Interview with Berenice Fisch
20 June 2004 Berenice Fisch is a
long-time Prince George
worked for many years in her home-based hairdressing salon. She has
also worked at a ranch and as a postal worker. Siegfried Fisch, her
husband, is also in attendance for this interview.
PH: Is this
on? Yep. So I guess we should start out with what was your
birthday and where were you born?
BF: I was born in Moose Jaw,
Saskatchewan, November the 17th, 1925.
PH: What was your family
doing in Moose Jaw?
BF: They didn’t live in Moose Jaw; they lived
in a place called Shaunavon.
PH: What part of Saskatchewan was
BF: That was in the southern part of Saskatchewan – eastern,
southern - the southern part of Saskatchewan. They came up from the
States thinking that they were going to farm. Of course, the Hungry 30s
hit and they didn’t get anywhere, the wind swept…
PH: Did they
actually do some farming?
BF: I think they did – I was too young
to know. I can remember Mum saying that their house burned and she had
to throw a mattress out of the upstairs window and throw me out on it
hoping that I wouldn’t get hurt. That was just some of their bad
PH: In Saskatchewan, it wasn’t a very lucky place for
BF: Nope. So, that was when my Dad decided to come to BC;
whatever made him come out I will never know.
PH: What did he
want to come out to BC for?
BF: He wanted a job. And he got a job
PH: Where did he get a job?
BF: At a little place
called Shere. And that’s about forty miles east of McBride.
And how old were you at this time?
BF: Two. I was two. Mom and I
were still back in Shaunavon and he sent for us to come.
how long were you in Shere?
BF: I think it was probably, cuz Dad
did move around – he was the low man on the pole so he had to go
wherever, being bumped back and forth and – probably three or four
years and then Mom took up this homestead and had to keep it up and he
kept moving around on the railroad.
PH: Where was the
BF: It was between Shere and Tete Jaune, that was that
building that you saw in that picture, all the tarpaper on the sides.
We lived there until I was 8 years old. And that was still the worst:
there were no schools around so we had to move and I went to a little
school in Shere for maybe a year and then we moved to Tete Jaune which
was five miles east and there was a school opening there. That
school had 7 children and we needed 8 so we had to take in another in
order to open that school. I went there till I was in grade 8 and then
we had to move again.
PH: What did the school look like?
It was in one room, one teacher teaching 8 grades. It was a long ways
for me to walk: I walked 31/2 miles to school. I left before Dad went
to work at eight o’clock in the morning. I would get home the same time
as he did at five. That was in the summer you know, in the winter
they let us out early so that we could get home a little earlier. But
that was a long trek. No wonder I have hip problems…
PH: So how
was Tete Jaune as a community?
BF: Very small.
PH: How many
people lived there?
BF: I would say, at that time there was maybe
two hundred, you know scattered around.
PH: What did most of the
people do that were living there?
BF: They worked in the mills,
you know, sawmills. Then there were the fellows on the railroad and Mr
Carr of course had his ranch. There were the odd people farming: you
know small farms. But there weren’t that many people. Later on a
little fellow moved in and opened a store, so we had a bit of a
PH: That was the first store in town?
PH: What year do you think that would have been?
was in the 40s. 43, something like that.
PH: You mentioned the
ranch there, you said that you had done work there…
BF: Yeah, I
helped Mrs Carr while Mr Carr was out on the trail with these
Americans. They’d come up and go out hunting for thirty days, sometimes
forty and I would stay with Mrs Carr and the wives that the fellows
brought. One fellow brought his wife from… it was a Mr and Mrs Mellon,
and I have a write-up on them some place, and she brought her own
PH: All the way from the States?
BF: I can’t remember just where they were
from, but he had, I don’t know, three or four horses just to pack his
stuff in, you know, cameras and all that sort of thing that he’d take
out on the trail.
PH: So he packed all this stuff from
BF: Packed it from where they came from, I think it was
Pennsylvania. But it was quite an experience. Those people were lovely
people and they were elderly. I was young of course and full of vim and
vigour. And that was when I looked after the post office three
days a week.
PH: What did you have to do there?
BF: Well, I had to carry a little satchel with all my stuff in,
all the post office paraphernalia, and I had to cross the Fraser River
cut the track for a mile, mile and a half, pretty close to a mile and a
half, open up the post office at two o’clock in the afternoon. The
train was to come in at 5 but sometimes it wouldn’t come in till about
two or three o’clock in the morning so I had to wait to get that mail
on the train and the mail train came in and I had to sort it and head
back down the track.
PH: How much did you get paid for working at
the post office in those days?
BF: You wouldn’t want to know. I
got $19 a month. That was big money. That’s what he got.
much were things, just like everyday things to buy, how expensive were
they back then?
BF: A loaf of bread was probably twenty-five
cents, same with a pound of butter and a bottle of milk, somewhere
along that line. Stamps were only three or four cents a letter. I don’t
know, I didn’t do much in the way of shopping because Dad ordered it in
from Edmonton. It came from the Alberta Trading Company and of course,
when I was at the Carr’s I didn’t have anything to do with the
ordering. So, that’s a wild guess. And meat… most people did their own
hunting; you know go out and get a moose in the fall and do the odd bit
of fishing. And like Mrs Leary she had a…
PH: Was she a
BF: Yeah, she was a neighbour… for many years.
Her husband worked on the railroad too. Ted Leary was his name. And
their daughter still lives up in Tete Jaune. She was a teacher. She’s
PH: So what kind of work did your Dad do on the
BF: He was a labourer, just a labourer. And I went to
look for his receipts, you know his monthly receipts, and I guess I’ve
thrown them out but he was making twenty-five cents an hour if you can
picture that. That was hard labour: they had to take out the
ties, you know, and replace them. They wanted him to become a foreman
but he didn’t want the responsibility so he never become a foreman and
later on in years he got this patrolman job out in Kwinitsa and he was
on his own and he had this velocipede…
PH: What’s that?
It’s a 3 wheel gadget that sits on the rails and you pump it and it
goes down the track – that’s how he got to the tunnel and he’d got
through the tunnel and check to see if everything was alright and get
on his velocipede and come back. And then he’d flag the train through
and that was during the war – ‘43,’ 44, something like that. That was
where he retired. He retired at ‘65 and he only lasted two years. He
passed away at sixty-seven with a lot of questions unanswered for me.
You know when you’re young you don’t think of these things: you’re too
busy with your own thing to wonder about why they came to Canada and
why he took the job that he did. But some people thought he was
so well off. There were some people on the highway that went
PH: Which highway?
BF: The Yellowhead. People were
on what we called ‘Relief’ and they worked three or four days out of
the month and they were paid, I don’t know what they got paid…
Kind of like a working welfare system?
BF: Yeah. I can remember I
had to stay at the Bergerons cause it was closer to school.
Who were the Bergerons?
BF: They were neighbours.
BF: Yes. They were about a mile from the school and I
stayed with them and my Dad paid them, I think it was $25 a month for
my room and board and I can remember them saying, “Your father is so
well-off.” And he worked eight hours a day, five days a week
where Mr Bergeron put in four or five days a month. I don’t know what
he got but they managed to live… They had four children. One of them is
down here on 6th and Vancouver: she’s about eighty. Eighty-one I
guess. I went to school with Eileen Bergeron and Lorraine. Lorraine
lives in Nanaimo. Wally has passed on. And the Bergerons of
course have passed on as well.
PH: So it says here also
that you lived in a place called Kwinitsa and you worked in a
BF: No, no. Kwinitsa is where Dad watched the tunnel
during the War. I didn’t work there. I worked in Vancouver and Mom came
along with me and she, we had a little apartment and we were both
working in a café. I was working in one and she was working in
the one next door and Dad decided he better come down and see what we
PH: Is this downtown Vancouver?
