Saturday, February 4, 2012

THE BOX

 Audio Link: http://db.tt/mndZrK7S

THE BOX read by: WAYNE SMITH

Feb 4th 2012

 

I saw the box only a  few times in my lifetime, mother would be carrying it, tears in her eyes.

My mother  passed away recently and I asked my dad if I could have the box he said.

"Take it"

I was delighted, the box looked old yet well preserved.  

I opened the brass latch, lifted back the brown leather lid.  Inside I found old family photos,  and my grandmothers  saved letters from her lost son Roy while he was here in Canada training to be a pilot of  Lancaster bomber.

Near the end of the second world war Roy's plane was shot down over Nuremberg Germany, his body was never found.

My grandmother hoped he had been taken prisoner and would return home once the war was over.  She waited many long months, in vain.   I believe she wrote letters in search of her Roy.

It is that loving search that makes me feel, and I hope the box will hold treasures about that search.

Roy's letters home are the hopes and dreams of a  twenty year old British lad.  In one letter he asks his mom if she could send him clean pajamas.  In another leter he tells her;

"The  girls the army brought for us to dance with at  the airmens ball were all thirty years of age or older."

"Oh mum I had to dance with thirty year olds, I will never live it down."

Ironically, he never did, only his flight logs remain to tell of his last raid over Germany.

Today I hold the box as a treasure of love and hope.  It was held for so many years by my grandmother, then my mother, and now by me.  I hope to ad my own gift of a story to that box, passing the collection on to someone else who cares about a loving memory. 

 Thanks Mom. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Sweater

By: Wayne Smith
Aug. 6th/09





I
n this picture my father in his early 30’s stands looking young and strong, in his new Indian Sweater mom had knit for him. The sweaters evolved over the years, to include lettering carefully knitted onto the back. People would follow my dad trying to read the short church sermon mom had stitched on his back.
“For god so loved the world” was read on his back in many places around Vancouver in the early 1950’s

The sweaters were lovingly worn on dad’s construction sites, into countless coffee shops and down the highway in his old grey Panel Truck, until time and use caused them to stretch and wear out. Not to be wasted in the end, Gypsy our dog would have them to retire on them in his doghouse.

Today, mother can’t knit anymore, everything wears out with time. She can look back at pictures and remember, and for me the picture is of a strong time, when sweaters like hopes for a bright future, were worn with pride.

In the picture behind where my father is standing in his new sweater is a new home he had built on speculation, meaning it would sell for a profit, hopefully. I am reminded looking at the new home how his construction business collapsed during a bad-housing market in the late 50’s. In time a new construction business was started and with my mother’s help, money flowed again, and through it all mom’s new thick warm Indian Sweaters were knit and worn to keep out the cold chill of winter.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dreaming of Trophy Girls

By: Wayne Smith
Feb 2nd 09











One summer afternoon, my motorcycle buddy, Mike Peters, looked up at me from the couch, and threw a copy of Cycle World down on a coffee table.
“Hey Smith, check this out.”


He pointed to a small add, near the back of the magazine.
In big black letters, it read,
“Cross country, Motorcycle Fun Run! Come out and enjoy the scenery!” Ashcroft BC. August 10th 1972.

“Wow, I said, lets go for it!”
It seemed the perfect race for us. We were, in our late teens, just a couple of novice riders. We often dreamt of dashing our motorcycles down some dusty new trail. Mike and I needed little encouragement.

Early, the day before the race, Mike and I loaded my new Yamaha 250 Enduro and his Bultaco 250 into Mike’s pickup and we headed out for the town of Ashcroft, which lay a couple hundred miles inland from Vancouver. All the way there, we talked about the upcoming race, the fifty miles of new trails and all the fun we’d have, just trying to finish.

The hot summer sun was setting, when we arrived in Ashcroft. Liquid refreshments flowed late into the evening, and finally, serenaded by crickets we threw up the tent and flopped into our sleeping bags, for what was left of the night. Next morning a blazing sun greeted us and we hurriedly unloaded our bikes from the truck. Out on the large grassy field, a hundred other racy looking riders were standing around chatting. Motorcycles old and new began to roll into view. Quiet 4 stroke putters mingled with loud, Rat-a-Tat-Tat sounds of 2 stroke motors. Here and there clouds of two-cycle oil rolled and curled from tail pipes. Along for the Fun Run were, Dads, sons, brothers, and friends, all riding their favorite contraption for winning. Names like Bultaco, Honda, Triumph, and BSA glowed in letters, on helmets, jackets and gas tanks.

