Saturday, 29 October 2011

Portugal Cove and St. John's

It is a pleasant drive from St John' northward past Quidi Vidi (a good-sized pond in a park where the local fair is staged each year) up past the St John's Airport and then down to the shore of Conception Bay.

Where the highway begins its descent into the Cove there is another road running off to the east. It is up there where the Provincial Agricultural Farm is located. That bemused me as the nickname for Newfoundland is "The Rock" - there is little arable land unlike there is in the other provinces of Canada. The manager of the farm was Mr. Cunningham and his family were nominal members of the Portugal Cove congregation. They were originally from Quebec and it amused me to hear Mr. Cunningham's mother speaking in English but with a mixture of French-Canadian patois and a Scottish brogue!

I was invited for a visit one New Years Day and was given the chance to go out with my host on a skidoo. That was great - until I failed to make the proper turn to come back through the gate in the rail fence. Instead I hit the gatepost, stalled the machine - and went flying off to land on my chin. There was a crust on the snow so I received a scrape and shed a little blood. Well - at least I gained a memento.

The man who acted as 'Sexton' for the church lived a few hundred yards down from the building (which was built on top of a small promontory just above the harbor). He came to the church early to light the furnace and then to ring the bell - which merely tolled.

His married son and daughter-in-law lived with him and his wife and they had a sweet little girl who was about 4 years old. She would come to church with her Granddad and sit beside him. When one is little it is almost impossible to sit still for an hour. I was annoyed by the way he admonished her to sit still and to not move a muscle but I was helpless to say anything.

I firmly believe that, if going to church can be an enjoyable experience, it is likely that the person would carry on attending through life but - if it is NOT enjoyable, they will drop away. I felt that the Granddad had it all wrong - instead of finding something to amuse the little girl, he would threaten her when she became restless.

There was a road that wound its way all around Conception Bay and one could drive to other 'out port communities'. Along that road was the Roman Catholic Church as well as some houses. One of those houses was where the CBC Hockey Night in Canada Color Man lived. He was Howie Meeker who was Don Cherry's predecessor on the Saturday night telecasts. I saw him once - he and I were seated on the same aircraft.

The villages lining the bays were only a few miles apart from each other. A year after I arrived in the Bell Island/Portugal Cove Pastoral Charge another younger minister arrived in one of those villages. We met each other at a Presbytery meeting and became friends. He was involved in the Charismatic Movement that was very popular in the early 1970s and he had quite a strong influence on my life. He was the Reverend Mervyn Skey.

I went into St. John's at least once a week and, usually, more often than that. As I mentioned in the 'Bell Island' blog, it was really the sole place to shop for items beyond the daily basic necessities. Also, I attended the annual Quidi Vidi Regatta each year enjoying the festival.

I did go to Memorial University but, as I was obligated to return to Bell Island on most evenings, I could not remain there long enough to be of any use to the Chaplain. I really regret that as I liked him and would have loved to have assisted him in the programs at the Memorial University residence.

In another blog I mentioned that smaller Quebec City and St. John's are the only two cities in Canada where I have become lost while driving along the streets.

When I lived in Sydney, Australia I had heard the legend that when British settlers first arrived and let the cattle - that came with them - off the ship, where ever a cow wandered that was where the settlers built a street. The same appeared to be true for St John's. There were no streets nor avenues that cut clear across the city - instead one has to memorize routes between point A and point B.

One day I was on my way to the St John's Hospital to visit with a Bell Islander who was a patient there. As I was on an official visit I was wearing my dog collar. A policeman pulled me over for making an illegal left turn. He was an Irish Catholic boy and was embarrassed and apologized, "Father, I am sorry to have to give you this ticket but it is Safe Driving Week and you did make an illegal turn!" As it so happened, the eldest daughter of one of the parishioners in Portugal Cove worked in the Traffic Court so she had the ticket voided. I still feel guilty about that - after all, I was in the wrong.

I don't remember if films were screened on Bell Island or not but, when an interesting movie was released, I went to the movie theater in a shopping center in St John's to see it. One of those films was "Cabaret". For reasons that I cannot remember now, I failed to allow enough time to see the entire film before having to leave to catch the ferry. It was years before I finally saw and heard the closing scene.

There were live theater productions too and one of those was a pirated version of "Jesus Christ Superstar". I took the Youth Group from Portugal Cove to see it and enjoyed the production very much.

Bell Island and Portugal Cove are a long way from the West Coast and Newfoundlanders have created a strikingly different culture which was difficult to get used to. Still, I enjoyed the experience and often think back to 1971-73. I feel blessed to having been able to meet and share with those good folk.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

St Patrick's Day Weekend 1972

I was awakened at 7:30 AM by the sound of the telephone ringing. Glancing out the window I could see that it was a gloriously sunny day. Unfortunately, a 'sunny day' was not in store for Bell Island.

I had graduated from the United Church of Canada School of Theology in June of 1971. The biggest question during that final year - to where would we eleven new ordinands be posted? Usually, a first Pastoral charge was somewhere in rural B.C. Or somewhere in the Prairie Provinces. Not that year, though - four of us were sent to Newfoundland and I was posted to the Bell Island/Portugal Cove Pastoral Charge less than 10 miles from St John's.

Bell Island had been the site ot the largest underwater iron mine in the world. It had closed a couple of years before when the quality ore had petered out. That was near the end of Joey Smallwood's tenure as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. The loss of the iron mines was a serious blow to the Provincial economy and some compensation for the displaced miners and their families was important. To solve this problem Joey offered each family on Bell Island $300 if they abandoned their homes and moved elsewhere. Already a number of people had moved to the towns of Galt, Preston and Hespeler (later those towns were amalgamated and are now a part of the City of Cambridge which is northwest of Toronto). As there were profitable factories in that area, a move there appealed to many of the Islanders.

The caller on the telephone introduced herself as Mrs. Peddie. She had an urgent message for the family of a Peddie boy who had been seriously injured in a traffic accident near Guelph, Ontario the evening before. Mrs. Peddie had telephoned the Rector of the Anglican Church but had been informed that he was off of the island on business. Mrs. Morgan, mother of the Rector, suggested that I be called instead.

I had never heard of the Peddies and had no idea as to where they lived in that sprawling community. However, through my pastoral work, I had met a young man, Wayne Purchase, through visiting his late mother while she was a patient in the community hospital. When Mrs. Purchase died and Wayne was alone in the house. I had invited him to move into the manse where I lived. He worked at the local Post Office and knew practically everybody in the old mining community.

I woke Wayne and told him the news. He knew John Peddie so he was shocked. As my car was in a garage for repairs he offered me the use of his. He would ride with me to the Peddie house so I would know where it was located and then I would drive him to the Post Office and return.

Because of the nature of my visit I had changed into my clerical attire. After dropping Wayne at his work I returned to the Peddie house. It was obvious that the main entry to the home was by the back door so I walked around there and knocked. The door was opened by a middle-aged man who reeled back into the kitchen at the sight of me.

Out of nowhere a woman rushed past me and into the corridor that led from the kitchen to the rest of the house where she enveloped Mrs. Peddie into her arms and exclaimed, "There there, Mary, God wants Johnny more than you do!" That is the worst bit of theology that I have heard ever!!!

In the meantime Mr. Peddie sat at the kitchen table so I sat opposite him. He was very distressed and he nervously nudged the telephone towards me. I asked if he would like me to make a telephone call? Yes - to his brother who lived in Galt, Ontario. I placed the call and there I learned that the auto accident had been major and that there were others who were hurt - including the son (Chesley Eveleigh) of the woman who looked after my housekeeping.

While this was going on Mrs. Peddie, her young daughter, and the neighbor woman were keening in the corridor while another son, Robert. was nervously pacing around. When I rose to leave Robert asked if he could accompany me. Robert was 15 or 16 years old (Johnny was 19) and he just had to get away from the grief.

Mrs. Eveleigh came to my house to clean on Thursdays and always took my laundry home with her. I would go over on Saturday to retrieve it. It was 9:30 in the morning when Robert and I arrived there. An older brother of Ches' opened the door and, when he saw me, naturally he thought that I was there to collect my laundry. I had to tell him "No" - but that his brother, Ches, had been in a bad car accident during the evening before. The rest of the family were still in bed - however they could hear my voice and, before their brother could get to them, they began keening. The older brother then placed a call to a family member in Galt.

Robert remained with me all day as I drove here and there and everywhere on errands. During that time we learned that there had been five people in that car - the young woman who owned the vehicle (she had just purchased it and was taking the boys for a spin up the 401 Freeway) - Johnnie and Ches beside her and two more Bell Island boys in the back seat. As she was tooling along the highway she came upon a transport truck which was parked on the shoulder of the road. She slammed right into it killing herself, Ches and Johnnie and injuring the two guys riding in the back seat. One of those boys got off fairly lightly - he only suffered a broken leg and was able to make it home for the funerals.

