Arlesheim, Basel-Landschaft (BL), Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Switzerland

[1984 Nikon FE2 SLR 35-mm roll film camera, s/n 1816483, with Nikkor AI 50-mm f/1.8 lens, s/n 2336591, and 52-mm polarizing filter;
Kodak Ektar 125 (Kodak 5101 | Ektar 125-1) 36-exposure colour negative film]

© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, November 1991

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lake Cowichan and Honeymoon Bay, 1962–1966

At first we lived in a converted bunkhouse on Neva Road in Lake Cowichan. Father planted my birth tree, a Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), out front, still standing to this day at about 60 feet tall. Aunt Michaela, with firstborn Jessica, ten days younger than me, lived with us for four months, with us at Christmas 1962 halfway through her stay. Then her husband, John McHugh, returned (she had left him in Gleichen, Alberta) and they moved in to the bunkhouse next door.

In summer 1963, Rev. Richard Lewis, a priest of The Christian Community (Die Christengemeinschaft) from Los Angeles, accompanied Dr. Lauenstein from Westdeutschland on a North American tour. On that visit, he christened me in Lake Cowichan, Marius Krack in Port Alberni, and the Rachel’s second son Andrew in their new house on Cooper Road in Richmond.

When our cousins were still very young—Gabriel is about my brother’s age—they and their mother moved to Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Westdeutschland, immediately following Christmas 1963. In time, the children lived with a foster family—Quakers, I believe—and attended a Waldorf school. Our paternal grandmother Othilie Rott had the children removed from their mother because of parenting concerns.

In summer 1965, we moved to March Road in Honeymoon Bay, a few houses from what is now the Gordon Bay Provincial Park gate. Neighbours were the Corrigal’s, who still live there today, and an Italian family, the Nardino’s, who in later years moved to Duncan after the older son died in a car accident on the Honeymoon Bay–Lake Cowichan road. 

In the 1980s, Hayo located our Aunt living on the streets of Stuttgart with die Penner, (homeless men, many sent west by the communist East German authorities), dealing with psychological issues. In the last little while, her son has heard that she is now off the streets, living in an apartment in that city.

John McHugh was a Blackfoot Indian from the Sitsika Nation, Gleichen, Alberta. He remained in Duncan, having three children with Dora Wilson of the Cowichan Tribe, part of the Coast Salish. We went to school, Koksilah Elementary, with some of these children. Uncle John took his own life in 1970, putting a pistol to his head. He had struggled with alcoholism for years. As a child he lived in a residential school. I wonder what he saw and experienced there. He is buried in the cemetery of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church on Tzouhalem Road.

Jessica lives in Calgary. Gabriel lives in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, working for a former Albertan computer contractor bought out by an American company. He is talented and hardworking in his career. 

My first childhood memory has to do with Christmas. It was Advent. I found some substantial bricks of Marzipan tucked behind shoes on the floor of my parents’ bedroom closet, ate most of one, threw up, and was scolded. I can not stomach nor tolerate Marzipan’s stink or taste to this day. The same goes for Amaretto but I do enjoy raw almonds. 

I also remember walking in the deep snow drifts on the road in front of our flat-roofed house. And a Chinese man selling fresh fruit and produce off the back of his truck. Mother and I would meet him out on the dusty gravel road to buy. We had a baby sitter, Mrs. Arnold—we have heard in the last few years, well into her nineties, living in Victoria. (Now I hear, she passed away sometime autumn 2006). In the late 1960s she was a maid in Mrs. Rose Kennedy’s household—JFK’s mother. And at some point I realized I had a brother—Felix Hayo, born April 1964. I do not recall of any jealousy, and none was witnessed, toward my sibling. A sister, Anya Maureen, came to us in October 1965.

Sometimes we would drop in on the March farm at the start of our road. I still remember quite well sitting on their porch eating apples from their heritage orchard trees.

Charles March, better known as Charlie, born in Duncan in December 1898, was the son of Henry March, pioneer farmer of the oldest farm in the area (1887–1967). In 1932, he married Miss Alison H. Pollock of Cambridge, England. Their daughter Susan married a Bolton and they farmed on Gabriola Island, where we would visit too in our later Duncan years. I remember Mr. Bolton having a Cessna 185 Skywagon near his barn, but I never got the opportunity to fly in that airplane. My youngest sister, Alison Oona, born in September 1970, was named after Mrs. March. 

