Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Week December 2010

We had a very enjoyable Christmas and we're not done with it! Earlier this last week, Matthew had us over to his new place for dinner. We listened to his record player, had a great cheese-with truffle on crackers and bread appetizer, and an excellent dinner, followed by watching the video "Being There".

A brief clip of our visit is contained here:

Then we had a Matthew over for Christmas Eve, after we went to Willingdon Church and enjoyed their Christmas Eve. program. He stayed overnight and we opened presents in the morning. Loretta blogged about it here:

Then on Christmas day, in the afternoon, the family came over for a turkey dinner. I'd picked up a free-range turkey we had ordered from our butcher shop, "Windor Meats" on Main near 25th. These turkeys are a bit pricey but they completely beat anything else we've ever eaten! We also celebrated two birthdays, one of which was for my youngest nephew who became a teenager on Christmas day. Our Jack Russell Terrier stole the show, as you can see from this video. Actually, it wasn't that bad. She just wound up with a lot of cute footage that I couldn't bring myself to cut.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Concerts and Plays

This Christmas season Loretta and I got to do something that we've always enjoyed doing and that's to see a lot of concerts and plays. It has been a very busy time for us.

The first one we attended was Geoffrey Castles Christmas at the Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland, WA (part of metro Seattle area). Geoffrey Castle plays a six-string electric violin, and has created a Christmas CD made up of songs that predate the commercialization of Christmas. His performance completely exceeded our expectations and set the bar high for everything we saw since then. If you ever get a chance to hear him, do it!

The concert was on Friday Dec 3rd and we returned to Vancouver on the 4th. Then came Sunday, Dec 5th.

First, in the morning, Willingdon Church's children put on an exceptional play, named The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toovey. The boy playing the lead part was one of the cubs in my pack last year.

Then, in the afternoon, we had a potluck with our small group.

Finally, in the evening I led a carol sing at a rest home that I go to every month. The cub pack that I'm a leader with provided the singers for this occasion, and we had a great time with our small group of boys putting on a great, impromptu show, complete with rudolph noses and santa hats! These were the boy's own contributions. It was not planned that way by me!

4SW Cubs Singing Rudolph

That was just one weekend!

The following weekend was Burnaby Area's Cub Camp called Camp Icicle, so I was a little tied up for that, but the following week, on Thurs the 16th, we attended Willingdon's adult Christmas production in the evening. This is always an amazing production, rivalling many professional plays. This one was called "The Christmas Party", with the script written (as is often the case) by our Children's Ministries Team Leader(he's quite the talented character.)

Then on Fri the 17th, we headed down the the Vancouver Waterfront Fairmont Hotel. Loretta had got in on a Groupon offer of a half-price stay with breakfast for two included. This was a fantastic offer. We arrived in the hotel room to find the sun streaming in the window and a fantastic view of downtown, Stanley Park and Cole Harbour, in glorious, streaming sunshine!

Our Hotel Room, with glorious sunshine streaming in!

Raclette Cheeze melted on a bun, with pickles and a slice of ham

We moved on to the German market where we found our son Matthew's booth (sponsored by Dusa's Cheese Shop of Granville Island) and we had Swiss Raclette Cheese.

Matthew in his booth

This is the Raclette Cheese. Delicious!

Wonderful view of Stanley Park and Cole Harbour

Then we returned and had a small supper before getting our things. Before heading for our show, we stopped by a ballroom in the same hotel where, coincidentally, Loretta's sister and her husband were having their office Christmas party. Our 16-year-old niece, Ashley was playing piano for the party. After enjoying a few minutes of her playing we headed off for our next venue.

We took skytrain and walked a short way, to get to the Goh Ballet's production of the Nutcracker. I had never seen the Nutcracker in person (on TV once or twice) so I was looking forward to this. It was an delightful production, and Loretta and I just loved it. After watching the children and older dancers perform, we had to conclude that the future of performing arts in this city is in excellent hands!

This last weekend was our Christmas present to each other. We have no other concerts planned at this time. That's how we like to spend our time around Christmas!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More readable version of blogs

I've been looking at my blogs here, and noticed that they are not being converted very well. These are actually poorly transfered copies of my real blog, which is much more readable (and has more entries, too.)

My real blog site is

I'll continue to keep a copy here, but the better copy is at that link.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Boys Like to Do–It Really Hasn’t Changed

Last weekend, we had our fall cub camp at Chilliwack Lake Camp.  I hear a lot of talk about how kids need to get out and get active, and I totally agree.  One reason is to avoid the obesity problem, but another is that children learn by playing.  When you restrict their play, you restrict their learning.  The generation of North American children that was the most creative and achieved some of our greatest experiences was one that had the greatest freedom to roam and explore.

Over this weekend, here are some of the things that we did:

Lighting Fires Without Matches

First off, we took them on a hike of the boundaries of the camp.  The camp covers quite an area with lots of bush, so we were setting limits, but for 8 to 10 year old boys, the limits were pretty expansive!

Once that was out of the way, we had a talk with them about lighting fires without matches.  As we were describing this, the rain kept getting heavier and heavier.  It was getting everything damp, and dripping on everything.  Having explained the concepts, we then went to the fire pit, with each cub holding a fluffed out cotton ball and some tinder, and we proceeded to have them try lighting a fire with their choice of batteries and steel wool or flint stick, cotton and tinder.  The battery was quick and easy. Too much so.  Everyone wanted to use the flint stick. It didn’t help that Kaa (the leader) had lit it in one strike, a stroke of success which he couldn’t duplicate so easily in later attempts.  It took many attempts but finally our littlest cub (who seemed to have a knack – he did it several times) managed to light his tinder in just about 30 seconds.

Capture the Flag

We had a game of capture the flag.  In my days we played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, or war.  For these guys it was capture the flag.  Lovely diversion, this.

Camp Chairs

We like to get them to do a craft that is something useful that they can take pride in and reuse for a long time, so we had them build folding camp chairs. All the wood was precut, but they had to hammer, screw, hammer, sand, hammer, sand, sand, and sand.  They used the chairs for the campfire and for the chapel service.

