Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A collector says goodbye to a trove of Lewisiana

Cy Fox examines a work by Wyndham Lewis. Deddeda Stemler photograph.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 27, 2009


Sometimes, late at night, a volume in his hands, Cy Fox reads aloud to himself, the soft lilt of his native Newfoundland rolling off his tongue like a calm sea against rock.

He knows not what the neighbours think of a man who performs a monologue to an audience of himself.

Their possible concern would not be eased should they know he thinks the book itself – the flat, printed words – speaks to him.

Mr. Fox is not so much mad as possessed.

In one's life, there are few moments when one can look back and say – There. That's when it all changed.

It was a simple suggestion by a classmate to read a volume by the modernist author Wyndham Lewis.

“I was seized by this character and he has never let go,” Mr. Fox said. “He's still there up on the bookcase, ready to start talking. As soon as I open the page I hear that voice ready to bark out at you in the most spirited fashion. Very amusing, too. Entertaining.”

A half-century has passed. The troublesome author, born on his father's yacht in the waters off Nova Scotia, is long gone, his reputation hotly debated in academia but rarely elsewhere. His genius as an artist and writer is not in dispute, though some see in his participation in the Vorticist art movement a latent support for the future totalitarian movements of his age. He was not immediate in his denunciation of Hitler, though he became a vociferous critic before the start of the Second World War. A virulent anti-Communism did not endear him to generations of Marxist critics.

Mr. Fox discovered a maverick voice for which he had nothing but admiration.

“Very outspoken. Very honest. Direct. Exciting in the extreme,” he said.

He began hunting for the man's works. He gathered prints and other artworks. He sent postcards to those personages who knew the man, getting responses from the likes of Lord Beaverbrook.

In time, Mr. Fox gathered an awesome trove of Lewisiana, including rare volumes, signed editions and fascinating ephemera. These he has donated to the library at the University of Victoria, which has a collection of nonconformist British writers such as John Betjeman, Robert Graves and Herbert Read, as well as an archive of anarchist materials.

An eight-week-long exhibition called The Lion and the Fox comes to a scheduled end tomorrow.

Mr. Fox, 77, is preparing to bid a final farewell to what he has described as his life's “only legacy.”

The retired journalist is a raconteur of wit and charm, armed as he is with a rich store of stories from his time as a wire-service correspondent. He abandoned the opportunity to gain a history doctorate to instead become an Associated Press reporter in the global hot spot of Newark, N.J. He later covered the nascent bombing campaign of the first generation of the Front de libération du Québec in Montreal; the student and worker uprising in Paris in May, 1968 (“a media revolution”); and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, during which he was ensconced in the glamorous Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia when he spied balloons dropping from the sky. These, of course, turned out to be paratroopers.

All through his adventures, he sought out items of his literary hero.

On a brisk London afternoon in February, 1956, Mr. Fox emerged from Foyles book shop on Charing Cross Road with a package of volumes that lifted his spirit.

“A couple of real doozers. At nice low prices with dust jackets. I was immensely gratified.”

He determined to ride the Tube to Notting Hill Gate, where his quarry lived.

“I was going to go up there and shake the old boy's hand,” he recalled. “I knew he was in bad shape. Blind. Deaf. Had dizzy spells.”

In the end, a brief adventurousness was conquered by a more familiar shyness.

“I felt very diffident and found myself heading home. I'm sure I would have had a fine time. On the other hand, he could have had me thrown out, as a bill collector.”

Mr. Lewis died the following year, a “poor man. But he had his say in a herculean way.” Mr. Fox befriended the widow, Froanna. (Her name, he eagerly shares, was coined by Mr. Lewis as a contraction of their German housekeeper's daily salutation to Frau Anna.) Her support led to many further discoveries, the greatest of which was a copy of an extremely rare pamphlet, Anglosaxony , published in Toronto during the war.

Mr. Fox was living in Toronto when Chris Petter, the University of Victoria archivist, visited. Mr. Petter spent hours in the book-lined apartment, leaving just before midnight.

When the movers later hauled away the final box, Mr. Fox found himself bereft.

“It left me limp. A huge void. A huge gap.” Still, he found solace in the knowledge “I'd see it all again.”

He moved to Victoria 18 months ago to be near the collection. He lives in an apartment in the James Bay neighbourhood, where a bookshelf has volumes of Lewis works he has again purchased, this time for his own pleasure. He also has a rubber bullet from his time as a correspondent in Northern Ireland.

He recently completed a memoir, recounting his own “jubilant adventures,” as well as more than one incident of a journalist falling off a barstool on Fleet Street. A dozen copies were published for the exhibition, the cover decorated by a Lewis painting of boats on the Grand Banks.

Mr. Fox was born in St. John's, the son of a judge and the grandson on his mother's side to a Newfoundland prime minister. His father, also named Cyril Fox, died in 1946 while heading a national convention on Newfoundland's constitutional future. To this day, the son considers himself a Canadian “by legislation.”

When the exhibition closes, the books and letters and other stuffs will be no longer totems of one man's obsession. They will serve instead as a scholarly resource.

