Excerpt one from my new book on my early years (available from amazon.com in a few months).

While writing this book I found that many lost memories came to mind. I not only remembered things but I was able to analyze them with the kind of clarity that comes only with age. I learned much about myself and my family. I understood for the first time that the main problems in my family were alienation, poor communication, denial, acute sibling rivalry and (in my own case), misophonia. I hope that this book will inspire some readers to write their own family history.

    I  THE WAR YEARS (1940-1946): DUNBAR AND 41ST

Summary: The main issue in these years is how Mother tried to turn us against our biological father by harping on his bad treatment of her. The effect of this was to alienate him from my brother and me and to plant in us the seeds of guilt, anger and antifeminism. Mother leaves Alan Hoare in 1942 and takes us with her. She finds an apartment and soon is introduced to Ernie Thomson with whom she falls in love.   Soon Ernie starts living with us; eventually (1947) he will adopt us.  In 1945 Mother obtains a divorce although Alan Hoare is granted visitation rights with Don and me. In 1947 Alan Hoare gives up these rights, remarries (Isobel McRae) and starts a new family with her. My brother and I will not see him again until 1966. When we do make contact with him Mother refuses to speak to us for seven years. The rest of the chapter discusses Mother’s and Ernie’s spheres of influence and what our life was like in this time frame.

                TABLE OF CONTENTS: CHAPTER ONE

1 Vancouver in the War years (1939-1945)

2 An overview of my family (starting with my birth on April 30, 1940)

3 We are taught by my mother to spy on our father and mistrust him

4 Mother demands loyalty from all her friends

5 Mother refuses to talk to Don or me (1966-1972) 

6 Mother alienates Don and me from the Bible

7 Proverbs: a vital book to ponder

8 Mother as the perfect housewife

9 Don’s life is strongly influenced by Al Hoare 

10 The effects of Mother’s efforts to destroy the good opinion we had of our biological father

11 Did Mother ever really get Al Hoare out of her system?

12 More on Don’s and my relations with Al Hoare

13 Why our father, Al Hoare, stopped seeing my brother and me

14 What I thought of Al Hoare once I got to know him (1966 to 1990) 

15 Some background:  Al’s cruelty to his younger brother, Sidney 

16 The divorce trial of my mother and Al Hoare (1945)

17 Mother gets rid of Al Hoare’s gifts to me and Don 

18 Don and I escape emotional turmoil through work

19 How mother and Ernie Thomson first met 

20 Donuts and movies: the Saturday morning ritual

21 My head banging: a joke?

22 he joy of singing together in Ernie’s old Ford

23 The singing Irish O’Mally kids across the street from us

24 I organize a scam with my girlfriend, Arlene P.

25 I discover a compassionate streak in myself

26 The summer of 1945

27 Miscellaneous recollections from 1943-1946

                   VANCOUVER IN THE WAR YEARS (1939-1945)

People who visit Vancouver today see a huge city with hundreds of high rises. There are several skyscrapers and a spectacular cruise ship facility. Truly, Vancouver has become a major player on the world stage. In the period 1939 to 1945 there were no high-rise apartment buildings in the city.The buildings that dominated and set the tone were large wood-framed houses, many of which dated from a much older period: 1890 to 1914. There were only three high buildings: the Marine Building, the new Vancouver Hotel, and the Sun newspaper building. Here’s a photo of Vancouver’s “West End” around the time of World War II.

   

Vancouver’s West End in the 1940s

AN OVERVIEW OF MY FAMILY (STARTING AT MY BIRTH, APRIL 30, 1940

I was born in on April 30, 1940 and at that time my family of origin (my father, Alan Hoare; my mother, Frances Hoare (nee Godwin); my brother Donald and I) lived on Laurel Street in Vancouver (just south of the Vancouver General Hospital). We might have appeared to be a united, problem-free family, but actually we were anything but. By 1940 Mother had endured too many beatings (and psychological abuse) from her husband for her to accept the idea of staying in the marriage. She started to think seriously of moving out on her own and taking my brother and me with her.

Soon after the Japanese attack on Peart Harbor (December 7, 1941) Canada rushed to defend her coastline. Alan (former detective-sergeant with theVancouver Police) joined the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant-Commander and went to serve in patrol work around Prince Rupert and the Haida-Gwaii Islands. While he was away Mother moved out and took my brother and me with her.  Our new dwelling was an apartment located above a Butcher shop at 5605 Dunbar Street. Within a few months Mother lucked out: a good friend of hers, Christine Savoy, played Cupid by introducing Mother to Ernest Thomson.  Christine must have had intuitive insight because Mother and Ernie took to each other right away and Ernie moved in with us.

