Story and Photos by Ken Warren (ISN)
June 26, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Welcome to the eighth 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 returns home from Ottawa to visit his parent in Victoria, and finds out some shocking things about his good friend Arnie.
Tanned Ken and Phil lift pale Poppa at Cordova Bay Rd – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
When I returned home to BC from Ottawa, I went to Victoria where my parents were living and where my dad was now Terminal Traffic Manager for the CNR on Vancouver Island. They had a great home on Cordova Bay Road, six inches from a beautiful sandy ocean beach. I immediately looked for teaching jobs, but worked the summer as a reporter for the Victoria Daily Colonist. Living that summer with my family was a real treat. Brother Phil and I became very tanned after hours in the beach sun where we ran a beach volley ball league, swam and hosted evening fireside sing-alongs. Famous local photographer Jim Ryan visited our volley ball games for city page shots on a few occasions
Arnie and Ken in an earlier picture – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren
I often wondered if and when Arnie and I would ever be together again. Who’d have guessed this closest friend of mine would rob and murder a storekeeper in Vancouver within two years of our leaving Lestock. We’d been together daily for six years. We did everything together: playing all sports, building tree forts on the Reservation, collecting beer bottles, hitchhiking to play pool because we were underage, hitchhiking to Regina, swimming in dugouts and sloughs, rafting, threshing and stooking, playing spin the bottle with girlfriends. We may have smoked a few cigarettes, but we never stole or vandalized, or committed any crimes.
By 1955 my family had moved to Vancouver. In early 1956, we were living in North Vancouver and Arnie called me up. He too was living in Vancouver. We got together weekends because I had a job at CP Express. When we got together I asked Arn how long he had been in BC. “I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell anyone,” Arn said to me. “Okay,” I said. He told me that when he first came to BC in 1955, he was living in a hotel that members of his family owned in Bralorne, a mining town. However, the mine petered out, so the miners left and the hotel was losing money. It was set on fire to collect the insurance. I guess I just thought well, that kind of stuff happens all the time, so I never told anybody, and soon forgot about it. Meanwhile, Arn introduced me to Red Robinson, a young but already successful radio disc jockey. We also spent a lot of time trying to pick up girls in Stanley Park. While we weren’t together every weekend, we were together often. It was a great summer. The only thing that seemed changed in Arn was his constant questioning: “How come everybody’s got a car but us?” By August, 1956, I had to say goodbye to Arnie again. This time I was off to Hamilton to see a Blue Bomber pre-season football game and then to Regina to join the RCMP.
It wasn’t until I was attending UBC in 1958 that I heard of Arnie again. My sister-in-law Joan called me up to say that she was reading in the Vancouver Sun that Arnold Nofield has been charged with the murder of Low Gum Chew in November, 1956. The Chinese man was an old grocery store owner whose head had been bashed in by a pop bottle. A small amount of cash and cartons of cigarettes were all that was taken. This was definitely not the Arnie that I knew. This murder happened less than three months after I said goodbye to Arn. I went to Oakalla Prison to visit with him. We talked on phones through solid glass partitions.
I attended all of Arn’s trial dates and soon learned that when you have a bias towards the outcome, the bias influences your judgment. I thought Arn might win his case, but that was because I was putting too much stock in the defense. He was found guilty and was guilty. I believe his accomplice actually carried out the violent part and that Arn simply closed the window blinds. Nevertheless, he was there, a 17-year-old, to rob the poor man, so he is considered as guilty as his friend. His friend incidentally has never been identified. I worked very hard at finding out who the accomplice was and turned the name over to the Victoria police. I have never heard if they ever contacted the Vancouver police.
Several years ago I also contacted authorities about the burning down of the Bralorne Hotel because I learned from checking back files at the Vancouver Sun that a man died in that fire. That too is murder, since it was an arson fire. Something Arn never mentioned to me when he told me the ‘secret’. Lastly, in their search to find Arnie’s accomplice, police asked family and acquaintances of his what friends Arn had that might have been with him the night of the murder. They were told his best friend was Ken Warren, so they went searching for me. When they discovered that I had spent the entire month of November, 1956, training with the RCMP in Regina, they dropped me as a suspect. I had to see that for myself, so I went through Arnie’s file at the Vancouver Police Station. Sure enough, it was in his file.
