Interview of Isabel Ford
This is an interview of Isabel Ford. It's March 23, 1987. It's held in
her home on Fir Street. Interview done by Bernice Howard-Gibbon. Isabel
Ford was born in 1909 in Grand Valley, Ontario. Her father cane to
Prince George in 1912. Her mother end four children came in 1913. The
first Sunday Mrs. Ford spent in Prince George was August 17,
Howard-Gibbon: Isabel, what year were you born?
Ford: In Ontario. A place called Grand
Howard-Gibbon: What year did you come to Prince George.
Howard-Gibbon: Can you tell us what brought
you to Prince George?
Ford: Real Estate people were advertising in
Ontario newspapers, My father and grandfather became interested. My
grandfather came in 1910, just for that summer. My father came in 1912,
Mother and four children came in 1913
Howard-Gibbon: What were they
interested in doing when they arrived in Prince George. What type of
Ford: They were looking for land,
Howard-Gibbon: What had they been doing in Ontario?
They were farmers. Was it advertised as farming country?
Ford: it was land.
Howard-Gibbon: What do you remember
of the trip from Ontario?
Ford: I remember my mother
buying the ticket in Toronto.
Howard-Gibbon: She has a record of the
price she paid.
Ford: Thirty nine dollars and seventy
cents from Toronto to Calgary,
Howard-Gibbon: Was that for the whole
Ford: Apparently. She had a
section which was a upper and lower berth with walls around it. That
Howard-Gibbon: What railway would that be, do you
Ford: She doesn't mention the railway at all in
her diary. The first railway she mentions is when she bought her ticket
in Edmonton at the Grand Trunk Pacific Station. It was a ticket on
G.T.P. lower berth for $12.15
Howard-Gibbon: That was to take you as far as Tete
Ford: Yes, that's
right. The boat ticket was $30.00. The stateroom was
$5.00. Baggage was $5.95.
Howard-Gibbon: What boat was
Ford: The B.C. Express
Howard-Gibbon: You had a state room on it..
Howard-Gibbon: How long
did it take from Tete Jeune to Prince George?
Ford: August 4th Mother
left Grand Valley, Ontario at 5:15 pm. Her father came with her as far
as Albaton. He got off and she was alone with the kids. She sent a
telegram from Swift Current to let her aunt know the time she was
arriving in Calgary. The ticket from Calgary to the boat didn't copy so
I don't have that. She visited an aunt at Springbank. That's the 7th of
August so she was three days on the train. She left
Calgary on the 9 that 11:5O pm, arrived in Edmonton on the 10th
a 8:15 am. Her nephew went with her on that
trip. This must be a hotel, Royal George. Lunch was
four dollars. No, she was in something called Springer Home
Apartments. I know it was close to the railroad station. That's all I
remember about it. I remember turning on an electric light in that room
that my mother had for the whole day.
Howard-Gibbon: Were you not
familiar with electricity at that point?
Ford: No, coal oil lamps were
all I had ever seen. I was four years old. Supper was twenty five
cents. She had car fare one dollar. I imagine to the train. She has
berth to Edmonton down here but it didn't copy either. Ticket and lower
berth at Grand Trunk Pacific office twelve dollars and fifteen cents.
Left Edmonton at 9:3O pm, arrived at Tete Jaune 11:25 am.
Room $1.5O Boys for carry valise $5.00. Ticket $30.00. Stateroom
$5.00 baggage $5.95. That's the 13th of August. The 14th, Grand Canyon
at 6:10 to 6:3O pm. Mother brought us all up on deck
to watch it. On the 15th, 8:30 am saw a painted house and three
9:30 am a small river, a tributary to the Fraser. 11:55 am arrived
Fort George. My dad was supposed to meet us but he was busy. He worked
for Bronger Contractor in South Fort George at the time. They were
moving a house. He didn't hear the boat whistle. He
didn't remember that we were coming. He didn't pay attention to the
time. At 2:45 we left South and went up where Wilson Park is now. We
off the boat. We walked. My mother had a map and a key to the house my
dad built from 1912 to 1923.
Howard-Gibbon: Excuse me.
You said the boat came into South Fort George. Did it go back up
Ford: It went back up the river to Wilson
Park. That's where we got off. We walked, each child carrying
something, a bag or suitcase, mother carrying the
youngest, Jean, who was fifteen months old.
Howard-Gibbon: Did you bring
all your belongings with you on that trip?
