Interview  with Alice Wolzcuk




This interview is with Alice Wolzcuk, interviewed by Anne Allgaier, April 14, 1987 at Anne's house. Alice was born in a little village in Birdtale Manitoba in 1920. She came to Prince George with her husband in 1942. Her husband owned Central Sawmills which burned in 1948. She has five children, Georgia, Sue, Rod, Terry and Tim. She now has the Wolzcuk Greenhouses.

Allgaier: Alice, when did you come to Prince George?

Wolzcuk: In 1942.

Allgaier: How old were you then?

Wolzcuk: I was born in 1920, so that made me just about twenty-two. I came in the fall, actually it would have been 1941. I came in September and had my first baby in December. We always said '42 because it was that season.

Allgaier: Where were you born?

Wolzcuk: I was born in a tiny, little, it didn't deserve to be called a village, it's just a municipality of Birdtale in Manitoba.

Allgaier: Birdtale

Wolzcuk: Birdtale, oh yes. In fact, at that time, l think there were about three houses and a post office. I drove past it a couple of years ago and it's actually the same. It hasn't grown, but I grew up in Winnipeg.

Allgaier: Why did you come to Prince George?

Wolzcuk: Many reasons, mostly my father was here. My husband was not in good health. My father kept writing and saying "Come on out and give me a hand". At that time he was interested in cutting birch trees. There was some birch plywood being made at the time.

Allgaier: Birch plywood.

Wolzcuk: Yes, for a short time they were making birch plywood so he thought that might be a help for him and useful for us too so I came out first in September of that year and my husband followed.

Allgaier: When did your father come here?

Wolzcuk: It had to be after 1938 because in '38 we came for a visit. He had bought a piece of property at the corner of Perry Road and Giscome Road. My mother and my sister and I stayed in Winnipeg, He came out here after 1938 so he was by himself for a couple of years. In the meantime we met the Wolzcuk brothers so we married them one by one. My dad came for one wedding but couldn't make it for the other. We were by ourselves for a year or too. My mother went back with him.

Allgaier: What was you maiden name Alice?

Wolzcuk: Hubensky `

Allgaier: So your father was Mr. Hubensky?

Wolzcuk: That's right.

Allgaier: Did he have a mill of any kind?

Wolzcuk: He did later on. When we first cane, he was busy with his logs for the birch plywood and he got things going. My husband was helping him. That winter the bottom of the birch plywood market fell out totally. Before Christmas everybody was in business and immediately after everybody was broke. It was a very sudden thing. Some people lost a lot of money because they had bought logging equipment and paid for big timber rights. I don't know what the reasons were, but as I say before Christmas everybody was in business, right after Christmas, there was just nothing of the birch plywood businesses.

Allgaier: You have no idea what the birch plywood was being used for.

Wolzcuk: No, I don't. I wasn't interested at the time. It wasn't such a big loss as my father had sold all the logs before Christmas. The only thing they lost out on, they had cruised some new timber and had made arrangements to get some more birch logs so that fell through but there was no money loss, just a loss of time, so they weren't too bad off but some people really lost a lot of money.

Allgaier: What did you do after that?

Wolzcuk: Well, my husband did odd jobs around town and then my cousin came along and said, "Why don't we start a sawmill?" They had no money so my cousin sold his car and my husband studied up a little bit. He had something to do with sawmills back in Manitoba or at least he had a good idea of what it was. They set up a very nice mill and went into business. It was doing very, very well until we burned.

Allgaier: Where was the sawmill?

Wolzcuk: It was on Perry Road, about four miles in. My parents owned the piece of property so we set up the mill there.

Allgaier: Can you tell me a little bit more about the sawmill?

Wolzcuk: He were in the saw milling business for about ten years. We called it Central Sawmills. In that time it was a going concern. We hired up to thirty men. It was quite a nice little mill. We were just about paid up with the cost, don't forget we started with no money at all, practically no money, just what he realized from the car and the mill burned down. After that we had nothing but struggle. At that time it was just a month of being paid up and no insurance and things like that so we lost out. After that. we had a portable for a little while. We had another sawmill but that was just at the time the government set up timber sales and quotas. We had cut three million board feet, then we were idle for the summer after which the mill burned. When we applied for the quota, they would not recognize we had cut the three million before. They looked at the year we didn't cut any trees so they only allowed us one million board feet. Of course, all we could do is get a sale for a million board feet. Each time you did that it would pay for the move and that would be it. We struggled right through after that. We never really got out of it.

