Ken Warren

Story and Photos by Ken Warren (ISN)

June 23, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Welcome to the seventh article of Ken’s Blog, where historian Ken Warren takes us through some of his childhood memories, sharing with us the lives and times of his sports oriented family growing up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the 1900’s and beyond. In this article Ken finds himself tutoring, piling salmon in Rupert and making plans to head back to University.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

My grandfather Russell Warren, a retired grain buyer in Dauphin, Manitoba, died in 1959 (that’s Russell 2nd from the left at the top and extreme right at the bottom right pic of four generations), and I enjoyed the company of his five children: my father, three uncles, and aunt at the funeral.

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 Uncle Ken at front. Edgie, Earle and Austin L to R) Aunt Millie took pic – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

Dad had come from Vanderhoof, Austin from Kelowna, Ken (my namesake) from Prince Rupert, Edgie from the North West Territories, and Mildred from Penticton. None came with their wives or husband, and I was the only grandchild there. It was very interesting watching the jovial time these brothers and sister had as they reminisced in hearty laughter at times gone by.

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Picture is Edg with Canadian prisoner of war in Stalag 8B, Germany – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

It reminded me of them all getting together in Kindersley when Edgie got out of the German prison camp with Victory in Europe. My uncles asked me what my plans were, and I said I’ll likely go back to university. Uncle Ken, foreman at Atlin Fisheries, offered me a summer job piling salmon and stripping halibut in the plant’s cold storage lockers. Because the work in Rupert paid more than double what I was earning, and with overtime, more than triple, I agreed and gave the Daily Graphic a month’s notice of leaving.

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Ken and Jim both worked at the Rupert plant to put themselves through university – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

My brother Jim had worked two or three summers with Uncle Ken when he was going to the University of Manitoba, so I met lots of workers at Atlin who knew Jim. My first summer in Rupert I lived with Uncle Ken and his family, the lovely Auntie Jean, High School senior Gwen, High School Basketball Manager Bob, and young Murray. Gwen was having trouble in Math, so I was her tutor. Her friend Beverley was having trouble finding someone to be her date at graduation, so I would be her suitor. I played baseball with the same team that Jim had pitched for in Rupert and John Olsen was a power hitter on the team. He was only in Grade 11, and I’m getting ahead of myself to say that I would see him again in 11 months at UBC’s War Memorial gym where he was selected BC’s High School Basketballer of the year (actually two years in a row).

One last funny thing about unions and union men. As foreman, my Uncle Ken asked the union boss if any of his men would do some easy sheet checking at noon for an hour’s extra wage. The union head warned any of the men about taking the job. It was a violation of the contract. So Ken asked me to do it, because as a university part timer, I wasn’t in the union. Union guys laughed at me for spoiling my lunch hour for an hours pay. After three weeks of doing the job, Ken said it would be over in a couple of days. The next day when the Union guys went by me just after I started the checking, they gave me a wave and little chuckle. I called them over. “For the past three weeks,we put in four hours of overtime every day,” I said. “What happens when we put in five hours of overtime a day?” “Double time for the last hour,” they said. “Right,” I replied. “So what’s one hour at noon, and four hours at night? Isn’t that five hours of overtime?” They were shocked. They reported me to the union’s shop steward. He went to Uncle Ken and demanded that he, as senior union man, wanted the checking job for himself. “Fine,” said Ken, “but there’s only a couple of days of the job left.” “You should have told us it was a double time hour,” the shop steward said. “Your job is to interpret your contract for your men, and it’s in your contract,” Ken said. “Meanwhile, the job is your’s beginning tomorrow.”

Second year university may have been my favourite year. I joined the Ubyssey student newspaper and was pretty well their most experienced reporter. They had one great looking girl reporter, Pat Horrobin, who worked parttime with the Vancouver Sun. The other guys who worked with the Sun, Mike Hunter and Keith Bradbury , were editors with the Ubyssey. Later in life Mike Hunter, a lawyer, was Prime Minister John Turner’s executive assistant, and Keith Bradbury was an executive with BCTV. Anyway, I too got a parttime reportorial job with the Vancouver Sun, and collectively with about 14 other Ubyssey staffers we won the trophy as the best university newspaper in Canada. It was great fun showing new reporters how to write news stories from press releases, and even more fun to write personal columns in an area of the paper saved for reporters who had a creative item to share. Pat Horrobin wrote such a column using the standard journalistic ‘we’ when actually meaning ‘me’. I wrote a column teasing journalists for using ‘we’ too often, and made reference humourously to her column. If you’re thinking that the reason I did that was so I could get to meet her, you’re right. And it worked. We went steady for the rest of that year. The Ubyssey celebration dinner at the end of the year made up for the RCMP graduation dinner that had been spoiled by a foolish trip to get a Corporal who had never been there in the first place.

