The production of an oral history requires the co-operation of at least two people, but in this case there were a number of people and organizations involved, all of whom I owe thanks. The support I have received in this reflects the support the Oral History Group has received from the community of Prince George.
The Prince George chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America have provided a transcription machine for our use. Without this the process of producing a hard copy of what is on the tape becomes a daunting undertaking, especially in the case of a long transcript such as this one. Right along with this was the time donated by Lorraine Mathison, a member of the Prince George chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
Of course, this interview would not be available to the public if Bill Vinson and his daughter, Gwendolyn Murphy, had not welcomed me into their home and been willing to spend the time while I recorded Billís stories. They also took the time to go through the transcript and helped me weed out the typos and misspellings (most of them were mine and not Lorraineís). My thanks to all of you.
Prince George, B.C.
October 7, 1998
Interview with Bill Vinson
Interviewed by: Ernie Kaesmodel
August 19 and August 26, 1998
At the time of the interview Billís daughter, Gwendolyn Murphy, was also present.
It is August 19, 1998 and I am in the home of Bill Vinson. My name is Ernie Kaesmodel and Bill is going to tell some of the stories of his life. Also present is his daughter Gwen.
EK: So Bill, if you could start by telling us a bit about when you were born, where you were born and the early years of your life.
BV: Well, I was born in Basingstoke, England on the 26th of May, 1909. And my dad immigrated to Canada and I had my first birthday in Amherst, Nova Scotia. We were at Blairís Lake, Nova Scotia. Thatís southwest of Amherst.
EK: You have a souvenir on the table, Bill. Would you tell us how you came across that.
BV: Yeah, thatís a soup spoon and apparently I was playing with this. That was my toy on the Southwark, the ship we came over on and nobody noticed, but I was still playing with it when I got off the ship. And that soup spoon is... Iím still playing with it. Now, what next?
EK: Well, you went to ... your family went to Amherst. How many of you were there in your family?
BV: Now wait a minute, there was Clara, Joe, Al, Gwen, Dick and myself when we got to Amherst. We moved, my Dad started working in the Houston Woollen Mills. We, the boys and he, built a house up on James Street. Thatís west of Amherst just outside the city limits. And then, of course, we moved up into the house there until we sold out in 1915, but after we ... Ď14 or Ď15 my dad joined the army and went overseas.
EK: When he came back there was some kind of a farm settlement for soldiers?
BV: Oh yeah, soldier settlement farms. He took a soldier settlement farmand we moved out to the Stonehouse farm on the Gulf shore, eight miles east of Pugwash.
EK: Were you old enough to know what the terms, or did you ever learn what the terms of this settlement were? How did a soldier get this property?
BV: Well, they were supposed to... the soldier settlement would buy the farm for them and put on what stock and machinery was needed and then they were supposed to pay so much back to the soldier settlement. My dad kept up his payments until 1924 when my brother died.
EK: Then your family decided to move to western Canada?
BV: Yeah. And we moved out to Calgary. My dad worked as a steam engineer there in Alberta Box Company until the government officials come around and demanded his steam certificate. Oh, my dad thought that was a joke, but he came home mad. He told them that he had worked all the years that he had worked in steam and driven steam locomotives and now they wanted a steam certificate. Oh boy! He was pretty mad about that. Anyway, we got along. He got a job in the feedlots and worked there in the winter. Next Spring he got a job in the rebuilding Spillerís Mill.
EK: Spillerís Mill. What kind of a mill was that?
BV: Oh, it was a flour mill. Right beside the CPR tracks. So, he worked there and I got a job as waterboy. I worked there for a while.
EK: You would have been about 16 by now?
EK: Had you finished school by this time?
BV: I was in grade 8 and anyway, my brother Alf, spent one year up here on Stuart River with Hy Loper. Hy Loper was a good blacksmith and we helped him clear land and one thing and another. We got roadwork, working on the roads for a while, public works. When Alf came home in the Fall he, well, he took off for the prairie harvest. He worked in the prairie harvest. I think that was the year, no, that wasnít the year. Anyway, Dad and I worked in the feedlots that winter. There ... Wait a minute. When was that? I worked in the feedlots one winter and then I, the next Spring.
EK: Thatís ok, take your time.
BV: Oh yeah! ... cattle hauling all the waste from the Canadian government elevator. Theyíd dump it into empty boxcars and push it out onto the siding and weíd go up there with a team of horses and a drey and weíd shovel it out, haul it down and put it in the cattle feeders. Anyway, that Spring I wanted a raise. I was going too cheap. The other guys, I was doing the same work as they were, except looking after the horses, and they were getting two dollars a day. And I wasnít. I was only getting $20 a month, so I told the boss, I says in the Spring, " I want a raise if I am going to work there any longer." He says, " I canít give you a raise. I canít do it."
I says, "Well, thatís it then."
I quit there and a couple of days later McFadden came up and he had a herd of horses. And he says, " How would you like to take these horses out and feed them every day. Let them feed on the prairie and bring them back every night and put them in the corral? We got a good saddle horse."
I says, "OK."
And that first day out I had just an ordinary cap on. I got my neck sunburnt. So,I had to go uptown and buy a cowboy hat. And I got kidded over that. A guy came and told me, "Just because you are riding a horse you think you are a cowboy, you got a cowboy hat on."
I says, "No!"
I took my hat off.
I says, "Look at the back of my neck."
One day in the sun was enough for me. Anyways, I herded the horses out all summer.
EK: And did you get more than $20 a month for that?
BV: Oh yeah, I got $30 a month. A dollar a day. That Fall I got through
with that job, they sent me out to the Airdrie Ranch, four miles east of
Airdrie. McClelland Ranch. I worked there bailing hay and when the winter
came the hay was all done. They had a herd of cattle and it was in a fenced
area about 2 miles away. I was to go out and ride fence, ride all around
the fence. Make sure there was no means of escape. Until it got cold. Boy
oh boy! I went out there one morning, a nice bright sunny morning. It was
cold but I took my precautions. I just got out and the cattle were in a
bunch and the ... When I got there I rode around the fence, came back and
here the cattle were all in a bunch, just packed tight. And then all of
a sudden the sun disappeared, the wind started to blow from the north,
and then it started to snow. Cold! Boy oh boy, that wind was cold. The
cattle started moving south, slowly, going with the wind. I tried to stop
them when they come to the fence. That fence, they didnít even know it
was there. They just walked through it and over it and kept on going. I
used my bullwhip and everything else to try and stop them. No use. They
didnít pay any attention. And I was getting cold. ... the horse, I tried
to ride him up to the gate. No way. He didnít want to go to the gate. He
says, " To heck with you." He took the bit in his mouth and he started
on a dead gallop for home. When he come to a fence heíd just go over it
like that. Just go over it. Sail right over it. He come to a road or a
fence on each side heíd go over it, a couple of jumps and heíd go over
the other one. He just kept galloping right straight home. I got to the
main gate and that was too high for him to jump. I slid out of the saddle.
I slid out. I was so cold my nose, my cheeks, my knees, my feet. My toes
were all white. Soon as I opened that gate the horse took off in there,
and down into the barn. I didnít even shut the gate. I got into the house,
hobbled in there as fast as I could. My sister was there and she says,
" Oh, my gosh! You are freezing your cheeks."
My cheeks were frozen and the tip of my nose.
I says, "My legs are stiff. I can hardly walk."
"Oh," she says, "My goodness."
She unbuckled, pulled my pants down and took my shoes off. My toes were white and my legs, my knees were white. She got cold, cold cloths. Grabbed towels and wetted them and put them on my knees and held. She says, " Hold that on your face."
And I held that on my face and she got me thawed out. Another half hour out there and I wouldnít of made it.
EK: How long a ride was it from where you were riding fence?
BV: About 4 miles.
EK: About 4 miles.
BV: The coldest ride I ever had. Yeah. Anyway the next Spring, my brother
Alf and I, he was coming up to, coming up here to Stuart River to see old
Hi Loper. Going up. The summer before he had come up and he had filed on
a homestead for my dad, in my dadís name. Apparently he had talked it over
with my dad and Dad says " Sure."
So, we came up and worked there at ... Old Hi, he had to take off on a pack train as he was a blacksmith, and he was going to take care of the horses and get them, keep them shod. They were packing in, way into the north, some outfit. So, we planted his garden and there was nothing else to do so we took off up to another bachelor, Jimmy Tong, on the Stuart River.
EK: Was that Jimmy Tong?
BV: Jimmy Tong.
BV: And, Alf, he got a better job on the road, he got to working on the road. I helped Jimmy with the haying, you know, for a while then I took off. I went down to where Alf was working. I hiked down there and they put me to work on the road too.
EK: Where would this be?
BV: That would be on the Finmore Road, from Finnish Corner right down to Finmore, the ferry.
EK: Ok. Cause the, I know the road into Finmore and that, the one just out west of here now.
BV: Yeah, on this side. Itís on the other side.
EK: Oh, ok.
BV: So, we worked on that road Ďtil the work was finished.
EK: What kind of work would you be doing? How did you work on that road?
BV: Oh, just... some of them were blowing stumps and we were falling trees and clearing the trees away from the side of the road because it was just a little wagon trail through the bush. We straightened the road and took the trees out and we picked rocks off the road. One thing and another, you know. When they pulled the stumps with the horses, well then we would pick the stumps up and carry them over and throw the stumps on the brush pile. So, that was good until Fall. When that was finished we went up and we ... the Stuart River to Bart Davidsonís and he had a job clearing a new highway from Stuart River to Weber Lake.
EK: Iím sorry. To which lake?
BV: To Weber Lake district. They were putting a new highway through there so we started slashing our way through windfall there and clearing up. We slashed her right through until we met the other gang coming through from the south in the Fall.
EK: Do you remember what year this would be, Bill?
BV: Letís see, that would be 19..., Iíll
have to think about that. 1927, thatís what it was.
GM. The first year you came out here.
BV: Yeah. That was, yeah, we came up in the Spring of 1927 and Alf and I came up together. He had this contract so we slashed on that and cleared the road through until just about Ďtil snow came. We got it finished anyway. Then we went down to... Alf said, "We got to build a cabin on Dadís homestead. So we went down there and we built a cabin on it. Bought enough lumber to put the roof on and picked up some secondhand windows and put them in and built our own door. Managed to pick up an old stove. An old cast iron, that was a good stove. It was all cast iron. A beautiful stove. So, there we were.
EK: Where did you learn your cabin building skills?
BV: Well, I was always good with an axe and you gotta notch the logs out, you know, and then you turn them so the notch is down on the corner log. Yeah, we built a cabin there. Then on the fifth day of December, Dadís birthday, the rest of the family moved in, to our cabin.
BV: Yeah, well we added rooms on. Oh, we had a lot of fun and of course
I had already shot one moose when I was working on the road. And I had
an old 44-40 I had brought with me and boy, I thought that was a good moose
gun. The boss shot a moose the day before. He went in to haul it out the
next day, with the wagon. I was on the wagon to haul it out and there was
another one there. And the other fellow had a 33 Marlin. So, of course,
the moose run off in the bush so he followed it and tried, he fired two
shots at it out in the bush and it circled around and came back to where
this other moose was. I saw it coming. I told the, Bart Davidson, that
other one, that moose is coming back. He says, " Get down on your knee.
Take a rest off your knee with your elbow," he says.
That moose came right back and saw me down there and I just put a bullet right through his heart. "Boom!" He run a little way and then he was dead. Thatís how I got my first moose.
EK: With your 44-40?
BV: Yeah. I put a bullet right through his heart. I thought well that was the best place to shoot a moose, cause they donít go far when they are shot through the heart. We had... and after we built our cabin down below I, we took some of the meat down with us. We had some meat. We had a sack of spuds and a few groceries from town and we were sitting pretty until Dad, Mother and sister and younger brother came out. And I had my cheque from the roadwork that we had done. I signed that and gave it to Alf and he went into town and bought groceries. We had the place stocked with groceries and everything. Well, we had, they were good times. It was tough but there was lots of wood.
EK: Yeah, so now your family is on this land, what, a quarter section, a half section?
BV: Quarter section.
EK: Quarter section and there is now five or six of you, and winter is coming on and youíve got some groceries, but presumably now you are going to have to get on with some kind of business of making a living. So, how did you live there.
BV: We didnít. We just had to live off what money we had. It wasnít much. Oh, you buy a sack of spuds in those days for a dollar a sack, dollar a hundred pounds. And carrots were about three dollars a hundred pounds. Cabbage about the same. They were cheap, so we managed.
EK: What, you say you would get this from town, what town?
EK: From Vanderhoof.
BV: Yeah. There was a little store at Chilco too. We bought little, the odd thing there, but not much.
EK: Just a short backup here. There was
a story about the Houston Woollen Mills. Maybe I can get
Bill to tell us what happened there.
BV: Yeah, well one day, well Dad had taken me down with the team and
buggy, down to the woollen mills on a Sunday or Saturday to do something.
He had a little job to do. So, he took me along with him. So, this day,
I donít know what got into my head, but I decided " Iím going down to visit.
Iím going down to see Dad." So, I took off. I donít if I was three or four
years old and anyway, when my older brother and sister came home from school
Mum was having a fit. She had lost me, lost track of me. She didnít know
where I was. She sent them looking for me, through the barn, everywhere
she could think of. Even sent them down to the spring to see if I had fallen
in the spring. Oh, boy! They were in a turmoil.
Of course, I got to the woollen mills. You go down a flight of stairs into the boiler room and then there is another flight of stairs up into the engine room. And that engine, the cylinder was, I could stand up in it, look at the top. It was great. And, when I got down in the boiler room, the fireman happened to see me. He called up to Dad. He says, "Hey, we got company. Weíve got a visitor."
Well, my dad come to the door and looked down in there and there I was walking toward the stairway to go up into the engine room. I knew my way. He come down and grabbed me in his arms and packed me up. Sat me in a big chair and he kept me there until quitting time and then he walked home with me on his shoulders.
GM. How far was it?
BV: Oh, that was at least two miles. But I had hiked down there myself. I knew how to get there. Mum and Dick and Gwen, they were just worried sick, wondering what had happened to me. They had the neighbours out looking for me too. She had gone over to the neighbours and asked if I had gone there, you know.
GM. And when you got home?
BV: Mum was pretty darn mad. " Well, how did you get to the woollen mills all by yourself?" They just couldnít figure that out. I knew my way. I had been down there. Dad had taken me down there in the buggy.
EK: So you just went for a hike.
BV: Yeah, but sure followed him.
EK: Well, we were talking about other things you had. You mentioned that when your family left Amherst and moved out to Calgary you took a train called the Harvest Excursion . Could you tell what that is?
BV: Well, it is a train to take the, every year there was the Harvest Excursion that took all the people out that wanted to work in the harvest in the prairies. ĎCause they needed lots of men out there. There was a lot of people on that train.
GM. They just went out there to work for a season?
BV: Yeah, just for the harvest.
GM. From the east?
GM. From the east? Nova Scotia, Ontario?
BV: From Nova Scotia to, out to, no, no, out to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Calgary in Alberta. Thatís where the big crops were and theyíd stay there until after the thrashing. They thrashed all the grain and then theyíd go home and theyíd have a few dollars.
EK: Was there a special rate on that train for the workers?
BV: Oh yeah. Yeah. There was special rate.
EK: Is that right?
EK: You donít happen to remember what that was, do you?
BV: I think it was $24 from Pugwash to Winnipeg and, of course, when we got on, got to Winnipeg we had to get on the CPR and go from there on.
EK: So, if we could move back to this country. So, your family is all out there for your first winter in your homestead. And how did that go?
BV: Well, it was a little rough, you know. Nothing compared to today.
We had to, I, right after New Yearís, I went down to get a pail of water.
You had to chop a hole in the ice in the river and get a pail of water.
I went down to get a pail of water and I looks up the river and thereís
a great big bull moose standing on the ice looking around. I went up and
called Dad down. I says, " Look."
"Oh," he says, "heís a nice big one."
I says, "Yeah. Weíll see if we can get him in the morning."
Well, he had a big rack of antlers. So the next morning I borrowed a gun from my Dad, a 38-55. I says, "You stay on the river," cause he didnít have snowshoes. I did. And I says, "Iím going back in and come along the, back in behind. He may be feeding in there."