Allgaier: When you say that the government then started quotas?

Wolzcuk: Up until then, there were no quotas. You could cut what you wanted and whatever. They did several things. They did the management thing with their forestry management. They set up great big units and also a quota for each sawmill and the quota was based on what you cut that year. Although the year before we had cut three million board feet, because we weren't cutting anything while we were rebuilding the mill, that didn't count. We applied several times and asked but they wouldn't recognize that as valid. We had some of the forestry people ask for us but they weren't concerned with that so we never did get a quota of what we could do. Cutting the one million board feet never really paid much so we were always running behind. Our famous saying was always "One more week of good going without a breakdown and we would be okay". We never had that week so ended up selling the mill, just being in debt. That's when we decided to go into something else. In fact, we really didn't intend to go into a lot of greenhouses. We intended to live on the farm and grow market corn. My husband had grown up in that business. He knew it quite well. He had grown up that way and up until that point l had never really grown anything in my life.

Allgaier: When did the sawmill burn down then?

Wolzcuk: Well, there was two fires. The first one would have been '48, '49, something like that. We struggled along. In '54 w` moved to where we are now.

Allgaier: Do you have any idea what caused the fires?

Wolzcuk: The first one, the fire marshal felt was set. So did we because everything had been cleaned up. It had stood idle for the spring break and wasn't left dirty. It was all washed down and cleaned. There was no reason for a fire to start. We were going to start it up the next day so that one we felt was set. The next one was a portable and that too we felt was set. We don't know any more about it. We had suspicions of this, that and the other but nothing that you could point fingers or anything like that.

Allgaier: Was it usual for people not to have insurance in those days?

Wolzcuk: Insurance was extremely expensive on sawmills. We did have some on one particular motor, our main motor, but that ran out the day before so we didn't realize anything on that.

Allgaier: Did sawmills burn down often?

Wolzcuk: Not as often as one would expect because there was no fire fighting equipment. We had a little bit but wasn't adequate. You need big hoses and all sorts of things like that. The men we had at the time came to my husband and offered to rebuild the mill without wages. My husband was very touched but he wouldn't permit that. Of course, we got into debt because they did work for us but we paid them wages. We paid them off eventually and that was when we got hopelessly into debt. It took us over ten years to pay it back. All the years we had the greenhouses, we couldn't do anything. We were in partnership with my brother-in-law. They had five children and we had five children. That was a major operation to send them to school in the fall, never mind to get anything for ourselves.

Allgaier: So you established the nurseries in 1934.

Wolzcuk: Yes, we came to the place where we are now; The first year we didn't have much of Greenhouse.  It was 12x16, and we had a couple of cold frames. The first year we grew some bedding plants but people in town didn't really know why they should want bedding plants so we didn't sell all we had. The next year those that had bought bedding plants and were used to them came for more and others came with them. After that we sold pretty well everything we grew.

Allgaier: What did people do if they didn't buy bedding plants?

Wolzcuk: They weren't in the habit of doing that. There had been a very small greenhouse that a Mr. Monkley had but he was retiring. He was an elderly man. It's a  lot of hard work to keep a greenhouse going. I did go and see him once but he was winding down rather than trying to expand. 1 don't even remember what street he had his greenhouse. He just had a little greenhouse.

Allgaier: Did people just plant seeds and things?

Wolzcuk: Those that were interested would put their seeds in. It was very discouraging. When you put seeds in with the cold nights we have here, it's very hard to get them to flower and they would flower late in the fall. In fact, one of the reasons I got interested was when we still had the mill and we were on the Pineview clay which really doesn't grow things very well so my mother and I carried soil from the woods, more than half a mile. We packed them in pails to make a flower bed. We seeded our flowers and, of course, they came up and grew very well but all froze before they bloomed. That's when I went to my husband and I said, "Look, what are we going to do. We want flowers but we can't have them this way." He says to grow bedding plants. I said, "How do you do that". He was busy and he was ill and said go find out. So I went and found out.