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Arnie and Ken in happier days – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

I went out to the BC Penitentiary where Arnie was now located and sentenced to ten years for second degree murder. Mike Hunter and I looked up that Bralorne fire Arnie had told me about and that’s where I learned that a man died in that fire. Fire Chief Bird sent a man out to Fort Camp to talk to me and I gave him the name of the man who started the fire but I think too much time had elapsed to investigate arson properly. The Vancouver Sun offered me a job for the summer that year, but I went back to Prince Rupert to work in the fish plant.

Third year, this time I took my friend Rich Nelson with me to Rupert. We stayed at Mrs. Simundsen’s large house and slept in a double bed that old Frank, the light house keeper, had died in the year before. Rich wasn’t happy in Rupert. He missed the sun and girls of Port Moody, his home area. There were few girls in Rupert and Rich latched onto one at a party. By the time he was ready to make out with her he had convinced her that he was dying of cancer and might take her to Hawaii with him before he passed. What was funny was that she had already been intimate with two other guys previously at the party. He needn’t have embellished his story that night. He could have just taken her into the bedroom. Another night we went to the Armouries for a dance and Hector, a 6’11”, 300 lb guy who worked at our plant in the fresh fish area was sitting with a girl I knew well. She was happy and welcoming, so we sat with them. Hector wasn’t happy, but I didn’t notice that. Eventually, however, he invited me outside where I popped him one in the nose, and he grabbed hold of me. We went down on the ground together, but I was soon on top. A soldier came out and told us to break it up. I tried to get up, but Hector had most of my hand in his mouth and he was biting me hard. The soldier gave Hector a swat at the bridge of his nose with the side of his open hand, and Hector released my hand. You might not believe this, but I was able to spot Hector’s teeth marks on my hand for at least the next five years. Hector was immediately banned from the Armouries and Rich and I stayed at the dance for another hour or so until an acquaintance, Mario, came to the dance and told us that he had just won over a thousand dollars at a poker game. He wanted to drink, and our mickeys were empty; it being late, we had to try to find a bootlegger. I didn’t know it, but as Mario and I were talking, Rich was shadow boxing and trying to show me how he would have handled Hector. Apparently, the fists he was throwing were coming close to my head, but we were walking down dark alleys trying to find ‘blind pigs’ (ie bootleggers) and I was talking to Mario, so I never noticed his punches. Then, I was knocked down and saw stars. Rich had punched me in the eye. I knew immediately that I was going to have a black eye. Rich apologized profusely and said he was pretending that he was fighting Hector. I was really pissed off and let Rich know such. “Everybody at the plant is going to think Hector gave me this black eye, you jackass. I beat a mountain man whose only defence is to bite me, and you make it look like he was the winner.” Rich was in tears, so I had to apologize for my outburst.

Third year and fourth years I’d rather wash right out of my mind. Somewhere along the way, Donna Morris, a friend of mine from the Ubyssey, introduced me to her new roommate Bonnie Griswold. Bonnie was bright, a scholarship winner, whose father was a logger, and she felt the need to bring great success to the family. She was pretty and looked on me as older, experienced and safe. I don’t exactly know what Donna would have told her, but it would have been positive because we both liked one another and had experienced tremendous success at the Ubyssey. So, when hundreds of us went protesting something about the Georgia pub closing, Bonnie and I went hand in hand to the protest, and that’s where our love began. Within a few weeks of hot romancing–no, not that hot–I was very angry about something and broke us off. That was it for me. I left her standing wherever she was when I parted. I curse the fact that as I entered the hut at Fort Camp where I lived, that I saw out of the corner of my eye, Bonnie racing up to the campus. It was the dead of night and nobody else on campus. I ran to where she was running and caught up to her. She was in a frenzy of tears and I instinctively held her. She continued sobbing and raving about how much she cared about us, but was committed too to her studies and the need for success. Damn, I wish I hadn’t seen her plight, her flight that night. It was the first time, but not the worst time, that a woman’s tears sucked me back into a cursed time. How often I wished that I had let her go and have her little juvenile cry so that we could have gone our separate ways and get our studies done. Yes, we had many passionate nights all year after that. But frustration too. Never able to sit together and study. I handled the break poorly, and each time Bonnie’s face broke into a horrible, monstrous scab from mental anguish or guilt or whatever it was, she avoided any discussion with me. What sad and wasted years. I’m so sorry we met. Dear girl, I heard long ago that she had three daughters. If they’re like Momma, I hope they never meet any of my seven sons.

In my fifth year I went to Ottawa to the Journalism department of Carleton University. While I needed a change in my life, I tried writing a parliamentary play about Diefenbaker, under the name R.O. Gant, being influenced by the Devil and an angel Bonnie Good, get it? B.G. Bonnie Griswold. I wasn’t getting her out of my mind. While I had more experience than the other students in the class, and was the only Journalism student with a reportorial job at either of the two major dailies (I worked for the Ottawa Journal parttime). Nevertheless, after attending the new flag ceremony at Parliament Hill on February 15, 1965, I went to my journalism prof. and asked him to assign me news stories for the Vancouver area. I said I had compassionate reasons that I had to be in Vancouver. He gave me assignments to do and also said I could free lance material or stories that I would be given credit for. I said good-bye to my civil servant friend, Angus McLean, a Cape Bretoner, and left for Vancouver at the end of February.

