Interview with Doreen and Armand Denicola 



by June Chamberland



Armand: He worked on construction for the railway.

June:: I’ll just say this for a minute that my name is

June Chamberland and I'm taping the Denicolas, Doreen and Armand and it's May 24th, 2001. We don't worry about the time I guess, so then I can pick up and I'll write some notes in case it doesn't get picked up. So your Dad came here in 19......

Armand: My dad came here looking for construction on the railway.  I guess he arrived in what is now Prince George around 1914, 13 or 15 whenever the railway... There was no Prince George then, just bush and Indian reserve.

June: Did he work on did someone say he worked on that bridge ?

Armand: Yes he did.

June: Oh yeah

Armand: Well he worked on laying the track on that bridge He didn't work on the construction

Doreen: He worked on the section crew for the bridge was already done.

Armand: He worked with the track laying

Doreen: The railway had to built the accesses like the access to the bridge and then laying the tracks itself across the bridge.

Armand:  They had their construction camp right on that island there. It used to be much bigger in those days

June: Oh is that right?

Armand: Yeah

Doreen: That island used to come right up underneath the bridge at one time.

Armand:  There was more up the river than there is down the river today. It was probably ... I would dare say 4 or 5 acres anyhow.

June: Well its pretty well all gone now

Doreen: There's hardly anything left now, its a shame.

Armand: It was okay until they started taking gravel out of the river bed Once they started that it changed the whole picture. And it was, the island was owned by an old guy by the name of Jim Johnson. Some of them called it Goat Island because he used to have a bunch of goats.

June: Oh that's what that Goat Island..... I heard something ...

Armand: But actually it was Jim Johnson that owned it

June: I think I'll turn that the right direction. Oh yeah that will pick you up.  You talk a little louder, so do I,  so it will pick us up.

Doreen: Yeah Armand’s voice is soft, quieter.

June: So your dad came here in.... you figure around 1914?

Armand: Yeah around that time whenever the railway came in

June: Did he come by himself then or..

Armand: Oh yeah. We were in Italy yet.

June: Italy?

Doreen: The family didn't come from Italy..... when ‘25 Dad ?

Armand: Well my brother came out around 1924 and then we come out in ‘25.

June: And your mother?

Armand: Yeah we come out and my sister

June: So how old were you guys then ? Were you just ....

Armand: Well I was 3 1/2

Doreen: It's amazing but that's the way families existed in those days you know.

June: Exactly.

Doreen: The father came and tried to make a living or make a place for the family and sometimes it took a long time

Armand: My dad planted the first garden in Willow River

June: Oh really ?

Armand:  That's where he was stationed  when he came back after the war he went back to work for CN or the Grand Trunk but the was stationed at Willow River and that's where my brother came to the town site.   He came out from Edmonton

Doreen: It was actually ..... it was called Grand Trunk Pacific, wasn't it Dad?

Armand: Yeah I really don't know what year, what year that the Federal Government bought it. I guess the Grand trunk went broke and the Federal Government took it over but I couldn't say what year, I don't know,  it'd be in the early twenties.

June: Oh yeah So then it became what? The CN or ....

Armand: Canadian National.

June:  So how many brothers s and sisters did you have then?

Armand: One of each

June: Oh one brother, one sister, oh yeah. So what were their names?

Armand: Joe and Lucy

June: Joe and Lucy and your father was .....

Armand: Tony

June: Tony and your mother

Armand: Maria.

June: Maria. So you're after Joe and then comes Lucy?

Doreen: No, he's the youngest

Armand: No. I'm the baby.

June: You're the baby okay. You were 3 1/2 when you came so how old was your brother when he came over ?   He was a little bit older then ?

Doreen: 16

Armand: He was 16 years Doreen Oh there's a great age difference between the brother ...

June: That's what I was beginning to think

Armand: About 16 years I think

Doreen:  Well the number of years that elapsed from the time your father came over here until after the first world war,  you know

June: Yeah.

Armand: Yeah

June: So did he go back and get your mother ?

Armand: Now we come out on our own

June: And you came by boat then hey?

Armand: Yeah

Doreen: ( Laugh )

June: No airplanes them days.

Armand:  No, not very many. No,  we met dad in Winnipeg or at least he met us there. Yeah I'll always remember the T. Eaton Store in Winnipeg We went up there” He took us in there to buy us winter clothing and I’ll always remember these damn mannequins sitting there. I thought they were live people there. I couldn't figure out why the hell they weren't moving. Laughter

June: Scared of Canada eh ?

Doreen: Strange people in this country.

Armand: Yeah. We wound up here at the farm in November in about four feet of snow, colder than be damned.

Doreen: Yeah, not an easy life.

Armand: No Doreen But few people had any comforts in those days.

Armand: We all survived.

June: Oh yeah you're still here.

Armand: My mother took it pretty hard, she was, you know, up in age even then.  It was hard on her.

June: Big transformation or whatever you call it , big change. Doreen Yeah and the cold was very hard on her too.

June: Yeah Italy is quite warm isn't it ?

Doreen: Yeah coming from the country that she came from, she found the cold terrible

Armand: And the conditions. And you know it was pretty primitive. It was pretty harsh. I mean they didn't have much in Italy either but things were more established and she came out here to basically nothing , nothing at all.  We were the only family with children down here then and I was the only child.

