Monday, August 30, 2010

Former MP continues anti-corruption crusade

Roy Cullen, a former Toronto-area member of Parliament, fights the scourge of government corruption.
Deddeda Stemler photograph for The Globe and Mail.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 30, 2010


As a young man, Roy Cullen perused the books of an oil firm doing business in Indonesia.

The articling chartered accountant was asked to confirm the accuracy of certain calculations.

The numbers added up, but he became curious as to their purpose.

He learned to his dismay that the large sums — millions of dollars — were being placed in a Swiss bank account for the benefit of an Indonesian general.

Many years later, after a career in the British Columbia civil service, Mr. Cullen won a byelection in a Toronto-area riding, taking a seat in the House of Commons. He chaired the standing committee on finance and served as a parliamentary secretary to the finance minister. A numbers guy, he helped design and implement Canada’s anti-money laundering laws.

He was staggered by the amounts of dirty money floating around the globe.

“Huge sums of money,” he said. “Absolutely obscene.”

Feeling exasperated, not sure how to battle the scourge, he accepted an invitation a decade ago to join the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC).

(I know what you’re thinking: Parliamentarians Against Corruption sounds like Gluttons Against Ice Cream. “An oxymoron!” Mr. Cullen whooped when this was pointed out. He’s one pol with a sense of humour about his former profession. “We’re careful about who comes in. We’ve got a good vetting system.”)

Mr. Cullen moved back to Victoria two years ago, having retired from the House with a perfect election record of 5-0.

He is now a semi-retired public policy consultant, having settled into a home in a gated community near Christmas Hill and taken out a membership at the Uplands Golf Club.

From this comfortable perch, he maintains a crusade against corrupt leaders and the kleptocracies he says doom millions of people to a lifetime of poverty.

His group chases bigger fish than petty officials. The cause is greater than a backlash against baksheesh.

“Petty bribery is bad enough,” he said. “These officials aren’t paid anything, or so little, they’re expected to take bribes — 50 bucks to get a permit. A little bit here, a little bit there.

“What we focus on in GOPAC is big ticket corruption.”

There is no shortage of villains. A global rogues’ gallery of crooks and grafters rolls off his tongue, from Sami Abacha (Nigeria) to Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire), from Daniel Arap Moi (Kenya) to Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines).

If corrupt leaders were not ripping off the public purse, Mr. Cullen argues, the quality of life would improve for people who now have no opportunity to leave the ranks of the poor. He has written a book, “The Poverty of Corrupt Nations” (Blue Butterfly Books), outlining solutions to make corruption that much more difficult in Third World nations — a free press, less red tape, an independent judiciary, better pay for civil servants, and more power to parliamentarians at the expense of the executive branch. The Literary Review of Canada called the author’s plan “a mostly sensible agenda.”

He has written a second book, “Beyond Question Period,” which combines explanations of how a bill is passed with personal anecdotes about his experiences on the campaign trail as a Liberal in Etobicoke North.

He first ran for public office in 1996 after working as an assistant deputy forests minister in B.C. and as a vice-president of a forestry company.

He acknowledges our country is not immune to corruption, citing his own party’s role in the Sponsorship Scandal.

There’s plenty more. Two words — Karlheinz Schreiber. Not to mention a criminal trial scheduled to resume in two weeks in Vancouver regarding the provincial government’s sale of BC Rail.

Mr. Cullen will be chairing a meeting in Paris at the end of September on money laundering. Delegates, including elected officials from around the world, will be briefed by experts from Interpol, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The Parliamentarians Against Corruption are preparing a handbook for parliamentarians who are “frustrated, annoyed and angry about the laundering of corrupt money.” The group has already helped Kyrgyzstan prepare anti-money laundering legislation.

It is a complicated task.

“When it comes to money laundering,” Mr. Cullen said, “I know enough about it that I know that I know very little about it.”

He was asked if he had ever forked over “tea money” in Thailand? Or been nipped by a policeman looking for a mordida (“little bite”) in Mexico? Or greased a palm south of the 49th?

“I never have and I never will,” he vows.

If only it was that easy with all politicians.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Learning for learning's sake

By Tom Hawthorn
Boulevard Magazine
September, 2010

Before heading off to the first day of class, Eve Walker prepared dinner for her sons. When the babysitter arrived, she caught a bus at a stop near her Esquimalt home.

She left an hour early to ensure she could get her bearings on the campus of the University of Victoria. She was nervous.

“I walked around and watched people,” she said. “I was looking at other people going about their way and comparing myself to them. I’m starting on this new journey. The anticipation was crazy.”

Here she was in her 30s, a single mother of two boys, a high-school dropout on welfare, with health problems that often left her fatigued, and she was headed back to the classroom.

Walker had been accepted into University 101, a program that offers a free introductory course in the humanities to people who otherwise could not afford it.

The program, launched five years ago, provides teaching in an academic setting for the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the single parent. No credits are needed to get in, nor, for that matter, are any granted. It is learning for learning’s sake.

A different professor delivers a one-hour guest lecture for each class in English, or history, or philosophy, or film studies, or women’s studies. Graduate students facilitate one-hour discussions afterwards. All volunteer their time, the reward coming not in salary but in the joy of sharing knowledge.

University 101 provides all course materials, including pens and notebooks, as well as bus fare and childcare subsidies. When you’re poor, the budget does not allow for $5 return bus fares, while even writing paper can seem a luxury.

Remarkably, the entire program runs on an annual budget of about $75,000, covered by grants and individual donors, some as large as Telus, others as modest as the Spiral Cafe.

Each class begins in a room off the cafeteria at the University Centre, as students and teachers and teaching assistants mingle over a meal. The students are a mixed crowd, including older men who have retired from labouring jobs, or woman who have raised families, or people with mental-health diagnoses, or others with an addiction history.

A new session starts this month with 30 students. More than twice that number applied.

Looking back on her first day on campus, Walker would compare it to an out-of-body experience. The grind of her daily life — the household chores, the skimping on groceries, the paucity of adult contact — was so far removed from the excited chatter of a university lecture hall that it seemed surreal.

“It made me remember some of the dreams I had when I was younger of wanting to go to university,” she said.

She wondered if she’d be able to complete the course.

Born in 1969 at Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., young Eve had a peripatetic childhood. Her mother, raising a daughter on her own, moved to the West Coast when the girl was aged four. They lived for a time as squatters in a tent on Long Beach, the girl wandering the expanse of sand on her own, enjoying outdoor meals with surfers, drop-outs, and back-to-the-landers.

Mother and daughter later lived in Union Bay in a shack with no electricity or running water and with an outhouse in the back yard. A stepfather entered the picture, as did the first of three little brothers. The family moved to Terrace and, later, Tsawwassen.

She endured sexual abuse, a prolonged experience that “caused chaos for me.”

In high school, she thought about becoming a nurse, but ended up dropping out in Grade 12. She worked a succession of jobs — at a florists and a bakery, as a waitress and a forestry technician.

A son was born. Four years ago, when she was living on Saturna Island and cleaning houses for a living, she had another son. Then, she moved to Victoria.

She suffers from depression, as well as fibromylagia, which leaves her feeling exhausted. At the same time, she knew she could not just go from one low-paying job to another.

“I wanted something more like a career, not just a job to make ends meet.”

She also knew she had to address some of her own issues.

“I think the biggest barrier was my own self,” she said.

“In the past, I’ve been my own worst enemy, getting in my own way.

“There was always that self-defeating voice in the back of my head, saying, ‘You can’t do it.’ ”

She heard about University 101 at the Single Parent Resource Centre on Gorge Road East. After attending an information session, she applied and, to her delight and apprehension, was accepted, an old dream of studying at university suddenly a possibility, even if it was not leading to a degree.

Going to school was “a highlight of my week.” She enjoyed the adult interaction she did not get at home. More importantly, she found the encouragement to enroll at Camosun College, where she is now studying office administration. When she graduates, she hopes to get a job at a medical clinic. At 41, she has more options today than she has had in some time.

University 101 proved to her her own capabilities.

“I could do it. It was possible.”

One class in particular stood out. She was fascinated by a lecture on astronomy.

She struggled to explain the significance.

“Super novas. Black holes. I was awestruck by the beauty of it all. The more we learn the more we don’t understand.”

In her newfound appreciation of the wonders of space, she found an analogy for what University 101 meant to her.

“My own universe,” she said, “is opening up.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wayne Stephenson, hockey goalie (1945-2010)

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 28, 2010

As a hockey goaltender, it was Wayne Stephenson’s burden to be an understudy.

He spent much of his career as a backup, playing second fiddle to Bernie Parent on feared Philadelphia Flyers teams.

Stephenson’s name is engraved on the Stanley Cup and he won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics, yet he remained far less celebrated than such contemporaries as Parent and Ken Dryden, with whom he also once shared netminding duties.

He played in two All-Star Games in the National Hockey League. He also was the victorious goalie in a famous 1976 game pitting the Flyers against the Soviet Red Army team.

A solid if unspectacular netminder, Stephenson was known for a quick glove hand and for being sharp in playing the angles when facing shooters. His teammates dubbed him Fort Wayne.

