Interview with Noreen Rustad
history of Prince George continues to emerge through the work of
students and the dedicated group of staff and volunteers at the Prince
Oral History Club. In order for the Oral History Club
to exist, there must be candidates who are willing to participate and
their histories. I am grateful to
Noreen Rustad for allowing me to come into her home and to record her
history. Her commitment to her family
and the community of Prince George is truly inspirational. Her openness
sense of humour made my time with her a wonderfully enjoyable
experience. Thank you Noreen.
with the person to interview
are the dedicated people who volunteer their time to transcribe our
and assist in putting the final transcription together.
Special thanks to Kathy Plett, at CNC, who
so graciously offers her time to index our transcriptions.
An index is a key element to saving time when
doing historical research. Thanks to
Ernie Kaesmodel f or
taking the time to share his knowledge on the ‘art’ of Oral History.
transcription could not have
been completed without the
help from Elaine Hauck. Her support,
knowledge and patience have been a key factor in the successful
Thank you Elaine!
October 1, 2004
Denise: This is Denise Trick, with the Prince George Oral History Club,
and I’m interviewing Noreen Rustad.
Denise: So, we’ll
just start with some biographical information. What year were you
Noreen: 1940. I was born in Kamloops, but my family was in
the process moving from Wells to Quesnel. So, I spent the first
six years oflife in Quesnel. And then in 1946, the family moved
here toPrince George.
Noreen: Lived here all that
Denise: Do you have any memories of Quesnel,
or a lot of memories of Quesnel?
Noreen: I have very few memories of
Quesnel, but one is when I broke myarm.
Denise: Oh, did
Noreen: (Laughter) Yes, playing, swinging around a drainpipe that
went down the side of a house. And there was window well beside
it,and I fell into the window well. And ended up with a broken arm.So I
have a big recollection of getting all the plaster cast on and getting
the thing x-rayed, and all those kinds of things. It wasn’t very
serious, that’s the only part of it I remember. But it was sore
until I got to the hospital, when they, you know, taped it up.
Denise: Yeah, you remember the scary things.
Noreen: Yeah, exactly, but I
really don’t remember anything else. My grandparents, my dad’s
parents also lived in Quesnel at that timebecause my dad’s family
worked together. Like he and his dad had a construction
Noreen: House construction business.
and what were your parents’ names?
Noreen: Dezell. Bea Dezell, Bea and
Garvin Dezell. The construction Company was J N Dezell and
Son. And because it was J N Dezell, and when I was born my
intials needed to be J N Dezell.So my name is actually Jean Noreen
Dezell, but Noreen is what I’m called and that was always the
intention, so it’s one of these annoying little things in your life
when ever you fill out an official form, it has to be backwards from
what you’re used to, you know. Or people, you know, look at an official
form then call you Jean and you don’t know your talking, who they’re
talking about but.
Denise: You don’t answer them.
Noreen: Do I answer to
Denise: That’s funny.
Noreen: So that’s how that, that’s how that
came about. So, no I don’t have any other recollections. My
brother went to school there, so he would have.
Denise: He’s a little bit
older than you?
Noreen: He’s six years older than me.
course he’d have more memories then.
Noreen: Yeah, so he’d have some
interesting school things, but, I came, we came here, we were just
building a house on McBride Crescent, so we had a travel trailer that
Dad used to live in when he worked on construction sites. And so
we lived in that for a while, while they worked on the house. And then
we moved in that fall. But it was very unfinished. So I remember
sleeping in the kitchen the first year, because the upstairs bedrooms
were not finished yet. And the house was heated by sawdust burner, so
those are, like, it’s a furnace. It’s a furnace that has a big
hopper beside it that you put sawdust in. And in those days,
because of all the mills, there was lots of sawdust around. So,
half the basement was filled with sawdust in the fall to be used to
fuel the heater, or the furnace. And the hopper, it would all
come down to a very narrow bottom, and then that’s where the burning
would take place. But occasionally, especially part way through
the winter, when you had run out of sawdust and you had to get new
stuff, and it was cold and there was frost in it, the stuff [sawdust]
would hang up in the hopper, and then it would quit. The furnace
would quit. So this is like, not something that worried me,
because I just burrowed down under a couple more quilts, but my poor
parents would have to get, restart the furnace. These would be
cold, cold winter days that it would happen. And so they’d be up
scrambling around trying to get this thing going, muttering about
the….But it was, was cheap, a very economic way of heating the
houses. And it was forced air. It was, like it just, it worked
very well, when it worked.
Denise: So, it wasn’t just like a fire pit, it
Noreen: It was a big furnace with pipes going to the rest of the
house, to warm it. And, and initially when Mom first came here,
she had a sawdust burner attached on the side of her stove too, I
think. A wood stove, with a sawdust burner on the side.
You’d have to ask her a bit more about that. I only have a vague
recollection of that. After about a year, the house was finished,
and then I had a bedroom upstairs.
Denise: So, you slept in the kitchen
for a year?
Noreen: Yeah, yeah, well because it was warmer.
(Laughter) That’s why, because the house was unfinished. Took
quite a while to totally finish the house, because it was just after
the war years, and it was hard to get some materials. And I
remember Dad saved bits and pieces of hardwood flooring for quite a
while until he had enough to be able to finish the floor in the front
Denise: Ohh, so, from his other construction jobs?
Noreen: I guess,
or just as it became available, and he could buy
Denise: Okay. Piecing a house
Noreen: Yeah, so, that was on McBride Crescent, and
so, that’s, we, we didn’t move from there. That’s where I spent
all my school years. Till I, till I left home and got married, in that
house so. And it was reasonably close to downtown, so I remember
walking downtown with my mom to get groceries, although it certainly
was a chore, to get the groceries downtown, because the stores were all
closer to George Street then, you know, the grocery stores. And,
then walk home with the stuff. Mom had a car, but not
initially. She didn’t have a car when we first came here. She
started working in the family business, my grandfather retired when I
was about twelve, I guess, and then my mom went to work. To do
the books and that sort of stuff. And, during that time, then it
was my job to make the meals. And so, I didn’t initially know how
to cook, so I laughingly say to people, “I learned how to cook over the
phone,” because, Mom would be at work. But because it was our own
business, it was not an imposition, you know, to phone her at
work. And so, I’d phone her and say, “How do you cook pork chops,
and what do I do about this?” and all this kind of stuff. So, I
could cook full meals by the time I was fourteen. To start with I
just got the vegetables ready and she’d come home and do the
meat. But then eventually I was doing all the
Noreen: So, it was, it didn’t seem like that much of a
hardship for me. It was, it was kind of nice to be that
independent. All my friends were going home to parents at home,
because it was unusual for moms to be working in those days. But,
I though it was kind of neat to just be able to come home and, you
know, it was like my own domain. I wasn’t being told what to do
by my mother until she came home at 5:00. (Laughter)
Whenever she came home from work. On the weekend though, she
always cooked a fancy Sunday night dinner, you know the roast beef and
like that, but yeah. So, unlike a lot of my friends, who when
they were married, didn’t know how to cook, it was simple for me
because I’d already done it. The Home Ec. Classes in school were
absolutely a cinch, because I could do that. And besides, my mom
taught me how to sew. So that was kind of my favorite thing in
Denise: Oh, oh, okay.
Noreen: To do that sort of stuff. We
wandered around as kids, you know, we had so much more freedom than
children have now. Through the summer, you just would play all
day and show up at suppertime. There were trails that you could
walk from where we were, to the downtown. They called them the
back trails. It was kind of on the edge of the hill behind where
the Dairy Queen is over there and that, oh, those ones on the side of
Third Avenue, what else, like across from Books on
Noreen: The far side of the street, but it was all
bush of course, up there.
Denise: Where the government buildings
Noreen: Trails, yeah, trails would go around. And we’d just
wander around where ever we felt. Wandered over to the school
grounds. There were usually enough kids there to have a pick up
game of baseball, or softball, or something like that. But, just,
such freedom, you know. My own kids had more freedom than their
kids have, the kids today. We had a house up by Connaught School,
and the kids would play. They’d always be sort of within where I
could call them, and I knew where they were, but still, they would just
go out and play.
Noreen: You know, play, sliding on the hills
in the winter or, you know, whatever.
Denise: It’s different
Noreen: It’s very different. And I don’t know [why], because,
more people. We didn’t lock our house, we never locked the door
on our house. So after I got married, we lived right on the same block
as, as, all our parents. You see, I married the boy next
door. So our first house, and then there was an empty lot, which
is where my mom’s duplex is now, then there was a little house that the
Kaphans stayed in. Then there was Jim’s house, his parents
house. So, then there was another house, and then, his parents
owned another smaller house just down the road, which they gave to us
as a wedding present. So there we were, like, my parents, his
parents, our house, and across the street was his aunt and uncle.
(Laughter) So, we had to make a real stand to be independent.
(Laughter) Especially after we had our kids and the grandparents would
like, they’d be dropping in and out. And I’d say, “Okay, if those
kids are sleeping, nobody’s waking them up. You know, “You come back
another time.” (Laughter)
Denise: (Laughter) That’s good. That must
have been a blessing, though, too.
Noreen: Oh it was wonderful to have
the grandparents so close. And they, my mom would look after the
kids. We didn’t get them to baby-sit on a sort of, day-to-day
basis, but if we wanted to go away on holidays, they’d come in and look
after them. So, yeah, yeah. And because of that, my mom
spending the time with my kids, they’re all really close
Noreen: And they’re doing a lot of things for her.
Because they, you know, feel really comfortable with her.
Noreen: Enjoy her company and, yeah, it’s very
Denise: When I talked to your mom, there’s a strong sense of
real family, very bonded. It’s great.
Noreen: Yeah, they’ve sort of
come along with her as she’s had these, you know, difficulties with her
sight and her hearing and everything, and they understand how to help
her without being too overpowering. You know?
Denise: That’s very
Noreen: Some people will just want to do everything for her,
and she’ll say, “No, no, no, if I need help, I’ll ask for it.”
But, they’re trying to be helpful, but people can lose their
independence so easily that…yeah.
Denise: Yeah, that’s right.
then I started school here, at KGV. King George the Fifth.
Spent my first six years in there. I remember, it had a big
basement, and this was a treat to be able to stay in at recess and play
in the basement. And you could do that if the weather was
bad. It was really cold in the wintertime, or, you know, if it
was really raining, or something like that. I think they had,
probably boilers and things, whatever, whatever heated the building,
but. You could at least stay inside. So that was always
kind of fun, to be able to do that, as oppose to get forced to go
outside, you know for recess. (Chuckle) Wear off the energy; I
understand it from a parent’s point of view. I didn’t understand
it from a kid’s point of view. It’s like, “Oh, they don’t want us
in here,” you know. So, all I remember about school. The
first class I was in, I was in a grade split,grade one-two class.
My, and I was brought to be a very polite little girl, and so I wasn’t
very assertive. And, so, a couple of these big boys, from the
grade two class, were picking on me. So, I came home, whining to
my mom, and said, “Those boys are picking on me.” And, my mom
said, “You’ve got to go to school for a long time, so you’d just better
learn to stand up for yourself.” So, I went back to school, that
next day, hit one of the boys over the head with a book.