June: Is that right?

Armand: The rest of them were.... The only other one that had a child lived in town, had a farm down there but they lived in South Fort George and she was quite a bit older than I am too. The other family didn't have any children . I was the only child down here. So .....

June: So what two families were these ? Do you remember their names ?

Armand: Oh yes, Bill Howsin and then there was Albert Junker.

June: Oh one of those guys that ......

Armand: There was one other family too but they moved out in 1929.

June: Oh yeah

Armand: Chambers, but I didn't actually know them until I started school in Longworth.

June: Oh so you went to school in Longworth?

Armand: Just one year, yeah

June: How did you get to school from Longworth? From here?

Armand: Well I stayed with my brother there

June:  Oh was your brother married by that time or just working ?

Armand: No, he wasn't married. He married that year.

June:  Oh yeah. And what about your sister, was she older too like your brother?

Armand: Oh yeah

June: So she probably came here and got married or something?

Armand: Oh yeah, she married, yeah.

Doreen: Yeah.

Armand: Went to school in Longworth.

Armand: Just one year

Doreen: And then Shelley as well

Armand: Yeah Shelley three months and it didn't work out. 1928 stayed with a family there for three months but Dad couldn't afford the board and room so I had to give that up

Doreen: And then he went to school in Prince George at the old Connaught school

June: Oh yeah

Doreen: The original Connaught school that was on Queensway.

June: On Queensway?

Doreen: Yeah, right where Queensway Towers is now and it burnt down years ago and he used to walk to school then

June: From ?

Doreen: From here, from the farm

June: From here to school That would be, how many miles would that be?

Armand: Five

June: Five miles. Oh boy! hey ?

Armand: Yeah, you didn't put on any fat

June: No I guess not and I guess you had to pretty well walk by yourself too hey?

Armand: Like I say I was the only kid.

Doreen: The only kid

Armand: I used to meet some kids at the bridge. Joe Guay family where the jail  is now. I used to try and be there. They had a bunch of kids, I forget how many I used to meet them at the bridge and we used to walk together from there but that far was just lonesome me.

June: Yeah it would be a pretty lonesome time for a kid because I imagine you'd probably be what 7, 8 years old then or ......

Armand: Yeah about That. Eight

Doreen: We wouldn't dream of letting our kids go that far anymore, would we?

June: No you cant trust anybody today

Doreen: No, isn't that a fact?

Armand: We didn't have to worry in them days because there was nobody

Doreen: No

June: And if you did see somebody, they'd probably help you

Armand:  There used to be some old bachelors.... there where the hydro yard used to be there were some bachelors there that were shacked up there but they were all good. They'd give you anything they had

Doreen: Yeah people don't realize that's the way it was in those days He went to the Connaught school but then he ended up going to KGV as well.

Armand: That was my last year.

Doreen: He didn't finish his school at KGV

June: Pretty good you got that much schooling at that time

Armand: No my education's pretty short.

Doreen: Yeah Grade 5 and that was it. His dad didn't figure he needed any more than that

June: He had enough to read and write and do a little bit of figuring hey?

Armand: Well I have to say that I learned a hell of a lot more after I left school than going to school. They call it the school of “hard knocks” you learned by them .

Doreen: It was a actually you had to do that. You had to learn as you lived . You just .....You know in those days school was not an essential in a lot of people's lives.

Armand: The kids here, they kind of look at me kind of funny figuring I'm kind of haywire or something when I tell them my schooling was just like a holiday. (Laughter)

June: It probably was.

Armand: Best holiday I ever had.

June: At home you had to work hey?

Doreen: The only time you had a holiday

Armand: Worked all the time.

June: So your dad farmed here when you came from Winnipeg then , you came ....you went to Longworth and then you came here?

Armand: No, no, he was here then.

June: He was here then .

Armand: At Foreman station. He was stationed here .

June: Yeah what is that Foreman station? Is there anything left of it or ?

Armand: No not a sign, just the siding

June: Just the siding and that's where it was right where the siding is?

Armand: Yeah, half way up the siding. Yeah that's all gone . They.. what happened when the hungry 30's took their toll I guess around 1933 the CN closed every second station (whether they needed it or not, of course all this here was ruined???) and they never reopened it. But that was around 1933. And Foreman, and  I forget the station the other side of Shelley,  Hansard ?  but every second one

June: Every second one was closed

Armand: Of course the crews were out of a job and they had to bid out somewhere else

June: Yeah that would be a tough time

Armand: It was, yeah, a lot of them lost their jobs

June: But the best place would be to be on a farm

Armand: Oh, definitely, definitely . We, as far as I'm concerned, we never went hungry. We always had lots to eat, always. Our clothes weren't that good but ...

June: Nobody else had anything either

Armand: No, but we had lots to eat.

Doreen: Well that's the thing I mean that's what we try to impress on our children even today that if you know how to plant a seed and make it grow, you have a patch of dirt you know how to make use of that dirt because you're not going to be hungry and you can manage, you know I don't know how a lot of people would survive

Armand: We even made our own porridge

June: Oh is that right ?

