Interviewer: Jeanne Anderson
Interviewee: Harold MOFFAT
Date Interviewed: 17 July 2002
Date Transcribed: 26 September 2002
Jeanne Anderson: I'm Jeanne Anderson of the Prince George Oral History group. This afternoon, July 17th, 2002, I'm beginning an interview with Harold Moffat, a long-time resident of Prince George, who will tell us more about his experiences in Prince George.
Harold Moffat: Well, I was born in South Fort George on the banks overlooking the steamboat landing on September 24th, 1915.
My dad had come up from Quesnel, where he was born in 1890. He'd heard quite a bit about Prince George so he came up and got a job in the winter cutting cordwood for twenty-five cents a cord. He fell in love with a girl from Huntington, Quebec, named Emma Cameron, who was a seamstress, and I was an offspring of that mating. My dad worked out of town for a few years on the building of the road from Fraser Lake to Prince George. Then he met a friend who had some hardware background, he had gone to Vancouver and gone to Sprott-Shaw and got some accounting background, so between the two of them they purchased the Northern Lumber Company and turned it into The Northern Hardware.
About 1919, we moved the house and lived in it while they moved it with team and horses to Eighth Avenue, just up from Vancouver Street, and that became our city home. Shortly after that, my mother died at childbirth.... Oh, wait, I've got to back up a bit. In the meantime there was a young girl lost her mother and they adopted my sister, Alice, and then after that my mother died at childbirth and we had Mrs. Henry and a few other ladies looking after us. I went to school at King George V for two years. Then my dad remarried Florence Horwood and he moved to Central Fort George, and our home still remains on Moffat Street. From there on, there was a new arrival about every twelve months until there was ten of us.
We used to commute back and forth between the store downtown and home. My dad had an old car that ran occasionally, and everybody up in Central used to have a ride. We moved to Central Fort George. I went into a two-room school with four grades in each room and went through there to Grade 8 and graduated to go to Baron Byng. That was the year that my dad gave me a bicycle for Christmas so that I could pedal back and forth to Baron Byng. We used to have an hour and a half for lunch then and we used to go home on our bicycles from Baron Byng to Central.
JA: Where was Baron Byng located?
HM: Baron Byng was down by King George V. It became an industrial arts wing of the Prince George Secondary School.
JA: What year would that be?
HM: Well...eight years...fourteen years on...fifteen...would be about 1929. My dad always said that he never had the opportunity to have a high school education, so he said, "You'll have grey hair but you'll still be going to school," he says. "So make up your mind." So there wasn't much left to do but to try and pass your grades. I had a little difficulty with French and Latin. We used to have Latin translation, Latin grammar, French translation, and French grammar. I liked the Latin better than I did the French because the verbs weren't at the back of the sentence. It was a little easier to transpose. But I failed the Latin in my final year and I had to write a supplemental in August, so my dad sent me home from work and said, "You go home and study and pass that exam." Luckily I did, or I'd still probably be going to school!
JA: Do you remember any of the teachers that you had in high school?
HM: Yes. We had Miss Reid, who was a sister to Doc Ewert's wife, and she became Mrs. Hub King. And then we had a real tough principal. I know I wrote, 'The ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??' five hundred times and I think when I quit high school I owed him about four hundred hours of...you know every time you got a mistake, that'll cost you half an hour. If you said, "Yes Sir, but I just..." that'll cost you another hour. Oh, he was a real tough principal. Can't remember his name. [It was A.D. Noble] Then Blair Dixon came in and he was the principal. Chuck Williams and I, when I lived in South Fort George for two or three years, we became fast friends, the Williams boys and I. I remember one time Chuck and I were flipping ties...everybody wore ties that went to school, you know. We were flipping ties and he caught us and pretty near choked me to death, pulling on my tie. Then we had Louella Martin. She was the French teacher. She was a very grim person.
JA: How many schools would they have had in Prince George at that time? KGV...
