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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

Scan-portrait-FL-70s

WHY VANCOUVER? WHY ME?

By Franci Louann

You’d better pack your bags…cuz you won’t be going back!

Two years after my graduation from dental hygiene at the University of Toronto, the 1968 Canadian Dental Convention was here in Vancouver. I wrote to a classmate who’d come directly to this city after grad.

You’d better pack your bags…cuz you won’t be going back! was her unreserved reply. My sister and I did pack our bags, into my 1966 candy apple red Ford Falcon. We didn’t return to southwestern Ontario, despite our mother’s reminders that we had said we would be here for only two years.

About thirty dentists in the Vancouver area were actively looking for dental hygienists. After breakfast, lunch and dinner interviews, I chose two positions in West Vancouver. Thus began a long and happy career, most of it in the Lower Mainland.

Early friends who also lived in Vancouver’s West End were about a dozen members of ‘The Winnipeg Gang’. A woman named Helen was ‘The Big O’, the operator, who knew what was happening, when and where. My sister and I could have been out every night of the week. One time we did stay home to sew, but that might have been the only evening that summer. On weekends, we took long drives — Greater Vancouver was our playground.

Poetry has always been part of my adult life. In the seventies my work was included in Dorothy Livesay’s last anthology. In the nineties I became more active as a poet, arranging readings and workshops in a storefront café on West Broadway. In 2010, Lipstick Press published my poetry chapbook, Beach Cardiology. The cover photo was taken on Spanish Banks. ‘Vancouver’ appears in 127 of my poems, sometimes there as a keyword. There are thirty-three poems in my ‘Metro Vancouver’ directory.

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival has been a passion for me since its 1978 first (rain and shine) appearance, in Stanley Park. The fest then moved to Jericho Beach Park and I attended every year, until two years ago, when I was ill. VFMF events in 1994 turned up in a few of my poems and I intended to offer these for use in the printed programs. In 2002 the festival had a contest for submissions to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I sent the poems and slid off my chair when an email arrived from Hal Wake, the artistic director that year. He wrote that I had won ‘first prize’, a weekend at the fest. My poem also appeared in the festival’s anniversary publication, reverberations.

For about fifteen years I volunteered for USC Canada, the Unitarian Service Committee, which had self-help projects in Asia and Africa at the time. For fund-raising, we organized entire series of concerts with varied live music. I had a weekly craft table representing many artisans, some with work on consignment. On behalf of our local group, I received the Vancouver Africa Award from Mayor Gordon Campbell.

In 1986 condos were finished at ‘Choklit Park’, on 7th Avenue at Spruce, where Purdy’s had their chocolate factory. Even though the business had moved, I wanted to live at Choklit Park before even seeing it! I moved to a one-bedroom and den condo here in Fairview Slopes in time for EXPO 86, and attended the fair more than forty times, walking over the Cambie Bridge. At this time I was knitting scarves for charity, often in the EXPO lineups. With big needles and thick yarn, I soon had a ‘Lotta’ scarves, which I named for my inspiration, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, founder of USC Canada.

After many varied clinical dental hygiene experiences, for a brief time in the nineties I shared an independent practice with another Registered Dental Hygienist on West Broadway. I also did locum work as an RDH. Having started in public health in Ontario, I was happy to round out my career by returning to community dental hygiene at Mid-Main Community Health Centre.

Many literary events in Vancouver have drawn me as a volunteer, including the Vancouver Writers Fest and Vancouver Poetry House. The World Poetry Reading Series gave me their Volunteer Media Award in 2007, made me their Ambassador to New Zealand and Australia and also their first Peace Ambassador. Although not known as a ‘slammer’, I once came 4th in Vancouver Poetry Slam.

There’s something that my longtime passions have had in common — you might say that both dental hygienists and poets are ‘picky, picky’.

What would life in Vancouver circa 2000 be without a leaky condo experience? Yes, we had green net tarps over purple scaffolding for a year at my third Vancouver condo, on West Broadway. At about that time, our ‘new’ equity co-op converted to a strata corporation. All’s well that ends well.

Now I live in New Westminster, central in Metro Vancouver. Here I manage bookings for Poetic Justice which I co-founded. I’m thrilled with the number of local writerly events which have developed here since my arrival in 2007. We are on our way to becoming ‘BC’s Literary City’. I congratulate Candice James, our Poet Laureate since 2010, for her ideas, her drive and persuasive powers. New Westminster, you may know, is older than Vancouver and even older than Canada — Vancouver is a suburb of New Westminster.

I’ve had many fine life experiences — thanks to poetry, volunteer work and Vancouver. Thank you for helping me to line these up in one place. Vancouver has been good to me, and I’ve been good for Vancouver.

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