Armand: Yeah out of cracked wheat. My dad had a grinder eh? and cracked wheat porridge, of course you had to cook it the night before

June: It took a long time to cook

Armand: Yeah

Doreen: You didn't cook that in ten seconds. (Laughter)

Armand: You got a bowl of that it stayed with you . Not like this junk you get today Even our neighbors used to come down and grind their grain. Old Schulte  there, they had a big family he used to come down and grind their porridge

June: Is that right hey?

Armand: Yeah. Mother used to wash the wheat and then lay it out to dry until they made porridge out of it .

June: It was nice and clean.

Armand: They dried it up

June: Nice clean wheat

Doreen: No insecticides or pesticides or anything else in it those days

Armand: No they used to wash it and lay it out on a tarp till it dried and then they'd grind it up.

June: Did you have one of those little tiny grinder things? Or did you have a big thing?

Armand: Well we had both actually. But the one that they used to use was the gas engine powered kind

Doreen: Too bad they haven't still got that

Armand: Oh yeah

June: We've got a little one at the Huble farm . It stand about this high and it had a crank

Armand: Well we had ours on a stand and then later on we got one that could grind food for the pigs and that and we had a gas engine on it. Its sitting out here under the trees right now. You could have a look at it. That was the first gas eater on this place here on our farm.

June: When did he get that, do you know?

Armand: In the 30's sometime, 33, 34 something like that.

June: Doreen was saying that old wagon there, it used to ....its really old, it took your dad and family all to town and that hey?

Armand: No. Not that one.

Doreen: Oh not that one?

Armand: The wagon wheels that you see over here . No that one there I bought it when I came home after the war.

Doreen: Oh, this is the wooden wagon wheels

Armand: The big one yeah

Doreen: That's from the wagon that took him to town, yeah.

Armand: Well that there I bought that from T. Eatons , 1947 or 48, that one .

Doreen: I misunderstood that I thought it was the steel wheeled wagon Well there still steel wheels on there but the old wooden wheeled wagon

Armand: No that one over there.

June: They're older, the wooden wheels than the steel wheels. What did you say ‘47 you bought that in?

Armand: Yeah

June: I was just asking because we got a steel wheeled wagon out at the Huble Farm there and I was wondering just what year it was

Armand: Well they made them before that.

June: Yeah

Armand: Oh yeah, they made them years and years before that but these here, like the wheels you saw coming in there, they pulled much easier, the bigger the wheels the easier they turn but they made the wagon higher and for farming purposes there it was no good, you had to pitch the bundles up too high but this here is closer to the ground and you didn't have to pitch the loads so high

Doreen: So you used this one for farm work?

Armand: Yeah at least that wagon there that was for freighting on the road, that's when there was a road.

June: So the road used to be the same place where it is now ?

Armand: No

June: No

Armand: Right along the river.

June: Right along the river

Armand: That is you come down the same hill

June: Yeah, but it was right beside the river

Armand: Yes it swing ...you saw them buildings there?

June: Yeah

Armand: The road was right beside them buildings

Doreen: You see parts of the old road visible down in the bush down there.

June: Is that right hey?

Armand: Yeah the road, when I was a kid anyhow it ended at, there used to be a sawmill east of Foreman there, Martin Caine had a tie mill up there, and that's where the road ended and yeah, he was there until 1929. Then he went to town. Their mill used to be, you probably remember it it used to be by the Cameron Street Bridge there. That used to be them down there.

June: Yeah, okay That would probably be about the time we moved up here. We came herein ‘55.

Armand: It was there in ‘55, yes. It was there till what? Probably ...Oh I worked there in ‘63 I think . It was there long after that

Doreen: Yeah when you were working ....you must have been working in the 60's ... you had your own sawmill for a few years before that , didn't you?

Armand: Oh yeah that was before that. I'm trying to see how long old Martin Caine was there.

Doreen: Oh right.

Doreen: [ Did it run out? ]

June: [ No its fine. I just wondered if I put it on “play” instead of “record”. (Laugh)

June: So your dad mostly did farming, hey, that was his main......

Armand: No actually his main was working on the railroad

June: Working on the railroad...

Armand: And my mother and myself done most of the farming. Dad worked on the railroad until I guess he got hurt around 1945 or something like that and then he had to stay home then and up to that point we done most of the farming.

June: Yeah and with your sister and brother being away I guess it was just you and your mother.....  And did you have cows too?

Armand: Oh yeah, there were cows,  lots of cows, cows, horses and pigs and chickens . We had everything. There were times when I milked five or six cows twice a day.

June: Yeah for the two of you there'd be a fair amount of work.

Armand: We lived on mostly milking (cows)

Doreen: Yeah they cleared this entire field by hand

Armand: This field over here that you see on your left when you come in, that was all cleared by hand scrubbed with an axe and stumping powder.

Doreen: Its hard to believe , isn't it? I mean ......

June: Yeah , its so simple nowadays. They just take a bulldozer and push it down

Armand: Yeah, I remember when we used to cut firewood where that field is

Doreen: Oh, Stumping powder and a grub hoe

Armand: Its a funny thing, there's never been a cat on that farm

June: Never, like

Armand: Well, you know, a  little bit over here . Like my son-in-law done some logging across the road here but I mean for clearing, there's never been a cat on all that land.

Doreen: Yeah, it’s amazing

Armand: This , this farm here I cleared a lot of it with a cat because there was only about thirty acres cleared on this here when I took it over

June: So you got the two quarters here like then or...