Ford: No, sometime later my
grandfather sent out my mother's sewing machine. At that time we lived
across the river right opposite George Street, across the Nechako
River. We were going to school in prince George then. My dad met us and
the two Walduff boys, Clarence and Henry, at the river at five
o'clock. Mr. Walduff, one of the fathers met us, they
took us over. My dad did it mostly. He balanced this big crate with my
mother's sewing machine on the top of the boat. There was about an inch
or so of the boat above the water. My dad said don't you kids
breathe, don't you move. On rivers you have to go away up because you
drift a bit so you have to go up the river so you can land where you
Howard-Gibbon: Let's just leave that for now and we'll go back to
when you arrived in Prince George. You walked to this house that your
father had built.
Ford: We arrived at the cabin at
Howard-Gibbon: Where was it located?
was at the corner of Second and Ewert Street.
Howard-Gibbon: In the
Nechako subdivision now.
Ford: Yes, my dad had come in 1912. He built a
log house before we came here. My grandfather went back home and my
uncle who had come with my grandfather settled at Fort
Howard-Gibbon: Can you describe that house?
Ford: It was a small
log house, two rooms. In here it says put in west window about
November. There was no glass in the window until then. This was about
August when we arrived. It was two rooms with a small
partition atone, through the short side of it. It had a
door and a window facing what is now Ewert Street. The other end was
bedroom end, which was behind the short wall. The end next the window
and the door was the kitchen and living room.
Howard-Gibbon: How many
children were there?
Ford: Four. Michael, Isabel,
Winnifred and Jean.
Howard-Gibbon: How was it heated?
It was a plain old stove. I don't remember it
at all but it had an oven because my mother baked
Howard-Gibbon: What did you do for water?
Ford: Water was carried from near what's now
the Cameron Street Bridge up a
very steep hill. The hill was much steeper than it is now. It was much
straighter. Or it cane from the water tower which used to be in
the middle of what's now the By-pass, the entrance to the Nechako River
Howard-Gibbon: Did you carry it?
Ford: Water was
carried. Two pails with a yoke over your shoulders, My mother put down
here that so and so filled the
water barrel. Other than that, you melted snow or caught rain for
Howard-Gibbon: Did you have an
Ford: Yes ,no plumbing. There was no water
system. You had to go to the water tower to get water.
And that came from pumps?
Ford: There was a pump right
in the water tower at the end off Central Street at the bank above the
Howard-Gibbon: That was probably put in by the
Ford: No, it
wasn't. I think the town did it.
The real estate people in Central were very
aggressive. They were really trying to develop Central
which began at what's now Carney Street, went to about what's
now Nicholson. There weren't many houses past Nicholson.
Did you have neighbours?
Ford: Yes. We arrived on the 15th of August and
Mr. Otto Dahlberg came to see us on the 19th. On the 16th my dad came
home from South because two men who lived in a little house beside us
and worked with dad over in South told us that there was a woman and
children in his house.
Howard-Gibbon: You were there for a day or so
before he realized.
Ford: Yes, he didn't come until
Saturday. l think that was Friday that we arrived and
he came Saturday. Sunday was the 17th.
We had our first Sunday in British Columbia on the 17th of
August. A loaf of bread was fifty cents. On the 18th unpacked trunks.
Bread a dollar for two loaves and oatmeal eighty cents.
Where would you have been buying the bread?
Ford: There were grocery
stores. Everything came down the river on scows then, all freight. No,
there weren't farms around here yet.
Howard-Gibbon: Where would it be
Ford: The same place we did. The
railway brought freight.
Howard-Gibbon: Actually the supplies would be
coming from Alberta.
Ford: That's right. The CN, Grand
Trunk, the PGE, none of those things were in. There were no roads. You
walked any place. My grandfather walked from Quesnel
to Vanderhoof and Fort Fraser, He worked on a road
that was being built then, the extension of the Black
Water Road. Graveyard Lake was his
address. He put men's wages and how much his board
Howard-Gibbon: How long did you live in that
Ford: I see here that they are buying something
else. It was on Highland Avenue. I think it was
roughly the far end of what's now Harper Street where it joins
Howard-Gibbon: That would be away out on the edge of
Ford: Yes. The log cabin we
were in was 1913 and '14. In '15 and 'l6, Highland
Avenue. From 1916 to 1918, we lived across the Nechako
River opposite George Street.
Howard-Gibbon: Would that be below the
Pulp Mill Road.
Ford: On the river side of the Pulp
Howard-Gibbon: Towards the mills.
Right opposite George Street. We could see the
trains come if we were watching at the right times.
That's pretty good gardening land over there. Did
you cultivate it?
Ford: Yes, we always had gardens. A day or so after we
arrived my mother planted pansies which seems late to me. She had many
nasturiums, sunflowers in 1914, asters, sweet peas. On the 26th of
December she had a yellow narcissus blooming and geraniums in the
She had asters and sweet peas outside. Cabbage, broad beans, tomatoes
carrots, cucumbers and potatoes. My dad sold potatoes at times. In the
diary it says sold one ton of potatoes.
