A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

History used to be taught in periods which stressed the salient civilizations of a particular time, in isolation from others that may have been around, in decline or in upward development. It is only recently that civilizations have been taught in relation to others.

In much the same way it is easy to fall into the trap of looking at Vancouver's own history in a didactic, "it started here and ended here" sort of way. We also look at history in a neat and mathematically comforting decimal system of centuries and decades. Occasionally there are some great personalities that thwart that system For example there is Graham Greene who spanned Edwardian times and yet flew at supersonic speeds on the Concorde. People such as Greene teach us to look at history in a not so neat but ever so much more itneresting way. Such is the case of our very own Dal Richards who celebrates his 90th birthday with a big bash concert at the Orpheum on January 6.

Much like I have written here how one of our national flag designers, Patrick Reid can often be seen strolling in Kerrisdale, Dal Richards is a walking-history-lesson of what has happened (and is happening) in Vancouver while he has been around (and is around). This is specially true as Richards has a prodigious memory and an unwavering interest in the affairs of our city. Recently, while driving him (after having a chat in his apartment on Beatty Street) to a movie date with his wife Muriel, Richards pointed out buildings that had disappeared and noticed new ones and how they affected traffic. He told me he wanted to go on a long cruise and come back after the Canada Line was finished and the 2010 Olympics were over. "The traffic, downtown, might just be manageable then," he said.

Bob Mercer, the editor/art director of VLM (Vancouver Lifestyles Magazine) is keen on not only saluting our walking history lessons but also helping those who might not know about them to appreciate them through profiles in his magazine. A recent one featured my photograph and my short profile on Dal Richards. Here is the copy that accompanied the photograph above.

Dal's Place

Ral Richards, 89, is one very stylish Vancouver gentleman. His wife Muriel says, "Dal wears a tuxedo like a mechanic wears overalls. He looks comfortable in it. On cruise ships, others look like stuffed penguins." Richards says, "I dress the way a bandleader should dress."

Richards lost an eye when he was 8. His parents put him into the Kitsilano Boys Band as a recuperative therapy. He played a clarinet sold to them by George Leach, the bassoon player of the Vancouver Symphony. Leach also played in dance bands but had to sell the clarinet t suppor his family.

Richards, whose long-running Dal's Place airs on 600AM, Saturdays, 6 to 7 p.m., and Sundays, 9 to 10 p.m., has just released a new CD with his band. Of special note is Jim Byrnes singing "Blues in the Night," a tango version of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" with young Vancouver singer Bria Skonberg and a killer version of "As Time Goes By" sung by Richards himself.

© 2007 VLM/Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


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