Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We used to take the Hollyburn ferry to the North Shore and hike out to Whytecliffe park. Sometimes we would walk along the railway tracks. The train didn't run during this time. It was when I was fourteen or fifteen. If we wanted to catch a ride we would walk along Marine Drive and get a ride easily. The walk along Marine was easy because along each side of the road there was a strip of concrete. It was surprisng to see it covered up by blacktop. Along the road one of the few houses we'd see on the waterfront was the one now for sale for 7 million dollars, near West Bay. There wasn't much else on the water, the entire way to Whytecliffe Park. Captain Snoddy built the house in 1929. He was a harbour pilot who was fired when he ran a ship aground. He had been drinking. At Whytecliffe we'd camp overnight under the water tower, then hike home the next day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

After the War, I visited Dad on Skye. He had been there for a few months and I was on leave from my outfit that was stationed in Holland and waiting to be shipped back to Canada. I took a bit of a chance leaving them as any day we could have been sent home. I got back to Holland before they left. We returned on the Queen Mary, or maybe the Queen Elizabeth. I can't remember. I know I've travelled on both boats. Once going over to Europe and the other returning to Canada. My dad was stuck in Europe. He had to wait until the troops all got home before he could sail home himself. While I was with Dad on Skye, a friend of his and I, along with Dad, visited Dunvegan Castle and the McCrimmon Cairn. While we stood by the cairn, a McCrimmon stepped from the house on the hillside and began piping. The McCrimmons are legendary pipers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The family ran the businesses in the Palace, now Funky Winkerbeans, and the Pennsylvania, then in the late '30's bought and ran the Metrople. Blackie was a partner in the Metrople. He loved new-fangled things. He bought a new car and mounted an altimeter on the dash. When he'd return from a trip he would include the altitude in all his stories. "We spent the night in Ashcroft. I was surprised it was 1100 feet." He kind of married into the family. He married Anne, the daughter or niece of a good friend of my dad's. Anne's family was from Scotland. She was a good Scots girl. Blackie later bought the Invermere, and then the Astor. One year we all went to the Astor for Christmas dinner.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It rained for weeks while we were in Italy. I dug a hole in my tent so in the morning I could stand up while I dressed. In the morning the hole was full of water. Luckily my biggest mistake as a signalman happened in Wales, not Italy. Part of the company was on service and they sent for twenty-two haversack lunches. I sent on the message and they were sent two lunches. I was a pretty good reader, but not the best sender. The best readers would read whole sentences, not just each letter or word. Usually the sentences were pretty simple. They were often repeated messages. Some trainmen were in our unit. The Morse code used on the trains was different than the international code we used. At home their code was used to send telegrams. But the trainmen learned quickly. Knowing the letters wasn't the hard part of being a good reader.

Blackie once called the house about a telegram for Malcolm McKinnon. When you were young, Malcolm was often at our house. He was a good carpenter, and a good baby-sitter, too. Blackie called and told me to tell Malcolm that a friend of Malcolm's had sent a telegram from Illinois. Blackie said the friend was sick. Blackie had looked through the window on the envelope containing the telegram and had been able to see a bit of the message. It said, "Muskogee Ill."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Franz's Run at Whistler Mountain is named after a man Ken and I joined in an investment. Ken and I invested 15,000 dollars in a pill manufacturing company that was in a building on Broadway and Oak. Franz also invested 15,000 dollars. The guy had a machine that compressed the powdered ingredients into pills. We made about 20,000 dollars when Pfiser bought out the operation. By then the guy had moved from a tiny room full of barrels, into a bigger place on Arbutus Street. He'd hired a guy who coated the pills. The company was called Stanley. I think it's still making pills.The guy who coated the pills often drank in the Ambassador. We ended losing the money when we invested along with Art Grosse in a mining operation north of Squamish. One weekend Ken and I took the Union Steamship to Brittania. Art picked us up and drove us to Squamish. He owned a hotel there. We stayed in the hotel Friday night then hiked into the claim. I brought a few core samples home. I am pretty sure it was a gold mine. On the way we stopped at a cabin and shared a half a bottle of whiskey. We left the bottle to finish on the way back. We camped at the mine site. Ken and I shared a lower bunk in a tiny cabin. The hike back the next day was pretty tough. I felt sorry for my brother because I was really worn out. He must have felt worse. We forgot to pick up the whiskey on the way back. We thought about turning around but we were all too tired. Sunday night we came back to Vancouver on either the Prince George or the Prince Rupert, the two Union ships that would travel to the small towns. I think it even stopped at Gibsons Landing.

There were a lot of ships like the Prince George. The CPR boats would travel to Naniamo and Victoria, and north to Alaska. And the Union ships travelled all along the coastline. Most of them left out of Vancouver. There always seemed to be one passing through the First Narrows. When we had the dugout canoe, we had to be sure we didn't cross the harbour when one was coming or going.

