By Ray Culos
One hundred and one people most of whom spent their youth, circa 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s in the City’s old Little Italy district of Strathcona, celebrated their friendship and diversity at a luncheon at the Italian Cultural Centre, Saturday, June 23rd. A majority of the Prior Street Reunion revellers are now in their eighties – with a few in their early to mid-nineties including the lovely and diminutive Louise Lyons, the Grande Dame of the day, topping the list at age 97! Scores of oft-repeated stories created laughter and applause while the old gang reminisced about the good-old-days highlighted when they attended one of the district’s schools; Strathcona, Sacred Heart, Seymour, Britannia and Van Tech. Among the guests were those who excelled in sports locally, provincially and nationally. Also enjoying the moment were men who in their youth shined shoes at one of the many parlours along Hastings Street in order to gain a little spending money during difficult times.
The organizing committee comprised Anthony Grdina, Tony Padula, Stanley Yip and Vanda Thomson who collectively did an outstanding job arranging for the twelfth reunion since the get-togethers started in 1977 at which 550 people were in attendance. Padula spearheaded the ticket sales and worked assiduously coordinating this truly successful event. Grdina, a retired owner of a lucrative bakery enterprise, supervised the creation of special loaves of bread and incredibly delicious panettoni samples of which he gifted to each attendee. An amazing gesture for an amazing man considering that he had to arrange for two separate four-hour passes from the Vancouver General Hospital in order to accomplish the unique feat. Although he fulfilled his self-imposed desire to attend the luncheon on Saturday, Anthony died unexpectedly while at VGH three days latter. (We mourn his loss and offer sincere condolences to his family.) After a scrumptious dessert which comprised tasty cannoli, coffee and panettone, nominators Bill and Frank Barazzuol presented the 2018 Awesome Award to Ray Culos, a community historian who in their view symbolizes “a person who makes the world a better place for all of us with the amazing and awesome things that he does”. In making the presentation Bill spoke of Culos’ six social history books one of which he co-authored with Clive Cocking.
Marion Wagner added her comments at the podium by stating, “Being here at the Prior Street Reunion is pretty special in itself, but for me, being here today to present the Awesome Award to my brother, Ray Culos, takes this special event to another level.
“Raymond, you are a man who has made family the cornerstone of your life.
Family is your centre and all of us who are connected to you benefit from your
talents and generosity. Your accomplishments reflect the way you live your life – with passion, integrity and joy. You are a dedicated husband, father, grandfather and, most recently, great grandfather!
“You are many things to many people, from the pillar of strength helping in times of need, to the quick-witted host sharing conversation and laughter around the dinner table.
“I’m so very pleased that you’re receiving this award today! And, I ask everyone here to join with me in congratulating my brother, Ray Culos, this year’s most deserving recipient of the Awesome Award!!!”
Photographs by Jarrod Evans