A paleface at Florencia Bay

October 12 1957

A paleface at Florencia Bay

October 12 1957

A paleface at Florencia Bay


On pages 20-23 we begin our new $5,000-award novel — Florencia Bay, by James McNamee, of North Surrey, B.C.—but, of course, the project got under way a long time ago. Considerably more than a year ago, in fact. A lot of the intervening time passed in gathering exact information for the full-color paintings that illustrate each of the five parts of the novel. We chose Ken Dallison, a cherubic immigrant painter who looks a lot younger than his twenty-four years, for the job. This assignment, so creditably executed, is Dallison’s debut in major magazine illustration.

He knew nothing of Vancouver Island’s isolated west coast where McNamee had laid his compelling tale, so we flew him out there, in care of the author who had once fossicked for gold on the very beaches that are now his literary stage.

Author McNamee began artist Dallison’s indoctrination by taking the artist to an office of the Native Brotherhood to meet some of the Indians from the Somass Reserve. We received the following report from McNamee a short time later:

Me: My name is McNamee.

Indian: Come again?

Me: I’m Jim McNamee. 1 phoned

Indian: I’m Ed Nahanee. What’s your name?

Me: McNamee.

Indian: Maybe we’re cousins.

Me: This is Mr. Dallison. Maclean’s Magazine has sent him out to have a look at the Indians on the west coast. He’s to illustrate a story.

Ed (the Indian): This is Joe Paul from Prince Rupert.

Joe: Ed, how come he’s hard up? That boat only cost twenty thousand dollars.

Ed: Joe, he kept missing the fish these last two years.

Joe: He got lots of fish.

Ed: He put a new engine in that boat, Joe. He put in an old Chrysler he got from the Isaacs. Two thousand dollars.

Ed: Well, I got to figure up his liabilities.

Joe: I don’t believe he’s behind fifty-four thousand dollars.

Dallison: Fifty-four thousand dollars!

Joe: Pete ought to help him.

Ed: How can he help him. Joe? He just got a new boat.

Joe: I hear it’s a good boat.

Ed: It’s a good boat. A hundred and five thousand dollars.

Dallison: A hundred and five thousand dollars!

Joe (to Dallison): You’re young to be writing. Ed, you give him Gallic’s name.

Ed: I think he should see the Indian agent at Alberni. He’ll know the boys that are in.

Joe: Young man, you see the Indian agent. When you put me in your story, you spell my name Pahl. I like it better that way. Where’s he going, Ed?

Ed: To a beach between Ucluelet and Tofino.

Joe: Wasn’t it around there that one of the Abraham boys got killed by a cougar?

Ed: That's right. Two years ago. My cousin’s boy. They were having a picnic. The cougar ran right through the picnic and got the boy.

Joe: That’s right. Ran right through the damned picnic.

Ed: That’s the place for cougar, Vancouver Island.

Joe: You remember the one that jumped through the window of the shack at Campbell River?

Ed: That was a white man.

Dallison: But isn’t a cougar like a lynx?

Joe: How much do you weigh?

Dallison: A hundred and forty


Joe: My uncle shot a cougar that weighed a hundred and fifty pounds.

Dallison: Should I take a knife with

Joe: Young man, a cougar’s got a mouth like that and every claw he’s got is as big as a knife.

Ed: You sure find a lot of cougar on Vancouver Island.

Joe: You know how they get a deer, Ed?

Ed: They fall down on them.

Joe: They don’t. They lie down. Deer comes up. Cougar wags his tail. Deer just sees it. Stops. Cougar screams at him and jumps. Deer's so surprised he can’t move for half a second. He don't feel anything. Too frightened. You wouldn't feel anything. young man.

Ed: There are a lot of cougar on Vancouver Island.

Me: Have you got all the names you want, Ken? Ken, I said have you got all the names you want? Hey! It’s time to go.

Joe: When you write your book, you spell my name Pahl, young man.

Ed: You sure find a lot of cougar on Vancouver Island.

The office is right across the street from the city library. It has a museum in it and I take Ken over to show him a Haida blanket and a couple of dugouts, but he’s not talking. When we shake hands at the hotel, he says, “If one comes after me I’ll take to the water..

We’re glad to say that Dallison got back to Toronto eventually, rainsoaked but unclawed. He brought back hundreds of sketches of Florencia Bay’s booming surf, its fishboats, its flora and its distinctive people. In this and the next four issues, as McNamee's strange and stirring story unfolds, Dallison’s art will accurately set the scene.

By the time he was finishing up the last few paintings, he had begun sleeping at night again. Pretty soon, maybe, he’ll stop wearing that knife, ic