Interview with Mary Semenok by June Chamberland, 2001

Okay this is November 20th and I'm June Chamberland and I'm going to interview Mary Semenok about some places on the Upper Mud River.

Mary : Well I'll try my best.

June : I mean if you have an error I mean, so that's it, well we'll just check around.

Mary : Umhmm

June : So where did you live , you lived on the Lower Mud River hey?

Mary : I was born on the Upper Mud River

June : You were born on the Upper Mud River, oh. So did you...I'll just ask you about your parents a little bit first before I start asking about the houses.

Mary : Well my parents came to Mud River. My dad came in 1911 and Mother in 1913 and there was just a trail from Prince George out to the valley and he took her home on horseback out there and so they just cleared the land and that was their home.

June : Did he have a little house out there for her when she came like?

Mary : Well I , yes I think he did.

June : He had already homesteaded

Mary : I think that he came in with the surveyors at that time

June : So did they get married

Mary : They got married. He sent for her in the old country . We're Lithuanians. I'm Lithuanian.

June : Okay, Lithuanians , umhm

Mary : Yeah

June : So they got married in Lithuania?

Mary : No they didn't. They got married in Kamloops I think

June : Oh okay. So he sent for his girlfriend like to come out here.

Mary : Yes that's right and I just forget the name of the boat that she came over with but it took 14 days to cross the ocean in those days.

June : So you were....are you the oldest of the ...

Mary : No I'm the youngest.

June : You're the youngest. So how many children did they have ?

Mary : There were just three girls

June : So what were your dad's and mother's names

Mary : Andy , Andrew and Antonina Miller.

June : Antonina Miller, oh yeah she was a Miller and then she became a ...

Mary : No she ..

June : Because you're Semenok ...oh right, your maiden name was Miller.

Mary : Yes it was.

June : So what are your other two sisters , what is their names?

Mary : Well one was Petersen and the other was Peacock.

June Oh yeah and their first names were ...

Mary : Annie and Alexandra.

June : Annie Petersen?

Mary : Annie Peacock.

June ; So your dad was a farmer

Mary : Yes he was and he raised registered Hereford cattle and .....

June : Did he have a big farm or small?

Mary : Yes it was a big farm. In fact I have a picture on the wall here

June : Of the farm?

Mary : I'll take it down here. I had a very hard time going through my pictures this morning to find a picture that's taken from the hill

June : Is this the Mud River here then?

Mary : No a back eddy

June : That's nice and this was the old road then going

Mary : Yes it was.

June : Oh and there's a big barn there

Mary : Yes

June : Then the house and then he's got some other barns here.

Mary : Yeah

June : It's very nice. I like those aerial photos.

Mary : Yes, but it could have been clearer . He took it when .....

June : Was it kind of cloudy or something ?

Mary : After a rain , See all the puddles. But these are all the old barns that he built.

June : Yes so you would have had quite a few cattle then?

Mary : Yes

June : Did you have other animals too then ?

Mary : Oh we had sheep and chickens and stuff

June : A little bit of everything

Mary : A little bit of everything.

June : So what school would you have gone to?

Mary : Mud River School.

June : Mud River School. Talking about schools now...what do you know what school that is there? That's on Jean Lloyd's place .

Mary : Yes. That was the first, that was Mother and Dad's first house that they lived in when she came over .

June : Your mother and Dad?

Mary : Yeah but then they built the other house and this was turned into a school.

June : Oh I see, so did they have that other big house? I don't know if that other one is there or not. It was built in , that house was out there too. Where's the big house?

Mary : Well on the Lloyd property is our original house. Yeah this was ...

June : Is that house on there too? No, it's not, well where did that picture go to then?

Mary : This is the Pallett place.

June : Okay well anyway the white house that is there now, it was built in 1970, she said

Mary : 1970? Oh Heavens no!

June : Oh no, no what did she say? It was built before that. It is 70 years old, she said. That's right.

Mary : Well yeah

June : Was that your Mom and Dad's house too? That big one right that's out beside that one other

Mary : Yes it is.

June : That's probably the one right there.

Mary : Dad's house , it's right there.

June : Oh sure, okay, oh yeah, well that's the barns. I got pictures of the barns and I got pictures of the house and I got a picture of . Oh yeah, now I recognize that, now that you say it. Never thought of it, never put the two together. So this house here.....

Mary : That's the Pallett house

June : Pallett house?

Mary : Yeah

June : Okay and were they a fam...were

Mary : Just Bob and Mrs. Pallett that lived there.

June : And they had no family?

Mary : No they didn't and he was the postman for a good many years because he would go to town on Friday and come back Saturday with the mail .

