“I’m known as Granny by just about everyone in Willow River, not just to my own grandchildren.”
Catharine: OK, we are recording now and I’m Catharine: and I are here in Willow River and I am talking with Ruth Cunningham. Granny of Willow River, that’s right and Granny is going to tell us some stories about Willow River and how things all started here. I can ask you questions?
Granny: Yes, that would be good.
Catharine: When did you come to Willow River?
Granny: I came in August the 28th 1924.
Catharine: And you came from?
Granny: Saskatchewan, Big River, Saskatchewan, we came in on the passenger.
Catharine: And you came with your family?
Catharine: And how many siblings and your Mom and Dad?
Granny: There was three of us and there was my Aunt Lil and she had
five kids, so we all came. And that’s how the school stayed open, because
when we came ...they were going to close the school because there wasn’t
enough kids. But... when we came. Then they kept the school open.
We started school here in September of ‘24. And that was the old log schoolhouse and it was up on the North Road. We lived down by the river, in a house. My Dad worked in Giscome.
The house was kind of like a duplex. Aunt Lil lived in one half, one side with her kids and Mom lived in the other half with us. And Daddy and Uncle Wil used to stay in the Bunkhouse in Giscome and only come home on weekends. So...we stayed quite a bit of time by ourselves. And then Aunt Lil decided to move to Giscome. When they moved to Giscome, they got a house in Giscome. They moved to Giscome, my Dad stayed with them during the week and then come home on weekends. We still stayed here because we liked it here... I’ve been here ever since.
Catharine: So what kind of changes have you seen within the community?
Granny: Oh, lots.
Catharine: How many people were living here when you first came here?
Granny: When we first came there wasn’t too many. Then Edder and McDougal came in in’28. They had a sawmill right across the tracks. It was almost on the same property as we were on. There was quite a few people came. But before that when the railroad was going through that was when the big construction was. There was a lot of people. There was construction going on here. Not too many kids but a lot of people were here. That’s when they had the jail and the hotels and everything. That was from 1914 to 1920. Well it was still here when we came, the jail and everything... the policemen. But the policemen they were in Giscome. And the doctor, they had shut the hospital down. That was up the North Road. And the doctor. There was no doctor or hospital here then but the houses were still here. The nurses’ residences and everything were up on the mouth of the Willow River, where the river joins the Fraser.
Catharine: Was there a hospital there too?
Granny: Yes, for the construction.
Catharine: Oh, it was for the construction. And what was the jail for then?
Granny: Oh that was the jail, it was a log building and they had a policeman here. Well, I guess when the construction and when they put in the railroad, the CNR , there was a lot of common... This was suppose to be Prince George really and if it hadn’t been for the river and the war it likely would have been because this was surveyed for the round house and everything.
Granny: Yes, the Jap camp?
Granny: The Japanese camp. Yes, it was between here and Giscome. But
you didn’t go over the track you just was this side of that little creek
that runs underneath the road, you know?
Well it was on this side of the creek, on our side, not on the Giscome side. And then you came a little bit down the road. There’s a road goes in now where Hilder lives and that’s where the Jap camp was. Japanese internment camp.And there was one family who lived here in Willow River and worked in Giscome. And then there was several that lived in Giscome. Fumi and Sunshine, they were in Giscome. And Sato’s, they worked and lived here. And then there was Takahashis. They lived on the road. And who was the other one? There was another one, we always called him Minute Rice, he was just a little tiny fella. And they lived right on the side of the road there. They had all kinds of flowers and everything, tulips. And that’s where I got my peonese, was from him.
Catharine: So was the P.O.W. camp open when you came?
Granny: Yes, they were there. During the war they had quite a few in there. And they had steam baths and everything. Yes, that was quite a big affair.
Catharine: So when did that close down?
Granny: When the war was over. They took any that wanted to go back, I guess, to the coast. A lot of them didn’t go back. They stayed right here. They’re still here. Some of them are still here. Some of them are in Prince George. Takahashi’s. There’s Mr. Takahashi, he died. But the rest of the family is still in Prince George. But Fumi and Sunshine, they went back to the coast. But they used to come up and visit every once and a while. They used to come up and say hello. And Sato’s, they. I can’t exactly say where they went but they left here after the prison went. I guess maybe back to the coast. But that’s where the Jap camp was.
