Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For sale: The house where Greenpeace was born

Dorothy Stowe, who died last July, holds up an original Greenpeace T-shirt inside the Point Grey home that served as the organization's first headquarters. BELOW: Barbara Stowe sits beneath a tree at the family home. Globe and Mail photograph by Jeff Vinnick.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 30, 2011


For sale: Family home on quiet corner lot; rear deck with city and mountain views; estate sale. A Vancouver Special in more ways than one.

An ordinary, two-story, wood-frame house in Vancouver’s leafy Point Grey neighbourhood was put on the market this week, listed at $1.688 million. The price tag is less an eyebrow-lifter than the house’s history, for it was here, at 2775 Courtenay St., that Greenpeace was born.

The owners, Dorothy and Irving Stowe, held countless meetings in their living room. This was where the city’s anti-establishment gathered — rebels and hippies, Quakers and Buddhists, draft dodgers and peace mongers, radical journalists and rainbow warriors. They came to save the planet, as well as to sample Dorothy’s cooking. Tea and cookies were served at Greenpeace meetings. while joints were passed around on the deck. Smoking was banned inside the home.

Talks about protesting an underground nuclear test on Amchitka Island in the Alaskan Aleutians led to the formation of a group called the Don’t Make a Wave Committee. This eventually became known as Greenpeace, the city’s contribution to world politics.

For a few years, the group’s original headquarters were based on the ground floor of the family home.

Some background on the house’s story has been included as part of the staging for the sale. Lookyloos and prospective buyers can check it out during an open house to be held on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The home is for sale following the death last July of Dorothy Stowe, aged 89. Irving Stowe died of pancreatic cancer in 1974, aged 59.

The death of a parent brings with it responsibilities for handling the estate. For the Stowes’ children, Robert, a neurologist and neuropsychiatrist, and Barbara, a writer, the listing of the family home has not been easy.

“It’s excruciating for me,” Barbara Stowe said. “We hope the next owner will appreciate the property’s heritage.”

The Stowes bought the home in 1968, not long after moving to Vancouver from New Zealand.

Irving Strasmich and Dorothy Rabinowitz, both from Rhode Island, took as their surname Stowe in honour of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the abolitionist author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The couple spent their wedding night at a fundraising dinner for a civil-rights group.

Not long after moving in, the family played host to a party in which the theme for the post-Summer of Love soiree was to dress as hippies.

It was not long after that the home became a hangout for the real thing.

Irving, who had a strong interest in jazz and classical music, befriended the record reviewer of the Georgia Straight. Soon, the underground paper’s hirsute staff could be found at the Courtenay Street home lounging on sofas and on floor cushions while grooving to the latest releases from the likes of the Grateful Dead.

In time, the Stowe living room became a second home to the likes of the Hunters (Robert and Zoë), the Bohlens (Jim and Marie), and the Metcalfes (Ben and Dorothy), all of whom would be instrumental in the founding of Greenepeace.

In 1970, the folk singer Phil Ochs accepted an invitation to dinner. He was to perform that night at a fundraising concert, along with Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. As Mr. Ochs dined on lasagna, yippie hangers-on raided the family liquor cabinet (poorly stocked, as it turned out, as the Stowes were not big drinkers) while Trotskyite agitators harangued Irving about the prohibitive cost of concert tickets. The ducats cost just $3.

Over the years, ecologists made a pilgrimage to the home, as did many musicians. When Bono of U2 visited Vancouver about six years ago, he insisted on meeting Dorothy.

More recently, a pair of bamboo swivel chairs, as well as Irving’s old roll-top desk, have been donated to the local Greenpeace office.

“Stuff that’s just been sitting here,” said Barbara Stowe, “becomes iconic to a younger generation of Greenpeacers.”

Rex Weyler, an ecologist and journalist who wrote a well-received history of Greenpeace, thinks the Stowe home should become an historical site. He’d like to see the home preserved as a testament to an era and to the city’s rich history of social activism.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Little Michael Dunahee, gone without a trace

Bruce and Crystal Dunahee asked for information on the whereabouts of their son on the 20th anniversary of his disappearance.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 28, 2011


Michael Dunahee is the boy everyone knows but no one has met.

He has been missing now two decades, the details of his disappearance as chilling of those of a television docudrama. Last seen at a playground next to a school. A father looking back while standing on a rocky outcropping, puzzled why he can’t spot his son. Two touch football games halted as players scour the area. A frantic telephone call to police at 12:03 p.m. on March 22, 1991.

A tape recording of the call was marked Exhibit No. 1 and sealed in a manila envelope before being placed in a file cabinet at police headquarters.

It is evidence in a case that remains more mystery than crime. After 20 years of investigation, after the checking of thousands of tips, after input from do-gooders and psychics and troublemakers, no charges have been laid.

Michael Dunahee in a family photo.
There is no crime scene.

There is only the absence of a boy.

Crystal and Bruce Dunahee, the parents who have carried this burden for so long, once again appeared before cameras and microphones last week. They do what they can to ensure the case of their missing son is not forgotten by the public.

As if any of us who live in Victoria, any of us who are parents, any of us with empathy could ever forget.

Michael Dunahee vanished 7,311 days ago. For more than half that time, Don Bland, a detective sergeant with the Victoria police, worked on the case. On the first anniversary of the boy’s disappearance, he showed me the department’s work to that point: 12,000 tips; 789 possible sightings; exhibits including another sealed envelope whose contents included a boy’s grey sock and underwear decorated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, samples from a missing boy’s dresser drawer available for comparison should such a gruesome task be necessary.

With each passing year, it seems ever more incredible to imagine that a missing boy has survived to become a man.

“If he were still out there — and here’s hoping he is — he’s 24 years old,” said Mr. Bland. “If he is still with us, he doesn’t know where he came from, or thinks he was raised by somebody that isn’t really his true parents. If it’s gone this long, god knows how much longer it could go.”

Mr. Bland, 57, retired as a detective more than seven years ago. He is not by nature an optimist, the sunny side of life not always apparent for those whose working days involve corpses.

“Everything you can surmise might happen is based on assumptions based on the balance of probabilities,” he said.

“Statistically speaking I don’t think it’s a good outcome. Crystal, bless her heart, she’s still holding out hope. I hope she’s right.”

He remains stumped by the Dunahee case.

