Prince George Old-timers in January, 1963.


INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Della Blanche Peckham
INTERVIEWEE: Stephen Clare

J.C. It will surprise you to know but we have exactly thirty-one people that we know of at this time who will be joining us on these broadcasts. I never realized that there would be that number of people that have been in this district and surrounding area for that length of time. I want to thank Mrs. Peckham for getting together the people that we have here at this particular broadcast, and now Mrs. Peckham first of all we're going into a little discussion here. You came when?

M.P. In 1930, September.

J.C. And from where?

M.P. From Reston, Manitoba.

J.C. And with whom?

M.P. My husband, and my two sons.

J.C. What were you doing down there?

M.P. My husband was a painter and decorator and we lived in (unintelligible).

J.C. Now to you sir, your name again?

J.D. Jack Davies.

J.C. When did you come?

J.D. I came in the winter of 1910, 11.

J.C. And from where, sir?

J.D. From England during that summer and I spent a few months in Seattle and Saskatchewan.

J.C. What part of England?

J.D. Sheffield, Yorkshire.

J.C. Sheffield and Yorkshire and may I ask this question, have you ever been back?

J.D. Oh yes, oh yes went back for the duration of the war, four years, and then
we didn't go back again, my wife and I didn't go back again for twenty-nine years.
Went back in ‘47 for six months.

J.C. What was the difference there at that time, tremendous?

J.D. Oh quite a difference, yes, we were strangers really. And then my wife died in 1950. I was glad she went back when she did because she died a year or two afterwards. And then I've been back five times since then.

J.C. Five times since that time, I see.

J.D. Since ’50. ‘53, ‘55, ‘57, ‘59, and ‘60.

J.C. Could I ask you just why you have returned that number of times, sir? Is there still a really big tie over there for you, are your relatives very close or…

J.D. Oh yes I have four brothers and sisters and numerous nephews and nieces and still a few old friends over there from my youth.

J.C. What did you do? How old were you when left England the first time?

J.D. Twenty-three years old.

J.C. You were twenty-three years of age when you left the first time. What were you doing at that particular time? What was your trade?

J.D. I was a foundryman, worked in the foundry in Sheffield you know, steel town.
All my youth and early manhood was spent in the foundry.

J.C. How many were in your immediate family, that is your father and mother's family
like with yourself as one of the sons?

J.D. Father and mother and eight children and I was the oldest.

J.C. You were the oldest child.

J.D. Yes, and I went to work in the foundry at thirteen years old.

J.C. Doing what at that time?

J.D. Oh, I was in the molding business, steel dressing and that kind of thing.

J.C. What were the wages at that time Jack?

J.D. Well, I got about an average of about two pounds a week.

J.C. That would be about ten dollars at that time in our money.

J.D. A quarter tuppance to the dollar then yes and the living wages were about twenty-one shillings, about a little over one pound.

J.C. Boy, we have a story right here, now were going to back to you because were going to have a private interview with all these people a little later on. Thank you very much Jack. I'm going over to a young lady here and the name again.

M.V. Mrs. Van Dyke.

J.C. Mrs. Van Dyke. Now when did you first come into the City of Prince George.

M.V. I came in 1919.

J.C. And from where?

M.V. London, England.

J.C. From London, England too. From what part of London?

M.V. I came from Hampstead (unintelligible). I don't really know.

J.C. Actually were you born in London?

M.V. No I was born (unintelligible).

J.C. At Hampstead?

M.V. No, no.

J.C. No. That’s Hampstead Heath you’re talking about?

M.V. Yes, absolutely.

J.C. I remember that, yes sir.

M.V. All the nurses go there on weekdays with the children. (unintelligible) around.
All they do is they come up from London and have a big jubilee up there on the Heath round about some, et cetera, et cetera.

J.C. What actually brought you over to this territory?

M.V. Well my husband you see. I was married in England to my husband, a Canadian, in 1917 and I came to Canada in 1919. My little girl was born in 1918 in England.

J.C. And then you came to Prince George. What were your first impressions of Prince George when you arrived?

M.V. Well it seemed a very lonely place and I was heartsick. And no fooling, I was heartsick.

J.C. Did this last for very long, the heartsickness?

M.V. Well, I was about two years getting over that misery I'm telling you. It was very lonely. We didn't have the (unintelligible) in those days that we have today. There wasn't the, you know, what you call them, amusements like now. No conveniences.

J.C. Well, we’re coming back Mrs. Van Dyke as were all going to have a good five minute session later on, on this particular program, but now I would like to go over to a gentleman I know the last name is Clare but the first name?

