Star Walk

Inducted 2017, Music, Pioneer, Theatre
Betty Haswell, also known as Betty Brown, was born to musical parents in Edmonton Alberta on August 17, 1921. A natural musician, Betty could play any song on the piano after listening to it and she also learned to read music. By the age of ten, Betty was accompanying her singer mother Hilda on her operettas. She worked at a music store in her early teens and her job was to play the new pieces of music for the customers. By the age of fourteen, she had her own fifteen minute radio show on CFRN called Betty Brown’s Ramblings, where callers would request songs and she would play them on air.  At the tender age of seventeen, a young Ms. Brown met Terry Forbes (formerly Leo Haswell) and they soon fell in love. Terry was a beautiful tenor, talented musician and front man. They started working together, Betty being his accompanist. They married in 1940, moved to Red Deer, then eventually to Vancouver.  In 1946, Betty began playing the pipe organ at the Orpheum, and for many years opened for the weekly Vaudeville shows. In 1949 together with June and Bob Coard, two of the city’s top entertainers, they started the Back Stage Club, where all the big acts passing through town to play the Cave, Izzy’s or Duke’s Cabaret would stop by for an evening of professional camaraderie. Some of those included Sammy Davis Junior and Billy Holiday. In 1954, Betty and Terry were part of Frank Lee’s, Hi-Baller Review that travelled up the BC Coast putting on stage shows featuring Irma Lawrence, Wendy Cox and Celest Evans. In the early 1950’s Betty played for Dadie Rutherford (and Violet Cameron’s Dance classes too when she was late teens). Her daughter Linda recalls that as a little girl, she would go to dance classes with her mom in lieu of babysitters. She would dance with all the classes, young and older girls too; for hours every day.  Betty was also the audition pianist for the CBC for many years in the 1960’s. She and Terry also did many gigs out at the BC Penitentiary for the prisoners. In 1963, Betty and Terry sold everything and went on the road in the United States for a year with their show band, Patty Lynn and the Pacers. They had the first show band Vancouver had ever seen, with four members including Patty Lynn, their elder daughter, who sang, played great drums and was a wonderful dancer; and Ray Lowden, who was a fantastic vibes and trumpet player. Back home in Vancouver after a year of being gypsies, Betty taught the organ for Eatons and drove her little Nash Metropolitan all around the lower mainland going to people’s homes teaching young and old alike. She was a very good and patient teacher and still has many gifts from her students. As well as playing the city’s many clubs and theatres, Betty and Terry had six nights a weeks house gigs around Vancouver, at the George Vickers Livingroom, The Ramada Inn, The Georgian Towers, (where Dal Richards, the manager at the time, would come upstairs to sit in with them every night) The LuluBelle and the Coachhouse in North Vancouver. In 1969, Betty and Terry took the job as Cruise Directors for the first Princess Lines Ship, the Princess Patricia. They went back and forth to Alaska for twelve years, as the only entertainment on board. It was rigorous schedule to say the least…an 8 day cruise that came into Vancouver every eight days, at 8:00 AM and left that night at 8:00 PM. They would do laundry, pay bills and generally run around all day taking care of home business then get back on the ship to resume their musical duties. They also recorded a song about Vancouver, called My Vancouver at Aragon studios, which later became Mushroom and it was well received by the local radio stations. Betty and Terry continued playing and being part of the Vancouver music scene until the eighties, when they retired for a well deserved rest (which was briefly interrupted by performances in the Retirement Pavilion at Expo '86). In 1998, Betty and her youngest daughter recorded a CD of jazz standards with her on grand piano and Linda on vocals. Terry passed away in 2002 and Betty lives with her younger daughter, singer/musician Linda Kidder in North Vancouver. Most recently, after more than 70 years, In November 2017, Betty once again graced the stage and played the mighty Wurlizer organ for the Orpheum’s 90th Anniversary Celebration. It was at this event that she was (much to her surprise!) inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame as a Pioneer. Betty comes out to play piano with Linda now and then and can still knock  everyone out with her version of Stardust. In August 2018 she will turn 97! Still playing music and is a lifetime member of Local 145....
Posted: Jun-14-2018
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