Friday, December 14, 2007

Still so many questions about Lillian O'Dare

Lillian Jean O'Dare (right) poses with a friend known only as Diana.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
Dec. 12, 2007

She was found because tenants were looking for more storage space.

It was spring, 1989. Sheila Adams, a graphic artist, was renting a rambling, three-bedroom house in Vancouver's eastside. She shared the space with a boyfriend and a tree-planting buddy.

“It was big and cheap,” she said. “Great location. A short block off the Drive.”

Artists and musicians had flocked to the streets surrounding Commercial Drive, taking advantage of low rents near a lively stretch of cafés and restaurants.

At 941 Salsbury Dr., between Parker and Venables, Ms. Adams's gearhead boyfriend looked for a place to store car parts. In the basement, he found a small opening in the wall. The original porch upstairs had been closed in and added to a bedroom, part of which extended beyond the foundation.

The opening was sealed by a door on which four letters were crudely painted. The door had no hinge and had been nailed shut. It was pried open.

“There was a bunch of stuff in there,” Ms. Adams said. “Suitcases. Garbage bags. Not thinking anything of it, we took it all to a dumpster.”

After the junk was removed, they decided to level the dirt floor. Ms. Adams remembers hearing her boyfriend cry, “Uh, oh!”

His shovel had unearthed a skull. A bit of skin and hair was visible, but the remains had been there for some time. Police were called. The skeletal remains were removed, and the dirt sifted for evidence.

Police estimated the body had been there for about a decade. They were off by just one year.

Another 18 years passed before science could identify it.

This year, Forensics Magazine highlighted a new technology for DNA testing known as mini-STR (which stands for short tandem repeat), in which even small fragments of biological material can yield helpful information. The development will “make it possible for law enforcement to re-examine unsolved murder and sexual assault cases that have not been addressed for years,” the magazine reported.

On July 9, the remains were identified, and five weeks later, the Missing Women Task Force revealed the victim was Lillian Jean O'Dare.

She had been reported missing on Sept. 12, 1978.

Five years ago, her name was added to the city's list of missing women, which now numbers 65. Robert Pickton has been convicted in the murders of six of the women and is accused of killing 20 more.

No one has been charged in Ms. O'Dare's death.

In August, police released a fading photograph showing Ms. O'Dare with a friend.

She is of average build, stands 5 feet 6, has carefully waved blond hair. She wears a loose-fitting white pantsuit over a brown blouse speckled with white dots. Ms. O'Dare hugs her petite friend Diana with her right arm.

Police released the photo hoping friends or family might recognize Diana, who may have been a roommate when Ms. O'Dare went missing.

Little is known about the dead woman, who was from Williams Lake.

She shared a birthday with Elvis, although the singer was nine years older than she. At her disappearance she was 34.

Ms. Adams remembers a staff sergeant from the Vancouver police pointing out the letters G-R-M-C daubed on the door.

“Do you know what that stands for?” he asked.

She guessed it was the French initials for the RCMP.

“Grim Reapers Motorcycle Club,” he said.

Later, a neighbour told her the house had been occupied by bikers. They were the targets of a drive-by shooting. The next day, the bikers vanished.

Ms. Adams called the police after the name was released this summer. She has since been reinterviewed by the RCMP.

“I'm really glad that she was identified,” Ms. Adams said. “It seems more hopeful, I guess.”

She continued to live in the house after the discovery, even though some of her friends were “creeped out.”

Long after she moved from Salsbury Drive, she continued to think about the woman, as she has the other missing women.

Ms. Adams volunteers at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, which was founded the year Ms. O'Dare was killed. She helps serve food at holiday meals, arranges prizes for bingo games and prepares the centre's newsletter.

A trial has ended, but women still go missing. The centre has posters of some who have disappeared in recent months. “It's not over,” she said.

Yesterday, Ms. Adams saw the photo for the first time, putting a face to a woman too long unknown.

Ms. Adams feels a responsibility to her.

Spare a moment to remember Lillian O'Dare, missing no more, but still posing so many questions.

2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The man who filmed the Montebello provocateurs

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail

Dec. 5, 2007


Paul Manly's five-minute, 23-second video clip of a confrontation during a summer protest in Quebec is a compelling piece of theatre.

A man wearing a suit jacket challenges three burly men whose faces are hidden behind black bandannas.

“Take your mask off, brother,” he says. “Take your mask off.”

He taps the shortest of the burly men on the shoulder. He then spots a large rock in the man's gloved right hand.

“Put the rock down, man!” the man in the suit orders. “Put the rock down!”

He taps him on the back, swears at him, calls him a cop. He places a hand against his chest to prevent him from moving toward a line of helmeted riot police.

The man with the rock responds by shoving the suited man. Meanwhile, other masked demonstrators begin chanting, in French, “Policier!”

