Down South - Point MistakeWednesday, September 19, 2012
|Boundary Bay, Point Roberts, Washington, August 1995|
Sometime at the end of 1974 I found myself in the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. I was going through the paper work so that Rosemary, my Canadian wife, and our two daughters, Alexandra and Hilary, born in Mexico and I could move up to the Promised Land that Vancouver in Canada was supposed to be. And indeed, from my vantage point of today, that was the case.
At the embassy there was a very tall, slim and most sophisticated woman who was going through some paper work. My guess at the time was that she was a Canadian tourist in some sort of fix. That was not the case. She was there to visit a boy friend who somehow had landed in jail. The woman, as soon as she found out I was headed for Vancouver, introduced herself as Dorothy Barkley and told me that as soon as I arrived to Vancouver, (she added that I would fall in love with the place) she would show me around.
|Dorothy Barkley, late 1970s|
When we arrived in Vancouver, driving up on Kingsway in our Arctic blue VW beetle we settled in a motel and I immediately called Barkley.
Back in Mexico I was the proud owner of two massive Acoustic Research speakers that with the help of a friend who worked at the Mexican state petroleum company (PEMEX) I had smuggled from the US as oil pumps.
Rosemary told me to sell them as she said I could buy them again for a song in Vancouver. She was wrong. The AR-3As were much more expensive in Canada.
Barkley was helpful and as soon as we were settled down in a townhouse in Burnaby she invited us to visit her at her mother’s cabin in Boundary Bay in Point Roberts, Washington. For those who do not know this is a small peninsula that juts out from Canada past the 49th Parallel in the waters of the inside passage and are part of the United States even though access to it is either via boats or by car through Canada. Point Roberts and its pretty beach on Boundary Bay is a hamlet that is populated by many retired Canadians and by Americans who enjoy a bucolic existence in the laid back small town.
Yours truly, who had left Mexico with all its corruption and bribery for a life in a place were honesty prevailed purchased two AR-3A speakers in the US and had them delivered to the Barkley cabin. When these speakers arrived I drove them, one at a time, (in the front storage compartment of my mid-engined Fiat X-19 which also had a trunk in the back, through Canadian Customs.
I sweated blood and swore I would never, ever smuggle again. My promise was broken in the late 80s and 90s when I expertly wrapped rare hostas in newspapers and brought them in airplane trips to the US or placed them under the spare tire in the trunk of our car.
We spent many lazy weekends at the cabin and I remember how the girls, Ale and Hilary would walk to the nearby corner store to buy Butterfingers and Charleston Chew. After lunch, if the tide was out we would walk on the beach and splash through the tidal pools and soak the sun.
Once they girls became teenagers we never returned. I returned in August of 1995 with writer Jim Christy who wrote a story called Point Mistake (a cover article for the Georgia Straight). This is what he wrote about the geographic mistake that Point Roberts is:
|Liberty Wine Store, 1995|
In 1791 Francisco Elisa did see the peninsula while sailing by, but called it Isla de Zepeda. The next year Galiano and Valdez, being more discerning, named it Punta Cepeda. They were soon followed by Captain George Vancouver, who on June 12, 1792 called it after his friend Lieut. Henry Roberts.
In 1846, the Americans and the British signed a treaty establishing the international boundary. A short while later, the oddity of Point Roberts was discovered, but it was assumed the Americans would give it back. Point Roberts could be of no use to them. As British survey commissioner J.S. Hawkins put it, “Of Point Roberts it is not necessary to say much.”
Nobody did say much, and they did even less of the place. The Americans didn’t get around to returning it, and the British didn’t ask for it back. Nobody knows why. My own theory is that the British could have had the Point back at any time until 1871 and the Treaty of Washington, which established the border through the nearby islands. But the Civil War had only been over for a few years, and the Americans were smarting because the British had aided the Confederacy. So they kept the point for spite, and it was populated by squatters, smugglers, and, in the 1890s, by Icelandic settlers.
A week ago, out of the blue Dorothy Barkley sent me an email invitation and to my friend Paul Leisz (whom I first met at the cabin in 1975 and is my first and dearest Canadian friend) to visit with her at the cabin. We returned this Sunday. The place has not changed too much but the little grocery store is gone. We were sitting on the same lawn chairs we had occupied so many years back with Paul, Dorothy and two girls, a blonde and a brunette. Except, that this time, they were not our daughters but our granddaughters.
The afternoon was special. We raided the American supermarket and declared it at the border. The Canadian Customs Officer waved us by. My trunk had nothing in it that I had not declared. It felt good.
|Rebecca Stewart, Boundary Bay, September 16, 2012|
|Lauren Stewart, Boundary Bay, September 16, 2012|
|Alexandra Waterhouse-Hayward, Boundary Bay, 1976|
Boundary Bay, August 1995