ST. PIERRE, Paul (1923-2014)




Author Tags: Cariboo, Essentials 2010, Fiction, First Nations, Humour, Literary Landmarks, Mexico

LITERARY LOCATION: Tombstone for Paul St. Pierre, Fort Langley cemetery, about 30 paces to the west of the War Memorial.

At his own request, the tombstone inscription on the grave of Paul St. Pierre in the Fort Langley cemetery reads, "This was not my idea." He is buried in the military section because he was a WW II veteran. Remnants of his Mexican-styled "Day of the Dead" funeral celebration remained on the gravesite long after he had died and revelers had walked down the main street of Fort Langley (Glover Road) behind a Mexican mariachi band to the cemetery. The Fort Langley Cemetery is one of the most historic in B.C. Paul St. Pierre's grave is only about a block and a half from the 'hacienda-style' house he lived in for 25 years.

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

Paul St. Pierre is one of the few B.C. writers—probably the only one—who has had his photograph on a Canada Post stamp. A wry comic writer, sometimes compared to Mark Twain, he referred to writing as indoor work with no heavy lifting. St. Pierre was especially adept at depicting aboriginals and ranchers in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. His stories from that region showcase the humour and stubborn independence of hardy people who instinctually resent government. His stories from the Cariboo-Chilcotin became the basis for a CBC-TV series, Cariboo Country in 1960. Although it was cancelled after only one season, it was revived by the network from 1964 to 1967. He wrote more than 20 scripts, mainly centred on a rancher named Smith, who seemingly had no first name.

In 1960, he turned his stories about the B.C. interior into a CBC-TV series, Cariboo Country. It was cancelled after one season, but came back in 1964 and ran until 1967. It was Cariboo Country that launched the acting career of Chief Dan George as Ol’ Antoine. Dan George later gained stardom in George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe and an Academy Award nomination for his appearance opposite Dustin Hoffman in the movie Little Big Man. Cariboo Country was the first significant portrayal of non-urban B.C. culture on television that percolated beyond British Columbia.

Paul St. Pierre’s best-known book, Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse (1966), began as a television episode called How to Break a Quarter Horse. Both became the basis for a 1969 Disney feature film entitled Smith! starring Glenn Ford with Keenan Wynn, Dean Jagger and Warren Oates. Known only by his surname Smith, the tenacious rancher enlists the help of an aboriginal, Ol’ Antoine, to help him break a horse that he believes will be an ideal cutting horse, but the story is more about Smith’s character than the horse. Smith feels he is someone who likes to mind his own business, and he is fond of sarcasm, but his strong aversion to injustice, and his instinctual need to help others, gets him into trouble and lands him before the judge. The comedy shows a serious side when Smith helps out a fugitive First Nations boy. Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse has never been out of print since its publication.

Born in Chicago of French-Canadian parents in 1923, Paul St. Pierre grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia where he briefly undertook some journalism for the Dartmouth Weekly in 1940. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Froce in 1941, but was pensioned out of the armed forces due to a heart condition developed from an earlier bout of rheumatic fever.

Paul St. Pierre came west in 1945 and began his journalism career in earnest in B.C. with stints at the Columbian in New Westminster and the News Herald in the late 1940s. He wrote for the Vancouver Sun from 1947 to 1968, and again from 1972 to 1979. During the rise of Trudeaumanian, he served as the Liberal MP for the Coast Chilcotin riding from 1968 to 1972 and he chaired the B.C. Liberal caucus for two years. He was also a police commissioner for B.C. from 1979 to 1983. His play How to Run the Country was produced by the Vancouver Playhouse in 1967. Other early books by St. Pierre include Boss of the Namko Drive (1965); Chilcotin Holiday (1970), a collection of newspaper columns; and Smith and Other Events (1983), one story from which made him the first Canadian winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for fiction.

He died at age 90 in 2014.