Allgaier: How did you do that?

Wolzcuk: Oh, the library. I don't think there were any books left. I took everything,

Allgaier: So you used the library.

Wolzcuk: I used the library, the old one. I can't remember the name now, but it was the Provincial Library. It was on Third Avenue, a little wee wee, on the corner where the theatre is now. There used to be a couple of little stores, the first one was in there. Then they got the old post office, I think it was. They used that building before the current one went up. There was an old wooden post office, which they used. There was still no city library at that time, but it was ,a good library. Because we were out of town and they set up a city library. We were allowed to borrow from it without paying a lot. We couldn't pay so we still continued to borrow books from the Provincial Library. I also borrowed books from the UBC, what do they call it, extended library or something like that. They used to ship out books to me and eventually they had to discontinue that too. It was interesting while they had it. I was able to get books of all kinds, and of course, I wasn't very discriminating. I read anything that was sent. If it said, “Try this or that”, I tried everything until my husband said either you stop spending all our money on plants or you do some thing about it! I was too far in to it by then. We were still at the sawmill so I started selling a few plants. I took them into a florist in town and I got my seed money back. I didn't get anything else. I had my seed money and I worked at the Golf Course. There was no clubhouse to speak of and they couldn't afford to get someone to look after it but during the summer for two years, I brought my babies with me and I looked after the clubhouse for them. I grew a few things around and I made a couple little flower beds.

Allgaier: When was that?

Wolzcuk: Oh, I don't remember the year. I don't remember dates, but that would have been within the first four or five years that the golf course existed. I sold to people that we golfed with and they got to know me. Then one year, we were moving. I couldn't do anything, so my mother grew some bedding plants for me so I could keep the customers. Of course, when we came to this place I was interested in gardening. That was one of the reasons we put in the little greenhouse.

Allgaier: You said that your husband had been in the greenhouse business.

Wolzcuk: His mother had worked but she had a market garden and greenhouses. They sold bedding plants and all sorts of vegetables and seeds of certain kinds that she grew herself. This was back in Winnipeg. He grew up in the gardening business. He had a  real good grass root knowledge. He might not have been able to talk to you with a lot of terms and things but he could take a handful of dirt and make a good educated guess as to how good it would be. Certainly if I had a problem, he was the first one I went to. He was very good.

Allgaier: When you started out in the nursery where you are now, you said you wanted to live on a farm. Did you have any animals?

Wolzcuk: Never. No, I don't like animal farming. What I wanted was not to live in the city any longer. Don't forget I spent ten  years in the bush. After living in the city I found the bush was a lot of freedom. You have all kinds of elbow space. If you wanted to holler, no one cared because they didn't hear you. Things like that so I didn't want to be in town. I also wanted to hear town or be within very short distance. At that time to live on the Pulp Mill Road, you were out of town. It took only about five miles because we had to go in a circle. We had to go up to the Hoffercamp Road and all around to come into town but you but you could hear town but you didn't have to put up with it. It was an ideal spot. It was really beautiful. If I felt lonesome for the city, all I had to do was look across the river and I could see all the lights. That was sufficient.

Allgaier: You said you had to go across to the Hoffercamp Road.

Wolzcuk: Actually the road circled. If you know where the Pulp Mills are, just about a mile this side of it, the road went up the hill and circled or did a hairpin and got onto Hoffercamp Road. We used that road up until the time the Pulp Mill Road went in.

Allgaier: Oh, I see, the Pulp Mill Road must have been put in?

Wolzcuk: It was in the 50’s, I think, when the pulp mills came in. Maybe it was the 60's. When the Pulp Mill Road went in part of the road going up to Hoffercamp, was destroyed  so we couldn't use it any longer. It cuts off somewhere at the point where it started traveling down at the hairpin.

Allgaier: What was done with the land on which the Pulp Mill Road is right now?

Wolzcuk: It was taken from the various people that lived there, expropriated.

Allgaier: Did you get any money for that?

Wolzcuk: Since it belonged to my brother-in-law, I never knew if got it settled or not. Certainly they didn't offer anything very much. They did an assessment, and the assessment was done for some twenty years before or something like that. They didn't offer anything what the value was. I don't think they ever do

Allgaier: Expropriation is not usually of benefit to the person that gets expropriated.

