Jack Davies

JACK CARBUTT: Ladies and Gentlemen, this is another in our series of broadcasts and featuring some of the citizens who have been in the city of Prince George for a great number of years. At this time, it is our pleasure to be speaking with Mr. John William Davies. The first name is, heís reminding me right now, to the side, is Jack. My name is John, too, you know. Of course, I have been called other things, but,

JACK DAVIES: (laughter) Same here, too.

JC: Jack is the name. You have been here now, Jack, for some 52 years. Is that correct?

JD: 52 years, yeah.

JC: Now, where did you come from, what year did you come in, and

JD: 1910. Originally, from Yorkshire, Sheffield, Yorkshire.

JC: Sheffield, Yorkshire. Now, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, youíd be, letís see, how old are you now?

JD: Iím 77 now.

JC: Thatíd be about 23 years of age.

JD: Yes, about 23, I was, yes.

JC: How did you come over, the first time?

JD: Oh, I came over on a, well, a small boat, about 8000 tons. Lake Champlain. It took us 14 days to get from Liverpool to Quebec.

JC: It was a rough trip, do you remember?

JD: It was very rough and I was sick all the time. Yeah, heh, heh. And Iíve crossed quite a few times since, and Iíve never been sick since. I got rid of everything then.
(Shared laughter.)

JC: Why, thatís a wonderful thought, you know, Iím sure glad to hear that because when we get to the point where, Jack tells you ladies and gentlemen, about the number of times that he has gone back and forth, youíll realize what he meant on that statement.
Now, Mr. Davies, when you came over here, what was the purpose?

JD: Oh, I wanted to see something of the world, I guess, and 5 years previous of that, I had a friend that I used to work with in England, in the foundry that came over, and he gave a pretty good report of the country. And I wanted to see him too. And ad-- adventure, I guess, yeah.

JC: Well, itís, that was the spirit of the things in those days, and, a little more than there is now, because the world seems so small at this time.

JD: Yes, yeah.

JC: Now, Mr. Davies, when you came, from, Liverpool, as you said, 14 days into Quebec, did you come straight and directly to Prince George?

JD: No, I went to North Battleford in Saskatchewan. I bought my ticket, in England, to North Battleford. I met a man on board ship, which had a business in Salmon Arm. He tried to persuade me to break my journey and stay there, over there, but I wouldnít do it. I went straight on to North Battleford. I stayed there about two weeks, and it was cold and windy, and it was early May. And I had enough of that. And I got, I donít mind sayiní, I got very homesick that time. And I wanted to see a face that Iíd seen before, you know. Everybody strangers. And the only one I could think of was my friend that I knew five years previously. And he was in Seattle, with all his Scottish family. So, I, went to Edmonton, and got a job on the CN on a, what do you call 'em, steel gang. And went down around Calgary. And the, alkali water put me on the blink there. I got sick, so I went into Calgary, and got a job at Golden. It wasnít Golden exactly, it was at the Kickiní Horse Pass. Got a silhouette[?] down here?

JC: Yeah, yeah.

JD: And I went up into the mountains, into the logging camp, about, a couple of months. Then I went to Golden and bought a ticket to Seattle, went to Seattle.

JC: How did you travel at that time? By train into Seattle?

JD: By train, yes. Yeah, from Golden, yeah. And, I didnít know my friendís address, except that it was, General Delivery. Always General Delivery. And I didnít know where to find him. I did know if he went to a Bible class in, some church in Seattle. So, I went to see the minister. And he said that, the last heíd heard of Herbert Pickup [??] was that he got a job on Vachon Island out in the Sound, you know.

JC: Mm-hum.
JD: So, and there was a ferry round there twice a day and I took a ferry and went over there. I walked from one end of Vachon Island to the other. And nobodyíd ever heard of Herbert Pickup. And I was too late for the return boat, so I had to get, lodgings there and return the next morning. So, I put a post card in the post office, and, if you receive this, meet me here, such and such a time. 7:00 Saturday night, he was, sure enough, he was there. He got the card, yeah, yeah. And Iíd already got a place to-- lodge. And Iíd also, also got the job at the shipyards. And we boarded together there for that winter, part of the winter. Then we came up here. That was winter of [19] 10-11. We came up here together, and we took up a homestead each at Swan Lake. Thatís just the other side of Blackwater.

JC: Yeah.

JD: And we, put in quite a while there. In the mean time we came up to South Fort George.

JC: Ah, just why did you, pick Prince George from Seattle?

JD: Well, I think it was the flag. It was pretty patriotic then. We wanted to get from under the--

JC: The eagle, hahaha.