Survival Shelters

The next thing we did was a segment on building survival shelters.  Now, there was a bit of an unofficial Star Wars theme going on at the camp.  So instead of a survival shelter it became the building of their ewok home.  They were building a fort, using an old fallen log, sticks propped up against it, and ferns to thatch it.

Star Wars – Darth Rann

My cub leader name is Rann (Now Rann the kite brings home the night that Mang the bat sets free… Opening stanza of the rhyme the starts the Jungle Book).  I already mentioned the star wars theme that was going on.  Well I was conscripted to join the bad guys, so I did, not as Darth Vader, but as Darth Rann.  I think I mentioned the unofficial Star Wars theme? 

Anyways, partway  through, the good guys had captured some of our people and put them in jail so we attacked them in an effort to get them out.  It seems I got hacked into about 12 pieces, all of which were put into the jail.  Shortly after being put in I discovered a window big enough for the pieces to get out.  This precipitated an epic battle in which the remaining functional piece (head, shoulder and arm with light sabre) had the head lopped off.  After that, I was the Ghost of Darth Rann.

It’s been a while since I played that kind of game with the kids.  It was a lot of fun, even if it did stretch my imagination a bit!

World Domination

A bit later, I was checking out some more fire lighting that was going on near the chapel.  While I was ready to film it, I noticed an interesting thing going on with another group of cubs near the water.  They were picking out boulders that were sticking out of the water, and naming them as continents, then bombarding them with rocks until they had “captured” them.  Then they would sing O Canada to claim them.  (I caught this on video).  Later they got a bit strange and for Australia, they sang “O Australia”.  I guess they let it keep its name…

And Much More

We had a campfire and they did skits.

We had a chapel service (called a Cub’s Own) the next morning.  There were more Star Wars episodes than Hollywood ever knew had taken place, and generally, a great time was had by all!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trick or Treat, Smelly Feet...

When I was a little boy growing up in Burnaby in the 60s, I was almost never allowed out after dark. There were a few exceptions. In the winter when it got dark after 5, I recall being allowed out to go to Cubs and Scouts, and I was always allowed to walk my dog, Prince. But on the whole, I was only allowed out in controlled situations.

So every halloween it was a treat when I was actually allowed to go out trick-or-treating with my friends. I can't recall when I first started being allowed to do this, but I suspect I was about 9 or 10. We'd put our costumes on, and go around the neighborhood, knocking on doors.

There were two things that we commonly said when the door was opened. Or at least there were two that we were "supposed" to say. We were supposed to say "Trick or Treat" or "Halloween Handouts". I'm not sure where that last one came from but I remember us shouting it. Being boys, we got a bit carried away with this, and somewhere we had a version of "trick or treat" that was a full blown rhyme. It went like this:

"Trick or Treat,
Smelly Feet,
Give us something good to eat!"

It had a melody, too, a common one we used for a lot of rhymes, but I don't know its name.

And "Halloween handouts" became "Halloweenian handouts".

These modified versions I seem to recall we saved for houses where we knew who it was, or sang it giggling and laughing as we walked down the street to the next house.

I do recall one house where an older man insisted that we give him a trick or a riddle before he'd give us a treat, and I vaguely recall giving him a knock-knock joke.

The other thing I recall was fireworks. We never had money for fireworks, but I usually had friends who did. I recall one Halloween, when I was 11, we had someone's jack-o-lantern, and we decided to see if filling it full of firecrackers and setting them off would explode the pumpkin.

Well, myth-busted! I was dissappointed in the lack of explosion, but there were very small bits of pumpkin flying everywhere, and a pretty strong burnt pumpkin smell in the air, and it made a lot of noise as it went off, but no explosion.

I'm sure some of the bigger fireworks would have done the trick, but being 11, we weren't allowed access to these without our parents around.

The candy we got was great. There were no mini candy bars like today. Lots of little candies, but when you got a chocolate bar, it was full sized. One of my favourite candies was the ones called rockets (they were called smarties in the US.) I still like them, because they have a strong tangy flavour.

My parents always went through my bag to make sure that everything was in order and looked OK. I don't know how real it was, but there were always stories of apples with razors in them, and other nasty surprises.

We never had a lot of money for costumes, but we always took the time to put something together that would clearly demonstrate that we had some imagination and put some effort into it.

Then, when that one special night was over, it was back to early bed times, and no roaming at night.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Music and Memories

Isn't it interesting how a song can pull back memories? I find this is especially true of those songs that I really enjoyed, and listened to while doing something fun, and then they dropped from the top 40, so you don't hear them often. Then one day, you hear one of them, and wham! The memories come back! Smells, feelings, emotions, sensations that you had forgotten: They all come flooding back!

Here are some of the songs that do it for me:

Beatles - Almost anything early:
One of the first days at school in grade one, I went home with a new friend, Steve, and he put on some Beatles records and started playing them. Once I got over the fact that his parents let him even touch the cabinet stereo, I found that I really liked those Beatles songs. Eleanor Rigby, Taxman, and so many others. Whenever I hear the old Beatles songs, they bring me back to Steve and I enjoying the Beatles.

Monkeys - Last Train to Clarksville:
I was a 7-year-old boy when the monkeys came out on TV, and I loved them! The first episode that I watched, they played this song. I had never seen anything like a music video, so to see them playing their instruments, and hearing those electric guitar sounds, I fell in love with them. It didn't hurt that they had great humour targeted to pre-teens like me. Hearing this song always reminds me why I loved electric guitars so much!

Beatles - Hey Jude:
At about 9 or 10 years old, my best friend Steve and I formed a "rock band". I had my mother's $10.50 American General Supply guitar (like a dollar store special), and Steve had a guitar that he played "lead" on. I made maracas out of two meat pie tins, pidgeon feed and staples for Steve's little brother, and one of our friends had a drum set. At one point I seem to recall having about 8 or 9 of us singing together. One of the songs we did that we thought we were pretty good at, was Hey Jude. Hearing this song reminds me of how much fun it was to play music with friends who love music! Actually, there is a version done by a group from Europe called "Kids will Rock You" that really clicked (because of the kids voices - it somehow really brought it back to me!)

