Interview with Davida Moffat



Interviewer Unknown

Davida Moffat: I was born in Boston, Mass in 1894 and when I was 14 my Dad took a notion he wanted to go west and so we came across to Seattle. But that didn't suit him very much but we landed there. We spent as couple of years there. We came up to Alberta where we homesteaded and I married in Alberta.

Interviewer: What part of Alberta

Davida: Northeast of Edmonton at Radway.

Interviewer: So you went from a warm climate to a cold climate.

Davida: I had never been in a cold climate because Mass is not cold. and is not what we had. We had snow, lots of snow, but not zero weather. I was quite comfortable to get around in. At that time is was street cars and horse and sleighs.

Interviewer: There were no street cars in Alberta

Davida: No not up where we went. We went about 35 miles I guess, more than that, from a railway, and street cars were not around.

Interviewer: So you married there.

Davida: I married there.

Interviewer: What year

Davida: 1913 and in 1915 my son was born.

Interviewer: What's his name

Davida: Ralph. When we came to Prince George, he was 4 and a half years old. That was 1919 when we landed in Prince George. My husband worked at various jobs .

Interviewer: What made you decide to move to PG

Davida: My husband and my dad they wanted to go where two of the neighbours went that were in Alberta. They went to Woodpecker. They wanted to go there. My father did go there. At that time there was no road. He shipped his horses and implements and things like that on the riverboat, and went all the way down. But I never got down there. My husband finally decided he wouldn't go down there. It was just being settled. So he stayed here. He took on various job. He worked on the B and B., the Canadian National Railroad crew, for stuccoing buildings, chimney building, painting, anything to do with the running and the maintenance of the CNR. He worked at that for quite a while. My son went to school and at that time schooling went to Grade Eleven and after that there was no more education in Prince George. If you wanted more learning they had to go to Vancouver and it was during the 1930s and the depression was on. So nobody could afford it to send them. He finished school at 15 and at that time it was hard to get something to do for an 15 year old boy. But he was lucky, He got work down at the pipe plant, where they made the concrete culverts, the big ones. His job was to keep them dampened.

Interviewer: So they could cure.

Davida: Yes, because it was hot.

Davida: So when we came to PG in 1919 it was in November and there was no station here and the train stopped right on George Street. It was 5 o'clock in the morning and we stepped off the train into slush and water. There one hotel and we got it for the night and that day then was Sunday and there were no stores so we has to stay in hotel till the Monday when we could shop.

Interviewer: You started looking for other accommodation.

Davida: We had already got accommodation but our furniture hadn't arrived yet. We lived then up on Moffat Street. We lived in that little house until we found something closer to town. So we got a little place and we had it moved on to Renwick Crescent just straight across from the Elementary school. Very near for the boys to start school. We lived there for a little while and then we got better accommodation on Ross Crescent. That is just across from Duchess Park. Of course, Duchess Park wasn't there at that time.

Interviewer: There were a few elementary school then.

Davida: Yes, the one below the elementary, that was Baron Byng High. It's not there now. That was the high school. I couldn't say exactly how many people lived here then. It was pretty sparse. You got to know practically everybody at that time. There were wooden sidewalks, kind of rickety. The streets were just trails.

Interviewer: There were some buildings and stores in the downtown area.

Davida: There were small stores. There was a store I think it was Reeds store. It was on the way to the City Hall. It faced south directly from just where we stepped off the train. It' was a beautiful site as they had lovely lighting on the City Hall. It was just a small building but it caught your eye.

Interviewer: How did you get the things you needed. Were there catalogues?

Davida: We did shopping through Eatons or Simpsons Sears. There wasn't very much in the line of clothing and it was impossible to rely on them.

Interviewer: There was no variety.

Davida: It seemed that at that time, people didn't suffer any because there was no need for fancy clothes and everybody was in the same boat.

Davida: The Moffats, Harold Moffat and my son went to school together and they finished school together. Neither one of them went on to Vancouver. That was their education. The rest they picked up as they went along. They did very well. Both of them.

Interviewer: You didn't have any more children?

Davida: No.

Interviewer: Were you involved in different things?. In the school?

Davida: No, not at that time. I've been involved in churches. They were small affairs ,just little buildings. The United Church had built a church and I more or less affiliated myself with that church and got involved with the ladies on the rotations and the Sunday School. I worked there for nine and a half years in the Sunday school and the Woman's Auxiliary Missionary Society.

Interviewer: What sort of things did they do.

Davida: We had out meetings as usual. We put on bazaars, dinners, and I can remember Bobby Burns' That was a big event for the Scotch. We used to put on Bobby Burns supper. It used to be so cold we almost freeze to death in the hall where we held it. We had a piper and Hagis and a lunch. Not your favourite thing.

Interviewer: You have to be Scottish to enjoy that.

Davida: I think so. People began to come it. They moved most of the buildings from the Central portion down to Prince George and they moved buildings from South Fort George to Prince George. It started right after we came here. Then eventually it began to be new buildings that were going up.

Interviewer: Did they build roads too.

