Adrian Tryssenaar performing as Elvis at the Gyro Park Bandshell in Penticton, 2004. (Photo supplied)

Adrian Tryssenaar performing as Elvis at the Gyro Park Bandshell in Penticton, 2004. (Photo supplied)

In Our Valley: Adrian Tryssenaar

Kitimat’s king of rock

A man that can entertain a crowd like no other, Adrian Tryssenaar, is the Kitimat king of rock.

Born in London England, Adrian moved to Kitimat in 1955 at the young age of 12 years when his step-father got a job out in Kemano.

“Stepping off the train in Service Center, I had never seen so much snow in my tender life,” said Adrian.

When he arrived, Adrian went to Nechako School then finished his Elementary years at Cormorant in 1956. The following year he went to Mount Elizabeth High School for his teenage years.

“The smell of blasting powder was constantly in the air [at Mount Elizabeth High School] as they were blasting the stumps in Whitesail area.”

During Adrien’s early days he was the first paperboy to do route 4A: Eagle street, Egret street, and Drake street. Working the same route for three years, he also got a job at the local bowling alley setting up pins.

“Jobs were easy to find, even for young folk.”

In High School, Adrian worked for his woodworking teacher who had a contracting business on the side.

“He used to hire his students for labourers at 50 cents/hour. […] He had a contract for painting the now Haisla Bridge. My co-workers and I would be climbing the superstructure of the bridge armed with wire brushes, removing the loose paint and scale; then painting the bad spots with red lead paint.”

Adrian also repainted the water towers with the same teacher with just a little block and tackle pulley system.

“Imagine, myself and another lad my size pulling Mr. Goddard up each of the water towers in stages on a platform, by block and tackle. No fall arrest, just me and my partner having to keep the platform horizontal so he wouldn’t fall while he shot the paint. Those were the days.”

Adrian’s last part-time job before he graduated was in 1962 at an electrical shop in Bravo block called Hilite Electric. This was around the same time Kitimat first started receiving television signals; as a result, everyone in town wanted a TV antenna on their roof.

“Keep in mind, those were the days that Kitimat/Kitamaat lived up to its name ‘people of the snow’. Working on houses a story and a half high with 4 or 5 inches of snow on us; my coworker and I would have to shovel snow for up to an hour before we were able to mount the mast and the guy wires.”

Being a junior Rod and Gun Club member, on Saturdays Adrian would ride his bike down to the club with a quarter in his pocket and exchange it for a paper target and ten 22 shells.

“The spent target would be my prize or sometimes not depending on my aim that day.”

Other activities during Adrian enjoyed during his teens was joining the scouting movement and working his way from Tenderfoot to Queen’s Scout, which earned him a trip to Victoria to receive a Queens Scout certificate from the acting Lieutenant. He later became a Rover Scout and took part in the third Canadian Scout Jamboree at the Connaught Ranges, just outside of Ottawa.

“I was also a member of our High School Band for four years, which led to two provincial tours to put on concerts, one to Vancouver Island, and the other to the Peace River area, including Prince George, as well as many in our north-west.”

After graduating, Adrian spent the next five years in Vancouver, going to vocational school while working.

In 1968, Adrian come home to Kitimat and took a job at Alcan where he wore many hats before retiring as quality control for the smelter for 31 years.

However, always having a love for music, Adrian took a folk guitar course and formed a band during his time in Vancouver, so when Adrian moved home he also brought his newfound love for singing and playing music.

In the mid 80’s Adrian started performing Elvis and Roy Orbison tribute shows, with the vast majority of them done for charity.

One Halloween party, Adrian made an impromptu Elvis jumpsuit and won the best costume at the party. This sparked his love for impersonating the king of rock and decided to not just play Elvis tribute shows, but also perform as Elvis himself.

In 2004, Adrian took his love for Elvis a step further and competed in the Penticton Elvis Festival. Even though he was the eldest Elvis of the 26 competitors, he made it all the way to the finals.

“Venues such as the Aluminum City Telethon, Relay for Life, Multi-Level Care, Canada Day, Fish Derby, car shows, and many more, kept me rehearsing and busy for 30 years before hanging up my mic in 2012.”

Still getting the odd ‘Hey Elvis’ in downtown Kitimat, Adrian is grateful that people still remember his performances.

Signing off like a true rockstar, Adrian talked about how the clock is always ticking and that people should make good use of their time.

“I have been blessed with many hobbies and I always tell people that I have so many things on the back burner, they’re beginning to fall off the stove. That said it’s important to remember, every day is a gift to be unwrapped.”

READ MORE: In Our Valley – Luella Froess

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