Neil Diamond - Shilo:
I think I primarily liked this song because of the first line, "Young child with dreams..." It seemed like the singer was missing being a child (and I was, for the most part enjoying it so much) that I felt sorry for him. It didn't hurt that he had a great voice and could project emotion with it. I loved this song. When I hear it, I can remember exactly that wistful feeling that it brought when I was little.

Joni Mitchel - Both Sides Now:
This one was in the same category as Shilo. It really works for me, and when occasionally I hear it, it takes me back to being little.

Badfinger- No Matter What:
A couple of years ago, I think it was Jack FM that played this song. I'd almost forgotten it. When I was little growing up, I often didn't pay attention to who the artists were, I just loved the songs. This was one of those bands that snuck past my radar, but I knew all their songs and loved them. The moment I heard it, WHAM! I was an 11 year old in swim shorts, at Lobbly Park, playing in the wading pool with some friends, trying to avoid the scary teenagers, but enjoying their transister radios pumping out Badfinger!

Jefferson Starship - Miracles:
I really loved this song when I was a teenager in Mission, BC. One night I was camping with two Mission Scouts at Weatherhead creek in Davis Lake Provincial Park behind Mission, and we had a little transister radio. We were lying in our sleeping bags on ground sheets with just fly sheets over us. There was a light rain coming down, and the creek about 50 feet below us rushing loudly along. We were chatting and listening to the local rock station and they played this song. Now, on the odd occasion that I hear this, I'll recall the smell of mosquito repellant, sweat and wood smoke. I recall the feel of the damp mountain breeze blowing over my face. The sounds of the mountain and the creek, and the feel of freedom that hiking and camping whereever I chose brought me.

The Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight:
This is another case where I had to look up who wrote the song. My best memory that this song brings back is a Mission Scouts Family Camp that was held at Golden Ears Park Campsite. We were at the campfire with all my friends, Chris & Joan, Gordon and so many others. We decided to try to sing this song with all the after time. I was playing my guitar with it while we got all kinds of aftertime going. We had a good group who could sing and it just came together really well. I think we sang it for about 10 minutes! That was one of my favourite campfires! This version of the song takes me back there every time!

Don McLean - Amercan Pie:
This song was one of our favourites for campfire. We did the shortened for-radio version of the lyrics. It was my friend Gordon's favourite song. When I hear this song, it brings back memories of many campfires, including the one mentioned above. I like Madonna's version, too, but somehow Don McLeans' original feels like the best, to me!

McCartney & Wings - Venus and Mars:
Actually, just about every song on the album with this name has the same effect on me. My sister bought me this album for Christmas when I was 16. In addition to really liking several of the songs, including the title song, I loved the zany lyrics. Magneto and Titanium Man worked for me, as did Spirits of Ancient Egypt. And several of the songs had that driving rock and roll sound, and great guitar parts that just worked for me!

Al Stewart - Year of the Cat:
This song reminds me of my time going to BCIT in Burnaby. I was living with my brother and going through some interesting self-discovery (not exactly thrilled with all I was discovering at that point). But there were also lots of good things happening in my life, and this song seems to just bring back those good things, and leave the bad ones in the dust. That works for me.

So that's my list of top songs for bringing back memories. I probably like other songs more, but these have a nostalgic aspect to them that is pleasant to experience. They seem to be best enjoyed from time-to-time. If you hear them too frequently they stop bring back the memories and become too current. I like to trigger those memories, so I'll just keep them in the back cupboard, and bring them out from time to time, so they keep their edge!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Crazy 14 Year Old Does Marathon Bike Ride

When I was 12 years old, my family moved from Burnaby (a suburb adjacent to Vancouver) to Mission, BC, which is way up the Fraser valley from Vancouver (about an hour drive away.)

I had to leave all my friends behind and because it was long distance, I couldn't even phone them. I did write a couple of letters, but it just wasn't the same.

After two years in Mission, I remember one day when I was 14, deciding that I would ride my bike to Burnaby and visit my best friend Steve Jensen.

It wasn't a snap decision, actually. Mission is built on the side of the valley. I lived on Cedar Valley Street, and it was quite a hill. Ride anywhere in Mission on a bike and you either walked the bike or got strong legs.

I had strong legs and knew it. So I figured I was up to the ride.

Now, at 14, I was still a bit hesitant about this, but after some agonizing, I finally made up my mind one day that I would do this. I made the decision about 9:30 and headed off down the road. Fortunately, I bumped into my sister with her boyfriend and they asked what I was up to, and I told them. This turned out to be a good thing later on.

So off I went. I probably should have left earlier. I mentioned above that Mission was an hour drive from Vancouver. Well that's by car, on the Lougheed highway. I was on a old, girl's CCM bike that I inherited from my sisters. It was old when they got it, but being an old CCM it was nearly indestructable.

So I rode through Ruskin, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, past the old Essendale, through Port Coquitlam, New Westminster, then up the hill to Rumble and along Rumble to Royal Oak. My friend's house was up there.

I had a few misgivings. I was getting tired as I passed Fraser Mills in Coquitlam, and I knew I still had a ways to go. Also, it was feeling really industrial, and I was getting tired of all the trucks wizzing past, and the wind from them messing with my riding. But I had a quality that stands me in good stead when dealing with difficult software issues. Once I get an idea in my head, I'm nearly impossible to stop! I hate quitting!

The last part was the hill from the river in New Westminster up to Rumble street. That nearly finished me off. I was not one to get off the bike and walk it, but I nearly succumbed on that hill.

When I got to Steve's place I was REALLY LUCKY that he was there. Being 14, and it being long distance, and not being able to get permission beforehand (I kind of knew I wouldn't get it), I didn't have a chance to phone first and clear it with Steve, but there he was!

