Interview with Jane Kennedy

This is the first side of the tape of an interview with Jane Kennedy on April 23, 1987, at her home in Prince George, B.C. The interviewer is Thea Stewart. In 1914 Peter Wilson moved from the Kootenays to Prince George with his wife and seven children. Jane Kennedy was one of those children. Now in 1987, she is still in Prince George living in the house she and her husband built on the banks of the Fraser River. She has two sons, Scott and Jack.

Stewart: Mrs. Kennedy, let's review a little history. Could you take me back to 1914 when your family moved to Prince George.

Kennedy: Not very well. I was only eight years old. I wasn't too observant about things. I really don't know what would be of interest.

Stewart: How did you get here?

Kennedy: On the railroad that came across the bridge on the Fraser River. The bridge was open. We came on the first train that went all the way to Prince Rupert, not the first train to come to Prince George but the first one that went through to Prince Rupert.

Stewart: Did you all come at that time?

Kennedy: No, my older brother stayed home to get his high school graduation diploma but he came at the end of June.

Stewart: Your father had a good job in the Kootenays. Why did he want to move?

Kennedy: He was a county court judge which sounds like a good job but they didn't pay very much and he had seven children. Also, there had been a lot of advertising about how wonderful this part of the country was. Everybody was going to make a fortune. A lot of people came in for that reason. The war slammed all the good plans down.

Stewart: Where was your first house when you arrived? Can you recall where you lived?

Kennedy: I can recall it quite well but whether I can describe it or not is something else. it wasn't too far from the hospital.

Stewart: From the present day hospital.

Kennedy: No. The present day hospital wasn't thought of. There was another hospital.

Stewart: You moved onto what you called the Cache. Can you explain what the Cache is?

Kennedy: The Cache was where the construction people for the railroad built. They didn't build the houses but the construction company did and a lot of them to various people who worked for the railroad in different capacities. My father got in on it because he was their lawyer.

Stewart: You mentioned families Foley, Welsh and Stewart: Who were they?

Kennedy: They were the Construction Company.

Stewart: Your father worked for them.

Kennedy: He had his own practice but he did their legal work.

Stewart: Where did he make his office?

Kennedy: His first office was on George Street, down at Fourth and George. it burned down. The next one was on Third avenue, near George street. He had several offices at different times. There wasn't a great choice, very few buildings.

Stewart: Two years after you arrived here, the war broke out.

Kennedy: No. The war ended in 1918.

Stewart: Your memory is better than mine, Mrs. Kennedy..

Kennedy: No, the war broke out the year we got here, the fourteenth.

Stewart: That's right. The situation changed soon after you got here.

Kennedy: Yes, wars always do that.

Stewart: Did a lot of people from here leave to join up?

Kennedy: Yes, a great many. The boom days were gone. There wasn't the money for construction. A lot of people who came to make their fortunes went away poorer than when they came.

Stewart: Whet do you remember of your school days in Prince George?

Kennedy: That's a long story. We started out in the old red school, tin building with two classrooms, four grades in each classroom. As the population grew the schools were moved into four cottages which was along Vancouver Street. Each cottage had two grades. We went there first and eventually they had the King George and various other schools. They came along in due time.

Stewart: How did you get to school if you were living down on what is now First Avenue.

Kennedy: Those were the days when people could walk.

Stewart: In the winter you could have skated, skied or snow shoed.

Kennedy: The walking didn't seem like any hardship. Everybody walked. This friend of mine that I used to see came across the Nechako River on his skis in the winter and go to school with us. In the summer he would come in a canoe. He would come as far as our house, then we would all walk to school together. People don't believe that other people walk.

Stewart: Was there much discipline in the schools in those days?

Kennedy: I thought there was a lot. We went to school because we wanted to so there was no need of straps. We liked to go and enjoyed it. I wouldn't say we were all angels, we were far from it. The discipline was much better than what it is now.

Stewart: Did you get a lot of homework?

Kennedy: I can't remember doing any homework but I suppose we did get some. Yes, the War, that is, the First World War affected Prince George badly. The town just sat still for many years. So many people went off to enlist. The only thing that helped was that we had troops here and they lived in the old storage place down at the Foley, Welch and Stewart Camp on the Cache. Well, it was a training camp. The flu epidemic was bad here. There was flu all over Europe after the war. They set up a hospital in Connaught School and my mother nursed there. My older sister, Pat, was very ill, but none of the rest of us were that ill. Holidays? Yes, we celebrated Victoria Day, May 24th I think it was, and I suppose we celebrated in the usual way. We had picnics, swam, parties of us would play. Yes, we swam in the Nechako, from just below the old bridge down to the Fort. I don't think the current was too strong. We weren't really taught how to swim, just found out how to use our arms and legs. I love swimming, always have. No, we didn't have Graduation Balls then, but at one time girls had Coming-Out parties at the old Alexandra Hotel. It was very formal. My older sister had he rComing-Out party there. She was the only one in our family who did. They couldn't afford it for the rest of us. I remember one summer holiday. There were cabins at Six Mile Lake and we went there one year for a week, the whole family and all our supplies for a week. The only way you could get across the Fraser was by ferry. No, the bridge was just a railway bridge then. We had this great big wagon, with two horses and all our groceries. We children had to walk practically all the way. It was our first lake holiday and very exciting.

