Interview with Noreen Rustad

Acknowledgments The history of Prince George continues to emerge through the work of historians, students and the dedicated group of staff and volunteers at the Prince George Oral History Club. In order for the Oral History Club to exist, there must be candidates who are willing to participate and share their histories.  I am grateful to Noreen Rustad for allowing me to come into her home and to record her life’s history.  Her commitment to her family and the community of Prince George is truly inspirational. Her openness and sense of humour made my time with her a wonderfully enjoyable experience.  Thank you Noreen.
  Along with the person to interview are the dedicated people who volunteer their time to transcribe our interviews 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.
 This 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 completion of this transcription. Thank you Elaine!                                                     Denise Torgerson , October 1, 2004

Denise: This is Denise Trick, with the Prince George Oral History Club, and I’m interviewing Noreen Rustad.

Noreen: Hello

Denise: So, we’ll just start with some biographical information. What year were you born?

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.

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: Lived here all that time.

Denise: Wow.

Noreen: Yeah.

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 you?

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 business.

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: House construction business.

Denise: Okay, 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 it so?

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.

Denise: Of 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 was…

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 room.

Denise: Ohh, so, from his other construction jobs?

Noreen: I guess, or just as it became available, and he could buy it.

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: Yeah

Denise: Okay. Piecing a house together. Yeah

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 meals.

Denise: Wow.

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 school.

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 Fourth.

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: The far side of the street, but it was all bush of course, up there.

Denise: Where the government buildings are.

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.

Denise: Yeah

Noreen: You know, play, sliding on the hills in the winter or, you know, whatever.

Denise: It’s different now.

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 now.

Denise: Yeah.

Noreen: And they’re doing a lot of things for her. Because they, you know, feel really comfortable with her.

Denise: Yeah, that’s nice.

Noreen: Enjoy her company and, yeah, it’s very good.

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 important.

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.

Noreen: So, 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 new.

Denise: Yeah.

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.

Denise: Right.

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 themselves.”

Denise: Yeah.

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 generally cowards.

Denise: Right, yeah.

Noreen: But, but you can’t, you can’t run away from them.

Denise: So, what happened with the boy?

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. (Laughter)

Denise: What about the boy that you hit with the book?

Noreen: Oh, that was just, that was just one of many. (Laughter)

Denise: (Laughter)

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 “normally”.]

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 right hand.

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 backwards.

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 page.

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?

Denise: No.

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.

Denise: Yeah, 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.

Denise: Yeah, yeah,

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.

Noreen: Yeah, 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 here.

Denise: Right.

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 been demolished.

Denise: Okay.

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 it.

Denise: I’ve never known that before.

Noreen: Yeah, peculiar.

Denise: Isn’t that funny?

Noreen: Yeah, just a sign of the times.

Denise: Yeah, okay, so let’s, so what would that look like?

Noreen: Well you know, I don’t have very much of a recollection because I never actually went in there shooting.

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: But 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 target practice.

Denise: Well it must have been a huge basement then.

Noreen: Oh yeah. Like under the whole gymnasium, that one, yeah.

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 think.

Denise: Okay

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.

Denise: Okay

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 funny.

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 them on

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.

Denise: Okay

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 things.

Denise: Yeah.

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, yeah

Noreen: What years, like just eleven and twelve or?

Denise: Eleven, 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 think.

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 too.

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 school sweetheart?

Noreen: Yep.

Denise: All through high school?

Noreen: Not 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 a weekend.

Denise: Wow.

Noreen: Running this boat from morning to night Saturday and Sunday, so that’s how I miss-spent my youth, was water skiing. (Laughter)

Denise: (Laughter) That’s not so bad.

Noreen: No, 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.

Denise: Okay.

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 they didn’t.

Denise: Even now a lot of people don’t, but, yeah, that’s good.

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 given.

Denise: Right.

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

Noreen: No. I wasn’t left with no supervision, but I had more freedom and more responsibility.

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 eighteen.

Noreen: I was eighteen,[when I was married] so I was twenty by the time Tammy was born.

Denise: Okay

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 that.

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.

Denise: Right.

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 their friends.


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? (Laughter)

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 that funny?

Noreen: So we went far and wide looking and then, yeah.

Denise: Home.

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.

Denise: Yeah.

Noreen: So then, as they got a bit older, well, I was always involved in 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. (Laughter)

Denise: (Laughter) You don’t get to go to the resort.

Noreen: No, I don’t get to go to the resort. No

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.

Denise: Wow!

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 fascinating.

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 wrong.

Denise: (Laughter)

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 idea,”

Denise: Idea.

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.)]

Denise: (Laughter) Ohh.

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 useful.

Denise: Right.

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 do.

Denise: Right.

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 Sled race.

Denise: Okay

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 volunteers.

Denise: Tell me what their, what the organization is called.

Noreen: Prince George Community Foundation.

Denise: Okay

Noreen: So, 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 anymore.

Denise: Okay.

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 responsibility [anymore].

Denise: Okay.

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 wonderful.

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 school.

Denise: Okay.

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.

Denise: Right.

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.”

Denise: Work

Noreen: The 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 special.