(Laughter) I was in trouble with the teacher, but I did what my
mom told me to do. (Laughter)So, my mom laughed and said, “What
happened to that nice quiet little girl that I was trying to bring up?”
(Laughter). You know, because, that was the beginning of look out for
yourself. You know, if you don’t nobody else will, in as polite a
way as you can. There was a kid that chased me home from school
too. Big hulking guy, and my brother, who was six years older,
although, he’s not a big strong tough guy, he was six years older, so
he was bigger. So, he went and threatened this kid, and then he
left me alone. So, you know, bullying is nothing
Noreen: It was, it’s probably, I don’t know, it maybe
was as harmful then, it was something, that we realized was part of
life, so you had to deal with it.
Noreen: So, I say the same
thing to my, to my son, who has two really polite kids. I say,
“Sometimes you have to give them permission to stand up for
Noreen: You know, you can be too
polite. You can be too kind and too unassertive and, you
know. ‘Cause there are bullies out there, and there always
are. Yeah, bullies, I think if you stand up to them, they’re
Denise: Right, yeah.
Noreen: But, but you can’t, you
can’t run away from them.
Denise: So, what happened with the
Noreen: So, that was an early thing. Oh, the boy, he never
bothered me again after my brother harassed him, so I don’t know.
Denise: What about the boy that you hit with the
Noreen: Oh, that was just, that was just one of many.
Noreen: When I learned to stand up for
myself. And the thing is, is I was little. I always have
been little, you see. So it’s easy to get picked on. So,
no, never after that. That was just like, that was sort of a
transition that was kind of a, was kind of like open my eyes to the way
the world works, you know. Because when you’re, when you’re home
with your family, my mom loved being a mom and, you know, and, and, our
house was always nice and peaceful, and there wasn’t any kind of, you
know, confrontations or anything. My brother was so much older
that, you know, there was never even any sibling rivalry. ‘Cause
we never did any of the same things. So, this was to get out in the
real world with the, with the other kids was kind of an interesting
part of my life. But, and another thing that was interesting, we had a
principal that used to go around, you know, from room to room.
And because I’m left handed, and what you’ll find is that when you
start to write, the teachers all say tilt your page [to the left] so
that it works for people who write with their right hand. So then
you’ll see people who are left handed, they’re writing like this [with
their hands turned sideways], because they’ve tilted their page that
way. I had this teacher who came, the principal, who actually came
around and every time he saw me doing this, he turned mine the other
way.[So, it is possible for left-handers to write
Denise: Oh, good.
Noreen: No, this is just like, this is so
simple. I think that I should start a movement in the
schools. I still see young people, you know, twenty years old,
and they’re left handed, and they’re writing like this. [With their
hands cramped sideways.] I think why are you not writing
properly? That’s the only thing, I mean that makes a difference
because then you write, you know, like everyone else. And you’re
writing just the same as, you know, [everyone else] and you still can
see it. You’re writing the same as a person that does with their
Denise: So, I just want to say –writing like this- Noreen had
her sort of arm and wrist curled, and it was almost like writing
Noreen: Yeah, it’s all turned around, and so if you turn the
page the other way, then it’s just, you write straight across the
Denise: And it’s so simple, but so brilliant.
Noreen: It is, it
is. So this was a man ahead of his time, so, and I was just
lucky. Interestingly enough, my brother was six years older than me, he
had to change and write, although, we’re both left handed. He had
change and write with his right hand, because it was not acceptable to
write with your left hand, it was just not the done thing. So,
they forced him to change. And talk about nasty, and when you’re,
so left handed, can you, like can a right handed person imagine trying
to write with their other hand?
Noreen: Or, or learn to
do. So, and they were the tougher, the teachers were tougher
then, like they go around and smack the side of your, [leg] you know,
or hit your hands or whatever, if you weren’t doing the right thing, so
it was, you sort of shut up and did what you were told. (Laughter) To a
greater extent, I think maybe [than now].
Denise: Not a lot, not a lot of
room to express opinions back then.
Noreen: No, no, exactly. But
probably the same thing at home. You know, certainly the
authority figure, kids were expected to behave. Although we
still, still argued with our parents and stuff like that. I
didn’t argue with my dad, but I argued with my mom.
yeah. There was a difference there?
Noreen: Yeah, actually, and
that’s another thing, I think that’s a generational thing, because
fathers were very removed from raising the kids in those days.
They went to work, the moms raised the kids. So it was only for
something that was really serious that I would even be talking to my
dad. I mean he was there, he was there, and you know, and we, we, we
socialized together more than anything, but he certainly wasn’t a big
part of my upbringing. Partly seeing him as a role model, was
part of it, but it wasn’t like, go ask your dad about this, or go ask
your dad about that. It was like I’d say, “Mom, I want to go
here, I want to go there, I want to do this.” It was like yes, or
no, or maybe, nothing to do with my dad really. So, I think we
see that changing over the generations, where my husband didn’t have
much to do with our kids when they were really little, but then as they
got past the toddler stage, then he got more involved. But now I
see my son, who’s like packing his baby around, you know, and getting
up at night with them, and all those things. So, it’s a big
transition in this, in this period of time. I think for the
better, because I think that the fathers now are, they’re much more
connected to their kids. They have a lot more fun. We went
to see some thing our grandchildren did. Well, we go to quite a
few things that they do, so I say to my husband, this is like
déjà vu to me. He said, “Not me, I never did these
things.” It was always me. I put them in figure skating, I
went and watched, you know, I put them in whatever, they were in
drama. I went and watched that. I got involved in the,
whatever they were doing, making costumes, this sort of stuff, but my
husband was not, he was working. His job was to work; my job was
to raise the kids. Very different now, where you’ve got both
people working, and both people raising the kids.
Noreen: Sometimes I think the demands on the parents are very
difficult now. The time to be able to do all these things, to
spend time with your kids and.
Denise: Yeah, and that’s it.
and have any life yourself.
Tape stopped, the phone rang.
Noreen: Okay, so
that, that was elementary school, and then, when I went to, went into
grade seven, that was Junior High School. There were some other
old buildings over there, army buildings. There were a lot of army
buildings in the town because there’d been an army base
Noreen: And so, after the, they left, after the army
left, these buildings were moved hither and there and everywhere and
used for a whole bunch of stuff. Lots of people used them for
houses. And, so, this was, it was called the Annex. So we
were in there. There was old Baron Bing there and I had some
classes in that. That was an old, old building. It’s since
Noreen: So in the Annex, and then, that was
about seven and eight [grade], and then grade nine, I was in the big
white building where the School District offices are now. It had
a rifle range in the basement, interestingly enough. Now the
school didn’t use it, as a student we didn’t. But the Rocky
Mountain Rangers, or the Cadets, or whatever, lots of people used
Denise: I’ve never known that before.
Denise: Isn’t that funny?
Noreen: Yeah, just a sign of the
Denise: Yeah, okay, so let’s, so what would that look
Noreen: Well you know, I don’t have very much of a recollection
because I never actually went in there shooting.
it was a big basement area. It had, it had, it must have had
targets, must have had either dirt, or something to stand. I
don’t know. I’ll have to ask my husband about that. Because
he may have actually have been in there shooting, cause he did lots of
Denise: Well it must have been a huge basement
Noreen: Oh yeah. Like under the whole gymnasium, that one,
Denise: Oh, that’s funny.
Noreen: Yeah. Or at least under where
the gymnasium was so. Yeah. So then they opened the new
school, which was Duchess Park. When I went into grade ten I
Noreen: So, ten, eleven and twelve I was there.
But this is a school designed by some, if I may be so unkind as to say,
idiot architect. But, some architect who had never lived in the
North. And so the buildings were separated and we had a covered
walk way [that was not closed in]. But if it’s thirty below in the
wintertime, you’ve got your main classes here and the home ec building
is at the other end. You have to go to your locker and get a big
heavy coat- to get down to the other end to where you, where your
classes are. Subsequently, years and years later, I think they
closed in that hallway.
Noreen: So, that was, that was, that
was really, that was really dumb. Lots of times we wouldn’t go
get our coat, so we’d be racing down there. And then the
wood-working classes down at that end too.
Denise: Yeah, that’s
Noreen: Yeah, yeah, not using any sense, and when we, when
I was in high-school girls could not wear pants to school. So we
had to wear skirts. But of course when it’s cold, you had to wear
ski pants anyways. Put the ski pants on underneath the skirt,
then went to school and took the ski pants off. And you
know. But what a..(Laughter) I mean it’s hard to
believe. It’s only in my lifetime. It’s not that long
ago. These kind of, you know, to me they’re ridiculous, even then
I thought they were. You know, you always had to wear a
skirt. There were, certainly, there was a dress code. I think you
couldn’t, you couldn’t wear jeans. I’m not sure about that.
But I think maybe that was the case. There certainly were some dress
codes. And then there were these strides, you know, that were
really, they were the fashionable thing in those days. With, for
the boys, big wide waistband and then they were really wide at the knee
and then they were very narrow at the, at the cuff. They were so
narrow at the cuff that they, you’d have to take your shoes off to get
Denise: Oh okay, okay, Zoot pants.
Noreen: Yup, they were called
Zoot Zooters, the guys that wore them. Strides was what the pants
were called. I think there were, I think there were rules against
that too. There’s rules against everything. Well, I mean, I
guess you do have to have some kind of authority. We did have, we
did have some problems at one point in the, in the school. We had
trouble keeping good teachers there. There were some really good
teachers. And then there were some that were not. And it
was particularly difficult to get a good French teacher. Nobody
who was French speaking, I guess, wanted to be in this, in this part of
the world. It really was a very small town. It didn’t have
that many amenities and unless you liked this kind of lifestyle.
People would not like to be here. So, we had poor [French
teachers], the Principal was very often stepping in to take over the
French teacher’s job, of course. From a book, with absolutely no
experience. (Laughter) But, some good teachers, some bad
teachers. The school lost its accreditation, when I started into
grade ten, which meant that the school had not done well before
that. And so, kids couldn’t be recommended, they’d have to write
the provincial exams.
Noreen: So, for ten, eleven and twelve I
had to write provincial exams. Which I blame my husband who is
three years older than me. Who was in the school when they lost
the accreditation. (Laughter) Although, I would expect it would
probably go back to the teachers’ ability. Obviously they, they
didn’t feel that the kids had, [been properly taught], either they were
being recommended too easily, and this could come down to, you know,
just being passed on in French class because they hadn’t ever been able
to teach you properly. So they put you into the next year, but
you didn’t know anything about it. These kind of
Noreen: So that was a chore, to have to study for
those provincial exams, at the end of each year. I don’t know
whether… do kids do that now?
Denise: They started them again,
Noreen: What years, like just eleven and twelve or?
twelve for sure and I think my daughter had to do some in grade
ten. But you can still be recommended and not have to write them
all. There are mandatory ones, English and Math I
Noreen: Yeah, okay.
Denise: But that, when I went to school we
didn’t have to write provincial exams. Yeah.
Noreen: Yeah, (Laughter)
yeah I know. It was a lot of studying. It’s a lot of
studying. It would depend on, you know, how well the teachers
taught you, whether you had the right material to study
Denise: That’s right.
Noreen: So, then I graduated in 1959 and got
married that same summer.
Denise: Is that right? Wow.
Noreen: So, I
was eighteen, Jim was twenty-one.