Also see:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2S69u7hfpVU

FULL ENTRY:

"Paul St. Pierre is a storyteller... in France or Germany they would erect a statue in his honour." -- Charles Lillard, critic

"This guy wears British Columbia on his sleeve, and our collective imagination is the richer for it." -- Scott McIntyre, publisher

"There are so few masters of humour that he deserves a special award for giving us so much pleasure." -- Edith Iglauer, author

In 2000, Paul St. Pierre received the sixth Terasen Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in British Columbia. A wry comic writer, sometimes compared to Mark Twain, he was especially adept at depicting Aboriginals and ranchers in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. In the 1960s he wrote more than 20 scripts as the basis for a popular and award-winning CBC-TV series, Cariboo Country, which launched the acting career of Chief Dan George as Ol' Antoine. Dan George later gained stardom in George Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe and an Academy Award nomination for his appearance opposite Dustin Hoffman in the movie Little Big Man. Long before lighter fare such as The Beachcombers and Danger Bay, Cariboo Country was the first significant portrayal of non-urban B.C. culture on television that percolated beyond British Columbia.

Paul St. Pierre's best-known book, Breaking Smith's Quarter Horse (D&M, 1966), began as a television episode called How to Break a Quarterhorse. Both became the basis for a 1969 Disney feature film entitled Smith! starring Glenn Ford with Keenan Wynn, Dean Jagger and Warren Oates. Known only by his surname Smith, the tenacious rancher enlists the help of an Indian, Ol' Antoine, played by Chief Dan George, to help him break a horse the he believes will be an ideal cutting horse. But the story is more about Smith's character than the horse. Smith feels he is someone who likes to mind his own business, and he's fond of sarcasm, but his strong aversion in injustice, and his instinctual need to help others, gets him into trouble and lands him before the judge. He typically lips off at the judge saying he's got the $50 fine in his "ass pocket," whereupon the judge hands him an additional 30 days, saying, "Possibly you have that in your ass pocket, also." The comedy has a serious side when Smith helps out a fugitive First Nations boy.

Breaking Smith's Quarter Horse version has never been out of print since its publication. Other early books by St. Pierre include Boss of the Namko (1965); a collection of newspaper columns, Chilcotin Holiday (1970); and Smith and Other Events (1983), for which he became the first Canadian winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for fiction. The Chilcotin titles showcase the humour and stubborn independence of hardy people who instinctually resent government, reflecting their resilience and sophistication. In terms of style and content, these stories and scripts are links between Richard Hobson Jr.'s Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy and the 'Indian' short stories of W.P. Kinsella, but not all of St. Pierre's writing can be characterized as humour. His televised drama, Sister Balonika (seen in 1969, published in 1973), concerns a vivacious Aboriginal nun, Sister Veronica, who feels responsible for a tragic fire at the Donjek Ridge School. She is encouraged to recover her spirits and teach again when the mission school is rebuilt.

Born in Chicago in 1923, Paul St. Pierre grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, tried his hand at journalism after high school, served in the RCAF and began his journalism career in B.C. with stints at the Columbian in New Westmister and the News Herald in the late 1940s. He wrote for the Vancouver Sun from 1947 to 1968, and again from 1972 to 1979.

Paul St. Pierre served as the Liberal MP for the Coast Chilcotin riding from 1968 to 1972 and he chaired the B.C. Liberal caucus for two years. He was a police commissioner for B.C. from 1979 to 1983. His play How to Run the Country was produced by the Vancouver Playhouse in 1967. In addition he contributed the text to British Columbia, Our Land (1981) and produced a lively collection of character sketches, travel articles and opinion pieces, Chilcotin and Beyond (1989), which includes some stories set in Mexico.

His novel In the Navel of the Moon (D&M 1993) is set in the fictional Mexican border town of San Sebastian de Hidalgo ("my best work but a bust at the sales counter"). In Mexico, he says, he is known as 'El Hombre Lobo', the wolf man, "because, they say, I have pale eyes, hair on my face and pace around a lot."

In 2002 he published a collection of observations and pronouncement called Old Enough to Know Better (Harbour), including some reminiscences of experiences as a Member of Parliament, newspaper columnist, police commissioner, father, wet-fly fisherman and wing shot. He maintains a mobile trailer home in the Chilcotin, a home in Fort Langley and a third home in Sinaloa, Mexico.

As the author of syndicated newspaper column called Straight Wry, he was known to say of his literary efforts: it's indoor work and there is no heavy lifting.

In 2013, when he was not protesting heartily against the idiot world, Paul St. Pierre, at age ninety, opted to self-publish All is Well ... Sort Of: Reports from Here, There, Yonder and the Hell and Gone Beyond of Big Brother's Crusade against Oldspeak, Badthink and Political Incorrectitude. He lived the remainder of his life in Fort Langley where he was affectionately described by one visitor as “a half-naked old wildman drinking cheap red wine, checking e-mails and watching old b+w movies with 110-pound retriever Coco at his feet.”

