Smokey, Barney and the Bandit

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In this exclusive interview with Barney, he tells us about his feud with the West Vancouver police, how he eluded them in numerous high speed car chases – and how they eventually caught up to him:

Barney Speaks Part 1

(Photo: sanbeiji)

School-No, Work-Yes, Play-Oh Yeah

Exit paulbence

At the end of Grade 9, the staff of the boarding school called Barney’s mother and explained that it was “not in Barney’s best interest” to return the following year. He left the Vancouver Island school but his trouble with structured learning continued as he was thrust into and out of Vancouver’s public school system. Finally he decided that he should be working instead of banging his head against an educational wall.

When I asked Barney if he mowed the lawn or worked around the house as a kid, he replied, “No. We had gardeners and everything was done for us around the house.” But he enjoyed working and started his first job at 17, working as a car-jockey at a local car dealership. He was clearing $1,000/month (a considerable sum in 1967) from his trust fund at that point, so he didn’t need a job or the $4/hour that it paid, but he loved cars.

He goosed his trust fund again and was soon living in a penthouse in Vancouver’s West End, featuring a spectacular view of English Bay. He was riding around town in a special order, triple-white, Lincoln Continental Mark IV – you could see him coming.

Later, he went into business with his brother-in-law and started a retail clothing store, “Jelly Beans for Jeans”. It was a successful venture and quickly blossomed into a multi-location enterprise with stores in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Barney was pulling in $15,000 a month and was on the verge of following the success of his father and his grandfather when things went sour and the business failed.

Fighter kyleboy668

Fireworks bayasaa

He washed his hands of his entrepreneurial endeavour and focused his energy on martial arts training. Barney burnt the candle at both ends, alternating between rigorous workouts – one exercise involved leg kicks from a crouched position while holding someone on your shoulders – and extravagant parties at the home he purchased (and renovated) in the tony British Properties of West Vancouver.

He trained with the city’s best and over the next few years he worked his way up to a first degree Black Belt in Shito-ryu. It was a contrasting combination of characteristics, with discipline and dedication on one hand and rampant excess on the other.

(Exit by paulbence, fighter by kyleboy668, fireworks by bayasaa)

Privilege or Penalty?

Fighting libertygrace0

“There’s something about being so called “privileged” where people treat you differently. Some of them want to suck up to you in hopes of getting something from you. Other want to test you, knock you down a peg. It’s like you always have something to prove. Whether it’s showing the wannabe parasites that you’re not a patsy or being challenged by someone who wants show that you’re not so special, that you can bleed just like a regular guy, there are lot of sources of potential conflict out there.

“My first fight was with a kid named Mendelstein. We exchanged ethnic slurs, I probably slung the first, and we both ended up with black eyes. After the fight we shook hands, became friends and moved forward. Today, people carry guns and shoot you for looking the wrong way.”

Barney’s beginnings with fighting and controlling his emotions started after he was sent to private school. Today it would be referred to as “acting out”. He was able to find an outlet for his aggression by channeling his energy into sports. Like his father, he was a natural athlete and Barney became an all-star cricket player at school.

(Photo: libertygraceO)

Private School, Public Hell

When Barney’s Dad died, his mother had a difficult time coping with the loss of her husband. Barney, his brother and his two sisters were all “sent away” to different private schools. At  eight years old, still trying to recover from the absence of his father, a move into the harsh discipline of British style boarding school was not easy.


“It might as well have been reform school. In 1958 they were pretty rough with the kids. I had a teacher who beat me with a cane in front of the other students. They wanted to scare us. It was effective,” explained Barney.

“It’s not an excuse, and I ultimately blame myself, but most of the anger I had in later life and my motivation for getting into so many fights came from the violence I was introduced to in private school.”

The bottom photo is from the City of Vancouver archives, taken by Jack Lindsay. It shows a cell similar to the ones Barney would see later in life.

(Private school photo by ell brown)

Cheeky Mona

Being creative doesn’t mean with have to come up with the next Mona Lisa. Small ideas often lead to the great ones, but we need to allocate the time to concentrate on them. Set aside some time every day to open your mind and think about things – and try looking at what you want to accomplish from as many different angles as possible. Some of the best ideas have come from turning convention on its head. Throw a long ball out to the outrageous zone and the answer might land somewhere between there and the status quo. Try it, and Mona might smile on you.


