MG Roadsters in Manning Park

A few days ago Linda and I were traveling to the Coast when we overtook 8 vintage roadsters, mostly MG’s. Immaculate and exuding charisma, they were cruising at a leisurely pace, like touring royalty, nearing Manning Park Lodge. I was intrigued and delighted. We stopped at the Lodge and I hoped they would too. About 10 minutes after we arrived, the roadsters began pulling in.

For me the Lodge isn’t just a pit stop and an opportunity to pick up coffee to go. I’m constantly alert for opportunities to meet people who are doing something unusual or special. This is a marked change in my thinking. In the past, I hurried in and out, rushing too much to notice the possibly fascinating individuals all around.

Austin Healey
Austin Healey

Among the roadsters was one Austin Healey. I was impressed by the mint condition of the vehicles. These were attention capturing character cars, meticulously maintained by doting owners.

Camera in hand, I walked over to a couple sitting in their shiny red MG. From the moment they reached out to shake my hand and introduced themselves as Dave and Barb, I liked them. They had friendly faces and smiled easily. In response to the cool morning air, Barb had donned a hat and wrapped a red plaid blanket around her shoulders. Although they were already set to move on, when I asked if I could snap a few shots they readily agreed. They seemed quite willing to engage in a brief conversation.

Dave's 1953 MG TD
Dave’s 1953 MG TD

It’s a 1953 TD,” Dave said in answer to my question. “I’ve been driving it since I was 8 years old. That was on the farm. It’s very comfortable and a lot of fun to drive.” I gathered that his father had been the first owner and driver and had passed it on to him.

I asked if they are a club and Dave said, “We’re an unclub. There is no formal membership or fee. There are about 32 of us. We were in Osoyoos for a few days. The others are sleeping in.”

He then said, “I met my wife in this car. She needed a ride to the airport to fly home to her boyfriend. I offered to take her there. She never got on the plane. The boyfriend may still be waiting.”

Barb chuckled when I asked Dave if she had been attracted to him or the car. “I’m not sure,” he said smiling, “but I’m keeping the car just in case.”

1948 MG TC
1948 MG TC

We shook hands again and they departed. I then noticed a black MG beginning to pull out of its parking spot. I hurried toward the car and asked if I could get a few pictures before they went. A woman was on the driver’s side. She said “sure.” After getting the pictures, I asked about the year of the car. “It’s a 1948,” she said. The man on the other side added, “it’s a British model.” I didn’t immediately understand the significance of this. These early MG’s were all made in Britain, weren’t they? Then I realized the steering wheel was on what we consider the passenger side. That, of course, is where they are in Britain. Like Dave and Barb’s car, this one appeared to be in flawless condition. I thanked them and they pulled out, the last car in the cavalcade. I waved, sensing a bit of nostalgia.

There is some lack of agreement as to the inception of the MG, but 1924 is a likely year. Until the company was sold to a foreign buyer, the MG roadsters were an esteemed British product. When we saw one, we tended to think of England. Unlike the proud Cadillac or Lexus, both of which are likely to eventually fall victim to a remorseless crusher in a scrap metal yard, an MG roadster becomes more iconic and precious with each passing year. The car exudes personality and the pride that comes from an uncompromising commitment to excellence.

For me the MG is more than a car. It is symbolic of the time when I was a boy and life was simpler. People seemingly understood better the importance of having sound values and maintaining relationships. Sure, I know I’m somewhat romanticizing the car. I may be giving meaning to it that only I understand. Beautiful classic vehicles tend to have that effect on me.

Derek Lilly Discovers Metis Ancestry

Derek Lilly
Derek Lilly

As happens so often, we were sitting at the table in our sun room in Hedley. Derek Lilly was drinking his coffee black and reflecting on his Metis heritage. “The history books don’t tell the whole story about who played significant roles in Canada’s early development,” he said.

Derek was 10 when he came to Hedley with his mom and stepfather. “I looked up at the mountains and felt at home immediately. About a year later the folks decided to move on. I didn’t like their lifestyle so I stayed with my grandparents. They had moved here earlier and were pretty straight people.” His decision to stay was an early demonstration of an ability to make sound choices.

