Roy Eldridge, MacMillan Bloedel & Juliette!

raysmithinband

This next episode picks up where the last one ended, with Jimmy Pattison telling me about his good friend Ray Smith, to Ray’s son Stan Smith, to our pet Juliette, Canada’s sweetheart of song in the sixties and Ray’s girlfriend, back to Stan Smith telling me about his father Ray Smith. It goes something like this.

I had been interviewing Jimmy Pattison at his office in downtown Vancouver and he told me about Ray Smith. When we finished I asked him if Ray had any children that I might contact regarding scrap books and memorabilia from Ray’s band days. He said,

“Ray was ahead of me in the band but we did become very good friends. I got to know him through the band but not until the first reunion concert was held in 1963. Ray has a son and at least one daughter named Vicky.”

“Do you know his son’s name?”

“Yes, let me see. Come on, I need to check in my office. We both got up and I followed Mr. Pattison out past the reception, around the corner and into another office.

“Here it is! His name is Stan Smith,” he said checking his Blackberry.  “He was working for Sonora Lodge for Brandt Louie. You know IGA, London Drugs.”

“Oh yes,” I replied, as if I had just had lunch with him the other day. “Where is Sonora Lodge located?”

“It is up near Stuart Island. They have a beautiful place up there. I am sure that he will have some scrapbooks or his sister will. He had a couple of sisters. One of his sisters stopped me when I was going to the dentist one day. I had parked my car in a Safeway lot. She was coming out of the Safeway Store. She told me she had some stuff from when her dad played the trumpet. But Ray Smith was one of a kind!

He was a very special guy. He just passed away not too long ago. Here’s a guy who came out of the band, went to Toronto and played professional trumpet as a result of being in the Kitsilano Boys’ Band. Delamont raised us all basically in the music business. Ray was top drawer. He was so good! He was ahead of me so I never heard him play in the band but I would take him out on my boat and he and I would play the trumpet together. We would have dinner and bring along a group of people. Ray would play his trumpet and I would play mine. But I met him — back it up! The friendships that I made through the band meant a great deal to me. There is a bond there. Anyway, I would call Stan Smith. Ray Smith put a lot of effort into the band. I would say that Arthur Delamont relied on Ray Smith more than any other single person in his whole organization.

After Ray left the band, Delamont went to Ray Smith for reunions, advice or whatever. Ray Smith was a huge friend of Arthur Delamonts. Of all the people who went through the band, I would bet that Ray Smith would be in the top five people that meant something to Arthur Delamont.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Okay.”

The next morning I called Stan Smith and talked with him about his father for about fifteen minutes. When I got off the telephone I dialed another number which Stan had given me. In a moment, an energetic feminine voice answered.

“Hello?”

“Is this Juliette?” I asked.

“Yes it is.”.

During the 1960s, Juliette, could be seen and heard across Canada on CBC TV on Saturday nights as her musical variety show was broadcast live from coast to coast.

“This is Chris Best. I am writing some books on Arthur Delamont and the Vancouver Boys’ Band. I was just speaking to Stan Smith regarding his father Ray.  He said that you were Rays’ best friend for the last few years of his life. He thought you might be able to tell me some stories about the musical side of his fathers’ life.

“Oh yes! Ray and I met again after we both had finished our careers so to speak. But he did tell me a few stories. I remember him saying when he lived in Toronto he would often go down to New York in his uniform during the war and sit in with some of the top jazz bands of the day.”

“He must have been good?” I replied.

“I would say so! Arthur Delamont, boy there were a lot of good musicians who came through his band. His son Gordon wrote arrangements for me for awhile in Toronto. And Dal Richards came through the band. He is a good friend of mine you may know.”

“I would love to visit with you and hear your stories?”

“Sure, give me a call back in a few days but not before one o’clock.”

“Yes, Stan told me, once a musician, always a musician.”

In my efforts to try to find out more about Ray Smith whom had been trained as a top notch trumpet player, I discovered as well, that he rose to the top job as President and C.E.O. of MacMillan Bloedel (a big B.C. forestry company). I contacted one of Ray’s two daughters, Vicki Burroughs. She supplied me with some MacMillan Bloedel newsletters that basically told me the story of that part of her father’s life.