A good word to take some air out of the situation and make you sound smart at the same time.


(Photo: id-iom)

Staying Ahead of the 8 Ball

Time management has long been one of the keys to success. Because it is a limited resource, we need to get the best return on our investment of our time. So when we are at work, we need to focus on things that are going to make a difference to our career. Continue reading

From Good Stock

Barney’s grandfather, Robert, was a colorful nonconformist and a brilliant businessman who acquired the Vancouver Sun newspaper in 1917. His youngest son, Sam, (Barney’s father), and his other son, Don (Barney’s Uncle), were at the helm of the family newspaper when Barney was a kid.

“Dad used to take us down to see the printing presses and we got to wear newspaper hats,” recalls Barney.  “He knew everybody in town and was very well liked. He traveled, he met celebrities and he threw great parties. He was also an avid fisherman. Bing Crosby came to Vancouver regularly to go out fishing on our boat with Dad.”

Sam Edit





(Photo of a poster-sized card that was made and signed by staff members of the paper, featuring  original artwork depicting the Vancouver Sun Tower with Royal Canadian Air Force wings. It was given to young Sam Cromie when he left the paper to serve his country in WWII. The poster survived the feast, famine and flames of Barney’s fiery life and remains to this day,his prize possession.)




“I always thought of myself as a regular kid, even though we had a butler (who was also our chef), gardeners and a big swimming pool. Looking back, I guess I was a little different. A lot of kids went to Disneyland, but I got to meet Walt Disney because my Dad knew him.”

Much has been written about his flamboyant uncle, Don. But Sam, the athlete, deal-maker, WWII veteran and man-about-town received less coverage. This is probably because his career was cut short, tragically, at the age of 39 when he died in a boating accident.

“He taught me to fish. He loved the water, he died on the water. Along with everybody who knew him, I loved my father.”

This event was devastating for the family and it set Barney on a stormy course toward many difficult and unexpected destinations.

Tough Love Boat

Thanks for the photo, Sam, it’s pretty dramatic and you are very brave to come out with it. If I am seeing this correctly, I suggest you jump ship immediately – the sharks in unknown waters will likely be an improvement to what you appear to be experiencing now. Otherwise, you should probably go for the job of the guy with the whip.

We’ve all had jobs we didn’t like and maybe there have been people in our work environment who didn’t like us. We must work to survive, but there are limits. Your job in the marine industry is definitely a transitional job with a capital “T”. This is strictly a situation where you are making contacts and looking for another job while you are sticking it out where you are.

Between the lashes of the whip, you must put together a long term strategy, a career ascension plan. This might involve additional training, working toward specialization, developing niche skills and possibly geographic relocation. Each step of the plan should be taking you forward to your goal and let’s all learn from Carly’s experience and try to have some fun while we do it! In the meantime, try a one-liner on that guy swinging the stick, maybe he won’t hit so hard…

(Photo: Personeelsnet)


SuperfluousWhen dropped into the discussion at the right moment, superfluous is a great word that can impress others and highlight your brilliant conversational skills. Here’s how it sounds in context:



Sound Smart

The fastest, easiest and most direct way to elevate yourself when interacting with others is by sounding smart. The words you speak define you. Many careers and relationships have sky-rocketed – or stumbled – on one or two comments. We’re going to hear a few select words and phrases that you can add to your verbal bag of tricks . And when the situation arises, you can insert the perfect word into the mix and those around you will remember what was said – and who said it.

Each one of these entries has been carefully selected for its phonetic balance, syllable structure and rhythmic qualities as well as its capacity for projecting intelligence and wit. Use them, enjoy them and sound smart!

Couped Up

Mercedes 3

The sun glinted off the hood and nearly blinded the first wave of teens who clambered around Barney’s new ride. He was barely old enough to vote, but through a loan he made against his trust fund, the money rolled in – and so did he, in a brand new Mercedes Benz.

Sue, one of Barney’s neighbourhood friends recalls, “When he pulled into the high school to pick up his girlfriend, all the girls got weak in the knees. And the guys burned with envy. It was 1972, and in those days, you pretty well had to be the Chancellor of Germany to drive a car like that. He had a phone in it, too. Nobody ever saw a phone in a car before, except in Mission Impossible on TV.” Continue reading

Riches, Rags and Risk

Our first insight into wealth comes from Barney Cromie, an heir to the fortune his family acquired through their ownership of the Vancouver Sun, one of Canada’s largest newspapers. It’s a story that starts with housekeepers, butlers, private schools and swimming pools and evolves into a long series of confrontations and clashes with convention. You’re going to hear about glamour gone bad and choices made in amplified situations that very few of us have experienced.

