1963 Black and Gold Turned Black and Blue

1963 Black and Gold turned Black and Blue

Dave McFarlane

By King Lee, VHS 1958

In April of 1963, five Vic High buddies turned Black and Gold into black and blue. In the spring of that year, United States President John F. Kennedy felt that Americans were not in good shape physically and he challenged his citizens, particularly American youth, to get fit. A 50-mile walk in a maximum time of 20 hours, dubbed the JFK Challenge, then sprang up across the U.S. and spilled over into Canada. Thousands of teen-agers took up the challenge, including several groups from Vic High and other schools. The most popular route on Vancouver Island was from Chemainus to Victoria.


Bruce Barrick

Vic High friends Dave McFarlane, Dave Macmillan, Peter Bolli, Bruce Barrick and Doug St. Arnault, all Vic High Class of 1964, joined the walk. “I don’t know which one (of us) mentioned it,” said Dave McFarlane, who now resides in Nanaimo. They had been friends for years and had all landed at Vic High from Central Junior High School. The 50-mile walk was calculated to finish outside the old Daily Colonist and Victoria Times building in the 2600-block of Douglas Street. (The papers were separate morning and afternoon daily newspapers then, merging in 1980 to become the current Times Colonist.)  It was also convenient if the newspapers wanted to interview and photograph the participants, they thought. Dave McFarlane recalls thinking, “We can do this, nothing to it!” This despite the fact they were smokers.

Fellow classmate, Marian Sieradzan drove them to Chemainus at 3 AM that April morning and they began walking. “Starting out, says Dave McFarlane, “ and believing we were physically up to accomplishing this walk, perhaps in record time, we covered the first five miles in about an hour.” Forty-five miles to go, they thought, a piece of cake, so they took a smoke break. They proceeded at a more leisurely pace, smoking the occasional cigarette and making a few jokes along the way. Then, at the northern tip of the Malahat, the pain hit.

Doug St. Arnault

“Our group was getting pretty strung out,” says Dave, “and forgetting  our initial ‘all for one and one for all’ spirit, It was really everyone for themselves.” Dave McFarlane, muscles screaming for him to stop, stuck out his thumb and quickly got a ride back to Victoria and crashed on his bed. When he woke, he called a couple of his friends and found out they had done the same thing.

However, Dave Macmillan and Bruce Barrick, who was probably in the best physical shape of all of them, had stayed together and made it to Victoria in under 20 hours, then had their picture taken for the next day’s newspaper. Unbelievably, Dave Macmillan had worn Hush Puppies (soft shoes of the day made for ordinary everyday wear) for the trek. He recalled that the director of the YMCA was at the Malahat when they were going through and gave them a bowl of soup. It was there that Dave felt the most pain.

When he arrived at the newspaper building, Dave remembers that his parents were not able to pick him up because they were working, so he had to take a bus back to his Fairfield home. He said he almost crawled home from the bus stop. “I was so stiff,” he remembers. Bruce actually went ice skating at the Memorial Arena that evening (now the Save-On Memorial Centre), but Dave definitely needed a few days for his blisters to heal.

Marian Sieradzan

“As I think back on their accomplishment,” says Dave McFarlane, “I’m reminded of that terrific movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Alec Guiness leading his men and whistling the Colonel Bogey March as they entered the prisoner of war camp. Perhaps if we have another reunion for the class of 1964 and Bruce and Dave attend we can whistle that tune as they  enter.”

Dave McFarlane remembers that that fateful morning of Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated while in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Pretty much everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news. “We were given the news,” says  Dave, “and school was dismissed that day at lunchtime.”