Friday, March 26, 2010

story: Brenda's Riley Park

Sitting in the foyer of Riley Park Community Center, I ,the artist in residence, was lucky enough to meet Brenda.

We got to chatting and her stories were incredible, so I asked if I could type as she talked...she said "Go ahead!"

Forgive me Brenda, if the details aren't perfect. I was typing as fast as I could!

"I lived at 20th and St. Catherines when I was a little girl, from grade 1-8, then my family moved to 25th and Prince Albert.

The community is amazing.

I still have my friendships with my grade 8 friends. Ten of us still get together. Two of our sons are best friends, they are just 6 days apart. I visited my old house on 20th and all the memories flooded back. But you got to get out of the car and walk on the sidewalk, not just drive by. It was amazing to walk on the same sidewalk that I grew up on.

I knew all the people in the Riley Park Gang. Park gangs were big. They seemed like they were bad kids back then, but compared with kids today... Now some of those guys work for the city and the park board. I am not saying any names. Ha Ha

We used to have to walk from Charles Dickens Elementary School, at Kingsway and Windsor, to Percy Norman Pool to go swimming in grade 5. I can remember standing under the low diving board and thinking,

'They want me to jump off of that?'

Swimming was part of school back then...back in the days when the vaccinations made those big scabs, remember those? We couldn't go into the pool with the scabs.

All my kids learned to swim in this pool.

Me and my kids also learned how to skate here.

My husband used to play business man's hockey on Thursday nights. I would write letters in Riley's Place, that was the cafe. I made friends with a woman who worked there, her name was Chan. Chan was from Trinidad and her husband was from Germany.

Now, at that time, my son was dating a woman named Alecia. One day he told me,

'Her mother is from Trinidad and her father is from Ireland.'

I said

'Are you sure her Dad isn't from Germany?'

He said

'No, Ireland.'

I said

'Is her Mom's name Chan?'

And he said

'How did you know?'

Ha Ha

Now here is a crazy story:

My husband was adopted and was always told that his birth mom was from Montreal and that she had passed away. But in fact, she called one day. We were just getting ready to move, but then was delayed-otherwise we would have had our phone disconnected and then had an unlisted number. Now she just happened to call in July, when my husband was turning 50….my son wondered what we could do to make it special. And then this strange woman called asking tons of questions about my husband and his mother. And I said

'Who is this?'

It turns out that my husband's birth mom (Mimi) was working as a nanny and got her employer to call.

(It gets even more complicated now hang onto your hats)

My husband's adopted mother, Gwen (she has since passed away), started out as Mimi's nanny, babysitting Jerry, my husband, for about 6 months when Mimi suddenly was going to get a divorce. Mimi asked Gwen if she wanted to adopt she did.

My husband always thought he was English and it turns out he is Italian/Scandinavian.

Jerry met his birth mom for the first time a week later….my mouth fell open. Gwen always told me she was gorgeous. But my mouth literally dropped open when I saw her. She is one beautiful woman. She used to be a playboy bunny!

Now, Mimi is 75 years old and totally part of our family, she even has a great grandson! My husband is so happy. My sons, I have four, are also happy to have a grandmother again. My third boy said

'Is it ever cool having a grandmother, and she's hot!'

We also learned that Mimi grew up 5 houses over from where we all lived, in Riley Park...incredible to think her grandsons played on the same streets!"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

story: seniors diving club

left to right : John Lung, Helen Au, Ket Fong So, Young Dai Wah, Vivian Kitchel, David Tsang, David On, Chung Pak Chow, Duc Huynh (missing Frank Torjek and Young Moo Lan)

left to right: David Tsang, Vivian Kitchel, Chung Pak Chow, Ket Fong So

Frank Torjek

Helen Au and her husband David On

John Lung

Ket Fong So

Young Moo Lan (Suzanne) and her husband Young Dai Wah

Vivian Kitchel and David Tsang

Chung Pak Chow

Duc Huynh

Vivian Kitchel and David Tsang

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

studio: Vivian works on her story

Editing photos in the Riley Park Community Centre foyer for a blog posting about the Seniors Diving Club.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

story: Greetings

I have been going to The Percy Norman Pool for 13 years, usually swimming two times each week, and most often early in the morning. I love going there, partly because it feels so great to start my day swimming through velvet waters, pulling strong and kicking hard. But Percy Norman is way more than a pool. I’ve been swimming over 50 years, and I’ve never been to a pool with so much community as this jewel of a place.

I’ve wondered why its so special, and the best answer I’ve come up with is warmth and presence of all the staff -- from reception to lifeguards, and particularly Rose. Rose brings wonderful welcoming heart energy to the place. She greets me and everyone as we arrive, and as we leave. She doesn’t miss a thing, so it feels safe to be there, like all of us are held in her awareness. And she writes wonderful inspirational quotes on the chalk board -- changing them every week or so.

