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Saturday, October 12, 2019

I'm inducted into a place where I was banned for life!





“You know, it’s really a travesty that Jeff doesn’t have a star on Granville,” my friend Dave says sagely to a group of us sitting on my deck.  Another, of my friends, Hal, nods in agreement.  Hal had just received his star on the strip.  “After all,” Dave continued, “Look at all the people he’s worked with – they’ve been recognized.  He deserves a place.” 

Now I have to be totally honest:  I really coveted that star, but I would never overtly lobby for it – it meant more if my friends came up with the idea themselves.  I feigned modesty, but I was secretly quite excited:  I envisioned taking my grandkids down to the strip on some excuse and seeing if they noticed.  Of course I’d have to walk up and down the strip a few times, until they noticed – maybe drop something near it.
“Oh, my back is killing me.  Would you mind picking that up for me, Cecily?”
“Is that your name there, Zeyde?”
“Why yes it is!”
“Gee we never knew you were so famous!”
“Well, I don’t know about famous.  Hey, why don’t I buy you all ice cream and I’ll tell you about the old days.”

Of course, a lot of beer had been consumed, so I thought, like so many beer inspired ideas this one would just be forgotten. 

So, I was surprised when Dave announced to me a few months later that he had nominated me for a star.  I was flattered that so many of the people I worked with had supported his nomination.

I nurtured this dream for a few months.  Then I received the fateful call from Dave.

“I just heard from the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.”
“….and?” I asked.
“It’s good news and bad news.   The good news is that you’re in.”
“Great! Did they say where I would be getting my star?”
“That’s the bad news.  You’re not getting a star.”
“But you said I’m in,” I protested.
“They’re putting you into the pioneer category.  It’s supposed to be very prestigious. “
“But I don’t get a star.”
“Better, he said.  You get a plaque in the lobby of the Orpheum theatre.”
“There’s just one, problem, Dave. I’m banned for life from the Orpheum.

Actually, the Orpheum is one of many venues in Vancouver I’ve been banned from.

Stanley Movie theatre

I think the first place I was “banned from” was the Stanley Theatre on Granville Street in Vancouver.  Today it’s one of Vancouver’s premier stages.  Back in the 50’s it was a movie theatre.  Like all theatres back then it ran Saturday matinees for kids that included about a dozen cartoons, a serial, newsreel, and the feature.  We were all told to hold our ticket stubs because there would be a big drawing just before the feature. 

My candy of choice in those days was Candy Licorice Bullets – the name describes it all.  I don’t know why, but being bored waiting for the cartoons to begin I began throwing my bullets at the stage.  I think I threw a lot of them.    The cartoons finally began and I forgot about it. 
After the serial, the manager of the theatre walked out on the stage carrying a big waste paper basked filled with ticket stubs.  

Licorice Bullets

Unfortunately, my Candy licorice bullets littered the stage – and acted in much the same way a bunch of marbles or ball bearings would.   The manager did a spectacular fall and the basket of tickets went flying into the air.  The theatre full of kids found it hilariously funny – the manager didn’t.  He said there would be no more movies until the culprit owned up.  

As one, three hundred grubby fingers pointed in my direction.   I was escorted out to the lobby, dressed down and told that I was banned from the theatre… “for life!”


I think the next venue I was banned from was Capilano Stadium in Vancouver. – now renamed Nat Bailey Stadium.   It’s widely known as one of minor league baseball’s most historic venues.  It’s been home to professional baseball in Vancouver since 1951.   It was in the summer of 1958 or 1959 – I’m not sure which – I was about 12 years old.  Vancouver had a triple A ball team known as the Mounties that played in the stadium from 1956 until 1962.   I was an avid fan, and rode my bike to the park for as many games as I could.  I believe to get an outfield seat was about 50 cents.


