Sunday, May 31, 2009

Surprising, But Not

Unlike most Canadians, I do not dislike Americans. In our travels to the USA, we have never had any reason to disparage them. I like their patriotism, their freedom to speak of their faith openly, their generosity, and their openness. I indeed feel sorry for them because of the abuse that is heaped upon them on the world stage. Like all of us, they have their faults, not the least of which is their appalling ignorance of their neighbours to the north. There are obviously many reasons for this, but for me it is a source of amusement more than annoyance. To be fair, we find many Americans also quite uninformed about their own country. I have American readers and I do not want to offend them, but I may have already. I will leave out the faults of Canadians and will only bring them up in defense of my gentle attack on the Americans.
Having said that, there was a little incident in Toronto Friday night where for the first time, President Clinton and President Bush were on the same stage together. It was interesting and amicable by all reports, but something came to light that was rather revealing. This ignorance of which I speak goes right to the top. As all Canadians know, we are on the eve of having to show a passport in order to cross the US/Canadian border. In our 200 history as neighbours, this is a disturbing precedent, and yet both Clinton and Bush confessed to having absolutely no knowledge of it. How can this be? Clinton has an excuse as he is probably still busy trying to define the word 'is'. Bush, however, instituted this initiative during his watch as president as part of the Homeland Securities Initiatives as a result of 9/11. That such an important step go without his knowledge is beyond belief. Or is it? He is, after all, a typical American.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Too Young to Know?

"Tar Baby"
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, used the term in response to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's decision to back away from his predecessor's unpopular carbon tax policy.
"On that side of the House, they have the man who fathered the carbon tax, put it up for adoption to his predecessor and now wants a paternity test to prove the tar baby was never his in the first place," said Poilievre.
I have not read nor seen this term used since I was a kid. I do remember it and believe that it ran its course even before political correctness began to take hold. I agree that it is a derogatory term and should not be used as a reference to people of dark skin.
Given the societal predilection to cry fowl when a public figure uses such terms, why on earth would Mr. Poilievre even think of using "tar baby"? Surely he would know that it would cast aspersions on both his and his party's name. I may have the answer. In seeing a picture of Mr. Poilievre, I see that he is a very young man. Could it be that he is indeed ignorant of the meaning of the term because of his age? He has grown up in a society that has been taught to watch its mouth when referring to other ethnic groups or cultures and if he has travelled in the politically correct circles all his life, it may be that he is sincere in believing that the term means only 'something that sticks', in this case, the carbon tax that sticks to all Liberals.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Games They Play

If our country's future were not at stake, I would say the games they are playing in Ottawa these days are pretty laughable.
The Liberal mantra has been that the Conservatives are not doing enough to stimulate the Canadian economy. However, now that the Finance Minister has announced the $50 billion deficit, mostly the result of the efforts to stimulate the economy, the Liberals are crying foul. This is a leap of logic, but this is politics. It looks bad on both of them, but Prime Minister Harper is trying to deflect the negative news about the deficit by digging up old video footage of Michael Ignatieff in his former days when he left Canada for some forty years. He said and did a lot of things that can be used against him today. Is it fair? I feel it is justified in that Iggy has an ambition to be Prime Minister and we should know of what kind of stuff he is made. He has not exactly been a loyal and dedicated Canadian let alone a Canada booster for most of his life and yet he wants to run the country. Is this not opportunism with a capital O? In the meanwhile, our future is being mortgaged for bailouts that will not work but only drive up the debt of the nation, something that has to paid back sooner or later. Watch for increased taxes, inflation, and perhaps an election coming to a neighbourhood near you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On Being Private

In most things, I am not a very private person. I was not always this way. I have found that when people trust me, they open up to me and it follows that because I am a trusting person, I readily open up to people. Or maybe I should say that I share information, ideas, and opinions with people. I think one of my motivations is that I appreciate it when others do this to me, so I want to be like that with others.
One example of this that comes to mind is my willingness to share investment ideas. When I hear good news, I just like to share it so we can all benefit. The opposite of that is when I hear of a good investment and do not share it, then only I benefit, and I have deprived any one of my friends the joy of success. It goes both ways, however, in that sometimes the investment can go sour, and indeed this had happened. This is when I tend to 'turtle' and promise myself that I will just keep my mouth shut next time. Not only is there great pain in helping your friends lose their money, but this sort of thing tends to ruin one's reputation as a wise investor. It seems that ten successes and one failure still makes one a poor investor. The expectation of total success in every venture is unrealistic. Tossing the ball toward the basket in a game, comes to mind. At what percentage of shots that make points, is a player deemed successful? One thing is certain. 100% of shots not taken, fail. So I continue to take shots. My dilemma, increasingly, is, do I tell my friends to take the shots with me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It Comes As No Surprise

Our sour cherry tree was a riot of blossoms only a few weeks ago and today there are maybe twenty very immature cherries in their place. As usual, wet and cold weather came on the heels of the great blossom outburst.

