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o a k bay l i v i n G

Tweed SUMMER 2013

House in the clouds Oak Bay’s gibson house is a living link to history

A classy classic Ken agate and his vintage cars

Romancing the stove Victoria Spirits’ Bryan and Valerie Murray Poet lynn strongin From Ward to Word POSTCARDS HOME Along the Silk Road

I N S I D E › P e o p l e › T R AV E L › F OO D › H I S T O R Y › A rts





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Summer 2013 Volume 1 Issue 3


10 Cover Story Meet Patricia and Jim Walter and take a tour of Gibson House, their beautifully restored heritage home.



Historic Oak Bay

Check out some historical highlights of the Oak Bay Fire Department.


Romancing the Stove Join


Dogs on the Avenue

Photographer Sharon Tiffin captures the cute, the cuddly and the gangly in Oak Bay canines.


Pam Grant at the home of Bryan and Valerie Murray.


Postcards Home Travel

along the Silk Road in Central Asia with Wendi Mackay.



Tweed Magazine welcomes your Oak Bay suggestions for the next edition. So, do tell! Email editor Susan Lundy at:

Oak Bay Insider

Join Christopher Causton on a tour of the delicious.





Tea With

Tweed editor Susan Lundy chats with Fire Chief Dave Cockle.

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from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Bowker Creek Park will blossom with art in the annual Bowker Creek Brush Up Art Show and Sale. Some 50 artists will be practicing their craft al fresco, as well as interacting with the several thousand visitors who stroll by admiring their works. This year, visitors can enjoy 40 Oak Bay artists, plus four guest artists, including internationally renowned Pat Martin Bates, Robert Amos, Marion Evamy and Marty Machacek, with his crooked architectural creations. Featured each year are youth artists from the community, many of whom go on to become emerging artists with promising careers. Organized by the Oak Bay Community Artists’ Society, it takes place at Bowker Creek Park on Hampshire Road between Oak Bay Avenue and Cranmore Street.

» A reading of a new book with Oak Bay connec-

tions takes place June 27 at Eclectic Gallery. The reading of Hometown: Out and About in Victoria’s Neighbourhoods runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at 2170 Oak Bay Avenue. Written by Anny Scoones, the book is illustrated with 120 original watercolours by acclaimed Oak Bay artist Robert Amos. It also features unique poems by Victoria’s poet laureate, Janet Rogers. The book sets out to discover the quaint and quirky charms of Victoria neighbourhoods.




Amos has painted thousands of pictures of the urban landscape and specializes in commissioned paintings of homes and gardens. He is the author (and illustrator) of seven books about Victoria, was recently the artist in residence at the Fairmont Empress Hotel and is an Honorary Citizen of Victoria. His website is at robertamos. com.

» Oak Bay author Frank

Wilson will be reading and presenting from a new collection of poetry called Chasing Crows in various locations this summer. The book has been produced to support the Victoria Chasing chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. It follows on the heels of an earlier collection of poems by Frank Wilson called Blackberries, which raised $5,000 for the MS Society in the UK. Wilson says: “After coming here I approached the MS Society in Victoria and we developed the idea for a collection of poems illustrated by paintings from members of the MS Art Therapy group. In the end we have a collection of 43 poems and 17 paintings, beautifully created into a 60-page book. All proceeds go to the MS Society, but it’s also a valuable positive signal of what those with MS can achieve.” This has been a busy year for Wilson as his book of short stories Nowt to do with me was published in the UK in January. He has two book contracts on the go and has almost completed a follow-up collection of stories entitled Don’t Tell the Wife!

Crows Frank Wilson

With illustration by members of the

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada Art Group Victoria

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Of myths and community


ruth be told, I wanted myth expert Linda Foubister to tell me Caddy is alive and . . . well . . . real. Who doesn’t want to believe that a joyful sort of underwater Puff the Magic Dragon is gliding around Oak Bay waters? Happily, Linda didn’t absolutely deny the possibility — in fact, I had a feeling she’d like to believe it too. Cadborosaurus sets a backdrop to my childhood. I bet I’m not the only one who recalls sunny, sandy days in Gyro Park, playing on Caddy, the multi-coloured, cement climbing apparatus. In my earliest memory, I’m too small to climb through Caddy’s eyeholes, and I’m cowed by all the big, scary kids who can. Next, I recall creeeping barefoot ever-so-carefully along Caddy’s back, clinging to her coils, fearful of slipping on the sandy surface. Eventually, magically, I became one of those big, scary kids, scrambling fearlessly over her. And then came the bonus — watching my own kids repeat the very same process! Linda, who is featured in Mythic Stories (page 15), knows a lot about the myths of Oak Bay. She believes myths help “re-enchant the landscape,” unifying a community by giving it common ground. Having touched down in a whirl of cities and towns this past month, I’ve thought a lot about community. My travels took me to New Brunswick, Halifax, Quebec City and Toronto. I spent a stretch of time in Calgary, and made lots of visits to Oak Bay. In each place, I toured, visited, sampled food. And I wondered — what makes a great community? Why live in one place rather than another? Ultimately it’s the people that make the difference. And when those people have a strong sense of community, they become more engaged and invested in it. This is what reflects back to the outsider. Oak Bay has this groove for me. I feel like a proud parent as I bring people here, pointing out lush gardens, houses that ooze with charm, the bustling Avenue and cool shops and galleries. Lucky for me, my visits to Oak Bay are punctuated by meetings with extraordinary people. In one single day this spring, I got to hang out with the helpful and friendly staff at the Oak Bay Archives; tour the happy-to-help-out fire department, drink coffee with a fascinating Oak Bay historian; talk myths with




Caddy at Gyro Park is as enduring as the myth itself. (File photo — Oak Bay News.)

Linda and finally a chat with Chris Causton, the ever-entertaining former mayor. What a day! Community shines through in this edition of Tweed. We meet classic car aficionado Ken Agate (page 48), who turned his passion into a beloved annual event; community-minded members of the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society, who volunteer their time to save lives at sea (page 20); Patricia and Jim Walter, who have preserved a piece of Oak Bay history at their beautiful home on York Place (page10) . . . and the list goes on. I like to think that Tweed is adding to this sense of pride in community. We’re thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive reception you’ve given us. Thanks for the emails, the feedback and the story ideas. Keep them coming! We’ve added some extra pages and stories this edition — something to read on the patio or beach this summer . . . while you’re keeping an eye out for Caddy. And for those doubters out there, here’s what Archie Wills wrote in the Victoria Daily Times in mid-1990s: “Your modern man would rather disbelieve something than believe it. . . His disbelief flatters his vanity, makes him think he is a superior fellow. Well, it doesn’t make him a superior fellow. Any fool can disbelieve in sea serpents.”

Susan Lundy EDITOR

Born and raised in Victoria, Susan Lundy has worked as a journalist, editor and freelance writer for over 25 years. She is also editor of Soar Magazine and her columns on family life run in several Black Press newspapers. Her first book — Heritage Apples: A New Sensation — was published this spring by Touchwood Editions.

June to August

OAK BAY DIARY June, July, August Artists’ work on

display at the Marina Restaurant this summer include, Claire Christinel, June; Deryk Houston, July; and Marshall Hugh Kaiser and Karen Kaiser in August.

June June is Foodie Month at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s David Foster Foundation Theatre. Festivities include family movies on Sundays and Foodie Movie nights on Tuesdays — each paired with gourmet theatre snacks.

June 8 to 30 The art of Charles Malinsky and Frances Semple is featured at Winchester Galleries in Oak Bay.

June 18

July 6 to 31

Oak Bay High School graduation ceremony — 6:30 p.m, at the University of Victoria.

The art of Terry Fenton is featured at

June 19 / July 17 / Aug. 21

Pacific Tattoo

Oak Bay Business Improvement Association presents Oak Bay Village Night Markets, from 4-8 p.m., featuring local produce, fresh artisan bread, art, preserves, furniture, flowers, toys, magic, music and more.

June 22 Welcome back to Your Pool at Oak Bay Recreation Centre as the pool reopens at 6 a.m. Various events all day, including a 90s Neon Pool Party, from 1-5 p.m.

Winchester Galleries in Oak Bay.

July 13-14 takes place at Save-OnFoods Memorial Centre with production and musical direction by Oak Bay’s Roger Maguire.

August 11 Collector Car Festival begins at 8 a.m. on Oak Bay Avenue, celebrating vintage and collector cars of all makes and models.

June 28

June 16 Open House at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club for those interested in boating, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours, demonstrations, slideshows, kids’ activities and prizes.

June 17 to July 27 Eclectic Gallery presents Marla Thirsk’s The Shadows Behind. Opening reception, June 19, 6-9 p.m.

Summer Sizzle at Oak Bay Recreation. Games and prizes during the Everyone Welcome Swim, 6:30-9:30 p.m.

June 30 Bird Walk in Uplands Park, 8 a.m. Meet at Cattle Point by the first boat launch and bring binoculars!

At right: The Oak Bay High School graduating class of 2013 gathered with family and staff for the 6th annual block party, held this year on Lulie Street. Grad Emily Eymundson shows off her gold and green dress.