BF: Yes. Right on
PH: What was the name of the place?
BF: The place
that I worked in was called the Liberty Café and it was owned by
a Chinese fellow, an awfully nice Chinaman,[slang term of the time] and
his name was Yip. And Mom worked just a couple of doors one way or the
other, I can’t remember, and it was called Grant’s Café, just a
little hole in the wall, she worked down there and Dad came down and
they had a talk and they decided that it was time that I did something
different: he didn’t want his daughter working in cafes: I was having
the time of my life but anyway. We got things all organized and I got
into the hair dressing school there for six months and then I went to
where Dad was in Kwinitsa - waited for my results. That was when I
didn’t open the letter that came, two days, I was scared to. But
anyway, I passed and tried to get a job in Rupert and had four jobs and
no place to stay.
PH: Was it a very tough test?
BF: Yes. It
was because there were so many of us.
PH: How many were
BF: In the one class there were 150 and they told us about
half of us might pass and only fifteen of us did. And there were
a lot of girls taking the course because it was given to them through
the Army and Navy and they had been discharged and given this course
and were given a choice of courses, but there were a lot of
PH: What kind of a course was it?
BF: It entailed a lot.
You know we had to learn not only about hair but facials, manicures,
pedicures. We had to learn a lot of the medical terms you know like the
mother of the nail is the luna and it went into all kinds of… We had a
test, once a week and then of course the big one at the end. There were
the government tests and that was the theory part of it and then there
was the actual hair practical that we had to do. That was fun. I was
scared of the Marcelling.
PH: What’s Marcelling?
curling the hair with hot electric curling irons. It was complicated.
We had to lift the hair up and start at the bottom and make a wave and
then the next layer had to go into the 2nd wave. Oh, it makes me sick
to think of it. I never did one after I came out of that school. I kept
my curling irons but somewhere along the way, I’ve lost them. They were
just shoved into an electric outlet and you had to test them to see
that they weren’t going to burn the hair. When you saw smoke you were
too late. But most of the hair manikins that were in the marcelling
room were gone from the people ahead of us, they had burned them all
off, so we had nothing to practice on. So one lady came up to me and
said, “You can practice on mine,” and she had a lovely head of red hair
and I said, “No, I would rather not,” and she said, “Sure, I’ll need
someone so I’m willing to help you,” so I said, “OK.” And it turned out
when I came up here and settled she was next door to me…
BF: In Prince George.
she owned a shop downtown.
PH: Which one?
PH: What kind of shop was that?
BF: A hair dressing
shop. She owned that shop. But she passed away: lung cancer, I guess
from all the spray and stuff that’s used. She was a good hairdresser:
Margaret. Her name was Margaret Laughlin and she married a fellow
from town. His name was Payne, Margaret Payne, no don’t tell me – it
doesn’t matter anyways. But the shop’s still open, under the same name,
different proprietors of course. That was something else when I found
out she was my next-door neighbour. Anyways I was glad to leave
Vancouver. By this time I had been there pretty close to ten years and
didn’t like the climate. I had a lot of sickness from damp weather: I
got pneumonia a couple of times. I was glad to come back up into this
country. I like the different seasons, you know the winter: fall,
winter, spring, summer. Still like it, that’s why I’m still here,
PH: What did you do after you left Vancouver?
Well, I went down to see Dad for a month and then I came back here
cause I did have a job here. And I worked at a little shop on 3rd
Avenue. It was called the Ideal Beauty shop. I worked there for… I came
up here in ’45 and I must have worked for about three years and then I
was married and had a son in ’48. Then I worked off and on for
different people and I’d go in on the weekends sort of thing. And then
I went back, someone looked after the children during the day and I
went back and worked for about 3 different operators, or owners –
proprietors. And then I quit and started my own shop in my own home,
two rooms off my living quarters. That was when all the other
hairdressers were after me cause I was being an ‘outlaw’. But they
couldn’t catch me on anything cause I had gone to city hall.
Carrie Jane Gray had stuck up for me. She was our mayor at that time.
PH: So they were trying to shut you down?
Why were they doing that?
BF: Well, it was just through word of
mouth that I found out this was what they were trying to do. But why, I
don’t know because I was just one person. And like Carrie Jane Gray
said people are allowed to sew and cook and do weaving and stuff like
this in their own home: Why isn’t this woman allowed to do her
hair-dressing? So I always had a soft spot in my heart for Carrie Jane.
They said my license, she phoned me and told me that my license was
ready and I could pick it up. I went and Carrie Jane Gray was out of
town and it was Mr Assman that was the acting mayor and I knew him. So
he asked me why I was there and I said I was there to pick up my
hairdressing license and he said, “Oh, I didn’t really know that it had
been issued.” But he looked around and he found it and he said, “There
you go.” So I had my license. And of course I had to get one
every year. But I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to hire help,
hang up a sign or advertise in any way. So, cause I didn’t have any
help anyway and I just had the two dryers. That was when we left the
old permanent wave machine behind that used to be hooked up to
electricity: I hated them. Cold waves came in. That was altogether
different and didn’t involve electricity and that was when Mr Matthews,
head of the hair dressing association from Vancouver came up because he
had been advised that I was doing hair.
PH: Who advised
BF: I don’t know. I don’t know to this day. But there were
only about four or five hairdressers in town at that time and they
themselves I guess, I don’t know. But anyways he came along and it just
happened that I had met him in Vancouver and I said, “Mr Matthews! What
are you doing here?” And he said that he had been advised that I was
operating illegally, and I said, “Well, come on in.” I had my
hairdresser’s certificate that we had to get every year plus the city
license and of course they were on the wall, right where you could see
them and he looked around and he said, “Well I can’t see anything wrong
here.” He said, “I don’t know what they’re complaining about.” He asked
me if I knew and I said, “No. I didn’t.” But I know that they did have
some meetings, and I wasn’t asked...
PH: The other
BF: And I wasn’t asked. So I don’t know what they
planned doing but they didn’t make it work cause I kept going, minding
my own business, doing my own little customers.
PH: How long did
you do that?
BF: How long did I do that?
years. Too long
PH: All in that same place?
BF: No, no.
But the two rooms off my living quarters, I was in there…
part of town was this at? What was the address of the first
BF: 891 5th Avenue east, two blocks from the Prince George
Hotel. That house is gone. We sold it and moved here thirty years ago.
We were being squeezed out. Everybody on the street had sold and this
fellow that was trying to get us to sell kept coming back: “You wanna
sell today?” “Nope.” We were the only place left.
PH: What did he
wanna do with the place?
BF: He wanted to… What did he start up?
That place behind us. It’s Big John’s now. But at that time it belonged
to… I’m so good at names… Big shot here in town anyway, at least he
thought he was and he offered us $15,000 for our house and we said no.
PH: Was that pretty good money back then?
BF: No, he thought
he had us in there penned in, we had to move. We had two lots, two
small lots and he wanted them pretty bad. Oh, I wish I could remember
his name: I will, at three o’clock in the morning. Cruzo, that’s his
PH: What was the name?
PH: Was that
his last name?
BF: Yes. I can’t remember what his first name was
but anyway he said, “Well I’m going to bring my wife down and she’ll
cut a deal.” And she said, “$15,000 and that’s it.” I said, “No way.
I’ll burn the place down first.” So, a realtor… How did we get to know
Robin Stoddard? We decided to sell and we were going to put it in the
paper, that was it, and he was the realtor. And it was in January,
January the 18th was it? We put it up for sale and the next week Robin
phoned and said, “I have someone here that’s interested in your house
can we come down?” and I said sure: It was him. He said, “I’ve had
people in this situation before,” he said, “and it just makes my blood
boil.” He said: “I’ll buy it from you. You give me your price and I’ll
pay whatever you ask.” Well we didn’t know what it was worth. We asked
for $30,000 and he gave us $35,000. That was the way it
went. And that was ten days after we put it up for sale. It was
gone and he said, “I want you out by March the 15th,” because he wanted
to rent it, or sell it, or do something. So we said, “OK.” So here it
was, the wintertime, looking for a house, not knowing just what
location we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in. I always
thought the Millar Addition was nice; mind you, not so nice anymore.