Armand: No I just own this here.

June: Just this one.

Armand: Well I owned it for awhile, had a half share, then my mother died and that time I sold my share, just kept the smallest one.

June: So did your parents live to be very old too?

Armand: No. My dad died when he was 60 and Mother I think was 69, something like that. Yeah, died young.

June: Yeah, sometimes ... They say hard work never killed anybody and other times, course your dad had that ...what did you say ? He had an accident?

Armand: Oh yeah, but that's the.... it sort of killed him all right because he lost the use of one arm, more or less, and he decided that its time to go. I guess he figured he wasn't any use to anybody so..... He ended up with a stroke and ended up in the hospital. Then shortly after he had another stroke and that was the end of him, but that wasn't ....ah

June: The direct cause of the ....

Armand: That was in ‘47

Doreen: But he had always worked so hard hey He used to operate the big snow plows up around the line at the time and that's where he had his accident on the cable . It went through his hand . It nearly tore his hand off but he lost the will to live when he couldn't work anymore.

Armand: See he had no education whatsoever

Doreen: It just terminated everything . That was the end. That was the end. And that's a strange thing because its almost like a conscious intent to just die. You know.

Armand: And then Momma got cancer. She died of cancer

Doreen: So it has a real effect on their lives when things like that happen. There was no such thing as UIC or compensation or any thing else so you know your life is pretty well done when something like that happens.

Armand: Yeah the Railway awarded him thirty five dollars a month for 18 months and that was his pay-off.

June: And that was it then, after the 18 months he didn't get any  more?

Armand: No, no

Doreen: But probably just that in itself was enough to cause  him the stress, you know

Armand: Yeah and the thirty five dollars a month I expect was close to what his wage was back then because like all ......most of the thirties I think he was only getting about twenty cents an  hour for ten hour days .

June: Two dollars a day

Armand: Something like that

Doreen: Imagine !

Armand: An eight hour day was unheard of then yet. I think most of the thirties it was 10 hour days and then they went to ....and that was 6 days a week you know and then they went to 5 1/2 days a week and you know, just changed it....... but there was no compensation board in them days

June: No

Doreen: Well actually some of the stuff .....

Armand: I don't know when that came in , I have no idea.

June: Some of that stuff, its good that it did come in because

Armand: Yeah in some ways

June: But now its too many rules and regulations ...

Armand: Oh yeah, its crazy.

Doreen: Its just, its just actually gone to the extreme opposite. Its just totally abused and makes it useless to most people because they get the opinion that everybody.... they can't judge everybody the same, that they're trying to pull some kind of a scam and those that really do need the help don't get it.

Armand: I know when my dad got chewed up by the bears

June: Oh really?

Armand: In 1932 also. He had a mishap just off the road here about 150 yards from the road up that creek that you crossed there. It was this time of the year, I think it was in May. He was walking along to the Foreman station. He used to take a shortcut through the bush there and he walked down, the old sow she was feeding her cubs there. She took exception to that.

June: So how bad did she chew him up then ?

Armand: Pretty bad. He was in the hospital I don't know about a month, month and a half. I wasn't home then. That's the year that I was with my brother in Longworth going to school.

June: When did you say that was?

Armand: ‘32, 1932. We've got a write-up on it somewhere.

Doreen: Yeah, unfortunately for him the cubs went up a tree

Armand: Right alongside of him

Doreen: Is that the tree he went up?  and of course the tree wasn't big enough for him to get far enough away from her and she just chewed his feet

Armand: Both legs and feet

June: I guess he was lucky he didn't get pulled right down and .....

Armand: Well yes, he would of eventually but there was an Indian came along......

Doreen: As he lost strength he would have been pulled down ....

Armand: There was an Indian walking from Prince George to Shelley that heard him hollering down there and he ran up to the Foreman station and got the foreman with his rifle but by this time an hour and a half had gone by so he would have eventually bled to death.

June: Did the bear run away then or did they shoot it?

Armand: No, they shot it.

June: They shot it

Armand: It turned out it was two big ones and a couple of cubs. Yeah, oh no she wasn't leaving without the cubs. They wont.

Doreen: No she'd have never left them.

June: She wouldn't have been satisfied till......

Armand: Yeah, he'd have been all right if the cubs hadn't gone up the tree beside him .

Doreen: Yeah it was unfortunate that, you know he didn't get up a big enough tree to get far enough away from her

Armand: But he was a nervous wreck after that for sure.

June: I bet, hey !

Armand: He wouldn't go in the bush without his old shotgun

June: Even then you never know they can surprise you ( can't decipher)

Armand: Yeah

Doreen: That's right. And there was a lot more wildlife around then than there is now

June: Spring, there's getting to be quite a few bears now.

Armand: Oh yeah

Doreen: Oh my, there's a lot of them

Armand: I think there's just as many now as there was then

Doreen: We've had a lot of bears these last few years.

Armand: We've even had them right here in front of the window

June: Oh is that right hey?

Armand: They wrecked my apple tree out behind here last year.

Doreen: One night last year they split the apple tree from top to bottom

Armand: And you know the dogs can't seem to keep them away

Doreen: Well they're not afraid of the dogs anymore

June: And they have now put a ban on shooting bears hey?

