Day 90 - David (1st person I approached)
March 31, 2014 - David was born in Notre-Dame-du-lac, Quebec, close to the border with the state of Maine. The family home was near the lake, and David told me a great story about an adventure with his older brother.
“I was about 12 years old, and there had been a number of boats that had sank on the lake. My brother was a number of years older than me, and he was a welder. He wanted to make a diving bell to rescue one of the boats. We lived near an old railway line, so he reinforced the sides of an old water tank he found with rail tracks, and cut a hatch in it, and put a gasket around the edges to seal it. He put in a window and an air in and air out line. We used my dad’s old army radio and a car search light. Of course my father looked at my older brother and said ‘There’s no way your putting your brother in that thing and putting it in the water!’ My brother told my Dad no of course not. I went down I think about 12 times! We never found anything, they’d drag it behind our boat, but it kept spinning around. One time I did get a scare though, the gasket started to leak and the tank started to fill with water, but my brother had rigged a pulley line and the radio worked, so he got the tank up quickly and pulled me out.”
When he was 15 years old, David left school and never went back.
“Let’s just say something happened, and it’s a long story,” said David.
He left Quebec and went to the province of Labrador (now called Newfoundland and Labrador), finding work as a labourer.
“I worked there for a few months. It was hard work. I hadn't even met an english speaking person before then. Working outdoors, and when it’s minus 35C (-31F), you crave sunshine and warmth. So I saved my money and went to Mexico. I was 16 then. I took the train as far as Houston, Texas and I remember waiting at the station for a bus to Mexico. Segregation was still very much in effect back then, and they had white waiting areas and an area ‘for black people’. I feel asleep only to be awakened by a security guard who said I couldn’t sleep at the station. When I told him I had hours to wait for my bus, he told me to go sleep ‘in the black section.’ People looked at my strangely, but I never had a problem there, as a matter of fact, I got a lot of help from some very nice people,” David recalled.
David travelled around, enjoyed the sunshine and explored. After ten weeks in Mexico, he returned to Quebec, before deciding to move west to Vancouver.
"I wanted to live somewhere that had a warmer climate. I made my way to Toronto, and then headed south, where it was warmer, to hitchhike across the States then up into Vancouver,” David said.
I asked him how old he was at this point, telling him I thought it bold and adventurous.
“I was almost 17. It was a great adventure. I had my passport and a little bit of money, but not much. I was always dressed well though. That was the thing. And people were so friendly and helpful, despite all the racial tension. I remember being in Detroit and I asked a cab driver, a black man, where the nearest Salvation Army was, and he wanted to know why I needed the Salvation Army. I told him I was making my way to Canada, and I needed a place to sleep. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bunch of change and said ‘Here take this, there's a hotel down the street. Get yourself a room and get a good night’s sleep.’ He had given me about $25, which of course in the early 60’s was a lot of money. The hotel was a bit sketchy, but I got a room for the night, and had a good breakfast the next morning, and then took a bus out of town. I started hitchhiking agin once I got off the bus, and I’ll never forget it. A car pulls over, and there was a black couple in the front of the car, with two kids in the back seat. The woman gets out of the car and moves into the back seat with the kids, and tells me to get in the front passenger seat. They played jazz music and we drove together for about 400 miles. It was one of the nicest trips I’ve ever had. They were so kind and relaxed.”
David stopped for a moment, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I might have seen his eyes well up a bit.
David continued on his journey, and in Colorado, a woman stopped to give him a ride. He goes on to tell me,
“She was moving some horses for someone and as we drove along it got dark. The place where the horses were going to was about another 150 miles or so away, but it was up and over a ridge, some 8000 feet up and then down the other side. She suggested that instead of driving through the dark, that I could spend the night at her home and then she’d take me to the next destination in the morning. So I agreed. In the middle of the night, I heard a loud knocking at the door. It was someone who had driven by and seen the horses out on the road. They had gotten out, so we went out to round them up again. It was kind of fun and exciting, chasing horses at night. They're funny creatures, horses are,” David says.
“They remember where it is they came from so once we started walking them back to the pen, they went ahead, and in through the hole in the fence where they got out. In the morning I offered to fix the fence, and when I went to look at what would need to be done, it was a bigger job than I had thought. She went out and got everything I needed, including work clothes for me and everything!”
David stayed there for a while and during that stay, he met the woman's daughter, Lou. She had been away at boarding school.
“That as they say, was the beginning of the end,” he told me, with a great big smile and laughter.
David went to Oakland, California and took a diving course, paid for by the woman who gave him the ride that night.
“She was so kind and generous. We became very good friends. She is a remarkable woman," he said, with a sense of pride in his voice.
He ended up back in Quebec, and became a salvage diver, working for a company that recovered salvage from the St Lawrence Waterway. He also continued travelling, spending a year in Australia, and a number of months “Bumming around Europe,” but all the time keeping in touch with Lou, the daughter of the woman from Colorado.
A couple of years after meeting Lou’s mother, much to his surprise, the entire family relocated to Quebec, and Lou and David started dating. They have been married now for 47 years, and have three children and nine grand children. David told me
“After we got married, when I was 23 and Lou was 19, we finally made it to Vancouver. I contacted a buddy I had met in Labrador who was in Vancouver now, and he told me it would be easy to get a nice place to rent in the White Rock area. We lived there for 40 years. I became a candlestick maker! You know, it was the 70’s and the sand from the beach made perfect moulds. Then I moved on to other things. One of our daughters lives in Fort Langley, and we sold our house about 7 years ago, and got a place there as well.
As we were talking, a very attractive woman made her way over to where David and I were seated. It was Lou, his wife. David introduced us and we chatted a for a little bit. I asked Lou if she thought she had influenced her mother to move to Quebec, all those years ago.
“No, I don’t think so. My mother liked anything french, and the french people. But I was certainly happy. This man was so incredibly handsome back then,” she says as they look at each other. I remark that they are an attractive couple still and that it is clear they care about each other by the way they look at one another.
“Yes,” says Lou,
“but back then he weighed 135lbs, with black hair and those blue eyes. I was only 15, but it was love!” #notastranger