Derek Lilly in front of a house in Hedley, where he lived with his grandparents for a number of years.
Derek Lilly in front of a house in Hedley, where he lived with his grandparents for a number of years.

Although my mom appeared aboriginal, I wasn’t really aware of my Metis heritage at that time. It wasn’t talked about in the family. On my birth certificate I was actually registered as French. They just tried to fit in,” he said.

In grade 10 he dropped out of school and joined the armed forces. After a 4 year stint he returned to Hedley and worked for the One Way Adventure Foundation as a youth counsellor. Here his friendship with a young couple resulted in a spiritual conversion. “This produced a change in how I looked at life,” he said. “I married Noree and not long after we moved to Winnipeg. There I earned a BA in General Studies at Providence University College and Seminary.” Courses such as logic, ethics and philosophy suggest he already had the capacity to mentally wrestle with difficult issues.

In 2004 Derek was hired by the Upper Similkameen Indian Band to run their tourism program. “They were just completing the stairs high up the mountain at the Mascot Mine. I was involved in developing tours. It was during this time that Phillippe, band business manager, encouraged me to check out my Metis heritage. I followed his advice and it changed my life.”

He learned that one of his early grandfathers, John McIver, had come from Scotland. The other, James Lilly, had emigrated from England. Both were probably less than 20 years old. “They worked for the Hudsons Bay Company as fur traders,” he said. “James Lilly’s Day Book is still in the HBC archives in Winnipeg.” Like many European men, they took aboriginal wives and had families. McIver’s first wife was Inuit. When she died, he married a Metis woman.” Unlike some, both McIver and Lilly stayed with their wives and children.

In 1811 the HBC granted a large tract of land to Lord Selkirk. He created the Red River Colony, now Winnipeg, near the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers,” Derek said. “He wanted to provide land for retired fur traders. he lots were long, each with frontage on the Red River. My forebears were among the Metis who received lots.”

The Metis were prosperous farmers for a time, but their lives were not trouble free. Difficulties included an infestation of locusts, drought, the government’s desire to push them out, and the Riel Rebellion. Eventually they sold their lots and dispersed to various locations.

In time, some of the Lilly family made the migration to Hedley. For Derek this was fortuitous because it led him into his Metis past. He needed to rigorously study Aboriginal history and culture to run the Mascot Tours, and then represent the Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C. in their Pavillion at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He also organized tours of Stanley Park for the association’s Klahowya Village.

I asked Derek how his life has been impacted by his Metis heritage. “I never knew my dad,” he said. “What I’ve learned about our history has helped me understand where I came from, who I am, and where I’m going. I also have a better understanding of my mom’s life. Learning about the role of my ancestors in building Canada has given me a greater sense of belonging in this country, a sense of pride.”

Derek with his work truck.
Derek with his work truck.

Derek has contributed to the Hedley community. He was Fire Chief for 18 years and still serves as duty officer one day a week. Currently he is on the Hedley Grace Church Leadership Team. When he retires from his job as an industrial electrician at the pellet plant, he hopes to be more involved in Aboriginal work. The young man who quit school in grade 10 has done a lot to make Metis and Aboriginal people proud.

Former Citizenship Judge Honored

Bill Day expressing deep appreciation for his friends.
Bill Day expressing deep appreciation for his friends.

Although Bill Day lives in Hedley only part-time, some 23 people, primarily citizens of Hedley, gathered last Saturday to honour him on his 83rd birthday. A former college president and citizenship judge, Bill has won the respect of many in the community by participating and contributing wherever he can. Last year he did the sleuthing necessary to locate two WW1 machine guns. He persuaded the owner to loan them to the town for a special commemorative ceremony to pay tribute to the young men who had volunteered for war service.