JD: under the Union Jack. And we did that. And, it wasnít long; we hadnít been on that homestead long before we got burnt-out. It was wintertime. The cabin caught fire, and we lost everything we had, clothing, books, everything. Money, even our money was in our pockets, see? And I already, we had a dog, but the reason we had the dog was we went out hunting.

JC: Oh, yes.

JD: Shooting grouse and that kind of thing. And all we had was our rifle and our dog, and what we was wearing, you know. It was burnt to the ground. So I said to my partner, ďWell, what should we do?Ē Well, he said, ďIím going back to Godís country. Haha Back to the United States.Ē And he says, ďWhere you going?Ē Well, when I was up here, Iíd bought a ton of potatoes and put them in a cellar in South Fort George. I paid 4 cents a pound for them, and--

JC: 4 cents a pound?

JD: And thatís the only assets, only asset I had. And I came back over here and sold them to some people in Central, a grocers, at 8 cents a pound, so I doubled my money on them. And that what set me off, started me. And I got a job in Peden and Cookís saw mill, up on Pedenís Hill.

JC: Mm-hum.

JD: Did pretty well there. And that, June, I sent to England for my wife. Sent for her. She, we were married before I ever came out, you see.

JC: How long had you been out before she came over to you, join you?

JD: Well, it was over a year, just a little over a year, yeah. And she came out via the Cariboo Road and the BC and the BX, and joined me here. She stayed here a year, and then she got very, very homesick, just like I did. So we arranged it so she could go back. And, she went back in 1913. And I promised to go back. Didnít know anything about the war then, you know. Iíd go back after, after a short time. But it was, May 1915 before I got back, and that was due to the war, you see. And I was over there, Iíd say 4 years, and, then we got transportation, the whole family, myself, our little boy, free transportation back. Cause it was, I was working for the Ministry of Munitions all that time you see. Yeah.

JC: Mm-hum.

JD: And we came back to South Fort George. And she got over her homesickness then and settled down for the ______[unintelligible].

JC: Well, now, tomorrow, weíre gonna continue along with this story, ladies and gentlemen, from a gentleman by the name of John, he likes to be called Jack, of course, William Davies, who has been around this area for some 52 years. And weíll be back with you at this same time tomorrow.

JC: Well, yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, we were speaking to Mr. Jack Davies, and for this particular time, weíre gonna take up that story from, Mr. Davies from the time that they returned to Canada and to South Fort George. Now, Mr. Davies, maybe you can take it from that point.

JD: Well, I built a small cabin in South Fort George for us to live in. And the big trouble then was getting work. Getting work, because you almost had to make enough money in the summer time there to carry you through the winter, you know. And I worked with a carpenters, Jack McInnis, and, carpenters and, worked on the steamboats, and that kind of thing.

JC: When you say Jack McInnis, is that John McInnis that we know of today?

JD: Thatís the one, yes; itís John McInnis, yeah, yeah. And, he was a very good friend of mine. And he is yet, of course. And then of course, when my wife went back, I took up homesteading, I took up a pre-emption. By the way, Iíve had three pre-emptions in this country since--

JC: Three pre-emptions. That must be something of a record.
JD: Of course, one was already, had already been burnt out, on one, by the time my wife came.

JC: Oh, yeah. Mm-hum.

JD: But I took another one at Foreman, about a mile from the station, which is now. And I put that through, improved upon it. And, I sold some of the timber to Martin Cain and Cain and Blain, I think it was. Yeah? And then the imposed tax, the school tax were out there, and I didnít think it was worth it. So, I let the place go. Let the place go.
And then I, did numerous jobs and working with the surveyors and, as I said, the steamboats. Sometimes it was quite a problem to make enough money to carry on, you know.

JC: Now, letís just talk about the boats for a moment. Would you tell us a little bit about the BX?

JD: Well, Cap Brown was the captain on the BX, you know. As I told you before, we made the 2 trips a week. And it took 6 days, and we had the other day a holiday, you know.

JC: And those boats, weíll just repeat that, they ran from where to where, please?

JD: From South Fort George to Soda Creek. Yeah, and we made the trip down in half a day. Quite a quick trip down, you know. But cominí back was a different process. Had the 2 canyons to negotiate, and it took us 3 days, 2 days and a half to get back.