His tale of rewards, regrets and lessons hard-learned offers insight and value. As a survivor and a fighter, comparisons have been made to someone who emerged from a house fire with only his skin, but the sparks that started this inferno came from Barney, himself…

Think About It

Dawn, I’m glad this is opening up your thought process. A great way to get – and keep – ideas for your job flowing is to start thinking about things that will move your employer forward, but move you ahead as well. Once you make the connection between the two goals, it’s easier to get motivated and come up with ideas.

What improvements can you contribute to that will get you noticed? Maybe you can identify processes that you could streamline or improve to make things more efficient – and get credit for doing so. Here’s an objective: Think of things that bring value to your employer, recognition to you, and enhance your skills and/or increase your worth in the workplace. If you can accomplish all three of these, you’ll have a hat trick!

The most important thing is that you will be thinking of new things, ones that will take you in a positive and productive direction.


Most of our careers start, rise and fall based on our ability to sell ourselves and our ideas. But to do that, we need to be consistent in our confidence in those ideas – and in our ourselves. Here is something to assist in maintaining consistency and self-confidence:



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Dollar Brain3

Wealth has many faces that can look upon us with different and unexpected expressions. And what glitters and glows for one may not ignite another. Some seek monetary rewards, others strive for accomplishment and acknowledgement, while some see value in less tangible endeavours and prioritize better health, stronger relationships and higher self-esteem.

We’re going to be exploring a range of resources and hear the angles from professors and philanthropists, speculators and social workers, inheritors and hustlers, masons and missionaries. We’ll find out where they find value and to what end they are prepared to go to acquire and defend their treasure.

Maridee Arrives!

MD Chute

16 1/2 hours of exertion and Maridee is still fresh and strong. Incredibly, she says, “I,m sorry it was such a long day for you.” It’s no wonder she is so well-known and loved by so many in the area.

MD Final Shot

Here is the face of fulfillment I will remember forever. Maridee, you are an Ironman!

(For more event photos and to hear the wrap up interview with MD, see the Epilogue.)

The First Finisher and the Late Night Finals


Winner, Trevor Wurtele from Vernon, BC, with a time of less than 8hrs, 40min.

Later Finishers

The race continues into the night. These athletes have been at it for almost 14hrs. It was fun to watch a high-level professional athlete win the race, but much later, when these people came in, with the husky, compelling voice of the announcer calling their names, one after another, it was like a church revival meeting.

But instead of shouting for their salvation, he cried out for celebration:  John Smith, from Tumbler Ridge, BC, “You-are-an-Ironman!” Over and over he called each of the names of the finishers as they came thorough, and each time the crowd erupted. We never got tired of hearing his frenetic mantra. We all joined in, again and again, each time slightly louder, “You are an Ironman!”, and all us of shared in the miraculous finish of each of these heroes of the day, and in a way, we were all born again.

These determined participants have dreamed of this for months, even years. And behind each one of them and their visions of this moment, there is a story that came with them to this place, and now it has arrived at its climax. Cheers, tears, release and relief – “You are an Ironman!!”

The Chute


Waiting for Maridee.

The Run

MD RunningRunners

Race Run

Both the bike and the run are 2 loops around the course. Here comes Maridee for the first time. The participants were focused, some smiling and steady, others looked like they had just come out of surgery. The weather turned out to be “Goldilocks” conditions. Not too hot and no rain.

The Bike Leg

Cyclists Cones2MD Bike

Bike Race

Lots of challenging grade earlier for the cyclists. Maridee overcame back pain for 180km, but she is still pretty in pink. Cyclists were riding under good, dry conditions, but that didn’t make the hills any easier. The headwinds were there, but weren’t as bad as they had been during Maridee’s many training runs.

Bike Transition

Transition 2Transition 1.1Transition 3

The perspective of the bike transition for the race leaders, right inside the transition area.

Maridee Wrangled, On Film

Maridee’s moment with the volunteers – always graceful:

Mayhem at the Lake

This was one of the most dramatic parts of the race, I was so close to the action, I was getting wet:



I got really lucky and was in the perfect spot to get these shots. Even with the great access I had inside the fence between the spectators and the athletes, I tried to get closer. For this sequence, the officials were holding me back from getting any nearer. Behind me there were hundreds of people crushing against the fence, chanting and cheering.

