A PORTFOLIO OF INDIGENOUS LIFESTYLES:
Some lives are detachable.
Some people have nothing to
do with the place they live in. They could exist, and be true to themselves, in Vancouver or Halifax or Detroit or Ecuador.
Not so J. V. Clyne. Not so the rest of the people on these six pages. They are where they live, and they could be nowhere else but in British Columbia.
J. V. Clyne is retiring chairman of the board of MacMillan Bloedel Limited, the largest, most influential company in BC. In 1972, MacMillan Bloedel’s sales were $964.2 million, mostly from the forests of BC and the processing of their resources.
Now, there is nothing wrong with that. That is capitalism, and that is good. Clyne, a restless individualist with inexhaustible interests, says: “Capitalism revolves around profit — an ugly word, but if you do away with the profit motive you are acting in a manner totally contrary to the human instinct. There is strength in capitalism. Money in itself doesn’t bring happiness, but often the pursuit of money does.”
Witty, sophisticated, brilliantly read, Clyne por-
trays himself as a tireless
of the capitalist flame:
“We’re not working as we used to. More people are being supported by the state. Look at the breakdown of moral fibre. Decadence ... in the way our society is beginning to look with tolerance on the use of drugs . . . even talking about legalizing marijuana.
“When we see 40,000 people watching the Super Bowl, isn’t that a sign of decadence? People watching other people playing. We’ve stopped doing and started watching.”
Clyne worked as a cowboy on a ranch near Tatla Lake, became a lawyer, chairman of the Maritime Commission of Canada, then a judge of the BC Supreme Court before joining MacMillan Bloedel at 55. His advice: “Do what you have to do — with everything you’ve got. You don’t have to win each round, but if you’ve played hard — even if it’s just a game of bridge or tennis — if you haven’t been casual, haven’t fooled around, you will have gone far in the pursuit of happiness. Which is the ultimate reason for living, isn’t it?”
Half of the people who live in BC live in the Vancouver area.
The other half are scattered around, on Vancouver Island, up the coast, and in the interior. There is occasional communication, but of the kind carried on between two countries. The gap is wide, and you cannot get over. Unless you are somebody like Chunky Woodward.
In 1892, Chunky Woodward’s grandfather built a department store in downtown Vancouver. When Chunky took over, 16 years ago, Woodward’s had become a $96.5 million seven-store retail empire. Today Woodward’s is a complex in excess of $360 million with 15 stores in BC and Alberta.
But there is another part of the Woodward empire, and another substance to Chunky Woodward’s life; and that centres around the Woodward Ranch at Douglas Lake, bequeathed to him by his other grandfather. Half a million acres, 10,000 head of cattle, one of the biggest ranches in North America.
When Woodward came home from World War II, he knew in his heart that he was destined for the world of commerce. But he took a three-month sabbatical to work on the ranch: “The three months passed, and I figured as long as I didn’t hear from my father I could stay there and be a cowboy. Then one day, I got a phone call asking if I was going to be a
“I didn’t want to hurt my father, and because I was the last male Woodward left I had a duty. I came down to work.”
The images are important. The last male Woodward. Duty. To go down into Vancouver, away from the country of the heart.
Now there are other male Woodwards, and the duty is less defined; it would be possible to be content with $360 million, to stay at Douglas Lake. It would almost be easier if the $360 million were to vanish, for Woodward to become a poor man: “I wouldn’t live in the city. I’d go and live in the country. I could live in a cabin, quite happily — live off the land. In the country, you can certainly get enough to feed yourself. You know, I think I could handle it.”
But there is the money, there is the power, the duty. And so when it is necessary to commute between lives one does it in a seven-passenger twin-engine De Havilland 125.
And to do it well. In 1964, Woodward rode for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. He rode superbly. When he was asked to perform for them again he refused. He did not consider he could surpass the original performance. He had done his duty, and done it well.
cowboy all my life or was I go-
ing to work for the company.
This is Phil Matty, the first Emperor of Passage Island.