The standoff becomes ever more tense when arms reach in to grab at the masks. In the end, the three burly men press through the police lines to be arrested and escorted away.

Mr. Manly, a 43-year-old Nanaimo filmmaker, captured the scene on a high-definition camcorder while making a documentary. He's going to call it Trading Democracy for Corporate Rule, which means Michael Moore is not about to be challenged at the box office.

Mr. Manly travelled to cover the protests against a summit of the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States held at a luxury resort at Montebello, Que., in August. He rode a bus with members of the Council of Canadians, which he has since joined, a group critical of trade talks taking place without input from ordinary citizens.

The balding man in the suit jacket who confronted the burly men was Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada. Which explains his use of the word “brother,” as well as some of his riper oaths. (The CEP represents many Globe and Mail employees.)

“It was a pretty intense scene for me,” Mr. Manly said of the confrontation that began Aug. 20 at a police line across from the village's cemetery.

“I was confused because I don't speak French. I thought at first the crowd was saying Dave Coles was police. When I saw rocks, then I got worried. I could see these guys were intent on causing trouble.”

The standoff lasts just three minutes. It begins with the trade union leader trying to shoo away a small contingent of masked demonstrators, at the front of which were the three burly men.

“This is our line,” Mr. Coles announces. “This is for old guys, grandmothers, grandfathers. This is our line.”

Afterward, addressing the crowd and reporters, Mr. Coles accuses the burly men of being police provocateurs, although he rhymes the word with Mousketeers. “They were provocateers with boulders,” he says. “…They're trying to create a riot so they can suck us all in to get beat up.”

Soon after, he left aboard a bus on which Mr. Manly showed him the footage. The documentarian and the trade unionist were well on their way home by the time another confrontation wound up with police firing tear gas.

Mr. Manly posted his video on the Internet that night.

“Putting the video on YouTube made me nervous,” he said. “I didn't know who these guys were. CIA? CSIS? Blackwater [security firm] agents?”

The provincial police denied the three men were police officers. The accusation was dismissed as paranoia.

But the posting got enough traffic to warrant media interest. Brief clips of Mr. Manly's video aired on national TV newscasts. The police came clean and admitted the men were undercover officers. “At no point did Sûreté du Québec policemen act as agents provocateurs or criminals,” the force said in a statement.

In retrospect, the police infiltrators are dressed in costumes that are a comic-book fantasy of the anarchist style. They looked more like frat boys celebrating Halloween. The short man with the rock wore a ball cap sideways on his head, a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and, as Mr. Manly's film showed, the exact same model of boot as was being worn by the police officer who arrested him. Whoops.

Besides, your average scrawny anarchist – a young dumpster diver, or perhaps a self-described tofu-powered vegan freak – does not usually tip the scales beyond the 100-kilogram mark.

Mr. Manly said the infiltration of legal, peaceful protests darkens the reputation of police. He is not without sympathy. His sister is an Ontario Provincial Police constable; an uncle served in the RCMP.

“I do not want to get tear-gassed, tasered, batoned, or water-cannoned,” he said. “I just want to exercise my democratic rights.”

Mr. Manly thinks there should be an inquiry into police activity at Montebello, a demand repeated in the House of Commons yesterday by his MP, Jean Crowder (NDP – Nanaimo-Cowichan). Rocks were thrown that day and he wonders who launched them. Could be protesters. Could be cops. Who knows?

Tomorrow, he will be posting more high-definition images on YouTube showing questionable behaviour by some members of the crowd.

Checking out the 10-minute introductory film to his documentary, which was posted three weeks ago, I was viewer No. 1,518. The video of the police infiltrators being exposed, posted three months ago, had 338,406 hits as of yesterday afternoon.

That's what you call an audience.

2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

From peaches and beaches to world beaters

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail

Nov. 28, 2007


Dick Warwick buried a brother last month. He buried a sister in July and another sister a year ago next month.

He might say he was worried about grief becoming a habit if only he had more siblings to lose.

Nine of 10 Warwick children of a great sporting family are gone.

“I'm the only one left,” Dick, 79, said at his home in the Saanichton neighbourhood, near Victoria. The thought gave him pause. “You know, five of us are in the hall of fame in Saskatchewan.”

Claude was a boxer. Millie played baseball professionally in the United States in a circuit made famous by the Hollywood movie A League of Their Own. Grant and Billy were tough forwards in the National Hockey League.

Dick was never in the NHL, but he lured his brothers to the Okanagan Valley in the 1950s, where they operated a popular restaurant and helped transform a local hockey team from a squad of amateurs into world beaters.

They learned their toughness on the Saskatchewan prairie. Their parents, who hailed from Quebec's Eastern Townships, travelled west after the Great War, during which their father broke colts for military service. They had farms at Sintaluta and Indian Head, but lost the land during the Depression and were forced into the city. Their father went from driving a tractor to driving a truck.