Today (Monday) the headlines read that Canada's deficit will be "significantly more" than fore casted. I am convinced that politicians do not yet 'get it'. The formula is so simple, why are the conclusions so difficult to grasp?
One has only to look at the causes of the recession/depression to understand why the deficits will continue to mount. Here is a brief review.
We all have heard of the 'bubble' and that it burst and that is why we are in trouble as a world economy. Two false assumptions caused the bubble in the first place. 1. You can build an economy on debt and spending. (You remember all the ads encouraging you to take a home equity loan so you could take that vacation and buy that new SUV, let alone the constant barrage of solicitations for new and better credit cards.) 2. The value of your assets will always go up.
So this is really simple and maybe that is why the eggheads in government do not get it. 1. The debt and spending has got us into trouble and the market is trying to correct the mistakes. i.e the sub-prime mortgages that all have to come to roost eventually. 2. The value of assets always fluctuates and when it is vastly inflated, it must come down sooner or later.
Now it gets really simple. 1. You cannot fix a problem that was caused by debt and spending with more debt and spending and yet that is what world governments are doing. It causes even more problems down the road and only delays the inevitable. 2. What do people do when they lose value in their assets? And here is the clue to when the recession/depression will be over. What do you do when your financial security is threatened? You pull back, right? You spend less, you pay down debt, you are more cautious, you save more, you invest more conservatively, and all of this results in lower government revenues because when you are not out spending recklessly, tax revenues drop and thus we have a headline like today.
So when is it over? When you and I have re-established our financial security by paying down debt and having a very healthy nest egg for our future, be it short or long term. And when we do again start spending, we will no longer throw caution to the wind but will be careful because we will remember '08 and '09 and not want them to be repeated. I predict this will take a long time and in the meanwhile, we are in for much harder times than what we have had until now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What The?!

Is this an attempt to dupe the public on gas prices yet again or are somebody's math skills lacking? This was a header on my MSN news site this last week.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Another May Weekend, Another Paint Party

Jordan being driven crazy by the lattice and his aggravating brush.
Sucking back the drool. We didn't want to thin down the paint.

Bet you thought pretty girls couldn't paint.

Matt, Joel, and Will, mustering up the courage to get started in the early morning.

Early morning coffee break. Notice that it is too early for anyone to be covered in paint.

You may recall that last May we had a paint party at our family property down south. See labels and click on 'Oroville' if you are interested. We finished painting the house in record time and this year we tackled the cabin. It was smaller and took half as much paint, but was more labour intensive and we actually spent about 10 man hours more (total of 115 man hours approximately) this time around.

We had a great time. This year some of the regulars could not come, but we had some new comers and they did really great!

Reiner and Wendy with their boys Connor and Joel. These guys really 'put out' doing a lot of picky detail stuff like a section of lattice and also 'rolling' the siding twice and one section three times. The boys were great and had a wonderful time playing with their cousin-nephews (my grandsons) and let their mom and dad work a 10 hour day.

Andrew. A real pro in every sense who just plugs away and does a good job at the detail stuff. Even worked a bit on Sunday morning to get a final coat of stain on the deck.

Keith and his boys, Nathan and Chad. Keith helped with the high stuff up in the soffits, the white part, as well as getting his brush into the other colours. Good work and I hope the feeling is back in your finger soon. Nathan and Chad were super kids and had a great time getting to know Joel and Connor a bit better.

Lis. When she saw how many people showed up, she opted to do kitchen duty with her mom and together they provided wonderful snacks, coffee breaks, and a yummy lunch and dinner. She even got a bit of painting done in the afternoon.

Will and Margaret. Will started off doing all the high bits as he is 'one with the ladder' and understands the rule of 'three points of contact' for safety. Besides that, he is just plain braver than the rest of us. What a workhorse. He even put a coat of special roofing paint on the worn out part of the cabin roof, a temporary solution until we can re-roof in the near future. Margaret was doing a lot of spindle work and she has the patience to do it, and with a constant smile on her face.

Matthew, Gina, Bethany, and Jordan. This was an unexpected surprise and I found it interesting to discover that these guys all had experience. They mostly did lattice painting while Matt also worked with the dark trim colour and Jordan with the siding colour details.

Mom. Can't believe what an energiser bunny she is as she provided us with nourishment and encouragement.

Dad. Kept the little boys occupied with tractor rides and gave plenty of encouragement. (He was sooo grateful that he did not have to paint) We let him off the hook because he turned 81 this year.

The weather was perfect and the cabin looks great. Thank-you to all. And, of course, we could not have done it at all if Ken had not gone up the weekend before and pressure washed the whole building. Thanks also to Herta, Mark, and Kim for helping at the 'pre-paint party'. Our work project for this year has come to a successful conclusion, but be warned, there are other big projects on the horizon. Keith was busy on his laptop using his CAD program to make more work for us. We will have rendering and plans to present at the next meeting of the owners.

