Posted on April 01-2019...the joke? I am standing in the middle on a 4 in. curb
AN ODE TO 'COUNTRY COUSIN DON' FROM 'CITY SLICKER ROG'
as he leaves the hallowed bliss of bachelorhood for the warm arms of wedded bliss
(I know, I know, you were never one for sentimental claptrap but anything goes with a swan song and this is, indeed, a swan song!)
1) This wedding tome (oh, how I do love big words!) on the event of your coming nuptials on March 23-2019 with the fairy princess, Andrena, is meant as a last stab at my country cousin Don. Remember those 'repartee days', Don? (Second marriage for both after living 23 years together)
2) 'The three musketeers' (fancy expression for the 43rd street neighbors of Don, David (d. 2017) and Roger) has, as its setting, the early war years in which we all played outside in good weather and oftentimes headed for the Desbrisay house in inclement weather. There was foosball and ping pong and floor hockey in the basement with the addition later on of the basketball hoop in the back yard which Don used to pay obeisance to on a daily basis. TV added to the mix starting in 1953 with 3 blurry channels. Two weeks before her untimely demise, Mrs. Desbrisay attended a picnic accompanied by you, held in August 1986 in our back yard in which the whole family was together for a last time much to her gratification. Flooding the back yard to make a hockey rink was a highlight for her in the 1940's, she told me. Carl in his policeman's outfit, as he was on his way to work, and Janet with her baby were also present for which your mother was eternally grateful in this last major family get-together.
3) When Dave started school at age 5 at Athlone Private School, Don and I became closer together (Dave was put back in Grade 1 when he went to Kerrisdale School and we travelled to school together for the next 6 years. In #7, Dave went to private boarding school and returned to Magee High School where we linked up in our final two years). As Don was one year behind us and as students stuck to their grade level, I saw little of him except in the neighborhood during the school years.
4) Children of all ages played baseball in front of our houses and other games such as tag, or 'run,sheep,run. Board games such as monopoly, parcheese, etc. were popular as were comic books with Disney themes and Archie. Sunday afternoon radio shows with 'I love Lucy' and 'Jack Benny' the perennial 39 year old, were common before they moved over to TV in the 50's. I remember Don at some point getting a large tape recorder on which he taped all the popular songs. His father started a stamp collection (popular in those days) for his children along with a 'silver-dollar' collection book. The 'woods' behind the Desbrisays which were converted to housing after he graduated from Kerrisdale elementary school provided much additional fun in terms of making forts and 'bows and arrows' (which our parents weren't too keen on). Climbing up on the 'ice-truck' was an adventure to grab a piece of ice as some homes did not have refrigerators. Stay-at-home mothers shopped daily. We ate organically without realizing it. The milk-wagon was pulled by a horse which we fed with grass (gas was rationed during the war). Pea-soup fogs were common in winter with the burning of fossil fuels-coal (us), sawdust (Dave), logs (you) and the ever present moan of fog horns. Travelling to the U.S. Boundary Bay in the open trailer where you had a cabin (gasp, think of doing that today!) on a few occasions was a highlight for me. The last time we went was in the early 1970's (before I was married in 1974) after the cabin was long sold so we picnicked on the beach with your mother and Janet. At any rate, you were on your own at that time. In 1973, we travelled with you from Kamloops and your two sons up the Blue River Route to Edmonton returning via Calgary camping along the way. Your families purchase of an orchard in Oliver left a big hole in our neighborhood for the summer in the 1970's although by that time I was active in downtown YMCA programs, there being no community centres. The Kerrisdale arena was the second one opened in Vancouver in the early 1950's after the one where the PNE was located in East Vancouver. Skating was popular for all members of the family although I don't recall your family taking it up. Carl and Janet were active in YMCA swimming classes and later became life guards.
5) 'Dumbo' the Flying Elephant was the first technicolor film although black and white westerns at the Kerrisdale theatre were the 'order of the day'. Trolley buses replaced the streetcars in 1952.
6) For Grade 7 and 8 in the early 50's, I moved to Point Grey intermediate School in central Kerrisdale which was a replica of American Graffiti (1962); the same year Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring introducing us to 'pollution'. I did not see Don at school in those years although he had made a connection with John Clements whose sister (d. c1991) was in many of my classes but in different social circles. Due to school over-population, I went to Magee High School in #9 a half mile distant and did not have any contact at school with Don although weekend touch football or basketball events brought us together. On one occasion, John had us playing lacrosse.
7) At the beginning of my second year at UBC in 1960, I was to pool with Don and his car which was interrupted at the beginning of the year when he announced that he was getting married so I completed the year with another car pool.