The collector will make a return visit to the campus later this week, a final opportunity to hold one last time some of the more than 770 items he diligently gathered for five decades.

Then, no longer having a reason to be in Victoria, he will move away.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bibbles Bawel and The Tripper

By Tom Hawthorn
Post Mortem (
May 26, 2009

At his death May 17 aged 83, David G. Humphrey was praised for his brilliance as a defence lawyer, his thoroughness as a prosecutor, and his fair-mindedness as a judge.

As a justice of the Superior Court of Ontario, he carried the honorific Honourable before his name.

On the bench, it was said he more than once referred to himself by the nickname Merciful Dave.

It is a quality he may have exercised while keeping in mind his own behavior on the wintry afternoon of Nov. 30, 1957.

On that day, a man who dedicated his life to the law succumbed to a scofflaw's temptation. The incident earned for him another nickname, as well as a spot in the lore of Canadian sport.

Born in 1925 in Passaic, N.J., he moved north with his family as a teenager. He joined the U.S. Navy during the Second World War, returning to Toronto afterwards to complete law studies at Osgoode Hall.

He was a well-known lawyer in Toronto when he decided to attend the Grey Cup game, emblematic of Canadian football supremacy. Lacking a ticket, he called on his familiarity with the local constabulary to sneak inside Varsity Stadium.

The championship game, which pits a team from the East versus one from the West, is known as The Grand National Drunk, a description as much jocular as factual. In 1957, the game was for the first time broadcast on television from coast to coast. The stadium was sold out for the showdown between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Humphrey stood on the sidelines, sipping cheer, in the form of rye whiskey, from a brown paper bag. He would later say he had been unnerved by a chance encounter with a fellow fan, who turned out to be the foreman of a jury who had sent one of his clients to the hangman but a year earlier. Humphrey refused to shake the man's extended hand.

The lawyer nursed his grudge as well as his drink as he stood along the Winnipeg sideline.

A roar from the crowd caught his attention. Hamilton's Ray (Bibbles) Bawel (pronounced bobble) had intercepted a pass and was racing towards the end zone. He had evaded all tacklers. Ahead of him lurked only grass.

It was at this point the lawyer stuck out a foot.

Now, he did not have a bet on the game, nor an affinity for either team. It just seemed like a funny thing to do at the time, he would later recount.

Bawel fell to the ground. In the ensuing uproar, Humphrey slipped away in the crowd.
Winnipeg was assessed a penalty, though none of the players was responsible for the trip. The ball was moved halfway to the goalline. Bawel and Hamilton went on to win the Grey Cup by 32-7.

The next morning, the Toronto Telegram newspaper offered a cash reward for the culprit.

Humphrey felt sick. His mentor was the newspaper's lawyer.

A quiet confession and some urgent whispering led to his identity remaining a secret for 20 years.

Feeling bad about costing Bawel a touchdown, Humphrey later presented him with a gold watch on which he had engraved "Grey Cup 1957 -- The Tripper."

As it turned out, the Grey Cup was Bibbles Bawel's final game as a professional. He had earlier spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before serving in the U.S. Army. After leaving football, he returned to his native Indiana.

The Tripper was responsible for at least one other incidence of odd, perhaps even boorish, behavior in public. He once interrupted applause for the Greek soprano Maria Callas by booing her performance at Massey Hall in Toronto. On that occasion, he was identified by name in the newspaper.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Clint (Snuffy) Smith, hockey player (1913-2009)

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 25, 2009


In a sport of brutes, Clint Smith skated with a gentlemanly deportment.

He used his hockey stick only to pass and shoot the puck, eschewing such illegal — but all too common — maneuvers as the hook, the slash, the high-stick, the butt-end, the crosscheck. Not for him was the elbow, or the slew foot. Forbidden tactics were the province of delinquents. Mr. Smith obeyed the hockey rule book, making him a rare law-abiding player in a game filled with scofflaws.

He was a Gandhi among Goliaths, a peacemaker surrounded by warmongers.

He spent just 26 minutes in the penalty box in 525 career games in the National Hockey League. He had teammates who earned greater punishment in a single shift.

Asked how he avoided punishment, he quipped: “I knew the referees.”

If so, he must have had to introduce himself.

At 5-foot-8, 165-pounds, the slight centreman perhaps had good reason to avoid spontaneous pugilistic showdowns on the ice. Still, he did not want any fan to think him faint of heart.

“I just minded my business. Never shied away from anything,” he once told me.

A pacific disposition did not prevent him from impressive scoring feats. He established an NHL record for assists in a season, which has since been surpassed, and once scored four goals in a period, a standard still to be found in the NHL record book.

The league presented the slick playmaker the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship in 1939 and 1944.

The highlight of his career came in 1940 when he won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers. He was the last living member of the team’s playoff roster.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.

Mr. Smith’s celebrated career also included one of hockey’s more memorable nicknames, as a teammate’s prank saddled him with the unwanted moniker Snuffy Smith.

He was born at Assiniboia, a new-found settlement along the Canadian Pacific Railway line in southern Saskatchewan. His birthdate of Dec. 12, 1913, came on the first anniversary of the community’s incorporation as a village. His birth preceded the formation of the NHL by four years.