Paint Party II Cont'd

Chad, calculating paint consumption and wages.
Keith, seeing if the paint tasted as good as it smelled.

The foreman taking a break and deciding who would be the first one to get fired.

Reiner and Wendy proving that they have the right stuff. How on earth does he get his hands so blue when he is using brown paint?

Safety first .... using an approved elevation device.

Pizza buns and soup for lunch. Thanks Oma, they were great!

Barely elbow room for the whole gang.

Will on the roof applying the elastomeric coating.

The four future painters playing on the beach. Chad, Nathan (rear) Joel and Connor. These are terrific kids.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Topic of Conversation

My clients are from South Africa and this is apparently a popular style of house there. It is unique, large, and quite beautiful, full of most interesting furniture and art work. I have worked here many times over the years and enjoy the people and their secluded and very picturesque estate. Yesterday's photo was taken just in front of my truck.

It seems that everywhere I go these days, people are asking me how work is. By that, they mean to inquire about the amount of work, if any, that I have. This is common in an economic recession. But what are the motives? It could be that they want to compare their situation to mine. Or they might want to get a handle on but one more indicator of how the economy is doing locally. Or they might be concerned for me. My standard answer is that I going week to week, day to day. Gone are the days of being booked up for months ahead of time. And then I add that my time off is just a practice for retirement and practice makes perfect and I will therefore have a perfect retirement because I am getting lots of practice. And then I inquire about their situation and I discover that not many people I know are suffering in this time of economic trouble. This is a good thing, but is not the reality everywhere in Canada or in the USA.
I have always said that being self-employed is a life of living by faith. It has stretched me in so many ways and after many years of realising that worrying will not improve anything, I find myself not worrying. I am developing a new worry, however. I enjoy the days off so much that when I do get a job, I am reluctant to do it. Now that is something to worry about, unless of course, I am officially retired, which I am not.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I have not been photographing for a while now and just recently dug the memory card out of my camera and found a few winter pictures. This is at the home of one of my clients. I might show you his house tomorrow.

When I was a kid, I would often have a dream where I was struggling violently for breath. It was usually a drowning that I was suffering, in my dreams. I would struggle for air and soon I was panicking and would start to thrash around in my bed, and that is what saved me. Apparently I was falling asleep with my head under the covers, either because it was in the dead of winter and it was cold, or I was afraid of the dark and it just seemed safer under the blanket. As I thrashed around, I would yank the covers off of my head and draw the first sweet breath of fresh air. I remember it being so exquisite and life giving that it would waken me.
I have also experienced this in real life when I almost did drown. There was life and sweetness in reaching the surface of the lake and gulping in great breaths of oxygen.
I have felt this also, to a lesser degree, when visiting Vancouver Island where the air is fresh and oxygen rich, so obviously different from home that each breath is a reminder.
On a similar but more profound level, was the experience of being released from 4 days in the ER with a condition unknown but one that required high doses of pain killers. It was many years ago but I remember like it was yesterday. It was a sunny crisp autumn day and Lis and I went for a short walk a few hours after my release. The drugs were wearing off, I was out of the stuffy hospital, and I was alive, something I was not sure of only days before. I had a keen awareness of every breath I took, how it was drawn past my lips and down into my lungs. I was not hallucinating, but just appreciating every breath I took, and being so grateful to be alive and whole.
Our sermon this week in church was on James 1:9-11. The poor are to realise their high position and the rich to realise their low position. We who have so much, tend to not rely on God as we ought. One way to realise how dependant we are on God is to thank Him for every little thing, even the air we breathe. I have at times appreciated every breath and know that without even that most basic of needs, I am undone. If I realise that my every breath is from my maker, it certainly puts me in humble and a dependant position.

Friday, May 22, 2009


The apostle Paul tells us that we are in 'earthly tents' and as long as we are here in our tents, we 'groan and are burdened'. Tents are very temporary shelters and those who use theirs a lot find that they wear out quickly and soon leak, fall apart, will not stand upright, and will begin to smell bad. This is a great picture of our bodies which are also only temporary shelters. When our short lifetimes are viewed in an eternal perspective, we realise just how short our stay in our 'tent' really is.
Yesterday's post was about our (my) tents showing signs of age. If you take the time to do a little calculation, as did I, you may find something interesting. Divide the 'symptoms' you have by the total number systems. That will tell you what percentage of these symptoms you have. Now divide your age by 103 which will give you the percentage of the old man's age that you are. How closely do the two figures match? I was amazed that my two percentages matched perfectly, and to two decimal points! Unbelievable!! I can assume from this, that barring a drive by shooting or being hit by a big bus, I will live to 103 ...... but will own every one of those symptoms. :-) It is like camping in a tent. Great for the first few days, fun and novel, but it wears thin after a while and you just want to get out of the tent.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Young in an Old Body