HM: Just South Fort George and KGV and Central Fort George. But we were outside of the city boundaries. My dad had to pay for us to go to high school downtown. South Fort George was outside the city boundaries. All the kids from there had to contribute to...
JA: You don't remember how much you had to pay?
HM: I think it was $20 a year or something like that. When I got married, I had a little house up on Alward Street and my taxes were $14.15 for two lots. But, on the other hand, all I got was $85 a month to feed a family. That was part of coming up. I remember when I was twelve, my dad was taking stock and he says, "You can write for me." So I came down, it was one Sunday, and wrote. Next day, "We'll go back tonight." My mother was furious because I wasn't doing any homework. But I'd rather be with my dad than be doing homework anyway, so from that day on I was a member of the staff. I used to come down and my dad used to buy mickey bottles and whiskey bottles. In those days we had boiled linseed oil and raw linseed oil and motor oil and turpentine all in barrels, and I used to fill these bottles, put labels on them to say what they were.
JA: That was your first main job then?
HM: That was the main job, was washing whiskey bottles and filling them with fuel. And all our paint came in kegs. I remember there used to be 70/30, and 40/40/20, and Bill Peckham and Dupre used to get the dry ochre, it was in barrels. They talk today about people, you know, getting lung cancer from asbestos. Well, we sold asbestos in the barrel too, but we also sold burnt umber and raw sienna and all those out of the barrel, and that's what they mixed the paint. And all hand-mixed, there was nothing to mix it with... linseed oil and turpentine and the lead. So that was the upbringing of getting to work for the company.
Then in the summertime, I worked all summer. I used to go to Scout Camp, and then I'd work all summer at the store helping out. So every year after that when my brothers and sisters all became twelve, they all came down and helped us with the stocktaking. Now my kids and grandkids are doing the same thing. Twelve years old, they come down and do the counting and whatnot for us. So that's been....
JA: That's their introduction to the business is it?
HM: Introduction to the business.
JA: Where was your store located at that time?
HM: When I first started to work, we were down on George Street in what would now be the Morrison's Men's Wear, only we were on the inside lot. The Sterling Meat Market was on the corner. Then Jake Leith and his brother, Arthur, had the opposition hardware store on the corner of Third and George, which subsequently became Pollard's Dodge Company. We moved over there because it was a bigger store. We moved it all with the wheelbarrows. Norm Radley was working for us and he was the boss of me, and I'd fill up a barrel and take it over and he'd fill his barrel up, take it over. We moved everything with the wheelbarrows and re-stocked the whole store. Then, after that, we moved up to the corner of Third and Quebec where the Brick Building is there now. That was our next move, but we did that all via truck. My dad and Tod Riley... Tod Riley was the engineer on the railroad. He had the National Hotel and he owned that building that we moved into, and they had a gentleman's agreement that my dad would have the first option to buy it if he wanted to sell it. Lo and behold if he didn't die. His wife married some younger guy and the next thing we knew the Hudson's Bay owned it and we got notice to move. But the war was on and you couldn't get materials and whatnot. We already owned the lot next to this old building, the furniture store, so Garvin Dezell built us what is the addition and we joined the two of them up and made one floor. The upper part of this store was all apartments. A lot of the elite of the town lived here. Then my brothers and I tore it all out and made the furniture floor upstairs. We buried all the stuff in the back parking lot way back there. That's why you see it sinking all the time.
I notice you were looking at the picture of Mr. Diefenbaker. This was my dad's room where he and his pals played solo every Thursday and Saturday night. There's a big picture of the honorable Diefenbaker on the wall. And I was telling her that they became very fast friends because Diefenbaker came over and asked my dad if he'd go bail for the young fellow that he was defending on a train wreck out in Blue River country. And he did, and so he was over pretty near every day to report on proceedings, and I remember we were getting all kinds of forms to fill out and they were bothering my dad. Dad rolled them all up and sent them to Mr. Diefenbaker and told him... he said, "You know," he says, "I haven't got time to be filling out this stuff that nobody will pay any attention to." He says, "I'm trying to pay my income tax." We never did get any more forms after that. That was from the top down.