When I arrived on the Lower Mainland of BC, I forgot there would be no snow. What a treat, BC’s weather is. I was anxious to go and see Bonnie. I got almost to Acadia Camp, where Bonnie was living, and lo and behold there were Rich Nelson and David Argue, two of my friends from Fort Camp. I had never known them to be walking this far from Fort Camp, and I certainly wasn’t going to let them know that I had come all this way to try working things out with Bonnie. How rotten fate can be. Of all the coincidences in life, and there are many, walking into a university grounds and seeing two of your friends as the first students in sight, and being so far from their domicile, has to be close to the top. How unfortunate. They were meeting other of my friends at a bar. I didn’t want anyone to know anything about why I was here in Vancouver, so I went along with them. A mistake, yes. I blew it, like I had blown every thing lately. We ended up at a dance at Acadia Camp. She was there, dancing, and I never even talked to her. I had come all the way from Ottawa to see her and I never even talked to her. I got a job as a janitor nights at the Fine Arts Building on campus, so that allowed me to go out most nights until work time at midnight. Dave Argue and I went around Fort Camp in and out of huts knocking on doors until we found a fellow in a double room without a roommate. I simply told him that I was his new roommate and he never complained at all. Nor did he ever report me as a squatter. I even got all my meals free at the cafeteria.

It may have been a terrible year for me, but it was even worse for Rich Nelson. We’d had an evening of drinking and were driving back to Fort Camp at 70 mph through every stop sign along Seventh Avenue. “Slow down, Rich. This is crazy,” I demanded. He kept going the same fast pace, and when we entered Hemlock another car with the rightaway was in the intersection. Their car must have almost exploded,because both women in the car ended up under our car, which in turn ended up 100 feet past the intersection against a tree or pole over the right curb. I was so angry with Rich that when he asked if I was all right, I pointed to a woman lying absolutely still under my side of the car and said “You’ve killed a woman, here.” I think my comment may have shaken Rich into near sobriety or shocked him senseless. Blood was running down my face and into my eyes and I was sitting in the front seat of an ambulance when I saw Rich talking to the Vancouver police. I called him over, because I had noticed a big box truck parked near a grocery store on the corner we had just come through. Even though we had gone through several stop signs, it’s possible this truck was blocking the Seventh & Hemlock stop sign a little. “Tell the cops you couldn’t see the stop sign because of that truck,” I told Rich. Apparently the women injured in the accident were the assistant dean of women from UBC, and UBC’s best grass hockey player. I only learned that months later from Dave Argue. Almost as soon as I got out of the hospital, I left for Ottawa to hand in the few news stories I had written. Rich was fined $50 for failing to yield. We both should feel really guilty: Rich for the dangerous driving and me for the deception that occurred. I covered for him because I felt guilty for shocking him with my angry announcement: “You’ve killed a woman here!” It wasn’t until years later when Rich became successful in govenment work with an awesome salary and the prospects of a trememndous retirement package that I thought of finding out who the two women in the accident were and did they need financial assistance? While I had been told that one of the women injured was the assistant dean of women, and the other was UBC’s best grasshockey player, I couldn’t come up with any names in my telephone calls to the university. Eventually, they no longer had deans of men and women, and it became even harder to find the accident victims. I gave up, but Rich (not his real name) knows who the women are and I’ll suggest that each of us pay them 5% of our taxable incomes to make up for their years of pain and other losses.

When I got back to Ottawa, the Stanley Cup playoffs were on. I ended up at Gus McLean’s to watch the sixth game of the Stanley Cup final between Montreal and Chicago, in Chicago. If Montreal wins, they win the cup, la Coupe! However, Hull, Mikita and the Hawks won, so that necessitated a seventh game in Montreal. Then Gus McLean had a brainwave. He had heard that a bus company had season tickets and took people to Montreal for all of their home games. What if that company has playoff tickets too?

“It’s worth a try,” said Gus. “What have we got to lose? If they offer tickets for the Stanley Cup games, it might be first come, first served.”

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Find Jean Beliveau. He scored the winner – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

Gus phoned the bus company and they did have tickets, and we were in time to get them. BUT IF YOU THINK THAT’S LUCKY, HERE’S THE REAL KICKER: The fare, which included a ticket to the Seventh Game of the Stanley Cup Finals and return trip from Ottawa to Montreal and back was $13.58. I swear on a stack of Bibles. Montreal won the game 4-0, with Jean Beliveau scoring the winner. AND HOW ABOUT THAT PRICE?