--- Discovering The Harsh Light of Reality---
I traded my Model A with Harold Hamilton for a more or less derelict 1939 Plymouth and off I went to Provincial Normal School without a penny to my name. Fees were due in six weeks. No bursary came through. I left and went to the Unemployment Office. They found me a job at Kent's, a local appliance store, as a part-time truck driver and general clean up person. I drove a pickup once or twice a week to make deliveries with a salesman. My salary was $90 a month. I hated this job more than I hated school. I wanted to apprentice as an auto mechanic but no one would have me.
Then, I went home one night and my mother had a serious look. It seems that the Principal of the Normal School Harry Gilliland had phoned. A girl with a full scholarship and bursary had resigned and had gone home. I was being offered the bursary and scholarship. How instrumental Sybil was in getting this to happen I'll never know. I'd had it with Kent's. I went back to school. I would have to repay the $500 bursary and I could not accept a position in Victoria for two years. Normal School was like high school. I muddled through. My theatrical nature allowed me to entertain and engage classes of children. The demand for preparation was a burden. Still, I graduated.
Jim to his credit had got me a summer job with Phil McQuade Service. I loved it there. Here was my apprenticeship and my boss was supportive and kind. I acquired a 1950 Hillman to replace the Plymouth. Phil assisted me in rebuilding the engine. In my mind I had found a home. Getting a teaching position, meant leaving home. I did not want this. but Sybil's quest to save me from myself continued. She found a teaching position advertised at Langford School. Located outside Victoria, Langford was acceptable. I could commute. She had already set up an interview with Ruth King, the principal. Teachers were scarce in 1956. Ruth offered me a job. I took it. It was for a split grade 4-5 class of more than 40 children. My annual salary was $2010.
Its only now that I begin to fathom my mother's life-long struggle to legitimize herself and assure that her son met with success. She laboured long and hard to get Jim his pension. She laboured longer and harder to legitimize me. To start with, when I graduated from Normal School I could not receive a certificate without producing my birth certificate, obviously exposing her charade. She found a way around the issue by coercing Jim into formally adopting me. In 1956 I became his adoptive son and received my first teaching certificate. The truth of my origin remained hidden and would remain so for another 35 years.
In 1956 I began my most meaningful interlude with Geoff Vantreight. My best friend, Jack Smith was indentured to Vantreight Farms for life. He had quit school after Grade 9 as had his older brother Al. Jackie had money. Jackie bought a table tennis table and we set it up in my garage on San Juan. With a single bulb hung from the rafters, in cramped quarters, we played ping pong every night endlessly even with a cracked and taped ball. Jackie had a car and he let me work on it. While I was at Normal School, I customized his 1947 Plymouth. Customized is a stretch. Actually I buggered it and he paid me to do it. I'll never be able to repay Jack for his friendship and loyalty. His decency was unparalleled.
Well, my work on Jack's car did not stand the test of time. It quickly started to fall apart. Flex pipe rots. The dual exhaust started to come adrift. The clutch failed no fault of mine. Jack came to me and asked me fix the clutch and to put things back the way they were before my talented fingers went to work. I worked on the car inside the main bulb shed at Vantreight Farms. One evening, I was installing the new clutch when Geoff himself showed up. After a few minutes, he informed me that he had bought Mike Newton's race car from the Newton Brothers. He was going to have Al Smith drive the car. Then, quite unexpectedly he asked me if I would like to run the race team for him. I was instantly flattered and hooked. Thus began one of the most significant periods of my life where I finally emerged from my solitude. So many things were about to fall into place and I didn't know it.
Jack and I were the race car crew and we enlisted Dean Perry who was a school friend fresh out of a stint in the RCAF. He was value added because he had a mechanics tool kit. We actually built a new car in Vantreight's Machine Shop. Well, by this time I had a 1950 Dodge with a rebuilt engine courtesy of Phil McQuade. The dual exhaust on it had a magnificent rap that was much appreciated when I used it to wake up the neighbourhood at night. Well, my Dodge towed the race car. I felt like "King of the Hill" Most of all I belonged at last.
