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Foreword by Bob Hunter and Introduction by Howard White

FOREWORD by Bob Hunter

Truck drivers, fishermen, loggers, miners, whalers, Indians, Norwegians, Scots, mechanics, gamblers, boozers ... the flesh and blood people of a strange wet land that was at the end of the world, the mists of which parted to reveal mountains and woods and totem poles. Fogs that could swallow whole civilizations.

Raincoast Chronicles is essentially a no-bullshit book that opens up the past of those of us living along the West Coast of Canada in a way that no other magazine has ever succeeded. No glossy tourist nonsense. No political monkeying with the facts of life. Sweat and grease and silver and salmon. Lovely yellowing old -photographs. Steam engines. Diesels. Oars. Easthopes. Rigging. Donkeys.

Without doubt the Chronicles is the most engaging and funky published matter to appear in this corner of the planet. Almost from the first edition, it became a cultural event in its own right, the sort of thing you realized, the moment you saw it, that you had been waiting for it all along. History that wasn't as dry as the tobacco in an old man's pipe. Good solid writing without pretense and without being obviously designed to score brownie points in somebody's thesis.

What Raincoast Chronicles has done is fill a very special need. The age of monocultures has passed away and a new time of acute sensitivity to one's immediate terrain is taking shape. Simply, the Chronicles tell about the real British Columbia of Haida potatoes, petroglyphs, rum running, leper colonies, towboating, you name it. Whatever the past was, here it is again, gathered like a rich mellowing harvest.

At one level, the "book," as everybody involved in its production calls it, is essentially a historical journal. One of its articles - still my favourite - goes back to 499 A.D., telling how a Buddhist priest from China probably travelled along this whole coast. The book includes such staid-sounding down to earth titles as Pioneer Steamers of Vancouver Harbour, Lighthouses of the B.C. Coast, and articles of Tsimsyan myths, cargo hulks and page after page of old photos the likes of which you haven't seen since the last time you crawled through Grandpa's attick, grubbing through mildewed boxes, showing great old boats and trains and trucks, all the rockbottom stuff of which our history is truly fashioned. A mechanic would get off on it as much as a mystic.

That's one level. At another, the Chronicles are a vehicle for the expression of some distinctly West Coast sensibilities, featuring poems by Peter Trower of Gibsons, for instance, who is a people's poet if there ever was one.

Dragging our past for an image that will let us like ourselves a little better - Editor Howie White says that's what the Chronicles is about. What emerges clearly from the pages of the book is an identity which is deeper and truer to these tremendous landscapes than anything else yet published. If "sense of place" is important, then the Chronicles is important. That's all there is to it.

For me the Chronicles has been a joy to discover. It is already part of the landscape. Earth coloured. You can almost smell it. It appears, almost predictably at this stage, on the counters of funky little shops and book racks almost anywhere you go in B.C. The only trouble has been, once you get a copy of one edition you immediately want the rest, and back copies are rare as nuggets - and often as costly. Reissuing the whole works under one strong cover was a break for all of us. Glad it happened.

-Bob Hunter, Vancouver, 1975


INTRODUCTION by Howard White

Much as I'd like to tell a story of long-suppressed historical forces on the west coast drawing inexorably together in the formation of Raincoast Chronicles, the truth is the thing was conceived on a rainy Pender Harbour afternoon in September of 1972 as I sat at the kitchen table casting about for a likely fantasy to plug into that year's LIP grant form. But in those days when the epochal romanticism of the sixties was still strong upon us, enlivening everyone's outlook from the country's rose-toting prime minister down to the lowliest college dropout, filling out a grant form tended to be a lot like forming a wish for the thing you'd most like to happen, so my fantasy took the form of some quite real personal yearnings.

Essentially what I longed to do at that point was to return to my childhood. I had grown up following my logger father from one hard-luck gyppo show to another, not learning much in the way of reading and riting but forming my imagination permanently in the shape of the lichen-bright bluffs, wicked tiderips and miragical horizon -haunting islands of the upper coast.

Later, so that the kids might have school, we settled in Pender Harbour. Pender Harbour did not begin to get seriously involved with the twentieth century until the mid-fifties, when the road from Vancouver came in with the first automobiles, followed shortly by electricity and telephones. Television has still not fully arrived. Shopping and visiting was done exclusively by "kicker" - open clinker-built skiffs with 3-horse Briggses - and the most prominent families were second and third generation fishermen who could count on one hand the number of times they'd been "out" to Vancouver but couldn't remember all the times they'd shot the Yacultas or bounced around Cape Caution. In the sixties I still had high school friends who'd never been "to town", though many spent their summers in fish camps on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

The point is it was a very close and independent community, with the peculiar home-made culture that implies, and it extended northward, through all the identical steamer stops, fishing villages and Indian reserves up coast. Loggers hopped camps from one end of the coast to the other, fishermen yo-yoed between fishing grounds from the Fraser to the Skeena, and the daily passage of the steamers kept Pender Harbour and the other communities of the coast in touch like families along a common road. Men like Charlie Klein, who could lift a full gas drum, and women like Sidney Sauderman, an iron-fisted exmadam who ran her own camp around Minstrel Island were legends that fired childish imagination the length of the coast.