June : I'll just write that on there so I remember, That's an old buggy or wagon ( about picture of wide wheeled wagon)

Mary : Yeah an old wagon

June : Would that be your...?

Mary : No I don't think so

June : So Bob and Mrs. Pallett?

Mary : Umhm. I just forget her name.

June : P-a-l-l-e-t-t. ?

Mary : I think so.

June : So he was the postman. And did they farm a little bit too I guess?

Mary : I don't think so . No they didn't do too much . I think they just had a few chickens That's about all.

June : So this house. Is that on the place too?

Mary : No , oh no.

June : Okay. So this is ...here's the house that's 70 years old. It was built about 1930 , 31,

Mary : Yes

June : And your dad built that?

Mary : Yes.

June : That's not log is it?

Mary : No it's a frame house, it's a lumber house.

June : So when that place was turned into a school then, did you go to school there?

Mary : No that was before my time.

June : Oh away before your time .

Mary : Yeah it was

June : So when would you say that was built, that was turned into a school?

Mary : I would say in 1916.

June : 1916

Mary : Yeah, approximately.

June : And before that that was your dad's house ?

Mary : Yeah , until he , yeah, built the big one.

June : So then this house probably would have been built by 19...because if that was about 1916 they turned it into a school, this house would be ......

Mary : Well there was another house but it burnt down

June : Oh in between times.

Mary : Yeah, and then we were forced to well the teacherage closed and we were forced to live in there until this other house was built.

June : Umhm. So what did they call that school there then?

Mary : I don't think it had a name. Just "school", yeah.

June : Was it a school for many years or....

Mary : That I couldn't tell you. I don't know how long.

June : Am I bothering you by asking you questions or would you rather just tell me things?

Mary : No, no. That's fine.

June : So was that the teacherage at the back, that's where the teacherage was?

Mary : Oh yeah

June : Well that's interesting. Okay, that's those. And then Bushes. Did you know Bush?

Mary : Yes

June : Could you tell me something about Bushes?

Mary : Well there again, they were Lithuanians . They built this beautiful log house and they farmed too you know. They had animals . I don't know what all they had . But they both passed away while they were relatively quite young you know , just in their early 50's .and so the Malgunas's who were related to them took the boys and raised them .

June : They had more than the one boy then?

Mary : Two boys , one was Costa and Joe. Joe Bush still lives in Prince George.

June : Oh yeah.

Mary : I was just a kid then and paid no attention to all these people and how they got to here.

June : Because they'd be a way older . You were the second generation like?

Mary : That's right. I was only about six or eight years old then.

June : But the dates are pretty well right, 1924 and around then ?

Mary : Yeah

June : That's what this Galinas told us. Okay now this place here. This is by that Dodd Creek Ranch sign , I don't know what that building is.

Mary : Dodd Creek?

June : It looked like a school; but somebody said it wasn't

Mary : Dodd Creek

June : I don't know whether there is a creek there but there must be. Just this side of Schwartz I guess.

Mary : Well I recognize this house.

June : It's up on top of a little hill. Here's the highway, close to the road.

Mary : Well it might have been Marvin Kaskas because ...

June : This is Kaska's house right here according to one lady. It's just across the river. Oh you say this might be his too?

Mary : Well after he moved out of these... This was a chicken coop, somebody's chicken coop and he turned it into a house.

June : Oh

Mary : Yeah

June : Marvin Kaska

Mary : Yeah and he lived ...did you stop in into Lyle and Phyllis Schwartz's place in ...

June : No, I haven't stopped in there yet. We just took that from the road there.

Mary : Because this was taken sort of across the road from their place. I think.

June : We got the name of the person there.

Mary : The name? Dodd Creek Ranch ?

June : There's a new house up on the hill and the road goes but this was just a little corner and it was just right in the bush there.

Mary : Oh

June : I imagine it's the same guy's property but I'm not sure. But maybe it isn't.

Mary : Dodd Creek Ranch. I don't know. I don't recognize that at all.

June : Well Maybe Schwartz's will know.

Mary : Yeah I'm sure because the valley is full of Schwartz's. There's a whole family of them. There's Ordy and there's Tony and there's Gordon and what's his name, Steve and my niece is married to Bill Schwartz.

June : That's what that Galinas guy was telling us that all they've got all different names but they've got , they use a different name than what they ....

Mary : Than what they really ....

June : Maybe it's their second name

Mary : Yeah that's right too.

June : Kind of cute.

June : Well this house here, did he have a family or that?

Mary : No Marvin lived by himself, not until later years .