During these years Al Hoare would get regular shore leaves to Vancouver. Probably because of his standing as an officer, the Navy billeted him with two rooms in the “Old” Hotel Vancouver. (This grand old building would be torn down in 1949.)  Don and I stayed with him and Sandy there on many a week-end.

The old Hotel Vancouver (1916-1949)

 I remember these visits quite well, although they took place almost eighty years ago. We used to take in many movies. Laurel and Hardy movies were Dad’s favorite. I can remember going to see Bambi, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, The Unconquered, and Sinbad the Sailor. We also went for walks to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, the Lions Gate Bridge and the roof of the Hotel Vancouver. In all these places Al picked Don and me up (one at a time) and dangled us over the abyss. I can remember the terror of it. I don’t know why he did this. It seems an insane thing to do. All my life I have been exceptionally afraid of heights.

 It is strange, the little things that one remembers from the distant past. I can remember Al showing Don and me how to open a sealed letter by holding it over the spout of a steaming kettle (very useful, maybe, if we were to want to spy on anyone). I also remember Al putting mint postage stamps in his wallet in case he should ever need one. I did this myself for many years. It’s pretty clear that I was watching him like a hawk and patterning myself on him, identifying with him.

 WE ARE TAUGHT TO SPY ON OUR FATHER AND MISTRUST HIM

Before each visit to the Old Hotel Vancouver Mother would ask Don to observe carefully what took place during the visit; he was to note carefully anything untoward and then report back to her. Mother’s request was, I now think, ill-advised, because it put Don in a terrible bind. She made him into a rather hostile spy and this hostility must have undermined Don’s relationship with his father. It’s only later in life that I can put a clinical word to what she was practicing: “alienation.” By this I mean that she was alienating Don (and me) from our father (and our father from us), creating a barrier of mistrust and tension between the two. I think this is a very destructive thing to do because in those years Don and I were forming our identities, our sense of who we are and our model in forging our identity was Alan Hoare.  However, Mother had come to hate Al Hoare so much that she probably wasn’t aware that her machinations were having a very negative effect on Don and me.  Also, these visits took place in the mid-1940s and the term “alienation” was not widely used or understood. Mother was probably not aware of what it is and what it does. One must cut her some slack for her lack of awareness.

To take a broader view of Mother during the war years I think she deserves a lot of credit in some important ways. By leaving Al Hoare she was escaping from a marriage that would have caused her a lifetime of abuse. She was also helping Don and me to escape from an atmosphere of violence, tension and fear.

              Me (at age two?), Alan Hoare and my older brother, Don

(Much later in life, in the 1970s, I recall her dismissing psychology as “a load of crap.” In the 1980s Don generously bought Mom and me $500. tickets to take Werner Erhard’s intense “EST” program for psychological healing. Frankie sat in the back row and turned off her hearing aid. I think the psychological focus of EST must have frightened her. I should add in parentheses here that Mother’s only sibling, Ken, shared some of her anti-intellectual ideas. I recall his referring to the University of British Columbia as “an institution of so-called higher learning.”

The following photo above dates from about 1943 (I am three years old.)  will give you a good idea of Mother’s state of mind (preoccupied and worried) and my own (very troubled). Like many Vancouverites we had our photo taken by a fellow named Clancy who had set up his camera on busy Granville St. and photographed many thousands of the people who crossed his path. When you passed by him he handed you a ticket which you could hand in to his office and pick up the photo within a few days. The great thing about these photos is that they were unstaged. There were few phony smiles. In fact there were probably few smiles, period. Such photos are invaluable to anyone trying to remember how he/she really felt many years past.

1943 a Foncie photo of Mom and me on Granville St.

This photo reminds me of something important about those years: I was a pretty observant little guy and knew that my mother was experiencing a lot of pain and sadness. I can still remember the sorrow, pity and concern I felt for her. I think it was natural for me to feel this way. I had witnessed some of the beatings she received and I sensed that things were far from right in our family. On the other hand I think this pity played havoc with my emotions throughout life. Over the years I had nine serious relationships with women. The best I could feel for any of them was a kind of pity. It wasn’t really love because real love, I now think, has to contain a strong element of respect and admiration.  It took me years to seek help from a psychiatrist and figure this out. I think I accomplished that, more or less, in the mid-1980s.