But anyway, we found this place and we moved in March the 14th.
PH: What year would that have been?
BF: 1974. Wasn’t it?
PH: You also said you were involved in a lot of community
groups. What were some of the community groups you were involved with?
BF: Well the Moose Lodge was one.
PH: When did you join
BF: 1964 or 65. We’ve been in for thirty-five years,
something like that.
PH: What do they do in the Moose Lodge? What
kind of group is it?
BF: It’s a American outfit. They have their
headquarters down in Chicago: Moose Heart. And… but here, a lot for the
community. You know they help burnt-out families and people that need,
are in need. They work hard, they really do for the money. I’ve been
there and done that. Now I’m just a member. In fact they phoned me just
the other day, while you were here, and said they were having a meeting
on Monday. Well we don’t have any way of getting there, right now.
[Robins chirping]Our lawn in spring is usually covered in
BF: And this year we haven’t seen one and
it’s because of the crows. The crows come and wreck their nests so
they’ve moved. Anyway, getting back to the Moose: my husband belongs
too. We’ve done a lot of work. We helped at breakfasts and catering to
weddings and whatever. When the kids were small they used to look along
the counter and say, “Mom, what’s this for? Is it for us or the Moose?”
But those days are gone but we have a lot of friends that are in the
Moose – that have gone on and are still with us. And Sig used to fry
the eggs for pancake breakfasts and I’d wait the tables. Now we just go
and eat. So…
PH: You also said that, back to life in Tete Jaune,
that you pulled a moose out of a bog once…
BF: Yes I did, with the
help of my girlfriend. We were riding horses along the finger trail and
we could hear this snorting and my girlfriend said, “You know that’s a
moose. Sounds like they’re in distress.” So we rode along and then we
went down and here was this young moose stuck in a bog. The poor thing
couldn’t… all its back legs were just like in quicksand. It’s front
legs were out and it… So we got the lariat of the horse. We brought the
old horse that didn’t care whether there was a moose or a elephant
there. We tied the lariat around the horn of the saddle and got the
moose. I don’t know how we got the rope around the moose but we did and
got the horse to move ahead and got the thing out.
PH: How long
did that take?
BF: Not too awfully long. We just went at it and it
was in no time that the thing was out and I had my camera and was going
to take pictures of it. I was so busy watching it trying to get its
legs, you know, to work properly for it and I forgot to take a picture
of it and it galloped off to its mother so it went toward where its
mother was. But we were kind of crazy to go down in there, you know,
with a mother around and we knew because she was snorting and blowing
out there but…
PH: Did you have your shotgun with you?
don’t think so. No, we headed, we were going fishing so I don’t think
we had them. We didn’t carry them too much along the river. When we
went up into the mountains we took our .22s. I often think of that and
think, “Hmm… I wonder where we got all the courage.” But, never even
thought about it really. And poor old Star the horse. He didn’t even
care. The other one, she stood up there on the hill and started
snorting and blew cuz she could smell them. But Star he didn’t care. We
took him down there and he did his job. I’ve got a picture of those
PH: So back in Tete Jaune you must have known your
neighbours pretty well. Who were some of your neighbours?
BF: Well, our
neighbours were few and far between. Vern was my closest neighbour.
Vern Leary. Mr and Mrs Leary. And that’s where I spent a lot of my
young life was with her fishing and hunting and berry picking and
hiking. We used to go hiking up the mountain all by ourselves. Never
thought too much about the wolves…
PH: Did you have any run-ins with any
BF: Nope. I think if you’d mind your own business they would
mind theirs. Just don’t be between a mother bear and her cubs. That’s
the wrong route. Coming home from our neighbour’s one night we heard
something in the bush and my dad always carried his gun and he thought
it was a bear. And he was a good shot. I don’t think he ever saw that
bear cause it was getting dusk but he shot and he got it but he went in
and got it and it turned out to be a porcupine. Well, he brought it
home and I don’t know how he got it skinned but we got into cooking it
and I can remember my mother saying, “Don’t bring anything like this
home again cause I’m not going to look after it.” She cooked it and it
was just like cooking an old rubber tire and it never did get tender.
PH: Did you try it?
PH: How did it taste?
BF: Well it was so
rubbery you couldn’t chew it. But I’ve eaten squirrel, rabbit, bear,
deer, goat. Dad and mum used to go up in the mountains up in Tete Jaune
there. I went along of course, I was just small. And as I say Dad was a
good shot. He never took aim and he was on one side of this canyon and
this billy goat was on the other and he shot and down went the billy
goat into the ravine. So he came back to camp and then he had to go up
the creek that came down there and get the goat. That was another bad
one. Couldn’t get that cooked either, if I can remember. Mom thought
hunting was for the birds. Anyway, Dad was a good provider but it
wasn’t the best kind of meat. Anyway, it was fun. I still like mountain
climbing. And there’s still one mountain that I thought I was going to
be able to make but I guess I’ll have to forget it. And that’s the one
up at Fort St. James. We were all ready to go and somebody had been up
the day before and they saw us getting ready to go and they talked us
out of it. What mountain is that? [To Sig] I still think I could make
it if I tried. But we did go one day… We took off with our bikes and we
rode as far as we could but the mountain got too steep so we ditched
our bikes and we walked up. That was I think it was called Fort Fraser
Mountain, just the other side of Beaumont. And they were having a
barbeque or something at Beaumont Park that evening and they were
wondering where we were. Finally we came in and, “Where have you guys
been?” “Up the mountain.” That was a beautiful view from up at the top.
The only one I can think of is Teapot and that’s out this way. The one
at Fort St. James: Mount Pope. Is that it?
BF: We didn’t make
it up there.
PH: Is it a very steep mountain?
BF: Apparently those trails
up there, those forestry or parks ones you know they have little places
to sit. I don’t know, I didn’t get up there so I don’t really know. But
they say that it’s a beautiful view. It sticks up over the lake there.
You drive around and there’s a place to park and you go up from there.
They say it’s harder to come down than it is to go up. And most of them
are far. It’s easier to go up than it is to come down; slide on your
butt. We were up there at Perrin’s Beach. We hosted at Perrin’s Beach
two summers, like a month during the summer. We had to go in for a
month. That was interesting, lots of Americans up in there.
PH: Was this
part of your BC Parks…
PH: What were you doing for BC Parks
BF: Hosting. Hosts. Park Hosts.
PH: So you’d just throw parties
for the visitors?
BF: No, no. We just went around and gave them maps and
brochures on different lakes and parks. These were one of the books
that we gave out. We were asked to do it once a day but we did it
twice. In the morning and if there were people out… But people come
into parks you know at night. They have their dinner, they might
go out for a little walk and then to bed and they’re up early and gone
in the morning. So quite often we didn’t catch them in the morning but
we were there in case and the most exciting thing that happened to us I
think was a couple came in from somewhere in the States and they wanted
to know where the lakes along to Rupert were and what they were like
for fishing and where to go and different streams… We gave them all
this information and never expected to see them again. About two weeks
time they came back and stopped at Purden and came in and told us about
all the different places we had told them about and they had been to
and enjoyed and that was rewarding.
PH: How long ago was this that
you were hosting?
BF: ‘95,’ 96, ‘97, ‘98 I think. Three… no four
years. ‘94 we went across Canada so we didn’t do it. It was after that.