8) For the first year of his marriage living in the bottom of the Desbrisay house, we went places as a threesome; the second year, they moved onto campus with their baby so I had little contact for the rest of my University. In 1964-6, I taught In Prince George returning to work for my father in Vancouver. By that time, Don was teaching in Kitimat (P.G. 500 miles N; Kitimat another 500 miles W). When he returned to get a Master Degree in Bellingham during the midst of the Viet-Nam War (the only topic at the University as it related to the dreaded draft); I used to drive down to see them on an evening; the first year in White Rock, B.C. where I believe their second son was born, moving directly to Bellingham in the second year. As it was about an hour and a half drive with the new Deas Tunnel, I would drive down the scenic Chuckanutt Drive. The fish & chip shop directly above the wharf was fantastic. Do you still remember that, Don?
9) I saw Don and his family in the following year as he could only get a job teaching Science in Vancouver which, if I am not mistaken, was a major reason for the move to Kamloops to teach Math and where they bought their first house. The first time I visited, the family was together. The second time, Don was living apart. At about that time, his school teacher father passed away from cancer at age 62 and they visited him from Kamloops that Xmas when he passed away with Don showing him a photo of his grandchildren on his last visit. He wasn't sure if his father was capable of relating to that event by that time.
10) After our marriage in 1974, (Carl, his younger brother was my best man as my other peers were spread across the country) Don joined us in his new Japanese Datsun as we circum-navigated North America staying in camp grounds. We visited John Clements and his first wife in Halifax and their 5 year old son who John lost to suicide last year at age 50 in the hectic Calgary mining unrest. I sent John our only photograph of that Halifax event which he appreciated. P.S. a photo of his first wedding provided by John with myself, Paul Ramsay, and Dave Jackson adorns my picture wall noting the demise of Paul (2016) and Dave (2017). We got separated in northern 'very hot' Texas as Don returned to Canada with Therese and myself travelling to Silicon Valley where my sister, Joan d.2001, was living with her electrical engineer husband whom she had met in Kerrisdale elementary school. They were divorced 25 years later with no children with her dying while living on the street in Mission, B.C. Neither money nor substance abuse was a problem; mental illness probably was as she was always insecure (I.Q. 142). I last saw her when she and her husband turned up surprisingly on New Years Eve of 1984-5. She was never one to write and never informed our family of the divorce the following summer. Credit card records were the only way we could trace her until in the latter 1990's, she disappeared off the map only being located by chance in her last year of life.
11) Fast forward to 1986 when, after a year of unemployment (I had returned to teaching in West Vancouver in 1969 when my father's Company was in financial trouble and was there until I was unceremoniously given the boot in 1985 in a legal case employeescasecanada.ca which still remains unresolved and which has destroyed in that process, Justice Canada), we decided to relocate to Ontario settling on Ottawa where we remain to the present day. It was a traumatic move in selling off our meagre goods from a rented house with me going ahead to find employment. I still gratefully remember that first night in Kamloops, Andrena (yup, that's where you come in) stayed up listening to me while Don, who had to work the next day, had gone to bed. When I awoke (I was usually on the road by 4 A.M. in the following 12 hour driving days to Ottawa), Don arose and provided me with sandwiches looking wistfully, not at the sandwiches, but at the open road as he loved driving - even to the Arctic Circle no less which he did many years later!
12) In the latter 90's when our younger son, Greg, was in #12, Therese and I arrived home to find Don and Andrena camped on our front lawn talking to Greg whom gave up his basement den to them during their short visit. Andrena, you were almost in tears...'thank God, a washing machine!' Don and I cycled downtown with this salient observation from Don; You like riding on the (quiet) pathways to which I agreed. Not me, he said, I prefer the bustle of the Byward Market (like most people). We parted later in Upper Canada Village (a replica of a 1860's village) on the St. Lawrence with Don & Andrena continuing East to Halifax. The highlight for Don was when we were heading South to get there, I spied a tent where two mechanics were refurbishing cars so I pulled over. It was a eureka moment for Don as he spotted a 1942 license plate, his birth year and the one, as a license plate collector, he has reduced himself to collecting. Life is made of such eureka moments if you know where to look for them and on that day, we did... you're welcome, Don.
I believe that this is as good a point as any to conclude the adventures of our 43rd street gang.
13) With our respective health problems (dang it! I am NOT deaf...people do not speak loud enough or clearly enough. That was my aging mother's lament. Me? I own up to it as I see the younger generations which will abound at your wedding this weekend having their turn at 'the world's resources'); our respective travel days are over and it is not likely that we will physically meet again although it was nice of you to keep two seats at your wedding table on April 23-2019 for us. We have sent a card with an 'enclosure' so please don't use it to light your candles before opening it.
