By Roy L Hales
A local novel is getting traction in stores from Courtenay to Campbell River. The author describes his work ”a collection of stories, some real, some fiction, all filled with nostalgia of recent (1960’s).” I recently had an opportunity to ask Frank Wayne what is behind The Cumberland Tales.
Creating The Cumberland Tales
“The Cumberland tales came into being from one singular image really and that was Sam Yik. I remember my mother sunning out to buy a head of lettuce from Sam Yik, who was from Chinatown – the Cumberland Chinatown, and used to trumple around the town selling vegetables. My mom ran into the street, paid Sam Yik a few coins and then came back with this beautiful head of lettuce. Then he’d trumple off to the next house,” says Wayne.
“From that singular image, I started thinking about my growing up days in Cumberland and I just started expanding on it until I had a collection of stories… There is an element of magic realism in the novel. However as I grew up, through my personal experience the feel of the town is what I wanted to get across. As adults, we all look back back on our childhood … and all of those magical memories are powerful.”
“The whole marble season in the school ground days, when I was a kid growing up in Cumberland, was great time. When school days were finished, the whole school yard would erupt with all of these kids bringing in all of their marbles and there would be games going all over the place … You’d want to get as many marbles as you could.”
Wayne fictionalizes these stories so he can add interior monologue, philosophical speculations and details which could have occurred – but did not.
People & Places
He says Cumberland residents really like this book.
“Especially if you grew up in Cumberland during the sixties, they read the book and ‘say oh my God I had forgotten.’ It has started a conversation and brought about a sense of pride in being from that town.”
Most of the places he describes are real. The Golden Slipper Cafe was known as Pecks during the 1960s. It was the candy store for kids. “If you had a dime, or even if you had a penny, you could buy some good candy. Both the Waverly and King George Hotels are still there and the fight scenes Wayne describes are based on actual events.
“The guys would come back from the mine or the loggers would come in from the woods and they’d want to wash the coal dust down or take the edge off after a long day in the woods. .. Sure, a lot of times there would be brawls…”
The United Church did lose much of its congregation, but the split Wayne describes is fictional.
Them Crazy Chinese & Sam Yik
In another imaginary episode, the townspeople are described saying, “Them crazy Chinese don’t know nothing.” Only the Chinese drain the local swamp “using the ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system and grew vegetables to feed all those fancy white people living in the new houses.”
Much of the book is devoted to Jay, his friend Ducky and their relationship to the elderly gardener Sam Yik. Wayne uses the Chinese man as a vehicle to convey philosophical ideas. In one of the three segments from the book read out in the podcast, Jay says:
“I told said Sam Yik about the old man. He said that each of us came out of the blue. He said that each of us have a story to tell. Some get to share their stories, some do not, but the untold stories are the ones we needed to seek. I was not sure why the untold stories were more important than the ones we heard, but that is what he said.”
“But I know him,” I whispered.
“He stifled a chuckle and said, “We all know each other.”
In a chapter entitled “Marble Love and Jethro the Crow,” Wayne writes “I’m Jay.” Like his fictional character, Wayne moved to Cumberland when he was three months old. In the podcast you will hear me trick Wayne into admitting that like Jay, he stole some of Mr Montague’s dandelion wine. These are specific incidents.
“Lots of people ask me, who is this character, who is that character – but its fiction,” says Wayne.
Buy The Book
There are many more stories, and details, in the podcast above – and even more in the book.
You can purchase a copy at Save on Foods in Campbell River, the Book Bonanza and Spirit Books on Quadra Island, Rare Bird Bookstore in Cumberland, Laughing Oyoster in Courtenay, at amazon.com, or at Wayne’s website: https://www.frankwayne.net/the-cumberland-tales-3/
The podcast above will be broadcast on Cortes radio, CKTZ 89.5 FM May 2 at 9 AM and May 8 at 5 PM.
Top Image Credit: Collage of the The Cumberland Tales’ cover & the author.