Denise: So, was he your high
Denise: All through high school?
all through high school. Just sort of the last year. Just
through grade twelve. There was a group of us teenagers that did
a lot of stuff together. He was part of the group, but he wasn’t
my boyfriend until about halfway through grade twelve, so, yeah.
My mom and dad had bought a cabin out at Tabor Lake. Then called
Six Mile Lake, when I was about twelve or thirteen, something like,
maybe fourteen. And so, [as a family], we spent a lot of time out
there. And then, me and my teenage friends spent a lot of time
there too. My parents really encouraged this. We had a boat, we
had water skis. Sometimes we would burn forty-five gallons of gas
Noreen: Running this boat from morning to night
Saturday and Sunday, so that’s how I miss-spent my youth, was water
Denise: (Laughter) That’s not so bad.
exactly. We had a lot of fun, a lot of fun, and my mom has
always, both my parents, but principally my mom has always encouraged
me to have my friends around. Over to the house, and did whatever
they could to, you know, to encourage that, foster that. So that,
you know, I guess it’s a, it’s a smart thing for parents to do.
We tried to do the same thing. If your kids are at home with their
friends, then you know what they’re doing. But, when I got to be
a teenager I was driving a car. Then, well I didn’t have my own
car, but I took, borrowed my mom’s whenever I needed it. So, it
was, like she’d say, “Well, you want to go to the lake this
weekend?” And I’d say, “Well, I don’t know.” So I waffled
around until her and dad would decide either they were going to go to
the lake for Saturday night, or they were going to stay in town.
And so, when they said they were going to stay in town, I said, “Oh
well, maybe we’ll [go to the lake], so then I would, then we’d go out,
me and my friends would go out and water ski and have a party at the
lake, cause my parents weren’t there. (Laughter) But if they said
they were going to the lake, I’d say, “No, I don’t think I’ll go to the
lake, I have too much studying to do.” (Laughter) Then we’d have
a party in town. Teenagers can be very devious you know. I
know I wasn’t pulling the wool over their eyes at all. They were
just, they had the faith that we [were responsible], even though
we were young, and people were drinking, you know, underage, to some
extent at the lake. But not very much. We had very
stringent rules. It’s like, if you’re going to go out in the
boat, you can’t be drinking.
Noreen: It’s like at the end of
the evening and you have, and you have your bonfire and you sit around
and have hot dogs and stuff, then the guys would have a few beer.
But, through the day, when we were using the equipment, it was like,
“If you’re drinking, you’re not going in the boat.”
Denise: That’s good,
because a lot of people didn’t have kind of awareness.
Noreen: No, no
Denise: Even now a lot of people don’t, but, yeah, that’s
Noreen: So that was, I don’t know, sort of, where that came
from. I guess because I was given lots of responsibility, so I
guess maybe you live up to the responsibility you’re
Noreen: Part of that I think was because my mom
worked. And people say it’s too bad when parents have to work,
you know, and not around the kids. And I think, well, you know, I
thought it was good.
Denise: Right. You didn’t suffer or
I wasn’t left with no supervision, but I had more freedom and more
Denise: Right, yeah.
Noreen: So, I suppose if I’d
messed up some of those times then I would have been told I couldn’t go
to the lake, and things like that.
Denise: Yeah, you lived up to what
they expected of you. Yeah.
Noreen: So, that’s kind of, that’s not
a bad way to, to grow up. Although I didn’t do that with my
kids. I wanted to stay home and get more involved in what they
did. So, so then we had, then we had three children. Tammy
was born in 1960, then Ross was born in ’61, just about two years
between them, one in January, one in October. And then the
youngest one born in ’64, so I was a very busy young mom. These
kids were close together. And that sort of totally changes your
lifestyle. You stop doing the things as an individual that want
to do and you start doing family things. Well initially you stop
doing everything, because of raising babies. It takes a lot of
energy. You don’t ever get a full night’s sleep for years, you
don’t get a full night’s sleep. When my mom would say that she’d
babysit. [She would any time we asked] so we could get
away. So I’d say to Jim, “Well, Mom’s going to look after the
kids for the weekend.” He’d say, “Where do you want to go?”
I said, “I don’t care, we can go to Quesnel, stay in a motel, just so I
can sleep all night. (Laughter) Because, you know, with a baby
and toddler, somebody’s got a cough, or somebody’s teething, or you
know, it’s just, it was, it seemed to me like it was about five or six
years of my life that I never slept through a whole night, without
having to get up with the kids.
Denise: I’m guessing you were
Noreen: I was eighteen,[when I was married] so I was twenty by
the time Tammy was born.
Noreen: Yeah, so, I don’t know, from
twenty, to twenty-five we had these three babies. But it was
really nice. It was hard work for the three years when they were
really small. But then it was wonderful, because they’re so close
in age that they did everything together. And as a family we
could do things, and everybody had the same, you know, tastes in doing
things. We had a camper and we’d go to the lakes on the
weekend. And then the oldest one learned to, wanted to learn to
down-hill ski, so we all did that. So for years we went skiing on
weekends and took ski trips in the wintertime. And yeah, a great
time doing things as a family.
Denise: Oh that’s nice, nice that you have
Noreen: And my husband, even though I say that he didn’t have a lot
to do with raising them when they were little, he was very involved
with them as they got, as they got older.
Noreen: And it’s
nice when you take them out camping, then you have your family to
yourself. Because usually, they’ll want to be doing things with
END OF TAPE
Denise: So, you did just go camping
wherever? You didn’t have your own, sort of, NoreenNo, we had, we
had a camper, so we went to different lakes, tried to go to different
lakes. And we went all over the place fishing, so that the kids
could [try fishing] you know, my husband was quite a fisherman.
Although that was very difficult to do with a boat. (Laughter)
Three little kids and a dog, the dog always tripped over the fish box
and tipped over the fish box. Then all the stuff from the fish
box got all over the bottom. It got so, so I think Tammy totally,
my oldest daughter totally gave up. She used to sit up on the
bow. I think the two younger ones and Jim used to try and fish
out of the boat, with the dog. And I used, normally just drive
the boat. So, I would stay out of the way of the dog. So we
had a lot of fun doing that. We went all over the place trying to
find a place for the kids to catch a fish. Couldn’t catch them,
couldn’t catch them, and finally our son, the first fish he caught was
out at Six Mile Lake.
Denise: Oh, isn’t that funny?
Noreen: Tabor Lake, I mean, yeah, I don’t know if he was, he
probably just even caught it off the dock, you know.
Denise: Yeah, isn’t
Noreen: So we went far and wide looking and then,
Noreen: Yeah. So our kids have spent a lot of
time at my mom’s cabin out at Tabor Lake. She took them when they
were a bit older, teenagers, with their cousins. So they had a
lot, the cabin’s had lots of good, fun use.
Noreen: So then, as they got a bit older, well, I was always involved
whatever the kids were doing. So, if they needed a parent
volunteer for this or that, [I did it] I had a brownie pack, and then I
ran concessions at the school and did a whole bunch of different
things. My youngest daughter, Kathleen, went, she was in grade
twelve and she came home and said, “Hey mom we’re going, we’re going to
go to a Dude Ranch, we’re going down to 108.” And I said, “Oh
great, you know, they’ll be looking for chaperones right?”
(Laughter). She said, “You can’t come. You have been to
everything that I have done in school, all the time.” She said,
“This one you can’t come.” I think, Oh yeah, I can go to the
scout camp out at Camp Hughes and cook for, you know, a
classfull. And you know, make cocoa and look after a classfull of
kids that, or a room full of kids and a camp full of kids at night, but
no, I couldn’t get to go on the fun one. This is not fair.
Denise: (Laughter) You don’t get to go to the
Noreen: No, I don’t get to go to the resort.
Denise: That’s funny.
Noreen: No, I never got to go horseback
riding.When, when my children were just in junior high school, [I
started weaving]. A few years before that, I’d seen somebody weaving on
a floor loom, in Vancouver at the PNE. And I thought, gee this
looks really neat, because I’ve always been interested in home
crafts. You know, the sewing, the knitting and the crocheting all
these sorts of things. But, I saw weaving, and it looked, this is
quite fascinating to me. So, in Prince George I found out that a
Weaver’s Guild had just started and CNC was offering classes, weaving
and spinning classes. I signed up for the classes at the College
and joined the Guild, and, well, you’ll have to see my weaving room
around the corner there. It’s just full, full of equipment, and
so that got to be quite a passion. I worked away at that and got a
Master Weaver’s Certificate. I think that was in, maybe 1986, I
did that. I’ve always been very involved in the local Guild.
Denise: How do you get a Master’s Certificate?
Noreen: Master Weaver’s
Certificate? It’s the Guild of Canadian Weaver’s, which is
basically done by correspondence. It was started in the ‘40’s by
weavers who wanted to stress technical excellence in weaving.
They set up a test program, actually, you did it by
correspondence. They, the requirements come to you, four levels,
and so, then you work away at them, and twice a year you can submit
it. So, you make the samples, you do all the paper work that goes
with it and send that in. And then somebody, that you don’t know
examines it, sends back comments and marks. And if you pass it, go onto
the next level. And maybe you have to repeat one or two things if
you haven’t done them correctly.
Noreen: So, so then,
you know, after I got this, then I was an examiner for a while, as a
way of kind of giving back to the organization that’s done, you know,
so much for us. The final study in that is that, it’s, you have
to do an independent study on something. So, you pick a weave
structure or something particular that, that there’s not much published
material on. And then you do a bunch of samples and you put that
in the, maybe a different way. And so you produce a, a monogram
of sorts. Computers, fortunately were just coming out when I was doing
this, so at least I could type the stuff [information] on the computer,
which made it easier.
Denise: Okay…oh….Okay. I find that
Noreen: Really. That was really interesting.
And, so I was very keen, did a lot, [of weaving] liked, particularly to
do garments that were one of a kind garments. The Guild here did
lots of fashion shows, and I’ve done, you know, a fair bit of household
items. Not much that you’d consider, sort of, art. Although
I’ve done a couple of window coverings that are sort of gauze like, but
they have patterns in them. And so, that continued on, [I am still
weaving] also I did a variety of other different volunteer things, but
that [weaving] was my principle, you know, passion. Until Ron
East phoned me and said, “Noreen, they’re starting a, we want to start
a community foundation here in Prince George. Would you be
willing to be one of the founding directors?” I said, “Well, why
do you need a foundation, you’ve got a foundation at the hospital,
you’ve got one at the University, why do we need a community
foundation?” He said, “This covers all the other, all the other
aspects of the community that are not caught by those specific
foundations.” So then I said, “ Well, yeah, but Ron, I’ve been
asking people in this community for money for so many things for so
long,” cause everything I was involved in, so it was like, part of it
was always fund raising, you know. Doing the stuff for the kids,
for the school, for the Beaver’s, whatever. But he said, “You don’t
have to fundraise for this.” He said, “Foundations grow by
bequests in people’s wills.”So I said, “Oh, this sounds kind of
interesting.” So I go to a couple of meetings and pretty soon I
get all wound up in this. But it turns out that he was
Noreen: (Laughter) Because, if people don’t
know you exist, [as a Foundation] they won’t leave you the money.