Oh yeah, there was a lot of fine people that spent their time here in this little room playing cards: Billy Fraser, he was the City Clerk; August Dornbierer, he was the Fire Chief; Vic Morgan owned Morgan's Garage; and G.B. Williams had the big grocery store in town. They met here every Thursday and Saturday and played solo, which...
JA: What is solo?
HM: Well, solo is a Klondike game. Four people do the bidding, but just three people play it and the guy that sits out, he gets paid if the bidder loses. So there was always money on the table and they bragged about all the money they made all the time, which wasn't very heavy at today's ??
JA: This was Prince George's first casino, was it?
HM: Yeah. [laughter] That reminds me of another. Jimmy Wilson, who was a contractor, and Ivor Killy, sawmill owner, and Bob Madill, the chiropractor, and myself, used to play golf every Thursday night out at the golf course. We used to play for five, five and five. Bob Cleland subbed one night and he asked what we played for. Killy says, "Five, five and five." So poor old Cleland said, "My gosh. I haven't got five dollars let alone five, five and five." So he just played terrific and trimmed us all. Got into the little shack where the winner always bought the coke and the chocolate bar and Killy says to me, he says, "You owe Bob thirty-five cents." We used to rattle those nickels around in our pockets every time we saw one of our opponents. So he was quite relieved when it was a nickel instead of a five-dollar bill. That was part of growing up here.
We used to spend... As a kid, being good friends of the Williams, I spent a lot of time with them out at West Lake. We used to go out there in the wintertime. We skied out from town and spent our holidays out there. I remember Mrs. Williams telling us, "Now be careful you don't get constipated." So we were checking it and we weren't going very good towards the end so we looked for something. We found some dog pills. Man Oh Man, there was a yellow trail I'm telling you, all out to the outhouse there because they sure worked. We got cleaned out with the dog pills. Yeah, I had some tremendous times.
JA: Did you have cabins out there or....?
HM: Yeah, they had a cabin. Yeah, we used to sleep in the back. Had bunks in the back. That's now the park out there. That was their place where the park is. Ted and Chuck both built homes out there. Ted didn't live there but Chuck lived there permanently for a long, long time. They were great, great friends.
And Dunc Munro. Dunc used to live in what we called the Burden House up in Central Fort George. He and I used to come down after school and set up kitchen chairs in the basement. Dad used to pay us five cents a chair for gluing them together. We thought that was pretty good. Of course when I started at the store I got five dollars a week and board, and I put money in the bank so I could buy a house when I got married.
JA: What size of City are you talking about in the '40s and '50s, what size the City would be...?
HM: I would say just before the war, the Second War, we were about 2,700 people and they brought in about 5,000 troops here so they pretty well took over everything that moved in town, you know. We made some great friendships with people we befriended because they had no place to go, and they'd come to our house and listen to the radio and whatnot. They were in tents out at the fall fairgrounds. I guess when the boys left we were probably a lot less numbers than that. But after the war and the boys got their moneys and they built a bunch of homes for them out of the lumber that they took out of the barracks and built a bunch of houses. They're all up there on Alward Street and there's a bunch of them up in the Miller Addition. With that money, a lot of them started in the logging industry and then Prince George started to pick up and grow.
JA: These were the soldiers that had been stationed here?
HM: No, it was soldiers that came back.
JA: Oh, came back?
HM: Yeah, fellows that went out. I think Walter Crocker was the sergeant, and the first volunteers went out to Prince Rupert. Chuck Williams and Keith Yorston and all those chaps, they went out to Rupert. They were on guarding the port. Then after the war they came back and most of them got a grant from the government and that picked up the economy considerably. That was the start of our growth and we doubled our population about every ten years until about 1970, I think, when I became Mayor. That's the....and then, you know, the boundaries expanded.