Sure enough. I went in there and there he was. So, I got my moose. He was a big one. That rack of antlers, great big rack of antlers. They were so big I kept them, Iíve got a picture of them too. I donít think Iíve got it here. Theyíre in my old pictures down in Vancouver. I should have them up here.
BV: Anyway, there was a fellow came along with a sleigh, a little bit
of a sleigh and a horse just as we were starting to pack it out to the
river. And he says, " Load it in here," he says, "and Iíll haul it home
So, we loaded it on his little cutter and he hauled it right down to our waterhole and we packed it up from there. And I says, " Well, you better keep a shoulder of that for your trouble. Well, he thanked me for it. You know, we all helped each other in those days. Somebody wanted a house built or a cabin built, why, weíd all pitch in and help get the main work done on it. Help one another.
EK: You helped build a few cabins out that way, did you?
EK: You helped build a few cabins out that way?
BV: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Lots of barns, cabins and houses. In 1938 my brother and I, Alf, we were up in Fort St. James when, did I say Ď38, yeah, Ď38? We were at Fort St. James. They were going to open up Pinchi Lake Mines for mercury production. And we had, Alf came up there and he got a job. Saw the boss and he got a job right away, cause heís an axeman. He can chop both right and left handed. And they wanted axemen. He hired one, two, three, four, four other men, and myself. I went up and saw him and I got a job too.
EK: As an axeman.
BV: Yeah. Well, I can chop both right and left, same as Alf. Of course, when I saw him using his left hand the same as he did the right, well, I picked that up pretty quick. And when we were building these cabins, Alf and I were always waiting for the other guys because they had to, they would chop out one side, you know, and then they had to get up and go round, sit down on the other side of the log and chop the other side out. And there we were sitting waiting for them. They were supposed to be axemen. We couldnít figure that out. But, yeah, we built the cookhouse first and then the bunkhouse. We were living in tents there and there was snow all over the place. Yeah. It was nice to get in the bunkhouse, but we worked there Ďtil Christmas and we were not miners. Neither were the other guys, but they had hammer and drill. And they put in four or five holes, you know, on a slant and then theyíd blast out every night. And theyíd have to muck out the next morning, but there was rich ore there, very rich ore.
EK: And that was mercury?
EK: We are up to 1938, but there were years there during the Depression. How was, you were up at Stuart Lake during most of the Depression.
BV: No. Stuart River.
EK: Iím sorry, Stuart River. And how was it up there through those years?
BV: Well, we got by. In the wintertime when the meat was all gone we managed to have spuds. We cleared enough land and put in a crop of vegetables. And when our meat would run Iíd go out and get another moose. We just kept on like that until we, oh Ď48.
GM. What about the berries and the garden?
BV: Oh, berries. We had to pick wild fruit all summer, whenever they got ripe and Mum would have a lot of empty jars from the moose meat. When the berries got ripe, why she would can them all up again. Fill all the empty jars with fruit and blueberries, strawberries, whatever we could find. We canned them.
EK: Did you ever use any fish from the river?
BV: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Boy oh boy! Every Spring we would fish. We would start by cutting holes through the ice, before the ice went out. Put down a big hook, oh, that big. (Indicates about 2-3 cm.) We have to catch a little minnow and put on it. Next morning we would pull that up and there would be a big ling on it. Ling, Burbot they call it. Thatís the proper name. And we fished for Ling. One day I went down and pulled up a Dolly Varden about that long (indicates about 60 cm.), he weighed over ten pounds, a Dolly Varden. And another time I pulled up a fish that was so big, it was a big Ling, and he just threw the bait out of his mouth. He had probably just eaten it and I was telling them about this big Ling. And they said, "Yeah, as big as a fence post," and making a big joke about it, you know.
The next morning my kid brother and Dad went up in the boat to this eddy and they pulled this big Ling in and he was about that long (indicates 80 to 90 cm). He weighed seventeen and a half pounds. And then they believed me.
EK: Did you ever catch a sturgeon up there?
BV: No, but weíve seen them.
EK: Youíve seen them.
BV: Seen them but the Indians used to catch them. Theyíd set the, set a net for them and theyíd come down and trade them for a little grub, you know. A little sugar or some vegetables or whatever we could give them.
EK: How did you get along with the natives out there?
BV: Oh, fine. I, we had a boat and I says, "Well." I asked him one day,
I says "What would you take to make me a canoe?"
They says, "Oh sure, we make you a canoe." He says, " How big?"
I says, " Oh, one like you got, oh about 13 to 16 feet."
He says, " We know right where the tree is."
By golly, a couple weeks later came down this canoe.
EK: Was it a dugout?
BV: Yeah. Cottonwood. So, he, I paid him $16 for it and two paddles.
EK: Oh, yeah.
BV: Two paddles went with it. So, that canoe, boy oh boy, I went up and down that river. Through rapids, up through rapids. I travelled in that canoe, well, whenever I had the chance, there was nothing to do at home, Iíd just jump in the canoe and take off up the river.
EK: Would you be hunting, or just...
BV: No, just travelling. Just looking around. A minister came out one
time, I told him, he was a little short fellow. What the heck was his name?
An Anglican minister. (Thinks it may have been Rev. Hale)
And I said, " You wanna come up and weíll go out and see if we can get a moose."
Thatís what we did. Went up and camped at an old cabin. I forgot to take the spoons. I had knives and forks, but no spoons. So, I says, "Well, Iíll make some." So, I went out in the bush and got a couple of poplars and whittled us spoons out. And he thought that was marvellous.
He says, " Can I keep this spoon?"
I says, " Sure. Keep both of them if you want them. Iím not taking them home."
He says, " Precious, precious keepsakes."
He took them home with him. But we got a moose. The next morning early I got up and went up past a cutbanks and there is a creek comes in there. Sure enough, there was moose in there. We went in and one started to wade across the creek and he swam a little way and then started walking. Come up out of the water on the bank and "Bang." Had a moose. Dressed him out and put him in the boat, in the canoe.
"Well, we gotta get this moose home," I says, " before the flies wouldnít touch it." So we took off for home and distributed it. That was too early in the Fall to can it so I distributed it, gave a piece to all the neighbours.
EK: Do you remember any of your neighbours names up there?
BV: Well, the farthest one up the river was Abbott, Walter Abbott. The next one down from there was Bart Davison and then the one across the river was Joel Hammond. The one on the same side of the river as we were on, the south side, it was Jack Hamilton. Us and my brother took, built a house right across the river. He had a place right across the river from us. And then the next place to him was old Art Snider and next to him was Jimmy Tong. And then my brother-in-law, George White, had a place across the river from Jimmy Tong. And then there was a couple of vacant places until we got to the Mandalay Ranch and that was George Loper and his family.
EK: Did they own the Mandalay? They owned the Mandalay Ranch?
BV: No, they were just taking care of it. A guy by the name of Whittaker, he was a millionaire, he lived in the States, he owned it. Then I had to go down through, oh, itíd be two miles down through fast water, rapids and fast water to Hy Loperís. Hy Loper and Jeeter Loper (Hiís half brother) lived there. Hy was, of course, a blacksmith. He taughtme a lot. Yeah.
I was just coming up, I had just left Hyís and I could hear the fellow in the canoe. He had a four horse engine inside, inboard, in the canoe, a big canoe. And he was coming up to trapperís in the Spring of the year and the water was low and it was swift. There was a half mile of water that was really swift, but of course, I didnít think that I could keep up with that canoe, but he had to stay out there in the swift water away from the rocks. I took advantage of the rocks. Iíd go sailing right up behind a rock and Iíd just dodge out around it and head for in behind another one, you see, and all the way up through this swift water. I was over a mile ahead of them by the time I got back in the calm water again.
EK: You must have been a good man with a paddle.
BV: Oh, I was, yeah. Oh yes, I learned to handle that canoe like it
was, just nothing to it. And I always sat ...,had about a four or six inch
board that I put across the top of the canoe and thatís where I sat. I
didnít sit down on the bottom or get down on my knees or anything, I just
sat on that board. And well, one day I was up at, that was, I forget what
year that was. I went up to the Fort. I had to go up to see an old friend
of mine, Jim Fetterly, on Sowchee Creek. I wanted to go up and see him,
see if he needed any help or anything. So, I had to get across the lake.
I went to old John Prince, he had a nice little canoe there, a fifteen-footer,
dug out, and I asked him if I could borrow the canoe for tomorrow. I said,
" Iíll rent it from you. I want to go across the lake and back tomorrow."
I says, "How much do you want for rent?"
"Oh," he says, "fifty cents."
So, I gave him a fifty cent piece. I says, "Iíll be leaving early in the morning."
So, the canoe was there with two paddles and I looked around on the beach and I found a piece of wood about that wide (indicates 4-6 inches), about 4x6, just a nice little seat to put on the top of the, across in the canoe to sit on. So, I put that on and I took off across the lake. I went up and saw Jim and had lunch with him and he didnít need any help at the time. So, I hiked back down. I came down, oh, around five oíclock, or so. (End of Tape 1, Side 1)
Tape 1, Side 2
EK: Okay, so it is around five oíclock, you are heading back towards the Fort.
BV: Back to the Fort, yeah. I started out and the wind was blowing from the west and I was heading straight north. Boy, oh boy, I looked out and the waves were, oh, the waves were four or five feet high there in the bay. And I was heading, the wind was blowing me sideways, right to Rocky Point. I thought, " Oh boy, I gotta get out of here."
So, I turned my canoe right into the wind and I headed straight west
for about half a mile to get away from Rocky Point. And then I started
across. I got out in the open water, the waves were eight, ten feet high.
Some of them twelve feet high. I just kept going. I could see when I came
up on a high wave, I could see the government dock across the lake. So,
I headed right for the government dock. I got within a mile of the dock
and I thought, "Well, I better head for Johnís now." So, I turned and headed
straight for John Princeís place to take his canoe back. And I noticed
a big crowd on the beach. A big crowd there and I thought, "Oh boy, they
must be having a picnic, some celebration or something."
So, I went so close to the beach and I didnít want the waves pouring in the back of my canoe, so I swung the canoe sideways and I just waited Ďtil the calm spot come. There is always a calm spot in the big waves. So, I just sat there and waited until this calm spot. And when the calm spot come I slid onto the beach. There were four Indians there who grabbed the canoe as I stepped out, grabbed the canoe and pulled it up. And old John was there. He says, " You lucky, boy. You lucky boy. Why you come," he says, " in storm like that?"
I thought, "Well, what the heck is wrong with crossing the lake in ...?"
He says, "Those waves, big out there."
I says, " I know. Eight, ten feet. Some twelve feet."
"Well," he says, " how you make it? How you do it? Why come in big waves?"
I says, " Itís ok. I didnít mind. Iím used to a canoe."
He couldnít understand how I could make it. Me sittiní on the little board across the top of the canoe instead of down on my knees like they do.
I said, " Oh, I know how to handle a canoe."
They thought I was just plain lucky, I guess. It didnít bother me at all. I was used to going down through rapids, up and down through rapids.
EK: Just out of curiosity, could you swim?
BV: Oh yeah. I went one day just to see how long I could stay in the water swimming. I got in at Pinchi Lake. There were a few of them out there swimming, so I got out. I swam back and forth along the lake. Just swam back and forth a solid hour. I asked one guy to keep track of my time for me and he wasnít swimming. He was just down there and he said just over an hour. Well, I could have swam across the lake and back in that length of time.
Now, the lake is dead because of the mercury.
EK: Is that right?
BV: Well, the slag in the lake and the Indians used to go over there across from where they dumped their slag. They used to get nice big char out of there, nice big char. They did the same thing again after they dumped the slag in and when they ate the fish they got mercury poisoning. So, they told them not to eat any more fish out of that lake.
EK: Was that a hardship for them? Was that a hardship for them not to be able to use those fish?
BV: Yeah, Ďcause thatís where they got a lot of their fish. In the wintertime, in the Fall, well, in 1948 when we were , Ď38 that was, yeah. When we were building the cabins they came over and they came up along, back and forth along the shore there and they were pulling in char, big, long, nice char. And they were , the flesh was orange, real rich, you know. And they came and went up to the cookhouse and asked the cook, "We trade you for sugar and flour, whatever you have."
So, we came in from work that night and here the cook had cooked up all these big char, big chunks of it on the table. Oh, it was good. It was delicious.
EK: Is that right, eh?
BV: Yeah, that was really good. We had some more the next night. They had a canoe load to take home too. That was beautiful fishing in there. They destroyed the lake for fishing.
EK: How long did you stay on your farm out there?
BV: My dad stayed on his farm for, well, he left the farm and went and worked up at Pinchi too. He was working up there. He and mother went up there and worked Ďtil the, of course, when the war was, you see it was finishing, why they just shut the whole thing down.
EK: Why was that?
BV: No more call for mercury. Mercury is the detonators for their ammunition.
EK: Oh. Of course, I was trying to figure out what it was that they were using so much mercury for.
EK: Did you ever have your own place there or were you, like on your fatherís farm?
BV: No. I had my own place too. Built my cabin on it and had my own homestead, but I had a trapline at the same time and I trapped all winter, but I couldnít get enough, couldnít make anything. I went in the Fall and I bought $17.50 worth of food. Took that out and put it in my cabin. I lived all Winter on that until next Spring. Next Spring one of my friends at Snowshoe up here, a sawmill town, Snowshoe, he wrote me a letter and told me to come on up. There may be a job for me. So, I jumped on a train and went up there.
EK: Whereabouts would Snowshoe be? I donít recognize that name.
BV: Well, itís past Longworth. It was Longworth, Erling, and Snowshoe and then thereís Loos, and what the heck is that?
BV: Crescent Spur.
EK: Now I know where you are talking about. If I could back up to your trapping a bit, now you say you had a trapline. Would that have been on crown land?
BV: Oh yeah.
EK: OK. And was it licensed, like did you have to register, to get a licence to do this?
BV: Oh yeah.
EK: And what was the process for this?
BV: Well, you bought a trapperís licence. You had to have a trapline first and then you could get a trapperís licence which was $10 a year. Then you could go and trap on this line and I donít know why, but I didnít, right at the last I decided that packing traps around was just no good. I started then using a snare, a killer snare. It was more effective. Oh, I got the odd coyote, fox, lots of weasels, and I used to shoot the squirrels. I had a .22 revolver at that time.
BV: And a squirrel, you know, Iíd come along on my trapline, hiking along, and a squirrel would brrrríd up a tree, you know how they go up a tree and Iíd pull that gun. Bang! And down would come the squirrel. Just like that. I got so fast I didnít know I was that fast until I tried it. I didnít have to aim or anything, I just pulled that gun and shot and down it come. I donít know where I had learned it or where I had picked it up.
GM. Thatís what you had practiced when you were little. You talk about that in your, when your brother was teaching you.
BV: That was with a rifle though, that was...
GM. But that was still practice with the speed.
EK: What would you get for a squirrel.
BV: Two bits.
EK: Oh, really!
BV: Yeah. Some they were big and nice, you might get thirty-five cents for them.
EK: Well, then it was worthwhile, worth the shell.
BV: In those days, in those days it was worthwhile. You had to make every nickel count. Yeah, I bought, like I said before, I bought $17.50 worth of food and that lasted me five months, right over winter.
EK: Did you have a string of cabins or were you trapping out of your home?
BV: I travelled. Leave early in the morning, seven oíclock when it was still dark. Iíd get back just eight or nine oíclock at night. It was dark again, but I knew my way you know. No problem.
EK: How old would you have been by this time?
BV: Oh, I donít know.
GM. In Ď39 you would have been 20.
GM. In Ď39 you would have been 20.
EK: Thirty. Thirty wouldnít it?
GM. 1909 to ...
EK: In Ď29 you would have been 20. In Ď39 you would have been 30.
BV: Somewhere in there. I donít know, but I always had lots of meat.
Dad was, I was staying with Dad. I remember him one morning he come out
and we were out of meat. Come to the end of our room. "Well, better get
up," he says, "meat on the hill."
So, I got up and got dressed and went out and he showed me. There was a bench up there on the sidehill. And right at the end of the bench there was a gulley came down to the level. And I looked up and I says, "Yeah." I says, "One looks like a young bull, the one on the far end."
The ones on this end were a cow and a calf and there were a couple more in the middle. I says, " That one on the far end looks like a young bull, maybe 2 years old."
