Nanaimo Historical Society Fonds: Series 2 Sound Recordings
Tape 9, (November 29, 1963)
Interview conducted by William Barraclough with His Worship, Mr. Peter Maffeo.
The following recorded interview was made this 29th day of November, 1963, between William Barraclough and His Worship, Mr. Peter Maffeo at his City Hill office, as living memory for the Nanaimo Historical Society.
William Barraclough: Good afternoon Your Worship. May we first ask where were you born?
Peter Maffeo: William Barraclough, I was born in the City of Nanaimo in the year 1897.
William Barraclough: And, about your family?
Peter Maffeo: Well, there were 6 of us in the family. There were 4 girls and 2 boys. The 2 girls were, and the boys, my brother died at a very tender age - the girls were twins and my young brother died at the age of 3. My sisters are, one in Turin, Italy, one in South Wellington, Mrs. Kavarti [?] and I are the only ones left. My sister who's in Italy, is speaking English at the airport, and as I stated, we were all born in the city of Nanaimo.
William Barraclough: Where did you first go to school?
Peter Maffeo: The first school that I attended was the old North Ward School that is now torn down, and replaced by the Pauline Haarer School. I only went to school a short time because my mother had died at a very tender age, when I was 7 years old, when she died. I then went to Ladysmith with my Dad and my 2 sisters and attended school in Ladysmith. And when I was 9 years old, my Dad died so I had 2 years of schooling in Ladysmith, and then finished my schooling at Extension, when I was taken over by my auntie and uncle, Mr. And Mrs. Fontana, when we were left orphans.
William Barraclough: And, where did you first work?
Peter Maffeo: Well, that is quite a long story. Why in those days, we just didn't take holidays, so at the age of 11, I attended the mines with my uncle, during the holidays, when I was 11, and 12, and then when I was 13, I felt that we were a burden, with Mr. Fontana having a family of his own, and I then went to work in the mines, steady as a miner, at the age of 13.
William Barraclough: Where would this be?
Peter Maffeo: This would be at Extension, at the Extension coal mine.
William Barraclough: And, what type of work did you follow after that?
Peter Maffeo: Well, Mr. Barraclough, you can understand that from that time to today, I had many, many jobs. I had to go out and get my experience out in the world by doing various jobs, doing various work, meeting various people. I can just think back now and try to record off memory as to the sequence of work that I attended. Went to Vancouver and worked in a sawmill. From the sawmill I think I went to a drug store to see if I could learn the drug business. I felt that wasn't my line. I went then to learn the plumbing trade, which I did learn. In fact, the only trade I really did learn was the plumbing trade. Then I went into brick laying, waited tables in the old Vancouver Hotel; went working on a donkey, then I went and traveled in through the States, doing various jobs. I even worked in the ore mines in the States; worked at plumbing, and at that time, I was working in the ore mines in Butte, Montana, when the war broke out.
William Barraclough: About your war services, Mr. Maffeo. . . ?
Peter Maffeo: In the States when the war broke out, I felt that I would like to go overseas with the Canadian Forces, so I left Butte, Montana, where I was at the time, I came back to British Columbia. So I joined the Six Field Canadian Engineers, and went overseas with that unit.
William Barraclough: And, how long were you overseas?
Peter Maffeo: About, a little over 2 years, and on my return, I decided to come back to Nanaimo. It was quite a decision to make, as I'd traveled in many, many places that I liked, but I felt that Nanaimo was the place that I would like to settle, so I came back to Nanaimo.
William Barraclough: And then you were married? And a family?
Peter Maffeo: Yes, I married Vera Akenhead and we had 1 daughter, Joyce. Joyce now lives in Toronto, married, and has 2 boys.
William Barraclough: Your part and activities in sports in Nanaimo are so well known. Just give us a brief outline of some of them.
Peter Maffeo: Well, that could be quite a long tape, and I'm very proud of my athletic and sporting connections, and I participated in athletics myself. I just found out what good it was for a youth, so I thought I would continue and carry on my experiences in athletics, and pass that knowledge onto other boys and girls, which I've done. Before I came to Nanaimo, in fact, I participated as an athletic instructor in the army, and I carried on that work when I came back to Nanaimo, up to this date. I feel that I have given a lot of boys and girls an opportunity to get the experience that I had in athletics, and that could go on for a long, long period.