Doreen: Yeah, really! These people that sit in high office buildings in the city and don't know a thing about what happens in the rest of the country ...make all the decisions

June: No, that's not good and they don't know what they're doing. So is that a picture of your mother and dad

Doreen: No, my mom.

June: Your mother and dad.

Doreen: Yeah. That's my family on my side. Unfortunately we have no pictures of Armand’s family because the homestead burnt down shortly after he came home from the army they lost the big house

June: That was that little house there?

Doreen: No they built another big log house on this side of the barn

Armand: It was right on this same ridge here only at the far end

Doreen: Just actually about where we are where our house is but on the end of this big field.

June: Oh yeah. I see you got a real long field.

Doreen: On the ridge just at the edge of the.... in the field there

June: Close to the river like?

Doreen: That was where the old homestead house was and of course it was a traumatic experience for his mother again and she was alone and just escaped in her night clothes so they lost everything. Yeah they had a lot of bad hard luck

June: A lot of stuff like that would probably add to their stress and you know...

Doreen: Yeah and it was ...

Armand: Oh my dad was gone by then

June: Oh, he was gone by then.

Doreen: It was pretty sad for his mother though because that happened to her with the house here and then she went to live with his brother Joe He was road master of course. He was in Barrett then, dad?

Armand: Yeah, just west of  Houston.

Doreen : And then the section house they were living in burned down too.

Armand: Yeah, just a year later.

Doreen: And she went through another fire , lost everything she had gathered up in that short time. You know she must have thought the devil himself was after her. Terrible!

June: So where did she go after that? Did she just stay with the brother or ....

Armand: She stayed with my brother, Well shortly after that she got cancer and she died in 1954 I think

June: So are you a local gal too or

Doreen: I come from Manitoba

June: Oh you come from the same place I do

Doreen: Oh really

June: I come from 85 miles north of Winnipeg.

Doreen: Oh dear you're a northerner. I come from the very far south

June: Where do you come from

Doreen: I come from Virden, about 195 miles south west of Winnipeg.

June: So how did you get here to B.C. then ?

Doreen: Well actually my , my second eldest brother came out here in 1939 and he worked in the lumber mills out here . Eventually as most people on the prairies, most of my family came out to work in the lumber camps because there was no work on the prairies, especially for young men, so all my brothers and then my sister married and she and her husband came out here. I stayed home because I was one of the fortunate ones that was able to get a good job in our small town. I had a good job in the telephone office and I stayed with Mom and Dad but then our father died and I don't know , the kids all figured that it was better for Mom to be close to her family and the grandchildren so that they could all see each other that way if we came out to this area . So they sold the big house in Virden and they came out here.

June: To Prince George ?

Doreen: Yeah

Armand: She brought all the thistles with her

June: She brought all the thistles with her. Laugh

Doreen: Oh yeah, Prairie thistle, he calls me.

Armand: Bad weeds you know.

June: Yeah. (Laughter)

June: So how did you meet

Armand: then?

Doreen: Oh actually I came out in 1955. That was, oh, I don't know four, five, five years later

Armand: 1960

Doreen: ‘60 yeah that I got to know him through mutual friends we'd met out here and actually the first time I ever saw him was out here on the top field threshing in the snow We used to plant some oats at that time, was it oats you were threshing?

Armand: Probably

Doreen: And of course the season is just ridiculous. There isn't time to get these things done you know, you don't have enough sunshine hours so that was not too often that we planted grain crops after that. We had a few but ... ah we decided to make something out of the place , tried to make something out of it anyway. It was a long slow job but here we are.

Armand: We used to have chickens you see       We used to grow some of our own feed which was good. We used to have up to a thousand laying hens

June: Oh is that right, hey? You probably sold to the big stores then

Armand: Ah yeah, we sold a lot of them privately, private eggs, some to the stores too a lot of them.

Doreen: Well you took eggs to all of the Royal Produce stores, didn't you?

Armand: Yeah...

Doreen: And potatoes

Armand: Yeah, we grew a lot of potatoes, right where the house is sitting here used to be our potato field

Doreen: Well all this area.

Armand: We used to plant anywhere between 5 and 7 acres

June: Boy that's a lot of potatoes to look after hey?

Armand: Yeah

Doreen: A lot of potatoes !

Armand: When you were finished digging, your hands were sore.

June: Probably by the time you had finished weeding one end,  the other end had weeds hey?

Doreen: Yeah. (Laughs)

Armand: Yeah, well we done it mostly with machinery. We done as much as we could.

Doreen: Yeah, there's an ancient old potato digger out there too.

June: Oh is that right?

Doreen: We were talking about, the old manure spreader too, and the ancient old potato digger.

June: You see them but they're not in use

Armand: Well we used to supply the Royal Produce with produce... in later years. Roy Yip.

June: That was one of the first stores we dealt with.

Armand: You must have eaten some of our potatoes then.

Doreen: Everybody dealt at Royal Produce

June: What did you say, oh I must have eaten some of your potatoes , probably. Probably some of your eggs too.

Armand: Well we used to sell there and also Malkins. They used to supply all the mills. But I wasn't the only producer. There was quite a few producers around. Rack Bros., Vissers,

Doreen: That was when they used local produce in preference of importing it.

June: And wouldn't it be nice if they did that now?