He heard about the missing boy on the day he disappeared, was on the case the following morning.

“You’ve got a set of parents and you couldn’t imagine anything worse happening to them,” he said. “At the same time, as an investigator, you have to look at them as suspects. It’s a touchy business.”

Police checked out the parents, the football players, the neighbours. All were cleared.

For the first month, he worked 20-hour days on the case. Michael was reported spotted at a highway rest stop in New York; at a convenience store in New Jersey; in a home video filmed on northern Vancouver Island. Every lead was checked out. Someone called in to say Michael, the cherubic, blue-eyed boy from the Missing posters, had his skin dyed black and was living in the United States. That, too, was checked out.

“After thousands of interviews and re-enactments, there’s not a living soul who saw him disappear,” he said.

“Except the person who took him.”

He spent 27 years “at the pointy end of policing,” walking the beat before finishing as a detective with major crimes. He handled plenty of cases — a gangland slaying; the strangulation of teenager Kimberley Gallup, whose body was found in a motel room; “a few drug murders here and there.” Some were solved, some were not.
He wishes he could have brought the Dunahee case to a resolution.

“I would have liked to have settled it, one way or the other,” he said.

“Bad news is better than no news.”

On Facebook, you can find a page titled “We will never forgot Michael Dunahee.” It has 6,210 members. It is administered by Caitlin Dunahee, a young woman who now plays touch football like her mother before her. She was born shortly before her brother went missing, a time so long passed that he disappeared before the World Wide Web even was available on the Internet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cultured cartoonist a master of the uncouth

The misadventures of Reid Fleming are being gathered in two hard-bound volumes, the first of which was released in December. David Boswell, Reid's creator, is being inducted into the Canadian Cartoonists Hall of Fame.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 23, 2011


Before he said anything else, Reid Fleming said this: “I thought I told you to shut up!”

He is, after all, the World’s Toughest Milkman, a misanthropic purveyor of dairy products, a rye-swilling, fist-waving, milk truck-crashing troublemaker who insists, “I am not bald! I get my hair cut this way!”

Fleming is the anti-hero of an epic series of illustrated tales written by David Boswell, a Vancouver artist who has laboured for decades in near-obscurity and near-penury.
This inky Dr. Frankenstein is in person unlike his monster, which can disappoint hard-core fans who perhaps expect to be insulted and otherwise abused when meeting him. Mr. Boswell, 58, is suave, debonair and learned in cinematography, a sober-minded writer as cultured as Reid Fleming is uncouth.

Reid Fleming made his debut in the alternative Georgia Straight newspaper in 1978, starred in his first comic book two years later, and has remained in print ever since. The misadventures of the acerbic milkman are now being collected in two hard-bound volumes, the first of which was published late last year.

The character developed a cult following, among whom can be counted several Hollywood actors, many of whom have wanted to star in a Reid Fleming movie. The movie project has been ill-fated and seems destined never to reach the screen, which has kept Reid from finding a mass audience.

The good news is that the artist’s peers have noted his influence on a generation of alt-comix cartoonists.

Last week, it was announced Mr. Boswell will be inducted into the Canadian Cartoonists Hall of Fame during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May. He will join a pantheon known by the ink-and-scratchboard set as Giants of the North.

Mr. Boswell’s only other award nomination came in 1990 when he was nominated, along with Robert Crumb, for a prestigious Harvey Award for humour. The prize was won by Sergio Aragones of Mad magazine.

The return to Toronto will mark a homecoming, of sorts, for the artist, whose memoir of his 20s could be titled, Down and Out in Toronto and Vancouver.

Reid debuts in his own comic in 1980.
“In my mind, I’ll be contrasting now versus then,” Mr. Boswell said.

Born in London, Ont., the oldest of seven siblings, he studied filmmaking before taking a job as a darkroom technician for a commercial photographer in downtown Toronto. He lived in a $45-per-week rooming house on Collier Street, a dead-end near the intersection of Yonge and Bloor. His neighbours included addicts and dealers and down-and-outers.

When he learned New Yorker magazine paid $600 for a single cartoon, he figured he would try his hand at drawing, thinking he’d need only to sell a few to live an entire year. He got rejections from all the major magazines — Playboy, Esquire, National Lampoon — but these came with encouraging notes. A friend suggested he send his work to the Georgia Straight. “I’d never heard of it,” he recalled, “because I was a square.” The paper published a full page featuring a character known as Laszlo, Great Slavic Lover, who, in fact, was Hungarian and not a Slav, a typical deliberate misnomer on the artist’s part.

Boswell flew west on the promise of a job, only to be met at the airport by staffers who warned him the publication was on the brink of collapse.

Under the guidance of editor Bob Mercer, Mr. Boswell eventually got a $100-per-week staff position in which his responsibilities included spot cartoons and photographs (he took wondrous black-and-white portraits of Al Purdy, Leonard Cohen and Ginger Rogers), as well as a full-page weekly comic.

After 34 pages of Heart Break Comics featuring Laszlo, a demanding routine as the series was often set in the evenings, necessitating much detailed inking, Mr. Boswell decided to take a break with a one-off page featuring a pugnacious character named after the bully of his kindergarten class.

His readership, such as it was, demanded more Reid Fleming. As he did battle with the frustrating idiocies of everyday life, not to mention the plotting of his nemesis, Mr. Crabbe, his supervisor at Milk Inc., Reid Fleming became a tribune of frustrated workers, even as he also became a parody of workplace machismo.

Warner Bros. optioned the rights to a Reid Fleming movie, for which a script was written. Production seems unlikely, a disappointed Mr. Boswell said. Over the years, the project has attracted interest from Dave Thomas, Bob Hoskins, Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Billy Bob Thornton and Paul Giamatti.

Meanwhile, Mr. Boswell is completing the final two chapters of the milkman’s magnum opus, bringing to an end a story that has lasted three decades. The hall of fame honours are a pleasant surprise.

“It’s nice to think that somebody thinks your work is worthy,” he said. “It’s nice after all these years to realize somebody is paying attention.”

He laughed.

“Does that sound too maudlin?”

A little.

“You can put in brackets (with tears in his eyes).”

Even when in conversation, Mr. Boswell writes his own script.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Disasters aboard offer chilling look at what quake could do to West Coast

The collapse of a bell tower of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch damaged cars parked below. The building's wreckage resembles what the Parliament Building in Victoria might look like following a massive earthquake. Associated Press photograph by Dave Wethey.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 21, 2011


Now we know what it will look like.