I says, " What I can do is walk that gulley. If I can work my way up there quietly," because the wind was in the east, in my favour, "if I can go up there, peak over the top of that gulley on the level, I might be able to get that one."
So, thatís what I did. Put my snowshoes on and took off up there and I climbed up this gulley. It was pretty steep, a lot of windfall in it, but I got up there. Finally, I got up to where there was a log laying across, that was my marker. Got up there and peeked over the top. Sure enough there was that young bull feeding away there in the willows. So, I got up far enough so that I could get a clear shot. Bang! One shot and I waved for them to come on up and they came up. I said, "Bring your knives and an axe." I hollered at them, " Bring your knives and an axe." And so we went up and butchered it and went home.
Another time I was, I started up, I said, " Iím going up, Iím taking walk up to where the bridge is. I says, " If you hear me shoot," that was when we were out of meat too. It was snowing at the time and I says, " You hear me shoot get your butcher knives ready and come on up. Follow my tracks." So, I was hiking along the trail and I come to, there was three moose tracks where they had walked right across the road. I followed them tracks, there was a bull standing about, oh, 150 yards. Standing there looking at me and it was snowing like heck. Oh, I just put my gun up and fired once. Son of a gun, he fell down. There was a big log on the ground, about so big (indicates about 3 ft.), another one right beside it about the same size and another one laying on top, up here, and that moose flipped right over on his back down in between these two logs, and another one on top. Oh, boy!
EK: Now youíve got a job.
BV: Yeah. I says, " Well, you canít get at him at all until we saw that
top log off and the one on the side." I hiked for home. Got home and there
was Dad and my kid brother Norman and I says, " Why didnít you come? Didnít
you hear me shoot?"
Norman, he says, " Yeah, but only one shot."
I says, " Thatís all I ever shoot is one shot."
One shot gets a moose so I says, " We gotta have a crosscut to saw the logs. He fell down under the logs." So we took the crosscut and an axe and our butcher knives and went up and sawed the logs away and we butchered him. But that was, I think it was after Christmas. That was one of the times.
EK: Were you still using your old 44-40?
BV: No, no. I ...
EK: Traded that one in, did you?
BV: Traded that one off with the Indians when I got my 30-30. I got
my 30-30 in Vanderhoof at Emil Ahlmís and I took the gun home, cleaned
the barrel out, cleaned it up as best I could. Went out, put a target up
at a hundred yards. I fired one shot, dead center. I thought, "Well, try
another one." Fired again. I donít know where that bullet went. I fired
again, didnít hit the target at all. Fired again. Then I started looking
at the gun. Right in the middle of the barrel there was a little bulge,
just a little bulge right in the end of the barrel. I says, " Aha, thatís
So, I took it back to the store. Emil ??? had a second hand store in Vanderhoof. Took the gun back and I told him, I says, " No good. Canít hit anything with this."
"Well thatís too bad," he says, " the guy that I bought it from said it shot straight."
I said, "No."
I says, " I wonder if you can get me a new barrel for it?"
"Oh yeah, sure, sure. I can get you a new barrel for it. Well," he says, " you come in in two weeks and Iíll have a new barrel here.
So, I went back in two weeks and Bud ???, his son and I, we took the old barrel off and put the new one on. I put the sights on it and took it home and that time every shot was right there in the, right in the middle of the target. I had a good gun. I still got a good gun. Still shoots as straight as...
EK: You still own it?
EK: You still own it?
BV: Oh yeah. I wouldnít part with that. I had to make a new front sight though. I took a piece of red bronze and filed it and worked it until I could fit it on the gun, drilled it, put a rivet through it. Then I made a bead, a little bead around on the top. I got a half buck-horn on the rear. Just comes down, you know, in a little vee in the bottom. Just put that front sight down in that little vee and put it on your target and you got it. Just, its right there. These scope sights, I couldnít hit the broad side of a barn with one of them.
EK: Oh, is that right?
BV: Well, they got a big hole at the back end and you put your eye anywhere
in that hole and you can see your, like one guy told me, " You just gotta
put that front sight on it and as long as you can put that front sight
on it you got it."
I says, "No you havenít. You may fire a dozen shots, you might be just lucky and hit him."
I never saw anyone yet could hit anything with a scope sight, except one guy, I told him, he got a .270. Now, thatís a long one could reach way out because there was coyotes or wolves coming across this field in the wintertime. He fired. He couldnít hit a target at 300 yards. He was telling me about it and I says, "Well, look." I says, " You get a cap and put it over the back end of your scope and put a tiny hole through the bottom just so you can see, through the bottom, dead center." I says, " Then slip that cap over your, the end of your scope and then look through it. Try it that way."
So he did. He did just what I told him and I didnít see him for about a year and a half later. I met him in town one time.
"Aye, Bill," he says, " Boy, do I owe you something."
I say, "Why?"
He says, " I did what you told me to. I put a cap on the back of that scope with a little hole through the back." He says, " I got 7 coyotes and 5 wolves. Yeah, every evening," he says, " if they come out in the field, I got Ďem." He says, " That gun was right on."
EK: Well, the .270 was always a beautiful weapon. My father had one for years that he used to use for deer hunting. It was great, a great rifle.
BV: But when that scope, you know, its got a big hole in the back end
and they used to tell me, " As long as you can see that front, no matter
where you are in the back end, so long as you see, put that front sight
on the target you hit him."
I could never believe that. I saw a guy out a Skins Lake when we were working out there. We went for a walk on the Sunday and this guy was trying to get a deer, a nice big buck out there. He emptied his gun on that, he had a big scope on his gun, .303. He emptied his gun and he was shooting all around this deer. The deer wasnít too scared. You could see it. He was on the sidehill and the sand would fly up every time the bullet hit, you know. He was shooting all around that deer. Didnít hit him once. Finally, the deer took off. I told that guy what I thought of his scope sights.
EK: So, how long did you stay out on the farm at Stuart River?
BV: Until Ď36 and I heard I heard about this Germanson Ventures hiring people up there in Germanson. So, I took off in the Spring. I got up to Fort St. James and put enough grub in my pack and I had my bedroll. And I just started hiking then. I couldnít afford to fly in with the plane. It was going back and forth all the time, but I didnít have any money so, I hiked. Took me five days. Four days to Manson Creek and I stopped there over night.
EK: By yourself?
BV: Oh, no. There was a friend invited me to stay over night with him.
EK: No. I mean were you making the hike by yourself?
BV: Oh, yeah. It was in the Spring and the road was muddy and mucky
and full of ruts. That was a trip. And then when I got to Baldy Mountain,
the road went right over Baldy Mountain, the lower end of it and there
was about four feet of snow, but they had been running a cat over it and
it was hard, walking, you know. And I, just after I started up in the snow
there was a big Grizzly track. Oh, a big wide track, you know, about that
long (indicates over a foot). I says, "I hope I donít meet you old boy,"
but he only went a little and then he took off up the mountain.
Then when I got coming down the other side there was another Grizzly track, but I didnít see them at all.
EK: Were you carrying a rifle?
EK: Just your pack.
BV: Yeah. Oh, I got in there and slept over night at Manson Creek with
a friend and then I hiked over to Germanson and went to see the boss.
He says, " No, were not, nobody, no, not hiring right now. A little later."
I says, " Well, ..."
He says, " Go talk to Mister Mather." He says, " Maybe heís got something."
So, I went and talked to him.
He says, " Yeah, I got a job for ya. One of the flunkies wants to get out of the kitchen." He says, " Did you ever do any of the waiting on tables, flunky work?"
I says, " Iíll take any job you want me too."
So, he took me down to the cookhouse and he had two Chinese there, cooks. And he introduced me to Joe Park. And Joe, he was a happy-go-lucky guy, and I got along great with him. He showed me what to do and the other flunky showed me what to do and so, I did what they, I got along great. But Joe and I were very good friends. Henry Chow was the other one. We got along good and finally I, I worked at that for about a month, I guess and finally I went to the labour boss and I asked him if he had a job outside. I says, " Iím getting fed up with this."
He says, " I could use another man."
Well, he was corduroying across the muskeg, building a road across the muskeg and he had to corduroy it. So, they had another guy there, a young fella, to take my place. So, they put him in the kitchen and I went out on the bull-gang.
We went in the bush, cut our tree, limb it, cut it the right length and pack it out on our shoulders, put it down. I was good with an axe and I was packing out two to everybody elseís one. The other guys didnít like that. No, they didnít like it.
Finally I got talking to the superintendant of hydraulics, I was asking him if he had an opening. And he was from Nova Scotia, because I was from Nova Scotia, why, we got along good.
He said, "Yeah, sure," he says, " Iíll give you a job down there." He says, " You can tend sluice-box."
So, I moved down to the ...
He says, " You gotta get a pair of hip waders, rain gear."
Oh, I could get them in the commissary so, I got them and I worked there tending the sluice-box for a while. I did a good job I guess because ... The tailings at the end of the sluice box were piling up, they couldnít get the, they were just piling up and they couldnít get rid of them. The guy was on the little monitor the little monitor there, he just didnít know how to do it.
He says, " Weíll get another man on the sluice here." He says, " Weíll put you on that ten inch pipe and weíll see what you can do."
So, he come down there and "Now," he says, " donít try to push the muck away from the end of the sluice-box. Donít try to push it." He says, " Go out there. Put your water out there and you come back this way and itíll throw everything out." He says, " Put your water out there and come back." He says, "And itíll just... Throw your water out that way." He says, " Donít try to push it. Itíll just go Ďround and Ďround."
I says, " OK, I can do that."
It was a three inch nozzle on it and the penstock was two hundred and fifty feet above. Lots of pressure. So, I just started doing as he told me and I started cutting a swath out there, you know. Just back and forth. And then as the tailings started piling up I started coming back on it, you know, and boy oh boy, it was amazing how that worked. You just pulled everything right away from the sluice box, good. The superintendant come down and, at the end of the shift there, the first day and he looked. "Well, youíre doing a good job," he says, " thatís great." He says, " Keep up the good work. Thatís fine."
I was on that until they finished cleaning up. When they finished cleaning up (the removal of the gold from the riffles of the sluice box) I had a pile of muck up there, tailings, thirty feet high. Yeah, you just keep coming down with your water and it just pulled everything up. If you try pushing up, well, it just goes around like this you know, but if you start up there and come down it just kicks everything up.
EK: Iíll be darned. You said that your job was tending the sluice-box. What was that job? What did you do?
BV: Well, you just, any rock that got in there and wasnít rolling through you hooked it loose, kept it going. Otherwise, itíd pile up in there and block everything. Just keep the rocks going right through the sluice-box.
EK: How often would you clean up?
BV: Well, I canít tell you how long. I know when they were cleaning up there they sure got a lot of gold out of there. They pushed enough dirt through there, oh, it was quite a big pit when they got through. Like I say, I had a pile of dirt there thirty feet high and sloped out, you know. Put a lot of muck through there. And I know he come in after the cleanup with this gold pan, full of gold and set it on the table and it was just rounded up with gold. A gold pan, you know, they are about that wide and about that deep. It was just rounded up. He said, " Look at that, boys, look at that." He says, " Look at what we got." And then of course the boss, the big boss, comes down. He put that in a sack and took it back to the office.
EK: Was that considered a good haul, a good recovery?
BV: You bet it was, yeah.
EK: What year was that, Bill?
EK: How many men were working up there in that camp do you figure?
BV: Oh, must have been a hundred. Must have been a hundred. They had a wood crew out there cutting firewood just to keep all, oh, we had a bunch of tents there, at least six tents and the crew was sleeping in the tents. And this took a lot of wood. Each tent had a stove and the cookhouse and the office and the bossís residence. Now they had oil barrells made into stoves laying on their side and I came in there one day, I says, " Why are you building stoves laying on their side?" I says, " When you can get three times as much heat out of them if they are standing up?"
"You mean," he says, " if the stove is standing up you can get three
times as much heat out of it?"I says, " Yes. Putting the draft in the bottom."
I says, "Then you can burn a lot more green wood in it."
He says, " Are you willing to pay for one, us making the stove standing up? If it donít work," he says, " I am going to make you pay for it."I says, " OK, Iíll gladly pay for it."
Well, the guy headed the machine came up and he told him to make this stove in an upright position.
"Ah, no," he says, " thatís no good. You have to cut your wood shorter. Itís going to take more wood. No, thatís no good."He says, "Never mind if its not any good. You go ahead and build one." He says, " Iím not going to pay for it if it donít work. He is!"
He pointed at me.I said, "Itíll work. Donít worry." I says, " I guarantee itíll work."
They went ahead and made and set it up in the main office. Next morning I was there. The boss came over to the office and I was right there waiting for him. I had lit the fire in the office. He went in and the office was just roasting. He went back out and looked at the thermometer. It was thirty below, fahrenheit, that is. And he come back in again. " I guess you donít have to pay for that stove," he says. " Iíll get all the rest of them made that way."
EK: How long did you stay in the camp up there?
BV: Umm. Yeah, Ďtil Ď38. Came out in Ď38, the latter part of Ď38. That was the year that, when I went into Pinchi Lake to work as an axeman building cabins.
EK: Well, now just a minute. You said you "came out." Now, you didnít stay in there for two years did you, without coming out?
BV: I was out one winter. Thatís when I scorched the back of my guitar. I came out and I got a contract to play for dances out at Ellesby school house.
BV: Ellesby school house, every two weeks all winter, three hours a
night. So, I couldnít very well turn it down. There was nothing else, no
other work. I says, "Sure, weíll play." Three piece orchestra. I got no
transportation so I went and got Walter Abbott, talked to him. " Yeah,"
he says, " Iíll drive you out and back." He says, " Wherever you want to
I said, " For how much?"
"A dollar and a half."
So, I was actually making a dollar and a half for playing all night in a three piece orchestra. Oh, we did ok and got through that.
EK: How did you scorch your guitar?
EK: What happened to your guitar? You said you scorched your guitar?
BV: Oh, yeah. We went out one trip. We went out there and it was, it was more than thirty below. We got there and the instruments were all frosty, you know, cold. I built a box about so long and so wide and so high. I could put all three instruments in there. And lock them in and I put them on the running board of the car Ďcause he had a Ď28 Chevrolet Touring car. So, I could tie them right on the running board. We get there and we get them out there and pack them in and take them out of the box and theyíd be pretty cold, you know. Iíd hold them by the stove and let them warm, get the frost out of them. I scorched that one.
EK: It didnít hurt it too much though?
BV: No, it didnít hurt the tone a bit, no. And I bought that guitar
just because of the tone. I had a good guitar. When I was up at Germansen
I heard somebody strumming on this guitar and I was way the other side
of the camp and I could hear this guitar. Boy! Did it sound, it had a beautiful
tone. I listened. I said, "Boy, that must be an electric guitar or something."
Well, I took off and went around, made my way toward the sound, where the
sound was coming from and here was a guy strumming on it. I said, "Boy,
thatís a nice sounding guitar. Iíd sure like to have one like that."
"Yeah," he says, "it belongs to an Indian down at the landing."
So, "Oh," I says, "are you going to buy it?
"Nah," he says, " Iím not going to buy it. No. Heís coming up tomorrow night," he says, " and Iím either going to buy it or I donít, but Iím not going to buy it."
I says, " Well, what does he want for it?
(Whistles) "Fifteen bucks!"
I had a nice guitar, a darn nice sounding guitar, but this one was so much, beautiful tone, that, boy, I just couldnít resist it. So, when he came up the next night, why I was there. This guy said, " No. Iím not going to buy it." He says, " He might."
And the Indian says, " You going to buy it?"
I says, " How much?"
He says, " Fifteen dollars."
I got my wallet. All I had was thirteen. I said, " Thatís all I got. Iíll have to owe you two dollars."
"No. No," he says, " thatís ok. You give me thirteen dollars, thatís enough."
So, I give him thirteen dollars and he hands me the guitar. I still got it.
EK: Do you still play it?
BV: No. No. No, I donít know. Maybe I should.
GM. You just let it go.
BV: Yeah, well. I used to play at dances all the time. When I was in Fort St. James I played there for dances. Dance after dance, they always wanted me there with my violin, banjo, and guitar. I played.
EK: You played all three?
BV: Oh, yeah, and the mandolin.
EK: Who would you play with?
BV: Well, with the other guys.
EK: Do you remember any of their names?
BV: Well, there was Ed Small, there was...