Respectfully submitted, City slicker, Rog. (yeah, right, the mistakes of memory above are all mine) to Country Cousin, Don. March-2019
P.S. Say hello to 'best man' Carl and to John Clements for me. ...and a special hello to the bride; may the sun shine down on your wedding day and for every day thereafter!
In July of 2017 after a few very painful weeks in hospital, the third person in our neighborhood group (including Don Desbrisay and myself), Dave 'pulled the plug' so that the following letter never reached him.(The closing line was added later). The 'Dying with Dignity' Organization was ecstatic to receive $7 million from his will.
To Don Desbrisay & John Clements only (I apologize for not being politically correct but then Dave was not a sentimental person)
'Propinquity' is the basis of our first childhood friends at age 2. Choosing our friends according to similar interests comes later when we begin school.
Dave Jackson, Don Desbrisay, and myself (Roger Callow) were as unlikely 'peas in a pod' as any early childhood alliance; the connecting link being our houses being almost next to each other. Don, being a year younger, did not quite share the camaraderie of Dave and myself.
Our neighborhood was typical of neighborhoods all over Kerrisdale in West Point Grey in that children could be found in every neighborhood. These were the war years in which gas rationing meant that milk and ice (if someone did not have a refrigerator) were delivered by horse and wagon.
We all played much the same games in the great outdoors for we were raised to be 'outdoor kids' (unless it was raining) in contrast to the 'indoor children' of today with their computer games. We played in the dirt with a band-aid to cure the inevitable scratches and cuts. A make-up game of children of all ages playing baseball in the street was not uncommon. Older children played such board games as monopoly.
The early 1940's was war-time and there was little traffic on the streets. For security, night-time black-outs were common. The first colour film, Dumbo, the Flying Elephant was shown in 1942. People traveled by electric trams as cars were few. The parents of the three of us had cars with Mr. Desbrisay, a teacher, using his as a taxi cab each day after teaching. Some people still had ice boxes rather than refrigerators and children loved to hop on the back of delivery trucks to grab a cold ice chunk. Mothers stayed at home raising children and walking to the market (where there were few packaged goods) was a daily task. We ate organically although no-one would know at that time what was meant by the term. There were the childhood diseases of chicken-pox and mumps which every child got. We were quarantined to our house lot (father lived out for the purpose) when my sister contracted scarlet fever. We were inoculated only against diptheria. Polio was every parent's fear in the summer time.
One day I saw a lady walking a dog on a leash; "What's that, I asked?" as dogs were not kept on leashes. Picnics in Stanley Park and travelling to the beach along 'Spanish Banks' where the tides permitted a long walk out at low tide were popular. Dave's last valuable water-front condominium is along this stretch in the Kitsilano area and looks out to Stanley Park.
Dave and Roger highlights of the early years
In the morning, I played across the street with sweet little Beth Bower whom thought me wonderful; particularly when I chased big Dave away when he dared to intervene. After my lunch, I would return to 'two-faced Beth' who had found a friend in Dave who promptly chased me away; that is until the day my parents said that the Bowers were moving away. "Yes, but when will they be coming back", I asked? Never. That was my first experience with 'away'.
Dave was 6 months older than me so his parents tried to promote his schooling ;first with a kindergarten down the road and later at Athlone Private School. The gap for me was filled with Don.
In Grade 1, I walked to Kerrisdale school with Dave, a 20 minute walk (coming home for lunch and returning with my older sister, Joan d.2001). I still remember the day when there was a knock on the door with the arrival of the Principal with Dave in tow as it was decided to relocate him from Grade 2. We were steadfast friends until Grade 6, the end of elementary school when I went on to Point Grey Intermediate School with Dave's parents placing him in a private boarding school on the Island (a hell hole according to Dave which is what is far too often the case than many people realize). Meantime, his parents moved to an apartment near Magee High School in Kerrisdale with Dave and his younger sister. Those elementary school years saw us both going to YMCA summer camp at age 8; a novelty at that time. The Downtown YMCA served the whole city as 'Community centers' had yet to be developed. Saturday mornings saw Dave and I going to YMCA gym class and swimming. In 1952, Dave showed me a picture of a trolley bus which was to replace the tram car tracks. Saturdays were spent at the movies (mainly westerns) and walking home in the deep fog. The silence in Vancouver in winter time was oftentimes permeated by the mournful sound of the fog horns.
Kerrisdale Arena, the second city ice rink (the other being the Forum in East Vancouver) was opened during these years providing the community with a popular skating venue for everyone which even my father would partake.
