I met Chuck Davis (profile here) many years ago, when I was involved in this now defunct organization called the Greater Vancouver Library Federation (GVLF).
Chuck and I shared many common colleagues and friends, many of whom were highly influential in my youth – taking me off the street and helping shape me into the person I am today.
I see where I could had gone …with old neighbourhood friends who are now dead or in jail.
Chuck Davis had written a book about the city we love, Vancouver. I still have a copy of his original book. There are stories and contributions in this book that were written (or supported) by a number of people whom I still consider close friends and mentors. To this day, I often refer to my well used and dog eared Vancouver book.
Yesterday, I heard on the news that Chuck Davis announced he had terminal cancer. I hate that disease.
Chuck mentioned that he was working on the third edition of his definitive book, Vancouver, only now, it’s Metro Vancouver. And he doesn’t think he can see the completion of his third edition, due to his illness.
Here is his story, courtesy of the Vancouver Sun newspaper:
Vancouver author Chuck Davis dying of cancer
Vancouver Sun September 24, 2010
The man who produced the definitive book about Vancouver and 14 others says he is dying of incurable lung cancer.
In an e-mail to friends this week Davis wrote that “an oncologist at the Cancer Agency told us that my cancer was incurable and had reached a stage when it cannot be treated with radiation or chemotherapy. I naturally asked ‘How long do I have?’ and, although she couldn’t be specific, the weeks word was in there somewhere.”
At an event Thursday discussing the future of Vancouver at the Playhouse Theatre, Davis made an impassioned plea to the audience to find a writer to finish a book he is currently working on, and the money to pay that writer.
Davis said he has been collecting data for The History of Metropolitan Vancouver for more than a decade, amassing 16 file drawers of material and a publisher.
The book, he said, “will be a big, fact-filled and nicely readable book. But it must be finished. I can’t do it now. I need your help and advice.” He asked the audience to send any advice to email@example.com.
Davis, 74, has worked as an author, newspaper columnist, radio announcer and TV producer since getting his start at the Canadian Army radio station in West Germany after joining the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in 1953, he wrote in his official biography for the bcradiohistory.com website.
His first newspaper story — on how to construct crossword puzzles — appeared in The Vancouver Sun in 1966. His first book, a guide to Vancouver, was published in 1973 and The Vancouver Book was published in 1976.
“They told me at the public library that it was the second most-frequently stolen book from the system. I was delighted,” Davis wrote. He followed that up with several other books, including The Greater Vancouver Book.
He has chronicled his progress on The History of Metropolitan Vancouver at www.vancouverhistory.ca.
That adds a note of urgency to what I’m about to tell you.
Why am I sharing with you these embarrassing personal details? Because, as Will Kane said, in the movie High Noon, I could use a little help.
I need two things.
One, I need to find a writer who can finish the book. It’s up to 1994 at the moment.
Two, I need to find the money to pay the writer who will finish the book.
This has happened so suddenly—the bomb was dropped just two days ago—that I don’t know how to handle it. One suggestion: a law firm (pro bono, please) offers to hold, in trust, any funds raised. The funds would be for the writer who takes on the task of finishing the book.
If you go to my website— vancouverhistory.ca —you will find more than 2,000 pages of local history. The writer will have to hack and hew through that mass of data, bringing it down to a reasonable size, besides researching the 16+ years to bring the book up to the present day. I’ve estimated it will take a year, and I’m suggesting something in the range of $30,000.
I have 16 file drawers full of material. I also have about 400 locally-oriented books, all of which I intend to give to the writer, no strings attached.
And, really important, I have a publisher: Harbour Publishing, Howard White, who has been waiting patiently for some years for this manuscript. One of the joys of writing about the history of this astonishing and lively city is that, even after 37 years of work, I am still finding out new stuff. And I have friends who help me.
Let me close with a small personal anecdote: my Dad and I arrived in Vancouver from Winnipeg (I was born in Winnipeg) in December 1944. When we left Winnipeg the plows had piled the snow up higher than the level of the train itself. When we arrived in Vancouver there were flowers growing in front of the CPR station. I turned to my Dad (I was nine years old) and said, “I think we’ve come to the right place.”
Nothing has happened in the 66 years since to make me change my mind.
This beautiful and exciting city, with its glowing future, needs a big book of its history for you and for your kids.
I hope you can help. Thank you.