So, with rubbery legs, I walked up to his front door and rang the doorbell. Actually, I had never been to that house. He had lived on Jubilee street when I last lived in Burnaby, but I had his new address, so I knew where to find him.

His mom and dad were really glad to see me (I think they always liked me - they were really, really sweet people), and his dad actually offered me a glass of wine, which I accepted.

I only spent about an hour, because I knew I had one terrific ride home. Having done the ride one way, I had a pretty good sense of what I was up against. So I told Steve a reluctant goodbye and headed on my way.

Well, the return ride started off nice. I got to go downhill to New Westminster. But once I got to Maple Ridge, things weren't so good. It was 7:00 and the sun was on it's way to the horizon. I hoped my sister would have told my parents where I was so they wouldn't worry too much (she had - phew!) I was still only in Maple Ridge with lots of hills to do, and I was spent!

I stopped at a service station and asked permission to leave my bike there for a few days, which they granted. Then I walked onto the highway and stuck my 14-year-old thumb out. Now, this was a lot less unusual back then. Plenty of kids would thumb a ride. Good kids like me less often, but I kind of needed to get home. I was pretty seriously worried about what my parents would do to me, and so with that nervous nawing in my middle, I stuck out my thumb and hoped for a good ride.

After a few minutes, this young guy with a pickup truck stopped and picked me up. As we drove I told him what I'd done. As soon as he heard about my bike, he turned around and went back for it. He drove me right to my house, which I'm sure was out of his way, and dropped me off with my bike.

I kind of neglected to tell them about the hitch-hiking, but my parents declared me grounded anyways (but they didn't really follow through with it - I wasn't usually one to misbehave).

And that's the story of my marathon bike ride from Mission to Burnaby and back, to see my best friend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How I Made the Dog My Pet

When I was very little, our family got a dog.

This wasn't our first pet, or even the first one I remember, as we had a cat called Blacky. Like most little children I loved the pets, and loved to take care of them. I'm told, when I was 2 years old, that they let me feed the cat one time. I scooped her food out of the tin can with a big spoon, then being taught not to waste good food, I licked the spoon off! But I digress...

The dog we got was a Cocker Spaniel, named Prince. He was coal black, and he slept next to the coal bin in our basement. I can vaguely recall when we got him, and I do recall that when we moved across the street from the old Jubilee station house that we called the "old brown house" to the big "mansion" rental house across from it, that we had him then, too. I had to sleep in a room in the basement, and being 6 and 7 years younger than my two older brothers (I was about 4 at that time) I had to go to bed a long time before them. The first few nights in that basement were very scary stuff. There were strange sounds, and no one around to call for help. But there was Prince. I could call him, and I'd hear his collar with the tag jangle, so that comforted me.

Being so much younger than my brothers, I was still only about 9 years old when my older brother went to University. He skipped two grades so he was at UBC when he was just 16 years old. At first he lived with us and was picked up by friends, but then, he moved out of the house and in with some of his friends. I don't remember all the details but I know he wasn't there to take care of Prince.

Now, many parents don't like to get pets because at first, the child is all excited about taking care of the critter, but then it becomes old hat, and if the parents aren't disciplined, pretty soon they are the primary caregivers. Even if they are disciplined, the thought of having to constantly harp on a child to care for a pet is not on most parents list of favourite things to do. I was the perfect counter-example to that.

When I realized that Antoon wasn't around to take care of Prince, I got this idea in my head. I figured if I fed, and walked, and played with Prince, eventually I could claim that because I cared for him, he should be mine. So I quickly volunteered to feed him and walk him. Except when I was deathly ill, I always did my duties faithfully.

The funny thing is, I never had to make it a point of declaring him mine or convincing anyone else. By caring for him, he *was* mine, and he knew it and I knew it, and no one could take it from us! Even my family in short order took to referring to Prince as my dog.

When I would walk him, we always left through the big, old basement door. I had a key for it, so I'd lock it behind me, and we'd go for a jaunt. Then, when we got back, I'd let him in, take him off the leash, and then I'd head for the stairs. The stairs to the upstairs part of the house had this really neat curve in it. My friends always got a kick out of my basement because it felt a bit like a castle with a curving stairway, old beams and oak doors, and a big coal furnace. Anyways, I would get on the top curved step, then call Prince. He'd run up and stop two steps above me. Then I'd pat my chest and he'd get up on his hind legs and put his front legs on my chest and I'd pet him, eye-to-eye, and tell him how much I loved him. That was our little ritual that we always did.

I don't seem to have any good pictures of him, but here is a poor one. He's the black lump resting in the right hand side of the picture. I'm the little boy in shorts and I'm standing behind my dad who is about to throw a ball to my sister.

What I learned from this is, if you love something and care for it, it's yours, whether anyone else realizes it or not. And if you care for it long enough, everyone else will know it, too.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Affinity for Train Stations

I have always loved trains. My earliest recollections are of trains.

When I was about to be born, my mother went into Vancouver General Hospital, and while she was there, the family apparently moved from a house in Vancouver, to a new one in Burnaby. The house we moved to was actually the former BC Electric Railway Jubilee station on the Central Park Interurban line. The link below shows one of the old BC Electric trams at the Jubilee station. I couldn't find an old picture that actually showed the station house itself.

Here is a picture of me (the littlest one) in front of the old station house.

And another one of me with my two sisters, in the yard.

Some of my earliest memories are of the trains coming through. They never moved very fast, when coming through this area, but I still remember the feel of them, so big, impressive and powerful. Rumbling their deep, deisel-electric rumble. I've always found trains so comforting, like a lullabye.

When I was just four years old, our family moved across the street into a house that had a perfect view of the old station house. I think we moved because the building was condemned. I have recollections of buckets catching the rain leaking through the roof when I was still living there.

I still remember watching as my dad and his big friends carried the furniture and other belongings across the street for the move. Shortly after the move the station was torn down. We stayed at the house across the street until we moved to Mission, when I was twelve.