Dick Warwick was the baby in a brood with five sisters (Embyl, Isma, Jean, Wilda, Millie) and four brothers (Archie, Claude, Grant, Billy).

“It was tough times,” he said. “There was no money at all. But my parents worked hard and we never missed a meal.”

They lived across the street from a large field that the city flooded each winter. The boys learned to stickhandle with broken sticks scavenged from the local junior team, nailed together and covered in tape. Skates were shared among the boys and Dick can remember his mother spending 15 cents to buy him a second-hand pair.

“We played every sport there was to be played. It kept us out of trouble.”

Hockey also encouraged the lads in an exploration of the pugilistic arts. In 1941, Claude took the Dominion amateur featherweight title, overcoming a hard-hitting local favourite at a tournament in Vancouver.

Claude joined the navy as a boxing instructor that summer. He was pressed into service with the Regina Navy football team and scored his team's only touchdown against Winnipeg in the 1942 Western final.

He was stationed in Nova Scotia near the end of the Second World War when the bus in which he was a passenger was struck by a train near Sydney. He suffered a concussion, was taken to hospital in Montreal, and lingered for two weeks before dying four days before what was to have been his wedding day.

Then the oldest son, Archie, a flight lieutenant in the air force, had a nervous breakdown after crash landing while towing a glider. After recuperating, he had a long career as an engineer.

Meanwhile, Grant, who was nicknamed Nobby, was named the NHL's rookie of the year for scoring 16 goals with the New York Rangers during the 1941-42 season. Grant enjoyed eight seasons in the NHL. Billy joined him for two brief call-ups with the Rangers, although most of his career was spent in the minors.

Dick never made the NHL. In those days, there were more seats in the House of Commons than jobs in the top league. Still, there was a market for the Warwicks' hard-crashing, take-no-prisoners, win-at-all-costs style. In 1948, Dick turned down a chance to play professionally at Wembley. “They made a big offer,” he said. “I'd have been the dukes of dukes.” Instead, he wound up playing in Nanaimo, then moved on to Penticton in the beautiful Okanagan Valley.

The town, whose population was about 12,000 in the mid-1950s, was known for its peaches and its beaches. The senior amateur hockey club even took its nickname from three varieties of peaches grown in the bountiful valley – Vedette, Valiant and Veteran.

The Vees had more aspirations than talent in Dick's first season with the club. It was not until he lured his brothers to British Columbia – fans even passed the hat to raise $1,300 to gain Grant's release from Buffalo – that the team had enough scoring punch to challenge for the Dominion title.

Away from the ice, the brothers operated Warwick's Commodore Cafe (“Where sportsmen meet”) across the street from the post office. Dick liked to order a sirloin, or T-bone steak. (He was also partial to a pretty cashier named Pam, to whom he has been married for 53 years.) The restaurant was a popular gathering place for local sports fans.

In 1953-54, with Grant as the playing coach, the Vees won the Okanagan league. They then defeated the Nelson Maple Leafs for the B.C. championship and the flashy Winnipeg Maroons for the Western title, before upsetting the Sudbury Wolves for the Allan Cup as senior champions. The Vees were then selected to represent Canada at the world championships to be played in West Germany the following March.

The little town went crazy. A local singer recorded a song urging her team on to victory.

The Vees were placed in the unenviable position of having to reclaim Canada's reputation as a hockey power after the Soviets had knocked off a team from Toronto the previous year.

The Vees crushed the Americans 12-1 with Billy scoring six goals. In the game against Czechoslovakia, Billy Warwick twice tied the score for Canada before the Penticton team won, 5-3.

The Warwick brothers were ardent anti-Communists, and before the showdown against the Soviet Union, Grant told the players that if they lost they might as well move to China.

A few thousand Canadian soldiers stationed nearby attended the game at Krefeld, West Germany, which was broadcast by Foster Hewitt to a large radio audience back home.

“They were dirty buggers, I'll tell you,” Dick said of the Soviet players.

The Soviets relied on a scientific rather than a spontaneous style of puck movement.

“They had a certain pattern of coming out of their own end,” Dick said. “We adapted to it and then we took command.”

The Canadians won 5-0 with Billy scoring two goals and Ivan McLelland getting the shutout. (The goalie gave up just six goals in eight games.) After the game, he told Mr. Hewitt and his Canadian audience that victory over the Soviets felt better than winning the Stanley Cup.

The team returned home with a beautiful silver trophy. The brothers put it on display in their restaurant. It was supposed to be returned to competition, but Dick remembers Billy hated the idea of surrendering it.

“He said, ‘Hell, we worked hard for that trophy. We're keeping it.' ”A silver-plated replica was ordered and was sent to Europe the next year with the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen.

