Bill Day is a recipient of the Order of Canada. He has been a college President and a Citizenship Judge. His professional achievements are considerable. Of at least equal interest to me is his sense of adventure. The accompanying photos of his trip to the Arctic Circle
are selections from a number of fascinating shots he shared with me. I’d love to visit the Arctic Circle but this may be the closest I’ll get.
Vi Woods is a consultant in autism, a grandmother, and at age 69,
a member of a world champion Dragon Boat racing team. Anyone needing inspiration to achieve a difficult goal will certainly find her to be a valuable role model. She provides ample proof that with determination, perseverance and a vision for something significant, great things are possible.
Entered in the 60 plus women’s category, her team competed in this summer’s Club Crew World Championships in Italy. The competition was organized by the International Dragon Boat Federation.
Standing at 5 feet, 1 inch, Vi needed to train with exceptional diligence to make the team. It is her grit and strong will that attracted my interest.
Approximately 40 women, including some from Penticton, Victoria and other centres tried out for the championship team that made the trip to Italy. “Besides the Drummer who is at the front of the boat and the Steerer at the back, there are only 20 available positions,” Vi told me in a telephone interview from her daughter’s home in Winnipeg. “I wasn’t at all certain I’d make the team. The women trying out for it were highly skilled, very strong and fiercely competitive.”
“ My personal training included 4 strenuous sessions in the gym each week, one with a trainer. I also paddled 2 times each week with my regular team, the Grand Dragons, and once per week with the competition team. There were also two day camps, spaced several months apart. I needed to be totally disciplined in honing my paddling skills and in my physical conditioning.”
To be named to the team, Vi needed to successfully complete a series of rigorous tests. These included a solo paddle on an outrigger boat. There were also strength tests such as an 80 pound lat pull, weight lifting and pushups (she can do 20). Much like an Olympic athlete, she had trained for some 8 years to achieve the skill and fitness levels required to win a greatly coveted place in international dragon boat competition.
“When we are training for a competition,” she said “it becomes consuming. It’s what I think about and talk about.”
Dragon Boat racing dates back some 2500 years and is still part of religious ceremonies and folk customs, especially in areas of East Asia where there are ethnic Chinese populations. One purpose is to venerate the Chinese dragon water deity and to encourage rainfall.
“We have to work closely as a team,” Vi said. “Our strokes must be
synchronized. The Drummer plays an important role in achieving this. We are all friends and help each other.”
She concluded by saying, “it’s very exciting going into a competition. These boats go really fast. We have to be totally fit and focused. All our strength goes into the race.”
Apparently their boat did go really fast. Her team wasn’t defeated in any of the races. Vi and her team mates each came away with 3 gold medals. Her reason for being in Winnipeg at this time is to spend time with Olin, her newly born grandson. Even Dragon Boat racing must step aside for this.
If automotive tycoon Henry Ford could see what Leroy Fague of Princeton, B.C. has managed to do, he’d surely be more than a little green with envy. A few days ago I saw this pretty 1936 Ford pickup parked on the street in front of my neighbour’s place. I couldn’t resist the impulse to get up close. Dwight (better known as Whitey), introduced me to Leroy, the truck’s owner. Leroy invited me to sit behind the wheel. What comfort and pleasure! He has certainly improved on Henry Ford’s creation.
“Originally it was a Bellingham Airport fire truck,” Leroy told me. “A one ton. I built it on a 1953 Ford F1 frame. Built the box myself.”
Listening to Leroy talk about the pickup, I quickly realized he is focused, serious and meticulous in re-building vehicles from the past. “I don’t do muscle cars,” he said. “I build only hot rods. That way I can select parts off any vehicle I choose.”
As he talked about the parts he had installed on the pickup, I concluded that in fact this really is a 1936 Ford mostly in name and appearance. “It’s got Mustang front and rear suspension,” he said. “The engine is a Chev small block 327. It has a turbo 350 GM 10 bolt differential.” I’m not mechanical but I understand that in assembling such a variety of parts to create a very special vehicle, he has accomplished something remarkable.
The ride is unique he told me. “It’s visceral.”
Leroy began this interest by building custom Harley Davidsons. When he switched to cars, the first one was a 1923 Ford. “No fenders. No top,” he said.