A member of my congregation was Dr. Smith one of the two physicians on the Island. He had a private pilot's license. Naturally, the news of the accident spread everywhere almost immediately so the good Doctor telephoned me offering to take me up for a ride in his plane. Unfortunately, I had so much to attend to that I had to decline.

St Patrick's Day was on the Friday and the Catholic congregation - the largest of the four religious communities on the Island - held a St Patrick's Day party on the Saturday evening. It was the time of Spring Breakup so the ground was soft and muddy. The Catholics had a goodly supply of collapsible chairs and, knowing that we would have overflowing crowds, they voluntarily walked over with the chairs when their event ended. A member of my congregation was a teacher at the Trades School. He remained up all of Saturday night with a wet mop cleansing the floor of the muddy footprints - an example of the residents of a small community coming together in the face of difficulty.

Bell Island was connected to the rest of Newfoundland by a ferry that crossed "The Tickle" to Portugal Cove. The final ferry left "The Cove" at 11:15 PM. However, after returning from Bell Island, the ferry crew waited at the slip in the Cove until the hearses arrived from the airport - the flight had been delayed. The ferry crew took the hearses across to the Island so that the bodies could be delivered to the two churches. Yet another example of a small community pulling together in the face of tragedy.

Being more liberal in my thinking than my Newfoundland neighbors, I was hoping for a joint funeral but both families vetoed that suggestion. Instead, we held the service for Ches Eveleigh in the United Church at 1:00 PM on Monday, took the casket to the United Church cemetery and then went to the Anglican Church and cemetery for the services for John Peddie. Those lads had been life long buddies but they could not be buried together!

To complicate matters even further, a Provincial Election had been called and, on the Monday, my journal notes that I had to play host to some of the ruling Conservative Cabinet ministers. When it came to the funeral for Ches, I looked down from the pulpit and saw each of the candidates from the three major parties seated to my right, center and to my left. No matter what the circumstance, politicking must go on.

As soon as the burial in the United Church cemetery had been completed, everybody - including myself - rushed to the Anglican Church to repeat the process.

The events of March 18 to 21, 1972 will linger in my memory forever.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Bell Island

As I will mention again in a later blog, Bell Island was the site of the largest underwater iron mine in the world. The mine had operated from the early days of settlement until it was closed - because of poorer quality ore - in the 1960s.

It - Bell Island - was the only place in eastern North America that was subjected to an attack during world War II. The older residents could remember that Sunday morning in 1944/45 when they were shaken out of their beds by loud BOOMS. One or more German submarines had sneaked into Conception Bay and torpedoed at least one boat tied up there to load iron ore. The iron mine was very important then as it was a main source of iron ore to be converted into steel and then manufactured into military machines. The ruins from that attack were still visible.

At the time of the mine closing the population had been between 10,000 and 15,000 people but, with no work for many of them, about half of them had moved away. Joey Smallwood (the only "Living Father of Confederation") offered those who wished to leave $300 per family. Before that others had moved to the Ontario towns of Galt, Hespeler and Preston northwest of Toronto (now part of the City of Cambridge) where there were jobs available. To many Bell Islanders, $300 was a lot of money - but it did not go far in Ontario!

The Town of Wabana still existed on the Island and I could see where many buildings had been abandoned and/or torn down. Also, where there had been - in all probability - a municipal government at one time, there wasn't any while I was there.

There were four religious communities on the Island - the largest was the Roman Catholic Church (more than 50% of the residents were of Irish origin), followed by the Anglicans, the United Church and the smallest were the Salvation Army folk. There were two undertakers there - the busiest was the Catholic one while the other - a Salvation Army man - looked after the needs of the Protestants.

In the core of the island there were still a few stores including a reasonably sized supermarket (the owners of that establishment were a part of my 'flock'). There was a dry goods store as well although most of the residents went over to St John's to shop for clothing, appliances and the like. There was one bank branch, a Post Office, and a garage.

There were two fairly new government buildings - a cottage hospital and, as a sop from the Provincial government when the mine closed, a Trades School. There were a public and a Catholic elementary school but those going on through high school had to go into St John's for their education.

When I caught the ferry over to the island for the first time I met Willis Jarvis at the ferry - one of the stalwarts of the United Church . Soon I would meet "Uncle George" Normore, the King family (three generations) the Tuckers and others.

The system that was already in place was that the two churches - one on Bell Island and the other in Portugal Cove - alternated as to the time of the weekly Sunday service. A morning service every other week with an evening service on the alternate Sundays.

As I lived alone - and never really liked to cook - I was invited to various homes for meals - although, in Portugal Cove, it was often to the same house - that of another King family. That household consisted of the husband (who was the Treasurer of the Pastoral Charge), his wife and her sister. The women rarely came to church but, on Sunday mornings. would be at home cooking 'Dinner' (what the midday meal was always called). There was a standing joke among them - they knew that I detest cooked turnip - a common staple there - so, when I appeared, invariably I would hear, "The Reverend is here - put on the turnips!"

On Bell Island one fairly large house was occupied by two women - Mrs. Rose and Miss Minnie Rose. They were sisters-in-law and they seemed to detest each other. When I was there for a meal I would see Miss Minnie with her cutlery and plates - and Mrs. Rose with hers (as well as separate condiment shakers). They were amusing and each of them tried to feed me the food that I loved to eat which led to some interesting dishes. For instance, I love roast beef and beef-based gravy. Both of them would make gravy and, usually, with onions in it. I have nothing against onions, per se, except that they tend to give me indigestion. Upon learning this - and the fact that I do like garlic - they began serving me 'garlic gravy'! They were two sweet ladies.

Just up the lane from the house where I lived - "the Manse" - lived the Clerk of Session of that congregation. Art was a single younger man who lived with his widowed mother - and he was quite effeminate. I was warned not to be seen with him too much or people 'may talk'! Although I am Gay too, he was not 'my type' so the worriers really had nothing to worry about.

Just after I arrived some of the elderly and infirm began dieing with alarming regularity so I received the nickname "the burying minister". Often the call came in the evening and I had no idea which way to go to find the home of the deceased so I had to rely upon Art. While I conducted only one funeral in Portugal Cove. I cannot recall the number on Bell Island and, thanks to Art (the Clerk of Session), I was able to find them all.

A few stand out in my memory (one of them is the subject of the next blog "St Patrick's Day Weekend 1972"). Another was 'amusing' in a way - an elderly woman and former Bell Island resident - had passed away at the nursing home in which she was living in St John's. She had three daughters - one lived on Bell Island (I had not met her), another in St John's and the third in Ontario. All three of them were present at the funeral and, during my address, one of them left her seat, ran to the casket, threw herself on top of it, and yelled "Mommy! Don't leave me! Don't go!" After the funeral I was told that she was the daughter who lived the closest to her mother - but never had visited.

Another was the funeral for a little boy who had died of leukemia. He lived with his family in a mean little house where the simple coffin was resting on a bier in the living room. I will never forget the sight of him lying there with his eye sockets covered by gauze pads.

As everything else on that Island was segregated, so were the cemeteries. The United Church burial ground was a fenced off plot at the point where the road from the ferry slip reached the top of the hill.

Across the road from the cemetery was a convenience store which was owned by a family who, nominally, were United Church of Canada folk. At one funeral the cortege had arrived at the cemetery and the casket was about to be lowered into the open grave when the boy (from the family who owned that store) arrived to watch. He was clad in grubby clothes. As the pall bearers were lowering the casket, it tilted and the 'family spray' slipped off of the top and down into the hole. The undertaker grabbed the boy by the scruff of his neck ordering "Get down there and get those flowers!". I never saw a kid move so fast in my life. He successfully retrieved the spray but I never saw him at another interment service.

I made it a habit at noon every day - when I was on the Island - to go to the hospital to visit. I called upon each patient in there - seldom were there many - visiting a little longer with some than with others.

That was how I met Mrs. Purchase - an Anglican lady. Over the time that I visited with her I came to like her and, at her request, to visit her at her home as well. When she passed on I attended her funeral. Through this I met her adopted son, Wayne, a young man in his early 20s. After his Mom died he was all alone in that house and, as I was all alone in mine, I invited him to move into the Manse with me. That proved to be beneficial for me as well as for him. He was born and raised on the Island, he worked in the local Post Office - and he seemed to know everybody. You will find him mentioned in the next blog.

There were a number of families with the surname 'Penny'. One was a United Church family and the husband was one of the first funerals at which I officiated. Mrs. Penny was in ill health herself and was hospitalized a number of times. During one of her stays the woman in the next bed was Mrs. Fitzgerald. I would stand between the beds while visiting and, when I was about to leave, I would take each hand in mine and say a brief prayer.

