Opening Notes

Tanya Davies July 12 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies July 12 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies

A Pier from the past

The sky was gun-metal grey and the breeze off the harbour carried a salty tang. That much, at least, seemed familiar to the Second World War veterans, war brides, evacuees and

long-ago refugees who made the pilgrimage to Halifax on Canada Day. They were there for a pompand glitter-filled festivity marking the grand opening of the refurbished Pier 21. With its state-of-the-art interactive centre and museum, the brick building is no longer the dank, dark and filthy place where 1.5 million immigrants touched ground in Canada

between 1928 and 1971. “I remember it was awful,” said Maria Ring, 77, of Saint John, N.B., a Dutch war bride whose ship, the Empire Brent, landed at Pier 21 on Dec. 14, 1946. “But we were just so happy to be on land and what we left behind was so much worse.”

For some, the visit unleashed painful memories. Sasha Gartner—whose daughter, CBCTV journalist Hana Gart-

ner, served as master of ceremonies at the opening—recalled walking down the gangplank in shocked despair. Hana was just two years old in 1951 when the family arrived after abandoning its prosperous textile factory in Prague. “You have to understand we once had this comfortable life and arrived with nothing,” said Sasha Gartner.

Others have happier memories. Inside the centre—funded by corporate sponsors as well as $4 million from the federal government and $500,000 from the Halifax Regional Municipality—hangs a black-andwhite photograph of smiling Latvia-born Ausma Levalds, age 8. Travelling with her mother to Kitchener, Ont., to join her father and brother, she became the 50,000th war

refugee to pass through Pier 21 when their ship, the Samaria, arrived from England in February, 1949. On Canada Day, the retired teachers voice choked as she tried to explain what it meant to be back in a place so pregnant with memory. “It is overwhelming,” she said. “I don’t have words.” None were necessary.

Double Take

Todd Brooker

As the last of the Crazy Canucks, Todd Brooker dominated World Cup skiing in 1982-1983, eclipsing his famous teammates Ken Read and Steve Podborski and beating the best Europe had to offer. Brooker was only 23, but he already had nearly 20 years experience on the slopes. His father, Charlie, a former Canadian Olympic hockey player, started taking him skiing when he was only three years old. “By 9 or 10,1 was bored,” recalls Brooker, who grew up in Waterloo, Ont. “I asked my dad, ‘What else can I do?’ And he said, ‘Race.’ ” He eventually became king of the hill—in that championship season he was ranked No. 1 in the world— but from there to the bottom of the heap took just five years. “I fell a lot,” is how Brooker, now 39, and a Wendy’s

fast-food restaurant franchise owner in Collingwood, Ont., describes his run of bad luck.

In fact, he fell so often and so hard that he amassed three concussions and damaged every major ligament in his left knee, resulting in three surgeries. Brooker also suffers from arthritis, a disease his mother and brother are afflicted with. In order to play golf or ski with his wife, Lisa, a homemaker, and their three young daughters, Brooker needs painkillers. That experience, and

seeing aging athletes such as Bobby Hull and Johnny Bower deal with the debilitating disease, spurred Brooker to become a spokesman for the Canadian Arthritis Society. “I meet guys at celebrity golf tournaments,” says Brooker. “And after they sit in the clubhouse for a round of beers, they can’t get up without groaning.”

Despite his ski injuries, Brooker has fond memories of his time as a Crazy Canuck. “Compared to the Austrians and Swiss, we were very rough around the edges,” he says. “And there wasn’t much money to be made then—but we were stars.”

Barbara Righton

She got game

Alexandra Stevenson sure knows how to make a splashy debut. The 18-year-old Wimbledon rookie from San Diego threatened to sue the governing body of professional tennis when it claimed she was ineligible for prize money at Wimbledon because she failed to properly notify them of her change in status from amateur to pro. (Tour officials later recanted.) Then, her mother, freelance journalist Samantha Stevenson, told reporters her daughter—who is of mixed race—had been subjected to racial slurs and lesbian advances from other players. Finally, on the day Alexandra won a quarter-final berth in the championship, a Florida newspaper reported that her birth certificate listed her father as Julius Erving, basketball’s legendary Dr. J, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1980 when Stevenson’s mother worked in the same city. Erving, married since 1972 and the father of four, initially denied she was his daughter,

but at week’s end admitted that the tennis phenom is his child. On Saturday, his daughter’s on-court success at Wimbledon came to an end when she lost in the semifinals. If nothing else, Stevenson’s off-court notoriety has been a slam dunk.

Pop Movies

1. Big Daddy (185/1)...................$4,857,330

2. Austin Powers 2 (225/3) ...............$3,326,530

3. Star Wars: Ep. 1-Phantom Menace (255/7).. $2,936,070

4. Tarzan (183/2)......................$2,809,990

5. The General's Daughter (176/2) ........$2,112,120

6. Notting Hill (178/5)..................$1,158,010

7. Wild Wild West (193/1) ...............$1,069,530

8. South Park (125/1)....................$755,730

9. Instinct (111/4).......................$240,030

10. The Mummy (73/8)....................$173,400

Top movies in Canada, ranked according to box-office receipts during the seven days that ended on July 1.

(In brackets: numbers ofscreens/weeks showing.)

Copyright Entertainment Data Inc.

Film thrills

In the latest offering from IMAX, Extreme, the exhilaration of sports is taken to the max. The footage of skiing and snowboarding in the wilds of

Alaska, ice-climbing in British Columbia, and surfing and windsurfing in Hawaii is adrenaline-fuelled. But in this action-packed film, the athleticism is dwarfed by the breathtaking landscapes.

A literary city

In the past two centuries just about every English-language Canadian writer—and numerous eminent foreigners—has spent some time in Toronto. And Greg Gatenby, artistic director of the city’s International Festival of Authors, has attempted to record them all in Toronto: A Literary Guide (McArthur & Company). Ar-

ranging his book as a series of walks past sites associated with more than 500 writers,

Gatenby offers brief sketches or anecdotes about each. They range from the obscure

to such icons as angry RE.I. poet Milton Acorn and American crime writer Elmore Leonard, who opened his 1989 thriller, Killshot, in the seedy downtown hotel that was Acorn’s home from 1970 to 1977.