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Getting To Know Me

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The 1970's

I was born on February 2nd, 1972 in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Ken and Audrey Davidge, an English couple who had emigrated from England in 1957. I lived in Vancouver but when my father was transferred from the Vancouver store of Henry Birks and Sons Jewellers to the new Victoria store, we moved to Colwood, a few miles west of Victoria. This occurred at the end of January 1974 so I missed my second birthday!

The English are known for their gardens and my father was no stranger to this, having grown up with parents who kept a vegetable garden. He had a greenhouse with heated beds built on the sundeck in 1976 and started all his seeds in this manner each March. I have many memories of helping with all aspects of sowing, watering, planting and harvesting the tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, beetroot, beans and courgettes over many years. Indeed, I would keep track of the numbers of each on the side of the raised bed wood frame -- notes that were still visible and legible in 2019! Even though there were only three of us (I was not destined to have any siblings), the amount of seeds planted read as though we were feeding an army -- 220 tomato plants, 156 lettuce, 128 beetroot, 24 cucumbers, 34 beans et cetera. But as Father and I were fond of saying we did not know the germination rate. In fact, one year everything failed so we had to re-plant. Excess harvest would be given to neighbours and colleagues. He also grew fruit (raspberries, loganberries, blackberries and crabapples) and in the summer, evenings were spent picking the fruit. We would freeze them then my father would combine them to make jelly which we enjoyed with dinner and also gave away. Mother's favourite was raspberry and loganberry and I enjoyed them all.

My family acquired two tabby cats, Rusty and Dusty, in 1976. They were brothers from the same litter and their original names were Marmalade and Peanut. We quickly changed those names since Rusty was a rust colour and Dusty liked to roll in the dust. We made their home in the basement and Father installed a cat flap so they could come and go as they pleased. They gave us many years of love, affection, enjoyment and antics and were constant companions. It was always amusing to go into the garden with nary a cat in sight and once one had been gardening for a little while or left to empty a bucket full of weeds, upon return there would be a cat curled up on the kneeling mat!

The 1980's

I attended elementary school at a local school then for Grades 8 to 12, attended St. Margaret's School. This was a non-denominational all-girls school and I thrived. In the mid 1980's, Greater Victoria did not have the road system it does now and the ten mile journey to SMS would have required three buses! But a major road connector was built in 1983 which allowed Mother to drive me to school. I joined the choir and in Grades 11 and 12, was very honoured to be asked to assist the Headmistress by delivering messages to the students twice a day. I was also one of two photographers for the Cardinal, the school's yearbook which was produced by the Grade 11 class.

On the extra-curricular side of things, I was a avid reader throughout my childhood and we did have television until I was fifteen.

At the age of eight, Mother discovered I had no rhythm. So in 1981, she enrolled me in Sinclair Academy of Dancing where I took tap dancing. This was a proper dancing school where exams were held. I still have my bronze, silver and gold medals from the British Association of Teachers of Dance in tap. There was an annual recital for all students (over 150) whose routines covered tap, ballet, jazz, modern and later flamenco. I continued dancing for twelve years until I was the oldest student in the school but had no desire to pursue it as a career.

Family holidays were taken every three to four years and we would fly to London to spend three to four weeks with family. Before the mid-1990's, all my relatives lived in the southeast of England or just north of London (Kent, Sussex or Hertfordshire) so we would spent a week with each side. My Aunt Pauline and Uncle Clive (Mother's sister and brother-in-law) were especially instrumental in my life as a visit to London on August 23rd, 1985 changed my life. They took my parents and I to see a revival of the 1936 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical "On Your Toes" at the Palace Theatre in the West End. Little did I know that Andrew Lloyd Webber owned the Palace Theatre, or even who he was at that time. That quickly changed though. I had never stayed up until after midnight and for this thirteen- year-old, the whole experience was magical. Our seats were in the Dress Circle (first mezzanine, front row) and I had never seen anything like a live stage show before. From then on, I started to buy and was given books, cast recordings and soundtracks of musicals. This would quickly become my first hobby, one that continues to this day. Click on this link Musical Theatre Hobby for more about the shows I have seen over the years, the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle and other theatrical anecdotes.

In England, Canada and other countries of the British Empire, Boxing Day is a national holiday the day after Christmas. Boxing Day started in the 1830's when it was custom for tradesmen to collect Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food. There continues be a tradition among many in the United Kingdom to give a Christmas gift, usually cash, to vendors although not on Boxing Day as many would not work on that day.

