All posts by Art Martens

Our Mentors At Menno Hospital

Menno Hospital Entrance
Menno Hospital Entrance

When Linda and I entered East 1 at Menno Hospital in Abbotsford this past Tuesday, Eagan and his wife Mary pulled up alongside us. Mary was pushing him in his wheelchair.

“Are you going to pray for us?” he asked in his soft voice. It seemed an unusual question, but I said “sure, I’ ll pray for you.” However, in the midst of nurses and care aides chatter, I had not understood him correctly. Linda informed me that he’d asked if I was going to play for them. Although I’m a very basic plunker, I had played piano for them many times during the 6 years my Dad was a resident there.

While I played some of the old tunes like “Red River Valley,” “Home on the Range,” “I’ll Give you a Daisy a Day” and “The Wabash Cannon Ball”, Linda visited with Hazel. Hazel has been in care at Menno for a number of years.

After 20 minutes I switched to hymns. As in the past, 91 year old John Boersma joined us with his pleasant, very robust voice. Linda had advised me beforehand that she did not plan to sing, but I was pleased that she had a change of mind, possibly thinking she couldn’t leave the singing just to John. Many of the residents, all in wheelchairs and most of them white haired, were at their various tables waiting for the green clad kitchen staff to arrive with lunch. Linda told me later that quite a few had been singing or tapping their fingers. John called me to the sound system mike and suggested I ask for God’s blessing on the food. I was happy to do this.

The food had not yet arrived so we visited briefly with as many residents as possible. I stopped at Ilya’s table but couldn’t be certain I knew who she was, even though we had talked many times in the past. Inevitably I had found her asleep in her chair, appearing ready to pass away. This day she was alert, cheerful and smiling. A little later Linda saw her bent over as usual, sleeping, but we’ d had our few minutes together.

A visitor came and said Susie wanted us to come and talk with her. She was in her wheelchair, facing away from us. I noticed that she was observing us in a round mirror she held in both hands. We learned that she is 91 and had come to Canada with her parents from Russia when she was 5. A pleasant lady with a surprisingly young face.

After several other brief visits, we made the trek down the hall to see Mrs. Dosanjh. Mr. Dosanjh was in the room and I greeted him in Punjabi. When we drew near to her bed, we realized that this once vibrant woman with a clear, strong voice no longer recognized us. I looked at Mr. Dosanjh and he lifted his hands in a gesture of sadness and futility.

We left Menno Hospital, once again reminded that it’s a blessing to be able to walk, to live in our own home, and to have each other. We were also again reminded of the solid character of these people. In spite of their circumstances, very few complain. Some voice their thanks to God for the wonderful life they have had. They seem to have decided to squeeze meaning and joy out of whatever days or years they will be given. In their outlook and attitude, they are mentors to us. We feel deeply privileged to know count them as friends.

My Dad’s Guatemalan Summer (part 1 of 2)

Dad didn’t actually go to Guatemala that summer in 1994. It just seemed that way. Although it’s somewhat of a stretch, I could say that Guatemala came to him.

When the Mennonite Central Committee told him about Hugo, a 36 year old man who worked on a hog farm and lived in his car, Dad knew someone had to do something. “Why not me?” he said. “The evenings are long when I’m here by myself. I have a 3 bedroom home, and I’m happy to share it with Hugo.”

Hugo walked in the first evening carrying everything he owned –

The Guatemalan Guest
The Guatemalan Guest

which was pretty much just the clothes he was wearing. Dad had supper waiting and over the meal, they began to talk – only to discover they didn’t understand each other well. Hugo’s English sounded more like a Guatemalan version of Spanish.

During the first couple of weeks they collaborated in developing a simple system of signs and words that enabled them to somewhat communicate. Neither seemed troubled if they weren’t understood. They were like 2 kids who haven’t yet learned they can’t communicate unless they speak the same language.

“Jake, you want?” Hugo would say, holding up his offering.
Sign language was unnecessary when Dad said, “Hugo, you want coffee?” Hugo was well acquainted with that word.