Catharine: And then the mill at Eaglet Lake?
Granny: Yes, well, that was there before Edder and McDougal. My Dad came from Big River to work for the Giscome Company in ‘24. He never did work for Edder and McDougal, the one that had the sawmill here. Because he had a shipper’s job in Giscome and he just stayed there until he got too sick to work.
Catharine: So how long was the mill there at Giscome?
Granny: It was there since about 1920. They came into Giscome. We came in ‘24 because my Dad raised beef cattle, for the army. And he stayed in Saskatchewan until after the war. But then when we kids had to go to school, well then. We moved from the homestead. He just phoned Giscome Company and asked if he could get a job and they said yes. You can come right away and you can have your old job back. So he came and went to work. And then Mom and us kids stayed in Saskatchewan so Mom could sell everything, the stuff and move. And then we came up here. And we’ve been ah...
Catharine: How long...when did the mill shut down in Giscome?
Granny: Now that...the year I can’t exactly tell you. But it’s ...oh at least. They put in the new boilers 35 years ago and the mill run for quite a while after that. And that I can’t.. oh let’s see, not right off hand I can’t tell you.
Catharine: Would have been about 25, 30 years ago, I guess?
Granny: Oh yeah, it’s been quite a few years ago...I could go amongst my treasures and find out when it closed down.
Catharine: But was Walter working there right up until it closed down?
Granny: No, Walter, he didn’t, he would put in the boilers in Giscome. But no, Walter didn’t come back here, until after the war. He was here before the war and then he joined up and he went to Vancouver. He joined the army in Vancouver. But went overseas from Vancouver.
Catharine: Did you meet in Willow River.. then?
Granny: Well yeah, I knew him when he came. He came here about 21 years.
Well he was about 21 years old. But, I didn’t marry Walter until after
the kids Dad died. And I was married to Bill Strome. So, the kids are all
And you don’t want to know them, there’s too many of them. Like somebody said, well I haven’t got that family straightened out yet, and Walter said forget it. I have lived with them for 35 years and I haven’t straightened them out.
Catharine: Do a lot of them still live in Willow River?
Granny: No, not in it, but Eric and Evelyn live in Prince. And Carl lives in Prince George still. And there’s one of Uncle Lars’ daughters in Prince George. But now they’ve branched out. So there’s other younger. The next generation of Stromes. And there’s a few of them in town. The older generation, the honorable old ones are, not too many left.
Catharine: Did many people in your family do mining around the area at all?
Granny: No, the only one that. Elizabeth is married to a mining engineer but he was from Prince. He went to school in Prince. I mean his family was from Prince George, Elizabeth’s husband’s family. He was the only one in the outfit that is a mining engineer. Eric is an engineer. But he’s an engineer for Domtar. But Jim is a mining engineer.
Catharine: I picked up “Homemade Memories of Willow River” from the Willow River General Store and I remember seeing a picture of some placer or some gold panners on the Willow River.
Granny: Oh, yes. During the depression they used to pan the gold right
out here on the Fraser River. Right out from here. Yes, there was a lot
of them that panned gold out on the Willow. I guess they made enough to
live anyway. They didn’t make too much money. I know one old fellow that.
I was going to. My cousin and I were going to visit our cousins in Alberta
and this fella got on the train. He was a tough lookin’ guy and he got
down to Jasper, and we had to change trains there. And he went into a hotel
and he shaved. And got all cleaned up. And all dressed up. And you would
never know that it was the same guy. But he came right from prospecting
and caught the train. And he went down to Jasper. And gee he looked...
And then, when after I realized who he was. He was Vic Headland. The Headlands,
you know? At Six Mile Lake? That was his brother that was there. And I
told Mom about it when I came home. I said gee you know. And I saw Vic.
I said, he was all whiskers and everything. Didn’t even know him until
he got to Jasper. Well she said, you know Ruth, she said, there’s many
a good heart under a shabby coat.
Yes there was lots of guys, lots of them landed down in Asindale, I think that was mining gold on the river.