Ray Smith became the CEO of MacMillan Bloedel in the 1980’s, after twenty-six years of working his way up through the ranks of sales, assistant manager, newsprint rep. in Pasadena, Ca., manager of three different departments, general manager, vice-president and president. He called himself a ‘Jack of all trades.’ He once said,

“I was told years ago, that good luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Ray started playing trumpet in the Point Grey Junior high School band under Arthur Delamont. He later graduated to the Kitsilano Boys’ Band. At age sixteen, he began playing professional trumpet with the Dal Richards band in 1942. For the next fifteen years, he played clubs and performed concerts across Canada and in the United States, as well as on the radio. When asked about the Kits band he would say,

“Being in the band meant hard work, discipline and high standards. Delamont’s standards were sometimes embarrassing. One such incident was at an international competition when the band was awarded marks of 100 percent. When Delamont received the award he delivered a scathing attack on the judges saying,

‘Any fool would know that nothing is perfect.’

The band shriveled up with embarrassment.”

Before joining MacMillan Bloedel in 1957, Ray worked days at Warren McCuish Men’s Clothing Store where he was a partner and seven nights a week he played the trumpet. A year and a half later, he realized that the clothing business was not for him, so he took a sales position with Vancouver and Davies Paper Box Ltd., where he became sales manager. Four years later, he left to join Home Oil Distributors Ltd. as manager of their Marine Division. When he eventually joined MacMillan Bloedel in 1957, his salary was only $6,800 a year. He said,

“It was fun and challenging to be in on the ground floor of the paper business. Our department had the best of both worlds –we were part of a large company but we did our own thing. Overnight we became a powerhouse in the paper industry. Everybody had real pride in MacMillan Bloedel. H.R.MacMillan was one hell of a guy. There was wonderful spirit. I still have that spirit and I know others who were around back then still have it as well.”

When Ray was asked one time about his father Stan Smith who had been an original member of the Kits Band, he commented,

“My dad was active in many sports and business associations.  He was in real estate development with Royal Trust for fifty-two years. He also found time to be General Chairman of the British Empire Games held in Vancouver in 1954. He probably bought and sold every piece of downtown Vancouver three or four times over. He was the best businessman I’ve ever known as well as a very good friend”.

In what I read, Ray never came across as a workaholic or an over achiever despite his steady rise to the top and his regular seven am arrival at the office. Words that usually cropped up when his colleagues described him were ‘relaxed’ and ‘very approachable.’ His management style was not autocratic and he tended to consult with others who were affected by his decisions or who would provide useful information. Ray put a premium on producing when the chips were down. One of his favorite stories was from his days in the entertainment world.

“I was playing with Dal Richards. We did broadcasts right across the country. I was playing second trumpet and an older fellow played lead. Three minutes before air time he took ill and I had to play lead with this huge band. I know Richards felt just sick. I was sixteen or seventeen at the time. It came off fine — to the extent that Dal stayed with one trumpet and added a fifth saxophone. When you get under pressure and find out you can do it — the kick is something else. I felt pretty good about that.”

Now, more than ever, I wanted to hear Juliette’s stories about Ray. But first I wanted to talk with his son, Stan. I managed to catch up with Stan at the Jericho Tennis Club a couple of weeks later just before  he was about to depart on a business trip to Japan. Here is what he had to say about his dad.

“Dad loved music! When I was a young kid growing up there would be lots of parties at our house. Our home was sort of like a central spot where Dad’s friends would come and a lot of times Dad would be playing the trumpet and other people would be playing other instruments. He had an unbelievable love of music. He used to tell us stories of when he played in the band,  his days at the Cave Supper Club, the Commodore and the Panorama Roof and his Kitsilano Boys’ Band days. If he wasn’t playing he was listening to music. He and my mom were almost the reverse of young kids in that they would have the stereo blasting. Dad would pretend to be a conductor. He loved Sinatra and the big band sound. He had such a love for music.”

“What kind of a guy was he?”

“He was one of the easiest going guys you would ever come across, just a sweetheart of a guy. He was social with his close friends but a quiet guy otherwise and very protective of his family. He went to a lot of public dinners but he would have preferred to come home and have dinner with his family. That was when he was the President of MacMillan Bloedel”.

“But music was always a real part of his life!”

“I just remember, whether it was in the car or in the house, music was always playing. I remember in the car he would be playing the music so loud my mom would give him a hard time because he would be waving his arms while he was driving. My mother, Kate, passed away in 2003. She played the violin. He became very close afterwards with Juliette and those two talked a lot because they both shared that common love of music, singing and bands.”

“How did he meet Juliette?”

“He was a friend of Juliettes from the early days. They met again at a function after my mother passed away and they became good pals. They dated on and off.