The result of the welcoming, and holding and the greeting is that regulars welcome and greet each other. Mostly just smiles and nods, but often conversations in the showers and change rooms, and when people are resting at the end of the pool.

All the welcoming has built up happy memories for me, and I believe many others. It’s like there are echoes of all the greetings making a wonderful patina that covers everything. The building is old and a bit run down, but all the surfaces are alive with the energy of community. I also have wonderful memories of my daughter learning to swim there, and sharing the waters with my mother on regular Friday morning swims.

Against this backdrop, I also have two specific memories:

One day, wanting to communicate with one of the Chinese women who didn’t speak much English, I asked her, “How do you say ‘hello’ in your language?” She replied with a word I don’t remember. I repeated it back to her several times, thinking I was saying “Hello”, and she smiled at me, pleased, I think, at my effort to communicate.

Later, when the first woman had left, a different woman -- who was bilingual -- explained that the word didn’t mean “Hello” but rather was the name of the first woman's dialect. We had a good laugh, at the thought of me repeating the dialect name, thinking I was saying hello. It was a wonderful exchange, and one that opened lines of communication with my translator, someone I’ve visited with ever since.

This multicultural side is integral...simple interactions with all people.
There is an African ethic called ubuntu which holds that, “a person is a person because of other people”. I feel like I’m connected with everyone across all the cultures through our love of swimming, as we share the waters at Percy Norman.

On another occasion, last summer, while having a shower after my swim...I began talking with a woman about why this is a such a great pool. She explained that she had just recently come to Vancouver from England and had swum in many of Vancouver’s pools and that this was her favourite!

"Why?", I asked.

"Because of the sense of community," she explained. She also agreed about the importance of Rose. We went on to chat about everything, quickly downloading salient details of our lives.

Upon learning that I was writing a book, this woman -- her name is Simone -- offered to read a chapter. We met a few weeks later at a tea place on Main Street. Her comments were so helpful that I took her up on her offer to read other chapters, and eventually the whole book. Her feedback has been wonderfully helpful. She is now back in England but continues to send supportive email messages.

That is the power of the Percy Norman Pool.

I hope that with the transition to the new pool there can be a ritual of sorts. Perhaps to gather people in The Percy Norman and then move the energy somehow to the new location. I don’t want to stand in the way of change but it should be mindfully done. As much of what is special at Percy Norman should stay intact, as though we are transplanting a fruit bearing tree and need to make sure to dig deep enough to be able to protect the whole root ball. And for me that most importantly includes the entire staff team. They are the ones who make Percy Norman Pool such a special place. I hope I will be greeted by them all at the new pool.

I feel grateful to the people who made it possible for me to tell this story.

By Kate Sutherland

Monday, March 22, 2010

story: Swimming Philosophy

week of March 29, 2010 - Rose caught in the act
"Character is what you know you are, not what others think you are"

week of April 19, 2010

week of March 22, 2010

week of March 15, 2010

story: such a shame

35th and Main.
Housing and History destroyed.
Does anyone have any photos and stories before the destruction??

Sunday, March 21, 2010

story: former wading pool

Around 1973, The Percy Norman Pool used to have a water filled path from inside the change rooms out into the pool area.

This was very impressive to my 6 year old self.

by lisag

Saturday, March 20, 2010

studio: the bulletin board!

Introducing the Riley Park Community Centre bulletin board!
Dare we call it an ANALOG Blog Board? This is our answer for folks in the neighbourhood who don't have a computer.
The Bulletin Board will be updated as new stories come in...
Please notice the story box at the bottom left, it is an easy place to slip a secret handwritten story.
Also, all the stories will be archived in a book so anyone visiting Riley Park Community Centre can flip through them.

Here is the BEFORE picture:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

story: happy to see everyone

My name is Sucha Heer and I have been coming to Riley Park Community Center for fitness since 1986. I am always happy to see everyone here.

Now I also come with my grandchildren: Anjali who is 5 years old and Eshan who is 7 years old. They like the diving board!

story: Riley Park in 1980

I grew up in East Vancouver... born and raised! I lived a few blocks from the PNE grounds and attended Templeton High School (1982 grad).

I got a kick out of the teams that visited our school for our home games - they were bewildered by the bullet holes in the doors leading to our gym. In hindsight, the holes were probably just some sort of random vandalism, but perpetuating the myth always seemed like good fun.

Like every other neighbourhood group of kids, we hung out in our local park playing some sort of sport in the day and hanging out there at night - all innocent components of youth and life.

We had always heard about other parks and the inhabitants that claimed them as their own, but the one that seemed to resonate with the most fear and wonder was the Riley Park Gang. I'm not sure who first told us about these guys, but as the passing days advanced, the legend just continued to grow.