Mike and I wheeled our motorcycles into place amongst them, near the middle, and sized up the completion. Somehow the riders all looked more vigorous than I expected.

At the end of the line of bikes, a tall man, dressed in a Cowboy hat and blue jeans, suddenly appeared. Cradled in his arms, was a large bore shotgun. He stood still a moment, waiting for latecomers to show up at the starting line. At the sight of him, leather boots thrust furiously on kick-starters, motors popped and roared louder and louder. Hearts beat faster, as the seconds ticked by. Finally, satisfied all were present, Mr. Cowboy hat swung his black, barrel, skyward.

Motors barked and snapped, eyes squinted towards the narrow entrance to the trail at the end of the field. Nervous racers glanced from side to side. When the gun blast came, a cloud of flying dirt, and screaming motors, announced, the race was on!

A hundred machines leapt forward. Two hundred hands grabbed at levers and throttles, boots kicked frantically at gears, backsides bounced like jackrabbits over bumps. Some riders went down in a cloud of dust halfway across the field. Beside me, inches away another rider fought for the lead. Some Fun Run, I thought. Mike seemed gone forever, lost in the desperate rush to be first. I never saw him again, until latter in the race.

Many other riders ahead of me had reached the narrow trail head first. The sudden convergence of motorcycles all fighting to be first in a five-foot wide pathway, caused a horrendous pileup. When I arrived, a rising pall of dust, and dirty riders lay everywhere, many groaned in pain, some couldn’t get up, others tried to untangle them selves from twisted agony, of tires and metal. The sight was shocking, one I shall never forget, and I will never forget the words of a bystander to me, when I got there.
“Get going, you’re in the lead!”
Me, I asked politely, in the lead! Really?
Ya, go for it!
All thinking for me, changed in that instant, suddenly fate had stepped in, I was to be a winner, no more could I lag behind enjoying the weather, I was on a mission, I was going to be the best, the fastest, the winner of the 1972 Ashcroft Endurance Race. And to urge me on, I saw visions of Champagne at the end of the race, my picture in the paper, and kisses from a trophy girl. It was all too much for a simple lad from Deep Cove, and I went for it, like crazy. Far too fast, the trail, and scenery went by in a blur. Red ribbons marking the pathway fluttered in the wind, as me, Mr. Victor sped past checkpoints, filled with cheerful spectators.

All the danger points such as ditches, were suppose to be marked with yellow ribbons, funny why I missed that one, I wondered after the race.


It was somewhere between dreaming of the trophy girl and the Champagne that I first caught a glimpse of the ditch crossing the trail ahead. At the speed I was going, there was no time to react properly, instead of hitting the gas and flying over the ditch, I panicked and grabbed the front brake, which unfortunately drove the front wheel solidly into the bottom of the ditch. Sadly, my hand on the handlebars and face met with such force I remember little more other than seeing stars and waking up on the ground. Other riders were speeding past now. Some slowed to ask if I was all right. I didn’t seem to know much about anything, other than to follow the red ribbons, to where, and what for, I couldn’t say. I gathered myself together, got back on my bike and slowly followed the ribbons and hills down to the next checkpoint, got off, and heaved a sigh of relief. Some one came over to me, smiled and said.
“So you’re the guy that fell off, how are you feeling?”
“Not great, I replied, I am just going to sit there on the bench a while and enjoy the weather.”