How did I meet my husband, Harry Kennedy? Well, it was either at a baseball game o, some party. Prince George was a small community then and we knew everyone, either playing in the summer or curling in the winter. Harry's family came out from Manitoba in 1921. They moved for the same reason as our family did. There were great opportunities in Prince George in those days and everyone was coming west. Harry got a job the day after he arrived. Saw an advertisement for an apprentice at the newspaper, "The Leader", and that was the start of his career. Several years later that paper joined with "The Citizen" which was owned by H.G. Perry who was well known in Prince George and our MLA in Victoria. After school, I taught for three years at the King George V School. My other sisters did the things women did in those days. They were nurses or stenos, that sort of thing. Except for my youngest sister, Judy, she was a cab driver. Yes a cab driver. She loved it. Yes, it was unusual in those days, but you must remember there was no violence in Prince George. Not like today. My brother jack studied law and eventually became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of B.C.. He was a fine man and a fine Chief Justice. I married Harry in California. He went to San Mateo in 1927. Better job and he learned the linotype trade. After he left Prince George, I was lonely without him so I went to California and married him. No, none of my family came to the wedding. It would have cost too much for them all to travel down there. We stayed a year and then moved back to Prince George. Shortly afterwards moved to Prince Rupert where my husband got a job with the "Daily News" where we stayed for nine years. I didn't like the rain and the wind, but we had lots of friends and our two sons, Scott and Jack, were born there. Yes, those were the depression years, but we didn't go hungry. Just had to cut down on a lot of things. Harry, thankfully, had a job. In 1939 Harry joined up in the Royal Canadian Artillery. We were back in Prince George, and would you believe it, he was sent back to Prince Rupert. He was in Canada throughout the war. I stayed mostly in Prince George, saw him when he wasn't stationed too far away. Yes, we did have troops again in Prince George. I think they were...  Their camp was where the Exhibition grounds are now. They helped the economy of the town and also a great demand for lumber so the town started to really grow again. After the war ,Harry came back to Prince George and "The Citizen". About three years later he and two others, Cliff Warner and Nestor Izowski bought the paper. It was just a weekly paper then, but they increased that to twice weekly and of course increased the circulation. The paper was on Quebec Street then. I suppose you could call it a family paper, most papers are. Our two sons and the other two owners' sons worked there as paper carriers to start with. I wrote children's stories for the paper. I enjoyed that, I liked writing. No, I didn't collect them into a book; they had been published already in the paper. After about eight years, the paper was sold. Harry stayed on, but the other two owners went to White Rock and Nestor Izowski bought the "White Rock Sun" and I think Cliff Warner worked there too. I don't see them nowadays, but they would call on us when in Prince George. They both had family and friends here. Cliff Warner, in particular" would come up here to see his daughter and grandchildren.His daughter is Bev Christensen,who works at "The Citizen" and has for quite some time. Then Harry's sister, Della, married a Mr. Peckham, and their son, Wilf, worked at "The Citizen" also. Yes,we did play golf. There was just a nine hole course in those days but our real interest was curling. Summers are short here but the winters long and everyone curled.  Yes, I think Harry did win the Kelly Cup once. And, we were Honorary Members of the Golf Club, the present one. That framed picture of the front page of 'The Citizen", dated September 1970 was when Harry retired. There was a picture of Harry and a write-up of his career in the newspaper business. The heading says "Harry Writes 30". Do you know what that means? No, I thought you didn't. To "write 30" means to end something and Harry was ending his career with the paper. It means the end. You "write 30" to a long career as he did. Because he left his work, I mean, the heading says that because newsmen when they write a story, write "30" at the end, it means they have finished that story. I don't know that he actually loved the work, but he certainly didn't dislike it. No, he certainly did not stop working. He was busy. Was Coroner, that was interesting work. The driving habits of this city and district kept him busy. And as  Chairman of the UIC Board, that meant a lot of work also. I live on my own now in the house on Taylor Drive which we built. It was the first house built there. It overlooks the Fraser and yes, I can see the new bridge, but it doesn't worry me. Maybe a bit of noise from the traffic but the trees along the bank hide it a bit. My son, Jack, did live here until two years ago when he was  moved to Edmonton. I have many friends from the old days and family visit from time to time. This weekend I will be meeting my great grandson for the first time.