So, number one is you have to market it. But, you have to market
something, so you have to go fundraising. Because if you don’t
have anything money, how can you go to somebody and say “Leave me a
bequest in your will, I have this really good
Noreen: Just an idea’s not good enough. So, Bev
Christiansen was the founding president. I think she was there, I
think she did that for about three years. She was, like, none of
us knew anything about, none of us as directors had the foggiest idea
of what a community foundation was and how it would run. So she
went off to a conference, came back with a whole bunch of information
and binders about how to do this and – handed two to me and says,
“Well, I think this is your department.” And she gives me these
two huge binders, and one is marketing and the other is
fund-raising. (Laughter) [All because I had offered to find
people to create a brochure, (at no cost.)]
Noreen: Oh here we go. So, yeah, so I’m back in the fund-raising
business. But when I got to understand the concept of it, which
is that you never spend the principal. You build endowments. You
create a pool of money where only the income is spent. So you
keep, you keep increasing the size of this pool, therefore, you make
more income every year. And then that’s what goes out in the
grants. But it’s here forever. You know, this money’s here
forever and every year we will give out, as we raise more money, we
will have more income to give out to the community. It goes to
all the small groups. It goes to the Alzheimer’s goes to the Oral
History, it goes to the, what else. Some mental health, arts
groups as well, the Symphony and a variety of different
[organizations]. So it covers every aspect of the
community. Small groups who just need a little bit of
money. And with their volunteers then can do something really
Noreen: Where else would they go? Everybody
can’t go to the City Hall for a thousand dollars, you know. But
that can make a very big difference to whether an organization can, you
know, do the work that the volunteers set out to
Noreen: One of the most interesting ones was the Dog
Sled club asked for some money because they were going to rent a
bulldozer and then they were going to fix the trails that are out by
Tabor Lake. Good enough so they could have a B.C. accredited Dog
Noreen: And so we gave them the money, whatever it
was. They had lots of volunteers, to do this work. And
then, then we have this B.C. accredited Dog Sled race that comes to
town. Which of course is good for the community. And then those
trails are there also for people with snowmobiles cross country skiers
and everything else. So it enhances our whole community. Our
grants are generally not more than two thousand dollars, because we
don’t have a huge amount to give out [yet]. So, but that amount of
money, plus the volunteer work, [good things happen.] And that’s
why it’s so critical that people within the community are the ones
giving out the grants. Because they can see that the work is
actually being done. They can see a need and then they can see
that there are people there that can, you know, take these small
amounts of dollars and actually accomplish a great deal with the
Denise: Tell me what their, what the organization is
Noreen: Prince George Community Foundation.
after the first year, I worked with Bev Christiansen and after about a
year or so, I ended up being the Vice-President and then I took over as
President. I did the President’s job I think about three and a
half years. Anyway it got to be a passion with me, I thought that
it was such a good thing for the community, that it took over my time
and I didn’t spend much time in my weaving room
Noreen: Now Elizabeth McRitchie is the
President, I’m the past President and things are well in hand. And I’m
still doing some things on some of the committees but it’s not my total
Noreen: At one point it was a huge
responsibility because we didn’t have any office staff and we were, all
of us, doing stuff in our homes. We were writing the letters on
our home computers and trying to keep track of all the documents and so
on. We’ve always had a very good investment committee. So we’ve
always done a good job of looking after the money. But in terms
of the office organization, [it was difficult] we finally hired
somebody about two years ago, I guess, maybe three now. And that was a
huge asset. So that everything, coming out of the [office is
organized], she, our employee volunteers a lot of her time too.
She’s paid to work two days a week, but to have a coordinated, central
place where you say, “Where’s that contract from this certain family
and how much more do they owe on their fund,” or whatever.
Somebody has that, instead of saying, “Who’s got that contract, is it
in your home office or my home office, or somebody else’s?” So
this has been a very critical thing. We’ve got about a million
and a half dollars now. Which is, which is a real
milestone. We got to the million dollars by the time I was
finished as President. And I thought, okay, now, now we have a
million dollars, now we can go to people and say, “Okay, we are
established. This is a wonderful concept and would you consider,
giving us, a bequest in your will.” I mean we’ll take their money
now if they want, but long term you look at bequests, as a way that
foundations grow. And so, it’s like, leave some money to benefit
Prince George. A lot of people have done very well here, so it’s
nice to leave something to the community. You know, as sort of a,
we did well so we want to give something back.
Denise: Yeah, umhmm. Wow,
so you started basically with nothing and… wow that’s
Noreen: Umhmm. Yeah, built it from nothing. [It’s
wonderful to know I helped create something so significant.] So,
now, now I’m planning on getting back in my weaving room. [Now on to my
husband’s family business.] My husband and his family, owned Rustad
Brothers and he worked there from the time he finished
Noreen: It was started by his dad and his uncle, Mel
and Carl. His dad is Carl, his uncle Mel. [in 1947] They started
it with war surplus equipment. Went and got a landing barge, I
think, for, from somewhere in the States and brought it back and used
the engine and a variety of other things. You need to, you really
need to talk to him about that. He’s also writing a, trying to
write some of his family history stuff down to give to our kids.
He always, he always worked there and then he took it over, running it
and our kids always worked there in the summer on the idea that they
would probably also be, you know, be working [in the family business],
that they would make that, make it their business.
Noreen: But, Northwood Pulp came along and made us an offer
and we decided that we would accept it. [He worked three years for
Northwood before he officially retired.] That was in ’91, that we
sold the mill. At which point my husband says, “I’m going to have
to do something for social contact,” because most his social contacts
were through work. “I’m going to learn to golf.”
summers that I was water skiing, my brother was a really good golfer
and my mom had given me golf lessons once. And I was terrible at
it, absolutely terrible. I thought, this is the stupidest game.
(Laughter)Why would anybody want to do it? I thought, I have
never…So I have been pretty adamant over the years about saying, “Golf
is a really stupid game. Why would anybody want to do it?”
And then my husband, when he retired, said, “I’m going to learn how to
play golf.” So, he was going to go down to a golf school that was
a week long in the States. So, I said, “I think I’ll come
too.” And he, you could have knocked him over with a feather
because of the times I had said I would never golf! But, it’s, we had
done all these water sports, but as you get older, it’s a lot of
energy. You know, like, to go water skiing, or to go swimming, or
to go snorkeling, or, you know, all these kind of things that we had
done when we were younger. So, we would go on winter holiday and
what are you going to do? Going to like go for a walk,that only
lasts an hour or so. What are you going to do with the rest of
the day? So, I thought well this golfing would be neat. So,
we’ve taken it up and like other things, we’ve taken it up with a
passion, so now, that and the weaving and whatever time I still feel
that I want to spend with the Community Foundation is what takes my
time. And with my grandkids, which is really neat. Because that’s
the whole other [part of my life.] My three kids, they all went off to
University. Came home, came and went for years, we had boxes,
everybody’s, you know, cause they’re leaving home, but then they’re
coming back and then they’re leaving home again, and then they’re going
to University. And then they think, maybe they’ll go to another
University, and so, on and on. This went for a process of, well
at least ten years, while they were off at University and coming home
doing a variety of different things. Our daughter Tammy, the
oldest one was the first one to get married. And I was weaving
quite a lot at the time, so I said, “Do you want me to weave the fabric
for your wedding dress?” So, I did that, bolts of silk, and had
somebody else sew it up.
Denise: Oh how
Noreen: Umhmm. So she has a very wonderful wedding
dress. She had a friend who was going to Ryerson Poly-Tech to
learn [Fashion] Design. And so she designed the wedding dress.
Took my fabric and we had somebody in town here sew it up.
Noreen: Yeah, so my daughter Tammy, she married a young guy
who was articling as a lawyer here. And he’s Portuguese, his
family is Portuguese, he came to Canada when he was nine years old,
fluent in both languages. So, after they got married they moved
to Toronto and he set up a law practice, ‘cause there’s two hundred
thousand Portuguese in Toronto. So there’s kind of an automatic
market. [For lawyers who are bilingual in
Noreen: But, it got to be, just such a hassle for
them because they were, he was trying run sort of a home office.
Tammy was doing the books. Then they had two babies and so, it’s
like the whole thing got out of hand. He said what he really
needed was a middle age Portuguese lady to run his office. But
they don’t work out of their homes, generally speaking. He needed
somebody that was bi-lingual. And what he could get were just
girls out of high school.
Noreen: And they didn’t have the
office experience and that kind of stuff. So the whole thing, the
whole thing just got…. He was busy, really busy. He was too busy,
but it just got to be too much of a hassle. They decided they
wanted to be closer to family, so then they moved back to, to
Vancouver. Moved to West Vancouver, and then, subsequently after
that they moved out to Bowen Island. And raised their two
daughters. They’re seventeen and sixteen now, these two girls,
so. So, living on Bowen Island was like living in Prince George
when I was a kid. I mean it was just, it’s a small
Denise: Right, yeah.
Noreen: You didn’t have to lock your door.
And that was like, when I was going to say, this is something that came
into my head, when Jim and I were first married, we didn’t lock the
doors. And it was one cold winter day and I’m in the kitchen
making dinner, he’s sitting in the front room. And I feel this
cold air around my feet. So, go to look, and here’s this drunk,
he’s opened the door and he’s standing there kind of looking around.
(Laughter) And he’s in the wrong house. He doesn’t know
were he’s supposed to be. Jim was reading the paper, whatever,
oblivious to this whole thing. Anyway. He was a harmless
drunk. We just said, “You’re in the wrong place,” and away he
went. So it was like, it was, and even that, you know, something
like that, an experience like that didn’t make us think we should lock
the door. That was, it was just kind of the way it was.
Didn’t lock our cars either. 
Denise: That’s right.
Noreen: Yeah, so
that changed. You look back and think that’s wonderful, but then
you look at the city now and think, well we have all these
amenities. Like we have this regional hospital. You don’t
have to go to Vancouver just to see an ophthalmologist, all these
things like this. There’s so many, so many plusses within the
community now. And you pay the price. When it gets bigger,
then you have to be more careful. You have to lock your cars, you
have to be careful where you walk at night, and you know, all these
kind of things, so. [And watch your children more
Denise: Yeah, yeah, that’s right.
Noreen: So that was my oldest
daughter. And they have two kids, two girls. And we’ve had lots
of fun doing things with them. When they were little they’d come
up here for three weeks or so in the summer and I’d look after them and
the parents would go off on holidays.
Denise: Oh that’s
Noreen: And we’d, oh, they’ve done a lot of drama, ‘cause my
daughter Tammy when she was young, was interested in drama. There
was a lot on Bowen Island. So they were always in
something. So, lots of times we’d be down there for drama
productions that they were in and those sorts of things. So we’ve
kept pretty close touch even though they don’t live in this
community. We see a lot of them.
Denise: Umhmm See a lot.
Noreen: We feel like we’re pretty connected to them. And so
then, my son, who’s the middle one, he married Shauna Curry, and they
have two kids. John, he’s ten now, and Nicole is seven. So,
there’s ten years between the cousins, but when they get together, they
play really well. They older cousins are so, so good with the
younger ones. Of course the younger ones always love to play with the
Denise: Oh that’s nice. Right. Right.
they, they get along, they get along really well even thought there’s
quite a, a space and the years between them. But now, so now
we’re doing all the same things we did with our kids, with Ross and
Shauna’s kids, cause they’re here in town. So we go and watch
soccer games and figure skating and gymnastics and, what else, judo,
all these kind of things, judo tournaments and so on. So that’s,
that’s fun to do. And then our youngest daughter, Kathleen
married Russell Parker. The Parker family has been here a long
time too. June Parker, June and Laurie Parker. June is a,
is an artist.