The summer I looked after the picnic grounds on Gambier Island, we'd go back and forth to town on one of the ships.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My brother Ken sold the Seattle paper, the Post Intelligencer or PI, in Sandon. It was when he was about ten. He sold most of the different papers that came to Sandon. He was the only newsboy. He often told the story of going to Sandon's brothel to sell the paper. The madam answered the door. He told her that he collected once a month. She said it was probably better for him to collect weekly at the brothel. Ken would often tell a joke about the Post Intelligencer. PI was once a common word used instead of "pimp." A Seattle newsboy selling the P.I. asked a man, "Seattle PI, Sir?" The man replied, "Oh, no. I'm a dairy farmer from Wisconsin!"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A man showed up at the hotel in Sandon and told my mother he was hungry and wanted to know if he could do some work in exchange for a meal. It wasn't unusual for people to work for a meal, or for a night in the hotel. My mother didn't have much for him to do, so she told him he could go the bakery and pick up the hotel's order. She said he only had to tell the baker to charge the hotel as usual. The man returned without any bread because the bakery didn't have any. He told Mom if she had some yeast he would bake her some bread. Mom didn't have any yeast so he walked to the grocery store and returned to the hotel with some yeast. He baked the bread and continued to bake at the hotel for about a month, until he got a job working on the power plant.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A secretary in an office in San Fransisco that did business with the Mac and Blo mill in Ocean Falls got tired of hearing about the great time salesmen had when they made trips to Ocean Falls. She would listened with obvious interest to the endless stories about the beautiful country and the wonderful people. Knowing she would enjoy going to Ocean Falls, the men treated her to a trip to see the mill and the town. In those days people would have to take a boat that first went to Alaska then came back down the B.C. coast visiting the company mills. She was really impressed by the town and took a number of pictures. She wanted to add a few pictures to the collection on the San Fransisco office's wall that was covered with photos of the places the staff visited. She went through her collection and selected a photo she had taken of a cabin that sat on a picturesque point along the shoreline about a mile out of the town. The cabin was the town brothel.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My father would keep track of the deaths around Nelson then travel from town to town visiting the families of the deceased hoping to sell them a tombstone. He was once told by a friend that so-and-so had lost his wife. Next time Dad saw the guy he asked him if he was interested in getting a tombstone for his wife's grave. Things didn't work out. The man had lost his wife when she left town with a travelling salesman.

Once Dad took me on a trip to get some stone from a CN quarry outside of Nelson. A friend of Dad's and I travelled in the back of the truck. It was a really rough trip because the tires were solid rubber, not inflated. Dad's friend vinagled me into playing a game of "What can you do that I can't do." After a few challenges the man asked me if I could take out one of my eyes. So I asked him if he could take out his, so he took out his glass eye. I was about six at the time. Dad's friend was about 47 / 48.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

When we moved into the house there was no telephone. The phone company said it would be at least six months before we would get a phone. Phones were rationed because of a shortage after the war. My brother Ken was working at the Invermay at the time and knew a fellow who drank there who was a real estate agent. He asked the fellow if he would be able to help me get a phone. The realtor said he could get one in no time. Months later I ran into the fellow and was about to ask him when he could deliver the phone. Before I could ask, he told me to tell my brother to stop yelling out to him on the street that Charlie wants you to give him a call.

Lots of things were rationed after the war, so on a Friday afternoon there would often be considerable effort put into getting your hands on a bottle. Most of the clerks at the government liquor store were Liberals so it wasn't too hard to get one of them to sign a ration card for you if you were a strong supporter of the party. Tom Uphill, one of the longest serving politicians in the Commonwealth, could always come up with something to drink on a Friday night.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dr. McDaniel's father was the piano player at the silent movies in Nelson. He was also the projectionist. If the film broke he had to dash up to the booth and splice the film. When a reel had to be changed, a flashing white spot would appear in the corner of the movie. Stuart's dad would stop playing, run up to the booth, and switch the film. He quit work at the theatre and started playing the stock market. After struggling to keep up with the market while living in Nelson, he decided to move to Toronto to be close to the exchange. He left Nelson on the Kettle Valley Railroad to take the CPR to Toronto. By the time he got to Toronto he was broke. It was 1929. He later moved to Portland and bought a partnership in a liquor store.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I went to class in a one room school house in South Slocan. There was just one teacher for all eight grades. His name was Mr. Street. Every Friday he would give me a ride into Nelson so I could go to the butcher to pick up our meat for the weekend. I never spoke to him while I was in his class and we never spoke during the twelve mile trip into Nelson. He would stay at the hotel Friday night. I would have dinner at the hotel - Pork, vegetables, a drink, and a piece of pie all for thirty-five cents. I would go and see a movie and then catch the Kettle Valley train home. I was twelve years old. Sometimes I would meet Ed Mathieson and we would visit his father's bootlegging place. Ed and I would sit in a corner. Ed would whistle so his dad would bring us a ginger beer. Ed called the drink a "whistle." Ed once gave me two pigeons. I took them home in an orange crate, the kind that was divided in two - one side for each pigeon. A few days later Ed's dad came to get the pigeons. He said they were too young to be on their own.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My dad's hobby was fishing. He didn't fish around Vancouver, usually only when he was at Lantzville. One day he took me fishing on the Campbell River near the border. Lloyd Poole went with us. He brought along his son. We didn't catch anything. On our way home we stopped at the beach in White Rock and rented some swim suits and went swimming. Later we stopped at a cold storage place in New Westminster. It was where commercial fishermen put their fish. He bought a nice fish to take home. I can remember seeing the rental swim suits hanging on lines strung around the beach house at Kitsilano Beach.