He is a member of the Hedley Historical Museum Society and when the kitchen needed updating, he gave time to this project. His plumbing experience was a great asset. Bill also worked many hours with Terry Sawiuk restoring Miner’s Cabin at the Museum. When something needs doing, Bill frequently says, “just tell me what you want done and I’ll do it.” Maybe his robust health comes from having an optimistic outlook on life.

Lynn Wells served the birthday cake.
Lynn Wells served the birthday cake.

The party was arranged by Bill’s partner, Lynn Wells. Apparently Bill and Lynn enjoy the company of people making a positive and substantive difference in this community. Virtually every guest present is active in at least one community organization, and, according to Lynn, Bill has worked on one or more projects with each of them this past year.



The atmosphere was upbeat and the cake was delicious.

Grads Can Learn From Pro Athletes

grad symbols
grad symbols

While thinking of students graduating this month, I was reminded of the words of renowned former basketball coach John Wooden of UCLA. He said, “if you’re through learning, you’re through.”

Grads now bursting enthusiastically from the halls of learning have laid a solid foundation for their future. My experience suggests though that most of their important life education still lies ahead. Looking back, I realize that although my BA in political science and sociology opened doors of employment, I still had plenty to learn. I did not yet have the thinking necessary to do important things.

Later, when I was working with adolescents sent to us by a judge, I sometimes asked a particularly obstreperous boy or girl, “do you want to do something important with your life?” Usually the answer was hesitant, but almost invariably it was “yes, I do.” Then I asked “do you know how to do something important?” Without fail, the response was “no, I don’t.”

I began reading the writings of individuals who were highly successful. I wanted to know how their thinking, attitude and actions differed from mine. Although I’d never had the talent, speed or strength to excel in sports, I became intrigued by those who do. I discovered several coaches and athletes who have achieved high levels of success and have written about their philosophy and practices. From them I gleaned concepts and ideas that helped me to more ably answer the “how to” question for myself and also for the youths we worked with.

Coaches and players at the professional level receive remuneration the rest of us can only dream of. They’re also showered with the adulation of adoring (but fickle) fans. They know there is fierce competition for their positions. Coaches can be fired and players traded if they don’t perform at an exceptionally high level.

Rick Pitino, photo by

Rick Pitino, photo by

Rick Pitino has been a winning head coach at the universities of Providence, Louisville and Kentucky. He has also coached the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics in the NBA. He has never slackened his pace of learning. In “Success Is A Choice”, he says “I’m constantly looking for new role models who can teach me new things.” Like other high achieving coaches he believes little things, focusing on fundamentals, plays a determining role in whether a team will win or lose. He was one of the first coaches in the NBA to emphasize the longer 3-point shot. His books outline much of his “how to” thinking.

Tony Dungy in November 2007 as coach of the Colts, photo from Wikipedia
Tony Dungy in November 2007 as coach of the Colts, photo from Wikipedia

When Tony Dungy was hired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the National Football League, he knew the team’s thinking was dominated by a losing culture. They had won only a handful of games the previous season. In “Quiet Strength”, he tells of his first meeting with the team. To change their thinking, he said “what you focus on is what you will become. I want you to think like a champion.”

Dungy then elaborated on this by saying “Be a pro. Be on time. Do what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it. Not almost all the time. Not most of the time. All the time. No excuses. No explanations!” He built the Bucs into a winning team. Then, in 2006 as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he applied the same philosophy and became the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl.

Elite coaches and players study, observe, experiment and risk. In the process they learn to think more creatively. They discover methods that work for them.

Serena and Venus Williams believed their mother when she told them they would become their vision. Even at a young age this thought prodded them to rise early and go to the tennis court with their father before school to practise. Michael Jordan routinely stayed after the team practice and shot baskets. In “Float Like A Butterfly”, Muhammad Ali says “What counts in the ring is what you can do when you’re exhausted. Early in my career I learned to run until I was tired, then run even more. That was when I began to count every mile as extra strength and stamina.”

Muhammad Ali, photo by
Muhammad Ali, photo by

Undoubtedly most Similkameen Valley grads hope to accomplish something significant with their lives. If they commit to continuous learning and focus on worthy goals, they will make their life journey a fulfilling adventure.


