"I had a lot of talent and skills. But my skills didn’t line up with economic realities."
Richard Prest, jack of all trades
“I’m a senior citizen of a young age of almost 69. I served in the Governor General’s Foot Guards from 1962 to ‘64 but was medically discharged due to complications from surgery. I worked as an underground miner in Timmins and Sudbury, Ontario. I worked in steel mills in Hamilton. I’ve operated heavy equipment, 18-wheel tractor-trailers. I was even a licensed realtor in Toronto. And I was a certified NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) diver and treasure hunter.
“I lived in Kitsilano sharing a house for $50 a month in 1967—remember when? It was a great time and you could afford to live. I remember when concerts were $6 for three top bands.
“Living in Kits, I spent 15 years practicing Tae Kwon Do, swam with the Canadian Dolphin Swim Club, joined Greenpeace in the ’70s as a volunteer diver, and sold the original Georgia Straight—it was a newspaper sold by street vendors.
“I then met a naturopath where I learnt of my interest in healing and health, so I graduated from the Canadian College of Massage and Hydro Therapy.I was board certified in 1976 by the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
“In 1984, I went to help a friend in Florida and stayed for 28 years. It’s a beautiful place. You actually see very clearly underwater! I wore tank tops and flip flops.
“I started to work on boats, as there are lots of them in Florida. I was there for Hurricane Andrew where I salvaged a lot of big boats. I ended my stay there with Hurricane Katrina. That wiped out the whole state. I made a video of one big salvage. I realized that I had a lot of talent and skills. But my skills didn’t line up with economic realities.
“The recession was in full swing. So I returned to Vancouver in 2010, wanting to get my B.C. Class 1 with Air Brake license so I could go to work. The provincial government would not even give me a loan for the road test, but put me on social assistance with no hope to be employed.
“It was the year of the Olympics and all the jobs were suspended. I did get a $12-an-hour job as a traffic control person at a bus terminal with the old buses running all night. Oh, what fun.
“I eventually got a good job with a shipwright in Horseshoe Bay for $30 an hour. Then my boss’s rent cheque bounced, so I had to move out of my North Vancouver home to the Lookout homeless shelter, only to find out the cheque had cleared. I disputed the case at the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch and I won.
“That’s when Lions Gate Hospital told me I had a cancerous tumour on the base of my tongue. Great, I thought, what else. I am up to my butt in alligators and was only sent in to empty the swamp! That’s Florida humour for ya.
“I went to the ’Peg [Winnipeg] to be with family for 35 treatments of radiation and three rounds of chemo (Cisplatin) treatment. The chemo was the worst and I am still dealing with that today.
“But you know, it's not the age but the mileage. And to add insult to injuries, I could not get a job interview in the boating industry, go figure.
“I met Hope in Shadows and Megaphone this year. I am a social and environmental activist, so I fit right in.
“Selling Megaphone helps us vendors a great deal. I am selling Megaphone at Lonsdale Quay in front of the best coffee place, Bean Around the World, so drop by and chit-chat.
"I love kids, your dog, and I have a good sense of humour. So come on by!
“Sincerely, Richard, agent #689.”
Richard sells Megaphone and Hope in Shadows in front of the Bean Around the World coffee shop at Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.