He was, he always wanted to play the violin, but he wanted to play the
violin. That was all he played, but I could play the violin, the banjo,
the Hawaiian guitar, the Spanish guitar, and the drums. I could play them
all. And thatís how I lost my girlfriend.
A beautiful girl. And I got along, when I was at Pinchi her brothers, three brothers and a brother-in-law, they were all, and me, we were all in one tent. I never had so much fun in my life as I did with those guys. They were joking and ribbing each other just constantly. If they, one of them would come with something, the other would butt in and turn it around and make a big joke out of it. Everybody would be laughing. I never had, I never found a bunch that I could get along with like that. (Harrison boys)
EK: And you dated their sister?
BV: Well, I didnít. I hadnít met their sister. They were just working
there until, Fort St. James. Well, I had played one winter in Fort St.
James and that winter I came out. The year, that was 1939, I guess it was.
And anyway, they were in Fort St. James. They stayed there. They didnít
go home. They lived at Francois Lake. They didnít go home. For some reason
or other they were there in Fort St. James and then their sister came to
be with them and when we met, oh my gosh. They thought I was just one of
the family, you know. And they kidded their sister. They were always kidding
her and she was used to it, you know. Her and I just hit it off just, well,
we were just... And then I went to a dance one night. I says, " Iím not
going to play for you." They wanted me to go and play. I said, " No, Iím
not going to play. Iím going to dance tonight."
I got to the dance and I danced a couple of dances with her and she was a good dancer. We just got along great. And we were just, I was just, well, she was just a perfect mate as far as I was concerned. Beautiful girl. And she had grown up with these guys, you know, that were just loaded with fun and I had got along with them so well that they just treated me like a brother, you know.
So, I went to this dance, took her to this dance and had about three dances and the floor manager came down. Says, " I want you up there on violin. The violinist is, took off.
I says, " I donít want to play. I came here to dance."
He says, " You go up there and get on that violin."
And my girlfriend says, " You go ahead. I donít mind."
If she hadnít said that I wouldnít have gone, but she was nice about it and I went up, took the violin. It wasnít my violin, but I could. I played the violin for a couple or three dances and the violinist came back. I no more than got down there and the, I think I had one more dance. Yeah, I had one more dance with my girl friend and here come the floor manager.
He says, " Come on up here. The drummer has walked out on us."
And she again, she says, " Go ahead."
nd so, I went up and took over the drums, pounded the drums for three or four dances and finally the drummer came back and then the guy on the Spanish guitar, he took off. They wanted me to play that. Well, I might just as well have gone and played for the dance, you know.
Well, I got up there on the guitar and I played the Spanish guitar until suppertime. I went down and I thought, "Well, (End of tape 1)
EK: Bill was just telling us about his girlfriend and the dance in, Fort St. James?
EK: Go ahead, Bill.
BV: Yeah, and anyway, this new boyfriend she found, why she went home. He took her home. Thatís when I decide to quit being a musician. That hurt.
EK: Yeah, I guess so.
BV: I lost a girlfriend like that. Boy! No, I decided to quit right there. No more playing for dances. It was a silly thing to do, but I did, Ďcause I could still be playing now if I had kept on. Down in Powell River I tried it, you know, I took my violin out, tuned it up. I played for them down there. I played some real nice tunes. The girls had never heard me play and they wanted to, they wanted to hear me play. I got the violin out and I played for them.
EK: When you were in a camp like up at Germansen Landing and you had a guitar there with you did you entertain people in the camp at all?
BV: No. I didnít have a, no, no. There was only one other guy in the camp and he had an accordian. He played. No, no, it wasnít an accordian. It was a mandolin. He was Italian and he had this mandolin. Thatís the only instrument there was in camp.
EK: What was life like in that Germansen camp? (Repeated)
BV: It was ok.
EK: It was ok and the people were ok?
BV: Oh, yeah. I finally got hit with water. I was working at night. I got hit with, they put, the water from the monitor came over the fence, the backstop. They had big wings, you know, in front of the sluice box. And water came over the top and hit me in the back. Boy! I thought I was killed for a while. Sure knocked me for a roll, but I got up and I bawled the piper out. He came to see what, if I was hurt. He took off then. I bawled him out and he took off for home. I came out to see the doctor. There was a first-aid man at the camp and he told me, " You have to go out and see the doctor." Well, I did. Got on the plane and come out. It was Russ Baker and his old Junkers. I got pictures of him, too.
EK: Oh, Russ Baker.
GM. He passed away last year.
BV: August 26 (one week later)
EK: So, Bill, when we last talked you had left Germansen Landing. If you could maybe tell us a bit about why you had left, after your injury why you didnít go back. And then, maybe, tell us a bit about what you did after that?
BV: Well, that was in, no, wait a minute. I gotta go back. That was Ď36, 1936. I gotta think a while. What did I do after that?
GM. You said you were there until 1938.
BV: Oh, no, not in Germansen.
BV: Pinchi. Ď36?
GM. You went to Germansen after Pinchi?
BV: Letís see what you got here. ( consults Gwenís notes)
BV: My brother and I were in Fort St. James and old Brunlon, the CMMS(?),
Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, was the ... name of Brunlon,
he was going in to start a, went in to build a camp at Pinchi, north side
of Pinchi Lake and they opened up the mine there later to cook the ore
I had a lot of fun there. (Laughing)
EK: How was that?
BV: Oh, boy. There was a lot of Swedes, Norwegians, and Finlanders came in there, you know. They were the bigshots, they knew how to mine. These Canadians they didnít know anything. Anyway, when I got to, we built the camp in the Fall of 1938. We went into Pinchi Lake. We had to live in tents until we got the cookhouse up. We got that built and the cook moved in there and so, he was in out of the cold. There was snow on the ground and we built the bunkhouse, and the office, a little cabin for the office. A food cache up on four trees, you know. And then at Christmas my brothers wanted me to come out for Christmas.
EK: You still had family up at the farms at Stuart River, is that correct?
BV: No, I didnít.
GM. Your Mum and Dad.
BV: Mum and Dad was there, yeah. Anyway, we came out at Christmas. Spent Christmas on Stuart River.
EK: What would you do there for Christmas? What would the Christmas season be like there.
BV: Oh, we would just have a Christmas gathering,
nothing special. Nothing special, weíd have a big feed, you know, Christmas
day. Maybe give each other a little present of some kind. Letís see, after
Christmas, well, I didnít do anything that Christmas. I donít think I did
anything then until next Spring. I went back into Pinchi and asked old
Brunlon for a job.
"Yeah," he says, " I got a job for you. Iíll send you out prospecting."
So, I got a prospectorís handbook and took off with another kid. They said, "Oh, well," the guys around there said, " Oh, well, you just going out on a paid holiday."
It was no paid holiday for me, I tell you. I worked. I climbed mountains and I went up streams. I really prospected. I liked it and I was studying my book and I still have it.
EK: Iíd like to see that sometime.
BV: Umm. And I found quite a bit of stuff, but nothing in big enough
quantities. And on my, we took a three day trip. Iíd say, " Weíre going
to take a three day trip. Weíre going up this creek and weíre going up
the foot of the, way up by Gillis Mountain and come down the other way,
come down Canyon Creek."
So, thatís what we did. Hiked a way up there. First night we camped on the, I think it was Clear Creek they called it. Way up there, camped. And the next day we took off and there was a long, long meadow along the foot of the mountains. A long meadow, it was dry in places. I saw this boulder out in the middle of the meadow and I thought, " Now, what is a boulder doing out there?"
An ordinary boulder would have sunk into the ground. I went out. I got curious. I went out there. And I looked it, hit it with my hammer. A piece flew off, a chunk about so big (fist sized chunk). And it was light, very light, black and brown, dark brown. I smelled it, ahh, itís umm, what do you call it.
EK: What did it smell like?
BV: Hydrocarbon. Thatís what it was. It was hydrocarbon. And anyway,
I went into the edge of the meadow and I was breaking it up and looking
at it and smelling it and this kid climbed up a tree. He says, " Iím going
up and see what I can see from here," Ďcause he was getting worried. And
he says, " Thereís a lake down there."
So, I says, "Oh."
He says, " Come on. Letís go." He says, " Thereís a lake down there." He says, " A good place to camp for the night."
I says, " Ok."
I put my pack on and grabbed my rifle and I left all those, I left all that hydrocarbon sitting there. Laying there on the log. I didnít have a sample with me. Oh, boy. Anyway, we went down and out around the end of the lake. There was a little point out on the end of the lake. I says, "Right out on that point is a good place to camp for the night."
So, we camped out there. And we had supper and right after supper, why there was a big black bear came out. Now there was a big tree there about that big, a great big spruce growing beside the lake. (Indicates about 30 inches) And that bear if you could turn it this way and that way it would be the same width. That was big bear. A big black bear. Then, yeah we had supper then. The smoke was blowing slowly out on the lake, drifting out on the lake and I looked out there. Here was another bear swimming across the lake to point where we were on, a big bear. And he came up where he could smell the smoke, you could see him sniffing, you know. Woof! Woof! You could hear him. And he turned then and he headed back across the lake to the creek that was coming in over there. So, no, he was a big one too. I think he was a grizzly because he had a longer snout. He was brown.
So, anyway, the next day, the next morning, we hiked on our way. We hiked south until we hit Canyon Creek and we came down Canyon Creek. Boy, that was a, that was a good one. We stopped for lunch. We didnít see anything at until we, oh yeah, that night we stopped on a little bench by the creek. And the kid, he says, " Iím going down here in this pool."
There was a pool down there in this creek.
"Iím going down there and see if I can get some fish."
So, I says, " Ok. Iíll get supper ready."
So Iím cooking supper and he come back in a hurry and he says, " Whereís your rifle?"
I says, " Wait a minute. Whatís up?"
He says, " Look up there."
And up on the other side there was a big grizzly walking slowly along and every once in a while he stopped and looked down at us. And then heíd walk on again, go a little way and then heíd stop and heíd look down at us, you know. And he kept on. He looked down about three or four times at our camp. I had a fire going, smoke coming up and this kid wanted me to shoot that grizzly. I says, " Oh, no. Heís not going to hurt us."
"Oh, yeah. Heíll come back after it gets dark."
I says, " No, he wonít. He knows who we are." I says, " Heís just travelling cross country or somewhere." I says, "Heís not going to come back."
And he didnít. The kid didnít sleep very much that night.
So, anyway the next day we hiked down, right down Canyon Creek until we came we came to the Manson Creek road. And then we hiked from there back up to camp.
EK: When you were prospecting did you carry a gold pan with you at all?
BV: Oh, yeah.
EK: And did you ever find anything?
BV: No, no. We werenít looking for placer. We were looking for hardrock,
Oh yeah, then we worked, went down Manson Creek and up in the creeks that were coming in from the valley. We worked those creeks over. Found some pretty good galena outcropping up there. Yeah, and then I says, " Well,..."
The boss, old Brunlon came in one day and brought some more food and he took us prospecting, went out with us a couple of days and then he says, " I want you to move, move, no... Yeah," he says, " I want you to move camp down the creek, down Manson Creek."
We went down there and set up a camp down there and we went out there a couple or three days. And one creek there that runs straight north and he says, " I want you to take that trip, go up that creek," he says, " right through to where, over the divide, and where it goes down into Manson." And that was the tail end of the Wolverine Range.
So, boy, we made that trip. We went up one creek and over the summit and went down another creek clear down to Manson. And, boy oh boy, that was just unbelievable. It was all granite. Great chunks had fallen down in the valley. The creek, half the time the creek was down underneath. And the moss was that deep, hanging across these rocks. In one place I took the butt of my gun and just poked like that on the moss and it fell away and there was a big hole there. Way down there you could hear the water running. If anyone had just tried to walk across there, theyíd a just disappeared. I says, " Well, this is gettiní too dangerous. Letís get up on the, among the timber." I says, " Itís gettin too dangerous here."
Everything was covered with moss. We couldnít see anything. And the balsam spruce was so thick you had to pry it apart to get through. Well, we got up out of the valley on the ground and we started hiking along. And the devilís club were four feet high, just a solid matt of leaves, all over.
EK: Thatís my favourite stuff.
BV: Yeah, and I says, " You want to take the lead?"
He says, " Nope."
So, I took the lead and, of course, I had a heavy pack on. We both did and I was, had a stick in my hand knocking the leaves apart so I could see what was under it, but that wasnít good enough. I caught my foot on a windfall down there and I went head first down in among the devil clubs. I had thorns out of my hands and on my shirt. They had gone right through my shirt, you know, stuck in me. I sat there pulling those thorns out for a while. And I says, "Well, weíll just have to be more careful."
And so I started on again, knocking the leaves apart so I could see if there was any, but I donít know what I... I tripped again, a second time. Caught my foot on something and the weight of my pack just pulled me forward. Second time right down in the devilís club, oh boy! I sat there again and pulled all these thorns out of me. And I says, " Well, weíll have to go back down into the creek." I says, " This is no good."
So, we went back, climbed down in the creek. We had to wade in a lot of places. It was better, easier going than it was before, but there were places where we had to wade in the creek the willows and the balsam were so thick you couldnít get through. So, we waded through and finally we came out on the level. I says, "Well, weíll camp here for the night."
So, we camped there for the night, built up a big fire, hung our clothes up around the fire to dry. Went to sleep. We had a good sleep. We got up in the morning and we only hiked a hundred yards and here was a nice trail down Manson Creek.
EK: Well, you wouldnít be the first one to do that.
BV: Yeah. Not only that, we hiked a half a mile up the trail and there was a mining, some miners in there that we knew. They were Swedish.
EK: Looking for gold?
BV: Oh, yeah, they were working the creek. They were making alright.
They were sluicing in the creek. So, we stopped and talked with them for
a while and then we put on our packs and headed for home. We got home that
night, late. The next day I says, "Listen, we gotta go up these creeks."
There were two creeks there. One and the mountain in between there.
I says, " Which creek do you want, this one or that one?"
"Oh," he says, " Iíll take this one."
I says, " OK."
So, we each took off and started up these creeks. Pretty soon I got up there quite a way and I heard an airplane. So, I looked up and I saw it was the Junkers, Russ Baker. I figured, well heís bringing in more grub or something. Heíll be landing at the lake. So, I went up over the mountain and down the other side. When I got there, why Bruntin was there and we had a little more grub. He took me off to one side and he says, " How you gettiní along?"
I says, " Well, I donít know. I found a lot of stuff, but, " I says, " youíre not saying itís good."
"Well," he says, " weíre getting an idea whatís here and what isnít here. Where to look and where not to look."
So, I says, " Oh, thatís, that makes sense."
He says, " Well, youíre going into Slate Creek. Youíre both going into Slate Creek."
He says, " Iíll send word in to them to send a guy down with a horse and you can put your stuff on that, your equipment, your tent and all that on a couple of packhorses and take you up to Slate Creek."
I says, " OK."
So, thatís what happened. The next day this guy come with a couple of horses and took us up to Slate Creek. When we got there we were each handed a letter, a sealed letter. So, I kind of hesitated about opening my letter. I was afraid that we were through for the summer. This kid opened and read his. " Hey," he says, " Iím going out. Iím catching the next truck out to Fort St. James."
Well, I thought, well, my letter will be the same, but it wasnít. It instructed me to keep on working and I was to go to Germansen Lake and work down from there, down the creek from there and prospect up on the hills, on the creeks running into it. So, thatís what I did. Went up to Germansen Lake and set up camp and went on working.
EK: Did you ever find out why the kid got taken out?
BV: Well, he wasnít no good, he wasnít... because he, Iíd... No, he wasnít, he had the idea that we were going in just for a holiday, a paid holiday. Thatís what the people, you know the other guys told him. Thatís why he took his fishing rod. He wanted to go fishing all the time. And he hadnít found a single piece of rock. I had my sample bag full of samples when I come in at night, but he never had a sample of anything.
EK: You mentioned earlier that at one point in your career you had gone into Barkerville.
BV: Oh, yeah. That was in 1933. In 1933 I went. That was in the hard times in the ... Yeah, I hiked, well, I went to Finmore from Stuart River and climbed on a freight, got down to Prince George. I camped that night over across the bridge, the railroad bridge over to the other side. There was some old boxcars there on the old PGE and that was our hotel for the night. Get into those old boxcars. There was quite a few other guys there too. So, I stayed there for the night and the next morning I went out to the highway and started hiking, flagging all the traffic that come by. No, nobody would pick us up.