One speaks of the things when one means the spirit, but how is the spirit to be pictured otherwise. There can be no nostalgia for things, only the use of things and the spirit of that use. Grown up and living in cities, it seemed to me there had been great spirit inhabiting that world known in childhood, as any matured culture comes to possess an elan, a genius, a soul that is like all souls immortal and worthy of awe. It was tied to the place, the B.C. coast, and the uses, fishing, logging, farming, hiding, people had put it to, but it was more than that, the west coast experience. It was the people who'd been there, their reason, and what the place had done to them. The more I tried to talk about it, especially around city academic circles where the B.C. coast was considered to have about as much historical character as a new concrete apartment block, the more I began to feel like some obsessive proponent of the Sasquatch. The idea of a rural west coast culture in the city context seemed a rich fantasy indeed. But I couldn't give the idea up without giving up on what I discovered I unalterably was, as soon as I started trying to be a city boy - an upcoast boy - so I moved back to Pender Harbour and started a community newspaper, thinking to become involved as deeply in that left-behind reality as I could. Of course it was too late. The fishermen were trading their waterfront property to marina builders and moving into bungalows nearer the new shopping centre. The kickers had been entirely replaced by cars, although it is only half a mile across the harbour by kicker and 15 miles around the shore by car. No one wore gumboots to weddings anymore and the social diseases of the suburbs were increasingly evident. This shook my faith in the existence of indigenous west coast folk culture more than anything had, and just as I began to realize any contact with that vanished world of childhood would of necessity be a historical study, the LIP grant form came into my hands.
The magazine I envisioned would not merely detail the stages of local settlement, counting arrivals and births and things: it would drive through that easy chronicle for the flavour, the spirit of the B.C. coast story. Its founding assumption would be that there was a contiguous coastwise community which could be described in general terms.

To my breathless astonishment the grant came through and the onus was suddenly on me to make the fantasy real. I realized with panic I had no idea how to do it. I had some notion of things I would like to deal with, Pender Harbour as a typical steamer stop and the Nootka whaling story, which had originally reversed my notion of Northwest coast Indians as a society of shiftless clam suckers, but I had no notion of how to go about the presentation. Apart from a handful of dry community histories and a few professional books by Alan Morley and Roderick Haig-Brown, very little serious writing had been done on what the west coast was and there was no satisfactory established modes to work from. The only two books I felt I could really look to were Woodsmen of the West by Martin Grainger and Hubert Evans' Mist on the River.

The project was really saved by other people. Mary Lee, who'd been the managing editor of the newspaper, soon assumed the task of administering the grant and doing all the work, a function she has filled with increasing appetite to this day. Lester Peterson, the community historian of Gibsons and probably the greatest source of unwritten social history of the coast to be met anywhere, gave the project his blessing and helped with ideas and sources.

I went to see the most respected of my old university profs, Warren Tallman, and he put me in touch with Scott Lawrance, a Roberts Creek writer who came up with the name Raincoast Chronicles and was the magazine's strongest contributor up to the fifth issue. Our biggest break apart from actually getting the grant was picking up a hitchhiker near Sechelt who turned out to be Cal Fingers Bailey, a mad genius photographer who had just finished three years in the New York design studio of Martin Petersen - learning how to lay out magazines. It was he who bundled our disorderly scribblings into a bag and came back with the handsome, almost professional-looking product that was our first issue. Without Cal, Raincoast Chronicles would have been a one-issue wonder.

As it was, we hit the jackpot. The 3,000 printing sold out in three months and we got 500 letters, many of them from old time coast residents who said things like, "Our family has been here 102 years and this is the first time we've seen anything about what it's really like in a book . . ."

Lorne Parton wrote a review in the Province declaring Raincoast Chronicles was the best local publication he'd ever seen. (We still love Lorne Parton. In his ever ready, off the top of the head way, he has boosted more local books than all the rest of the Vancouver media put together.) Manuscripts poured in as from a ruptured dam. One woman sent nine fulllength article manuscripts stating she had been looking 22 years for a place to publish regional coast materials. (Unfortunately all of them had to be returned.)

Around this time our greatest fan also appeared: Joe Simson. Joe's father was the manager of the Hastings Mill Store and original pre-emptor of Thormanby Island, which Joe still holds. He is the sort of history fan who phones up and says, "You're spending too much time behind that desk. Why don't you take my boat for a few weeks and go see some of this stuff you're writing about." Joe does more than simply help by setting up things like the Easthope interview in our fifth issue: he restores one's faith that there are still some real good people around.

It was also just after the first issue that a mutual friend, Curt Lang, put us in touch with the logger-poet Peter Trower, who had grown up just forty miles away in Gibsons and was in the process of working out his own regional magazine when the Chronicles appeared. With myself and Mary Lee he has since become part of the permanent core group who stick around holding things together between grants.

From the first issue onward we have also been very flattered by the interest and unstinting help of Leonard McCann of the Vancouver Martime Museum, Ron D'Altroy of the Vancouver Public Library and Willard Ireland, late of the Provincial Archives. In these times such personal attention from high level administrators is a pleasant discovery indeed.

We now have enough material in sight to carry us to our 100th issue. The weak point remains financing: circulation has levelled off around 5,000 which leaves us still dependent on government largesse for the money we pay to our writers and artists - at, in spite of what MacLean's magazine says, the best rates in the province. We have taken some criticism over this grant dependence, but the way we figure it, the consumer subsidizes you whether by advertising (which is ultimately billed to him) or by grants (which are ultimately billed to him). The only difference between the two systems is that advertising makes a mess. In any case we have now been accepted as authentic culture by both the Canada Council and the B.C. Cultural Fund - to whom our thanks are sincerely given - and our future seems secure. We have two general subject issues in layout, and a third, dealing with aspects of Vancouver history everyone else has been too polite to mention, half written.

-Howard White