The 5-foot-9, 175-goalkeeper was an even-tempered and law-abiding figure with the Flyers, notorious scofflaws who intimidated opponents with a bullying style. The little goalie endured barbs from his own teammates, including the bruising defenceman Bob Dailey, who stood eight inches taller and liked to hum the satiric Randy Newman song, “Short People.”

Frederick Wayne Stephenson was born in Ontario at Fort William (now Thunder Bay) on Jan. 29, 1945, to Lillian (nee Horsfall) and Fred Stephenson, who owned an air-conditioning business. The family moved to Vancouver and Calgary before settling in Winnipeg when Wayne was a teenager.

He played junior hockey with the Winnipeg Braves, earning a reputation as an up-and-coming athlete. (On graduation, his classmates at Grant Park High presented him as a gag gift a goalie stick with a puck-shaped hole in the blade.) He had particular success thwarting the scoring efforts of his younger brother, Brian, who played for the rival Warriors.

The Edmonton Oil Kings selected Stephenson as a roster addition in their unsuccessful challenge for the Memorial Cup in 1965.

That fall, the goalie joined the national team program run by Father David Bauer, a Basilian priest whose vision it was to forge a team of student athletes to represent Canada. Stressing discipline and teamwork, Fr. Bauer sought skaters whose behaviour would be unassailable off ice as well as on.

As admirable as was his goal, the priest was sending clean-living young men against Soviet and Czechoslovakian players who were professional in everything but their official status. The Canadians had the extra burden of doing so while wearing the colours of a hockey mad nation for which anything less than victory was unacceptable.

Stephenson suffered the disappointment of being cut from the roster just before the opening of the 1966 world championship at Ljubljana, Yugoslavia. The 20-year-old prospect was dropped in favour of Seth Martin, the 31-year-old veteran who had backstopped Canada’s most recent world championship in 1961.

On New Year’s Day, 1967, the national team faced the Czechs in the opening game of a tournament to mark Canada’s Centennial. Ken Broderick got the start, but coughed up two early goals and was yanked by coach Jackie McLeod. Playing before a large hometown crowd, Stephenson played brilliantly in a comeback victory.

The two goalies shared duties at the 1968 Olympics held at Grenoble, France. Stephenson allowed a single goal in a 6-1 defeat of West Germany before shutting out the East Germans in a 11-0 shellacking. But he surrendered two goals on five shots in the first period against the Americans and was pulled in favour of Broderick, who went on to complete the tournament.

The final game settled the medal standings, as the Soviets pushed five shots past Broderick in a 5-0 drubbing for the gold medal. The Canadians took bronze.

Stephenson returned home disappointed but determined to win the gold at the next Olympics in four years.

After Broderick turned professional, Stephenson became the national team’s top goalie. During a practice in Sweden before a world championship tournament, he was struck on the ear by a puck, receiving a cut needing six stitches to close. The team cabled a young college goalie in Toronto to join the team. Ken Dryden shared duties with Stephenson for the year.

In 1969, the Soviet national team came to Canada for an eight-city, eight-game tour, a precursor of the legendary Summit Series that would be held three years later. Dryden surrendered nine goals in a loss in Vancouver, while Stephenson responded by limiting the Soviets to a single goal in a victory in the next match at Victoria.

In a game seen by 15,614 boisterous fans at Maple Leaf Gardens at Toronto, the Soviets peppered the Canadian net with shots “but Stephenson frustrated them with his bewildering saves,” Globe hockey writer Rex MacLeod reported on Canada’s 3-2 win.
Soon after, Canada pulled out of the world championships and the Olympics in a dispute over the use of professionals.

Stephenson married fellow university student Nedina Jordan in 1970. He worked as a chartered accountant after graduating from the University of Winnipeg with an economics degree.. To stay in shape, he joined the Winkler Royals of the Southeastern Manitoba Hockey League. Instead of facing the Soviets and Czechs, the goalie thwarted the best snipers of amateur teams like the Oakville Seals and Altona Maroons.

Lynn Patrick, general manager of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, signed Stephenson to a 30-day trial. The goalie would retain his amateur status, remaining eligible for the 1972 Olympics. The Blues covered his living expenses, but did not pay a salary.

Stephenson faced the fearsome Boston Bruins in his NHL debut on Jan. 30, 1972. He enjoyed a clean scoresheet for the first period, stopping 10 shots, but the Bruins scored four times in the second period, including a pair of short-handed markers 35 seconds apart by Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson. Stephenson and the Blues lost, 5-2.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” the rookie said after the game. “The Bruins are a real good shooting club. You might as well learn from the best.”

He turned professional, spending the season with the Kansas City Blues farm team before becoming a Blues regular for the 1972-73 season. After the Blues missed the playoffs in 1973-74, Stephenson had the good fortune of being traded to Philadelphia, the defending Stanley Cup champions.

He saw only spot duty behind Parent, on whom the Flyers depended as they sought to repeat. In the warmups before the start of a semifinal series against the New York Islanders, Parent took a shot from teammate Gary Dornhoefer on the inside of his right leg. The goalie crumpled to the ice in agony before limping to the locker room on one leg. He emerged with a cast from his thigh to his calf. Minutes before the start of a pivotal series, the backup found himself in the spotlight.

“It’s all part of the job,” he said with a shrug afterwards.

He confessed to having jitters.

“I was a little shaky in the first period. I had to stop that first shot. If I missed it I might have been in trouble.”

He stopped all 21 shots he faced, as the Flyers won, 4-0. Stephenson was mobbed by his teammates after the game. He celebrated with a can of Schaeffer beer. Newspapers hailed his shutout as a hockey fairy tale.

He won the next game, too, before Parent was able to return to his regular duties, having suffered only a serious bruise.

The Broad Street Bullies, as they were known for the pugnacious style, once again claimed the Stanley Cup.

Parent missed much of the following season with a back injury. Pressed into the starting role, Stephenson recorded 40 wins, 10 losses, 13 ties. He and Parent shared netminding duties early in the playoffs, but Stephenson was the starter when the Flyers took on the Montreal Canadiens in the finals. Across the ice, he faced Dryden, his old national teammate. Montreal swept the series, winning each of the first three games by a single goal and the final by two.

In the offseason, Stephenson sought a salary increase to reflect his new role with the team. The Flyers balked, and the goalie sat out the first two months of the next season before rejoining Philadelphia in December, 1976.

He ended his career by playing two seasons for the Washington Capitals. In nine NHL seasons, he had a regular season goals-against average of 3.06.

The game in which Stephenson took greatest pride was an exhibition against the Soviet Red Army team at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on Jan. 11, 1976. The game is remembered for the Soviets leaving the ice to protest violent play. They returned, only to lose, 4-1, to a satisfied Stephenson, who felt the game was redemption, of sorts, for not getting a chance to defeat the Soviets at the Olympics.

Off the ice, he worked for banks in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It was while living in West Barnstable, Mass., that he received a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer two years ago. He survived beyond his six-month prognosis, moving with his wife to Madison, Wisc. He watched on television this winter as both the Canadian men’s and women’s hockey teams won gold medals at the Olympics in Vancouver.

Frederick Wayne Stephenson was born on Jan. 29, 1945 at Fort William (now Thunder Bay), Ont. He died of brain cancer on June 22 at Madison, Wisc. He leaves Nedina (nee Jordan), his wife of 39 years; two sons; two daughters; three grandchildren; and, a brother.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A major-league friendship that crossed the colour line

Ian Dixon was a teenaged phenomenon from North Vancouver when signed by the New York Yankees. He spent four seasons in the minor leagues. Photograph courtesy the Len Corben Collection. BELOW: Roy White's 1977 Topps baseball card.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 25, 2010


The baseball scouts had an eye on Ian Dixon when he was a high school student.

Mr. Dixon was a pitching sensation on the North Shore, a monster on the mound who not only threw hard but also could hit hard. For three years, starting from age 15, scouts from major league teams watched every pitch.

At a time when no British Columbians were in the major leagues, he seemed a future star.

“One game, when I was 17, I was throwing harder than I thought I’d ever thrown,” he recalled. “I struck out 20 out of 21 guys. Nobody even touched the ball. One, two, three. It was a great feeling.”

Scouts called his school. One team hinted at a six-figure bonus.

In the end, the teenager, also a solid infielder, signed with the New York Yankees for about $45,000 US, a heady payout worth about nine times the average Canadian family income.

It was headline news at home, worthy of a mention in even so august a journal as the Christian Science Monitor.

The prospect rewarded himself by buying a snazzy car — a 1961 Chevrolet Impala convertible.

“White top. Whitewalls. Fire-engine red. A good-looking car.

“A bit flashy,” he acknowledges now.

He drove the car to Florida, where he was asked to play third base for the St. Petersburg Saints, a Class-D team at the bottom of baseball’s alphabet ladder.

There were scorpions in the dugout, snakes beyond the outfield fence, alligators rumoured to be lurking in swamps beyond the outfield fence.

