Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Defeat doesn't have to spell heartbreak for wannabe MPs

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 27, 2008


The Prime Minister hints he is about to call a snap election.

If so, the hustings beckon. The writ will be dropped, hands shaken, babies kissed, ballots cast.

Lots of candidates can be expected to toss their hats into the ring.

The voters toss most of them back.

A total of 1,634 citizens put their names forward two years ago as candidates for the House of Commons. Only 308 won election as members of Parliament.

That means a lot of tears on election night for wannabe MPs.

The heartbreak does not have to be all bad.

“Running and losing narrowly is the best thing that could have happened to me,” says Bruce Hallsor.

Eight years ago, Mr. Hallsor was the Canadian Alliance standard-bearer in Victoria. His assignment: Knock off David Anderson, the Liberal environment minister.

Like so many novice candidates, Mr. Hallsor entered the political arena for idealistic reasons.

“I wanted to fight to improve our democracy,” he said.

A lawyer by profession and a monarchist by nature, he felt the political system needed to be reformed to better capture expressions of the public will.

Lawyers are about as popular with the public as reporters, and it's hard to think of a legal occupation with lower approval than politics.

So, he stepped onto the campaign trail with trepidation.

“I got a couple of nasty e-mails and a couple of cranky phone calls,” he said. “I was prepared for a lot more than I got.”

To his surprise, he found campaigning to be unlike what many might expect. Those who opposed his party more often chose to avoid confrontation, a typically polite Canadian response. Meanwhile, supporters slapped his back, offered high fives and told him he was doing a great job.

“It's a big ego boost for anyone who runs,” he said.

For five weeks of the campaign, he found every minute of every day scheduled, from a prayer breakfast to the opening of an art gallery to a gathering of a gardening club. To run for office was to be immersed in an intensive tutorial. He learned he did not know nearly as much about the city as he thought he did.

From its earliest days, the federal riding of Victoria has dispatched interesting characters to the nation's capital.

In 1872, electors sent 29-year-old businessman Henry Nathan and 46-year-old newspaper owner Amor de Cosmos (the former William Alexander Smith) to Ottawa. The two Liberals had been acclaimed in a by-election held the previous year when British Columbia joined Confederation.

John A. Macdonald was elected to Parliament by Victoria voters in 1878 during a campaign in which he placed his name on the ballot in three constituencies. He also won in Marquette, Man., but was defeated in his home of Kingston.

A life-sized statue of the first prime minister stands at the south entrance of Victoria City Hall.

Over the years, the riding has had long runs of Conservative and Liberal representation. Two years ago, former city councillor Denise Savoie won the seat in the wake of Mr. Anderson's retirement.

Ms. Savoie had defeated David Turner, a former mayor, for the NDP nomination. Mr. Turner had twice unsuccessfully contested the riding, describing Mr. Anderson as “Ottawa's man in Victoria, not Victoria's man in Ottawa.”

Mr. Hallsor, a centennial baby, was only nine months old when Mr. Anderson was first elected to Parliament. (Incidentally, Mr. Anderson won a silver medal in rowing at the 1960 Olympics. Will any of today's Olympians some day seek office?) The newcomer knew he was an underdog.

One late poll had him trailing by one percentage point. Another had him ahead by the same slim margin. Most pundits' verdict: too close to call.

He remembers lying awake in bed beside his wife on the eve of election day thinking, “One way or another, thank God it'll be over tomorrow.”

The next day, he voted early, addressed campaign workers at a pep rally and delivered a hot lunch to scrutineers at the poll, returning later in the day with cookies and juice boxes.

A room for the victory party was booked at the Holiday Inn, where he also rented a room to watch the returns with friends and family. No surprises. Early on, he knew he had not delivered an upset.

He made a concession speech, then paid homage at the victor's party.

The celebrating Liberals cheered their vanquished opponent. Mr. Hallsor drank one of Mr. Anderson's beers.

The sting of defeat was tempered by his own party's failure to win a majority.

“I would have been a lot more excited to be a government MP than an opposition backbencher,” he said.

He returned to his law office the next day to find a stack of work. The campaign “turned out to be great advertising.”

Mr. Hallsor continues to lobby for democratic reform as president of Fair Voting B.C., which promotes the adoption of the single transferable voting system.

He remains active in electoral politics, serving as a Conservative campaign co-chairman in the 2006 federal election. He has defended the party's controversial transfer of funds that led to an Elections Canada investigation.

National campaigns go negative because the tactic is effective, he said.

That's good for a national campaign, but not a local one.

“Win or lose, you're going to be a member of that community.”

His advice: Keep it positive.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A statue of the artist as a singular woman

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 25, 2008


On a long ago Sunday afternoon, Ann Geddes's mother took her to the art gallery. One work among many remains in her memory decades later.

The girl was smitten by the swirling greens of a forest scene.

“You could almost smell the cedars in the woods,” she says.

That introduction to Emily Carr is not unfamiliar to those who have been touched by the painter's work. Others celebrate Klee Wyck, stories and sketches about encounters with the natives of the West Coast, which won Canada's most prestigious literary award.

The title originated from a nickname given to Ms. Carr at Ucluelet. It is said to mean “laughing one.”

Ms. Carr surely would be amused by current efforts to honour her.

The goal: A statue of the artist.

Location: On the grounds of the Empress Hotel, kitty-corner from the cenotaph on the lawn of the Legislature.

The image: From the fertile mind of Barbara Paterson.

The Edmonton sculptor's bronze model of the proposed statue depicts the painter sitting on a rock, a sketchpad in her lap. Her dog, Billie, is at her side, her monkey, Woo, on her right shoulder.

The maquette weighs about 23 kilograms and stands knee high. The completed statue will be 1¼ life size, weighing considerably more than its subject.

Ms. Paterson's public commissions can be found across the country. Her Famous Five Foundation Monuments have been installed at Olympic Square in Calgary and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The idea of a statue of Ms. Carr has been kicking around for more than a decade.

Ms. Geddes, president of the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Victoria, a charitable group raising funds to support the statue, considers the honour long overdue.

Asked why Ms. Carr deserves a statue, she answers, “Why is it not here already?”