[To Sig] No? Before? When did you retire?
okay I’m a little bit wrong in that respect. This was ‘93. What year’d
you retire? It must have been ‘90,’ 91,’ 92, ‘93. ‘94 we left. I don’t
know. Maybe it was ‘89 then. I should remember when you retired but I
don’t. I know it was twelve years. That would take us back to… This is
2004.[To Sig] When were you 65? 100 years ago? He’s [Sig] had these two
epileptic seizures and it’s pretty hard.
SF: I think it was
BF: It couldn’t have been cause we went across Canada in ‘94 and we
SF: If it was ‘92 then 12 years after that it’s 2004.
I don’t really know but I’ll find out: I have diaries. I keep a diary
and I’ve kept it since 1950.
PH: You must have a lot of them.
A whoooooole box full.
PH: So what was Prince George like when you
first came here?
BF: Quite small, a one-horse town sort of thing.
Well they did have cars…
SF: 1200 I think.
BF: More than that
SF: Maybe 3000.
BF: I don’t know. But we had board
sidewalks, gravel streets, dust – lots of dust. But there were
quite a few places. We didn’t have any big stores at that time;
all small outlets. There was Northern Hardware of course. They’ve been
here since day one. There were here before we came and Wally West, he’s
still here. Bowie’s Clothing and Five to a Dollar Store and there was
an electric store across from the beauty shop. That was Ferguson
Electric. That’s where we bought this fridge that we still have. And
that’s gotta be 55 years old.
PH: And it still works eh.
PH: And it’s quieter than this one.
BF: Yes. Quieter than the
brand new one that we bought here in ‘81 or ‘82. Can’t hear that one
downstairs; can’t hear it working. But it’s going to stop one day.
Every time I pull the plug to defrost I think, “Is this the last time?”
Plug it in and listen… still going. We don’t keep much in it but you
know when we have the family in and have a big turkey dinner or
something we’ve got someplace to put all the leftovers. And our family
has dwindled. We lost our son five years in September and we just have
a daughter and son-in-law and two grandchildren, two girls.
PH: Are they
all in P.G. too?
BF: Yep. And then my son’s daughter and son still
live here. We don’t see very much of them because they have their own
thing you know. My granddaughter, my son’s daughter, is going to
university taking tourism and she’s busy because she’s trying to pay
her own way through. So she works at Earl’s café over here. And
Todd, my grandson, he works at the pulp mill. His wife has Visions Eye
Optical. An optical store in Pine Centre and they have two little
PH: That’s where I got these glasses.
BF: Is that right?
BF: Her name’s Brenda. Blonde, nice girl. And the two little girls of
course are our great-granddaughters. And that’s the extent of our
family. Except for his [Sig’s] 2 brothers. One is in Ottawa and the
other one is in Moosomin, Saskatchewan. We don’t see them too often.
SF: Too far away.
BF: Was it last year we flew back to your
brother’s 50th wedding anniversary? So we flew back and stayed with
them for a week. That was quite a flight. Going was alright but coming
PH: Lots of turbulence?
BF: No it was a milk run coming up
and down. We got on in Ottawa, came down in Hamilton, went down in… We
couldn’t go to Toronto because of some disease that was there. SARS was
PH: Yeah I think so.
BF: And we went down in Winnipeg. Was it?
I don’t know. We went down so many times that when I got home I
couldn’t hear. My ears felt like they were going to explode and that
went on for 2 weeks and finally cleared up. I thought that was
something but we made it. He’s younger than my husband. The one in
Moosomin, he’s the baby. He’s just sixty-five. We’re heading for the
SF: Pretty close.
BF: Anyway, more
PH: So how many customers did you have when you were
BF: How many customers? Well, it depended on what
day it was. What they were needing you know some mornings I would just
do hair-setting. And other mornings I’d do perms and perms took a
while: you know two, 21/2 hours. So sometimes I only had two perms a
day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Sometimes there were
three, sometimes there were four. On the weekends I usually just did
hair-setting, not perms.
PH: Did you have to do different styles
as time progressed?
PH: What kind of styles were you
doing say when you first started?
BF: A lot of it was
PH: What’s that?
BF: It was with waves along the
side and curls down the back and sometimes they had a bang, sometimes
just a bunch of little curls up here. And there were a lot of short,
short hair cuts at that time. And I think that was about it. No
marcelling – didn’t do it. But we did all pin-curls and now they use
irons and they can do it in fifteen minutes and have you out within a
half hour. But when we had to do all pin-curls, I don’t know why we had
to but it was what we were taught, it took a while to do a whole head,
you know, a little bit of hair and then you stick a pin through it.
But, it was fun. Except for my son. He’d come home from school and say,
“Mum, this place stinks.” And I’d take him aside and say, “Wayne, okay,
could you please say it smells.” And you know the next day he’d forget
and come home and say the place still stunk, you know, from the wave
solution, it was smelly. Anyway, he lived through it.
PH: So when did
Prince George really start growing?
BF: When the pulp mills
PH: What years were those?
BF: The ‘60s. I can’t
remember what years. It was in the early ‘60s. They came in and all the
PH: Did your business boom with all this
BF: I think I was out of business by then wasn’t I? The
‘60s? No, I was still at it.
PH: I think the year it says was
BF: Yeah, that’s when we moved from down there.
Probably ‘70. I could probably tell by the licenses. I still have my
licenses. They’re somewhere in here.
PH: So, basically you were
an outlaw during that time?
BF: I think they finally settled down
and accepted the fact that I was on the up-and-up. I guess they just
thought that I… I don’t think I was taking people away from them. You
know, it was just a lot of older people. Some young people too. I don’t
know. I just think that they thought that I was doing it without a
license and they didn’t know that I had my city license and my
hair-dressing license and they didn’t make it their business to know I
guess. But, anyway I kept on going. I let it fly over my head.
also said you were a member of a visually-impaired group…
BF: Yes I have
been since… It was 94 when we got back from that trip that I found that
I had something wrong and I went to this ophthalmologist and she said,
“You have macular degeneration.” And I said, “Would you please tell me
what that means in plain English?” She said, “Blindness in old age.” I
said, “Thanks a lot.” So she said, “I think you could be lasered and
you could get some help.” They lasered the one eye. She said, “How soon
can you go to the coast?” And I said, “Whenever you can get an
appointment.” So within that week she phoned me and said she had an
appointment in Vancouver, out at that new place, that place out in
Burnaby. I forget the name of that place.
SF: With the big mall
BF: Yeah, with the big mall. Anyway, went down and…
That sounds about right. There used to be a school there. Woodward’s
Hill school, not too far from Royal Oak on Kingsway. So I went down and
had the left eye lasered. They wouldn’t touch the right one cause they
said it was too far along.
PH: What did they do with the laser?
you know it was done so fast I don’t know if I can tell you what they
PH: Did they cut a piece out, I guess?
BF: Nope. Just I
sat in a chair and he said, “Now you’ll see a bright light.” And I
think it was 37 that I counted, those bright lights in this eye.
SF: Red lights.
BF: He said, “Okay you’re finished.” And he
said, you might just sit down a few minutes until you see a little
better because of the ordeal I’d been through I guess, the bright
lights. We sat there for a little bit and then we left and got in the
motor home and came home. And that held until just about 6 months ago I
started getting, going back. That was when I saw the doctor last and he
said it was starting to go. So there was a specialist up here from
Vancouver and I asked him if I could have it lasered again and he said,
“Certainly, you can have it lasered again but I wouldn’t advise it.”
“Why?”He said, “Because it causes adhesions and they’re not good.” So
we didn’t have it done. So now I’m losing sight in this eye as well.