Howard-Gibbon: Does it say how
much he got for them?
Ford: No, some of it didn't copy
when Denise copied the book. I came to that last night
but I didn't write it down. I thought you might be interested in what
Howard-Gibbon: Did you have any livestock?
I put the price of a team of horses and a cow down here
Howard-Gibbon: What was your father doing at this
Ford: He worked for Bronger in South Fort
George. I have his death in that clipping box when he died.
Mr. Bronger came here for that first centennial that B.C. had in
1958, and the year that Dick Corless re-enacted Simon Fraser's trip. I
didn't get to talk to him but of course, my dad did.
We were honored guests at the dinner that the business and
professional women put on for the old-timers. My dad, my sister,
Winnifred Lonsdale and I were treated royally and taken over to the
park, Fort George Park, which was barely opened then, still full of
and hollows, no grass, mud all over, to watch Dick Corless sail off
his crew. We were given buffalo burgers that Harry Loder cooked in a
pit. We were given ringside seats for the program in the evening,
chinese dragon dance and the mounties musical ride. We were just a few
feet from them. We were then taken downtown.
Howard-Gibbon: We were
talking about the houses that you had lived in. Then we got off on a
sidetrack what your father was doing. You said he was working for Mr.
Ford: Later he freighted. After he bought a team he freighted
to Summit Lake and Salmon River. He sold garden produce and
potatoes. My mother baked bread. Somewhere in her
diary, she ironed for somebody, a neighbour next door. She received a
dollar for ironing half of the afternoon.
Howard-Gibbon: How would you
describe yourself? How well off would you
Ford: Not well off. There was always a depression
at our house, long before the 1930s depression.
Howard-Gibbon: Where did
you go after you left the house across the river?
We moved back to Central to a house
that Mr. Houghtellinq owned. It was
a couple of blocks the other side of what's now Carney street at the
south end. It had four or five rooms in it. Some of the other places
only had two. Houghtellings had a big family, bigger than our family.
They had ten children and we only had seven altogether. Six that grew
up. We moved to what's now Moffat Street. We lived in three houses on
that street. In 1922 we moved to Mud River living there for five years,
from 1922 to 1927. We moved in South Fort George in 1927.
The family stayed there from then on. My parents died.
When you were quite small, what kind of clothes did you wear?
day the steel was laid past the water tower at the end of Central
Avenue, I had on long stockings, leather shoes with rubbers over them,
long black stockings over the shoes end then rubbers over the long
black stockings. Those were our ski suits in 1913. A heavy coat
probably cut down from some grownup's coat. All mothers made their
children's clothes in those days. My mother even made our
hats. It was likely a knitted hat that we had.
My brother went to school in fifty below zero with
underwear, drawers, shirt, a sweater, two pairs of socks lined coat,
double mitts, boots and rubbers. My mother heard that it was fifty
below that day.
Howard-Gibbon: What did you wear in the
Ford: We didn't have slacks. Girls always
wore dresses. My mother made them, cotton. We had what was called a
waist. It was a sleeveless garment that suspenders were sewn to. You
hitched your socks onto the suspenders. Stockings were long but didn't
wear the long stockings in the summer. It was too
hot. I think when we went in the bush for berry
picking, we wore stockings for mosquitos and from the brush scratching
Howard-Gibbon: When did you start school?
went to the log school when I was five years old because my mother
wanted to be
rid of me. She had too many kids to look after so she sent me to
school. Mrs. Warner was the teacher. Very soon Central School was
built. The first two rooms of the existing Central School was
built. We went there until 1922.
Howard-Gibbon: Where was the log school
that you went to?
Ford: It was a little west of the
Howard-Gibbon: Mrs. Warner, was that any connection to
Ford: No, they started
in Smithers, Minnie Warner, did.
I think her husband was editor of a paper there, coming to Prince
George as Editor of the Citizen. I don't know who
these people were.
Howard-Gibbon: You were five years old.
Do you remember how many children there would be at that
Ford: I have no idea. It
looked like a lot of children to me.
Howard-Gibbon: There was about
thirty six children in the original log school. Was
that the only log school in the area or were there other schools in the
Greater Prince George area?
Ford: The first school
started in South Fort George about 1910. A Mrs.
Campbell was the teacher who later lived at Clucluz Creek. She was
brought in to South
Fort George to some anniversary. My
sister, Winnifred Lonsdale, was a teacher, Mrs. Campbell stayed at her
house. They visited back and forth from then on, getting acquainted at
that ceremony or anniversary or whatever.