The artist had not been long dead when Ms. Geddes had her childhood introduction to her work.

Ms. Carr breathed her last breath at St. Mary's Priory on March 2, 1945, in the building now occupied by the James Bay Inn, steps from Beacon Hill Park in which she found inspiration. She grew up in the neighbourhood, spending her early years in a house her father built on Government Street, later living in an apartment building she immortalized in one of her biographical works The House of All Sorts.

Her childhood home is now an interpretive centre. The maquette is on display in the building, where, twice a week in the summer, actor Molly Raher Newman dresses in Ms. Carr's eccentric style to read from her works.

For dedicated tourists, the house is part of a pilgrimage in which the other shrine is Ms. Carr's burial place just off Fairfield Road in the Ross Bay Cemetery.

Beacon Hill Park includes a concrete Emily Carr Memorial Foot Bridge lined with sea-washed stones from the nearby waterfront. It was built in 1953 with a $1,000 donation from her sister. A plaque midway across the short span honours Ms. Carr, who was said to have spent much of her leisure time there.

The statue was originally proposed for the park, but preservationists opposed further development there.

The landmark Empress Hotel, marking its centennial this year, agreed to have the statue placed at the corner of Government and Belleville, where it will rest beside a Douglas fir and flower beds. The bronze will not be raised on a plinth, making it easy for the public to access.

“People can pet the dog, look at the monkey, even sit on her lap and her sketchbook,” Ms. Geddes said.

A $450,000 fundraising campaign to pay for the statue was launched last week by the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Victoria, which is responsible for such civic amenities as a handwashing station at the petting zoo, as well as about 200 memorial benches scattered around the city.

Some think Ms. Carr can do for Vancouver Island what Anne of Green Gables has done for Prince Edward Island.

Ms. Carr is hailed today as a trailblazer, a member of a feminist pantheon of 20th-century artists including Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe. (Indeed, the three cultural icons were featured in a travelling exhibition that appeared at the Vancouver Art Gallery six years ago.)

Ms. Carr was an independent woman and a remarkable artist who also won a Governor-General's Literary Award for Klee Wyck in 1941.

Her contemporaries were less confident of her greatness.

After returning from year-long studies in France in 1911, she embarked on an ambitious sketching trip that resulted in a great many watercolours and canvases, few of which sold. Only with the later encouragement of Lawren Harris of the Group of Seven did she regain confidence, producing the works for which she is best known today.

She did not fit well into Victoria's conservative and conformist society, expressing her independence in ways not likely to win the approval of civic fathers, not to mention matrons.

How times change. Now, an outcast in life will be cast in bronze for eternity.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A city inspired by a folk-hero triathlete

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 20, 2008


The city's tribe of triathletes gathered in small groups to watch one of their own race against the world's best.

At Saanich Commonwealth Place, spectators found a spot in the bleachers above the race pool.

Across town, Jennie Sprigings and her 14-month-old daughter, Pippa, joined friends at a Fairfield home.

The girl's father had a race to run.

It was 10 a.m. Tuesday in China and 7 p.m. Monday back home in Victoria, where Simon Whitfield has become a familiar midday sight running along the Dallas Road waterfront while pushing his daughter in a stroller.

Eight years ago, the boyish athlete was an unknown figure in a fringe sport.

That changed when a gutsy sprint brought him to the finish line at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. On television, Don Wittman, now sadly lost to cancer, shouted his full name like a mantra: “Here comes Simon Whitfield of Canada! … Simon Whitfield takes the lead! … Simon Whitfield has done it!” The gold medal made Mr. Whitfield a folk hero.

He tried again four years later in Athens, finishing 11th.

He tried yet again in Beijing, the one-time undisciplined party boy now a 33-year-old father with his share of responsibilities. Among those is being a role model for a growing sport.

Triathlon comes with a philosophy: It is not just a sport, it's a way of life. Competitive, to be sure, but comradeship is important, too.

It has roots in California and not surprisingly has found fertile soil on the Canadian West Coast.

On the television screen, skinny men in goggles prepared to plunge into the glassy water of the Ming Tomb Reservoir outside Beijing.

The Olympic motto of citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger) is supplemented in triathlon by splash, mash and dash.

The sport at the Games begins with a 1.5-kilometre swim (splash) followed by a 40-kilometre bicycle ride (mash) followed by a 10-km run (dash).

The crowd at the pool in Victoria waved flags as the race began. As it turned out, the 56 competitors outnumbered the 39 spectators in the bleachers. Ann Carmichael, the pool's aquatic programmer, invited the public to cheer for athletes as familiar as neighbours to many in the city. She did not want to watch at home.

“It's okay to be jumping up and down in your living room,” she said, “but there's no one to hug.”

Armed with a cowbell, she rang it every time Mr. Whitfield appeared on screen.

He emerged from the water in 22nd place.

The athletes have two transitions between the three disciplines. They toss aside goggles and bathing caps, slip on bike shoes and caps. The pit stop is like a quick costume change.

Once on bikes, Mr. Whitfield had assistance from Canadian teammate Colin Jenkins, 25, who moved to Victoria three years ago. It was Mr. Jenkins' assignment to act as Mr. Whitfield's domestique, a role that, unfortunately, does not involve vacuuming. His job was to aid his partner by cycling ahead, creating a slipstream in which the other could draft.

Among those watching at the pool back home was Dan Dunaway, a tugboat operator who celebrated his 60th birthday last year by participating in the Penticton Ironman triathlon. The Sydney Olympics made him a fan of Mr. Whitfield.

“I just love his youthful energy and his exuberance,” he said.

Mr. Whitfield hopped off his bicycle in 12th place.

He replaced his helmet with a white visor.

He began moving through the chase pack.

Back in Victoria, Ms. Sprigings and friends cheered heartily.

It has been a year of strict discipline at the Whitfield-Sprigings household.

“No beer in the fridge. No ice cream in the freezer,” she said.

As the clock ticked past 8:30 p.m., a daughter stayed up past her usual bedtime. How could she sleep with so much screaming?

In China, Mr. Whitfield faded. The lead runners pulled away.

He tossed aside his visor and picked up his pace.

