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
Allgaier: Alice, when did you come to Prince
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
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.
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
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
Allgaier: When did your father come here?
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
Wolzcuk: Hubensky `
Allgaier: So your father was Mr.
Wolzcuk: That's right.
Allgaier: Did he have a mill of any
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.
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
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.
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
Allgaier: Can you tell me a little bit more about the
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
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
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,
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
Allgaier: So you established the nurseries in 1934.
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
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
Allgaier: Did people just plant seeds and things?
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
Allgaier: How did you do that?
Wolzcuk: Oh, the library. I
don't think there were any books left. I took everything,
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
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
Allgaier: You said that your husband had been in the
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Wolzcuk: The one that crosses from First Avenue and
joins up with the Hart Highway. The one with the lights on.
that the one where they have the Cameron Street overpass? Is that the
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
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
Wolzcuk: December, 1941.
Allgaier: Which one was
Wolzcuk: Georgia, you have never met her. She lives in
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
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
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
Allgaier: I know that anybody could come in and set up a
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
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
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
Wolzcuk: Oh yes. I could have fooled around with that any
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
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
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
Allgaier: Then, l guess, you moved into town
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?
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?
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Allgaier: How much did a piano cost in those days?
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.
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
Allgaier: The piano actually came by freight from Winnipeg.
That's right, from Winnipeg.
Allgaier: Do you still have that
Wolzcuk: No, it burned with the house.
Allgaier: When was
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.
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.