What do you remember about school
during your elementary years? You went from this log school into a new
school building, second grade I
Ford: It was a
too room school. Mr.. Bell was the principal. Miss Wade, who married
Ewert in 1922, was the junior teacher. There had been another teacher
before that, Miss Marwick. She married George McCullough who was killed
in a car accident in Mud River some years later. McCulloughs were
Howard-Gibbon: What subjects were you taught in
Ford: Reading, writing, arithmetic, composition. We had readers,
not grades, up to 1922. When we went to Mud River, they changed it to
grades which would be from 1922 to 1927.
Howard-Gibbon: Did you have any
music in your curriculum?
Ford: Yes, we had school concerts. There was
always a Christmas concert. In the Central School, one year the big
First Presbyterian Church and the school combined. I was in that
concert. When I was about five, I
sang, "Sleep, Baby Sleep". I'm sure nobody heard me
off the stage because I had such a feeble voice.
This school concert that was combined with the church concert, I
was in a tableau, the Gleaners, a painting of the Gleaners. A boy by
the name of Walton Holden and I had to stand there and not move,
dressed like the Gleaners. Mrs. Phillips who was a belgian lady married
to a Canadian who had a farm out at Pineview was the instigator and
planner for this concert. She was great for tableaus. One of my sisters
had to put her head through a hole in a big cardboard. They had five
little kids as angels putting their heads through this. They had to be
still for two minutes or whatever. There were choirs. A Mrs. Butler was
the choir leader at the First Presbyterian Church. She was a good
musician. She recognized my sister Winnie's voice as
a better one and her daughter Mona. She had them sing a duet at a
Howard-Gibbon: Did you have a piano at the school or
Ford: I think a
piano. In 1919 we learned the music to "In Flanders
Fields" and we were made to sing it in school on Armistice
Howard-Gibbon: The First World War, was it already in progress when
you came here?
Ford: No. It didn't start until 1914.
Howard-Gibbon: What do
you recall of that? How did it affect the
Ford: I remember Armistice Day very
well. My mother was sick.
Howard-Gibbon: How would you
receive the news?
Ford: I don't know. The C.N. Telegraph started about three weeks after
the railway went past Prince George.
My mother put in, "the steel crossed the bridge the 27th of January.
The first week in February, some freight and passenger trains to Prince
George from Edmonton. Three times a week the passenger train went,
Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 pm, leaving Tuesday, Thursday and
at 8 am. The third week the telegraph
Howard-Gibbon: To go back to the school again, what would you
do in the way of sports and exercise? Did you have PE programs?
school teacher who had been to the war, Mr. Johnson, had a basketball
team for girls. We wore black bloomers under our dresses.
Did you have a gymnasium then?
Ford: No it was an outside sport. Boys
played baseball but there was nothing organized like now, no little
Howard-Gibbon: Did the girls play baseball?
I can remember being around the edges of baseball, mostly
Howard-Gibbon: What kind of games can you remember
playing at school?
Ford: I don't remember many
games. We had what you called exercises, bending,
right in school time. This teacher that had the basketball team for
girls, that was on his own time. That was after school.
How was the school heated?
Ford: A furnace. Any children who took their
lunch ate it in the furnace room to keep warm because the basement
where we were supposed to play was very cold. Mr. Claxton, the janitor
of the school, was our friend. He was around. We visited with him while
we were eating our lunch. Mostly we ran home. in the summer we went
home but in the winter we took our lunch.
Howard-Gibbon: How did the
school get water? Did they have a
Ford: I think they had
a well in the backyard at that time and an outside
Howard-Gibbon: When you were going to elementary school, did
you have household chores?
Ford: Long before I went to
school l had to peel potatoes and mind the youngest child.
My sister Jean and I washed the dishes and peeled the potatoes. My
sister, Winnie, looked after the current baby. Winnie
was allowed to do the ironing as she was better at it then Jean or I.
Howard-Gibbon: Did you have to work in the garden?
We were supposed to but we weren't very interested.
Howard-Gibbon: What about the weekends? Did you have extra
Ford: There was always hoeing in the summertime
to do, and helping with what my parents were doing. Everybody
Howard-Gibbon: Did you have to chop wood and bring
Ford: My brother was supposed to. Mr. Houghtelling came around
with water from about 1915, twenty five cents a barrel. Before that,
water had been delivered when we lived in Central, I think from the
water tower. My mother doesn't name anyone before Mr. Houghtelling.
When we lived across the river, we carried water from the river in a
pail. All washing and drinking water was from the river.
Was it muddy?
Ford: No, it was much harder than it is
now and much clearer.
Howard-Gibbon: Tell me about your leisure
time, in the winter, your
Ford: We made angels in the snow. My
mother went out with us and slid down hills.
Interview now April
Howard-Gibbon: Did you skate?
Howard-Gibbon: Any skiing?