At Western Speedway we were as green as grass. Personally, I toyed with the idea of eventually taking over the driving chores from Al but that was never to happen. The most important move I made at the start was convincing Geoff to have Grant King a noted race car builder build our engines. Our association with Grant proved very fruitful over the years. From him, I learned that the first thing you do in racing is cheat. The trick was not to get caught. An old race car driver Brownie Brown taught me that everyone cheated. My first season was definitely mediocre even though we finished in the top 10. It was highlighted by Geoff lending the car for the Press-Radio race and a local DJ destroyed the car while practicing. Another highlight, in my life, that year was the night that Jim Allan threw me through the front door of the farmhouse without opening it first. He objected to me asserting my right to go and work on the car and he assaulted me for defying him .Actually, he was so enraged that he risked personal injury by leaping through the open driver's window of the Dodge in a frantic attempt to strangle me as I drove away.
In November Jim was offered the farm for $5000. He could not raise the money. He was employed as the driver of senior citizen, Mr. Tenhumpel. The gentleman lived and had property in Langford across from my school. He had a small cottage for rent. Without a moments hesitation Jim took Sybil and I to live in Langford. As poor as it was, the farm was home and leaving caused me great separation anxiety. I went to Gordon Head every evening and mourned my loss, Sybil suffered worse than I. She was housebound in Langford unable to get to Victoria easily. Jim went on about his life. He couldn't have cared less.
My friend Jackie Smith had a girlfriend who later became his first wife. Lorraine Bell was a student at Mount Doug High. She knew all of us well. One night she informed me that Dean Perry was retiring from racing and when she asked why he replied, "I'm sick of 'Sleepy Allan' and his big ideas!" It was a shock. I felt betrayed. But it set the stage for 1958 which was to be a much better year.
BC's centenary 1958 became a landmark year as Dave Allan emerged from solitude. Early in the year, I produced a mural with my Langford School class.It featured the Centennial mascot "Century Sam" It was displayed proudly in the school hall. It made the front page of the The Victoria Daily Times. My two years in rural purgatory were up. My determined mother had arranged an interview for me with John Gough, the Superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District. He simply asked me what school in Victoria I'd like to be assigned to. Shortly afterward, I received a letter appointing me to Gordon Head School as of September 1958. I was going home. Sybil was on the move too. She got us moved to temporary quarters on Richmond Road. Finally, she achieved her end. It was the rental of a clean little cottage at 1697 Knight Avenue just off Shelbourne Street and around the corner from Grant King's shop on McRae. Ideal for me. I was just a short commute from school and race car.
That summer I stopped work with Phil McQuade. The hand of mother was in there somewhere. Instead, I went to Summer School at the fledgling University of Victoria to acquire credit for my Elementary Basic Teaching Certificate. From this point forward, it would be Summer School and then Night School for several years. The race car season kicked off and we were successful right out of the box. We won our first major race in July. Al Smith, who never worked on the car and did not socialize with us, was fast becoming a winning race driver. He simply drove. We worked on the car. Another track, Grandview Bowl, opened in Nanaimo in the summer and we raced there on Friday nights and at Western Speedway on Saturday. We were running for the Island Championship and finished fourth
By the summer of 1959, The race car was established as one of the leading cars on the Nanaimo-Victoria Circuit. In June Geoff Vantreight stopped us going to Nanaimo for 3 weekends. Grant King whose car was banned in Nanaimo talked Geoff into this decision. The 3 weeks it took me to convince Geoff to go back to Nanaimo cost us the points we needed to win the championship.
Just when I had finished my coursework for the summer at UVic. Al rolled the car in a race. It was a mess. People wrote it off. I took it upon myself to see we didn't miss a race and everyone bought in. I worked from dawn to the wee hours every day. The guys worked their day jobs and then pitched in. A freshly painted car arrived at Nanaimo that Friday and won the main event. At the Nanaimo championship race later in the month, Al broke the transmission warming up. A wrecker picked up the rear of the car in the pits and we removed the rear end and tranny. Larry and I rebuilt the transmission right there with parts we found in Nanaimo driver, Ray Pottinger's garage. We got the car ready for the championship race and were allowed to start at the rear of the field. It was at this point that Frank Morris presented me with the clutch throwout bearing. We had failed to install it. So a truck pushed Al until the motor spun and fired and he was stuck in gear for the whole race and amazingly he won the damn thing. We had that kind of positive chemistry for a time.
Shortly after our Nanaimo victory we won the local championship race at Western when Grant King's car failed. We finished the season third in points. Inwardly I felt success. Outwardly, I felt that the car's success was all due to me. I seized every opportunity to grandstand. Thoughtlessly, I shortchanged the others repeatedly. I still owe them to this day for tolerating my thoughtless selfish behaviour. I had blinders on when it came to considering the needs of others. It was this shortcoming of mine that would eventually lead to the erosion of the friendships I had built and were so dear to me.