That was one of the... I was quite active in the Junior Chamber of Commerce. In fact Prince George was, I think, the first Junior Chamber of Commerce. There was a Young Men's Club in, I think it was Winnipeg, and it did become the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The senior board were all pretty old people and so we kind of took over. We'd have big celebrations on July 1st and have baseball games and races, and had a midway. We used to gamble. We made about $10,000, which is a lot of money in those days. Then, of course, we were the donor to many, many, many good things that happened in town. We sort of became the force behind moving the City forward, such as bringing in the CMHC to help people get mortgages to build homes. When we did that, I built a home, got Garvin Dezell to do it for me, a thousand square feet and I paid $8,900.
JA: Where was this one located?
HM: Where I am now, on Laurier Crescent. Awhile back I had a new roof put on, and I paid them half the price I paid for the house to get a new roof. In the midst of all this...Ian Patterson had been the Mayor and been a very frugal, hard working Mayor. Taxes were low and the young people thought it was time that we got some younger blood on the city council. So we adjourned, the Chamber of Commerce wasn't supposed to become a political influence, so we adjourned the meeting and I remember Doc Hawking was on the school board. So he says, "I would run for council if you'll consent to run for school trustee." So that was the deal and we both were elected. And just at that time the school board of the day was contemplating building a six-room secondary school to replace Baron Byng because the industrial arts of Baron Byng was up in the Connaught School, which subsequently burnt down.
Anyway, just about that time, Hub King's dad was the superintendent of the schools for the province and A.M. Patterson was fighting this proposal that we build a bigger school than six rooms. We didn't have an auditorium or anything here to play basketball. We used to play basketball on a sloping floor in the Princess Theatre and over in the CCF Hall. We used to have a hole cut in the roof so you could shoot from a distance. Anyway, we were having trouble getting this through and Hub King's dad came up. Harold Stafford got him to come. We had a meeting and first thing we introduced them and both were from the same county in Ontario. Well Sir, everything that old Hub King's dad proposed which was in line with what we wanted, old Patterson backed 'er, so we got what was the high school built.
I'll never forget about the same time out came the Cameron Report. He came up and visited us all and that's what widened the school district out into all the rural areas. So Man, we were busy people in those days. We had to go out to every school, rural school, and tell them all that was going on and what-not, make sure that they understood what the amalgamation was all about. About that same time, Harold Stafford made a survey of the kids that were coming to town for high school, outside of the City. They found that there was an awful lot of them that didn't come and those that did come were pretty well slaves of the people they lived with, you know. So that's when Williston and a few of the rest of us decided we'd take some army buildings and build a dormitory.
JA: Was Williston then the principal of the high school?
HM: Yeah, he was the high school principal. And out of the Cameron Report...I've brought it...I've wrote on the back of it, 'There's going to be need for an overall principal for all the schools.' The government fought that for a long time but we gave them all those powers to look after all the rural schools we could think of, and he became a supervising principal, but the government wouldn't recognize it.
JA: Prince George must have been leading the way then because dormitories were not a common thing, neither was a supervising principal. I remember that. I mean everybody just raised their eyebrows -- what's he going to do?
HM: Yeah. Yeah. But anyway, well you had to have somebody that could coordinate the happenings in all places, you know. I remember up on Cranbrook Hill there was a teacher...something happened to the teacher, the kids didn't have any, and Williston took a boy out of high school there and sent him up there. Next thing you know, years later he's a principal in the Fraser Valley, you know, and he'd never have got that chance without having somebody there to guide them, you know.
JA: I remember him well because I had dropped out of teaching at that time. I was one evening painting our door out in Giscome and he paid his visit to us and asked if I would go back teaching because he had a nasty job to do over at the school.
HM: Uhh huh.