I came across this photo of a 103 year old man. If you are 50+ you are half way there. Do you feel like it?
Since I turned 60, I have noticed a rapid increase in the aging process, but this pertains only to the physical side of things. However, the more physical characteristics of age that manifest themselves, the more it works on one's mind that one is indeed getting old. But then how do we keep those symptoms from making us old both inside and out?
I have compiled a list, not nearly comprehensive enough, of symptoms of old age. I then calculated the percentage of those symptoms that I can call mine. You might say it is an 'age index' and I do this not because of the 'fear factor', but to have a laugh, for laughing is the only antidote for many of these age indicators. Where do you fit in? Do I dare reveal where I am at?Let's just say that my index number is climbing rapidly.
So in no particular order, here is your check list.
Failing eyesight
Aching joints and/or muscles
Kidney stones
Gall stones
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Ringing in the ears
Mild dizziness (vertigo)
Skin tags
Age spots
Hair growing where it ought not
Ingrown nails
Baggy this and that
Plumbing problems
Lack of stamina
Lack of strength
Hair falling out where it ought not
Greying hair (what's left)
Larger ears
Hearing loss
Gas (more than usual)
Food allergies
Substance allergies
Breaking teeth
Rashes and itching
Athletes foot
Dry skin
Weight re-distribution
Receding gums
Repeating yourself
Repeating yourself
Andropause (if there is such a thing)
Yes, this list is depressing, is it not? If I get a few responses to this post, I will tell all. I will reveal my 'age index'. You can then compare yourself to me, the benchmark, the epitome of a healthy, yet aging specimen. Perhaps we can all then have a good laugh. Or a good cry. :-) :-(
I might add that there is a very interesting thing revealed by my little study and you may also find it quite curious. I certainly did.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is This For Real?

An article from May 13, 2009 reporting an important find in the NWT. (Northwest Territories of northern Canada)

The primitive sponge-like creature, traces of which were discovered by paleontologist Elizabeth Turner and two other scientists, may well push back the earliest geological signs of animals by more than 200 million years.
"We're not looking at things that are as complicated as worms or even as complicated as sponges," Turner, of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., told CBC News.
"We're looking at something that's simpler than that. And that's at the very junction between the earlier life forms that preceded animals and the lineage that became animals."
The trio's discovery has been documented in this month's issue of the journal Geology.
Only a few months earlier, evidence from the Arabian Peninsula pushed back the origins of animal life to 635 million years ago.
The new find by Turner and her colleagues dates those origins even further in the past, by another 200 million years.
"It is a big deal because, I mean, there's a huge community out there of people who are trying to understand the early evolution of animals and the early evolution of Earth ecosystems," she said.
Alasdair Veitch, a biologist in Norman Wells, N.W.T., said the discovery of the sponge-like body is an example of the rapid progress scientists have made in mapping human evolution.
"These little sponges that were on the sea floor out in the Mackenzie Mountains 850 million years ago - those are the precursors to all the caribou and sheep and moose and even ourselves that [are] what we have today," he said.

What goes through your mind when you read this? For me, at every turn there are questions to be asked. Where do I start? I am reading Lee Strobel's "The Case for a Creator". As he peels back the so called evidences for Darwinism, there unravels a trail of deceit, smoke, and mirrors. One thing is very evident among evolutionary scientists and that is the almost desperate attempt to convince themselves and others that there is indeed enough evidence to support their belief system. Time and time again the missing links unravel and are proved to be something other than what they were presented to be. In this article, the 635 million mark has been trumped! Really? Who can say this with certainty? Who can say they found a relic of organic living tissue dating another 200 million years farther back in time. And what a preposterous and outrageous claim to say that it is the precursor to caribou, sheep, and yes, even us humans. There is not a stitch of evidence, despite incredible efforts, to give us a shred of evidence that this is true, and yet it gets published and many say, "Oh my, we are getting closer to understanding our origins!"
I say, "Hogwash."
PS I have been very remiss in regards to the post of a few days ago regarding our garage sale. I failed to give credit to Linda Baxter and her mom who came out from Chilliwack to help us. They have been faithful, or at least Linda has, with all three sales so far. She is a great asset to our team and I only left her out (quite by accident) because she is not part of our church care group. Sorry Linda and Trudy. Please accept my humble apologies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


View from ferry that brings you into Ocean Falls today.