Arnie had been transferred to William Head prison in Metchosin, on Vancouver Island, so I went out to see him a few times. The first time I went we were able to give one another a hug for the first time because this was a prison where you could wander around together and have an actual visit. There had been no opportunity to even shake hands at Oakalla or the BC Pen.
Although I had no teaching experience or credentials, I was hired on the basis of my Bachelor of Arts from UBC by the school district in Trail, BC. Trail is a great sports town, a great mining town, and little Italy. I was hired to teach English, Civics, and Math to the Senior Occupational Class at Trail Junior Secondary and introduce them to Work Experiences in the Community. I also took on lots of extracurricular activities including school annuals, student newspapers, and drama creations for Remembrance Day and Christmas. I must say that I think likely our school papers were the best in the province, including senior secondary publications. Here, for example is just two pages of our glossy eight -page Winter Edition, bearing in mind that we are only a grade 8 & 9 Junior Secondary School.
Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
Butch Deadmarsh played in the 1970’s with Buffalo Sabres. His nephew Adam played with several NHL teams – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
These were still the days of single file down the hallways, the two stairways at either end of the school were the ‘up’ stairs, while the stairs in the middle of the school were the ‘down’ stairs. You are never to come down the ‘up’ stairs. The ‘strap’ was still in use. Bud Tweeddale, a crotchety old, never-smile man was the principal. Jack Charters, a friendly man, but violent strapper, was the vice principal.
That’s Bud Tweeddale seated in the middle of the first row and Jack Charters, with the moustache, beside him. That’s me directly behind Tweeddale. Some Sooke teachers may spot Diane Lloyd who came to Elizabeth Fisher to teach the following year. – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
Our school sat in the middle of downtown, and I swear it never had one inch of playground. My first extra duty for two weeks was to wander downtown during lunch hour and make sure that no students were in any of the businesses. I had never heard of that kind of nonsense before, but I assumed that it was supposed to be a way of combatting shop lifting. I never asked. Anyway, the very first day I found eight boys in the pool hall. I took them all back to school and couldn’t believe it, but Jack Charters strapped them all. Since strappers required a witness, wide-eyed, I witnessed them all. I had never witnessed a strapping before, but Jack had a different way with his. The kid stood in the corner of his office, facing the corner with his hands stretched out behind him, palms up. That way, Jack stood behind the student and the kid never knew when the strap was coming. In my estimation these kids hadn’t done anything wrong, but Jack chastised them so vehemently it was as though they had committed a felony. I decided then and there I wouldn’t be finding any more students in businesses.
I was a little unfair to Bud Tweeddale, the crotchety, old, never-smile principal. One day I did see him smile; in fact, he even chuckled. It was occasioned by my bringing big Lorne Purdy out to the bookroom to tell him that he was going to stand in the corner in our classroom when we returned there. He had defied me in the classroom by saying in front of the class: “I ain’t standing in no corner.” “Yes, you are.” “No, I ain’t.” Just as the students were eyeing this as a potential slugfest, I told Lorne that we’re taking this out to the bookroom. Across the hall we went. “When we get back in that room, you’re going in the corner, Lorne.” “No, I ain’t.” “We’ll see about that. Come with me,” I said. He followed me out to the hall, and who should we meet: Principal Tweeddale. “What’s going on here? ” he demanded. “Well, Lorne kept acting up in the classroom, so I told him to stand in the corner. He refused a couple of times in front of the class, so I brought him out here to the bookroom to tell him he must obey me.” “Is that the truth, Purdy?” Tweeddale scowled. “Yeah.” “Get back in your classroom. I want to talk to Mr. Warren.” When Lorne left, Tweeddale started a smile that broke into a chuckle and then an actual laugh. “So, I guess I screwed up on this one, eh?” I asked. “It’s not that Warren; I’m trying to picture big tall Purdy standing in a corner. Next time maybe try something a little less humiliating.”