JA: He didn't want to do the nasty job unless he had somebody that would take over. So I said, "Well, I guess I could do that, temporarily." That was 1952. So he went, the next day I guess, and did his nasty job and I went to work again and stayed there. He was a good organizer.
HM: Yeah, and I always remember him talking about all the modern trends and the "goods and the bads". And he said, "That Anderson girl out at Giscome and Fanny Kinney in South Fort George, picks the best of both sides." [laughter] he sort of used you as models of what to do out of the new regime that was taking place, you know. So it was...
JA: I guess at that time we were younger and more adaptable.
HM: That's right. Well, yeah. And had the experience to know what was the best of both worlds.
That was my first advent into civic politics. I stayed there until... Well, we started Grade 13 as an outlet for kids to go to get another year's...first year of university. I remember my sister graduated, and she went. Roy Stibbs was the superintendent. He was very sick and we went down and said, "We've got thirteen names for Grade 13," and we really didn't have it, but we put in a name or two. My sister took that course. It was up on the stage at the high school; that was their classroom. And how are you doing? "Well how couldn't you do," she said, "there's your teacher sitting right there beside you, Mr. Beech, giving you the math course, you know, and there's the other guy." It was just around a big table, you know. So I always had the feeling that we could grow from that, and that's when we...we always called it Grade 13, and that's when the idea sprung that maybe we should have a university here.
But on the other hand, we had all these kids that were really adept in all the mechanical fields and all that, industrial arts and whatnot. There was no place for them to go to get a degree or get recognized as being capable of doing auto mechanics, or whatever. We then went to battle for a vocational school, hoping that that vocational school would graduate vocational people and that the high school would graduate academic people. We were most happy to get Phil MacGregor as the principal of the industrial arts school because he had been here as an instructor in the industrial arts field and turned Baron Byng into a school. And he was a vice-principal of a high school, and a principal of an elementary school, and he knew all the fields. But he was entrenched by the chap in Victoria that appointed them, and we never made any headway of melding the academic and the deal until we formed the College of New Caledonia. That started us off to melding the two together. I can't remember the principal we got. We brought in a German chap. But we made strides anyway and we now have the College of New Caledonia and it should be the University of Northern British Columbia, there shouldn't be the two of them. It should be under all one roof, I think. There was those academic types that thought they knew more about what we should have than the practical types. But we made strides.
Anyway, we had a referendum on spending money to set up this College of New Caledonia, and every other area around, like Quesnel and all the rest of them, all voted for 'em but Prince George didn't. So that's when I resigned as a school trustee and decided to run for Mayor, to get 'er on course. I remember there was.... It was a sad day. We had a meeting. I said, "Well, you know, we didn't get the money to build the buildings but we didn't get refused either on being able to rent buildings." So that's when we moved in a whole bunch of trailers and whatnot on the high school site and set up our college. So that was the beginning. From there I ran for Mayor, which was a new experience. I enjoyed that. It was a change of government. We were under the NDP and we were having quite a bit of problems with development going on outside our boundaries that were not going to be in line with the overall plan. And there was no plan for the areas outside the boundaries so he proposed that we expand our boundaries. [tape cuts out] I think in Nanaimo and ourselves, and then we went into a big campaign to sell it. We lost a few places but, on the whole, we gained the Hart and South Fort George and the southern boundary down to the Blackwater turnoff, which allowed us then to bring in a plan that could synchronize with overall development, you know.
JA: It looks like we're almost back into the same thing again, doesn't it?
HM: Yeah, it is. We've lost what we gained, basically, in those days, because we're back now to developing outside the boundaries of the old City but I guess that's what life is all about, competition is the essence of progress I guess. But that was one of the big deals and we had to fight a couple of mayoral races in between. I think I had more elections than any other Mayor, because when we expanded a boundary we had to have an election. So that was one of the big things.
