--- One Damn Thing After Another---

In the spring of 1964, I received a sudden shock, Geoff Vantreight phoned and simply informed me the race car crew had held a meeting and had voted me off the crew. Hurt, I challenged him and he said my friends had done it. Then, he relented and told me I could help Grant King. Before going to the shop, I spoke to Johnny Walker. He told me that Geoff had called the meeting and his purpose was to boot me out and humiliate me. At the shop, I discovered that Geoff had employed Grant to build him a new car. It was beautiful to behold, a stand-up sprint car with a tin top. It was at this time that Grant taught me the life lesson related before. He built cars. I was a teacher. The final straw came when Geoff told me I could go out and work on the trailer. I went outside with John, got in my car and left. I never went back. I later learned that Geoff had systematically rid himself of the entire crew and had taken on all the admiring sycophants he could find. Loyalty, it appears, was not one of his guiding principles.

This does not mean that my racing career was over but my time with Geoff Vantreight was. I struggled with my separation from racing for another 5 years reaching Riverside and even Indianapolis. In truth, I was living in a fantasy world as I had as a child on Gordon Head. Many decades later, a racing friend, Gordy Alberg clarified everything for me when he said he came to a point where he had to make a decision whether to be a race track bum or go home and make something of himself. Well, it took me longer than him to let go. My separation was finally completed at Riverside California in 1969, the track where Victoria legend Billy Foster was killed in 1967. Motor Racing is a lifelong addiction and you never really get over it. I've been back to Indy Cars and motorsports in general in recent years and I have acquired a small collection of vehicles that takes me to car shows. There, i get to rub shoulders and bullshit with friends and acquaintances from the distant and somewhat remote past. Ironically, we often go unnoticed among the newer generations of posers, experts and enthusiasts that now populate the scene.

--- And Another---

Later in 1964, an all-male group of young administrators known as "First-Assistants" received a blow. I was among the group. Once again the head of John Gough, Superintendent of Schools reared its head. Secondary (high school) principals lobbied to have their young administrators receive appointments as First-Assistants in elementary schools. This fit the existing mythology that Secondary teachers and administrators were more qualified and skilled than their elementary counterparts. Certainly, High School Principals were paid more then and still are. So, the District appointed a group of secondary hopefuls to the small elementary schools and my group was simply demoted to classroom duties. I had received many blows before and I assumed that my popular, athletic, politically-successful associates would be strong and stoic. Nothing could have been further from the truth. They moaned and wailed like wilful children. They threatened action but never took any. Well, the newly-constructed Craigflower School got a lame duck from a secondary school to replace me. He was a lame duck in the classroom as he failed to connect with his students and the school in general. One of his students was hurt on the grounds. "What's your name young man?" he asked. "It's me, Peter." was the reply. In truth, Peter had been in his class for 9 months sitting right in front of the teacher's desk. Still, the child was unrecognizable. Our skilled superior secondary fellow's mind was elsewhere. This allowed me to continue all my previous programs. The theatre program now had a stage in the school and the athletic programs were shared with Brian Wile who had become a close colleague and friend. I worked without the stipend. The secondary fellow appeared to do nothing. That assumption proved false. He had been lobbying behind the scenes to be appointed principal of a newly-constructed school, Hillcrest in Gordon Head. Well, in 1966, by God! He got it.

Christmas 1965, I received a memorable gift. At the time it was the custom for children to buy their teachers small gifts. The class kept asking me what I wanted. Jokingly, I told them a new Ford Mustang. The usual gifts were cuff links, tie tacks, etc. On the last day of school before the Christmas Holidays gifts were exchanged. Brian Wile's desk was covered. Mine was empty.I was shaken until the afternoon assembly when two of my students presented me with the keys to a new Ford Mustang. The car sat on the basketball court bearing a huge green bow. Its seems that the children had conspired to rent the vehicle for me. After school, I was employed to give rides to each and everyone of my benefactors. It was, indeed, an unforgettable moment.