The Warwicks kept their secret for years.

A year ago, there were four surviving siblings. Millie died in Edmonton last December. Wilda died in Winnipeg in July. Billy died in the Alberta capital last month. Now, there is only Dick left from his generation of Warwicks. He knows where the trophy is but he's not saying.

The Vees' triumph came seven months after the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Preceded by Percy Williams' two gold medals at the 1928 Summer Olympics and followed by the world hockey championship won by the Trail Smoke Eaters in 1961 and Nancy Greene's Olympic skiing medals seven years later, the Vees put the province on the world's sporting map, a status to be confirmed in 26½ months with the opening of the 2010 Winter Games.

Mr. Warwick is hoping he'll be invited. If so, he might have a piece of silverware to show off.

2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Trying to save the world, one idea at a time

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail

Nov. 21, 2007


Lawyers in black suits and matching ties do battle with stick-wielding policemen on the streets of Lahore, Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, critics assail Hamid Karzai's meddling in anointing a successor as leader of the Alokozai, one of the Pashtun tribes supporting the president.

On the lawless border between the two lands, the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda plot their latest offences.

Half a world away, in a non-descript office in an ordinary building at the University of Victoria, a man with a common name but an uncommon résumé monitors developments in those lands of strife and battle.

All in a day's work for Gordon Smith.

Few on campus know his work, fewer still in the surrounding city are aware of his reputation. Yet, he is engaged on a global level on two high-profile files – security in Afghanistan, and the expansion of the G-8.

The former diplomat and high-level federal bureaucrat is the executive director of the Centre for Global Studies, a clearing house of sorts for think tanks.

“I feel like I'm part of some kind of global conspiracy to make the world a better place,” he said. He thought a moment. “Not much of a conspiracy.”

At 66, he is wrestling with some of the great questions of our age.

More than a half-century has passed since an unforgettable childhood incident in East Berlin sparked a lifelong interest in world peace.

He weighs his words before speaking, reflecting both the caution and the precision of one who had a long career as a diplomat and a bureaucrat. In formal portraits, his long face and pensive demeanour make him look as world-weary as the cartoon character Droopy Dog. The world is a heavy thing to carry on your shoulders.

After earning a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he embarked on a career in the Canadian civil service. His titles included a blizzard of secretaryships and senior-adviser positions and stints as deputy undersecretary of this and that. He enjoyed a steady rise and promotions to several key posts. A deputy minister at foreign affairs. Ambassador to NATO. Secretary to the cabinet for federal-provincial relations (after the collapse of the Meech Lake accord). Ambassador to the European Community.

After so long a career as a mandarin, he no longer gets to form policy, nor is his opinion sought by politicians as it once was. He has to content himself by contributing to the debate.

“Nobody from government, from the political or public service level, has ever called me, or asked me for my advice or views on anything,” he said.

“You do it because you hope to stir up a more informed discussion on these things. I think that's happening.”

Earlier this year, he prepared a study titled Canada in Afghanistan: Is It Working? In it, he argued that NATO might have to negotiate with elements of the Taliban. He also suggested a marketing board should be established to purchase the poppy crop for medicinal purposes.

As for Afghanistan, “we wear it.”

He said Canada might have unwittingly engaged in a war in Afghanistan, but having done so – and having suffered military losses, and having killed Afghan civilians – the country cannot now simply set an arbitrary date for departure.

“You just can't walk away from it, even if we got in there not knowing what we were doing. We're there.”

He rejected as unrealistic calls for a pullout, or a date for withdrawal, or the replacement of the Canadian military in hard-fought Kandahar by another NATO ally.

“The political debate in this country is to me – I was going to say the word pathetic, but that's too strong – is superficial.”

His other portfolio is less emotional. He has been hard at work making the case for the G-8 group of nations to expand. The addition of China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa may some day lead to a G-13.

Mr. Smith was born into a family in which public service was seen as a duty. His maternal grandfather, Gordon W. Scott, a chartered accountant from Montreal, had been provincial treasurer in the Quebec government. After the outbreak of the Second World War, he was pressed into service by Munitions Minister C. D. Howe as a dollar-a-year adviser.

Early in the war, he joined Mr. Howe and industrialist E. P. Taylor aboard the Western Prince, which sailed from New York to Britain with a cargo of aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The three men were travelling to promote the sale of Canadian munitions to their wartime ally. About 600 kilometres west of landfall, the liner was struck by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat. The three all managed to get into lifeboats, but the one carrying Mr. Scott capsized and he was lost at sea.

A grandson today recites the date – Dec. 16, 1940 – as though it happened much less than 67 years ago. Mr. Smith's father was absent for much of his childhood, spending four years in military service.