Denise: Artist, yeah
Noreen: Yes, so it’s their
youngest one that Kathleen married. They have no
Noreen: They like to build racecars
Denise: Okay. (Laughter)
Noreen: Kathleen, our youngest daughter
is a potter. The oldest daughter is a musician. They
all seem to have different talents. And, I don’t know where they
came from. Because the fact that the oldest one is a musician, is
like, it’s amazing. Jim and I have no musical, we have interest,
but no musical ability.
Denise: Oh okay, right.
Noreen: Tami is a
really good pianist. Yeah. And her daughter, Christina has become
very proficient on the mandolin. Sara, Tami’s other daughter’s
main interest is drama. We have enjoyed many plays she has
Denise: Oh isn’t that nice..
Denise: I want to talk
about weaving with you, or, actually, how do I say this. Did you
know when you were young that you were artistic? Or…
and I always thought I was not artistic because I never did well in art
classes. I couldn’t draw, and, weaving is more craft. Often
people say, “I’m not an artist, I can’t weave.” And for quite a
while, I taught the weaving classes at the Continuing Education through
CNC, after their accredited courses sort of fell by the wayside.
Then it was done as an adult education thing, and I taught classes
there. And I said, “I can teach anybody how to weave.”
Everybody will produce different things, and a person who’s artistic
will produce more artistic looking things and people who are not
artistic will produce more functional items. And I, I, I think
that I more come into the functional items, not so much artistic.
But it, the design of it is fun. I really enjoy, you know doing
afghans that you put on the couch and those kind of things. Not
necessarily wall hangings, but some wall hangings. So, no, if
anything the arts stuff I did in school totally discouraged me from
thinking I had any ability to do that. It was really, it was a
home art more than anything. You see and I liked the old [crafts]
crocheting, the knitting and embroidery and all those type of
things. Any sort of home arts. And so, that’s probably what
drew me to it. And just seeing somebody sitting there weaving,
like you just sit there, and you know, the threads come up and you
throw the shuttle. I thought, oh, this is really neat, to be able to,
to design something from the very, the very beginning.
Denise: From the
very beginning. Yeah.
Noreen: Umhmm, yeah. So that’s quite
fun and I hope to get back into it. I also, when you get into
that [weaving], there’s just such a broad range because then there’s
basket making. And basket making is not weaving, but it’s a, it’s
a manipulated technique that’s very similar. So, you know, then
you go take a basket making course. And then bobbin lace is also
related and other kinds of lace. And so [one thing leads to
Denise: I didn’t know that.
Noreen: There’s so many,
so many things that if you get into weaving, then you get into doing
these other things to embellish what you’re doing. And you make
tassels, and you know, there’s like everything is, there are so many
things to learn. Weaving is, if you want to get into complex
weaves, can, it gets fairly mathematical in terms of being able to
understand what happens to get these patterns, to get what you
want. It doesn’t have to be that way. People can be more
just interested in colors and very simple plain techniques, so to
speak. Or you can get into very complex patterns and designs.
okay, okay, okay.
Noreen: Stuff like that, so yeah.
Did your mom teach you how to knit? Is that
Noreen: Yeah, she
taught me knit. And that was fine. So I knit like a right- handed
person does. Now I have a friend, who, because she was left
handed, sat across from her sister, and then [learned] like a mirror
image. So she does with her right hand what her sister does with
her left hand. I’ve never seen anybody else knit backwards. I
mean knitting is a two handed thing, so, so basically, you know, I just
knit the same as other people. Crocheting is different.
Noreen: Yeah because if you were to crochet with your left hand,
you’re going to go in a different direction. I couldn’t pick up
my mom’s crocheting and work on it.
Denise: Oh, okay
Noreen: It goes in
the opposite direction. Same thing as even hemming a dress.
You know, you put the hem up and you start to stitch along the
bottom? I’d be going a different direction than, than a right-
Denise: Of course you would,
Noreen: Yeah, my home-ec
teacher Allison Morrow was my home ec- teacher when I was in
school. She was just a new teacher, had just finished, graduating
and came to work here. And she said she could do things in both
directions because she had left handed students. I wasn’t the
only one, there were other left handed students. So she said she
could start hemming in this direction, or this direction, depending on
who you were. (Laughter)
Denise: So then she could teach you.
Noreen: A lot
of things it didn’t matter, but the crocheting, my aunt, my aunt was
left handed. She did lots of things. My aunt did pine
needle baskets as well.
Denise: And what would a pine needle basket look
Noreen: I’ll show you. I have a basket collection in my
weaving room and I’ll show you. It’s actually, you group pine
needles, a few of them together, and then you wrap them with yarn, and
then you just continue to put these together and then you build your
basket out of that. You put fancy little stitches around
it. It looks really neat.
Noreen: It looks really neat.
Denise: My yard is full of pine needles. (Laughter)
there you go. You know, something to do with them. (Laughter)
Although it doesn’t take that many to make a basket…. so.
going to switch tracks for a second. You, or your mom told me she
was really involved in Girl Guides, so I assume that you, were you
involved with them?
Noreen: Yes, I went through as a, as a youngster,
yes. Brownies and then Guides and then I got to be a Gold Chord
Guide, which is kind of a, you know, the top of the line,
whatever. You, you have to get a whole bunch of badges and do all
this sort of stuff. Then I didn’t do anything more with it. It
was like that was, I got that far, and then I quit because that was
really sort of the, that was the end of it. And then you get to
be a certain age, you’re not interested in it
Noreen: I started in as a Brownie Leader when my
kids were little and took, Tammy, who was the age to be a Brownie and I
would also take Kathleen along with me. And so Tammy went
through Brownies and after that she just wasn’t interested, she went
for three or four years, and then she wasn’t interested. And
Kathleen wasn’t at all interested, because she said, “Well, I’ve
already done all this.” Because I drug her to the meetings, you
see, as a young one, and she’d done this and that, and done something
else, so they kind of were disinterested. My son was in Cubs I
think maybe for one year, but he was also not particularly
interested. So, I just got off into doing other things with the
kids, it was like… They had music and drama and those kind
Denise: Yeah, yeah, oh, yeah. Do you remember the first
badge you ever got?
Noreen: What, no, but I got, I had armloads of
badges, cause I loved to do this. I guess I’m a task-oriented
person, so I like the idea of badges. So I mean I did the, I did
cooks badge and sewing badge and swimming badge and, you know, it was
just all sorts of different things. It’s interesting, one of the
interesting ones was the handyman badge. This was in
Guides. You learn to, [and this stuff is all obsolete now.]
You learn to change a washer in the sink, you know, for a dripping
tap. You learn to putty in a pane of glass because the windows
used to be all small panes.
Noreen: The reason I think
it was all small panes was because if you broke it, you know, you only
had like one little bit to fix. So then you have to take out that
and then you have to scrape away the putty and then you put the pane in
it and you put the putty up against it and smooth it out nice and
neat. So, and I also learned to paint a wall in our house.
And it was like, those were kind of things that traditionally you
didn’t do at home. So it was really neat. Astronomer’s
badge, which I remember very little of. But that was something
totally different than I had done at home. And somebody took us
out and showed us the constellations and, you know that kind of
stuff. Guides was really good because it broadened your knowledge
by looking at trying to get these badges. It took you in areas
that your family maybe didn’t do much of. And you know, camping
and building fires and that kind of stuff. Which was, build a
fire with two matches, you know, and no paper and no lighter fluid and.
Denise: (Laughter) Right
Noreen: For Brownies they had to
do that. So I enjoyed it and I would have continued teaching
Brownies, except my kids weren’t as interested, so I, I went on to the
things that they, that they liked to do, cause you always need mom
volunteers for whatever group things that the kids were doing,
Denise: Yeah, yeah. I wouldn’t have thought that, when you were
in Guides, that age group, I wouldn’t have thought that they’d be
teaching girls how to change washers on sinks.
interesting, isn’t it?
Denise: Yeah, that’s right.
Noreen: I think
that was part of it because I guess it started as a boy’s group.
And then this is an off-shoot. It really was, it was very, it was
probably ahead of its time. I mean we were camping, we were all
out building campfires in the snow and all sorts of things like that,
you know. Very, a lot of self-reliant kind of skills. Not just
the typical feminine activities, which we did that as
Denise: That’s right, yeah, yeah.
Noreen: Yeah it’s interesting I
hadn’t thought of it in that way. And Semaphore. Brownies
had to learn Semaphore. And, now it’s obsolete of course because
there’s other communication.
Denise: Yeah, that’s right. The
Noreen: Semaphore is a way of communicating for, from
one hilltop to another. It was used in military, or from one ship
to another, if they were close enough. And it’s a series of
letters [created] with a set of flags. And you have two flags.
It’s a stick with a flag that’s about eighteen inches square on the end
of it. And you hold them out like this. And you hold them
in a certain manner and that means a letter. With a flag this
would be A, this would be B, this would be C. And so you can
spell out words.
Noreen: D, E, F,G. I taught my mom’s
Brownies. She taught Brownies for a long time after, when I was in
Guides. And semaphore was something that was very
difficult. You couldn’t just teach it at the meetings. So
she kept having kids come to the house, so she could…So she would teach
them semaphore. But eventually then it was me teaching them
semaphore. So I still remember it, because I’ve been re-enforced.
(Laughter) Because I had so many kids…[to teach]It’s an absolute
obsolete skill, but I guess anything you learn is a…. learning process
is always good too.
Denise: Right. And then when you master
Noreen: Yeah, and then you go okay I’ve done that. Especially
when it’s something difficult like that, so.
Denise: Yeah, yeah
that was, that was, that was different. And that’s true with the
Brownies and Guides stuff. It was different than what you, sort
of normally did in your day-to-day activities.
Denise: When you were, you
said quite a while ago that you’d just sort of go out and play, you‘d
just play all day. What can you remember, what areas of town do
remember as being sort of bush?
Noreen: Around our house, which was on
McBride Crescent. The, there were lots of empty lots.
There’d be houses here and there, you know, around the Crescents,
there’s some quite old ones. But there were lots of empty
lots. So that’s what we’d do. The one [lot] next door where
my mom and dad built their duplex was just an empty lot. And so
we’d play ball there, or else we’d go over and play in another empty
lot that actually was much better. It was across on… up against
Third Avenue, on the other side, because it had a big bank, so you
didn’t need a back stop. And, and you…. we would play scrub
baseball, which doesn’t take two teams. It’s like, two people
were at bat, and then whoever’s left is out in the field and
pitching. And you just move one space around, when this person
goes out, they out in the field and then you, and then you move
positions. You can do it with about six or seven kids, you can
play, that sort of thing. I had roller skates too.
Denise: Okay. Sorry about that. So roller
Noreen: I had roller skates and they were the kind that hook onto
your shoe. The shoes that we had, had a fairly solid bottom
[sole] on them, so it stuck out a little bit.
then the roller skates had this little clip around and some sort of
little key thing. This little clip [went] around on the front and
the back…. And so, there wasn’t really any place to roller skate
except on the street and they were really rough unless they were paved,
[even if they were paved.] they were really rough. I remember
trying to roller skate down to the Guide Hall, but these darn roller
skates they would come off your shoes every so often. Then you’d
go, (Laughter) tumbling, because they never were really solid. I
see these people now with the roller blades, this was not like roller
blades, this was four wheels, like two wheels on the front and two
wheels on the back.