From that house I continued to see and hear the trains coming past. I'd kneel on the couch in the front room and watch them come by. I always loved to watch the trains. I have recollections of walking on the rails, balanced on them. I recall how the hot metal felt on bare feet, and how the hot tyes, with their creosote felt, too. My friends and I would ride our bikes along the right-of-way next to the tracks as a shortcut. You'd think that would be the end of my train experiences, but no, they continued beyond that.

I remember when I was 18, moving from Maple Ridge to some cabins in Albion near the Albion Fort Langley ferry. These were called the Albion Cabins, and were managed by a gentleman named Carlos Hovi (I may have the spelling wrong, but that's roughly his name.) I worked at a spindle factory at the far end of river road, just outside of Haney. To get there, I walked down a trail through a ravine to the tracks and then along the tracks till they came to the east end of river road. Then I'd walk all the way down river road past the ferry terminal. Every morning at least one freight train would come by, and I'd stand at the side of the tracks, just a few feet away, as a fully loaded freight train would race past at about 60MPH. This was a good way to wake yourself up first thing!

Some time later I was visiting an older friend in Mission, named Chris Desjardins. He had been a scoutmaster in Mission, when I had been a junior leader (read: annoying teenager). I was visiting him with another friend of mine, when he got a call from his brother Clive. Clive had taken out a lease on the Matsqui Canadian National Railway Train Station with a friend of his sharing the rent. He had an old Dodge Fargo truck that he wanted to repair. He was trying to hand push it and jockey it into the workshop attached to the train station, but he pushed it too far back and the back wheels went off the platform. The back of the truck was across the tracks and he didn't know when the next train was coming!

We hopped in our cars and raced across the Mission bridge to the train station. We both blew the speed limit right out, but I took it a little easier, so Chris got there first. When I got there with my friend, they had 3 people on the tracks behind the truck. They had jacked the truck up as far as they could go, but it was still about 4 inches shy of getting back on the platform.

Now a 1950's Dodge Fargo was not a modern, fiberglass, crumples-if-you-hit-something affair. Modern cars and trucks are designed to crumple in an accident, so they absorb the shock instead of your body. I think the idea behind the Fargo was, if you hit something, you went through it without noticing it. The thing was solid steel and weighed a ton!

We joined in, and for a good 5 minutes we struggled mightily, getting about an inch shy of putting the truck onto the platform, but it just wouldn't do the last bit. Then, in the distance, we heard the train whistle, as a freight came around the north end of the Sumas mountain range. We knew we had about 2 minutes. Suddenly the adrenaline kicked in, and with a mighty push, the truck went up on the platform!

We pushed it into the workshop and were just about to close the doors when the freight arrived, roaring past at 60 MPH!

We had a bit of a chat, and I found out that they were looking for another person to split the rent. The lease was for $150.00/month. CN provided toilet paper, cleaning supplies, heat, electricity and light bulbs. Clive was responsible for keeping the waiting room clean (they had about 1 passenger stop per week), making sure all the lights on the platform were going, and keeping the outhouses clean with toilet paper. I decided to take Clive up on it. With 3 of us renting, the rent was $50.00/month each, heat and light included! That was a pretty hard deal to beat, so I moved in. We divided up the duties, and I wound up cleaning the waiting room out once a week. I would have done it more if it needed it, but almost no one ever came through there.

Here is a picture of the station as it looked just before it was torn down. Loretta took this picture of me in front of it.

Here is an artist's sketch of it from happier times. I bought this card from Dianna Ponting many years ago.

Now it is still a stop, but it's just a sign indicating a stop.

Picture of Sign for Matsqui Train Stop.

They were working on a room for me, but it wasn't ready yet, so I spent the first week or so in the ticket office in the front of the station. As you can see from the picture above, the ticket office sticks out onto the platform, and has tall slit windows that face up and down the tracks. The other tenant, Dan, was in the already finished room that faced the tracks. He would wake up with every train that went by, while I typically slept through them, only hearing the ones that went by when I was awake, or half-awake.

When a freight went by a full speed, the house shook so hard, that you couldn't see your reflection in a mirror. All you could see was a blur. Conversations were briefly impossible at anything less than a yell.

While I was still using the ticket office as a room, I had the 12-year-old son of a friend over for a sleepover in the ticket office. At about 5:00 a.m. a freight train came past. As it got nearer and nearer, its headlights shone in through the ticket office's tall windows. The boy lay in his sleeping bag, irrationally convinced that this roaring behemoth was actually going to go right through the ticket office. He told me later that morning that he nearly wet his sleeping bag with fright! (He really enjoyed the experience - a bit like the thrill of a roller coaster ride!)

In September, when the weather cooled off, we discovered one of the downsides to that station house. It had no insulation, and its windows were not well sealed. The heater ran non-stop. Now CN paid for heat so the cost wasn't a problem, but the house temperature dropped to 65 fahrenheit (18 celcius), and it wasn't even that cold outside yet. For reasons of work, I moved back to Albion again, sad to leave the train station, but realizing that from a temperature point-of-view it probably didn't make sense to stay there and freeze as winter came on.

I'm glad we got our picture of the train station before it was torn down. I also have an artist's drawing of the train station that I purchased.

For our 25th wedding anniversary (and Matthew's grad year), we took at trip for 3 1/2 weeks to Europe and the UK. We travelled the whole time on Eurail and Britrail, and really enjoyed the experience.

Yes, I've always loved trains, and I still do!

(Special thanks to and for their excellent libraries of photos.)
Also to Dianna Ponting who did such a nice sketch of the station when it still looked nice.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day - 1967 Centenial Celebration

This morning on News 1130, as part of a Canada Day segment, they played a song that I had not heard in a looooong time! It was that song from the 1967 Centenial celebration.

Wow did it bring back some memories! I dug around on YouTube and found a great clip of the song, with lots of pictures. I remember that maple leaf made of triangles all over the place (even have it on my Scouting campfire blanket!)

I was 7 turning 8 when I first heard that song, and I remember that it felt like the most glorious, happy, optimistic song. That was a very special year for me (I'll blog about that, some time.) I loved the feeling of celebration that the song presented, and the fact that the main singers were children like me!

