecting her memory. The doctor immediately put in a temporary pace maker while waiting for a bed in Winnipeg Health Sciences Hospital. The permanent pace maker was implanted two days later and she was able to come home after four days. What a difference it made... able to climb up stairs without stopping and gasping, etc. Daughter Bonnie and son-in-law Michael were able to spend a couple days with her before they headed back to Saudi Arabia.

My Mom had her 86th birthday this year and is still going strong. She still challenges our stairs every Wednesday to have supper with us and visit with the grandchildren. She felt she couldn’t handle a trip out to my older sister’s home in Burnaby this year so is coping with our cold Manitoba winter snuggled in her “apartment” at my brother Ken’s home.

As for this old gal, I’m now known as the CHAT DEMON. Robin made the mistake of introducing mom to Global Chat through the Internet and... well... you all know from first hand experience (like you are experiencing now) just how I LOVE TO TALK!!! I am having a ball chatting to people from all over the world - filling up Cyberspace: Hong Kong, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Mexico, USA, Canada, Singapore, Pakistan, Malaysia, and on and on. Bill wonders how I can still talk when I spend all day doing that at work! When Bill and I get a minute together, he’s been showing me some of the topics one can search out. Another mistake! We got a new computer for Xmas and it is a fight to get the computer before Mom gets her hands on it!

In case you are wondering about all the references to Xmas and it is already past... that’s because it is now January 5, 1996! Guess you realize I didn’t make it on time this year either! But then... Chinese New years isn’t until Feb. this year. So I do have a bit of time yet.

The restaurant is running smoothly and the expansion we made last October has served us well. We have many groups that come in for luncheon and supper meetings, large family get togethers, retirement parties, etc. From November on it was staff Xmas parties. We played for our annual New Year’s Eve dine and dance in the banquet room/showhall. Pals Kerry Morris (Winnipeg), Barry Forman (Dauphin) and Kevin Pahl (who rushed back from B.C.) joined us on stage and it was a blast working together again. I am still enjoying my job very much. Many of the customers have become friends and some of the overseas university students have come to look on Soo’s as home.

I am still involved with Tai Chi and the over-30’s Wado Kai Karate Club. We meet every Saturday morning for about two hours of workout followed by a tea chat. The group is small and we have become good friends. The Tai Chi in particular helps me relax if I am ever stressed. Our teacher is working with us on Chi Gung, Pushing Hands and Grappling - and eventually will teach us the “form” with weapons... swords etc. Look out... who needs kitchen knives?!

Well... It is time for me to close this year’s chapter on the Hillmans. Besides, it is time for INTERNET! Ha! We hope you all had a great Xmas, and we wish You and Yours ALL THE BEST IN 1996! Hope to hear from you.

Sue-On......Bill......Ja-On......Robin......China-Li......The Hillmans

December 8, 1994

Hello Everybody!

Snow at last! Guess I had better get into the mood and start my annual festive epistle. Hope you all have had a great year. We wish you and your family a Merry Xmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. That's what we want too!!! So... get yourself a mug of your favorite, 'cos this will be "a read" as usual...

Never thought this was possible... but the Hillmans are busier than ever!

China-Li was nine years old on Dec. 5. Had her birthday party on the 4th with a kid's game show at our house. We decorated the family room with coloured lights, etc. and divided the 7 kids into two teams. The birthday girl did a great job interviewing all the contestants - just as they do on the actual game shows. What a flair! The two big brothers also go into the act as prize master and quiz master. China is in grade 4 and a little disappointed with her first male teacher... but she still looks forward to school everyday. She started piano lessons last January and is doing very well. They had their recital in June and she was even accompanying her teacher's husband as he played the fiddle (the event was even broadcast on local access TV). She learns to read music, play for fun as well as being an accompanist... which will be great for the Hillman Family Band? She was wanting music through the summer so we signed her up with another teacher for Music Appreciation. Ms. Germani scheduled her for classical piano, string harp and recorder. Well, she took to the harp so well that we've continued lessons after the holidays (her big birthday surprise gift was her own 30-string folk harp). Now, she has an hour of old style thumping music on Tues. and classical and harp for an hour on Wed. She's back with the theatre group on Mondays and looking forward to the next production. She auditioned and won the role of the Wicked Witch of the West. She has so many tricks up her sleeve... and keeps surprising us with all her abilities. She and her Dad are quite a pair. They can lead you on for quite a spell without cracking a smile...