Within a few minutes, Mike, my friend, appeared, at the top of the hill, standing up on his foot pegs, Bultaco balanced perfectly, beneath him. He looked fresh, relaxed, smoke trailed out peacefully behind him, a roll-your-own cigarette bounced up and down, between his lips. Slowly, he pulled up beside me, stopped, and folded his arms across his chest. It was Mike who knew what kind of bike to buy for racing, and how to stay on it. It was Mike who believed fun came first, and winning, came last,

“What happened Smith?” he asked between puffs.
“Oh I hit a ditch.”
“Did you hit the gas or the brake?”
“The brake”

The race was finished for me; I was too shaken to continue. Luckily memory returned, and no serious damage done. I did get a nice picture though; it shows what happens to you to you when you go too fast,
Dreaming About Trophy Girls.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mr. Mortimer

Mr. Mortimer and the ringworm ointment
By: Wayne Smith
July 15th 08

Mother watched my comical antics with a slight growing concern. I had leapt high off the kitchen floor; my fingers clawed the cabinets and walls. I had tried to get away from the terrible, burning, itching pain that spread across my face. For special effect, I screamed, groaned, and wailed, to make sure she got the point, I was now in unbearable pain.

It had been the fourth application of Grandmothers soothing ringworm ointment but the little red circles around my mouth and chin had not abated. My facial condition had in fact changed from a number of little red dime sized circles, to a swollen rusty brown, scabby, dollar bill sized sore. It felt flamingly painful, almost like some one was holding a lighted match under my chin.

I was about 12 years old at the time. There had always been cats and sandboxes around our home. On rare occasions, my two sisters, Tina and Yvonne, or myself would catch ringworm, probably from our cats or their feces, left in the play sand in our sand box. To the best of my knowledge at the time, I thought the condition was caused by microscopic size worms burrowing and laying eggs just under our skin. (Untrue, it is fungal) Left untreated the resulting number of red circles could increase. Before this would happen Mother went to the bathroom medicine cabinet and extracted the special tube of Ring Worm Ointment.

The tube had been with the family for as long as I could remember. Its beige skin colored paint had begun to peal away. Little flacks would scatter whenever the tube was handled. We all had great faith in this medicinal cure, and felt sure with limited use, the tube would surely last a very long time. Perhaps even generations of Smiths could be cured of Ringworm with this very tube of cream.

Having never found the cream to fail before, my mother grew concerned, as she watched my itchy puffy face grow redder with every application of ointment. She began to wonder; perhaps the founding ailment was not Ringworm, perhaps something more sinister,

We were not a rich family in those days; going to a doctor was rare. We did however have Jeff Mortimer. Mr. Mortimer was our local druggist in Deep Cove. Jeff loved to play chess, collect stamps, and of course fill out prescriptions for drugs. Jeff’s sage advice was often sought on simple skin conditions.

For some time there was a rumor that Jeff, our local druggist would buy our warts from us. Yes, strange you say, but if a youngster came to Jeff with a wart, Jeff would kneel down beside his young patient and say,
“I would like to buy that wart from you if you’ll let me.”
Convinced of a deal the child would offer their tiny afflicted hand with the offending wart on it up to Mr. Mortimer. Mr. Mortimer, who knew the wart would disappear on its own in time, would take the small hand of the young faithful in his. He would give the wart a gentle touch with his finger then pretend to put something in his top drawer. True to word Jeff would pay a nickel or two to the youngster for their wart. Before too many weeks had passed the wart would disappear from the child’s hand; mysteriously gone to the druggist’s drawer: or at least that’s what was believed.

Yes, we all believed in Jeff Mortimer, and I hold his wisdom up today in the highest honor, for I believe he stopped my face from being burned right off.
Seeking help, mother had taken me in hand to see Mr. Mortimer at his drug store. To this day I am humbled and grateful for what he did for me. I was presented to the druggist, a very tall man in a trim white coat, with my face all red and scabby. He looked concernedly at me, reaching down to gently turn my chin upwards.

All was clear upon his next words.
“That looks like a chemical burn, what have you been putting on him?”
“Ring worm ointment my mother announced”
“How old is it?” asked Jeff.
“Oh at least ten years.” mother replied
“Well its too old, it changes chemically with time and that’s what’s happened, it’s burned the skin.
Throw it out!”

As we walked home together that day, mother and talked about the incident; I may have felt less than friendly towards her at the time for keeping that old tube of ointment for so many years, but far more than that, I was grateful to Jeff Mortimer. When we got home, the tube of Ringworm ointment went straight into the garbage can, my face cleared up in a week, and I have never had a case of Ringworm

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Untitled


Anyone for the hot line?

