Story and Photos by Ken Warren (ISN)
July 3, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Welcome to the tenth 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 us back to Victoria and shares his experiences with the Kinsmen, politicics and marriage.
I had a great month in California visiting my cousins, the Corkes, in Sacramento, and returned ready for another year at the Vocational School. We skied so often at Mount Baker that I bought a building lot at the bottom of the mountain across the road from Bob and Lois’s great bar and lodge, The Chandelier, where we always drank and danced after skiing. I also put a down payment on a pre-fab cabin at a fancy business on the highway outside Bellingham. He was on the highway, all right. The bastard took off on the highway and just kept going with my money and a bunch of other Canadians money, too. I sold my lot, taking another beating, but we still came back to ski at Baker and stay at the ‘Chandelier’.
I read an ad in the Vancouver Sun that the Sooke School District wanted a department head for their Occupational Program at Elizabeth Fisher School. It was my old school and the 3-class program where I had been one of the teachers. I applied and got the job. Hence, I had to give notice to the Vocational School and left for Victoria at the Christmas break. Since I was coming from an adult program that offered a vocational grade 10, I brought the program with me and convinced Principal John Holt that two other interested teachers (Jim Gauley and Fred Pye) and I could take all of the failing grade nines and tens and put them in this Vocational Entrance 10 course (Vent 10) and make school not only more meaningful for them, but give them an accredited opportunity to apply to vocational schools for a variety of trade training areas.
Kathy followed me to Victoria and qualified for a low income condominium on Lampson St. in Esquimalt. Mickey and Jean Kolisnyk were our neighbours, and Jean was Kathy’s maid of honour when we got married. Brother Jim was my best man and we had an awesome stag at his house where we were skinny-dipping in his pool as we played volleyball, I think. I may have had a little to drink that night, but I think we played volleyball.
I joined the Juan de Fuca Kinsmen and my association with Kinsmen lasted for the next 25 years. The club thrived in Langford and by far out-distanced Saanich and Victoria clubs in terms of membership and service projects. Low-income housing projects were completed, free July and August day-long Summer Camps for children were held, supervised by paid high school trainers and managed by one Kinsmen officer. The business end was well taken care of, but then so was the social end. Through the winter we had a hockey league: Kinsmen vs Teachers vs School Maintenance Personnel. Most of us in Kinsmen were teachers, but we were teachers from one school, Elizabeth Fisher. So teachers from Victoria, Saanich and other Sooke schools were our opposition. Also, of course, the Maintenance team was opposition. We could only rent the arena from midnight on, so you can see one had to be dedicated to play the game.
There was however an easier social end: Kinsmen Conventions! Here’s how foolish: The first picture is my little Datsun truck showing off at the Penticton Convention downtown parade, out-fitted like an old sailing vessel: HMCS Juan de Fuca. Beside that picture is me, Jim London, and Bill Spotswood (proud of his butt) getting ready to put on our tutus for our ballerina show.
Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
Then there’s Carol Spotswood and Doris London working on my body (not even tipping my drink) as Carol shouts that she’s found the beef. Meanwhile, President Jim London (who, believe it or not, was president of 5 different associations and societies that year) has found yet another hat to wear.
Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
Lastly, there’s Fred Pye trying to contact his sole-mate while Doris, quite enamoured, is trying to figure out how to get Fred’s clothes off. In the end, Ken takes Carol away from the too rowdy Sooke bunch.
Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
I wrote and passed my law entrance exams because I pictured that that was what I really wanted to do. We bought a DiCastri house on Walfred Road in Langford. DiCastri is a famous architect in Victoria. Unfortunately, our DiCastri house was built by Bill, the architect’s cross-eyed brother, and the leaky roof was only one of the several problems. I tried my best to fix the problems and make the house more presentable for sale, but first I was committed to taking 40 Belmont-Fisher students to Paris with Georgette Poirier and her husband Bill as the other chaperones. Georgie and Bill fought so often, sometimes I felt that I had 42 kids, rather than just 40. Kathy was six months pregnant, so she wasn’t allowed to make the trip. Her pregnancy also ended any desire of mine to go back to university and study law. I had already seen the frustration that builds up when a man tries raising small children while he faces years of difficult university courses ahead of him. Like my brother Jim, studying to be an orthopedic surgeon, while raising three small children. He beat his fists to meat on the garage door.
