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Jim Bohlen, July 4, 1926 - July 5, 2010

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Jim Bohlen, the Bronx-born activist who moved to Vancouver in 1967 and eventually started Greenpeace, died on Monday at age 84. Tributes poured in, including admiring write-ups from Greenpeace, and The Vancouver Sun.

Each tells the story of how Bohlen moved to British Columbia with his wife and family to avoid seeing one son drafted to serve in Vietnam. On the West Coast, Bohlen and his wife, Marie, became involved in the Sierra Club, within which Bohlen founded a subgroup, the Don't Make A Wave Committee.

The group was strongly opposed to the American government's plan to test nuclear bombs on the Alaskan island of Amchitka. According to an obituary in The New York Times:

With a test scheduled for fall 1971, little more than a year away, Mr. Bohlen complained to his wife, Marie, that the committee was deliberating too slowly.

As she offhandedly suggested that they sail a boat to the test site, a reporter for The Vancouver Sun called to check in on the committee’s deliberations. Mr. Bohlen, caught off guard, said, “We hope to sail a boat to Amchitka to confront the bomb,” a remark that appeared in the newspaper the next day.

The committee made good on Mr. Bohlen’s pledge. After Irving Stowe, a core member, organized a fund-raising concert in Vancouver with Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Phil Ochs and the Canadian rock band Chilliwack, the committee leased the halibut fishing vessel Phyllis Cormack, and, after renaming it Greenpeace, sailed to Alaska.

You know the rest of this story. Bohlen's group sailed into the hearts of the concerned public. The island was saved. The boat itself became an icon of the counter-culture and environmental movements. Greenpeace, once a fringe group of radical hippies, is now a mainstream watchdog with offices in 40 countries. Over the years, it has become a thorn in the side to governments everywhere, whalers and pro-nuclear organizations, along with dozens of major corporations such as BP, Exxon Valdez and Royal Dutch Shell. Its latest U.S. campaign targets the computer company, Dell

But look again at the line-up of musicians that helped launch Greenpeace.

Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, James Taylor. The three folk music giants together recorded an album at the concert. But Chilliwack? The only group cited that doesn't have a "Times Topic" page? 

Fans of "CanCon" will remember the band, named for their B.C. hometown. In 1970, they released an album called Chilliwack. In 1971, they released a second album, also called Chilliwack. The rockers did not become famous across North America until the early '80s release of "My Girl." (The lead singer is still riding the success of such classic low-brow songs. See "")


How did they get invited to the ball?
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