Rolling Stones Gather no Beer … GoF '84
Octagon Newsletter … September 1984
By Henry Stone
At the instigation and direct invitation of Burns MacDonald and Dave Swackhammer, Winnie and I arrived in Victoria on Wednesday 27th of June for the GoF West 1984. We had left Heathrow, London at 2:25 p.m. Greenwich time. The sky had been overcast over the Atlantic and the Canadian mainland so the flight was uninteresting (except for the steady service of Molsons Canadian by the stewardess). We had a stop at Edmonton, but were confined to the plane. We arrived at Vancouver around 5 p.m. their time, cleared customs and immigration with very little problem, then left Vancouver around 8:10 p.m. on Air BC for Victoria. We arrived at the airport lounge somewhat weary and bedraggled to be met by a piper in full regalia and about 40 people cheering and clapping.
Wondering at first who the celebrity was, it slowly dawned on us that this warm welcome was for the Stones. At last the penny (one cent) dropped. The immediate uplift was tremendous, the adrenaline started to flow and we could have danced a jig or highland fling right then. The surprises were not finished, outside was a British Double Decker Bus, onto which the whole party embarked and set off to John Pickering's home where his son Mark was celebrating his 21st birthday. After toasting his coming of age in bubbly, we bade goodbye to Mark who sportingly waved us goodbye with Hawaiian-shorts.
Still on the bus we arrived at the Executive Hotel, were wafted up to the 17th floor and retired to rest. On awakening Thursday morning, we explored the Executive suite and realised what sumptuous living style awaited us. The sky was overcast so we could not appreciate the views from the balconies that morning, but on later mornings, when the sun shone most of the time, the views of the castle, Beacon Hill, the Parliament Buildings and the inner harbour were truly splendid. We could watch the comings and goings of many ships, including the Margarite and the Coho. One day we even saw three ships of the Canadian Navy steaming in line. Every day we could watch the take off and landings of the many seaplanes which use the inner harbour. We had an eagle's eye view of the traffic flow and the car parks, the whole vista was a beautiful, moving kaleidoscopic, colourful effect, which we never tired of watching.
That noon we went with Dave to meet Barry, his son, at the boat. It rained quite hard during that time. Winnie had a handbag in the bottom compartment of which was a collapsible umbrella. Dave and I had fun attempting to erect it, the spokes were hinged just outboard of the central stays and had to lie locked into their grooves. We didn't seem to have enough hands between us to complete the circle before one or two popped out. Dave said maybe there was an instruction manual some place we should consult. Eventually, with an occasional hand from Winnie, we managed to get it fixed. This incident would seem to bear out my theory that .somewhere along the line the species 'Mechanicus' should have been crossed with the 'Octipus' strain. This would have been most beneficial at Pit Stops. We had of course visited Registration Regalia, etc., at the Empress Hotel which was truly a step back into the elegant living of Victorian times.
After meeting many old American friends and making new Canadian friends through the medium of the many carefully restored and maintained MG cars, the day passed very pleasantly up to 7:00 p.m., when we were entertained at the 'Pub Night', ably organised by John Pickering. Full marks John!! There was never a dull minute or a long face. Delightfully noisy and rowdy, a bit of Old England transported to Victoria. Friday morning I missed the P/GA/B line-up as I had an appointment for an interview with a reporter of a Vancouver newspaper. I never did see the paper so I don't know whether it made the 'funnies' section or not. Saturday evening was the dance and awards for the 'A's and 'B's.
Although fairly used to loud noises the group was a little overpowering for some of us, so we sat in the anti-room topping up the coolant and high octane fuel levels while watching the younger element enjoying themselves as only the young ones can, without inviting total collapse. I had my talk sessions earlier, which must have gone over reasonably well as there was no collection of old fruit and vegetables on the stage afterwards, nor any old eggs to dodge. Rhya Lornie had previously given her very efficient woman-to-woman beauty session, which we jealous males said was a panel beat and re-spray paint job. Winnie however told me it was the most interesting and informative talk on makeup she had ever attended. Maybe I should have attended to get a newer look.