He died at age 90 in 2014. He was the father of one son and three daughters and the grandfather of eight. His family respected his wishes and erected a tombstohne on his grave in the Fort Langley cemetery that reads, "This was not my idea."

[BCBW 2015] "Ranching" "Movie"

Old Enough to Know Better
Info



Paul St. Pierre of Langley believes we’re headed for fascist tyranny. In Old Enough to Know Better (Harbour $32.95) the former MP and acclaimed storyteller lets it all hang out. He laments the fading of the family but he favours most of the seven deadly sins. He dumps on gun control and disciples of Freud but writes in favour of lying, Henry Ford, the monarchy and teenage sex. This unsaintly Paul is trouble lookin’ for a place to happen. 1-55017-276-X [BCBW AUTUMN 2002]

Obit



HERE IS AN EXCELLENT OBIT BY VANCOUVER SUN SCRIBE JOHN MACKIE,

Paul St. Pierre was born in Chicago and grew up in Nova Scotia, but he was a true B.C. original.

As a journalist, screenwriter and novelist, St. Pierre spent decades chronicling British Columbia, especially his beloved Cariboo-Chilcotin.

“I found people there more interesting than almost anywhere else,” St. Pierre told Lynne McNamara in a 1988 interview posted on YouTube. “They were sufficiently isolated that their personalities could develop independently of the customs and shibboleths of the rest of the world. It was a place where people had strong characters; they knew who they were.”

The same could be said of Paul St. Pierre, who died Sunday at his home in Fort Langley. He was 90.

With his mutton-chop sideburns and great shock of hair, St. Pierre cut a distinctive figure wherever he went. And he went most everywhere in B.C. in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when he was one of the Vancouver Sun’s most popular writers.

“He’d drive to the end of the road, and then beyond, every road, to see what was there,” said his son Paul St. Pierre Jr.

“Or wasn’t there. So I’ve been (with him) to a lot of mud holes and trackless meadows and wild goose chases and washouts and whatever, just to see what was there, just to stay off the main highways and get out and talk to whoever was at the end of the road.”

The characters he met fuelled his columns.

“He liked to wander around and find stories,” said retired Sun photographer George Diack. “He would go and talk to people, find interesting people and write stories about them. That’s the kind of thing he loved doing.”

In 1960, he turned his stories about the B.C. interior into a CBC-TV series, Cariboo Country. It was cancelled after one season, but came back in 1964 and ran until 1967.

Cariboo Country revolved around a rancher named Smith, who had no first name. St. Pierre also wrote a couple of acclaimed novels featuring the character, Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse, and Smith and Other Events.

His writing was a huge influence on many B.C. writers, including former Sun columnist Jamie Lamb.

“To me, Smith and Other Events is right up there with (Stephen Leacock’s) Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town as the great Canadian book,” said Lamb.

“It’s entertaining, and it’s a completely different take on everything from First Nations to ranchers to everything else. There’s a chapter called How to Run The Country which is as good a political primer as any 10 text books.”

Indeed, in 1968 St. Pierre was elected as a federal Liberal MP for Coast-Chilcotin as part of the Pierre Trudeau landslide. But his son doesn’t think his temperament really suited politics.

“If he had stayed in politics, I don’t believe he would have been successful, because he was never willing to accommodate anybody,” said St. Pierre Jr. “He basically felt if he told you what was wrong and you had common sense, then you’d do it his way.”

St. Pierre grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he landed his first newspaper gig at the Dartmouth Weekly in 1940. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Froce in 1941, but it was discovered he had a heart condition from a bout of rheumatic fever and he was pensioned out of the service.

In 1945, he came west to work for the Columbian newspaperin New Westminster. He moved to the Vancouver News-Herald in 1946, and a year later went to the Sun.

He was a general news reporter for several years before he became a columnist. In a 1960 bio, he wrote that he was a “roving reporter” working on the “re-discovery of British Columbia.”

“It is an assignment more or less unique in the newspaper business,” wrote St. Pierre, referring to himself in the third person. “He thinks up his own jobs, draws out money (and) takes off, the office seldom knowing where he is, or how to get ahold of him.”