The earth’s crust fractures, the ground shakes and a deluge of water pushes far inland. In its wake, parts of Japan look like the wreckage from an epic Godzilla vs. Mothra rampage.

Elsewhere, a stone facade collapses, transforming the face of a century-old building into a doll house in which you could see the interiors of rooms. A car is crushed beneath fallen masonry. A green, copper-topped dome smashes onto the ground.

One of the buildings severely damaged in last month’s earthquake in New Zealand was the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch. Two bell towers collapsed, destroying vehicles parked below.

The Basilica, as it is known, underwent a seismic retrofitting seven years ago. An earthquake last September weakened the structure, so the doors were closed to the public and religious services were moved elsewhere. No one was killed by the building last month.

For those of us living in Victoria, the pictures of the damaged, neo-classical building caused a chill.

It looked like our 113-year-old Parliament Building had collapsed.

The Old Rockpile is in danger of suffering significant damage in a serious earthquake, according to a report released in recent days. Walls of unreinforced brick and masonry are brittle, while the copper roof is in disrepair. The bill for a seismic upgrade — a quarter-billion dollars.

Meanwhile, the three-story, red-brick Armoury building on the Legislature grounds facing Menzies Street is in an even worse state of disrepair and has been described as a possible “death trap” even in a modest earthquake.

This has given rise to black humour among reporters. One quipped that his emergency kit consists of a loaded revolver and a bottle of scotch.

That’s not to mention the neighbouring Empress Hotel, built atop landfill in an area that appears on government maps as being at high risk for amplification and liquefaction

The doom-and-gloom scenarios will seem more real with the publication next month of Cascadia’s Fault (HarperCollins), a non-fiction book by the independent filmmaker Jerry Thompson. He examines the outcome should a catastrophic earthquake of 9.0 — or, gulp, worse — on the Richter scale strike along the 1,100-kilometre stretch of the offshore Cascadia Subduction Zone.

It has happened once before in recorded history, around 9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1700, when a powerful earthquake caused the ground to drop almost two metres below sea level along sections of the coast. The event was recorded in Japan the following day as a destructive tsunami.

Many places along western Vancouver Island are vulnerable to a tsunami, including Port Alberni, which suffered heavy damage when a two-story tall wall of water generated by an earthquake in far-off Alaska came roaring down the inlet.

“Imagine that Cascadia lifts up a wave just 15 minutes off shore and it comes down that canyon,” Mr. Thompson said.

“Tofino has very little high ground. There are some places to escape to, but you have to know where to look.”

“Ucluelet is better off. The high school is on the highest piece of ground there and everyone knows to rendezvous there.”

His research also shows a tsunami could roar along the Juan de Fuca Strait, causing devastation at Bellingham, Wash.

If Vancouver is heavily damaged, the metropolis will get much of the available aid, he said. Places on Vancouver Island, especially those that are isolated, will have to make do.

“Everyone’s going to be on their own for a long time,” he said.

Mr. Thompson said all of us on the West Coast can learn a lesson from Tilly Smith. The 10-year-old English schoolgirl was with her family on the beach in Thailand when she became hysterical at the sight of a frothing sea. She had just learned about the phenomenon in her Grade 6 geography class — this was a warning sign that an underwater earthquake had generated a tsunami. The family fled to their resort hotel, scrambling to safety on the third floor as the first of three waves rushed in.

They survived because an elementary student paid attention in class and knew what to do. So should we all.

Home footage of the aftermath of the 1964 tsunami that devastated downtown Port Alberni.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Loretta Lynn's big break worthy of a plaque

Yup, coal miner's daughter Loretta Lynn got her big break after playing at a jam session in a converted chicken coop in Vancouver in 1960. She made her first recording — "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl" — with Zero Records, a  label financed by a local lumber baron.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 16, 2011


Vancouver turns 125 years old later this year, so the Vancouver Heritage Foundation is looking for 125 places deserving of a plaque.

Voting begins Wednesday on the group’s website.

The foundation, a charitable group, solicited online nominations in a program called “Places That Matter.”

An ad in Billboard, June 27,  1960.
Some members of the public tuned into their inner Chuck Davis — oh, we are so going to miss our avuncular Mr. Vancouver this quasquicentennial year — and suggested all kinds of worthy places.

Parks and bridges, churches and stadiums, even viaducts and corner groceries have been nominated.

One of the more intriguing suggestions is to have a plaque placed on the Granville Mall near Smithe Street to mark the site where the writer William Gibson had the inspiration that led to his coining the word “cyberspace” in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. He had peeked into an arcade, witnessing teenagers playing video games so intently that they were oblivious to their earthly circumstance.

A sports fan can support a plaque at baseball’s Nat Bailey Stadium (where a young Brooks Robinson once impaled his arm on a fence) and Oppenheimer Park (which the storied Asahi team of Japanese-Canadians called home) and the Denman Arena (where the Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup in 1915).

A music fan can support a plaque at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, 109 E. Hastings St.; or the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park; or the bump-and-grind Penthouse Cabaret, 1019 Seymour St.; or the psychedelic hangout Retinal Circus (earlier Dante’s Inferno) at 1024 Davie St.

Not to mention the supper club hot spots such as Isy’s or the Palomar or The Cave with its papier-mâché stalactites.

One of the musical suggestions stands out.

Rob Howatson, a magazine writer, nominated the former site of a Fraserview chicken coop behind a bungalow in the 2500-block of Kent Avenue, near Elliott Street.

It is a worthy site for a plaque, for it was an event here that led to the first recording of one of the greatest country music stars of all time.

Yup, Loretta Lynn, the coal miner’s daughter from Butcher Holler, Ky., had to come all the way to Vancouver for her big break.

Born into poverty, married at age 13 to a husband whom she called Doolittle but others knew as Mooney for his history of running moonshine. The couple escaped the limits of Appalachia to live in Custer, Wash., a hamlet a few miles south of the border.

On her 18th birthday, by which time she had given birth to four children and suffered two miscarriages, Loretta received from her husband a $17 Harmony guitar from Sears and Roebuck. He had in mind a singing career for his child bride.

