George Matheson of the Okanagan was, among many things, British Columbia's funniest publisher. Born in Bobbili, southern India in 1931, he died of a massive heart attack on February 24, 2009.

George Matheson arrived in Halifax in 1948 and was expelled from Acadia University in 1950. He went to Toronto and worked at innumerable jobs that included cab driver, insurance adjustor, flour mill clerk, poster artist, advertising manager (Hallmark Cards, Westinghouse) and associate public relations director for the Ontario Hospital Association. He was also a set designer for Niagara Falls Music Theatre, a cartoonist and a muralist. In Ontario he was instrumental in getting an $8 million radon gas clean-up project underway at Port Hope, home of Eldorado Nuclear. He also launched a major architectural restoration campaign called Project Oasis, fought the Ontario government to successfully stop regionalization in order to retain local autonomy in Northumberland and Durhan Counties and created an Old Tyme Christmas production.

He came to Vancouver in 1980 and later moved to the Shuswap, Kelowna, Lumby and Vernon. He listed his literary influences as Somerset Maugham, Ernie Haemorrhoid, Xavier Hollander and Mohindas Karamachand Gandhi. He wrote and produced several television documentaries including Kettle and Caboose, 1995; Brookmere Revisited, 1997; and Steam Train Comin', 1998; and Snowplow through Rogers, 1999.

Matheson first wrote and published Vader's Caboose, a railway book about the Kettle Valley Railway and its 40-year employee Frank Vader. A follow-up called Cactus in your Shorts (Lumby: Kettle Valley Publishing, 1996) describes the history of the Interior desert country. Often politically incorrect, his third book Hogs and Cabbagers is dedicated to Pappy Loma, a lonely, hump-backed Eaton's clerk whose only friends were six whores who plied their trade at the old Warwick Hotel in Toronto. Hyped as 'Not a book of culinary carryings on, nor animal husbandry', Matheson's loosely biographical memoir is about Toronto during the 1950s with specific emphasis on Cabbagetown.

"Toronto was clearly divided into two segments of humanity," wrote Matheson. "The elite, mostly wealthy, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants were in charge of absolutely everything. And the un-elite... everyone else... were in charge of absolutely nothing. In those days some referred to the city as 'Toronto the Good'. The people with whom I associated, especially those who dwelled in Cabbagetown, wondered what the hell was so good about it!"

Matheson's most ambitious initiative as a publisher was a 544-page history Camp Vernon: A Century of Canadian Military History (Kettle Valley Publishing, 2003) by Vernon veterans Hugh Rayment and Patrick Sherlock.


The Vaders' Caboose (Kettle Valley Publishing, 1994)
Cactus in your Shorts (KVP, 1995)
Hogs and Cabbagers (KVP, 1997) -- memoir 0-9698645-2-3

[BCBW 2009] "Publishing" "Transportation"