My dad would fish with Donald Campbell and Malcom McKinnon when he stayed in his cabin at Lantzville. Donald had been a police inspector in Vancouver and had retired to a small farm in Lantzville.Dad visited him and decided to buy a place there. We visited with our kids once. Fresh milk from Donald's cow was in the fridge. I had to sneak up to the store and buy some pasteurized milk for the kids. It would have hurt Donald's feelings if he found out we'd not used his milk.

There were two Malcolm McKinnons. At one Malcolm's funeral I was sitting beside someone who had quite a hangover. When Malcom McKinnon with the wooden leg, the Malcolm who lived downstairs at Irene and Ken's summer place in White Rock, walked into the funeral home, the old guy thought he was seeing a ghost.

Mom and I were playing canasta with Irene, Ken and the Malcolm with the wooden leg. We'd probably had a few drinks too. Mom was getting impatient with Malcolm's slow play, so she kept telling him to hurry up, and she kept hitting him on his wooden leg. Malcolm was pretty deaf.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Professor Darius used to sell miracle cures along Granville Street. He would gather a big crowd. He would warn people about the dangers of aspirin, and praise the value of his medication. He'd ask the crowd if they knew what happens to a chicken if it swallows an aspirin. He was pretty sure no one knew, so he felt safe in making the claim an aspirin could kill a chicken When Pat Poole and I sold hot dogs at the Victoria Exhibition, Professor Darius had a stand next to us where he would sell his stuff. When it rained, he wouldn't bother coming to the fair. He would leave a few bottles of pills with us for people who had heard his lecture the day before but didn't have the two dollars for the pills. We'd always give him any money we collected, but he would let us keep it. Two dollars was a lot of money. When Ernest Simpson kept chickens in his backyard, I was always tempted to throw a few aspirins over the fence to see what would happen to a chicken when it ate one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A fellow who sat behind me in grade seven would get me to position myself in a certain way so he could sleep behind me without the teacher catching him. He’d tap me on my left or right shoulder and I would move one way or the other.

I was with Coolie McDougal and his wife walking down the street in Nelson going to my father’s office, along with a friend of Coolie’s, Nevil. We ran into a man who had six children. When Coolie’s wife heard how many kids the guy had, she said he must be nuts. Coolie said he must have nuts.

A fellow that drank at the Ambassador used to open the curtain at the Orpheum Theatre. He would start work at 11 and spend his day drinking and have to leave whenever it was time to run the curtains. I'd know his name if I heard it. He was a member of the Provincial Police. He was too short to join the Vancouver force. When the Provincial Police ended, he had to work at odd jobs. The Provincial Police used to transport prisoners from Oakalla to the court house. He was the driver so he'd wait in the Ambassador until he got a call to drive the paddy wagon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My dad sent me to Mrs. Pritchard in South Slocan for music lessons. She drank in the beer parlour and likely told dad that I should be taking piano. After the first lesson she said that I should try elocution lessons. I didn't know what she meant so I kept going to the weekly lessons. My dad never mentioned anything about my going to the lessons so one day I decided I wouldn't go, and if my father mentioned me not being at Mrs. Pritchard's, I would tell him I forgot to go but I wouldn't miss the next one. He didn't say anything about me not going so I never went again. I used to go with Effie and Margaret when they went to their piano lessons, but just for the walk. Margaret started taking violin lessons. There's nothing much worse than having someone in the house learning to play the violin. There's nothing that sounds quite as beautiful as violin music.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

She stopped dancing and pointed at him. "There's a bald-headed boy in the second row!" she shouted. The story was told on a friend of my brother Ken's who was able to get into the burlesque theatres at a young age because he'd turned bald while he was still in high school. Sometimes there were burlesque shows at the Beacon Theatre across the street from the Palace Hotel which is now Funky Winkerbean's. Whenever a star like Sally Rand. the famous dancer, or Stepin Fetchit, appeared at the Beacon, someone would add their name to the register that always sat on the front desk at the Palace. None of the famous people really stayed at the hotel.