CONTRIBUTORS Alyn Edwards has been a career journalist, communications consultant and life-long classic car enthusiast. For the past 16 years, he has been a public relations consultant, freelance writer, and, since 2003, a partner at Peak Communicators.

JENnifer BLYTH is an award-winning writer, photographer and editor, whose stories have appeared in BC Business, BC Home, WestWorld and Yes Magazine.

ARNOLD LIM is a longtime photojournalist and videographer whose credits include the Globe and Mail, Sports Illustrated, the Toronto Star and Black Press.

DON DENTON has photographed numerous high-profile events, including the Olympics, World Hockey Championships, European Figure Skating Championships and a Royal wedding.

Sharon Tiffin is an award winning photographer who has worked for Black Press community newspapers for 24 years.

ANGELA COWAN is a nationally published poet and award winning fiction author who moonlights as a freelance journalist and feature writer.

ELIZABETH NOLAN is an arts and features writer whose stories have appeared in newspapers, Aqua, Country Life and British Columbia Magazine.

SHARI MACDONALD’s photography work includes fine art exhibitions, covers for books, CDs and magazines, brochure and web imagery, as well as a line of greeting cards. Find her at sharimacdonald

Group Publisher Penny Sakamoto Director, Sales and Advertising Oliver Sommer Editor Susan Lundy

Creative Design Lily Chan Circulation Director Bruce Hogarth Cover Photo: Don Denton

818 Broughton Street, Victoria, BC V8W 1E4 Phone 250-381-3484 Fax 250-386-2624

TWEED magazine is published quarterly by Black Press. The points of view or opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of Tweed. The contents of Tweed magazine are protected by copyright, including the designed advertising. Reproduction is prohibited without written consent of the publisher.

BENJAMIN YONG is a freelance journalist and community news reporter based in Richmond, B.C. He enjoys writing about lifestyle, culture and cars. Find him at www.twitter. com/@b_yong.




House in the clouds Oak Bay heritage home is living history By Angela Cowan Photos by Arnold Lim

I 10



n late spring, beneath a brilliant spring sun casting diamonds on nearby ocean waves, I find myself on the roof of Gibson House, precariously balanced amid the clouds. My toes try to clutch the small platform through my shoes, I hold my palm to a sturdy brick chimney, and silently give thanks there is no wind today. The expansive tiled roof is still incomplete, and velvety red dust coats the scaffolding, my shoes, and my fingertips. I stand at its pinnacle, the sky close enough to reach out and trail my hands through. The view is nothing short of breathtaking. “It’s our treetop home,” says Patricia Walter, owner of the Oak Bay heritage mansion. “It really does feel like a child’s fantasy.” She smiles as she points out the fir tree in the backyard that has housed a bald eagle’s nest every year for more than two decades. “We can’t know for sure, but I like to think they’re the same birds.” A sequoia stands proudly out front; the favourite perch for the

Clockwise from top left: Exterior of Gibson House; roofer David Finbow working on the clay-tile roof; owner Patricia Walter in the front yard; the piano in a mini sunroom.

eagle pair. Patricia glances once more over her shoulder at the trees and the water beyond as we make our way back down to solid ground. Perched well back from the road on an impressive hillock, Gibson House at 1590 York Place has been home to Patricia and her family since 1991. Built almost 100 years ago in 1919, the house marked a collaborative effort between two famous BC architects, Francis Rattenbury, and Samuel Maclure. Walking up the gently inclining driveway to Gibson House, I immediately see its majestic façade rising up from the hilltop like an imperial giant, at first stiff with proper Victorian values. But with each footstep closer, I see a kind of wild abandon seeping through the cracks. Our footfalls are muffled by weathered concrete steps and patches of thick moss. Lush greenery and blooms take up much of the expansive windows, and thick, trailing vines of Virginia creeper ivy spread along the stone pathways, reminiscent of a forgotten fairytale. The interior has a similar balanced dichotomy between regality and relaxation. At over 12,000 square feet, it is the largest private residence in Oak Bay, with 11 bedrooms and seven bathrooms, grand drawing and dining rooms on the main floor, and regal entranceways. It boasts 11 working fireplaces, each utterly unique, and none so captivating as Maclure’s trademark inglenook version. Yet despite working with its remarkable size, Patricia and her family have transformed this huge residence into a home. Each room is warm with thick rugs underfoot, sun-drenched moldings and little nooks to curl away into. Over the years Patricia and her husband Jim have aimed to SUMMER 2013



create a space that exists in harmony with the surrounding natural world and pays homage to the history of the property. They’ve planted scores of trees and shrubs, removed an interior wall erected in the 1950s, and worked extensively to restore the house to its original glory. And when they purchased Gibson House from Doris, the eldest Gibson daughter, they were fortunate enough to acquire some of it original furnishings, including a grand piano that has stood in the formal dining room since the house’s completion. So strong is the drive to preserve the past that even while cleaning and restoring all the plaster ceilings, Patricia couldn’t quite bear to touch the den. Rich with dark wood and high bookshelves, and ochre stains swirling across the ceiling, the den is likely where the men of the house spent their time unwinding, cigar or pipe in hand. But among all their efforts, there is no better example of Patricia and Jim’s passionate commitment to history and conservation than the enormous roofing project they undertook last August. The 93- year-old clay-tiled roof was in sore need of repair and cleaning. Patricia called around, trying to find someone willing to restore the original roof, but everyone wanted to simply discard the old tiles and start anew. “I couldn’t bear the thought,” she says, thinking of all that history going to the trash. “It just broke my heart.” She shrunk from the task until she found David Finbow, a multi-talented roofer recently from Australia. To gain access to the delicate roof, David built a full wooden staircase and platform to sit level with the eaves. For over three months, he stripped off the 9,900 tiles individually, scouring and inspecting each one. 12




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Above: An elegant interior scene. Previous page: The sunroom and main stairwell.

“We could help with the cleaning, but essentially it was a one man job,” says Patricia. “It really is a miracle he came along.” “You can’t walk on it, or you break the tiles,” notes David, gesturing to the roof from the top of the wooden staircase. “So you can’t have a team of guys up here working. You have to do one face at a time. With how the tiles interlock, you have to go from one side to the other.” Holding up one of the original tiles, he runs a finger along the rough, chipped edge. “I have a diamond bladed saw and drill. That’s

the main advantage I have over those who would have done this back then.” He holds up a tile he’s just cut; it’s pin-straight, the edges sharp and unforgiving. Each of the original tiles was handmade and fired, so no two are alike, making the fitting process a combination of skill and educated guesswork. In the end, David was able to save over two-thirds of the original tiles, ordering only 2,500 new ones from California. Though the colour matches the original tiles quite well, David decided to install the new tiles on the north, and least visible face of the house. After nearly a full year of working on the rooftop, his immense undertaking should be complete by the end of June. Patricia’s dedication to history and “living green” is evident, but so too is her love for the Oak Bay community. In 2006, in celebration of Oak Bay’s centennial, Oak Bay, British Columbia, In Pictures was published, and Patricia and Jim held the book launch at Gibson House. They’ve opened their home many times over the years, sharing the rich history and beauty of their home. “It’s such a great neighbourhood,” says Patricia. “Most of our neighbours have been here more than 20 years. Our children loved growing up here, changing rooms as they got older.” She stands out on the long terrace, looking down over the water. Her own children are grown now, but the sounds of playing and laughing gust up from Glenlyon-Norfolk School, keeping the spirit of family alive in the heritage home. As I wander back down the driveway, my mind filled with images of Patricia and Jim’s beautiful home, I am certain that in their capable hands, the majesty and beauty of Gibson House will be preserved for many years to come.


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Linda Foubister outside her Oak Bay home.


he bright, cheerful living room of Linda Foubister’s King George Terrace home, with it’s sweeping views over the ocean towards Trial Island, proves the perfect place to chat about Cadborosaurus, the famous sea serpent spotted three times in these very waters.

“RE-enchanting the landscape” with Myth By Susan Lundy Photo by Sharon Tiffin

First reported in 1932 and again in 1933 by “credible witnesses,” the legend of this “fast-moving, greenishgray creature with a big coil in front” went the equivalent of viral in the 1930s, with the Vancouver Sun eventually reporting: “the whole continent [is] intrigued by Caddy’s caper.” While the legend of Caddy is just one of many myths (including several about Oak Bay) featured in Foubister’s new book The Key to Mythic Victoria, it is definitely one of the most colourful and enduring. “According to witnesses,” Foubister writes, “the animal resembles an enormous serpent with a long neck, a horse-like head on an elongated neck, and often a pair of flippers. It is 30 or 40 feet long and its coils




or humps, possibly serrated, break the water as it swims and dives at speed.” Over the past 80 years, Caddy has been spotted all the way from Alaska to California, and the legend continues to flourish: as recently as 2003, Oak Bay Tourism offered a $10,000 reward for a video of a live Cadborosaurus. Foubister, a writer, researcher and public speaker, grew up in Victoria and now lives in Oak Bay. Although her background is in biology, she is fascinated with myth and the role it plays in our lives. “Myths are metaphors for the human condition — human experience distilled to Facts may be its essence,” she says, adding “facts may be transient but myth endures.” transient, but “Myth is all about revealing the patterns myth endures. of human existence and putting them in a cultural context. By considering how current linda events in our culture evoke particular myths, foubisTer we can get a better understanding of the universal truths lying beneath the surface . . . Retelling myths re-establishes the link between the conscious and the unconscious, and brings this connection alive.” Foubister’s first book, Goddess in the Grass: Serpentine Mythology and the Great Goddess, looks at serpents and women in mythology; and she also wrote a regular column on Victoria myths in the Moss Rock Review. Published initially as an e-book, The Key to Mythic Victoria will be available in print from Amazon this summer.