In the Spring of 1966 WInston Churchill died and I got the mumps, In things about England and war, I was Bill Chater's choice. I was experienced. I was to speak to the school about Churchill but I screwed that up by getting the chicken pox. As summer approached I went to one of the school district directors, Harry O;Donnell to discuss my future, There was some talk of me heading a secondary art department but in the end, I was appointed Acting Vice-Principal of Glanford Elementary.

"Roger Miller came along in the mid-sixties to suggest that "All you've got to do is put your mind to it.
Just knuckle down buckle down and Do it! Do it! Do it!"

He was singing about happiness.
The truth is:
"It don't come easy!" Ringo Starr summed that up in 1973."

The summer of 1966 became a real test for me. I was to take the final 2 courses to complete my Bachelor's degree. It was a Secondary degree requiring one year beyond its Elementary counterpart. At UVic, I was faced with doing my senior Art project while taking a difficult senior English course. The English course was being taught by a guest lecturer from Oxford University. He was bright dedicated and he believed in rigour. His expectations for the group were high. He let us have it. On the first day, he wrote on the blackboard "In defence of ..." He passed out paper while telling us we were free to decide what to defend in 500 words in class, right now. The class appeared shaken. I decided to write about the pastoral delights of the Gordon Head where I had grown up. The very next day we received our paper back, He had marked everyone, We all noted the marginal notes in red and there were many. After writing a final cryptic critical note, He gave me 2/10. a failing grade. I looked around and discovered that misery does indeed love company. Ashen faces were everywhere. He then informed us that we were to write a 500 word essay every night and hand them in before class each day. We had free choice of topics. I was sick inside as his marginal notes contained such comments as: lame, weak, meaningless, cliche, hackneyed, superficial etc. I suddenly realized that I couldn't write and I had nothing to write about. I was in deep do do.

Writers block consumed me. To illustrate the state of my marriage, my wife did absolutely nothing to support me emotionally or otherwise. I was on my own. I went to bed and couldn't sleep. I got up at 2am and forced myself to put words on paper. I finished the essay at a restaurant drinking coffee. I spent any free time I had that summer learning about the world in the University Library. I still have the essays I wrote. One stands out. I wrote about the murder of 3 civil rights workers in Philadelphia Mississippi. I researched the event and was truly shocked. Among others the Sheriff was tried for murder. Everyone was acquitted. The federal government finally convicted the white racist bigots of violating the 3 victims civil rights. I had finally begun a life long journey of critical thought that still guides me today.

--- The Coming Of The Phoenix---

On the art front things were better. Bill West, who was also the Art teacher at Oak Bay High School, was assigned, to supervise my senior project. He and I determined it would be a large metal sculpture of a Phoenix . My friend, Roger Emery, also an art student and teacher, lent me his welding equipment and the whole thing was cut assembled and welded out of old car parts given to me by Tony's Auto Body and transported to the site in a friend's pickup. As the bird took shape, I was informed that it would stand permanently outside the Phoenix Theatre then lodged in huts of the former army camp. The rising of the bird from automotive ashes was viewed by both Jack Shadbolt and Don Jarvis, from the Vancouver School of Art. These substantive figures in the British Columbia Art World were friends of Bill West. Don and I struck up a very brief friendship in which he traded one of his serigraphs for one of my smaller metal sculptures. In August, the Phoenix was mounted on a concrete plinth outside the theatre entrance. The forms for the plinth were constructed with the assistance of Bill and Wolfgang Baba. As we poured the concrete, Bill arrived with countless wire coat hangers to throw in the form, thus making the plinth impregnable. Bill appeared to have a healthy mistrust for those in positions of power.

A short holiday on the Oregon Coast was spoiled by my anxiety about my final marks. The highlight was having to produce my ID to buy a pitcher of beer at Shakey's Pizza in Coos Bay Oregon two days before my 30th birthday. I returned home to discover that I had indeed completed my degree. To celebrate, My wife and I purchased a new British Racing Green 1967 MGBGT, a car I truly coveted and off I went to Glanford School.