The following season, he returned to Florida for spring training. While he handled duties at third base, known in baseball lore as the Hot Corner, a rookie from Los Angeles played second base. Roy White was 18, the product of a broken home, raised by his mother in a working-class neighbourhood.

The infielders spent all day on their field in the hot sun, taking a liquid break in midmorning followed by a soup and sandwich eaten under the shade of a tree at noon.

In the sultry Florida spring, a friendship developed between two teenagers far from home.

On the last day of camp, both went into a gymnasium to learn their assignments for the season.

The roster lists had good news: Both were to report to Greensboro, N.C., a promotion.

The Canadian asked the Californian how he was going to get there. Perhaps by bus, Mr. White replied.

Mr. Dixon offered his friend a ride in his car, an offer eagerly accepted.

They headed north, the radio playing chart-topping hit songs.

They crossed the state line into Georgia.

The sun began to set. It was time to eat. They had to address the social customs of a region in which interracial friendships were not encouraged.

“A white guy and a black guy in a red convertible? People would notice it,” Mr. Dixon said.

Martin Luther King, Jr., would not make his “I have a dream” speech for another 17 months. Freedom Summer was still two years away. The Civil Rights Act had not been passed. The Ku Klux Klan was not a joke, but a deadly force protected by the authorities, too many of whom were members.

Being a baseball player offered no protection.

Even established stars, some earning tens of thousands of dollars, endured the humiliations of Jim Crow in Florida.

“Money has not ended spring camp bias,” an Ebony magazine headline stated in 1962.

Minnie Minosa, a Cuban, was forbidden from enjoying the dock at the hotel at which his team stayed. The black players with the New York Mets were not to congregate in the lobby of their hotel. The black Philadelphia Phillies slept in the same motel as their teammates, but could not eat in the coffee shop.

The blackness of their skin trumped even the green in their wallet.

Mr. Dixon remembers separate washrooms and drinking fountains. The Florida ball parks had segregated seating. African-American fans were forbidden from sitting in the grandstand.

On the drive north, the two young athletes pulled off the highway to a deserted section of road.

“We planned it out,” Mr. Dixon said. “Small town. Outskirts. Off the highway. A roadside place.

“Roy got in the back. When we drove up to the restaurant, there was a blanket back there so he could hunker down, lay down on the seat, cover up if he needed to.

“I got in, took the order ...” — a hamburger and fried chicken — “.. and took off.”

They ate in the car as they drove.

“The more mobile we were,” he said, “the better.”

In Greensboro, they went separate ways. Mr. White boarded with a black family. Mr. Dixon joined three other white teammates in a house rented by the team. Unfortunately, it had not been stocked with food, blankets, or towels. One of his new roommates slept on a bare mattress with only a raincoat as a blanket. Mel Stottlemyre later became a celebrated pitcher and coach.

Mr. Dixon took batting practice with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, got hitting tips from the great Joe DiMaggio. His playing career lasted four seasons before he returned to Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Mr. White went on to become an all-star player with the Yankees. He lives in New Jersey, where he operates an eponymous foundation that aids young adults in furthering their education.

These days, Mr. Dixon, 67, is a financial advisor in Vancouver. The old teammates talk by telephone every few months. Mr. Dixon makes regular contributions to the Roy White Foundation.

In 1999, Mr. White took a job as batting coach with the Vancouver Canadians. He stayed at the Dixon home for the entire season.

His Canadian friend never did get to wear the famed Yankee pinstripes. As consolation, he ended up with what can be called a major-league friendship.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dave Duchak, hockey player (1913-2010)

A shifty playmaker, Dave Duchak captained the Trail Smoke Eaters to the Allan Cup championship in 1938. BELOW: He starred for the Calgary Stampeders during the early years of the war.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 23, 2010

Dave Duchak, who has died, aged 96, was a crafty centreman and one of the finest amateur hockey players of his generation.

He turned down invitations from three National Hockey League teams, preferring instead to contest the Allan Cup, the trophy presented to the best senior amateur team in the Dominion.

The centreman played in three Allan Cup finals in four seasons, remarkably doing so on three different teams, a testament to his accuracy as a shooter and his value as a teammate. He won the cup with a celebrated Trail Smoke Eaters squad in 1938.

He won another Allan Cup in 1946 as manager of the Calgary Stampeders.

A savvy playmaker and a hard-nosed competitor, he was offered tryouts by the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and New York Americans. He rejected their entreaties, preferring instead the security of steady work in jobs offered by companies sponsoring his hockey teams.
Pale in complexion, with a broad face and hair he combed to a jaunty peak, his ready smile masked a nasty streak necessary for survival in his unforgiving sport. Though never heavily penalized, he was known to raise his stick high when about to me bodychecked. That habit, which certainly would have given opponents pause, did not save him from a nearly fatal hit on the ice.

Born on Aug. 18, 1913, at Moose Jaw, Sask., David Duchak was the youngest of nine children born to Marie and Mike Duchack, as the family name was also spelled, a labourer of Ukrainian heritage from Horodenko in Austria-Hungary. At age 40, before the boy’s third birthday, Mike Duchack enlisted in the Canadian army to fight in the Great War. He was discharged less than two years later as being medically unfit and died in hospital while convalescing from tuberculosis.

Older brothers took on the responsibility of raising Dave, who completed his grade-school education before studying accountancy at Moose Jaw Normal School.

At 5-foot-8, 145 pounds, the young athlete also won acclaim for his prowess on football field. On an icy field in November, 1932, he led the junior Moose Jaw Maroons to a Western Canadian title with a decisive 17-8 victory over Calgary.

“Dave Duchak’s highly educated toe was the deciding factor in the Moose Jaw triumph,” the Winnipeg Free Press reported. “It was his brilliant punting that produced nine of his team’s points, and was also indirectly responsible for the scoring of three others.”

Capable of booming punts, feared for flinging long spirals, Duchak was also a threat as a runner and a pass receiver.

After junior football, he joined the Moose Jaw Millers, who played in a circuit including the Regina (now Saskatchewan) Roughriders, who boasted five American imports. Duchak was the outstanding player in 1934 when the Millers defeated the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, 10-2, kicking five points and confusing the opponents with his broken field running.

In the arena, he played junior hockey for the hometown Cubs before advancing to the senior Crescents at age 20 for the 1933-34 season. He would be among scoring leaders throughout his senior career.

When he was unable to find a job in Moose Jaw in the midst of the Depression, the North Battleford Beavers succeeded in recruiting him with the promise of off-ice employment. He took a position with team sponsor Dominion Fruit, and plotted on how to intimidate opponents.

“I was about 140 pounds, and as captain of the team, we wanted to look bigger,” he told the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix eight years ago. “We made the Beaver crests on the front of the jersey as big as we could. The striped ribbing in our sleeves extended to the elbows.”

Duchak wore sweater No. 33, while linemate Clarence Shillington chose No. 66 and Cam Burke went with No. 99, he reminisced. The outrageous numbers were thought to make the players look more intimidating.

The Beavers advanced to the 1937 Allan Cup finals for Dominion senior hockey supremacy. The Sudbury Frood Tigers from Ontario featured a roster including several future NHL players, including Bingo Kampman, Murph (Old Hardrock) Chamberlain, and Mel (Sudden Death) Hill. The Beavers, whose future contribution to the NHL would be the brothers Squee and George Allen, took the Tigers to a fifth and final game before losing the series and the cup.

Duchak transferred to the Trail (B.C.) Smoke Eaters the following season, taking a job as a warehouseman for the Consolidated Mining & Smelting Co. He was named captain of the club, whose black-and-orange sweater included a chest patch featuring a pair of belching smokestacks. The team recorded 19 wins, four losses, and one tie in the regular season. Duchak had 16 goals and 20 assists

The Smoke Eaters eliminated the Nelson (B.C.) Maple Leafs, the Kimberley (B.C.) Dynamiters, the Calgary Rangers, the Flin Flon (Man.) Bombers, and the Port Arthur (Ont.) Bearcats before facing the Cornwall (Ont.) Flyers in a best-of-five Allan Cup showdown. Duchak skated like a demon in the playoffs, scoring several key goals.

The Allan Cup series began at Saskatoon with Duchak firing two goals in a 6-4 victory.

The series than moved to Calgary. A special train from Trail arrived with more than 500 die-hard Smoke Eater partisans, including a brass band and a troupe of acrobats. The band played after every Trail goal, while the gymnasts tumbled for the spectators before the match.

Duchak dominated all skaters with another pair of goals and a pair of assists as Trail dominated, 8-2.

The Flyers avoided a sweep with a 2-1 victory, Duchak scoring the loser’s lone marker.

The “mountain magicians,” as the sports writers styled the Trail squad, then claimed the senior hockey crown with a comfortable 3-1 win, Cornwall’s goal coming in the final minute of play.

As the Smoke Eaters were joined on the ice by their fans, Duchak shook hands with celebrants while clutching the historic trophy in his left arm.

“We made our own breaks,” the Trail captain said after the game. He had led all scorers with five goals and two assists in four games.