It’s a fascinating read and, as an excellent review by Oak Bay’ s Barbara Julian at Writers’ Choice Reviews notes: “Foubister doesn’t only catalogue intriguing facts and tales, she relates them to the larger tapestry of world mythology.” Foubister says, “For me, knowing the stories about Victoria enhances my appreciation of our heritage and natural resources. It brings the past to life. I believe that knowing the mythic heritage of a place can serve to re-enchant the landscape.” Here’s a sampling of the Oak Bay myths, included in the book and found amid that enchanted landscape. Harpooner Rock Sahsima, which means “harpoon,” was the original name identified by Songhees elder James Fraser for Harling Point, where the historic Chinese Cemetery is located in Oak Bay. According to a bronze inscription by Harpooner Rock, the myth goes like this: “Hayls the Transformer, along with spirit companions Raven and Mink came by in his canoe, and frightened away a seal [which was] being stalked by the harpooner. When the harpooner rebuked them, Hayls turned him to stone as he stood there poised to throw the harpoon, saying ‘You’ll be the boss for seals … from Sooke to Nanaimo.’” “The idea that people can be transformed into stone is common in folklore worldwide,” Foubister writes. “These stories explain the origin of prominent rocks and provide memory devices for wayfaring . . . The Sto:lo people of the Fraser River had a tradition that the Creator transformed people into rocks where their souls would survive forever. This must have happened often as a chain of transformer rocks extends up the Fraser Valley.”

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An in-depth story of Harpooner Rock at Sahsima on Harling Point is found in Foubister’s book in Chapter Five: Respecting Gaia. Mystic Spring The legend of Mystic Spring takes root in Mystic Vale, a forested ravine at the University of Victoria. The myth, says Foubister, is likely derived from a story written by D.W. Higgins in 1904. Higgins said the spring was located at the foot of a magnificent maple tree, and local Indians used its water freely, believing it was bewitched and possessed medicinal properties. According to Higgins’ story, one of the chiefs told new arrivals about the spring, saying: “If a woman should look into the water when the moon is at its full she’ll see reflected in it the face of the man who loves her. If a man looks into the water, he will see the woman who loves him and will marry him should he ask her. If a woman is childless this water will give her plenty. The tree is a god. It guards the spirit of the spring, and as long as the tree stands the water will creep to its foot for protection and shade; cut down the tree and the spring will be seen no more.” Foubister says that although many people have looked, no one in recent history has been able to find the spring. Her highly entertaining piece on Mystic Spring is found in Chapter Four: Needing the Naiads. Iechinihl Famed BC architect Francis Rattenbury’s home on the Oak Bay waterfront was built on a site with a rich mythical heritage, writes Foubister, adding that he named his house Iechinihl — “place where a good thing happened.” “He told the story about the origin of this name in a letter he wrote

Staqeya In 2012, a wolf made the news when it came to frequent several islands off Oak Bay. The Songhees First Nation named the animal Staqeya, which means wolf in Lekwungen, writes Foubister: “Trevor Absolon, the Songhees bylaw enforcement officer, noted that many of the band members found it interesting that Songhees Chief Robert Sam passed away about the same time that the wolf appeared. Some First Nations people believe that wolves are the reincarnation of hunters who have passed on.” This story can be found in Chapter Nine: Favouring Fauna. In concluding our chat about Caddy and other myths and legends, Foubister points out the importance of protecting the environment as a place for myths to dwell and grow. “It can be seen as a living entity,” she says. “The spirit of myth lives on in the waters, lands, plants and animals of Oak Bay as residents get together to celebrate living under the oaks.”





in 1900 . . . noting an old timer told him that the area had been used for centuries by First Nations people. According to a legend, men were originally dumb and looked at each other like owls. But one day, the Great Spirit conferred on them the gift of speech — at the place where Rattenbury’s garden was located.” Readers can find this story in Chapter 12: Hearing from Hestia. Foubister documents other aspects of Rattenbury’s highly colourful life elsewhere in the book and although the stories are based in fact rather than myth, she notes that they are of legendary proportion. “Rattenbury is a character of mythic dimensions,” she says, “not unlike King Arthur, for example.”

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Eye on the Sea Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society saves lives Story by BENJAMIN YONG Photos by ARNOLD LIM





he smell of the salty sea air; the thrill of adventure in the open ocean; the gratification of giving back and potentially saving lives. These are just some of the reasons volunteers of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 33, also known as Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society (OBSRS), donate their time to ensure marine safety around the clock. Sixty-five-year-old veteran volunteer Jurgen Pokrandt has always had an interest in boating and nautical affairs. But he got his start with OBSRS by turning a negative into a positive. After being laid off from the now-defunct Eaton’s department store, Pokrandt had a year to plan his next move. His interest was piqued when he saw an ad in the local newspaper about the sea rescue society recruiting new members. “I said ‘okay, I’ll go down to their meeting,’” he recalls. “They had monthly meetings — the first Monday of every month. Those are the training meetings where everyone gets together. And then there’s on-the-water training.”

Above: Members of the Oak Bay Sea Rescue team aboard the Oak Bay Sea Rescue II zodiac. At right: Becky Charlesworth, left, and Coxswain Kim Bentzon strap Julia Murray to a stretcher, during a drill.

That was 14 years ago. Now a coxswain — or “the person in charge of the boat,” as Pokrandt puts it — he’s part of the night crew on call from 6 p.m. until 7 a.m. one out of every four weeks. Originally on the day shift that runs opposite — from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. — he had to switch when he found a job at Sears in its major appliances department. “When your pager goes off, you can’t leave your client and just take off,” says Pokrandt, laughing. “Discovery” is the name of his crew, which has a maximum complement of five but can function with as little as three or four members, ranging in both age and experience. The boats operated by OBSRS are fast response craft — not deepsea vessels, says Pokrandt — and they routinely patrol the area from




Above: Coxswain Kim Bentzon, left, receives a rope from Becky Charlesworth, as James Bartlett (centre) looks on.

Clover Point to D’Arcy Island. “We’re designed to save human lives. We prevent people from getting in trouble,” he says, adding, “We have two levels of severity. We have code two and code three. Code three is a Mayday, a serious one where people are in imminent danger. Code two might just be someone drifting around that needs help.”

When a situation develops, he says, the respective code numbers are sent to volunteers’ pagers who then have 15 minutes to rush to the Oak Bay Marina and respond to the call. Last summer, Pokrandt was involved with a complex code three when a canoe with two occupants flipped over.The massive search effort, which also involved partnering organizations, rescued one person who was stranded on a concrete marker, but failed to locate the second. Pokrandt says he doesn’t want to emphasize the adrenaline-pumping aspect of being part of such rescue operations. “Saving lives at sea, that’s the motto here. There’s many degrees at sea, we’re not always pulling bodies out of the water. We prevent a situation from deteriorating.” Around the same time that Pokrandt first joined OBSRS, fellow coxswain Kelly Noel had an experience that would eventually lead her to become a part of the society. “My brother was rescued by the Auxiliary — at that time it was called the Auxiliary — up in Tofino when he was young. So that sort of made me know about this organization,” says Noel. “He was body surfing with a friend and they were


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taken out by the current. They couldn’t swim back to shore.” A paramedic by day, Noel is also the director of the OBSRS junior program that recruits volunteers as young as 13 and teaches them about safety on the water and being part of the community. “There are about 10 active junior members and 40 active full members. We put them through the same training standards as our other crew,” she says. “Many of the juniors join because they’re interested in a career with the coast guard and want to get the perspective of what it’s like on the water,” adds Noel, although that’s not always the case. University of Victoria student Chris Life, now 20, joined the junior program in 2009 while he was still attending Glenlyon Norfolk School and looking to be part of volunteer program. “This was something totally new to me. My parents sailed when I was a lot younger but I never had much interest,” says Life. “I thought it would be fun and give me practical skills and a real ability to help people.” Life says that although juniors are not allowed to participate on any actual calls, he has picked up valuable knowledge such as learning how to tie knots, interpret nautical charts and maps, and identify charts. Since then, he has graduated to a full crew member and was part of the same rescue effort with Pokrandt that saved the paddler from the capsized canoe last July. “It was, for me, the first time I was put in a life or death scenario concerning another person,” says Life. “It was a big learning experience for me in terms of where a person can get to if they’re not careful.”