One afternoon I was on the ferry returning to the island when one of the other passengers was Father Lahey, the priest at the Catholic church. We spoke and he told me this with amusement. He also visited the hospital every day - but at supper time. He told me that he usually paused in the doorway of each room, greeted everybody in there, made the Sign of the Cross and then moved on.

One day Mrs. Fitzgerald brought him up short by exclaiming, "Father Lahey, you know that I am a good Catholic?" He nodded and then she continued, "How come it is that Reverend Lacasse says a prayer with me while you do no more than stand in the doorway, make the Sign of the Cross, and move on?" I was embarrassed but Father Lahey laughed.

When Mrs. Fitzgerald passed on I made a point to attend her funeral Mass and then the reception afterward at the family home.

In Newfoundland at that time, the only way Provincial Statistics were updated was from the forms which each clergy person was obliged to complete every month. Most important - that was how babies were registered. Therefore, I was called upon to baptize a number of children. Naturally I had to wear my collar and robes. The babe seemed to be always dressed in some antique baptismal gown made of slippery material. What I was forced to wear was made of slippery material too so, for me, taking those infants in my arms in order to baptize them was rather nerve wracking. I did not drop any one of them!

I was called upon to marry a few couples as well. The most memorable one was the one that I wished that I did not have to be the officiant.

A young man from elsewhere left his 'betrothed' at home to come to the Trades School on Bell Island. There he met a local girl, their hormones got the better of them, and she was pregnant. I honestly felt that their marriage was doomed to failure but, with the father of the bride standing there - figuratively - with the legendary shotgun, I felt that I had no option. I hate that memory!

If you look at a map of Newfoundland, you will see Bell Island sitting towards the bottom end of Conception Bay. The view from the front of my home was of the bay and, at a certain time each year, I could see a magnificent iceberg grounded on the north head of the bay. Beautiful but cold!

Sometimes being able to cross on the ferry or back was dicey (high winds or 'slob ice'). The latter is the 'cousin' of the iceberg - pans of ice from up north that had drifted into the bay and became clogged along the shore. Rarely was it really cold enough for the Bay to freeze over on its own.

In the spring of 1973 I was to go to Halifax for a study week. On the day that I was to fly out from St John's the usual route for the ferry to cross was blocked. Fortunately for me, boats were able to cross to the southern shore of Conception Bay from where I was able to get a lift to the airport.

At the end of two years I was happy to leave - yet I do have some very fond memories of having had the opportunity to live in that unusual part of Canada.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Off To Newfoundland

I should not go forward with this narrative without mentioning the visiting that I did while driving back and forth across Canada.

By this time a number of fellow students from Union College had been settled in various western locations and most of them were reachable from the east - west highways. For instance, while at Union College I had become good friends with John Palmer - the son of a minister who felt called to the same career and was ordained the year before I was. He was settled in Warburg, Alberta and I had the opportunity to visit with him.

I am the type of person who, when I like somebody, thinks that we will always remain in the orbit of each other. Nothing is further from the truth. There are none of my classmates - or their predecessors - whom I now know whether they are living and, if they are, where they now reside.

When I arrived back in Vancouver I found a letter waiting for me. This missive spelled out where I would be going (I knew that it was supposed to be Newfoundland but not where exactly). It was the Bell Island/Portugal Cove Pastoral Charge. Dr Furcha was correct in assuming that I would be placed within close proximity of Memorial University in St John's. Portugal Cove is only a fifteen minute drive from there - but, traditionally, the United Church of Canada minister always lives on Bell Island

The folk in Portugal Cove could receive spiritual help from St John's in minutes but those on Bell Island would have to rely upon ferry service to bring the clergy to them in an emergency situation. Therefore they would not hear of me living in The Cove.

The next oldest brother of Terry Shaw wanted to visit the Eastern Provincial Capitals so he opted to journey with me on my drive to Newfoundland. So, less than a week after returning from the wedding trip, I collected Lowell Shaw and set out again.

Another resident at Union College worked at the Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park. As he was the 'Night Auditor' he was able to let us have a room at no cost (the 'High Season' had not yet commenced) so we decided to take advantage of the offer.

At that time the Trans Canada Highway through Banff and Yoho was being rebuilt and, as the old highway had not yet been completely abandoned, we turned onto it at the west end. After driving along that road for a few miles we saw a number of cars parked off to the side of the road. We looked at each other and exclaimed "Bears!" so we parked as well, saw where we could get through a wire fence with ease and a few feet from there, came up to a group of people who were standing at the edge of a giant hole. Down below was garbage from Chateau Lake Louise and - presumably - from the Banff Townsite which is a few miles further east.

Rummaging through the garbage were SEVEN adult grizzly bears and a few cubs - what an awesome sight! We could tell that the bears could hear and/or smell us as some of them paused in their munching to look up.

After a few minutes we turned to walk back to the car and saw yet another grizzly crossing the road a few yards from where we were.

We drove across to Ontario on the Trans Canada Highway staying with friends or in hotels/motels each night. When we arrived in Barrie - north of Toronto - we turned onto Ontario Highway 9 for the beautiful drive over the Caledon Hills to Orangeville and then south to Niagara Falls. The Falls and the layout of the town were/are very impressive.

Leaving Niagara we drove northeast around Lake Ontario to Toronto where we booked into the Central 'Y' and then did the 'tourist thing' like the new City Hall, Yorkville, my first ride on a North American subway, and Casa Loma.

Lowell and I parted for a few days in Toronto meeting up again in Montreal. I made my way via Highway 7 up to Ottawa and went looking for the Brules. They had gone out to the summer cottages which they owned on White Lake. The village of While Lake was easy to find but following the roads to the other end of the lake - where the cottages were situated - was another matter. I made it eventually.

My ideal of a cottage on a lake is a bucolic house situated where one could sit on a porch and look out onto the water. There would be neighbors, of course, but not as close as they are in the city.

Not where the Brules had their cabin - their extended family's cabins and those of neighbors were so close that it was nearly impossible to walk between them! However, there were a number of horseshoe pitches nearby for land amusement. Of course there was swimming, boating and fishing as well.

After the weekend visit I drove on to Montreal and met up with Lowell who was staying at the 'Y'.

The twin to Ma Tante Mouisa (Sister Cecile) remained at the Mother House of the Order for all of her active life. The Mother House was on rue St. Matthew in downtown Montreal but she was at the retreat center at Pierrefonde which is on another island to the north and lying where the Ottawa River flows into the St. Lawrence. Ma Tante Cecile was quite different than Mouisa - whereas the latter was a heavyset woman, Cecile was petite, almost birdlike.
One of Dad's twin sisters, Cecile Lacasse - a Grey Nun - at the Pierrefonds Retreat Center, Montreal June 1971

She was obviously thrilled to meet me - my sisters, kid brother and I were the only nieces and nephews whom she had not met. Mouisa, because of living in the Northwest Territories , could speak English but Cecile could only speak French. My French was what I had learned in high school and I was no where near fluent in that language, but we managed to communicate. In her excitement, Tante Cecile would speak too quickly for me to catch what she was saying so my stock phrase became, "Lentement, Ma Tante, lentement!" ('Slow down, Auntie, slow down').

A few years after this I found myself living in Ottawa so I visited Tante Cecile a number of times - and took first Mom and then my brother, Dan, to meet her.

When Lowell and I reconnected we drove up the highway along the west bank of the St Lawrence River to Quebec City and found a lovely inn in the Old Town.

To my mind the two loveliest Provincial Capitals in Canada are Quebec City and Victoria - one very French and the other very English - and both of them are beautiful.

In Quebec City I loved the Old Town with its narrow twisting streets and old architecture. While Lowell and I were walking around we stumbled upon a street vendor selling paintings of Quebec City so I bought two and, later, had them framed.

Naturally, we visited the Chateau Frontenac, the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham.

Neither Quebec City nor St John's Newfoundland are large cities yet these were the only Provincial capitals where I became lost while trying to get from point 'A' to point 'B'. From Quebec City we wanted to cross the St Lawrence River to Levis on the old bridge - as opposed to the freeway bridge - but could not find the route to the former. We gave up and crossed the river on the less romantic freeway bridge.

On the south shore we drove northeast towards Gaspe. When we arrived in Rimouski it was past time for a lunch break so we pulled into a roadside cafe. For the longest time - in a virtually deserted eatery - we were ignored. We suspected that that was because we were speaking in English!

For me it is always a great thrill to physically see a place that is storied for its history and/or its scenic beauty. For me that was true for Gaspe and, a few miles further, Perce Rock.

We crossed into New Brunswick at Campbellton and, using secondary highways, found ourselves in the town of Shediac. We lucked out on that one - it was their annual Lobster Festival! My first taste of fresh lobster

We did not remain there for long but drove a few miles further to Cape Tormentine and the ferry to Prince Edward Island and the town of Summerside where, through a brochure we found while on the ferry, we booked into another charming B&B.