Shy, nervous, uncertain as to her abilities and stumped on her first tryout when asked in which key she planned to sing (“I didn’t know what a key was and don’t hardly know now,” she wrote in her 1976 autobiography), Mrs. Lynn began playing small halls and taverns around Whatcom County, earning as much as $5 per session. “I thought I was a millionaire.”

A few years later, she earned a spot as one of 30 amateurs to perform on The Bar-K Jamboree, a live television show hosted by Buck Owens on KTNT (later KSTW) in Tacoma, Wash. Mrs. Lynn won the contest. Her prize was a wristwatch so cheap it broke the next day. But one of those who caught her performance on television up in Vancouver was Norman Burley, a lumber baron.

Mr. Burley’s riches allowed him to dabble in sports (for a time he owned a share of the Vancouver Mounties baseball club with Nat Bailey, the founder of White Spot restaurants) and entertainment (he financed a record label called Zero Records). Mr. Burley invited the singer to come to Vancouver.

“He said he wanted to help us by giving us a contract to make a record,” she wrote in Coal Miner’s Daughter. “He didn’t wear any red suit or black boots, but that man looked lie Santa Claus to us.”

She performed at a Fraserview dance hall named for its previous use. The Chicken Coop was owned by Irene and Clare (Mac) McGregor, according to Mr. Howatson.

“They fumigated and turned it into a club,” she told the Country Music Association last year.

“We went into that chicken house and there were a bunch of bigwigs who came in to listen to me.”

Don Grashey and Chuck Williams from the record label heard a voice reminiscent of Kitty Wells and as country as a jug of moonshine.

She remembers her wealthy patron being in attendance.

“He came over to me and said, ‘Let’s make a record.’ I said, ‘I don’t know how.’ He said, ‘I don’t either. But we’ll learn together.’ ”

She was signed and sent to Hollywood to be recorded.

The label printed some 3,500 copies of a 45-rpm (Zero No. 107) with “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” and “Whispering Sea.” She made two other releases for Zero before jumping to Decca and launching the career that would make her a superstar.

Mr. Howatson has spent seven months researching the little-known story of the makeshift dance hall. He is still seeking anecdotes and ephemera and can be reached at .

A site selection committee formed by the heritage foundation, including former city councillors Gordon Price and Marguerite Ford, will be guided by the public voting, which ends on the city’s birthday on April 6.

If the Chicken Coop doesn’t get a plaque, then there’ll be “Trouble in Paradise,” as Loretta Lynn will be a “Blue Kentucky Girl” and the committee will have an appointment in “Fist City” with a “Honky Tonk Girl.”

Dressed in a black and white cowgirl's outfit, Loretta Lynn won an amateur talent contest on Buck Owens' Bar-K Jamboree on a live broadcast from Tacoma, Wash. A lumber baron in Vancouver was so enraptured by her performance that he signed her to his fledgling record label.

End of story for Westcoaster

Publisher, editor and crackerjack reporter Keven Drews looks at the final online edition of the, a valuable news source for the residents of western Vancouver Island. Globe photograph by Darryl Dyck.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 14, 2011


When a newspaper dies,the rush is on to produce a final edition worthy of a keepsake. The staff delays mourning until after deadline.

The headlines typically run in apocalypse-sized block letters: STOP THE PRESSES, or FINAL EDITION, or END OF STORY.

The death of a newspaper is sad. Voices go unheard. Reporters go unpaid (and forgive me for being alert to the latter). A community seems lesser when a daily newspaper folds. Just ask the residents of Nelson, whose Daily News was snuffed last year, or New Westminster, who lost the 122-year-old Columbian back in 1983. It’s like baseball’s Dodgers leaving Brooklyn.

In that same way, the rugged, beautiful, newsworthy stretch of Vancouver Island from Tofino to Ucluelet, from Alberni to Nanaimo now will have to make do without the helpful and informative Westcoaster.

The online news service pulled the plug on itself last week.

Keven Drews
“The reason is simple: the publication is not receiving the advertising support necessary to continue, and it does not appear like that situation will change,” Keven Drews wrote.

Mr. Drews founded the cyber publication in October, 2005, “because a handful of local writers, techies and business people believed may stories were going untold in this region.”

Launched with a reported bankroll of $1,000, the site updated content five days a week — and as the news warranted. The Westcoaster broke plenty of news stories that found a national audience.

In the summer of 2006, the site revealed the resort town of Tofino, one of the wettest spots in the land, had a severe shortage of drinking water. The crisis led to emergency rationing for residents and the mandatory closing of restaurants and lodges.

The website crashed two years ago when fans of the Twilight saga flocked to read about the filming in the area of the movie “New Moon.”

Mr. Drews excelled in his reporting on last year’s death of two paramedics, as well as the sad, desperate, heartbreaking search for a missing seven-year-old from Washington state who was believed to have been swept out to sea.

Mr. Drews has a reputation as an accurate and thorough reporter and here’s hoping he stays in the business. (He is currently in Australia and did not respond to email requests for comment.)

The reporter struggles with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells. He endured a relapse just a month after founding the Westcoaster, costing him “a chunk of my skull.” A couple of years ago, his wife, Yvette, helped organize a dinner and auction that raised $10,000 for cancer research.

A dual citizen, who once reported for the Peninsula Daily News of Port Angeles, Wash., Mr. Drews laments that he will never again be able to live in the United States. He wrote a passionate opinion article for the Seattle Times two years ago in which he urged Americans to support President Barack Obama’s reforms.

“Universal health care works and saves people like me,” he wrote. “I’d be dead if I had stayed in the U.S.

“As sick as I have been, I can still contribute to society.”

As a boy, his family left Montana to return to Canada when his father, a teacher, got sick. The health-care system kept his father alive for another 36 years.

“Unfortunately, I will never return to live in the U.S.,” he wrote. “I lack the financial resources to remain alive there with my illness.”

Unlike the newspaper industry, with its long history and romantic culture, a news website does not produce much in the way of a final-edition souvenir. It’s as if the site is merely frozen in time.

Mere days after the Westcoaster ceased publishing, the area faced a tsunami warning following the earthquake in Japan.

They take tsunamis seriously in those parts. With good reason. The twin cities of Alberni and Port Alberni suffered grievous damage in the tsunami generated by a massive earthquake in Alaska in 1964.