“I wanted to learn about the science of building a car,” he continued. “I learned to do welding, engineering and fabrication.”
At one time he had a business in Surrey, doing it for others. “I didn’t enjoy that,” he told me. “I don’t like selling what I build. I rarely make exceptions.”
You’d need a hefty stash under your mattress to buy this 1936 Ford pickup. It has been appraised at $36,500. In my case, looking at it admiringly is the limit. Anyway, it’s not for sale. Leroy did say he’d give Linda and me a ride in it though, and that’s an offer I plan to accept very soon.
Watch Lake is remote and relatively small. Located in British Columbia’s Caribou Country, it lies inland from 70 Mile. Linda and I have just returned from a weekend there with daughter Vivian and granddaughter Alexa. Their family’s 27 foot seasonal trailer is parked there, at the Ace High Resort. While there we saw an example of two people who have chosen to live according to their dream.
Talking with the manager, Lisa, in the evening yesterday, I realized that she and her husband Mike have made a rather uncommon lifestyle decision. It’s the kind of decision that is usually made later in life, if at all. Lisa and Mike are not even in what we tend to refer to as the middle years. They have taken a considerable reduction in income to get closer to living the life they want. They are following their dream to free themselves from the clinging tentacles of urban life.
Lisa owns a successful catering business on the Coast. It makes her a lot more money than managing the resort. When camping season begins, she shuts down her business and lives at Ace High full-time, rarely having a day off.
Mike owns a heating and air conditioning business at the Coast. During camping season he drives just over 4 hours each weekend to be with Lisa and assist her at the resort. Not being around to look after his own business during these times is a financial cost to him. Being with Lisa and sharing this wilderness experience with her makes it entirely worthwhile.
Lisa told me they began coming to Ace High as campers twelve years ago and loved it. When the management role was offered to her 2 years ago, she accepted.
Mike had already left for their home in the Fraser Valley when I knocked on the door of the single wide mobile home Monday evening. Standing in the doorway with her black dog, Snoopy, beside her, Lisa told me about life at Watch Lake. I quickly concluded that with her congenial manner and pragmatic approach, she is well suited to dealing with people and camp issues.
Being manager brings little glamour. Lisa cleans and stocks the cabins and the common washroom. She also cuts acres of grass, delivers wood to campers, tidies the grounds, tends the resort store, deals with campers, and much more.
On weekends, Mike does the heavier tasks, especially those requiring equipment. Cutting the firewood is one of his duties. Extraordinarily outgoing with a sense of humour that can surprise, he also has practical skills that are useful in this remote setting.
“The first year we did this, it was tough,” she said. “We didn’t like being apart from each other all week. Now we handle it better, but we are considering options that would allow Mike to be here more.”
Ace High offers fully serviced recreational lots, she told me. Also cabins, boat rentals, a number of wharves for launching boats, and fishing in Watch Lake. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout annually.
“It’s a more peaceful life than what we have in the city,” she said. “When the resort closes for the season, I return to my business, catering for television studios. I also have Level Three First Aid. Sometimes I’m called on to deal with pretty serious health issues. Here it’s quiet and peaceful. Mike and I both need this place to get release from the tension our businesses inflict on us.”
This morning I was up long before light, and I heard the loons
calling to each other. It’s an eerie haunting call that every Canadian should seek to hear at least once in their lifetime. Studying the dark unruffled lake, seeing the barely discernible evergreens scattered along the shoreline and deeply breathing in the cool, clean air, I experienced the quiet and peace Lisa and Mike have come to love.
I respect Lisa and Mike for having the wisdom and courage to say no to more substantial city incomes so they can live a life they enjoy. We really pay a very high price when we don’t follow the dream our heart tells us is most important.
Until the day of her birth, the world was a relatively stable place.
People pretty much trusted their government to get things right and to keep them safe. Communication systems were not as sophisticated as today and when there were contentious issues in other parts of the country, most people were blithely unaware. They needed to focus on earning a livelihood and raising large families.
On August 4,1914, the day Mary Agnes Roberts was born, the conflagration we know as WW I erupted. From that point on, change accelerated and the globe seemed to shrink.
Mary Agnes was the first to ride a bicycle (wood rims) on her block. Her family owned the first radio. Music was played on a hand turned gramophone. Ladies wore pantaloons for swimming.