Mr. Smith learned to skate before he could read. After an older brother left for the school each morning, the boy borrowed his skates to sprint across the frozen prairie.

At 17, he briefly played junior hockey with the Saskatoon Wesleys, impressing the hockey writer of the Winnipeg Free Press who pronounced the rookie “one of the smartest centre man to perform here in some time.” Mr. Smith joined the senior Saskatoon Crescents, for whom he scored 19 goals in just 18 games.

By 1933, he had turned professional and was skating for the Vancouver Lions of the North West Hockey League. He played for what is now a forgotten team in a forgotten league in a forgotten rink, the Denman Arena at Georgia Street, a magnificent edifice that was the second largest in the Dominion. He was the league’s top goal scorer in his debut campaign, with 25 markers in 34 games. He twice won the league points scoring title.

A successful campaign with the Philadelphia Ramblers led to a two-game callup by the parent Rangers in 1937, during which he scored his first NHL goal. He became a league regular for the following 10 seasons.

He got his nickname while centering a line with Lynn Patrick and Cecil Dillon. In a game against inter-city rivals, the New York Americans, Mr. Smith scored a game-winning goal that inspired a teammate to some mischief.

“Cecil Dillon never read the sports page,” Mr. Smith said in an interview four years ago. “Every time he picked up a newspaper all he read was the funny pages.” One of his favourite comic strips starred Barney Google and an ornery hillbilly named Snuffy Smith. “As soon as I scored, Dillon went over to ... the announcer, and said, ‘Tell ‘em Snuffy Smith scored that goal.’ Well, damn if he didn’t say it over the loudspeaker.”

Up in the rafters of old Madison Square Garden, the gallery gods and the sportswriters took up a nickname whose humour was based on irony.

Unlike his cartoon counterpart, the Associated Press once noted, the hockey player was “neither explosive, nor belligerent, nor verbose.”

In 1940, the Rangers faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup finals. After winning games on consecutive nights at the Garden in Manhattan, the series shifted to Toronto to make way for the circus.

He recalled Maple Leaf Gardens as a most inhospitable venue for visitors.

“In those days, any time you scored against them, you could hear a pin drop,” he said. “If they scored, it was like dynamite.”

In Game 6 of the finals, on April 13, 1940, Mr. Smith assisted on a third-period goal by Alf Pike that tied the score 2-2. In overtime, Mr. Smith won a faceoff that led to the cup-winning goal by Bryan Hextall. The Rangers did not linger long with the trophy.

“It came out on the ice,” he remembered, “but we didn’t skate around with it.”

The Rangers retired to the Royal York Hotel, where a champagne party lasted until they boarded a train at Union Station for a celebratory trek that lasted for hours.

The Broadway Blue Shirts, as they were known, seemed destined to build a dynasty. Instead, the club suffered during the war years as star players left to join the Canadian armed forces. The Rangers would not win the Stanley Cup again for another 54 years.

In 1943, he was signed by the Chicago Black Hawks, for whom he offered a pacific but prolific presence. He set a league mark for assists with 49, feeding sharp passes to linemates Doug Bentley and Bill Mosienko. Chicago made a run for the cup that year until being swept in the finals by Maurice (Rocket) Richard and the Montreal Canadiens.

On March 4, 1945, Mr. Smith put his name in the NHL record book by scoring four goals in the third period of a 6-4 victory at home against the Canadiens. Ten others share the mark for most goals in a period.

Mr. Smith was never punished for more than three minor fouls in an NHL season. In three full seasons, he managed to play without incurring a single infraction.

He joined the Tulsa Oilers for the 1947-48 season, again seeming to score at will and earning honours as the United States Hockey League’s most valuable player. He then became a playing coach with the St. Paul Saints, winning a league championship. He concluded his coaching career with the Cincinnati Mohawks.

After his playing days ended, Mr. Smith returned to the Vancouver area, where he operated an Esso service station like Murray Westgate, the actor who portrayed an Imperial Oil dealer during hockey telecasts. Mr. Smith spent 20 years ensuring happy motoring for his customers.

He continued to play old-timers’ hockey and was a founding member of the British Columbia Hockey Benevolent Association, a registered charity.

Mr. Smith faced a dilemma as a spectator in the 1994 season, which concluded with his hometown Vancouver Canucks facing the Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals. He let his allegiance be known in quiet fashion when he presented to the Rangers general manager a heavy wool sweater. The blue cloth included moth holes and other wear from use while duck hunting and puck shooting. On its back was the No. 10. He figured the Rangers would like it as a good luck charm. It worked, as his old team ended a long jinx.

Mr. Smith was the last living member of the 1940 Cup-winning team following the death of Alf Pike in Calgary earlier this year. Mr. Smith was also regarded as the oldest living member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Clinton James Smith was born on Dec. 12, 1913, at Assiniboia, Sask. He died on May 19. He was 95. He leaves two daughters, Judi Smith, of Toronto, and Gini Thuemling, of Fernandina Beach, Fla. He was predeceased by his wife, the former Ella Keyes, who died in 1988. They married on April 18, 1940, just five days after the groom won the Stanley Cup. He was also predeceased by two brothers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where's the beef? Ask this guy

Victoria blogger Donald Kennedy chomps on a burger. Photograph by Deddeda Stemler.