A Father’s Challenges & Opportunities



While working with Young Offenders in Hedley, I sometimes said to our staff “the students can close their minds to what we say, but without realizing it, their minds are recording everything we do. It’s as though they have a mental camera running continuously. The images can’t be erased and when the students graduate from our programs, they’ll replay them again and again.” Then I added, “for many of them, we are their only example of how to live productively.”

With Father’s Day approaching, I returned in my own mind to those days. Linda and I had 2 teenage children at that time, and because of my work I felt I had an understanding of how to prevent them from going off the behavioural rails. I was to discover, to my immense chagrin, that I had no magical insights or powers. Quite unexpectedly our 2 beautiful, obedient children began associating with a crowd that embraced partying, smoking drugs and alcohol. Almost over night our previously well ordered lives were thrown into emotional disarray. There were several visits from the police and at times Linda went to bed with tears on her cheeks.

teen in turmoil photo by
teen in turmoil
photo by

Coincidentally, during this period we became acquainted with Herman and Clarissa. Herman had not developed emotional maturity and several times he deserted the family when their teenage daughter and son angered him. In spite of his erratic parenting, he demanded exemplary behaviour from them. Determined to win release from his unreasonable demands, the daughter schemed and in time moved in with a man much older. Not unexpectedly, she was soon pregnant. The son, distraught and bitter, ran away. The family disintegrated and we lost touch with them. I was reminded of Immanuel Kant’s statement, “out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

Adolescence is frequently a time of upheaval and despair, for both parents and children. The future appears uncertain and bleak. Genuine communication becomes almost impossible. Anyone who has gone through the experience, or is even now in the midst of it, knows how humbling and excruciating it can be.

Fearing our teens would spiral out of control, Linda and I began seeking divine intervention. During one particularly unnerving episode, we went for a walk in the rain and came to the understanding that whatever happened, we wanted our children to know they were loved. We wanted them to have a place of sanctuary in their young fragmented lives. A place of respite to which they could run when they got deeper into the mire than they had intended.

We hoped that by assuring them of our love and providing an atmosphere of stability, we could still be influential in their decisions, even if only by example. In The Road to Character, David Brooks contends that “Example is the best teacher. Moral improvement comes most reliably when the heart is warmed through contact with people we admire and love. This consciously or unconsciously bends our lives to mimic theirs.”

Although I felt vulnerable and inadequate when the issues entered our home, I began to understand that for Linda and our children, I needed to retain an inner sense of equilibrium. My words and demeanor must assure them this time would come to an end and whatever was happening, the family connections would again be strong. Our children needed to know we believed in, them loved them and would wait for them to escape the quicksand that threatened to pull them under.

We didn't have this plaque, but agree with the philosophy. Photo from
We didn’t have this plaque, but agree with the philosophy. Photo from

Looking back now, Linda and I realize the difficult experiences actually came with a bonus. The relationship we had with each other deepened and matured. It gave us greater understanding and compassion for parents with challenging adolescents. Also, when our children look back now they recognize that we didn’t give up and our home was always a place of sanctuary when they needed it. They emerged intact from their time of upheaval and now have jobs and families.

When chaos enters a home, it’s a time for adults to be patient, stable, loving and accepting. If we choose to be strong and stay in the game, the percentages are in our favour. This Father’s Day will be an opportune time for us Dads to renew our resolve to be a positive leader and role model in our family and community.


Laila Bird, No Ordinary Life

Laila Bird holding the rhubarb crisp, which she later served us with ice cream
Laila Bird holding the rhubarb crisp, which she later served us with ice cream

Sitting at a small table on Laila Bird’s deck, Linda and I enjoyed her delicious coffee and the panoramic view of the valley. We had come to engage in a conversation about her life, but at the outset she attempted to dissuade us. “I don’t know why you want to write about me,” she said. “I’m really not interesting.” She then produced the names and phone numbers of 3 acquaintances who she assured us “are really interesting.”