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historic oak bay

Dousing the flames 75 years of firefighting in Oak Bay Story by SUSAN LUNDY

As the Oak Bay Fire Department celebrates 75 years, Tweed decided to dig up some historical highlights. Most of the information was gleaned from Fire Chief E.G. Clayard’s personal scrapbook (provided by the affable volunteers at the Oak Bay Archives) and Reeve George Murdoch’s book The History of the Municipality of Oak Bay, which can be found online at

Above: Newspaper clipping, showing fire hall construction. Following page: Historic photos found in Fire Chief E.G. Clayard’s scrapbook.



1906-12: For the first six years following incorporation, Oak Bay was without fire protection, and there existed no fire apparatus in the community. 1912: An agreement was finally signed with the City of Victoria to provide fire protection to Oak Bay from the new Duchess Street fire hall for $150 per month. “This arrangement did not prove entirely satisfactory to Oak Bay,” writes Murdoch. “Each year, the city raised the price . . . and there were occasions when a fire occurred in Oak Bay that the Duchess Street equipment was either at city fire headquarters for drill purposes or filling in while the headquarters’ equipment was engaged at a fire in the city.” 1937: On Monday, Oct. 25, the Victoria Daily Times reported that Oak Bay would get its hall “as a result of a vote of Oak Bay ratepayers of more than nine to one in favour of a $36,000 money by-law to finance the installation of a municipal fire department.” A building site was eventually found on Monterey Avenue “where a jog in the road makes it St. Ann Street.” P. Leonard James — who designed the municipal hall (1912), St. Mary’s Church (1911) and the Oak Bay SUMMER 2013

Grocery (now Oaks Restaurant) — was named architect for the project. 1938: The new hall was completed in March, 1938 at a cost of $11,720. Two former members of the Victoria fire department, E. G. Clayards and J. Newall, were appointed as chief and deputy chief, and on their recommendation, eight firemen were named. Firemen were to receive $90 per month but it was decided to put the men to work cleaning up the hall at a temporary rate of $60. According to Murdoch, “Shortly before the date set for opening the hall, it was discovered that personnel was one short of minimum requirements and in order to function within the budget, each of the eight men had to forego 10 dollars of their agreed wages, enabling the extra man to be hired. On May 13, 1938, the Oak Bay Fire Hall was formally opened in a ceremony that included the Honourable T. D. Patullo, Premier of British Columbia. At its start, the fire district covered four and a quarter square miles and included a population of 7,000. “It will have little to fear from industrial conflagration,” reported a newspaper clipping in Clayard’s scrapbook. “Most of the structures are family dwellings — some of the finest in the Lower Mainland . . . there are less than half a dozen buildings over three stories high, and much of the territory is vacant, a considerable portion owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company. It does however hold out quite a menace for grass and brush fires, the type of blaze most common in the municipality.” Equipment at the new fire hall included two BickleSeagrave triple combination pumpers with booster tanks, hose carrier and three ladders of 18, 24 and 36 feet.

In the first few months after inauguration, the department was plagued by false alarms, writes Murdoch. Many calls were the work of pranksters, but the majority occurred as people mistakenly called the fire alarm number to inquire about burning rubbish. 1939: The first major fire for the department occurred at Turner’s Farm on Cedar Hill X Road on Oct. 10, 1939. 1940: Numerous newspaper articles in Clayard’s scrapbook describe a mock air raid organized during World War 2 by the OB fire department, provincial police and OB A.R.P, “demonstrating what they would do in an attack.” During successive flights over the high school grounds in a staged event in 1940, a bomber dropped flares and incendiary bombs, which exploded in a ropedoff area, and a specially-built house “caught fire.” A newspaper article reported that following the event, “AttorneyGenenal Wismer said it was evident from the attendance, that Oak Bay realized the duty of the civil population was to be ready for whatever might take place.” Also from this year, Clayard’s scrapbook includes a letter to the editor, from R.C. Pembridge, decrying the working conditions of Oak Bay firefighters: “I have learned from reliable sources that they are on duty for 24 hours for three consecutive days, during which time they have to do their own cooking. After three days, they have one day off. On this so-called day off, they have a two and a half hours drill. How can this be called a day off? These conditions may be alright for single men, but for a married man, they have the tendency to ruin the home life. The salary for all this is $80 per month.” 1942: The first of the department’s three biggest fires of its first decade occurred on July 16, 1942 when the Goat Building burned down at the Willows Exhibition Grounds (at a cost of $1,250). 1944: A second large blaze occurred April 25 when fire destroyed the Sports Centre ($3,200) and Ice Arena ($72,719), which were being used by the Canadian Army as a drill and rec centre. Cause of the fire was attributed to a defective valve on a gas heater, which exploded in the dressing room. No injuries were reported. 1947: On April 19, 1947 the Main Building at the Willows Exhibition Grounds caught fire in what newspaper reports described as “the most spectacular blaze in Victoria in 15 years . . . since 1929 when [Patrick Arena] burned down.” The timber-dry wood frame building apparently burned to ground in 20 minutes — something the fire chief had been warning city council about for two years. So concerned was Chief Clayards about the building’s fire hazard, he had prevented the lacrosse league from using it. In addition to loss of the Main Building ($30,000), part of the Women’s Building ($7,000) also burned in the blaze. 1953-54: A new Bickle-Seagrave 500 g.p.m. pumper truck was added to the department in Aug. 1953. In March of the following year, this truck overturned at the corner of Bowker Avenue and St. Ann Street as firefighters responded to a house fire on Dunlevy Street, reports Murdoch: “Fortunately, the firemen were thrown

clear and there were no injuries. The cause of the accident was attributed to the locking of the front wheels when making the turn. A second piece of apparatus was immediately sent to the fire in time to extinguish the blaze with little damage.” 1955: On Nov. 23, 1955, Chief E. G. Clayards passed away following a brief illness and W. T. Pearson was appointed as the new chief of the department. 1965: Following an amendment to the Fire Department Hours of Labour Act by the Legislature, a 42-hour week was inaugurated Oct. 1, 1965. This made it necessary to hire four additional men for the department; the crews would now work in four groups, each on duty for two day shifts, followed by two night shifts and then four days off duty. Prior to this, the men worked 24-hour shifts, on duty for three full days (72 hours), followed by 24 hours off, and then three full days on duty. 2008: On Sept. 26, 2008, the Oak Bay Fire Department’s last remaining original firefighter, Bill Pearson, died at age 94. SUMMER 2013



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OAK BAY LANDMARKS One:06 features unique Oak Bay landmarks as seen through a roving camera eye. “One” honours the uniqueness of Oak Bay and 06 gives a nod to its history — 1906, the year it incorporated into a municipality. In this edition, photographer Don Denton’s camera eye explored neighbourhoods and side streets, capturing the art of Oak Bay manhole covers.







With PAM GRANT Photos by Don Denton

A visit with the Oak bay Couple behind victoria gin


llen Saunders once noted that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Bryan and Valerie Murray, two of the forces behind the highly succesful Victoria Spirits distillery, would probably agree. Valerie met then medical intern Bryan in the late 1970s, when she was teaching at the University of Victoria and married to another doctor. I doubt either imagined for a moment that a decade later they would be setting up home with Valerie’s children. Folks likely expected this newly blended family to buy a character house in a suitable suburb of Victoria, but that’s not what happened, at least not initially. In a move that perhaps proved to be a harbinger of the future, they settled in a former rooming house smack in the heart of the Government Street shopping district. “Fifteen bedrooms, each with their own sink,” says Valerie, laughing. “$850 a month,” smiles Bryan. They spent a few years there, developing an urban oasis for four kids who each attended different schools. It has been more than 20 years since they moved to Oak Bay to continue nurturing what matured into a remarkably creative 28



and accomplished family. Nestled on a half-acre corner lot in the Uplands, their sprawling mid-century bungalow was designed by modernist architect John Wade. Today, we are chatting in their sunny yellow kitchen, complete with a vintage Moffat Synchrochime range and miles of cupboard space, some just deep enough to of accommodate a single row cans. “A true Campbell’s kitchen,” notes Bryan, opening it in demonstration, only to find a forgotten tin of processed cheese to the amusement of all. Near hilarity ensues when youngest daughter, Chef Anna Hunt, visiting with her baby Eloise, shrieks that it expired in 2007. They haven’t done much to the place besides replacing the roof, so the visitor finds a plethora of period details, including oversized windows and a front and back foyer that encourages the flow between indoors and out. Generous yet cozy entertainment spaces are anchored by warm wood floors, and tastefully appointed with period furnishings, thought provoking art and touches of whimsy, including a Saturn shaped lamp and a mummified Cooper’s hawk retrieved from the rafters, now suspended from an eternal perch.

At right: From left, Valerie Murray, daughter Anna Hunt and granddaughter Eloise Lecours and Bryan Murray enjoy a glass of wine and a laugh at the antics of the little girl in their gazebo, while waiting for food to cook on the barbecue. Eloise is daughter of Anna.