The warning system along the exposed coast has long been a contentious issue. A search on the website finds 111 archived stories in which “tsunami” is mentioned.

Farewell, Wescoaster. Your voice will be missed.

Muralist turns Vancouver into open-air gallery

A blank wall facing a service station along a busy street in Santiago, Cuba, became the canvas for a mural titled, "Punto de Contacto" ("Point of Contact"). It was designed and painted by Cuban and Canadian artists, including Richard Tetrault of Vancouver.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 8, 2011


Our bus rocketed along the frantic Avenida Victoriano de Garzón when I caught a fleeting glimpse of a giant painted canoe on the side of a wall.

This classic icon of Canadiana seemed out of place overlooking a service station in Santiago, Cuba.

As it turns out, the large mural, completed earlier this year, was the collaborative effort of Cuban artists with a Canadian group calling themselves La Raza. Among them was Richard Tetrault.

In eastside Vancouver, three are three kinds of wall painting — commercial, graffito, and Tetrault.

He is a muralist responsible for dozens of projects in the city.

Where others see a boring, dreary, blank wall, he sees a canvas.

As in Cuba, he does not work alone, preferring to coordinate with those from the community in which a mural is to be situated. Local residents take part in the conjuring, the planning, and, the most fun of all, the painting.
Tourist checks out Cuban mural.

He describes the process as being “like a bunch of musicians jamming together.”

You can hardly take a stroll on the eastside without bumping into works in which he has had a hand. Life in the city is much the better for it.

A spectacular example can be found on the west-facing wall of the Orwell Hotel, a former flophouse at 456 East Hastings St., since renovated and now managed by the Vancouver Native Housing Society. The society commissioned Mr. Tetrault to be co-artistic director of a mural project to cover the 7,600-square-foot, west-facing wall.

The result, completed last summer, is “Through the Raven’s Eye,” a breathtaking landmark of aboriginal art that makes a bold statement for the neighbourhood.

To mark the centennial of Britannia High School two years ago, murals were painted on the school, on the side of an Italian bakery on Commercial Drive, and on the Adanac Bicycle Corridor, the latter including an image honouring the Militant Mothers of Raymur, who, 40 years ago, blocked the railroad tracks behind their social housing project until a pedestrian overpass was built to ensure their children could safely get to school.

At 600 Campbell Ave. in Strathcona, three walls of the Russian Hall have been decorated in colours inspired by Etruscan and Byzantine frescos. While Mr. Tetrault likes to bring art to neighbourhoods, in this case the art came to his neighbourhood. He lives with his partner, the photographer Esther Rausenberg, also a member of La Raza, less than a half-block away.

In the words of one city councillor, these murals have turned the eastside into an open-air art gallery.

Born in White Rock, Mr. Tetrault, 59, has lived in east Vancouver for more than three decades. While hitchhiking in Mexico in the mid-1970s, he found inspiration for his future works.

“I saw (Jose) Orozco murals in Guadalajara and (Diego) Rivera murals in Mexico City,” he said. “I was blown away by them. The elegance. The distinct language. It has an immediate appeal because of the beauty of the colour. They’re so thought out. That’s a beautiful thing, integrating imagery with architecture. And making it relevant.”

Mexico muralism was an expression of the strength of their ancestry, done so without words, as many remained illiterate through the 20th century.

Years later, Mr. Tetrault spent six weeks in the Cuernavaca studio of the late David Siqueiros, the third of the great muralists.

“Once that gets in your bloodstream,” he said, “it never really leaves.”

The artist has since worked in collaboration with muralists in Chile, Argentina and Cuba, where he helped complete earlier this year the Santiago mural spotted from the bus.

Titled “Punto de Contacto” (Point of Contact), the artwork includes images from the two countries, from Canadian ravens to the Cuban tocororo, a bird of the Sierra Maestra mountains.

The latter created a dilemma, as an enthusiastic Cuban artist brushed an oversize bird that dominated the wall. The bird had to be politely redone at a more appropriate scale.

That’s the thing about muralists. When they’re up against the wall, they paint it.

The west-facing wall of the renovated Orwell Hotel in Vancouver is graced by a spectacular mural composed by aboriginal artists.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Beyond the charred remains of Comox's oldest licensed taproom

The Lorne Hotel has been a mainstay of downtown Comox on Vancouver Island since 1878. It burned to the ground, leaving many stunned. The hotel is shown here in its heyday, circa 1911. Photograph courtesy the Comox Archives and Museum Society.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 7, 2011


A building burned to the ground and people stood around crying.

All day long, people came to a familiar intersection in downtown Comox that now looked impossibly altered. They shook their heads at the smoldering ashes, gaped at a space on which had stood a two-story building for as long as anyone could remember.

The next day the owner, George Kacavenda, whose three children have all worked in the family business, stood alongside a chain-link fence erected around the blackened ruins. He told a television crew that he felt he had been at a funeral, so often had so many offered their condolences.

The Lorne Hotel, built in 1878, destroyed once by fire and rebuilt, once again had been razed.

“People have said it’s like losing a friend,” said Kay Bukta, curator of the Comox Archives and Museum.

The Lorne was a “comfortable, worn-in shoe,” the woody interior like visiting a friend’s well-stocked rec room. The kitchen served up burgers, the bar poured libations, and trigger-fingered, Baby Boomer know-it-alls flocked to Name That Tune Thursdays.

While no one is likely to go thirsty for long in Comox, and while it is not unheard of for regulars to carry an unnatural affection for a drinking hole whose charms might otherwise go unnoticed, it must be acknowledged the Lorne has been more than just another taproom. It has a history and at the heart of that story is a romance.

The first hotel in what is now Comox was opened by Joseph Rodello, who owned land flanking what would soon become the steamboat landing. He built a store on one side and a hotel named the Wharf on the other. The proprietor promised customers would find his bar “supplied with the best of wines, liquors and cigars.”

The Wharf, renamed the Elk, was later leased by John Fitzpatrick, an American. A carpenter by trade, he decided to go into business for himself, buying a plotof land uphill from the dock, where he built a large farmhouse as a home with extra rooms for boarders.

He named his establishment after the recently appointed Governor General, the 33-year-old Marquess of Lorne, who was married to Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter.

