Barlee made history with NDP breakthrough win

Historian Bill Barlee made history with win in provincial by-election.

Dear Editor:

Commendations on your Page 3 item June 28 on Bill Barlee.

From the ‘70s through the ‘80s, visiting on weekends with George and Norma Ryga at their Caldwell Road home, I often witnessed high-scoring, highly competitive games of Scrabble between George and neighbour Bill Barlee.

From their acquaintance and friendship and from Bill’s Canada West came 12 radio drama scripts by George, under the banner title Miners, Gentlemen and other Hard Cases.

CBC Radio Vancouver assigned direction of the series to the then-retired Esse Ljungh who had pioneered radio drama for the corporation in Toronto, but was now living in Victoria.

I had the pleasure and privilege of recording the many songs (which laced George’s scripts) with five-string banjo strumming, during a two-day studio stint with Ljungh.

More than a decade later I landed, now retired myself, at Summerland’s Legion Village March 1, 1988.

Next thing I know another retirement precipitated a by-election right here and the NDP chose Bill Barlee over Jake Kimberley as their candidate.

As you reported, Bill defeated three others for the legislative seat in Victoria.

From recording history for decades to making history, his win marked the beginning of the end for B.C.’s Social Credit government and eventually the party too.

A second NDP by-election win in the Cariboo was another nail-in-the-coffin for Premier Bill Vander Zalm, and later, his successor, Rita Johnston.

So, if our next general election is called in 2013 it will have been 25 years since Barlee’s breakthrough.

Remember those adages about history repeating itself and the risk attending those who ignore it?

Dick Clements

Summerland