Sunday, we had a look around the car park and made the acquaintance of Bob Sayle and his 1930 M‑Type Midget, which was built one year before I joined the Company. This car had been meticulously restored down to the last detail. I also had the pleasure of meeting Peter Welch and his 1932 JII. This car was restored to a standard far better than when we built it. Truly a wonderful little car. I must have worked on it originally, as I was the utility man on the assembly line then. We were very proud of the JII, which set the style for all later MG Midgets. We had found that the long tail of the Montlhery Midget, with its fuel tank and spare wheel overhanging the rear wheels, ideal for Brookland and Montlhery circuits. Hence the upright tank on the rear of the body and its attendant spare wheel mounting make a much better balanced car.
I then went with Burns in his TC down to Parliament Square for the car line-up. It was Canada Day, so Victoria was celebrating. In the ensuing parade, Burns and I were in the right hand line-up behind the pipe band, really thrilling stuff, although a bit hard on the clutch and the cooling system. I like the Bagpipes, although there is no Scot in my veins, Scotch in the system helps. I think it really stems from the fact that one of my brother-in-laws was in the 1st World War as a Piper in the Argyle and Southerland Regiment. He always looked to me like a million dollars, in his dress uniform, marching up and down, playing Scotland the Brave, Bonny Dundee, etc. Some of the local folk used to persuade him to play in the evening, to liven up their drab wartime war-time existence. After the parade we crossed the bridge, gave the motor a little blast long to cool down the system, then waited for the others to form up for their drive to Sooke
This proved to be a lovely scenic route. As the cars arrived they. were marshalled into lines with a first timers circle for 'T' cars. A most impressive sight, one that gave me a warm feeling; of pride. What followed then was the most entertaining event I think I have ever seen. A logging contest between two teams. I should think all the skills of the loggers trade were displayed in this contest. Tree climbing, axe throwing at a target, and manipulation of axes on spring boards notched into the trunks. Chain and cross cut saw contests against each other, log rolling, cutting logs into two between the feet … real nail biting stuff. Our return to base was a little lengthy due to a non-charging fault in the circuit which meant the car was running on the battery. Finally, we were limited to push starts, once with the help of a fellow traveller who had lost the bolts from the propshaft/flange joint. Then, last of all, I sat in the hot seat and Burns push started me for the 200 yards, or so, to the car park. Burns later remedied this fault and also an air leak in the carb to manifold. That evening was the Auction. This was proceeding at a good pace when Mick and Carol Francks, together with Thom arid Debbie Schupp, invited us out to dinner. We set off in two taxis, but after dinner failed to get a cab, so missed the end of the auction. With Dave's kind permission, quite a number of folk invaded the executive suite lounge to see the fireworks … so ended another perfect and exciting day.
Monday I travelled with Dave in his immaculate RHD/TC. It was very strange sitting on the right hand seat of a TC with no tiller or loud and soft pedals (accelerator and brake). All the 'TCs were lined up on beacon Hill Park, a very enthralling sight. I was roped in as an adjudicator on a panel of five to nominate the best restored 'T'. This was very difficult, as so much work had been done on these cars, with obvious loving care. We finally decided, amongst ourselves, on a points deduction scheme for each non-standard part. One point being deducted for each bit which was not the original or did not resemble the original. Maybe a trifle harsh, but to have winners there must be losers. I must say it was a close run thing. Dave jocularly said "Well you will eventually get any blame Henry, as you will be out of the country". Winnie was regally entertained, whilst all this was going, on by Marianne and Aurielle.
