When I was 11 years old, my family moved from our sunny home (the only home that I knew at that time) to the very rainy northwestern part of Washington State, only miles from the Canadian border and the province of British Columbia (BC). I had known about Canada from my geography and history classes but this was the beginning of my experience with the real deal.
This is the story of my sojourn with Canada.
My family owned a dairy farm and I became a 4-H Club member. As such, I traveled to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) that was held in Vancouver, B.C. Most of that experience was participating in an international 4-H cattle judging contest. In 1973, I placed third (much to my surprise) at the PNE. I still have the large rosette ribbon that I was awarded.
For the “city slickers” that may read this, a cattle judging contest is a contest whereby you evaluate groups of cows and rank them (a “bovine beauty contest”) . Your rankings are compared to expert judges and you get a score. Every time I tell someone about this type of event they laugh and think that I am pulling their leg.
I worked several farms for income during my high school days and many of them were literally a stone’s throw from Canada, separated from it by a single road on each side of the border and a “ditch” that ran between the roads that represented the border. Jump the ditch, and I was in Canada. Jump back, and I was in the US. There were no patrols, no monitors, no security cameras. On the rare occasion when a border patrol would pass by the road, we would wave at them. Invariably, the Canadian patrol would stop and ask us how the work was going.
One of the farms that I worked for was a near neighbor to a very popular Canadian citizen, Randy Bachman of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive fame. Mr. Bachman had built a large mansion near the farm that I worked and his son often visited the son of the farmer that I worked for. I had the opportunity to meet him once or twice and I was always struck by his mild manner and well-meaning presence. He did not strike me as the more typical rocker of that era.
I played in the concert band and I also sang in the concert choir in high school and each year we would do some sort of tour. We often visited Canada for these tours. One of my fondest memories was traveling to Vancouver Island and visiting Victoria, the provincial capital. We were not a wealthy school so we were usually housed by volunteer families during our tours. I loved it. It gave me an opportunity to meet new people and experience their life.
There were many other cultural connections to Canada. Most of our television was Canadian and I hardly missed a Saturday night of Hockey Night in Canada. I knew nothing of hockey when we first moved to Washington, being from California, but I instantly fell in love with the sport the first time I saw it on TV and learned the rules (although it took me some time to figure out what “icing” was). My favorite team from that time was the Montreal Canadiens (Habs) and I loved to watch “The Flower,” Guy LaFleur whizzing down the ice with his hair streaming behind and Larry Robinson laying some well-placed checks on the opposition. The rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs was always a spectacle to behold.
It was through Canadian TV that I became exposed to and a great fan of the British comedies such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Dave Allen Show, and The Benny Hill Show. The fact that the Canadian censors were not as strict as the US censors meant that I could catch ALL of the impact of the comedy.
During my high school days, there were some “political” tensions between the local government and Canada. You see, prices were high in Canada and many Canadians would travel south into Washington State to buy things and return to Canada. They would often come down with RVs and pickups and even in convoys to do this. Despite the political tensions, most business owners had no complaints because the Canadian business was really good for the local economy.
Because of the political tensions, there was talk about making a stricter border with Canada (mid-1970s). This was a debatable and contentious issue.
During my senior year in high school, I was asked to give a speech at the International Border Crossing between Canada and the US at the Blaine, Washington crossing. At that crossing was a monument that was called the Peace Arch and it had been erected as a symbol of friendship between Canada and the US. The theme of the speech was “Keeping the Gates Open” and was obviously centered on trying to maintain the same free movement ideal that had existed for generations between Canada and the US.
I wrote the speech and presented it at a contest on the US side. I won the contest which meant that I was the person to give the speech at the official function. It was a frightening experience to be up on a stage with more than a thousand spectators in front and dignitaries such as the Deputy Premier of BC sitting behind me and Canadian TV cameras filming (US news media were not present).
My best friend from high school attended college in Canada while I was attending college in Bellingham so on weekends, given the chance, I would visit him in Canada. I would visit his small college, maybe watch a soccer game that he was in and then we would go to eat somewhere.
As a track athlete in college, we sometimes had international meets in Vancouver. I remember one meet whereby the field events (I was a javelin thrower) finished around lunch time, so a small group of us found a bar near the stadium to go grab a beer in mid-afternoon while the rest of the track meet went on.