Catharine: Did they trade gold in Willow River do you know?
Granny: No, I don’t think so, no.
Catharine: So they’d have to go into Prince George for that? What else did Willow River that was going to be Prince George have? They had the general store and the hotel....
Granny: And yes...they had a laundry. And they had a general store. And they had a little tiny candy, kind of a candy store. And we had a policeman, two hotels, a dance hall. That last time I forgot about the dance hall... that was quite a....
Catharine: Then there is the church there?
Granny: Yes, there was. The church has been there since 1920.
Catharine: And it’s still there?
Granny: Yes...we got a new one now. But the little one that I used was just a one room one.
Catharine: Is that where you would have gone to classes too? You said you started school when you came here.
Granny: Yes, but we started in the old log schoolhouse. But then, we had to have a little tiny church too. That’s separate from that. But when the Anglican Minister used to come. He used to come from McBride to here. And have services. And then we would have services in the school. We all went to Sunday school. Sunday school was in the afternoon and church was at night. Everybody went. There was nothing else to go to. To take our time away. We had a wonderful Sunday school teacher, too. She was really good.
Catharine: Do you know a gentleman by the name of Mike Tarashuck?
Catharine: I have a note here that this guy is over 100 now and has been known, sort of, as a trouble maker. Do you know anything about him?
Granny: Well, old Mike yes. He used to live three doors down from here. He had a little house. It was three doors down. Well, I never had any trouble with him. He was all alone after Mary died. But I never had any problems with him. As far as trouble maker, he just. We had a big wind storm once. And a tree broke down. It was quite a crack. And he blamed, thought Bobby… And Bobby lived in the trailer right next door to him. And he thought Bobby was shootin’ at him. But Bobby never owned a gun in his life. But anyway, the police came out. Bobby said, you can go and look in my house. He said, I never owned… He said, what happened was, he said that the tree came down and when it cracked it made a noise. And he thought that Bobby was shootin’. As I say, he never, he was here for years and he never bothered me. I used to go and visit him when Mary was alive but...
Catharine: What kind of work would he have done then?
Granny: Well, they used to live in Giscome. His son has got a logging show up at Bear Lake. He had a farm, ‘round the lake. His son and his wife had built a nice house. Now they’ve moved between Prince George, here and Prince George. And he’s got a logging show. And John, the old man is in Rainbow. No not Rainbow ..Pine. What is it? The other one, not Simon Fraser. He was in Simon Fraser. And then they transferred him. The third one. The one that is out by the Salvation Army. It’s a nursing home...Parkside. I always want to say Southpine. That’s where George was, in Southpine. When he broke his legs, in Vancouver. And I always want to call it Southpine, it’s Parkside.
Catharine: The hospital that you were talking about that was on the....
Granny: ...on the Fraser?
Catharine: ...on the Fraser...that wasn’t the railway hospital was it?...was there also...
Catharine: That was the railway hospital?
Granny: Yes. It was put there for the construction. Because, there was lots of accidents.
Catharine: When the railway was being built, they put it there for that?
Granny: Yes. But, it was there after. The doctor was there for quite a while until after. But he… But they had left when we came, they were gone, the doctor was gone.
Catharine: How many beds would they have had there?
Granny: Now that I don’t know.
Catharine: Was it a pretty big building?
Granny: No not really. It was mostly. I guess...small.
Catharine: So, if people got seriously injured, they would transport them to Prince George?
Granny: Yes. They would stop the train and take them to Prince George.
Catharine: Did you travel much by train to Prince George?
Granny: That’s the only way you did travel. Because there were no roads when we came. We just caught the train and went to town. And caught the train back home.
Catharine: And what would they have charged you to go?
Granny: A dollar and a half I think it was to go to Prince George.
Catharine: And how long did it take to get there?
Granny: Oh, maybe an hour. All depends, you started and stopped at every station anyway. If you went to McBride it took you a whole day because they stopped at every station. Everything along the road. And if you had a shovel and stood beside the track they stopped and picked you up because they figured you were working on the railroad.
Catharine: If you had a shovel, did you get to ride for free?
Granny: Ha. I don’t know. That was what they said anyway because they used to stop at every station.