The students were great on the trip, but their parents might have had some questions about the beer drinking that went on with their grade eights. The school where we stayed provided beer for everyone at meal times. And so the grade eights also had beer. In fact, when I wandered around on one of our afternoons off, I found boys in the pool hall playing pool and drinking beer. “That’s your limit,” I told them. It was an amazing 14 days for the students, because 12 of the days were packed with sight-seeing: the Louvre, Notre Dame, Versailles, Monmartre, Eiffel, everything.
HUNCHBACK KEN AT NOTRE DAME – Photo courtesty of Ken Warrent (ISN)
When our first child together was born, we were living on Walfred Rd. Kit Darcy Warren was born June 3rd, 1974, and I was in there with Dr. Ernie Higgs when he delivered him and I watched him go the three colours of the American flag. He came out blue, the oxygen in his first breaths turned him red, and then he settled in to white. I suddenly realized what most parents do, and all parents should; that is, in a flash a little person arrives on this earth who is more important to me than myself. The Kinsmen Club’s Gllangcolme Days Fair was being held as we were bringing Kit home from the hospital so we stopped and entered him in the beautiful baby contest. He won ‘Youngest Baby in the Contest’. Next on our ‘to do’ list was looking for another house, and we found Harvey St. Hilaire.
HARVEY, A HELLUV AN ANGEL
So, like I said, Kathy and I first met Harvey when we were looking for a new house. Harvey was a builder and he showed us one that he was finishing, a four-level (not four-storey) house in Phelps sub-division. It was a beauty and we liked it, but just for the heck of it, I asked him if he knew of any waterfront that might be available. My parents had lived on the ocean at Cordova Bay, so waterfront was always in my mind.
“You’re in luck,” Harvey said. “I’m building homes on Monnington Place and I have to renovate the original home there. It sits right on Glen Lake. You can have it for $60,000 as is, or $75,000 if I renovate it.”
He took us to see it, and we loved it. “We’ll take it,” I said, “and we want you to do the renovating for the extra $15,000.”
Harvey showed us what he would do for renovating and in my estimation that would have cost us an extra $25-30,000 for anybody else to do it. When he was finished, Harvey had done everything he said he would and more. The home we moved into had been Al MacMillan’s for many years, and Al MacMillan had been Harvey’s foster father when nobody else would look after him. That’s why Harvey loved that home.
Sometimes when Harvey talked tough, I wondered if it was just bravado. I knew he was with the Hell’s Angels. He was a great motorcycle enthusiast, and when I learned that he had been in the BC Pen, I took out a picture of Arnie and asked Harvey if he remembered Arn from the Pen. “Nope. Don’t remember him.” so, next time I was in Vancouver, I asked Arnie if he knew Harvey?
“Harvey St. Hillaire? Everybody in the pen knew Harvey St. Hillaire,” Arnie said. “We called him The Merchant. He could get you anything you wanted. But you better make sure you had the money as soon as he delivered the goods, or it was curtains for you.” It was then I knew for sure that Harvey’s tough talk was for real.
When Harvey left his wife, he built a mansion. The windows alone cost more than my house. He was a millionaire, then he went broke. Then he was a millionaire again, and then broke again. He was a tough nut, Harvey. He was even tough thirty years later when this old Hell’s Angel died riding his bike near, of all places, Hell’s Canyon on the mighty Fraser River. He was coming out of one of those tunnels on that Highway into the bright sun, mowed down by a vehicle entering the tunnel. At Harvey’s wake at the Luxton Fairgrounds there must have been 200 motorcycles among the cars and trucks of the people attending. Harvey was as wild as they came, but had a heart as gentle as a lamb. I miss hearing his bike outside our house as he stopped for coffee.
Back to 1975 when Harvey completed the renovations of our new home on Monnington Place. I have never lived on a street that I loved as much as Monnington, and I’ve never had neighbours that I loved as much as my neighbours there. One could say that it is the feature of a cul de sac, and maybe 10 or 15% of that is true. Another might say it is because of the lake. I could give that another 10 or 15%, lastly, one might say it’s because that’s where your second son was born. Keeley Russell Warren was born January 6th, 1976, and could be yet another reason to love the street; but now, I’ll tell you what I think it really is.
