We always found food. We weren’t broke. We were just proving that it could be done. I like this page. This is the great central plain. There it is, right in the middle. This is the Souris River in Manitoba. There’s Hal going tubing. He finally put, what’s the round window in a boat, a porthole – yes, he had a porthole to fill up that hole. That was in Saskatchewan, sorry, Alberta. “Side road realities and roadside realities”. That’s our reflection in the side of a milk truck, a big shiny milk truck. And there’s Hal, endlessly pumping gas. It cost us $35 in commercial diesel to clean the engine out when we stopped, and warm it up again in the morning, and we were on the road for nearly a month, poking around, and it was $35 for commercial fuel. So get yourself a diesel engine. Find out about conversion, because soon it’s all going to be expensive.
These guys were bicycling from Rocky Mountain House or somewhere. They were originally from Nova Scotia and they were doing a demonstration, recycling, what was their pitch, I forget. They were into changing the world. Can anybody read the writing on the side of the bus? “Climate Change Caravan”. Climate change was what they were all about. Good for them. It was early. And here we are doing what we call the Critical Mass. If you block the road you create a Critical Mass that blocks the road – and we joined them and several local people joined them. We weren’t much of a critical mass but we drove through Winnipeg making our point. That was very interesting.
This was fun. We were chatting with somebody way in Northern Ontario and he said he was a mechanic in the Ottawa bus station and that we should show our bus to the boss. He’d be interested. This was the guy who phoned him, and here’s Hal. This is a row of mechanics and they collect the boss, who is interested, and sends us into his garage and tests us for outlet on our exhaust pipe and it was total amazement to everybody, an old bus engine. They were shining light through the pollution, photographing for clarity and on a dirty bus that comes in to be fixed, it’s blocking about 89% of all the available light and we only blocked 3%. That’s how clean it was! You could practically breathe out of our exhaust pipe. Not quite, but practically.
Did it smell like French fries?
Yes, occasionally. And occasionally it sounded like it was going to stall and there were horrible jokes about French fries which upset Hal no end.
Here we are in Ottawa. This one makes me laugh. That’s Hal’s brother Jeffrey. See the beer behind his back? He’s hiding a beer and I’m behind him taking the photograph. Isn’t that funny?
Here we are in Montreal with the hippies, latter-day hippies. Jeffrey said, after about three or four days, ‘I’m sick of these arty hippies. Let’s get out of here’. So we packed up and moved on. But we were always having fun. They all played music.
Then we got hired, can you believe this, to drive 20 people to a rave! It was about 80 miles so it was quite a journey, and Hal got paid real nicely for this trip; and off we went and we had all these people and their bags piled up in the bus. Now if we’d been in an accident we’d have had our necks broken by flying bags. It’s wild.
We haven’t been speaking much about the Comox Valley. Do you have any thoughts on environmental causes here, or strong ties to particular places…
Oh, I’ve got strong ties to what we call the Hermie. I love that place. I go out there as often as I can get. Now I don’t drive a car, that’s not as often as it used to be. That’s a great part of the valley, along the creeks and rivers especially. And as far as causes go, bringing back the Tsolum River. It’s my son, Jack, who’s been the Executive Director through that whole process. And the Tsolum had fish in it this year! And Jack says, just wait till next year, we’ll get a low return and nobody will figure, they’ll think that it’s poisoned again. So much can happen to fish, that you can’t assume anything about what’s coming back next year until they come.
What happened to the Tsolum River?
The Tsolum River was polluted from a mine which was started by a small mining company that moved in, and they got investments from all kinds of people around town, Sid Williams and the mayor and other people. It was wonderful – there were going to be jobs in the valley. We had our own mine. Well, three years later the Tsolum was dying and the mine wasn’t coming through the way mines don’t, and they were bankrupt and walked away and left the mine site.
There’s 12 acres of rocky land, bumpety bump in all directions, with sort of streams running through it. One of them was greeney-blue, and another one was like a stream coming off a glacier, cloudy, and there’s nothing makes the water cloudy except pollution in this country. And that poured down the Tsolum, killed all the fish, and Fisheries was working on the Tsolum at the time, trying to bring the run back. They hadn’t realized how much that was pollution. So when we got to the Hermie there were crayfish about that big. And people said, well they’re not as big as they used to be.
Now, they’ve got the mine covered and cleaned, and the river has run through clean and the crayfish are this big and you can eat them, of course. I bet they’re good. We watched all that stuff die in the river in the first years we were out there. It was really sad to watch. But those days we weren’t quite clued in that there was something you could do about pollution. We’ve learned a lot, a huge lot.
This year’s Tsolum fish count was a big victory, that the fish are coming back. But I didn’t know how long it took.
I should know but I can’t remember. If Jack were handy I would ask him.
Do you have any words of advice for this generation?
Be careful! Be careful with the world. It was a much cleaner place when I was a kid than it is now, except of course the cities were filthy. They show you smog on television in Beijing. London was equally bad, by about the 1890’s right through until the years before the war when they began to clean it up some, then of course it got left and filled with bomb smoke and everything else. But now they hardly have any fog at all caused by pollution, which is something. Beijing will have to do the same thing. Have you seen the pictures on the news? You can see about 10 yards down the road for the pollution and the fog. It condenses on the little patches of dirt in the air and just makes a thick, thick, thick grimy poisonous fog.
So you’re saying, watch out for that grimy fog?
It won’t come back. We know better. There you are, there’s something we know better and do better, is keep our air cleaner and it’s nowhere near clean enough, is it? We thought we’d been given the world to do with what we liked. The generous God had given it to us. Thank you God. Now we’re going to ruin it. Thank you! I think that was crazy, and I think that all my generation and the older generation have been guilty about that.
What’s easier now and what has changed for the better?
Well, strangely enough, getting old has changed for the better. Much to my surprise. I love it. It’s great fun. I really feel for people who have difficulty. A lot of people have over-worked, harder than they should, or done things that they shouldn’t have done, but I did a lot of dancing and that taught me to use my body sensibly.
How do you feel about the future?
To tell you the truth I haven’t got a clue. You guys are going to have to figure that one out. There’s too much new stuff for me to have any thoughts.
Thank you for taking time to let us stretch this out… if we hadn’t heard about your incredible bus adventure we’d really have been missing out.
Well, you’d asked so many questions I hadn’t been able to deal with, like what was the most fun I had, ever. Well, that bus trip was unquestionably the most fun I ever had.
Thank you for letting us interview you today.
I was looking forward to it. It was delightful.