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As part of my job, I interviewed some of the greatest Haida artists along the coast, I wrote a Saturday children's story called "Suzy in Stanley Park", and I interviewed visiting entertainers. These included Bob Dylan, the Rev. Gary Davis, and Mike Love of the Beach Boys. I discovered the new world of coffeehouses, which were cropping up along the coast from Vancouver to Los Angeles. At the Blue Horn in Vancouver, I discovered the blues, a form of music that entered my heart and has lived there ever since.
My marriage had no chance at all. My poor young husband finally left to live somewhere else while he studied for his law degree at the University of British Columbia.
The saying “break a leg” had a life-changing impact during my last year at McGill. I was married, no longer living at home but my ambition had nothing to do with my circumstances. I wanted to spend the summer dancing at the Café Andre in Montreal and I wanted to be a reporter for the Montreal Star.
Then, one day, I went for a walk with my new and puzzled husband on Mount Royal and argued with him when he expressed a desire for me to quit dancing at a nightclub. His request was legitimate but I was stubborn and young and ran away from him down a path and down some steps where I tripped and broke my ankle. Thus ended my dancing career and
was the beginning of the end of my marriage. He went back to Vancouver
and I found work on the Montreal Star.
Go West Young Woman
By the summer of 1964 I was covering debutante balls and weddings. I did not like being a "society" reporter. I was hungry for real news so I decided to follow my youthful husband to Vancouver to try again, thinking people might be more liberated out west. I was wring. I was hired by the Vancouver Province, where once more I was working on the "Society Pages" writing about dresses. It was an antediluvian institution even for that day. Our fashion editor was pregnant and the girls in our department made sure that the managing editor never saw her while she was in that condition because the newspaper's policy was to not allow pregnant women to work for them. She was a beautiful woman and very kind and we were successful. She managed to have her baby without losing her job.
Meanwhile, I heard of a brand-new newspaper called the Vancouver Times. It was printed using the early form of the offset press -- today the only type of press used. I was hired as the entertainment editor and for the first time in my life was able to use my layout skills, my background in entertainment (as sparse as that was) and my growing interest in photography.
I worked nights and created a hard-bitten journalistic persona for myself although I was only 22 and did not have a clue about what that persona would lead to. I kept a gin bottle in my drawer, took a slug for my supper and smoked like a chimney. In those days most newsrooms contained a cloud of nicotine scented smoke that hung over the writers like inspiration.
I finally learned to drive a car. I bought a 1959 Simca with my savings and learned how to drive it in 24 hours. I was helped by a friend who taught me to drive along the beach where I did not have to encounter any traffic. I was only given a driver's license because the tester felt sorry for me when I told them I could not keep my job unless I could drive a car. He told me to stay out of traffic and I think he crossed himself while he said it.
I applied for green card because I was offered work with the Los Angeles Times in the United States. History was happening and I wanted to be part of it. Long-haired hippie citizens were heading south and the blues were heading north. I wrote about a Vancouver city council member who ran prostitutes in downtown Vancouver and my story was never printed on orders from the managing editor. I wrote about prison conditions and how many of the prisoners were Northwest Indians and while one of my interviewees carved me a pair of black totem poles in the prison carpenter shop, that story was not printed either.
I had to go to the United States. In spite of all of its problems, it has the freest press in the world and I wanted to be part of it.
In the end, the Vancouver Times went broke as I waited for my green card. By the time it came and I drove to Los Angeles, the job had been given to someone else. I stayed in Los Angeles looking for work on other publications without any luck.
Meanwhile, I went to Disneyland on the back of a Harley owned by Roger Bush, bass player for the Kentucky Colonels, a bluegrass band I had covered in Canada. He also took me to breakfast where I met the Carter family. I suppose that was where my lifelong attraction to Harleys, bluegrass and Johnny Cash became rooted.
By the time I finished my last interview with TV Guide, I was almost out of money and decided to follow the advice given to me by the editor of the Times and go to San Francisco where I could interview for The Examiner. I had a friend from McGill who was already living there and who had become a high-powered advertising writer. She said I could stay with her. As I drove my little Simca up the coast, it blew a piston and I spent eight hours driving up the shoulder until I got to San Francisco. I bought cherries from roadside stands and was dependent on the kindness of state troopers who let me wobble my way north. I was able to get to my friend's apartment on Clay Street and park my wounded car. I knocked on her door; she opened it and screamed, thinking the cherry juice all over my face was blood.
The Examiner hired me for its features section. I loved the work. The entertainers I talked to included The Lovin’ Spoonful, Lenny Bruce and Diahann Carroll. I went to Atherton to interview a friend of the Kennedys and a San Francisco socialite who lived in the lifestyle that I could only have imagined before.
I could have stayed there forever but as things go in the newspaper business -- The Examiner merged itself out of existence and I was out of a job. I was offered a job selling real estate but I turned the job down because I knew nothing about selling anything and my roommate was competing for the same position.
Then I was visited by my persistent and noble-minded husband who wanted to sort things out. We approached a lawyer about an annulment but my noble-minded husband felt that the conditions of an annulment would somehow impugn his manhood so he went back to Vancouver. Unemployed and going broke quickly, I became extremely depressed and developed a tendency which was then, and would be my undoing several times, which was to get out of Dodge whenever the going got tough. So I took a Greyhound bus on one of the longest and most unpleasant trips of my life back up to Vancouver where I attempted one more reconciliation with my poor husband.
I signed up at the University of British Columbia to become a schoolteacher, deciding that journalism was behind me. I went through the program and even spent eight weeks as a substitute teacher in a Vancouver slum school on Hastings Street. In those days, women were definitely second-class citizens in Canada. Even the teachers’ lounges in the schools were segregated. Men and women had their own break rooms. The bars and taverns also were segregated; in Vancouver, women were not allowed to sit at a bar in a liquor establishment and many of the bars were for men only, although some allowed women and couples to sit in a segregated area and enter the bar through their own entrance.
Vancouver also had bottle clubs. Members brought their own bottles then sat in the lounge and bought mixer. I never saw so many drunken people in my life. It seemed that finishing the bottle was expected. I went back to hanging out at liquor-free and unsegregated coffee houses and bought my first sports car, a little Austin Healey Sprite. While I looked up some of the people I knew in the entertainment business, my young husband looked up his drinking friends. Needless to say, the marriage didn't work this time either.
One of my friends was a brilliant folksinger with long red hair and a small son. School was out, summer was on and I offered to drive her to an audition in the Null Set, a coffeehouse in Olympia.
Playing the blues in the Null Set was my about-to-be second husband who is the one real love of my oddball life and the father of my two children. He was just out of the Army at the time, had dark curly hair and wonderful blue eyes and was instrumental in running the Null Set and the Shelter Half near Tacoma. These establishments became controversial because they were labeled antiwar and frequented by protesters as well as people of all colors, folk singers and blues musicians. Anyhow, I stayed in Olympia and got to know my new love.
My next trip to Canada was to get a divorce so that I could come back to Olympia and get married again. This was an easy process; we hired a lawyer and a woman who would pose in bed with my husband for a picture taken by a suddenly available photographer. This process was needed because the only grounds for divorce were adultery and they needed photographic proof. My first husband got the sports car and his freedom; the woman subsequently rented the apartment.
My later years took me to jobs as an editor and writer for a few more newspapers and finally as a writer for The Boeing Company. As the century ended, I retired to the foothills of Mount Rainier where my life is enriched by faith, great memories, dreams of making a difference and my appreciation of the beauty in the world around me.
The Journey, as the Hobbits say, goes ever on. Stay laughing!
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