By Tom Hawthorn
Specialto The Globe and Mail
May 20, 2009


Donald Kennedy is a connoisseur. He has trained his palate to recognize the finest of ingredients. With a single bite, he can discern whether meat has been ground in-house, or is a packaged, frozen product as appealing as a hockey puck.

Mr. Kennedy is Victoria's burgomeister, a gastronomic Jughead armed with a ferocious appetite and an iron belly.

The 25-year-old aspiring radio announcer is proprietor of the Victoria Burger Blog, for which he has scarfed dozens of hamburgers.

He is on a quest to find the city's best sandwiches of the ground-meat variety, sampling the offerings from diners, chip wagons, fast-food joints, strip-mall restaurants, and the occasional fine-dining establishment.

Last week alone, he tried four different hamburgers, including the fare for sale at the Lambrick Park baseball cook shack. “For a ballpark burger,” he said, “it was excellent.”

For more than a year, he has visited local outlets to investigate their bun-to-burger ratio and keeps alert to what he calls “bunsen burgers” (in his words, “an experiment headed towards inevitable failure”).

What does he seek?

“Balance, mostly. Balance of ingredients, so nothing is overpowering. Everything is integrated.”

This Zen-like search for a copacetic unity of texture and flavour is captured on a Kodak EasyShare digital camera. Sometimes, the half-eaten burgers look like crime-scene photographs.

Mr. Kennedy, a graduate of Camosun College's applied communication program, is not one to reject even the most ordinary of offerings.

“I'm not a total elitist, or anything,” he insists. “I'll go down a couple of Baconators any time.”

He will not, however, eat a tomato with his burger, a pattern he has followed since he was five years old and which he does not plan to alter.

His burger blog makes him one of a handful of new restaurant reviewers in a city with more than its share of tourist traps. Perhaps the most useful is Christabel Padmore's critiques posted at She also operates a bakery and catering business of the same name.

Unlike her, Mr. Kennedy is not a trained professional. He is an Everyman with an insatiable hunger for the sandwich that made Wimpy famous. He is joined on his crusade by Guy Alaimo, himself the author of the Victoria Buffet Blog. The pair take turns playing Sancho to the other's Quixote.

Mr. Kennedy has dined on baked, grilled, flame-broiled and even microwaved burgers.

He eschews politeness in favour of honesty.

He has been underwhelmed by the burgers usually cited in reader's choice polls.

He has made two visits to the popular Fairfield Fish and Chips, yet finds it to be only “fairly decent.”

A diss of a burger at Maude Hunter's Pub provoked a running argument with anonymous posters whose tone suggests a familiarity (if not a paycheque) from said business.

A one-pound patty in a “Mountain Burger” in Nanaimo was left unfinished, a bun “the size of the famous Duncan hockey stick” make the fare unpalatable after soaking up an ocean of condiments.

The disappointments are more than offset by the successes. A prime-rib burger at Glo was blessed by a “killer red pepper aioli.” A return visit to The Pink Bicycle, a year-old joint dedicated to the art of the gourmet burger, led to a rave review. The introduction of a burger to the menu at the fancy earned a heap of praise.

After a year of scarfing, one place stood out.

Mr. Kennedy, only recently graduated as a student, is not known as a habitué of such upscale eateries as the one overlooking the water at the Inn at Laurel Point.

To mark the occasion, he wore an understated black T-shirt and a grey, hooded sweater.

He was on unfamiliar turf.

Firstly, Aura offers diners cutlery of the metallic variety, not the disposable white plastic to which he is more accustomed. Secondly, the offerings seemed distinctly bourgeois: roasted halibut bouillabaisse and wild mushroom and spring asparagus risotto.

He had learned the restaurant had not only gained an executive chef of Food Network fame in Brad Horen, but that aforesaid talent had introduced a whimsical sandwich to the luncheon fare of the sort more often preferred by the proletariat. To wit, a hamburger.

The menu promised Alberta beef, aged white cheddar, caramelized onions, bacon, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato on a house-made sesame bun.

Mr. Kennedy removed the tomato.

He hoisted the sandwich in both hands before chomping down.


The beef was “surprisingly bold” and “delightfully juicy;” the mushrooms “magnificently subtle;” the house mayonnaise, with its Dijon undertones, enhanced the flavour without overpowering the patty.

He pronounced it the best in the city, in his exuberance spraying a handful of common expletives in his online praise.

It cost $16, the salary (before taxes) a minimum wage worker earns after two hours of labour.

Mr. Kennedy pronounced it worth every penny.

His associate, Mr. Alaimo, concurred.

They shared their discovery on the blog, before returning six months later.

When he ordered what he by now regarded as a “sly little vixen” of a burger, the waiter asked if he had read about the item on a blog.

Oh, the delight of being an unknown author whose work is recognized.

Read it? I wrote it, he said.

