Did you know that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, once drove himself through Langley? Or that Dave Stafford, the son of H.D. Stafford, represented Canada in the long jump at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games?
Those are just two of the topics Jason Beck plans to discuss next week as he makes a pair of stops in Langley to promote his book, The Miracle Mile.
With a rowing competition being held on the Vedder Canal, Prince Philip decided to make his way to Chilliwack to attend. But at around 176 Street, the prince — who loved driving — took the wheel of the vehicle and drove through the heart of downtown Langley.
“Apparently it was pretty much like a parade, everyone was on the street, waving their flags, trying to get a glimpse of the prince,” Beck explained.
“For Langley at that time that was a huge, huge deal, that one of the Royal Family was here.”
The book, published by Caitlin Press Inc. this past spring, has been in the works for 10 years.
It is a collection of stories from the Commonwealth Games, which changed both the city of Vancouver and the sports world forever.
The book talks about the much-anticipated showdown between England’s Roger Bannister and Australia’s John Landy, the first two men to break the four-minute barrier in the one-mile run.
It also discusses Australian track athlete Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, who won a final time to remain undefeated in international competition, an unprecedented accomplishment that has never been matched.
There is also the tale of Emmanuel Ifeajuna, a little-known high jumper from Nigeria, who surprised the world when he won Africa’s first-ever international gold medal. He later masterminded a bloody coup that plunged his nation into a devastating civil war.
The 34-year-old Beck, who grew up in Abbotsford and moved to Langley five years ago, initially attended the University of the Fraser Valley after graduating from Abbotsford Secondary in 2000.
At UFV, he studied kinesiology while playing soccer.
But after taking a sports history class in his second year taught by Robin Anderson, Beck knew he had found his passion.
Beck was working on a paper about the Commonwealth Games and his instructor was able to arrange a volunteer practicum at the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Beck would later transfer to SFU, graduating in 2006 with a degree in history, and has worked ever since as the curator and director of the Hall.
In the course of his work, Beck interviewed between 10 and 15 inductees about their Games’ experiences.
And they, in turn, gave him leads and phone numbers for other subjects to interview.
By the end, he had conducted about 80 interviews, some in person, others by phone, with athletes from 10 different countries.
“That was my favourite part, hearing first-hand these stories. You would read about something and think there was no way this could happen and then someone would tell you the story and you knew there was no way they could have made it up, it was so detailed,” he said.
“I just really believed that these stories were important enough or interesting enough that people would like to read them.”
Beck said the feedback he has received, especially from some of the competitors at the Games, has made it all worthwhile.
Beck will be in Langley twice next week.
On Sept. 27, he will give a presentation at the Langley Heritage Society’s monthly meeting at the Milner Chapel (6716 216 St.) at 7:30 p.m.. It is free to the public, but you are asked to RSVP to the Langley Heritage Society at 604-513-8787.
And on Sept. 29, he will be doing a reading and presentation at the Murrayville Library (100 22071 48 Ave.) from 7 to 8:30 p.m. It is also free to attend.
Books will be available for purchase at both events.
Beck will also do four other author presentations and readings in the coming weeks.
Abbotsford — Oct. 19 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the C3 Presentation at The Reach Gallery (32388 Veterans Way).
Vancouver — Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Vancouver Heritage Foundation monthly meeting at the University Women’s Club (1489 McRae Ave.)
Chilliwack — Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives in conjunction with Chilliwack Heritage Society (45820 Spadina Ave.).
North Vancouver — North Vancouver City Library (120 West 14 St.) from 7 to 8:30 p.m.