Still I won’t be in the dark; there’s light… the peripheral. I still
see light around the outside edges. So they say I won’t be in the dark
but I’ve run into people who have it and say that it does go dark so
we’ll find out as we get there. But I have a husband that sees: he’s my
seeing-eye person and I hear for him cause he’s lost the
PH: So he’s the eyes and you’re the ears?
So I’ve got to hang on to him.
SF: Working on the planers in the
mills, they didn’t have any ear-muffs at the time.
BF: But there
are so many people that have this now. There was about 50 of us to
start with but we’re losing them. People are… we’ve just lost another
one. I’ve heard Herb the other day… he’s another fellow that’s going to
be leaving us soon. Have you heard of Mr… What’s John’s name? John…
I can’t remember the name.
BF: I know. There were so many of them.
Little fellow and he’s had a lot to do with the blind here. Very nice
fellow and he’s not that well either. But when I get a little bit down
I think of Mrs Dezell and she has this macular. And she gets around. We
call her Granny Gadget because she had every gadget going. She has
machines, overhead machines that…
Projectors that bring up the printing. And she’s 95 and still
travelling. She goes to Hawaii every year. She’s into everything that’s
going. She has a little cabin at the lake and she has us all out there
later this month for a picnic. Really, I stop and think about her and
think, “What am I getting brittle about?” A lot of people are getting
this. I don’t know what it’s caused from but it’s getting behind the
eye and mine is haemorrhaging. I go back the first week of July I
think. I keep track of it pretty close, see how it’s doing. But it
makes it so that you can’t sew a button on. He has to sew his own
buttons on his shirts. Anything close you know. And I read with a
magnifying glass and my glasses. It’s something else. I never thought
I’d go blind. And I used to say that the only thing I hope to happen to
me in my latter years… I hope it’s deafness, not blindness. And here I
am, able to hear. So it’s just whatever you get dealt with I guess. But
you have to enjoy the days as they come; we do. Even if it’s just
sitting watching the plants grow, the petunias grow.
PH: This is
your victory garden?
BF: This is my victory garden.
you have one back during the war too?
BF: No, I was too busy.
PH: What are victory gardens?
BF: That’s a good question.
Other than just pots and little window boxes and stuff like that as far
as I know. But last year we had petunias here. I got pictures of them
along with lettuce and the lettuce got tall and looked real pretty.
I’ve done something to the tomatoes and I’m not sure just what. I think
I’ve put fertilizer in the boxes and burned them and shouldn’t have.
This is pineapple.
BF: We brought it back from
Hawaii when we were over 4 years ago. We brought everybody a
PH: I’m surprised it can grow here.
BF: Just take
around the top and plant it and that’s what happens. It’s been in the
house all winter. It’s getting green.
PH: Have you always had a
BF: More or less. We had a garden all along there where
there are trees now. And we brought in some nice black soil and it’s
nice to go out and pick an onion and have it in a salad. A couple of
fresh carrots are much nicer than the ones you buy. But then it got
that I couldn’t see to put the seeds in, and I couldn’t see to weed
them or thin them out. I said maybe it was time to just let them along.
So that’s what we did and planted lawn and planted those two larch
trees and those others are peonies; they’re just coming out now.
PH: Have you noticed any changes in the growing seasons?
Yes. Are seasons seem to be a little longer.
PH: When did you used
to first plant?
BF: 24th of May. That was when Mum always planted
her garden and she lived in Quesnel for thirty years, had a beautiful
garden. She said it was too early to plant before the 24th of May. The
24th of May she got busy with her garden. Now my son-in-law has acreage
out here and he just got his in yesterday. But seasons are longer. The
last couple of winters have been really mild. He gets out the old
snow-blower, winds it up and sees if it needs any repairs or if it’s
going to start and then we don’t use it. I think we used it twice, eh,
PH: Ever since I came to Prince George I had these
visions of great big snow drifts and –30, -40 but I’ve never really
BF: No. Well I’ve got pictures inside of snow so deep
you can’t see the road. I’ve got pictures galore.
SF: You’ve got
pictures of me with the snow-blower and I couldn’t see over top the
side of the driveway.
PH: Does it get hotter in the summers
BF: Seems to.
BF: I don’t remember it
being so hot. But we’ve put in a lot of summers here. Mind you we,
since he retired we’ve been on the go a lot, like a gypsy.
Travelling? Where are some of the places you’ve been?
B.C. We did take the jaunt to go across to Nova Scotia and that was a
nice trip. We took three months and we had someone come and stay in the
house. We left in May and didn’t get back till the 1st of September.
That was a real good trip. Last year we went out to Terrace and from
Terrace we went to Kitimat and watched the people fish down
there. Stayed there for what, a week?
And came back and stopped in Terrace and stopped in Smithers.
There’s a lot of nice places along between here and… We didn’t go into
Rupert cause it was pouring rain in there.
PH: It’s always
BF: Well when I stayed in Kwinitsa and you can
believe this or not. I was there for twenty-eight days and I didn’t
know that there were mountains on the other side of the river until
three days before I left. He was right beside the track and there’s the
highway to Rupert and then there’s the Skeena River and across the
Skeena River were mountains and I never saw those. It rained the whole
time and when it wasn’t raining it was foggy.
PH: I guess you
didn’t like that eh?
BF: I didn’t like it. Not one bit. I thought
I’d rather be back here so that’s why I came back. But they were all
telling us that it was pouring rain in Rupert so I thought, “Well, we
don’t need that.” I knew what Rupert was like. It’s on a side hill you
know, rolling. But we were what two weeks, three weeks? I don’t
remember. And of course we go to Nakusp in June for a week. And we go
to Dragon Lake for a week. That’s just down the other side of Quesnel.
You go down there and watch all the little ducklings and goslings and
there’s lots and lots of Americans in there coming in and bragging
about big fish that they’ve caught but they don’t bring them in.
PH: Of course not.
BF: Because they’re not good in June.
When the lake first opens up it’s good; you keep the fish then. But
after that they’re soft and muddy. But we go down and they have
beautiful flowers down in there and it’s right on the lake. But this
year we didn’t make it. We might make it in September if we stay away
from those seizures. After six months they say he can drive again. So
we’ll see. And then we belong to the Old-time Fiddlers.
kind of group is that?
BF: A bunch of fiddlers, violin players.
You both can play?
BF: No. Someone has to watch, or listen so
that’s us. We love to dance. We used to dance every Saturday night,
sometimes... One year when we were out 4 times a week.
BF: Well we used to go to the CCF hall. Used to be
downtown now it’s all the way out at the Hart highway. And we used to
go to the… What did they call that place at Salmon Valley?
SF: Yeah we
used to go there.
BF: Oh and we used to go to Pineview and
Ferndale and all over the place. Wherever there was a dance we were
there. And now we belong to the seniors downtown and they have a dance
twice a month, we go there. And the Old-time Fiddlers have a jam
session every Thursday night at the seniors on 10th Avenue but we
haven’t been there for a while. It got so crowded. It’s such a small
place that we kinda gave up and now we’re both having trouble so... But
they’re still having their jam sessions Thursday nights from 7 till 10.
BF: Would you like to get us a drink? [To Sig] A drink of
lemonade? Something cool. [End of first recording file]
many… teach the kids in school. All the different kids of different
ages. Like you know when I went to school you had like twenty kids in
your grade and you’d teach them all at once.
BF: I don’t know how
the teachers did it. It must have been a real load you know to
PH: Were the teachers like local residents or were they
brought in from the city?
BF: They were brought in. Ms Baxter was
from where? I don’t know where she was from, our first one. And Ms
Mufferd was from Milner. A place called Milner near Langley prairie
there. She was a little tiny thing.
PH: In the Fraser
BF: Yep. Her name Ms Mufferd and they had a chicken ranch
or something down there.
PH: So she’d teach all the grades
BF: Yeah, one through eight.