The team was greeted by more than 7,000 delirious well-wishers when their train pulled into Trail’s downtown station. The applause lasted 15 minutes as the players disembarked before being paraded through downtown atop a fire truck.

The Dominion title earned the Smoke Eaters the right to represent Canada at the world championships the following year, a title the Trail team won handily. Duchak missed their famous overseas jaunt, as he had taken a position as playing coach of the new Calgary Stampeders hockey team.

He suffered a grievous injury in a game against the Olds (Alta.) Elks when a body-check knocked him off balance. His head struck the ice with a thud. Play continued, as Calgary scored. When players rushed to his side, they discovered he had swallowed his tongue. A teammate and the referee needed to pry his clenched jaw open. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition with a skull fracture.

In 1940, the Stamps advanced to the Allan Cup finals before losing to the Kirkland Lake (Ont.) Blue Devils in a series play at Toronto. Duchak scored 10 goals in 11 playoff games.

It was his third appearance in the Allan Cup finals in four seasons.

The Stampeders suspended play during the Second World War, as players fulfilled their military obligations. Duchak played for the Buffaloes, an intermediate team that won the Western Canada title.

“The team we met in the final was a group of commandos who were stationed in British Columbia,” he once said. “We beat them but they darned near killed us.”

With Duchak as manager, the revived Stampeders won the Allan Cup in 1946. The team lost the cup finals the following year to the Montreal Royals.

A key figure in organizing and promoting hockey at all levels in Calgary, he also served on the executive committee of the Stampeders football team, which won the Grey Cup championship in 1948.

In 1964, he was named commissioner of a new junior-A hockey league in Alberta. He donated a trophy to the season championship.

Away from the ice, Duchak married Lauraine Domage in 1937. On moving to Calgary, he took the first of several positions with the Calgary Brewing and Malting Co. He managed the soda pop division before becoming supervisor of the company’s hotel chain.

He moved from Alberta to take a job managing a hotel in Barbados in 1966. His duties later included operating a five-star luxury hotel in Bermuda at which Randolph Churchill was a frequent dinner guest.

The hotelier returned to Canada to supervise a chain before retiring at age 67 in 1980.

Duchak was inducted into the North Battleford Sports Hall of Fame as a player in 2002 and the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder last year. The 1938-39 Trail Smoke Eaters were named to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1994.

Last year, at age 95, he presented the Dave Duchak Trophy to the Spruce Grove Saints for topping the standings in the regular season. It was the first time he had held the silverware that bears his name.

David Duchak was born on Aug. 18, 1913, at Moose Jaw, Sask. He died on July 11 at Edmonton. He was 96. He leaves Lauraine (nee Dolmage), his wife of 72 years; a son; a daughter; four grandchildren; and, two great-granddaughters.

Mascotmania: The faux fur was flying

A mania of mascots took to the diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria recently to mark the birthday of cuddly Seamore the Seal. Frolicking on the field were (from left) Terry Trader, Seamore, Rocky the Raccoon, and Okee, a frozen dairy treat. Photograph by Geoff Howe.

By Tom Hawthorn
The Tyee
August 23, 2010

The mascots frolicked on the verdant lawn of a baseball diamond.

The field was flush with plush.

It was quite the cast of characters.

There was Marty the Marmot from the Victoria Salmon Kings hockey team.

There was Terry Trader from a sporting goods store. He wears a baseball cap backwards and has a missing front tooth and looks like one of the Hanson Brothers if the brothers were seven-foot tall and mute.

There was Rocky the Raccoon from the Shamrocks lacrosse team, who plays air guitar on a goalie stick. He sometimes holds a sign reading, “Chicks dig fur.” The flip side reads, “I’m with stupid.”

There was Okee, an ice-cream novelty from Okee Dokee.

The gathering of the anthropomorphic menagerie — and a faux frozen dairy treat — was held to honour Seamore the Seal, the mascot of the Victoria Seals baseball club.

Seamore wears Seals jersey No. 09, but, like Donald Duck, no pants. (Don’t ask.) On this day, instead of a baseball cap, he wore a large red birthday hat topped by a blue tassel.

“Hey, Seamore,” a fan in the stands yelled, “where’s the cake?”

The seal gave an exaggerated shrug before grabbing his amble belly as if to show he had blubber enough without gorging on more sweets.

It was another busy day for Seamore. He got down on one knee to hug little children, gave grown men the high five, embraced a bevy of beauties seeking a little cuddle time.

He signed a cap for 11-year-old Logan Wiersma and he signed the right arm of 12-year-old Brentyn Hill, both visiting from Lake Cowichan.

“Sweet,” Logan said, examing the scrawl. “Dude, it’s epic.”

“Epic,” repeated Brentyn.

Seamore gave knuckle bumps, exhorted the crowd to cheer, tussled the hair of 12-year-old Sam Sylven, whose duty it was to shout “Play ball!” to begin the game.

Seamore hugged an umpire. Sometimes, he massages the umps shoulders, even shines his shoes.

Behind the grandstand, Seamore taught the other mascots the choreography for “YMCA.” Giant plushies have difficulty dancing with their floppy feet. Either that, or spelling is not a strength.

Seamore urged his friends to behave after Marty the Marmot tried to shove a giant styrofoam subway sandwich into Okee’s non-existent pie hole.

Back among the crowd, the mascot never stopped working the crowd. When the opposing manager disputed a call, he wiped away mock tears with both flippers.

As Seamore passed a hot-dog stand, a wide-eyed little girl clutched her mother’s leg, while a twenty-something woman bent down to goose his fuzzy posterior.

It’s not easy being Seamore.

He has to keep an eye out for orcas and Newfoundland swilers, not to mention the perils of being a pinniped in a land where the Governor General has demonstrated an appetite for seal sushi.

It can be a risky business when a body part is considered a delicacy in some parts of the land.

Seamore was asked how he felt on his big day.

“ —,” he replied.

Mascots don’t talk.

In two summers, Seamore has become a hit with baseball fans, a cuddly, lovable figure whose goofy demeanor helps bring more customers to the ball park.

“If the kids are fans of the mascot,” said team president Darren Parker, “the parents have to come, too.”

Another Canadian entry in the Golden Baseball League has not had such success in developing a fan-friendly alter ego.

The mascot of the Calgary Vipers is named Slider, “your everyday, friendly, neighbourhood snake.” The baseball pants-wearing ophidian has a forked tongue and a big belly — it looks like Slider’s digesting a shortstop.

Nor is the serpent the only poisonous critter on the circuit. Stinger is the fuzzy green mascot of the Yuma (Ariz.) Scorpions.

The Edmonton Capitals’ mascot is Razzle, a roadrunner who had been created for a hockey team, only to be abandoned — or should that be mothballed? — when the skaters moved to Oklahoma City. The baseball team inherited the unwanted Geococcyx californianus.

Razzle’s natural arch-rival works for the Orange County (Calif.) Flyers, whose mascot is a railway engineer named Coal Train who happens to be a coyote.

Tomfoolery is a venerable tradition in baseball, tracing its roots back through such entertainers as Al Schacht, the original Clown Prince of Baseball, and Max Patkin, the successor to the throne. (Schacht pitched three seasons for the Washington Senators at the end of the First World War. He had 14 wins, 10 losses. he began clowning as a coach when he would mimic opposing players. He later owned a popular Manhattan eatery where the menus were round like oversized baseballs. Sometimes, he interrupted meals to launch into borscht-belt routines. “There is talk I may be Jewish,” he once said, “just because my father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I speak Yiddish and once studied to be a rabbi and cantor. Well, that’s how rumours get started.”)

Some barnstorming teams also married diamond skills to crowd-pleasing antics in a less sophisticated age, including Bloomer Girls (with cross-dressing men as ringers) and the House of David (bearded members of a religious colony). Doug Peden of Victoria, who had played basketball for Canada at the 1936 Olympics and later became sports editor for the Victoria Times, grew his whiskers long during a Depression summer to make his living with the free-swinging communards. Other touring troupes included teams of African-American teams billed as the Ethiopian Clowns and the Zulu Cannibal Giants, who wore grass skirts.

The cartoony mascot is a more recent phenomenon, one owing much to the energetic routines of The Famous Chicken (nee the San Diego Chicken, aka the Laurence Olivier of Mascots), the alter ego developed by a college student from London, Ont., named Ted Giannoulas.

A visit by the Chicken is becoming an annual highlight of the Vancouver Canadians’ season. (Check out Nardwuar the Human Serviette versus the Chicken at Nat Bailey Stadium in a duel of squeaky, frantic, orange-and-yellow-clad characters. Guess which one emceed a Ramones show and once interrupted an Elvis concert.)

It is the conceit of a mascot like Seamore that they never speak and always remain in character. They are never to be seen partially dressed.

While Seamore does all his speaking as a mime, sometimes you can find sitting in the stands at Royal Athletic Park a third-year law student named Alex Pomerant, who has made a study of the semi-aquatic marine mammal with the Looney Tunes antics.

“Seamore’s goofy,” he said. “He likes to help out and sometimes he likes to cause trouble. But mostly he’s cute and friendly.”

