Day 273 - Harvey

Day 273 - Harvey (1st person I approached)
September 30, 2014 - It was a nice sunny afternoon, so I thought I’d walk over to a local park where I’ve met a couple of strangers before. On my way there, I spotted Harvey sitting by himself, on a bench outside a pizza place, enjoying what I took to be his lunch. When I introduced myself, he responded with a very warm and genuine ‘hello.’ I told him what I was doing and he started to smile as he realized why I had approached him. He happily agreed to chat.


Born at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver’s downtown, Harvey grew up in East Vancouver (British Columbia - BC).

“I was an only child. That never bothered me at all. I grew up playing with my friends and having lots of pals in the neighbourhood. It was the days of going out and playing and coming home when the street lights came on. There were always friends around,” he said. 


Harvey went to one elementary and one high school.

“I did okay in school. I was accelerated in elementary. I did Grades four, five and six in two years. That created it’s own problems. I was then younger than everyone in my class. I felt a bit immature and a bit of an outsider. It’s not something I would recommend for everyone. I don’t know if it did that much good. I was quieter and shy. Who’s to say I wouldn’t have been that way without being put ahead a year? I advanced in high school as well. School was quite easy for me, I kind of breezed through it. I went to David Thompson Secondary School in East Van. It had just been built and was open a year, maybe two before I got there. The school board had drawn some of the most exceptional teachers to work there, to cater to the East Van population. I really had exceptional teachers that made school a great experience. I was very fortunate,” he said.


Harvey went to university right after graduating from high-school.

“I went to UBC (University of British Columbia) with the intention of going into Forestry. When I was fifteen I started working in logging camps at summer time to save for my university education. I once spent twenty-eight days in camp on Nootka Island. It was an amazing experience. Hard work, but one of those life opportunities that looking back, I consider myself lucky to have had,” said Harvey.

“When I finished high-school, my father sat me down and told me ‘If you’re going to school, then you can stay here. And if you’re going to work, I’ll help you pack.’ He wasn’t being in any way mean or cruel. My parents always encouraged me. They instilled in me the value of making the most of life, taking responsibility for that, and working for things,” he said.

“I studied science in the first year of university. You needed that to get into forestry. Then somewhere in that first year, I discovered Engineering. I switched programs after my first year. And then spent another four years getting my degree in Engineering. So I was at UBC for five years,” he said.


“I found people in BC to be a bit arrogant at that time. There was an attitude that nothing east of the rockies existed. The way I looked at it was, there were some two or three million in BC (at that time), and about twenty-seven million east of the Rockies. There had to be  a reason that many people lived east of the Rocky Mountains! I got a job and moved to Hamilton, Ontario. That’s where the steel company I was going to work for was located. I spent three years as a metallurgist making steel there,” said Harvey. 


“To be honest, I didn’t really care much for Hamilton, or Toronto for that matter. If you wanted to go for a hike, you had to drive somewhere. I missed how nature is on the doorstep here in BC.” His boss from the steel plant got a transfer to another plant in Montreal and asked Harvey to go with him.

“I probably would have come back to Vancouver if he hadn’t asked me to go to Montreal. I fell in love with that city! It was 1973 and the political situation was very lively in Quebec at the time. Many of the anglophones were leaving as I was arriving. I felt like a fish swimming upstream,” he said laughing.

“But the people, the energy. there is no place like Montreal. There’s a joie de vivre that exists there like nowhere else,” he said, nostalgically. Harvey spent seven years in Montreal.

“Eventually the call of BC was too loud to ignore,” he said.


Coming back to Vancouver, Harvey and a business partner started their own small engineering firm.

“We’ve been doing that since then. Thirty-four years now and going strong. I still work, but I’m working for myself, and still have the same business partner too. I’m lucky,” he said. 


Harvey married in 1972.

“I’ve been married for… that many years.” We both laughed rather than do the math right away.

“Yeah, forty-two years,” he agreed.

“We have two kids. One of each. My son is in the military and lives in Yellowknife. He recently met a love, and so we hear from his less these days. And that’s ok. My daughter is downtown. She’s working through some things. She’s had some issues with drugs and alcohol. You can’t make anyone get through these things. You have to be there, love them, be patient and let her make her way. It’s tough. We love her. She’s doing what she can.”


I took Harvey’s picture and thanked him for chatting and sharing his story with me.

“Oh, you know there is one other thing that I’d like to tell you. This is kind of unique and special, I think. I mentioned to you that in school, I always had lots of friends and pals to play with from the neighbourhood. Well, every year, in August, there are a group of us that still get together. Six couples. It started a number of years ago with a fellow I’ve known since early elementary school. He and his wife lived in Oliver. So my wife and I would go visit. Then another couple joined us, then another, and so on. In time, our children came along. Soon it became less of a holiday for the friends in Oliver having to accommodate all of us. Now we rent a big house in the Okanagan area and we all spend a week or so together. There would be tents for the kids, lots of food and fun. It’s an annual event now. They’re like my brothers and sisters. I’ve known many of them all my life. How nice is that?” #notastranger