“I quote that review all the time,” the waiter told him. “I've sold about 200 burgers because of it.”

The food arrived. This time, Mr. Kennedy found the toppings “envelope(d) the patty like the warm arms of a first love.”

The sous-chef was brought tableside for introductions, which the blogger found to be a surreal experience.

He came to a realization.

“Somehow we've turned an unhealthy alternative to meeting girls into something worthy of respect,” he wrote.

He has since returned to a quest without end, perfection in a patty lasting only as long as the final bite.




Donald Kennedy's blog offers meaty opinions on the city's best hamburgers.

He's not a pro, just a hungry 25-year-old with a jones for burgers.

It should be noted that Mr. Kennedy's recommendations come with a warning about mature language. Some readers — and most vegetarians — may be offended.


• The Loghouse Pub in suburban Langford, where the simple Pearl Burger marries bacon and blue cheese to a six-ounce homemade beef patty.

• The Glo Europub and Grill, where the prime rib burger was just “messy enough to let you know you're having a good time.”

Aura at the Inn at Laurel Point, where the lunchtime-only Point Burger “pretty much blows away everything else in town.”

2009 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Exclusive club ready to welcome ex-MLAs

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 14, 2009


It was Isaiah who prophesied a day when the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling shall party hardy.

But the Judean prophet had nothing to say about the Socred and the socialist breaking bread. Maybe it was just too far fetched.

Hugh Curtis, 76, and Jim Rhodes, 78, both served as members of the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Rhodes was elected in 1960 and defeated in 1963.

Mr. Curtis was elected in 1972 and retired from the campaign trail in time to avoid the divisive 1986 campaign.

Mr. Rhodes sat as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner to the NDP.

Mr. Curtis was originally elected as a Progressive Conservative, then switched parties to join Social Credit.

They first met at a meeting of the Association of Former MLAs, a non-profit and strictly non-partisan grouping of former politicians, including some of the most formidable partisans in the province.

They now are bosom buddies.

"While we carry our own political persuasion, we all get along," Mr. Curtis insists.

"He calls quite often for my advice," Mr. Rhodes said. "I tell him he's crazy if he takes it."

What all association members share is the experience of having represented voters in the B.C. Legislature. They speak of the privilege of their service, of the sacrifices made, of the middle-of-the-night telephone calls from angry constituents, of the unfair besmirching of their motives by rivals, of the not always perceptive analysis provided by the press corps.

It is an exclusive club that conducts a quadrennial membership drive when the legislature is dissolved.

Some recruits become eligible by their own decision to retire (such as Mr. Curtis), while others get a pink slip from voters (such as Mr. Rhodes).

Most incumbents survived the election on Tuesday. John Nuraney, a two-term Liberal, lost Burnaby-Deer Lake by 287 votes. Jenn McGinn's stint as an NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview lasted only five months and two weeks after a by-election victory.

Two other incumbents are clinging to their seats, pending recounts.

The NDP's "Landslide Charlie" Wyse had a 23-vote lead in Cariboo-Chilcotin on election night, while Liberal Attorney-General Wally Oppal's margin was a (your cliché here) razor-thin, neck-and-neck, too-close-to-call two - count 'em, 2 - votes.

Mr. Curtis knew nothing but victory in his election nights. He went 11-0 in his career, beginning as a councillor in the Victoria suburb of Saanich, where he also served as mayor before being elected to the legislature on a night he remembers as "exhilarating. Astonishing. Exciting." He later served as finance minister under Socred premier Bill Bennett.

Mr. Rhodes's own success was unexpected. He narrowly won election in Delta in 1960 when the dual-member riding was a rural expanse encompassing Delta, Richmond, Surrey, Langley, Langley City and White Rock. (Today, Surrey alone counts eight seats.) The campaign turned on a newspaper exposé of Socred candidate Donald Riggan, who was reported to have done prison time. He insisted he had done so as part of an undercover RCMP operation to infiltrate the Communist Party.

"Crash," Mr. Rhodes said. "I got elected by a stroke of luck. I'll be the first to admit it."

Defeated after one term, he went into business, reviving a near-bankrupt printer.

A newspaper columnist called him the only bilingual businessman in British Columbia, as he spoke fluent capitalist and socialist.

As it turned out, the Red Capitalist sold the company on the very day in 1972 when Mr. Curtis won election to a legislature dominated by Dave Barrett and the province's first NDP government.

As Mr. Rhodes joked at the time, "If the NDP get elected, I'm going to be the first free enterpriser to sell."

These days, the group's membership is swelled by members of the classes of 1972 (NDP victory) and 1975 (NDP defeat).

The Association of Ex-MLAs, as it was originally known, was founded in 1987 by five former MLAs - Dennis Cocke (NDP), Gordon Gibson (Liberal), Don Marshall (Conservative), and Jim Neilsen and Garde Gardom (Social Credit). The idea was the brainstorm of Mr. Gardom, who later was named the province's lieutenant-governor.