Both my father and Dave's saved up money and bought 'brand new' as was the trend. The bicycle that Dave first had was too big for him in Grade 2 (there weren't any children's bikes in those days) but with the common belief that 'he would grow into it'. I received my bike in Grade 3 primarily because my older sister was going to start Grade 7 at Point Grey and needed a bike to cycle the 3 miles. Mr. Desbrisay bought second hand and had an assortment of toys which we preferred to our own. They built a basketball hoop in the backyard which they froze over in the winter providing for great hockey. A ping pong table in their basement with a room that could be converted to floor hockey made their house a mecca for play. (Thanks, Don)
Dave's father would drive me down to the docks to pick Dave up during the private school holidays and I would oftentimes be a guest at their summer cottage at the Beach not far from the current Roberts Bank ferry terminal. We would go crabbing as well as water-skiing plus there were a few children in the area but not nearly as crowded as Boundary Bay on the other side of the peninsula (U.S.) where the Desbrisay's had a cottage. The Deas Tunnel in the 1960's greatly reduced travel time to the border and contributed to permanent settlement in Surrey; now the biggest School District in the Province. Sometimes the summer could be lonely for me as Dave was at his summer home with the Desbrisays packing up for the summer to travel to the Okanagan where they bought an orchard. (Don is linked to that community through his first wife and two children).
As my father had serious eye problems, I relied on the good will of the Jackson's as seen in his father driving us up to ski at Seymour Mountain in North Vancouver and Mount Baker (across from Abbotsford in the U.S.) where rope tows were more the order of the day rather than chairlifts. We didn't know the existence of ski lessons in those days.
Dave returned to Magee High School in Grade 11 and 12 with his Ford 'clunker'. The family moved to a house in that general area. Those years were exiting years reminiscent of the film American Graffiti with mixed parties and poker parties and 'driving around' usually ending up at another innovation, the White Spot drive-in in South Granville. On one occasion, my parents returned home while we were playing poker. As was the tradition, all boys stood to be introduced with myself being the shortest at six feet which of course brought the necessary observation from my mother.(see wedding photo included)
Dave's father and his much younger mother had a fractious relationship and later divorced. Dave suffered on this account although I was oblivious to any troubles. Once at age 7 he took a hammer to a wooden truck and when I asked him why, he responded; "Because I want to" which confused me even more. On more than one occasion, he was seen apologizing to a neighbor for rudeness. Not holding grudges - considering he made so many apologies as some friend was always annoyed with him - probably was a major reason for his later business success.
He was adventurous and, at age 7, asked his mother whether there was a Santa Claus which came down the chimney on Xmas eve. She nodded in the affirmative with a bemused expression on her face; particularly when he told her that was not possible as he stuffed the chimney the night before. Gormless me just looked on with big eyes.
In teaching in classes where the topic of entrepreneurship (born not bred in my opinion) was the topic. I made reference to the following story regarding Dave. At about 10 years of age, we all bought gum with enclosed baseball cards and traded to collect our favorite team. Not Dave. He asked us to give him cards that we did not want and parlayed them into trading 2 for 1 until Don observed one day that he had a tremendous collection. Dave: "Do you want to buy them?" 'You mean you would sell them to me?' "How much would you pay me for them?" 'But why would you sell them to me?' "You buy them and then I will tell you." 'How much do you want for them?' "Name a price". Don did and Dave accepted it and after Don went and got the money, he asked; 'Now why were you willing to sell?' "First of all, you are happy, right?" Don agreed. "And I am happy. You see, I was never interested in collecting cards; merely making money. So you can see that I am happy too. He correctly added that six months down the road, he did not see these cards being traded any longer. We were all left with our boxes of memories while Dave had the money.
Dave pursued the girls on whom he was forever bestowing his attention. While complaining about this tall striking guy's persistence; nonetheless, they ultimately fell for this 'bad boy' excitement. My mother, after speaking to Dave on one occasion, made this observation: "I see why the girls would go for David... he is a good listener." (I wasn't)... In short, while I read books in my pre-literate stage, Dave read life.
I won't say R.I.P. as Dave had plenty of that in retirement from Age 50. Rather, on to the next big challenge ...rolling the dice with St. Peter as to his ultimate destination?
His childhood and lifelong friend, Roger Callow
ADDENDUM: Dave and I oftentimes played golf together although when he lost, he was known to fling his golf clubs in the lake or, in the case of tennis, throw the tennis racket over the net. Being more phlegmatic, I never understood such behaviour but, as is typical of children, I accepted it as fact. (Did you know that the movie actress, Sophia Loren, played among the bodies in war-torn Italy believing that this was the lot of the world in which small children do not have yardsticks?)