EK: Who was with you?
BV: Nobody. I was alone.
EK: Ok, you said "nobody would pick us up." I thought that maybe there was more than one person.
BV: Oh, there was cars and trucks went by, you know. Hold up your hand,
you know, and they wouldnít stop, keep on going. Even pickups with nobody
in the back or anything, theyíd never stop. So, I hiked, I hiked to Quesnel
and I spent some time there down around by the old bridge. There was a
hayfield there and a hay barn in the middle of it and we camped by the
bridge, the highway bridge. And there was quite a few guys there, about
30 of us. And weíd go and, at night weíd go over in this barn, sleep in
this barn. Anyway, from there I started hiking up to Barkerville. Everybody
was going to Barkerville. I got a couple of rides along the way. I finally
made it. A guy turned off at Wells says, " Well, Barkerville is only another
five miles or so."
So, I hiked on up. I hiked right through the town, up to the other side, looked around there. Found some good lookiní ore and... but there was so many guys, so many people, just like myself, you know. And they were all looking for work and looking for this or something. I come back, I hiked back through town and I walked out of town and I come to a little creek running across the road and I thought, " Well, Iíll go up in the bush there somewhere."
It was getting late. Iíll go up in the bush there and find a tree, curl up under a tree, which I did. There was some nice boughs laying there. It was a balsam tree and there was some nice balsam boughs there and so I put them down. Made my bed on those balsam boughs under a tree. The next morning I woke up. These boughs laying around there on the ground, " Where the heck did they come from?"
I looked up the tree. Twenty feet up there, they had cut the top off the tree and it was a stake. It was a claim stake. Twenty feet up. So, it had been staked in the wintertime. There was a claim stake up there. It made a nice bed for me anyway.
EK: Now, in 1933 was there a hardrock mine at Wells yet?
BV: Yeah, I think they were working there.
EK: What was Barkerville like, what was the town like then?
BV: Just a lot of old buildings. I think there were fifteen hundred
men up there looking for work. About fifteen, thatís what I heard. And
I just, thereís no use of me fooling around there. I just headed back the
next morning. Part of the way up there, somewhere, no that was the second
time. I think it was later that year or in 1934. I got a letter from a
guy at Wingdam. He said, " Theyíre going to be hiring another man here
pretty soon." He said, " If you get here right quick," he says, " Iíll
see if I can get your name on the list."
So, I took off. Boy, oh boy. Of course, I got to Wingdam about five days later. Thatís the second time I had to hike from Prince George to, down to Quesnel and then up to Wingdam. And of course, I found this guy and a friend of mine and I asked him if that job was still open. " Oh no," he says, " that was filled," he says, " a couple of days ago." He says, " Youíre too late." He says, " If you could have got here right away you could have got the job, but..."
Anyway, so again I had to turn around and go back home. I came back and I thought, "Oh, boy, Iíll jump on a freight and get up to Finmore." So, I went in the CN yards down here and it was so cold at night. There was a freight just making up ready to go and I was standing there warming my hands over one of them switch lights, you know. It was warm and I was warming my hands there. Two guys walked up behind me and I looked at them. One was a CNR police and the other was a Provincial Police. " What are you doing in here?"
And I looked at them and I says, " Oh," I says, " Iím just waiting for that train to go get ready to go."
"Look," I says, " I know I shouldnít be here, but I want to get home to, get up to Finmore." I says, " Now, surely you donít mind me doing that?"
He says, " Youíre breaking the law," he says, " you know it."
Well, I thought I was going to be arrested and taken up to the police station.
"Now," he says, " you get out of the yards and you stay out." He says, " You go out on the highway and catch a ride up on a truck."
So, I hiked out and went out past the station, but I hiked up along the First Ave. there, there was a low place there where grass... Pretty soon the train pulled out and I was on it.
Yeah, I got off at Finmore and I had another seventeen and half miles to hike to get back to Stuart River.
EK: Did you have a boat or something at Finmore that you could use to get across the river?
BV: Oh, there was a ferry there.
EK: Oh, oh yes. Where, just, speaking of ferries, what about the ferry out by Miworth? Do you remember when that was running? Just about seven or eight miles up the river here from town.
GM. Otway and Miworth.
EK: That wasnít running at that time, maybe?
BV: No, I donít, I was never along there.
GM. That was where we took Jeannie when she practiced driving that one day.
BV: Yeah, but that was, Iím talking about 1933. Yeah, I didnít know that Miworth existed at that time.
EK: So, where did you, what did you get into after that? Then you went up to Germansen after that? You were still, you went to Germansen and then to Pinchi.
BV: Yeah, well I was farming too on the river, you know. Helped put in crops and... We used put our, plant cabbages and cauliflower on the Good Friday in boxes, you know, in the house. And we would plant them out as soon as, well, it didnít matter if it was before the frost ended or not because they wouldnít, the frost wouldnít hurt them.
BV: Weíd plant this cauliflower and cabbage and lots of it. And we were taking it into town and selling it when they were still shipping it up from the south. People were buying it. Weíd take it into the stores, sacks of cabbage and cauliflower. We were getting top price for it. By the time we had sold all of it, well, by then the local farmers started bringing it in and the price would go down. So, we made a little money that way. And we had about 30 chickens and we had eggs, a cow, butter and milk. And we always planted a good crop of spuds. Another thing we planted was hull-less oats and wheat.
EK: Iím sorry, what kind of oats?
EK: (Not hearing too well.) Hull-less!
BV: Uh, huh.
EK: I donít think Iíve ever heard of that.
BV: I had to cut them with a scythe because the blackbirds were starting to eat them. They thought they was a great feast. They come along and found those and, oh boy.
EK: I bet. Well, what would you do with those oats?
BV: Just, well, I thrashed them with a flail and then I held them up in the wind and let the chaff blow away. Then all you do with them is you run them through a food grinder and cook them for oatmeal.
EK: Oh, I see.
BV: They were good.
EK: Yeah, Iíll bet. I like a good feed of oatmeal.
BV: Uh, huh? There was no pesticides in them either.
EK: No, Iíll bet not.
BV: Yeah, we did all kinds of things like that.
EK: All kinds of things you can do to survive and live there.
V: Right. Right.
EK: If you have a mind to .
GM. What about your sugar beets?
BV: Oh, yeah. We grew sugar beets too. I told all the neighbours, I
says, " Why donít we grow our own sugar beets and make our own syrup?"
"Oh, good idea."
So, they all grew sugar beets and I had a good crop. And when it come time to make the syrup, well, we peeled the beets, scrubbed them, you know, in a washtub and then peeled them and cut them up in slices in a big pan. And then we would dump them into a big pot and cook them up. And we got the horriblest stuff you ever seen. Sticky and dark brown and, oh, it was no good at all. Bitter! I had to take it out and we had a calf. The calf loved it.
EK: It sounds like a good idea going in, doesnít it?
BV: Anyway, we fed most of the beets to the cattle until I got thinking
about this. Thereís a way of doing it. And I thought if we peeled those
beets under water and split them in four and had our boiling pot on the
stove, with the water boiling. And we slice those beets right into the
water so the air donít get to them because they turn brown. When the air
hits them they turn brown, the slices, you know.
"Well, by golly," I says, " weíre going to try one more batch of that."
So, we did and you couldnít tell that syrup from Rogerís Golden Syrup. You couldnít tell the difference.
EK: So, how did you get the syrup? You ended up with this cooked stuff in the water, how did you get the syrup.
BV: Well, when you cook the beets you only cook them just for about three minutes, three to five minutes. I just forget. I think it was five minutes you boil them and you pour that water off and you render that water down. And you put in more and you cook them for another two minutes and pour that water off and put it in with the other water and just render it down Ďtil you get syrup.
EK: Oh, I see.
BV: Yeah, but if you donít let the air to the sliced beets, you gotta
slice them right into the water so the air donít get them, they donít oxidize.
You get syrup just like Rogerís Golden. And of course, we put our syrup
in an empty Rogerís Golden Syrup pail. So, I told people what I did and
how I did it. I says, " Come on and taste it." When they come by I give
them a taste. So, theyíd take a teaspoon and take a taste of it, you know,
but because it was in the Rogerís Golden Syrup pail, " Ah, nah, heís just
kidding us. Thatís Rogerís Golden Syrup."
They wouldnít believe me.
EK: Is that right! So, you were growing sugar beets up on the Stuart River?
BV: Oh, yeah. Good sugar beet soil there. We had them that big around and that long. (Indicates 6 or 8 inches across and maybe a foot long.) Theyíd grow...
GM. Three or four pounds each??
BV: Oh, yeah. They grew nicely there. Sandy soil, they grew real nice.
(First few words on side B are missed but it was EK making a comment about what could be grown on the Stuart River.)
Oh, everything we had to grow it. The same with wheat, Iíd cut the... I planted an acre of wheat and cut it with a scythe, took it home and I flailed the wheat out. I made a thrashing floor, you know, with planks up on a couple of boards. On the ground there was a big tarp and I had this flail going. I took a stick about that long (18 inches), about that big around (1 ½ inches), cut a groove in it and put a piece of haywire around it a couple of times and then a shorter stick about that long (12 inches) with a groove in it. Put the haywire on that so it would swing around on the end of this one, a swivel. And I just kept doing that and thrashed the wheat, oats...
EK: And you had a grinder. You could grind that up for your own use.
BV: Uh, huh. Well, the oats you just, no hulls on them, you just run them through the food grinder, fine grit, you know and it made wonderful porridge. Oh, it was good.
EK: What do you like to eat on your porridge?
BV: Well, we had our syrup and, you know, milk, same as you do here.
EK: I like mine with butter and brown sugar.
GM. He uses a lot of brown sugar.
BV: Oh, yeah. I eat brown sugar all the time.
EK: When we talked last week there was discussion, somewhere around 1939 you became a member of the BC Police? Is that right?
BV: That wasnít Ďtil Ď46.
EK: Oh, ok. And you were a game warden at one time as well. Was that earlier?
BV: Oh, yeah, it was later.
EK: What were you doing in Ď39 after you came out of the mines?
BV: Ď39, I was there Ďtil, oh, I was carpenter, I was spare man, I was blacksmith. You name it I did it.
EK: Spareman. Whatís that?
BV: Well, you are put on any job where you are needed and they had a
bunch of students up in the summer and they were digging ditches to put
water line up to the mine, you know, water line. And they were digging
in this, picking away. The picks would dull so fast in the rock, gravel,
and I was picking... The boss told me, he says, " You, you take charge
of these men," he says, " these guys. I gotta go up here and I gotta go
there." And he says, " Iím away half the, most of the time." He says, "
You take charge here. You be the straw-boss."
I said, " Ok."
He says, " See that their picks are sharp. Take care of them."
EK: Which mine was this?
BV: That was Pinchi Lake Mine.
EK: Oh, at Pinchi Lake. Ok.
BV: So, I did that and Iíd take the picks up to the blacksmith shop.
Old Jack Adams was the blacksmith and he said, " I havenít got time to
sharpen those." He said, " You sharpen them."
I said, " Ok."
So, Iíd sharpen the picks until the cooling water got pretty near boiling. Then he says, " You gotta tip the ends in." He says, " Cool the ends," he says, " then you gotta wait for a while." He says, " Until the blue runs back up to the point," he says, " then you gotta dip them in again." (This refers to a method of hardening the point by quenching the point in water when the temperature is correct as evidenced by the blue colour of the metal.)
I says, " I havenít got time for that."
The water was warm, the cooling water was warm. You stick your finger in it and it was almost too hot. I had pulled the picks out of the fire. I had put them right in there. Put the point in and pull it out and watched the blue going up and then Iíd dip them in again. I wouldnít put them back in the furnace, in the forge. I just did it right like that. Did it my way. And, you know, those guys when they used those picks that I had tempered, they just got sharper and sharper and sharper. I donít know why, but they just kept getting sharper, the point on them. They just wore to a point and they just... I was surprised. I was really surprised.
EK: Isnít that odd.
BV: Yeah. ĎCause Jack Adams he taught me how to temper them. Well, I knew how to temper them, but I didnít have time to do it his way, so I just take Ďem right out of the fire when I got them finished, jabbed them in this water that was already warm. I just jabbed them in there, whoosh Ďem around, let Ďem go. Thatís all I had time to do, you know. Then take them down and trade picks with the, get the dull picks, give them the sharp ones and bring another load of picks back. I donít know how many... There must have been thirty guys, kids, young students, working. Bring another load back to sharpen and then all of a sudden there was no more to sharpen. The picks just kept getting sharper in this, it was limestone and gravel. I was surprised.
EK: I would be too.
BV: So, I learned how to sharpen picks. Anyway,
I worked there until the Fall of Ď42 and then I says, " Ah, Iím getting
tired of it here." I says, " I think Iíll go and join the Air Force."
Instead of going as a medical student, which I should have done, I would have really got some place. I went in as an SP, the service police. Boy, I tell you they do give you training in that, in that department, oh boy. They work you hard. Well, I took basic training at Brandon. We took our basic there and then we were shipped down to Trenton, Ontario and then we were put into the Service Police course and, boy, did... It was the same as the Mounted Police course only it was squeezed into two months. Instead of six months it was squeezed into two months.
EK: So, what were some of the skills that they taught you?
BV: Well, they taught us all the laws of the land. We had to write exams on that and they told us, " This is the same as the Mounted Police course, same as the Mounties get." Only they had to squeeze it into two months, three months, I forget what it was. Yeah, it was two months. But on the Judo floor they trained us and we were picking each other up and slamming each other on the floor, you know, over our shoulders and doing all kinds of ... Oh they taught us everything. I tell you we, we were so tough and so hard at that time, we went through our basic training and then our other training, our police course training. Oh, boy! We came out of there and we were just solid.
EK: Iíll bet.
BV: Yeah, that was good training.
EK: What did they do with you after you graduated?
BV: Oh, they shipped me back to Vancouver. Well, I was going to be shipped
to Halifax. That was the jumping off point for going overseas, but there
was a fellow there came and he says to me, an older fellow and he says,
"Look," he says, " I got a wife and family in Halifax."
He was on the Halifax City Police when he joined up.
And he says, " Youíre going to Halifax," he says, " and I got a posting to Vancouver." He says, " Could we trade postings?" We were allowed to do that.
I says, " You are a married man. You got a family in Halifax and youíre posted to Vancouver. Boy, they sure donít use any discrimination here, do they?" I says, " Sure, Iíll trade you," I says, " I wouldnít want to take you away from your family."
I says, " Sure, Iíll trade you."
So, I took his posting and I shipped right back to Vancouver. So, from there I was shipped out to Alliford Bay in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Yeah, ...
EK: What did, what kind of a base did we have there?
BV: We had a base. Float planes.
EK: How many men would have been there?
BV: Oh, I donít know. I donít know how many. I wasnít supposed to know. No one was, you know, but they had Stranraers. (Amphibious bi-plane)
EK: They had what?
BV: Stranraer planes. And in fact, when I got to Rupert, I was shipped up on a boat to Rupert from Vancouver and I when I got to station in Rupert, Seal Cove, I was flown over to the Queen Charlottes in a Stranraer. I was sitting in the back end of it and youíd see those these wings going like that. ( as though they were flapping)
EK: Iíve never heard of this plane.
BV: Holy Smokes! I thought this thing was going to fall apart before
it gets out there. A week before I got there one of them, a Stranraer was
coming in for a landing and it hit a down-draft, boom, just like that.
She just came down and hit the water, just disintegrated. And I think there
were three on board, pilot, navigator, and the gunner. They all disappeared
under the water. They found one, an officerís body floating out, it had
gone right through the Skidegate Channel, out into the Pacific and the
supply boat happened to pick it up there. Pulled the body out of the water,
no head and they brought it in and they had this body in the, down by the
dock in a shed, a supply shed and I looked at the body through the window.
And they said they canít identify him because his dog tags were gone, you
know. They had dog tags around their neck. They called them dog tags. They
canít identify him. They donít know where heís from, whether heís from
here or... And I looked at the body and I says, " Well, you should be able
to identify him." I says, " The officer of the medical, the medical officer
here should be able to identify that body."
"What makes you think that?"
I says, " You bring him up here. Get the medical officer up here," I says, " he can identify that body."
