Brian Antonson at home in Mission with two books he's co-authored. (Chris Campbell photo)

Mission senior keeps people enthralled with historic tales

Brian Antonson is an author and gives regular talks on all sorts of topics

When Brian Antonson is asked how many books he has in his collection, he can’t remember the exact number.

“Roughly a gazillion,” the Mission senior jokes, mulling over how many books he’s kept over his 74 years of life.

Once we had established that it’s a lot, Antonson says that books are not the only thing he collects.

He also has thousands of music records, as well as dozens of incredible kaleidoscopes made from all sorts of materials and acquired during his many travels.

So, why kaleidoscopes?

“I love colour,” he says. “I love images. It’s become one of my many collections.”

It’s true, Antonson does have a lot of collections that appear to take up space in the house he shares with his wife Sue and their dog Tess (who enjoys barking at strangers until sure that they aren’t going to harm her parents).

Antonson admits that all these collections are a bit much for Sue since they crowd the house, but she’s still supportive, he jokes.

As for his love of “colour” – that is a theme along with the whole idea of collections.

That’s because what Antonson is often known for around Mission are the many storytelling events – where he shares the colourful stories he also collects in his mind – he hosts online, in libraries, at seniors centres – heck, anywhere people are wanting to know more about the world and its history.

Antonson has one coming up on Oct. 26 in which he discusses Ireland, Dracula and the Halloween connection. There he will explore the roots of this “nasty boy” in Ireland, England, and Transylvania, and then dive deep into Halloween celebrations in several parts of the world.

Antonson gives talks on a wide variety of genres, from King Arthur, British history, UFOs and astronomy. Recently, right after the death of Queen Elizabeth, Antonson was asked to give a talk on her life and legacy. It didn’t take long for him to come up with a 60-slide presentation.

Such talks keep Antonson busy – he has 14 already lined up for this fall.

“Give me a topic and I’ll come up with something interesting,” he said. “I love it. I’ve always enjoyed being someone who informs, especially with a live audience. I love performing.”

This follows a career first as a broadcast journalist for such outlets as CKNW, followed by a long stint with the BCIT broadcasting program in which he taught future journalists how to be great storytellers.

“The love of my life for a career was education,” he says.

Antonson has also had a big impact on the community in other ways, including spearheading an astronomy centre in Mission (sadly it was later bulldozed by the city), as well an “amazing” experience as president of the group that staged 2014 Winter Games in Mission.

If that wasn’t enough, Antonson has also co-written two books: Slumach’s Gold and Whistle Posts West, with Mary Trainer and Rick Antonson.

Whistle Posts West tells a series of railway tales from B.C., Alberta and the Yukon.

READ MORE: ‘Deadman’s Curse’ to feature local explorers, legend

Slumach’s Gold is more of an obsession for Antonson, who has written and then updated the book since the early 1970s.

“Slumach’s Gold chronicles what is possibly Canada’s greatest lost-mine story,” reads the book’s description. “It searches out the truth behind a Salish man’s hanging for murder in 1891 and tracks the intriguing legend about him that grew after his death. It was a legend that turned into a drama of international fascination when Slumach — the hanged criminal — was mysteriously linked to gold nuggets ‘the size of walnuts.’ The stories claimed that Slumach had placed a curse on a hidden motherlode to protect it from interlopers and trespassers just before he plunged to his death ‘at the wrong end of a five-strand rope.’ Although many have attempted to find Slumach’s gold over the past 100 years, following tantalizing clues that are part of the legend itself, none have succeeded — or have they?”

Antonson says the current version of the book is about 160 pages, but “there is enough material” to expand it to about 240 pages.

That should definitely keep him busy for years to come.


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