PH: What was school
like back then? Like what kind of assignments in school would you have
to do back then?
BF: Well there were four of us that were in the
same grade and we were assigned our math in the morning and we’d do it
and she’d go on to the next grade, or back. She didn’t seem to have any
trouble. She knew exactly what we wanted to have done. I think there
was one in grade eight and at that time us kids were all in grade six
or seven in that picture. No, it was Eileen that was in grade eight,
Eileen and Vern. They were a grade ahead of us. Me and Betty, there was
three of us. And she spent more time with the little ones cause they
needed more attention than the older ones. I mean we were given our
assignments and did them and our first shift in the morning was math
which I hated.
PH: Me too.
BF: Did ya? I did not care for
math. I liked spelling and I liked science and stuff like that.
PH: I think it depends on which side of your brain is
BF: I sometimes wondered if I really did
have one. It seemed to shut down on me.
SF: Spelling was my
BF: It was one of my best.
PH: Me, I could spell
BF: Me I would be in spelling bees. Even when my kids were in
school I’d go to PTA meetings and they’d have spelling bees and I was
up against some… One was Mr Kelt but he out-spelled me. But I got right
up… There’s a picture of Mt Robson. We weren’t far from there. Tete
Jaune, just twelve miles.
PH: Do you know how Tete Jaune got its
PH: It’s a strange name you know.
They saw a blonde Indian. Was that the story? Gosh have I forgotten the
PH: It’s French for yellow head.
BF: Jaune is
PH: Tete is head.
PH: Did they see a
BF: Yeah. Either that or they thought they did. I
don’t know what but that was the story that they saw this blonde
person. I can’t remember the story now. Is it not in my book, the
PH: I didn’t see it.
BF: I did know the
story and it had to do with this blonde person and the jaune is yellow
and the tete is head so it went yellow head. Uh-oh I’m on the wrong
track maybe. Maybe I’m talking about the highway instead of Tete Jaune.
I don’t know, I’m muddled up.
PH: Was the town founded by French
people? It’s a French name.
BF: Yeah, right. Well there was a lot
of people in there but that was before my time. They had
PH: So, was it an old town? Is it a fairly old
BF: Yes. In fact Tete Jaune was quite a ways up from where
it is today. It must be 8 or 10 miles. And you can go in there and find
broken bottles and broken down buildings and stuff like that. But that
was much before my time. There’s pictures of hotels and gambling
places, a real wild place apparently. But when we came it was real
different, that part of it had gone. I don’t know, burned down or torn
down or something.
PH: So it was more of a ranching place when you
BF: Yeah, that was the late, must have been the late
PH: You said you lived in a tar-paper place?
It was kinda of, I don’t know, I guess Dad built it. I don’t think he
knew much about building houses. And it had tar-paper on the outsides
but it was nice and warm. And Mum would… she’d tackle anything. She
pushed dirt up all around the outside a built a little fence around so
the dirt wouldn’t fall down. We had one of these air-tight heaters.
They’re little pot-bellied things and if you stood close to them you
were warm but if you turned away you were cold. But she managed to keep
that place warm.
PH: What was the inside like?
BF: It was
homey. She made curtains out of flour bags. You know you got flour in
hundred pound bags and she’d take those bags and wash them and bleach
them, bleach all the Robin Hood signs out of them. And she’d get some
Tintex I think it was called and dye them. Everything we had was
yellow; Mum liked yellow. We had yellow curtains and I had yellow
dresses and petticoats and you name it; everything was yellow. It was
hard times you know for my parents.
PH: Did you have brothers and
BF: No, I was the only one. I was a bit of a loner. All I had
was my dog and him and I used to get into so much trouble. If he didn’t
get a lickin’ I did cause Mum was very strict. Sometimes we both got it
because when she spanked the dog I’d stand and holler and stand and
jump up and down and scream. I can remember doing this and she’d say,
“You’re next.” I’d think maybe she’d forget but she didn’t. Anyway, my
poor dog. She had made me a swing and I was swinging on that swing. She
was wondering what was happening to her eggs. She always had a cow and
a few chickens and her eggs were disappearing and she couldn’t figure
out why. And she was repairing my swing this day and she looked and she
saw the dog coming from the chicken house with a egg in his mouth:
“Uh-oh, that’s where my eggs were going.” And she got up with the
hammer and she threw it and hit that dog straight in the head and down
he went and of course I started screaming, “You killed my dog! You’ve
killed my dog!” Well, it just knocked him out. He came to and went to
house with a bang; he thought that egg had exploded I think. Anyway he
never visited the chicken house again. Then he started tearing clothes
off the line and of course I thought this was a big deal, him swinging
on the clothes. So I was swinging and we both got it that day. And then
somebody had given me… well Mr Carr had given me a big mouth organ, it
was about this long and I used to sit and I had sores from the corners
of my mouths almost to my ears so she hid it on me. But before she hid
it from me I used to climb in the dog’s kennel and play the mouth organ
for him and the dog would howl. I figured that he was singing, that my
dog was singing to my music. I got a whoppin’ that day too. Oh boy, I
guess I took a lot of teaching to learn anything, I don’t know but I
remember she used to say, “You go to the bush and get me a willow,”
because that’s what I got my lickin’ with.
Switches; they used to sting! Woow! They wouldn’t break any bones or
anything but that’s when I came up with a little willow on the table. I
decided one day that I didn’t like carrots. I don’t know how old I was
but I remember this and Mum said, “You eat your vegetables.” No, I
didn’t like them and she said, “Well you’ve always eaten them. Why
don’t you like them today?” I said I didn’t like the colour.
Uh-oh! “So you go out and get a switch and bring it to me.” So I went
out and I was gone a long time and I thought if I stay out here long
enough she’ll forget and the longer I stayed the madder she got. So
when I got back I got a good switchin’ for being so long; I couldn’t
win for losing. Anyway it didn’t hurt, it didn’t hurt me. I guess I
PH: Can you remember what was your first
BF: One of my first memories had to be when I was at
Shere. We lived in the station at that time. Not in the main part but
in the side of it, we lived in there. And I remember the trains used to
go by and they’d make such a racket and the dishes used to chatter and
the cupboards you know. And I got to know the men on the freight trains
and I was blonde, curly headed and they used to call me their little
blonde curly headed girl. And I can remember standing out on that
station platform waving at the engineer and waving at all the guys. And
I also remember Dad getting after me and I think that was the only time
in his life that I can remember him telling me that he was going to
spank me. And I can’t remember what it was for. I never got the
spanking but when he told me that he’d have to spank if I did whatever
it was again it stayed with me but I don’t remember what it was for. It
must have been real bad because I never got a spanking. Mum did all
the… of course Dad was on the railroad when we got home you know
holidays. So that was my younger life.I used to love going out with Mum
when she’d build fires you know to burn all the rubbish that was around
you know trees and stumps and I used to love to go down to the
neighbours. They were too far at that time in Shere. They had five
children and they were the happiest couple. The kids slept on hay beds,
straw you know and this was something that I had never seen.
What was your bed made of?
BF: My bed had a mattress and springs
you know but they slept on this hay and it would rattle and they would
find little pieces of hay and stick it in front of the stove and light
it and smoke. Mmm that was good. We couldn’t do that at home and then
the old fella got up in the morning and made breakfast of pancakes and
he’d flip it over his shoulder and whoever caught it got a pancake.
That didn’t happen at home. I can remember so many things. And if he
wanted somebody to get up that was sleeping-in he’d go and get a nipper
of cold water and throw it over the partition. They weren’t right to
the ceiling, they were up about six feet I guess and throw a dipper of
cold water over him and if you’d hear somebody yell you’d assume they’d
PH: What family was this?
BF: Their names were Austin.