    MOTHER DEMANDS LOYALTY FROM ALL HER FRIENDS

Alienation can take several forms. One form consists in demanding absolute loyalty from one’s friends and relatives. Over the years I observed several of Mother’s good friends disappear from view: Marion Minty, Daisy Hooper, Barbara and Jim Mundie (Jim had taught Al to play the tenor drum in the Vancouver Police Pipe Band), Alice and John McHardy (lead piper In the Vancouver Police Pipe Band), Gertie and Archie Plummer (head of the vice squad of the Vancouver Police Force), Marcel and Connie Munro (our neighbors from 1948-1951). There might have been others as well.  If you had any contact with Al Hoare or if you had anything positive to say about him Mother wrote off. You quickly felt her wrath.

        MOTHER REFUSES TO TALK TO DON OR ME (1966-1972)

Don and I too were to experience Mother’s wrath in the mid-1960s. By that time we were both  having serious psychological problems (with our jobs and with the women in our life) so I suggested to Don that it would do us a lot of good psychologically to look up our biological father and see for ourselves what he was really like. Was he the demonic person, the Complete Bastard, whom Mother had taught us to hate? Don agreed and we looked up Al in 1966. (See photo on the next page.) When Mother heard about this she charged us with disloyalty and told us that she never wanted to see us again, ever. Never? That’s a forbidding word. This really hurt but it helped us to understand the psychological damage that had been inflicted on us when we were young, defenceless, trusting boys.

Mother assumed that if we were seeing Al Hoare there was no room for any relationship with her and Ernie. This was a very mistaken idea. We had always been loving and loyal to her and Ernie and we were grateful for his moral and financial support throughout our youth. Mother wrote Don and me off and it wasn’t until seven years later that she agreed to meet at a coffee house in Beach Grove and talk. During those seven years we had no hope that Mother would ever forgive what she considered our treason and agree to accepting us back into her life. Not to see my mother again, ever! What a painful thought! How could she act this way? I have heard somewhere that a mother’s love should be unconditional. Maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation.

The photo below shows Don and Al Hoare in 1966. They had not seen each other since 1947.

One really destructive effect of Mother’s alienating Don from his father is that she was undermining Don’s own sense of self-worth. Let me put it this way:  Don had identified with Al and had put him on pedestal: the big strong policeman; the tall, burly, brave, good-looking fellow in the beautiful uniform of an officer in the Canadian Navy (a Lieutenant-Commander for gosh sakes!). In these years Don (and I as well) were in the process of forming our sense of identity and self-worth and we were doing this the normal way: by emulating our father, trying to be like him, making him our model. If Al Hoare was a rotten egg and we were like him then it clearly followed that we were bad eggs as well. I think Mother did a lot of damage to us both this way but when I think of her mental space at the time I find it in my heart to be tolerant. She had been battered and beaten physically and mentally by this man. It’s understandable that she hated him and wanted revenge. Yet Don and I must have felt resentment for the bind we found ourselves in. (“We want to be just like our Dad but Mother says he’s a terrible man! That must mean that we’re terrible too!”). I think it might have caused both of us to become quite mistrustful of women and this would lead to relationship problems with the women we were to encounter later in life. (I will comment on this in the course of this book.)

I should add here that Mother continued over the ensuing years to tell us what a bastard Hoare was (her typical words: “a “real Jekyll and Hyde,” “that rotten bastard,” and “I hope he rots in Hell!” she would repeat, like a broken record for many years.) It is quite understandable that she felt such anger and I have no doubt that her statements are true: “He was a cruel bastard who thrashed me with a policeman’s thick belt. He would even put his hand on the Bible before beating me.”

I saw a movie on TV last year that really showed me how much I had been traumatized by these beatings that I witnessed. (I must have witnessed some of them.) The movie was Heaven on Earth (2008). It’s about a young woman from India whose parents in Canada have arranged for her to be married to one of her relatives in Toronto. She travels to Canada, gets married, and before long the trouble starts: her husband starts to beat her and abuse her verbally. As I watched these scenes I noted that I was trembling and very upset. I am sure that this confirmed that I had indeed witnessed some of beatings my father gave my mother.

                   Francesca, i tuoi martiri mi fan triste e pio. 

                   Frances, your martyrdom makes me sad and respectful..

So writes Dante with characteristic emotion and understanding in Chapter Five of his “Inferno.”

V

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