Mr. Curtis edits the group's newsletter "Orders of the Day," for which he has written lengthy profiles of 38 living MLAs, focusing on backbenchers. A few more of these and he figures he'll have a nifty collection worthy of permanence as a book. With more than 200 subscribers, the newsletter also includes historical articles on "Alexander Mackenzie, Sir James Douglas, or some scalawag in the Interior who stole from gold miners."

"The challenge," he said, speaking in a beautiful baritone that is a reminder of his days as a radio announcer, "is to inject some humour."

The newsletter features editorial cartoons by Adrian Raeside of the Times Colonist and the late Len Norris of the Vancouver Sun.

(Either British Columbia has been blessed by talented editorial cartoonists, or the cartoonists have had the good fortune to work in a place where so many buffoons are rewarded by voters.)

About 150 members belong to the association. Mr. Curtis expects that number to grow. "Hopefully, a new crop us coming in now," he said.

If it turns out the voters of Delta South did indeed reject Mr. Oppal, he may find some small comfort in knowing an exclusive club will extend to him an open hand. Most of the members know exactly how he feels.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

At 13, he had the world on a string

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 12, 2009

Little Harvey Lowe's mastery of a simple, ordinary toy - the yo-yo - became his passport to a boyhood adventure that would make him a world champion. He wore proudly for the rest of his days a title won at 13.

In his nimble hands, the yo-yo became more than a child's plaything.

He handled the string like a puppet master, causing his yo-yo to spin, dance, and, in the nomenclature of the pastime, sleep. He claimed a repertoire of 1,000 tricks. On rare occasion, he performed a feat in which a pair of wooden yo-yos whipped within a blink of his face. He called this the death-defying Mandarin puzzle, a reminder of the toy's origins as a hunting weapon in the Philippines.

As an adult, Mr. Lowe appeared on stage at clubs as one of the entertainments in an era when a venue's nightly attractions might include a half-dozen acts. He later appeared on television, most notably on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, for which he wore an elaborate robe in his role as a Confucius Yomaster. It was his job to teach the venerable art to a character portrayed by Tommy Smothers called Yo-Yo Man.

Away from the stage and screen, Mr. Lowe acted as an unofficial ambassador to Vancouver's Chinatown, with all its attendant mysteries.

It once fell to him, for instance, to educate the actress Julie Christie in the proper technique for smoking opium.

Earlier, he had become the first Chinese-Canadian to host a radio show.

Willing to indulge ballyhoo to promote his craft, Mr. Lowe professed a belief in the spiritual depth of playing with a toy on a string.

"There is a definite Zen spirit to the yo-yo," he once told Vancouver newspaper columnist Denny Boyd. "It's just wood and string and it occupies a tiny space in your hand. When you release it, you free its spirit and create vibrations that come back to you."

Named Lowe Kwong Yoi at his birth, which occurred in 1918 in Victoria, he was the youngest of 10 children born to Lowe Gee Quai, born in China, and Seto Ming Yook, born in Victoria.

His father, known as Charlie Lowe, was one of three brothers to establish tailor shops on Government Street in Victoria.

The boy was raised in a household overseen by his biological mother, but the woman who most looked after him was his father's concubine, he told the Vancouver Sun's John Mackie six years ago.

"Imagine, both of them were living under the same roof. But they got along good," he said.

At 12, he bought his first yo-yo for 35 cents. He soon mastered the novelty, the popularity of which was promoted by neighbourhood contests. Young Harvey won these, graduating to showdowns at department stores. Continued success led to invitations to compete in Vancouver, where he again defeated all comers.

Irving Cook, a Victoria promotor, took the boy overseas, as a yo-yo craze swept Britain in the Depression days of 1932.

A yo-yo demonstration performed at the Derby Ball at Grosvenor House in London on June 1 was witnessed by the American aviatrix Amelia Earhart and by the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. The Prince tried his hand at the toy.

At the Empire Theatre on London's Leicester Square, Harvey Lowe faced a dozen young challengers representing rival yo-yo manufacturers in a showdown demanding skill, innovation and, as it turned out, a bit of luck.

Three arrived from a distant Dominion sponsored by the Cheerio company, which was promoting its No. 99 yo-yo. They were young master Lowe and two competitors from Regina: Gene Mauk and Joe Young, the reigning world champion.

In the finals, Mr. Young's string snapped, while Mr. Lowe was able to complete his performance without mishap. He was crowned world champion a month before his 14th birthday. With the crown came £1,500.

Though born in Canada to a Canadian-born mother, Mr. Lowe was said to represent China in the competition.

He then toured England and France. "I was wearing a white tie and tails," he reminisced six years ago. "I played at the Café de Paris, a real nightclub."

During the tour, the promoter paid his mother $25 a month, while the boy received $1.25 a day in meal money. He had earlier won a bicycle, which to his boyhood eyes was the equal to having a Cadillac of his own. It was said his hands had been insured by Lloyds of London for £100,000, a fact dutifully repeated by newspapers. Left unreported was the duration of the policy, believed to have been a single day.

He returned home to Victoria for high school. Then, his mother wanted her son to go to China. "You've got a Chinese face," she told him, "you've got to learn Chinese." So he joined an older married sister in Shanghai, where he studied business at St. John's University.