The bar happened to also be a strip joint. When we entered, it was about 3 or 3:30 pm and there was a stripper performing on the main stage. The tables around the stage were empty. There were many patrons at the bar but they were crowded around the bar talking. We made a beeline for the stage tables thinking that at any moment, the crowd would rush over, but that never happened. We sat as the only spectators while we had our beers. Just before 5 pm, the stripper had finished her performance and we clapped and we had a brief conversation with her (she was also a college student earning extra money).
We knew that the meet was nearing completion so we decided to return to the stadium and we went up to pay the tab at the bar. About the same time, an employee went up to the stage and pulled back a curtain to display a large screen. As we arrived at the bar, the theme song for “Hockey Night in Canada” started and EVERYONE made a mad dash for the tables and seats near the stage.
That was Canada. The stripper was the preliminary act; Hockey Night in Canada was the main performance!
I have visited Canada as a tourist, driving the Trans-Canada highway from Vancouver to Winnipeg. I have spent some time backpacking in BC and Vancouver Island.
During my graduate school days, I did not have much opportunity to visit Canada but that changed after my Ph.D. Canada has several centers of Pharmaceutical technology and industry and I have been to many of them, often.
My first professional visit was to Prince Edward Island (PEI) in the Eastern part of Canada to evaluate the technical capabilities of a small company that we were thinking of contracting with. When not working, I enjoyed the bucolic setting of PEI as well as the terrific seafood of mussels and lobster. To get to PEI, I had to fly to Boston and take a flight in a small plane with 14 passengers. We flew low over Maine and since it was autumn, the view was spectacular. We cleared customs at a small airport in Moncton where the pilot actually served as the Immigration officer. It was an incredible trip.
I attended a professional international chemistry conference (IUPAC-International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) in Montreal. Montreal was one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever seen. A few of my colleagues and I were able to spend time at an Expos baseball game (before they moved). We had our dinners in the French Quarter and since it was June, we were able to enjoy sidewalk dining. I was not very fluent in French but most of the locals did not mind.
Later, my work took me to Edmonton on so many occasions that I could hardly keep count. Edmonton during the summer was quite pleasant but the winters were brutal. The interesting part was that parking lots had electric outlets in front of each space. People would plug in electric warmers to cover their car batteries since the temperatures were so cold in the winter that cars would not start without them.
Besides Edmonton, I have worked many times in Toronto (but never mentioned my fondness for the Montreal Canadiens).
Canada was almost a second home to me during several of my working years.
I was always enamored with Canada. So much so that I had considered it as a place for retirement (if I could muster the guts to deal with the winters).
The people of Canada were always terrific. From my earliest experiences as a student to my professional days, I have NEVER had a negative human experience in Canada. NEVER. Well, except for maybe the one time I was caught in a speed trap in Edmonton during a work experience. It was a speed trap but I do have to say that the police were very polite. C’est La Vie.
Well, Guy LaFleur and Larry Robinson have long since retired. Guy lives in Quebec and is hopefully in good health as I hope the same for Larry.
Randy Bachman is still kicking and performing. More power to him.
I do not know what happened to the stripper but she was cute and I hope that she made it through college and had a good life.
The question that now haunts me is, “Is Canada Finished?” The Truckers Convoy has reminded me that the people of Canada live on but the “country” and what it represents has vanished completely thanks to Justin Trudeau.
The Truckers, from what I have seen, truly represent what I remembered to be the best of Canada.
But, there are others. I have become a big fan of Dr. Jordan Peterson, a true representative of a rational mind. He also represents the best of Canada. As do the many professionals and hardworking people who have sacrificed themselves to try and keep true to the Canadian National Anthem. I hope that the people that I worked with during my years there also are holding true.
The shameful part, besides the politicians and Canadian media, has been seeing the Canadian police in action. Are they really Canadian? Or are these “thugs” that have been imported by Trudeau? I really have a hard time believing that the faces that are being hidden behind the black Gestapo-like masks really are Canadian.
Can someone tell me that I am dreaming all of this? Please!
If anyone in Canadian law enforcement reads this, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Totally and 100%. You are sworn to uphold the Canadian Constitution, which has been shredded by Trudeau. Your loyalty should be to the people of Canada, not that simpering, dictator-wannabe wimp and his lackeys in hiding in Ottawa.
So, what becomes of the Canadian National Anthem now?
How about…”Oh Canada! Our home and native land! From patriots it has been taken by Justin’s command. God help us become glorious and free! O Canada, we shed our tears for thee. O Canada, we shed our tears for thee!”
Canadians, I am with you!