Community

Crying out loud for Qualicum Beach

Qualicum Beach town crier Len Mustard has been calling the town’s praises since 1999. Sometimes, Mustard and his wife and costumed partner Marie (left) hear a little competition from visitors to the community. - News file photo
Qualicum Beach town crier Len Mustard has been calling the town’s praises since 1999. Sometimes, Mustard and his wife and costumed partner Marie (left) hear a little competition from visitors to the community.
— image credit: News file photo

If public events in Qualicum Beach carry an unusual weight of tradition and old world charm, it likely has something to do with Len Mustard’s presence. Not just because Mustard is a long time and very proud Qualicum Beach personality, but because he’s better known to casual observers as the town crier.

Though they have a 500 year history in England, he admits he didn’t know anything about town criers until the idea was proposed in Qualicum Beach just over a decade ago. Mustard arrived here via an unusual route from England, heading first to join the police force in Bermuda in 1963, then to a Madison Avenue advertising job in the mid-1960s.

“I declined an invitation to go to Vietnam, because they were inviting everyone at that point,” he said dryly, and instead chose to move his young family to Toronto.

He worked for Proctor and Gamble and introduced Oil of Olay to Canadian television and through his marketing work got to know the West Coast and warned his wife “a move was imminent.”

Sure enough, they couldn’t resist for long and in 1974 they bought a truck and headed west.

They stopped in Nanaimo for four years where he owned a fish and chip shop before moving further into what was then rural Qualicum Beach, which had 1,200 people at the time.

He owned Mustard’s Restaurant in what it now Dee’s Bar and Grill then started the Qualicum Beach Century 21, which branched into property management for all the homes of absentee owners hoping to retire there.

Still, one of the things he loves about Qualicum Beach is that, while the population has increased almost eight-fold, it has kept its character and warmth.

“Council has done a really good job keeping the village atmosphere,” he said, declining to comment any further on current discussions about development, staying impartial.

He’s always loved and been involved in theatre and joined ECHO Players as soon as he moved to town, impressed with the calibre and foresight of the community group.

He started as an actor and then director and he was president in 1999 when they held a ceremonial mortgage burning for the theatre several members had mortgaged their homes to buy.

A big believer in staying young through activity, Mustard has been involved in a surprising array of groups as a former commodore of the Schooner Cover Yacht Club, and member of the coast guard, operatic society, Arrowsmith Pipe and Drum Band and the new Phil Harmonics.

“My bucket list is pretty short,” he said, pointing out he has gone skydiving and done most of the things he’s wanted to try.

He does admit while he’s keeping young, there’s only so much he can do, lamenting that after 55 years of playing, soccer is becoming difficult.

When the chamber of commerce proposed the idea of a town crier in 1999, they looked to ECHO Players as an obvious source and though they tried to make it a competition, Mustard admitted when it came down to it he was the only one who stepped forward and he’s been proudly stepping forward to cry the praise of the town and every big event ever since.

 

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