Denise: Okay, yeah.
Noreen: And you’d screw them all
in. But that was fun. It was one of the sort of fun things we
did. Bike riding; we had…. everybody rode their bikes
places. But, there again, it’s like, the parents….parental
involvement was so much less because the parents were too busy, I think
trying to make a living. They weren’t as involved in their kids’
lives. So, I remember I said I wanted a bike and I got a
bike. But nobody ever helped me ride it. Because I remember
falling off and falling off and falling off until I finally mastered
this trying to ride a bike. But, like with our kids, my husband
ran along behind, you know. And same thing with the grandkids,
they came up, and he ran along behind, cause, on Bowen Island there
were too many hills. And so those kids hadn’t actually learned to
ride a bike. So we were trying to teach them when they were
Noreen: (Laughter) Anyway one of the episodes with this
is, the granddaughter comes in, Jim comes in…. Jim comes in, he says,
“This is no job for a grandfather.” ‘Cause he’s totally out of
breath, he says, “It should be the father doing this.” You know,
somebody who was twenty years younger. And the little
granddaughter who was trying to learn, she comes in, she says, “I have
a headache. (Laughter) She lays on the couch. I
think, this is not very successful. It’s the parent’s job.
(Laughter) Not the grandparent’s job, to teach them how to ride a
Noreen: But we just, [as children] we just did it.
And so that was… that was kind… that was something that I guess a
little different then you see now. You wouldn’t just give your
kid a bike and send them out.
Denise: (Laughter) Yeah.
have to have a helmet and they have to, some of them have training
wheels, and you know. I don’t always say it’s worse, just
Denise: Just different. Did you ever, the Nechako, or
the Fraser, did you ever?
Noreen: I never, no. I, we never swam
there. It wasn’t that close for me and I never went there.
My mom had a real fear of rivers. If we were ever picnicking
somewhere, she’d say, “Don’t get too close, don’t get too close.”
So, I think that I, I have a very healthy respect for rivers. And
so, even though my friends went in. Some of them say they jumped
off the steel bridge and that sort of stuff. But no, I never
had…. I never was down there. But I suppose by the time, maybe I
wanted to be doing this, we had the cabin at the lake. So, we
were out there. We’d would go swimming some other places, like
maybe in the Salmon River which is quite small and safe, if it’s not
too early in the spring, when it has run off, we’d go swimming
Denise: Yeah, yeah, float down the current?
Noreen: Yeah, then you
feel like you’re really doing something. Then you can’t swim back
up stream. But anyway, you’d at least get your feet off the…. get your
feet off the ground. I love to swim, and so, that’s one thing
that my parents were very helpful in. Any time there were lessons
anywhere, they… You know, maybe the Red Cross would give some lessons
out at one lake here for a couple of weeks during the summer or
something. They always got me involved in, or signed up for
that. Or if we went on holidays some place I could go swimming,
they would, they would take me there. So, I learned to, I learned
to swim. Not particularly well, fairly capably, but not very good
stokes. And so, when I started my Brownie Pack, and I wanted to
take them to camp, well you couldn’t find a lifeguard. So I
thought, well I can swim. [So I will learn to be a lifeguard.] So
I phoned Dick Zarick, who was [in charge] of the outdoor pool then, up
on 5th Avenue and Wainwright. He was teaching up there. I
said, “What do you have to do to get to be a lifeguard?” “Oh,” he
said, “Tuesday and Thursday nights, just open classes, just come up and
you just practice for as long as you need. And there’s
examinations every once in a while.” And so, and so, I went up
there, and I took a look at what they were doing and I thought, hmm, I
don’t think I’m that good. (Laughter) So lessons were going
on throughout the whole pool. So, you know, like beginners and
intermediates and seniors and so on, and then the lifeguards up in the,
in the far end. So I, I get in at the intermediate level, cause I
think this is about where I belong. But I’d already talked to
Dick. So he looks at me and said, “Noreen, what are you doing
here? I thought you wanted to be a lifeguard. I said, “Yeah
I do but, I thought I’d better start here.” “Oh,” he says, “Get
up here in this end.” And it was hard work, really hard work,
because my technique was not that good. I was a fairly good
swimmer, but my, [but no technique] and so had to swim, if you have to
swim, you know, like four laps, if you swim efficiently, it doesn’t
take nearly as much energy [as swimming it poorly.]
Noreen: You can kind of, you know…. like, crashing around
and not doing it smoothly and, you know…. efficiently. So anyway
that night I got out of the pool, I could hardly stand up. My legs were
just like spaghetti. Anyway, but it, I….. I, you know, I kept
going back and by then end of the summer I had a lifeguard
certificate. So I could take my, my Brownies to camp and not have
to go chasing around to find a lifeguard. And then that led to
[taking a swimming instructors class,] because I had that, [lifeguard
certificate] then the new Four Seasons Pool was opening shortly after
that and they needed swimming instructors. So there was a week-long
instructors’ course, which I took here at the outdoor pool. And
they taught us at night after all the other classes were
finished. Now it’s in the summer, so it’s still daylight, but
cold, cold. Like eleven o’clock at night, you know, getting in
and out of the pool. From ten to eleven or ten to twelve or nine
to eleven, I don’t know, getting in and out of the pool. Being wet,
listening for instructions, getting in the pool, doing things,
so. I remember that being extremely cold. But anyway, that
was, that was fun. So it was just like, the other things I’ve
done, I just seem to have sort of rolled into because, you know, I did
this because of that. Whatever, I never have had a, never have
had a life plan, you know. I’ve just sort of mostly did stuff
that involved my kids and that sort of went from there into whatever
else seemed to, seemed to interest me. So, because I got this
instructor’s certificate, then I started working part-time, there was a
swimming program through the school, years ago.
Noreen: We taught grades four, five and six. And so, I
started working for that just substitute teaching because Kathleen was
still not going to school yet. But then once she got so that she
was going to school, then I worked there full-time for, for a few
years. That was wonderful hours, because it was only school
days. So that meant my kids were off to school and it was from
nine to twelve. So it was just the morning. So it was fun,
it really fun. And most of the women there, it was all women that
were teaching, and Dick Zarick was running the program. They all
would, we’d have, I mean I, I, I worked less hard there than I ever did
in anything else I did [in my life.] Because we had two
fifteen-minute coffee breaks that you actually sat down while the
classes changed, you know. They bused the classes in from all the
different schools and… and, it was neat. It was, it was really
fun. So we’d sit and visit and most of the women were a little
older than me, so their kids were a little older. And they’d be
talking about their teenagers. And they’d be worrying about this
and worrying about that, that their teenagers were getting into.
And I’d think, you know,[this is like somebody who didn’t have
teenagers yet.] If you did a good job of raising your kids, you
wouldn’t have any trouble with your teenagers. Well, so, I never
said it, I just thought it.
Noreen: (Laughter) I just
thought it. Then when my kids turned into teenagers and I started
to get grey hair over my teenagers, I thought, yeah well, it’s
different, it’s different when you’re doin’ it. So, you know,
cause it’s a, it’s a difficult transition. Parents have to let
the kids go.
Noreen: And the kids have to take some
responsibility and they have to, you know, they have to be a little bit
giving to, in terms of that they’ll listen to some things the parents
say. But, you know, so, it’s a…
Denise: Yeah, my daughter’s a
teenager right now. (Laughter)
Noreen: Oh, that’s fun. Yeah, they
want more freedom than you want to give them but you have to start to,
I think, you know, part of our difficulty was that, you know, we
really, we liked to have our kids around. We enjoyed raising our
kids, so we didn’t particularly want to….. [lose them], we encouraged
them to be independent but I think we didn’t want to lose
control. That was,
Denise: Yeah, yeah.
Noreen: Umhm and so, and you
want to protect them too. I mean, you think…. I mean, you know,
we’ve had problems happen in our lives and we’ve learned from that
experience and you want to protect your kids from having the same thing
happen to them. Physical or emotional hurt, or whatever it
happens to be. But, but they still have to learn their own
lessons and it’s hard, it’s hard as a parent.
Denise: Yeah, yeah, right,
Noreen: (Laughter) It’s hard as a parent. I know
exactly. It’s funny, now I have these two granddaughters that are
teenagers, and I think this interesting, but their still doing
fine. You know, there’s no sort of confrontation happening there
yet, and the oldest one’s already left home, so.
Denise: Oh, that’s
Denise: That’s good, yeah.
Denise: Okay, what was the
other thing that I wanted to ask? Oh, did you ever go to the
Noreen: Oh yes. We, as teenagers, we hung out at a
couple of places downtown and the Silver Spike was, was certainly was
the place to be.
Noreen: And I don’t know how they ever
survived because all they ever sold was coke and French fries to
us. You know, and we’d sit there for hours after school.
Although, I suppose…. like I don’t know how much time I spent
there. I know I went there, but it wasn’t an everyday thing,
cause I normally came home and did my homework and made dinner.
Sounds like too perfect a kid doesn’t it? But, I wanted to get
the homework out of the way. And then I did, I was involved in lots of
other things in school. So I was in, like…. I’ve always been
involved in things. I don’t like to sit on the sidelines.
So I was on the student council and I was in the badminton club.
I liked sports, individual sports, cause I wasn’t very big. So I
didn’t like volleyball or basketball.
Noreen: But badminton
and curling and bowling, and so, really, all week long I was busy doing
things. Because I went out to badminton two nights a week, I went
out play curling once, I went bowling once or twice a week and, you
know. So it was like, I was busy doing lots of things, so I think
that I probably didn’t hang around the Silver Spike, not on a daily
basis. But I certainly…. I was there and before that, as a
younger kid, like with my mom, we’d stop probably coming home from
getting groceries downtown, at Jimmy James. That was a soda
fountain shop and we got sundaes, that had those wonderful, you know,
clear glasses that were kind of tulip shaped.
Denise: Oh yeah
eight inches tall. And then the hard ice cream and the whip cream
and the pineapple sauce, or whatever they put on it was and coke.
So that was…. that was sort of, that wasn’t really where the teenagers
went. Teenagers also went to Mason’s Café. Which
was, it’s across from the Bank of Montreal on Third Avenue.
building that has the door on a
Noreen: On an angle.
Denise: On an
Noreen: Yes. It’s been a series of different restaurants and
Denise: I knew it was called Mason’s, but I didn’t know
that was where the teenagers went.
