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.”
(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.