Wolzcuk: No, I think that is one thing that is very wrong about it.

Allgaier: Which bridge did you go across then?

Wolzcuk: The Old Nechako Bridge, which is still there. It was a two way bridge then.

Allgaier: Which is the Old Nechako Bridge?

Wolzcuk: The one that crosses from First Avenue and joins up with the Hart Highway. The one with the lights on.

Allgaier: Is that the one where they have the Cameron Street overpass? Is that the bridge?

Wolzcuk: That's the same bridge, yes. At that time there was two-way traffic on it. Cars could pass with about six inches to spare. If you met a truck, one of them would have to backup as two trucks couldn't pass. With great care maybe a Volkswagen or small car could pass a truck but it was a real tight squeeze. Two cars carefully could. There were a lot of accidents on the bridge as there was no walkway on the side and the only possible way to get across was to walk.  The only thing to walk on was that little ridge on the side, 6x6, or whatever they have. There was always somebody careless and there were quite a few deaths on it and accidents. Eventually they made it a one way bridge.

Allgaier: I can't imagine two cars going on that one way.

Wolzcuk: t's hard to imagine. It seems I need all the space going one way.  Yes, cars did pass.

Allgaier: When did you have your first children?

Wolzcuk: December, 1941.

Allgaier: Which one was that?

Wolzcuk: Georgia, you have never met her. She lives in Saskatchewan.

Allgaier: And then you had another one?

Wolzcuk: Sue was born in '46. We had the sawmill then. Don't ask me what year the boys were born. It was eight years after Sue. hat's all I remember. I have to ask them. There weren't as many years between them as there were between the girls and the boys.

Allgaier: What are their names?

Wolzcuk: There's Rod; he runs the nursery now. He is the oldest of the boys. Terry is the middle one, he's married. He has two children and comes and helps a great deal. Tim is the youngest; he's finished at Simon Fraser University. He studied languages, linguistics and Latin American studies. He's all gung-ho to go and teach in Mexico or some place. He doesn't like our Canadian weather.

Allgaier: I can't blame him. So what are your recollections of Prince George living.

Wolzcuk: When we first came, Prince George was in a transition period. There was wooden sidewalks in places, a small town. I was used to small towns because we visited a lot. When I was a child we visited grand parents. We also lived on  a farm for a number of years, so it wasn't exactly a shock but certainly wasn't Winnipeg by any means. It was just a small town. We didn't expect too much from it, but was even more rugged than what we thought. In fact, I think the Croft Hotel had some hitching posts in front of it at the time. That was one of the last ones. Downtown was a little better but Central still had two or three old broken down hotels. There was still a couple of the old, old buildings with the false door fronts. We used to drive out past them. There was an islet in the river here somewhere. We used to go and visit people there or would go and spend a few days in the summer and we'd go past these buildings and people would say that was Prince George to start with but Prince George had moved away over to where it is now. They came back this way and crossed Central since that time but when we first came it was very, very tiny. At the same time something like 10,000 soldiers had a barracks built. These soldiers came into town and Prince George literally didn't know what to do with them. We would come into town and at 6 o'clock you couldn't buy a cup of coffee. The cafes didn't know what to do with all these people. They hadn't been in the habit of ordering enough stuff. It didn't take them very long to learn how. There was a period of several weeks as where they would be sold out. They weren't quite sure how to accommodate all these people. I know one lady that ran a cafe at the time. I think she was bragging. She said she used as much as two pounds of butter a week in the cafe telling me how many meals she served. I don't know how many pieces a cafe gets out of a pound of butter, but at that time I was using two pounds of butter for my own family so it didn't impress me as selling a lot of meals, but that's how Prince George was. As soon as people caught on to the idea that you could buy more than your one or two pounds of coffee, you could open your doors a little longer and serve a few more meals. It wasn't very long before there were several cafes that stayed open. Some stayed open all night. There were lots that stayed till the evening show, 11 o'clock, or whenever. Prince George grew up suddenly. I know I came in September of that year, my husband followed in late October. We had always gone out for our New Years, so I said let's go and do something different. We had a small baby and we were living with my parents. They said they would look after the baby. My husband asked what we were going to do and I said at least we can go to a show, do something. We didn't want to be late so went to the first show at 7 o'clock. It didn't look too, too prepossessing in town but then we didn't know anybody. That was the old Strand Theatre. We went. When the show came out, we were going to have a cup of coffee. Well! the whole street, everything, all of town was just closed right down tight. No lights except the street lights and one drunken man at one of the street lights. That was all. We were so disgusted that we said never again are we going out on New Years Eve. Of course, later on, when we got to know people, we knew there had been parties but they were all private parties. There was nothing really you could see in town. If we had known a little bit more perhaps we could have joined somebody, but we didn't know anybody. We were strangers. We lived about twenty miles out of town. We simply went home and had coffee there. I think that was our last New Years Eve that we went out. Prince George did start to grow quite a bit. With that many people all at once, it took a little adjustment time, but it began to grow.