Here's a picture of me about that time (I'm on my dad's lap on the left):

It felt like a wonderful, optimistic world, despite that so-called experts were telling us that we'd all be wearing gas masks from pollution and starving from overpopulation in less than 20 years. Funny how children will latch onto the positive and the optimistic, and strive to make that vision a reality. Also funny how grumpy old scientists with an urgent desire to get funding for their pet project will blow a problem out of proportion...

As someone who works with children as a volunteer, I can say that the ones I know seem for the most part to share that same bright, happy, optimistic outlook. I have no doubt that they will find ways to fix the problems that will confront them in the years ahead, even as my generation managed to avoid the gas masks and global starvation.

We live in the best country in the world! Here on the wet coast (or is that WEST coast?) we live in the best region of the best country in the world!

Happy Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Miles for Millions Adventure

When I was a boy, there was a fundraiser for third world nations, called the Miles for Millions walk. I believe it was around for several years before the year that I walked it, but I do know that I was ten years old when this adventure happened.

The schools had encouraged everyone to get pledges and raise some money, so I had gone around and got a few pledges (I don't think I had very many, but I was determined to do my bit.)

On the day that the walk was to happen, my father dropped me off at the starting point. I was a Cub Scout and had gone on numerous hikes, so I already had a day pack and a canteen (real army issue), a rain coat (it was a normal, overcast, Vancouver day, I think in May.) I got my checkpoint card, and someone saftey pinned it to my pack strap so I wouldn't lose it, and I started out walking with a large group.

Now there was a big group of people all walking together, and I was in the middle of it, but I really didn't know anyone, so I walked quietly, by myself, in this big group. I was comfortable with the large group and enjoying the independance. As I reached each checkpoint, I would stop and get them to check off my checkpoint card.

It was somewhere about the middle of the walk, I remember being about the middle of the checkpoints, and they had one in a fairly large park. As I was walking up to it, I looked at my pack strap where my checkpoint card should have been, and it wasn't there!

I was devastated! I stood there for several minutes, trying to figure out what I could do. It never occurred to me to walk up to the checkpoint and tell the adults my problem. Looking back now, if a crestfallen ten-year-old had turned up at my checkpoint having lost his card, clearly having hiked that far, with pack and raingear, I would have found a way to get him on his way, but I was convinced that this was the end of the walk, unless I could find my checkpoint card with all it's previously marked off checkpoints.

So I started retracing my steps. I walked back quite a ways, looking for my card, and then realized that there weren't very many people anymore, so I realized I'd have to continue, if only to meet my parents at the end point.

I returned to the park, still looking for my card. I actually found someone else's card, but it had their name on it, so it was no good for me, and I left it.

I didn't bother going to the checkpoint. But now I had another problem. There were so few people walking, I was a bit anxious to not get left too far behind. Again, it never occurred to me to talk to any adults. My wife tells me that I'm too independent, and I guess I was, even then, as a ten year old. I saw a couple with rain ponchos on, clearly walking the walkathon, so I followed them.

After about 8 blocks, they turned into an apartment, and I realized that I was in big trouble. My frustration at losing my checkpoint card was now being superceded by an unpleasant, anxiousness in my tummy. I was now on King Edward (25th) street, and I knew what parts of it looked like but wasn't really sure where I was. I walked another block or two, and saw a familiar sight. It was Helen's Grill at Main and 25th, which is still there. As soon as I saw it, I knew where I was.

I had brought a dime with me, and had it in my pocket. Now, back then, a child's fare on Vancouver buses for one zone was ten cents, so I had enough to get to somewhere on Boundary road. I figured from there, I could walk to my home in the Jubilee neigborhood of Burnaby (behind where Metrotown and Sears are now - it was Simpson Sears, back then.) Now it was also the amount you needed to use a phone booth, but phone booths were pretty notorious for eating dimes, and since no one had answering machines or cell phones, there was a good chance that I would lose the dime and then really not have a way out. Again, it never occured to me that I should walk into a store and tell them I had a problem. I'm sure that I could have used a store's phone to call home. Most people would have helped out a stranded little boy, but that never occurred to me.

Anyways, I decided that I would wait for a bus and ask the driver what bus I could take that would get me close to Central Park so I could walk home.

Having come up with a plan, I was feeling a bit less anxious. I don't recall coming too close to tears at all this disappointment and trouble, but I suspect if I'd had a sympathetic listener at one or two of the worst moments I might have dissolved into a puddle. Anyways, I was alone and had to get myself out of this, like a good, resourceful Scout, so I stood there waiting for a bus to come, at the back of the line of people, so I wouldn't block them while I asked the driver for directions.

A few minutes later, the bus pulled up, and several people climbed down off the bus. One of them was an oriental man, who walked up to me, handed me an all-day pass and said "Here, you can use this, I'm done with it." I don't know if it was legal for him to pass that off to me, but at the time I was so relieved that I think I half squeaked my "Thank you" to him! I sometimes wonder if he was an angel, sent to rescue me. Whoever he was, he solved a serious problem for me, and I instantly changed my question for the bus driver. It was now "What bus will get me to Jubilee in Burnaby?"

The driver told me that I could get there on his bus, with a transfer, so I climbed aboard and sat down. Now, the only available seats were all next to occupied ones, so I picked a younger adult man whose face I liked and sat beside him. He probably noticed my gear and asked me what I was doing. Before I knew it, I'd poured out my whole unhappy story to him. I can't remember his name, but he told me he was a scientist, and was just off work, and that if I stayed with him, he'd get me to my home. OK, that was angel number 2. Looking back I have my doubts that his route really took him past Jubilee station. I think he said that just to help me out.

I don't recall what all we talked about, but we chatted all the way. Despite all the talking, it felt like one of the longest bus trips I had ever taken. It was now well past the point where my parents should have been picking me up, and I knew that they were going to be frantic with worry.

The scientist made sure I switched busses at the loops and got on the right ones, all the time insisting that he was going my way, although I had this nagging, but grateful feeling that he was doing this to make sure I got home safely.