Pomerant, 25, is the son of lawyers from Toronto. He was in the stands at SkyDome when Joe Carter hit his famous World Series-winning home run in 1993. Moments earlier, Pomerant’s father said, “I’ll try to get tickets for tomorrow.” One summer, Alex attended games in all 30 major-league cities, traveling by Greyhound, a journey that included an unwise Atlanta-to-Denver jaunt.

In high school, he played tight end and safety for the Lawrence Park Panthers. Coincidentally, he wakes up mornings after Seamore performs feeling the same aches and bruises as after a football game.

Three hours in Seamore’s $8,000 costume is like working out in a sauna. Seamore drinks four litres of water per game.

He sometimes hangs out in a walk-in beer cooler, where the thermometer reads 20-below Celsius.

His brain is filled with the Criminal Code, yet he has a jester’s heart and a vaudevillian’s timing. He writes letters to his family signed by Seamore.

After the inaugural season last year, the seal thought himself deserving of a raise.

He sent a letter to the owner. It was signed by Stealmore Deals, the name of the the mascot’s purported agent.

Unlike many contract negotiations, this one ended swiftly with handshakes all around.

Seamore got a $10 boost to his salary. He now makes the grand sum of $60 per game — no overtime for extra innings.

For the Rat Lady of Nanaimo, an unwelcome celebrity

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 23, 2010


At first, the Hounsome family puzzled over the odd bumps in the night.

A thump in the walls. Scratching in the ceiling.

It’s an old house, they noted. Maybe it’s haunted.

“We were hearing noises,” said 40-year-old Tamara Hounsome. “It got to the point where the kids didn’t want to sleep in their room upstairs because we were hearing so many noises at night.”

Over time, the nocturnal knocks became more frequent.

“We’d sit up at night and freak each other out. We were sure there was a ghost in here.”

A hint to the mystery was offered one night by Toby the tabby. The family cat stared at the base of the dishwasher as though watching a particularly riveting episode of “Garfield and Friends.”

Soon after, Ms. Housome was doing the dishes when a critter skittered across the floor, over her feet (!), and away. All she saw was a pink tail and a whole mess of trouble.

“I felt horror and I felt sick,” she said.

A ghost would have been a welcome intruder compared to the freeloaders she now knew were squatting in her rental home on 105th Street in Nanaimo, two blocks north of the Island Highway.

She set a snap trap, baiting it with a generous dollop of Kraft peanut butter. Thwack!

She set more traps. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

“We were getting two or three a day. That’s when I knew I really had a problem.”

She bought out all 35 rat traps in stock at the local hardware store.

She called an exterminator. The estimate was $1,500. Her husband is a construction labourer. She worked in retail, though now is on a disability pension after receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The cost was more than a month’s rent. She remembers breaking into tears.

The landlord was not answering calls.

“After many anxiety attacks and many dead rats, I thought I needed some help.”

At wit’s end, she called a local newspaper. They did a story. Then, a television news crew followed up.

She thinks of it now as “a plea for help with my rats.”

The exterminator saw her on television. He was touched by her plight, offered his services this time as a gift. He closed entry portals in the roof and elsewhere in the drafty old house. An expert in the culinary preferences of the black rat, he advised using chocolate frosting. Rattus rattus has a sweet tooth.

Intervention worked.

“To date we’ve caught 32 rats,” she said. She hushed as she contemplated the number. “That’s a lot of rats.”

The media attention has made the 40-year-old mother something of a celebrity around town, though not for the best of reasons.

“I go out and people are looking at me as if they know me,” she said.

After staring for a moment, it hits them.

“I’ve become known in the city as the Rat Lady.”

She’s heard a few nasty comments about the quality of her housework, but insists her home is clean for her three sons and two stepdaughters, a brood ranging in age from 11 to 17.

A film crew recently spent four hours in the house of the Rat Lady. They set up lights in the living room so bright as to seem part of an interrogation scene.

A producer from England had spotted her story on the Internet and arrived to tape an episode of “Extreme Infestations,” a new documentary series to air on the cable channel Animal Planet.

London-based Darlow Smithson Productions are on the hunt for real-life pest problems involving “bedbugs, mice, cockroaches, spiders, termites, ants, bats, moles, bees, wasps, frogs, woodworm, snakes, birds, racoons, skunks, etc.”

Last month, a crew filmed a house in Rexburg, Idaho, under which a den of garter snakes had made home.

Garter snakes are cuddly pets compared to the possibility of having some flinty-eyed rodent popping up from the drain during a shower.

Now, her rat race is almost over. She has found new quarters for her family in the top floor of a home in which renovations have recently been completed.

“Hardwood flooring. Jetted tub,” she marveled. “It’ll be like royalty compared to this.”

She has also acquired three kitten companions for Toby.

“I ain’t gonna have no more rats. No way. My rat days are done.”

The Nanaimo episode is expected to air next year.

Let me tell you how it will be

Totals released by Elections BC on Friday showed strong support for the anti-HST initiative in all 14 Vancouver Island ridings.

An astounding 11,512 eligible voters in Saanich North and the Islands signed the petition opposing the harmonized sales tax. That’s a sliver less than 26 per cent of all voters in the riding, which includes a suburb north of Victoria, as well as the southernmost Gulf Islands.

Murray Coell, the Liberal incumbent who has since been named labour minister, took the seat by just 258 votes over the NDP’s Gary Holman in last year’s general election.

The poorest Vancouver Island showing came in the Nanaimo riding held by the NDP’s Leonard Krog, where the petition was still signed by 17.32 per cent of eligible voters.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Richie Hayward saved his best feat for his last performance

Richie Hayward behind the kit during Little Feat's set at Island MusicFest in Courtenay last month. Kelly Nakatsuka photograph. BELOW: Hayward, circa 1975.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 16, 2010


Richie Hayward wore a red fleece sweater with a hood. Sitting just offstage, he shivered beneath a blanket.

He huddled near a sound board, as though the heat it generated was a camp fire.

It was summer, but the sun had gone down and a wind had come up.

Mr. Hayward was sick. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer almost exactly a year earlier. He had played a final show in Montana with Little Feat, the band for which he had been drummer for four decades, before leaving the tour to recuperate at home in Courtenay.

A year before the diagnosis, he had married Shauna Drayson, a Comox Valley woman who can be found on weekends serving food to the homeless. Her business involves providing companion services for seniors. Now, her compassion and her skills were needed at home.

She stood beside her husband as Little Feat performed as the final, headlining act at Island MusicFest last month.

The plan was for the drummer to join in for a few songs.

No one was certain if he would have the strength.

Little Feat is one of those bands musicians appreciate, whose songs appear on lists of best-driving-tunes, whose fans wax rhapsodically about a never-ending rock, soul, blues, funk groove.

Critics love ’em and the English hail them as original American geniuses.

Hayward was born in 1946 in Clear Lake, Iowa, a resort town later to be infamous for a plane wreck. The great Buddy Holly, as well as Ritchie Valens and deejay the Big Bopper, died after performing at the Surf Ballroom, as their plane crashed into a snowy cornfield three days before Hayward’s 13th birthday.

In 1966, Hayward answered an advertisement in a Los Angeles underground newspaper: “Drummer wanted — must be freaky.” He eventually formed a band with Lowell George that came to be Little Feat, an outfit that took all the musical ingredients America had to offer before mixing it through a New Orleans blender. Mr. Hayward’s rhythm became a Little Feat signature.

The band split up after Mr. George died of a heart attack in 1979, before reforming several years later. Meanwhile, the drummer became a much-in-demand session player, as well as performer. His credits read like a who’s who list from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — from Dylan, Bob, to Zevon, Warren, including the likes of Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Buddy Guy, and James Cotton.

If you’ve listened to rock music sometime in the past 40 years, you’ve likely tapped your toe and bobbed your head to Richie Hayward.

More recently, you could find him attending jam sessions at Comox Valley pubs, grooving to the music and, on occasion, taking a turn on the drum stool. He hung out with Pacific Disturbance, a local five piece rocking blues band.

It was his misfortune to be an American without health insurance, and, though married to a Canadian and living in Canada, not yet qualified for our system.

His musician friends held a fundraiser in Courtenay last September that raised $53,439.63 for his medical bills.

Others made contributions through the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.

Friends who called themselves the North Pole Allstars recorded a “funky labour of love” called “Santa Gotta Get Some,” proceeds from the exclusive download going to his fund.

When the drummer’s wife let it be known that his children and stepchildren had not seen him perform, Little Feat were enlisted for a concert on Vancouver Island.

They had performed the night before at a beer festival at Chico, Calif. They drove several hours to San Francisco airport, flew to Vancouver, then boarded a charter flight to Comox Valley Airport. It was a long haul and a quick turnaround in 24 hours and not all their equipment made the trip.

No one was certain if he would have the strength to perform.

At last, he joined the band onstage to sing along to “Don’t Bogart That Joint” (the Jamaican national anthem, his wife quipped online) before settling behind the drum kit onto a stool that bore his name.

“He went from freezing on the side of the stage and looking very fragile before turning into this monster drummer,” said Doug Cox, the festival’s artistic director.

