Our Chevrolet Malibu & Harvey Southam's Buick Station WagonFriday, September 24, 2010
Last week at the opening night of Tear the Curtain at the Stanley I ran into Pia Southam (aka Pia Shandel) and she told me she has a new show and is back on air. She hugged me and she told me she appreciated the blog review I wrote about her. I told her that I had been thinking a lot of her deceased husband Harvey Southam with whom I worked (at least 10 years) when he edited his business magazine Equity. I told Shandel one thing, “I remember Harvey’s Buick station wagon. We just bought a Malibu.” Shandel seemed to understand and I did not explain. But let me explain to anybody reading here who might not get the connection
Harvey Southam was the scion of the Southam family which owned newspapers across Canada and through his mother to the MacMillan logging fortune during the era of logging fortunes in British Columbia. Harvey Southam had money and was married to beautiful Pia. They lived in a beautiful house in West Point Gray overlooking the sea. And if that weren’t enough Southam was handsome and personable, and charming, too.
He had the reputation of being hard on the freelance writers that worked for his magazine but in his dealings with this photographer he was kind and he paid me well. In one particular job in which he was the writer we flew to Victoria to interview the then leader of the NDP, Bob Skelly. At the time I owned a large, heavy and cumbersome lighting system called Ascor. I had not only to carry that but my heavy big camera, light stands and tripod. During that whole trip he insisted on carrying that heavy pack for me. He allowed me to be present during the interview (something that he always did and made me feel quite important). After the shoot I decided, on a lark to invite Southam for high tea at the Empress. “Let me able to say, one day that I invited you!” With a smile he consented and we had a great time.
Another time we drove to Whistler to interview Peter Brown. The well-known highfalutin stockbroker and president of Canacord had purchased a restaurant there. We drove in his sort of beat up Mercedes coup vintage late 70s. It was sort of nondescript but handsome enough. Coming back I was nervous as we were navigating the curves on only one headlight. To make it all worse Southam had purchased a large bag of chocolate-covered expresso beans. We were eating them like pop-corn and I could just feel my nerves increasing. We made it all right. A few years later I went with Southam to a meeting that was going to decide who was going to be the chancellor at Simon Fraser. Without him telling me I knew that he was thinking, “We are not going to allow people to vote their choice. We are going to make sure we appoint the man we want.”
Then he purchased that Buick. I told Southam, “Harvey, you could afford a Ferrari, a new Mercedes or something much more interesting than this. Why a Buick?” “Alex, why not a Buick? It’s large and my dog can travel comfortably. Besides with so many Mercedes around I want to start a new trend.”
Rosemary is upset she no longer has her Audi and I am gloriously happy with our Chevrolet Malibu (aka The Rocket). “I wanted something different,” she told me with a sad look on her face.
Here on Athlone street our Malibu is really different. After all it shares the pavement with quite a few Mercedes SUVs, a couple of Jaguars, one Bentley, one Lotus, several Lexus, and a few BWMs. I suspect that Harvey Southam would approve.