By: Wayne Smith
March 17th 08



At six years of age I was a little cautious with members of the opposite sex. My mother’s ominous warnings to me regarding pre marital affairs were enough to instill respect.

By the time I was fourteen mother’s voice had grown faint. Another small distant voice began to ring in my ear, Find me, call me, it began to whisper through the buzz and clatter of daily life.

Distant urgings persisted in other young men of my age, and one day a good friend called me on the phone sounding quite excited.

“Hey Wayne said Gary, what are you doing? Want to come over to my house and check out this new phone service?”

“Sure I said what is it?”
“It’s called the Hot Line, you can get a date!”

O HHO, this sounded dangerous, I thought. I could see mother’s wooden spoon waggling somewhere overhead.

We had never had a date. How to find one and what to do with a date was all new territory for us, still I was curious.

“My folks are away this weekend, coaxed Gary see if you can come stay over night. Further rumblings of distant warning followed me as I asked mother if I could sleep over at Gary’s Saturday night. Permission granted, I was let of with a reprimand,
“Don’t get into any mischief”

Gary’s hot line phone service sounded interesting in beginning. We began our quest to find a date about 7 pm Saturday evening. Seated together at Gary’s kitchen table Gary explained his date finding system.

All we had to do is call this phone number, and yell your phone number into the receiver, then hang up and a girl will call us back.

To me it sounded weird and to this day I am not sure how it was suppose to work.

When we dialed the number, we heard through a slight hiss and clatter, very faint voices calling out what seemed like phone numbers. The voices and numbers were all mixed up. Suddenly 92936 would crackle through a Babble of voices. Then another voice would blend in over top with 291 finally to be lost in the hiss.

The promised date seemed more and more distant with our every effort to be heard. We continued reciting Gary’s phone number over and over again into the receiver. Returning the receiver only to wait in vain.

“Got it we yelled to a far away voice”
“Ya hang up it replied”
And so it went until nearly midnight. In desperation we added my phone Number. Who knows maybe I can get a dated too I thought.

Slowly our dreams of Platinum blond bombshells arriving for a evening of fun and love began to fade.
“I don’t know I said there must be an easier way to get a date”
“Well it worked for Jim down the street, said Gary, he got a date .

Feeling a bit frustrated we both went to bed thinking the whole thing a bit of a farce. Saying no more about the incident I left Gary’s house the next morning and walked home.

I never gave the affair another thought until dinner time the next evening. I was seated alone for a moment with mother at the kitchen table. She suddenly looked seriously at me for a moment.

“Something strange happened last night she began, we were getting phone calls from girls.”
“Really is said”
“Yes, until well after midnight. You don’t know anything about it do you?”
“No, I lied, my face buried in my desert”
“Well she continued, they were asking if there was anyone here for the hot line!”



Friday, December 28, 2007

Untitled


Deep Cove to Brighton Beach Overland – 19


By: Wayne Smith Nov. 2/07





Three miles was the real distance as the crow flies, but it had felt more like fifty miles to us. Drew Davidson, Dan McCloud, and myself were neighborhood friends of about 10 years old, out on a summer adventure. Drew Davidson’s family cabin on Burrard Inlet was our goal. This long narrow fjord, running north from Vancouver on the south coast of British Columbia,
held a few small communities that were only accessible by water, or so it was said. We believed the summer cabin could be reached on foot. Looking back, I would have to agree with local knowledge at the time - “Water access only.”

As ten-year-olds, we were often looking for a challenge. Dan and I had hiked together over rough trails on Seymore Mountain. Drew was a sensible fellow. He had traveled the length of Indian Arm many times with his father in their old wooden boat, the “Gayleen”. I respected him for his knowledge.

Drew’s father, Andy Davidson, was a neighbor who lived near our home on Beaufort Rd. above Deep Cove. He had built his summer cabin at Brighton Beach as a retreat from the ever-expanding city of North Vancouver. Andy would sometimes take Dan, Drew and myself with them to the cabin. The trip over the beautiful waters of Burrard Inlet, on the Gayleen was great fun, but we wanted to do it on our own. Having no boat, we could only dream.