But to hear those two talk about music was amazing. Juliette was a big star in Canada and the US. Those two could talk eighteen hours a day about bands and different band leaders.”

“Did he ever mention Arthur Delamont?”

“I heard his name a lot but I was so young, I don’t remember much specifically. Vicki, my older sister, might recall more.”

“It sounds like your dad was always working.”

“Dad squeezed a lot in. He worked days and nights. He was a hard working, family orientated, kind of a guy, who sort of knew how to balance the corporate life with family life and achieved what not too many people can achieve in terms of working his way up from a junior position in a plant to the chairman of the board in a tough business and really not generate any enemies along the way. Jack Munro, the IWA President, and my dad became best friends. You would think because he was a union man and my dad ran the biggest forest company in B.C. that they would be adversaries but they were dear friends. Jack was very upset when Dad died in 2005. He was only seventy-nine.”

“What was it about your dad that made it possible for him to work his way up to the top?”

“Dad was just so likeable. He was a real genuine guy. I think people saw that in him. Dad was slow and steady. He was never flamboyant. He didn’t waste his money on fancy cars and fancy houses. He was just an average kind a guy”.

“Jim Pattison speaks highly of your dad.”

“He was good friends with Jim Pattison. They grew up in the same era. I remember one night I had dinner with Dad and Jim in a little restaurant in West Vancouver where Jim often ate and the two of them would talk about music. They were buddies.”

“Your family lived in Los Angeles for awhile?”

“Yes, I remember when we were young kids we lived in Los Angeles for about three years. Dad had to call on the newspaper companies because he was selling paper. Us three kids would go in the car with him to New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California while he sold his paper. L.A. was a big move for us. We had the choice of going to L.A. or to Alabama. We were sorry to leave Vancouver. When we got to L.A., my older sister met her now husband, Tim but we all knew it was best for Dad’s career. We were lucky though because for somebody like my father, we only moved once. Some of those big corporate guys are moving all the time.

The original company, MacMillan Bloedel was his life in those days. When it was sold to Noranda he struggled with the sale. There was a conflict between big business and this Vancouver icon. Almost everyone knew someone who worked at MacMillan Bloedel. I think my dad felt that it was a real sad day when the name, ‘MacMillan Bloedel’ disappeared because that was what B.C. was all about.”

“Ray had great organizational skills,” Jimmy said.

“I remember running into somebody who had worked in the mail room at MacMillan Bloedel. He said,

“Your dad would invite me up to his office to have coffee.”

“Dad treated everybody the same, whether you were in the mail room or the president of the company. I think that was Dad’s greatest strength.” I wonder where he got that from I thought!

“Arthur was the same with his band. It didn’t matter if you were from the east side or from the west side nor if your parents had money or didn’t he treated everyone the same.”

“Jim, I think is a lot more driven than my dad. Dad was devoted to my mother. Dad would literally carry my mom around in her last years. She was one of those old fashion moms and wives who sacrificed a lot for their kids. It is tough with them both gone. He led a great life!”

“How were his later years?”

“He was one of those guys who, if he was not on top of his game, he did not want to be around. He remembered the good life. I remember we were going to move him out of his house into assisted living and I could see it in his eyes, he didn’t want to do it.

A very private guy! Bob Findlay, the President at MacMillan Bloedel after Dad left, called me up after he had passed away and said,

“Your dad was just too great a guy to let it go at this. We want to have a function at Capilano Golf Course for him.”

There were about two hundred people in attendance. People like Peter Bentley talked and reminisced. It was nice. Dad would have been happy.”

“Is there any memorial to your dad?”

“There is a cherry tree we planted on the way up to the golf course with a plaque. Every time I go to play golf, I say, hi Dad! Playing golf was another one of his life pleasures.

There is an assisted living home for Canadian musicians and actors who contributed to Canadian culture. We contributed to that on my dad’s behalf. There is a plaque remembering Dad. It is located near the Westin Bayshore Hotel. We were down at the opening in 2007.

There are also a couple of music scholarships at local universities which Dad contributed to as well.”

“Anything else you can tell me about his love of music?”

“I think his real love was music but he realized early that he couldn’t provide for his family the way he wanted through music. That caused him to go in another direction. He had three kids. Mom didn’t work. He liked that life style.

When I get back from Japan, I will try to get you together with Juliette and myself so you can hear some of her great stories about my dad. She is a wealth of information.

She is just a beautiful person!”

ABOVE: Ray at Warren McCuish Men’s Wear. Ray with Juliette!

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