Ford: No, there was no skiing unless
you made your own skis. A.P. Anderson helped my brother make a pair of
skis. He gave him two boards, told him how to soak the board and tie
it so it would turn up at the toes. There were sleigh rides organized
by grown ups. I can remember going to South Fort George from Central.
Sleighs were pulled by horses. They were full of people
and kids, twenty people or more in a sleigh. We got
home about 3 am. it was forty below but everybody had a wonderful time.
That was about January 1914.
Howard-Gibbon: You went tobogganing, did
you have those or sleighing on hills or sliding on
Ford: We had a sleigh with runners.
My brother had a sleigh with runners that my mother made for him,
the wooden part or the top. They were used to haul things, these
children sleighs. My brother would be sent shopping. He brought home
meat. He had a list. The storekeeper would read the
list. At the library they had a bill that I had saved
and given them. Michael weighs sixty four pounds. They had weighed him.
My mother put this on the list and asked them to weigh him while they
were weighing the potatoes or whatever, more likely rice, a lot more
rice than potatoes in those days. It doesn't take up much space and
everything came down the Fraser River.
Howard-Gibbon: It would keep
Ford: Yes, everything had sand in
it. My brother wouldn't eat dried
Howard-Gibbon: Where did the sand come from?
From the water, scows were only this deep. Water would slosh over
them. Everything got wet. The dried apricots had sand
in them. It was just his imagination. It didn't have sand to the rest
of us but he thought that.
Howard-Gibbon: Where would he
Ford: Just in the backyard. At
that time we lived on Moffat Street in Central Fort George. There was
lots of space and no regulations about where you could go then. There
no organized parks. You went out the back door and skied. My sister
Winnie, years later, skied from Cranbrook Hill to South Fort George on
Friday night. On Sunday night when she went back to the Cranbrook Hill
school, she skied to the bottom of the hill, then walked up to where
she lived with Rushmans.
Howard-Gibbon: What about
Ford: There were lots of snowshoes. All men
Howard-Gibbon: That wasn't sport. That was means of getting
Ford: Dad had a pre-emption out at
Shelly. He was always going out to improve it. He went
on snowshoes. There was no buses. Everything you went on
foot. This top letter I was reading of my
grandfathers. "I expect to walk seventy five miles", but he didn't say
how long it would take him. "I expect to walk seventy five miles as I
do not know when the boat goes back as they are not running regular
trips, and they charge most outrageous, taxed me $12.50 for sixty miles
without a meal or a berth.".
Howard-Gibbon: In the
summertime, what would you do for leisure activities?
We picked berries. My brother minded all the
cows in Central down at what's now Wilson Park. They had to cross the
railroad track going to the park. There were two boats, two of the old
sternwheelers. We played in them and used them for dressing rooms.
Howard-Gibbon: They were abandoned, were they? Just left
Ford: Yes, l get mixed up in
the boats that were in Central and the ones in camps.
There were two in the camps. Foley and Stewart built some boats to
bring freight down from the Indians.
Howard-Gibbon: What happened to them
Ford: They fell apart.
People picked the windows and anything moveable out of
Howard-Gibbon: I can imagine it was great fun when you were kids.
Ford: We had a great time in the boats.
That was one of our activities.
Howard-Gibbon: Did you swim?
We paddled around in the river. Later we swam down at the steel bridge.
There were no swimming pools or anything like that.
you every go out to Six Mile Lake or out to the local lakes for
Ford: Arnie did. He had a bicycle. None of us had bicycles so
we were forced to walk any place we went. After I was eighteen or so,
we had boy friends that had cars including Arnie. We went out then. I
don't ever remember swimming in Six Mile Lake. Other
kids did whose dads had cars but we didn't have a car.
There was always a baby or somebody to look after for the older
children in the family. My mother knew where
we were all the time. We didn't go as far as Six
Mile Lake. There were organized berry picking
jaunts. A truck would take anybody who wanted to pay fifty cents. I
the man wanted a little something for his gas. Winnie and my brother
to Salmon River to pick huckleberries. I went to the
foot of Cranbrook Hill. We spent a day going and coming.
That was blueberry picking. A Mrs. Drake whose husband was Mr.
Hughes original partner in Hughes and Drake Ladies Wear, lived on
Moffat Street. It rained the whole time we were out there. All the
ladies went in a tent and played cards. This is the only time I
remember seeing Mrs. Drake. We didn't pick a berry. Kids played around,
in and out of the tent. We all gathered our pails and went home again.
We were taken home in a truck.
Howard-Gibbon: Did you ever pick
Ford: There was lots of them around. When we lived across
the Nechako River, off what's now the Pulp Mill Road, there were lots
of cranberries. We picked every berry that we could reach. There were
lots of Saskatoons and we always picked them too,
Howard-Gibbon: Tell me
about Christmas. Is there anything in particular that stands out in
your family about Christmas?