“Sing like Kreek,” he thought to himself. If he finished first, he would get to belt out O Canada, as did the rower Adam Kreek.

He caught up to the leaders.

Then, he passed them.

He led around a circle of flower pots heading into the straightaway to the finish line.

He was a football field away from another gold medal.

About halfway, a German runner sprinted past to clutch the tape at the finish line before collapsing.

Six seconds later, Mr. Whitfield crossed, bending at his hip to catch his breath. He did not run one more step than necessary.

He had won a silver medal.

They cheered like mad at the Commonwealth Pool, where Mr. Whitfield and other Olympians have swum countless laps.

After he got his medal, he held it up to the camera and spoke to his daughter.

“Pippa, you have something to play with at home,” he said.

Almost eight minutes later, Mr. Jenkins approached the finish line, hopping and skipping and waving to the grandstand with both hands. The domestique was the last competitor to officially straggle across, but it was hard to believe that any were happier than he was.

At the Victoria pool, sweaty spectators celebrated by cheering, hugging and clanging cowbells. The breathtaking conclusion felt like an aerobic workout.

Alexa Bryant, 9, pronounced her hero's performance “amazing.”

As for herself, she proclaimed her desire to compete in the Olympics.

Maybe in 2020.

“It's a dream for me,” she said. “I'd like to make it happen.”

The idea does not seem ridiculous. After all, she shares a pool with champions.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Designs on a dystopian future

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 19, 2008


A heavy submarine door, streaks of rust running from every bolt, bars the entrance to Ken Steacy's basement studio.

You brace and flex as you prepare to shoulder it open, only to stumble through the passageway. The door, it turns out, is covered in Styrofoam carved and painted to look like a relic from a watery war movie.

Cartoonists create worlds of their own imagination. Sometimes, they like to play in three dimensions instead of two.

Inside the studio, the flotsam of an illustrator's life – pens and inks and computers – shares space with the jetsam of boyish delights: toys and kit models and chrome automobile nameplates.

An ejection seat from a T-33 jet trainer rests on the floor. A plastic skeleton occupying the seat wears a flight helmet, as though scavenged from some long-ago disaster.

Beside the seat is a blown-up colour image of the June 16, 1962, cover of the Star Weekly magazine. The cover line reads: “Nine Miles High In The RCAF's New Fighter.” The pilot in the foreground, his face hidden by the shield of his helmet, is Mr. Steacy's father.

The 53-year-old artist is an air force brat born on the German front line of the Cold War. He does not recall meeting any civilian children until high school. He wanted to be a cartoonist from age 11, having graduated from Rupert the Bear to Tintin to the wonders of the Marvel universe of conflicted superheroes.

He has drawn characters from Astro Boy to the X-Men; written and illustrated adventures of such legendary comic-book figures as Batman, Superman and Spider-Man; painted a stack of Harry Potter trading cards; done computer-rendered illustrations for a Lucasfilms series of Star Wars books for children.

“The only comic company I haven't worked for,” he said, “is Archie.”

(Hmmm. Maybe Jughead could bite into a radioactive hamburger, giving him special strengths in the battle against evil-doers wishing to close Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe. Nah.)

Mr. Steacy's long list of credits also includes magazine illustration.

He has had several fruitful collaborations with novelist Douglas Coupland. These are on display at a show titled “Doug and Ken,” which opened last week at Place function + design in Victoria.

In 1997, Mr. Coupland was invited to be guest editor of Vancouver Magazine.

He assigned the cartoonist to envision a future for the Lions Gate Bridge. The result was a hilarious image detailed in the busy style of a Popular Mechanics illustration. The concrete lions flanking the entrance to the bridge have been replaced by chrome lions with laser-beam eyes. The venerable bridge is lined with businesses. A supermom is shown multitasking while jogging with a baby in her arms.

In the original sketch, the mom can be seen nursing the baby. When the magazine balked at showing an illustrated breast, Mr. Steacy redrew the image. However, he did sneak into the background a bus filled with nudists. The destination sign reads Wreck Beach.

He also included Mr. Coupland and himself as figures in a taxi fuelled by a Ballard fuel cell.

The collaborations are filled with plenty of inside jokes that Mr. Coupland refers to as secret handshakes.

The illustration originally appeared in the October, 1997, issue of the magazine as a four-page foldout.

Some of their other joint works include a dystopian scenario set at the corner of Yew and Cornwall in Kitsilano, where corporate mercenaries destroy towering marijuana plants cross-bred with Douglas firs, while rooting out the remnants of civilian resisters discovered squatting inside a ruined Starbucks; a portrait of the novelist loosening his collar as he nervously contemplates the future; an ecological fable titled “The Vanishees” that appeared in Adbusters magazine, Mr. Steacy's digitally rendered colour scheme exchanged for Mr. Coupland's childlike crayon scrawls; and a disturbing image of Toronto as a ruined landscape in 2504 AD, which appeared in the book Souvenir of Canada 2.

“Working with Ken was like working with myself,” Mr. Coupland said, “except I suddenly had an incredible capacity to draw anything out of the blue with no references.”

The pair share much in common. Both were born at Canadian air force bases in Germany (Mr. Steacy at Zweibrücken in 1955, Mr. Coupland near Baden-Baden in 1961); both insist on an all-encompassing approach (“specialization is for insects, not artists,” Mr. Steacy says); both have a penchant for collecting and curating, perhaps a reflection of a desire for order after the geographical rootlessness of a military childhood.

As a boy, Mr. Steacy moved from Sidney, B.C., to Cold Lake, Alta., to Ottawa to Toronto to Chatham, N.B., to Comox, B.C., to Saint-Hubert, Que., to Baden-Baden. (His father was based at the air base at Saint-Hubert during the 1970 October Crisis. His office looked onto the site where the body of Pierre Laporte was discovered in the trunk of a car.) Unlike some of his peers, the boy enjoyed getting a new set of friends every few months.

The idea of being a cartoonist seemed even cooler than his father's job of flying fighter jets.

He entertained a fantasy of how he'd break into the comic-book world. He imagined making a pilgrimage to the office of Marvel comics honcho Stan Lee. The visit would be interrupted by a telephone call.