Allgaier: I, think you inferred that having the Barracks and all the soldiers here caused something to happen in Prince George.

Wolzcuk: Well, quite a bit. From a sleepy little town where everybody knew everybody, all of a sudden there are all these men, and they were temporary. That is, they were not people who were going to live here. They were only stationed here for a few years but they got the town moving. They woke it up a little bit. They began to have a little more business because certainly they wanted to spend some time doing more than just sitting in barracks. I'm not quite sure how long they were here. It was only two or three years or something like that. Then they were moved out. In the meantime, there were more people moving into Prince George because more things were happening. The sawmills began. I don't know how many there were when we started ours, but within a year or two there were over 600 small sawmills. There were a lot of them . The city itself had mostly big planer mills. After the Forest Management thing went in, these small mills were bought up by many of the big planer mills and set up as bigger mills. The little mills disappeared. There were a lot of mills where there were maybe half a dozen men and they would put out their million board feet. They made jobs for people, and people made a living at it, certainly didn't get rich because there wasn't much to work with. We did a lot of good work. Sometimes I think maybe it would have been better off to have left it alone. Job wise, and really I think the little mills less damage than what the big ones did with their Forestry Management.

Allgaier: I know that anybody could come in and set up a sawmill.

Wolzcuk: Yes, but you had to apply for timber rights. Those were done on a bid system which I thought was atrocious. 

Allgaier: It was almost like having a quota system for cows like they do now.

Wolzcuk; Yes, but I never did like a bid system because it forces up a price. Sometimes somebody would assess a timber sale, go to a lot of trouble, and have someone come in and bid up the price so high that the person couldn't make use of it.

Allgaier: What do you mean that they would bid on things?

Wolzcuk: They would have an upset price of so much. I can't remember any of the figures, but suppose it was going to be ten dollars. This is for the forestry payment, for so many thousand board feet. Well, somebody could come and bid on it. Even though you did all the assessment work, walked out and looked over the timber and everything else, decided how many roads, what you would have to pay and that, somebody else without having seen it could come in and say I'll bid eleven dollars and somebody could say I'll bid twelve. Before you know it, you are paying almost double of what you thought you could make some money at. Sometimes it was very difficult.

Allgaier: It was like auctioning it off.

Wolzcuk: It's auctioning it off, yes. It's the same as making bids for certain jobs. I never thought much of that because very often the other is at the reverse where I'll do the job for this much and somebody says I'll do it for so much less. In the end you have a poor job done by someone that is still getting a good amount of money for it. Very often they get the poorest job, but they aren't looking at the quality. What they are looking at is the quantity. I have never had much faith in that. I would rather have seen some other means of assessing who should be the fairer one to get it or whatever, rather than have someone outbid you in some way.

Allgaier: Did the government ever say why they made those changes? Do you remember that?

Wolzcuk: No, I wasn't interested. I didn't like the sawmill business and I didn't like anything to do with it. I had to do book work and that just about killed me. I hated it. I wasn't interested in doing book work. I always hated any kind of book work, and I ended up doing a lot of office work.

Allgaier: Much more fun to play with plants.

Wolzcuk: Oh yes. I could have fooled around with that any time.

Allgaier: The Barracks that you mentioned the soldiers were in. Do you remember where they were located?

