Rollie Coombe

Friends and family this may be a long post so bear with me. Most of you know I am in the process of putting out an EP. Well, I have hummed and hawed about doing a digital release or a physical CD, and have decided to do a CD.The problem has become what should I call this thing? What about the CD artwork?…I had never really put any thought into it….Hmmm

So I let it percolate for about a week. Then I started getting some mixes of the new material from the awesome Dan Swinimer. The track that is sticking out is called “Rollie Coombe”. First time I heard it I bawled like a baby…Hmm….This has to be the title of the new album!

Now a little about my Uncle Rowland “Rollie Coombe”. He was a hard working guy from a family of 16 kids, born in Prince Albert Saskatchewan. He moved to BC as a young man, was married briefly and then stayed a bachelor the rest of his life.

Here he is on his Wedding Day

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Uncle Rowland was an important guy in our family. He was the Uncle that took us to the PNE. He bought my brother and I bicycles. We used to have sleepovers at his place. His hair was always an army styled brush cut and He said funny things like” I don’t chew my cabbage twice” or “He’s got more money than Cater has pills”. Maybe you had an Uncle or family friend like that.

But Uncle Rowland had some problems. He was an Alcoholic, and most likely had some other form of mental illness. This was the 60’s and 70’s, and we didn’t really talk about those kinds of things, and to us kids this was “normal”. We didn’t know any better.

As the years rolled by and the 70’s turned to the 80’s , old Uncle Rollie couldn’t hold it together anymore. The drinking combined with his other issues piled up and he became homeless. We used to see him on the streets of New West once in a while, hanging out in front of the liquor store, looking for a drink. His brush cut had turned into long hair and a beard. He was too proud to beg but his buddies sure did.

This was years ago and my recollections are kind of foggy but one year I think around Christmas 1983 we found him on the streets. My brother Dan brought him home gave him a bath and we found him a suit at the Salvation Army. Interesting side note, some kind soul had slipped $10.00 in the pocket of the suit! Anyhow, we got him cleaned up, but he disappeared on us, and we never saw him again.

On February 1st 1984 my Uncle Rowland was found dead in a stairwell of a parking lot in New West. I’ve got a copy of the death certificate. It says;

D.O.A. Royal Columbian Hospital.

Immediate cause of death;

Left subdural hematoma, due to or a consequence of; Herniation left uncus.

Accident or Violence?

“Subject found dead on stairwell in parking lot still under investigation by Coroners office”….Hmmm…

Here is a quote from Google “Subdural hematoma is usually caused by a head injury, such as from a fall, motor vehicle collision, or an assault. The sudden blow to the head tears blood vessels that run along the surface of the brain. This is referred to as an acute subdural hematoma”.

So the question is did my Uncle fall or was there an assault? Do I dredge this up and look into it? What about the rest of the family? Do I want these folks to have to deal with an old wound like this? What about justice? Should I contact the Corner and get to the bottom of this? It certainly wont change things or bring him back…..I will leave those questions alone for now and seek counsel from others.

There you have it. My new album will be named after and dedicated to my Uncle, Rowland James Edward Coombe.There were no children, no significant other, and no gravestone marker of any sort. We threw his ashes in the Fraser River, right where the New West Quay now stands, as per his request….God Bless you Uncle, it’s the least I could do.

Like the song says,” Some people check out too soon, and I miss you Rollie Coombe”.


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