(Having served alcohol on the same site for 133 years, the hotel claims to be the oldest licensed hotel in the province. The Six Mile Pub, a roadhouse outside Victoria, claims the title of B.C.’s oldest pub, the founder having purchased a license in 1856 after being fined 2 pounds, 10 shillings for serving beer illegally.)

Four years after opening, Mr. Fitzpatrick, bereft at the death of his wife, sold the establishment to Samuel and Florence Cliffe.

The couple had met two decades earlier while emigrating from England aboard the Silistria. After a long voyage from Liverpool, the ship docked in Victoria on Nov. 17, 1862. The passenger list published by the Colonist newspaper includes S Cliffe, then a young man, and Florence Harmston, a girl of six accompanied by her parents.

Samuel went off to seek his fortune in the gold fields, though he would have greater success in selling the coal grounds at Cumberland to the magnate Robert Dunsmuir. He renewed his shipboard friendship with the Harmston clan, marrying the daughter.

The Colonist carried a brief item noting the arrival of five new settlers at Comox in 1886. “Nearly all the settlement turned out to a grand dance in the Lorne Hotel on Thursday evening and a ‘right royal’ time was had dancing from dewy eve till early morn,” the paper noted. “Mr. S. Cliffe makes a genial host.”

Later that same year, the famed German-born anthropologist Franz Boas stayed at the Lorne. “The small rooms are warm and we are well taken care of,” he wrote his parents.
The Cliffes had 15 children, many of them born in the room that would later serve as the ladies’ parlour.

Prohibition left the hotel in a dire state, but the business was revived after being purchased by another family. It has been owned by Mr. Kacavenda for 15 years.

Many hope he rebuilds at the corner of Comox Avenue and Port Augusta Street.

“It was important to know you could walk down the street and the Lorne was going to be there,” Ms. Bukta, the curator, said.

Comox without the landmark Lorne is a forlorn place.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A cigar with the oldest living former major leaguer

At 99, Conrado Marrero's grip remains strong, as does his memory. The former pitcher of the Washington Senators lives in Havana, isolated from the baseball fraternity for too many years as the Cold war stretches into extra innings. Tom Hawthorn photograph.

By Tom Hawthorn
The Tyee
March 4, 2011

Conrado Marrero is a prisoner of his second-floor apartment, the 28 steps from the street a barrier for a man who can barely walk. He is hard of hearing and nearly blind, treacherous afflictions on Havana streets, a jumble of broken concrete and uneven asphalt.

A short, stocky man in his prime, Marrero is now but a wisp, shrunken in stature though still sharp of mind. He was once an all-star pitcher for the Washington Senators, hobnobbing in the grandstand with Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower after being assigned to protect them from foul balls.

At 99, he is all but forgotten by the baseball fraternity. Marrero remains isolated from old rivals and teammates, not to mention baseball fans, by a conflict pitting his island homeland against another baseball-loving nation. Along the Straits of Florida, the Cold War continues on and on, still undecided though long into extra innings.

Marrero lives a dozen blocks from the massive Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana’s Cerro barrio. He shares a Spartan three-room apartment with his grandson’s family and two tenants. The address is Ayuntamiento 205, the same published in the Boston Red Sox team directory in 1961 when he was a scout. Marrero is listed in the Havana telephone book, but hardly anyone calls.

That might change in the coming months, as the recent death in California of Tony Malinosky, at age 101, leaves Marrero as the oldest-living former major leaguer. That is a title all ballplayers seek — and none wish to relinquish.
Marrero's 1953 Topps card

Sitting on a battered sofa in the modest apartment, he was asked how it felt to be the oldest survivor of his peers.

“I am now president of the living ones,” he pronounced, a cigar clenched between fingers.

Marrero was visited recently by two dozen touring baseball fans from the north, a group organized by Kit Krieger of Vancouver, who has made it his cause to ensure the old ballplayer be remembered. Krieger, 62, solicits letters from other retired players, which he delivers personally. One of the latest batches of notes was written by Duane Pillette, 88, a former pitcher with the St. Louis Browns, a team long since moved to Baltimore, who told Marrero he remembered him as “a little guy with a heart shaped like a baseball.” The testimonials revive the old man, whose memories of home runs and strikeouts remain vivid six decades later.

Each year, Krieger leads a pilgrimage of baseball fanaticos to Cuba to see the game played in a more pristine state. Instead of advertisements for Coca-Cola, outfield walls are painted with revolutionary slogans. Instead of blaring rock ‘n’ roll between innings, hometown fans honk horns and bang on makeshift musical instruments, such as the Industriales fan at the Estadio who beats on two upside down frying pans whose handles are attached to a tray he wears around his neck. In America, ball players are millionaires who live in gated communities. In Cuba, peloteras are celebrated athletes who live in the neighbourhood.

The Cuban authorities at times seem wary of Krieger and his entourage, as they suspect the motivations in an era where several star players have been lured away from the Cuban system by the promise of millions to be had in the major leagues. Yet Krieger is keen on the game as it is played in Cuba, where players wear the uniform of the province of their birth, where there are no trades, where the sport is religion in a country that officially has none but in which every citizen is an adherent. As Marrero once said, “Baseball in Cuba is life itself.”

Others have tracked down Marrero over the years, but none has ever cared so much about bridging the divide that has kept him cut off. Krieger has tried unsuccessfully to get baseball to provide Marrero a modest pension. He has also sought assistance from the emergency fund established to help ball players in need. In both cases he was turned down, as the Americans involved did not wish to confront the U.S. Treasury Department’s restrictions on dealing with Cuba and Cubans.

Instead, Krieger raises funds privately by selling copies of Marrero’s autograph gathered before he lost his sight. Many of those who have taken a Cubaball Tour, who call themselves Cubaballistas, also make donations. The Victoria artist Susan Underwood has donated 20 lithograph prints of Marrero, which sell for $50, all proceeds to the old player.

Amid the complications of a geopolitical standoff, a remarkable friendship has been forged between Krieger and Marrero — one Canadian, the other Cuban; one of Jewish heritage, the other Catholic; one a retired teacher, the other a retired athlete; one who speaks pidgin Spanish, the other pidgin English. The language they share is baseball.