Another thing that I was quite proud of was that as a city we owned most of the land that the provincial government we had, and we developed it and kept the lot prices within reason or more than within reason I would think. We should have built up quite a large surplus in that particular area. I don't know whatever happened to the money. Maybe that's where all the money for the multiplex and the civic centre and all those places came from. But it was something that I was quite proud of, our price of lots.
JA: I remember about that time we lived out in Giscome. We bought two lots up somewhere off Fifteenth for about $75 apiece.
HM: Yeah, that's right. I remember when I bought my lots about 1948. I was quite upset because my brother bought two lots just a block up the street from me and they were $50 apiece and they raised mine to $75 apiece. That's about all I can think of really was that... But we spent a lot of time in redeveloping bylaws and planning areas. Also in about the middle of that, the land freeze came on. We spent quite a bit of time holding hearings on the various farm areas, you know, that went into the agricultural land reserve. All in all, it was great. I don't know what the Mayor does to support the salary that he gets because I felt more than adequately paid for the time I put in at the office there for about a tenth of what he gets.
JA: I don't know what it is. I haven't been involved in that one.
HM: I think about $80,000. And we used to get 8 [thousand dollars]. That's about what it was worth.
JA: ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? [inaudible] I feel that overall the administrative section seems to get the most. I know with the schools and with the City they have more....
HM: More administrators than they got bodies, you know. Yeah, I can remember on the school board when we used to hire helping teachers. The next thing you know that's become an area that's got a whole raft of people managing it and the teachers nowadays, at this time anyway, are all supposed to come out well-qualified to teach. All we had the helping teachers for was to help the guys that wanted to learn to teach, you know. It's the same with City Hall. There's ten people for every job that should be there.
JA: I think that's going to hit the crunch now, isn't it? Just getting a little out of hand, and away out of hand, and everybody complains.
HM: Yep. Oh, I think right now we're in bad trouble with management. The high price. See that woman was making 2.2 million dollars for the Ontario Hydro and had a $317,000 car allowance, and God knows whatnot, and they canned her and gave her $150,000 a year severance pay. You know, that's terrible. But probably every other hydro authority is using them as an example of what they should be paying their people, and none of them should be getting that kind of money.
Where do we go from here now?
JA: Well, there's one thing that I'm interested in is your dealing with horses. I know you've been into horses for quite some time and you mentioned one day that you were out exercising your horses, so...
HM: Oh, yes.
JA: How did you get into horses?
HM: Well, it's a long story. My dad, Martin Caine, Garvin Dezell, Tommy Richardson, and three or four other people, used to put on an exhibition and there was always horse racing. They finally decided that everybody else was coming in and taking all the prizes and there was no horses from Prince George, so they bought two thoroughbred horses in Vancouver, a couple of plainers, and brought them up here and proceeded to race them. But my dad, he was a judge at the races, and as a judge you couldn't own a horse. So he turned that share over to me but he kept paying off all the debt on it, you know, which wasn't too bad. All I did was go out there once in awhile and help old Martin Caine exercise it, and trim it's feet, and feed it when he wasn't there. Pretty soon the rest of the guys got sick and tired of paying their dues and they gradually dropped out, and so Martin Caine and I ended up with a mare and a gelding.
We used to go to Quesnel for the Labour Day and Williams Lake for the Stampede and try and race this horse but they were over the hill. Anyway, while I was out there feeding and looking after this horse I met a chap by the name of Stu Woods from Prince Edward Island. We had this colt that we were breaking and he had splints and Stu said, "Well, I'll give you a hand with your horses if you'll give me a hand with mine." Well, that's better than what I was doing. So, anyway, I started to jog these "standard-breds" and that's how I got involved. I made...built a track out at the farm because the track in town was pretty terrible, and it was all clay out there at the farm, and I've been raising horses and training them ever since. I remember reading, when I started, about these old fellows in their obituary 'having one good horse.' I thought there's no way that can happen. Well, I had two good ones, both at the same time, and that's been about all I've had too. I ?? part way from having them in an obituary.
