One of the Semiahmoo Peninsula’s most connected citizens is sharing the stories of local residents who have had and continue to have an impact on the connectedness of South Surrey/White Rock.
Gordie Hogg – who has served as White Rock’s mayor, as well as both MP and MLA for the South Surrey-White Rock area – went live with his ‘Community Connections’ YouTube channel in June, after coming up with a list of around 200 people who he wanted to highlight.
“Each of us have stories, stories that help us understand each other and help to bring our community closer together,” Hogg says in introducing each video.
“People that have had a positive, profound impact on our community and far beyond, people that have had incredible life experiences and fascinating stories. Community Connections is about these people and about their stories.”
Hogg’s list – which he’s confident isn’t complete – includes a former Supreme Court judge, a church minister, a school trustee, a hockey commentator, a distance runner, a comedienne and an anesthesiologist, to name a few.
The latter, currently on staff at Peace Arch Hospital, told Hogg of growing up in South Africa, in a home surrounded by fences and razor wire for safety, and the contrast he discovered in Canada while completing an internship in Newfoundland, where his neighbour entrusted him with his entire home, no questions.
Another interviewee with “a great story” grew up in Uganda, with Idi Amin – whose ruthless regime included the massacre of an estimated 300,000 civilians – as a neighbour, Hogg said.
Yet another is a former Surrey councillor who, at 97 years of age, still lives in the house he was born in.
“It’s been lots of fun talking to these people and trying to get them to tell their story,” Hogg said. “Everybody’s got a bit of a story – how they are who they are, how they feel things have gone for them.
“I just wanted it to be about our community and knowing about the neat characters, the people who had an impact on our community, who made it a better place.”
All of the interviews are being conducted online, via Zoom. So far, more than two dozen have been posted.
Hogg said the project is among “a number of things” he’s taken on during the pandemic. It was inspired by a conversation with Mary Beale, whose husband, Sid, ran White Rock’s train station for “years and years.” He said he also remembered that his own father’s history as the city’s first physician had been verbally recorded by White Rock Museum & Archives archivist Hugh Ellenwood.
“I thought, Mary’s got a great story… and we can now do that on Zoom. You can actually see them and feel them,” he said.
“It all built from there. ”
Copies of the ‘Community Connections’ interviews will be kept in the archives, becoming “part of our living history,” he added.
Among those whose interviews are already posted are former judge Wally Oppal, school trustee Laurae McNally, meteorologist Mark Madryga, White Rock Pride Society president Ernie Klassen and former journalist George Garrett.
Despite the variety of personalities, achievements and backgrounds, the theme, Hogg said, is constant.
“I try to maintain the notion of how do we connect meaningfully as communities, in sport and culture and connectedness and neighbourhood parties – those types of things that we, in some ways, lose as we start focusing more broadly.
“How do we make sure that where we live and where our hearts are are reflected and growing, and people understand and become a part of that rather than get spread out and too diffused and too far removed from where we live and breathe and shake hands – or used to shake hands.”