Davida: Yes slowly. but they were roads, gravel ones. And when we arrived in Prince George there was one car and that was a taxi a Model T Ford.

Interviewer: For the few people who were in a hurry.

Davida: I don't know . I never rode in it. We used shanks mare to go anyplace. There were two big steamers in the Island Cache, pulled up on to the shore.

Interviewer: They weren't being used.

Davida: No. That's why the bridge was built the way it was, to let the boats through. Well, quite long before the Second World the ships were dismantled. The Japanese had bought them. So they came back to us in the war and our men got them.

Interviewer: Men from here specifically?

Davida: Well, Canadians. Our boats were bought by the Japanese to make bullets and shrapnel. My father lived at Woodpecker, the family did, for three years and he put up on his homestead and he came and went out beyond Pineview back in there, and settled there for awhile. I had three brothers and as they got old enough to leave home, they came to me in Prince George and got jobs. So one time I had the three of them.

Interviewer: You had your hands full.

Davida: Yes but mother decided that she wasn't going to stay out there alone, so she came to town and she took the family then. The father came in.

Interviewer: So by that time your house was big enough for everybody.

Davida: No, we moved into another house on corner of Ross. We rented it for a long time and the man didn't want to sell it. It was a new place. I don't know how many years we were there when we finally got word that if we still wanted to buy the house, he would sell so we bought it. We improved it as money would let you, and its still down there. There was news of war in 1939 and my husband having been a soldier, he went to the bridge. The police had charge of that and when  the war came on the steel bridge had to be guarded 24 hours a day and the water tank had to be guarded and all firearms confiscated. They were there till the war finished. My son , by that time, he had married and he worked at the Cariboo Quartz up at Barkerville, Wells, so he enlisted too, from there, along with my youngest brother. My youngest brother he fought in Holland most of the time there and he came home and spent most of his time in and out of Shaunghnessy. My son enlisted in the Grand Air Force. He was mechanically minded, so he was wireless technician and had to repair instruments as the planes came down. And he trained troops from New Zealand in that work. He got his embarkation and came home and went back to where they worked, but the war was over before they got shipped.

Interviewer: That's good.

Davida: Yes, he had a lot of experience. He passed away four years ago. His wife went eight months after he died. So I have a granddaughter here and my grandson lives in Cocquitlam. I haven't seen him since he came up for his mother's funeral. Do you have great grandchildren? I have two great grandchildren. They live in Prince George. Once in a while they visit. They are both busy. They are very musical girls and they did well in the Music Festival. Both of them, the older one, she is now fourteen, and three others, have invitation to sing at Expo.

Interviewer: Do they get this talent from you?

Davida: Well I can't see where they do. I never had the chance.

Davida: When we had the troops here, I don't know how many were here, thousands, from Montreal and all through Ontario, conscripts. They were trained here. Yes. That changed the town. After the war a lot of the men who trained here, came back to settle. They liked it. We had nice times with them.

Interviewer: There were social functions planned in their behalf.

Davida: Oh yes. All churches. At Knox, every Sunday after church we had a social. We baked you know and had some very good times.

Interviewer: It kept you busy

Davida: Yes and during the war anyone with a spare bedroom were asked to register it through the Red Cross.

Interviewer: For the men

Davida: Not for the men, but for their wives. They would stay maybe three or four weeks. They'd come and go at night.

Interviewer: So you had people in your home.

Davida: Yes, always, I was never without. I'm still corresponding with one of the first ones that came. They never forget my birthday. Their name was Rousel. He was a Postman in Toronto and she also worked in the post office. They were exceptionally nice and they belonged to the United Church.

Interviewer: You had a connection.

Davida: Yes, they were good to me too. If there was anything come in, like an entertainer, I was invited. I went with them and ridden in their huge truck. Just with the Rausel's.

Interviewer: There was lots of entertainment.

Davida: The Knights of Columbus, they always put on a dance but we provided the eats, so we were busy one way or another.

Interviewer: How was it getting food supplies?

Davida: We were rationed.

Interviewer: Was that difficult. 

Davida: Well, the Red Cross took over and we were to meet in groups of six to knit or sew or whatever. At meetings you could serve a cookie or cake or bread and butter, but you couldn't serve anymore than one thing. That was understood. Well I tried that. But to me it was a waste of time. You get a group of women together and gossip and they'd forgot what they were supposed to be doing and they weren't accomplishing much. So I went to the head lady of the Red Cross and I told her my difficulties. I said they just sit back and not don't do much. So the Red Cross Lady said would you like to take supplies home. 'Yes', I said, 'I could do far more at home.' You know when you weren't doing anything else you could sew. So that's what I did. I did one group and when that was finished I took that back and did another bunch.

Interviewer: Did you still go to the socials?

Davida: No I dropped out.

Interviewer: That wasn't worthwhile.

Davida: After the close of the war and with everything being straightened out, the head Red Cross woman had a tea for some of us and I had the honour of having made the most individual sewing of anyone in Prince George.

Interviewer: Well that was nice. Did you sew clothes a lot.

Davida: Yes for myself and we were always working for the bazar.


******  There is the sound of the microphone being dropped a nd then no further recording on either side.