William Barraclough: So true, so true, for I have never seen an athletic event in Nanaimo without yourself being right up front. What club did you belong to, Mr. Maffeo?
Peter Maffeo: I belong to the Gyro Club - I've been a member of the Gyro Club since 1922. I belong to Masonic Lodge, Doric #18, and I'm awful proud to be a member of Post #3 Native Sons.
William Barraclough: I recall you being Director of Civil Defense during the war.
Peter Maffeo: Yes, I took over the responsibility of Civil Defense Director during the Second World War, and I feel that that was a task that certainly gave me a lot of experience. And I feel that I did not serve in the forces during the Second World War, but I did serve in the defense at home.
William Barraclough: I remember the headquarters you had. Could you tell us where they were?
Peter Maffeo: We had the only Civil Defense Headquarters underground in Canada. That was down on Machleary Street, and it was certainly a credit to the Civil Defense organization that I was a part of, and many, many others were. And we have a man in the office here now that played an important part in that Civil Defense organization. The man that I refer to that's sitting in the office, making this recording, is Alan Burdock. Alan Burdock was one of my key captains. He was in charge of the most responsible portion of the city at that time, Section B, and I'm proud to think that a man like Alan Burdock is assisting now to make this historic recording, and being a part of a team with me and many, many others in the work of Civil Defense.
William Barraclough: And the Declaration you received for that, Mr. Maffeo?
Peter Maffeo: Yes, I was honoured from his Majesty, the Order of the British Empire, known as the O.B.E.
William Barraclough: And you were also awarded another honour with the City of Nanaimo?
Peter Maffeo: Yes, I was quite proud of that honour - the school children at that time put on a display in 1944, October 4, in the Civic Arena. Unknown to me, I was ushered in by jeep and that evening before a capacity crowd in the arena, I was made the Good Citizen of Nanaimo, that I certainly feel the children at that time gave me probably one of the highest honours that I could hope to receive.
William Barraclough: We know, Mr. Maffeo, that you have headed so many of the campaigns for the benefit of Nanaimo and civil projects. Would you just run through a few of them, please?
Peter Maffeo: Yes, that will be a pleasure and it's not going to be too easy to refresh my memory, but I think back to when I chaired the campaign for the Franklyn Street gym. I can think of the Gyro playgrounds that I fathered and Chaired for many, many years. I can think of the Civic Arena. The first school bylaw, there was 3 schools and the City Hall that I campaigned. The 2nd bylaw for schools was $1,700,000 worth of schools. At that time, that was a lot of money. I could think of the Health Centre that I was very, very proud of. I can think of the Senior Citizen Housing that's in use today. Then, of course, I can think of campaigns such as the War Saving Certificates, Red Cross Drives, Red Shield Drives, Empire Days. One of the things I will wind up with in my campaigns is the concert series during the war when I campaigned bringing in such singers such as Paul Robeston, Mona Pauley and various artists of that type. That is something that was supposed to be out of my line, yet I got a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of making that possible for those that enjoyed it.
William Barraclough: Tell me, Mr. Mayor, what, how did you find time to do all these things, besides your business?
Peter Maffeo: Well, I do operate a factory on the property where I was born, as I mentioned before, adjacent to where I live now, being in the manufacturing of ice cream and ice.
William Barraclough: And well I remember when they constructed the playground on Machleary Street how you came there in the hot sun, with gallon after gallon of ice cream for the men working and the children so interested in watching it.
Peter Maffeo: That was all volunteer work, Mr. Barraclough. I was proud of it.
William Barraclough: Looking through the guest book in your home here, we have many notables, would you kindly refer to some of them
Peter Maffeo: Yes, in 1951, when the City Hall was built, that first year, the Lord Mayor of London, and in 1951, that same year, Her Majesty at that time with Prince Philip, as Princess, signed the guest book. In 1955, Princess Mary signed it, the guest book. In 1958, Princess Margaret, the year that she cut with a sword that largest cake in the world. In 1958, the Lord Mayor of London at that time, Sir Dennis Lowson, signed the guest book and in 1959, Her Majesty and Prince Philip, as Her Majesty, signed our guest book. We are tremendously proud of our guest book in this City Hall, Mr. Barraclough, and Mr. Burdock.