S.C. Stephen.

J.C. Stephen. Mr. Clare when did you first arrive in Prince George and from where?

S.C. June the 11th, 1930 from Big Valley, Alberta.

J.C. What were you doing at Big Valley?

S.C. I was working on the CNR and the roundhouse.

J.C. Were you transferred here at that time?

S.C. I was transferred here in 1930.

J.C. What did you think when you got here, you'd never been up to Prince George before had you?

S.C. No, I had not.

J.C. What did you think about the transfer to Prince George, did you know very much about it?

S.C. No, I didn't, Jack, but I liked the country since I seen it here. I was very satisfied with it.

J.C. And when you came to Prince George what was it like at that particular time?

S.C. Well, it's pretty hard to judge. I just...

J.C. It’s only thirty-two years ago.

S.C. It seems to me that it just had the two streets George Street and...

J.C. Third Avenue.

S.C. Third Avenue. Just about the two main streets that I can think of at about that time.

J.C. And at the particular time you arrived here what did you do for accommodation? Were you looked after before you came or?

S.C. No, I had to find my own accommodation. I went to the (unintelligible) nights I was here.

J.C. Which is still here.

S.C. Which is still here. And then I went in to the, what’s that called? (unintelligible) I was there for a couple of weeks till my family came here in September after school you see for school session. And I lived on McBride Crescent for several months and then I moved down to Third Avenue East for a while and then I bought a house down at the CNR cache off of Dave Fraser.

J.C. Dave Fraser at that particular time was what the Fire Chief or the--

S.C. No, he was the blacksmith in the CNR roundhouse at that time.

J.C. I'm thinking of the wrong Dave Fraser I guess, am I?

S.C. No.

J.C. Is that the same one? This is something I didn't know.

S.C. Yes, yes.

J.C. Uh huh, well now look, I want to tell ya I'll just move over here. Mr. Davies if you'll just move over a wee bit there. These are just chairs you hear moving. We’re going to get a little closer together with this microphone. You know these four people in years add up to two hundred and ninety-one years. Did you know that? Well I have an assistant that just figured that out you know and that's a lot of years to pack into a lifetime. Now I'd just like to, all you just gather in here Mrs. Peckham, come in close, that's right. I'd like you to talk a bit amongst yourselves about some of the things that you remember and I'm sure that when you talk about them that you will all be able to just butt in and think about other things. Jack would you like to start something off in Prince George itself that you remember in the early years?

J.D. The early days?

J.C. Yeah.

J.D. Well of course when I came to this country there was no Prince George. This was just Indian reserve. I used to snare rabbits and gather blueberries all around us in this country.

S.C. Where did you live then Jack?

J.D. I lived in South Fort George.

S.C. South Fort George.

J.D. Yes, there was quite a few people in South Fort George either.

S.C. That was the main town in at that time wasn't it.

J.D. Oh yes, oh yes the main town.

J.C. Was that the time of the big long bar that they said was the world's longest or something?

J.D. Same time, same time.

M.P. You remember the B.X. in South Fort George, we used to rush down and watch it come in?

J.D. I worked on the B.X. and the Chilcotin and the BC Express for three years, for three summers.

J.C. What type of boats actually were they? They were paddleboats weren't they?

J.D. They were sternwheelers, yes.

J.C. Sternwheelers I should say, yes. What accommodation did they have for people?

J.D. Well of course below decks and on the main deck was all cargo, used to bring up about eighty tons each and then on the second deck there was probably twenty or thirty passengers.

J.C. And they ran from where to where?

J.D. Well them three boats ran from South Fort George to Soda Creek, used to make two trips a week. It took half a day to go down and it took two days and a half to come back up.

J.C. In other words you were running naturally against the river.

J.D. It took six days for the two trips and we had the one day holiday.

J.C. What was your pay and what was your job on those boats Jack?

J.D. I was deckhand on there. The pay wasn't high it was seventy-five and a pound,

J.C. That's seventy-five cents and a pound was it or seventy-five dollars, are you talking hours or monthly?

J.D. Seventy-five dollars a month.

J.C. I see, yes.

J.D. And food was found, you see, in accommodations.

J.C. All right we'll ask a direct question. How many of you here drank in the large bar that was down there?

J.D. I never had a drink in it. I worked at the restaurant just across the road, the, I can’t remember the restaurant, and I used to see the drunks getting slung out of there on their necks and a couple of policeman, the police, the police station was where the old Hudson Bay is you know.

J.C. Oh yes.