The next morning we set out to drive around Prince Edward Island - the only Canadian province that one can drive all around in one day! We saw Charlottetown and the place where Confederation was worked out in 1867, and out to Souris near the northeast corner. Our 'drive around' was shortened so we could cross back to the mainland and continue our eastward trek.

From Cape Tormentine we drove southeast towards Truro, Nova Scotia but. being adventurous, we did not drive the direct route but took a secondary highway. This road led us to Springhill which, by coincidence, was Anne Murray's hometown. It was her birthday and she was home for a celebration. Talk about a traffic jam! Unfortunately, we did not get to see Anne Murray in person.

The next day we headed southwest and saw one of Canada's prettiest villages - Peggy's Cove. We parked and walked along the seashore photographing that iconic lighthouse, the rocky shore and the thundering surf.

Our next stop was Halifax where we drove up to the Citadel and around that city leaving via the bridge across Halifax Harbor to Dartmouth. We had decided to drive that way following secondary roads to where another highway led north to Antigonish. We thought that that route would afford us some fantastic views of the coastline but the road remained inland.

On we went across the Canso Causeway to Cape Breton and the direct highway to North Sydney and the car ferry to Port aux Basques in Newfoundland. We did not have reservations - not being sure as to exactly when we would be arriving - but we were able to drive right onto the ferry and we were able to get a cabin.

The Ambrose Shea - the ferry - was a bucket of bolts and the water across to Port aux Basques was stormy but we slept fairly comfortably - except when the girls in the neighboring cabin woke us up by their retching. Fortunately, Lowell is like me - we have good 'sea legs'. We went to the restaurant for breakfast - not many people were there - and then were ready to drive off of the boat when we docked in Port aux Basques.

Newfoundland has made two dates statutory holidays which are not statutory holidays in any of the other Provinces - March 17 (St Patrick's Day) and July 12 (the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne - the 'Glorious 12th' to Irish Protestants).

That 'Glorious 12th' was not glorious at all - rain poured down almost all of the way along the drive to St John's. I had been in touch with the Rev Dr Kewley who was Chair of the local Presbytery so he - and his wife - were expecting us. We stayed there for two nights.

On the intervening day Lowell and I drove around that quaint city sightseeing so Lowell could say that he had seen that capital. During the drive I went out to Portugal Cove so we could look across at Bell Island (unfortunately, Lowell had to fly back to Vancouver and never did see that place).

The next day I drove Lowell to the airport and he flew back to Vancouver

Friday, 21 October 2011

An Ottawa Wedding

Between the end of our studies and ordination the United Church of Canada gave each of we ordinands $1,000.00 to go towards the purchase of a newer car. Since I knew that this was in the offing, I had been scouting around and opted on a Ford/Mercury dealership in North Vancouver. On a Saturday before my ordination I purchased a Mercury Cougar demo which was being sold at a reduced price. This was the car that I was driving when I took Mom and the nuns to Penticton, Kamloops and the Cariboo.

During my first year at UBC I met Rob Watt and we became friends. After that year he decided to transfer to Carleton University in Ottawa. There he met a young woman, fell in love and was about to marry her. While Rob's family were United Church of Canada folk, Rob's fiancee was Roman Catholic and the wedding was to be held in her family church. However, Rob asked me if I could be present to assist in the nuptials. I agreed.

I drove up the Trans Canada Highway through Kamloops, the Shuswap and over the mountains to Banff and Calgary. Then northeast through the Badlands and Drumheller (where I viewed the dinosaur digs and the attached museum - the Badlands are rather ugly) , Saskatoon and on to Minitonas. I visited there for a number of days seeing as many of the folk whom I had met two years before - and, especially, the Ames family. Leaving there I drove east through Dauphin and down to Winnipeg. From there the route was all new to me - and I was very impressed.

Sure, the Trans Canada Highway can seem tedious - especially in the northwest of Ontario where there are long stretches of forest, lakes, bogs, rivers and streams between centers of civilization. However, growing up with a love for geography, it was great to finally see Kenora, Dryden, Thunder Bay, Wawa, and Sault Ste Marie. Sudbury was another matter - the mines were still under operation and the terrain was horribly ugly. An 'Urban Legend' was that the Americans sent the astronauts up to Sudbury so they could have a sense of what the moon would look like when they landed there!

The Reverend Jim Liles and his family had moved from Bowsman to South River, Ontario which is south of North Bay on Highway 11. I visited with them for a couple of days and then continued on. South River is one of the turnoffs for the highway through the Muskoka District and Algonquin Park. It was still spring so the frost boils in the highways were a nuisance but, aside from that, the drive was wonderful. I entered the Ottawa River Valley near Renfrew and drove from there southeast to Ottawa.

Rob Watt was living in downtown Ottawa - Cooper Street - and the address of his home was easy to find. The next few days were occupied by wedding preparations and meeting the other members of the wedding party. I was quite nervous at the church but my part in the ceremony went off without a hitch so I could then relax. Rob's family are wonderful people and they made me feel right at home.

The wedding - on the following Saturday afternoon - was beautiful with the reception following at the Hunt Club. I had to borrow a 'preaching gown' from Dominion-Chalmers United Church - the 'Capital United Church' - so I attended worship there on the following morning in order to return the borrowed gown. I was made to feel welcome there too.

With the wedding behind me my next task was to find Dad's half-sister and her family. Dad was born in the village of Billings Bridge - which is now a part of Ottawa - and, according to Ma Tante Mouisa, that was where the Brules still lived. I drove out to the address that I had been given only to find a boarded up house. I inquired at the neighbors and was directed to a newer house in the same area.

Aunt Bea and Uncle Edgar had parented ten children - eight boys and two girls. Except for one son who lived in an outer suburb of Toronto, all of the others lived near their parent's home. I met all of these cousins but, thankfully, not all at the same time! All of them received me warmly. One of my cousins was the bartender at the Hunt Club and his sisters gave him a hard time because he had not realized on the Saturday afternoon that I was his cousin who was expected!

In conversation with Uncle Edgar I learned that they owned a summer cottage on a lake. Innocently I asked if it was over in Gatineau in Quebec? "QUEBEC?" responded my very French uncle, "NON! White Lake which is here in Ontario!" This was during the height of the Parti Quebecois' movement and I erred in thinking that all French speaking people in Eastern Canada wanted to be separate from the rest of Canada. Not my Uncle Edgar Brule - nor many other French-Canadians.

After a beautiful visit with another part of Dad's family - and my friend, Rob Watt's Mom - I began to drive the long route home. This time the route I took was more direct so not as long as the outward trip had been


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Older Boys Parliament and Camp Counsellor

The two items that I will be commenting on happened before I began keeping a journal - technically, this blog should be placed between "Schools and Teachers" and "Prince George". These 'adventures' happened between High School and when I became an Articled Student.

As I have mentioned, I was in High School when I was invited to join the Young Peoples' Group at Como Lake United Church in Coquitlam. During the Christmas break the Older Boys' Parliament convened in Victoria - the Capital of B.C, - I was nominated by the Young People's Group and the nomination was sanctioned by our minister.

                                                The B.C. Legislature Building in Victoria
                      This photo is again through the courtesy of Michael W. of Vancouver

I met some others who were going to the OBP from the Vancouver area and we rode by car to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal (in West Vancouver and across from Bowen Island). We crossed to Nanaimo and then drove down the Malahat Highway to Victoria. Once there we were assigned to our billets - mine and another boy's was with an elderly widow who lived in a very 'English' style house.

I was thrilled to be there - and scared stiff. What if I had to get up somewhere and make a speech? We held our sessions in the Legislative Assembly and nominated from our ranks a Premier and a Cabinet. Resolutions were proposed, debated upon, and held for a vote. At some time the other boys decided that I had to make a motion or a public comment in front of all the others. I did and survived!

A highlight of those few days was a formal dinner at the home of the Lieutenant-Governor. His home was very elegant - and it was heartbreaking to hear that the edifice burned to the ground a few years later. It has been replaced by a newer - and even more elegant - building.

Unfortunately, my stay there was cut short by a telephone call from home - somebody wanted to interview me for a possible position in an accounting firm. I caught the overnight CPR boat back to Vancouver.

Just prior to that experience I volunteered - and was accepted - to be a leader at two United Church of Canada camps.

The first one was at a camp that had just been purchased from private interests. This was Moorecroft near Nanoose Bay on Johnstone Strait north of Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. The camp site had lain idle for a year and the tallest trees had been logged. The grounds were a mess so the Senior boys were the first to go there with the understanding that they would/could clean up some of the mess.

There are a lot of snakes in the southern regions of B.C. and Moorecroft was crawling with them. Yes - we had a camper who loved snakes and enjoyed putting one or more in the leaders' sleeping bags or luggage. I did not go to bed without thoroughly checking if I was 'varmint free'.

