howtheduck (howtheduck) wrote in binky_betsy,

The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston Part XI – Bernhard Thor

To recap, the chronology as I understand it is this:

1968 – Lynn and Doug move to Dundas, Ontario. Doug works at CHCH-TV. Lynn fails to get a job in animation, but instead takes a job at McMaster University and does freelance work on the side.
1970 – Rod Johnston graduates from Ryerson with his degree in Radio/TV and begins work as a props guy at CHCH-TV. Lynn admits she likes Rod. Lynn also admits that she hangs around CHCH-TV to help out, which would give her time to meet Rod.
1972 – Farley is purchased. Lynn wants a baby. Doug does not. They fight about having the baby.

We will discuss what happens next after the cut.


Our relationship was deteriorating rapidly. We had been fighting about Doug’s frequent absences. After work, he would go to a bar, and if he wasn’t home for dinner, I knew he might not come home all night. One night I decided to leave. I began to pack my bags. If he didn’t come home by the time I was packed and ready, then I’d get a cab to the airport and buy a ticket to Vancouver. I had had enough. I packed everything I could into two suitcases, took a cab to the Toronto airport, and bought a one-way ticket to Vancouver. It was a decision that had been long overdue. I was so upset that I left without telling a soul. As much as I hated to, I left behind my dog, too.


First of all, it's a good thing for Lynn that flights going from Toronto to Vancouver in 1972 ran at all hours of the night so she could get that plane ticket.

Literally we moved directly from Katie discussing the Lynn/Doug fight being over whether to have a baby (which she lifted from the 10th anniversary) to Lynn’s more recent version of their battle (Doug being absent a lot). Without going into it too much, I will point out that given a nightly TV newscast at around dinner time, the expectation that Doug would ever be home for dinner is a little silly.

The next part of this story is one I have never heard Lynn tell before which automatically sets off my “Lynn is telling a whopper” alarm. In this version of the story, Lynn packs her bags and decides that she is going to leave Doug and go back to Vancouver, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the story she has told about Doug in the past (he leaves her and goes to Vancouver).


In a fog of panic and despair, I arrived at my parents’ home and was ushered to my childhood bedroom. It hadn’t changed. It was surreal. I lay in my bed thinking, “I had a house, a job I loved, friends, and a dog. What am I doing here?!” My parents were non-judgmental. They welcomed me home, but my problems were mine to solve. They offered no assistance and no advice. They offered to let me stay with them while I got on my feet.


First of all, “…and a dog.” Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!! That is the funniest thing Lynn has written in a long time.

Now that I got that off my chest, if this did happen, there is no way Ursula is going to let this one leave without a comment. People from their generation did not up and jump on a plane to alleviate marital problems. People in my generation don’t do that either, for that matter. Whatever happened to moving to a local hotel?


I immediately set off to find employment and a place to live. Within a couple of days, I found an apartment, but it wasn’t going to be available for two weeks. With furnishing it in mind, I went into a furniture store and was so enthusiastic about the merchandise, I told them I could sell it! I said I’d been a sales clerk for my dad, which was true. The manager knew my dad and offered me a job. The job was to start at the end of the month – the same time my apartment would be available.


No mention of the store name, or the owner’s name or where it was. Those kinds of things set off my “This is a lie” alarm with Lynn. If the guy knows Lynn’s dad, then Lynn knows the name.


With two weeks to kill before her new independence began, Lynn decided to look up an old friend from art school who was living in a remote area of the province on the side of a mountain, high above Seton Portage. To visit Bernhard Thor meant taking the PGE (Pacific Great Eastern) Railway, which was running passengers into the province’s interior at the time, to an uninhabited location along the rail. From there, the remainder of the journey had to be made on horseback. Lynn would be seeing an area her Aunt Unity loved and had documented in paintings and sketches.


The fellow is going to be Bernhard Thor. The description of where he lives sounds completely accurate. This is the description of the place from the Wikipedia (I bold the important parts)

It and Seton Lake were originally the same lake, which was cut in half between ten and twenty thousand years ago by a large landslide from the north face of the Cayoosh Range, which fronts Anderson Lake on the east. The slide created a locality known today as Seton Portage, which combined with the steamer "Lady of The Lake" played a key role on the route of the Douglas Road during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858-59.[2] At its head, near the mouth of the Gates River, is the community of D'Arcy, the St'at'imcets name for which is N'quatqua. Also on the lake is the resort/retirement community of McGillivray Falls (pron. McGill-vah-ree) which served as a relocation centre for Japanese-Canadians during their World War II forced exile from the British Columbia Coast.

Overlooking the lake from the north is the southeast flank of the Bendor Range, along the base of which runs the British Columbia Railway, now owned by Canadian National Railways and originally built as the Pacific Great Eastern. Skirting the shoulder of the Bendor Range high above the lake is a powerline road, known as the High Line Road, connecting D'arcy to Seton Portage, and from near D'Arcy a trail traverses the high McGillivray Pass to the gold towns of Bralorne and Pioneer and the rest of the upper Bridge River Country.


I was let out of the train on the tracks in the middle of nowhere – below the “string bag post,” which held the mail. Out of the brush, whooping and hollering, came my friend Bernhard, riding one horse and helped me onto the other. We rode together up into the wildest, most spectacular mountain country I’d ever seen.


