Searching for The Captain – “Aye Aye and Good Buy”

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If you do a Google search for “The Captain, aye aye and goodbye”, the first result that comes up is a tweet of mine from February, 2011 when I was lamenting the fact that it’s (almost) impossible to find a photo/video of The Captain online.

The second result in your Google search will be a blog post from our friend Rebecca Bollwitt’s blog back in 2006 where she expresses shock over the fact that her husband didn’t know who The Captain was.

What follows these two links are a bunch of unrelated ones relevant to a web search only because people have posted The Captain’s catch phrase (what I always thought was “Aye aye and goodbye”) in the comments. Which is to say The Captain – a 90’s Vancouver folk hero of sorts – is an obscure piece of Vancouver history who mostly only exists fragmentally in our collective memory as we’ve done a poor job of preserving him digitally. Hazy recollections of late night TV commercials for his pawnshop and his AMC Eagle with a large sail perched atop it whizzing by us on Broadway while waiting for the bus might be the only proof that this guy ever existed. As Kris Krug once said, “if it’s not on the internet, it never happened”, and so I’ve been doing some digging to reveal the whereabouts of old commercials as well as photos, and memories, of The Captain.

Every few months, as a part of my (admittedly half-assed) search for The Captain, I’ll do some online searching, send out a tweet or two asking if people know his current whereabouts so that I might interview him, or at least find out where his AMC Eagle now rests so that I can go and shoot a photo of it, or buy it and then donate it to the Museum of Vancouver’s collection. Leads that I get from people saying “You should ask so-and-so!” go cold pretty quick, but recently a guy named Irwin Devries sent me this photo along with his thoughts on The Captain:

From Irwin DeVries:

I used to drop by The Captain’s pawnshop almost weekly, when his store was on Alma Street. At the time I worked at the Justice Institute, which was just down the road on W. 4th, and I would walk to The Captain during lunchtime. Among the store’s distinguishing features was a car with a sail on it that was always parked in front of the store.

This would have been in the late ’80s or early ’90s, when the store was a musician’s dream. The racks included rows of used guitars, amplifiers, microphones, effects units, synthesizers (that would now qualify as vintage and some would kill for), stacks of turntables (everyone was dumping them in favor of the new CD format), fine stereo gear, and lots of other stuff that I ignored because it had nothing to do with music. He always struck me as a hard driver – there wasn’t much negotiation on prices so you had to find the bargains, but they were there if you knew what you were looking for. Among my many purchases were microphones, speaker stands, a 16 track recording mixer, an 8 track reel-to-reel recorder, and a 12-string Yamaki acoustic guitar that I still treasure today, all for prices that would make one weep today. At the time he was of a hefty size, and well known for his low-budget late night TV ads which he’d sign off with his signature “Aye aye and goodbye.”

Over time, there were fewer good deals to be had, and more and more shops of this type were turning to E-Bay. The famed pawnshop musician special finds were becoming a thing of the past. Years later I needed to get rid of an old electronic organ, so I brought it to his store, which had since moved to North Vancouver. After we concluded the deal, I struck up a conversation about the “old times” at his Alma St. store. He reminisced a while. He had decided to turn to a healthy lifestyle, lost a great deal of weight and was planning to marry. He told me more about his personal history, which was complicated and not always easy, but I don’t remember the details. Before I left, he asked me if I wanted a photograph, and of course I was delighted.

Our family was recently digging through a shoebox of old photographs and we found this Polaroid, which I had long forgotten. It’s signed, “To my Good friend Irwin,” autographed “The Captain” with a seamanlike flourish, and concludes with the words “Thank you! Aye Aye & Goodbuy.” No, not goodbye. Vancouver, the record is now officially set straight; I have it in writing, in The Captain’s own hand. It’s “goodbuy.”

Hope to see you around, Captain.

– Irwin DeVries

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How great is that photo and letter?! If you’ve got photos of the Captain, or copies of The Captain’s TV commercials on VHS (!), or anything related to this Vancouver gem, please email them to me at contact [at] vancouverisawesome.com along with your stories so I can share them.