Much of the time he was at his Big Creek cabin in the Chilcotin.

“He leased some land on a remote lake for 25 years, and built a log cabin there,” said St. Pierre Jr. “We would spend summers there, and he would visit at other times as well. He would do a lot of driving around, all the ranches in the neighbourhood and all over the Chilcotin, collecting his stories.

“When the lease expired he wasn’t going to let the government, ‘the goddamn government,’ get their hands on that cabin. So he literally had it dismantled log-by-log and moved 25 miles to a local ranch. He gave it to a rancher who ran trail rides, and he used it as a guest cabin.”

He also loved Mexico, wintering for three decades in Teacapan, a small village two hours south of Mazatlan. Naturally, he drove there rather than fly, which provided more fodder for his stories.

St. Pierre was married and divorced twice. He had three children with his first wife Carol (Paul, Michelle and Suzanne) and adopted a fourth (Yesica) in Mexico.

He was in good health until the past few months, when he got pneumonia and was hospitalized. He likened the hospital to being in prison, and convinced his children to bring him home. They did, and his health got better for a couple of months before declining in the past week. He died Sunday afternoon, with his family at his side.

-- by John Mackie

Comments



BC Bookworld
“One of B.C.’s literary characters has died. Paul St. Pierre, a wry comic writer sometimes compared to Mark Twain, passed away on July 27th at his home in Fort Langley.”

West Coast Review of Books
“Not since Mark Twain or the early Bret Harte have you run into a writer of short stories this good…These are tales torn from the depths of human emotion and delivered up fresh and full of meaning.”

John Mackie, Vancouver Sun
“With his mutton-chop sideburns and great shock of hair, St. Pierre cut a distinctive figure wherever he went. And he went most everywhere in B.C. in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when he was one of the Vancouver Sun’s most popular writers … his writing was a huge influence on many B.C. writers….” ( see entire article at www.vancouversun.com )

B.C. journalist Rod Mickleburgh (excerpts from ANOTHER LEGEND GONE see entire article at mickleblog.wordpress.com )
No slouch with the pen, himself, Sun veteran Doug Sagi calls St. Pierre “the finest writer to ever grace the newspaper”, and his short story, “Dry Storm, a Canadian classic to be compared with Hemingway, Twain or any of them”. Paul St. Pierre (1923-2014), RIP. “Read and remember him.”

“Highly-esteemed political columnist Les Leyne recalls tearing open bundles of the Vancouver Sun so he could read Paul St. Pierre’s column, before heading out on his paper route.”

Jamie Lamb, former Ottawa bureau chief for The Vancouver Sun, and political columnist
“To me, Smith and Other Events is right up there with (Stephen Leacock’s) Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town as the great Canadian book ….. it’s entertaining, and it’s a completely different take on everything from First Nations to ranchers to everything else. There’s a chapter called How to Run The Country which is as good a political primer as any 10 text books.”

Scott McIntyre, Douglas & McIntyre, publisher
“This guy wears British Columbia on his sleeve, and our collective imagination is the richer for it.”

Edith Iglauer, author
“There are so few masters of humour that he deserves a special award for giving us so much pleasure.”

Barry Broadfoot Canadian interviewer and history writer
“Right down the gun barrel; a superb performance by One of the West’s finest writers.”

Richard Smith, New York Times
“Paul St. Pierre renders these stories beautifully in…the kind of language that provides literature the nourishment it needs.”

Earl Gray, Thompson News Service
“St. Pierre is even funnier than Leacock. Funnier, sadder, more poignant, wiser, more gut wrenching and truer.”

Suzanne Freeman, USA Today “A sure, comic hand…”

Clare Backus, Denver Post
“An unsung literary giant in the grand populist mode of Mark Twain. ”

Phoebe-Lou Adams, Atlantic Monthly
“Except for the presence of unreliable motor vehicles and a few formerly unprintable words, they might have been written by Owen Wister. Mr. St. Pierre is equally adroit and better than Wister in dealing with women and Indians.”

Charles Lillard, Times-Colonist
“Paul St. Pierre is a story teller…In France or Germany they would erect a statue in his honour.”

Publishers Weekly
“Witty, finely crafted…picking a favorite is hard when so many of these warm, unsentimental tales leave you laughing out loud.”

Jim Blundell, St.Catherines Standard
“….his stories somehow grasp the very soul of Canada.”