Finally the bus pulled up at the stop nearest my house. I thanked the young scientist who had helped me, and climbed off the bus, waving at him as it pulled away. Then I walked to my house.

When I unlocked the door and walked in, my brother Wim was there, looking really concerned. He told me that the rest of the family was driving around looking for me, and they had the police looking, too. He had stayed home in case I showed up or phoned. He called the police to let them know I had showed up on my own, and they found my parents and told them I had been located.

When my family all arrived, I had to tell the story to them. I was told next time to find a grownup and explain my problem. In fact, I was told I should have gone to the people at the checkpoint and they would have taken care of me. I discovered in a very real way that God sent angels to take care of little boys, and that those angels were disguised, or perhaps just were, ordinary people. And I discovered that my family were really seriously worried about me, and actually loved me. I guess I knew that all along, but my brother actually looked stressed when I walked in the door. It was kind of nice to know that you'd be missed if something happened to you.

And that is the story of my Miles for Millions adventure!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My First Orange Crush - Five Cents

As I ride Vancouver's skytrain through Burnaby to my office in New Westminster, I pass by the Jubilee neighborhood that I used to live in. Sometimes just seeing the place brings back memories, although so much has changed. I only need a few cues to bring back the memories.

One of the cues is a small building that used to be a corner store with a house attached, but now is a computer place. I have a particularly poignant memory about that place.

I was just seven when this happened. It was a very hot summer day, and I was playing in the back lane in just my shorts. The lane now is paved with blacktop, but then it was a gravel lane, that got a fresh layer of tar every few years. On a hot day, the tar absorbed more of the sun's heat and made the middle of the lane unbearably hot for a child's little bare feet, so I was inclined to walk along the edge. The edge of the lane had less tar, always seemed to be cooler, had patches of grass you could step on to let your little feet cool, and it seemed to have a less even distribution of rocks, so there were more patches of just dust that weren't as hard on little feet. If you could find a thick patch of dust that hadn't already been stomped, the dust was fun to plop your feet on and feel it gush out between your bare toes. I guess we got a lot of tar on our bare feet in the summer!

Somehow, while playing, I spotted a nickel on the ground. Now a nickel today is not a lot of money, but back then, a nickel, for a seven year old, was a serious haul. I was standing there, with the sweat trickling down my little bare back and tummy, standing on a tuft of grass so my bare feet wouldn't burn, feeling the hot sun baking my bare skin, and I realized that this nickel would buy me a pop.

At seven years old I had never gone alone into a store, without either family or friends, and bought anything, but being a very independent little boy, I decided it was time I did so. I hadn't ever been told I couldn't. So I walked down the lane towards the corner store. Our lane ran behind the house, parallel with Imperial St., and to the East where I was walking, ran into Jubilee St. I made my way down the lane, walking on the concrete parking lot of the Laundromat at the end (King Coin Laundromat - still there, too!) I crossed the street, stepping gingerly over the rocks on the side of the road.

I hesitated a bit outside the store, screwed up my courage to overcome the slight squirming sensation of nervousness in my tummy at doing something new by myself, and, with the nickel clutched firmly in my sweaty little hand, I stepped onto the wooden step, opened the door and stepped in. I clearly recall the feel of the step on my feet, rough wood, hot with the baking sun. They didn't have air conditioning, so it was fairly warm and a bit stuffy inside, but they had a fan and the old linoleum floor inside the store felt cool to my little bare feet, after the hot gravel and pavement.

There was an older lady at the till, wearing glasses (I suspect she was a lot younger than my recollection, but at 7, anyone older than 25 felt ancient), and she smiled at me, so I smiled back. Her smile ended the nervousness in my tummy, so I walked up to the soda cooler, which was right next to the counter, and pulled it open. It was one that had a lid on top that you had to lift out of the way. I believe that there was a little step-stool there, so little ones like me could reach in more easily. I leaned in, my bare tummy right against the cold edge of the cooler. It felt delightfully cold on my bare skin! Then I had to choose.

There were lots of different flavours, but the one that jumped out at me was the Orange Crush. I had never had one and the thought of something orange-flavoured and cold and fizzy on a hot day appealed to me, so I grabbed an Orange Crush and closed the lid of the cooler. I handed it to the lady and asked her to please open it for me. I gave her the nickel and told her I would drink it there. It would have cost 1 cent more for deposit if I wanted to leave the store with it, but if you were willing to drink it there, it cost only the nickel. The lady opened the bottle for me, and handed it back, still smiling (I was probably a very cute intrusion into a quiet, boring day for her.)

I tilted the pop back and began to drink. I had never had an Orange Crush before, so I was delighted with the explosion of tangy, fizzy, cold, sweet flavour in my mouth. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes and drank. As I gulped the first mouthful down, I felt its coldness going down inside me. I felt the coldness from about the bottom of my breastbone down to the middle of my tummy, where it spread through the middle of me. At the same time, I clearly recall feeling a bead of sweat running down the outside of my tummy, cooling and drying in the breeze of the fan. I would take a mouthful of pop, swirling it around in my mouth to get the most of the cold, fizzy, tangy-sweet flavour, then gulping it, feeling it going down cold to my tummy, with my head tilted back and my eyes closed. I had to pause once or twice to catch a breath of air. It tasted so good I was neglecting to breathe while drinking it. Finally, much too quickly, it was gone. With a big breath that was half sigh, I handed the bottle back to the lady, smiled, said "Thank you!", and wiped my mouth with my hand. Then I turned and left the store.

I don't recall anything else I did that day, but that little episode has stayed with me over the years. Orange Crush is still one of my favourite drinks. Now, when I ride past that corner store on the skytrain, the memory of that day comes back to me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our Olympic Moment

It's a little after the fact (I've been really busy with work) but I thought I'd post a quick video of my Willingdon Church small group's gathering to see Canada take the Olympic gold medal for men's hockey.

We wound up with a spontaneous "Oh Canada!"

