A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Guns - Tom Bongalis, Billy Miner & A Bisley Model 41 Colt
Sunday, December 03, 2006

For years I have bragged that I never wanted to own a gun, a motorcycle or grow a mustache or a beard. Until I started gardening in the late 80s I was very proud of my smooth and pristine "gentleman's" hands. In short I have never been into manly symbols. But it wasn't always so.

I was born in 1942 and by September 1948 there is this photograph of me holding a gun. On September 1952, on my grandmother's birthday (she is sitting between blond me and my first cousin Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena) we are holding guns. I am holding two guns.

The man behind is Uncle Tony de Irureta Goyena, Wencesalao's father. In those years he would take us hunting in the jungles of the Argentine province of Corrientes. With his 22 caliber rifle he would shoot down hundreds of green parrots that he said were a menace to our aunt's crops. To this day I remember almost not being able to see the sky because of the density of the trees and the thousands of parrots that squacked loudly, and more so, after each gun blast. I was 9 and not really yet aware of what my uncle was doing. By the time I was 20 I knew that with my quick temper it would a very bad idea to have a gun in the house. My fascination with guns became a standofish literary one.

In the 80s in Vancouver I seemed to need guns as props often. My gun provider was North Van gun collector Tom Bongalis. He seemed to understand my attraction but repulsion to guns so he never ever charged me for any of the rentals and he trusted me with valuable guns. In the late 80s I photographed him in one of his gun rooms. He had built his house with this gun collection in mind. The basement was reinforced concrete, and the entrance to this gun collection was via an antique, all-steel bank vault door. Here he is in his gun room. The Colt was train robber Billy Miner's gun.

Sometime in the mid 90s Bongalis died. I wonder who now has what was then the best private gun collection in Canada.

Addendum October 10. 2007

name: Jason Bongalis

comments: Hello,
I'm writing to you to answer a question you posed
on your site. My name is Jason Bongalis, grandson
of your former gun dealer Tom Bongalis. I was
searching for some info on my grandfather and
found him on your site. As you describe him is just
as he was. Unfortunately after Tom passed the
buisness had to be shut down, and the entire
collection of guns and antiques were broken up and
auctioned off individualy. I just thought you may
want an answer to your question. I enjoyed the peice
you wrote on him, I always enjoy hearing stories of
who he was and what he did. Anyways just a quick
hello. Bye.


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