Robin won a scholarship for summer music camp last July - and despite what he thought was terrible camp food - had a great time and plans to go back next summer. He likes his trombone and we bought him his own instrument this fall. He is in the jazz band as well as concert band and must get up for 7:30 practises every Tues. and Thurs. Nice to see the dedication. Drum lessons are still on the go and with his dish washing money, he bought himself a new set of Pearl drums. (We'll be able to open up in competition with our local music store soon!) My kit was too old fashioned, road-weary and unmatched! Friday nights he goes to Air Cadets with Ja-On. Maybe he'll qualify for Air Cadet music camp this summer... For the last few weeks he's been busy with the school volleyball team. He's smaller than the rest of the team members but he made the team. Robin continues to be a clown and sometimes his "teen humor" can drive you up the wall. I guess he's typical? The big decision comes next year as to which school to attend. Kirkcaldy School goes up to grade 8. His buddies will be going to Crocus... his brother is at Vincent Massey... guess we'll have to check them all out. He still helps out at the restaurant and is very quick and efficient in dishwashing. Money is a great motivator! Computer is still is a major interest area; as it is with all three kids. Robin is a whiz at the keyboard and I was amazed at the technical level of discussion he was having with his computer teacher on the first day of school. I think the teacher was asking for information from Robin! Now that we have snow, they are itching to go skiing. Wonder if I'll dare get on the boards this winter? It is so much warmer to stay home and let the kids go.

Ja-On, a full-blown TEENAGER! His own car... a 1989 white Probe... and his own phone line which always seem to be tied up.... I think he is growing up on us. Ja was awarded a 6 week Air Cadet Senior Leadership course at Cold Lake Alberta this summer. He was actually up for the glider scholarship, but it was awarded to a cadet with seniority. The first couple of weeks he sounded awfully homesick and we felt bad for encouraging him to stay. But after the third week, when he got to know more kids, esp. the girls, he sounded much happier on his calls home. I think he learned a lot and it certainly turned him into a more confident young man when he came home in August. Now, when he goes to cadets, he is assigned to teach the younger ones. Ja's in grade 11 this year and trying to decide whether he should change to another school which has a more aggressive computer science program. This semester is all sciences and I think he's really looking forward to the writing courses after Xmas. He is still in the concert and jazz band at school, and drops Robin off on the way to his own Tues and Thurs morning practises. It is so nice when they can drive... but one worries as well! He has been helping out at the restaurant with dishwashing, but has been promoted to working up front as host/cashier/phone person with the girls. He's quite happy about that and doing a good job. The girls are only a year older than Ja so they have a lot of fun.

Bill has started another year of daily commutes to Strathclair. We were glad the snow stayed away until Dec. if it had to come at all. William wore many hats in 1994; researcher, author, morning man on an Oldies radio show, talkshow guest, DJ and restaurant decorator and manager as well as teacher extraordinare! He helped an Ontario relative by providing research for a family history book, then he researched and wrote a chapter for a Manitoba Geography textbook for Brandon University. It should be published in the new year and is to be used in various universities across the country. Based on his reputation as an endless source of musical info, he was invited to be the morning man for radio CJVM, a special license radio station set up for two weeks during the national model airplane competitions at Brandon airport. He had a great time in spite of getting up for the early morning shift during his summer holidays! Through the Spring, he was interviewed by Bill Starling for a radio show featuring Manitoba performers; called Star Billing. It is broadcast every Sunday on CKX at 6:30 pm and we have received excellent exposure on it. Driving the kids has eased up a bit now that Ja has his license, but there are still days when we seem to need all three vehicles on the go. In between kids, he also caters food out to various house parties, sets up music or performs at our weekly Friday night dine and dance (never thought he would be a "music man DJ"!) and helps organize the banquet room for the Xmas parties, etc. He finally gave in and bought a satellite dish system for the house in Brandon since he was going into chronic withdrawal away from the system at the farm. He is having a great time taping all the old and new movies... as usual. I think we will have to buy another house for his burgeoning collection.