I think they were Americans too but I can’t be sure. But they were
cousins and they married and every one of those children had something
wrong. The oldest one was pretty good. The second one was deaf. The
third one was a cripple, something was wrong with the muscles in his
legs. And Allen was a little bit funny and then Marianne came along and
she didn’t grow. She was a little midget but they were the happiest
family. They had chickens, they had goats, they had an old horse called
Gigiboo, I remember that and they were all allowed in the
PH: The animals?
BF: The animals. The chickens sitting
along on the… It’s unbelievable and Mum used to let me go down once in
a while. Then when I’d come home and tell her these things she’d say,
“You can’t go down there anymore.” But I had no one else to play with.
Winter time there was a little creek that ran by and it was a slope
down and there was snow and ice and we used to go in the house and get
her bread-making pans and we used to slide down in those. Anything
went, it didn’t matter and the chickens would be sitting on the sink
singing away and the goats would be nibbling at whatever was around to
nibble. What a family! And of course Mum couldn’t see any part of this.
She didn’t think it was very funny but it was funny to me. We had fun.
But they split up years after. I don’t know what happened to the kids
and I don’t know happened there but they went their separate ways.
PH: So these were the main neighbours that you knew?
Yes, the closest and then the Bergerons were next and the Carrs. The
Carrs were about a mile and a half from us at that time. Mum used to go
visiting. She used to like to go visit Mrs Carr but we’d quite often go
when we could stay overnight and we’d come back the next day cause it
was quite a jaunt over there.
PH: A couple miles?
And they had 2 children, Tommy and Betty.
PH: The Carrs?
BF: Yeah, they just had 2. They like I said, Tommy still has the
gas station at Mt Robson. He’s the same age as myself. His birthday is
in April so he’s seventy-nine. I’ll be seventy-nine in November.
PH: Does that ranch still take guests?
BF: No, no. Oh I see
this half-diamond M ranch up at the top. Mrs Carr was so very patient:
a lovely woman. She lived to be 103. Her daughter lives in Calgary and
the son is in Mt Robson. They spend the winter in Victoria and then
come back to Mt Robson in the summertime. Lots of nice memories. I did
quite a bit of riding. Mrs Leary lost a horse and asked me if I’d come
to Valemont which was sixteen miles to see if I could find that horse.
Well I had no idea where to look but I jumped on that, it wasn’t one of
those horses, it was a later one and went over there and I found the
horse and I caught him and took him home.
PH: Did you catch him
with a lasso?
BF: I had a bucket of oats and he came up to the
oats and I caught him. I had a halter so I got him. He was with a bunch
of other horses and the next day she came by and said the horse had
gone again. But she said this time I’m not going to ask you to go get
him. I felt like saying, “No, I’m not going either.” It was in March
and it was windy and I got the worst wind-burn. Oh I got burned! I
wasn’t about ready to go the next day but I don’t know how she got that
horse back but she did, she finally got him back. He was running with a
bunch of other horses.
PH: Were there wild horses around there at
BF: No, people just let their horses run and this one
just found these horses so he decided to stay with them I guess. It was
my girlfriend’s horse. They bought this horse and what did she do? She
finished at UVic and came home. I can’t remember just how it happened
but she went to get on that horse and she fell and she was a big girl.
She weighed close to 180 pounds, heavy, very heavy. They called us Mutt
and Chip cause I was skinny. I never weighed over 100 pounds. Anyway
she fell off and broke her pelvis and her arm. I can remember going
into McBride and seeing her in the hospital. She was off her feet for a
long time and of course she went through for a teacher. I can’t
remember I think that was when she was finished though, maybe not. Oh I
think so because the last semester I went back and stayed with her in
Victoria and I stayed a couple of months and that was another
experience. I was ambitious. I didn’t want to sit around and do
nothing. So I went downtown and got myself a job in a café, in
the Fort Café, I think it was called. A bunch of old cronies
used to come in there all dressed in ties and they came from the
publishing of the paper. Victoria what…
PH: The Colonist?
Yeah. It was all those old fellas and they came in there and they were
all prim and proper. Anyway this lady said, “Sure, we need someone
here. You’ll start in the kitchen washing dishes.” And I thought, “Well
okay.” So I washed dishes and then she moved me up to into making
salads I guess it was, and sandwiches. And then they put me on the
stove for a short time and she said, “I think you’re ready for the
dining room.” Put me in the uniform and I went to the dining room. I
worked about a week and my girlfriend was ready to go home. This was
after a month had gone by and it was during the war again and I said
that I was quitting and she said, “You can’t quit.” She said, “I’ll
freeze you to your job.” And I said, “Oh? I don’t know anything about
freezing.” This was what they could do during the war and of course she
had trained me from the bottom up; she wanted me to stay. So I had to
go and tell her that my mother was ill and I had to go so that’s how I
got out of that one.
PH: Was your Mom ill?
BF: No. I thought
I had to do something to get… But that was quite an experience
and then I started working somewhere else and they were going to freeze
me and that was with that Chinese fellow. I worked there quite a
PH: In Vancouver?
BF: In Vancouver. And I had to tell
him that I had to go cause my Dad was ill and he was ill at that time.
That was no lie. I had a lot of fun working not for much money either.
I can’t remember what I worked for. I can’t remember what I was paid.
Must have been enough to pay my rent. Of course you had a meal or so a
day at the café paid so it was okay. But I guess my Mum thought
that if this is what she wants to do I’ll do it with her. So she hung
in there. And when Dad came and said, “Well that’s enough you got
something.” So that was…
PH: The last time we also talked about
the story with the dogs in the river?
BF: Oh yes.
PH: And the
BF: That story was when we went to the post office the two
dogs always went with Mr Carr so when I got ready to go they were ready
to come with me and there was no way I could keep them out of that
PH: To cross the river.
BF: Yes. But Mrs Carr said, “You make
PH: Why would she want them to swim?
BF: So that I
wouldn’t have to row the boat with the…
BF: Cause they were big dogs and one stood in the back
and one stood in the front and they didn’t bother me. They made it a
little heavier to row but… That was during about this time of the year,
June when the rivers come up and they used to come up in the
PH: What river would that have been?
BF: That was
the Fraser way up by Tete Jaune and it would really get high during the
day and then at night it would go down and of course it was the time or
so that I didn’t get back to go across till two or three o’clock in the
morning. And she was sitting on the river bank and she called across
and said, “You make sure those dogs swim cause there are some sandbars
showing up.” Okay. Anyway, I didn’t make those dogs swim cause I
figured if I did and they swam by the boat they’d clamour to get in and
tip me over. Anyway I hit a sandbar so I made the dogs get out and
while they were walking around on the sandbar they were doing that and
I pushed the boat off and with only me in it was easier to push off the
sandbar and the dogs did swim but that was quite a night because it was
so dark you know. You can’t see that sandbar till you hit them. We made
it and she was waiting on the other side to make sure we made it. I
don’t know what she’d have done if we had tipped over or if we were
stuck on the sandbar but she must have had some sleepless nights too
waiting for me to get back with that… And then I had the satchel with
all the mail in it. I had to carry all the stamps and money orders and
stuff like that and we had to stamp all the letters that came in at
three o’clock in the morning but I did it.
PH: So you’d have to
pick up the mail at the train station?
