About a long-time local | Squamish Chief

About a long-time local

Don Patrick on the foundations of modern-day Squamish

Don Patrick can tell you a thing or two, and he probably will. He's had quite a life so far, which has taken him from Squamish to California, Munich and beyond.

He has two grown kids and has been married to his beloved Lynda since Dec. 12, 1964.

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He was a pilot for fun for many years. By trade, he was a travelling mechanic for the PGE Railway, a systems engineer in the aircraft manufacturing industry and later an insurance broker and business owner.

The gregarious long-time resident, and Canuck superfan, pitched in at the ground floor of many of Squamish's modern-day landmarks, such as the airport and the curling club. He knows Squamish and its history like the back of his hand and is witty in a way that makes you chuckle hours after talking to him.

The Chief sat down with Patrick for a wide-ranging chat followed by an email exchange about his past, the changes in Squamish and more.

What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

Q: What is your history in Squamish?

A: I came here at 12-years-old, after living on a First Nations reserve, Shalalth, on Seton Lake, which is 115 miles from Squamish. My father was on the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE). He transferred to Squamish in the winter of 1955 and the family spent the first New Year's Day in the Squamish Hotel, then owned by the Sullivans. I started in Squamish in Grade 6 and went to the Mashiter School. Later, I moved over to the high school.

I was there a year longer than I should have been because I got caught cheating in Grade 9 with my two best buddies. Because of it, we had to repeat Grade 9.

Q: What were you cheating on?

A: Well, it was all my buddy's fault. We used to play basketball every morning. My one friend got ahold of the answers to an exam. He took it and copied the words off it and then we got copies. So, we studied them. Then we were all in the gym and the teacher was up on the stage and suddenly we hear her yelling. She comes down and they troop the one friend off to the office and then an hour later, the other fellow and I get called up. The principal said that the other guys had pinned me, but turned out he had told the other guys that too. Anyway, they said our year was terminated. We had to repeat the year.

That extra year of schooling made us more knowledgeable than our peers, though.

Q: You were president of the curling club back in 1982, when it was up south of the Stawamus School and burned down. Can you tell me about that?

A: We were really active curlers. It was like a family there. I get this call at 2 a.m. It just said, "Patrick, your curling club is burning down." I got in the car and went up and — sure enough! Luckily, we saved the ice plant, but the club burned down. Insurance did an assessment and said it was not worth anything. They said no one would buy a curling club. I said, well 300 members use it. They pushed me around for about a year. Finally, we got a phone call and they sent a cheque for the amount we had insured, the $300,000 plus the interest, which was about 9%.

But then, two years later, where are we going to put it? We ended up joining with the golf club, where it is now.

Q: Do you still curl?

A: No. In 1991 on July 3, my son Kurk Patrick, who is 47 now, had a car accident. I quit pretty much everything. The support of the Squamish community was probably the main incentive that allowed my wife Lynda, Kurt's sister Heidi and yours truly to consider life beyond the accident as Kurt was in the hospital for three full years.

The staff at the insurance brokerages I owned at the time (I sold them to Westland Insurance in 2005 after 34 years) went above and beyond to keep the business on an even keel, thus allowing the family to take care of Kurt's situation.

Q: You have done so much, what are the two things that you are most proud of in your time in Squamish? (Not including family stuff.)

A: The Olympics. I actually wore my volunteer outfit to the Canucks game the other night and you should have heard the yells.

It was great working with all the other volunteers.

I got up between 3 and 3:30 a.m. every day and I would meet the bus at the loop across from where Walmart is. There would be 40 buses there. I did crowd control at the jump and cross country skiing.

One day, the King of Sweden came through. We also had Dick Cheney come there.

The second thing I am most proud of is my time with the Squamish Rotary Club. I have been a Rotarian now for 48 years. I have seen a lot of people come and go. You get to know all the business people. I am proud of being a member of it.

I am not too proud of the overall change in attitude in the business society, especially at the corporate level where the dollar replaces aspects of public safety. For example, Boeing's latest manufacturing of aircraft. The aircraft industry was my first choice in joining the professional workforce, now I am full of disappointments.

It is also very difficult these days for the smaller business owners to operate their business and also give multiple hours of volunteer service to the community. It is what it is and down the line, it will bite us all on the ass.

Oh, and of the things I am proud of, it would have to include being a part of the hockey community from about 1978. It was an important aspect of the character and lifestyle of both my son and myself.

Q: What do you make of all the development in Squamish over say the last five years?

A: Well, it is a mystery. I guess we are going to be a bedroom city whether we want to or not. It all comes down to zoning and money.

Q: The Squamish Flying Club is heading up on 50 years in Squamish, can you tell me about that?

A: Members of the community built the airport in the late 1960s and the Squamish Flying Club managed the airport for the District until 2002.

 In the beginning, we were granted the management of the airport. So we had 52 acres and there were 25 of us.  Currently, we lease about 2.5 acres. The club now has just over 50 members. We built two T-hangers, the last one three years ago.

The club has fuel and a small club house for the members use at the airport.

I used to own a J-3 Cub, where I could leave here on a nice sunny day and get to Nanaimo in about an hour and a half. It was a beautiful little plane.



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