Drew Davidson, Molly Davidson (Drew's Mom) & Dan Macloud on board the Gaylene (60's)


As we grew older and more sure-footed, the notion arose amongst us that we could hike to Brighton Beach whenever we wanted. Through the winter months Drew, Dan, and I talked up the walk. By summer the idea had taken root in our young minds: “Brighton Beach or Bust” seemed to be our attitude.

 

The shoreline at low tide seemed walkable.

 

 

 

Out on the water, looking back from the Gayleen the distance from Deep Cove to Brighton Beach didn’t seem that far; little did we know how wrong we would be. Had we all realized the monumental task we were about under-take, I think we surely would have borrowed a rowboat. But, common sense and the spirit of youth take a while to catch up to each other, as was evident the day we headed out. No one was told where we were going – we hadn’t even thought about getting back. We were three kids on an adventure, and somehow things would work out.


Our test of endurance began on a summer day in July 1961. The morning found us strolling the shoreline of Deep Cove bay. Sandwiches quietly spirited from the family kitchen filled our pockets. It was nine o’clock, an easy start, but a little late in hindsight. The soft mud of the beach squished around our running shoes as we made our way past Panarama Park and our local swimming beach. The cold creek water flowing from high in the mountains chilled our feet as it raced over slimy, seaweed-covered rocks along the shore. The going was easy – fun – and camaraderie struck high as a warm sun shone its way for us: three ill prepared – uninformed youngsters.

On the air, whiffs of creosote, used to preserve dock pilings, warned us away from sticky black surfaces and mother’s wrath at the mess it made of our clothes. Broken clamshells, dropped by the birds, crunched beneath our damp canvas running shoes. Gulls, perched on wharf pilings, hawked and squawked rude warnings down upon us. A gentle morning breeze filled the air with a distinctive low tide aroma, and our nostrils were full with the scent of adventure.

To our left along Panarama Drive beach front homes stood high above us, Fully bathed in morning sunlight, their glassy fronts reflected a new growing concern for more light and better water views. Where there was room to walk the beach, the dock-owners were courteous, stopping to shake their heads in disbelief at our Brighton Beach destination. Where beach access grew slim we had to cross over the docks instead of under them. homeowners grew suspicious of us, thinking we had come to pinch something from their docks, they waved us off their property.

The beach after Art George’s Marina all but disappeared. There was no trail to follow so we began the first of many inland treks to find a way around steep rock faces and the thick dense bush. Thorny blackberry vines gripped our clothes, and prickly salmon berry bushes rose up in dense clumps blocking our way. Many times we had to return the way we had come, stopped by steep canyon walls too dangerous to climb. At one point I slipped down a steeply angled rock cliff, and my undershirt gathered enough rips to disgrace mom’s rag collection. Our pockets, soon empty of sandwiches, were filled with bits of damp moss, broken twigs, and assorted leaves, our hands and faces were covered in muck and dirt. We began to take on a desperate look of homeless people, and all felt a little afraid, though no one would admit to it.

Scouting a passable route was the hardest part. We traded off, one lead for a while, and when he became exhausted, another would move forward to search through the bush ahead. Hope came when someone called from the undergrowth “he’d found a game trail”, to be replaced by disappointment when the trail disappeared, and we had made only ten feet along the shoreline. I remember the crashing sounds of breaking branches as the three of us fought our way out of one dead end after another. I remember arms reaching down, helping hands reaching up, fingers locked in a desperate grip, legs sore with bruises, and I remembered countless times, the length of rope, we never bothered to bring.

A moment of relief came with a downed tree that made a bridge over a deep ravine. 

 Cautiously  we slid along on the seats of our pants, not caring to look down. Below us lay a heavy tangley of spiny Devil’s Club, its prickly stalks ready if we happened to slip into its grasp.


Where sunlight failed to reach us the shiny black stems of lacy maidenhair ferns clustered in graceful nodding sprays, high over our heads, gave us a moment of beauty before we pushed on.

The tide too had been moving, it had filled the inlet behind us. The mud and gravel shoreline was nearly gone, and made travel along the beach treacherous, if not impossible. Many times we clung to the last bit of ledge above high water, praying for a handhold, inching our toes and fingers into whatever cracks the barnacles and mussels hadn’t claimed.