Noreen: Yeah, yeah. Some of
us. Primarily Silver Spike, but also to, to Mason’s.
yeah. So, when I, do you have any memories of about sort of
teenagers hanging in Prince George? You know, just, maybe stories about
the Silver Spike, or
Noreen: No, not really. Nothing that
particularly comes to mind. What we, what we did. My
teenage years, I mostly remember going with this group. That,
that may of only been sort of the last couple of years in high
school. But it’s like all summer we were,…. we were water
Noreen: And lots of the guys at that point were
finished school, so they were working. So they would come out in
the [evening], as soon as they finished work, at 5:00. And we’d
have [a bonfire and hotdogs and water ski,] like if it was a hot summer
we’d be out there every night of the week, as well as on the
Denise: That’s nice that you had
that. That’s nice. What about winter? Do you have any
memories of winter in Prince George? Besides the sawdust
Noreen: Oh the sawdust burner, yeah. One that I can picture was
walking over to the school to play badminton. And it was one of
those beautiful winter nights, that the snow was falling and it’s soft
and it’s not really cold. It’s like, I can picture that. Other
things, we had, we rode toboggans and that kind of stuff. You
see, I don’t think I was outside doing that much because all the things
I talked about, like the bowling and the curling and the badminton,
those were all winter things that I did. So, like the week was
Noreen: And in the summer, when I wasn’t doing those
things, we were out at the lake a lot, so, not a bunch of. I was
never very good at skating and I always was kind of sorry about that
because lots of my friends went skating and I wasn’t very good at
it. And we went out one time to West Lake, a bunch of us.
Sometimes, once in a while in the winter, the conditions will be
perfect so the ice will freeze and there won’t be any snow on top of
it. You could skate from one end of the lake to other. But
anyway, we skated and I wasn’t very good and then there’s this crack. I
remember thinking, ahh, the ice is breaking. And then I’m just
putting along behind, ‘cause I’m not a very good skater. (Laughter) Oh
no. It’s funny, it’s one of those things that I thought, my kids
are going to learn to skate. So, we had a swimming pool in the
house that we had when the kids were little. So I shoveled it off
all winter long, shoveled it off like a skating rink, for the kids to
Noreen: And then took them down for some skating
lessons. They joined the figure skating club, just for the basic
lessons, just for…. not to turn into figure skaters, but just to learn
to skate. Shoveling off that pool was hard work because it was,
it was drained about, about a quarter of it was drained down, so that
there was no, any of the pipes or anything, where the water came in,
that was all, that was all clear. So, you’ve got the pool and
then about two feet down, or something like that, you leave the water
in, put a barrel in the middle of it, so that when it freezes, it, the
expansion will be, the barrel will rise and so it won’t break the pool,
the concrete pool. Also, we put two by fours around the whole
edge so that, they would move, rather than break the cement. So,
yeah, so for years I shoveled that off. That was hard work because you
were shoveling up. And then as you get more snow, then you’re
shoveling further and further up. And so (Laughter)
Noreen: But anyway, it was a way of keeping the kids at
home and, and give them, you know, teaching them how to skate and have
something to do to keep them out of trouble. And then because we
had the pool, the kids always hung around our place. And
initially the pool was not heated and it was really cold. In this
country the water’s really cold.
Denise: Oh yeah.
Noreen: So we finally
installed a heater, and then, then it was like, all summer long.
“Mom can we go in the pool yet?” And I’d say, “Just a minute,
just a minute.” Because it was like, if they were going to go in
there, I was going to sit and watch. Like I had some jobs to do
around the house first. So, it’s like, okay, okay. It’s
like, “Mom” No, no, no I have to get the groceries, I have to do this,
I have to do that. But anyway it was like, if it was warm
weather, it would be most afternoons I’d be sitting out there watching
the kids. And they’d be, and all the kids in the neighborhood
would be, be swimming, so. They all got to be very good swimmers
because of that. Scuba divers and all the rest of it so.
Yeah, very comfortable, any water sports, they enjoy, so.
going to change tracks again. When you’re, do, do you remember
your dad being the mayor? Do you
Noreen: Oh yeah, umhm.
Denise: Do you have any memories around that, or, feelings around
Noreen: We had, it was interesting, one of things he said, when we
would, occasionally have…. there’d be dignitaries come to town and you
know, they would come to the house, or something like that. Mom
would be starting to get in a stew about these people coming, whoever
they happened to be, and Dad would say, “They’re just people, you
know. They’re just people.” And so it’s kind of an attitude
that’s, I think that you, often times with some one in a position of
power, it’s probably hard for them to make friends because they are in
a position of power. So they’re open to people being sort of,
just normal, you know.
Denise: Right, right, yeah, yeah.
Noreen: Dad was
just busy doing those things all the time, but because he was a, a, a
not an integral part of my life, I think probably whatever he did
during the day, if he’d been working, or if he was down at the City
Hall instead, wouldn’t have a lot of impact on me. They were
always going places and doing things. So it probably, certainly
broadened my horizons in terms of where you can go and what you can do
and what’s out there in that big wide world, because of. We went
one time, Queen Elizabeth came, before she was Queen, I think, to
Canada. I’m trying to remember the details. And we went
down to Kamloops to be able to see her. And I got to be, ‘cause I
was a Brownie, in the front row with the Brownies. And they were
very, [interested in the Guiding movement] ‘cause they’d been Brownies
and Guides, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, in their
Denise: Oh, is that right?
Noreen: Yeah, so they had a real
[front seat], whenever the royalty came, always the Brownies and Guides
were invited and always they had the front row, with their uniforms
on. Yeah, right up against the, the rope, you know.
that would feel proud.
Noreen: Yeah, exactly. My dad was quite a
Monarchist, he was really a believer in the royalty.
liked the royalty.
Noreen: Umhm, yeah. It probably what he did gave
me a real love for the city. And a feeling of wanting to
contribute in whatever way we could.
Noreen: To improve
things in the city. So probably that. I remember one time
he, he ran as a Liberal candidate. And that was kind of odd because, I
think in the same room in school, I don’t remember what age I was, was
a Leboe, I think probably Barry Leboe. And his dad or uncle or
something was running for the Social Credit, so it was like, (Chuckle)
dueling politicians, (Laughter) at this young age. It like, we
didn’t know if we should be talking to each other or not, or
what. We were running around putting up political signs and those
kind of things. So, yeah
Denise: Oh, that’s funny.
Noreen: Yeah. But
day-to-day stuff, it was just kind of, it was kind of the way our house
Noreen: So, they were always two things. But, when
you don’t know anything different, then you sort of think that that’s,
that’s the norm, you know. It wouldn’t be the norm in other
houses, but. Mom was very adaptable. She probably told you
that because Dad would come home and say, “Well we have to be at this,
you know, reception, or whatever, in fifteen minutes. And she’d
say, “Why didn’t you tell me. What in --- do you…. I didn’t get
my hair done. I have to get the right clothes, you know.
Anyway, anyway, she was quite adaptable, so then off they’d go.
She’d be muttering along about, “Garvin, why didn’t you, why didn’t you
let me know about this?” “Well I told you,” he’d say. Well
yeah right. Or he thought he told her or you know, how these things
Denise: (Laughter) Yeah. Well, good for her.
So it was, I think probably I’ve always had an interest in politics.
There was lots of politics discussed around our dinner
Denise: Dinner table.
Noreen: Politics in general, and just general
political philosophy, as well as individuals and that kind of
stuff. Did mom tell you about Ma Murray. Used to come and
visit, Ma Murray.
Noreen: Oh yeah, well so she was the…. she
had a, a newspaper, her and her husband had a newspaper in Fort St.
John, I think initially. Then she ran one in Lillooet for a long
time, The Lilloeet News. And she was, she was a real
character. She, she…. I can’t, don’t remember much about the
history of her, there’s books out on them, The Newspapering Murrays,
and that kind of stuff. But she was real political person.
Very opinionated and very, well, one of these larger than life
characters. She used to say, “That’s for damn sure.”
Everything would be, “That’s for damn sure.” You know, so.
(Laughter) But she’d come and visit. Mom said, “She’d come
and visit and she’d be so wound up about whatever political thing that
they’d been at, that she’d be in there, Mom and Dad would be in bed and
she’d be in there sitting on the end of the bed and saying, “And you
know, this is how we could do this.” And whatever.
Noreen: She knew the Cariboo. We
had one trip she was with us, I think, going through Williams Lake and
Lillooet and so on and she knew the names of the mountains and how they
got those names and everything else. She was very interesting, very
interesting person, so…
Denise: And she lived in
Noreen: Lillooet, she lived in Lillooet. When I knew her.
I think her husband might have been a MLA or an MP in Fort St.
Denise: Okay. What year was that…around?
Noreen: When I was
probably about fifteen or something like that. So, forty-six,
forty…. fifty-five. Yeah, fifty-five. Yeah.
cars, things like that, roads, what was that all like?
Noreen: Well, we
used to go on one holiday a year. And this was in the spring,
when there was spring break-up. And I think we went then because
when Dad had the construction business, probably they weren’t working
because of the conditions. So always over the Easter holidays
we’d go. And I don’t know if it was Mom’s idea, but certainly it
was Dad’s idea, that you, well we wanted to see the province. So
the idea of a holiday was to get in the car and drive five hundred
miles a day. (Laughter) On gravel roads. Which meant you had to
get up about six in the morning. (Laughter) I remember them
waking me up, “Daylight in the swamp,” he’d say. That was his
favorite way of getting us up in the morning. So then we’d, we’d
get in the car, by then Cliff was, my brother was gone, so it would
just be the three of us. So we’d get in the car and drive like a
bat out of hell for a long time, he never wanted to stop and look at
things. He just wanted to drive. So we’d do six hundred
miles, or five hundred miles, or whatever. We’d stop for
breakfast about ten o’clock and have bacon and eggs, then charge along,
and. Bev Christiansen said to me once, [she had taken a
trip to Vancouver with my Dad, cause he was driving kids down to play
at a Badminton tournament.] And she was my brother’s age, so they
went down.[together] And so, she said, “Your father had a very
interesting way of driving.” (Laughter) It’s like, he’d go as fast as
he could and get to a corner, put on the brakes, turn the corner and
speed up again. And, of course the roads wound around like
this. But if you’re going to make any time, you’ve got to go as
fast as you can where there’s a little bit of straight, put on the
brakes, go around the corner. (Laughter) So, this… this was
a little bit different than what she was used to.
Denise: They’d go and
brave the canyon.
Noreen: So, winding around on those, on those
roads. So, yeah, that would be, so we saw, we drove around lots
of the province. We, we’d, often we’d go to Vancouver and we’d
stay in the Georgia Hotel. And I, as a kid, would get to run the
elevator. Yeah, the elevator. Because they were run by a
person then. You know, it wasn’t an automatic.
Noreen: There was an elevator operator. And he had a lever
that he’d take back and forth and for whatever floor you want.
So, cause I was a kid, but not a little toddler, and there again, you
know, lots of freedom, I don’t know what age I was, but I was out
running around in the halls and I was riding up and down in the
elevator. And whenever there wasn’t anybody else in there, the
elevator driver would let me drive the elevator.
Noreen: So this was neat, I remember that. And the other
thing I remember is, we didn’t used to hear sirens here. But we’d
go to Vancouver and the window would be open in the hotel room and
you’d hear these sirens. It’s like we hear them [here] all the
time now. Go to the golf course, you hear them five or six times,
you know. But as a small town, we didn’t hear sirens like
that. Very unusual, yeah. One of the times when Dad was the
mayor, we still had, the power plant to power the city that was down on
First Avenue. And it was Christmas time and that power plant was,
sort of, not hardly enough to keep the city going. And it’s
Christmas! Everybody’s putting on their extra Christmas
lights and cooking their Christmas dinners, and all this sort of
stuff. And the power plant went out. So I remember, I
remember all the confusion over that. And I think Mom probably
had a turkey in the oven too. And what they had to do, they went
around with Jack Carbutt, from the radio station. They went
around with bull-horns [on a car] saying, “Turn off all the switches in
your house.” Because they couldn’t get the power plant up and
running again because every time they tried, the drain of the
electricity was so much. People had to turn off their
switches. So that, you know, you could power the plant up, and
then gradually you could add the load to it, so. Yeah. There’s a
lot of duties to being the mayor in those days, [1950’s]. Dad
used to get phone calls, weird phone calls, like how much can the mayor
be responsible for? But, you know, the…. the, “The wind is
blowing and the smell from the garbage dump is bothering me.”