She was still a pre-teen when Henry Ford introduced his revolutionary Model T in 1924, and then the more advanced Model A.
As a young woman of 25 she fell in love and married George Roberts. They were like-minded in many ways and had almost 26 years together. Their happy marriage ended abruptly when he suffered a heart attack and passed away. This made it necessary for Mary Agnes to develop the character and strength to carry on, in a time when society did not yet have an advanced network of supports for women living without a mate. She did not feel entirely bereft, however. “My husband gave me two wonderful children,” she said. “They have been a great support to me all these years.” In spite of having lost her husband, she was determined to make a difference, especially in her family.
Until a few days before her birthday, one of the remaining items on her “bucket list”, was to ride on a motorcycle. Grandson Tim Roberts has a bike and was delighted to make this wish a reality. Once she had mounted the passenger seat, with the help of 2 men, she expected they would go in a straight line. She was startled when Tim turned the bike around to return to their starting point. Although they stayed on the parking lot of the longterm care residence, she was pleased
At the August 2nd birthday celebration, it was noted that she had made the first financial contribution to the One Way Adventure Foundation. This organization, established to work with troubled teens, was founded by her son Len, and daughter-in-law Jean.
Nearly 100 friends and family members came to the party.Constable Anthony Pankratz, a 6 foot 8 inch Mountie wearing the traditional Red Serge and Stetson, held her left arm as she walked with careful steps to the front of the Baptist church in Princeton. On her right side was Princeton Mayor, Frank Armitage. During the program, messages were read from the Queen, the Governor General of Canada, Premier Christie Clark, John Horrigan, Leader of the Opposition, and other dignitaries.
Toward the end of the celebration, Len invited guests to speak briefly of experiences with Mary Agnes. Several grandchildren expressed appreciation for her many prayers for them. They said, “ this has made a positive difference in our lives”.
Mary Agnes was a member of the generation that contributed significantly to the creation of Canada as we know our nation today. In her personal life she was sustained by her faith in God, the support of her family, and her determination to not stray from the good path she had chosen many years ago. She is inwardly strong, wonderfully resilient, and she possesses a great clarity of purpose.
By her words and example, she has pointed her family and many of us to a path that promises a life of significance and hope. Congratulation Mary Agnes, on 100 productive years!
Late yesterday Linda and I read an online report stating that an appeals court had released the Sudanese Christian woman, Meriam Ibrahim and her children from prison. This morning we read that the Sudanese National Intelligence Security Service had re-arrested Meriam and her 2 young children and her husband at a Sudanese airport.
We listened to the CKNW news this morning, hoping to learn more. There was no mention of this situation. I called the station’s news room, told Gord McDonald what I had heard and asked if CKNW was going to shed more light on this issue. He promised to get it on their news.
I admit that often when I feel something is wrong, I hesitate to express my concern publicly. Sometimes I question my own thinking. Is my concern valid? Will others consider it foolish?
At times our timidity prevents us from drawing attention to a government or corporate policy that is hurting vulnerable individuals. Hurricane Rubin Carter believed that “the most powerful enemy of justice is inertia.” A racially charged trial cost him 20 years in the Trenton State Prison for 3 murders committed by someone else. Surely there must have been individuals who realized that the process was flawed and that this innocent man needed people to speak loudly on his behalf.
When we allow the media to guide our thinking, we tend not to question whether a matter is being dealt with fairly or justly. And even when we realize that something should be done, we expect someone else to do it.
If the problem isn’t resolved rapidly, we are diverted from it by the next issue being reported by the media. The case of the Nigerian girls who were abducted is a prime example. Is the Nigerian government still looking for them? They assured parents they would find them. But now the media has lost interest and the government no longer feels international pressure.
We become complacent so easily. We are quickly diverted. We are fearful and hesitant. This permits base, corrupt, dishonest individuals to carry on with their nefarious schemes. An ancient Israeli poet once asked, “if the foundations are destroyed, what can good citizens do?”
In the game of life, we cannot be bystanders. At this writing, it is not known where the family has been taken. Whatever country we live in, each of us can ask our national government to press Sudan to release them. Meriam Ibrahim and her family, and many others, desperately need our help in drawing attention to their plight.
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 –
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.”
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
A small town perspective on people, community, politics and environment.