BF: Uh-huh. And the station
wasn’t too far. About from here to 15th Avenue. [A couple blocks]
Maybe not quite that far. There was always someone around to help with
the bags cause sometimes there was just the mail bags and other times
there was parcels and what have you, you know. Not so much in the
summertime and that was when I did it that was in the summer when Mr
Carr was away. But she had to stay home because of the ladies that
arrived with their husbands. They didn’t go into the hills, they stayed
with us at the ranch. It was quite an experience and then to listen to
all their experiences as well. This Mr Millen had a chain of hardware
stores. I said Pennsylvania didn’t I, or was it Florida? Somewhere. I
know I’ve got a write-up on the Millens and their chain of hardware
stores and he was Walter Millen. We’d call him Watermelon. Just a
little short guy. More money than he knew what to do with you know? He
used to go out in the hills and get his trophies. Then they’d sit and
talk for a week and then they’d pack up and go home. I always wanted to
get out onto one of their trips. I thought maybe I could go as the
horse wrangler. I didn’t want to go as the cook. I never have liked
cooking, still don’t. Well I thought maybe the broil cook or someone
that would help but I never did want to do the cooking, not for those
guys. But I never got out. I never got to go.
PH: Did they have
much of a staff at the ranch?
BF: Just in the summer you know
before it was time to pack up. They had the cook who was half French
and Mr Bowman who was the horse wrangler. He had to look after the
horses. As soon as they’d stop at night he’d have to cobble them and
pasture them and there was Mr Carr, he was the guide of course. I think
there was a couple other guys. It was something else to see them all
get packed up you know. They had pack-saddles made out of wood for the
horses. It was quite a busy time; I can remember helping. Meanwhile
they had to take everything in cans and dehydrated stuff. I don’t know
how all those fellas made out there. They seem to enjoy themselves
PH: Was it always full in the summer with tourists?
BF: Yeah. It was always busy. I was only there two years. But I did
stay with another lady whose husband took out people same as Carr did
and she was scared to stay alone.
PH: Where was this?
This was about a mile and a half from Carr’s. They had a little ranch
but they only took a few. They didn’t have a bunch of them cause he
didn’t have the horses. Carr had the horses. He had about twenty to
twenty-five horses. But they would go way up in Mt Robson there and in
the hills. I wanted to go up in there. I still would like to get up in
there and see where they went but never did. I think Tommy went one
year when he got older. Well, sun’s gonna keep moving here. You know
these trees aren’t supposed to be that high. They’re supposed to be
like the ones near ICBC and they’ve grown all out of shape. Anyway,
there was a fellow over here and he kept the place like a dream. The
lawn was always mowed and he had flowers and he built that little
birdhouse. These trees were all out of shape, not like they are now,
but he got up one morning and he clipped them right back. I couldn’t
believe my eyes and of course they came back and now they’re all out of
shape. They’re Chinese elm. But they’re sure out of shape. And then
this lady over here she had a whole line of poppies [poplars], Lombardi
poppies. [Lombardi poplars] They went straight up, huge. Anyhow we
quite enjoy it here. It’s quiet, except for lawnmowers. But it’s mostly
retired people. This guy next door he’s retired.
PH: When was this
BF: That’s a good question. I was here before
it was built because I used to come up in this area and pick
blueberries. And the army used to have a big army camp here. And there
was an army hospital and there was… up in here they came to do their
manoeuvres. They dug foxholes and you name it, all these different
kinds of things and we used to ride through here and pick blueberries.
There wasn’t a house anywhere: nothing this side of Central. So it has
grown but it’s scattered as you probably know. The Hart Highway and out
west now. It’s all scattered all over the place. But we’re pretty good
we’re at 75,000 [population of Prince George] here.
SF: A little
less or a little more.
BF: Well the university brought a lot.
How many people lived here do you think when you first got
BF: I don’t know. I really don’t know.
PH: A couple
BF: Well, I know when I got here there was a mayor by
the name of Mr Patterson so it must have been incorporated. I used to
do his daughter’s hair and she was a very pretty girl and she got into
some beauty pageant. She didn’t win but she was pretty close. She was
pretty close to the one that did win. That was when I first came in
1945. Sounds like a long time ago doesn’t it? Is that a long time
PH: Sixty years ago almost… I wonder what it’ll be like sixty from
BF: I won’t be able to tell you that one. I really don’t know. But
the downtown part has really gone down. It doesn’t seem to, no matter
what they do they can’t revive it and you know why? Too many people
have, like there’s the Columbus Hotel and all these different buildings
and they’re just hanging on to them and they won’t sell. And a lot of
them don’t even live here, they live on the coast or someplace. That’s
their income I guess.
PH: When did you notice the downtown taking
a down turn?
BF: Probably… it was still quite busy when we moved
up here thirty years ago. You know we had a Mayer and Kresge’s and… it
was a going concern and then they started to sell. The Bay moved but
The Bay didn’t move until Parkwood. I don’t know when Parkwood started
up. I’d know if I looked into my diaries but that would take a week. I
even remember when Spruceland opened over here. That wasn’t too far
back. But that built up quite quickly. But Safeway left downtown,
Overwaitea left downtown, you know there’s no place where you can buy
anything to eat down there; there’s nothing.
PH: I guess the mall
must have had quite an effect on it too eh?
BF: Yep and still is.
I think Wal-Mart has really, they’re giving the other stores a run for
PH: I’m surprised that Northern Hardware is still
BF: Poor old Northern Hardware, they’re still hanging in.
They’ve been there since I came to town and they were there before
that; they were down on George Street before that. I can smell
something burning. What is that a barbeque? Oh, that guy came back. He
left last night and he’s back today – why? Oh, today’s Sunday
tomorrow’s Monday – work day. I forget because my daughter takes Monday
off and they stay over and come back Monday night when the traffic
isn’t so heavy. We helped them build a cabin, a log cabin up a Stuart
Lake, got it all built. They went up on the weekend and they took all
their sleeping bags and groceries and what have you. They were going to
be up there for 2 weeks, their 2 week holiday. Monday we had a big
storm. We were sitting here watching. There was a storm out there and I
said, “There’s a storm out at Stuart I bet ya.” Lightning hit the cabin
burned it down there wasn’t a thing left. Terrible. I didn’t think my
daughter was ever gonna get over that one. He had it insured which was
a lucky thing. He’s an insurance freak. Anything he builds he insures.
Someone said, “The sooner you get busy and rebuild that place you know
the quicker you’ll get your money than if you leave it lingering.” So
he got right busy and we helped put in the foundation…
foundation and the floor.
BF: Yeah. But that was it. We were
getting it too far along to start with the come-along. My daughter and
I did the come-along and then took the logs up and the men guided them
into place. On the first one he hired…
SF: Fourteen foot high the
BF: So he got it all built back up and that’s where they
are today. It’s a hundred miles from here. It’s on the way to Fort St
James and before you get into Fort St James there’s a turnoff that goes
left and you go down there eleven kms and they usually have a
boat-launch there but this year they’re not doing it, they’re changing
hands or something up there. So they’re driving and there’s a road
around, 6 miles around. So they drove it last time they were up and
this time again. And he had his cell phone so we can phone them at any
time or they can phone us. And it’s on the south, it faces south and it
is hot out there and they’re right on a rock pile. A good foundation.
But that god-darn storm… There are some big trees beside the house and
the lightning bolt hit that tree and bounced onto the house and down
she went. Took everything that they had taken out there to stay for two
weeks. I’ve got pictures of it; there’s just nothing. There’s nothing
SF: There was a stove in there and it went up like a
BF: And they had propane. That might have helped too, I
don’t know but it just went up: poof! July the 8th. What year was that?
19… Was that before Wayne left? I think so. Those god-darn crows you
know. They come right down and swoop over your head and you feel your
hair go shwip.
PH: They must have some nests around
BF: Oh there are. They used to be all here now they’re all
over there and in the morning around 3 o’clock… Boy I’m telling ya I
wish I had my .22. I guess you can’t shoot them now. There’s a fellow
down the street that knows how to cope with them: he’s got a
sling-shot. Apparently he’s a pretty good aim. He knocks them out and
then catches them and wrings their neck. I couldn’t do that but good
for him. And that’s the babies that do all the squawking.