They brought the medical officer up and I says, " Sir, did you put this bandage on this manís foot?" He looked. Pulled the shoe off and took the bandage, he says, " Yeah, thatís my work. I put that on. Thatís officer so-and-so." They never thought. No one ever thought to check the bandage on his foot.
BV: Just that quick he was identified.
EK: How long were you stationed there?
BV: Oh, three years, about. Another thing that happened there, the officers when they were putting the, they were going to put blacktop down in front of the hangar. They had gravel spread out, you know, in front of it. They were using an Abney level. (A relatively simple level which can be hand held or put on the end of a stick to determine levels or elevations)
EK: I have one of those.
BV: And anyway, it was supposed to have been turned back into stores
and they figured that somebody broke into stores and swiped it. And we
were searching every man that left the station. We were searching his luggage
for that Abney level. We must have searched three hundred men. They put
all the manpower on that they could, one at a time, investigating this
loss. Four men investigated, tried to find out where this Abney level went
to, what happened to it. And so, I was over to see the DAPM, the Deputy
Air Provost Marshal. I went over to see him one day for something. He says,
I says, " You look worried, sir."
He says, " Yes. They are hounding me to death," he says, " about the loss of this Abney level. Trying to tell me that I canít, that I havenít got the men that can find out who broke into stores and stole that Abney level." He says, " Iím going to put you on the case."
I says, "Very well, sir."
He says, " You know what an Abney level is?"
I says, " Yes, Iíve seen them." So, the first thing I did was go out to the dump and I went through all the ashes to see whether it had accidentally been, went out in the garbage. Went through all the ashes there and no sign of it. So, I came back in and I, there was one piece of plywood there, a small piece. It had a hand print on it where a man could have shoved it right in, you know, and climbed into the stores. So, I says, " I want that piece of plywood." I told the sargeant, " I want that piece of plywood. You get another piece and put in there. I want that piece."
So, I took that piece up and I gave it to the DAPM. I says, " Well, I got a handprint here. I donít know if itís any good or not, but I went back down where they were using it last and there were two big logs out that way in front of the hangar, you know, on each side. And the gravel was up against, about so much gravel there, about six inches between these big logs. So, if I was using an Abney level here, what would I, might I do with it? And I got thinking. I was sitting on the log. I thought, "If I had it in my hand and I was going to have a cigarrette Iíd probably lay it down on the log and have a cigarrette. If I was talking to somebody I might walk away and leave it, and forget it." Then the bulldozer would have come along to level the gravel and it would have fell into the gravel. I started digging. I dug down in the gravel right between my legs and I pulled up half of it. Here was half of the Abney level. I dug around, but I couldnít find anymore. I smoothed the gravel allover again. So, I went up to the DAPM, he was sitting there on his desk, head down and reading something. So, I knocked on the edge of the door. "Oh, come in," he says, " come in."
I says, "Sir, I have solved the case for you."
He looked at me. He says, " You did?"
I says, "Yes, sir." I handed him half the Abney level.
I says, " I dug down under the gravel beside the log on the edge of the gravel and I found this much of it, but I couldnít find the other half, but that Abney level was never turned in to stores."
"Oh." He stood up there and he was so happy. He said, " What Iím going to do to them people!"
They had been riding him for months trying to find out who had broken into stores and stole that Abney level. So, boy, was he relieved.
EK: If somebody was going to break into stores why would they steal an Abney hand level?
BV: Well, thatís it. Thereís lots of other stuff to steal. When I first
went down there and I checked and it had been turned in and signed according
to the... it had been turned in. When I gave him that part " Oh, am I going
to roast them." He says, "They have been roasting me long enough. Now I
am going to roast them."
Oh, I had a lot of fun over there. ??? No more trouble on the station until after I left.
EK: So, your reputation had preceded you?
BV: Yeah, I got, it was shortly after that that the DAPM was going to,
he says, " You are due for your sargeantís stripes," he says, " and you
better start taking your drill tests."
I says, " Ok, sir." So, I started taking my drill tests.
EK: What is a drill test?
BV: Well, youíve got to get a squad of men out there, give them their
orders, march them this way, that way. Give them all. You gotta prove to
them you are capable of taking charge of a platoon or a , you know, a squad
of men. So, I had one drill test. That was ok and I was just coming up
for my second. You had to take three tests. And an inspecting DAPM came
up, came to the base. He was going over my, going over all the files and
everything, you know, looking through everything to see if they were all
up to date. They were.
"Oh," he says, " thereís one more."
So, I gave him the list of our RCAF Service Police on the base. He says, " This one has got to be changed," he says. " Thereís no call for a sargeant here anymore," he says. " Itís just five corporals."
Oh, did that... I took my hat off and slammed it on the floor. I was mad.
He says, " Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Whatís going on here? What did I do wrong?
I says, " I was just coming up, getting my third hook," I says, " and you come in and tell me there is no need for a sargeant here."
"Oh, my gosh," he says, " if I would have known that I would have got drunk and missed the boat." He says, " I surely, really would." He says, " Iíd have missed the boat," he says, " if I had known that." He says, " If there is anything I hate to do is see somebody lose a chance like that. Oh," he says, " I am sorry."
But there was nothing he could do about it. But he says, " Iíll give you a posting," he says, " maybe weíll put you on a station where you can get your third hook."
So, they put me on a station alright. They put me down in near Air Force headquarters Vancouver, out at Seal Cove. And I got along there fine until the regular man came back, the guy that was in charge. He was down taking the service police course, down at Trenton, same as I did and he came back a flight sargeant. And he didnít like me. He was strictly against me anyway he could. We just didnít click, you know.
EK: That happens sometimes.
BV: What do you call it, opposing personalities, personality conflict. Thatís what, yeah. So, there was no hope there. I tried to get transferred to another station, but... I did get on the city patrol. I got down on the city patrol for, until I was discharged. So, and on the city patrol, oh, thatís where you know the Air Force is an air farce.
EK: What would your job be on city patrol?
BV: Same as the city police only we took in the military, the Air Force, you know, we patrolled the streets just like the city cops.
EK: And would you be only concerned with Air Force or any military personnel?
BV: Any, if they were out of, if there was no other, their police wasnít
around we would have to take care of them too. All you had to do was phone
in and tell them what the situation was. If it was out of your jurisdiction
then they would be right there.
I know one night we were in having supper, oh, about two oíclock in the morning, I guess. We were in the patrol car, three of us, the sargeant was with us. The call came through and they were having some trouble in Vancouver Hotel, a couple of corporals in there and they were causing some trouble. So, the sargeant says, " You stay here," he says, " and we are going down to take care of it."
" Well, if there is going to be any fighting going on I want to get in on it," I says. " I donít want to be sitting here."
"Oh, okay. Thatís the first time I heard anyone talk like that."
I went with the sargeant in the car and went down there and I brought one sargeant, or one corporal out of the hotel and the other fellow brought the other one out, but ..."Oh, we caught quite a few guys. We raided the odd restaurant every so often, weíd raid there, the restaurant. The Navy, naval police and the Army police and the Air Force, weíd all surround a certain restaurant. Weíd go right through, check all the identities and the city police.
EK: Why? What would be going on in a restaurant?
BV: Just to catch anyone that didnít have their identity on them because there were some guys walking around Vancouver with uniforms on and they werenít in the army, the air force or anything.
EK: Oh, really?
BV: Oh, yeah.
EK: And what was the benefit of that?
BV: Well, they could get things a little cheaper, a little more respect
and, you know.
That night we went into the, oh, I forget what it was now. The city police took two men out, they had no identification on them. They took them, but the, all the service personnel were all ok. Yeah, and George Munson, that the George Munson he was a provost officer and he, thatís where I first met him.
EK: Is that somebody from here?
BV: Down in Powell River.
GM. Many years later Dad lived on his property near his old mansion that he built on the edge of the ocean at Powell River.
BV: Yeah, I told him, " I remember you. You were with the Blue Eagle,
thatís what it was."
In the Blue Eagle, we went through that cafe one night and there was George Munsen.
EK: Did you finish out the war then, in the service police?
BV: Well, it was just about over then. They were not sending anyone overseas. There was no chance of getting over there or anything else. No, the Air Force, might be all right for the higher up officials, but for the lower ranks itís no place at all.
EK: In what way, Bill?
BV: You gotta, you just gotta... well, I canít say it.
EK: What year were you discharged?
EK: Did you head back to the farm?
BV: No. Went back to Pinchi Lake. Talking so much I canít smoke. Smoke and I canít talk enough.
GM. Thatís rough, eh?
BV: No, when I came out of the Air Force I thought, "Well, Iíll go and see my sister." They were over on the Island. What the heck was the name of that place? Chemanus? Logging up there.
EK: Yeah, there is a Chemainus and they have quite a mill there.
BV: Yeah. And then I went from there over to Powell River to see my
brother, he was over there, working at the Powell River Pulp and Paper.
Well, he says, ... and right away I heard of an electrician. They had built
some veteranís houses over there in Cranberry and so, I went to see him
first and, " Sure," he says, " you can work," he says. He says, " We got
a contract to do this work," he says, " we got a contract to do this work
and we donít want any shirkers."
I says, " Well, Iím not a shirker." I says, " I work."
"Ok," he says, " you come in the morning."
So, we were wiring houses. They had those houses built and we had to wire them. So, that was great. I worked there until my brother told me, he says, " I got a job for you at the mill."
I says, " Yeah, thatís, this electrician job... we got a pretty cranky boss. So, I says, "Well, Iíll forget about him," and went to work at the mill.
So, I went to work at the mill on the grinders. You just gotta, they bring around a skip-load of wood, you know, blocks of wood and you shove them into the grinders, slam the door shut. Open another, they call them pockets, fill them full of wood, shut the door. And thereís three pockets, one like that and another one on the top. You gotta keep filling these pockets with wood. Thereís a big grinder in there with a grinding wheel.
EK: Thatís funny, you know, Bill. I did that during my highschool years.
BV: You did?
EK: I worked in the Abitibi mill in Iroquois Falls and half the time Iíd be working on the grinders, on the charging floor they called it. Isnít that odd, eh?
BV: Yeah, thatís really something. The only trouble was they wouldnít let me smoke in there. I donít know why because everythingís wet.
EK: Yeah, the chances of starting a fire in there are pretty slim.
BV: So, I had to chew tobacco. Anyway, one night I went on at midnight.
About three oíclock in the morning there was a blue haze of smoke in there
over the grinders. It just kept getting thicker and finally it come down
and it was sulphur, sulphur smoke. Boy, that hit me right away. I called
the boss and told him, " I canít stand that smoke." I says, " It makes
me sick to the stomach." I said, " I canít take it."
"Well," he says, " you better take for home then." He says, " Itís not going to go away."
So, I went home. About three nights later the same thing happened. I had to call the spare man. He had to take over. Well, they told me, they said, " You better go see the doctor."
So, I went up to see Doctor Lyons and he checked me over. He says, " Thereís nothing wrong with you."
I says, "I know. Itís just that I canít stand that sulphur gas that comes into the grinder rooms."
"Oh," he says, " thatís what it is."
I said, " Yeah."
"Well," he says, " theyíre not going to do anything about that." He says, " As long as that affects you that way thereís no use in you working here." He says, " Get the heck out of here!" He says, " You canít waste your time here." He says, "Iíll tell them. Iíll phone the office and Iíll tell them."
So, I went down to the office and I said, " Did the doctor phone you?"
He said, " Yeah." He says, " Come in tomorrow and weíll have your check ready."
So, that was the end of that.
So, I came back up to Vanderhoof and ....
EK: What year are we looking at now?
BV: That was in Ď45.
EK: Still in Ď45.
BV: Uh-huh. I stopped in Prince George
here. I met a guy on the street, I forget what had happened now. Oh, I
was, the price of beaver pelts were real high at that time. Anywhere from
a hundred dollars to fifty. And I thought, " Well, Iíll go in and see if
I can find a trapline somewhere. Iíll go trapping beaver." So, I got talking
with the game warden and, "Ah," he says, " thereís no traplines for sale."
He says, " You canít buy one." He says, " If you did," he say, " itíd cost
you a few thousand dollars and nobodyís selling."
So, we got talking, talking away there, and I was telling him, you know, about my past. He says, " Why donít you put in an application?" He says, " For joining the game deparment."
I says, " Yeah, thatíd be a good job. Sure."
So, he gave me an application form and he says, " Go over to that desk over there."
There was a desk there where I could fill this form out. Well, I stuck it in a typewriter and typed it out. Then when the inspector came in, Van Dyke, he looked at it and he says, " He can type." He says, " Oh, thatís great."
"Well," he says, " Iíll send this into headquarters."
So, he did. In the meantime I said, " Well, Iím going prospecting. Iíve got some place up in Germansen I want to check out."
Like I was telling you before the... old Brunlon told me it was only barely a trace in this sample I gave him. And when I got to talk to the other engineer he told me it went $30 a ton.
EK: Are you talking about gold or mercury?
BV: Gold. You could see the gold in the sample and he told me at the
time it was very seldom you ever get to see ... take a piece of quartz
and see the gold there looking at you. Thatís very rare and he told me
there was just barely a trace of it, barely a trace. And when I talked
to this other fellow he told me it went $30 a ton.
So, I was going up to check that out and look for more, find out where it came from and follow it up.
EK: Did you still have your notes or did you just remember where it came from?
BV: No, I knew where it came from, yeah. And I got up there, I no more
and got up there. I had my pack and everything ready to go and the taxi
came in from Fort St. James. They brought the mail in and he had a telegram
for me. He hollered out, he says, I was in the bunkhouse and he hollered
out, "Is Bill Vinson around here?"
I heard him and I went out. " Yeah, heís right here," I says, " what have you got, Joe?
""Well, I got a telegram for you."So, I opened this telegram. " Report to the game office in Prince George at your convenience." "Well," I says, " Iíll be doggone."So, I picked up my pack and threw it in the back of his car and I came out with him. Went down to Prince George and he says, "Youíre, youíll be sworn in as a Provincial Police Officer." So, I was sworn in as a police officer.
EK: But you had applied to be a game warden.
EK: You had applied to be a game warden though, hadnít you?
BV: Yeah, but you are sworn in as a provincial police.
EK, Oh, ok.
GM. In order to be a game warden?
BV: Yeah. Well, you are provincial police too. Anytime the Provincial Police need your help you go. You go and help them like I did in Smithers. I put on my uniform after supper and patrolled with the police up there.
EK: Now you see I interviewed a guy that used to farm and trap out at Willow River and he was always having run-ins with the game warden and some of the things he was doing, I thought that theyíd be more properly related to the police, but if the game wardens performed those functions as well that does make sense.
EK: You were hired to work here, but how did you end up in Smithers?
BV: I was posted up there.
EK: Oh, ok.
BV: Now, they sent me up to Ware. I had to go up to Ware. I had to check some wolf pelts and so, I was... I went up with Dick Corless (End of Tape 2)
(Beginning of Tape 3 - transcribed by Lorraine Mathison)
EK: The boats that are used on the Crooked River, I guess? Summit Lake down to Crooked River.
BV: Yeah. Down to the Findlay. Does that run into the Findlay?
EK: Well, after it goes to the Parsnip, right?
BV: The Parsnip, yeah.
EK: And then you go up to the Findlay.
BV: Up the Findlay, yeah. Yeah! When we got to Deserterís Canyon, why we had a big boat there. Great big long river boat. Put all the supplies in there. Had an inboard engine in it and it was all the other boats could do to get through empty, up through the rapids. But this big boat it went right up through and we transferred everything into the other boats and went on up with the other boats and left that boat there.
EK: And you were going up there to check wolf pelts?
BV: Well, they had to be checked for ..
EK: For what?
BV: Before they could sell them.
BV: No. They had to make sure that they were wolf pelts and not something else.
BV: Anyhow. I got up there and there was trouble. (Laughs). There had been a fight up there among prospectors and I had to, uh... One guy had his eye badly damaged. " I said, "Boy, youíd better get to an eye specialist with that." I said, "Thatís bad." Apparently he was the trouble maker..
EK: Mmm hmm
BV: .. so he had to go out and... Yeah, after I was there a couple of
days well a plane come in, bought in some more supplies, took us out. There
was one poor little girl there, an Indian girl, sheíd been sent out by
the Nurse and I think she had TB, and she was sittiní across the plane
in front of me. Oh I guess she was 12, 13. There were sending her to Kamloops
to Tranquille and Ted Fields was flying the plane. You know his reputation
of flying over the tree tops. Well he come down to Fort Graham, and Ďcourse
the whole family came out there on the river bank to see this plane go
by, you see, and he turned his plane and headed right straight toward em.