Doreen: Wouldn't it? Think of the people who would be able to go back to work. Make a living.

June: Yeah its really sad.

Armand: Well it got so we couldn't compete with the produce from the States, you know like especially Oregon could produce tomatoes cheaper than Canada

Doreen: And then when they started importing, that was the end of all the local producers.

June: And I was just thinking, we're buying potatoes from the States and in Prince Edward Island, they're trying to sell them to the States and they don't want them, why don't they just ship them over here?

Doreen: It doesn't make sense does it?

June: And anyway we shouldn't even have to buy them, we probably got enough potatoes around here if they just let people grow them.

Armand: People grow good potatoes here.

Doreen: This area grows good potatoes.

Armand: Last year of course, you couldn't grow anything

June: No last year was bad

Armand: But you don't run into too many years like that.

June: No, that's for sure. So you didn't ever do any mining or anything like that hey?

Armand: Oh I done a little prospecting

June: Yeah did you go down in the river here then ?

Armand: Well we used to have a gravel bar up on both sides of us here . An old guy that stayed with us, when the old man was younger, we camped on the river there one time and we shoveled gravel for a week and cleared 17 Dollars.

June: Wasn't hardly worth it hey?

Armand: Well, them days it was, yeah.

June: Yeah, those days were different.

Armand: But you know there was a lot of prospectors worked the river in the hungry ‘30's and they, they made their grade, oh yeah but they worked hard . They shoveled a lot of gravel for nothing

June: Yeah. And how many children do you have ?

Armand: We had three

June: Three eh?

June: Just like their mother and dad

Armand: Yeah

Armand: Two boys and a girl and that's what mother and dad had too.

Doreen: Six little grandchildren all under 11 all born around the farm here. Its kind of nice. Its the fourth generation on the farm .

June: Yeah I guess so hey?

Doreen: Its really unusual today as well.

June: Its nice though.

Doreen: Yeah, we're very thankful. Well although you can't make a living out of a hundred and sixty acres anymore, its certainly a preferable way of life.

June: Well you pretty well have to work some place ........END OF SIDE 1

June: It went down the river .....

Armand: Well somebody stole it

June: Oh somebody stole it

Doreen: Stole what?

Armand: Our boat.

June: So did you do any tie hacking at all ?

Armand: No I didn't, no I left home in 1937 , went to work on the ranches past Williams' Lake till I joined the Army and after the war I went back there for a couple of years again. I worked in the bush too, logging camps and same as everybody else.

June: Yeah

June: Thank you

Armand: Fancy cups there!

Doreen: Well I don't know about that

June: Were you in the army right till it ended then ?

Armand: Well yeah I was in from 1943 on .

June: When did it end...

Armand: ‘45.

June: Oh yeah, it started in ‘39.

Armand: Yeah I was over in England, France, Belgium, Holland

Doreen: It seems to me that we resort to store bought cookies quite often nowadays.

June: That's good cake. Its sort of a spice cake?

Doreen: An apple cake.

June: How far are you from Bernie Gould’s place ?

Armand: Its just down the road here about a mile I guess. He just wrecked his truck the other day.

June: Yeah, I phoned him and he told me. He did the same thing as I did, had a moose run into him. He missed it but ..... I’ll just turn this off.

Armand: It was after the war when the little two man outfits started up in the bush there. No matter where you went there was a mill behind every stump, like they used to say.

Doreen: Yeah because these big ones like Harry sawed at ...

Armand: They're old established mills.

Doreen: Well established mills. What was the first one?

Armand: There was Shelley sawmill,  there was Giscome, Upper Fraser. There was two mills at Longworth

Doreen: But what was the one you went to work for? There was an old fellow. I cant remember his name

Armand: That I worked for? That was Percy Church.

Doreen: Church.           

Armand: That was at Willow River. That was after the war.

June: So when did your brother ride the rods then?

Doreen: Oh 1939 , he first came out here.

June: Oh yeah, because that was right at depression time .

Doreen: Depression time . Hundreds and hundreds of them , but he was very lucky actually He got through there, barely unscathed. He could have died very easily many times, especially in the tunnels because he knew nothing about railway travel and the tunnels in the mountains or anything else and of course, fortunately for him there were older and wiser men on the trains and they told him he better get off the top and into a box car some where to get through those tunnels and he said even though they laid on the floor, face down on the floor, their faces buried in their coats, they nearly suffocated with the smoke.

June: Yeah, that's what I was thinking.

Doreen: Yeah and he said it was just the co-operation between these men that he made it through at all, you know. But it was quite an experience . He just made the trip on this excursion that they have going now through the mountains. He took that trip and took his daughter and her family. He said “the last time I went on this trip” he said “I traveled pretty poorly” . He said “I think its time I traveled in style this time ”. (Laughter)  He really enjoyed that trip.

Armand: He said “ I rode on the outside. This time I’ll ride on the inside”.

Doreen: I’ll travel on the inside. Yeah. He was telling them, some of the members of the crew, the story about him traveling on the rods on the way out here. Oh they were just so intrigued with this story of his trip through the mountains. He thoroughly enjoyed the excursion that they took

Armand: It was the Rocky Mountaineer. 

June: That's the name of the train ?

Armand: Yeah

Doreen: It goes through... they stopped in Kamloops

Armand: They stopped in Kamloops

June: They're running again now hey? Didn't they take them off for awhile?