On work days, Hugo got up at 5 a.m. and prepared breakfast for himself and Dad. Often this was a fried egg, unbuttered toast, a spicy green pepper and black coffee. Since Dad had no reason to rise until whenever he awoke, his egg, unbuttered toast and black coffee retained not even the slightest hint of warmth. Only the green pepper was hot. Dad ate all but the pepper and did not complain. “I lived through the Dirty Thirties,” he told us. “My parents taught me to be grateful for whatever was placed on the table”.

At supper time it was Dad’s turn to cook. His specialty was vegetarian soups and pies. Except for his Guatemalan foods, Hugo had a teenager’s palette. He loved greasy foods, especially hamburgers and fries. He always praised Dad lavishly, smiling broadly and saying something like, “good food Jake. I like.” Dad did notice that Hugo didn’t eat much. “I don’t think he cares much for my cooking,” he told us. “He probably stops at McDonald’s on his way home”.

At the beginning of summer, Hugo said one day, “Jake, my mother, my sister. They want come visit Canada 2 weeks. Is alright they stay here?”

Dad knew Hugo’s ties to his family were tenuous. This might be an opportunity for him to mend fences. Two weeks would pass quickly and it would be interesting.

“Yes, Hugo,” he said, “they are welcome in my home.”
The mother and sister soon arrived. They spoke only Spanish, so Hugo needed to interpret everything in his improving, but still very basic English.

The two women considered it their duty to feed the men folk and immediately commandeered the kitchen. Very quickly, the fridge had a stock of food – some of which Dad had never seen before. Tortillas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more. He was surprised and pleased to find a meal, always ready on time.

Reflecting back now, I don’t think Dad ever learned what the mother’s name was. Although we guessed she was very close to his age, when he spoke of her, he referred to her as “the old mother”.

Dad was mystified by the ladies shopping activities. Virtually everyday, while Hugo was at work, the old mother and her daughter visited the local thrift shops. Often they returned with bulging shopping bags.

Because Hugo left early in the morning and usually returned late, Dad was at home alone with the two Spanish speaking ladies during the day. With limited success, they also learned to communicate by signs and gestures.

We remembered that Hugo had told Dad the ladies wanted to visit in Canada for two weeks. The time passed rapidly and when we expected they’d be leaving imminently, Linda & I invited Dad and his “Guatemalan family” for dinner. Over coffee and dessert, Linda innocently asked what day they were planning to leave.

The Old Mother’s response gave us an insight concerning Guatemalan time and culture.

“When someone goes on a holiday in our country,” she explained, speaking through Hugo, “it is necessary to bring a small gift for everyone. Now I have a room full of presents but it is too much to take on the plane. I will have to buy a truck and my other son will drive it back. We will go with him.”

My Dad’s Guatemalan Summer (part 2 of 2)

A few days later, Hugo provided Dad with another dilemma. His sister’s teenage daughter
wanted to come to Canada. “Can she stay for a little while Jake,” he asked?

Dad knew Hugo’s lovely black haired sister had six children. If one came, wasn’t it logical that all the others might come? And, would any of them ever leave?

We were beginning to realize that in Guatemala this was probably considered quite acceptable and usual. Since they had virtually adopted Dad, they were now all family. And when people have little, members of the family must help each other. Only by sharing can they survive.

Then Hugo’s sister was not around for a few days, so Dad asked about her. Hugo said she had gone to L.A. to be with a sister who lived there. She had not said good-bye to Dad because she had grown close to him and was afraid she would cry.

Now Dad had to deal with a cultural challenge. He, a widower, was well known and respected in his community. He had always tried to

The "Old Mother"
The “Old Mother”

set a standard that was above reproach. How would he explain having this woman, almost his own age, living in his house? Hugo was rarely at home anymore. It was not considered proper in his culture for a man and woman to live in the same house, outside the bonds of marriage.

For two more weeks Dad ate tortillas and tried to understand the mother’s Spanish. To avoid being in the house when she was at home, he devoted many hours to working on his yard. It was looking pretty spiffy.

One day when Hugo came home, he pulled into the driveway in a red 1979 Toyota pickup truck. It now seemed that the Old Mother would leave soon, but Hugo said, “brakes no good. My brother and I fix them when he has time from work.”

At the end of the sixth week, the truck was deemed road worthy, but Hugo’s brother couldn’t get enough time off from work yet. We were puzzled by the thought that the brother did not have time to fix the brakes, but he would have time to drive the red pickup all the way to Guatemala.