Tired, dirty, and thirsty we sipped at what water could be found. We cupped our hands into cold clear streams rushing over slimy round rocks or held our tongues out to little drips that fell down a wet rock face. Progress was slow, the afternoon wore on, time however kept moving and we couldn’t ignore it.

The beach homes had long since vanished behind us, and we began leaning out around rocky out-crops, searching the shoreline ahead for any sign of the familiar community of Brighton Beach, we now so desperately sought. Anything – a piling – a wharf – the cabin - would be cause for great relief. Besides, it was close to dinnertime. The lunchtime sandwiches were just a distant memory and our stomachs growled at the idea of spending a cold, supper-less night in the bush.

We were losing the sun behind Mount Seymore when the first glimmer of hope reached us.
“I think I see it!” Drew called, and pointed his finger from a high vantage point on top of a tree stump.
“What? The dock?”
“No, our cabin!”
With the sudden thought of new hope a burst of energy took us and we crashed our way forward like bears through tangled trees and branches. Broad smiles and laughing eyes replaced our grim look of distress. Hope had come at last.

In joyous fits of laughing we pushed on. At the next bend in the shoreline there was no doubt, we had made it, Brighton Beach lay just ahead. Drew’s cabin was unmistakable on the edge of a cliff, and the community dock with glorious boats safely tied alongside. We jumped down together from the last bolder, our feet landing is soft mud. I glanced back only once along that terrible shoreline, then ran and staggered the last hundred yards towards the group of tiny cottages and freedom.

Our relief was immense, we ached everywhere and all felt more than a bit foolish for our adventure. In the end we trudged, not for a relaxed kip at the Davidson’s cabin, but went straight to old Mr. Price’s little hut.
Mr. Price was a full time resident of Brighton Beach, wise, respected, and he had a boat. If we were ever to get home by suppertime he was the man to help us.

“You did what!” He announced as he shook his head at the three shabby boys who stood on his doorstep. I somehow knew we would hear more of this. Mr. Price had retired to Brighton Beach, preferring his peace and privacy to city clamor of nearby Vancouver. A gentle heat from his wood stove and familiar antiques on the cabin walls surrounded his days. Turning slowly he ran his fingers through what was left of his hair.
“Come on in… he said paused in thought at his doorstep. We’d better try to contact your folks… Do they know where you are?”
Uh... well not really we replied.”

An old grandfather clock stood between an ancient flintlock musket and a long silver sword on the wall, struck five o’clock as we stepped into the tiny cabin. All the tidy comforts of home were there, collectibles bathed in soft light, graced the walls, a gentle warmth from the wood stove added a feeling of comfort, and well being. We savored the relief to our aching joints and muscles, as we sank deeply into old leather armchairs. Slowly we unraveled our adventure to Mr. Price who still appeared dazed by our sudden desperate arrival on his doorstep. He seemed lost in his thoughts until he mentioned a boat ride back to Deep Cove. Our three wide grins and dirty faces nodded rapidly in joyous agreement.


A wonderful idea Mr. Price, we all agreed, "thank-you so much – that’s the best plan we’ve heard all day, were very grateful!”
Our thank-you’s continued for some time until, a phone call home to Drew’s dad was made. We listened in dread to the dark mumblings coming from a back room, as plans were made. Mr. Davidson could be unreasonable at times, we feared the worst.

Within fifteen minuets of our arrival at Brighton Beach, Mr. Price had piled us all into his aluminum car toper boat and speed back to the Government Dock in Deep Cove. Mr. Davidson met us there standing on the dock looking stern and revolutionary. No one ever disagreed with Andy Davidson. He was well known for giving sudden loud blasts of his opinion. We braced ourselves, “Now what did you want to do that for?” was all he said, before he drove us back to our homes on Beaufort rd. We had nothing to say for ourselves, but I think in some way Andy knew why we did it, after all Brighton was his retreat too.

By quarter to six I was stepping in our back door. The wonderful smell of moms home cooked stew and fresh crusty rolls filled our home. Mom was preoccupied with other things and didn’t see me come in. I cleaned up quickly, made my way to the dinner table, sat down beside my two young sisters and said,
“We went on a hike to Brighton Beach today, it sure was tough.”
“That’s nice dear, Tina I want you in bed early tonight, and Yvonne, make sure you eat all your peas.”