Hail Little Mary

Little Mary Arnold — Photographs Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Some 25 or more years ago I was teaching photography for the Outreach Program of Emily Carr (then called Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design). In this program artist/teachers (that’s what we were called) were sent to remote British Columbia communities for weekend seminar/hands on/classes in the arts. That particular weekend in question I went to a remote western Vancouver Island community called Ucluelet. When I checked into my hotel on a Friday evening the woman at the desk said, “A friend of yours has left a number for you to call.”

This was most amazing as I had no friends in that community. I called and the person who answered (she always had a fog-horn kind of voice) said, “Hi, this is Little Mary, Mary Arnold. How would you like to go with me to a Halloween party tonight?”

I went to pick her up. She was then about to be married to a pharmacist whom I instantly liked. Little Mary (she was and is 5ft tall) looked strange. I had first met (and photographed) her in the late 70s when she was 19. I looked at her getup and asked her, “What are you dressed as?” She replied, “I am dressed as a Ukrainian whore.”

That was the last time I saw her until a couple of days ago when she came over to our Kitsilano,Vancouver home for a visit.

Little Mary Arnold by all accounts should have died many years ago because she lived a hard life. She could drink anybody under the table with her fave Grand Marnier.

But I have to reinforce here my delight, admiration and appreciation of someone I can really call a good soul.

At age 19 she had a perfect body (by the standards of the day and any other days). She had a preference for performing to Frank Sinatra songs. But what endeared her to me is that she also liked The Police’s Message in a Bottle.

Mary Arnold’s family has been plagued by tragedy through the years. Her two brothers (as tall as she is and therefore professional jockeys) are dead. Mary Arnold herself (her only vice now is 6 cigarettes a day) is doing just fine.

One of Mary Arnold’s many talents besides cooking is her stupendous vision for designing clothing (and costumes) for ballerinas and modern dancers. She is currently hoping to get a grant to pursue this avocation.

As for me all I can say is, “God bless Little Mary.” Of that I am sure as Little Mary attends 8 am Mass every Sunday.

Looking at all the pictures that I took back then when she was 19 I am struck by the look of sadness. Could it have been that at age 19 she might have seen too much? I can attest that now Little Mary smiles and (yes!) laughs loudly. What a privilege to be able to photograph someone 37 years later!

Link to: Hail Little Mary

Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.