That summer the Mounties weren’t doing well and I decided that I should help – and I did.  I had a mirror in my pocket and when there was a high pop hit into the outfield, I’d whip out my mirror and shine it in the outfielder’s eyes – I’m not proud of it now; but it was effective.  Several times the outfielder would be momentarily blinded and drop the ball or worse – it would hit him on the head.  With my help the Mounties rapidly moved up the rankings.  It was sort of like Damned Yankees, but I didn’t have to sell my soul to the devil.  It didn’t last long though – by the third game the staff knew something was up. 

Lou Skizas

The Mounties were playing the Seattle Rainiers.  They had an outfielder named Lou Skizas, and I made the mistake of picking on him more than once.  He may have been in minors, but he wasn’t stupid. He stopped the game and pointed me out to the umpire who stopped the game, and security descended on me.     I was dragged into the Rainiers dressing room and made to apologize then escorted out of the park and informed I was banned from the park…. “for life!”  I haven’t been back.  Strike two!

Vancouver Orpheum Theatre
The next venue was the Orpheum theatre.  The Orpheum, in downtown Vancouver, was the premier movie theatre in the city.  Today, more than 60 years later it’s still one of the most beautiful theatres in the country.  It’s now a life stage venue, home to the Vancouver Orchestra,   I was 14, you wouldn’t know it now, but back then I was really short.  Unlike now being short back then wasn’t really cool.  It generally meant getting picked on, stuffed in lockers…  and having cool girls come up to you and pat you on the head.  But there was one good benefit:  I could pass for under 12.  Now why would you think I would want to do that - and how the hell that relates to today?   Well, in those days, the cutoff for the kids’ price at the movies was 12.  It was 50 cents for kids 12 and over, and 15 cents for kids under 12.   Think about it.  A 35-cent difference.  My folks would give me a buck to go to the movies – 50 cents for admission, 25 cents for popcorn and a drink and 25 cents to take the bus.  But if I could pass for 12, I could pocket 35 cents which I did weekly – for several years.

What I didn’t count on was the ticket seller at the Orpheum – who was either Ivan Ackery’s mom or wife – I’m not sure which.  For those of you who don’t know Ivan Ackery was the manager of the Orpheum from 1930 to 1969.  He was a major Vancouver impresario for nearly four decades.  In fact, unlike me, he has a star on the walk outside.  

In all the years I went to the Orpheum – I never saw another person selling tickets – just the same old lady.  
Every Saturday I’d walk up to the wicket:
“One 12-year-old,” I’d demand.
Eventually she began to catch on – and finally one fateful Saturday, she pounced.
“I don’t think you’re 12.”
“Of course, I’m 12.  Look at me, do you think I’m a midget?”
“You have a pretty low voice for a 12-year-old.  Plus I think I see a five o’clock shadow.  Let’s see some ID.
I was ready for this.  I’d saved my grade six student pass.  I open my wallet and flashed it at her.
“That’s an orange pass.  That’s three years old! You’ve been defrauding the Orpheum of 35 cents a week for three years!   That’s it, young man.  You’re banned from the Orpheum!
“For how long?” I asked.
“For life!”  she announced.  “Next!”

For the next few years I avoided the Orpheum. Occasionally there was a show I wanted to see there, so I’d quietly idle up to the ticket wicket – but she was always there.

Finally, after about four years passed.  I’m now a senior in high school and I’ve got a date who wants to see the movie at the Orpheum.  I figure after all this time either the old girl would be retired, or surely wouldn’t remember me.

I stepped up with my date to the wicket and there she was.
I smiled.  “Two students, please,” I said handing her a five-dollar bill.
She looked at me a moment, then slid the money back at me.
“I told you.  You’re banned for life.  Next!”
So I never went to another film at the Orpheum.  Even after it became a major live event venue I was afraid to go.  I would never pick up tickets at the wicket, for fear they might still have a picture of me with a slash through it saying “Banned for Life.”

So you see it’s with some sense of delicious irony that they be put up a plaque with my name on it in the lobby of building I’ve been banned for life in.  That pounding noise outside is Ivan Ackery pounding on the door trying to get in.  You see he’s outside on the star walk and I’m inside.  So who got the last laugh now, Ivan?

You can see the ten minute induction here:




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