Ford: In our family
Christmas was a day that you didn't do anything, like Sunday. You went
to church if there was one. We weren't allowed to look
at our presents until after supper at night. Dad was the Santa Claus,
took everything off the tree but I fear we knew what some of the
parcels were from feeling them all day long. It was
a home family day.
Howard-Gibbon: What would Christmas dinner
Ford: A chicken, if you were lucky, moose meat, a
roast of beef or pork,
Howard-Gibbon: You mentioned earlier that you had
school concerts at Christmas time.
Ford: One year the
Presbyterian Church in Central and the Central School
combined. We were let out of school half an hour
early to go over to the church to practice. The practices
were all at the church. That was a really super concert.
The concert was at the church or the school?
at the church because it had more space.
Howard-Gibbon: Where was the
Presbyterian Church located?
Ford: It was somewhere
near the Central School.
Howard-Gibbon: Where the Baptist Church is
Ford: No, away past that.
Central School is on Harper Street. The church
was very close to that. I don't know
Howard-Gibbon: It's long gone then.
Ted Williams used to argue with me that there was never a
church. He has now written a book on Knox United
Church and the churches that preceded it. He has a picture of that
church in the book. He discovered there was a church. We went to church
three times a day sometimes. Sunday morning service, Sunday School in
the afternoon and again at night. We went to something celled
Christian Endeavor, a week night.
Howard-Gibbon: Did they have a
Ford: Yes, Mrs. C.C. Reid who had a store in
Prince George, she was in the choir. I think Dave Fraser who worked for
the city was in the choir
Howard-Gibbon: Do you remember the name of any
of the ministers?
Ford: Mr. Graham was one that we knew best. We moved
away from Central in 1922. All this was before that time. We were very
impressed with Mrs. Graham. We always had one doll called Evelyn for
Howard-Gibbon: When you finished elementary school, where would you
be living then?
Ford: I finished what's now called
grade eight in Mud River. I came in to write my grade eight exams at
King George Fifth School.
Howard-Gibbon: Then where would you go to
Ford: It was called the elementary school then Baron Byng that I
had gone to as elementary school was now high school. Apparently it
wasn't quite ready. I went up to Millar addition school. It was a two
room school and was used as a high school until the elementary school
Howard-Gibbon: You had to pass these exams before you
could go into secondary school. Do you have any idea
what percentage of kids would go on to high school?
Most kids dropped out.
Ford: Not many, some
needed to work. A boy who was a neighbour of ours
didn't go on to school because he got a job. His mother
did ironing for my mother. My mother did
ironing for his mother at times. They had a daughter married.
We think now she must have had polio. Her one arm she couldn't
move. She woke up one day and couldn't move her arm. I
went all my elementary school life with her. I don't know why my mother
ironed for her once in a while but she did. It's in her
Howard-Gibbon: Was this the only high school for the whole area?
Ford: That's right.
Howard-Gibbon: How far out did
they come to go to High School?
Ford: Marydell Wilson, who is now
Marydell Olivson, came from the east. Meryl Mallory who went to school
with Arnie cane from the east. There were a lot of mills east of Prince
George in the twenties. They had children. They either moved to town or
the mother moved to town with the children or else the children stayed
at a house run by the United Church as a dorm for mostly girls. There
was a deaconess in charge of it.
Howard-Gibbon: Where was it?
Thorsensen lived in it afterwards. It was their house afterwards. You
know Julien Thorsensen was a dentist. His parents lived in it. They had
Howard-Gibbon: Is that the house that Baldwins live in
Ford: No, it was on Fourth Avenue, a two story house. That was the
residence for girls. My sister Jean went to school with a girl from
west of here, Fort Fraser or somewhere. I forget her name. Burns Lake,
Howard-Gibbon: All these out of town kids would have to stay in
town. There was no transportation back and forth. The ones who lived in
town would have to get there as best they could, would they, to
Ford: We walked from South Fort George if we
came to Prince George. I wouldn't have attended high
school if l hadn't lived with a family close to the school.
I just ran across to Duchess Park. They lived on
McBride Crescent. I left at five to nine, raced down
the hill. It took me twice as long to get back up the hill.
Howard-Gibbon: What subjects did you have in high school?
Can you remember what you were taught?
have some printed exams around here that I saved from my mother's
diary. Not my exams but my sisters at different high
school there and my sister Winnifred but I don't remember any of mine.
Howard-Gibbon: How many classes would there be in high school?
Ford: In the Baron Byng, there were four rooms.
Howard-Gibbon: Would that be grades 8 to 12?
grades 9 to 11.
Howard-Gibbon: What happened after that? You only went
to grade 11.
Howard-Gibbon: Do you recall the
names of any of the teachers?