Father worked as tree planter and crew foreman for BCFP (British Columbia Forest Products), covering several regions of the lower third or half of Vancouver Island—Koksilah Division beyond Shawnigan Lake all the way to Fairy Lake and around Port Renfrew, Jordan River, China Creek, up around Lake Cowichan and Caycuse, Mesachie Lake, Meade Creek, Nitinat, Parksville, in particular around Englishman River and the Falls, the Kennedy Lake area including some firefighting in the 1960s, Ucluelet, and Tofino. Once they were sent firefighting at Pitt Lake in 1957—paid twice the going rate, flown in by Beaver floatplane from Port Renfrew. He and his crew flew up the central British Columbia coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s from Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island to Knight Inlet on the central B.C. Coast with the 1944 Grumman G-21A Goose, c/n B-101, CF-VFU, FIFT (Forest Industries Flying Tankers Ltd.), Sproat Lake, Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada, based at Sproat Lake near Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, B.C.; powered by two 450-hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-14B Wasp Junior supercharged nine-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines with constant-speed three-blade Hartzell propellers; crew of two (pilot and co-pilot), eight passengers, amphibious transport; built by The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, Long Island, New York, USA; built as JRF-5 Goose (Model G-38), BuNo 84806 USN, powered by two 450-hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-6 Wasp Junior supercharged nine-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines with constant-speed two-blade Hamilton Standard propellers, in November 1944; US Navy surplus in 1945; converted to G-21A Goose; N62899; imported in 1967; CF-VFU, FIFT, Sproat Lake, Vancouver Island, B.C. on April 7, 1967, cancelled on February 6, 2002; used to transport timber companies’ personnel; as my father was a treeplanting foreman with BCFP (British Columbia Forest Products), he and his crew flew on this aircraft up the central British Columbia coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s from Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island to Knight Inlet; engines upgraded, fitted with retractable floats and long-range fuel tanks in the wing centre section for a six-hour endurance; registration updated to C-FVFU; also used for forest patrols, support, and spotter, lead-in aircraft for their Martin JRM-3 Mars water bombers from 1980 to 1988; fitted with the extended dorsal fin; over 15,000 airframe hours; C-FVFU, C-Tec Ltd., Saint John, N.B. on February 6, 2002, cancelled on July 5, 2005; visited Groningen Airport Eelde (GRQ), Eelde, Drenthe, Netherlands on November 9, 2001 en route to Austria and Croatia; refurbished at Salzburg Airport (SZG), Salzburg, Austria in March 2002; C-FVFU, Aline, European Coastal Airlines, Zagreb, Croatia, leased.

Father holds the unofficial world record for most trees planted by any one person. This has never been recognized in any official way because, for some reason, Guinness Book of World Records could not or would not create a new category for this feat. But father did get recognized for his accomplishments in an ad campaign by Mead Paper. Father once took the time and effort to make calculations and estimations.

Another early memory is of the annual All Sooke’s Day logger fest, summer 1965(?). A black and white exists of me in short-sleeve summer shirt, tartan kilt, long dark-blond curls, smiling, standing in the dry gravel and rock bed portion of the Sooke River, eating fresh salmon barbecued and served by the local natives. Salmon is my favourite seafood ever since.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My favourite teacher

I hear you are skilled at calligraphy. Could you make me a sign for above the classroom door? 

What would you like me to write?

Specifically, Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

This famous quote originated with the 1814 English translation of Dante Alighieris Divine Comedy, by the Reverend H.F. Cary. It is the supposed inscription at the entrance to Hell.

And so, I was introduced to Mr. Peter Wilson, soon to be my favourite teacher in twelve years of public education.

It was September 1978, sometime in the first or second week of the first semester of Grade 10. I was attending Cowichan Senior Secondary a year early. Due to a spike in high school enrolment for a few years, any Junior Secondary student entering Grade 10 in the small city and nearby rural neighbourhoods of Duncan in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, living west of the Island Highway, Highway 1, the Trans-Canada, were re-directed to Cow High. Students living east of the highway continued another year at Quamichan Junior Secondary.

My best and favourite subjects were English, History, Western Civilization, Journalism, Band, and Art. I took Western Civilization 10, 11, and 12. 

Mr. Wilson was a humourous and eccentric, yet strict, demanding teacher who knew his profession and subject well. He played music cassettes of classical music and opera at elevated volumes on his ghetto blaster. He was from the north of England, somewhere in West Yorkshire or Lancashire, I believe. He had served in the British Army, stationed somewhere in the north of Germany in the 1950s, I believe, driving lorries. He played on the Army soccer (football) team and toured many churches, cathedrals, museums, town, villages, and historic sites of Germany and other Western European countries.

I remember an incident sometime near the end of the school year, my Grade 10. He directed the units speakers out the second storey window of his west wing classroom, at the dusty, gravel parking lot of muscle cars, their stereos cranking out Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rush, and the likes of my generation. Music I enjoyed too, although classical and opera have always been my preferences since childhood. 

Maybe surprisingly, Mr. Wilson won that round, and others too. He used a good portable stereo sound system brought from home. He was well-respected by most students, and likely by his peers, too. 

From the first day we watched hours of documentary videos, working our way through the complete BBC television series of Kenneth Clarks Civilisation, and the companion book Civilisation: A Personal View. Our class had many lively discussions of these and a vast field of related subject matter. We wrote furiously, churning out essays and the occasional lengthy assignment. I remember researching and completing thirty typed pages on Johann Sebastian Bach. Alas, none of my work has survived. 

The sign, about 6 x 20 inches on white card stock, neatly scribed in black ink and calligraphy nib, sat above the north door of the classroom for many years, still reported to be there by my youngest sister and others in the early 1990s when he retired to go into the video rental trade, opening a video store up near Duncan Elementary on Government Street. He rented the usual Hollywood fare but had a niche market in foreign movies. He always asked after me when my mother rented something there.

I graduated in June 1981 and beat a path for Continental Europe, fleeing Drunken Duncan, armpit of the Island, not attending my graduation ceremony nor the prom. I think of Duncan kindlier these days. 

To this day I am still reminded quite frequently how deeply he influenced my life choices and my tastes and attitudes toward civilizations and cultures, particularily Europe.