Adventures: Writers read at Lit Cafe

Alexandra Neighbourhood House in Crescent Beach hosts Lit Cafe 2, attracting readers and writers.

Ruth Derksen Siemens: a granddaughter shares tales of Vancouver’s Mennonite Maids.

Ruth Derksen Siemens: a granddaughter shares tales of Vancouver’s Mennonite Maids.

Alexandra Neighbourhood House has a history of being a community anchor, a treasured Crescent Beach resource. Now, by instituting a Reading Room in the landmark fort-like structure, it has endeared itself to local writers.

Recently Lit Cafe 2 attracted writers and readers to Histories: Our Community, Ourselves featuring authors Julie Ferguson, Robert Mackay, Andrea Lister, Ruth Derksen Siemens plus a lighted-hearted nod to the senior single life by freelance columnist April Lewis.

Not only was each writer’s background intriguing, it had inspired his, or her, choice of research.

James Douglas, Father of British Columbia, by Port Moody writer Julie Ferguson was drafted with a YA (young adult) audience in mind. But, like Douglas himself, the book attracted a wider audience.

Proving that Canadian history is a fascinating adventure, Julie’s well-researched crafting of the fur trading, swashbuckling ‘JD’, his part-Cree wife, and his determination to map and anchor what is now Victoria, Vancouver, and much of the Pacific Northwest, makes entertaining reading.

Julie also authored Through a Canadian Periscope, a history of the Canadian Submarine Service.

As a young naval reserve officer, she visited HMCS/M Okanagan in 1979. So began her love for the CSS – and the sub’s commanding officer, but, that’s another story.

Soldier of the Horse, a novel by Surrey author and retired lawyer, rancher, submariner Robert W. Mackay, is based on his father’s participation in the last cavalry charge. Beginning with a Winnipeg family drama, a wannabe lawyer with a fear of horses finds himself in the cavalry, and enroute to WW1 Europe. Culminating in the bloody battle of Moreuil Wood in France, it’s an intriguing tale of pain and pathos.

Commitment to Caring: Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary’s 100 Years, 1911-2011, by author, speaker, editor and book designer Andrea Lister, begins with a delightful glance back to an era when a cup of tea, a few nickels – and a load of determined arm-twisting (laced with charm) got you…well… a hospital.

Andrea’s great-grandmother was a founding member of the auxiliary – an added dimension to this heartwarming historical tribute. Liberally sprinkled with archival pictures, you’ll be bound to smile at the way things have changed down the years.

Daughters in the City, Mennonite Maids in Vancouver 1931-61, by Ruth Derksen Siemens, tells the stories of how a group of young immigrant women pooled their resources in 1937 to buy a two-story South Vancouver house.

It became one of two ‘Bethels’, or Girls’ Homes.

Labouring as maids to Vancouver’s upper echelon, the thrifty women survived, thrived, and supported one another, as well as many who followed in their footsteps.

Ruth’s mother and 14 aunts were among these women.

Without this book, a unique, courageous, critical chapter in Russian-Canadian Mennonite women’s history might have vanished.

For more Lit Cafe schedule information contact Neil Fernyhough, Coordinator of Community Programs, at 604-618-2357 (ext 236), or email

For more on these authors online, visit:, (Andrea Lister).

– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a British Columbia writer and photographer with a passion for travel.

Cloverdale Reporter