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.

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…

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

Smokey, Barney and the Bandit

Auto in Air by sanbeiji

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)

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.

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)

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)

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)