June : So he built quite a house for himself ?

Mary : Well yeah but that isn't actually where he lived.

June : That's across the river hey?

Mary : That's across the river but where he lived . He finally got together with a another lady and you know where that machinery outfit is out there....

June : Oh Huber ?

Mary : Huber, you go just pass Hubers and you come around the corner and there's a wide open field and a house , a new, sort of newer house, that's Marvin's.

June : On the right hand side ?

Mary : On the right hand side, for quite a few years.

June : Is he still alive, Marvin?

Mary : No he's gone. So he sold that place and moved into that chicken pen.

June : So why would he have built a big house across the river like that?

Mary : That was years previous. Well I don't know. There were different guys that lived there. There was Jack Seid and Fred Dyrrhman and you know

June : Yeah, over the years.

Mary : Yeah that's right

June : Unless he built it and rented it

Mary : No, not in those days. But to cross the river there used to be twin bridges there so that's how they got across the river into his place.

June : It wasn't such a problem then.

Mary : No it wasn't. Now they're building bridges on the rivers

June : They've got some big new bridges up in there on the Mud River and big houses on the other side

Mary : Yes that's where Robin Tutt lives. Across the, up the river and up on the hillside and he's a cabbage farmer.

June : Oh yeah. I guess they grew pretty good gardens along that river hey?

Mary : Oh the soil was really good soil for growing , growing vegetables. Yeah this house is really deteriorated and ...

June : So were you ever in that house?

Mary : Yes we used to go there and it was a nice house

June : Yeah it looks like it was a nice house.

Mary : It was. It's just a shame that all these old buildings have to go back to dirt

June : Yeah you can see that dormer there, they must have had an upstairs. So did you just go to visit?

Mary : Oh I think when we were kids we used to go there and we used to have skating parties . We used to skate on the river and yeah when Marvin's relatives would come up from the States he had an aunt and an uncle that , no a sister and a brother that, no an aunt and an uncle that lived in the States somewhere , so whenever they came up he always had us down. There would , They'd roast marshmallows

June : Like the Miller family would go down ?

Mary : And a few others. There were other neighbor kids.

June : Are you relayed to that Jack Miller? The Millers that were up the Chief Lake road?

Mary : No. No

June : Miller's a pretty common name.

Mary : There was another Miller family that lived in the valley and they were JN Miller. They lived there for quite a few years so there were two Miller families but we were ....

June : Not related

Mary : No

June : So what about this place here?

Mary : What about that place ?

June : This one that what's her name the people , Escher that's in there now?

Mary : Escher's live there but ....

June : That wouldn't be their place originally?

Mary : No. That's just above Marvin Kaskas place. The one I was telling you about.

June : Yeah. So did they buy this place too then I guess? Because this is where they're living right now.

Mary : Well this is where Marvin was living.

June : With the house across the river.

Mary : Well he abandoned those houses across the river and built a newer house . They used to have a sort of white stucco , or whatever it is. He lived there for quite awhile.

June : So that was Marvin Kaksa's barns ?

Mary : Yes it was

June : Well he lived all over the place

Mary : Well just, he owned all that land across the river and where the Eschers live and so... Yeah that's all of his old buildings.

June : So he must have come to the country, well I guess it would probably be his parents

Mary : Well as a young man he did. In fact he went to school but not to that first school. There was another log school that was built and it burnt down and then they replaced it with a lumber school but yeah, he had a brother Albert and they both went to school . I don't know what else I could tell you .

June : Anyway you kind of got all the buildings figured out who they all belonged to

Mary : And I went through my pictures and here's MR. Pallett .

June : He's a big man

Mary : Yeah he was.

June : So that must be his horse and chickens.

Mary : Yeah he needed horses and chickens. This is very poor pictures of our barns where Lloyds are now.

June : Okay, okay. That's the ones that I took pictures of. And look at the water here.

Mary : That was the 15th of December and all the snow had melted and all run down into that hollow by the barn.

June : Yeah you can see that's the same barn

Mary : I went through all my pictures and I couldn't find the one that I was really looking for . It was a picture of the whole of all the buildings taken from the top of the hill. It was a really nice picture but I couldn't find it.

June : Yeah Jean Lloyd showed me a picture that some guy had taken from on top . He took a picture of her place and then he had he was selling them for I don't know how much She bought it but she only paid about half price but even at half price it was a horrible price to pay. But I mean it seems kind of bad you take a picture of somebody's place and then charge them for it. He should have given it to her.

Mary : Yes

June : So what else can you tell me about living on Mud River"

Mary : Well I don't know how far back you want me to...

June : As far back as you can remember I guess.