Facing my house, the neighbours on my left were Ron and Sandy McNeil. Ron worked for the attorney general’s department in probation with youths. Ron was as good as anybody in Lacrosse,except maybe the Gait twins, who he took to Ontario with their kid’s team, as their coach, and won us a Canadian championship. Nevertheless, Ron has scored more goals in senior men’s professional lacrosse than anybody else in the history of the game. And he happens to be Gary Gait’s idol. What’s more, Ron got anybody on the street a good deal on Shamrock tickets and many of us went to the games and we had a house party afterwards at pre-arranged neighbours. Next to Ron were Roy and Pat O’Hara. Roy was a BC Hydro supervisor. Great neighbours, good party hosts. On my right: RCMP Corporal Don Andrews and Kathy. Also waterfront. Welcome to their dock and home. Great neighbours. Further right, Gary Young, also waterfront. Had been a student of mine at Elizabeth Fisher. Further right: Retired Al and Connie MacMillan, living in the new house that Harvey built them. Great hosts after Shamrock games. Further down the left side, Rob and Donna Harris. Rob was a manager at Cubbons. Keen lacrosse fan, great host. Further down the right, Rob and Jean Tarr. Rob was an elementary principal and Jean ran a nursery school. Both took work experience students in their places of business.
Nor was it just the lacrosse that made us the best neighbourhood this side of Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood. Once a week for a couple of hours in the evening during the winter months we played volleyball at Glen Lake School. It was a regular ritual, but nothing lasts forever, and for whatever reason almost every couple in the above scenario has split up. NOW THERE’S A LOAD OF UNTOLD STORIES! C’est la vie!
Before we leave this party street, Monnington Place, I have to mention a Christmas party that was at Ron and Sandy’s house. Years ago my dad had told me about a fellow who had a raw turkey’s neck in his pocket and got ladies to fish out his car keys. We had a turkey at home that hadn’t been cooked yet, so I took its neck and put it in my pocket. Then we put my arm in a sling and went to the party early. I had a cigarette in my mouth and asked the hostess, Sandy, if she would get my lighter from my pocket. Knowing that I couldn’t reach in that pocket because of the sling, she reached in and like the speed of a lightning bolt withdrew her hand and screamed. She laughed when I showed her it was just a turkey’s neck. We arrived early so that we could catch each woman the same way as she arrived. That way, everybody was in on it except the new arrivals. Yes, it sounds a little disgusting, but the whole-hearted laughter from everybody made it worthwhile.
“THE BOOK PIERRE LIED ABOUT.” – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
While all of this was going on we were in the midst of a federal election. Being on the Progressive Conservative executive , I had created an anti-Pierre Trudeau Button Book and was selling buttons like ‘Bi Bi Pierre’ (Bilingual, Bicultural) from a booth at the PC National Convention in Quebec City. Easterners like Charles Lynch were calling our Vancouver Island group a bunch of Red necks, but Western newspapers were having a ball writing critiques on my little book entitled ‘Button Up, Pierre.’ Joe Clark was the Opposition Leader and endorsed the book. A copy of Joe’s endorsement and Gorde Hunter’s column are attached at the bottom of these paragraphs. What’s more, we eventually kicked Pierre’s ass in the election.
” THE BEGINNING & END OF HUNTERS COLUMN” – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)
Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (INS)
Meanwhile, Pierre was making a pre-election trip to Victoria and could be seen at Centennial Square. I decided to welcome him by selling ‘Button Up, Pierre’ books there. They sold for $1.00 each, but I had earlier sent Pierre and several Conservative MP’s free copies. So, I was selling them when Pierre came walking through the massive crowd. I could see where to line up to be able to talk to him, so when he got to me,I handed him a book and asked him to sign it for me. He reached back to one of his aides and received a pen. He went through the flourish to start a signature, and then hesitated when he recognized what he would be signing. “I’ll just keep that, thank you,” he said. His grey eyes sliced through me like a musketeer’s sword. I had never seen eyes portray anger so smoothly.
As Mr. Trudeau moved on I was too stunned to react, but the fellow beside me said: “Hey, he never paid you for the book. How come he gets his for free?” That’s right, I thought. I could carry this battle on further by laying a theft charge against him. So I did. The Times-Colonist wouldn’t take my classified ad seeking witnesses in the crowd to the theft. I should have gotten the fellow’s name who complained that the prime minister hadn’t paid for the book, but I wasn’t thinking like a cop or a lawyer at the time. Those steely grey eyes had been planted in my mind. About ten days later, a couple of city detectives came to my door and wanted to talk to me about the charge that I had laid against Mr. Trudeau. They said that the police who were accompanying the Prime Minister would testify that he hadn’t taken the book. You know, I didn’t really expect anything to come of this foolishness anyway, but the PM could have sent me a buck, or sent the book back. So, as stupid as my laying a charge against him was; his response, to get the police to lie about the affair, might have even been stupider.
JUST ONE OF THE 20 PAGES OF DERISIVE LIBERAL BUTTONS – Photo courtesy of Ken Warren (ISN)