Wolzcuk: I don't remember exactly. Where the hospital is now, I'm not quite sure if that was part of the old barracks at one time. There was some there, l don't remember the streets. They were all treed lots. There were no roads to speak of, just gravel roads to get to them. That was all down town. The first hospital was some where behind City Hall, in kind of a little swampy area. The first one was a huge house. It doesn't exist anymore. One of the barracks was purchased for a hospital, and they used that for a number of years. This big one was built after that. There were quite a few changes. It seems it was far in the woods somewhere. After Prince George started to grow, and I can't even remember what years, it began to grow very quickly. I remember one time we went to visit a friend. She gave me her address and I found a whole new street. That was up around Ospika. There were hard surfaced roads, streets, and houses. I couldn't believe it because the last time I'd been, it was all bush. There were lots of corners like that. They just bumped up over night. It really grew very quickly.

Allgaier: What was your family life in the good old days like, in the 30's or 40's? The kids going to school and all that.

Wolzcuk: In the early 40's they were too small to go to school. That was in the sawmill days. My mother was a very good cook, so she did the cooking for us. I did the book work. The kids just played around and then they went to school from there. In fact, they had quite a distance to go to school. There was a little teacher at Ferndale and from the sawmill to the school was six miles one way. My husband used to drive the oldest one. He was doing his own sawing so for him to drove them to school meant that thirty men were standing and waiting for him. He taught me to drive and I learned on mud roads. I took the kids to school. We couldn't afford to pick them up so they walked the six miles home. That wasn't exactly comfortable. They used to fight and all sorts of little piles of stones around they played with. One time it was getting dusk. They should have been home long before so we went to look for them. We did find them not too far from home. They were within the last mile. We asked them how come they were so late. They said they were playing with this doggie with the kitty face. We said what were you doing. They said, we would come up to pet it and it would jump away from them. They followed it into the woods a little ways. We didn't know for sure what it was but it didn't sound very good. My dad tracked it down. It was a cougar they were playing with, a cougar or bobcat, a lynx probably. It must have been just young enough that it didn't mind the kids. It wasn't hungry, obviously. It was playing with them because it would wait for them to get right close and they thought they could pet it, but it would jump away just when they would reach for it. They decided it was getting dark so they started coming home. There were a lot of uncomfortable times. It was a long way to walk home after school.

Allgaier: Did they every encounter bears on the way?

Wolzcuk: No, they never encountered a bear, but that was the only one that really kind of scared us.

Allgaier: There were no school buses in those days?

Wolzcuk: No, no such thing as a bus. Eventually the teacher got closed down and that school no longer exists. There is nothing else left there.

Allgaier: That was in the Ferndale area.

Wolzcuk: Yes

Allgaier: Then, l guess, you moved into town after that.

Wolzcuk: Yes, we came to this place. It was still out of town. It was incorporated when they made Prince George a super city or whatever you call it.

Allgaier: That was 1974, wasn't it?

Wolzcuk: Something like that. They had tried once before and there was a lot of protest made. We were in the city for about three months and everybody along the road made a big fuss so they let us be out of it. The children went to North Nechako School and at that time, the two oldest ones had gone to Ferndale School. When we moved here, they went to the North Nechako which was a four room schoolhouse. They had up to grade 8, I believe.

Allgaier: Was that on the North Nechako Road?

Wolzcuk: Yes, in fact it is the same school as the Cedars Christian School now. It is the same building. At that time there was no Pulp Mill Road so they had to walk up the hill behind our house. There's a pathway that joined with the Hoffercamp Road. They walked down the Hoffercamp Road get a bus that took them down the hill. This was on the Hart Highway. It would bring them down closer to the school. They always rode down the hill but had to walk up the hill. Coming home they would get a ride up to the top of the hill to Hoffercamp Road, then walked the rest of the way. They still walked quite a distance.

Allgaier: Were there a lot of people living along the North Nechako road at that time?