Two of my junior reporters are interviewing BC’s Olympic Golden Girl Nancy Green on Red Mountain – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren
After my stint with teaching in Trail, I returned to Victoria where my mother indicated that the University of Victoria was going to have a teacher’s intern program that would give Bachelor of Education equivalence to any British Columbians who were at least 28 years old, had either a BA or BSc, and had experienced a variety of work experiences that would benefit their future teaching experience. I applied for the program because I had just turned 28, and while I awaited a response from UVic, I joined the Daily Colonist as a reporter. Since Colonist reporters didn’t start work until 3:00 pm, it being a morning paper in those days, I wasn’t able to substitute teach because of the time factor. If I could start at the Colonist a little later, then I would be able to substitute and leave the school at 3:00. I took my plight to the City Editor. He agreed that I could start at 3:30 pm and work an extra half hour at the end of the shift, cleaning up and taking any late calls that came in, etc. So, I made a fair amount of extra money teaching an average three or four days a week all over Greater Victoria, and reporting news five nights a week. I was living in an apartment with two other Colonist reporters, John Matters and Wayne Thomas. John was a seasoned reporter, and Wayne, a rookie from Australia.
THE MARIO FATA MURDER MEETS WAYNE THOMAS
In 1966 Victoria had a semi-professional football team with Pete Ohler, BC Lions quarterback leading the team. On the line was an 18-year-old, 260 pound tackle named Mario Fata. In those days, you had to be 21 to drink in the bars or beer parlours, but Mario looked 25, so he would often have a few drinks with my friends and me. Wayne Thomas didn’t drink, and didn’t know Mario. Anyway, besides playing football, Mario owned a pizza parlour on Douglas St., the city’s main thoroughfare. Involved in an argument with a tradesman who had renovated the pizza place, Mario balked at the cost of the renovations and followed the man out onto Douglas Street, continuing the argument. The man pulled out a hand gun and shot Mario dead.
Since Mario’s pizza place was only about three blocks from the Daily Colonist’s building, also on Doulas Street, Wayne Thomas was dispatched to the scene. Wayne, at 21, was the youngest reporter on staff. He arrived about the same time as the ambulance, and before Mario’s brother got there. Having not identified himself as a reporter, Wayne got into the ambulance with the brother, posing as a friend of Mario’s. He talked to the brother all the way to the hospital learning as much as he could about Mario and the reason he was killed. He took no notes.
The next morning, Wayne’s story was the lengthy lead story in the paper, loaded with quotes from the brother. It was journalism at its most devious, and might well have shocked the grieving brother who must have felt used and probably saw direct quotes from him of words that he has never used.
It was also at the Colonist where I met Dorothy Kennedy. She worked there and looked like she should instead have been swaying down a New York modeling runway in all her shining glory. However, she had neither the confidence, nor the realization of her real beauty, to go that far. Besides, she had Kern, her two-year-old son to raise. Dorothy and I had a great couple of years living together on Avebury. I was offered a job at Elizabeth Fisher Junior Secondary on a fulltime basis, so left the Daily Colonist where Dorothy continued to work. Living with a two-year-old that wasn’t my child, and loving him, gave me a sense of what it must be like to have your own children. Bill Mahoney, a friend from Fort Camp stopped by our place when I wasn’t there, and met Dorothy. He talked to her for quite awhile about Fort Camp and couldn’t understand why she seemed to know so little of what he was talking about. When I came home, he asked me how come Bonnie has forgotten so much about Fort Camp? I laughed and told him that’s not Bonnie. That’s Dorothy. I could see that there were similarities between the two that someone like Bill who only had fleeting memories of Bonnie would mistake Dorothy for her. However, for me they were distinct individuals I had studied often and come to know and love. There was no mistaking either of them; they weren’t just not alike,they never looked that much alike either. Mahoney wasn’t blind, but he must have been near-sighted.
