In this delightfully well-written, very personal memoir, Rafe Mair, who describes himself as a British Columbian first and a Canadian second, tells the story of his childhood and beyond as he grew up in Vancouver. Mair was a politician in Premier Bill Bennett’s cabinet in Victoria, then left politics behind to host the radio show Open Line. An opinionated commentator and a lover of history, Mair describes himself as having a “revolutionary bent.” His reminiscences of Vancouver and British Columbia during a time of great growth and change are insightful and fascinating.
Mair begins his story on a humorous, explanatory note of the book’s title, recalling the early years of Vancouver, during which commodities such as bread, eggs, and milk were delivered to one’s door by horse-drawn wagons. One side effect of these deliveries was the frequent pile of “horsebuns” left behind in the street, which came in very handy for the fertilization of the “Victory Gardens” during the war! Mr. Mair also gives a humorous, yet serious definition of what it is to be a true British Columbian.
Yet underneath the humorous anecdotes and light-hearted reminiscences, this memoir is a modern historical record of British Columbia and Canada, as told by a man who deeply understands the politics, culture and history of his homeland. He juxtaposes intimate portraits of his family with detailed renderings of events that shaped his hometown and province. His childhood, spent in Vancouver’s neighborhoods, provides a picture of the immigrant communities that became the foundation of the city’s modern, cosmopolitan culture. His love for his country, as well as his in-depth knowledge of it, shines through on every page.
As an adult, Mair was active in fighting for or against legislation he strongly believed would aid or threaten the very survival of his province and its cities. These events are described with an insider’s understanding of what was at stake. Mair continues his work to this day, as an environmental activist and community leader.
Readers of this memoir are entertained and also given an insightful rendering of Canada and its culture that they would never glean from reading history books. Highly recommended for Canadians who want a deeper understanding of the events that have shaped their country and culture, as well as for Americans who want to better know their neighbors to the north.