My experience there led to a permanent change in my diet. Mom, being English, brewed a pot of tea for dinner. She always poured but, before she did, she put cream or milk into the cup. At Moorecroft fresh milk was reserved for the boys and the leaders had to make due with canned/condensed milk. I have never liked that stuff so I drank my tea black - and have ever since.

Most of the lads were the usual harumm-scarum boys but there was one who was different. He was extremely effeminate and obviously very pampered. For instance, when we went on the mandatory 'overnight hike' he didn't bring a sleeping bag - he brought bed linen and blankets! I do not remember how we accommodated him - but accommodate we did.

Just after daylight on the following morning we were awakened by a loudhailer from a boat out on the water. A small boat with a woman and some children on board had gone missing the previous evening and the 'hailer' was checking if we were of that party? Sorry!

Alda and Leo met me at the ferry when I returned home so I asked them if they had heard of the incident of the missing woman and children? What they spoke of was the current headlines at that time - the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm had collided off of Long Island, New York. They didn't hear anything about the missing people along the coast of Vancouver Island as I had not heard of the marine accident off of New York.

I was at Moorecroft for two camps and then went to yet another camp on Cultus Lake which is about ten miles south and west of Chilliwack. The lake is in a beautiful setting in the Coast Mountains, it is 'kidney shaped' and is subject to sudden squalls in the summer months - therefore, the site of a number of tragedies.

The northern end of the lake is where the main beach and picnic areas are located while the camp was at the south end - only a couple of miles from the B.C./Washington border.

One of the other campers at that camp has remained in my memory ever since. This was Ernie Enns and he was a powerful swimmer. He cajoled the camp leaders into letting him swim to the bend in the lake (the bend that gives that body of water its kidney shape) and then back. The swim was more than a mile so we watched him with bated breath and were relieved that he succeeded with no problem.

I had been to Cultus Lake before with family friends but that lake was never a favorite with my parents.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Two Nuns and Ordination

In "My Family Tree" blog I mentioned that Grandpere Lacasse had died - of cancer - at an early age and left Grandmere to raise four children - two boys with twin daughters in between them in age. She had moved from Hull to Montreal where she was engaged as the housekeeper at a Roman Catholic boys' orphanage. Uncle Lionel and Dad were raised there while the twins were placed with the Grey Nuns.

When the girls became adults they professed their vows. Ma Tante Cecile remained in Montreal for the rest of her life while Ma Tante Mouisa ('Marie-Anne' in the order) was sent to the Mackenzie River Valley where she was a housekeeper for various priests until she retired.

The rules of the Order had decreed that vacations must be taken back at the Mother House in Montreal. However, in the 1950s, that rule was relaxed and the nuns were allowed to vacation wherever they wished. Our aunt wanted to see her kid brother and meet his family so she came out to B.C. to visit Dad - and in the company of Sister Marguerite Comeau who - as a native of Boston, Massachusetts - was fluent in English.

Ma Tante had kept in touch and knew that I was studying Theology and was to be ordained and she wanted to be present. She and Sister Marguerite arrived in New Westminster on a train from Edmonton and remained with us for more than a week.

I will interject here with another anecdote from Union College which I neglected to include in my previous blog.

Dr Furcha taught a 'Creative Theology' class and, for it, I completed two projects. The first one was to write a ballad about the life of Blessed Marguerite d'Youville, the founder of the Grey Nuns. The second project was to use a Psalm as the base for an artistic creation. I chose the 'Creation' Psalm 98. I received top marks for both projects.

Back to my thread.

I understood that nuns are expected to attend Mass at least once a day. By this time the family home had moved into New Westminster. However, I chose the newer of the two parishes in Maillardville - Our Lady of Fatima - to assist them in fulfilling their pledge. I would say that I was/am the only United Church clergyman to go to Mass every day during Ordination week - including the very morning of his/her ordination!

                  The Hope to Princeton Highway - the southern route through the Coast Mountains

Half way through the mountains along the Hope to Princeton route is Manning Provincial Park.

In the United Church of Canada, Ordination Services are held generally when the church meets for its Annual General Conference. In 1971, B.C. Conference was meeting at the Christian Education Camp at Narramata northeast of Penticton in the Southern Okanagan. We had been given the choice of how - and under what conditions - the ordination would be conducted. We were hoping for an open air service in the orchard between the college buildings and Okanagan Lake. However, we had not counted upon the weather - showers and thunderstorms. The service was held indoors in the gymnasium that was crowded to the rafters. Mom and the nuns were sitting in the first row (above the penalty box) while my Sunday School teacher from my youth - Hulda Neufeld - was sitting immediately behind Mom.

Sister Marguerite Comeau, Mom, Me and Sister Marie-Anne Lacasse at Naramatta

There were eleven of us in that class - an unusually large number for B.C. We were nine men and two women and from many different backgrounds. One of our classmates was an Englishman who had been a young 'rowdy' but had had a conversion experience. Therefore, he tended to be more evangelical than the rest of us. We were called forward alphabetically by our last names. When it was George's turn he knelt and those whom he had chosen to officiate for him were about to place their hands upon his head. Just then there was a mighty crash of thunder and George bellowed. "Thank you, JESUS!!!" We laughed.

This was the first time that I had worn a clergy shirt and the 'tab' did not quite fit into the slot. A nuisance all day! After the service and the reception we drove north up to Vernon - where we had dinner in a Mr. Mike's Steakhouse - and then on to Babs and Hubert's home in Kamloops. Babs had made arrangement for the nuns to stay in a local convent so, after a visit with the Gibsons, I took them there.

The next morning was another drive - up to Eagle Creek to visit Alda and Leo and their kids who were all agog by the unusual visitors. As Babs had done in Kamloops, Alda had arranged for the nuns to stay with a small group of Sisters who were stationed in 100 Mile House.

Back in New Westminster the nuns visited for a few more days and I took them to Mass each morning. Sister Marguerite was quite a character. The church that I took them to was in Maillardville but I chose the newer parish - Our Lady of Fatima - which had a high school. By this time nuns were permitted to wear 'street clothing' so the teaching nuns were not distinguishable from the lay teachers. Sister Comeau poked me, held out her hand as if for a handshake and said, "I bet you $10.00 that the woman sitting three rows in front of us and four in from the aisle is a nun!" I didn't take her up on the bet.

Soon it was time to take them to the train for their return trip to Alberta. While I saw ma tante Maryanne more than once while living in Ottawa from 1973 until 1976, I never saw Sister Comeau again.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


I have been wrestling with how I should approach this topic. Those three years at Union College, U.B.C. were very important and did dictate how most of my adult life was to be lived.

As I mentioned previously, 'religion' 'Per Se' was not all that important to our family. Yes, when a Sunday School opened in our community (Ruskin), Dad ensured that Alda and I attended. Then, a year later when we moved to Dawes Hill in Coquitlam, Mom wrote to the Mennonite group to ask if they would be interested in opening another one in our new neighborhood - and they did.

Always I was conscious that we were 'United Church of Canada' people (my parents were married by an itinerant United Church minister in August, 1935) but it wasn't until I was in Grade XII when a schoolmate invited me to attend the Young Peoples' Group at Como Lake United Church that I began to attend and to become involved.

The 1971 Graduating Class (Ordinands) at Union College, U.B.C. As that occasion was more than 40 years ago, I no longer remember the names - at least, to accurately apply each to a face.Where am I in the photo? I am the person who is the third from the right hand side.

As you may have read in my blogs about life in Alice Springs and Brisbane I did become quite involved in church life while there. As a matter of fact, the minister at Kedron Methodist Church in Brisbane did challenge me to consider the ministry. Back home in Canada - and living in Prince George, B.C. - I was seriously challenged again and I responded.

Now it was the spring of 1971 and both graduation and ordination were approaching. I was excited and scared all at the same time.

Somehow the 'Fairy Tale' that seminary was a magic place of spirituality and devotion had not happened (as if it ever would!). I - along with 10 other 'Theologs' - took courses from United Church and Anglican professors. Now came 'crunch time'.

But, before I proceed, I will comment on our professors who were a good group of men (no female theological professors at that time).

Our Principal was the Rev Dr. Taylor - a sweet gentleman. The Dean of Residence was the Rev Valentine -'Val'- Anderson. Other professors were Dr. Wilson, Dr. Larry Toombs and Dr Ed Furcha. Also. as part of the Anglican faculty, was our New Testament Prof Canon "Boom Boom" Bailey. Incidentally, Canon Bailey knew of his nickname and seemed amused by it.

Dr. Larry Toombs, a native of Nova Scotia, had come to Union College from a Methodist seminary in New Jersey. As well as an Old Testament scholar, he was a noted archaeologist. He planned to take some of us with him to an ongoing 'dig' at the site of ancient Shekem in the Holy Land. Unfortunately for us, the financial backing needed for that expedition never came into being in Vancouver. Often I have wondered what that would have been like to go on an archaeological dig instead of a 'Summer Field'. That was one of those "What if" moments in my life.