Catharine: When would they have built the road then?
Granny: I think the construction was started. They started the road
to Prince George I think about ’28. And that’s when they first built a
road into Prince George. You could go I guess but it was a just a cattle
But, if you wanted to go you either walked or the kids used, when they were goin’ to town. They’d put their skiis on. And harnessed up the dog. And away they went up the track into town.
Catharine: All the way to Prince George with it?
Granny: And the dog would pull them.
Catharine: Your kids did that?
Granny: Yes, lots of times. They would go into Prince George with the dog. And when they used to make ties, they would hitch up Laddie and get on their skiis and go out to the..where they were making ties.
Catharine: For the railroad?
Granny: Yes, for CNR.
Catharine: Do you know much about the Perry family?
Granny: Well not too much. They came in here when the conscription in the United...you better shut that off..unless...haha.. They may not appreciate anybody knowin’.
Catharine: ...oh no that’s fine
Granny: When there was conscription in the States, they dodged the draft.
Catharine: Yes, right, a lot of people did that.
Catharine: How many, so what other families were here when you came?
Granny: Well there was the Rainses. And there was a little sawmill up the track that they had. There was the Golders, the Newsomes, the Smiths and the Rainses and ah, the Gosneys. Who else was here when we first came? Mrs. Crawford. But there was a lot that came shortly after we came. Because that’s when the sawmills were needing lumber and stuff to rebuild. And that’s when they started little sawmills. All around. There was all kinds of little sawmills. And the same when after the second world war. If you got mad about something at this sawmill you could walk down the road a half a mile and get a job at another one.
Catharine: Were there lots of really big trees around here when you first lived here?
Granny: Oh, yes.
Catharine: So what kind of, mostly spruce?
Granny: Yes. That’s the.. They made ties...lots of tie camps. As soon as the winter started everybody made ties. There used to be ties from where the switches were. There’s no switch there now. Right from way down there right almost to the bridge up here, where they were ready to load on the train. When it come time to load them.
Catharine: People were just making them and bringing them in?
Granny: Yes, they brought them in by sleigh and piled them on the sidetrack and then loaded them in boxcars.
Catharine: What would have been your most memorable times?
Granny: Well, Jean and I were talkin’ today and I said well when we were kids you know it was, we would go up the track and pick raspberries and everything. And we thought that was just OK, that was fun. And, I said, we’d cross the river and pick blueberries and that was when we had time off. And, when we were kids that was… it didn’t seem to be work for us. It was time out...away from the chores at home.
Catharine: How long has Jean lived here? Have you known her since...
Granny: Yes. She’s been here for quite a while. Well, Judy is forty four years old. And she was here when Judy was just little. So, she grew up with Eric and you’d know it, too. If you hear them when they get together.
Catharine: Eric’s your son?
Catharine: So, you’ve known Jean a long time.
Granny: Yes, yes.
Catharine: Have you been doing quilting with Jean for that long?
Granny: Yes, no the quilting came after the kids left home. We had time to quilt.
Catharine: So, when you were doing the blueberry picking and the raspberry picking, that was when you were young and you didn’t have kids?
Granny: Yes, we were going to school. That was summer holidays. And that’s the place we always spent our holidays. Well, as soon as you got out of school. Then you know? It was haying time. You got out of school the end of June. And then the boys try to find a job. Maybe it was only 50 cents a day but it was money. And then they would go and make hay with who ever wanted hay. When old Percy worked for Haywire Johnson. I don’t really know what his real name was. We always called him Haywire Johnson. And as soon as he got out of school he‘d hike over to see if he could make hay and for him. And he usually hired out for him. And Buster had went and looked for a job. I picked stawberries, whatever I could. And maybe there was no money in it. But then if we picked strawberries, we got strawberries for picking. And then Mom would can those. I mean maybe it was because we had to.. in a way.. to live. Because that was depression time and there wasn’t very much... to work on.
Catharine: Did you guys have cattle here too?
Granny: Well not like we had on the prairie.
Catharine: So...how would you get meat then? Would you be able to buy it at the general store?
