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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

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Nat and Me

By Katharine Clark

I heard an interesting bit of trivia on the radio the other day: people with higher IQ’s – in the top third of testable intelligence – are more likely to move from their birthplace, and settle far away from their family homes, relatives, and childhood friends. Conversely, those individuals with IQ’s in the bottom third of the general population are the most prone to spend their entire lives right where they began. This trend was especially noticeable if the brainiacs were born and raised in a rural setting, or small town. They were out of there, and off to see the Wizard the first chance they got.
This got me to thinking, (and not just about the missing statistics for where the middle third of the population live out their lives.) Why am I, a reasonably intelligent, well-educated person, still here, calling Vancouver home, 50+ years on in? Two words: White Spot. My husband, born and raised in Prince Rupert, has told me how, as a child, he and his grandfather regularly visited the Dairy Queen for Dilly Bars. Secretly, I feel badly for him, growing up somewhere without a White Spot. Although he doesn’t admit it, I think that must have been at least partially behind his decision to leave that rain-soaked community for the Big Smoke of Vancouver shortly after high school.
From as far back as I can remember, at least once a week Gaga, my grandmother, was waiting there outside school at lunch hour to take my sister and I to the White Spot. In the late 1960’s, this meant the original drive-in White Spot on Granville Street in Marpole. More like a Cape Cod house than a restaurant, it was a long white wooden structure, with gabled windows, peaked roofs, and dark green trim. As a child, this place was magical; parked in Gaga’s Buick, car hops served us Triple O burgers, barbeque beef sandwiches, thick cut fries, and honeydew juice on metal trays that stretched across the seats and anchored in the window slots of the doors. Special occasions, a birthday or a good report card, merited a lunch or dinner inside the dining room. Here it was cool and dark, with wood panelled walls and white tablecloths. Every meal, usually chicken pickens or “chicken in the straw”, began with a basket of warm buttermilk biscuits and White Spot’s own greengage plum jam. In 1988, two years after White Spot was the host restaurant for Expo ‘86 in Vancouver, the original structure was destroyed by fire. To this day, I still seek out greengage jam in specialty shops, and my kids try to find a jar to put in my stocking each Christmas.
Throughout my childhood, I went to parties, parades and the P.N.E., spent summers at the lake in the Fraser Valley and my grandparents’ island in West Vancouver, took swimming, piano and singing lessons, fed horses at Southlands, decorated my bike for Sports Day and Regattas, did my homework (and other peoples’ too), stayed out until dark playing Kick the Can, sang in choirs, and met Gaga at the White Spot in Kerrisdale or at Oakridge Mall. The menu changed and expanded, chicken pickens made way for salads, and the original chicken logo was replaced by a more stylized version, but the burgers remained our staple. Following grad, and after 3 long Triple O-less months in Europe, I returned to the Lower Mainland and immediately went with Gaga to the White Spot. I still remember the sight of my strawberry milkshake approaching the table, the old-fashioned glass with the extra frosted metal cup beside it on the server’s tray. I was back home!
My first child was born in 1988, the same year that Gaga suffered what would ultimately be a fatal heart attack. Near the end, his father and I took our son to see her in the hospital. Almost skeletal in appearance, and struggling for breath, she said, “He’s a beautiful boy. Now you kids don’t worry about me. Get out of here and go to the White Spot!” Gaga would have loved to hear him crow with delight, “ Dee Dee na na!” at the sight of the White Spot logo; toddler speak for “food at the Chicken Restaurant!”
Maybe I am proof that a study on mobility among people with high IQ is just that; a study. But I think I am tied to home at least in part by Vancouver’s iconic restaurant chain. How else to explain that the reappearance of chicken pickens, boysenberry pie and honeydew on their menu is cause for celebration in my family? Or that among my hopes for the future is the opportunity to take my own grandbabies to the White Spot for Pirate Packs?!

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