By the time I had actually made my way over to Riley Park for a game at the rink (probably 1981 or 1982), my fears and curiosity were at their apex. After exiting the rink with a friend from my hood (also acutely aware of the legend), we caught site of a bunch of shady characters drinking beer and carrying on at the far side of the playground... by the trees... WAY back there, sort of where the climbing rock is now. We watched the spectacle from my buddy's car... waiting for something big to happen. Waiting in the dark.

We were at Riley Park... in the devil's cave, watching the dark figures of evil moving through the trees and in and out of the playground equipment doing God knows what before they would start staging attacks on us from their hidden lair.

But... nothing happened.

Of course, looking back now, this was merely a mirror of my own park... but, this sort of analysis or reflection was missing in my youth.

And today, as I play with my young kids in that same playground, I always get a chuckle as I remember the fear I had of this incredible neighbourhood. I'm looking forward to seeing the faces of the upcoming Riley Park Gang... I hope they let me hang out with them at least once :)

by Clay Yandle

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

story: numbers

I am the 13th child of a large family.

I have 4 brothers and 9 sisters!

I was a wrestler, a grass hockey player, a soccer player, I was everything in India! Ha ha!

I started coming to the gym at Riley Park Community Center in 1972.

I started work as a Longshoreman in Vancouver in 1978.

I have 1 son and 2 daughters.

In 2009, I retired. I was 62 years old.

I opened a beauty salon 2 months ago, but I am only the owner. I don't work there. Ha ha
Now, I want to just enjoy my life!

I come to the pool once a day, sometimes twice!

Surgit Chima at Percy Norman Pool on Tuesday March 16, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

studio: Jay works on his digital story

We met with Jay to record his audio for his digital story with the working title The Columbia House. We worked in the preschool room on the little chairs and tables. We laughed a lot! Jay learned the fundamentals of Final Cut Express and created a rough edit of his voice. Jay has homework to figure out what pictures he wants to use over his voice over as well as if he wants music in his piece.

story: swimming prescription

I was advised by my doctor to swim when he diagnosed that I had Osteoarthritis in my right knee. I came to Percy Norman Pool 6 years ago to swim and discovered that there were Aquafit classes, so I joined!

Now I have no pain in my knee. I have made many friends. I feel invigorated when I leave the pool.

by Lily

Thursday, March 11, 2010

story: the vacant apartment

It was a warm spring day and I was a boisterous 4 year old. It was 1969: the TV news was full of unrest, protesters wanted to make love instead of war and society hid racial tensions under a very thin veil.

We lived in an apartment building at 16th and Main. I was always staring at the tall brick clock tower across the street that was the RCMP station. It was my second favorite place, right after the magical Dairy Queen.

Our apartment was on the ground floor looking out on 16th Avenue. We were lucky and paid a reduced rent as we took care of the building management. We would clean the drains, mow the token front lawn, vacuum the halls and take care of finding new tenants whenever we had a vacancy.

On this particular day we had a 'Suite for Rent' sign standing tall on our front lawn. I was playing and making a mess as my mom chased my pudgy little brother, crawling around in his diaper. A young lady came to our front door and buzzed our suite. I remember my mother answering the door and the voices mixing together. I tried to see who it was from behind my mother’s leg. She wanted to look at the suite upstairs.

We formed a little parade and I led the way up the stairs as my mother carried my brother and this new lady took up the rear. My mother acted as guide as I snooped through the cupboards and played in the closets. At the end of the five minute tour my mother smiled and asked what the lady thought of the suite. With a pretty glow she agreed it would be perfect and that she loved it. My mother, trusting her instincts, wanted to arrange for a move-in date.

The young lady’s smile faded as she tentatively advised us of a few possible concerns. She had a young daughter and wanted to ensure that children were allowed. A grin and a quick question about her daughter’s age told us that she was also four and, “Wouldn’t it be nice that she could play with Tony.”

The lady smiled at this but the joy quickly disappeared as she went on to quietly admit, “I should also tell you that my husband is black and comes from Jamaica.”

“Oh.” My mother said with a smirk in her voice. “Is he cute?”

The tears mixed with laughter as she explained, over a cup of coffee, that she and her family had been denied over twenty apartments due to either having a child or her mixed marriage.

During the next few years we kids played, the parents laughed and the cute Jamaican dad from upstairs made a great Jerk Chicken. When we left in 1972 they were still there and both moms cried when we finally said goodbye.

by Tony Syskakis

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

story: generations passing

lisa w's short story involving photographs of the percy norman pool and the nostalgia of childhood.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

story: changes

A little memory about my family visiting queen elizabeth park and my love for the architecture and sculpture in it.

by lisa g