Marrero becomes a centenarian next month. For years, his birthdate was in dispute, as he shaved years from his advanced age so as to not scare off potential diamond employers. A 1952 Saturday Evening Post article noted the pitcher was “positively thirty-five, absolutely thirty-seven, indisputably forty-three, and definitely forty-two.” A pre-revolutionary passport gives his birthdate as April 25, 1911. He was born on a farm known as El Laberinto in the district of Sagua la Grande on the island’s north coast in the old province of Las Villas, now Villa Clara province. Marrero told me he learned to throw as a boy by tossing ripened oranges against tree trunks. As a young man he played for a local industrial team, handling infield chores. A bad hop resulting in a black eye convinced him to become a fulltime pitcher.
Marrero with Cienfuegos in 1943

While locals knew him as a talented hurler, he did not join a prominent club until signed to the amateur Cienfuegos team at age 27 in 1938. He soon after stunned the Universidad team by pitching a no-hitter. He was a versatile athlete and a devious thrower, relying on trick pitches to fool opposing batters in what was Cuba’s premier circuit.

For five seasons, he led the amateur league in innings pitched. In 1942, he completed 26 of 27 games he started. His record was 22-5 and his earned-run average was a stunning 1.22. To top it off, he pitched Cuba to the world amateur championship that year and was named the most popular player in baseball by readers of Carteles magazine.

He signed his first professional contract at age 35 in 1947, when he joined the minor-league Havana Cubans. He won 70 games against 25 losses in three seasons.He also pitched for Almendares in the Cuban winter league, where his teammates included In winter, he pitched for Almendares in a four-club circuit in which all games were played in Havana, in those days a Sin City on the Sea. One of his teammates was Monte Irvin, an African-American slugger who found in Cuba a land where the colour of his skin mattered less than the colour of the pesos in his wallet. (Irvin returned to Cuba with Krieger in 2004, ending a 50-year hiatus to reunite with Marrero. He recalled entire blocks where the street level businesses were bars, while brothels handled customers upstairs.)

Marrero was never a great physical specimen, looking no more consequential than a “Spanish grocer” in the memorable phrase of one sports historian. He was listed as 5-foot-7, but was likely two inches shorter. His playing weight was 165 pounds, though most of that seemed to hang low in his torso and hips. Some said the stubby pitcher looked like he had been buried to his knees on the mound.

Four days before his 39th birthday, at an age when most athletes have retired, Marrero made his major-league debut with the Washington Senators. He spent five seasons with the American League club, a mediocre squad that in those years never finished higher than fifth place in an eight-team circuit.

A legend in Cuba, he was unknown in America. Back home he was known as El Premier (Number One) and El Curveador (The Curveballer) and, especially, as El Guajiro (The Hillbilly). The sophisticates of Havana thought his language and behaviour that of the rube, though they acknowledged he was wily hick. Reporters stateside found good copy in Marrero, who was never without a cigar and whose thick accent made him ripe for parody as a stereotype. Marshall Smith, writing for Life magazine, said his pitching motion “resembles an orangutan heaving a 16-pound shot put.” Felipe Alou, a Dominican, said Marrero’s windup “looked like a cross between a windmill gone bersek and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards.”

In a game in Washington’s Griffith Stadium in 1951, he limited the Philadelphia Athletics to a pair of walks and a single hit — a home run by Barney McCosky. Asked after the game what he had been throwing, Marrero replied, “Everything but my cigar.” The game was played the day after his 40th birthday. He was named to the all-star team that season, the oldest player to that time to make his all-star debut.

Marrero relied on a steady diet of curveballs and knucklers and sliders, the latter driving the greatest hitters of the era to distraction. He was called “the slow-ball señor.”

His record for five seasons in the majors was a mediocre 39-40, though consideration of his age and the weakness of his supporting cast makes one wonder how he would have fared had he pitched during his athletic peak.

The 'slow-ball señor'
After being released by Washington, he returned to Havana as a starter for the Havana Sugar Kings of the International League, one level below the majors. he did not hang up his glove until age 46. He worked as a scout and coach, staying on the island after the 1959 revolution. He became more isolated in the decades that followed, political tensions keeping him from the fraternity of those who played the summer game at the highest level.

His mural graces a wall in a ceremonial room beneath the grandstand behind home plate at the Estadio. His image has also appeared on a Cuban commemorative postage sheet. This year, the Cuban National Series dedicated its all-star game to Marrero. Despite the attention, not all Cubans are aware of his longevity. While in Havana, I found an old news photograph of Marrero amidst a dusty stack of paraphernalia in a shop on Obispo. The proprietor insisted Marrero was long dead and remained unconvinced even when another customer confirmed having read a report about Marrero’s well-being in Granma, the official Communist Party newspaper.

It has not been in the interest of the Cuban regime to promote Marrero’s legacy, as his glories date to the era of what Fidel Castro has referred to as “slave baseball” when players were bound to teams by contracts. For many years, he received a paltry pension, though it has recently been raised to $150 convertible pesos (about $160) each month.

Marrero listens to Cuban baseball games on the radio every afternoon and on television each night. His mind remains sharp and his memory impressive.

This year, Krieger also brought Marrero a scoresheet from a game that he had pitched in 1951. He reminded him that he beat the Yankees, 7-3. He told him that Joe DiMaggio played and asked whether he had hit a home run.
Conrado Marrero gets a hug from a Cubaballista.

“He was a pinch-hitter,” Marrero immediately replied. “Struck out.”

He was right.

“That day, I got something like three hits,” he added.

The boxscore showed he had only a single, but the pitcher also walked and took first base on a failed sacrifice bunt. He got on base three times, scoring twice.

These annual memory tests would seem cruel if Marrero did not perform so well.

Krieger is registrar of the B.C. College of Teachers, the professional regulatory body. He taught social studies in West Vancouver high schools for years. A self-described Trudeau Liberal, he first traveled to Cuba on an exchange more than a decade ago. A baseball nut, he attended a game, finding in Cuba a game played outside the shadow of commerce, evoking a nostalgia for a sport that back home seemed more elite than popular.

As a teenager, he worked as the attendant for the visitor’s clubhouse at Capilano (now Nat Bailey) Stadium. In 1968, at age 19, he talked Vancouver Mounties manager Mickey Vernon into letting him start the final game of the season. (Two factors likely made this possible — Vernon, who died in 2008, was an all-round good guy, known in his playing days as the Gentleman First Baseman, and Krieger promised to stack the grandstand with fellow students from the University of British Columbia.) His teammates-for-a-day did not appreciate being part of a baseball stunt. Before the game, Krieger’s catcher promised retribution if one of his pitches broke a finger. As it turned out, the young left-hander held his own, surrendering a lone run in three innings and even managing a strikeout. (He did violate an unwritten rule of baseball etiquette by apologizing after hitting a batter with one of his pitches.) That was the culmination of his professional career.

