MEMORY LANE: West Vancouver couple captures amazing life

Robert Crone joined CBC as a cameraman in the 1950s, at the dawn of the television age. Filming was live, no retakes possible in the studio or on assignment, where Bob liked to be, preferably with his wife Violet alongside operating the second camera.

Recalling Vi's induction in 2007 to the Canadian Society of Cinematographers brings a laugh. "I remember the discussion about including women when the society started 50 years before," Vi says. "I had been filming for years with Bob in Europe - Canada's first female camera operator." Bob and Vi come from roots deep in Ontario. Her family still farms in the Peterborough area; Bob was a PK - a preacher's kid - fifth generation. "I broke the mold," he says.

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No one knew what Bob would make of himself when he took apart a brand new outboard motor at the family cottage on Lake Chemong, but they had faith in him. "He'll put it back together," said his mother, "and it will be even better." Bob was nine.

Bob opened that souped-up five horse outboard full throttle and took off out on the lake, standing astride the gunwales singing "they wear no pants in the hula hula dance." Vi's father, Roy Sanderson, a witness to this expression of high spirits from the porch of the cottage next door, was not amused.

Bob and Vi met again in high school: he was never without a camera; she carried the flashbulbs and film canisters. After Robertson Davies, editor of the Peterborough Examiner, paid Bob $2 for a roll of film and a news report, the aspiring photojournalist went on the lookout for stories and found them - a talent that would serve Bob well on the international television news reports and documentaries he and Vi would produce for CBC newsmagazine programs like Close-up, Tabloid and Telescope.

The stories flow. Bribing safe passage through rebel roadblocks in the Congo with cartons of cigarettes. In Rome, fixing a camera's broken drive chain with a chain from the hotel water closet. Photographing Lucky Luciano in Rome, George Bernard Shaw in England. Filming the famous and the infamous around the world - Churchill, Castro, JFK. In Canada, they produced campaign films for Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.

A serious airplane crash while on assignment led Bob to get his pilot's licence and acquire an aircraft. Bob and Vi were flying Pierre and Janet Berton on a tour of Canada's north when "we got to within about 50 miles of Edmonton, and realized that this bird was thirsty and we weren't going to make it." Bob landed the turbo-jet Aero Commander on the highway, where a taxi and a fuel truck waited. Calm, collected, highly organized: Bob and Vi in action.

Bob and Vi moved to West Vancouver in 1988, intending to retire. Soon they were photographing and filming church activities and recording sermons at West Vancouver Presbyterian. There they made new friends and found old ones, including Pat Boname, West Vancouver's first female mayor and a former researcher on CBC's newsmagazine Close-up.

They are true pioneers, opening Film House, Canada's first post-production centre when Canada's film industry was emerging in the 1960s. By the 1970s, Vi was making in-house training films for Canadian Tire, Shopper's

Drug Mart, McDonalds, Holt Renfrew. Bob was working in film and television, specializing in the Steadicam, which he introduced into Canada.

They received the Air Canada award for outstanding contribution to Canada's film industry at the 1981 Genie Awards. Bob has the unique distinction of being a life member of the Canadian Society of Cinematographers, the Directors Guild of Canada and the Film Editors Guild.

The quality of Bob and Vi's work and their stellar reputation is a lasting legacy.

They may be most proud of one more personal. Bob, a product of five generations of ministers, and Vi, from a long established farming family, created a dynasty of their own. Son David and grandson Rob make it three generations of Crones to work in the film industry.

For more on Bob and Vi's story, go to westvanpresbyterian.ca. Their interview by Haruyo Abramson is in the church's first newsletter in 2015.

Laura Anderson works with seniors on the North Shore. seniorsconnect@shaw.ca

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