J.D. And the old government buildings used to be and there was always a couple of policemen waiting there and they'd just pick ‘em up and take ‘em to the clink for the night.

S.C. I wasn't there when it was in existence.

J.C. You look a little bit disappointed about the whole situation.

S.C. Well I've heard a lot about it though.

J.C. You weren't here Mrs. Van Dyke?

M.V. I wasn't here, no. My husband used to be policeman at that (unintelligible) in South Fort George, you remember. Yes.

J.C. And this, this bar intrigues me you know, I've never actually seen a drawing or the full size of the bar. I've heard a lot about it, but just how, do you remember how long this bar was anyway?

J.D. It was supposed to be about ninety feet.

J.C. Ninety feet.

J.D. Yes, around that yes.

J.C. That was the days when…

J.D. They stood there three deep waiting for…

J.C. Waiting for the beer to come down the bar.

J.D. Of course that wasn't until the railroad construction got around by Tête Jaune Cache then the men started to come down, you know, with their paychecks.

J.C. Now if we could talk about this Tête Jaune Cache for a moment. A lot of people here don't know what Tête Jaune Cache is.

J.D. Well I don't know anything about the Tête Jaune Cache.

J.C. Do you?

S.C. The only Cache I know about Jack is the CNR Cache.

J.C. That's where you were?

S.C. Not the Island Cache, there was no Island Cache.

J.C. At that time.

S.C. CNR Cache.

J.C. Now what's the difference between the Island Cache and the CNR Cache?

S.C. Well the, (unintelligible) and Stewart, the contractors for the Canadian National Railways, had their warehouse at the CNR Cache which is now where the Prince George (unintelligible). That's where the big warehouse was.

J.C. Just speak right up.

M.P. I don't know.

J.C. Don't worry about it. We’re all in a conversation.

S.C. That's where they had the graders, wagons and boilers and everything down in the Cache down there. But as far as I know there was no Island Cache, where they got that name from I don't know.

J.C. Now Jack, you were talking about the Tête Jaune, yes.

J.D. Well how it originated I don't know but it was on a similar, it was a place where they stored things, you know, and that's the name of the cache.

J.C. I see.

J.D. And I believe it was before the railroad was contemplated when they called it that.

J.C. Now there is a question here I'm sure that a lot of you will be able to answer and that is the question of the Fraser River Bridge as it stands today with us. That's the old railway bridge that's here. Did this bridge, in your time, ever open to allow any boat to pass under? We've had…

S.C. Jack can answer that question.

J.D. I've been through.

M.V. The B.X. went under.

J.D. Pardon.

M.V. The B.X. went under.

J.D. I've been under it on the B.X. a time or two the first year when the water was high. It could get up as high as Central you see.

J.C. I see.

J.D. But…

J.C. Did the bridge actually open, Mr. Davies?

J.D. Oh yes, oh yes.

J.C. It opened?

J.D. Oh yes, there was controls there too, electrically controlled.

J.C. I see.

J.D. And it opened, and we went through and back again only the one year I think, one summer.

J.C. Now, you people, the ladies I'd like to just talk to. You've been here for what thirty odd years Mrs. Peckham, and Mrs. Van Dyke you've been here for forty, forty-three years. What, as far as the ladies were concerned, what was your biggest problem trying to establish in the city or the town at that time?

M.V. Well we were so busy with our housework and I was so busy with my little girl that I didn't establish anything, only my home, you know.

J.C. But I mean what were your problems, what were your big problems when you came in?

M.V. My big problems really don't come, I have no problems. I don’t really know Jack.

J.C. Well that's a wonderful attitude on life and looking at it. I just wondered that when you came here you must of, we’re going to talk to you singly of course and I know what I'm going to ask you, but…

M.V. I won't answer.

J.C. Oh yes, I know you will because that was a problem.

S.C. Mr. Van Dyke already established wasn't he?

M.V. Beg pardon?

S.C. Mr. Van Dyke was already established?

M.V. Yes, he was a game warden in those days, yes, and a policeman. The game department was not separated in those days with the police.

J.C. Was that, did it come under the B.C. Game and Police Department?

M.V. That's right, that's right.

J.C. I see. Mrs. Peckham what was your big problem when you came here?

M.P. I don't think I had any big problem. We lived in Prince George for two years and then we bought a house in South and it was a wonderful little community, it was just a community all by itself. We had wonderful times in the hall down there, with dances and that, good school, and we had a splendid time in South, made wonderful neighbors.