No doubt this house has hosted some parties for the ages. It’s outside where the real change has taken place. Lawns were vanquished in favour of a garden with meandering paths and countless perennials. Red Japanese maple bushes, reminiscent of oversized shisa, nestle either side of steps leading to a curved gazebo, and a showy Japanese moon maple stops me in my tracks. This is no surprise once you know that besides family and the arts, horticulture is of Valerie’s great passions. In addition to serving on the board of the Victoria Conservatory of Music, she has donated expertise and untold hours to support local treasures such as Abkhazi Garden, Government House grounds and the University’ of Victoria’s Finnerty Gardens. Though I only see the beauty, she cites the dual impact of marauding deer and increasing commitments courtesy of the family business. Yes, the family business. You might think that ushering four kids out of the nest, working a thriving medical practice and being an uber volunteer would be enough. Actually, I think they probably thought so too. But fate had something else in mind. They happened across a wine-making investment opportunity and carved a plan to be silent partners. (At this point in the conversation, I’m slightly embarrassed as they hand me a plate with spot prawns, Bryan’s addictive grilled onions and potato salad with fiddleheads — now it is my turn to shriek — and a glass of chilled

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Above: Chef Anna Hunt and Bryan Murray work the barbecue; Elsewhere: Details of a divine feast prepared by the Victoria Spirits family.

Pinot Grigio. I know they are expecting company, but it is too good — and I am too fascinated by their story — to leave.) They faced challenges making wine on the tip of Vancouver Island, significant even with the expertise of partner Ken Winchester, once a successful winemaker in the Napa Valley. The short story is that nearly half a million dollars worth of wine became unintentionally effervescent. Bryan’s dream of tinkering with the gleaming copper pot as he eased into retirement vanished as the winery became a distillery, and a remarkable tipple named Victoria Gin was launched at the Bengal Lounge in the spring of 2008. Months later, the Murrays bought Winchester out. Eldest son Peter Hunt spent time learning the ropes with Winchester and soon put his

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MSc in molecular biology to good use as the master distiller, tweaking the recipe with myriad botanicals, including juniper berries, citrus peel, rose petals, angelica root, star anise and coriander seed. Victoria Gin gained traction quickly and has been featured at events from the island to Manhattan. Some is aged in American oak barrels to produce their tawny Oaken Gin. The same neutral grain spirit base is used for Left Coast Hemp Vodka, and a whisky is in the works. A sharpish batch of juniper resulted in the first bitters produced in Canada in generations. As to the future, that’s anyone’s guess. Grandchildren have started to arrive and the Murrays are looking at Asian markets. They have met their dual goals of creating a

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great product and a thriving family business. Daughter Mia is juggling the position of creative director as she finishes a PhD in London. Anna serves as culinary consultant and her husband Phil Lecours works as a second distiller. Son Max is currently taking a break from the production line, where each batch is still bottled and numbered by hand as he pursues a graduate degree in music. Whatever happens, you can be sure of this. No one will have predicted it.

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What is

Oak Bay reading? A look at what locals are reading . . . and why ■ Barbara Julian, Oak Bay, writer, blogger and the voice behind Writers’ Choice Reviews (now an online journal: www.writerschoicereviews. com). Being attracted to charismatic minifauna, I’m reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. During a long debilitating illness, Bailey lived alongside a wild snail whose habitat was a terrarium beside her bed. She draws us into this molluscan microcosm, describing the physiology, evolution and personality of this graceful, sensitive hermaphrodite with a 500,000,000-year-old ancestry. Peacefully gliding, waving elegant tentacles, it explores, hides, sleeps and reproduces (using stored sperm), its shell exhibiting nature’s most aesthetic design, a delicate spiral. Also exploring recovery and interspecies relationships, this short, charming informative book would enchant any biophile.

■ Devon Tatton, Children and family literacy librarian at the Oak Bay Library. I am currently reading many books, but the one I am most invested in is The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. In The 5th Wave, aliens have arrived and they have not come in peace. To make matters worse, they are physically indistinguishable from humans. I am not normally into books with aliens, but there has been a lot of buzz about this book online so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It is fully living up to the hype. 32



■ MIKE BO0RMAN Of Boorman’s - Real Estate, celebrating 80 years of business in Oak Bay. The book I have just read is Adventures in Solitude by Grant Lawrence. The book is about the life of the author growing up and spending time in Desolation Sound from youth to adult life. This book made me laugh out loud several times and is a fun read. Having travelled several times to Desolation Sound by boat with my parents and now my family, I enjoyed the geographical historical references.

■ Greg Swan, Oak Bay firefighter, and head of the Oak Bay Firefighters Charitable Foundation (currently raising funds for a new Oak Bay High School Bus). The last book I read was The Liberator. It follows an U.S. Infantry Regiment through the campaign in Sicily from 1943-1944, commanded by Felix Sparks. The claim is that they saw the most action out of any U.S. Infantry Regiment throughout the Italian Campaign in WW2. I was inspired to read this because I was in the infantry reserve years ago, and enjoy reading about military history. 

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I am currently reading Cutting for Stone by Ethiopian-born medical doctor and author Abraham Verghese. It is a family saga of twin brothers, orphaned at birth by their mother’s death and abandoned by their father. The story takes you from Ethiopia to New York, looking at the relationship of the twins. It is beautifully written with such richly vivid descriptions of locations, you are literally there — seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting all that is around you. The story is emotionally charged and I can’t wait to read where it takes me! I selected this book because I recently overheard two women convincing a third that this was the book she must read next, as it’s a total page turner. They were right!

■ Cairine Green, Oak Bay Municipal Councillor I’m reading Ian Rankin’s book Standing in Another Man’s Grave. Rankin’s favourite Scottish police detective, the irreverent, intense and sometimes unorthodox Rebus, is back, but this time he is working as a civilian in a cold case crime unit, having been forced to retire over a decade earlier.  Rebus is unhappy and anxious to return to the trenches of real policing. Coming to terms with himself, his mortality and the reality of being forced out of a career he loves is the book’s sub-text, while the real crime story is about a string of unsolved disappearances from the late 90s and early 2000s that beckon Rebus to move beyond the Cold Case Unit. What inspired me to read it? Probably my Scottish heritage, my interest in a good crime story and Ian Rankin’s brilliant series Rebus, one that’s also produced as a crime drama by BBC, available on PBS. We offer Oak Barrel Wine Aging

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OAK BAY BY THE numbers Oak Bay [ohk] [bey] 1. a vibrant community, a world away from the rush of everyday life. Num·ber [nuhm-ber] 1. a mathematical object used to count, label, and measure.


The number of “Coronation Oaks” from Windsor Park planted in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI.

The number of off-leash areas for dogs in Oak Bay.



The number of roads in Oak Bay named Gonzales in 1928.


The number of families in Oak Bay in 2011, marking a drop of -0.9 per cent from 2006. This compares to a growth rate for Canada of 5.5 per cent over the same period.


The number of businesses and organizations represented by the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association (Oak Bay BIA).


The number of people living per square kilometre in Oak Bay, according to the 2011 Census.


The year Oak Bay council received numerous complaints about cows running at large and damaging property. People were also unhappy with the bellowing of cows tethered on private property. The year of the first recorded case of murder in Oak Bay, since establishment of the police force. Actually, there were two people murdered and one case remained unsolved, despite the capable assistance of Dr. Vance, the criminologist of the Vancouver Police Department.


Number of acres purchased by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association at Harling Point in 1955, thus establishing the Canada’s oldest Chinese cemetery.


The approximate number of students at Willows School in the late 1960s. Today the school has some 590 students, of which about half are registered in French Immersion.






A garden


Tucked along a quiet road in south Oak Bay, Bree and Bill Watts’ front garden offers a charming “sneak peek” at what awaits around back. Here in front are native ferns and hostas, astilbes and coral bells, well-suited to the dappled sunlight filtering through the Garry oaks.

Water feature adds sound to bouquet of colour

Story by Jennifer Blyth Photos by Sharon Tiffin




Stepping along the cobblestone-look stamped concrete path to the rear garden, and passing through the wisteria-dressed arbour, guests are greeted with a true suburban escape. The centrepiece of the garden is the water feature, a recirculating stone-lined stream set perfectly into the sloped backyard beneath a graceful Japanese maple. A large patio is the perfect place to take in the garden, bordered by stone retaining walls to the rear, and deep, undulating beds of hellebores, tall “drumstick” primulas, mature rhododendrons and hostas along the far fence line.