I conjured up what I hoped was an engaging smile and asked, “where were you born, Laila?” Evidently convinced we really did want to know about her life, she said, “I was born on a duck farm in England. My maiden name was Laila McKenzie-Muncaster. We had nannies and housekeepers and mother drove a large American car.” Those words launched her into an intriguing, and sometimes amusing account spanning 80 years. Her story was somewhat akin to entering a maze consisting of numerous side paths, some of which she followed and then inexplicably abandoned. We would come to understand that she’s a lady of great resolve who has learned to embrace life, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Her father, an engineer, had a reputation for being knowledgeable about birds. This produced an early memory that is still fixed prominently in her mind. “One day Lady South Hampton asked him to come and advise her concerning her peacocks,” she said. “He took me along and I expected her to be dressed elegantly, like a woman of nobility. I was astonished when she came out of her home wearing torn baggy pants and a sweater held closed by a safety pin.”

Born in 1936 Leila has childhood memories of WW II. “My parents were requisitioned to civilian jobs the government deemed important,” she said. “A machine gun was stationed at the bottom of our garden. The war ruined us.”

As a young woman she got a job in the PR department of the Dutch Embassy and escorted journalists to Holland. Shortly after though, she became annoyed at Britain’s involvement in the 1956 Suez Crisis. “We had just recently dealt with the hardships of war,” she said. “I moved to Canada.”

After several other jobs, she began selling Persian and Oriental rugs for “a man who was very, very lazy. He was an alcoholic and depended on me to take care of the business. He had started it as an auction but I suggested he open a store, so he did. It was a big success.”

In her group of friends was a young man who became keenly interested in her. “He was always around,” she said. “When I left for work in the morning, he was there. When I got home, he was waiting for me.” They got married and started a pig farm in South Langley. “Twenty sows and two boars. We also had goats,” she said. “While I was milking them one day I went into labour. I finished milking, strained the milk and then went into the hospital.”

She recalls the pigs with great fondness. “They had the cutest little babies. Pigs are much like dogs in intelligence and if they’re trained right, they will obey like dogs. They played with soccer balls and toys. They ate a well rounded diet, but not cucumbers.”

A major crisis entered her life when her husband left the family and went to Central America. Responsible for 4 children, Laila needed to be strong. “I had young twins,” she said. “I’d strap one in front, one on my back and go out to move bales of hay and alfalfa.”

Then her life was unexpectedly interrupted by a serious automobile accident that crushed her pelvis. “My heart stopped in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. They got it started, but the doctors told me I’d never walk again. I had 4 children and I disagreed. One day I told a nurse I wanted to use the bathroom. She gave me a walker. Three hours later I got there.” She persevered and today walks with no discernible limp.

Three years ago Laila received treatment for cancer. As president of the Hospital Auxiliary, she can’t take time to feel sorry for herself. “No one wants the job,” she said, “I have to carry on.” On the drive home Linda said, “she hasn’t lived an ordinary life.”

Laila Bird
Laila Bird


Valley Riders in Hedley for Breakfast

The Valley Riders
The Valley Riders

Linda and I were walking to church on Sunday and saw these bikes and riders lined up in front of the Hitching Post Restaurant. Even a novice like myself could see that they’re not Hell’s Angels. Although I didn’t look for it, there likely wasn’t a Harley among them. The two who answered my questions told me they belong to The Valley Riders.

They have about 140 members, most of whom live in the interior of B.C. Places like Kamloops, Vernon, Sicamous, etc. They had reservations here for breakfast and were expecting about 30 members, mostly retirees, to show up. They do breakfast together in a different location once each month. The Hitching Post is popular with them. They come once a year. To accommodate them, the restaurant opened early. Last year 62 riders attended. The place doesn’t normally have tables and chairs for that number. It will have been a challenge for everyone, especially the chefs. The riders are a friendly bunch and I’m sure the staff enjoyed their good humour. Probably a good morning for tips as well. These boys are easy to like. The Valley Riders are welcome back in Hedley any time.