You may have picked up on the "banquet room" reference a few lines back. Since September we have tripled the seating capacity in the restaurant to 300. Bill spent many days and late nights decorating the new facilities with thousands of bamboo poles, lighting systems, murals etc. He designed three murals with our new logo, for the outside walls of the restaurant as well as the feature wall in the banquet hall. These were painted by Lance McLean, son of Terry McLean, who is a renowned wildlife artist. Spent many, many hours cutting bamboo poles and making wainscoting for the walls. We had our first banquet in the new facility on Sept. 17, for our niece Cindy's wedding. It was a traditional Chinese banquet with a 12-course menu served on round tables and followed by celebratory dancing. Our grand opening was in the third week of October, ending with a band reunion on the 22nd. Tickets were sold out in advance and we had a packed house. Kerry Morris, Kevin Pahl, Jake Kroeger, Russ Gurr, Jim Atkinson and Bill Starling all joined us on stage. It was great working with all these guys again. We are trying out a Friday night dine and dance, and even without advertising, we have been getting good crowds. Bill would much rather play, with his last year's Xmas present - Fender Stratocaster guitar - but usually ends up as DJ! Haven't been able to plan many band activities as we have been booked with many private parties especially on Fridays and Saturdays. In the new year we hope to stage monthly special functions and get the old music gang back for some fun on a more regular basis. Would like to get the kids into the act... Robin is itching to do some drumming, Ja on the sax, China on the piano or harp? Our next gig will be New Year's Eve... in between the frenzy of supper hour take out and midnight rush, we will be jamming with the old gang... Barry Forman (possibly with daughter Shawna and son Kent), Kevin, Kerry, etc.

The two Moms are doing terrific for their ages. Mom Hillman comes down towards the latter part of the week (or whenever we call) and looks after the grandkids while we are busy at the restaurant. The kids look forward to her visits and cooking - a nice change from Soo's. I think she also enjoys her trips down to the city...and her trips to K-Mart, her favorite store! Bonnie and family were in Canada this summer but it was so hectic for them and we just couldn't seem to get together. Mom Choy comes for supper with us on Wednesdays - my day off. She will be 85 next August - looking forward to spending the winter with my sister Sue-Sem and family in Burnaby. She leaves on New Year's Day, flying out with a cousin. Ken and Rebecca will head to Central America for their annual winter break while Mom is away.

The Ole Scribe? Well... one of these days she's going to catch up with herself and surprise the hell outa her! Life is pretty hectic... to put it mildly, but I really enjoy the restaurant. I just hate the paper work and there never seems to be an end to the pile on my desk! Every day is different and we have to do a lot of planning and maneuvering of tables, chairs as well as staffing. Bill's muscles are getting a real good workout these days. At the moment we are running with five cooks during the week and two extra helpers on the weekends. We just hired a man who is well versed with Canadian menu so our options have expanded. Two weeks ago we had a Xmas party group which requested roast beef, meat balls, perogies, etc. From traditional Chinese fare to English and Ukrainian... Richard also worked in a East Indian restaurant prior to Brandon... Our business sees a lot of regular customers and we are getting to know their favourite tables, time preferences, etc. as well as getting weekly updates on their families. We've even had several expectant Moms coming in one week nice and round only to show up the next week with an external package. They swear it is the shrimps that do it every time! Talk about babies... Sue-On played midwife again this year... to the wife of the cook from one of our other Chinese restaurants. Funny part was... the cook's boss and his wife were both doctors! Still involved in the RCMP Commander's Advisory Committee on Multiculturalism. They are planning to fly the group into Regina for their graduation some weekend. I was taking Tai Chi last year and hope to resume lessons again after new years. We have a great parquet dance floor in the banquet room and I hope to arrange for classes there. My biggest discovery this summer was MASSAGE! The girls on staff gave me a gift certificate for my birthday... for a massage. I was having some problems with my left arm... tendonitis, so I booked in with a Chinese acupuncturist and massage specialist. I am HOOKED! She uses electronic acupuncture as I detest needles, then she does about a three quarter hour massage... WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL HANDS... Dr. Ge is close to 60 years old and I can't believe how strong her hands are. She also uses various herbal ointments and hot towels. Stopped after 5 sessions and now I am back for a couple more visits. I usually fall asleep on the bench. It's a crime to make one get up and leave after such a relaxing hour! What do you mean Xmas is this weekend!!! But the date up at the top says Dec. 8! Sorry Folks, but it has been THAT busy... and my other problem is...I've lost my address book somewhere in this house. So I will be sending out this letter as your letters come in, and I do hope you guys are putting return addresses on your envelopes! Anyway, Merry Xmas, Happy New Year or Happy Chinese New Year, depending on when you recreive this letter. Hope to hear from all of you sometime soon.

Best wishes, The Hillman Family

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