Over the past decade, Krieger has compiled a cache of letters from Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Sid Hudson, Harmon Killebrew, Minnie Miñoso, Tom Lasorda, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Bobby Shantz, George Kell, and Mickey Vernon, the kindly manager who had let Krieger pitch and who had been Marrero’s first baseman in Washington. All express their deep affection for a man none of them has seen for more than a half-century.

Marrero is proud to have lived long enough to be the oldest former major leaguer.

“We have to call the American president,” he said, “and tell him I am the oldest.”

Each year, Krieger solicits a promise from the old man to stay alive another year. He presented him gifts of run, cigars, and Spanish red wine. In exchange, Krieger jokingly asks Marrero to deliver the eulogy when his own time comes.

A grateful Marrero quips, “Cigars do not keep you alive. Food keeps you alive.”

Krieger then leaned forward to kiss the old man on the top of his balding head, where he long ago wore the W of Washington.

Dig the ladykiller mustache in this circa 1938 portrait of Marrero with Cienfuegos.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Desire rekindled for book about the No. 20 streetcar

Rolf Knight's "Along the No. 20 Line" was first published by New Star Books in 1980. The book, called a "lost gem," is to be reissued later this year as part of Vancouver's 125th-anniversary celebrations. This second-hand copy was purchased at MacLeod's Books by Bob Kronbauer, who is seeking original editions of all 10 legacy books to be reprinted for the quasqicentennial.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 2, 2011


As a boy, Rolf Knight dropped seven pennies into the fare box of the No. 20 streetcar for a tour of Vancouver’s working waterfront.

He rode from his home on the eastside along a busy stretch of the docks. The Powell Street landmarks are committed to memory — grain elevators; the Capilano brewery (opened, unpromisingly, in an old vinegar plant;) the four-story Princeton Hotel, a yellow brick refuge for the drinking man; the forbidding, prison-like menace of the Rogers Sugar refinery; the Campbell Avenue fish docks; the Powell Street Grounds, where chicken wire protected spectators from foul balls; Little Tokyo with its green grocers; the pier where striking workers took it on the head from police billy clubs in the Depression, earning the moniker Blood Ballantyne; and, finally, the wonders of downtown, just beyond Victory Square.

Mr. Knight shared his ride with loggers and longshoremen; watchmen and fishermen; grainhandlers and foundrymen; housewives and mischievous children who reach out the rear window on sharp turns to yank the trolley pole from its line, imps plucking a one-stringed harp.

He remembers the trolley car reeking of the stench from unfortunates who worked at the fish-oil processing plant and he remembers a peg-legged hobo, a wooden stump replacing a fleshy limb lost to misadventure while riding the rails.

In 1949, the streetcar tracks were torn up to make way from rubber-tired buses, a sign of prosperity and progress, or so people believed at the time.

Over the years, the city’s economy changed and, with it, the waterfront.
Rolf Knight.

Many years later, Mr. Knight wrote a reminiscence of the harbour and the people who worked there, including his mother, who punched a clock at a disagreeable sausage factory.

The book, titled “Along the No. 20 Line,” was published in the fall of 1980 by New Star Books, a small press housed in the basement of an old Kitsilano hippie house.

The memoir earned favourable reviews. The Vancouver Sun ran a lengthy excerpt about Mr. Knight’s memories of Pat Fitzpatrick, an old Irishman who lived in a tiny, wooden “coolie cabin” in which he shared mutton stew with the boy. The old man, his “big handlebar mustache stained with tobacco juice,” had worked on railroad gangs.

“Pat’s place was furnished with the usual wood stove and a heavy camp cot,” Mr. Knight wrote. “There was a kitchen table and a couple of wooden chairs, a washstand covered with red-checked oilcloth, a washbasin, and a water pail with a dipper standing in it. The cooler was an old apple box attached to some breezy place on a shaded outside wall and covered with wet clothes.”

The publisher ordered a modest print run, likely about 3,000 copies, which sold steadily, though not briskly. In time, the title went out of print.

But it was not forgotten.

From time to time, a literary figure would stumble upon a copy, waxing eloquent in print about the memoir.

Now, it is to return to the press.

“Along the No. 20 Line” is one of 10 “lost gems” to be republished to mark Vancouver’s 125th anniversary. The quasqicentennial celebrations will see the reprinting of four novels, two books of poetry, and four works of non-fiction, including Mr. Knight’s book.

Mr. Knight was asked his reaction to the happy news about his memoir being named a “lost gem.”

“God knows what that means,” the 75-year-old writer said. “That’s the kind of puffery that booksellers put out.”

Mr. Knight is 75, about the age of Pat Fitzpatrick when he knew him. He has been retired for about 15 years, since he gave up driving taxi, an arduous job of low pay, but one which gave him time to write books.

He lives in north Burnaby, a few kilometres from his childhood home on Wall Street, an ironic address for a writer whose life work it would be to chronicle the province’s workers.

He left home to work at age 14, working on a coastal boat running from the city to logging camps as far as Bute Inlet. He laboured on government trail crews and in construction. He proved to be a terrific scholar, eventually earning a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University after spending a year at a Colombian sugar plantation.

“A bloody dangerous place to wander around in,” he says now.

He taught, but felt himself a failure as a teacher, as he could not engage undergraduates. He became another Mac driving a hack.

With little publicity, he generated a library of books about the working life in this province — the important "Indians at Work," "An Ordinary Life," "A Man of Our Times," "Stump Ranch Chronicles and Other Stories," "Traces of Magma: An Annotated Bibliography of Left Literature," and, most entertainingly, a biography of fishing union leader Homer Stevens.

He did so in obscurity. BC Bookworld magazine called him a “brave and little-heralded historian.” He eventually won a career award from the prestigious Canadian Historical Association.

He is now tasked with writing a four-page afterword for “Along the No. 20 Line,” which will be reprinted by New Star, which is now seeking archival photographs as illustrations. The publication date is, appropriately enough, Labour Day.