“What?” Mr. Lee would bark into the telephone like hot-head editor J. Jonah Jameson. “Jack Kirby's sick?!”

After hanging up, he'd turn his attention to young Ken.

“Okay, kid, here's your shot. Go draw the next issue of Fantastic Four.”

If only life were like a comic book.

Mr. Steacy's introduction to the business was a job offer to join the Marvel production line as a lowly inker. At 19, that seemed to be a direct path to hackdom. He turned the offer down, choosing instead to attend art college in Toronto.

On the first day of classes, while engaged in a running interior monologue about whether he had sabotaged his cartooning career before it had started, he spotted a classmate in the distance.

“Here's this absolute vision of loveliness with spun gold hair,” he reminisced. “Even her bum was sparkling.”

Upon closer examination, he realized she had sewn sequins to the rear pockets of her jeans.

His mental conversation turned to seeking a good opening line. With the savoir faire one associates with a comic-book geek, he managed to stutter a question about whether this was such-and-such a class.

“Fortunately, she didn't say, ‘Beat it, creep,' ” he said. A friendship became a romance became a marriage, and two adult sons.

Joan Thornborrow Steacy is a visual artist who teaches art classes.

Her sculpture, titled Ballerina, though known as the fertility goddess, is on display in downtown Hamilton. In 2006, she published an illustrated biography of her father, a scrapyard dealer known as Junky Jack, on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

The go-it-yourself route worked out. Mr. Steacy co-created a graphic novel, The Sacred and the Profane, which was picked up by marvel's upscale Epic Illustrated line. In 1986, he was asked to illustrate an Alpha Flight comic. He agreed, insisting the episode featuring the Canadian superhero team be set in Toronto. It is believed to be the city's first appearance in a major comic book. He has worked in Victoria for more than 20 years. He has yet to stage a superhero showdown at, say, the legislature, which does not want for reprehensible characters.

Like many artists, Mr. Steacy went through a starving stage. This he did not like, so he made good coin in the summer as a street cartoonist in Toronto, drawing goofy cartoons of Canadian National Exhibition patrons. Since he had to sit for hours in one location, he remembers ending the summer with the right side of his face burned to a crisp from the sun, while the left side was “pasty-white like a fish.” Two-face, the angry caricaturist, could make a dandy villain.

“Doug and Ken” runs until Sept. 23 at the p.s. gallery at Place function + design, 3690 Shelbourne St. in Victoria.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A golden day for village that reached out to family

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 18, 2008


The long march to an Olympic gold medal in wrestling began when a church group in an isolated British Columbia village agreed to sponsor refugees from Vietnam.

The small United Church congregation at Hazelton promised to house and support the Huynh family — a mother, a father, a boy, a girl and an uncle. They arrived in winter, a harsh time in the Bulkley Valley even for those for whom cold is not a stranger.

"They could not speak one word of English other than 'thank you' and 'hi,' " remembers Janet Francis, 65, a semi-retired nurse.

The family's first home was a two-bedroom farm house on Dewey Cummins' acreage. Mr. Cummins hired the men to build a barn.

The first small steps in rebuilding a life had begun.

In November, 1980, a daughter was born in the new land. Her parents decided to give her an English name. With Christmas songs in the air, they chose Carol. She would bring to the family great honour.

The generosity of a church congregation helped establish a family, whose thrift and hard work would allow their five children to achieve success around the globe.

At school, the single-minded dedication of a coach helped create an Olympic champion.

In Hazelton and its surrounding hamlets and reserves, the chance to support an aspiring athlete brought together communities for whom economic deprivation is common, and tragedy only too familiar. The hardships have been ignored, even if only temporarily, as they have cheered on one of their own doing battle half a world away.

Early Saturday morning, as the clocked approached 2 a.m. Pacific, townsfolk gathered at the Hazelton fire hall to watch on television the final match in the 48-kilogram division of women's freestyle wrestling. Appearing on the big screen larger than life, her hair clipped into high pigtails, making her look like Baby Spice with attitude, Ms. Huynh crouched in a combat pose on a mat at the China Agricultural University Gymnasium in Beijing.

Her aggressive style and swift attacks seemed to catch her Japanese opponent by surprise. The Canadian wrestler won both rounds to upset a three-time world champion to claim her birthplace's first gold medal of the 2008 Summer Games.

In the stands in Beijing, her mother wept and her father cheered.

Back in Hazelton, an audience knowledgeable in the finer points of grappling praised the audacity of her strategy.

"She wrestled so well, so aggressively," said Debbie Brauer, who served as a chaperone for the high school wrestling team.

Hours before the final bout, she posted a message on the athlete's eponymous — — web page. "Just do what you do, kiddo!" she wrote. "Your ole 'wrestling mum' is cheering from afar."

Her family name is pronounced ween, which, appropriately enough, sounds a lot like win.

The Huynhs arrived in Canada after fleeing their native Vietnam in an exodus whose members came to be known as the Boat People. From 1978 to 1981, more than a million refugees fled their Indochinese homelands in the wake of the Vietnam War. Many risked their lives on barely seaworthy vessels before winding up in the limbo of refugee camps.

Canada accepted more than 60,000 refugees in the largest program of its kind in Canadian history. The humanitarian motive was not shared by all Canadians, as many individuals and groups warned the country would be swamped.

More than half of the refugees were sponsored by private citizens, while others, such as the Huynhs, were sponsored by church groups and other organizations. About six in 10 wound up in big cities. Others were scattered to smaller communities across the land.

The wrestler, who now trains and lives in Calgary, lasted visited her hometown in April. She spoke to students at all four area schools before attending a fundraiser called "A Night in Beijing" at which Chinese tidbits prepared by a local culinary school were served. Other money came from T-shirt sales and a bucket auction. The Gitanmaax fire department held a car wash.

The community includes two municipalities, three unincorporated settlements, and four First Nations villages. The largest is New Hazelton, population 750.

"This is a community that reaches out," Ms. Brauer said. "Kinship is very strong. It's a community that, despite its problems, really does pull together. It's not what you do for a living, or what colour your skin is, but who you are that matters."

The area has struggled with high unemployment with the slump in the forest industry. Suicide among the youth is a deep concern.