He played three songs — “Spanish Moon,” “Skin It Back,” and “Fat Man in the Bathtub.”

Said Cox: “It was a naked, beautiful, private performance moment that was shared between guys who had made music together for 40 years — and an audience of 8,000 people.”

The moment was recorded by producer Derek Bird of CBC Radio. The corporation’s staff has a special connection to MusicFest, where one of the stages is named for the late David Grierson, an on-air host and festival emcee who died suddenly six years ago.

After his performance, Mr. Hayward exited stage left.

A cellphone photograph captured the moment as Hayward reached for his wife. Hayward’s eyes were closed, his mouth open in a smile. The look on his face can only be described as joyous.

“Richie was beaming,” his wife later wrote.

It was his final performance.

The drummer died of complications from pneumonia on Thursday morning at a hospital in Victoria. His wife held him as he passed. He was 64.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Clare Copeland, radio station owner (1924-2010)

The comedian Jack Benny (left) hams it up with Clare Copeland. Both were careful with a nickel.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 13, 2010


Clare Copeland, who has died, aged 85, turned a struggling radio station into a regional powerhouse and later lent his name as well as his fertile imagination to an advertising agency.

An ideas man with a keen sense of promotion, Copeland found an outlet for his creativity as a car dealer, a radio advertising salesman, and as a communications specialist. He also played a pivotal role in reframing the political culture of British Columbia.

In 1963, he and Charles R. Smith purchased Victoria radio station CFAX, which had gained a license only four years earlier. Launched by radio equipment suppliers with limited broadcast experience, the 1,000-watt outlet (“your good music station”) aired programming only from sunrise to sunset. After dusk and until dawn, the 810 frequency on the AM dial was dominated by a more powerful station based in San Francisco.

Copeland and Smith were the third partnership to own the station, which they bought from businessmen Art Phillips and Charlie White. (The former later served as mayor of Vancouver, while the latter became a celebrated author and fishing guide. The pair had gone into business running coin-operated laundromats.) Mr. Smith died in 1966, aged 51.

The station became a force after Copeland gained a 24-hour license at 10,000 watts. CFAX moved on the AM dial to 1070, where it remains to this day. After transmission towers were erected on an islet near Victoria, the station could be heard in Duncan to the north and Port Angeles, Wash., to the south, as well as in parts of Vancouver to the northeast. Offering “more music, less talk” and featuring the sounds of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, the station also delivered news at the top of the hour. It eventually became the city’s top station.

Clare Gabriel Copeland was born on Sept. 2, 1924, in Calgary to Mary Aileen and George Franklin Copeland, a grain merchant. The boy moved to Winnipeg with his family at a young age. He attended St. John’s High School (now St. John’s-Ravenscourt) before volunteering for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. The time spent at the Patricia Bay airfield, now the site of Victoria International Airport, convinced him that southern Vancouver Island would be a good place to settle.

He first became interested in radio operations while studying at the University of Manitoba after the war.

“To pay my way, I was working Saturdays, holidays and any other days they wanted me in the records section of the Eaton’s musical department, so I was pretty up to date on what was popular and what wasn’t,” he told the Victoria Times Colonist four years ago. “And I was fascinated with radio. Winnipeg had five stations, including CBC, and when I had a chance to join CKRC I didn’t hesitate.”

By 1949, he was the station’s promotion manager. Like many in the radio business, he lived a peripatetic life, working at stations in Edmonton, Toronto, and Montreal, where, in 1952, he married a nurse and Trans-Canada Airlines stewardess named Barbara Exelby.

The couple moved to Vancouver the following year, as Copeland became national sales manager for CKWX.

A decade later, the Copelands moved to Victoria after buying CFAX. The new owner lured to his station a freewheeling collection of personalities, both in front of the microphone and behind the scenes, including the likes of Barry Bowman, a Saskatchewan hire who would be dubbed the “morning mayor,” and music director Gord Cruse, who had been a broadcast buccaneer on a pirate radio ship off England before joining CFAX as a disc jockey in 1969.

Creative directive director Rich Mole credits Copeland with creating “Cinema Scene,” a twice daily review of what was playing at local cinemas, an aid to moviegoers before the thumbs-up, thumbs-down review became ubiquitous.

“I often say I never went to work in those days. I went to play,” Mole wrote in a letter to the editor after Copeland’s death. “Clare? He was right in the audio sandbox, having fun with the rest of us.”

Copeland hired an Anglican priest to produce weekly taped reports on the happenings of young people. The youth who contributed received a transistor radio and quantities of soda pop for their efforts.

Earlier, he established a working arrangement with the student radio station on the University of Victoria campus. He offered to train the staff and helped purchase equipment. He also offered the students a free telephone link to CFAX so they could broadcast his signal when they would otherwise be off the air.

In 1970, Victoria’s police chief issued a 30-day ban on his staff assisting the station in gathering news, a protest against what he feel had been a report derogatory to the police department. The week-long impasse ended with a meeting including the provincial attorney general.

Afterwards, Copeland said the chief “realizes now that he could have called me anytime ... if he’d had a disagreement.”

“I still think he was totally wrong in imposing the ban.”

Copeland sold his interest in 1974 to Mel Cooper, a Newfoundland-born entrepreneur for whom he had served as mentor. Cooper adopted a talk format that made the station dominant among commercial competitors.

During the reign of Premier Dave Barrett, Copeland became involved in a movement to defeat the NDP government. He was one of the players in a unite-the-right movement in which Liberals and Conservatives were to abandon their venerable parties to join a revamped Social Credit. The Socreds won the 1975 provincial election under the leadership of Bill Bennett in what was a two-way race.

Copeland and partner Ian Stewart, a lawyer, bought an automobile dealership. While many such businesses use the owner’s name, Copeland figured a potential customer seeking to buy one of his cars would look in the telephone directory for the manufacturer’s name. Thus was born Honda City.

He also was a founding principal with his daughter of Copeland Communications, which remains a prominent agency on Vancouver Island.

He was an active fundraiser in election campaigns, served as president of the local chamber of commerce from 1968 to 1970, and was so involved with St. Michael’s University School as a director and benefactor that the private institution named a lecture theatre on campus after him.

Clare Copeland was born on Sept. 2, 1924, at Calgary. He died on May 14 in Victoria. He was 85. He leaves a daughter, two sons, and two grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife of 57 years, the former Barbara Exelby, who died on March 18.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Horseshoes not just a summer pastime for championship contenders

Buddy Dyrda lines up a pitch. The 23-year-old Calgary roofer is a top seed at the Canadian horseshoes championships being held in Victoria. Deddeda Stemler photograph for The Globe and Mail.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 11, 2010


A satisfying clang rang out as the horseshoe struck a metal stake, sliding down the post to nestle in the dirt.

Another shoe made a slow rotation through the languid morning air.

It landed with a clang.

A third shoe. Clang.

A fourth. Clang.

The pitcher wore a red sports shirt on the back of which his name was written in marker. Buddy Dyrda, a 23-year-old roofer from Calgary, has returned to the club in which he learned the venerable sport of horseshoe tossing.

He is the No. 4 seed in the Canadian championships, which open today with a parade of athletes following a Royal Canadian Legion honour guard. Some 170 pitchers from seven provinces will compete for bragging rights and modest cash purses. Top prize: about $400. Mostly, though, they will enjoy the camaraderie of others who appreciate the special delight of tossing equine footgear across a grassy expanse.

Mr. Dyrda is a notable contestant for his great youth. Back home, his next oldest competitor is more than twice his age. He is an uppity young man in a game unapologetically dominated by the grey-haired set.

He played team sports in high school, but prefers bowling and, especially, horseshoes.

“In basketball, your teammates let you down one night and you let them down the next,” he said. “This is a one-man sport. It’s all you. That’s how I like it.”

He won three national titles as a junior, scoring ringers on four of every five tosses. As an adult, he has had to move back 10 feet to toss from 40 feet. At first, he scored on only three of five tosses. Now, after four hours of daily practice and tens of thousands of tosses, he is slowly returning to his old average.

He learned the sport from his grandfather, Gordon Butts, at the Victoria Horseshoe Club, which opened in 1935, making it the continuously operated club in the land. His grandmother, Dorothy, was inducted into the British Columbia Horseshoe Association hall of fame last year. Rheumatoid arthritis has limited her pitching, but she remains active as an organizer.

The club runs a program for local high school students to pitch horseshoes as part of their physical education classes. Not surprisingly, the sport does not rank high on the list of grooviness.

What did Buddy’s teenaged buddies think of his avocation?

“They thought it was stupid,” he said, “until I finished second in the world.”

He thinks the sport needs to work on its image and become more attractive to his peers.

“What do I want to do with it? Turn it into a spectator sport. Get more recognition. There’s Game Boys and Xboxes. Hard to gets kids out here. Hard to get them into the fresh air.”

A pastoral hobby more befitting an agrarian 19th-century than a digital 21st has a marketing problem.

“Kind of boring,” he acknowledges. “Like watching paint dry.”

