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Every day I count many blessings because I grew up in Vancouver. My treasure chest of memories and stories continue to overflow because of friends I met in good and difficult times. Special places brought people I would never have met and taught me lessons I cherish today because of how I changed one day at a time.
My single Mom supported us by cleaning houses and baking for a nearby café who picked her handy work up late in the evening. Mom taught by example. I never heard her complain when life was hard. Only years later did I know her struggles. Mom’s legacy was all about loving God and people.
Schools brought friends that remain in my life today. Little did I know I would meet one of my bridesmaids in grade five at Cecile Rhodes school. We became good friends and continued on to Fairview High School of Commerce which was only one of two schools offering commercial courses. I couldn’t know I would use everything taught in thirty-two of the sixty-four jobs I had in the years ahead. Fairview graduates were offered jobs before graduation as employers competed to hire us as they knew we were well trained. Good typists were allowed to work during school hours to get work experiences. Typing the B.C. Telephone directory in their Seymour office was done on manual typewriters. Fairview had the first electric typewriter which created great excitement. Running off Grade Twelve exams on a Gestetner machine at the old King George High School was challenging. One summer I took a job in a tiny law building on the grounds of U.B.C. taking shorthand by phone.
A fellow student taught me how to play ping-pong in Fairview’s basement. The janitor used to chase us out at five o’clock. Paper drives were competitions between classes. We tried to collect the most papers from apartments nearby, picked them up and piled them in the basement of Fairview. Can’t imagine being allowed to do that today.
My faith grew in leaps and bounds when Mom and I joined Christ Lutheran Church. Here I met my future Maid of Honor as we sang in the choir and hung out together. Today we log many long distance calls and send letters. Easter sunrise services were held in Stanley Park at Lumberman’s Arch. Old friends from that time have passed on but linger forever in my thoughts. Memory markers originate in the Stanley Park Pavilion. Fairview’s graduation banquet and later my wedding reception was held there. How could I ever forget the huge controversy when the city wanted to put overhead lights across the Stanley Park causeway. Shouts and protests claimed it would damage our beautiful park. At that time we had the same three lanes except the middle lane was called Suicide Lane as traffic from both directions could pass at any time. So glad the lights finally were approved.
Joining the Vancouver City Hall Toastmaster Club filled my phone book with new friends and contacts. Stepping out of comfort zones is always difficult but worth the learning, laughter, encouragement and friendships that resulted from showing up and participating.
Other wonderful places were Spanish Banks and English Bay. Remembering hot dogs cooking over a burning fire while looking out across the water at English Bay seems like yesterday. English Bay fish and chips drenched in vinegar in paper trays after swimming was a treat hard to duplicate.
Romantic times are in my treasure chest along with pictures and articles. I met a tall, dark and handsome drummer the first night he played at the White Rose Ballroom on West Broadway. I didn’t know then that we would share forty years together and have the privilege of bringing four amazing children into the world. Love stories from that time stand out but there is one I remember especially. George and I dressed up to attend the dinner/dance at the top of the Vancouver Hotel in the Panoramic Roof. Dal Richards and his big band played all night. It was expensive but worth every penny.
There were some challenging times. It was after a bible study held at my home that I asked one of the ladies to come back. She listened as I opened up with my story of the recent separation between my husband and I. She asked many questions because no one in our church knew we were not living together. That afternoon was a major turning point. My friend became not only a great friend but also a mentor. Eventually she took me to an Al-Anon meeting and later both my husband and I to his first AA meeting. This opened up many new experiences and brought a second mentor into my life as we continue to talk long distance, writing and visiting whenever possible. Old friends take the time to connect as we share our lives.
Vancouver is a road map of part of my life with many sudden turns, stops and new experiences.
Today I am surrounded by family and friends. I have been a widow for almost twenty one years. I’ve been asked many times if I’m lonely. My answer is always the same. Alone, but never lonely in a place of such incredible beauty, encouraging people and blessed with friendships as we continue to keep in touch by phone, letters and yes, even e-mails.
Today I live in North Vancouver but can look across the water to Vancouver and remember.