I shouted, “Maridee you’re a winner!”

Many, Many Swimmers

This race has an “in-the-water” start. The top-seeded “pros” enter first and line up at the buoys, treading water. Then the rest of the entrants follow them into the water. Maridee is toward the rear of the group.

The cannon blasts and the race begins. The pent up energy from waiting, preparing and thinking about the race is released and the water boils and churns with aggression. The top swimmers literally windmill across the lake – and back.

The Day Arrives

The athletes enter the water and wait for the cannon.

Ready, Set, Go!

The wonderful people from IRONMAN were generous enough to invite me onto the media boat to cover the swim leg of Sunday’s race in Whistler, BC. Regrettably, I didn’t make the final selection to be on board. Hopefully, they weren’t put off when I arrived at the dock wearing my Titanic Rocks t-shirt.

This does not dampen my spirits in the slightest. Hell or highwater, vigilant coverage of Maridee’s progress will continue. Watch for Bib #863 and a pink jersey, only 3 hours away…

[twitter-follow username=”howdoigetbetter” scheme=”dark”]


(Swimmers by Chris Hunkeler, boat by thefunklab)

Ready for the Ride?

The mood in Whistler is festive, contrasting to the tension felt among the athletes as we head into the final stretch of the waiting game for the village’s inaugural, 2013 IRONMAN race. With only 1 day to go before submitting her over-fifty body to 16hrs of consecutive swimming, cycling and running (much of the latter uphill), we checked in with Maridee to see how she was holding up. Continue reading

Weather Predictions

No one knows for sure what the weather will bring. Amid changing forecasts for Sunday’s IRONMAN race, there is some concern about rain. To eliminate speculation, I’m going to trump the Weather Channel and intervene with the most reliable source available: Gumby.

Our malleable, dough-headed friend is calling for clear skies, so you can pretty well count on seeing the sun. Maridee has reported headwinds during every trial run of what promises to be a challenging bike course. Given the gusts and the grade, Gumby’s sunny disposition is garnering a welcome response. Driving rain for 180km is a killer. Continue reading

Nocturnal Gnashing

As we come down to the wire, we’re going to have to face our biggest foe:  Worry. Beyond all of the external good will and internal bravado, we have to face facts. What we are going to attempt on Sunday’s IRONMAN is scary. Just from writing about the event and getting into the heads of the athletes and trainers, I am having trouble sleeping. Continue reading

Rising Above Uncertainty

Meditator Composite

Behind every successful performer is a great manager. Just ask Michael Bubulé . Without the guidance and gumption of Bruce Allen, it’s unlikely Michael would have soared to the astronomical heights he has reached today. And behind Maridee, there is no one more invested in the outcome of her star than Christine Suter, owner of C2Sky Multi Sport in Whistler, BC.

Uber-trainer, Christine, is no stranger to Maridee’s development in endurance sports. For twenty years she has shepherded MD through every one of her many steps leading to her first IRONMAN in 2011. “When she started, Maridee didn’t want to put her head under the water. Now she’s a strong and efficient swimmer,” commented Christine.

She may have floundered as a little guppy back then, but she’s riding high on waves of confidence now. Even so, every athlete has questions about how they will perform on race day. “In spite of all the accomplishments under her belt, Maridee has doubts. It’s a normal part of the process,” says Christine. Continue reading

5 Days Until We Roll

Excitement crackles throughout the village of Whistler, BC as the countdown continues for the August 25th IRONMAN event. Although many settled in weeks ago, athletes are continuing to arrive from other parts of Canada and countries from around the world.

The race-registrants are visible around town, but in these final days of contemplation, you’re more likely to see these uber-achievers on a local hay ride than dancing on tables or pounding shooters in any of the notorious night spots. These people are not here to party – at least not until after the race – they have come from all over the globe for the ultimate test of endurance.