Eight years ago, Matty owned a prosperous but not especially remarkable real estate outfit. A client asked him to unload 32-acre Passage Island, a mile and a half from West Vancouver. He failed. Eight years ago, nobody understood that islands, especially well-treed and uninhabited islands, were sanctuaries from the 20th century.
Phil Matty understood. He bought Passage Island himself, for $60,000.
Passage Island is now worth, at the very least, a million dollars.
Matty knew that the way to beat the frontier was to package it and preserve it; if the pioneers had become rich by exploiting the land, he would become rich by saving it, by returning it to its original form. It was a graceful way to make money.
Matty subdivided Passage Island into 60 lots, on the island’s own terms; each lot is defined by natural boundaries. He approves, and will continue to approve, all architectural designs, all plumbing, all electricity, all fencing, floats and buoys. He decides who is to be permitted to buy a lot. One fellow admired the trees, and then said that they would make a nice log cabin. He was not permitted to buy a lot. He had missed the point. He did not understand that
Rich people are not necessarily people of genius. Dolts have made a million dollars before, and will again. But only a genius can make sociology gather a million dollars for him. Phil Matty became rich because he understood the ambivalence of the frontier, that pioneers enjoy the process of turning things into money, the process of liquidating territory, but then they feel ashamed of the residue and want to be apart from it, so they pretend it does not exist. He also understood that pioneers like to do all this within easy commuting distance of their crowded, downtown office.
“I am emperor of the Island,” says Matty. And he is emperor of the Island. He, and he alone, can give permission to cut a tree. He, and he alone, can give approval to a house. He knows that when you create a counter-frontier, you must control it. He has built his own home there.
Phil Matty is one of the first of the new rich: those who make their money by maintaining their purity. He is an honorable man, and he sleeps very well at night. He represents the passing of the robber barons. He is the first donor baron, and good luck to him and his island.
in a sanctuary — especially in a sanctuary — a tree vertical is
worth 10 times a tree horizontal.
When Vancouver was part of the mechanical culture, Tom
Campbell was its mayor; he presided over the city like a cowboy riding a great roaring mechanical thresher. But then Vancouver, like all cities, entered the electronic culture, and the thresher became a computer. Cowboys do not ride computers. The new mayor of Vancouver is Art Phillips.
Phillips is a former investment counselor and perfectly in tune with the computer. He was elected mayor, following four years as an alderman, because he was a decent, gentle, well-spoken man (television cool, McLuhan would say, against Campbell’s radio hot); everybody liked that. When he won, he began to remove an encrusted civil servant or two; most people liked that, except their friends, who called him a cruel and heartless hatchetman. “What am I really?” he said. “I guess I’m a gentle, easy-going hatchetman.”
Phillips knows that the trouble with Vancouver is that it runs against the grain of the province: it is dense, and provides little room to breathe. He wants a downtown core with wide open spaces. The Campbell administration approved downtown developments that would make Vancouver even more solid and unrelieved. Phillips would like to make those developments irrelevant, by providing psychic open
property, by turning rundown warehouse areas into places for people to live and work, by developing light rapid-transit lines so that people who can’t stand to be surrounded by the city all the time can get out of it — fast.
Phillips was one of the founders of The Electors’ Action Movement, a political group that took power away from the Non-Partisan Association. The words in those titles are important. Non-Partisan was oldfrontier style: forget the ideas, just make the money. The new pioneers understand that electoral politics demands Action and Movement: spend the money to serve the ideas.
At the same time, Phillips understands that it is more important to have ideas than to boast about having ideas. “How can I go off on some ideological tangent? Every time I get intellectual, the phone rings and somebody asks me what I’m going to do about the dog dirtying up their lawn.”
If Vancouver is the computer in Paradise, Art Phillips is its programmer. His job is to tell the city what it is to become, to define its action and movement. On the frontier, to define the action is to define everything, and Art Phillips knows what and where the action is. (See also page 11.)
space, through management of
the city’s $60 million worth of
Certain citizens of the frontier
are assumed to be inferior, be-
cause they are considered to be unable or unwilling to participate in the work of clearing the land. That is the job of the white male pioneer. Women, blacks, Indians and the rest may be interesting, but not significant — not serious in the pioneer culture. (Of course, these unserious people did clear the land, but they did not control it; utensils have no power.)