Ford: That was junior
Matriculation. About 1932, while I was in training, to keep young
off the labor market, the
education people changed it in B.C. Some other provinces had four years
high school for junior matriculation.
Ford: Mr. Noble was a principal when I went back to high school. I went
I'd been out awhile so I could go in training.
Howard-Gibbon: Did they
have any clubs in school?
Ford: The boys had sports.
When you were going to high school, what do you remember about your
clothes that you wore? What was in style?
Ford: I had
a jumper. My mother was a great one for jumpers
because she could make one or two jumpers. They lasted all winter and
different blouses. That's what I remember wearing, skirts and sweaters
Howard-Gibbon: How long would the skirts
Ford: Half way down your leg.
Ford: Everybody wore lyle stockings.
Nylons weren't invented .
Howard-Gibbon: What kind of
Ford: Oxfords, nothing stylish.
What about your hair? Long hair?
Ford: I had long
braids until I was fifteen. As soon as I moved away
from home living with another family going to high school in
town, I went to a barber and had it all cut off. I've
had short hair ever since. I tried to grow my hair
once but didn't like it. It was
too heavy. I couldn't manage it. I
was really sick of long hair when we were kids, so heavy and took so
long to dry. You didn't wash it as often as you do short
Howard-Gibbon: Washing it would be a big job
Ford: Particularly when you carried water from
somewhere or melted snow,
Howard-Gibbon: What would you use for
Ford: Melted soap
Howard-Gibbon: What kind of
soap would you use? Did you make your own soap?
Ford: My mother
made soap out in Mud River when somebody shot a bear. The fat was used
but she didn't ever get it solid. It wasn't in cakes. It was liquid. It
didn't set hard.
Howard-Gibbon: Did it wash?
was used for washing. We didn't use it to wash our
Howard-Gibbon: You would buy soap.
Ford: Palmolive. We had
Colgate tooth paste. In Mud River Colgate sent around an advertising
with jingles about Colgate. It had pictures for part of the words. They
had a lump of coal and a gate for their name. Everything rhymed.
Something about Colgate's ribbon dental creme keeping your teeth
Howard-Gibbon: During your high school days, did you have a
Ford: I had a job. I had a
live-in job. I was a baby sitter.
the people you were staying with.
Ford: Yes. Mr. &
Mrs. Herb Porter. She was the first person with the Women's Curling
Club .She was also the first worthy matron of Eastern Star,
In return for your room and board, you looked after the children and
did housework too.
Some, yes, dishes. Mrs. Porter got the meals. The other
family I lived with gave me a dollar a week. I went
in training on that.
Howard-Gibbon: You said you went out of school and
then you came back. What did you do in between'
I did baby sitting and helped people with spring
Howard-Gibbon: How long was that for?
went back to school in 1929. It was about three years I was out of
Howard-Gibbon: Then you decided you wanted to go in
Ford: I wanted to go in training all the
time. With no money I didn't see how I was going to. The second family
I lived with had lived in Prince Rupert. Mrs. Harlow had grown up
there. Her father was a Presbyterian Church minister.
She knew the Superintendent of Nurses.
Howard-Gibbon: That answers my
next question. I was going to ask how you happened to
decide to go to Prince Rupert. That was how it came about.
paid more than any other hospital in B.C. After you got your cap they
paid $15.00 the first year, $20.00 the second year and $25.00 your
third year which I could live on. 1 bought a ticket
and came home on my holidays to Prince George every year.
Did they have residence for you there at the hospital? There were four
nurses in your class.
Ford: No class had been taken in
1929. A class went in 1928. They graduated in 1931. No class went in
1929. Sometimes they only had one pupil because nobody wanted to
go to Prince Rupert. Girls weren't that interested in
nursing. Everybody was learning
to be a stenographer when I was in high
Howard-Gibbon: What made you decide on nursing?
Ford: I always
wanted to be a nurse. My dad asked me years ago. We
were walking by a creek at Mud River. I said I would like to be a
nurse. At that time I didn't see how I would ever do
it. With the help of the Harlows, they gave me a
dollar a week. You could manage. I didn't have any
frills but l bought a winter coat.
Howard-Gibbon: You had to supply your
own uniforms when you went into training?
Ford: Yes. We had to have a
plain blue dress, no pattern. A nurse by the name of Lancaster
me choose the material. She worked at the hospital here. In fact she
lives at Vanderhoof now. Giernhardt or something like that is her
married name. She told me the kind of apron I had to have, sheeting and
gathered. Mine were flimsy compared to the aprons supplied by the
hospital after we got our caps.
Howard-Gibbon: That was after how many
Ford: Four months.
