Teaching BTSD (Burnaby); Gastown Store; West-End Living

Ken Warren

Story and Photos by Ken Warren (ISN)

June 28, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Welcome to the ninth 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 takes on a teaching job, opens a business and finds himself in some unforeseen situations.

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A page of Honourable Mentions from Elizabeth Fisher annual – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren

I left Elizabeth Fisher to take a provincial government teaching assignment at BC Vocational School (Burnaby) where I would be teaching English and Mathematics at the Grades 10 and 12 levels to adults being sponsored by Human Resources, Manpower, and Indian Affairs. The program was called Basic Training for Skill Development. BCVS (Burnaby) shared the grounds with BCIT. It was a great place. The students were all adults, and since their cheques were handed out by the teaching staff, they worked well and attended regularly. Because the vocational school had a chef training course, and BCIT had a hotel/motel management course, the teaching staffs of the two institutions ate and were served well and cheaply. A four course roast beef dinner for instance cost $1.00. 

In addition to my teaching job, I had a little store in Gastown. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the place to be in Vancouver was Gastown. This was a few waterfront blocks of creative, pot-smoking metal sculptors, bead and leather workers, hippies, and weirdo clothing designers, and my shop called: ‘As You Like It’, items for male bachelor pads. The Gastown shops had mostly been turn-of-the-century brick stores, factories, and warehouses that had been empty for years. This was not just new life being breathed into old buildings, this experience brought thousands of people daily into a whole area of the city that had been dead for years.

I found a nothing little mezzanine room in a large, popular brick building on Water Street, and created a store that would only be open on weekends. While I filled the store with secondhand junk that I bought from Watson’s on Government St. in Victoria, and Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, I mostly enjoyed the fact that I had stuff that nobody else had. An old bearskin rug, a stuffed Great Blue Heron, standing tall with its wings extended. Lots of real male-interest ornaments and statues, and a few swords.

Rent was real cheap for this little hole in the wall store. Fifty bucks a month, yet everybody who went up to the popuar store above me had to pass by my open door. The money was good and the people interesting–both the customers and my colleagues, the other sellers. That’s not why I sold the store. I sold it because I was single, thirty-one, and working seven days a week. More importantly, a group was just starting ‘The Fifth Day’ Club — a singles dance that alternated every Friday amongst three of Vancouver’s top hotels: The Bayshore, The Georgia, and Hotel Vancouver. That was where the real action was; especially for a guy who had this cool West End apartment and no girlfriend. The Fifth Day (that’s Friday) was the first opportunity that I had ever experienced where you could go and sit at a table with four girls you never knew and felt welcome. It was a strange new and wonderful time. I was living with Dave Argue, my buddy from Fort Camp, on Cardero St., and by this time Arnie was out of prison and joined a group of us at the Friday dances.

So I put up the store for sale with its junk for $5,000, even though I only wanted $2,000. Two American draft dodgers hemmed and hawed and kinda offered me $3500, but they were hesitant. So I said why don’t you guys come back next Saturday and run the store yourselves. “You can keep the money for what you sell as wages for the day. Then you’ll have an idea whether or not you like the business.” So they agreed to come back next Saturday, and I gave some friends $100.00 total to individually go into the store Saturday and buy some things that I wanted to keep for myself. Saturday the two Yanks came and ran the store and made $315.00 which included the $100.00 purchases my friends made. Even though my purchases made the total sales more attractive, I wasn’t about to feel guilty because the new buyers had already seen the items in the store, so I couldn’t just take them out without buying them. Anyway, they paid me the $3500.00 in cash, and when I visited them a month later they were open six days a week and making money.

