Hodgepodge by Charlie Hodge – Happy Birthday to me!

Why didn’t I think of it earlier?

It’s taken 66 birthdays for my light bulb to finally come on.

I should be giving presents, cards, or best wishes to my friends and loved ones on my birthday – not getting them.

Regardless, the expression should not be happy birthday ‘to’ me – it should read happy birthday ‘on’ me.

It’s my birthday. Tis I who is thankful for being alive and having such friends throughout my life. By gosh what a wonderful life I have lived. Sometimes because I’ve made it so, but most often it quite simply was – wonderful.

Largely that’s because of the plethora of kind, caring people who have been a part of my whirlwind visit in this particular realm of life. I have a lot of people to thank – so many of whom I will fail to mention in this quickly hammered out, past deadline column (some things never change).

First and foremost are those who brought me into the world. I’ve waxed on at near nausea over the years about the heart and mind skills of my sage-like mother, and probably unfairly berated my wise, caring, yet confusing father. In the big picture retrospect they truly were wonderful parents who worked hard at raising good kids and certainly succeeded with my kind, caring sister Sylvia and brother Vic. The jury remains out on moi.

My earliest hero was Grandpa Atkinson a historian, writer and bitter World War 1 veteran who shared many hours with me collecting artifacts in rivers and lakes around the Valley. I will forever cherish our river walks where he planted seeds of imagination, hope, and values of honour and hard work.

Earliest fond memories after moving to Kelowna from Summerland around age 7 include attending cub camp and church camp at the Okanagan Anglican Church Camp meeting all kinds of lifelong friends such as Brent Carr, Alan Fast, and an old grizzled former trapper and ex skid-row bum Robert Stevens, better known as Old Steve. The man became mentor to Vic and I, teaching me everything about surviving in the bush, hunting rattlesnakes, fishing, and how to avoid becoming a skid-row bum.

An angel pioneer woman named Phyllis Kitson had one of the greatest impacts on my world. I met her around age 12 while hiking in the hills above her home near Bear Creek. She took me home for tea and I kept visiting her for the rest of her life. Clearly the wisest person I ever met and I believe put in my path, literally, for a reason. She taught me to believe in me.

I took my earliest childhood friends with me to visit her including Danny Thiessen, Rob Gable, Rob Jeffries, Alan Gatzke, Ken Carter, Rich Rumley and many others. When Danny and I and a host of  others were not at Mrs. Kitson’s we were either playing road or ice hockey. Thousands of hours emulating Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe… what joy in our Knox Crescent/Water Street neighbourhood. Once again kind mentors Harvey Stolz  and Herb Sullivan helped me with friendship and tutelage.

My youth and early teens saw me loving life on sunny beaches, picking fruit, working at Burnett’s Greenhouse, and working as stick-boy and later trainer for three years with the Kelowna Buckaroos. There I met gems such as Don Culley, Wayne North, Dave Cousins, Brad Owens, Tad Campbell, Gene Carr, Brad Robson and a pile of others.

Soon after my new friend Ralph Krehbiel introduced me to Martial Arts which in turn brought me dearest friend Butch O’Brien and other quality folks such as Lars Larson. What better life as a teenager/young adult then surrounded by such friends as Butch, Jim Krahn, Jim Melville, Irma Klarenbeek, Deb Stone, Tim Anheliger, Margot Newton, Doug Parke…

My first newspaper job at the Kelowna Daily Courier in the early 1970’s connected me with wonderful folks such as Gunnar Forstrom, Mary Greer and Lorne White. After a brief period slinging beer in the Willow Inn Capital News editor Pat Denton hired me as their first full time reporter. It’s a marriage that still remains with this column 40 years later. The Capital News brought me friends such as Rainer Ziegenhagen, Al Patterson, Sandy Lewis, Glen Schaefer, Tom Fletcher,  Garth Almond … and a regular seat at the Colony pub. Kamloops editor Mel Rothenburger stole me to the Kamloops News where I met lifetime brothers John Carter.

By that time my love for music and covering concerts for newspapers found me taking on roles as band manager, agent, personal coach and lighting dude for a plethora of musicians both part time and full time – something I still dabble in. Over the years the music world brought me a bundle of dear buddies including top pocket pals Curtis Tulman, Barry Mathers, Jimmy LeGuilloux, Gary Smyth, Bill Greene, Randall Robinson, Pat Brown, John Adams, Jeff Cheek, Rachel Matkin, Derek Melissen, Jim Ryan, Keith Thom, Rann Berry, Don Burnett, Trudy Janicki, Brad Krauza, and many others. Ten years on Vancouver Island at two newspapers reunited me with  John Carter, and introduced me to Tony Kant, Peter Rusland, Lorne Lameroux, Bob McPherson, Kitty Stolar, John Michener, Barry Gerding, and my first City Council. Parksville also friended me with Howie Meeker and Jack Whyte – life altering friends.

Back to Kelowna where my three terms on Kelowna council began. First term brought me the friendship and wisdom of Sharon Shepherd, Graham James, Michele Rule and Luke Stack and staff Jan Johnston and Stephen Fleming. During the past two terms I have been honoured to work with the current council of real characters who have been there in my tough times. Tracy Gray was a gem to sit with for three years in the previous term and a great friend.

Over the years so many have done so much in many ways. Clay Horan, Lloyd Manchester, Cam Birge, two ex-wives Catherine Horan and Sharon Dillard with whom I shared many years and remain friends, granddaughter Chelsea Fagan, David Shaw, Regional District staff such as Todd Cashin and directors, former school teachers Eileen Cassidy and Ian Middler, Douglas Moore, Diane Neufeld, Atkinson and Maurice Reveryand.

During the last dozen years or so I have had a number of new friendships, many of whom have stepped up to help me during hard times including Les Thompson, Larry Hollier, Dr. Graham McCauley, Fred Finnigan, Dan McGauley, Josh Stilborn, Robert Nerbus and my Masonic Lodge brothers, and others supported by lifetime brothers by choice Tulman, Smythe, and last but most important of all – my best friend and wife Teresa.

How blessed am I.

Happy Birthday on me – indeed!

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.


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