When the boy was aged 12, his family toured Europe. He asked to visit East Berlin, which was under Communist control. The Berlin Wall had not yet been built, nor had the city recovered from the desperate battle that had levelled it in 1945.

“The rubble was all there. People were living in the basement of bombed-out buildings.”

One stop on their tour included a cemetery in which thousands of Soviet troops had been buried. A keen photographer, young Gordon took out his Leica camera to snap a shot of a bust of Stalin.

As he did so, a worker dressed in blue coveralls stepped forward. He addressed the boy in English.

“Take a picture of that bastard?”

The worker spat on the ground.

Soldiers who had been standing guard at the graveyard came running as if to arrest the man.

“Our guide swooped me up, threw me in the car, and off we went back through Checkpoint Charlie,” he said.

From that day on, he said, issues of war and peace have never been far from his mind.

A boy whose curiosity unwittingly caused an incident in which the outcome for the protester will remain forever unknown has spent the rest of his life trying to solve, rather than provoke, conflict.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An artist of the natural world

With terraces and granite sculptures, still ponds and cascading waters, Don Vaughan transforms the outdoors

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
Nov. 14, 2007

The workings of Don Vaughan's green thumb are everywhere around us.

If you have strolled the plazas of Expo 86, or tramped the winding waterfront walkways of David Lam Park on the same site; admired the placid ponds of Granville Island, or met a friend at the fountain at the University of Victoria; munched a sandwich in Park Place next to Christ Church Cathedral, or found peace at the Nitobe Memorial Garden; perambulated through Ambleside Park, or sunbathed at Sun Life Plaza; clumped in ski boots through Whistler Village, or sprawled on a lawn at Simon Fraser University; meditated at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, or contemplated mortality at Ocean View Cemetery, you have been touched by a creation of one of the nation's most accomplished landscape architects.

Few know of him, and, worse, many of us barely acknowledge the planning that created the spaces of our everyday lives.

"People don't see the landscape," he said. "They just take it for granted."

It is the job of a landscape architect to marry aesthetics to functionality, soothing and inspiring a visitor while also handling so mundane a responsibility as drainage. (After all, no one appreciates a flooded pathway, or a muddy entrance.) When it works, as it does so often in his creations, you barely notice.

"Landscape is about space. You're in it," he said.

Mr. Vaughan turned 70 this year. A tall, lean man built like the rower he once was, his hair is white like the froth of churning water. Stray locks spill across his forehead. He has handed over the West Vancouver firm that carries his name to two sons, wading into semi-retirement as a consultant.

For more than 40 years, he has been contemplating the landscape of the University of Victoria, for which he will be awarded an honorary degree today. Mr. Vaughan's vision helped transform farmland and barren grounds into a verdant campus.

Inside the Ring Road, low-rise buildings no taller than the surrounding trees frame a central quadrangle, an open space friendly to pedestrians. It is edged by planted rows of pin oaks. At the library end, a fountain built with funds donated by former lieutenant-governor David Lam has become a meeting place. The fountain shows off the features favoured by Mr. Vaughan - terraces and granite sculptures, still ponds and cascading waters.

Not that anyone would notice, but the fountain is yet another of Mr. Vaughan's efforts to recapture an experience from his childhood, when he lived in Oregon along the Millicoma River on "a piece of land with this beautiful river running through it."

Mr. Vaughan was born into a lumber family based at Coos Bay, Ore. His grandfather owned a logging company. He refused to pay for his son's studies in architecture, so the lad financed his education by working as a longshoreman on the San Francisco dockyards during the Depression. He later returned home to start his own logging firm, where his sons worked in the summer when they were teenagers.

One day, both Vaughan boys were working on the mill pond when one fell off a log and into the drink, his caulk boots quickly filling with water. The other wielded a pike pole to fish him out of the pond. To this day, Denny thanks Don for saving him. Tragedy narrowly averted, the pair were put to work in the mill. . He retired as a rear admiral. "He had an affinity for the water," Don Vaughan says dryly.

Don Vaughan joined the naval reserve, hoping to become a fighter pilot, a dream dashed by hay fever. He wound up instead working on the signal bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.

While aboard the carrier, he read a stack of secondhand magazines featuring the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The articles inspired him to enroll in architecture at the University of Oregon, where he was a member of the rowing team. He was racing to have his photograph taken with the rest of the crew at Dexter Reservoir when he flipped his MG sports car, breaking his back and crushing several bones.

Recuperating from the wreck took many months, interrupting his studies. He wound up in Australia working on a major government building in Canberra, a slow process that convinced him he lacked the patience to be an architect.

He graduated with a degree in landscape architecture in 1965, by which time he had come north to work on two striking projects - a university being built atop Burnaby Mountain, and another on the site of an old army camp just outside Victoria.