William Barraclough: Mr. Alan Burdock assisted with this tape recording with Mr. Maffeo.
Mr. Peter Maffeo, Mayor of Nanaimo, accidentally fell during a curling game held at Courtenay, Sunday, the 27th of March, 1966, causing severe head injuries.
William Barraclough: On Thursday night, December the 7th, 1967, at a dinner held at the Tally Ho Travelodge, sponsored by 185 leading citizens, a special tribute was presented to Mr. Maffeo for his outstanding public activities, for the welfare of Nanaimo, over the many years. Mr. Allan Everett, Reeve of Burnaby, presented the feature address, as recorded here:
Allan Everett: Hello Gentlemen - this is an extremely important occasion for you and for me. This morning, I didn't regard the call from Ron Biggs as an imposition at all. I think that any other engagement would have to have been pretty compelling for me not to have broken that engagement. I don't consider this an imposition at all - I consider this a great honour.
When 200 people get together to recognize the contribution made over a long period of time, over a very wide variety of human endeavors, that is a testimonial you know you just can't fake, can you? That's an important thing. See, this man, this man has been a thoroughly good citizen, a thoroughly good citizen, because what's been important to him has been the welfare of his community. I'm sure that the number of hours that Pete has contributed in worry and in effort, in order to ensure that the direction that his city was taking would be a surer one - that would be so great in number, that it would be beyond calculation.
I have never met a person yet who has said a derogatory word about Mayor Maffeo. That doesn't happen about many people. Evenings like tonight, spontaneous, this doesn't happen because somebody figures, “Well, we might as well do it, for somebody”. I tell you, it isn't happening that way. One can tell just by the response to each of the toasts that you're recognizing a person who has been a good citizen throughout his life - that he's the same, according to Larry Giovondo, as he was when they knew each other years ago, as boys - a person who is interested in his fellow human beings.
I suppose a mayor, a reeve, an alderman, a counselor, an M.L.A., an M.P., takes a great deal of guff. I know that this happens. And yet, there isn't any experience that anyone can have - and I know that Pete would substantiate - that is quite so rewarding in the final analysis, as serving as a representative of one's city, or one's constituency in one respect or another - to feel that I'm representing those people.
Now, there's a lot said about politicians - the word politician tends to have rather an unfortunate connotation, and may I tell this story? You know, if there were a war declared most of us, most citizens, would have no compunction about donning a uniform, and by so doing perhaps suffer loss of remuneration, family dislocation, loneliness, a good deal of emotional tension, injury, permanent maiming, and possibly even death. After it's all over, somebody says, “ Have you ever thought about going into politics?” So often, the response is, “Wouldn't touch it with a 40 foot pole - its dirty, you know”. What they're really saying, Gentlemen, when they say that, is that a country's worth dying for, but it isn't worth living for.
The democracy that we have results from many, many generations of conscious concern of many, many people, to ensure that the rights of the least of these, my brethren, might be recognized and upheld. And it is not a self-perpetuating institution. That's why it's incumbent upon you, and it's incumbent upon all of us, to ensure that these democratic institutions remain vibrant. You're going to do this on Saturday by ensuring that there is perhaps the largest turnout of voters in Nanaimo in its history - however they may make their choice.
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing has pleased me more in the 10 years that I have served as the Reeve of the Municipality of Burnaby, than participating in this testimonial dinner to a person who has obviously made a most indelible mark in the history of Nanaimo.
William Barraclough: Mr. Maffeo died June the 7th, 1968, age 72 years. Nanaimo Free Press for Saturday June the 8th, and Thursday June 13, 1968, reports special feature articles concerning the life of Mr. Maffeo.
Funeral services for Mr. Maffeo were held at St. Paul's Church, Friday, June the 14th, 1968 at 2:00 p.m. He was buried in Nanaimo cemetery, Grange 13, Plot 135N. Eulogies by many persons were given over C.H.U.B. radio, expressing their admiration for Mr. Maffeo.
Unknown Announcer: Pete, as he was affectionately known by all, was born in 1897, on the site where his ice cream plant stands today. He attended school in Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Extension, and was orphaned at the age of 9. He married the former Vera Akenhead on December 15, 1923. They had one daughter, Joyce, now Mrs. Joyce Hunt of Toronto, Ontario.