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Soaking up the heat along the sunny side of the house are pockets of roses, along with hydrangeas, yellow-flowering helianthemums, hebes and grasses for texture, while creeping thyme creates a cushy carpet of green near the pathway. The Watts have been enjoying their Oak Bay home for two years now and the garden “is my pride and joy,” says Bree. While the couple initially planned to build their own home, a chance look at the Oak Bay property was all it took. “We were both just blown away by the garden,” Bree says. The existing garden space was designed for previous owners 12 years ago by Rob Degros, so when the time came to add a water feature, Bree felt he would be the ideal choice for the job. “I knew I wanted the same person because I admired the rest of the garden so much,” she says, adding, “I just think it’s the most beautiful garden and it’s the perfect size. What Rob did is so incredible and the plantings are so special — there’s nothing run-of-the-mill here.” It’s the water feature in particular that will make this garden

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a favourite stop on this summer’s seventh annual For the Love of Africa Society Water Garden Tour, July 13. In addition to the work of Degros, from Robert Degros Landscapes, the self-guided tour will showcase artistic creations of four other water garden designers. Musicians will also be performing in many of the 10 gardens on the tour. (Tickets for the tour are $20 and will be available in early June at Marigold Nursery, Gardenworks, Dig This, Cannor Nursery and Elk Lake Garden Centre, or online at For more information, call 250-891-0762.) A long-time gardener, Bree always wanted a water feature, but her previous gardens weren’t suitable. “I think the sound of water is so very wonderful,” she says. The local wildlife agrees, as the garden enjoys visits from numerous birds and butterflies . . . along with the occasional raccoon. While bringing a water feature into an established garden can sometimes require a little extra work to create the right space, in this case, the existing slope provided the perfect grade, Degros says. To create an authentic landscape, he brought in additional large rocks, which he distributed beyond the stream itself, similar to what would be found in nature. Set against the backdrop of mature trees and shrubs, the Bloodgood Japanese maple adds authenticity to the water feature. “It provided an element for the stream to flow around and it seems like it belongs,” Degros says. As a result, “the feature has a nice feeling of coming out of the background.” A beautiful focal point for their private backyard oasis, the feature At left: A beautiful water feature was created by Rob Degros, who also designed the entire garden 12 years ago. 38



was exactly what the Watts wanted. “We use the garden and patio all the time,” Bree says. “In the nice weather we have three meals a day out here.” And because the home’s living space overlooks the patio, the garden is easily enjoyed on cooler days from inside as well. For this reason, it was important that the garden offer yearround interest. Beyond the water feature, early season highlights include a large winter-flowering witch hazel, magnolia, hellebores and a beautiful flowering red current. Bree has adapted other elements of I just think the garden to their style, removing it’s the most some of the lavender, for example, and adding white irises and colourbeautiful garden ful primulas. Ever-changing pots add . . . there’s nothing seasonal interest for Bree, who loves run-of-the-mill flowers. Next on the to-do list is the addihere. tion of deer-resistant hellebores out Bree Watts front — “When we moved in, the house had been empty for six months and the deer had come in. There wasn’t a hosta leaf in sight!” — and a plot of shrub roses beneath the magnolia. “I love being outside; as soon as the weather is nice, I’m out,” Bree says. “I love the beauty of it – it’s very creative.”

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postcards home

Silk Road Along the


Wendi Mackay discovers Central Asia Story by Jennifer Blyth Photos contributed by Wendi Mackay




endi Mackay is truly a world traveller. She has explored Europe, Russia, India and China; she’d like to spend more time in Eastern Europe and is currently planning a big trip to Antarctica. “I will have been to every continent when I go to Antarctica,” the south Oak Bay resident says with a smile. Where she hadn’t been, until recently, was Central Asia. Fascinated by the idea of travelling the ancient “Silk Road” trading route, which once stretched from China through Persia and on to Europe, Mackay planned a trip last October through a series of now independent countries that had once formed part of the USSR – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. “I had been to Mongolia, China, India and Iran, so I had been all around the region,” Mackay says. “It was just another adventure and we wanted to see what the towns and people were like along the Silk Road.” Created following the USSR’s dissolution, the borders are quite random, so within a

given country there might be a variety of ethnicities and languages. The result is often congestion at various borders as people try to visit family on the other side. Mackay travelled with two friends as part of an organized tour, and she suggests that even for someone with considerable travel experience, this is probably not a trip to take independently. The landscape is quite desolate — a mix of open, dry desert and mountains — with great expanses of road between towns; the borders and languages can be challenging, and corruption can be a problem. “I think what really surprised us in terms of travelling were the long, long distances between places,” Mackay reflects, suggesting that rather than travelling by bus, flying between four or so key places might be the best way to see the region. “It was very interesting; it was just different travelling and I think you could do it in a more efficient way.” Visiting in October, when the weather was warm, but not too hot, the group met few other visitors: “In a lot of the places we went to, we were the only tourists,” she says.

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At the same time, she adds, “I think because the Russians really populated this area, they’re used to ‘strangers in their midst.’” While the region is “not a place to go for good accommodations and good food,” Mackay says, larger cities do have more options. However, “the food is very basic and not very interesting; there’s a lot of meat and potatoes.” Markets, in the towns and at the roadside, offer more colourful possibilities, with lots of nuts, interesting vegetables and spices, not to mention sheep and goats. The highlight of the trip was the four “big places that have been around since the days of the Silk Road: Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.” Including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, “they were very interesting in terms of the architecture — mausoleums, mosques and madrassahs,” Mackay says. Ancient city walls rise up out of the desert, some dotted with stone burial tombs (being buried here was a mark of honour for soldiers). “And the ancient walls in Khiva and Bukhara were very unique and interesting to see.”

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Above: Ancient wall in Khiva. At right: A suzani artisan.

Today, the region is still struggling to recover culturally from the Soviet years, when formerly nomadic people were pushed into towns to work. “The tragedy in a way for the region was that a lot of their culture was pushed away by the Russians,” Mackay reflects. “To me, it is a society looking for a culture.” Unique artisan practices have persisted, resulting in beautiful pottery and ceramics, and detailed fabric art called “suzani.” Among the most interesting stops was a curious, yet remarkable art gallery in the small town of Nukus, in western Uzbekistan. Founded by Russian emigré and art collector Igor Savitsky, the Savitsky Museum was “wall-to-wall amazing paintings,” Mackay

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says. The museum owns some 90,000 artworks and artifacts, collected by Savitsky from across the region, and which likely survived the Soviet years due to their isolated location. North of Nukus is the Aral Sea, “one of the 20th century’s worst environmental disasters” — a situation that occurred due to Soviet insistence on people growing cotton. The crop’s vast water needs began draining the sea, forcing shores to retreat about 200 kilometres, Mackay says. Exacerbating the situation were rising levels of salt and chemical run-off from the cotton fields. The Lonely Planet guide to Central Asia notes that “of the 60,000 people who used to live off the Aral fishing industry, almost all are gone. These days the rusting hulks of beached fishing boats lie scattered dozens of kilometres from the nearest water.” Despite the sometimes chaotic experience at the borders, Mackay never felt unsafe, crediting that partly to the wellorganized tour and experienced guide. The people are quite friendly but it’s also important to honour local customs in an area where many of the women wore headdresses, for example. “We wore long skirts and long pants, but that was out of respect for the culture,” Mackay says. No doubt, Mackay will carry this respect and love of travel as she embarks on her next adventure.

L u n ch


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Practical matters: • Start the visa process early for Central Asia; it can be timeconsuming and each country has its own visa requirements, Mackay notes. • Banks aren’t common and credit cards aren’t readily accepted, so travellers need to carry cash; however, because of the black market in US and local currency, an experienced guide is vital. • Communication can be challenging as most people speak only their native tongue and Russian. • Be prepared for air pollution, especially in the bigger cities. • Mackay recommends Lonely Planet’s guide to Central Asia and Inside Central Asia, by Dilip Hiro. “It’s an excellent look at the region’s pre-Soviet, Soviet and post-Soviet history.”

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Ward to An interview with Pulitzer prize-nominated poet Lynn Strongin Story by elizabeth nolan Photos by Shari Macdonald

At twilight my world is always the word & the ward: from here to now. Reversion. How push my childhood from me? It is the third rail which conducts electricity.


cclaimed American poet and Oak Bay resident Lynn Strongin is a true child of the 20th century. She was born in New York City at the start of the Second World War, and at age 12, was diagnosed with polio — the disease that would take life and mobility from countless children before a vaccine was approved in the 1960s. Both events were foundational for Strongin, who has lived in the Victoria area since 1979, but still claims America as her ancestral home. Her childhood was overshadowed by the threat of air raids and the trauma of returned soldiers, whom her psychologist father treated in hamlets across the American south. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in literature last year, Strongin’s first significant period of writing began at age 12 while in the hospital ward. When she was diagnosed with polio one of the first things her mother did was buy her a 44




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05-24-13 2:18 PM


thesaurus and a typewriter. Her experience of great pain during treatment and rehabilitation, the fear that she wouldn’t survive, and her forced transformation away from a carefree girl who could run faster than any boy, have formed the base of her creative output ever since. “Not long before I’d been doing cartwheels and climbing trees. Fabrics, wools and cotton touched a nerve. The sweater in which I was brought home haunts me to this day like a bucket full of stars or embers,” Strongin writes in “Albino Peacock,” a As you know, fictionalized memoir told through the poetry is a form persona Indigo. Strongin’s early life was not entirely of music — you about pain. She was enriched by can sing before caring parents and a lineage of Jewish you can really intellectualism. By an early age she wanted to compose music like Mozart. speak eloquently At nine years old, she heard Robert Lynn Strongin Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” and decided she wanted to write the way he did — learning for the first time about poetry. “As you know, poetry is a form of music — you can sing before you can really speak eloquently,” Strongin says, sitting in her apartment overlooking the Oak Bay Marina. She pursued an early interest in music by attending the