The Old Mother’s original two weeks in Canada had now stretched to almost eight weeks. It occurred to us that in Guatemala two weeks were apparently of indeterminate length. Fortunately Dad had long ago learned to appreciate and even enjoy unanticipated adventures.

Then, in the eighth week, Hugo came home from work one evening and said, “Jake, tomorrow my brother will come with the truck. He will take my mother to her village.”

At 9:00 the following morning, the brother came and began loading the red pickup. Dad was astounded at how much the Old Mother had managed to accumulate. When the brother had filled the truck box to capacity, he began jamming the remaining items into the cab of the truck. Would there be room for the Old Mother, Dad wondered. Maybe her plan was not to leave after all. Had she decided she wanted to stay in Canada? But there was a small space on the seat for her.

She came to Dad, holding a large, intricately woven Guatemalan straw hat with a bright red ribbon. Rather shyly she presented the hat to him, holding it with both hands. With tears in her eyes she said, “In my village you welcome to visit”. Then she added, “please, you take care my Hugo.”

Dad was surprised she had learned these words. He accepted the hat and placed it on his head. “Yes,” he said, “I will look after Hugo. He is like a son.”

Brushing away the tears still trickling down her cheeks, she climbed into the red Toyota and began the long trip to her village in Guatemala. She very likely believed she might never see her son again.

And so ended Dad’s Guatemalan summer.

James Douglass: “JFK And The Unspeakable” (part 1 of 3)

Jim Douglass, author of"JFK And The Unspeakable"
Jim Douglass, author of”JFK And The Unspeakable”

James (Jim) Douglass was born in Princeton, B.C., lived in what later became known as “the Hedley Pub”, and spent time in jail for participating in a number of high profile protests against the US war effort. He also wrote “JFK And The Unspeakable”, a best seller detailing the reasons and cover-up of the Kennedy assassination. With that on his resume, he isn’t likely to get a government job. Fortunately, he has no plans or desire to apply.

In a two hour phone interview with him from his home in Birmingham, Alabama, Douglass spoke freely about the early years in Hedley, his work on behalf of the Peace Movement and his 6 books, including the best seller.

Initially his father was Manager of the Nickel Plate Mine in Hedley, and they lived in what was then the Mine Manager’s residence. In 1942, when Jim was 5, the family moved to New York where his father became Vice President of the Kelowna Exploration Company. The family continued to value its connection to Hedley, however, and frequently returned in summer. Jim recalls playing tennis on the court across from the Colonial Inn.

As a young man, Jim’s life began moving in quite a different direction from that of his father. “We had a good relationship,” he says, “but in discussions we were always at opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Hedley View "It's the most beautiful place in the world."  Jim Douglass
Hedley View “It’s the most beautiful place in the world.”
Jim Douglass

In 1966 he bought a house in Hedley so he and his family would have a place to stay, while he wrote his first book. “I still consider Hedley my home,” he told me, “it’s the most beautiful place in the world”. His daughter, Jennifer, now lives in the house.

One summer he coached the Hedley youth baseball team and remembers a tied game in which longtime local, Derek Lilly was on third in the 9th inning. “I told him not to steal”, he said, “but there was a wild pitch and Derek stole home, scoring the game winning run. He was a splendid athlete.” Jennifer remembers with evident pride that he was an organizer of the May Day parade one year. This later became the Stamp Mill celebration.

Douglass prepared diligently for his far ranging and unusual career. After receiving a BA from Santa Clara University, he completed an MA in Theology at Notre Dame. He also studied theology in Rome. While there, he lobbied Bishops attending the 2nd Vatican Council, asking them for a statement condemning total war and supporting conscientious objection.

It was while he was teaching theology at the University of Hawaii that the trajectory of his life took a dramatic turn. “It started when Martin Luther King was assassinated. In response to his death, several students in my class refused to be drafted for the Vietnam War. They burned their draft cards and they challenged me to live the theology of peace I was teaching. I joined the Hawaii Resistance and shortly after, I was sitting on the pavement in front of a convoy of trucks carrying National Guardsmen going to Vietnam.”