Not that the local club doesn’t try. A fine facility, with a clubhouse and both open-air and covered courts, the club charges just $50 annual membership, while children play for free. It is one of the best secrets in the capital district.

The club entered the Buccaneer Days parade in Esquimalt. To fit into the pirate theme, they slipped under their shirtsleeves the hooks players use to lift their horseshoes.

Back at the club on Tuesday, two old chums — Dale Squires, 61, a retired vending-machine operator from Saskatoon, and Scotty Miller, 67, a semiretired pipefitter from Calgary — whiled away the morning with a long, best-of-three showdown featuring good-natured ribbing.

They debated the merits of the 1 1/4 rotation toss versus the 1 3/4 rotation toss. They teased another player about having placed magnets within his shoes.

Talk turned to the late Elmer Hohl, a six-time world champion and 19-time Canadian champion who is widely thought to have been the greatest the sport has ever known. He is the Babe Ruth and Bobby Orr and Rocky Marciano of a sport dismissed by many as a summer pastime.

Hohl, who belonged to the fourth generation to farm the same plot of land at Wellesley, Ont., west of Kitchener. He only became a competitor at age 38, making up for the delay by winning title after title.

As impressive as was his resume, the admiring pitchers remembered best his trick shots. It was said he could pitch over an automobile to place a ringer on a stake he could not see. Once, he was asked to toss against a brown stubby beer bottle for a commercial. The brewer supplied a stack of two-fours, expecting the shoot to result in shattered glass and sprayed suds. Hohl’s first toss landed in such a fashion as to perfectly frame the label on the bottle. It is said he turned to the director to say, “What else would you like?”

Back on the warmup courts, Dyrda continued his late-morning practice.

Horseshoes spun and clanged against the stake.

“Four for four,” a spectator noted.

“Not quite,” Buddy answered. He kicked at a horseshoe in the dirt in the bottom of the pile. “Now it’s four for four.”

He smiled. If only it was that easy.

The Canadian horseshoe championships are being held at the Victoria horseshoe club, 620 Kenneth St., from Wednesday until Saturday. Admission is free. The clubhouse has light refreshments for sale.

Monday, August 9, 2010

In praise of a fighter jet that kept an eye on the Russkies

This Sabre jet once patrolled the skies along the Iron Curtain. It was on show in Victoria this weekend. Despite the 'Danger Intake' warning, many could not resist poking their head inside the fighter's shark snout. Deddeda Stemler photograph for The Globe and Mail.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 9, 2010


The retired air force pilot stood on grass slick with rain, the object of his admiration a snub-nosed fighter jet.

It was painted in the spectacular livery of the Golden Hawks, the defunct Canadian aerobatic flying team.

The warbird looked like it had been designed by George Jetson for use by the Thunderbirds, a swept-wing, single-seat futuristic vision whose shortened nose makes it appear as much lawn dart as jet.

The air intake hole in the cone, like a giant nostril, gives it a slightly comical appearance. In its day, it was about as whimsical as the shark snout it resembles.

The Sabre was the cutting-edge of a technology designed to deliver sudden and spectacular death to the enemy.

Don McBride spent three years of his life flying a Sabre along our side of the Iron Curtain. He patrolled possible hotspots on the most dangerous front of the Cold War.

He was stationed in West Germany a half-century ago, a young man out of Goderich, a pretty port town on the shores of Lake Huron. Despite living on an inland sea, he wanted to take to the sky. The shooting had stopped in the Korean War by the time he entered Royal Military College at Kingston. By age 23, he was part of Canada’s contribution in defending Western Europe from the Soviet Union, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization pilot facing down the Warsaw Pact.

“It was a wonderful thing to fly,” said Mr. McBride, a 74-year-old retired air force colonel. “A pilot’s aircraft. You could feel the controls. You felt part of the airplane.”

The other side had Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17s and MiG-19s, “which were very good,” he acknowledged, but he was always happy to be piloting a Canadian-built fighter.

This Sabre, known as Hawk One, took a roundabout route to get to the annual open house held on Saturday by the B.C. Aviation Museum at Sidney.

Owned by Vintage Wings of Canada, it left its home at the Gatineau airport in Quebec with stops at an air show at Oshkosh, Wisc., then on to Winnipeg, Calgary, and Comox. Hawk One is scheduled to appear at the Abbotsford Airshow this weekend. [Aug. 13-15]

This jet was the 1,104th to roll off the assembly line at the Canadair plant at Cartierville, near Montreal. Built in 1954, it was restored last year to mark the centennial of flight in Canada.

The name painted beneath the cockpit honours Al Lilly, Canadair’s chief test pilot who, in 1950, flew the prototype beyond the sound barrier, the first Canadian to do so.

Telling visitors about the jet and its history was Dan Dempsey, 57, who wore a blue flight suit with his name stitched in cursive letters of golden thread. He also possesses a mustache that would not be out of place on a Spitfire pilot during the Battle of Britain.

Mr. Dempsey was a six-year-old boy in 1959 when he saw the Golden Hawks perform at an air show at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, near Ottawa. He determined then to become a pilot. He joined the Canadian Forces, spending 23 years as a jet instructor, a fighter pilot, and commanding officer of the Snowbirds demonstration team. After 15 years as a commercial pilot, he now works as a flyer for Top Aces, a subsidiary of Discovery Air, which provides combat support training to the Canadian Forces. (The Globe has called it “the fastest, fiercest company in Canada.”)

The retired lieutenant-colonel, who lives in Victoria, is the author of a history of Canada’s airshow teams, which trace their lineage to William George Barker performing demonstrations on German biplanes after the Great War.

Mr. Dempsey is one of only a handful who get to fly Hawk One, each hop adding to his more than 14,000 hours of flight time.

The only Sabre rattling on this day is in praise of a machine that is the last of its kind in Canada.

The museum also had on display a Chipmunk and a Bolingbroke, an Anson and a Norseman, as well as biplanes, gliders and helicopters. The museum’s volunteer restorers are at work on rebuilding a Harvard, known as a “Yellow Peril” by aircrew for its bright mustard colour, the terrible noise it made on takeoff, and its many deadly training accidents.

Others are working on a Vickers Viscount 757, a postwar turboprop originally delivered to Trans-Canada Airlines in 1957. When its flying days ended 23 years later, vocational students in Vancouver received maintenance training on it. The museum bought it for $1 five years ago and had it barged across Georgia Strait.

Weekend visitors toured the interior, peeking into the cockpit, checking the four ovens in the galley at the rear, giggling at the garish pink toilet. Mostly, though, they admired the wide seats with spacious legroom, a reminder of the days when air travel was classy.

The museum has wonders beyond flying machines. Weapons, uniforms and medals are all on display, as are silk maps designed for use by pilots trying to escape after parachuting over enemy territory.

Propeller heads can make a pilgrimage to a wall of propellers, while the meteorologically inclined will admire a Dines anemometer, used to measure wind speed.

My favourite is an ejection seat from an Avro CF-100 Canuck interceptor. It comes with a survival pack — oxygen bottle, sleeping bag, food pack, first aid kit, fish hooks, snare wire, a folding .22 Hornet rifle with ammunition, and a supply of Dexedrine to stay awake.

Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Victoria with all that stuff

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A hockey trailblazer emerges from obscurity

Larry Kwong, the China Clipper, played for the New York Rovers before being called up to the parent New York Rangers. BELOW: Larry Kwong met former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden at a recent ceremony at Penticton, B.C. Photograph courtesy Zoe Soon.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 4, 2010


After he retired from hockey, Larry Kwong raised a family and built a business in Calgary.

He rarely spoke about his exploits on the ice, in part because few ever asked.

He had played but a single game in the National Hockey League, his turn on the ice so brief as to seem more a dream with each passing year.

He did not make a fuss over being ignored.

Time passed. His children grew up, had children of their own. He mourned one wife, then a second, the seeming blessing of a long life cursed by the loss of those you love.

A fine athlete who played professional hockey for 12 seasons in four countries and later became a tennis instructor, he came to be betrayed by his own body.

Diabetes claimed his left leg. A year later, he lost his right. An athlete whose dipsy-doodles on the ice once caused grief for defencemen and goaltenders now wore artificial legs, needing crutches, or a wheelchair, to move from room to room in his own apartment.

He once confessed to me a wish to be done with the rigors of living. He did not seriously contemplate the end, though, as he felt a duty to his family, especially his grandchildren, to be a part of their lives.

Mr. Kwong is 87 now, slowed by damnable infirmity, but still sharp of mind and blessed with a dry sense of humour. He has needed it.

Chad Soon, a 38-year-old elementary school teacher in Vernon, is campaigning to gain for the old player long overdue recognition. Mr. Kwong broke the colour barrier in the NHL as the first player of Asian descent to skate in the league.

Why do so few know his story?

“Here’s a guy raised not to speak out. Not to draw attention to himself. To be seen and not be heard. Sort of the traditional Chinese upbringing,” Mr. Soon said.

Mr. Soon, a third-generation Canadian whose Chinese side of the family has been in this country longer than his British side, first learned of Mr. Kwong from his grandfather, a contemporary who had followed the exploits of a player known as the China Clipper.