One of the more dramatic decisions he made at UVic came when he used an X-Acto knife to cut in half an architectural model made of Styrofoam. He then pulled the two pieces apart. "You create a space," he said. "Now it has a courtyard, an identity of its own."

A favourite project is the Sun Life Plaza at the corner of Thurlow and Melville Streets in downtown Vancouver. In the early 1980s, developers sought to build high-rise towers amid the setting of an urban garden.

Mr. Vaughan wanted to create an oasis in the city. He placed the seating areas below street level, separating pedestrians from traffic, the sound of falling water helping to mask the noise of passing vehicles while luring people into the bowl of brushed concrete. The setting seemed especially to work for the designer, who had long wished to create an urban space in which crowds could gather, yet a solitary figure would feel comfortable.

On one sunny day, he struck up a conversation with a woman in the plaza who was reading a book. She told him it was her favourite spot in the city. He then asked her what she thought of the person who had designed it.

"Never thought of it," she replied. "I just thought it happened."

The exchange seemed to capture his frustration with his profession. He wound up enrolling as a mature student at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, where he earned a diploma in fine art in 1989. His graduating project was a series of granite cubes set in an artificial tide pool at water's edge at Ambleside Landing in West Vancouver. At least, he thought, people don't take sculpture for granted.

So, the next time you enjoy the reverie encouraged by one of his designs, take a moment to cast a grateful thanks to Mr. Vaughan, whose work is so good you can't even imagine it needed to be done.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Diamond days gone, she's still in a league of her own

Marge (Callaghan) Maxwell and her sister, Helen, played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which inspired the movie, A League of Their Own. Maxwell also starred as a softball player in Vancouver.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
Nov. 7, 2007

For years, Marge Maxwell left untold a story about her life she thought no one cared to hear.

She married, gave birth to two boys, divorced, juggled jobs while raising her sons. She worked in a drugstore, took in foster children, served as a dietary aide at a care home. All were posts where one expected to find a woman.

Mrs. Maxwell is, by her own admission, a chatterbox. Yet for nearly 40 years, she never talked about the time she spent in the batter's box as a professional baseball player.

While men fought overseas, she did battle in a tunic and a skirt on the baseball diamonds of the American Midwest. She fielded grounders for the Belles and the Daisies, smacked doubles for the Redwings and the Blue Sox. After she kicked off her cleats and hung up her leather glove, the memories of her time as a pro athlete were left as untouched as the scrapbooks she stored in a cedar chest for safekeeping.

Even her sons didn't know Mom had once been a ball player, as had her younger sister.

“It just wasn't something we talked about,” she said.

The tale of the sisters would inspire a Hollywood movie, a notion that would have seemed preposterous when they first agreed to play for pay.

Mrs. Maxwell turns 86 next month, her diamond days long behind her.

She buried her little sister more than a decade ago, and tries to make the most of the extra innings she has been afforded. She is no longer as reluctant to talk about being a belle of the ball game, as long as she's asked. Bragging is not part of her game.

Margaret Callaghan was born on Dec. 23, an early Christmas gift for her parents in 1921. Her sister, Helen, came along 15 months later.

The girls grew up in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, where they played softball, lacrosse and basketball at school and in nearby public parks. The Callaghan sisters were a blessing for the Western Mutuals softball team, which played at Centre Park at the corner of Fir and Broadway. Marge had a trustworthy glove, while Helen was a demon on the basepaths.

In 1943, their team played exhibition matches across the Prairies on their way to Detroit for a championship tournament. The Mutuals defeated teams from Cleveland and Moose Jaw before losing to the defending champion Jax team of New Orleans.

The sisters returned home, where they learned they had been scouted during the tournament. P. K. Wrigley, the chewing-gum magnate who owned the Chicago Cubs, had decided to launch a women's league of his own as a business rival to the so-called Glamour League already in operation in Chicago.

Both sisters were invited to attend spring training. Helen headed south, but Marge needed government approval as she held an essential job in a war industry.

With young Canadian men serving in the armed forces, Marge had been hired as a squad leader at the Boeing plant on Sea Island, just south of Vancouver, where bombers were built. She wore boots, a kerchief on her head, her diminutive figure clothed in coveralls.

Her job was to supervise the women stamping numbers on parts, ensuring their eagerness, or their carelessness, did not damage the sheet metal.

“I felt we were doing something worthwhile,” she said, “while the kids were over there fighting.”

Her father, a truck driver, urged her to join her younger sister as soon as possible. Midway through the summer of 1944, she was at last granted permission. She traded the plant's dull uniform for the colourful uniforms of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Baseball offered a freedom not to be found in a factory, even though both shared a need for precision and repetition – a bolt screwed properly here, a ground ball scooped correctly there. A factory was an exercise in predictability, whereas the diamond offered the promise of random, even bizarre, events. Why, even the grass itself could hide a pebble leading to a bad hop, transforming a routine ground ball into a plot-turning device. Besides, one paid more than the other.