In 1977, Jim and his wife Shelley cofounded the Ground Zero Centre for Nonviolent Action adjacent to the Trident Nuclear Submarine Base near Seattle. According to his daughter Jennifer, “the cloak of leadership in these protests was placed on him.” His acts of civil disobedience concerning the Trident protest netted him some 15 months in prison. He was also jailed for resisting the Persian Gulf War.

In the midst of various protests he returned to Hedley to write three books and most of a fourth. “There were fewer distractions,” he said.

James Douglass: “JFK And The Unspeakable” (part 2 of 3)

Insightful Bestseller About JFK Assassination
Insightful Bestseller About JFK Assassination

In “JFK And The Unspeakable”, Douglass takes us step by step through the thinking, motivation and actions of John Kennedy. “The president’s inaugural address,” Douglass says, “reflected his horror of war, (which came from personal experience), and his passionate resistance to a totalitarian enemy.” Douglass also explains the reasoning, motivation and culture of the CIA and Pentagon which led them to the conclusion that the President of their nation must be eliminated.

Using declassified documents from the Warren Commission hearings, interviews with some employed in the security agencies at that time (including Abraham Bolden, a black former Secret Service agent), plus a variety of other sources, Douglass has unravelled a web of intrigue that is unfortunately still being ignored by the media.

The CIA and the Pentagon began to seriously turn against their President when he refused to commit American forces to an attempted invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles in April, 1961. The attempt was sponsored, planned and backed by the CIA, and Kennedy had reluctantly sanctioned it. However, he had informed Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, that if things turned out badly, American troops would not be deployed to ensure success.

Douglass says the CIA overlords schemed to entrap Kennedy so he would have to support the invasion if it floundered. However, even though Fidel Castro’s forces over powered the invaders, JFK remained adamant in his refusal to send in troops. “That was the first instance in which Kennedy refused to do what his military advisors wanted,” Douglass suggests. “There would be many more.”

Kennedy understood that the CIA bosses had attempted to deceive and ensnare him. The conflict between him and the Agency deepened when he began to redefine and reduce its power and budget. According to Douglass, the President’s determination to deal with the CIA placed him in direct conflict with a Cold War institution that had come to hold itself accountable to no one. His later firing of Dulles, Bissell and Cabell would intensify his conflict with the Agency.

“In the Cuban Missile Crisis” Douglass says, “Kennedy took a step that the military considered an act of treason. He turned for help to his Communist enemy, Soviet Nikita Khrushchev. He asked him to withdraw the Soviet missiles from Cuba in exchange for his secret commitment to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey, alongside the Soviet border. He also promised publicly not to invade Cuba. The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were furious. Kennedy and Khrushchev were becoming partners in peace making.”

A further crisis with his Cold War advisors resulted from the President’s address to the graduates at the Commencement Ceremonies of the American University in Washington, D.C. JFK called for World Peace and an end to the Cold War. This further incensed the CIA and Pentagon chiefs. “In their minds,” Douglass says, “Kennedy’s views placed him on the side of the enemy.”

Another issue in the minds of the CIA and Pentagon was the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by Kennedy and Khrushchev. This development angered the Military Industrial Complex.

Finally, there was the President’s move to initiate a dialogue with the despised Fidel Castro. Also, National Security Memorandum 263 to end the Vietnam War.
“Those were the final nails in the President’s coffin,” Douglass says.

 

 

James Douglass: “JFK And The Unspeakable”

JFK’s progressive turning from a Cold War mentality to a desire

James Douglass talking about "JFK & the Unspeakable"
James Douglass talking about “JFK & the Unspeakable”

for peace had made him a serious threat to what Douglass refers to as “the most powerful military/ economic coalition in history.” At Kennedy’s earlier (July 20, 1961) meeting of the National Security Council, Dulles and the Chiefs of Staff had actually called for a preemptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Kennedy had walked out of the meeting.

The coalition of Dulles and the Chiefs of Staff had for some time been conniving and strategizing against JFK, knowing they could escape culpability under the cover of what Trappist monk and author, Thomas Merton, called “the Unspeakable.”

“The Unspeakable” was the government’s covert action doctrine of “plausible deniability”. Allen Dulles interpreted “plausible deniability” as a green light to assassinate national leaders…, and lie to cover up any trace of accountability. The concept of plausible deniability had been enshrined in law under President Harry Truman. It is this lack of accountability, Douglass contends, that made possible the JFK assassination and cover up.