But it's been something to do every day. You have to go out and feed 'em, train 'em, hoping that you get a good one. I've got two now that look promising but I've never made any forecasts on any of 'em, because when I did, they were about the first ones to go lame.
JA: Where is your farm?
HM: Gordon Bryant.... L.C. Gunn was one of the pioneers here, you know the L.C. Gunn Park? He was a surveyor and a road engineer, and his wife died and he had this farm out there. It's one of the first agricultural farms in the area. Gordon Bryant was a realtor, and old L.C. was trying to sell this farm, so finally he talked my dad into buying it. My dad kind of liked...you know, he'd been raised on a farm, so the next thing you know we owned the farm. My dad went north to Fort St. John and bought ten pregnant, purebred Black Angus cattle, so that sprung a deal. Mrs. Woodward, down on Vancouver Island, was raising Angus, so he went to her and got a bull, so we were in the business. There's a chap had an adjoining piece of property and Martin Caine was keeping a horse there. My dad thought, 'Well, no, I can't go into partnership with Martin,' so he bought the deal. I remember him coming up. He says, "You all think I'm crazy but I went out and gave Weaver the money for that farm out there." He says, "Some day you'll think it's all right." So at least it's been a haven for me, anyway, since, to raise horses. Dumbest thing I ever did but....
JA: Are you still in the cattle business too?
HM: No. No, we got out of that. The auditors showed that we did... We had a caretaker there, old John Hansen. We weren't paying him that much, he was on the payroll. But the auditors showed, I think, that we got up to seventy-four head and we thought we had a big year, and we made $740. That's the year that we sold them all to Chris Winthers and we went out of the cattle business. We thought we were going to make a lot of money, which we never did.
It's pretty sad right now to see all those people on the prairies selling off all their cattle because they have no feed for them. That was one thing we did, we had lots of feed, but it was too much work for the amount of money that's in it. The new bailing equipment and whatnot might be better but we were in the old-fashioned, putting up square bales, you know.
JA: You're always subject to the market, too, and in the spring it could be good and in the fall ...
HM: Oh yeah. Well, I remember we used to ship to Williams Lake. We left it to a chap out here that was trucking. He'd come in and he'd say, "Well," he said, "they got a good price for cattle this week. I think you ought to ship." And the next week we'd ship, and that'd be the time the price went down, you know. But it's been something to do and keep you exercised.
JA: Yeah, you keep your interests up and what the rest of the world might be trying to do too.
JA: I don't think there's very much cattle in this area now, is there?
HM: Oh, yeah. There's quite a few cattle. Yeah.
JA: Out Vanderhoof way.
HM: Yeah. Well, there's quite a few around here. Smaller bits, you know, there's no big ranches anymore. Chris Winthers had about the biggest ranch, and he's deceased now and there's nobody on it at all.
JA: Do you still...do you race your horses?
HM: Oh yeah. I still send them... If I get them to go fast enough, I send them to Cloverdale. There's a chap down there that trains them for me and races them. Just lost one last week out in Edmonton, we went to Edmonton and she got claimed on me. So I'm out of it now until I get these two going next year.
JA: What does that mean, claimed?
HM: Well, it's a selling race. You know after they've gone up so far, they can't go any faster, well then you pretty well have to...if you want to win a purse you got to put them into what they call a selling race and you sell the horse.
JA: For the store business, you're still working here?
HM: Oh yes. I got nothing much else to do other than come to work, when I come. My son, he purchased my brother's and my shares, and he's got... My grandsons and a granddaughter are all working here. There's about four of them. My old dad would be quite happy to know that it was still feeding some of the Moffats because that was always his ambition.
JA: What size staff do you have here?
HM: I think we're at about fifty-two, you know between the wholesale and the repair shop and the store here.