“Whooping and hollering”. Bwa-ha-ha! Lynn loves those old cowboy movies.


Bernhard lived alone at the time. I had a room to myself in his hobbit-like cabin, which he had built himself. It was a memorable home to say the least. Walls, doorways, and windows were adorned with twisted woodcarvings, his stairs were sculpted from stone. I felt welcome, and more than anything, I felt loved – true platonic love. With his kindness and affection, I began to recover from my broken marriage and fast exodus from Ontario. A week into my visit, I began to feel ill. Having fathered two sons himself, Bernhard diagnosed my illness as pregnancy. He asked me to stay, but I need to go back to North Vancouver and see my doctor. I promised I’d return. I did, but not for many years.


First of all, Lynn has been away from North Vancouver for almost 5 years at this point. She doesn’t have a doctor there.

The way Lynn writes this, she makes it seem like Bernhard Thor is a guy who loves them and leaves them pregnant. By spelling out “true platonic love”, which draws attention to the nature of their relationship and Bernhard’s request for her to stay; Lynn may not know that she just painted a story where she left her husband to go fool around with an old buddy of hers from school.

A little internet search show the real story of Bernhard is something quite different (quoting from this article):

Born in 1943 in rural East Germany, Thor’s early years were lived in the fog of war and then under the iron fist of Communism. He escaped in 1961 at the tender yet immortal age of 17. He immigrated to Canada in 1963, ending up in Vancouver where he completed studies in painting and sculpture at the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr Institute) in 1968.

The following year Thor and wife Mary migrated up the Sea to Sky corridor, finding a home in the rugged mountains around the Seton Portage.

The pioneer life they scraped out for themselves and their two sons there was worlds away from that of an urban studio artist. As a result, Thor’s art career has had to meld the creative with the practical. Stone sculpture has gone hand in hand with masonry. Woodcarving has gone hand in hand with carpentry and millwork. Painting canvases hand in hand with painting structures. Learning leatherwork to produce harnesses and saddles has led to commissions of custom upholstery.

Though his ambition as an artist has been tempered by the demands of raising a family, Thor has pursued his various crafts with a resiliency he attributes to growing up in wartime.

With a 1968 graduation date, Bernhard Thor looks like he was there at the same time as Lynn, but would have been a year ahead of her. The description of his life sounds like if Lynn actually did go visit him in 1972, then she would have found him with his wife and 2 very young sons.


Picture of Bernhard Thor in front of his house with a collie dog. His beard hair is almost as long as the collie’s hair. The caption is “Bernhard Thor and Lynn are still close friends. Lynn photographed him in front of the entrance to his secluded home, 2007.


Eek! 2007?! This paints a picture of newly-divorced Lynn making a visit with Bernhard Thor, which would explain why her description of his place is so vivid. I could easily see Lynn with a platonic visit in 2007, but I would fear for Bernhard Thor to have to suffer through Lynn at that time.


With my pregnancy confirmed, I was left to consider my option. My parents were of no help. They decided to go to their cottage to give me time and space, to be alone with my thoughts. In the meantime, without my knowledge, Doug had arrived in Vancouver. We had a long talk. He promised to settle down and do his best to be a good father, and so I agreed to move back to Ontario with him. It was a calculated risk. If things turned out well, then my marriage would be saved. If he continued his old habits, then I’d break away from him, but I’d have the baby and house – things I had been wanting for so long.


First of all, Lynn’s parents get another slam for doing nothing but giving her time and space. Assuming this story is true, then if Doug came there, Lynn’s parents were the ones who called him to tell him where she was. I like the way Lynn talks about the ownership of things and this time she leaves out the dog and her job. The things she wants are the house and the baby (husband optional). In order to get her to move back, Doug is the one who has to compromise, and his promise is to be a good father. No surprise there (if the fight is over having a baby). However, I do enjoy the idea that Doug follows Lynn to Vancouver and this is how he finds out she is pregnant.


Back in Ontario, life became positive. Lynn tried to get her job back at McMaster. By leaving her job unannounced, they had hired someone else. Luckily, she had retained most of her freelance clients. With some effort, she managed to secure enough work to keep herself employed.


This is in direct contrast to Lynn’s story in the 10th anniversary collection where she said:

I conceived Aaron. For the nine months I was expecting him, our turbulent relationship mellowed. I left my job in town and prepared the house and myself for the new baby.

To summarize:

1. Lynn left Doug first to go back to Vancouver, not the other way around.
2. Doug agreed to be a father, instead of being totally against it.
3. Lynn and Doug fought over his absences, not his opposition to having a baby.
4. Lynn lost her job at McMaster University because Doug’s behavior forced her to leave town, not because she wanted to quit to get ready for baby Aaron.
5. Lynn’s parents are slugs who refuse to give her advice about her problems with Doug. (It implies that her parents were the exact opposite in real life.)
6. Lynn had a thing for Bernhard Thor. Too bad he was married and a devoted family man with 2 young sons.

I think the only part of this story that is true is that Lynn at one point visited Bernhard Thor at his home in the mountains. The idea of a woman leaving to have the man chase after her while she considers life with a different man is not only pure soap opera, but it is one of the major themes of virtually every romance Elizabeth Patterson had in the comic strip. Clearly, it is an appealing idea to Lynn. The next part is a little closer to stories Lynn has told before, but there are some interesting twists.


  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.