Mary : There was some good times and some bad times too and I'd rather not talk about that. Anything we just went to school and when I got through Grade 8 that was it. Then I stayed home and I both my sisters went to work in town or wherever or got married so I stayed home with Mother and dad until I was 24. We used to do the plowing and all that.

June : Worked hard .

Mary : Well yeah and when we were in our teens we used to help with the haying and stooking and the threshing just like all the rest of the people, the pioneers did. And after that then I got married in 44. Went through all kinds of experiences which I don't even want to talk about.

June : No. Sometimes life was pretty tough.

Mary : Yeah it is.

June : So the people in the valley there did they used to get together at the holiday? Christmases and stuff like that ?

Mary : Oh yes we did. All the Lithuanians , the Malgunas's were Lithuanian and the Bushes and we were so we took turns going to each others places for Christmas or New Years and we always went with the team and sleigh of course.

June : So did you have Christmas on the 25th of December too or.....

Mary : Yeah

June : Because some of The Ukrainians they have January 7th but Lithuania's a little bit different.

Mary : Yeah

June : Away from that.

Mary : Away from that

June : And I guess Christmases were not so crazy as they are today

Mary : No I should say not. We hardly got anything for Christmas. If the hens quit laying before Christmas well we just had to do without and if the cows went dry well we did without.

June : So did your dad do any trapping too or was he just strictly a farmer ?

Mary : No he was.... he was also a good blacksmith. He made horse shoes and in the wintertime the Lithuanians would come in from town or whatever and they'd end up in this old school-house building and they'd make harnesses or fix harnesses and single trees and double trees and poles for the sleighs and whatever. This is what they did, how they spent the winters.

June : Oh yeah. Then they'd sell them or just for their own selves?

Mary : Fixing stuff up

June : Yeah you always got to fix stuff when , always breaking,

Mary : Yeah that's right. And he always cut down birch trees and this is what all this was made out of, birch wood.

June : Oh yeah. Lots of birch around there then?

Mary : Oh yeah. There was lots of birch around in those days. Other than there there was nothing very exciting happening in those days .

June : No, it was just work hard and ...

Mary : Umhmm.

June : Make a living, survival.

Mary : That's right. When Mother and dad were first living there, there used to be a tie camp out there. Then they used to hew ties and float them down the river .

June : They'd float them down the river to where then?

Mary : I, probably, I don't know how far they'd catch them. Probably at the mouth of the river, Well I don't know, oh, just where they'd take them out.

June : Then they must have hauled them from there to town or

Mary : Yeah, they did. And Dad used to bale hay and, well, all the neighbors seemed to bale hay and they'd haul it down to the Chilako station and load them on boxcars and sell it .

June : The Chilako station, now where ....

Mary : Not there anymore. End of the Lower Mud

June : Okay so that would be .....

Mary :. Down to where the Mud River runs into the Nechako.

June : Okay

Mary : Yeah and that's where the Chilako station was.

June : I guess that would be on the same line as the Finmore station and the Isle Pierre station

Mary : Yeah sure

June : I'll have to check and see how it sort of fits in hey. There's none of that now.

Mary : Well the CN still runs through there but they've got rid of all those little stations.

June : The country is funny hey, You go here to this place and then you go to this place and then you find out that maybe this place is just close to that place, you know the roads are, it's really odd. It's not as big as you think it is like and it's the same with the people , this person knows that one and that one knows that . Laugh. Kind of neat in a way. And of course in the old days everybody , there wasn't that many people so everybody knew , not like today, you don't know anybody

Mary : Even just a few years back all of us neighbors used to get together and well we'd just sit around and talk or also we'd have a potluck supper or something but they've moved out and sold and now I don't know any of the neighbors except my next door neighbor here. And they just don't do those things anymore. Idle talk.

Mary : Where it runs into the Nechako there was a family that lived there and their names was Sinclairs.

June : Oh yeah

Mary : And I think there's somebody living there right now but no relation. I guess they sold the place quite a few years ago. Well it ended up being the son's and the son sold .

June : Is there any old buildings there?

Mary : Ah I don't, I imagine there is and then down the Lower Mud there's a what they call the "Little Place". There was Charlie and what the heck was his other name, Charlie and ... The two brothers and a blind sister lived together there and yeah, there should be some old buildings there but there's young people that live there now.

June : What do you do, instead of going up to where you used to live you go down the other road like?

Mary : You go at the bottom of the Mud River hill and you know where the Vissar vegetable are, you go past, you go down that road

June : Oh okay and just keep on going

Mary : Well you can make the loop and you come out on the Vanderhoof highway you know

June : But you won't

Mary : You'd be missing the mouth of the Nechako by going the loop because the road takes off to the right to go down to the river, you know

June : Oh okay and that's where the buildings might be, is down towards the river.

