THE MALTESE PLAQUE


 

It was one of those hot muggy Vancouver Monday mornings. The kind that makes your shirt stick to your back and wish you were lying on Wreck Beach sucking back an ice-cold beer sold at inflated prices and served by a tanned and toned bronze skinned beauty naked from the ankle chain up. It was so hot that the air conditioning oozed water onto the peanut butter and onion sandwich sitting in the middle of the desk.

I didn’t notice. I was too busy. I couldn’t catch up with my calls. As I returned one call, three messages on my voice mail took its place.

So and so wants me to teach a step class at such and such a time. Sorry, I already booked at that time.

Canadian Blood Services want a taste of my Type O positive

Etc.

At number twelve or thirteen down the list, Amanda, a graduate student at Simon Fraser University waited for my return call. I deduced from the urgency in her voice that she needed the services the World – Famous Detective and not my other businesses (Fitness Instructor, Counsellor, Hunk, and World – Famous Archaeologist. In these days of the uncertain economic times it’s good to have more than one cash stream.)

“This might be a bit of a ‘blast from the past,’”she said while trying to disguise the desperation in her voice. “Do you remember The Plaque?”

“The Freedom Square Plaque?” I said. “The one commemorating the arrest of almost the entire Political Science, Sociology, and Anthropology Department back in the sixties? Of course I remember it. I knew it intimately. How is the little bugger?”

“We don’t know,” she said. I was hoping you might still have it.”

A few years ago I had a similar phone call. They heard I had the plack and They wanted the plaque back and they wanted it now. I asked what was in it for me. That’s up to you. If you give us the plaque and win our story contest, you might win our first prize which is a computer. Second prize is a whole pile of software.

As I crossed the stage at the Homecoming night with my acceptance speech in hand, I learned that third prize was a bottle of ‘Simon Fraser University Anniversary 1965 – 1990’ Wine bottled by Grey Monks in the Okanagan. It sits on my window sill as a triumph of Canadian Literature. Here is that story.

THE KEEPING OF THE PLAQUE

I can see the tabloid headlines on the Safeway check-out stands now: MUTANT ARCHAEOLOGY ALUMNUS RESTORES FREEDOM TO UNIVERSITY. I don’t know whether I could stand the publicity. Nevertheless, I am restoring a symbol of freedom to Simon Fraser University. That symbol is the Freedom Square Plaque.

The plaque measures 62 by 38.5 cm, and is 1.2 cm thick. I estimate it weighs roughly as much as a city block. It is made of brass, and bears the following inscription:

FREEDOM SQUARE

SO NAMED IN COMMEMORATION

OF THE RALLIES HELD HERE

MARCH 17 – 20, 1967

AND OF THE STUDENTS, TEACHING

ASSISTANTS, AND FACULTY WHO

GAVE OF THEMSELVES IN THE

CAUSE OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM.

It commemorates all the people summarily executed for their participation in the demonstrations of 1967. Soon after its erection, the engineering students from UBC raided SFU. In an act of academic piracy, they wrestled the plaque from its mount and kept it.

Not to be outdone, the SFU student launched a retaliatory attack on UBC’s Wally Wagon – a stripped down Fiat that was the engineers’ monument to fuel efficiency. They stole it, and apparently drove it most of the way up Gaglardi Way where it ran out of gas. There the RCMP arrested them for auto theft.

To safeguard the academic careers of the SFU student perpetrators, the engineers dropped the charges. They did this under the condition that SFU’s students undertake to give $5000 to the Engineer’s favourite charity.

I know what you think. You think they wanted money for research on making beer out of dirt – research that ultimately resulted in dry beer. Actually they weren’t that licentious. The money was given to the CKNW Orphan’s Fund.

The plaque, however, was never again seen in its intended location. I suspect everyone forgot about it until the Spring of 1981. This is when I told Dr. Roy Carlson how the plaque became a television stand in my living room.

As I told Roy, there was turmoil in the UBC Engineering faculty in 1975. The Metallurgy Department had six grad students in a new five storey building. Meanwhile the Mining engineers had several million grad students crammed in an umbrella tent.

The miners wanted space, and Dr. C.E. Borden, the Father of B.C.Archaeology, sensed this. He also knew that miners and metallurgists hated each other. This was tradition. He arranged space for me instead.

One day it snowed. I owned a Vauxhall Viva at the time. It was a reliable car. You turned the ignition and the hood popped up. You gunned the engine and the transmission fell out. You could see the air in the tires. It was a typical student’s car.

the job – particularly the slab of brass I found on the main floor. The metallurgists were only going to melt it down to make antique doorknobs, so I took it.

I had the chunk of brass in my trunk for years. When I scrapped the car to ride the bus, I discovered the slab of metal was a plaque marking a significant historic event. It needed safekeeping, so I used it as a television stand.

Roy wanted it back at all costs. He thought it would be fitting for the Archaeology Department to ‘unearth’ such a treasured artifact. I wanted to avoid a double hernia by lugging it up the mountain on the bus. I wanted the archaeology truck to haul it. This must have exceeded all costs, so the plaque stayed where it was.

Last month, Jane Martin of SFU’s Business Co-op Program contacted me about the plaque. She wanted it back to highlight SFU’s 25th Anniversary Homecoming celebration. I regard this to be a most germane event for the relic’s return.

From the former keeper of the plaque, happy anniversary. I hope everyone enjoys the plaque as much as I have. Twenty five years from now, I may consider returning the archaeology truck.

Meanwhile, back in July 1999, in that hot muggy office, I wondered what Amanda needed the services of The Work Famous Detective and Archaeologist.

“Why do you need the services of The Work Famous Detective and Archaeologist,” I asked.

“Where’s the plaque?” she asked.

“I assume it’s in Freedom Square.” I said. “Why? Is it missing again?”

“We never got it,” she said. “We think you have it, and you should return that third prize you won.” she said. “If you find it, we’ll let you give a speech at the return ceremony in the fall, and we’ll give you an honorarium.”

“Boy,” I thought. “A chance for another bottle of that Simon Fraser rot gut.”

“I’m on the case,” I said.

To Be Continued

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. or at 604-464-4195.  If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.

 

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5 Responses to “THE MALTESE PLAQUE”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Funny! And intriguing. Please don’t keep us dangling off the end of the plaque. Part Deux – soonest.

  2. Tweets that mention THE MALTESE PLAQUE « SpinDoctorResumes -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sally E Jacobs, Michael Lopez. Michael Lopez said: THE MALTESE PLAQUE « SpinDoctorResumes: THE MALTESE PLAQUE. By mikebroderick. It was one of those hot muggy Vanc… http://bit.ly/i5pDCy […]

  3. Sissy Says:

    Cool!

  4. William Storness-Bliss Says:

    Hi, where is the plaque now?

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