Manhattan School of Music for three years before realizing it didn’t fulfil her need for expression. What she actually needed was words. At 20, she switched tracks and left her music studies to attend a free college for high academic achievers. She found she could use and rework some of the words and phrases she had recorded on the brink of adolescence. Strongin laughs now about how she’d decided not to publish until she was 30, because she felt she would one day be embarrassed by her earlier poems. Fortunately, when she was still in her 20s, poet/activist Denise Levertov came across Strongin’s work and nominated her for inclusion in an anthology. She also hired the younger woman as secretary for a short time in 1960s Berkeley. “I became a poet by leaps and bounds,” Strongin says. “I received a National Endowment for the Arts, and really then there was no stopping me. I touched the blood jet so young, and it spurted. “I had a subject and a way of looking at life.” Strongin has been most deeply influenced by the metaphysical English poets of the 17th century and by Emily Dickinson and her American contemporaries. (She has been called the Dickinson of the North). While her time in the polio ward continues to electrify and give life to her writing, her ear for language and her superb ability to put words together is an embodied truth. If the direct and honest character of the English language as it’s spoken in America — particularly in the south — has formed the backbone of her work, old world inflections have given it flexibility. “I think I inherited my toughness to take the hardest things

through my father. And I missed that in Canada,” Strongin explains. “I did, however, learn new strengths. Call them tough ones to learn. It seemed all the ex-Brits had come home to roost, and roost they did. I learned new dialects — Scottish, Welsh, different parts of Britain.” “Although we speak the same language, word for word, we speak a different tongue,” she says about having an American voice in Canada. “How is it different? In intensity, in dialogue, in directness . . . And since I didn’t leave my birth country until after I was 40, I learned life language there. In conversing with Canadians, I’m always aware that I’m different — it’s a different emotional language.” Strongin’s poetry and prose is rife with bare landscapes and desert winters, haunting hospital wards and injured birds. But her sense of humour and lively curiosity prove the childhood cartwheeler has survived, and with grace.

Let us leave the issue of dying: One can find oneself by the moon: Besides, you are a bit curious about the other side after all these years of passion for the green planet we’re on. A true poet doesn’t retire. The words keep coming and must find their outlet.

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“The need to tell is an urgency,” says Strongin, finding it as much the case in her 74th year as it was 50 years ago. Her next publication, The Alleluiah Drummer Boy, will be released this year. Strongin’s literary contribution ultimately proves that poetry continues to fill an important function in the modern world. “Its role is what it has always been,” she says. “Its role doesn’t change. Its role is to touch people in the deepest places where they live, their most emotional core, and to tell us good stories.” A good selection of Strongin’s writing can be found at Ivy Bookshop in Oak Bay.

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A Classy

Ken Agate’s Dodge Brothers Sedan featured at the 14th Annual Oak Bay Car Show By Alyn Edwards Photos by Arnold Lim




Ken Agate’s highly unusual 1938 Dodge Brothers has been a crowd pleaser at car shows

since 1970 when the Oak Bay resident bought the one-owner sedan in his native New Zealand.

The original owner had died, Agate recalls, and someone was going to use it to pull a trailer carrying a Model T Ford. “I paid $3,500 New Zealand dollars for it at the time and had no idea if I paid the right price,” he adds. The car came with him when he moved to Victoria and became a focal point when he purchased Oak Bay’s Blethering Place Tea Room 30 years ago. Later on, he bought a used 1975 Boler travel trailer because its round shape matched the car perfectly. He hooked them together for car shows and camping — or both. “People love the old Dodge Brothers because it’s so unusual with right hand drive,” he says. Canada was a major exporter of right hand drive cars to Australia and New Zea-

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People love the old Dodge Brothers because it’s so unusual with right hand drive. ken agate

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land during the Depression era years. They were cheaper than the norm with no creature comforts and very Spartan — one tail light, one windshield wiper, one inside sun visor, very plain upholstery and no trunk space. Agate’s car stands out because it’s a deluxe U.S.-built right hand drive Dodge Brothers with a longer wheel base than its Plain Jane Canadian cousin. It features a full trunk, leather seats and even a blind in the rear window. His car is in its original 1938 condition except for a re-spray in the original colour, done the year after he bought the car (the gravel roads from the 1930s had left their marks). When he wanted to add more British flavor to the Blethering Place, he found a 1959 Morris Traveler “woody” station wagon in Victoria, still with its original female owner, who had stopped driving it years before. With just 36,000 miles on it, the wood-sided English classic needed only a cosmetic facelift.

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Above: Ken Agate and his 1978 Mercedes 450 SEL. Previous page: Agate with his 1938 Dodge Brothers classic car.

The third car in his collection is a silver 1978 Mercedes Benz 450 SEL with a high performance 6.9 litre V8 engine. This was the world’s fastest production sedan in its day. At the time, this particular model of Mercedes Benz was selling at the same price as a Rolls Royce and was described as “the banker’s hot rod.” Road and Track magazine declared it to be “merely the greatest sedan in the world.”

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Although Agate loved taking his collector cars to shows on Vancouver Island and in Washington State, he always wanted to organize a local car show in the Oak Bay community. Now it is held annually on the second Sunday of August. This year’s 14th annual event on August 11 is expected to attract 15,000 spectators and amazing collector vehicles housed in local garages and elsewhere. “I’m proud of the show because people consider it as one of their favorites,” the enthusiastic 69-year-old says. It has its own culture with a homegrown feel to it, featuring musicians Johnny Vallis (back to the 50s) and Virtual Elvis. Local police and firemen mingle with the crowd as they stroll through the many blocks of vehicles on display. Agate says it’s an opportunity for people to see many local special interest cars that are not normally driven regularly, but represent the various eras of our automobile history. Now retired, Ken Agate is enjoying life in his Oak Bay condo, which he recently redecorated featuring 1940’s motif white Wickerware furniture. His classic cars still occupy much of his time while he continues to preside over the very successful car show. His treasured 75-year-old right hand drive New Zealand Dodge Brothers Sedan will be a fixture in the Municipality of Oak Bay for many years to come. If you attend the Oak Bay Classic Car Show, there is every chance he’ll tell you all about his cars and trailer, along with the many adventures they’ve had together. To contact Ken, you can reach him at (250) 896-9000.

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Re-apply sunscreen often – at least every 2 hours: a teaspoon of SPF 30 sunscreen for your face and neck, and a shot glass amount for your body.

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On the trail of Oak Baykeries A delicious walkabout By Christopher Causton

Christopher Causton was mayor of Oak Bay for 15 years, and now works as a harbour ferries captain. He is the founder and owner of Jason’s (Camilles) and Rattenbury’s (Spaghetti Factory), and is a classically trained hotelier. He is a keen tennis player, and member of the Harbourside Rotary for 29 years. He is also working with the VI Spine Trail Association  to link trails from Victoria to Cape Scott.

Photo courtesy PHOTOS.COM

Oak Bay Insider


ongtime residents still remember fondly Cafe and enjoy the lovely Turkish family atmosphere the Oak Bay Bakery and its five-cents eccles along with Acma, a homemade butter pastry.  cakes, Bolands and its sausage rolls, and Up Newport Avenue and the bustling Ottavios Robertshaw and its Melton Mowbray pies. is next on the route. Andrew and Monica opened Although these bakeries and others like Adrian’s where the pub is now in 1997, and then moved to and the Continental are now gone there is a whole their current location in 2003. There’s always a good new generation of independent bakeries with coffee continental vibe in the place, so take away a multigrain shops attached (or not) that make those walks around bread loaf (sliced if you like.). On to the Village Patisthe byways and lanes of Oak Bay especially rewarding. serie, which Mojdeh bought in 2009 and where she If we start in the south and work our way north, the makes a wicked peanut butter chocolate chip cookie.  first stop is at Delish. Mark and Lori took over the forFinal favourite stop in the Village, although not mer Bolands and created a gem in 2007. It’s a small, compact and delicious environment “Oak Bay is incredibly fortunate to have so — try their chocomany great independent bakeries in such a small late macaroons. Next stop is Demi community. The Bolands, Robertshaws and Oak Tasse, a longtime Bay Bakery of years past would be proud.” favourite since 1997 on MacNeil Avenue. Fortuitous hiring in a downstrictly an independent, is Cobbs. Residents love the town restaurant brought Katherine and fact it is open on Sundays and regularly find there is Rob together, and still the best none of their favourite Cape Seed loaf left. thing they make every day North of the Avenue on Cadboro Bay Road, Vais friends . . . followed nilla Bakery has been serving a line-up since 2003, closely by cinnamon and Jeremy has become a welcoming fixture. The rolls.  Good Morning Muffins are almost too good to be Now on to the true.  Marina Coffee House And so to Crumsby’s in Estevan Village, which and its tempting features a unique interior, nut free, delicious cupcakes blueberry scones and pastries without flour, and a wonderful banana, from the restaurant chocolate, ginger muffin. upstairs. From Oak Bay is incredibly fortunate to have so there, back towards many great independent bakeries in such a small Windsor Park, you community. The Bolands, Robertshaws and Oak Bay can stop at Nar Bakery of years past would be proud. SUMMER 2013



Art in the garden

Indoor art show reflects outdoor colour Story and photos by susan lundy





window inside the Teahouse at Abkhazi Gardens frames a frenzy of outdoor colour as the internationally renowned garden, located just on the border of Oak Bay, dresses in spring and summer hues. Inside the Teahouse, the walls surrounding that window also thrive with garden life, this in the form of paintings by members of the Oak Bay Art Club as they host a season-long exhibit. “The art show brings the garden inside,” says Abkhazi Gardens site manager Jeff deJong, who initially came up with the exhibition idea. Indeed. A visit in April offered up an eye-full of art, from the bursting bouquet of colour in Amy Nohales-Kezes’ Blooms of Joy, to Faith Russell’s Yangtze River, Abkhazi Garden — a vision that can be seen just a few steps from the Teahouse itself. Russell, who is the club’s director of exhibitions, says the garden is a fitting place for the OBAC to stage an exhibit because many of its artists have painted there.