Howard-Gibbon: After four months. You just needed to
supply your own uniforms for the first four
Ford: If you didn't stay,
they didn't want to put out material for somebody who
didn't stay. After we got our caps we wore bibs,
aprons, and a pink and white striped dress. We got a new one when they
were very hatched and worn under the arms. The older girls would give
us a piece of dress they discarded. We would patch under the arms. We
got a new uniform for going to Tranquille and Vancouver General where
we spent two months at each hospital.
Howard-Gibbon: Who paid your
Ford: Tranquille paid our way. They decided about 1931
or 32 that they needed help. They thought having girls in training
might be cheaper than graduate nurses. This was the depth of the
depression. This was an experiment. They wrote to all training schools
in B.C. and the gals. There were many small training schools in those
years. Prince Rupert wasn't the only one. Kamloops, Revelstoke and
Cranbrook had training schools. Cranbrook and St. Paul's were
affiliated. They were both Catholic run schools.
Kelowna had a training school too. There are the clothes of
Howard-Gibbon: Look at the hat. A closed
Ford: There's my class at
Howard-Gibbon: You graduated in 1932,
September 1933. I went in training the first
of October. We wrote our RN exams in September of 1933. Two classes
were taken in 1930, one in February and one in October. We all
graduated in May, they wrote the April exams and we wrote the September
ones because they couldn't spare us from the staff to study all at
once, nine of us. There were five girls in the February
Howard-Gibbon: About how many beds were there in the
Ford: I don't know. it's in that book.
Howard-Gibbon: After that, you worked in Prince
Ford: I worked in a doctor's office, Dr.
Hankenson. He went to Vienna for ear, nose and throat
course. I looked after his office while he was gone.
After he returned, I got sick and went to Tranquille.
Ford: Yes, T.B. peritonitis.
Where did you pick it up?
Ford: We had open
Howard-Gibbon: How long were you there?
About a year.
Howard-Gibbon: This was common in those days with nurses,
Ford: The whole top floor of the Greaves
Building at Tranquille was full of Vancouver General
nurses when I was there as a patient. I had been
there as a student so they knew me. I wished lots of times I had
stayed there to work but didn't even think of it.
that, what did you do?
Ford: I came
home. 1 got married a year later.
ended your nursing.
Ford: I worked at the Health Unit
for twelve years. I was the Aide but I liked
Howard-Gibbon: You married your childhood sweetheart, did
you? You had known him for quite a long time.
Ford: Yes, we'd been in high school at the same time
but not together, not in the same
class. I was taking commercial and he was taking
regular high school.
Howard-Gibbon: He grew up in Prince
George. What was he doing when you got
Ford: Yes, he worked for the C.N. Telegraph,
the commercial telegraphs. We were married in May,
1936 so add that up.
Howard-Gibbon: Did you go on a honeymoon?
had been laid off in the winter and was called a few days before the
wedding date. He had another man to take his place until we got down
Howard-Gibbon: Down to where?
Ford: Vancouver. He worked there
most summers. In 1937 he got notices but never actually laid off.
There was a little stock market flurry in January 1937. It kept him
working but he got a notice every two weeks. We
had our bags packed to come home to Prince George to live with parents
but he wasn't laid off again.
Howard-Gibbon: When did you come back to
Ford: In 1944. He bid
on a job in Rupert, a night job, midnight to eight in the morning. He
often went to work at six o'clock at night and sometimes didn't come
until noon. They were so busy in Rupert. You have no idea what Rupert
was like during the war. Depression facilities and boom conditions,
American and Canadian services. People were living in chicken houses,
garages. They built houses for the dry dock workers but some of them
weren't finished until the crisis was over. They were so busy at times
that the inspector for the C.N. Telegraphs worked as a clerk behind the
counter because he couldn't stand to see six deep waiting to be waited
on at the counter in the office. Artie has some interesting tales to
tell about his experiences. Nights were wild around there at
Howard-Gibbon: You were in Prince Rupert during part of the
Ford: From 1941 to 1944. He
came back in April 1944 and I came in May. The little
houses they built for the Repeater Station men weren't finished when he
came. He lived with his mother. Then they finished the inside of the
Howard-Gibbon: He was working here.
he worked here until he retired.
Howard-Gibbon: Did he get passes on
Ford: Yes, and on boats
Howard-Gibbon: Did you do any traveling through
Ford: Holidays, yes. Twice we took the triangle
tour of B.C. We had already arranged to do that the year war
was declared. All holidays were canceled so we didn't get holidays
until late in October. They got settled down for staff. Anybody in
reserve took over. Before war was declared, they were called up. A
fellow in Rupert that we knew, Earl Gordon, was gone a week before war
was declared. His sister was one of the nurses there. His dad was in
poor health. They had a hardware store. He wanted to turn the store
over to his sonny boy but sonny boy was gone for five years.