I often think of our days in Ocean Falls, but organising my thoughts and honing my memory for this project has had some unexpected benefits. When I first started, Lis told me she had some souvenirs that she had kept in a scrapbook from those days. I was amazed to see some very interesting artifacts and memorabilia. There were newspaper articles, Crown Zellerbach newsletters, pulp test samples, test charts from the paper testing station, letters written on various types of paper that I had just tested and was hot off the machines, and some incredible town site maps from the engineering department dated from the 1950's. If I ever go back to Ocean Falls, I will have to take them with me and donate them to the museum there.
I knew we had kept our letters from those days, when the phone service was unreliable and we did not see each other for months at a time. There were well over 250 letters (just the ones I had written) and after reading them over a period of a few weeks, I was totally back in the frame of mind that inspired me to write them. The old feelings of waves of loneliness came back, as I described my life in the hotel and working long hours and not seeing the sun for many days on end. I read them in chronological order and as the letters progressed, I could see my thoughts developing and some maturity setting in. I believe a renewed love for my wife has also been re-kindled in the process. It is easy to forget the days of long ago when we are so wrapped up in today. But I was reminded why I fell in love with Lis and why I loved her so much, and why we were willing to wait for each other as the months dragged by.
There have also been other serendipity's. I have done some research and found some really great sites with tons of photo archives and stories. I have joined a "Yahoo Group" open only to former residents of Ocean Falls and have opened communications with a few people from there. I have not yet connected with some of my favourite people but it may yet happen.
I mentioned my friend who was in the car with me, when I had the accident that led to me taking the safe driving course in Ocean Falls. We have just in the last few weeks 'found' each other. In those days he lived right next door to me. Today, he again lives close, but this time three houses down and across the street in a town home complex. We have been out for coffee twice and are renewing our old friendship.
I realise that not 100% of my tale will be 100% accurate, but my recollections are based on the letters, the articles, and mostly my memory. I realise that time can warp reality, but there was not an intention to mislead or misrepresent. These were my memories and my recollections. It has been a cathartic, nostalgic, and most enjoyable time travel experience for me. I hope whoever reads these blog posts will find it worthwhile, a bit entertaining and a bit educational.

Thanks for reading, you do me a great honour.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Bold Move

This is a panoramic view of Cousin's Inlet. Martin Valley is on the left, and the Ocean Falls town site on the right. I 'borrowed' the last two photos from a website put together by the Ocean Falls Development Committee.

There have been precedents. Private enterprise has determined that a business is no longer viable and then a government takes over. This never works. The reasons are all about political ideology and motivation as opposed to pragmatism. Even after new infrastructure such as a $5 million state of the art ground wood mill (built in 1965) and upgrades to the steam plant, Crown Zellerbach could not make a profit, probably because of falling newsprint and pulp prices on the world market. So to save the people, the jobs, and the town, the mill was purchased in March of '73, by the NDP government, even though there were only 6 people in town who did not already have another job and location to go to. Most had already shipped their belongings out of town and were in the stages of closing down their lives in Ocean Falls. Ted Vesak, who was directly involved in the studies that led to the original plan to shut down the mill, was now hired on as manager of all operations. Yes, he knew, but took the job anyway. There had been numerous other suggestions for the town site, from fish farming operations, to a drug addiction rehab retreat. But in the end, it was decided to take the two mothballed newsprint machines and fire them up. There was a little spike in paper prices right then and that was all the motivation that was needed to make the final decision.
It turned out to be a fiasco. Shortly after the government took over, we were seeing news headlines that were claiming that production had never been so high at the mill. I could not understand this so I made some inquiries and found out that all four machines were running newsprint at full speed. This obviously made for higher tonnage because you cannot run the machines at a high speed when you are making the more profitable specialty papers. Not only that, but I found out the newsprint did not always have a market and it was being pumped out in record amounts and then being stored. The problem was, storage space was limited so the thousands of rolls of paper were being fork lifted to the old sawmill which was old, decrepit and had leaky roofs. In no time at all, mountains of perfectly good newsprint were reduced to useless piles of wet and rotting pulp. But headlines did not reveal this. It was Government deceit at it worst.
Even 'they' could not carry on this sham forever and eventually, what Crown Zellerbach had known all along, dawned on the bureaucrats. Again, it was announced that the mill and town were shutting down, but this time there would be no last minute deals. Even a murderer on death row eventually goes to his demise.
The death was swift and brutal. Without a lot of consultation, the town was what they called 'normalized'. That was a sanitized version of 'demolished'. After much hue and cry from former residents, 'normalisation' was halted just before evertything was lost. What was left is still standing today. Some of it in total disrepair, some of it restored for historical purposes, and some building are being used or lived in to this day.
There are now around 50 permanant residents but in summer the population explodes as holidayers, fishermen, and former residents invade the town.
I have not been back but have seen many photos of what is left. I do not know if I want to go back. I have heard from others that it is difficult. I see it as such a waste and a devastation of such an incredibly beautiful spot. The town of my childhood in Saskatchewan is not at all like it was when I was growing up there. I have been back there and it is difficult not recognising all the old familiar spots. This would be the same. If I do go back, this blogspot will be the first to hear about it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Third Annual