Granny: Oh, yes, or else you could, in the fall when the hunting season was open. Then there was lots of moose. You had no trouble getting a moose. And then you had moose meat. There was a few deer but not too many. We never had deer very often. We got a moose. Then we had chickens and then you had one cow or two cows maybe, if you were lucky. And then we had milk and meat in the fall, a young calf you could butcher. And then you always had lots. A big garden. Really, all you had to buy was sugar, flour. And I don’t know, things like that you didn’t, meat and vegetables, you never bought cause you raised your own.
Catharine: What kind of work did your kids do when they started to get older and ...your kids, what kind of work did they end up doing?
Granny: Oh, well a...
Catharine: Would have been...I know you were saying your berry picking was good when you were a kid so what kind of things would they have been doing?
Granny: Oh, when they. They didn’t pick very many berries. Oh, we did,
we used to go get together. But that was mostly my generation. We’d get
together, all of us and go pick huckleberries or something like that. I
guess just about the same, because Alfred and Calvin, that’s Eric’s boys.
They, Eric went and helped hay across with the Finlander, across the river.
And he built a barn. So, Calvin helped him build that barn. And Alfred
was the same he used to go and help George with, when George had the garage.
He would go and help him. I’m mean, it was different. By that time, ya
know it wasn’t like... We had to do it to exist, whereas they could exist
even if they didn’t do anything except swim and that during the summer
holidays. Because things were better then and people were making more money.
When Lillian and Elizabeth were small I cooked in the tie camps. And then in the cookhouse. And any place I could get a job. When Eric was...after his Dad died. Eric was pretty small and I went to McDermot’s camp and cooked at McDermot’s camp and I used to take him with me. And he’d play with the kids out there ‘til I was finished. And then we’d come home, get up and go the next morning.
Catharine: So, everyday of the week?
Granny: Yes, sometimes I could leave him. And then he’d come up after. And I said to him one day, don’t hitchhike. But anyway, he came to the camp one day. And he usually, when they bring in a load of lumber, someone that would need to load it on the track, he would catch a ride up to the camp with them. And one day he came into the camp and I said “Eric, how did you get here?”, Well, I told you Mom hitchhiking was good in the morning, he had caught a ride with one of the McDermots ...relative of McDermots. And then after that she used to come and pick him up and bring him after he got up. And I would go up on my own.
Catharine: So, what kind of work did you do after that? Did you work at the camp for a few years?
Granny: Yes, well, then when Eric had to go to school, then I had to settle down, well then I got a Mother’s pension. Because he had to go to school. And I had to stay with him. So, then I was OK. And then when my Dad died, well then my Mom came to live with me. And I could do things. And Mom would look after the kids. But mostly I stayed home then. I had a garden and looked after the kids. But when I got the...by that time too because there’s six years between Eric and Billy. So, that meant... Billy was just about ready to go on his own. And I just finally ended up with just Eric. I just had to look after him until he finished school. Because Billy went to work on the railroad when he was 20 years old. He worked before that. He worked for a few years with BC Hydro. And then he decided, he took a test. And went and got a job with the railroad. And he’s been with the railroad ever since. He’ll be retiring next in November. He can retire. He’s been with the railroad that long.
Catharine: And he started out here?
Granny: No, he’s in Kamloops.
Catharine: But, he started here?
Granny: Yes, he started on the railroad right here, right on the...on the track.
Catharine: /Granny: And worked his way up.
Granny: To an Engineer or Conductor they don’t. He was a Conductor. But he was a Foreman on the extra gangs a lot of the times. They didn’t have it easy but they all did real good. Lillian and Elizabeth were teachers. Elizabeth didn’t teach as much as Lillian did. But Lillian taught school for 35 years ‘til she retired. And Elizabeth she taught school. But she worked for Eatons for a while. And Eric he went to work as an Engineer. He got his engineer papers and worked as an engineer. But as I say, they didn’t come by it easy. They had to work for everything that they got. But maybe it made better kids out of them anyway.
Catharine: What do you think about Willow River today compared to how much change you’ve seen?