Mary : That's the Sinclair's lived there but the Charlie Littles lived straight on

June : Okay

Mary : Yeah past the turnoff there , just a little ways there. It was really funny , well the sister passed away and then there was Charlie and Frank Little that were still there, well and they had one of these old Model T's with the rumble seat in it, you know, square looking thing and when Charlie Little passed away out there well Frank had just took him and sat him down in the car and drove him to town to the funeral home, to Assman's funeral home . Well Harold Assman never got over that you know. Laughing.

June : Seems to me I heard something like that once before. He had his last ride hey?

Mary : Yeah . Laugh.

Mary : No such thing as having the hearse come out and ...take him away.

June : Well I suppose maybe he couldn't bend him either.

Mary : Well maybe he got him in there before he ...

June : Got stiff

Mary : Yeah. I don't know how he got him in there but ...

June : So are they the ones that have the blind, did you say the blind sister? And she was gone before this time too.

Mary : Oh yes. But they had a well, water well, and boy that was the nicest water in the whole valley. The Mud River Valley, the Upper Mud all the water is really rusty you know and everybody's plumbing turns rusty but they always had nice clear water down there. We were just kids then .

June : So you'd go down there then?

Mary : Well we'd go down to visit. There was a blueberry country anyway . We used to go pick blueberries, yeah. I guess there weren't too many huckleberries or blueberries around this year hey?

June : I don't think so.

Mary : Well I should make some coffee.

Mary : And Pickerings lived out there and there was so many that lived out there, the Palmers, and the Hopps used to live out there and it's all gone, the names are gone and everything but.

June : What was that first guy you said, Fred Chermenko

Mary : Fred Chermakin

June : Chermakin

Mary : Shurbakon.

June : Shurbakon. Laughing.

Mary : He was a Russian guy that lived out there. The Ratkeys lived out there, and oh, the Tyners lived out there and ...but all those buildings that they lived there are gone and ..

June : Well I guess a person's lucky to find any old buildings at all

Mary : Oh sure

June : They're sort of a treasure to find.

Mary : You can have that picture of old Bob Pallett.

June : Oh okay sure.

June : You figure that's the Penner house eh?

Mary : Well is it sort of a double ...

June : It's way up high

Mary : Yeah and boards

June : Yeah and I don't know I think it bends something like this and but now there's a chunk taken out of it. Like they're gradually taking it apart. They're not supposed to but I guess ..

Mary : Yeah, the Penner house. That's whose house would be the heritage house there.

June : Yeah because there's Teichmans and then you go right down to the corner of Murald and just turn up Murald Road

Mary : Yeah that's ...

June : That would be the Penner house hey? Okay, well that's good. So who lived there, a family like?

Mary : The family of Penners , yes. In fact there's a Penner girl that's still here in town. But I don't... She was married to a Bailley. I don't know where she works.

June : And that Teichman, he's quite an old man. He lives, I forget where he lives . He doesn't live out there anyway. But there's an older man Teich... Mary : Fred Teichman?

June : Yeah

Mary : He lives on the same street as the Moose Hall

June : Oh he's just over here then?

Mary : On Douglas street.

June : Oh okay. I'll have to go and talk to him then. Yeah he was going to Vancouver or something with his daughter, or grand-daughter

Mary : Yeah, he has a daughter down there.

June : But his granddaughter I think was going to go. I said I'll get a hold of you later. Well you're a real help.

Mary : Well I don't know. The Teichmans that used to live out there it was the oh

June : Hillers?

Mary : Well yeah, Hillers lived out there and Kugos lived out there and ah Hendersons lived out there .

June : Oh yeah, just on the beginning of the Blackwater

Mary : Yeah, umhm.

June : But I don't think there's anything left of their place

Mary : No I don't think so because Clark the son now did he just pass away not too long ago or is he still alive , I don't know.

June : The son

Mary : The son, yeah

June : Yeah I was going to phone that one time but never got around to it. Went up the Blackwater , went as far as Levesque's place

Mary : I don't know anybody on the Blackwater road.

June : There's only a sort of a part of a barn there. It's kind of funny, like all the things go out you know, the rafters.

Mary : Oh yeah umhm. June : And the bottom's log. There was a house there but the house is gone too.

Mary : I went up to the West Lake, to the resort there .

June : Is there anything at West Lake at all ?

Mary : Not to, not to my........

June : Knowledge. END OF TAPE