Hodge Podge by Charlie Hodge – Nov 30th

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I’m rather surprised the sad fact did not garner more media acknowledgement, and I am equally sad I did not have the ability to personally bid him a fond farewell. Kelowna lost a hard working, well-known, and respected savvy businessman last week with the death of long-time resident Ken Noble.With Ken’s physical departure from our community another unique character in the mosaic of people who compose the Kelowna quilt has disappeared.Ironically, and perhaps fittingly, the equally well-known building which Ken owned and managed for so many years of his life, the Willow Inn Hotel, fell before Ken did.Noble succumbed to cancer last week, and much like his life, he never gave in easily.Ken was not a big man but he had a big and bold heart, despite his occasional attempt at times to be gruff.  His employees had a healthy fear of the diminutive man who while helpful and kind, did not suffer fools.Over the years I knew Ken on a variety of levels and in a variety of rolls; however my best and favourite memories of the man were during my younger days when I not only worked for Ken – but also actually lived in the hotel. To suggest those were interesting times in an understatement to say the least.I have no doubts that there was probably many a day when I drove Ken Noble to the end of his tether – either as a tenant or an employee. On the other hand – anyone capable of running such a nefarious and unique hotel and related facilities was probably hardly fazed by the odd and often unpredictable antics of a 20-year old beer and food slinger such as moi.I am still not sure if it was bad luck, good luck, or simply twisted luck that played a role in the fact that I wound up working at the Willow. It may have had something to do with my father’s meddling to find me work (Dad and Ken knew each other fairly well), or that Ken was simply desperate to find yet another sole brave or dumb enough to actually work there.  Regardless, there was certainly some bizarre humour involved, evoked by some strange source I am sure, the day that I first picked up a bar tray and started slinging draft beer around the Willow In bar and lounge. When I was not working in the bar or lounge I also often worked in the restaurant either serving tables or cooking in the kitchen.Ralph, one of my best high school buds, and I decided that with school ending we should take a mixology course together and get jobs as bartenders.  After completing the night school course Ralph went to work at the classy and relatively calm Royal Anne Lounge, while I wound up slinging in the Willow. That  scenario hardly seemed fair or logical. Ralph was not only eight or nine inches taller than me and 50 pounds heavier – he was also a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do while I was a couple of belts lower than he.It only took me several months and several stitches and bruises to figure out that perhaps I was wiser to return to pouring out words on paper than beers into a glass. By the time another character named Patrick Denton hired me to work as the first reporter at the Kelowna Capital News I was pretty much ready for anything.However, I sure had a lot of fun and amazing memories learning those life lessons.Ken Noble gave me that chance and, I have no doubts he had his share of chuckles and head shakes in the process.One of my best memories of a ‘Noble moment’ involved a small scolding I received early one morning when I was in the kitchen making up sandwiches for the inmates at the Kelowna cop shop jail cells. (The Willow had the contract for such food prep).Ken wandered into the kitchen in his particular, no-nonsense style of entrance, and announced, “Charlie – you have to keep your damn TV quieter late at night.  I had three complaints from the front desk about the TV in your room being way too loud last night.  What’s that about?”When I  explained that the working  girl who was residing in the hotel room next to mine at that particular time was very loud entertaining her customers, and I was simply trying to drowned out the graphic sounds – Ken just shook his head and said,  “Charlie  that sort of noise is par for the course around here.  Front desk staff and other regular guests around here are use to that sort of noise, but your TV  – you got to tone that down my friend.”Another time when I was making sandwiches he admonished me for putting too much egg into the egg salad slabs. “Look the guys eating them could not care less, the guys serving them certainly don’t care, and the only ones paying for them are the taxpayers,” he lectured.A few weeks later when another bar worker and I had survived a wild and woolly night of bar brawls and silliness, which had led to a slightly earlier than normal closing time, Ken showed up during the clean up and threatened to fire us.“I ought to run your butts out of here. I walk in the back, start walking down the hall, and there is some guy lying on the floor in the hall bleeding all over the place. I can’t have that. It’s just not good for business,” he said, stomping away.The other bartender looked at me in shock and said, “The !$#!!* guy thinks he’s running The Hilton for God’s sake.” I never dared laugh until Ken was out of sight.Kelowna will never be the same without the Willow Inn Hotel and certainly not the same without Ken Noble,R.I.P.  Ken – thanks for being there.

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  With Christmas on the horizon the gazillionth annual Charlie’s Angels Christmas List is also pending.Readers are encouraged to email me the names of people who they consider personal angels in their lives; folks who have gone above and beyond in kindness to help others in the year.Send them to me and I will run them in a column before Christmas. It is your way of acknowledging someone who has done something nice without any expectation of a thank you.Email your names and reasons to hodgepodge2@shaw.cat.

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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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