Ten days ago, locals were stunned to learn of the death of a Hazelton mother and her 15-year-old daughter killed in a traffic accident in Uxbridge, Ont.

"I don't think great joy washes away great sorrow," said Hazelton Mayor Alice Maitland. "It's been a tough week."

Mrs. Maitland, who has been mayor for 32 years, said many in the community want to place a sign along Highway 16 announcing Hazelton as the home of Carol Huynh.

For many years, the high school wrestling team held the area's attention.

Joe Sullivan, a burly, barrel-chested military veteran, inherited the Hazelton Secondary wrestling program when he moved there in 1986. He had an open-door policy. Any student — fat or skinny, clumsy or agile — could join the wrestling team. At one point, he had 50 members, one-tenth of the school population.

He designed the workouts to be as much social event as physical exercise. He also combined fundraising with fitness training, buying a wood splitter and chainsaws, as well as an old truck for deliveries, as the wrestling team cut and sold firewood.

The money helped buy two 15-passenger vans. Road trips to tournaments involved grueling treks on truck-choked highways through mountain passes. Since wrestling is a winter sport, these two-day hauls often took place during blowing snow storms.

"We joke that we're at the centre of the world," Ms. Brauer said, "because we're 1,200 kilometres from anything."

(Indeed, Hazelton is 1,198 km north of Vancouver, 1,183 km west of Edmonton, and 1,179 km south of Whitehorse.)

Mr. Sullivan was born in Los Angeles during the Second World War. His father was an artillery officer who parachuted behind enemy lines in German-occupied Normandy in the weeks prior to the D-Day invasion. The boy grew up in Sand Springs, Okla., wrestling in high school before enrolling at his father's alma mater at Iowa State, where he also followed his father onto the wrestling team.

Mr. Sullivan also matched his father's military service, getting a security and intelligence assignment in Turkey, where his job involved "surveillance of military units not in Turkey." He helped monitor the Soviet military from 1960 to 1963, including the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the hottest time of the Cold War.

His stint in Turkey gave him an opportunity to train with the Turkish national team, which was the undisputed world leader in the sport.

He returned stateside, graduating from Iowa State n 1967, before completing a masters degree in forestry at the University of Montana. His next stop was Vermillion (now Lakeland) College in Alberta, where he taught environmental sciences and coached the wrestling team. After five years in Hartley Bay, the isolated coastal community in British Columbia whose residents later were hailed as heroes for saving the passengers of a sinking ferry, he moved his family to Hazelton.

The first member of the Huynh family he coached was Carol's older sister Ngoc.

Her father, a traditionalist, was reluctant to have his daughter travel and uncertain as to the worthiness of wrestling. The permission slips were discreetly slipped to her mother for approval. In time, the father came around.

By then, the refugee family had become firmly established in Hazelton. The mother, Mai, worked as a seamstress and as a waitress. The father, Viem, worked as a lumber grader at the Carnaby Sawmill, owned by Mr. Cummins. He also did carpentry, building the lectern that graces the United Church to this day.

The family moved from the borrowed farmhouse to a trailer to a larger home, which eventually was mortgaged so they could purchase the 12-room Bulkley Valley Motel. They sold the business earlier this year to move to Prince George, where their youngest son is studying. Another son is in Denver and a daughter in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, while Ngoc works as an emergency-room nurse at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

After his wife died, Mr. Cummins regularly joined the Huynh family for dinner.

Now aged 92, living in the Skeena Place assisted living centre, he says of the Olympian, "She is my Vietnamese granddaughter."

Carol Huynh joined the wrestling team in Grade 10. She was a special athlete even in a program that won uncounted titles and several provincial championships.

"Some things you cannot teach," Mr. Sullivan said. "She had those. Quickness, balance, power and grace. She's as graceful as a gazelle."

Four years ago, his joints aching from arthritis, Mr. Sullivan had to go on disability leave. The school wrestling program, which also produced such successful athletes as the Pan-American Games champion and 2004 Olympian Lyndsay Belisle, lasted a year, before collapsing.

Mr. Sullivan was camping overnight and missed the gold medal match. He got word the next morning. He returned home, where his television has access to neither cable, nor satellite, nor even rabbit ears. It does have a videocassette recorder on which he watches movies and wrestling tapes.

Ms. Brauer brought him a tape of the gold-medal match.

The old coach may have been the last person in town to witness his protege's triumph.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Siblings found a home in sports, made history in face of racism

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 13, 2008

Valerie Jerome, 64 now, runs only three times a week, choosing paths through a park near her home, the soft trails easier on knees on which she has pounded so many kilometres, 100 metres at a time.

In 1960, she ran so fast she earned a spot on the Canadian track team at the Olympics that year. The Games were held in Rome, where statues and buildings still proclaimed the glories of the fascist regime overthrown in a war that had ended only 15 years earlier.

Aged just 16, too young to remember wartime, the sprinter from North Vancouver took in the sights with goggle-eyed wonder. Her strongest memories include searing temperatures and the scratchy woollen blazers of the official Canadian uniform. The release of pigeons overhead during the opening ceremonies did not make standing under the blazing Roman sun a more pleasant experience.

She remembers gaining pounds by eating too much at the athletes' cafeteria, where she breakfasted across the table from a handsome boxer named Cassius Clay, who would claim a gold medal on his way to becoming world heavyweight champion as Muhammad Ali.

So far from home, she found comfort in the presence of her older brother, Harry. They were the children of a railway porter and the grandchildren of Army Howard, a champion sprinter from Winnipeg who competed at the 1912 Olympics.

Harry Jerome, 19, shared the world record for the 100-metre dash, racing the distance in 10 seconds flat to qualify for Rome. He was a gold-medal hopeful in a Canadian contingent with few of them.

What happened to him in Rome continues to haunt his friends and family.

Today, he is remembered, if it all, as a fine sprinter. Not so long ago, his name generated tremendous passions, some unfair, some ugly.

“He was decent, honest, innocent,” said a sister to whom responsibility for his memory has fallen.

He was born in 1940 in Prince Albert, Sask. The Battle of Britain was being waged, so the boy was given Winston as a middle name in honour of an unflagging prime minister. Three years later, Valerie was born in St. Boniface, Man.