Wolzcuk: There was only one family. There were two brothers. The Rack brothers lived beyond us or maybe they were at the start of where the road went upwards to get out of there. There were two more houses where people lived. That was all, but apparently people had been on that flat for quite a few years. The people we bought the farm were the second owners. There was one man, a European fellow, had bought it. The first people, by the name of Chimilosky, were one of the first ones to be there. They raised a family so were there for quite a few years. In fact, we got to know Mrs. Chimilosky and some of her family. Some of the ladies are married and still around town. When we arrived, there were only the Rack brothers, a Mr. Schvanta and his son. Then there was another lady, Scario, by the name. They bought a little place by the river. There was also one man whose name I have forgotten. He was an elderly gentleman. He had a little shack close to the river. His daughter didn't want him living there. She wanted him to live with her. There was a real good scare. One year the Nechako flooded. There was a lot of ice chunks and everything that were swept onto the bank and it was a little too close for comfort for his little house. They came and literally dragged him away. He was quite sad to leave. Eventually it did flood where he would have been. There hasn't been a flood like that since. That was the second or third year that we were there that this happened. I think it was February. There had been ice on the river, melted like a mid winter thaw, broke up into great big sections of ice and the water rose and forced all this onto the banks. It was quite a mess.

Allgaier: You said that in the early 40's when you first moved here that Prince George was in a transition time? What do you mean by that?

Wolzcuk: Transition from a sleepy town, it was forced to wake up with the soldiers that were in the barracks. With all the little sawmills starting up, there was a big interest in all sorts of lumber and things. Prince George started to grow and continued from there. You didn't notice the difference between having the transient soldiers here to the permanent residents because as the soldiers were leaving, it filled up with new people. There was never a great big hole or lack of people. It seemed to continue from there on.

Allgaier: It was like a post war boom starting right after that.

Wolzcuk: Yes, there were a lot of differences from the first. It wasn't long before you had a nodding acquaintance with everybody. You had a fair idea of what everybody did. You weren't friends with everybody but you knew where they belonged, what they did for a living, that sort of thing. As new people began to come in, there were more and more strangers and although I don't think Prince George ever lost the small town feeling, new buildings began to go up. They certainly were a lot bigger than what was there. There were more stores. There used to be Hughes & Ratlich which was the biggest store. They had quite a large ladies and mens wear. Morrison's Men Wear was there at the time, still in the same quarter, but they were one of the bigger stores. There were lots of little groceries and things like that. Shopping wasn't too bad. You thought that someday you'll go to Vancouver and you'd buy this, this and that. It wasn't too many years before you didn't need to go to Vancouver. Kresges, Woodwards, and the Bay came in. Eatons had a mail order and it wasn't long before Hughes & Ratlich disappeared. This one and that one disappeared and were replaced by the bigger stores. It just kept changing gradually with one thing at a time but it kept growing. It lost the knowing everybody. Now it's hard to recognize Prince George from what it was then.

Allgaier: I would like to get an idea about social life.

Wolzcuk: We didn't participate in much. The lumber association had a few big do's or something like that but we were too far out of town to participate a great deal. Our sawmill outfit had a bowling team. We used to come in to bowl. My husband and brother-in-law both liked golfing so in those days we had Sunday off. They did quite a bit of golfing. I spent two summers looking after the club house which was just a little tiny building which was mostly my social life. We lived too far out of town and 1 didn't really participate. Once we came closer to town I was less often in town than I was from the sawmill partly because we couldn't afford to go. We didn't have time with growing all the gardens and greenhouses. There just simply wasn't any time to go except for shopping. 1 didn't spend much time socializing. My social life was the college. Once the college opened up I attended one class. Usually that was once a week so I did things like that.

Allgaier: That was in the early 70's.

Wolzcuk: I took one course a year whether I needed it or not so that got me out one night. They did have a good Horticulture Society at that time. They had somewhere between thirty and forty members. It was fairly active but gradually over the years it has slowed down. Perhaps they had all the information they needed and served its purpose. Now it's not as crucial as it was then because there really wasn't as much.

Allgaier: When did the Horticulture Society get going? Do you remember?

Wolzcuk: It had to be after `54, about  '55, ‘56, something like that. It was revived as the one before stopped during the War years. We had an RCMP Inspector by the name of I.C. Shank who was interested and I don't know who else helped him but they got a lot of interest going. The Horticulture Society played a part then. We had some very good flower shows. One year we had a spring flower show as well as a fall one and it was fairly good. They had a very nice Rock and Gem Club that I attended for a while. We had workshops and things like. That was interesting but really very, very little social life as far as that goes, but only because we were more or less isolated.

Allgaier: Did the people who lived out in the country do things together?

