Sunday, August 5, 1964
A Farewell to a Pioneer of British Columbia
By Alan Morley>
Henry Benjamin Morley, father of editorial writer Alan Morley, died Sunday at Penticton.
I have been very fortunate. Not many people live as long as I have with a father they can turn to for advise or affection. Dad died last Sunday, quietly, as he had lived, more than two months after his 90th birthday.
He made no claims to public attention yet he was a pioneer of this city, this province, and even Canadian commercial life, more than most people who advertise themselves as such.
He was, in 1893, I think, the first Canadian travelling salesman to go overseas [....] General Steel Wares of Toronto, sent him to Australia to sell stoves and other manufactures. It was then he saw Vancouver and fell in love with it.
Settled Here in 1890s
After a second trip Down Under, where he made enduring friendships, he settled down here in the late 90s.
He built a house in the 1200 block on Seventh Avenue. It is characteristic of him it was well and thoroughly built so that to this day it is the only house in the block fresh and clean and well-painted.
On the terraces he planted a rose garden which gave him as much satisfaction as anything else in his long life. In June and July people drove their buggies and gigs and high trotting horses down the avenue just to look at it.
He was always, modestly, an adventurer. After establishing two flourishing businesses in Vancouver he lost interest in each as soon as it began to make money.
We went to Armstrong, where he went into the hardware business. That is where I first remember him, when he took me to the memorial service for King Edward VII in the Presbyterian church.
Partner of Tisdall
Shortly after that we came back to Vancouver, where he became junior partner in C. E. Tisdall's famous sporting goods store. Tisdall went on to be mayor of Vancouver and finance minister of B.C.a rigidly honest man who began business as a gunsmith, sleeping under the counter of his own shop.
Old Miss Scott tied trout flies that they sold around the world. For a boy, it was fascinating to watch her sitting at an old roll-top desk with feathers of every imaginable color and design in every pigeonhole.
[....] she would make you a little feather posy and pin it to your lapel.
There were 5,000 rifles and shotguns in the racks down one side of the store, three tiers high.
It was years later before I realized it, but Dad and Tisdall were making small fortunes supplying guns for the Sun Yet Sen revolution in China.
"Coolies" who were anything but coolies would bring gunny sacks full of silver "shoes" up to the office in the mezzanine floor, drop them there with a polite bow, which Dad returned, and leave without a word.
Ingots of Silver
The "shoes" were half or quarter pound ingots of silver from Hong Kong, so called because they were shapped like Dutch wooden shoes.
I never knew the ins and outs of the trade, but for Dad, it was the beginning of an enduring friendship with Chinese in B.C. He respected them, and they trusted him.
I have known him to spend many a night puzzling over the bills of lading for shipments of the bones of B.C. Chinese headed up in casks and sent home to lie in the graves of their ancestors. It was the least he could do for them.
"Hmm-ha-humm," Dad would say if you asked him why he did these things. "Good customers and... well, and what damned business is it of yours?"
That was ever his way. He did good by stealth and was always irritated and embarrassed when it came to light.
By 1917 he had fallen out of love with Vancouver. It was too crass and commercial.
We went to Penticton, where he bought a hardware store.
Far From Civilization
It was about as far from civilization as a merchant could get. The Kettle Valley Railway had just reached the town. There wasn't much further he could go to dodge success.
He changed from hardware to insurance, to a gamble in mining that paid off, to ranching, which he gave up after a heart attack.
He became reeve of the town, against his own wishes, and grand master of the Masonic Order in B.C.which he prized above rubies. I asked him why.
"Hmm-ha-humm," he'd say. "Only religion I got. Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. If you live by that, boy, you won't go far wrong."
He did live by it. Miner, mason, bootblack, prime minister were his brothers. Womenrich, poor, the respectible or the reversehad from him always courtesy and respect.
I remember my mother berating him for stopping with her on the street to speak politely to a woman who had gained for herself as much notoriety as a small town like Penticton could grant.
"Em," said Dad quietly, "you have earned yourself respect from everyone. She desperately needs some from someone."
It was for his quietness, his courtesy, his kindness and his unfailing honesty I shall remember him.
He married for the second time at the age of 79. It was the best thing he ever did but, characteristically, he apologized to me for it. Him, apologize to me? That was the way he was.
And at 82 he left Penticton, too, for the Kootenays.
Getting to damned junior-board-of-tradish," he said. "Can't stand it."
So for the last eight years he and Mary lived contentedly beside the beautiful lake below the blossoming oreheads of Boswell. Last year they returned to Penticton to be near a doctor, and in March I visited them.
For the first time he spoke of death and his approaching end. Quietly and dryly he told me the dispositions [...] and what he wanted me to do. As he had done all his life, he hid sentiment behind gruffness.
He was a very great gentleman and a man whom I have never known to do anything mean, selfish or dishonest. I hope when my end comes, somebody can say half as much for me. I told him so.
"Hmm-ha-humm," he said. "Stop talking nonsense. Let's go home boyMary will have tea ready."