--- My time As A Street Urchin ---

Jim at Sybil's behest made one of the few attempts he ever made to bond with me. The three of us went shopping for fishing tackle. This time some of it was for me, for my 11th birthday. I remember I bought a little brass bell to hang on my rod. It would ring if I got a strike. Then just Jim and I got in the Model A and drove to Brentwood Bay. At Gilbert's Boathouse we rented a boat and went salmon fishing in Saanich Arm. I caught a young salmon, a grilse and I paid the price. When the salmon bit, the bell rang and fell of the rod and slowly sank a hundred feet or more to the bottom. I was mortified. Jim did not know how to be sympathetic. I don't think anyone had ever shown him much sympathy. To him sympathy was a sign of weakness. He said the losing of the bell was a lesson. I didn't want a lesson. I simply wanted my little bell back. That was first and the last time I ever went fishing alone with my stepfather.

The loss of the little bell illustrates a strange compulsion of mine. I desperately and obsessively try to preserve things: whether these be material things or relationships, no matter how short- lived or trivial they might be. Whatever upsets my apple cart fills my mind and drives everything else away. When something goes wrong, I have to fix it now. This has been a recurring largely dysfunctional response that has plagued me throughout my life. I never got another bell. The Coleman stove never worked. The stain never quite came out of the bedroom rug. My family would never be normal. Still, over the years, I have certainly alienated people close to me with my tenacious manic fixated approach to problem solving. Hysteria sometimes rules.

Shortly after dining on my fish we moved to an apartment at 1417 Douglas Street near the city centre; the second floor? Yes! Hotel? No!

Here, I met Kenny Galbraith, he was my age and mean. He taught me two things: how to steal; and how to sell the evening paper on the street. I was there when Kenny liberated the little hubcaps off a Model A. He took them to an auto wrecker to sell. He then said the police were after us and he kept all the money, if there was any. My reward was living in fear of being taken away and locked up. I was a failure as a criminal. It wasn't that I had high moral standards. I just was no good at it and I was scared shitless of the punishment I would face. Strange men in uniforms taking me away was a fate worse than Jim. It took many years but I taught myself to be honest. I have never regretted that choice.

Well, in a short time I had moved from being an English war refugee to being a Victoria BC street kid circa 1947. I went back to Oaklands School because my mother thought the boys at North Ward School would bully me. Well they did anyway when I went to get my afternoon papers at the Victoria Daily Times. Kenny Galbraith showed me the ropes. You lined up at the entrance on Fort Street and bought the papers fresh off the press. They cost 2 1/2 cents. I got 10 for a quarter. They sold for a nickel. On a good afternoon you might sell 20 papers. You never bought more than you could sell or carry. Left-overs sucked away any profit. You had to move constantly. Otherwise, you were claiming territory. The corners were forbidden as the Times gave these territories to long time vendors, mostly adults. Other territories were claimed and protected by force. You followed people going home yelling "Times Paper! Read All About it!" I did this 6 nights a week throughout the time we lived at 1417 Douglas.

Kenny and his friends went to North Ward and they could be very threatening. They wanted me to prove myself to them by stealing. I knew that the reason they wanted me to steal was because I was the one who stood to be caught. Well things got mean. It was steal or get thumped or worse be branded a coward or a chicken. I finally solved my dilemma by taking Jim's military sidearm, a .38 Smith and Wesson out of his drawer. I pointed it at my tormentors and uttered a plausible threat. I immediately became a celebrity of sorts, a gunslinger. I refused to show the gun again. No one forced me and Galbraith and friends became my buddies because they had seen the weapon. What a strange way to gain status. My mother eventually found out and kept it from Jim. He would have killed me.

Jim was always looking for work. One Sunday, Jim borrowed a car and we went beyond Sooke. While Jim and Sybil talked inside the house with the adults, I played outside. I decided to climb a tree. The green ones were bushy and difficult to climb but there was grey one with no needles. I did not know but soon learned that it was a dead snag. I was more than 20 feet up when all four limbs I climbed on broke and I fell backwards out of the tree and landed on a flat area flat on my back. The wind was knocked out of me. The adults came to the rescue. Mummy was beside herself. I refused to go to the hospital. I was never treated but I do believe the back issues I have today started here. Jim as you might expect was completely unsympathetic.

I stayed home a week and milked my wounded persona with Mummy then it was back to Oaklands. Over dinner, one night, I was told we were moving again. There goes Oaklands School. There goes my future as newsboy. There goes my future as a thief and a thug. Jim had rented a 5 acre farm in a place called Gordon Head. The rent was $50 per month.