I was born on March 21, 1939, in what is now Banda, Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, the place of the major earthquake and Tsunami in 2004. In Dutch Colonial days, from the early 1500′s until 1949, when Indonesia became a Republic, it was called Kotaradja [City (of the) King]. All was well, until the day before my third Birthday, in 1942, when we were interned by the Japanese. Those that made it through the war spent some 4 and a half years in a variety of make-shift camps, most of which were in the jungle. Any attempts to escape would have led to being devoured by a Tiger:(>
As early as 4, survival was to ‘steal’ a hot coal from the open tent kitchen and bake, or cook in a can, my sweet potato over a self-created dug-in-the sand small pit. In early ’46, the Americans came to Singapore to save those who were still alive. After dressing us warmly for the broken, yet more civilized world, a Red Cross ship landed us in the cold Netherlands’ winter. Surviving those early years has surely stamped me with an everlasting appreciation for simplicity.
In 1956, upon finishing public schools in Amsterdam and The Hague, my urge for the North-American wild-west’s open spaces saw me emigrate to live with my Uncle and Aunt in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Fascinated with ‘Why people do what they do to each other,’ I was learning about acting and plays in high school drama class. Seeing films settled my aim to become a Feature Film Director, since I had plans to share some stories with the world. So I worked summers in the Athabasca Uranium mines to earn money to go to theatre school in England. Then, with a High School diploma and monies earned, in the fall of 1959, I crossed the Atlantic once again, to audition and be miraculously accepted at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
For those old enough , I briefly dated Julie Christie who was a year ahead of me at Central. Whereas I was the sole son of a young Officer in the Dutch-Indonesian army, Julie was the only child of a former British Officer in India. We had quite a bit in common. In fact, the film ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ with Alec Guinness, is pretty well my father’s story. Interestingly, unrelated, 6 of us theatre students were hired in 1961 to spend 2 months with Alec Guinness and Dirk Bogarde on a frigate off the Mediterranean coast, shooting the film HMS Defiant.
Upon completing my three years, I returned to Canada and settled in Toronto to pursue my intended career. Remembering why I am writing this, I ought to ‘Reverse the Process’ and get on with the ‘Birth of my Sunrise’, before you, the reader might start getting the ‘Birth of the Blues’. Thus, I will be briefer now. Although I had a successful decade with both my own theatre company, culminating with an Off-Broadway Musical, as well as my film company, doing mostly documentary films (one winning the Columbus, Ohio ‘Chris’ award), I just could not play the politics and participate in the posturing necessary to that business. So, before I had a chance to direct a Feature film, in 1971 I did a 180, and with my young family bought and moved to a farm.
I did not know it at the time, but our farm’s 1925 Registered 5 foot tall HY POWER – ‘EMPIRE,’ heavy duty, circular Cast Iron Furnace, clearly influenced my later design of what, after the ‘Chinook’, became the ‘Sunrise.’ With its domed top, sitting on 3 x 80 pound one foot high stacked ribbed rings, positioned on top of a large cast firebox, it sat solid on the unfinished basement’s sandy soil. Except for the front doors and vents, the whole works was completely enclosed by a sheet metal plenum, its high-end circular air ducts, like some long armed spider, sending hot air to the ground floor vents. This serious contraption was to me impressive enough, I disassembled it, and save for the plenum, trucked all the pieces with me to Hornby Island after we sold the farm in 1976. Even after all these years, I still intend to resurrect it someday in my greenhouse.