Go Canada Go!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One Day Tour of Free Vancouver 2010 Olympic Sites

I took yesterday off to take in some of the free Olympic venues, and while explaining what I did and what my recommendations were, I was asked to put it in an email, so I thought I'd blog it instead, and email the link.

Someone gave us a tip, and the first thing we did was arrive 1/2 hour before the Mint opened. The Mint Pavilion is at 500 Granville Street (at Pender). You want to line up at least a half hour before, as it still took us 2 hours to see the medals. You can just walk in, but you won't see the medals. If you line up, they give you a hand-stamp and you get in a line. While you are in there, have someone hold you place in line and send someone else with a bunch of quarters. There are a couple of stations where you can line up to get a coin holder and exchange regular quarters for Olympic ones.

You will get a white glove which you must use to hold the coins. You cannot hold them in any way that looks like you are wearing them or awarded them, but you can get your picture taken with them.

When you are done, you can go into another section, hold a gold ingot and see a 1 million dollar gold coin. There's also an interactive kid's section, but it was not open when we were there.

This is well worth the visit.

Then we went around the corner on Pender and walked to Northern Canada House. There was no line and it would have been worth a line! They had interesting crafts, a place to build your own innukshuk (and lots of explanations about what the different types are and what they meant), draws for prizes, you can make an interactive video of yourself overlaid on Northern Canadian landscapes, they even had games that involved drums that they demonstrated, then brought the kids up to play them (and the drums.) We had heard this was the best venue and I would agree from what I saw.

Then we had lunch and crossed over to see the Russian tall ship. If you've never been on one, then maybe the $18.00/person admission would be worth it. Having been on the Pacific Swift when Matthew was in Grade 7, I skipped it.

Next, we went to the Post Office on Georgia Street. They have Olympic stamps. We recommend that you bring some sheets of paper, or a notebook for your kids to stamp these on. There is one for each event, and one for the mascots, so there are a ton of them. They did a commemorative day-of-issue stamp for Bolideau's first-ever gold medal on Canadian soil. They also have an athlete signing autographs every day, I beleive at 2:30 pm.

Next we went to the Live Entertainment site across from Canada Hockey Place (GM Place for locals.) The one disappointment here was that there were no seats for us, and we both needed to sit for a bit. The Canadian Pavilion, which was inside here had a line where you could pose with a torch with a glacier as the background and they'd take your picture with your camera. They also had a game where you tried to score a virtual goal in hockey. You could also get your picture taken with a fake bobsled. And they have interactive table-top multi-touch screens with games for kids and adults alike.

This venue also had the Saskatchewan house which was easy to get into and quite well done. While you're there, take a quick wander through it, just because you can.

Then, because there was no place to sit and it was getting colder, we went home to watch the Canada vs. Norway hockey game.

Later, we went back downtown, first to see the cauldron, then we walked through Robson Square. The buzz there after a hockey win is something you have to feel. Next we went to Granville Island. One of the best venues there is Atlantic Canada House. Be prepared for a long line, but they have seafood that you can sample and amazing entertainment.

So that's what we did. There is more, but we ran out of time. That was one long, exciting day at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Visiting Vancouver 2010 Olympic Venues

We checked out some of Vancouver’s Olympic venues and sights, and I’ve got two videos from it.

Just around noon today we decided to take transit downtown. We got out and ate at a food fair. We sat next to some Swiss people. The city feels like the Tower of Babel with all the languages.

Then we signed the electronic guestbook, and walked to see the Olympic Cauldron that Wayne Gretsky lit last night at the end of the opening ceremonies.

Next we were going to take a train up to the art gallery, which has free admission during the Olympics, but the train had what looked like more than an hour lineup, so we walked instead (about 10-15 minutes.) There we discovered that there was a several hour long lineup to get into the art gallery (we were worried this would happen). But while we were there, I took the first video.

This an arial tramway that runs from our court house building to our art gallery building across Robson Street. It’s probably one of the better advertized free things you can do, but they have lineups of over 5 hours to get on it. It looks pretty hair-raising.

So then we decided to walk up to another venue, called the Live Site, but it had a huge lineup as well, so we were walking along a stretch of inlet called False Creek (there’s a story behind that name, too) and saw a ferry dock for a small ferry that navigates that inlet, so we took it to Granville Island. Another video:

Our son works at Granville Island in a cheese shop and he actually had the 9-5 shift, but took off early, so we arrived at 4:45 but he was already gone. I checked out another venue that had East Coast Canadian Celtic music, but it had another 4-hour long lineup, so I gave up on it too.

My take-away from all this is, the venues are too hard to do, but the buzz in downtown Vancouver is amazing. Really enjoying all these people we’re meeting.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Born and Raised in BC

So, having created a blog for my fascination and obsession with software, and another for my faith in God, I thought it was time to create one that I could use just to celebrate this wonderful place that I live in, called British Columbia. For several years I travelled about twice a month, and during that time I saw a lot of places. I enjoyed meeting new people and some of the places were very interesting, but there after all this time, I began to conclude that I really did live in the best place in the world!

I was born in Vancouver General hospital, as our family was moving from Vancouver to Burnaby. When my mother returned home with me, we were living in the old BC Electric Jubilee Train station. When I was 4, we moved across the street into a big old house at 4736 Imperial Street, Burnaby 1, BC. Yes, you had different postal regions in Burnaby then (it was a big place!) And our phone number was Hemlock 5-7029. Bet you didn't know that the 43 exchange was named Hemlock (all the original exchanges had names.)

We moved to Mission, when I was 12, and at that time you could dial the last 5 digits of any number in the Mission area and you'd get through.

When I reached college age, I moved back to Burnaby and Vancouver and then moved around the lower mainland and Fraser Valley. When I married, for the first several years, Loretta and I lived in New Westminster. Then we moved to Vancouver and have lived in the Collingwood area ever since.

So, you see, my greatest and most momentous experiences all took place in this province!

This is just an introductory post. I have lots of stories of things past, and things present, and sometimes I'll contrast the past and the present. I plan for the future, live in the present, and have great memories of the past!