The family followed the railway to the coast, where they found a modest home across the street from Ridgeway Elementary in North Vancouver.

On their first day at school, classmates gathered in the schoolyard to throw stones at the newcomers, whose apparent transgression was to have been born with black skin.

The Jeromes eventually found a home in sports. Harry was a terrific baseball pitcher who won his first press clippings by throwing neighbourhood no-hitters. He drove rival pitchers to distraction at the plate by bunting before speeding to first base. Track became a full-time pursuit only when he was in Grade 11, a late start for a world-class athlete.

The Jerome siblings gained press notice at the Pan American Games in Chicago in 1959, where Valerie befriended Wilma Rudolph, the American sprinter who had overcome polio and scarlet fever and had walked only with leg braces until age 11.

A year later, Harry shared the title of the world's fastest man with Armin Hary of Germany.

The Olympic foot race between these Mercurys was much anticipated.

It was not to be.

In a qualifying heat, Mr. Jerome stumbled awkwardly as he pulled a muscle.

The Globe ran a photograph showing the stumble.

The rival Toronto Star and other newspapers were less sympathetic. The Star's front-page banner headline read: Our Runner's Loss Brings Secret Rejoicing. Other headlines read like cruel poetry: Egotist Jerome Needed Defeat, and There Were Few Tears For Jerome. One critic wrote that he had pulled a muscle – in his head.

These were either unkind comments of a disappointed press, or unfair aspersions barely hiding racial animosity.

Ms. Jerome knows how she feels about the matter.

“Harry's injury healed a lot more quickly than the hurt caused by the words,” she said.

He recovered to accept a scholarship at the University of Oregon. At one meet, teammates on the track team were so outraged by the way Mr. Jerome had been treated, they staged a memorable protest, turning their singlets inside out to read NOGERO. If some chose to see one Negro, the teammates would all be Nogeros.

Not just records were smashed in the 1960s.

At the 1962 Commonwealth Games, Mr. Jerome suffered a more grievous injury, as he severed a quadriceps muscle.

The Canadian track team shared a house in the athletes' village in Perth, Australia. Bruce Kidd, a middle-distance runner, slept in the bed beside the sprinter.

The injured runner invited his teammate to touch the injured muscle.

“I put my hand down the front of his leg,” Mr. Kidd said yesterday on the telephone from Toronto. “I could slip my fingers into a hole where his muscle had been. I've never ever felt anything like that.

“Yet the Canadian papers were filled with ‘Jerome quit again.' ”

The sprinter needed surgery to repair the muscle. Doctors said he would never run again.

He did not step on a track for a year.

But in 1964, Mr. Jerome qualified for the finals of the 100-metre dash at the Tokyo Olympics. He finished third, claiming the bronze medal in a legendary comeback.

“He was the most beautiful runner you ever saw,” Mr. Kidd said. “Some people run with enormous power and musculature and churning. Harry just flew. He was so smooth.” He retired with three world records to his credit, a Commonwealth Games gold, an Olympics bronze and other honours.

Mr. Jerome became an advocate for sports across Canada. He died suddenly of an aneurysm in 1982, aged 42. Ms. Jerome will never forget learning the terrible news in a telephone call.

She became a teacher, now retired. She continues to work as a track official and also gives inspirational speeches. Every February, during Black History Month, she visits her old elementary school to tell the pupils about stones being thrown at her and her brother. Some students, she reminds them, were brave enough to be her friend.

The war seemed distant to her in Rome, as 15 years had passed.

Her brother has been gone 26 years.

“To the kids today, Harry is ancient history,” she said.

There's a Harry Jerome Rec Centre on the site of his old high-school gymnasium. A volleyball centre in Burnaby is named for him, as is an annual track meet in the suburban city. A track complex in his Saskatchewan birthplace also memorializes the great sprinter. Awards and scholarship funds carry his name.

In Vancouver, Mr. Jerome is immortalized by a bronze likeness in Stanley Park.

His sister visits the statue every chance she gets.

Mr. Kidd makes a pilgrimage to the site whenever he visits the city.

For a man who moved so fast, Harry Jerome is captured in a frozen instant, forever breasting an imaginary finish line.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The driving force behind a 14-year quest to bring some classy wheels home

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 11, 2008


Chris Yarrow pursued the object of his boyhood crush with the fervour of a lovestruck teenager.

The schoolboy was aged 14 when his quest began.

What he sought was a magnificent machine that had slipped from family hands two generations earlier.

It had been admired by passersby and even enjoyed by royalty.

The boy needed to see it. Once he did, he needed to have it.

He had learned from his mother about an automobile purchased from a Victoria showroom for a princely sum in the early days of the Depression.

The vehicle was a 1930 Packard Model 740 with a Super 8 engine.

The boy's grandfather had gone to the Plimley's dealership in downtown Victoria. Luxury cars were not a hot item in the months following the Wall Street crash, so sales were few.

An engineer by profession and mechanically minded by personality – with a personality that was less flamboyant than the design of automobiles he most admired – he asked a question of the salesman.

How did this vehicle perform in terms of fuel economy?

“Sir, if you need to ask, you cannot afford it,” the salesman sniffed.

The customer had yet to introduce himself, for if he had done so the salesman would immediately have recognized the family name. Norman Alfred Yarrow, 39, was president of Yarrows Ltd., the Esquimalt shipbuilders. He lived at Edgecliffe at 925 Foul Bay Rd., a landmark mansion on an escarpment with a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains. Born in London, he was the son of Sir Alfred Yarrow, a “visionary lunatic,” as one critic called him, who built the first private overhead telegraph line in England, designed a steam road car at age 19 in 1864, and turned a modest business constructing river launches “about the size of a bathtub” into one of the world's greatest shipbuilding firms.

Despite the salesman's snobbery, the purchase was completed. Norman Yarrow drove away with his chosen car.

He held onto it for a few years before it passed into other hands.

In 1939, a new owner lent it for the use of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their stay in Victoria on their tour of the Dominion and the United States. The royal couple were rear-seat passengers in their travels from their ship's berth to the Empress Hotel to Government House.

