I’m proud to say that I knew my Dad, James Evan Love, pretty well. I was loyal to him through his worst health problems and difficult times. He trusted me. Near the end, it become as much a friendship between two men as it had ever been between a father and son.
But there was a lot about his past and his nature that I never knew – things I’d learn later which would change my image of him.
He was a complex and contradictory person. He had many layers. He could be plain-spoken and straight-forward when he wanted to make a point, and he could be evasive or defensive when his ego or authority were threatened.
As a young kid, I saw my Dad as brave and heroic – a tough guy with equal shades of John Wayne and Gregory Peck. He could also be soft-hearted and amiable, kind of like a Canadian Andy Griffith. Sometimes, he could also be dark and bitter, a drunken and nasty equivalent of Oliver Reed or Richard Burton. There were many sides to him. (Apparently, I can only categorize these aspects of his personality using characters from TV and movies.)
My Dad was a very intelligent man and he knew it. I’m sure it must have gone to his head on occasion, but it was also part of his immense personal sense of pride.
So, he was all of the above, and for whatever it was worth, I loved the guy.
Early years in Prince Rupert
James Evan Love was born in Prince Rupert, BC in October of 1921. He had a sister named Pat, and three brothers: Bruce, the eldest, and Eric and Charles, who were younger than him. They all lived in a house built by their father which still stands today.
My father was born October 18, 1921, and grew up during the great depression as part of a proud, working class family.
Dad’s Father, Albert Bruce Love, was born in Summerside, PEI and worked as a cable splicer for the Prince Rupert Telephone Company. His mother Margaret (Owens) ran the household and kept the reins on four boys and one girl. Margaret was a kind and gentle woman – hard working, and selfless by nature. She may have been born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. Margaret’s younger sister Marion (“Molly”) was definitely born in Newcastle, and came to live with Margaret and her family while the my Dad and his siblings were still quite young.
Dad hit his adolescence during the depression of the 1930s, and as a kid, this fact always fascinated me. I had always wanted to know what it was like to live during a tough time like that. It was all history to me, and I thought my Dad had been right in the middle of it.
Dad told me stories of the kinds of things he got into as a kid back then. Evan (as he was known in his early years) and his brothers and friends would go to the docks and get all the fish heads they could carry. His mother would carve the cheeks out of the heads and make a fish soup. The kids would sometimes go picking berries, talking to the local farmers and getting samples from their gardens to take home.
Dad once described chewing wax when he couldn’t get gum, and at 12 years old, he was rolling his own smokes because filtered cigarettes (‘saturday night specials’ as he called them) were too expensive.
In his early teens, he had a route delivering newspapers all over the Prince Rupert. I’ve imagined him as a kid, clattering up muddy hills and down gravelly roads, flinging papers from a beat-up bike.
I think my Dad must have liked going to the movies when he was young. His matinee idols included adventure heroes like Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power.
Dad didn’t get past Grade 10 in high school but by that time he was probably more interested in getting steady work and earning his own money. Maybe he had developed a young man’s taste for adventure, or thought he was ready to look outside his hometown for new opportunities. According to his Army service record, Dad had aspirations to be a writer or perhaps a reporter – also an exciting or adventurous occupation, if you were someone like Ernest Hemingway. He signed up for a correspondence course with some Journalism school.
In 1936, at the age of 16, Evan and his younger brother Eric went to Dawson City looking for work.
(This story has a lot more work needed. Don’t wait up, because it’s got a way to go. Just sayin’.)