(laughs) You shouldía seen those kids go. They just (laughs) He zoomed
back over and he flew just above the tree tops. They came to the... There
was a big canyon that run down ....... I think itís one of the rivers that
came in to the Findlay, right at Findlay Forks. And he went right down
in this canyon. Hereís the trees up here on both sides of us. This poor
little Indian girl she was.... she just ... you know, she though we were
goiní down for good. I said, "Itís okay, itís okay, itís okay; no problem;
She would .... I donít know what wouldía happened to her if I hadnít, you know, let her know itís okay. She was just so scared she was screaminí. Then he went down and slid onto the water and pulled in there to Findlay Forks and..... nothing to it. And then he had to take that plane and and fly somewhere else up farther north, and left us stranded there until .... well we had to stay over night there. It wasnít Ďtil the next late afternoon that Russ Baker came in with a plane and we climbed into that; and he just got here..... it was pretty near dark when he got here, but Inspector Vandyke was at the landing to meet me and drove me up where I wanted to go and stay for the night. He was a nice old chap, I liked him.
EK: So how would Russ Baker know to go and pick you up? Had somebody called him?
BV: Oh yeah, they talk on the radio.
EK: Oh, okay.
EK: This was something that was arranged. It just didnít happen that way.
BV: Oh no, no.
EK: So, and then they sent you off to Smithers shortly after, did they?
EK: They sent you off to Smithers shortly afterwards?
BV: Yeah. Well, I went... oh, I went out to West Lake and camped out there for a while.
EK: To do what?
BV: Oh, just find out whatís goiní on.
EK: Mmm hmm.
GM: And then McBride.
BV: And then I; then I had to go to McBride.
EK: Now how would you get to McBride?
BV: Well I went up on the train.
EK: Alright, okay.
BV: And then I had to walk one station and ride the next, walk one station, ride the next all the way back.
BV: Well, do my job. (laughs) See how many guys I could pinch. (laughs)
GM: Explain for what. What were you looking for?
BV: Well, for people killiní moose outta season and, you know, infractions of the game department. I got five at McBride; five guys with rifles, no licence. Picked them up ..
EK: So, you would arrive in McBride. I donít know, maybe youíd never been there before at all?
BV: Iíd been through there, yeah, but thatís all.
EK: So, how would you go about looking for law breakers?
BV: Well, Iíd go to the Police office and talk to him and he puts me in touch with this road, that road. I had a map there. He drove me out. He says, "I gotta go out," he says, "east a here tomorrow." He says, " Iíll uh, Iíll let you off out there. You can patrol that road, he says, that goes up that way."
So, thatís what he did. I only walked up that road half a mile and I run into five guys all packing rifles with no licences. Just like that; boom.
EK: Never expected to see you out there.
BV: And I uh, I uh came back to where heíd let me off. Here I stood with an arm load of rifles (laughs). He says, "Oh boy," he says, "you sure did good today." (laughs)... and he laughed.
EK: Well, an incident like that now, that wouldnít make you very popular in a community.
BV: No, I should say not.
GM: He left in a hurry.
BV: No. No you bet it wouldnít.
EK: So, were you occasionally in danger, or....
BV: Oh I sípose, but uh, well itís just law enforcement and ....
EK: Mmm hmm. When youíd go into one of these small communities would word get around pretty quickly that you were there?
BV: Oh, yeah. You betcha. Yah. Oh yah. Yeah, after I came back I was ridiní with Jank. Officer Jank, he would go way off up north in Summit Lake and this way and that way, and driviní off all over. Showed me what was what. One thing about Jank though, he could sure shoot with his revolver.
EK: How so?
BV: Well ... we were cominí along up north here. We passed a farm and
he says, "Whatís that out there in the field?"
I says,"Looks to me like a hawk and heís got something."
Well, he pulled up and stopped, got out, walked over to the fence.
" Yah, heís eatiní a farmerís chicken."
Pulled his gun out - bang, killed the hawk right there. (laughs)
EK: Would that be a 38?
BV: Yeah. Well, I had a 44-40 and I carried that all the time.
EK: A revolv..? That wasnít a revolver?
BV: That was a revolver. It was a Merwyn- Hulvert revolver. It was very rare and very accurate.
EK: Never heard of such a thing.
BV: No, that was a ..... They didnít make too many of them, but boy Iíll tell ya that was an accurate gun.
EK: Pack quite a whallop?
BV: Oh, you betcha it did. 200 grain bullet.
EK: Really. Ever have to use it?
BV: No. No I, I uh, I just used it the odd time. Iíd ah, if I saw a
target you know. Like one time I was out with Chuck and uh, went down the
river with him and it was in the fall and the ice; there were chunks of
ice, you know, that big around floating down the river.
I says," Chuck," I says, "I bet you canít hit that .. one of those chunks of ice."
It was just about that big around. (About the size of a dinner plate.)
He says, "Iíll bet you canít either."
So I pulls my revolver and I smashed one.
"You let me try that."
By gosh, he did the same thing. He says,"Golly, he says, that gunís accurate."
He said, "I never saw anything like that."
EK: How did you come across that revolver?
BV: I bought it from a prospector at Fort St. James. That was in .....
umm ..... oh boy... Oh, I missed out on the .... 1945. I came up to Fort
St. James; I asked old Brunlon for a job. Sure, he says, Iíll send you
out prospecting and, uh, he sent me out with Alec Rosen and we prospected
summer. By golly, he was a; he had a, he had a .455 Webley that he carried.
EK: Iíve heard of them.
BV: And, uh, we worked together all summer and by golly, we went up to Usilika Lake and we worked from there out. Went way up the Osilinka River, up the crick from there and ... Oh, he was a prince of a man to work with. Oh, he was super. Yeah, no complaints on Alec. He was one of thebest.
GM: How Ďbout your garden up there?
BV: Where? Where?
GM: The flower garden you found?
GM: The flower garden you found?
BV: Ohhh, that was up on the foot of Gillis Mountain. Yeah. I found that in, oh what year was that? The first year I was up prospecting. I went up and, uh, climbed up this mountain. It looked like there was an outcropping of quartz up there. Way up, you know. I could see the top of it and it looked like a quartz sticking out of the ground. Way up, above timber line. So, by golly, I went up there and this quartz run across like this and it was stickiní up on edge. And it was nice. You know, nice as a, rock - like quartz only glassier.
EK: Oh, okay.
BV: But this was a dike of nice .... There was a half moon, shaped like that, of rock out around like that and I came up this way toward it, and this half moon circle, this half circle, I walked out and I looked around and, my gosh, where am I? Here was flowers that I hadnít seen. Well, like the Bleeding Hearts and all these flowers that you only see down south. Here they were growing in profusion up here, above timber line, up here on the mountain. And I just, I just couldnít get over that. How in the world could they grow this high above, you know, up in the mountain. And uh, I looked all around. Was just surprised, they were up to my hips here, and I thought this must be the garden of the angels. I just couldnít ... it was just unbelievable.
EK: And you never found an explanation for it?
BV: No. It was just beautiful. The most beautiful garden that Iíd ever seen.
GM: And flowers?
BV: Flowers? Everything. You see em in Vancouver and, and the farthest Iíd ever seen the Bleeding Hearts was in Quesnel. And here they were all kinds of flowers, just beautiful flowers growing in there. I thought, the angels must have come down from heaven and planted this garden. So I tiptoed out.
EK: There was no evidence that anyone had been in there and - it was just a natural rock formation.
BV: Just a natural rock formation and there was all these beautiful
flowers. If Iíd only had a coloured film; a camera with a coloured film
in it. Just, oh, just unbelievable.
When I left there, well I went and checked this nice dike and, uh, took some samples of it and put in my bag, and then I turned my back on that and I hiked up to the top of the mountain. There was a patch of snow there and three feet from the snow the growth was that high (2-3 feet) from the shrubs cominí up, the plants cominí up around it. It had melted back, you know, and as soon as it melted back why up come the plants. And then I thought, I looked at the snow and I thought, well thatís funny it looked pink. So I walked up on it and walked through it and I looked back at my tracks - it looked like my tracks were bleeding. You know, the snow was on an angle like that and it looked like my tracks were bleeding. This red was cominí down from my tracks. Itís a fine fungus that grows on the snow and you crush it with your feet and it sort of bleeds. Anyway, I walked on up and went up to the top of the mountain, stood on the top of Gillis Mountain. I could see a thousand miles. (laughs) Oh, it was a beautiful view up there. Yeah.
Yeah, I was up on the top of the mountain there with Brunland one time, up on a pretty high mountain and we were lookiní around and I says, "You see that mountain, the third one over?"
He says, "Yeah."
I says, "Thereís a tripod on it, got a little white flag
A topographical survey had been through there a few years before and put this little tripod up and white flag on it. There wasnít much left of the white flag, but I could still see it and it was, oh, about five miles away and he looked at it again and he says, "I believe ..... he says, you could see that good?"
I says, "Yes, of course. Quite plain to me," I says.
And he looked, he says, "Yeah," he says, "youíre right."
He says, "thereís a little white flag on it. Yeah."
EK: You were never over there? You could just see it?
BV: Oh no, no I was never up there. That was way across Manson Creek and Manson Lake and way on beyond there. Yeah, they go up the ..... Uh, who was that engineer that went through years ago? The surveyor, he went through the country up here and his name is in a lot of books.
GM: You donít mean Mandy?
BV: Say it.
BV: Mandy? No.
GM: He was a mining inspector.
BV: Yeah but, this guy was a surveyor; an engineering surveyor. He put iron spikes in every so often as he went across it.
EK: I know the person you mean and I canít think of his name either.
BV: Yeah. Well, when George was up at Ingenika he was up on a hill there and he found one of these iron spikes that he had put in there.
GM: George is his son, my brother.
BV: Yeah. Yeah, he sort of surveyed the whole country.
EK: Yeah, there is a name to that line he put in, right? And I think itís even named after him, isnít it?
EK: But I canít think of it.
BV: Yeah. Yeah, uh. Yeah, I did uh, oh went out around here and ...
And, of course, the game warden in Smithers was retiring so they sent me
up there in charge of Smithers detachment, so I was up there for a while.
But, apparently Muirhead didnít..... he hadnít taught the people anything,
he hadnít done anything. I just run into a bunch of trouble. Everywhere
I went there was somebody breakiní the law. I was a bad guy, accordiní
to the people up there, because Muirhead had just; hadnít done anything.
Boy oh boy, he hadnít taught the natives anything, he hadnít.... Well I
guess he just hadnít done anything about the natives. I had to, uh. I talked
with one native from Moricetown and he says, "I want you to come to our
place," he says, "and have a meeting with us."
I says, "Okay, any time." I says, "You let me know and Iíll come up there and ...." So he, uh... I went up there. He told me to come up on a certain day. I went up there and he gathered all the people in the big house and he interpreted. They asked me questions and he interpreted, and we had quite a talk. A lot of things that they didnít know, they were doing. They were breaking the law and didnít know it and I had to explain all that to them. So it was great. It was great, but Muirhead apparently had never told them anything. He just ... he had, oh heíd have maybe three cases one year, maybe two the next, maybe three, four the next. Good heavens, when I went up there, everywhere I went I found somebody breakiní the law. Just, you know, there was no law or order at all. It was bad. It made it hard for me because people just, just werenít informed.
I got one guy that heíd been tryiní to get for years. Caught this guy with a cow and a calf moose. He was workiní on the CNR and I got him.
EK: How did you manage to get him?
BV: Just out on patrol. Oh, there was so many, so much.... I couldnít
cover half of the stuff that I
should have covered. Just seemed like every other guy was breakiní the law and .... I couldnít be everywhere at once. I was just tied up.
EK: And I suppose after youíd charged somebody youíd have to appear in court, and...
BV: Right, right.
EK: ... thatís pretty time consuming.
BV: Yeah. And that would spoil the day for that and Iíd have to, you
know, go and type out the report and get that ready for mailing, and then
besides I was selling licences too. I was selling licences at the time
and, uh, they quit that eventually. But, uh, oh boy I was busy. Then at
night, why, the provincial police wanted me to patrol with them. Iíd put
my uniform on and patrol with them. So, (laughs) Iíll never forget one
(laughs)... this policeman he stopped the car by a native and the native,
you could see was staggering a little. He went and searched him and, uh,
"Whereíd he get the liquor?"
"Oh," he says, "a guy up there he give me a drink."
EK: The natives werenít allowed by buy liquor then, is that correct?
BV: Oh no, no. And he said, "Yeah, he give me a drink." He says, "I
donít know who it was." He says, "I donít know who it was." He said, "He
just give me a drink."
He says, you know, he says, we got back in the car, he says, "You know, that guyís been drinking," he says, "and he got drunk every Saturday." He says, "Iíve never been able to find a bottle on him."
I says, "Oh? Iíll bet I can find a bottle." I says, "You just donít look in the right place."
His wife was pushing a baby carriage with a baby in it. I went over there and looked down in the side, pulled a bottle, half a bottle of liquor out. (laughs) I says,"Here. Youíre just not lookiní in the right place."
"Oh boy," he says. "I got you now," he says. And he put the native in the car and took him down and locked him up. (laughs)
EK: So, how would the natives get liquor?
BV: Buy it from a white man.
BV: Yeah. I says, "You gotta get the guy thatís selling them this liquor."
Course, he - the native, would say, "Oh just some guy," He says, "I donít
know him. Never saw him before. He sell me liquor."
Well, what could you do? Theyíd never tell who sold it to Ďem.
EK: How long were you a game warden?
BV: Until they... well, until Inspector Gill came in and took over. Van Dyck died, the Inspector, and then they got a guy in by the name of Gill. He was, uh, the Inspector here then. First thing he wanted to do now..... I had been there three years and Iíd been cruising all the back roads and learning the country, learning where to go, finding my way around. You know, gettiní used to the country. Course, every time Iíd go way out on a back road somewhere Iíd have to ... Iíd take a gun or something off somebody without a licence. It just - one thing after another, and I was gettiní used to the area and territory.
He comes up here, old Gill comes up, and he says, "Iím shifting everybody around."
I says, "Well, why shift me around because Iím just gettiní used to
the territory here. Iím just gettiní used to all the back roads and everywhere
so I can do a good job of law enforcement."
"Nah," he says, "youíre goiní down to Rupert," he says, "work on the boats," he says. "With the game warden down there," he says. "Youíre gonna transfer. We got another guy to take your place here."
And Al Jank, the game warden here, theyíre gonna ship off to Peace River. Just scatter everybody around and start over, you know. Oh, that was the craziest thing I ever heard of. That was really crazy. And me, he wanted to ship me down to Rupert.
GM: By this time you had just married Mom, hadnít you?
BV: Yeah. So, I said, "No, to heck with it." I said, "Iím out." I just
told him, "Iím finished."
He wasnít a nice man to work with. So, that was that.
EK: That would have been about 1948 by then?
GM: Uh huh.
BV: I think that was Ď49.
GM: That would have been Ď49.
BV: Yeah. Good fishing though, at Moricetown. (laughs) I was down there on a Sunday and I got three nice steelhead in the Fall. Nice big steelhead, you know, ten pounds each. I just caught the three and I thought, "Thatís enough. Iím not gonna be greedy." I caught them, put Ďem in the car and went home. Oh, they were beautiful fish.
EK: So youíd just gotten married, and youíd just quit your job?
EK: Yeah? Did you have something in mind?
BV: No. Well, I.. after I quit that job I says, "Well, Iím goiní down to Vanderhoof and see if thereís any work down there." So I went down there. I was offered five jobs.... just like that.
GM: Before that you had your store though?
GM: Before that you had the store.
BV: Oh yeah, a second hand store.
GM: You married in Ď48.
GM: So this was a year later. He married my mother in 1948.
BV: Oh yeah.
GM: When did the store come in? After or before that, or...?
GM: When did the store come in?
BV: Well, after I left the game department. Yeah, I donít know who burnt that down for me, but uh, they did a good job.
GM: Fill in a little bit. What you had.
EK: What did you have for a store?
BV: Second hand store.
EK: How did you get into that business?
BV: Well, it was an opening.
GM: Heís a born junk collector.