Not long after his arrival, the Japanese seized the city, beginning a brutal seven-year occupation. He managed to skirt between two worlds as an ethnic Chinese whose nationality did not make him an enemy until December, 1941.

Mr. Lowe was enlisted as a spy by Japanese intelligence, he once told Ricepaper, a Vancouver-based magazine, though he protected his friends and deliberately misled his handlers. He otherwise described a high-living wartime spent riding in Italian sports cars and going to jazz clubs.

It was during the war that he became a broadcaster, reading English news reports on a station owned by his wealthy brother-in-law. He became a celebrity, his popularity peaking after the war.

Mr. Lowe returned to British Columbia after the communists took over the city.

A club in Vancouver hired Mr. Lowe, who by then was fluently bilingual, as a doorman. Corrupt authorities turned a blind eye to gambling by Chinese-Canadians, though not necessarily to lawbreaking by those of European ancestry. It was his job to ensure only bona fide club members entered the premises.

He sought work at local radio stations. Eventually, CJOR agreed to air The Call of China, a pioneering 30-minute program that aired on Sunday afternoons.

"We tried to deal with everything authentically Chinese," Mr. Lowe told a university student publication in 1985. "I might be talking about pagodas, and I'd do research on that. Between each segment, I'd play a lot of Chinese music. There were more Canadian listeners than Chinese because the program was directed more toward them."

The show, believed to be the first in Canada with a Chinese-Canadian host, launched in 1951 and remained on the air for 14 years.

Mr. Lowe became a prominent figure in Chinatown. In 1958, a Liberal senator referred to Douglas Jung, a member of Parliament from Vancouver, as "this Chinaman." As president of the Chinatown chapter of the Lions Club, Mr. Lowe defended the MP, noting the senator's words were "a great insult" and "objectionable because of its association with race prejudice."

Mr. Lowe continued to perform with his yo-yos at such venues as the grand Orpheum Theatre and the bamboo-decorated Marco Polo, a night club for which he was stage manager. In 1971, the director Robert Altman asked Mr. Lowe to round up 100 ethnic Chinese as extras for a movie he was shooting in West Vancouver with the working title, The Presbyterian Church Wager. Mr. Lowe enlisted friends, family and restaurant customers for a scene that, alas, wound up on the cutting-room floor when the film, retitled McCabe & Mrs. Miller, was released in 1971. He is credited in the movie in a role as a townsman.

It was during the filming that the actress Julie Christie, a noted perfectionist, asked Mr. Lowe to show her the proper technique for the ingestion of opium. Though he had never used the narcotic himself, he consulted old-timers in Chinatown and got the information.

He later worked as an airport greeter for Canadian Pacific Airlines and, in his 70s, as a public relations representative for a mall.

After he survived an operation for a brain tumour, Mr. Lowe received an outpouring of honours. The Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop Society prepared a banquet in his name in 2003 for his role as a community builder. He was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame as a showman and as such has had his name imbedded in a sidewalk on Granville Street in Vancouver. A lifetime achievement award granted by the The American Yo-Yo Association bears Mr. Lowe's name.

He also appeared in the documentary “Who is Albert Woo?,” a 2001 examination of the Western cultural stereotypes of Asian males by the filmmaker Hunt Hoe. Mr. Lowe was the subject of director Jason Karman’s eight-minute biographical documentary, “State of Yo” (2007).

Mr. Lowe so enjoyed displaying his prowess with the toy that he continued to perform well into his 80s for the benefit of residents of seniors homes, entertaining an audience in which some members were younger than himself.

Lowe Kwong Yoi was born on Oct. 30, 1918, in Victoria. He died in Vancouver on March 11, 2009. He was 90. He leaves his second wife, the former Teresita Santos, known as Tessie; their daughter Melanie Lowe of San Francisco; two daughters from his first marriage, Cindy Wang of Novato, Calif., and Vivian Wang of New York; two grandchildren; and an older sister, Aileen Wong, of Vancouver.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Looking for Mr. Goodvote

The listing can be found on Craigslist under miscellaneous romance.

The heading reads, “Single — Good listener — Looking for self-actualisation”

“Hi, I'm single. And I'm a transferable vote.

“I'm modern, fair, responsive and accountable. I'm a good listener.

“You can look at pictures of me here:

“I'm looking for someone who can make me feel real. Right now, I often feel like I'm only an idea. If you believe in me, and support me, I know I can come alive and make a difference in your life.

“I'm new to Canada, but I'm friendly and I'm hoping I'll fit in here. I've made many friends in Australia, Ireland, Malta, Scotland, New Zealand, Cambridge & Minneapolis.

“Your current partner probably doesn't listen to you or respond to your needs. But I will. I'll listen, I'll give you choices, and you'll get what you want.

“Let's meet up. How about Tuesday May 12th?”

I dunno. I hear from others that you’re complicated. High maintenance. Hard to understand. Obsessed with your Weighted Inclusive Gregory method. I also hear you’ve got a Droop quota! Finally, I’ve got to wonder. Is STV communicable?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sing it loud, sing it proud, Canuck fans

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 6, 2009


It is spring. Playoff time. Beards are unshaved. Underwear goes unchanged during winning streaks (or so I’m told).