Doreen: I don't recall.

Armand: Not that I know of.

June: That would be a neat trip to take.

Armand: And costly.

June: Yeah

Doreen: Well he thoroughly enjoyed it. They treated him like a V.I.P. Gave him all kinds of  souvenirs of the train and gave him things to take home. It was so funny.

June: They figured he deserved it hey?

Doreen: So hard riding up here on the boxcars I guess they figured they should treat him well. Yeah its strange. What one can do with their life hey?

June: Some of those things that they did to ....brave , they were really brave in the old days. They’re brave now too I mean but it was a different kind of brave . They're crazy now.

Doreen: They're crazy....

June:    They had to do the things before.

Doreen: That's right.

Armand: I've seen when I was going to school there, in the early 30's , the hobos used to be off the boxcars down by the river 50-60 of them to a hundred

June: Is that right hey?

Armand: They'd throw their packs and jump off , but their jungle used to be where the railroad is now . Used to be a hobo jungle

June: Oh is that right?

Armand: They used to have tarps and blankets and cardboard shacks

Doreen: They usually got kicked off the railway about the bridge because the CN police  wouldn't let them stay on the trains. They didn't want them coming into the town site at all.

June: And I guess if some of the crew was good but if they were mean they would have a terrible time.

Armand: Well the crew couldn't afford to be mean because if they did they wouldn't survive.

June: No, a bunch of hobos who weren't going to have their minds changed.

Doreen: But it was the same all across the country. I remember I was just a little girl and my mom, we always lived close to the tracks, we were always within a block or less of the tracks and I can remember, it was main line CPR out there and my mom fed hundreds of men. My mom, every time the train, like our station was a major station and they stopped for refueling and re-watering and the train stopped for a considerable time , there was a multi tracks in our station and they'd pile off these trains and they'd run to the houses all along the sides of the track and they'd ask you if they could work in your garden or cut your wood or haul water or whatever they could do for something to eat and I've seen my mom cut up loaves and loaves and loaves of bread , you know all she could afford to give them was bread and jam . She never had meat or anything she could get them but she'd make sandwiches out of anything she had to feed these men. We had a big wooden platform at our back door I remember and she always kept the back screen door locked . She would take all these sandwiches out and they'd sit around the wooden platform and eat their sandwiches but they'd always ask if there was something they could do for you in payment for their food. And it was very ... it was a thing that stayed in my mind. You know, like I say I was very small when this was going on and I can remember it so clearly yet, all these men that were riding on those trains and I mean at our end of the town like the station was a quarter of a mile off from us so it would be the boxcars and back half of the train that would stop down by our place and it really makes an impression on you. But they were good people, most of them.

June: They didn't mean no harm , they were just ....

Doreen: No they needed something to eat. Hard times for everybody but you did what you could for each other, that's all.

Armand: We had one old guy, he  used to camp in the bush here somewhere and he was an Italian, they called him “Spaghetti guy ”and he used to come down and help my dad with the haying and Mom always gave him some food to take back to his little cabin. He was camped back in the bush there. We always had lots. Mother had canned meat , butter, all kinds of stuff, but he always done something for it.

Doreen: Well its such a noticeable change, isn't it in such a comparatively short time ? Where they didn't mean you any harm but they would always try to do something for you in return for whatever you did for them. Nowadays they just plow your door in and take what they want.

June: Yeah, beat you up and rob you.

Doreen: Yeah its a sad deterioration.

Armand: Well you know them people although they were all hobos, bums or whatever you want to call it, they had a code of etiquette among themselves and if somebody in that crowd spoiled  it for the rest of them they usually knocked him off one way or the other. He didn't survive.   

June: No

Armand: I can still remember we had a railway conductor here that was I guess pretty over-bearing with the hobos and somewhere along the line here they locked him up in an empty boxcar . It was in the winter time and they found him in Prince Rupert.

June: Frozen , I guess hey?

Armand: Yeah, yeah in an empty boxcar and that was it. So it just didn't pay to misbehave. But they had their own code and they lived by it . Just like a club, you know and if one spoiled it for the other guys, you know,  it just didn't work.

June: Well sure, because if one did something wrong...

Doreen: They all get a bad name.

June: Nobody would trust them and they wouldn't get no help

Doreen: Well my Mom always said, and I always remember her saying, like the people in town that lived right in town, we were sort of on the outskirts of town. She ...They always seemed to look down on a lot of those of us who helped these people and said that we shouldn't be giving them our food, we had several kids to feed, what are we doing feeding all these other people but my mother always said “ Look I have five sons of my own and she said I don't know when they're going to need help and you know that was her principle and her way of looking at it and she ended up hoping that her sons would get the same kind of help because there was nothing for the boys except to work on the farm in that area. They didn't have a chance of a job in that home town so they had to leave town to get work and they traveled any way they could travel and there was no doubt, many times when they needed a helping hand .

Armand: Well we had a funny thing happen that time too. My dad got this one guy to stay and his name was Henry Jenner and he was from Port Coquitlam and he was with us, I don't know, for a few months I guess,  but then now one night there was a knock on the door around midnight . Of course my dad went out to see who it was and of course the usual thing, the guy was needing something to eat so he let him in and fed him, cooked him some eggs and bacon or something and it turned out that his brother was sleeping upstairs.