JC: How did you stop those boats when you were goin' down in a half-day and two and a half days to get back? Werenít you worried that you wouldnít be able to stop them if they got goiní on that, uh--

JD: Well, heh, the captain and I, kind of kick it over in reverse, and go back into the bank. We very rarely stopped goiní down. Weíd stop at Quesnel, once in a while, and cominí back was the problem. Used to have to go come through the Cottonwood Canyon, and the Fort George Canyon, and in the Fort George Canyon, when water was at certain stages, we had to line up. By the way, you wouldnít let the passengers ride through the canyon goiní down. They had to get out and walk around it, and get on board again, you see.
But cominí back, we had to line up. The deck hands had to get out on the rocks at the side with cable, and tie this cable away along, and attach it to a big fir tree, a big fir stump, and then caption would pull them up to that point, you see. And weíd have, the same thing again, you know. Eventually we got, we would get through all right.

JC: Were there any, serious accidents on the boats that you remember at all, Mr. Davies?

JD: Nothing really serious. They tore a hole in the BX going down one time, in the Cottonwood Canyon. Just before they got to the canyon, entering, and it took, made quite a big hole in the side of the boat. And of course, they couldnít stop there. And us deck hands, we got mattresses and timbers and went down there, and blocked up the hole as best we could. It was goiní in pretty fast.

JC: Just like putting the thumb in the dyke in Holland or something, was it?

JD: Yeah, yeah, only a big thumb. And, whenever we got through the canyon, they had to beach it, Cap had to beach it. There was a kind of a sandy shore there and he, and then, and as soon as ever we hit that sand, the Japanese stewards, and the ______[??] round there, and they had their ______[??] all packed and all dressed up, and they jumped off as _______[??]. They didnít bother helping to save the boat at all. They just had to look after themselves. But how they did it so quick, I never knew. That they changed their clothing and got their suitcases packed, you know. There were several of them.
And then we got down to Quesnel, and when we got down there, we had to take the boat out of the river. And have it fixed up again, you know. We was there for a week or so, I guess.

JC: Now I understand, Mr. Davies, that, you have traveled back to the Old Country, and Yorkshire, um approximately, oh, I donít know, 5, 6 times?

JD: Well, of course I went back in May 1915, came back in 1919. And it was 39 years then, 29 years then before the wife and I could afford a trip home. And I havenít, I had a _______[??] homestead on top of Pedenís Hill there. I sold that, to John Nielson. And that provided enough money so we could make the trip. Did it in style. We went over on the Queen Elizabeth, stayed there 6 months, and came back on Queen Mary. And ________[unintelligible].

JC: Iíll bet that was a wonderful trip for you.

JD: A wonderful trip. And I was, I sold the place pretty cheap, but Iím tickled to death I did it, because she got that trip. She, because 3 years afterwards she died, and, what, two years after, in 1950. And-- a wonderful thing.

JC: Then, from that time, unto this time, youíve been back and forth how many times?

JD: Well, I went, each time I went, it was 6 months. Take 6 months. I went back in 1953, and in í55, í57, í59, and I didnít wait 2 years then. I went back in í60. Did, that time, I stayed 2 years. I just came back this summer. I went back with the intention of trying to stay over there, but I guess Iíve been here too long. Heh heh.
JC: And you wanted to come back. What do feel, the best and, happiest time of your life has been Mr. Davies? And what have you seen in Prince George, from the 52 years that you came here until 1963?

JD: Well, when I came here, of course, it wasnít all Prince George. It was just an Indian reserve. An Indian village was right on the riverbank there, where the park is, you know. And, there was nothing between South Fort George and Central Fort George, which started up later on. And I saw South Fort George go down to almost nothing, and Prince George start to build up more. And, I always stayed to South Fort George, you know, Iíve always lived there until right now, yeah. Iíve wonderful friends out there. Friends Iíve known for all that time, you know. And, this last three or four years, thereís quite a few of them died. They came here about the same time I did. Cause if youíd have had their experiences, too, youíd have had, youíve have had something, yeah. Elmer Calhoun and Arthur Flynn and fellas like that, you know.

JC: Yes, thatís very true. What do you feel in your own mind, as, our last question, Mr. Davies, that the future of this City of Prince George and the surrounding area will be? Do you feel that it, it wonít stop now, or do you think it will stop?

JD: I always thought, right from the beginning that a situation would ensure that being a big city someday. Itís just in a natural situation. She taps the North Country, and touches East and West. And, any business that goes to the North must pretty well go through Prince George. Used to say it could be another Winnipeg. I think so, too. I think so, yet. Yes.

JC: I want to thank you very much indeed, Mr. John William Davies, who has been in the City of Prince George unto this year of 1963, for 52 years. And may I say to you, Jack, that I hope your next trip back to Yorkshire, will be better than the last trips that you have taken. Thank you very much. And weíll be back tomorrow with another interview.

JD: Thank you.