Just call him the boy from Saskatoon. David hails from the largest city in Saskatchewan, where he was born and raised. But if you’re picturing a city slicker, think again. His family lived on the edge of town, where wheat fields and aspen groves beckoned, and they frequently visited his grandmother and uncle’s farm south of the city. It had no running water, no electricity, but it was a favorite childhood haunt where David “owned” a horse named Banner and a sheep he called Tinkerbell. The only thing missing? A stream like the one in The Wind in the Willows, to which David attributes his wanderlust, love of sailing stories and appreciation for literary greats like Hemingway, Joseph Conrad and Jules Verne. In fact, his baffled but indulgent parents, older brother Bill and little sister Jacqueline let him name the family’s first and only dog Nemo after the skipper of the Nautilus in Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
In early winter, David and Bill helped their father — in true Canuck style — set up battered, second-hand hockey boards in the backyard and then flood the homemade rink with a garden hose until they had a smooth sheet of ice. A few finishing touches — floodlights at either end, red lines and blue lines and a pair of near-regulation nets constructed by a welder uncle — made the Dunbars’ version of Maple Leaf Gardens a magnet for neighborhood kids looking for a game of after-school shinny.
All that stickhandling and shooting paid off when the Dartmouth College hockey coach made a recruiting swing through Western Canada and lured Bill — and a year later, David — to New Hampshire … truly alien territory to a couple of prairie boys who hadn’t been east of Winnipeg. The Dunbar brothers played all four years, and each was selected as an alternate captain of the varsity squad in his senior year. David majored in English and earned some extra cash by performing as a solo folk-rock act three nights a week in the Hanover Inn’s basement tavern. Think a Kmart Vic Damone voice singing Gordon Lightfoot and Van Morrison songs. OK, now stop.
Student visa expired, David headed north to Montreal, Quebec, and worked in the book department of the Canadian subsidiary of Reader’s Digest. An off-hand, “Hey, if you ever need an editor” comment to a former colleague led to exciting opportunities in the Big Apple, where he worked for National Geographic Adventure and other magazines. While at Popular Mechanics he flew a blimp over New York Harbor, fired the cannon on an Abrams tank (plywood target destroyed!) and landed on and took off from an aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington — heady stuff for someone who grew up dreaming of sailing ships and the deep blue sea.
Three decades later, he’s still in the good ol’ USA. Now based in Los Angeles, he plays tennis, bikes, hikes and suits up on Sunday evenings to skate in a beer league on a hockey team aptly named the Bottom Feeders.