“The gardens have inspired the whole club,” she says. The exhibit also serves to recognize local people, deJong adds, which in turn draws visitors from both near and far to the gardens. “Visitors want to see things that are of local value — like the colours. It makes them feel like they are part of the community,” he says, adding there are also people who have lived in the area their whole lives but have not yet visited Abkhazi Gardens. “We thought if they’re not interested in the gardens, they might come for the art.” Both are worth seeing — the art is a celebration of all that blossoms and blooms — while the garden is a beautifully rendered haven of bursting flowers and lush greenery. The show, which opened in late February, runs until September. New paintings were added at the beginning of June, and art is also replaced as it sells, notes Russell, so “there is always something fresh up.” With a current roster of about 45 painters, OBAC is said to have one of the longest-running painting club memberships on Vancouver

Island. According to a article on the club’s history, written by Walter Reidel for the OBAC website (, the first meeting was likely held on Oct. 27, 1944 at the home of the club’s first president, Marjorie Nickerson. Subsequent meetings occurred at the Oak Bay Community Centre, and today the group gathers at Windsor Park Pavilion. “Fees have risen from a modest $3” to the present $75 per year, writes Reidel. (Fees include at least nine demos per year by well known artists, “Paint Ins” and exhibitions.) One of the founding members, Dale Sutherland, still paints with the club today and it is her watercolour, Magnolias, which graces a prime spot above the Tearoom fireplace and is featured on the exhibit poster. Russell says the diversity in the club’s membership adds to the fun. “There’s a wide range of people,” she says, “for example, there are now a couple of retired geologists who love to paint mountains, and bring a whole new dimension to the club.” Rand Harrison’s background in geoscience towers in his beautiful exhibit piece, a mountain-scene acrylic called First Snow, Mt. Rundle, Banff National Park. Then there is former club president, Glen Chanin, who majored in chemistry, but a year after

At right: Exterior view. Previous page: Artist Faith Russell overlooking the gardens.

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joining the OBAC, began painting in earnest. His contribution to the exhibit, Aspens, is celebration of ethereal colour. Artist Amy Nohales-Kezes (the joyful Blooms of Joy) has been painting seriously since the 1990s, but is also a Rotary Club president. OAK BAY ART CLUB In keeping with the garden theme, EXHIBITION & SALE exhibit art offers up names such The February 28 to September 30 , 2013 Secret Garden (an warmly-textured oil by Jutta Woodland), Lilies (a goldAbkhazi Garden Tea Room and en-hued piece by Elizabeth Caulton), Gift Shop 1964 Fairfield Road (Oak Bay), Victoria and Hope Springs Eternal, by BONITA (Bonny Myers) — a storm of pink cherry blossoms. There’s hummingbirds, tulips and endchinops; arbutus and autumn birches. In discussing Abkhazi Gardens, deJong says: “It doesn’t matter when you come, there is always something blooming.” Now, it seems, the same can be said for indoors.


OBAC Contact: Faith Russell

Email: Tel: 250-477-1830

• The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden is open seven days per week, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., offering a seasonal array of menu items using locally grown produce as well as a varied tea selection. It’s located at 1964 Fairfield Road.

Dave Cockle Claim to fame: Named Fire Chief of the Oak Bay Fire Department on May 1, 2013. How long working in Oak Bay? Has worked at the Oak Bay Fire Department for 26 years Bucket list? To see the Arctic via passage on a Canadian Coast Guard Ice Breaker through the Northwest Passage. By coincidence, Susan Lundy and Dave Cockle met at Crumsby’s Cupcake Cafe on Estevan Avenue — the very building, it turns out, that Cockle fought his first fire with the Oak Bay Fire Department, some 26 years ago.

Photo Don denton


Tweed editor Susan Lundy interviews Fire Chief Dave Cockle at Crumsby’s.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I was born in Burnaby, BC and moved to the island with my family when I was two years old. I grew up in the Lake Hill area of town playing local sports soccer, baseball and rugby. I attended Mt. Douglas High School in the 1970s. We had a great rugby rivalry with Oak Bay. I’ve been happily married for 28 years with one daughter. I spend my off duty hours volunteering in the community. I am an Honorary Life Board Member of CFAX Santa’s Anonymous, board member of Rose Manor, an independent senior’s facility, board member of the Oak Bay Kiwanis Pavilion Complex Care Centre and The Oak Bay Pavilion Foundation Board. What inspired you to join the fire department? I was a commercial fisherman in the early 1980s, working the coast from Vancouver to Prince Rupert. Being away from home for six months at a time and having reduced open seasons, spurred me to look at the fire department. How has firefighting changed in the 26 years you’ve been there? The biggest change in the fire service since I began my career is the equipment upgrades that have been introduced. The protective clothing

is so much better especially for the thermal protection of our firefighters. We also have Thermal Imaging Cameras that identify heat sources, enhancing our rescue capabilities in a fire. What impresses you most about the Oak Bay Fire Department? I’m continually impressed by the dedication and commitment of our firefighters, not only to the department, but to the community as well. Many of our firefighters are coaching youth soccer, baseball and basketball or volunteering in the community through charitable organizations. The Firefighters Charitable Organization is currently raising funds in conjunction with Oak Bay High School to purchase a new bus for the school. What is your most enduring memory from your years at the fire department? Firefighters tend to meet people when they are having one of their worse days; my most enduring memories are all of those days that we made a difference in someone’s life. What are your hobbies? I am an avid fisherman; I spend most of my offduty time salmon fishing with my wife, off the west coast of the island. We also spend a couple of weeks a year in Nootka Sound exploring and fishing. SUMMER 2013




Love my dog! Photos by sharon tiffin

Dogs [dawgs, dogs] 1. The best friend of men, women and children, bred in many sizes and shapes. The Avenue [thuh av-uh-nyoo, -noo] 1. A popular destination for those seeking funky eateries, awesome art galleries and trendy stores in Oak Bay.

Seen here, clockwise from left, are: Oscar (owned by Marion Frey); OlĂŠ (Liz Smith); Sakson and Kashaya (Sue Ann Schroeder); Puggle Bronto (Bob Gray).




Focused on Your Recovery At top: Lexi (Kate Kerr); below,Maxine (Lindsay Brookes); bottom, right, Belle (Gerry Aldous); and left, Farlie (Sharel Lambert);

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Some say that Oak Bay loves dogs so much, that canines are actually considered honorary citizens. If you agree, tell Tweed! Send photographs of your “Dogs on the Avenue” to:

Left is Flynn (owned by Bill Diguistini); at right, Samy (Stan Tunrl); and below,left, Buster (Rob Reid); right, Zack (Tracy Grouette).




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Parting Shot

mountains and Oak bay marina


his stunner of a photograph was submitted to Tweed’s Parting Shot section by Dave Cheatley. He photographed this image from Willows Beach, on April 8 at 8:04 a.m. Here’s what he had to say about it: “I didn’t own a camera until I had been walking my dog for two years. But after spending a couple of hours outside every day, I had seen so much that was worth sharing, I had to start recording all the amazing things I was seeing in all seasons here in Oak Bay. “The photo above was somewhere around my 1000th visit to Willows Beach. I have hundreds of shots from all parts of the beach. The Olympic mountains don’t usually stand out so clearly behind the urban forest that is Oak Bay. The combination of sea, land, mountains and sky seem to evoke a common response in us all.” Readers can check out more of Dave Cheatley’s photos at 62


SUMMER 2013 “Parting Shot” is a special photographic feature that runs in each edition of Tweed, and we want you — our readers — to contribute. This spot is reserved for the best images we can find of places, people and things in Oak Bay. We’re inviting you to “give us your best shot!” We’ll consider all submissions for publication. Contributors should keep in mind the seasonal aspect of this feature, and be prepared to tell us a little bit about the photograph — where, when, what and/or who? Please ensure the resolution is high enough for publication. And don’t forget — this is all about Oak Bay. Submissions should express something about this vibrant and beautiful community.

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Special Features - Tweed June2013  


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