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.

Denise: Wow, so special.

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 Portugese.]

Denise: Yeah.

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.

Denise: Right.

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 town.

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. [1959]

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 carefully.]

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 nice.

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. Umhmm

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 older ones.

Denise: Oh that’s nice. Right. Right.

Noreen: But, 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 children.

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: They like to build racecars instead.

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 performed in.

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…

Noreen: No, 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 another…to another.]

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.

Denise: Oh, okay, okay, okay.

Noreen: Stuff like that, so yeah.

Denise: 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.

Denise: Oh, is it?

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- handed person.

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 like?

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.

Denise: Oh.

Noreen: It looks really neat. Yeah.

Denise: My yard is full of pine needles. (Laughter)

Noreen: Well there you go. You know, something to do with them. (Laughter) Although it doesn’t take that many to make a basket…. so.

Denise: I’m 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 anymore.

Denise: Right.

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 interests.

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.

Denise: Okay.

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. (Laughter)

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, so.

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.

Noreen: That’s 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 well.

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 signs. Yeah

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.

Denise: Okay.

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 it.

Noreen: Yeah, and then you go okay I’ve done that. Especially when it’s something difficult like that, so.

Denise: Yeah, yeah

Noreen: So 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 skates.

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.

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: And 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 here.

Denise: Okay.

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 bike.

Denise: (Laughter)

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.

Noreen: You 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 different.

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 there.

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.]

Denise: Right.

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.

Denise: Oh.

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.

Denise: (Laughter)

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.

Denise: Yeah.

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, yeah.

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 nice.

Noreen: Yeah.

Denise: That’s good, yeah.

Denise: Okay, what was the other thing that I wanted to ask? Oh, did you ever go to the Silver Spike?

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.

Denise: Yeah.

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.

Denise: Right.

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

Noreen: About 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.

Denise: The building that has the door on a

Noreen: On an angle.

Denise: On an angle.

Noreen: Yes. It’s been a series of different restaurants and things.

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.

Denise: Yeah, 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 skiing.

Denise: Yeah.

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 weekend.

Denise: Wow.

Noreen: Yeah.

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 um.

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 full.

Denise: Yeah.

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 skate.

Denise: OH!

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)

Denise: Right, yeah (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.

Denise: I’m 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 that?

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 childhood.

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.

Denise: Yeah, that would feel proud.

Noreen: Yeah, exactly. My dad was quite a Monarchist, he was really a believer in the royalty.

Denise: He 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.

Denise: Yeah.

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 ran.

Denise: Right

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 go.

Denise: (Laughter) Yeah. Well, good for her.

Noreen: Yeah. So it was, I think probably I’ve always had an interest in politics. There was lots of politics discussed around our dinner table.

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.

Denise: No!

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. (Laughter)

Denise: (Laughter)

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 Lillooet?

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. John.

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.

Denise: Traveling, 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.

Denise: Oh, okay.

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.

Denise: Oh, okay.

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 next.”

Denise: Ohhh.

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.

Denise: Right.

Noreen: So, 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 line.

Denise: Right.

Noreen: Yeah, ‘cause it’s very demanding, like, like, sort of a twenty-four hour day.

Denise: Yeah.

Noreen: Seven days a week job. Where people always…[are wanting something]

Denise: You wouldn’t think that the mayor would be that available. Like that people would think they could phone him at home.

Noreen: Yeah, 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.

Denise: Yeah.

Noreen: Umhm. Yes, absolutely.

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 terms.

Denise: Yeah.

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, okay.

Denise: Yeah.

Noreen: So, and he has done good work and, and he’s always been voted back in. But it’s been, usually, a pretty low-key campaign.

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 years.

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 right?

Noreen: Yeah.

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? Yeah.

Denise: Yeah, and to be successful continually.

Noreen: Yes, yes.

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.

Denise: Yeah. 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.

Denise: Yeah, yeah.

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 further.

Denise: Yeah. That’s a neat analogy, actually.

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 memory?

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

Denise: Okay.

Noreen: Are we going again?

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. [1986] And then, I got the Canada 125th medal. Which was a Governor General’s award. [1992]

Denise: Sure.

Noreen: For community volunteerism… then I got the Queen’s Jubilee medal for community volunteerism and [2002] and City’s Recreation Award of Merit [1992] and Citizen of the Year from the Rotary Club, Today’s Women Award thing. That was 2002.

Denise: Geez.

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.

Denise: Yeah, yeah.

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.

Denise: Okay.

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.

Noreen: It’s really a positive thing. And then, and then the last thing was, oh, and I was given an honorary alumni from UNBC. [2001] And then, a year ago I was asked to be on the Board of Governors for UNBC.

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.

Denise: Okay.

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 school here.

Denise: Okay.

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 this.

Denise: Okay.

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.

Denise: Right.

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]

Denise: Wow.

Noreen: Yeah, so that was quite an accomplishment.

Denise: Your 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. Yeah.

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 to…

Denise: No, you’ve told me a wonderful story.

Noreen: Yeah? Okay.

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 it.

Denise: Oh?

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 welcome.

Denise: It was a very good time for me. It was a pleasure.