Every so often, we here at the Georgia Straight learn how our humble publication can effect someone’s life. Most commonly, it’s a simple case of steering someone to a new restaurant, movie, or book. Other times, however, the paper’s influence can have much longer-lasting results.
Take the case of Barrie Gorden, for example.
Recently, Gorden came into the office bearing a gift: a box of perfectly preserved Straight copies, all about 50 years old and ready to be repatriated in the paper’s archives.
“These papers have been through every good time and every bad time I’ve had since then,” he said before launching into a fascinating story.
“I wanted to be a musician so much, I was hungry for it,” Gorden recalls, “and I knew that if I was going to proceed in music, I would have to get some pro gear.”
Back in 1969, the 17-year-old Gorden played saxophone in his Burnaby high-school band. He wanted to play jazz, like his father. As it turned out, his music teacher’s son, successful local musician Randy Rayment, had a saxophone for sale, and it just happened to be the one pictured (it its case) on the cover of his 1967 album, On a Rainy Day.
The catch: it was $325.
“So I was wondering: 'How do I make money to buy a saxophone?' I knew of the Georgia Straight—I knew that there were people selling them around town—so I went into the Georgia Straight office on Carrall Street and talked to someone at the desk and asked if there were any copies I could just have.”
Gorden was led to a storage area—“piled right to the gunwales with old issues”—and told he could have as many as he wanted.
“I ran out with two bundles under my arm,” he continued. “I didn’t really know what I was going to do with them because everybody was selling current issues, but I got on the bus back to North Burnaby and got off at Kootenay Loop. I thought maybe I could sell some of them, so I walked down to the PNE and stood outside yelling 'Georgia Straight! Georgia Straight! Five cents!' ”
Now, this was back when the Straight had paid circulation, with a cover price of 15 cents. And even though Gorden was hawking back issues—some as old as a year—he quickly sold every single copy he had.
“So I went running back down to the Georgia Straight and loaded up again,” he recalled. “I knew a secret way to get into the PNE, this little hole by the roller coaster and the arcade, so I figured I’d go inside where all the people really are. So I threw the papers over the fence, climbed in, and started selling them over by the livestock. I raised the price to 25 cents, and they all went like hotcakes.”
Flushed with success from his venture into free-market capitalism, Gorden bumped up the price to 35 cents and repeated the process a few more times (PNE officials never seemed to notice, but at one point he was chased off the PNE grounds by an irate group of cowboys). Soon he found himself sitting on $200—his mother would wind up giving him the rest of the money, and the coveted saxophone at last made its way into Gorden’s possession.
“I played that saxophone for the next 40 years, and music remained my career for the next four decades, Even now, I still do gigs.”
Gorden, who now lives on Mayne Island, is clearly happy with the way things turned out
“Every time I play a saxophone, I remember how it all started, and having to work so hard for it makes me realize how special it all is. I managed to eke out an existence all thanks to the Georgia Straight! Is there anything it can’t do?”