And what about the role of Lee Harvey Oswald, supposedly the only shooter responsible for the assassination of JFK? Douglass traces his movements with meticulous care, pointing out that even after Oswald renounced his American citizenship in Moscow, the CIA cleared the path for him to return to America without being charged for aiding the enemy . He says “Oswald was clearly under the control of CIA handlers”. According to Judge James Botelho of California, formerly Oswald’s Marine room mate, “Oswald’s defection was nothing but a U.S. intelligence ploy.”

To conclude, Douglass’ grasp and recording of detail is quite phenomenal, well beyond my ability to represent adequately. I certainly agree with Oliver Stone who held up “JFK And The Unspeakable” at the end of an interview on the Bill Maher television show “Real Time”. “Everyone should read this book,” he urged. The following month, ten thousand copies were sold. Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow, said the same on her blogsite. And before passing away, his father, who had always been at the opposite end of the spectrum in their discussions said, “Jim, I think you are on the right path.”

Hedley can be proud of Jim Douglass, its native son!

 

Hedley Supports Church Bottle Drive

When people began arriving at the Hedley Fire Hall Saturday morning for the spring bottle drive, they were amazed at the imposing mound of black garbage bags piled in front of the hall. The bags were full of bottles and cans, waiting for volunteers to sort them.

Sponsored and organized by the Hedley Grace Church, the event is enthusiastically supported by many in the community. People save their empties for both the spring and fall drives. They seemingly like the fact that the funds will be used to send children and youth from the community to summer camp.

Fortunately it was a bright, pleasant day and volunteers

Bottle Drive
Bottle Drive

could work outside or at a long table inside the Fire Hall. The constant scurrying to the mound and back to a table made counting volunteers challenging, but in the end organizers said there had been 10 children and youths and 15 adults. One man said he and his wife and two children have come for more than 11 years. Both youths will again attend camp this summer. Several other parents and their children also participated fully.

Although the volunteers worked with quiet resolve, there was also some banter and at times laughter. It was an opportunity for people to become not just neighbours, but also friends.

In past years the church has sent 8 to 10 children to Camp Tulahead. The bottle drive pays for a portion of their camp fees. In cases where parents are unable to make up the difference, the church pays the additional amount.

When it was all over, Pastor Graham Gore ’s assessment of the event was upbeat. “We had more cans and bottles donated than usual,” he said, “and the turnout of the community to help sort them was better than most years. People agree with the purpose and some really chipped in and worked with us to get it done. We are deeply grateful for all the support.”

We Rein In The Girls

The Girls in Their New Enclosure
The Girls in Their New Enclosure

It is now one year since the girls arrived on our little “farm” (37.5 ft. x 100’ ft.). They have roamed wherever they pleased in the back yard, sometimes penetrating or flying over the garden fence. Occasionally they have soared over the gate of the back fence and dined on bugs in the alley behind our lot. As I have mentioned in the past, their pecking on Linda’s legs when she hangs out laundry has been quite distracting for her. Occasionally Linda also mentioned quite pointedly she was having to be careful where she stepped. (I did rake the lawn to clean up their droppings).

Over winter the garden was covered with a foot of snow, and the ground was frozen solid. During this time, it held no interest for them. Shortly after the frost came out, just over a month ago, I saw two of the girls in the garden. I was reminded of how rapidly they had devoured Linda’s basil last summer. It occurred to me that they were ruling more than their assigned territory. I couldn’t do anything in their domain without them being constantly underfoot. Besides Linda was hinting that she’d like to have the back yard for our exclusive use.

The decision to curtail their freedom didn’t come easily. Often the most important issues are resolved only with a good deal of soul searching. Reluctantly, Linda and I visited the lumber yard in Princeton and selected a length of sturdy 5 ft. high wire. The girls would not be able to fly over it, burrow under it or bend the wire enough to create an opening. I remembered their ingenious schemes for outwitting me earlier when I used so called chicken wire. I concluded it must have been developed by someone who didn’t want chickens to be penned up. The girls had been as cagey as jail birds in devising escape strategies. I knew that only by employing every precaution would I be able to win this war of wits.

I decided it would be fair to allow them about 40% of the space they were accustomed to having. That would give Linda the yard back and with some luck, I’d retain at least some of my rapport with the girls.