J.C. Did you find that it was a difficult thing? Young people today, on the basis of moving around from place to place, seem to find that, when they go somewhere that the pasture is supposed to be greener. Of course when you go somewhere else its never green is it it's always just as brown as where you left the other place in. But do you think there was any difference in those days to what the people are enjoying today?

S.C. Well I don't know, the younger fellows them days seemed to be more controlled than they are at the present time, I think.

J.C. And of course do you feel that they had, you had less advantages maybe in those days then they have today. I mean, now you just plug in a switch and an egg boils or something and in those days you had…

S.C. Well, when I was down at the Cache, why, I and my sons used to go out and cut our own wood and that was a pastime for them and pastime for me. Well I wouldn't say a pastime for them but it was a pastime for me, and of course I'd just as soon do that as be up-town in the beer parlors.

J.C. Yes.

S.C. I enjoyed myself at home after I did my day’s work. I tended my garden, looked after my home, did all my chores, one thing or another.

M.P. There was really more contentment in those days because people are all busy in their homes and working to establish a home and there wasn't any time for these silly frivolities.

S.C. My family used to walk from the Cache to the Anglican Church which is up on the Millar Addition on Ingledew, is it, Street?

M.P. On Ingledew, yeah.

S.C. Sometimes twice a day the family used to go up there.

M.P. But tell him where we had the most fun later on was at Ritts-Kifer Hall, you remember that? Dances, the hospital used to put on such wonderful dances.

S.C. That's where the PG and E started.

J.C. No, no, no. CKPG.

J.C. Well sometimes we wondered what we were running through there but it wasn't the PG and E.

S.C. Well it used to be in there at one time didn't it?

J.D. I'm sure they had an office in there.

J.C. They had an office downstairs I believe.

M.P. It used to be wonderful there. We used to get together and have lots of fun and my husband and some of the other men used to see how much cake they could eat a piece.

J.C. Well, you know those are the things that have happened and talking about this today up until let’s say the last forty years or forty-five years ago and Jack you can go back a little further than that, but would you have traded what there is today for what you had at that time?

M.V. No, I don't think so. No, I agree there. No, we had, I agree with Mrs. Peckham. We had much more contentment and harmony, absolutely.

S.C. We had youth, we had youth for one thing.

M.V. We always had lots of fun out of nothing, didn't we?

S.C. Well yes I made a good living you know. I never (unintelligible) about money or anything like that, lived good, kept my family well up into the times and seen that they had a pretty fair education, far better than what I had. They had an advantage which didn’t ever had. Of course, my parents died when I was pretty young so I had to get out and look for myself but, I seen that my family was well looked after.

J.C. What do you feel about the situation, Mrs. Peckham? Better today than it was then or would you trade it again?

M.P. No, I, oh you can't go back of course, but I wouldn't have wanted the old days to be any different to what they were. They were perfect I thought.

J.C. And you feel the same way?

J.D. I do, yes.

J.C. Well I want to, go ahead Mrs. Van Dyke, no go right ahead.

M.V. (unintelligible) it goes like that, but I can't say it the minute I want to.

J.C. Go ahead just talk its fine. You just forgot to…

M.V. I just forgot.

J.C. That's fine, but we'll pick that up.

M.V. It was on the tip of my tongue there.

J.C. We'll think about that a little while later. We have been talking for the last little while, ladies and gentlemen, to four very wonderful people, Della Peckham, Mrs. Van Dyke, John Davies and Stephen Clare. Now on subsequent programs we will be having some five to six minute interviews and you will be hearing these people along with many others bringing you some of the memories and some of the anecdotes of the old days, what we call old days and you know I'm not that young anymore myself. But I can even remember back sixteen years, do you know that?

S.C. Oh, you can eh.

J.C. I feel like an old-timer here.

S.C. Was it sixteen years ago since you opened up in the Ritts-Kifer?

J.C. Well I came up here in 1945 on December the first and we opened up in December, in February of 1946. That's right in the Ritts-Kifer building Mr. Clare. But, we'll be having these people with us and I would just like to tell you that this has been a wonderful experience and it’s going to be wonderful talking to these people throughout the next few weeks. Thank you for listening and thank you very much, all of you, for being with us.

S.C., J.D. M.P., M.V. Thank you very much.

J.C. Time for a chat about times past in the city and surrounding area of Prince George. Today, our pleasure to have with us Mrs. Della Blanche Peckham. Mrs. Peckham, first of all, the question, how long have you been in the city?

M.P. Thirty-two years.

J.C. Thirty-two years, Mrs. Peckham, and thirty-two years of happiness?

M.P. Yes, mostly.