This tradition is composed of unadulterated and destructive narrow-mindedness, but it is still rampant in BC. There are signs, however, of a new frontier developing within the old one, as women and blacks and Indians and Orientals demand their proper places in the life of the province.
In the last provincial election, Rosemary Brown won a seat as MLA for the riding of Vancouver-Burrard. She had previously been ombudswoman for the Status of Women Council in Vancouver. She is on the leading edge of the new frontier. “I came to Canada from Jamaica when I was 19, and for the first time I heard people saying, ‘You’re inferior because you’re black.’ But it was too late. Where I’d come from, the governor was black, the judges were black, the police were black, anyone who was anyone was black. Your self-image is set very early, and I knew I wasn’t inferior and there was no way anyone could
convince me that I was.”
To be a black woman is to be
doubly dismissed; but nobody is a victim if they refuse to be made one. “We’ve inherited so much from the struggle and suffering of other women who fought to make the world better for us. We can’t sit back and pull our organdy dresses around our knees and say ‘It’s too dirty out there for a nice lady like me.’ We just can’t.”
Ms. Brown’s style is serene and low-key; she prefers to give opponents the benefit of any existing doubt. “They don’t mean any harm, they just don’t think. We keep telling them think, think. Think. It works. I mean, how many times have you heard the phrase ‘nigger in the woodpile’ in the last 10 years?”
But she does not repudiate the tactics of the tougher women’s liberation groups. “They bring people’s attention to what’s wrong, and then the quieter groups go in and do the mopping-up operation. The reality is that polite women’s groups who write letters and present petitions have always existed. But nothing ever changed. The new focus came as a direct result of the kind of things these young girls did.”
The new frontier: to realize that you have a place, and to take it. It is the same as the old frontier, but more just, more complete, and more human.
The pioneers claimed the land,
cleared it, and built houses on
it. That’s what you do on the frontier. That’s what frontiers are for.
These people live on the Maplewood Mudflats in North Vancouver. That’s just over there on Burrard Inlet, about a mile east of the Second Narrows Bridge. They’re in the tradition. They claimed the land and built houses on it.
The only problem was that somebody else owns the land already. That, of course, is irrelevant as far as the Mudflatters are concerned. Ownership is an abstraction; the land wasn’t being used. A pioneer hates a vacuum. Unused land is sinful.
It should be made clear that this is not a case merely of one or two trivial crazies camping out on somebody else’s property, but is a social movement. At one time there were 30 houses on the Maplewood Mudflats: a community homestead.
But there are complications in the life of the pioneer on the developed frontier. One of them is government. North Vancouver district council refused to concede the social potentials of urban pioneering and ordered the landowners to destroy the Mudflatters’ homes. When this picture was taken, there were only six houses remaining on the Maplewood Mudflats. Soon there may not be any.
The squatters (a bureaucrat’s
way of referring to pioneers)
declined to move and the owners took court action. The case was settled out of court: the squatters agreed to leave Maplewood Mudflats by March 28 and the owners agreed to pay them $500 if they got rid of a quantity of garbage and vacated the “structures” by that time.
But one social analyst thinks there was something else at stake: “Look, Vancouver is an urban squatter in a frontier society. Vancouverites feel guilty. The pioneers on the Maplewood Mudflats actually confront the urban people and the bureaucrats with a true frontier lifestyle, and that emphasizes the alienation of the urban culture. The people on the Mudflats represent a true fusion of styles: a frontier adaptation to an urban reality. Everybody else in Vancouver represents the opposite: an urban adaptation to a frontier reality. It’s only natural.”
The frontier is an interface, between man and nature — between man and God, if you like, for British Columbia has always been God’s Country. The people on this page, and on the preceding five pages, live on that interface, and are shaped by it. They could live nowhere else.
And, of course, British Columbia could live nowhere else; it is Canadian, and itself. Our frontier. ■