On Saturday we held our third annual fundraising garage sale for the Mwanza Orphanage in Tanzania Africa. As in years past, it was a very fun and interesting experience. We had many donors of merchandise and early Saturday morning I was out dragging stuff from under the protection of the roof onto the open driveway. This photo does not do justice to the huge amount of items we had for sale. Our ads and posters stated that it was an 8am start, yet just after this photo was taken at 6:30 am, people started coming and there was a steady flow until we shut it down at 2 pm. We had two small pick-up loads to take to the thrift store and by 3 pm everything was cleaned up. We had plenty of great help. The constant coffee pot and plate of baked goodies kept our little group of volunteers happy and well fed. We brought in a few large pizzas at noon and never missed a beat. We are particularly grateful to our neighbours who allowed us to park on their driveways, donated many items, bought many items, and our Bosnian neighbours brought us some fresh baked flaky pastries. Wow! Do we live in a good neighbourhood or what? From the day's sales, as well as some VERY generous donations, we are able to give the Mwanza budget a boost of over $3000.00! This was a very joint effort spearheaded by our very good friend Ken Martens and supported and organised by our Care Group from our church consisting of 6 couples, some of the greatest people I know.
So here is a big thanks to Ken & Jan, Henry and Heidi, Erv and Delores, Bill and Ella, Frank and Elma, and, of course busy Lizzy. A huge thanks also to all those outside our little group who donated many wonderful items.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


This is a photo from above, of what is left of Ocean Falls today.

It was a thrill to be back in civilisation, although it took some getting used to. A few days after our flight home, our 35 boxes of belongings arrived via Northland Shipping Co. and we farmed it out to our parents basements until we could find a place to live. Our first priority was to purchase a new car and do some travelling. It was the reason we did not stay 'till the end. We were not home one week and we heard the shocking news. Ocean Falls was to get a reprieve. We could have stayed there and continued to work, but by the sound of things, the decision to keep the mill going was just another postponement of the inevitable. I felt sorry for those who had already packed their belongings and had secured jobs in other towns. Now they had to make a decision. The two newsprint paper machines had been mothballed and only the two specialty machines were now running. The price of newsprint was falling and the cost of producing paper in the old mill was increasing.

We did our travelling across Canada that summer and had a great time. But even as we came back home to settle in, we had an ever watchful eye on the newspapers and kept in contact with a few people in Ocean Falls to hear what the eventual fate of the town would be. We continued to wonder what would have happened to us had we decided to stay a few more weeks. And then the big announcement came, ten months later, on March 16, 1973. There was a buyer!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Final Flight

"You had better get in right away. The weather is coming in fast."
We were not surprised because whenever the sun was shining in Ocean Falls, it meant that rain was just around the corner. But we also knew from the last few years, that flights in and out of town were cancelled without notice more often than not. We just wanted to get going and not worry about where to stay if we were delayed in town for another day or two.
The pilot threw our few bags into the hold and ushered us on board, me in the co-pilot's seat and Lis and my sister Jan in the back.
He quickly throttled up and because of our light load, we were airborne in no time at all. We looked back over our shoulders, gave a quick wave to our friends on the dock, and took a last look at what had been our home, and what we would probably never see again.
We were at a thousand feet by the time we rounded Cousin's inlet and headed up the Dean Channel to King Island. And there it was. A grey wall. I knew that storms looked worse from a distance, especially when the perspective was from the sunshine. We hit the wall in a few minutes and at first it did not look that bad. The visibility was decent and the pilot seemed to have confidence.
But it was only the leading edge of the storm and as we progressed, the plane began to get tossed around and we could barely make out the water below, and certainly not the mountains on either side. I was not too concerned because I knew the Beaver had pontoons and there was no shortage of water to land on should we get into serious trouble.
Just as the plane began to lose altitude, I stated the source of my confidence to the pilot who answered me by pointing out the huge white caps in the ocean below. I then realised, and knew, that a plane the size of the Beaver could not land in such rough seas. And he was indeed flying lower because he wanted to keep sight of the water.
"It is worse that I thought it would be. Maybe we should turn back."
I did not like what I was hearing.
After an hour of indecision, suddenly, the plane banked steeply and I blurted out, "What?"
After what seemed like forever, we were nearing Port Hardy and the visibility was deteriorating rapidly.
"I am going to have to 'island hop' the rest of the way in. I cannot see the next island so I will circle this one until I can catch a glimpse of the next one."
The steep and sudden banking of the plane resulted in a retching sound from behind me. Lis was in very early pregnancy, plus air sick, and she had been holding the little brown bag under her chin for the last twenty minutes already. She was now making good use of it. I was concerned for her but could not get to her because it was critical, at that time, that we remain belted in.
So, we island hopped for the next 30 minutes, sometimes in a gentle bank because the Island was large, and more often very steeply as the Island was so small and we did not want to lose sight of it. My eyes were strained and tired, desperately trying to distinguish shapes of trees or cliffs in the flat grey light. The pilot seemed to be depending on me a lot to help spot the terrain.
As we circled a spit of land for the sixth time, the pilot, who seemed to be in a quandary, finally opened up to me what the situation was.
There was no turning back. We were low on fuel, and he "just knew" that the Port Hardy harbour was just two miles across open water from where we were now. But, he wanted to see the goal before reaching for it. I wanted for him to see it too.
"I'm going for it!" he finally exclaimed. "It will be alright."
As I glanced over at him, taking my eyes off the greyness around us for an instant, I did not like the beads of perspiration I saw on his brow and upper lip.
I was too young to die. Don't we all say that? But it was true in this case. I had a wife and a child on the way. We were about to start a new life. My sister was in my care. I didn't have a will. I can't swim. These and another million thoughts flashed through my mind as we set a straight course into the grey unknown.
I cannot tell you how tense the next few moments were. What I can tell you is that there were four people praying and I guess that was a quorum because God saw fit to present to us the most incredible sight I have ever seen in my entire life. The light suddenly increased and almost instantly, we were in sunshine, but the most incredible part was that right there in front of our faces was the sleepy little harbour village of Port Hardy and we were heading straight for the seaplane docks, at just the right altitude and speed.
The relief and euphoria in that little cabin was palpable. Even Lis took her face out of the bag for an instant to see the answer to our prayers.
After much celebratory back slapping and congratulating, we transferred to a regular plane and resumed our flight to Vancouver, a very dull and uneventful happening. We were grateful for that because our adrenalin reserves needed replenishing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