Orca whale flags bedeck cars, whose drivers toot and wave when passing fellow fanatics. Even the old Stick-in-Rink logo has made a comeback.

An election campaign is conducted between hockey matches. To door knock during a game is to lose votes. Keep your Liberal red and your NDP blue and orange and your Green green. I’m wearing blue, green and white in support of Johnny Canuck, the lumberjack who wields his stick like an ax.

Another symbol of this best-of-seven season is the release of Canucks tribute songs.

The official sign at the entrance to Port McNeill on the northern end of Vancouver Island welcomes visitors to the “Gateway community to the Broughton Archipelago.” Another nearby sign better describes the blue-collar town as the hometown of Willie Mitchell.

At Sunset Elementary school, his former alma mater, the children gathered after lunch to learn a new song.

The lyrics were written by a Grade One teacher and the music arranged by a Grade Five teacher based on a hit song from 1961.

The children rallied in the school’s gymnasium last week to sign “Go Canucks!” to the tune of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.”

Two dozen on stage belted out such lyrics as “Willie’s the pride of Port McNeill, our Canucks’ got blades of steel.”

It might not be Lennon-McCartney, but it tells the tale.

“Willie is such an icon,” said Fran Jenkins, a teacher at the school for 20 years and a once-a-playoff lyrcist. “He’s a Port McNeill boy who’s living his dream. We’re trying to work with that to motivate the kids.

“We’re exploiting him. Using him mercilessly.”

A small display case is a shrine to the local boy who made good — well, at least made the Canucks. It includes photographs of Willie as a boy athlete at the school. The defenceman has donated plenty of caps and T-shirts and even autographed sweaters to the school.

Each week, those among the school’s 200 students who have done their duty — such as showing appropriate behaviour and having completed homework reading assignments — get their name placed in a draw. Winners receive hockey cards and a gift certificate from a chain sandwich shop. They also get their photograph and name on a board reading Our Canuck Kids.

Of course, this being school, it is not all fun. There’s a lesson behind the madness. Hard work plus dedication equals achieving your goals. (Left untaught: Stay-at-home defenceman plus ordinary shot equals three goals but a terrific plus-minus rating of +29.)

Mr. Mitchell, 32, had yet to start school in the spring of 1982 when the Canucks enjoyed their first run deep into the playoffs. The Canucks wore orangey sweaters with a red-and-black chevron in those days, a Halloween uniform for playing a trick on the rest of the league by making the Stanley Cup finals.

Their unexpected success led to the release of a 45-rpm (that’s “revolutions per minutes” for you youngsters out there) single on the Signet label. One side included a rendition of the novelty song, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” which crowds at the Pacific Coliseum belted out in the closing minute of a Canucks victory. The flip side carried "King Richard,” a tune honouring goaltender Richard Brodeur, the highlight of which is an over-the-top voiceover praising “King Richard the Lionhearted” (sic). The tunes were belted out by soundtrucks when the Canucks arrived home after losing the opening games of the finals to the New York Islanders.

(Four copies of the collectable are currently on sale on eBay, two going for $25 US, one for $10.95, and another for $9.99 from a dealer in the goaltender’s home province of Quebec.)

The most dedicated of Canucks tunesmiths is the irrepressible Heavy Eric Holmquist, a prolific songwriter whose repertoire includes dozens of songs in honour of Canucks past and present.

He has a song about the Sedin twins sung to the tune of “Wild Thing.”

He has a song about an ex-Canuck that includes the memorable lyric, “Jarkko Ruutu’s a feisty Finn. He’s always getting under someone’s skin.”

An homage to Todd Bertuzzi seven years ago managed to rhyme the hulking forward’s family name with woozy, Suzie, the watusi, not to mention local soccer legend Bob Lenarduzzi. I don’t think the Motown songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland could have done any better. The song was a doozy.

He even has a Willie Mitchell song, just like the kids in Port McNeill, although Heavy Eric’s celebrates the defenceman’s prowess at fisticuffs among other scofflaw behaviours.

For these playoffs, Mr. Holmquist is releasing a 23 song compact disc of his works titled “Original Hockey Classics.”

Among these is the hilarious "Do the Luongo,” in which the Canucks goaltenders name is rhymed with Congo, bongo, and bucking bronco.

For all his work, he says he has received a single royalty cheque for $32.46. “If I was doing this for money I would have quit years ago,” he admits. These days, any profits from downloads goes to a Canucks charity.

Mr. Holmquist, 48, is a former postie and an Elvis performer. Before he took up music, he worked on a barnstorming logger-sports show with the father-son team of Jube and Fred Wickheim. He was a champion log roller and axe-thrower, sometimes dressing like a hillbilly lumberjack in jeans torn at the knees, suspenders, logger shirts and a toque, resembling a slightly less heroic Johnny Canuck.

One of the highlights of his career as a birler was performing before 12,000 appreciative Swedes.

He likes to think he’s still performing for appreciative Swedes, these ones sounding like a Stockholm law firm —Sedin, Sedin, Sundin, Ohlund, and Edler.