In Canada, many stores had large sales (similar to Black Friday, although historically not as overblown). A Western Canadian electronic and record store, A&B Sound, was famous for its Boxing Day sales. It was here that Father purchased our first television set in 1986 and it was hooked to cable in January 1987. I soon had a few favourite television shows (Matlock, MacGyver, Murder She Wrote and PBS' Mystery! and Masterpiece Theatre programs with their absolutely spot-on adaptations and casting of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Hercule Poiriot to name but a few).

In February 1988, the Games of the XV Winter Olympiad, occurred in Calgary, Alberta. This was the first time I had seen sports televised and I was immediately fixated upon figure skating. I eagerly watched Brian Orser of Canada and Brian Boitano of the United States (Battle of the Brians), Katarina Witt of East Germany and Debi Thomas of the United States (Battle of the Carmens), as well as Elizabeth Manley of Canada who claimed the silver medal. In pairs, I marvelled at the Soviets Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov win, as well as Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall of Canada, who claimed bronze in the ice dance category. These performances would become hallmarks of skating history. I began to collect newspaper articles on skating with results, books and other items and learnt all about skating. Click on this link Figure Skating Hobby for more information, competitions I attended as a spectator and other interesting information about this hobby of mine.

The 1990's

In 1992, I was looking for another hobby. I attended a provincial Heritage Week exhibit at a local shopping centre and The Roundhouse Museum Society had a display there. The Canadian Pacific Railway in Victoria had a roundhouse complex. I had always liked the look of trains but knew next to othing about them. I went to one of their meetings and while I had no idea about what they were talking about (Budd cars is a phrase that comes to mind), I had some good ideas. The then-chairman of the Society, Richard Isles, pulled me aside afterwards and offered me the position of secretary and Trustee on the board. There I was, in my early 20's and a complete neophyte to the railway world, all of a sudden on the brink of becoming absorbed into this hobby. It would soon become my second hobby, second only to musical theatre.

My parents always taught me to never do anything by halves and I have taken that to heart throughout my life. When I get involved in something, I go "all in". I am also very detailed in what I do. because of those two attributes, I soon immersed myself in everything railways (except the business end of them) and found that I was as comfortable dressed to the nines in a theatre as I was in a rail yard with hard hat, steel-toed boots and camera, taking photographs or on excursion and special trains. More details on the my introduction to railways through the Roundhouse Museum Society, various railfanning adventures, special excursions, conventions, private car experiences and volunteering can be found throughout the chronicles on my travelogue page of this website.

While I am a “late-comer” to this hobby, missed the famous events of the 1970's and 1980's, and had no family who worked for the railway, I consider myself lucky and fortunate to have ridden and experienced all the events I have, some of which are no longer possible since they do not exist anymore.

I graduated from St. Margaret's School in 1989 and that autumn, started Sprott-Shaw Secretarial College. I did not know what I wanted to do for a career and missed university entrance by one percent on one provincial exam (not a big loss, as I did really did not have any desire to attend university). Mother was a secretary and she saw that I had the same traits. So I learnt to type, take shorthand and graduated the college in 1990. Then the challenge was to find a job. How was I to find a job with no experience, and because I had no experience, finding a job was difficult. I joined Kelly Temporary Services and landed three or four government jobs.

It was the fourth one at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs that did it for me. I started in September 1991 and did not leave until 17 1/2 years later. Here I became receptionist and secretary in the Municipal Financial Services Branch which looked after the financial and infrastructure needs of all the British Columbia municipalities and regional districts. Working for up to 25 people, I found my niche and made the job my own. I thoroughly enjoyed it and having daily contact with municipal officials, my memory served me well. Over time, treasurers and clerks would move from one town to another and they were always impressed when I said "Oh, you used to be with xxx!"

The 2000's

This job led me to a ten-year personal project regarding municipal lapel pins and crests but for that, you need to click this link Pin Project to read about that facet of my life!

In 2009, I made a large life change. I moved from Victoria to Lynnwood, Washington on a fiancee visa and settled down with my new husband Bob, a cat, and started a job with an investment company and began to explore the area and the rest of the country as the opportunities arose.

The 2010's

Railfanning adventures while living in Victoria plus trips and excursions further afield can be found on the links of my home page, which will include updates and events in my life, since this page is really a backgrounder on me and how I developed my hobbies. This is a work in progress.