Granny: Well I still like it but it is not like it used to be. And yes
still there is. I can’t complain because I mean, I made lots of friends
and I still have lots of friends. I mean, if anything happened to me, all
I’d have to do is get on the phone. And just say, I am not feeling good
and they would be here, right away. Actually it has changed in lots of
ways but it’s still a pretty good place to live with all of its faults.
I never lock my door. I have never had any. Nobody has ever. They say you should lock your door but I said, well never mind, if they ever come to get me, they would bring me back in daylight. No I like it here. But if I have to go, if I can’t handle it, I’ll have to sell and go to town, not that I want to. If I do that. It won’t be this year anyway.
Catharine: What other kind of really happy occasions do you remember?
Granny: Oh lots of them.
Catharine: Which ones stick out?
Granny: Well, mostly it was when Edder and McDougall had the sawmill here. And we had Mrs. Smith as our Sunday school teacher. And we used to put on plays. We had Christmas concerts or anything. She always helped with the Christmas concert. She could play the piano and she could sing. And we used to have the most wonderful concerts. And that really to me, is those concerts. That was the highlight of our times. And one time we put on a concert. And we put it on here first, in Willow. And it was a bunch of them came up from Giscome. And they said to us would we come down and have a concert in Giscome. Because they wanted to buy a piano and they would charge, if we would put on the concert. So we went down and put on the concert in Giscome. And then one of the Salvation Army officers, he use to come out here and they were real good friends of Mrs. Smith. And so they asked us if she thinks we could bring the play into Prince George. Because they wanted to put a new roof on the Salvation, the old Salvation Army building. So we went into Prince George and put that on in town. And Mr. Newsome, he came to the concert here. He went to the concert in Giscome and he went to Prince George. And he said, if somebody wants you guys to put it on in Quesnel. He said, I’m going to Quesnel. And that was when we use to put on those plays. And that was the highlight of... I mean that was the... really as far as I was concerned was one of the best parts of my life, was when we used to put on those concerts.
Catharine: What kind of concerts were they. Did you do Christmas concerts?
Granny: Well it was a Christmas concert or sometimes we had that kind. Most of it was there for a while...we belonged to the good temperance and they were of course more solidly ah the light or temperance and that especially for the men and the men that worked for Edder McDougall and stayed in the bunk houses.. we always had them you know ..they were... always came, and as I said we had... we used to go and practice for those concerts gee that was a...as you say... the highlights.
Catharine: How old would you have been then?
Granny: Well, I was in my teens I guess, one concert especially, I remember it. There was a little girl, here. Her name was Bula Ensine. And she had curly hair. And she was as pretty as a picture. And she could sing like a nightingale. And it was for the Good Temperance then. And she was suppose ta... was all was okay. I used to listen to her when she was practicing. That was fine. But anyway, then they dressed her up. She was, she sang The Druggard’s Lone Child, maybe you’ve heard of…. Well anyway, she was dressed up. She had clothes on but she was awfull in rags. And she got up on that stage. And she sang that song. And I bet ya there wasn’t a dry eyed person in there. And I went outside because I was ballin’ so hard. And there was Mr. Sealy, he was on one side of the door and I was on the other. And we were both crying. But I don’t think there was a dry eyed person in that church..that night. When she started singin’. Gee whiz, she didn’t look so bad, when we got those ragged clothes on her. She look really looked a part.
Catharine: How many years did you get to do the concerts?
Granny: We put them on every year. Christmas concert and lots of times
in between. Well, when we had the.. Edder and MacDougal was here ‘til 32
. We used to put them on quite often. But then after that we..they cut
them down and maybe at Easter we would have a concert or a play or something.
But we always had a Christmas concert at the school. That went on until
we were ready to leave home and go out to work. And then you know our parents
were behind us too. My Mom and everybodyelse’s Mom too. If I was to be
an angel in that concert. My Mom would sew me an angel costume. Now, if
they have a concert it’s just the few of us. Like Jean Ramsey and myself
and a few of the other oldtimers.
One time we had a play and it was a wedding. It was all boys. There was no girls in the play. The boys were dressed up as girls. And one little boy he was supposed to be the flower girl. And he borrowed a dress from some girl. It had little ruffles on it. Gee he looked cute. And he was a little boy. The bride was a boy, too. And he was a great bigfella. The groom was just a little guy, short fella. He had to have a box to stand on to kiss the bride. Oh, it was good. And it was just that wedding. That was the whole thing. And they had ushers and everything..to lead them. And I was the Mother of the Bride. And I cried through, right through the whole sermon.