“At home, I was working eight hours a day, six days a week, and I was earning $24 a week. Baseball paid $65 a week.”

She joined her sister on the Minneapolis Millerettes, a team that did better on the field than at the box office. It abandoned the Twin Cities to play all of its final games on the road. The homeless squad was jokingly referred to as the Orphans.

At the end of the baseball season, she returned to Vancouver to work at the Hudson's Bay Co. store downtown, where she priced merchandise in the stockroom.

The following season she was playing third base for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Daisies. The team was managed by Bill Wambsganss, a major leaguer whose 13-year career was remembered then as now only for his having the good fortune to turn the only triple play in the World Series, an unassisted one at that.

About a tenth of the players in the All-American league came from Canada. They received instruction in the arts of remaining feminine, including classes on properly applying makeup. They were schooled in etiquette, as well as in executing the hit-and-run. The players wore skirts, mandated by league rules to be no more than six inches higher than the knee. Each club had a matronly chaperone responsible for ensuring good behaviour on the road.

Of course, the young players got up to their share of high jinks.

“We did a lot of short-sheeting,” Mrs. Maxwell said. “We'd hide brassieres, or slip a rubber snake into a chaperone's bed. We were always sneaking out on dates. How could they keep track of 19 girls at once?”

In 1947, the entire league held spring training in Havana, where the novelty of women ball players attracted larger crowds than those attending the games of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The women became favourites of the baseball-mad Cubans.

Helen Callaghan was so adept at the plate and on the basepaths that she was dubbed a “feminine Ted Williams.” Marge Callaghan had a longer career, playing for South Bend, Ind., Peoria, Ill., and Battle Creek, Mich., before retiring after the 1951 season.

Soon after came marriage and children. Over time, an exciting sojourn seemed to have been a dream.

That changed after she appeared with her sister in a documentary that in turn inspired a Hollywood movie of the same name. After the release of A League of Their Own in 1992, folks were keen to know more about the “girls of summer.” Bits of the story of the Callaghan sisters were to be found in the characters played by Geena Davis and Madonna.

The original documentary was prepared by Kelly Candaele, one of Helen's sons. Another of her boys, Casey Candaele, broke into the major leagues with the Montreal Expos. It was the one time when a big leaguer could be accused of playing like a girl and take it as a compliment.

All these years later, after Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and women's lib and Ms. Magazine and Gloria Steinem; after a woman has served as prime minister and another woman can run for U.S. president as the most qualified candidate, a fan would be hard pressed to find women playing baseball for money.

Mrs. Maxwell and her late sister (Helen died of cancer in California in 1992, aged 69) were recognized recently by the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame for their pioneering roles. They joined basketball's Kathy Shields and badminton's Sandra Stevenson as this year's honorees in a program called, “In Her Footsteps: Celebrating B.C. Women in Sport.”

For her part, Mrs. Maxwell was delighted to meet the figure skater Karen Magnussen. “I'd watched her skate for years and here she was asking me to pose with her for a photograph. Imagine. Her admiring me?!

The roster of the league's veterans gets shorter every season, as old players get their final call-ups. More than a half-century has passed since Mrs. Maxwell last swung a bat. Baseball is just numbers without stories. She never imagined anyone would ever care to hear hers.

“I never set the world on fire,” she said, “but I had a lot of fun.”

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A storied portrait of a team set apart

Special to The Globe and Mail
October 31, 2007

Jennifer Koos slipped 17 photographs into a green-and-white plastic bag before sliding another grocery bag over the other end.

She was going to the baseball park.

No game was scheduled at Nat Bailey Stadium. A group of local baseball researchers were holding their annual meeting in the concourse, sitting at tables sandwiched between concession stands.

Ms. Koos, 39, stood apart from the others.

She had brought the photographs here after calling an executive of the Vancouver Canadians professional baseball team, who put her in touch with the team's historian, a fan named Bud Kerr who, she would say later, reminded her of her grandfather. He suggested she attend the meeting, which would be attended by fans, collectors and former players.

During the trivia contest, she quietly unveiled her keepsakes. The photographs stunned the baseball crowd. She had team portraits of players wearing uniforms reading "NBC" and "Purdy." Others wore shirts with an old English letter V. The baseball experts began deciphering clues in the photos.

Max Weder, a tax lawyer who was conducting the meeting, stopped at one image.

"This one is special," he told her.

Thirteen men stood in a row, all but one of them wearing a baseball uniform. Their wool flannels had the letters CHICAGO in a crescent stretching across the chest, with a stylized AG in a circle below that.

In the middle stood a broad man in a dapper three-piece suit, a fedora on his head, a tie around his neck, a chain across his vest, his hands shoved into his pants pockets. His face was as round as a baseball and he looked like the boss he was.