In the evening we had the scenic Double Decker bus ride to the banquette and awards presentation This was a splendidly organized affair. Winnie and I were piped to the head table by the Piper amidst applause, a really nice gesture and we both felt honoured by this attention. Many of the awards were in the form of Totem Poles, very unique and a credit to the instigator. The banquet itself took the novel form of a serve yourself buffet system and return to one's seat. There were many long tables of delicacies and everyone was re-seated in record time. We liked this system. One could pick and choose just what one fancied.. The table wine was also carefully selected. In all, a most pleasant meal in most pleasing company. The speeches were short and to the point … no one was tempted to nod off. I had the honour of presenting the BL Heritage cup and of saying a few words afterwards. The BL cup had been entrusted to me for safe conduct from England to BC, which I did by the simple method of burying it in my main luggage among shirts and other holiday gear. However, thanks to Air Canada, it arrived unscathed.
Tuesday was the winner's circle down on the quayside. The cars looked beautiful with yachts, cruisers, sailing boats, the car ferries, seaplanes and all the many sights and aromas of a busy little harbour. The flowers in front of the cars were a nice touch, as was the presence of a Mountie, who incidentally, owns an MGB. The folk at the snack counter also did their share, with pleasant smiling faces.
Eventually the time came for good-byes … with great reluctance. Farewells are never as nice as Hi's or Hello's but all good things come to an end. It took a little longer this time for it to sink in that the GoF '84 was over.
We went off to lunch at Bill and Rhya's home, whilst Dave and the other committee folk saw to tying up the loose ends, moving the cars, etc. Although the GoF was over, our holiday was not. We continued to stay at the Executive Hotel, still savouring a luxurious life style. Dave gave two parties there … one for those immediately concerned with the GoF and the second one for all the helpers. There was probably 45 at the 1st and something like 60 at the 2nd. They were both run by exceptionally efficient waiters and were both carried off in a friendly spirit of camaraderie. They were great to get to know people really well without the slightly formal stiffness of other occasions. I had a beautifully knitted MG emblazoned cardigan and a Victoria Club car badge presented to me. Winnie was presented with a Canadian Jade bracelet and necklace from Dave.
Whilst in BC, we had many meals and meetings with folk in their homes. Irene's breakfast we shall never forget or dinner at her home. On two occasions we were with Dave at Duncan, when Marianne and Aurielle played the piano for Winnie and I. Once, on another occasion, she regaled us with a few jokes. Her meals too, are something to write home about. Marianne also did her share of entertainment with discussions on the merits of various Molson's brews. Barry was hospitalized for 24 hours, for extreme fatigue … almost on the borders of collapse. I think, for the previous week, he had tried to cram 25 hours into a 24.hour day. But he soon recovered and was discharged or discharged himself in time to accompany us to Chemainus to view the murals. We had lunch and a dinner on different days with Rhya Lornie. Dave was with us the second time. Bi11 gave me an MG book, also a pamphlet on the 8 litre Berkley. Burns and Shauna cooked a special lamb dinner for us and Dave.
One evening we went to John and Sheila Pickering's home for a 'Buffet and Dart night' (what a pub landlord John would make … never a dull moment). We met his mom and dad there, they now live in a self contained flat in the basement of John and Sheila's home, very capably converted by John himself. Of course Mark was there. I told him we didn't recognize him with his trousers on. Sheila had assembled quite a comprehensive buffet to help the evening along.
We visited the Provincial Museum, Thunderbird Park, the Hudson Bay Company, Craigdaroch Castle, Ann Hathaways Cottage, the Classic Car Museum and dined at Pendray Residence, Butchart Gardens, Malahat Drive and many other places. Despite the wonderful hospitality we were shown, never at any time were we pressured or made to feel overpowered. If Winnie wanted another half hour in bed, so it was.
It was a wonderful holiday and we would like to express our thanks to all concerned, especially Dave and Burns. Also the working Committee and to the Victoria MG Car Club. Finally to all the folk who worked so hard on their MG cars to get them to the GoF … making it such a fine show. We now have a real kindred feeling for British Columbia and for Vancouver Island in particular. God bless you all, may you have lots more fun and enjoyment with your MG cars.
Sincerely, Henry and Winnie Stone, Abingdon, England
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