When I began digging holes for the posts, they didn’t yet understand my purpose. They are such trusting creatures. Evidently it was their belief I was there to provide a nutritional opportunity. With their heads darting in and out so rapidly, I feared I’d clip off a beak, or even an entire head. It’s quite clear they have a high opinion of their value to me and expect me to ensure their safety. For their protection I used a handful of oatmeal to lure them into the small fenced off area at the rear of our property. They appreciate any opportunity to spend time there. The soil is loose and provides excellent dining opportunities.

When I had fixed the posts securely in the holes and attached the wire, I proudly invited the girls to inspect my handiwork. Initially they seemed intrigued by this unexpected development in their terrain. Once they comprehended that the gate by which they had entered was now closed, they immediately proceeded to examine the fence for a weakness. As the realization set in that they were now confined to more limited quarters, with no access to the garden or their other little scratching places, they mounted a verbal protest. Wanting to permit them to deal with the grief of their loss privately, and also wanting to get away from the racket, Linda and I went for an extended walk.

That night we went to sleep with considerable relief at the knowledge that this spring our garden would be safe from their predations. We’d be able to go away for a few days not wondering if they were in there. It had been a difficult decision to curtail their roaming, but we felt that in making it, we had grown stronger inwardly.

The following morning I looked out the back window to assess their spirits. One girl was dispiritedly prowling along the inside of the fence, evidently hoping for a means of escape. The other two were likely in the Hen House I thought, laying eggs. They are such good girls.

When I stepped out onto the side patio, I was astounded to see two girls in the garden, contentedly hunting bugs. They heard the storm door close and came running to me with great joy, obviously delighted to be out, and maybe even happy to see me. I am fully aware, of course, that their pleasure at seeing me is based on the hope that I will give them a treat.

How had they managed to get over my much vaunted 5ft. fence? We had recently clipped their wings. If I couldn’t devise a means of keeping them inside their new space, our garden would not be safe. Obviously, they were still engaging us in a power struggle and they intended to prevail.

Linda pointed out to me that I had left a wooden box inside the fence, close to the gate. “Very likely”, she said, “they had alighted on it, and used it as a launching pad to fly over the gate”. I had allowed them to keep the box because they appreciate a little clutter. They had taken advantage of my desire to be good to them. Reluctantly, I removed the box.

Since that one desperate bid for freedom and autonomy, they have not managed to escape their new, more constricted compound. I had wondered if the change would cause them emotional trauma and adversely impact their laying. They have adjusted well though, and their laying is currently at record levels. I continue to give them their treat of oatmeal each morning and usually place the sprinkler in their area at a trickle level. They enjoy the water and it seems to bring worms and bugs nearer to the surface. I still say to them almost every day, “you are good girls”.

 

The University Years (part 1 of 3)

Convocation Mall SFU Wikipedia photo
Convocation Mall SFU
Wikipedia photo

When I enrolled at Simon Fraser University, I anticipated an academic education. What I received was also an education in life. During my years as a student, 1967-1971, the university came under the influence of professors and student leaders with radical, anti-establishment, anti-corporation, anti-American views. It was the time of the counter culture and my conservative Mennonite upbringing and outlook were significantly challenged. I entered the university a small town sheltered young man. I emerged at the other end of the experience changed, probably somewhat radicalized in my views.

It had been with considerable trepidation that I had given in to the urging to begin this journey. The main reason for my hesitation was the realization that I would have difficulty reading the small print in text books. Extensive reading of small print was becoming an issue for me.

The winds of change were already blowing strong on a number of U.S. and Canadian campuses when I began attending lectures in the Quad at SFU. Berkley was a hotbed of student unrest. Four students were shot by National Guardsmen at Kent State. Groups like The Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and The Chicago Seven were creating anxiety and fear among conservative minded citizens, especially in America. At concerts and rallies of the young, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan sang of freedom, change and protest. One of the main reasons for the disquiet in the United States was the unpopular war in Vietnam. In a very real sense, the earth was shifting on its moral and values axis.