It’s like, Dad said, “How am I supposed to change the direction of the
wind,” you know, but anyway. Things like that. He had a,
quite a scary phone call when Kennedy was killed. Somebody phoned
him and said, “What are you goin’ to do about this?” And Dad said,
“Well, you know, what can I do about it?” “Well,” he said, “You
don’t do something about it, you’re goin’ to be
Noreen: So, just some kind of kook. And then
finally Mom got two [phone] lines put in the house. ‘Cause she
never wanted to take the phone off the hook, because she always
thought, well maybe her family would need her.
they got two lines and they had a, a line that was, that we had the
number for and then they had a line that was public. And she
could…. they could turn it off so, he’d get home at night, if he didn’t
want to have to deal with city problems, he just didn’t answer that
Noreen: Yeah, ‘cause it’s very demanding, like, like,
sort of a twenty-four hour day.
Noreen: Seven days a week
job. Where people always…[are wanting something]
wouldn’t think that the mayor would be that available. Like that
people would think they could phone him at home.
umhm. Maybe you couldn’t now, I don’t know. Colin [Kinsley]
seems pretty available. I don’t know, I mean I don’t think he has
an unlisted number.
Denise: I guess, yeah.
Noreen: Yeah. Yeah, that people
have the nerve to do that, you know.
Noreen: Umhm. Yes,
Denise: And what about your brother, when your brother ran
for, well he was an alderman.
Noreen: He’s been an alderman quite a few
Noreen: Yeah, yeah.
Denise: So, do you still involve,
are you involved in that at all?
Noreen: Well, he usually runs a pretty
low-key campaign. My mom is more of a political animal than he
is. And she’d say, “Cliff, have you got buttons?” and you should
be doing this and you should be doing that. But he just….. he’s a
different sort of person. Very different from my dad, who was
flamboyant and actually ran, you know, a very pro-active
campaign. Cliff was like, well I’ll put my name up here and I can
do some good work and if people want to vote for me,
Noreen: So, and he has done good work and, and he’s
always been voted back in. But it’s been, usually, a pretty
Denise: How many years?
Noreen: You know, I don’t know,
you’d have to ask him because he…he didn’t run for one term and then he
got back into it and he ran for quite a few terms before that, so, you
know, I, I really don’t know. He’s been involved in it for a long
time. It’s just like when you say, how long was your dad the
mayor? I really don’t know, years, but I don’t know what specific
Denise: Okay, yeah, yeah. So he doesn’t run a campaign or
anything? You don’t sort of?
Noreen: No, we don’t sort of get
together and have a committee room and do all that sort of stuff.
I’ll say, you know, “You’ve got some buttons? I’ll pass out some
buttons.” And he might have buttons or he might not and he
probably. I think he had signs last time. But that was
maybe the first time he’d even done that.
Denise: Oh, is that
Denise: Very low-key.
Noreen: Very low-key. He’ll go to
all the things, like he’ll go to the, all the campaign forums and he’ll
give his views, and all that sort of stuff. And do a bit of
advertising, but not a, not an in your face kind of campaign.
Which is unusual for a politician of any ilk isn’t it?
Denise: Yeah, and to be successful continually.
Denise: That’s really good, that’s really
Noreen: Yeah, we didn’t have
a lot of things we did together because six years is too big a span
between kids. He was off to university by the time I was, like a
young teenager, so… so when we might have been doing things together,
he was not home, so our, and our tastes seem to differ. He liked to
play bridge and he liked to play golf when I liked to water ski.
Now I wish I’d learned how to play golf when he did but.
(Laughter) Anyway. Maybe I’d better at it now.
So what about family traditions, any like?
Noreen: Well my mom’s brother
Vic Hendrie and his wife Milly, and they lived in town. Vic
always worked for dad, so they were always around together. And
they had two kids, just a little bit younger than me. So, the
family stuff, and it didn’t happen often, but it was like…. Christmas,
Christmas dinner, New Year’s dinner, those kind of things we did with
that family. Outside of that we didn’t, I mean mom would have
seen Vic during the day, but I don’t remember being at a lot of family
things together. It’s kind of interesting because my dad and mom
both spent their energy doing community things, maybe because they
didn’t have a big family here, so they weren’t as family
oriented. Jim’s family [my husbands] did a lot of family
things. Big family, lots of family stuff going on. Not so
much involved in doing community things. My husband is now, but
their family…Their family, was very close knit.
Noreen: And did lots of big family gatherings and that kind of
stuff. Didn’t so much get out into the community. Maybe
when you have a big family, you don’t feel the need to reach out
Denise: Yeah. That’s a neat analogy,
Noreen: Umhm. It’s different, very different.
Denise: So do
you have one, wonderfully grand memory you’d like to share with me
about Prince George, or about your life?
Noreen: One grand
Denise: Or two.
Noreen: Or two or three. No, I just think
that I’ve been very fortunate, in that it was, it’s a great place to
grow up in, great place to raise kids, good place for grandkids to be
growing up in. Sort of has the best of both worlds. Has,
you know…. doesn’t have the, the long driving distances that a city has
and it doesn’t have a lot of the problems that a city has. But it
has a lot of the attributes, as opposed to the small town. Small
town where you… you, it’s nice to be, but, you know, you don’t have
good restaurants and I most things are limited, very limited,
everything.END OF TAPE
Noreen: Are we going
Denise: Yeah, we’re on, yeah.
Noreen: Yeah, I’ve been very honored
to have, well first all, the Weaver’s Guild gave me a life membership
after I got my Master Weaver’s Certificate and because I’d been the
president there three or four times and done a whole bunch of things
for them.  And then, I got the Canada 125th medal. Which
was a Governor General’s award. 
community volunteerism… then I got the Queen’s Jubilee medal for
community volunteerism and  and City’s Recreation Award of Merit
 and Citizen of the Year from the Rotary Club, Today’s Women
Award thing. That was 2002.
Noreen: Yeah, and I don’t
really know why because I was just doing stuff I enjoy doing. But
it’s nice. I mean you never do these things to be thanked.
But it’s nice to be thanked. But you never do it, I mean you get
way more out of doing something than you ever put in to something like
this. Like all the stuff I’ve put in, all the time I’ve put into
the Community Foundation, I could, the feeling that you have that
you’ve actually established something that’s going to last.
Noreen: And benefit the community, it’s a wonderful feeling.
Denise: The first two awards that you told me about. How would you
be nominated for that?
Noreen: I don’t really know. Somebody had to
have put my name in.
Noreen: And I think for the Canada
125th medal, it might have been Shirley Gratton, because I think
she was asking me questions about this and that and so on. So
it’s like, the years that I drove for Meals on Wheels and I had a
Brownie pack and you know, just a whole bunch of, a variety of
different things that…. stuff I did in the Weaver’s Guild and,
yeah. But I’ve been fortunate because I haven’t had to make a
living, so I’ve been able to volunteer my time to the things that I
thought were worth while. Like you’re doing with this Oral
History Group. It’s fun being in group like this, isn’t it?
Denise: Sure, it’s a wonderful thing. Yeah yeah yeah.
really a positive thing. And then, and then the last thing was,
oh, and I was given an honorary alumni from UNBC.  And then, a
year ago I was asked to be on the Board of Governors for
Denise: Oh, that’s quite an honor.
Noreen: It is, it is, because
that’s actually the board that runs the university. That the
president answers to.
Noreen: Which I didn’t know before I
started. But I’m learning. I don’t know, I didn’t know much
about the university. I’ve had a year, sort of, on the job
training and I still feel like I don’t know very much about it, but
it’s, it’s, it’s such a, such a worthwhile thing for this community,
the university. It’s just such a wonderful attribute for the
community. The reason that I got the UNBC alumni thing was that
when, when we had the seven thousand people come to that rally about
the health care problem, a few years ago. Charles Jago got up and said,
“Maybe we should think about training doctors in the north.” That
was the first idea, the first thought that we might get a medical
Noreen: And people, somebody phoned me the next
day and said, you know, “There are, people are asking, how can we
support this idea of a medical school in Prince George? Somebody
needs to start a fund.” So I talked to the university, I talked
to Charles and I talked to Tom Shand from the hospital, because I
didn’t want to be encroaching on someone else’s [territory]. And
they were asking me as the Community Foundation to do
Noreen: [The Community Foundation was asked,] because
it encompassed the whole community, rather than one aspect of it, like
the university, or whatever. The university, Charles said, “Well,
we can’t do it because this is not an established thing yet.” And
Tom Shand said, “Well, if anybody was to do it, the Community
Foundation would be the obvious one.” So we started this [fund]
and we raised about twenty thousand dollars. Which we kept and
then later gave to the university. Now that is the seed money for
what they’re raising now, the six million dollars that they’re raising
for scholarships for the medical students. That’s where this
twenty thousand dollars went. But it was kind of the first, it
was the first sort of, practical, or tangible, the first tangible thing
to do with that Medical program here in Prince George. And the
community was so much behind it and so, subsequently and because of the
community involvement, we showed the politicians the community really
is behind it [behind the idea]. We didn’t do….we didn’t mount,
actually a campaign for that because ours was an organization run by
volunteers. You know what that’s like, it’s just we did not have
the people power.
Noreen: To mount a campaign of any
extent. But this money just came in because it was in the paper
and people wanted to support it. [The cause]
Noreen: Yeah, so that was quite an accomplishment.
mind kind of turns because, oh now, we must be doing it, we’ve got this
seed money. (Laughter)
Noreen: Umhm, yeah, yeah. So a lot of people
that worked hard and the university people worked tremendously hard to
get this [program] going. Because it needs, it needs to work in
conjunction with UBC. Which is very established and would like to
make all the decisions and the university here will say, well yeah but
we need to have something to say about this program. So, there’s been a
lot of things to work out, as well as the funding. But the
government’s been very supportive. So the students, the medical
students for our program will start at UBC this September and will come
here [to UNBC] in January. The Medical building should be
officially opened August the 17th, when the university has its tenth
year anniversary. It has been here for ten years.
Denise: That’s really nice.
Noreen: Yeah, it is. So I can’t
think of anything, I can’t think of anything else that’s particular
Denise: No, you’ve told me a wonderful story.
Denise: Yeah, yeah, yeah lots of, I learned a lot listening to you,
so I’m sure other people will too. It was wonderful. Any
last thoughts that you want to share, or…
Noreen: No really, I think what
the group [Oral History] is doing is a wonderful idea and if I ever
have any time to volunteer at something, I’d like to get involved in
Denise: All right. Okay, I’ll turn this off now, before I
do I just want to say thank you so much.
Noreen: Oh, you’re
Denise: It was a very good time for me. It was a