Dr Furcha also had an impact upon my destiny. He was a close friend of the United Church Chaplain at Memorial University in St John's Newfoundland and, because of that connection, I was astonished to find myself 'settled' at Bell Island, Newfoundland upon my ordination. More about that in a future blog.

There were no family resources for me to fall back upon during my years at Union so I looked for ways to be subsidized. One was by being a dishwasher at the residence (mentioned in the 'Union College' blog).

Another way was by successfully applying to an advertisement posted by Queens Avenue United Church in New Westminster. They needed a leader ('Akela') for the Cub Pack based at that church. I had never had the opportunity to be a part of the Boy Scout movement and did not really have a clue what that would entail. However, one of the other residents at Union had grown up in the Scout Movement from 'Cub' to 'Eagle Scout' so he volunteered to be my assistant and mentor.

That was a great experience. Yes, those boys could be a 'pain in the neck' but, basically, they were a wonderful group of kids. One of them was especially memorable - Terry Weed - who seemed always to be the source of any mischief among those boys. Some years later I was saddened to learn that he had been badly burned. He and his father had been at the town dump when an aerosol can exploded right beside where Terry was standing. Forty years ago town dumps were public and a way to dispose of the garbage was to burn it.

This is one of the larger ferries which sail directly from the mainland to Vancouver Island and return. The craft which we boarded was not as large as this one and it serviced many of the island communities between Tswassen (south of Vancouver in Delta) and Sidney on Vancouver Island.

This is one of the smaller inter-island ferries. When we left one island to go to the next one, we traveled on one of these.

When the year ended I was permitted to take those boys on a special outing. Some of the Dads volunteered to be drivers and they took us to the B.C. Ferries Terminal at Tswassen (south of Vancouver) where we boarded the ferry for the Gulf Islands. Since the boys were all wearing their uniforms - thus recognizable for whom they were - they were invited up to the bridge where one of them was chosen to sound the horn as the ferry approached one of the docks. That boy was so thrilled.

Before leaving this thread, I will mention another volunteer task. I had seen an ad for applicants to become Big Brothers. I applied, was accepted, and mentored two boys.

The first was Jack who lived with his single Mom and older sister in an apartment along False Creek - then across the road from a lumber mill but now (thanks largely to Expo 86) it is an area of marinas and spiffy condominiums.

Jack was quite the lad. He had ambition - not to train for a lofty profession - but to become a gangster!

He belonged to a local Boys and Girls Club at which I began to volunteer as well. The Boys and Girls clubs owned a cabin up on Mount Seymour in North Vancouver and Jack - as well as a couple of buddies - gained permission for us to use the cabin for a few days during Christmas Week. I was able to drive most of the way up to the cabin to where I could park safely and then we had to slog in through fairly deep snow. When we reached the cabin we were dismayed to see that somebody had broken in.

The break in had been accomplished by prying off a few boards where the stove wood was stored, then going up the stairs and into the cabin proper. As a result the cabin was freezing and the wood too damp to burn. Also, the villains had helped themselves to some canned meat from the cabin, had cooked it, and had left the plates and pots in water in the sink which had frozen solid. What a mess! Instead of two or three days up there we remained for only one frigid night.

After Jack ended our friendship I was assigned to another boy. Ron lived with his widowed mother and older sister in a house which they owned. Ron, although not as 'adventurous' as Jack, was another great kid. Back then McDonald Drive-ins were the latest thing so often that was where we went when we wanted a snack.

Also, with Ron we got to go more places - like visiting my family near 100 Mile House - than I ever did with Jack. After returning to Vancouver in 1977 I encountered Ron while walking along a downtown street. We reestablished our friendship but I have not seen him for many years and I now have no idea where he might be.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Nimpkish Valley

Anutz Lake in the Nimpklish Valley
When I packed my slides away in a large carton to store with a friend, one Kodak box was overlooked. I have had those slides transferred to digital and I have placed two of them in this post.

My final year as 'Student Clergy' was 1970. I was able to remain in B.C. - in the Nimpkish Valley which lies towards the northern end of Vancouver Island. The Nimpkish was being logged at that time and there were three logging camps in the Valley - Vernon, Woss Lake and Nimpklish - the latter was the largest of the three and that is where I lived - in a house trailer - from May until the end of August.

As well as the loggers and their families, there was a crew of highway surveyors there at the same time - the Provincial Government had committed to linking the north island towns of Port Hardy and Port McNeil with the outside world. Until the highway was completed, the only way to get down to civilization was by air from Port Hardy or an overnight car ferry to Campbell River - or a long and bumpy drive via the logging roads after the logging was shut down for the day.

Each of my 'summer fields' were adventures and this was no exception. Most of the time non-logging traffic on the roads in that area was restricted to after hours but I had need to travel at other times as well. I always told the 'Road Boss' where I was headed and was warned about where to watch for trucks. So help me, I got so I could see around bends as I always knew when a truck was approaching so I would pull off the 'road' into the scrub until the truck had passed. My heart seemed to be always in my mouth.

The folks in those camps (Woss and Nimpkish) were from many divergent backgrounds but, by and large, all of them were supportive of what I was trying to do. There were a lot of kids so Vacation Bible Schools were well supported and the 'Coffee House' that I organized for teenagers was very well patronized.

In free time - and often in the company of guys from the survey crew - we did a lot of fishing and swimming and exploring. Prospectors had riddled the area with abandoned mines (a few of which had uncovered some metals of value) and hiking along long abandoned trails up and around the mountains was fun.

When it came to wildlife, there was plenty around. Usually there were one or more bears at community garbage dumps which we watched quietly without disturbing them. There were small deer which would often be seen around dusk. One evening I was driving into the camp at dusk when a deer bounded out of the scrub and right under my car. My heart was in my mouth but It got back up on its feet and leaped into the forest seemingly unhurt.

On one of those hikes up to an abandoned mine, a neighbor watched us through her binoculars and told us afterwards that a cougar had followed us all the way. We were completely unaware that the cat was anywhere near us.

Twice there were festivals in communities to the north of the valley. The first one was at Port McNeil and I was awed to see Kwakiutl women from Alert Bay performing a Blanket Dance. In my opinion, one of the grave injustices done to the First Nation people was banning them from following their traditions - and especially the Potlatch which was - and is - a gift giving ceremony. Fortunately, the Federal government repealed the ban on the practicing of Native customs before the elders forgot them - thus the Blanket Dance.

Alert Bay - on Cormorant Island near Port McNeil - is the home of the Kwakiutl people - one of the largest and fiercest of the First Nation groups. For those people the main source of income is not forestry but fishing for Salmon which teem through the nearby waters in spawning season. In Alert Bay are a United Church of Canada as well as an Anglican Church. The pastors of those two congregations unite in a blessing of the fleet ceremony on one Sunday morning in June which is the start of a festival. I and the Highway Department surveyors went there for that occasion.

I was responsible for an error that caused us to lose most of our sleep on that particular Friday evening - I thought that the final ferry to Alert Bay left Beaver Cove/Port McNeil in mid evening. Not so - that ferry was the final one down to Campbell River and back taking folks out who wanted a weekend break from isolation.

Yes - we rode that ferry almost all night long getting very little sleep. The upside, though, was that, while passing through Johnstone Strait, we watched a pod of killer whales which were cavorting beside the boat.

At the time for the Blessing of the Fishing Fleet a small cruise boat tied up at the wharf. The tourists on board thought that all of the natives there wearing regalia were for the entertainment of the visitors. Not so - the Blessing of the Fleet was a far more serious matter than entertaining tourists!

Food for the celebration highlighted smoked salmon. The fish were split down the middle and then affixed to large pieces of cedar which were placed in a 'tripod fashion' over the fire so they could be smoked. Were they ever good! A group of First Nation (Salish) people were visiting from Squamish (north of Vancouver at the head of Howe Sound). They are traditional enemies of the Kwakiutl folk at Alert Bay but the only 'war' that evening were dances by the two groups. I loved that show!

My supervisor that summer was the Rev. Peter Newberry of Alert Bay who flew a small aircraft for the United Church of Canada.

The Rev. Peter Newberry standing on the float.

I was able to leave Nimpkish for the outside twice while I was there.

The first time was to visit a classmate and his wife who were at the Indian community of Ahousat on an island north of Tofino. Now there is a paved highway to Ucluelet and Tofina but not in 1970. While these two communities - the anchors of Long Beach - were reachable by road, it was (like Nimpkish) a logging road that clung to a steep hillside quite high above the valley floor and through an area that was completely logged over. It was like driving through a wasteland - nothing but stumps and logs that had no commercial value.

Ucluelet was very interesting as the village was beside Wreck Beach which was a 'Hippy commune' where nudity was the norm (but not for this kid!). Tofino was - and is - a prosperous town. From either community one could look over the Pacific Ocean with nothing between the B.C. Coast and Japan except salt water.