J.C. And, now there's a very good answer. When you say that I think there couldn't be a better answer than that because that should be everybody's answer, mostly. Mrs. Peckham you came to Prince George from where?

M.P. Reston, Manitoba.

J.C. Reston, Manitoba and you came with a family at that time?

M.P. I did. My husband and my two boys.

J.C. The boys’ names?

M.P. Leonard was nine and Wilfred was seven when we came out here.

J.C. And they are doing now?

M.P. Well Wilfred is still here in the Citizen Office and Leonard is in the Air Force stationed in Ontario. They were only seven and nine and they weren't very strong when we came out here and the B.C. climate was exactly what they needed, they just went ahead beautiful.

J.C. Now when you came out here what did you find first of all in Prince George? What didn't you like, what did you like? Where did you live?

M.P. We, well my mother and father were here so of course I liked it from the start and we lived with them a few months and then we got a house on Sixth Avenue, which we stayed in for two years and then we moved to South Fort George. And we were there for seventeen years and then we moved into Prince George proper.

J.C. What were the inconveniences you found at that time Mrs. Peckham?

M.P. Well of course there were no inside plumbing and that sort of thing, but we hadn't had that in the prairies so it didn't mean a thing. We were pioneers; that's about it.

J.C. What were the wages in those particular years and when did things improve and what were you eating in those years and what were you buying your food for?

M.P. Well of course, we came here in thirty, and the hungry thirties were on when we left Manitoba and it started. And living, I remember one winter, one year that my husband only earned three hundred dollars in the whole year. But my children claimed they didn't know we were short of money, but we had a big garden and our neighbors often got a moose and give us moose meat, we got along splendidly. The boys sold Citizen's and made all their own spending money and were allowed to go to the show once a week.

J.C. What, where was the show located and what was it at that time, the Strand?

M.P. The Strand theatre was the only one at that time. The Princess was used as a ballroom at that time.

J.C. What hotels were here when you came Mrs. Peckham? Do you remember that?

M.P. Well I guess the Prince George and the McDonald and Europe and the Canada, and I don't know.

J.C. The Connaught, possibly?

M.P. I don't know, I guess so. I'm being prompted, Patty Moran.

J.C. Well that's good. Now Mrs. Peckham over those years that you have lived here in the City of Prince George, what do you feel were some of the highlights of your life? What did you do, for of course we realize that you could always find your own entertainment with, you'd put a piano up in front of you, I mean whether the keys were up the back or at the wrong side you'd be always playing. But what were the big and the highlights of your life?

M.P. Well I've always enjoyed playing for the skit the children's school concerts and that, which I always did in the South every year and we had some wonderful talent over there, and I think I've taken more pleasure out of playing the piano for different organizations than anything else.

J.C. What do you feel, Mrs. Peckham, that you have missed in the City of Prince George, anything? That's a hard question, I realize that, probably have to think about it for a while.

M.P. No, I don't think there's anything. The only, I lived in Winnipeg for a while before, during the First World War and the only thing I've ever felt we missed out here was the legitimate stage with the permanent players. To me that was my greatest thrill of entertainment.

J.C. You have always been interested in the things along that nature haven't you?

M.P. Yeah, I have.

J.C. And did you find, did you wish in your lifetime, Mrs. Peckham, that you could have gone further with the talent that you had?

M.P. No, I never even thought of it. I was contented with what I had.

J.C. Um, this is a question that you do not have to answer but as far as religion is concerned, has that played any part in your life, Mrs. Peckham, at all?

M.P. Oh, I've worked for the Anglican Church. I worked for years for it in Manitoba and then for a while out here but I haven't been very active in it of late years. But, if they’re stuck I'll go and play the piano for them any time for that Sunday School, which I have done a few times.

J.C. I was just thinking that maybe it would a good idea sometimes to get you down there for a Sunday night service at the organ there. It would be very (unintelligible).

M.P. I couldn't play well enough for that. Although I learned to play on an organ, before the piano.

J.C. Yes, that is true. Now, Mrs. Peckham what is the biggest thing you remember throughout your lifetime? Let me say your married lifetime. Is there any big, real big moment in your life at all that stands out, or do you just feel that everything went along as it should of.

M.P. Well the big thing of course was our boys were overseas for over three years and they both came back.

J.C. And I think that is a very wonderful note to leave this interview on. We have been talking, for the last little while, ladies and gentlemen, to Mrs. Della Blanche Peckham who has been a resident of the City of Prince George for some thirty-two years and we wish you all the very, very best for the years that you are going to be with us.

M.P. Thank you Jack.

J.C. Thank you.