The 70’s were a different time.
My Father worked for many years, for CBC Radio. He was Executive Producer of West Coast Affairs, which meant he was responsible for many things… but for an eight year old boy, the most exciting thing he was responsible for, was overseeing the broadcast of the Proceedings from the BC Parliament in Victoria. To a young boy, Victoria was a strange and exotic land. Occasionally, my Dad would talk to my Mom, and I would get taken out of School for a few days, and my Dad and I would jump in our Volkswagen Westphalia Camper, and head for the Capital City. As we lived in Vancouver, it meant getting up early… (I would sleep in the back, or read Hardy Boys Books) …drive to Tsawwassen… pick up Bob Spence… (another CBC fellow) and get on the BC Ferry, for the hour and a half journey to Victoria, on Vancouver Island.
Early trips, we stayed at the Crest Motel… a motor lodge that was on the edge of Downtown. I think for the first few trips, because I was young, and a quiet, shy boy, I would mostly stay in the room, during the day, and once my Dad’s work was done, we would go exploring. Thunderbird Park, with the exotic Totem Poles ! Going on the Tally Ho horse-drawn Carriages ! Many wonderful adventures.
Over the years, once or twice a year, I would get taken out of School, and for a Thursday and Friday, we would venture to Victoria. My dad would go to work in the Parliament Buildings, and I would be set loose upon the town.
It was a very different time, because I don’t imagine ANY parents today would think to allow an unsupervised 10 year old, to be free to wander the streets of a strange city all day ? I don’t think it would happen. But back then, it was it’s very own education. I would spend HOURS in the Royal BC Museum… looking at the dioramas of Fort Langley, being in awe at the enormity of the Woolly Mammoth, and being dumbfounded at the tiny confines of the crew quarters on the HMS Discovery.
I would wander, never touching, but looking curiously, through the many fancy China Shops.
Press my nose up against the glass of the Roger’s Chocolate Shop… (too rich for my young palate) Marvel at the history of my Scottish Ancestry in the Tartan Shop… (Buchanan) Spend hours looking at the amazing architecture of the buildings… and I loved The Empress Hotel with its beautiful glassed in Conservatory.
I grew up in Kerrsidale, which had a certain homogenous continuity to it. In Victoria, I would poke through the streets and alleys, and wonder at the amazing variety of Businesses, that would co-exist, adjacent to one another. The Pig & Whistle Pub, next to a souvenir Store, a few doors down from a store selling boat and marine equipment, near to an attraction called Miniatureland. And Union Jacks, EVERYWHERE !!!
At the end of each days’ adventure, I would inevitably be late, and would rush up the stairs and into the BC Parliament Buildings, past the paintings, the murals, the statues, and down the corridor into the dingy old offices that the Press used.
Upon a few occasions, when Session had been adjourned early, my Dad would take me, and with a nod to the Sergeant At Arms, we would wander into the Legislative Chambers. I was struck at the time, how the desks and chairs of our Governmental Leaders, were not dis-similar from the wooden desks and chairs of my Elementary School… complete with doodling on the scraps of left over paper…
I wish I had been more taken with the Chamber itself, but at the time, it was somewhat threadbare and sad, and even as a child, it reminded me of visiting someone’s house that had at one time been grand, but was now fallen on tougher times, a bit tattered and frayed at the edges and straining to retain the vestiges of its once-held splendor.
(There was a massive restoration done in 1973, and my visits took place prior to that)
The next year, I got a paper route, and because of that, sadly I was no longer able to go away with my Dad, as I was a guy with responsibilities.
But I shall always think back fondly to the days I spent in Victoria, and my time in the BC Legislature, and wonder at the courage of my Father to set a young child loose in a strange town, where I had no safety net, but gained a set of experiences, and a sense of curiousity and wonder, that I hope I still hold, today.
Thanks Dad !!!