When moving cross-Canada to take a job in Mr. Kwong’s hometown, Mr. Soon made a pilgrimage to the player’s home, where he heard his life story and examined his hockey memorabilia. It was a moment never to be forgotten.

“People have never heard of him,” he said. “Such a compelling story. So deserving of recognition.

“I became determined to do what I could to get him some attention,” he said.

Mr. Kwong was the 14th of 15 children born to an immigrant grocer with the venerable name Eng. The family became known as Kwong from their grocery store Kwong Hing Lung (Abundant Prosperity). He lost his father at age five. Like so many boys, he spent cold winter evenings during the Depression listening to Foster Hewitt broadcast hockey games on the radio.

He played the game himself on borrowed skates with makeshift equipment on the frozen ponds of the Okanagan. From so humble a beginning, his great skill as a skater and sharpshooter earned him a spot with the Smoke Eaters in Trail, where he was barred from taking a well-paying job at the smelter like his teammates because of his ethnic heritage. Instead, he worked as a bellboy, a servile job. He played more senior hockey in Nanaimo and Vancouver before enlisting in the army during the Second World War. In 1946, at age 23, the fleet forward joined the New York Rovers, an amateur team that played at Madison Square Garden.

The Manhattan sportswriters called him King Kwong, a teasing nickname for a man who stood just 5-foot-6, weighed just 150 pounds.

He finally got a call up by the parent New York Rangers for a game at the Montreal Forum. Near the end of the game, he was finally allowed on the ice for the briefest of shifts. His career was limited to a New York minute and he was never again to be given the opportunity.

After the snub, he signed with the Valleyfield Braves, where he was a top scorer and a most-valuable player in the senior Quebec league. He later played in England and Switzerland, where he also coached, before returning to Canada, where he built a grocery business in Calgary and lived in anonymity, his trailblazing forgotten, or ignored.

That anonymity is coming to a happy end.

Two years ago, Mr. Kwong and his daughter traveled to Vernon to speak to Mr. Soon’s Grades 5 and 6 class at Mission Hill Elementary. The walls of the classroom were lined by the pupils’ posters.

On the same visit, Mr. Kwong was pushed onto the ice before a Vernon Vipers junior hockey game to drop the puck for a ceremonial opening face-off. Mr. Soon remembers the crowd offering polite applause until the public-address announcer introduced him as the first player from the Okanagan to play in the NHL. Mr. Kwong received a standing ovation lasting more than two minutes.

More recently, the province’s hockey establishment, as well as local politicians, gathered in Penticton for an induction dinner for the new members of the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame. A special pioneer award was presented to Mr. Kwong.

Afterwards, in a column for his constituents, Stockwell Day (C — Okanagan Coquihalla) confessed he joined many in attendance in never having heard of the player.

“He had truly blazed the way and taken the hits so that my grandkids and yours will never have to face the painful barriers that kept him from every young kid’s dream,” Mr. Day wrote.

Many came by to pay tribute, including former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden.

Now, Mr. Soon is preparing a submission to be presented to the selection board of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

As well, the irrepressible Todd Wong, who, as Toddish McWong, marries Robbie Burns Day with Chinese New Year in a celebration he calls Gung Haggis Fat Choy, is seeking an Order of British Columbia for Mr. Kwong.

All these years later, Mr. Kwong is at last receiving his due.

He has also come to the realization that perhaps he was a hero, just like the schoolchildren insist. Not that you’ll ever hear him say that.

Monday, August 2, 2010

If Roxy goes dark, Victoria loses a gem

The Roxy has a ho-hum interior, but glistens like a bijou at night. Deddeda Stemler photograph for The Globe and Mail.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 2, 2010


The Roxy offers refuge from the maddening city, a darkened sanctuary of flickering images and escapist fare.

It is one of the last of the neighbourhood theatres, tucked along a street of low buildings. The nearby restaurants are a smorgasbord of mom-and-pop operations — an Italian deli, a Moroccan cafe, a Caribbean jerk joint. Some years ago, a cheque-cashing outfit opened across from a bank. Now the bank is gone to be replaced by the castoff treasures of a Salvation Army thrift store.

Each evening, a parade of moviegoers enters a theatre in which the price of admission is so low as to not require a loan from the sharks across the street. A ducat for a double feature costs $7 and just $4 on Tuesday, which is less than the cost of a fancy drink at Starbucks. There are no chain coffee shops on this stretch of Quadra Street, but there is the aptly named Caffe Fantastico.

The concession stand at the Roxy Classic offers java, too, as well as cider and fruit juice and hot chocolate and, in summer, slushies with their delicious promise of brain freeze. Hot popcorn is topped by melted butter, not some chemical concoction.

It is mildly comforting to know the sticky stuff on the floor is 100 per cent natural.

Armed with candy, patrons find a seat in which to watch the house’s lone screen.

On Saturday afternoons, the pint-sized set take over the house.

Outside, during most days, the theatre is a quiet place, a queue only forming as the sun goes down.

While the building is no bijou, it sparkles like a jewel.

A new overhead sign, with a flicker of neon, has been placed overhead. A row of posters advertising the movies lights up the entrance at 2657 Quadra St.

The north marquee reads: SAT 130 KARATE KID 4 SHREK FOREVER.

The south marquee reads: 700 LAST AIRBENDER 9 GET HIM TO THE GREEK.

The theatre does not list one possible coming attraction — a wrecking ball. The business is for sale for a cool $1.2 million.

The theatre was purchased three years ago by Michael Sharpe, a real estate developer. He cleaned up the exterior, gussied up the interior. The old entrance, including a door covered with faded movie stills, an unwelcoming greeting, was returned to its former glory of four glass-fronted portals.

While the listing for the property states the movie house “boasts solid and still growing audience numbers,” it also suggests “development potential ... as the site is utilized well below potential highest and best use.”

No kidding. The Quadra Street Village has enjoyed a resurgence, becoming something of a hipster haven stretching from the anarchist bookstore to the retro movie house. The Roxy’s Facebook page has 1,056 members, enough to fill the seats threefold. It is the last single-screen theatre in the city. (The only other independent movie houses in the region are the student-run Cinecenta on the University of Victoria campus and the two-screen Star Cinema in a converted bingo hall in Sidney.) With no adjacent, living-room-sized theatres as at a multiplex, the projectionist can crank the volume on the new Dolby Digital system, reviving the theatre’s old slogan, “Where sound sounds better!”

The theatre opened on Feb. 1, 1949, as the Fox, the sign including a neon rendition of its vulpine namesake. The first bill included cartoons, a newsreel, and a feature attraction in Technicolor, “This Time for Keeps,” starring Esther Williams, Jimmy Durante and the band leader Xavier Cugat. Other early showings included “Sealed Verdict” with Ray Milland and “Easter Parade” starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.

The Fox was owned by a projectionist and a pharmacist who owned the adjacent drugstore on which advertising signs promoted Sweet Caporal cigarettes. Constructed in a post-war era of scarcity, the building was designed like a Quonset hut. It looks like an oil barrel cut in half vertically before being placed on its side. These days, the exterior is painted blue.

Over the years, other neighbourhood cinemas succumbed to changing times. In Oak Bay, the Avenue Theatre closed during the Depression, becoming a warehouse before being converted into apartments. Further east, the Oak Bay Theatre closed its doors in 1986, leaving behind a sign that is now the symbol of the village.

The Fox survived, barely. It became a porno palace during the 1970s before being bought in 1986 by a partnership including Howie Siegel, a restaurateur who puts the boy in flamboyant.

As a boy in Brooklyn, the flying monkeys scene in the “The Wizard of Oz” caused him to run screaming from Loew’s Boro Park Theater. Thus began a lifelong passion for cinema. He once dreamed of becoming a studio mogul.

“When I finally figured out I wasn’t going to make movies,” he said, “I might as well show ’em.”

The joint was named the Roxy CineGog. Its slogan: “Where movies are a religion.”

He made a killing with “Crocodile Dundee,” drew in the art crowd with “Babette’s Feast” and “My Life as a Dog.” The art crowd displayed a certain eccentricity. Though tickets were the cheapest in town, patrons clamoured at the concession stand for free cups of hot water in which to dunk the tea bags they brought from home.

A different crowd gathered for midnight showings of “Heavy Metal, “Dazed and Confused,” and the annual Halloween showing of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” a bane to the cleaners who faced mountains of rice, toast and toilet paper thrown at the screen. For years, a streak of what looked like dried egg could be seen above the screen. Once, police had to be called to escort a streaker who refused to dress after his stunt.

One of Mr. Siegel's innovations involved removing the middle arm from pairs of seats in the back row. He called them nursing and necking seats.

“There was some sort of sucking going on,” he said.

“A great place for lovers to disappear to. Myself included.”

They don’t build them like that anymore.

The Fox Theatre opened in 1949 with a cartoon, a newsreel, and "This Time for Keeps," starring Esther Williams, Jimmy Durants and the band leader Xavier Cugat. B.C. Archives photograph I-02039.