On this particular Friday night the guys and I were at The Fifth Day singles dance at the Georgia Hotel, and lo and behold there were two students of mine, Kathy Redden and Karen ??, I forget her last name. Kathy wanted a dance and I obliged. She also wanted to hang around, but I didn’t want to become involved with a student, so I shied away. She persisted. Now, we’re talking about a 26-year-old woman, not a girl; but we’re also talking about a student in my class that I see daily. Getting involved could be very complicated. In addition, Kathy had two sons, Steven 6, and Kody 4, living with her. I tried avoiding her but ended up taking her home–to her home. I stayed the night. In fact, it wasn’t long before I was living in her home. We had many good times: skiing often at Mount Baker and Whistler, when there was only one building at the latter; dancing at the Purple Onion; going to house parties where the entry fee was a case of beer and maybe 200 people passed through the house that evening. Then, on Steven’s 7th birthday a strange and sad event occurred:


Jackie Lampin was the most beautiful black woman I had ever seen. She was a dancer at the Purple Onion where Kathy also occasionally danced on stage, but most often danced with me on the dance floor. Anyway, it was on Steven’s 7th birthday, a Saturday night, that Jackie and her daughter Cheryl ,also 7, were invited to a birthday supper at our place. Looking across the table at Jackie’s flawless beauty, I asked her if she ever had trouble with men at the Purple Onion. It was a place where a lot of people took their own bottles of hard liquor, so there was lots of inebriation.

“Funny you’d ask me that,” she said. “Two nights ago, on Thursday, I was followed home, and when I started to run, so did he. Instead of trying to make it home, I stopped at my next door neighbour’s, and knocked on their door. When the man came to his door, the other man stood for a moment at the gate, and then took off. He looked very angry, but I didn’t know him. I thanked my neighbour and hurried home.”

After telling us that story Saturday evening, Jackie and Cheryl left our place and headed home. She likely arrived home to find somebody in her home waiting for her. He was apparently looking for a package which Jackie didn’t produce. Some time in the late evening or early morning, he shot and killed Jackie in front of her daughter.

When Kathy and I heard of the killing, I immediately thought of Jackie’s comments the night before. Could her neighbour identify the man who had chased her and stood at his gate with an angry scowl when the neighbour came to the door? He might be able to identify the man from police mug shots. We set up a meeting with the RCMP, but asked them that it not be at our place, just in case the killer was wondering if Jackie had left the package with us. And what was the package? Was Jackie involved in drugs, or drug money? We knew nothing of that.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)

At the end of September, 1969, the Vancouver Sun’s Denny Boyd ran a survey requesting ideas on how to come up with the six million dollars that the NHL was requiring to offer the city of Vancouver a franchise, “OR WAS IT EVEN WORTH HAVING A FRANCHISE?” Denny’s story asked. Of the 54 letters that responded to the survey, 53 were against proceeding with professional hockey, and only one (MINE) favoured moving forward and accepting the offer. In addition, I outlined suggestions on how to come up with the money in a letter October 2, 1969 to Denny Boyd, with copies to Joe Crozier and Jim Kearney. I take Denny, Joe, and Frank McMahon to task, along with Montreal Star’s John Robertson, all for entertaining development of an ‘outlaw’ league.

At the time of Denny’s survey, several of us were forming an ‘N.H.L. (LOVE) club: NewsHockeyLovers (Labatt’s Obtain Vancouver Entry). We had prepared signs with two-to-four man demonstrations at every pub and liquor store in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and the North Shore prior to Thanksgiving (which coincides with the NHL schedule start). Our aim was to urge local beer drinkers to have a ‘Labatt’s Weekend’ by drinking and taking home only Labatt’s on that particular weekend.

The signs would have reminded beer drinkers that it was Labatt’s who had sought to purchase the Oakland franchise for us, and they would likely get in on this steeper cost if a successful Labatt’s Weekend tweaked their interest economically.

A direct quote: “There’s a lot of beer drinkers in this Province and many of them hockey lovers. In a province that probably spends $60 million a year on beer, would it take that long to get your $6 million back if you befriend such spenders? I think the sheer economics of the thing might subtly force Labatt’s hand.”

There was also the chance that ‘Gentle Ben’ Ginter could go in 50/50 with Labatt’s. I asked him at the Empress in Victoria if his brewery could handle the six million dollar fee and he said “No, but I wouldn’t mind a share in it.”