While I was away, Mom, Babs and Hubert sold the house on Roderick Avenue in Coquitlam. Babs and Hubert moved to Kamloops where some of his siblings had settled while Mom and Dan bought a lovely little house in the Sapperton part of New Westminster. As they could use some help with the move I received permission to go down there and I took two of the boys with me. As well as the move, I entertained the boys by showing them all around Vancouver and taking them to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) where they had a blast. I really do not like roller coasters but that was where the boys - and particularly the youngest one - gravitated. The younger one was so anxious to have 'the ride of his dreams' that he annoyed the ticket taker and was nearly barred from riding at all!

I took the boys back home to their parents and then packed up my belongings preparatory to moving back to Union College for the final year.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Minitonas, Bowsman and Birch River, Manitoba

Before entering Theology we all knew that a) we would be expected to spend each summer on a Pastoral Charge somewhere and b) when we were ordained we would be "settled" in a Pastoral Charge somewhere - and, in all likelihood, it would be a 'somewhere' in a Prairie Province. We jested about this frequently talking about 'Left Overshoe', Saskatchewan - a fictitious community - and about Spuzzum which was "Beyond Hope and Half Way to Hell". The latter is a real place - a tiny Indian community a few miles north of Hope in the Fraser Canyon but not as far as the narrowing of that chasm which is known as Hell's Gate.

Therefore, after spending a summer on the Giscome Pastoral Charge near Prince George and the Namu Cannery on the B.C. Coast, I was not at all surprised to learn that I was being sent to a Pastoral Charge in Manitoba which consisted of three small agricultural communities.

Back in 1957 or 1958, during my vacation, I had taken a Greyhound bus to Banff, Calgary, Edmonton, Jasper and back to Vancouver. While the Alberta part of this tour was on the prairie, it was not all that far from the Rockies. Therefore, this was going to be my first real experience of 'Big Sky Country'.

From Vancouver I drove east on the Trans-Canada Highway to Regina,
Saskatchewan, north to Saskatoon and then southeast to the village of Theodore - the hometown of my brother-in-law, Hubert, and where his stepmother still lived. From there I turned northeast through Kamsack and Canora to Swan River, Manitoba.

Swan River had a population of around 5,000 people and a United Church of Canada congregation that was large enough to be completely self-sufficient. Bowsman was seven miles north of Swan River, Birch River a further ten miles north, and Minitonas nine miles east of Swan River and just south of the highway that led to the small city of Dauphin. First, I drove to Bowsman where my supervisor - the Rev Jim Liles - lived with his family and where I spent the night.

If you look at a map you will see that Swan River is fairly far north - relatively speaking. So, while there, I was able to witness the glorious phenomena of the Northern Lights. They are breathtakingly beautiful.

The next morning Jim took me to Minitonas and to where I was to live for the
following four months - a room above the town cafe. My landlords were the Nemetcheks, a Czech family who were members of the local Pentecostal church. I ate many of my meals in their cafe and learned a little about their culture.

They had children of which two were boys. This was 1969 when long hair - and the Beatles - were in vogue. However, the boys' hair was always short and gave me the impression that a bowl had been placed over their respective heads and all hair below the rim of the bowl had been shaved off.

Eating in the cafe often meant that I heard the maxims from the parent - especially that cities were evil places (Winnipeg was a real 'den of iniquity' - reminding me of the theology of that lad who worked with us in the apple orchard in Tasmania).

One Sunday I was in the cafe eating lunch when a young man walked in who sported one of the most magnificent heads of groomed hair that I have ever seen. He worked in a man's hair salon in Winnipeg with the son of the elderly Czech couple who lived upstairs next to my room and he had a message for them from their son. He was given instructions on how to find his friend's parents so he left. Once he was out of earshot the host let out a diatribe about the sinfulness of people who made a living by cutting the hair of men and then dared to look like he did!

Like many larger communities, Swan River hosted an agricultural fair during August. The Minitonas Hotel - diagonally across the street from the cafe - brought in a band from Winnipeg for the week. Each night I tried to fall asleep while the band played - and the customers 'sang' - "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands". I came to loathe that song! Minitonas was a 'church town' - but some of those residents certainly could party!

The United Church was but one of five churches in that village. There were the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics. Plymouth Brethren, German Baptists and the breakaway from the latter - the Pentecostals. The German Baptist church was immediately across the street from the United and it was huge. However, we had a man on the Official Board of our congregation who was a gift from the Baptists. One Saturday night he had 'tied one on' and then, as was his custom, went to church with his wife the next morning. He was called down front to confess his terribly sinful misdeeds of the night before and ask forgiveness from the Pastor and congregation. Instead he walked out and crossed the street to our building.

Like in Giscome and Namu I quickly made friends and met some great people. Among them were the Ames family who lived just south of Minitonas. The oldest son, Cecil, became my right hand man in organizing and running the daily vacation Bible Schools which were held throughout the month of August. Next to Cecil in age was Dougie who was 14 or 15 at that time. He was a strong lad with an engaging laugh

He was a member of an Air Cadet group in Swan River, and - on the weekend at the end of May and while a number of us were in Brandon at the Annual General Conference of the Manitoba United Churches - the Air Cadet group drove north to a gathering of Air Cadets at The Pas. Along that route the highway passed by a quarry where they stopped for a break. The day was hot and there was water in the pits so some went for a dip. Doug - being Doug - dove right in but did not re-surface.

While the air temperature was quite warm and all of the ice had melted, the temperature of the water in that quarry was still quite cold. In spite of Doug's great physique, it was thought that the shock of the freezing cold water towards the bottom of the pit killed him.

His family was a large one and his was the first death in three generations. We had arrived back from Brandon on the Sunday evening and I had gone to bed. I was awakened in the morning by the message that Jim Liles was waiting downstairs for me. We drove out to the Ames' place where the women folk were in the house while the men were out in the yard. One of the grandfathers asked Jim that unanswerable question - "Why did God take Dougie?" The answer, of course, was that Doug had done something which was foolishly dangerous but that was not the reply for the moment. I cannot remember now what Jim's response was to that question.

This tragedy happened more than forty years ago and, for many many years, I could remember the sound of Doug's laugh.

A week or so before the tragedy the Young Peoples' Group from Minitonas had gone up to Bowsman for a painting bee (the fence around the manse needed some touching up). The day had been warm and sunny but, suddenly, a cold wind began to blow out of the northeast. There was an older gentleman who, when somebody commented positively about the lovely warm spring weather, had responded, "We haven't experienced the 'Crow Winter' yet!" I had no idea what he meant until the morning after the fence painting. We awoke to a snow covered world! After that the weather remained warm.

The valley around Bowsman was rich agricultural land - as it was around Minitonas - but Birch River was situated on the edge of the Pine Mountains (north central Manitoba is bisected by a number of 'mountain ranges' - Riding Mountain, Duck Mountains, Pine Mountains - all of which are remnants of mountain ranges which were eroded and now no more than high hills). Therefore the farmland there was marginal.

The Duck Mountains were a few miles south of Minitonas. Up there was Wellman Lake along the shore of which all of the churches owned and maintained summer camps. The United Church of Canada camp was near the western end of the lake. Across from the camp was a bay the south shore of which was a mass of bulrushes and other reedy plants. The outdoor chapel was arranged so that the preacher was standing with his/her back to the lake while the campers were sitting facing the orator and, thus, the water. During a service being conducted by a theological student the congregation began giggling and then guffawing. The preacher had no idea what was causing the amusement until he turned around.

A couple were in a canoe fishing. The canoe was paddled closer to the far shore - only there was a pair of loons who had their nest there. The canoe and occupants were perceived as a threat so they were trying to drive the nuisance away. I love loons.

In a river that was about ten miles north of Minitonas there was a swimming hole which was much used during the summer months. One evening I took a carload of young people out there and, like everybody else, I drove right down the dirt road and parked beside the water. The air was close and a thunderstorm did blow over. Everybody ran for his/her car and drove quickly up the bank - which was fairly high above us. Mine was the last car to leave and I held my breath. I made it! The drive back to Minitonas was through torrential downpours and constant lightning flashes.

While at Minitonas I did have two short breaks.

During the first one I drove down to Winnipeg and visited that city for the first time. I saw the 'Golden Boy' on the roof of the Provincial Legislature and I visited the Riel Memorial. For readers who are not familiar with Canadian history, the Metis - 'half breeds' (usually French and Indian) - who were not fully accepted by the white settlers nor the full blood Indians, rebelled during the 1870s /'80s. Their leader was Louis Riel who was caught and hung by the British authorities. Now he is looked upon as a Canadian hero who did his share in ensuring that Canada would become a democracy.