But there’s no need for local publicans or merchants to fear any loss of trade. Any deficit in night-life shenanigans or wild shopping sprees will surely be filled by hard drinking journalists and high flying senators on expense accounts – although it’s getting harder to distinguish between the two… Continue reading

6 Days to Go


Whatever your final time, no matter where you land on the list, you have won this race. Some will receive awards, others may gain professional recognition, but every one of the 2,792 brave souls who have entered the August 25, Whistler IRONMAN event have won our respect and admiration. Continue reading

Dealing with Doubts

MD Standing



More with Maridee Part 2





The Threshold to the Gorilla


Counting today, there are only 8 days left before the moment of truth. However, it will be more than a moment, it will the beginning of 14hrs of truth, reality, adrenaline and exertion. But for Maridee, before her big test begins, there will be a marathon of moments she must pass through to reach the beginning of her day’s destination. Continue reading

Do Triathletes Roll the Dice with Training Injuries?

Rolling Dice Grizdave

When you’re training for the endurance challenge of a lifetime, you can’t  be over-prepared. Or can you? When we checked in with Maridee, 9 days before her appearance at the Whistler, BC, IRONMAN, she was recovering from a “Glut-Med” injury that left her unable to run. When I asked her how she was dealing with it, she explained that she is swimming, biking, stretching and working on core strength, while saving her legs for the last push on race day.

A Glut-Med injury is a pain in the ass. Literally. Maridee described it as being “like pulling a ham-string in your butt.” Not a lot of fun when you’re only days away from running 40km – following approximately 10 hours of swimming (4km) and biking (180km). Continue reading

Electric Avenue

Here is Maridee putting in some long hours training on her bike (part of the 2,000 – 3,000 km she will put in during her 6 months of training for the August 25, Whistler IRONMAN. Coming from the city, we wondered why there would be a guard house at the edge of the park.

MD with Bike Cropped

Then a bit later in the ride, we realized that it was there for a reason. Stuff happens out in the woods – and I was worried about bears.

Burning Tree

The photo is a little blurry because we were running away to avoid being crushed, burned or electrocuted – take your pick. Look closely at the tree leaning on the power line and you will see the smoke coming off of it. We weren’t sure who to call; the fire department, the power company or Geraldo…

MD IM Bike Cropped

I guess we should have just stayed on the main road with MD. We eventually found the right way, the sun came out again and Maridee had a good workout – but she didn’t believe our story about the wrong turn and the tree. Only 16 days to go…

Socially, Do Triathletes Swim Against the Current?

Lake ResizeWaterfall UGArdener

Triathletes, do you go over the edge when it comes to your time commitment to your training? In your obsessive quest for ultimate endurance levels, do you wonder if friends will forgive for not hearing from you for 6 months in a stretch? To assist you in avoiding pitfalls of etiquette when you’re in the zone, here is a list of the triathlete’s top 10 social miscues:

  1. Displacing the host of your dinner party by requesting a spot at the head of the table in order to accommodate your IV drip pole and saline solution apparatus.
  2. Integrating your company picnic with your workout by modifying your bike training course with tight loops so every couple of kilometers you can ride by and toss off comments to coworkers. Continue reading

Do People “Get” Triathletes?

Get MD

The road to the pinnacle of fitness and endurance may be a lonely one. Long hours of training can be done with others, but practically and logistically, it usually makes more sense to do it on your own. But does this create an isolation effect? It may not be that much different from studying for medical school or prepping for the police academy, but it can still take a toll on your social life. Continue reading

On Race Day, What Do Ironmen Think?

Line of Pies Angled2Bike in Motion Final

During 14 hours of extreme physical endurance and torture, what do you think about? Your bed? Your mum? Your partner? Your childhood? As you herd your body through treacherous and uncharted regions on the way to your goal, your mind is likely to take unpredictable paths. In the heat of this battle, your entire life may pass before your eyes, but wandering thoughts are likely to head in one direction – toward cold, hard statistics. Numbers, measurements, calculations and ratios.

The devil may be in the details but survival will be in the statistics. How long until the next marker, when will I reach the next stage, how soon should I hydrate, what rate must I sustain to make my legs last a little longer?

A 4km swim, 180km bike and 40km run is taking a big bite of life. To make it digestible, it will have to be chewed carefully, incrementally, piece by piece. This is a huge meal and we don’t want to choke. Our mantra will be self-assurance, our enemy is doubt. But beyond the gauntlet we run (swim and bike) between the two forces, we will have to fight boredom.

Continue reading

Words of Wisdom Flow Like a River


In our latest interview with Maridee, we explore the emotional component of her process and hear how she deals with naysayers.




Flood of Emotion

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