“Half of this city (Vancouver),” I said. “is made up of prairie folks; the same prairie folks who’ve been feeding the NHL its stars for fifty years without benefit of ever having been the home of an NHL city. Ours could be the closest they’ll ever come.” (At that time, of course, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg were not yet in the NHL). The negative response by letter-writers to Denny Boyd’s survey, and the quest by owners and sports journalists to look instead at an outlaw league took the wind out of our sails (i.e, robbed our enthusiasm) to pursue our Labatt’s venture. What could one sell the Canuck franchise for today?

After my first year of teaching at the Vocational School, the summer started out really bad. I was almost killed three weekends in a row. The first happened in mid-July. Kathy and I, and Nels West and his girl friend were all at Long Beach near Ucluelet in those days when you could tent and drive your cars all over the beach. We had pitched our tent and cracked some beer and were sitting on a log, close enough to a neighbour’s fire, to shoot the breeze with them. For some reason the girls were still in the tent, so Nels went back to see if they were going to join us, and all of a sudden something was on me like a ton of bricks. It turns out somebody named Buddy was hitting me on the head with a piece of driftwood. He got me several times before I got him down. In pain, I was going to pluck his eye out. Nels grabbed my hand. “Don’t Ken, let’s just leave.” Some friend of Buddy’s came over to our tent and apologized. “Buddy just goes crazy like this sometimes. You never know when it’s going to happen.” I looked at Nels quizzically. “Yeah,I guess I shouldn’t have stopped you,” he said.

The following weekend, I was driving in North Vancouver and another car barreled through a yield and totalled my vehicle. I was taken to hospital by ambulance,though my leg was only hurt a bit. Nevertheless, a funny thing did happen. The guy’s car insurance agent came to the hospital and gave me a cheque for $1000.00 in exchange for a promise to not make any health claims against his client.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)


Then at the end of the month, on August 1, 1970, I decided to go to Victoria to see my parents, brothers and families, and head to California where I had many cousins in Sacramento that I hadn’t seen in years. I drove onto the BC Ferry vessel ‘Queen of Victoria’ that Sunday at the Tsawassen terminal. It was a beautiful sunny morning as I caught the 11 am sailing. Once aboard the ferry I was guided to an upper ramp. I didn’t know it at the time, but the Volkswagen beetle directly in front of my car was carrying 31-year-old Mrs. Ann Hammond, of Esquimalt, and her seven-month-old son, Peter. Mrs. Hammond decided to stay in the car with Peter during the trip.

The trip was uneventful until we reached Active Pass. Then very active it became. The Sergey Yesenin, a Russian freighter, caught the eye of many passengers on the sundecks and from the many windows on the starboard side of the ferry. Many folks took pictures of the big Russian freighter, until they realized it was getting too close. The freighter kept coming and the people started running to the other side of the ferry. One 17-year-old girl from New Jersey couldn’t run. Her legs wouldn’t move. Her body was gripped in fear.

When the freighter hit the ferry, it not only drove it backwards, it sliced the ferry up the middle. The prow of the freighter was in the middle of the souvenir shop. The seventeen-year-old’s body was cut in half, with one half staying on the fifth floor, and the other half on a white mustang in the bottom parking area of the vessel. I had been in the cafeteria where people had fallen off of their seats and had half their lunch come tumbling on top of them. I ran to my car because I had several hundred dollars for my trip to California locked inside. When I opened the door to the ramp I was met by a great deal of water. Initially, I thought it was coming from outside; then I realized it was simply coming from many pipes that had been cut through. My vehicle was a little damaged, but driveable, and I didn’t realize that Mrs. Hammond and her son had been killed, and were just a few feet in front of me in their car.

The accident happened on Sunday. Allstate insurance paid my damages the next day on Monday. I only mention this so ICBC might take notice that some people do miss the rapport, service and genuine friendliness of the private insurance agents that used to be here.

Attached is my news story from this accident.

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Ken’s story, as reported in the Daily Colonist – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)