This is what young Chris Yarrow knew when he went searching for his grandfather's car in 1972.

The first stop in his sleuthing was at the old Classic Car Museum in downtown Victoria. The owner was the father of his schoolmates, as well as a Packard fan. The boy showed him a black and white photograph of the King and Queen riding in the car and shared what he knew.

“He mumbled away and went into his office,” Mr. Yarrow recalls, “and came out with the owner's name and number.”

The boy called the owner, Art Fulawka, insisting he needed to see the car, which was stored in a damp garage in Port Coquitlam on the mainland.

Thus began a friendship between two families, not to mention a dedicated wooing of a veteran car aficionado by a younger one.

Mr. Yarrow made two annual pilgrimages to the car even as he grew from a carefree boy to a busy man.

At one point, the car's original trunk and fitted luggage, found among his grandmother's possessions, were reunited with the Packard.

Years passed.

“One day, out of the blue, he called,” Mr. Yarrow said.

“I always promised you first refusal,” he remembers the owner saying.

“Do you want it?”

A 14-year pursuit was nearing an end. The asking price: a hefty $70,000.

With financial assistance from his family, the Packard returned to the Yarrows.

It was restored and, yesterday, it was on display at the Blethering Place Collector Car Festival on Oak Bay Avenue, just a short jaunt from his grandfather's old place.

Photographers snapped the hood ornament, a winged woman holding a wheel known to collectors as the Goddess of Speed. Others admired the letters NAY on the doorposts, monograms in sterling silver kept by the family after the car was sold in 1937.

The sleek machine gets about seven miles to the gallon. Mr. Yarrow believes it to be the last of its kind in Canada. It could be worth as much as $200,000 at auction, he said, though we're not likely to find out.

“Someone could offer me a fortune,” he said, “and I wouldn't sell.”

Mr. Yarrow, 50, is the owner and pilot of Wolverine Air, a charter airline based at Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories. He is the descendent of pioneer aeronauts. His great-grandfather took a 4,500-kilometre flying tour of Europe in 1931 at age 89, while his Packard-purchasing grandfather was an early member of the Aerial League of Canada and owned Dominion Airways of Vancouver.

Chris Yarrow's obsession with automobiles was sparked by an incident early in his life.

One day in March, 1958, his parents jumped into the family sedan, roaring through the streets of Victoria at speeds more than double the posted limit before screeching to a halt at the front doors of the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Despite the daredevil driving, the couple were a little late.

There, on the front bench of a 1957 Lincoln two-door coupe, the boy to be named Christopher was born.

The car long ago passed from family hands. The whereabouts of his birthplace are unknown.

“I'm looking for that car right now,” he said.

He knows the old licence plate number, figures he can track down his original spin with a little help from someone with access to vehicle registration computers.

He is a driven man.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Composer looks to score hockey winner

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 9, 2008


A little girl's crystalline voice, as crisp as a skate blade slicing into fresh ice, sings a phrase familiar to Canadians for generations.

A dramatic note sounds, followed by a voice of purity and clarity. “It's Hockey Night in Canada,” sings a 10-year-old girl, pausing for a beat after the first three words.

Those notes are then repeated in a different key. The puck is dropped and the game is on – in a musically metaphoric way, that is.

It's hard not to hum the tune after a quick listen.

The 45-second piece of music is Tobin Stokes's entry in the CBC Sports contest to find a new theme for the venerable hockey broadcast. The competition has attracted hundreds of entries, not all of them from amateurs fooling around with GarageBand.

The hopefuls from British Columbia include jingle writers and university music teachers, rock songwriters and at least one comedy duo. Even the guitar great Randy Bachman has sent in seven entries.

Mr. Stokes is a prolific composer whose credits include operas and film scores. He is a composer-in-residence for the Victoria Symphony. His music underscores a video now being shown at the British Columbia Canada pavilion in Beijing. An overture he composed opened the Symphony Splash in Victoria's Inner Harbour last weekend.

Fresh from that success, he posted a theme he hopes might some day be known as Canada's unofficial anthem.

The music had 1,200 listens in its first 24 hours online. As of yesterday afternoon, it was the top-rated theme of the past week. Pretty good result for a man much more adept at wielding a treble clef than a hockey stick.

“I just wanted to write a good song that hockey fans can relate to,” he said.

Like many of us, the composer's early childhood memories include sitting on his father's knee to watch a hockey broadcast on television on Saturday night. They lived in Powell River. “Big hockey town. Big music town, too,” he said. He was attending a music festival in his hometown when he recorded 10-year-old Ildiko Jane Kelly as the opening soloist for his entry.

Mr. Stokes's brainstorm is in writing a piece of music in which the opening can be sung – or shouted, he suggests – by a choir, or a minor hockey team, or a mob of unruly hockey fans, or even a notable personage such as the governor-general.

His 16-year-old son, Vaughn, plays guitar on his entry, which is accompanied by a catchy video in which the composer's hand can be seen writing the score in time to the music. The video ends with the composer placing a puck on the sheet as a paperweight, before showing the palms of his hands. On the left, he has written, “He shoots …” and on the right, “He scores!”

“This competition is doing what the CBC's mandate should be about,” he said. “Which is uniting the country.”

The winning composer gets $100,000 and half the royalties for public performances. (The CBC will donate the other half to minor hockey.) The entries will be culled to a handful of contenders by a panel before voting starts on Oct. 4. A second round of voting will pick between two finalists.

The winning theme will replace the familiar “dunt-da-DUNT-da-dunt” written in 1968 by Dolores Claman, a versatile jingle writer who was a Juilliard-trained composer. She sold the theme to CTV in June after being embroiled for years in disputes with the CBC over credit and royalties.

Wonder of wonders, she had never seen a National Hockey League game in person before writing the music that is as much a part of the nation's official winter sport as hockey hair and missing teeth.

(The 81-year-old Ms. Claman, who was born in Vancouver and now lives in London, England, is also credited with Ontario's unofficial anthem. She wrote the music for A Place to Stand with its “Ontar-i-ar-i-ar-i-o” refrain. With her husband, the lyricist Richard Morris, she wrote jingles that formed the background music of everyday life, from It's a Mutual Affair to Come Home to Stacey's.) The contest has gained entries even in such unlikely musical genres as reggae and new age, the latter of which would perhaps be calming during a donnybrook.