JA: So you are a fairly large employer.
HM: Oh yes. Yeah. We have been... This particular corner that we're on has been the highest assessed corner, tax-wise, in the City. Everything radiated out from here.
JA: What do you think of the present downtown redevelopment deal?
HM: I think it's really sad. That was one of the things, as Mayor, I never mentioned is that I promoted the canopies because everybody seemed to appreciate the ones we had around our store. I think it's real sad that they couldn't have beautified the canopies instead of tearing them down, and I don't think that.... You know they could have changed the traffic pattern and not held everything up, you know. The sooner they do away with the parking meters the better because there's nobody down here anyway to park so that's just a bill of expense to operate that area. If they are going to operate it, they ought to charge every vacant parking place the same amount of money they collect from people downtown and then they'd have some money. But it's a sad day. I don't see, with Wal-Mart moving in, and if Home Depot take over the Pine Valley Golf Course [corrects himself] or the Pine Valley Driving Range, that there'll be any real revitalization. What they should have done is cleaned out the area east of Queensway, the City bought all the land and told Wal-Mart that's where you put your building. And Home Depot. The City owns a great portion of that land already, and you take the streets and the yards down there and the whole deal. It's right on the main artery. All they'd had to do was widen the road from Knapp's farm down there right into town, a four-lane highway all the way, and people would have had a better idea of what the town looked like coming down that Six Mile Lake hill. But nobody seems to have any up and go. I proposed it several times to various aldermen but they all go by what the powers-that-be in City Hall decide.
JA: It seems that, you know, a lot of the ones that go into city politics don't have the knowledge behind them that...
HM: Not any one of them ever once had to go to the bank and plead for some money and go down and tell them why you didn't make enough to meet your promise, you know. None of them ever had to do that. They have no idea of ??? because they never ran a business.
JA: Well, I think our provincial government shows signs of the same thing. They have no idea of what....
HM: Oh, absolutely. People that were....of what's going on. You know our provincial government is... I see the other day they're talking about turning some of the hydro work over to some outfit in Bermuda. Well anybody that headquarters in Bermuda doesn't pay any income tax to any government, you know. My God. I'm going to write a letter to [Pat] Bell about that. But it doesn't do you any good to write Bell. I once delivered a personal letter to him. I never got a reply back.
JA: Do you have any views on the current school situation?
HM: Well, I don't know. It kind of makes me wonder what was going on if there is those vacancies and that drop, reduction, and nothing was being done until the government sort of forced their hand and said, "You're not getting as much money as you had," you know. I think there's lack of, I wouldn't say understanding. Nobody went in and checked 'er out, you know.
JA: Yeah. Well, I was going to say the administration, the main ??? seems to be most of the time is to keep MY job. And to keep my job you have to keep everybody else's ?? ??
HM: Else's job. Yeah.
JA: And I know you wouldn't get very far in business if you...
HM: That's right, if you had to manage that way. No, it's pretty sad, isn't it? I would think that the trustees will have a hard time getting elected when the deal's all sorted out because I think they've been neglectful in their....
JA: Well, here too now they're going to do away with all...I don't know what you would call it, supervision, and the schools are going to be run by parent committees and one teacher, two parents and one ?? ??. I haven't dealt with parents for a long time and I can imagine what will happen.
HM: Yeah. Well, there's the vocal ones, you know, that do all the talking and have no interest other than just their own personal interests, and that's not good for all the other kids that are in the classroom.
I think the City's been run by people that are looking to make a name for themselves as being a provider of services. They forget about the fact that the main deal is that people running over all the potholes and all the streets and that, you know, the program of blacktopping the alleys all went down the drain because they needed soccer fields or a multiplex or the Hart Centre, you know. You don't get any recognition for filling the potholes, you know, building the street. That's where we're suffering. They'd never spend a nickel on refurbishing, probably because you don't get the just reward. You know, they say "I was mayor. We did this or that."