Catharine: Was that part of your part?
Granny: Yes, my part was to cry. Silver Decoro was my husband. My brother Percy was the Bride to the Groom. Dan Wilson said, “How did they get socks to cover up those old hairy legs of John’s”. John was the Bride. But it was really good. Those were the highlights of my life I think was when Bessy Smith was here and we had those concerts.
Catharine: So, where did they have them playing? In the schoolhouse?
Granny: We used the school. Yes, in the school. And then we had platform in the church. And then lots of times we put them on in the little church. And then otherwise, we built scaffold. They built us a stage in the school and fixed it all up. Yes, that was them, they were the good old days.
Catharine: So when’s the... you were saying that you had lots of concerts up until the sawmill umm closed down. So once the sawmill closed down did everybody just all of a sudden leave?
Granny: Well, a lot of them did. Yes, and of course we put on plays after that, too. But not so often, if they wanted to raise some money or something like that. We would all get together. But we were grown up then, but we still went into it and did the acting.
Catharine: Did kids carry it on after you?
Granny: Oh yes, they have their concerts. And then it was our turn to make the clothes. Yes, Lillian, she was suppose to sing at one concert. And Mr. Newsome he was the Master of Ceremonies. And of course her Dad was Swedish. And she was supposed to sing. Mom, she was sittin’ with Mr. Newsome. He said “Next it will be a song by the Swedish Nightingale” Anyway, Lillian didn’t go up. And I said to Mom, she’s talking about Lillian. She said, well he never said Lillian. I said, no. I said, he called her the Swedish Nightengale. So, she went up and sang. And that was when Lillian was comin’ along. That was her turn for the concerts.
Catharine: What kind of parts did you play?
Granny: I was a Negro woman onetime. And I was a sunflower. I had to have a thing on with big yellow things. We had to sing. Oh I was just about everything. Mom was an Irish girl in one play and I was a Negro. One other time we had “Youth at the Crossroads” was the name of the thing and I was Pleasure. I was trying to get the youth to come my way. Lillian was playing a part. And I was Pleasure, so I had, my part, of course, I was trying to talk her into joining me and having a good time. And then that was, it was Youth at the Crossroads. It was a real good one. One of the kids was Christianity and he had the (ha) he had it across his waist like that and he had it upside down (ha ha). Oh yeah, and then we had another play one time and it was aah, the“Dying Gypsy”? And in that, Lillian was the Gypsy girl. And I was the brother. We didn’t have electricty then, so we had a flashlight. And we had a campfire. And we were all gathering around the campfire. And Lillian was in the tent. And she was suppose to be dying. And then of course, somebody sang “Into a tent where a gypsy boy laid, dying alone at the close of the day”. And then one of the other girls was there. She had a Salvation Army uniform on. And she of course, she went into the tent. And that was a good play too. But that was during the war. We were raising money to send parcels overseas. So, we put on a concert then to raise some money. And then, of course, we sent parcels to the boys overseas.
Catharine: So did any of your chidren go overseas?
Granny: Yes, well Carl. And Eric, he wasn’t old enough but he went.
And then joined up. And then he got as far as Nova Scotia, but then they
said that he was too young. He wanted to go in the Navy. But they wanted
to put him in the Army. And then of course, then he wasn’t happy. So, they
said anyway he was too young. So, they sent him back home. Carl and Alfred,
they and my brother Percy went in the army. And Lillian, that was Alfred
and Carl, they were their half brothers. They were both in the army. One
was in the Seaforth Highland. And the other was in the Princess Patricias.
And Percy, he joined the forestry. He went overseas with the forestry.
And Buster he was turned down. He didn’t make it. And George, Lillian’s
husband, he was in the navy.
Yes, I think every boy that was old enough to go in the army, from Willow River, went. One of them was killed overseas, one was missing for 18 hours. And he came home and died with cancer and it was during the war that my Dad died.