This picture actually includes one more person that you cannot see. Ponchos were all the rage, as you can see, but under Lis's poncho is the mystery person, our first child, and technically, also a resident of Ocean Falls.

In May of 1972, events came to a head and after years of threats, rumours and postponed announcements, the news that was not new to anyone, was that yes, Ocean Falls would be shutting down for good. It would happen some time in July, only two months away. There was relief and sadness and because everyone had more than enough time to contemplate the consequences for their own lives, most people had plans. We certainly did too. The decision to leave was made for us so we chose the exact day. I put in my resignation and with two weeks to go before D-day, we packed our few belongings and reserved a flight back to Vancouver.
Our desire to travel during the summer months overcame our desire to stay until the end. My sister (tall, blonde, in the photo) saw it as her last chance to come so she spent the last few days with us there and flew out with us. She, and Lis's sister were the only family that ever came to see us.
Our good friends, Larry and Rosanne Rae, had decided to stick it out to the bitter end so they came to see us off at the float plane dock. This was the last picture in my camera of Ocean Falls. It was a beautiful sunny day as the plane taxied to the dock and as we took our last look at the town that was settled between the mountains and the sea, we had very mixed feelings. But we would soon be fearing for our lives and days later hearing the most shocking news about our beloved town.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Last Look

These are the Garden Apartments. Even though the town was gearing down, the population was dwindling, and there was no shortage of accommodation, these beautiful homes were built in the the mid sixties, only a few years before everything shut down. It was not built by private development but was part of the company town infrastructure. Today, these homes still stand, but barely. There are tall trees growing up through the carports, the roofs leak and the interiors are rotting and unsalvageable.
Front street on an evening when the several inches of rain turned to snow. This is the street where the executives of the mill lived. It was always pretty here. Today, these houses are gone, the concrete pavement is heaved, cracked and overgrown, and is barely recognisable as more than a path through the underbrush.

Click on the picture to enlarge. 1. Site of a big mud and rock slide in 1965 where several houses and their occupants were swept into the ocean. An apartment block was also damaged and the credit union was swept to the ocean's edge. Seven people perished that night and the town was evacuated across the bridge to the mill site. 2. The Gospel Fellowship Hall where I lived with my sister. We were almost the highest building in town. It was 227 wooden steps from the front door to the bridge that separated the town from the mill. 3. The empty space is where the school was. When it burned down, so did the steps. My brother-in-law and I hacked a crude trail down the slope through the Salmon Berry bushes for a shortcut. It was a long way around if we went to town via the roads. 4. The Cedars Apartment where Lis and I lived the whole time we were together in Ocean Falls. Very nice location and in spite of being built in the 30's and being a loud and echoing structure, it was home and we like it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