This was Rube Foster and these were his American Giants.

Some 90 years ago, the Chicago-based team barnstormed along the West Coast each winter. They drew large crowds who wanted to see in action the black players forbidden from plying their trade in the major leagues.

Vancouver has a long history as a stop for travelling sports teams in search of an audience. The Harlem Globetrotters basketball team still pops by every year, while earlier generations cheered, or booed, such baseball troupes as the Bloomer Girls (women with a handful of ringers in cross-dressing males, undoubtedly a future doctoral thesis for some enterprising student) and the House of David (bewhiskered men who promoted a religious community in Michigan).

The segregation enforced by baseball led black athletes to form their own teams and their own leagues. The demented mores of Jim Crow somehow permitted exhibition games against white teams.

Before the start of the regular season, the American Giants would travel north from California, playing teams in Portland and Seattle before facing the Victoria Bees and the Vancouver Beavers.

In time, Mr. Foster's squad would be recognized as one of the greatest teams of all time. He would be elected posthumously to the Baseball Hall of Fame, as would such other American Giants as Ben Taylor, Pop Lloyd and Bill Foster (Rube's half-brother).

Rube Foster's weight ballooned to more than 300 pounds, yet he would still sometimes seek the form on the pitching mound that made him a terrific hurler at the turn of the century.

In 1913, the Beavers beat the Giants twice. In 1914, the Giants took two of three, with Mr. Foster losing the final game after surrendering five bases on balls, the result of wildness or, perhaps, an unsympathetic umpire. The teams split their two-game, preseason showdown in 1915.

The undated photograph portrays a happy and healthy American Giants team in an age when even professional athletes did not always look hale. The miners and farmers who escaped their gruelling fate to make a living on the baseball diamond were by no means wealthy, or even comfortable, by the standards of the day.

The American Giants photograph is a magnificent portrait of a little-remembered day in Vancouver's sporting history.

Ms. Koos got the photos from her grandfather, a railway labourer and Second World War veteran named Harold Crummer from Indian Head, Sask. She found them at the bottom of a set of drawers in his bedroom. He said he had been given them by Stuart Thomson, a commercial photographer who was his father-in-law.

Mr. Thomson, himself a railway worker who had been born in England in 1881, had immigrated to Vancouver in 1910. Photography was at first a mere hobby, but he soon built a thriving business shooting events in the thriving city. He ran a commercial studio and sold images to the several competing newspapers. The Vancouver Sun bought more than 5,000 of his photographs and negatives in 1954, before donating them to the city archives in 1963, three years after the photographer's death.

Some of the photographic prints Ms. Koos had can be found in the archive's online database. The NBC team was likely an amateur nine representing the National Biscuit Co., while the club wearing the old-English letter was the Vancouver Beavers.

All but one of her prints were sold to an American collector. She has consigned the American Giants photo, measuring 16½inches by 6½ inches, to Robert Edward Auctions at Watchung, N.J.

When he first saw the image, auction house president Robert Lifson thought, "How the heck did this survive?"

The clarity of the image was striking. Mr. Lifson could even count the eyelets through which the players had laced their spikes.

The long-time dealer is not an easy man to impress. He has handled 20 of the 60 known Honus Wagner T206 cigarette cards, the Holy Grail of baseball-card collecting, including the one co-owned by Wayne Gretzky that sold for $1.265-million (U.S.). Mr. Lifson also identified the New York Yankees flannel uniform worn by Lou Gehrig as he made his emotional "I-am-the-luckiest-man-on-the-face-of-the-Earth" farewell speech. It sold for $306,000.

The Vancouver photograph will be included in the house's annual auction to be held on May 3. The two blockbuster items currently in the catalogue are a Babe Ruth rookie card from 1914 (one sold earlier this year for $199,750) and an 1887 cabinet photograph of a baseball team from Wheeling, W.Va. The latter item, which was found in a family's photo album, includes Sol White, a black baseball pioneer who was cut from the team the following year when the colour line was established.

The American Giants photograph likely will be listed without an estimated sale price. There are simply too few team photographs of Rube Foster and his players with which to compare.

"Items like this are so rare, there's no formal market value," Mr. Lifson said. "The collectors decide. It's not a hundred-thousand dollars. But it's more than a thousand dollars."

The Vancouver aficionados who looked at the photograph felt it could fetch as much as $15,000. However, if two collectors with deep pockets decide to get into a bidding war, then Ms. Koos will have hit a jackpot.

She has not yet decided what to do with the money, other than noting she has a 19-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. "I'll take care of the kids," she said.

The men who did battle on dusty diamonds would no doubt be impressed by the worth of even their image. Were they only alive today, every man in the photograph would be a millionaire many times over, a sad truth for some who died as paupers.