June: Really!

Doreen: Isn't that weird?

June: Yeah      

Armand: So he stayed two, three days and visited with his brother and .............

June: That was a happy time for him hey?

Armand: Yeah because they hadn't seen each other for quite a few years.

June: So that would be that Jenners brother hey?

Armand: Yeah it was his brother

Doreen: Yeah and there was another old fellow that got off the railway and came to help your dad too . Old Gene Nightingale

Armand: Yeah well he was looking....

Doreen: And he was looking for work or. He stayed for what, how long?

Armand: About a year and a half.

Doreen: And strangely enough they became life-long friends of ours Yeah he and his wife well he wasn't married at that time but he was married later and they came back to this area to live . They lived down in Quesnel and various places. They were good friends with

Armand: And they've been good friends of ours right up until he passed away just a few years back and she's still living in Salmon Arm . We're still good friends with her. Yeah its funny how you make friends in various ways.

June: Yeah

Doreen: They come in to your life in various ways .

Armand: She's going to be up here in about a month.

Doreen: Yes, she's coming up to visit us in June.

Armand: She's in her nineties I guess

Doreen: Yeah, she was ninety last birthday. That's great.

June: Sounds like she's doing good if she's ninety and still travels around .

Doreen: Oh she does remarkably well. She has a terribly bad back condition and has a dreadful time because of all the hard work she's had to do all her life and yet she still walks every day. She's got one of these big walkers with a built-in seat on the front and she walks every day down town in Salmon Arm to do her shopping.

June: With her walker?

Doreen: Yeah and she comes back home, goes out every day.

June: That's good.

Doreen: Yes, she's really active. She runs circles around me I keep saying I wish I’d be as active as her, half her age.

Armand: I always tell her “You're a tough old hen” (Laughter)

Doreen: Tough old hen, yeah.

Armand: She is too. She carried moose out of the bush when she was young.

Doreen: Oh my, the work she's done.

June: And they lived around here then did they?

Doreen: They lived here for awhile. They lived in Quesnel. They moved quite a lot.

Armand: They had a homestead just up the Nechako River there. Mile 3. Three miles from town, up the Nechako for awhile. They never stayed long in one place.

Doreen: He was a traveler. He had itchy feet. He had to move regularly. Strange situation.

Armand: He always found a reason why he had to move.

Doreen: Yeah, it was strange he moved from here to there.

Armand: It was in his blood. It was in his blood.

Doreen: Yeah and then they lived in Agassiz for awhile and Chilliwack.

Armand: They moved twice right in Salmon arm. One end of town to the other.

June: They just like moving eh?

Armand: Yeah well she's moved twice now since she's been in town.

Doreen: Strange. I don't know what it would be like to move.

June: Yeah, you've been here so long hey? How many years have you been here?

Doreen: I've been here since ‘63, ‘62.

Armand: On this place here ? No

Doreen: Well not on this place

Armand: Oh hell

Doreen: On the farm.

Armand: We moved up here in ‘65.

Doreen: Yeah, in this house, but I've been here since ‘62.

June: And you must have been here from ...well back and forth... from the time you were a kid till ....

Armand: Now

Doreen: Well 3 1/2 years old and he came on to the homestead and then all the journeys he took after leaving here of course, he went and cowboyed in the Chilcotin for several years but basically this was home.

June: Yeah

Armand: This has been home

June: This is where you've always come back to.

Doreen: That's right, that's right. Of course he's been here steady ever since he returned from the Army.

Armand: I wouldn't live anywhere else.

June: No, you’ve got a really nice place here. Pretty down here.

Armand: Pretty nice to be able to go out for a coffee and meet somebody you know. Almost every day, you know.

Doreen: And I think the real blessing of it is to be able to say that you've lived in this place for as long as you have , to be able to still go out and walk around and not bother any other person and to have that little bit of space around you. That is what is most important to me. You know this, we've made something out of this place. We've now passed it on to our son and Praise the Lord, he's been able to stay here too, you know. That was a struggle with the ALR situation being what it is but we've been able to stay here and I mean that has been Armand’s life. I think that that, would have ended his life to leave this place so you know, we have lots to be thankful for. And when you've lived in a place as long as you have its not easy to make that change and I really, I understand that having worked with Senior citizens for as many years as I have. The transition with those people is dreadful when they have to leave  the place they've lived in all their lives or for great long times and go into a care facility and first two weeks tells the story, if they're going to survive or not and its very, very difficult for most of them. And here this way he can still go out there and set a fence post if he wants to, or look after the cattle and see who's calving and who's not and that . He doesn't have to do it all. He can do what he still enjoys doing and that's great. You cant ask for much more than that..

June: No. That's good. You have your son here that's good because you can stay here right till the end

Doreen: That's right, and that's .....

Armand: We have a daughter that lives here too.

Doreen: That's what we're hoping for. If we can continue to put one foot ahead of the other we will do that. (Laugh)

June: Yeah. I suppose I better not keep you all night here.

Doreen: Well we've enjoyed talking to you.

Armand: Well I stay here. I live here. (Laugh)

June: Yeah, you stay here. (Laugh)

Armand: I'm sorry, I'm not that good ............................ Tape off.