Dorothy and I went deer hunting around Port Alberni and I got a nice sized doe that pooped a bit as it went through its death throes. “Does that happen to all animals that are killed?” Dorothy asked. “What if a car hit me and killed me and I was lying there having pooped.” “Would you be embarrassed, Dorothy?” “Well, I’m embarrassed thinking about someone knowing I pooped in public,” she replied.
Dorothy called me to say that her Alberta boyfriend wanted to marry her, so what was I going to do about it? I had already gone once to Alberta and brought her back to Victoria, so I thought it best to say nothing. “Well,” she said. “I’m waiting. Are you going to let me do it?” Still no answer. She hung up, and married the guy who roared back and forth, and revved his engine when I was picking her up in Rocky Mountain House that first time. Did she think I was going to go all the way back there and get her again? No, she hung up and then phoned my brother Phil and his wife, Wendy, and told them she was getting married in Alberta, and that I had threatened to get her if she did go through with it. God will get you for that little lie, Dorothy, but I still like you.
Single again, I ended up going to the Old Forge a lot for dancing and drinking. Those were the days when David Foster, born in Victoria,had already gone to England to study the Beatles and had come back to The Old Forge with either The Foundry Brass or The Brothers Forbes, or both. It was the place to be in Victoria, and who’d a thunk at the time that David would one day own the stars?
So my good friend Jim London and I both made it onto the UVic Teachers Interneship Program. Jim selected Elizabeth Fisher Junior Secondary for his May and June practicum, and since I was already at that school as a teacher, I chose it too. That meant a substitute had to come in and take over my classes, while I had to work with sponsor teachers and teach their classes. The superintendent, Ernie Hyndman, told me that as long as I looked in every other day on my substitute, he’d see that I received my regular salary for May and June. That was a very special thing Mr. Hyndman did for me. However, one of the girls in my Record Keeping Class got angry with my substitute and punched him in the face, breaking his glasses and cutting his forehead. The man, a 10-year Kamloops-experienced teacher, punched her back. He had to appear before the School Board, and the girl was removed from the school and became the very first Alternative School student in the Sooke School District.
PEDOPHILES AND OTHER DIDDLERS
The following year I joined the executive of the Sooke Teachers’ Association as its bulletin editor. The president of the association was Hal Banks, a school principal at Millstream Elementary. He seemed like a committed educator and I admired his gregarious character. He was outgoing, open and sociable. Hardly the traits of a man with such a dark secret. Little did any of the executive know that this horrendous elementary school principal had sexually assaulted hundreds of his pupils and his own children. It is inconceivable that any person could violate so many children before being caught, but then even when he was discovered, he simply moved to another school district, eventually violating more than a thousand children. Thank God we have it so much healthier now where children will seek assistance and tell parents or authorities when approached by pedophiles.
Also in the Sooke School District, I asked my grade eight class at Edward Milne Community School to write a two page essay about themselves so that I could get to know them better. One girl wrote that her former Saseenos Elementary teacher had committed suicide in her backyard by slitting his throat. I was stunned by her declaration. I already knew that the man was to appear in court on sexual touching charges and had committed suicide instead of attending. How surprising it was to learn the gory details in a student’s essay.
Lastly, at Belmont Secondary, also in the Sooke District, a woman sharing the counsellors area told a 14-year-old girl suggesting that she might run away from home (while I was in her office) that she could come and live with her for a month until things calmed down at home. I thought what a fine woman to offer her home like that. Not long after, I was with a friend, a probation officer, and the woman walked past our car. I told him what a fine person she was, and he scoffed. He said her home was notorious for cunnilingus parties and other sexual fantasies. The next day I went to the woman’s office in Belmont and asked her about those charges. She defended her life style and wondered why I asked. I reminded her of the young girl who she offered to house, and she then saw my concern as a threat to her work. She realized what I was fearing. She got very angry and said who told you? “Was it Ron McNeil?” I went to the vice principal, and then to Ray Warburton, the acting superintendent. Nobody knew what to do. The woman left the school district of her own accord for another district.