During World War I, Mr. Maffeo served with the 6th Field Canadian Engineers. He returned from overseas in July of 1919, and opened the Davenport Café, a spot which turned out to be the haven for his sports minded youth. He later expanded his business into the manufacturing of ice and ice cream.
His philosophy of life was teamwork. Dawson Gordon of Nanaimo, the recently retired Civil Defense Chief for the area, was a part of the local Civil Defense organization, which was set up by Pete during the Second World War.
Dawson Gordon: My association with Pete was back over 20 years, mostly with matters concerning the development of Nanaimo and the welfare of its people. I worked with him primarily on developing and attaining a civil defense organization after the war period. Pete's theme was always teamwork on matters related to the community. He sponsored and encouraged many teams, at great personal sacrifice in time and money, for love of his community of Nanaimo and it's people.
Men with Pete's outlook on life, who give without thought of personal gain, are few and far between. This was a policy that gained support for his various projects. He will be sadly missed by all of his team members, and by those he personally helped in many ways.
Unknown Announcer: It was for his civil defense efforts that Mr. Maffeo was awarded the O.B.E., the Order of the British Empire. His teamwork theme stretched from civil defense, into sincere public service and recreation. Former alderman, Bill McGregor, who is now chairman of the Civic Properties and Recreation Commission, voiced this tribute to Pete:
Bill McGregor: On behalf of Civic Properties and Recreation Commission, I want to express my deepest sympathy to Vera Maffeo and her daughter, Joyce. At this time, I think citizens of Nanaimo are going to miss one of the most outstanding men for recreation that we ever had. I myself have known Pete for 45 years, and he was always very encouraging to me and others, that have taken part in sport. So, at this, Ladies and Gentlemen, I must say that we're going to miss a man that devoted his time for everything for the city of Nanaimo. Thank you.
Unknown Announcer: Mr. McGregor also saw Pete spearhead drives to put playgrounds in the city of Nanaimo. He became a charter member of the Nanaimo Gyro Club in 1922, and immediately became chairman of the Club's playground committee. Today, there stands many city playgrounds which were developed by the Gyros under the direction of their untiring member.
Nanaimo Civic Arena was born in Depression years and again, Pete Maffeo led the drive for the youth of the community. New schools, including the one for retarded children, also came under his leadership.
Nanaimo's new City Hall replaced a ramshackle Skinner Street building due to his efforts and he was instrumental in seeing the Health Centre and Senior Citizen's Housing Development reach fruition. Mr. Maffeo was an untiring worker, both outside and within City Hall. Former Alderman Haig Burns served under Pete on City Council.
Haig Burns: It has left me with a great sadness to hear of the passing of Nanaimo's Pete Maffeo. Pete was known not only in Nanaimo, but throughout B.C., as a man who could project to all who associated with him, his great enthusiasm for getting a job done. He was a man who gave his time, his energy and his thoughts to the betterment and health of his community. He gave of himself unselfishly and without question, many times to the detriment of his own health and business affairs.
Pete Maffeo lived to help others. He carried these attributes with him into the city council, and with his great ability to organize and create enthusiasm, he managed to get the city on a real, progressive program. His office door was always open to all who wished to confer with him or seek his help. He was a tireless worker as mayor of Nanaimo, and spent hundreds of hours at his desk beyond the call of his duty.
Unknown Announcer: Former alderman, John Cook, said Pete was a self-sacrificing man.
John Cook: By the death of Peter Maffeo, Nanaimo has lost a mayor who over the years, has served his fellow man, his beloved city of Nanaimo, his province, and his Canada, to his fullest capacity. I have known Pete for over 50 years, and of his many of his endless deeds of kindness, far beyond the knowledge of most in Nanaimo, can be attributed to his generous and kindly nature. As mayor of Nanaimo for 11 years, he applied all his energy and resourcefulness for the benefit of his city.
Unknown Announcer: The next speaker is Mr. John Parker.
John Parker: I worked with Mr. Maffeo on the council for 9 years, and during this time, I developed a great respect for many of his qualities. I think his most outstanding quality was probably humility, and the fact that he always gave credit to others for their share in the work. I think his interest in children was outstanding - he could never pass a group of children without stopping to speak to them. To me, these are great qualities in a man, and we shall certainly miss him.