More typical is a song like Blades of Steel, a rollicking, punky rocker about wanting to leave small-town Canada to become a hockey star. The Victoria band Moneyshot includes the number in every live performance.

“It's a crowd favourite,” said vocalist and guitarist Tim Rodier, 31, a Victoria house designer.

The song tells the story of a boy who was a terrific hockey player but never managed to get to the NHL.

“I never played hockey,” Mr. Rodier said, “but it's our identity.”

Mark Leiren-Young has entered Hockey Nut in Canada, a popular ditty written for the Vancouver comedy duo Local Anxiety. The busy playwright is a diehard Vancouver Canucks fan. “I bleed Halloween orange,” he said, “and all the other colours they've had in their sweaters.”

His ode includes the memorable lyrics: “I'm a hockey nut in Canada, I love to watch them pucks. I scream my lungs out at the games and dream of Stanley Cups.”

He half-expects the CBC to choose as the winner Nickelback performing Stompin' Tom's The Hockey Song.

Whatever the winning tune, song, jingle or anthem, Mr. Leiren-Young said the contest has one great side benefit.

“It's cool to be talking hockey in the summer,” he said.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dreams of bridging the islands with the mainland

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 6, 2008


Patrick McGeer is a research scientist. He approaches problems with an analytical mind.

Here's how he'd tackle an issue facing the province since colonial days.

Problem: The capital of British Columbia is located on the southeastern tip of an island. Most people live elsewhere.

“Imagine the capital of Western Europe being on Sicily,” he said.

Possible solution: Move the capital to the people.

Likelihood: Not.

Other possible solution: Let the people come to the capital.

The ferry is expensive and takes forever. Helicopters and float planes are even more costly. Plus, you can't bring your automobile, never mind a truckload of goods.

McGeer solution: Build a fixed link between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. He says it is an idea whose time came a quarter-century ago.

“It's not a question of whether,” he insisted, “but of when.”

Back in 1980, when he was a cabinet minister in a Social Credit government, Mr. McGeer got some money to spend on the concept. He ordered a prefeasibility economic study and a preliminary environmental assessment.

He got a report from Parsons Brinckerhoff, the U.S. firm that built the first New York subway, and the tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ont.

What really excited him, however, was a report from the Victoria office of a Canadian engineering firm. For Mr. McGeer, it was the missing link.

Any proposal faced daunting challenges. The crossing could be 26 kilometres long; the water reaches a depth of 365 metres; the ocean bed is covered by what the government describes as “deep, soft sediments”; and the Strait of Georgia is pummelled by extreme waves, as well as harsh winds. The safe passage of marine traffic needs to be considered, as does the possibility of a collision between a tanker and any structure. Oh, and this all needs to be built in an earthquake zone.

A bored tunnel would not work. The water and soil are too deep.

A submerged floating tunnel would not work. Earthquakes and a marine accident would lead to “tunnel breaks,” which, in a word, would be catastrophic, although not a bad scenario for a disaster movie.

The proposal Mr. McGeer liked was prepared by Willis, Cunliffe, Tait & Co. Ltd. of Victoria.

It called for a floating bridge stretching from Richmond to the southern tip of Valdes Island in the Southern Gulf Islands. A highway would run the length of the island to a bridge linking to Gabriola Island. Another highway would cut across the south of the island to a span across False Narrows to Mudge Island, where another bridge would link to Vancouver Island at Nanaimo.

A desktop-sized model of the link was built and put on display in the B.C. pavilion at Expo 86.

Fairgoers oohed and aahed at the model.

When the fair ended, the company that built the model did not want to pay for storage. Mr. McGeer offered to keep it in the basement of his home in Vancouver's tony Point Grey neighbourhood.

It is there still.

“It was practical,” he said. “It was brilliant.”

The floating parts were links in a sausage. They could be built somewhere along the Fraser River and towed into place. One gets damaged, replace it easily with another.

Even now, he gets excited thinking about the possibilities.

The floating bridge could include a marina midway across the strait. Restaurants. Amenities. Not to mention the economic boom certain to follow from the easier flow of goods.

“It is so obvious that it should be done. And it will be done … as soon as we have a visionary politician in power.”

The problem, he said, is not the engineering difficulties. It is that bold thinking has been replaced by “Lilliputian thinking.”

For more than a century, bold thinkers have wanted to connect what Mother Nature neglected to bridge.

Back in 1872, only a year after the province joined Confederation, a railway was proposed to join Vancouver Island to the mainland. The railway was to cross Seymour Narrows at Menzies Bay before hopscotching across Quadra and Sonora Islands to run inland along Bute Inlet before connecting overland through the mountains to the rest of Canada. The plan was ambitious, not the least for the scheme of laying track alongside a fjord noted for its rough geographic features.

In the years since the idea of a floating bridge was first floated, the following feats of engineering have been completed: a 12.9-km bridge linking Prince Edward Island to North America; and a tunnel linking Britain to Europe.

These give Mr. McGeer hope.

He dismisses the likely protests of those “specialty people” who “invent objections” about the likes of “interrupt[ing] orcas” or some such.

He once wrote a political manifesto entitled Politics in Paradise, but he is not above a little blacktopping of Eden.

The likelihood of a bridge or tunnel plowing through the Gulf Islands seems remote. The Islands Trust council, responsible for protecting the 13 major and 450 minor islands off the mainland, long ago passed a policy barring the building of any bridge or tunnel between any island and the mainland; any island and Vancouver Island; any island to any other island. It did include a provision permitting the existing one-lane bridge between North and South Pender Islands.

Mr. McGeer was not the first cabinet minister to champion a crossing. Back in 1966, highways minister Flyin' Phil Gaglardi said his dream was to build a highway in a sunken tube stretching from Gabriola Island to Point Grey. He said it could be completed by 1990. It would have put a four-lane freeway close to Mr. McGeer's front door.

One other thing.

To Mr. McGeer, Georgia Strait is an unwelcome obstacle. To some of us on Vancouver Island, it is a blessed moat.

2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.