My 3 years in Ocean Falls were coming to an end. The first half of my adventure was filled with new experiences and challenges and made me grow up. It forced me to evaluate my life and my future and it took me away from some influences that could have been detrimental. It created in me a sense of independence and a final separation from parents as my care providers. I came to the realisation that I could not live alone and that marriage was a good and right thing for me.
The last half of the adventure was an extended honeymoon, an opportunity to build a financial footing in life, and a time to make plans for the future. It was a time when the deep loneliness disappeared and in retrospect was one of the happiest times of my life.
Overshadowing our life there, was the constant reality of impermanence. Leaving was inevitable, but the timing of that was uncertain but always imminent. There were constant threats of strikes. Our lives were greatly effected by longshoreman strikes, tugboat operators strikes, postal workers strikes, airport workers strikes, pulp and paper maker strikes, and I realise now, that those were tumultuous times in the world of labour relations in BC. In fact, the unionization of BC's labour force was a factor in the upcoming provincial elections of '72 which had an immediate effect on our town and our future.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Life in Ocean Falls

With my new Pentax Spotmatic 35mm single lens reflex camera, and a tripod, I was now an official portrait photographer. I forgot to read the chapter on composition, wardrobe, and lighting. Oh well, I have a memento.
The main indoor activity was reading and we both loved reading. We were only a few steps away from the town library and could see it from our kitchen window.

Lis took up painting and became quite good at it. She did not have a paid job while we lived there but certainly honed her skills as a homemaker. She also befriended the lady across the hall who was left alone with her young daughter most of the time. They were an Italian couple and her English was not good. She and her husband fought, constantly.

Kicking back and probably listening to my eight track tape player. Radio reception was sporadic and the one TV station, CFTK the "Tall Totem Television System" from Terrace BC was dependent on the receiver functioning, which it rarely did in winter when the mountain top antennae would ice up.

Our first visitor as a married couple. Lis's sister from Richmond came for a few days. We managed to get outdoors quite often and showed her our favourite spots. Today, we live in the same city.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

More Things To Do

The sand bars on Martin River were our favourite places to visit. The river was so clean and clear and the sand was unspoiled. Even though the water was mostly snow melt and icy cold, we were in up to our knees just to get to the sand bars. I will never forget the beauty, peace, and tranquility of that place.
I was never in the Ocean Falls hospital, but my sister worked there part time during the months before they moved back to Vancouver. They demolished it and built a newer, more modern facility.

This was the same crane that fell through the docks in yesterday's post. The hospital was down in a matter of hours.

That winter was one of the driest on record. Normally, the water would be to the line where the snow meets the trees. There was threat of closing the mill and saving the water for hydro power generation. And then the rains came and within days, the lake was back up to normal levels.

It got cold enough that winter to freeze the lake where it was not so deep. Who would have thought that anybody in Ocean Falls even owned ice skates, but plenty of kids and adults were out there playing hockey. There was always a festive atmosphere when the rain stopped and folks gathered for any outdoor activity. Most people took every opportunity they could to get out and enjoy what was known a 'no rain' day. Very rare indeed.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Things To Do In Ocean Falls

We tried to get outdoors as often as the weather would permit. Hiking was the big thing for us because there were no shortages of mountains to climb and places to explore, if you were not afraid of bears. In the above photo, we have climbed half way up Sawmill Mountain and looking back was a spectacular view of the mill and the town. The terrain was very steep. My theory was that because there was more garbage for the bears to eat on the town side of the valley, we would be fairly safe up here. It was rare to ever meet another human on the trail.
Our favourite hike was to Lost Lake. It was on the lake side of the dam and the trail was about 45 minutes to a small lake under a looming cliff on Caromarion Mountain. There was a huge boulder a short leap from shore on which to sun one's self and lay back and watch the eagles soaring on the thermal updrafts. The trail was well maintained and at one time a lot of effort had gone into building it. There were numerous waterfalls and streams along the way. The water was so very pure and we always drank from the streams that were clear and refreshing.

Here we are at the top of Sawmill Mountain and just over the saddle back. The little shack in the background is the 'ski lodge'. There were actually a few pairs of skis in there. At one time, there had been a big beautiful lodge on these slopes. I have seen pictures of it and it was a log post and beam construction which could house many skiers. The rumour has it that one night there was an orange glow in the sky above Sawmill Mountain. Hikers, the next day, found nothing but ashes and because a Norwegian freighter was in dock taking on a load of paper, it was suspected that some of the crew had gone up there to party at night and started the fire. Nobody ever got to the bottom of it. At the time that this photo was taken, I did not know of the lodge or I would have searched for its remains

A little incident like this can create quite a stir in an isolated town. It drew quite a crowd of onlookers the day that it happened. The main town square was built on a dock and the timbers, being very old and decayed, just could not take the strain of a big piece of equipment like this crane. It was stuck there for a very long time because normally, something like this would be lifted out with a crane, but....... yes, you get it. You can see the beginnings of a block and tackle assembly being erected above the machine. They hoisted it high enough to rebuild the structure underneath it and then gently lowered it and drove it away.

There was no shortage of spectacular rivers and waterfalls. Could it have something to do with the average rainfall? This one was just beyond Martin Valley and a ways down a logging road. A pleasant level walk on a nice afternoon.