The thinking behind much of the protest originated with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Their ideas were embraced, adapted and propagated by a number of highly articulate intellectuals. Author, professor and public speaker Herbert Marcuse became one of the better known and most influential of these. He advocated intolerance of right wing political movements and tolerance of left wing movements. His critiques of capitalism inculcated the young generation with a growing anxiety and distrust of the society in which they were growing up. The leaders of what became known as the New Left fomented emotions of anger and despair.

In Canada, SFU  was in the forefront of this philosophical shift taking place especially among university students.

The University Years (part 2 of 3)

At the beginning of our SFU journey, Linda and I rented a poorly heated basement suite from an elderly widow in Burnaby. For some reason, she didn’t trust us. Possibly she was aware that at times I kept a light on while I worked through the night preparing assignments due the next day. This expense may have agitated her. Possibly she thought that since I was a student at SFU, we must be communists.

Our landlady evidently felt a need to keep us under constant surveillance. When we went away, I sometimes placed an object behind the door to our suite. Often it had been pushed back, so we knew she had entered. When my parents came to visit, she just happened to be doing a little gardening at our living room window. At one point she sent us to her son to be interrogated by him. He was a decent man and appeared to be as mystified by his mother’s suspicions as we were.

After three months of this, we told her we would be moving out. She said “that’s good, then I won’t have to evict you.” We had paid our rent faithfully and had caused her no problems. Her seeming unfairness brought out the worst in me and I was tempted to tell her we were Communists, but she was an elderly woman and I thought better of it.

After that we moved into a two room suite in the front end of the old B.C. Tel office on Gladys Avenue in Abbotsford, across the street from several sets of railway tracks. Initially the train whistles and rumbling of the wheels on the tracks woke us at night, but after a few weeks we were able to sleep through this. Linda got a part time job at the Royal Bank and I carpooled to SFU.

I had begun with a history major. When I discovered the PSA department (political science, sociology and anthropology), I switched. Sociology became my main focus. It was in PSA that my real education began. A number of extremely radical American professors had made their home here. One was an avowed Marxist. The others weren’t far behind. They focused on the evils of the capitalist system. I was assigned to read “The Communist Manifesto,” “Red Star over China”, “The Wretched of the Earth”, and “Soul on Ice” (by Eldridge Cleaver, a leader in the Black Panthers), etc. They held up Fidel Castro and Che Guevara as icons.

The PSA professors seemed motivated by a zeal to radicalize us. They wanted us to rebel against the traditions and values of our society. Several of them seemingly believed that to accomplish this they must first wreak havoc in our minds. They were smart, well informed and able to communicate their ideas in a way that caught our imagination. In time they succeeded in fostering a radicalization among many students, especially in the PSA department, but also in other departments. Eventually charismatic, radical student leaders persuaded a significant number of students to participate in a strike and occupy the administration building. This resulted in an early morning raid by the RCMP.

In the midst of the growing agitation, there were other groups, such as the small contingent of hard-core Marxist Leninists who had their own agenda for world revolution. I was particularly fascinated by the Hare Khrishnas in their hooded light brown robes shuffling in tight circles chanting words unintelligible to me. The Hippie movement was also gaining momentum and I was amazed at first that guys would let their hair grow to shoulder length and walk around barefoot in torn jeans. Marijuana, a drug about which I knew nothing and with which I had no experience, was in vogue.

To enhance our understanding of the damage done to Aboriginal culture by white society, 3 PSA profs organized a Royal Hudson train trip to the Mount Currie Indian Reserve near Pemberton. I was sitting in a circle with other students and a skinny “ rollie” was passed around. Each time it came to me, I accepted it and took a drag. Only later did it occur to me that I had been smoking pot. This was early in my days at SFU and I was still the small town boy who had lived a pretty sheltered life.

I attended many of the noon hour meetings organized by the leftwing student leaders. Sometimes the speaker was Martin Lowney, who was generally thought of as the key spokesperson and leader. Martin proved to be a charismatic personality with an ability to whip up emotions. By exposing myself to their ideas, I was being inexorably and increasingly drawn in by the philosophy he and others espoused. I’m sure my parents and also our friends in Abbotsford were astonished at the change in my appearance. I

Art Martens
Art Martens

grew long sideburns and then decided to allow them to meet , which meant I had a beard. Also, I stopped going to the barber and my hair grew very long. My brother in law gave me a pipe which, like other students, I sometimes smoked in the tutorial classes.