Unknown Announcer: Former alderman Bus Macdonald, now Nanaimo Water Commissioner, said Pete spent a lifetime of service to others without thought for himself.
Bus Macdonald: It was with deep regret that I heard of the passing on Friday of Pete Maffeo. While serving on a council, you become very good friends, and come to know the personalities and thoughts of your colleagues. Peter Maffeo was a friend to all, young and old, and knew no class distinctions. He dedicated his life to the goodwill of others, and never worried about personal gains to himself. This was the life he desired, and he must have received great personal satisfaction from the efforts he put forth.
We've all lost a good friend, and I sincerely hope his family will receive comfort from the fact that their husband and father has made a tremendous contribution to humanity during his lifetime.
Unknown Announcer: One of Pete's last presentations was a sports award last year, where he told the 1967 tennis team that the losers' efforts give true value to any award. When Pete played, he observed his own philosophy.
Tragedy first struck the Maffeo family when in March of 1966, during a challenge bonspiel in Courtenay, Pete slipped and fractured his skull on the ice. Transferred to Nanaimo Hospital, his condition worsened, until he was rushed to Victoria where he underwent 2 brain operations. His lifelong friend, Dr. Larry Giovando, accompanied him in the ambulance, almost forcing Pete to live.
Dr. Giovondo said Pete was the best friend he ever had - a first class person, the type of man who would always help others. Helping others knew no bounds for race, creed or colour. The Harlem Globetrotters, perhaps the most significant example, but not the only one. The Globetrotters, in a battered Model A Ford, found refuge in the Maffeo household, when prejudice denied them accommodation. This spring the Globetrotters honoured their three decade friendship with a silver award, and once again, in his home, Pete made and the served the spaghetti, their first common meal many years ago.
Pete recovered sufficiently to carry on in the Mayor's chair until last December, when he announced his retirement.
[No audio on tape-could be Unknown Announcer introducing Allan Everett]: . . . his address in Nanaimo, last December, and he paid final tribute, to Pete Maffeo.
[Unknown Speaker-could be Allan Everett]: I was very much saddened to learn of the death of Pete Maffeo, a man for whom I gained a great affection over the 11 years that I'd known him. And I had considered it to be a truly great honour to have been chosen to be the guest speaker at the Pete Maffeo Night in Nanaimo late last fall. From the stories that I'd heard from many people who had been close to Pete Maffeo over a long period of time, I gained the distinct impression that this was a very beloved man, a man who liked people and who, in turn, was greatly liked by people, and I know that all the people in Nanaimo and all the people who knew him, will certainly be saddened by his death.
Unknown Announcer: Nanaimo mayor, Frank Ney, as well as being Pete's successor, was also his friend. His personal feelings echo the sentiments of all citizens.
Frank Ney: This is a sad weekend for Nanaimo. The hearts of the people of our city are expressed by sorrow and anguish at the passing of Peter Maffeo. He dedicated his life to community service for Nanaimo, young and old alike. He loved our city and will be recorded in history as one of Nanaimo's great citizens.
Service to humanity is the greatest work in life. In the catalogues of human endeavors, Peter Maffeo's many contributions to our community have won a quality of respect and esteem that cannot be excelled. We are going to miss Pete.
Unknown Announcer: And missed he will be. His 10-gallon Stetson has been laid aside. It won't bother the crowds anymore; it won't stoop to children as they play; and its band will not collect the sweat of public endeavor, but it will be remembered on the plaque of the the Maffeo Auditorium, and its brim will cast a shadow over Nanaimo for years to come.
Unknown Announcer: This afternoon, St. Paul's Anglican church was filled to capacity while loudspeakers carried the service to many others outside. Categorically [?] described Mr. Maffeo as a tower of strength to the community. No other man has made such an impact on the community, Mr. [Greenolt ?] said. To those who did not know him, or, those who did not know him are the poorer for it. They described Mr. Maffeo as a good citizen, a good Canadian, and a good and fine man.
Persons from all walks of life were in attendance. Provincial secretary Laurie Wallace represented the provincial government. Members of the Nanaimo Fire Department, representing 156 years of service to the city, acted as pallbearers. Some 40 students from Nanaimo District Schools lined the cemetery roadway, and 4 scarlet-coated RCMP officers formed an honour guard.