Wolzcuk: In Ferndale they had a Christmas concert, an occasional dance in the teacherage or parties at different homes. There was nothing very big.

Allgaier: Not much community stuff.

Wolzcuk: Not too much. About the time we were ready to leave they had a community hall set up. After we left, they purchased a building in Ferndale so had more dances and things going.

Allgaier: You said that you came into the Curling Golf and country Club. Was that already in the '40s?

Wolzcuk: Yes. It started in the '40's because Georgia was about five years old when Sue was three or four, She was born in '46 so that would have been `48, close to `"50. I was expecting Ronald at the time and there were bets in the clubhouse as to what it was going to be, a girl or boy. I think that's when he was born, '52 so would have been `51 and '52 that I looked after it. After that the golf course got a little bigger and they felt they wanted somebody that could teach golf. I couldn't do that so they hired Harold Pretty and he looked after the golf course because he could offer little more than what I could.

Allgaier: Was the golf course in the same place as it is now?

Wolzcuk: Yes, it was nine holes at the time but they extended it later. They built a bigger club house and of course now it is a nice golf course. I used to golf too at one time. We had tournaments with Quesnel and Williams Lake. Sometimes we would go to Williams Lake or Quesnel and we also had the teams here. It was a lot of fun.

Allgaier: Did your children join Cubs, Brownies, Scouts or Guides?

Wolzcuk: Not really. It was too far to go because I wouldn't let them come around the river bank although they snuck out and went that way many times. There was very loose sand and I always had visions of them sliding down into the river so I wouldn't let them go. Once they put the Pulp Mill Road in, they were growing up so not much time left for them to participate. Ron had joined the Boy Scouts but he didn't really like it. He couldn't adjust so only went a few times. He said he didn't feel that he wanted to continue but it meant walking a long distance. I remember Sue wanted to take piano lessons. She had saved enough money for a down payment on a piano several times and we used it up for groceries each time. Finally I said to my husband I don't care if we starve to death, she's getting her piano so we bought her the piano. There were no teachers close by so she walked to town. She walked five miles there and five miles back to get to her lessons.

Allgaier: How much did a piano cost in those days?

Wolzcuk: I think this one was eighty dollars. She had fifty dollars saved and we bought it from Winnipeg. The house that we were living in was old and belonged to Jubiloski's. There was no kitchen. There was one big room, a living room, kitchen, dining room and whatever else you wanted to call it. The kids slept upstairs and we had one tiny bedroom. There was a little room as well which wasn't a bedroom, sort of a nothing room. When the piano came, we put in the nothing room. We had a good sized porch. We couldn't afford to build anything. My husband said maybe we can do something with the crate that the piano came in. He sealed in my porch and that became my kitchen. We made use of the crate from the piano. He found a few more pieces somewhere and ended up having a kitchen built on.

Allgaier: The piano actually came by freight from Winnipeg.

Wolzcuk: That's right, from Winnipeg.

Allgaier: Do you still have that piano?

Wolzcuk: No, it burned with the house.

Allgaier: When was that?

Wolzcuk: I don't remember which year the house burned. Terry was married. I don't remember what year he was married. It was scary as Tim was working on a night shift. We knew he would come in the morning. It burned in the early evening. Terry had gone on holidays. We couldn't get in touch with him so he had a pretty frightening homecoming. They lived in our same yard. They had a trailer but when they came home there was no house. They couldn't believe it. Tim, we found him before he got home so he didn't have the shock in finding no house.

Allgaier: Where were you at the time

Wolzcuk: It was in August, it was the year that Nixon lost his job in the White House, '73 or `74. Ron came for a visit because he was working in Port Hardy. We were sitting around and my husband said let’s go up town and have a cup of coffee just for something different. When we came back, it wasn't really quite dark yet but we could see the smoke. Of course, we guessed a was a fire. We tried putting it out. Perhaps if we had tried to save something, we might have done better. We had always put our own fires out so thought we could put this one out but it was too far ahead. It started somewhere upstairs so no one really knew whether it was wire shorting out. The house was very old and tinder dry with mice in it. Was have always thought that the mice had sparked it off. Whatever, it was a total write-off. We had a nice exciting night.

End of Interview for April 14th.