BV: (Laughs) Yeah, I soon gathered up enough stuff and ... My wife was workiní at the time and, uh, she says, Iíll keep workiní and you just keep building up your stock. And I figure I had about $3,000 work of stock in the store. And, uh, then it burnt up. I was gettiní to a point where I could take a little home, you know.
EK: What was your wife doing?
BV: Oh, she worked for a real estate agent.
GM: Calderwood Agencies. For years.
GM: And I guess I was born the next year.
GM: You must have quit the game department in Ď48 then. Does that sound about right, or no?
BV: Late in the fall of Ď48 I guess. Anyway... Yeah, and I, uh, come
down to Vanderhoof. I was offered five jobs so I was gonna move down there.
So we moved down there. One job was with a saw mill at the foot of the
hill. And uh, when I asked for the job he says, "We donít want any drinkers",
he says, "on the job."
"Well," I says, "I donít drink."
" Well, okay," he says, "weíll put you to work as soon as you move down."
When I came down I went down there to the mill to ask Ďem when I could go to work. They were just hauling the last piece of the mill. They were moving it somewhere else. And these other jobs. One job was a mechanical job, fixiní and repairiní cars and trucks. They decided there wasnít enough business to hire another man. Another job was in the lumber yard. They decided there wasnít enough..... they could handle it without extra help. Just one after another the jobs just disappeared.
GM: This was in January, wasnít it?
BV: Yup, it was in....
GM: Came in the winter?
BV: So, there was only one job open and that was janitor work. So I took that.
EK: Who were you working for?
EK: Who were you working for?
BV: Oh, for the Legion in Vanderhoof.
BV: ... takiní care of the Legion hall and keepiní it clean, and keepiní
the fire goiní. Keepiní it hot. It was busy. Busy every night practically.
Umm. No, it was that spring, next spring, I uh.... well I
worked for Tommy Smithers for that summer.
EK: Doing what?
BV: Carpentering. Oh well, wait a minute, I was carpentering up at Smithers for a summer.
GM: Donít remember.
BV: Yeah, I think maybe you werenít born yet. Yeah, I worked for a summer up in Smithers to help build the Telkwa School. I worked on that. There were two union guys on it. They didnít like me; Ďcause I worked and they didnít. (laughs) No, I worked and when I work, I work. I donít fiddle around and, uh, they didnít like that because.... the same when I went out to Kenney Dam, worked out there with the carpenters. They didnít like me because I worked. They were all union men. I was union too, but uh, I could .... Well, when Iíd drive a nail in a board Iíd hit it to start it and one more crack and drive it home. And I was nailing, puttiní more nails in than the rest of the crew. Theyíd have to hit the nail fifteen times to drive it home, you know. Union men. Ahhh, I couldnít work that slow. Same as up in Smithers, I couldnít.... I couldnít work at their speed; I had to work. And the other guys didnít like it. I was out at Kenney Dam, I was workiní out there, I .....
GM: Thatís later. Youíre jumpiní ahead.
BV: Oh. Where am I now?
GM: You worked for Tommy Smithers in Vanderhoof. Doing what?
BV: Carpentering. Oh, we were build.... we built, uh .... letís see, what was the first. Oh, we built a house or two and then I, uh, I was off for that winter. And then the next spring I went out to Kinney Dam.
EK: Was the dam under construction then?
BV: Yeah. Building bunkhouses and you know. I started in building a
bunkhouse one morning; the gang that was in there, we were gonna put the
floor up and the sides and everything, and I was just, I was just feeliní
good, you know? I says, "Eight oíclock," I says, "letís go, rrrrr. You
know, and I started in workiní away there; driviní nails in the boards
and (laughs). These two big fat slobs of union men from Vancouver - "What
are you tryiní to get, the bossís job?"
I says, "I donít want a boss's job - they donít work." I says, "I wanna work." I says, "I like workiní." (makes growling noise - laughs) and they crawled away.
Pretty soon, the boss called me over and, uh... "Look, he says, youíre makiní people mad," he says. He says, "Youíre not very well liked here."
I said, "Well, I canít help it; Iím here to work. Iím not here to put in time."
And then the superintendant came along. The boss talked to him and the superintendant comes over and says, "Come on, Bill, I got a job for ya."
I says, "Okay," and I picked up my tool kit and went with him. Now this was close to noon.
He says, "Look." He showed me a pile of 2 x 4's. He says, "I want those made into rafters." Whole truck load of 2 x 4's and they just want 90 rafters. He said, "I want em all made by 8:00 oíclock tomorrow morning. They want to haul them down the hill to put on that new building."
I says, "Okay."
Ninety rafters. So, he gave me the angle. So I set my square on my.. no, what do you call it?... Try-square, and I started cuttiní those rafters. He came by at 5:00 oíclock. He says, "Bill itís quittiní time."
says, "Well, I only got three more to do and your rafters are finished."
He says, "What?"
"Well," I said, "you said you wanted Ďem by 8:00 oíclock tomorrow morning. I only got three more to do and theyíre all done." He went away shakiní his head. (laughs) I finished the three and that was it. I had Ďem finished.
GM: Did you work on the liquor store in Vanderhoof?
BV: Yup. Yeah, we built that in, uh... Oh, letís see... I worked at Kenney Dam until I got my back hurt in a tunnel.
GM: Go ahead with that then first.
EK: Yeah, how did that happen?
BV: Well, a guy .... We had a big timber, a big timber, I donít know
must have been 6 x 8 or somethiní like that. Green; just been cut in the
bush you know. We were workiní in the tunnel to... They had to, um, put
forms in there so they could cement the inside of it. And we were up in
the top and I was on the front end walkiní along with this guy behind and
we brought this ... carryiní these timbers in... and, uh, I donít know
whether he stumbled or whether he just stepped out from under his end of
it, but the other end hit the floor and it was on my shoulder. It was heavy
timber and it kinked my back, you know, just threw my back out. Oh boy,
I had to come in and see the doctor, and the doctor says, "Youíd better take a little while off." He says, "Donít go back to work," he says, "for a while."
So, I stayed at home for a while. Then I decided that ... Letís see, what the heck did I do then?
I donít know. What the heck did I do that winter? Well anyway, Iíd made enough to keep the family over winter.
Next spring we, they built the Federal building in Vanderhoof, where the post office is. The brick work and all that. We did all the wood work. That was Dominion Construction.
(End of Side A - Tape 3)
EK: You just built the liquor store?
BV: Well, the liquor store. We built the.... and I worked on the provincial building and the Bank of Commerce building.
EK: You must be up into the early fifties now?
BV: Yeah, that was Ď52, I think it was. In
the spring of Ď53 we, they wanted carpenters out at Skins Lake. Okay. So
I went out to Skins Lake and started carpentering out there and, uh...
We were puttiní up tent frames just to put a tent over, you know. We got
the frames just about finished and along came the superintendent and the
boss, and the boss says, "Bill," he says, "how would you like to do saw
filing? ĎCause we canít find a saw filer." He says, um, "Itíll only be
until we find a sawfiler and then you can go back on the carpentry gang."
I says, "Well, sure." I says, "Iíll help you guys out any time I can." And I says, "Sure, Iíll file until you get a sawfiler."
"Oh, thatís great."
So, sawfiling was inside work and I liked workiní outside, but that was one showery summer. The guys would come in soaked pretty near every day. Thereíd be a shower come over pretty near every day. And some days it would rain all day. The carpentry gangíd come in; I was in the carpentry tent with the rest of the guys (laugh). Theyíd have to come in, change all their clothes into dry clothes and keep the fire goiní to dry their wet clothes. But theyíd bring their saws to me and I would sharpen ..... I sharpened every type of saw they had there on the ...... The butcher sent three meat saws over to me to sharpen one time. Yeah, meat saws. Usually heíd just buy a new blade, you know, and throw em away, the old ones away, but they brought em over and I sharpened Ďem. Took a - I used up a whole file on one saw. (laughs)
EK: Pretty hard metal.
BV: You bet it was.
EK: And so, as a sawfiler then you were basically keeping the handsaws for the construction workers sharp.
BV: Thatís right. All the hand saws, band saws, circular saws, even
chain saws. Oh, they sent me everything and I sharpened it and they were
well satisfied with it. One guy in our tent, he just, he was against me.
He just, one guy. He was kind of wantiní to complain about anything. But
he was sayiní one night, he says,
"Ah sawfilers," he says, "canít find em like they used to be." He says, "One guy down in the Kootenays," he says, "you could take a needle," he says, "and put in between the teeth and tip the saw up and tap it," he says, "and that needle would go straight through the teeth and drop on the floor." He says, "Thatís how good he was a sawfiler."
I says, "Hey," I says, "any you guys got a needle here?" I says, "How many guys picked up sharp saws tonight?"
Well there were three. I said, "Bring Ďem here."
And a guy says, "Hereís a needle."
Needle about that long. Small, very small needle.
I says, "Well, thatís a pretty small needle, but," I says, "weíll try it."
Put it on the saw teeth, you know, and tipped the saw a little bit and tapped it and the needle slid right off right out through the teeth. All three saws. I says, "Well, by golly," I says, "I guess Iím an old time sawfiler. (laughs) Must be up with the best of Ďem."
Well, that guy never said another word about saw filing.
EK: Well, when you got it you might as well show it, eh?
BV: (laughs) It was comical. Oh, there was all kinds of saws came in there. All the saws you could mention. I sharpened Ďem.
EK: Did you have any... This was just... youíd look at what you needed to do and figured out and taught yourself?
BV: Well, itís like any trade. You, uh, gotta have good judgement and
do it right. Do a first class job and thatís it. I know they broke a bandsaw
blade, it was 20 feet long. And the other blade had been they overheated
it and it got burnt the day before. They had this extra blade, but five
men were out of work. They took the big blade off there. They brought it
to me and they says, "Look, five of us gotta stand around until that blade
is sharpened. The other blade is broken."
I says, "Okay, Iíll do it as fast as I can."
I did it in 20 minutes. A 20 foot bandsaw blade. I did it in 20 minutes.
EK: How on earth can you do that?
BV: Well, if youíre a sawfiler you could understand. But you have to level all the teeth, get them all the same height.
BV: Then you file Ďem. And, of course, if they need setting you gotta set Ďem. But they, the five men standing there outta work, well... I had to do my best on that one. I did it in 20 minutes. Twenty feet.
EK: So I guess they kept you sharpening saws for a while?
BV: Oh yes. All summer. I guess they didnít even look for another sawfiler. (laughs) But I was glad I did because, like I say, every other day it rained out there. Theyíd come in soakiní wet; Iíd come in nice and dry.
EK: Yeah. Thatís the choice I would have made too, I think.
BV: Yeah. Oh, Iíve had a lot of fun in my time.
EK: Any stories that jump out at you when you think about it?
EK: Any stories that stick out in your mind?
BV: Oh, I donít know. I used to paddle a dugout canoe, when I, you know.
I bought a dugout canoe from the Indians. I told old Leon Prince when I
first went out to their river, that was in about 1929 I guess, maybe Ď28.
Yeah, more like 1928. They come down the river to sell moccasins and buckskin,
you know, trade for sugar and whatever we could - tea. Oh, we got along
good with Ďem. Then I told Ďem I wanted a canoe. They had a nice canoe,
and I said, "Iíd like to have a dugout canoe."
He says, "Okay," he says. He says," I know the tree," he says, "I know right where the tree is growing," he says. "Way up the river there," he says. " A good tree there." He says, "Cost you a dollar a foot."
I says, "Okay."
So they went ahead. About two weeks later they came down with this canoe. He says, "I donít know, I donít wanna part with it," he says. "This canoe run easy", he says. "Runs real easy."
I says, "Yeah but," I says, "I want a canoe."
They had two paddles in it. By golly, that was great. So I paid him $16 for the canoe and two paddles. And that was an easy running canoe because I could go down through the rapids and up through the rapids with it, no problem. If you ever.... Youíve never been down the Stuart River?
EK: No. Iíve come down the Nechako from Finmore, but not the Stuart.
BV: Well, if you knew the river, the Stuart, youíd know then what I
used to go through. The rapids that I used to go through. Thereís old Bart
Davison and Walter Abbott. They used to trap down the river. They had a,
oh they musta had a 20 foot canoe. They had a four horse motor in it, inboard
in it. It was a big canoe about so wide, you know. Big canoe. And, uh,
theyíd come up the river. I left Hiís, I was down to help him do some blacksmithing,
and said, "Well, Iíd better get home." I says, "I can hear Bart cominí
I can hear him cominí up the river with his canoe. "Iíd better go," I says.
So I jumped in my canoe and I went up to the point. They call it Sturgeon Point now. Thereís another Sturgeon Point further up the river, but I went up to the point and thatís the end of the rapids. Thereís a half mile stretch of rapids up to Indian Camp. So, we both hit the rapids at the same time. They had to stay out in the current, but I could dodge between the rocks all the way up this half mile stretch into the Indian Camp rapids, and there you just had to put on the power to get over the the ripple. I was almost up to the Mandalay Ranch, which was another Ďbout a mile and a half; a mile at least; before they caught up to me. And then there was the rapids half a mile above the ranch and theyíd gone through that before I got there, but I used to have to go through that too.
But, from my place on up, upstream, I could go clear up to Dog Creek and no rapids. Just nice water. The current in Stuart River was about, oh, four miles an hour; maybe five miles an hour in the high water in summer time. But usually three miles an hour in the low water.
I used to go up the river seventeen miles, up to Indian Camp; seven, eight, nine, nine miles. Just go up just to go, you know, get away and go.
GM: Didnít you find some Indian digs, or something?
BV: Ohhh, that was up at Dog Creek, yeah. Yeah, up at Dog Creek. I went up there with Jack Sewell, and uh, we went up there and I told him there was some holes and indentations in the ..... and he said they were food caches for the winter.
EK: Mmm hmm.
BV: They put; lined them with spruce boughs and put their meat or fish in there and then they covered em over with spruce boughs and put dirt over em. And the meatíd keep in there all winter, fish or whatever it was. They were food caches, so.... He wanted to see those so I took him up there.
GM: Jack Sewell was his father-in-law, my motherís dad. My grandfather on the other side. He was an amateur archeologist and heís got a collection down in the University of; or UBC, in the archives there that my aunt, daughter and I went to see a couple of years ago, and found his old rock collections and his arrow heads and his journal, and he spent a lot of time up at Eutsuk Lake.
EK: That name sounds familiar.
GM: Sewell, yeah.
EK: Yeah, Sewall.
BV: You didnít see my drill there? Stone drill.
GM: Probably was, I donít know.
BV: I found a stone drill when I was out workiní with him and collecting
his arrow heads and stuff. I found a stone drill that long (20cm.) and,
by golly, he saw that and he said, "Oh my gosh, what have you found here."
He said, "Oh, Iíve been lookiní for one of those all over."
He was just, oh, he was just beside himself. He was so happy that I had found that drill, and he took it right there. He didnít want me to keep it.
EK: Is that right, eh?
BV: Sure, I could have the arrow heads and the other stuff, the scrapers,
but he had to have that drill. (laughs). He said, "The only one Iíve ever
found in BC. No one else has ever found one."
I donít know whether they have found any from then on, but itís supposed to have been the first one ever found.
GM: I have a video too, that we got from Ottawa, that um.... of him in 1942 or 3, or there abouts, making an arrow head from a stone heíd found in the river.EK: Oh, is that right?
GM: Or a stone knife I think it was, not an arrow head.
BV: Oh, the scrapers. They got lots of scrapers and I got a stone axe. I still got it. I still got those arrow heads and stuff. Yeah. I got quite a few of them.
(Gwen makes a request that her father repeat some old tongue-twisters that he used to know.)
GM: Can you remember the other one about...? Is there one about family?
BV: Oh, you and your folks like me and my folks?
GM: Yeah, those two. Okay, go ahead and do them.
BV: Oh, well if you and your folks like me and my folks; like me and
my folks like you and your folks; then there never were folks since folks
liked folks, like me and my folks liked you and your folks, like you and
your folks liked me and my folks.
And, uh if the doctor doctored another doctor would the doctor doiní the doctoriní doctor the doctored doctor the way the doctored doctor wanted to be doctored, or would the doctor doiní the doctoring doctor the other doctor in his own way.
END OF TAPE
Transcribed by Lorraine Mathison CPS, International Association of Administrative Professionals, Prince George Chapter.