The second trip away was to visit the hometown of my brother-in-law, Leo Poirier, who was born in the mining town of Flin Flon. The prospector who found the metal (gold?) named the site after a comic book character very popular in the early 20th Century - 'Flintabitty Flonatin'. The name was shortened to Flin Flon and a statue of the cartoon character sits beside the highway at the turnoff into the town.

While I was at Minitonas Mom and her Aunt Edith Robinson rode in a Greyhound bus to Theodore where they visited Alice Brown (Hubert's stepmother). I knew that they were coming for a visit so I asked around for someone who could host them for a couple of days.

In the Minitonas congregation there were seven elderly widows. One of them was Mrs. Dalton who had immigrated from England with her new husband and they homesteaded land not far from the town. Mr Dalton had passed on so his widow had sold the farm and moved into town. Here. for me, was one of those "It's a small world" occasions.

Mrs. Dalton's granddaughter had graduated in medicine and practiced at the hospital in Bella Bella. I had met her a number of times during the previous summer.

Mom and Aunt Edith were warmly welcomed by the congregations.

Then it came time for me to return to Union College and my studies. At the same time a problem developed. Beginning on the morning that I left Minitonas, my car began acting up by backfiring frequently with the motor cutting out. I visited a lot of service stations between Swan River and Vancouver!

However, I had promised Alice Brown that I would drive her to visit her daughter, Yvonne, who was married to an airman who was stationed at the RCAF base in Cold Lake, Alberta. Therefore I stopped in Theodore to pick her up and we drove northwest.

As I have lived for a number of years in eastern Canada, I have driven across the Prairies many times - and paid more than one visit to that Pastoral charge. I hold all of the people there - and in the other areas - in the highest esteem. Sure - there were reprobates among them but, by and large, all were/are lovely people.

Alice had a sister who lived in Saskatoon so we had to stop there on our way. I had some anxious moments on back roads and while climbing hills (the most direct route to Cold Lake was to leave the highway and use the back roads in order to connect with the highway from Edmonton to Grande Centre and Cold Lake).

I had not seen Yvonne since that visit to B.C. when she was a small girl and had never met her husband - however, it was a good visit.

Leaving their home on the base I stopped at a garage in Grand Centre to have the car checked once again and then to continue on to Edmonton and Jasper. Beyond Jasper and Mount Robson - the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies - I turned south at Tete Jaune Cache and drove down the North Thompson Valley to Little Fort and then up over the hills to 100 Mile House and a visit with Alda and her family.

Much to my relief, I arrived safely in Vancouver and took my car into a Ford dealership where it was traded for a used Ford Fairlane. The Falcon was a good little car but it was time for it to be retired.

Monday, 10 October 2011


In the previous blog I neglected to mention any of the other young men who were living at Union College while I was there. In particular, Terry Shaw who was a new resident in 1967 (just like I was) and whose journey through those four years paralleled mine - only, while I was in Theology, he was in Education.

For much of the time at Union, his room was next to mine and, at around 11:00 PM, I would hear his coffee pot gurgling so I would go next door for a late night cup of java and a chat.

Towards the end of this blog Terry will appear and we will share a 'journey through fire' together.

Studying for the ministry in the United Church of Canada meant that I had agreed to certain courses of study and, also, summer employment as a Student Clergy. It was in that capacity that I had been assigned to the semi-rural parish of Giscome near Prince George and then, during the summer of 1968, to the fish cannery community of Namu on the B.C. Coast.

I had two options of travel to my assignment - aircraft to Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island and a small float plane to Namu, or by a passenger/freight boat to Bella Bella and then a float plane or fish boat to Namu.

I opted for the latter and left Vancouver one morning for the two day and night trip with fairly frequent stops to unload freight, mail and passengers.

Bella Bella is a fair-sized First Nation community on an island about midway up the coast between Vancouver Island and Haida Gwai (formerly named 'The Queen Charlotte Islands'). The first Caucasian people there established a school and a hospital and it is the home for a few hundred people. While larger settlements could have more than one denominational facility, at Bella Bella only the United Church of Canada was established. Not only did the church look after the spiritual needs of the people, it supplied school teachers and established a regional hospital. The nurses at that hospital were Caucasian girls who came from all over - even from the New England States - and many of them fell in love with local boys resulting in inter-racial marriages. More about that later.

The United Church of Canada plane. This photo was taken at Nimpkish Lake and two years after I was at he cannery but I saw it more than once while I was at Namu.

About a two hour boat ride - or a twenty minute flight - southeast of there - and on the mainland - was the cannery community of Namu. This was to be my home for four wonderful months. The largest part of the population were First Nation folk with a handful of Caucasians who were the technicians in the cannery and the community.

The cannery was at the mouth of the small Namu River with the Pacific Ocean to the west and huge mountainous forests to the north, east and south.

The cannery was pretty large while, behind it and off to the north side, were neat little bungalows and a school. The cottages were inhabited by Caucasian folk while First Nation people were forced to live in tenement like structures on the other side of the Namu River to the south. This bothered me a great deal but there was nothing that I could do about that. Past the Indian Village was Japtown (where Japanese had spent their summers before World War II) and an oil - boat refueling - dock.

Upon arrival the Cannery Manager gave me a choice - work in the office or accept the position of Recreation Director for the community. I opted for the latter which led to a rich and fun-filled summer.

There was a large recreation hall under my purview so, along with volunteers from both the Caucasian and the First Nation communities, activities were organized. There were movies (I would select them from a catalog issued by a movie distributor in Vancouver), bingo nights and a bowling league in the little three lane alley.

I could not handle all of this alone so I appointed a couple of helpers. Chief among them was a First Nations fellow, Clifford Starr. Some of the other folk warned me that Cliff was not at all reliable and could be dishonest. I placed my trust in him and, except for his penchant for booze-ups - along with a difficult marriage - he was no trouble at all. I trusted him so, as he liked and trusted me, he was never dishonest.

I had to select movies for Friday and Saturday evening showings as well as one suitable for the children to see. Often I showed the kid's movie on Thursday evening when many of the fish boats were in. As I was the manager of the entire event, I could never be still long enough to see all of any of the films. This was true of the evening when a spooky film was being shown so, when it came to the matinee on Saturday, I thought that some of the scenes could be pretty scarey for the youngest viewers. Therefore I stood along the wall just in case one or more of the youngsters freaked out. Because of my busyness Thursday evening I had not seen all of the film - especially the scene where a large spider was suddenly on the screen. I don't like spiders so I jumped and the six-year-old sitting in the aisle seat looked at me and asked, "Are you scared, Ernie?"

There was a footbridge across the little Namu River connecting the cannery site with the 'Indian Village', the marine supply docks and 'Japtown' where Japanese people had lived before World War II. After dark no white men were allowed over that bridge except for the RCMP officer assigned to the community during the canning season and myself.

While the cannery was in operation all of the First Nation people from their mid-teens and up worked. Kids who were not yet old enough to work babysat while three 'grandmothers' were paid by the cannery to sit on the bridge to insure that no tykes came into harms way - like wandering around the machinery in the cannery.

I have wonderful memories of those grandmothers - Kitty Carpenter, Linda Humchitt and Maggie Windsor. Kitty was Kwakiutl from Alert Bay on Cormorant Island which lies just off of the town of Port McNeil on Vancouver Island. The Kwakiutl people are thought of as the most war-like of all of the tribes along the West Coast and, historically, they were enemies of the Bella Bella. Kitty did encounter tension - but she was a large statuesque woman and nobody messed with her! Linda Humchitt was Bella Bella and she was known for having a penchant for Caucasian men. More about that later! The third person assigned to the bridge was Maggie Windsor - a much respected and very sweet grandmother (also a Bella Bella). 

Another person assigned to Namu that summer was the RCMP officer, Brian. He was from the Terrace Detachment up north and, as a reward for being in an isolated community for that summer, his next assignment was to the Detachment in Langley - a farming community in the Fraser Valley and an outer suburb of Vancouver. Brian and I hit it off right from the start - we always sat next to each other while eating in the Mess Hall.

One night, a couple of hours after I had gone to bed and to sleep, I was awakened by a loud knocking at my door. It was Brian who needed my help.

A First Nation lad had been mixing drugs with alcohol and had gone off his head. He had been arrested and put into the community's sole jail cell. Brian could not stand guard on him all night so would I do that for him while he slept? I did. He returned to the jail until I could get up, dressed and over there. The lad was still very much up and was violent. He hurled invectives at me and spat continually. The anteroom to the jail was very tiny so I could not escape his spittle (because it was damp and cool, I was wearing a dark grey trench coat over my other clothes and it became covered by his phlegm). I thank God for Linda Humchitt - she heard that I was standing jail duty and suspected what I was being subjected to so she came to sit with me. Her presence - resented at first by the felon - did calm him and he fell asleep so she and I had some peace until Brian was able to relieve us the next morning.

This incident occurred in August and I was called upon again before the summer ended. An ex-con showed up in the community and tried to break into the office safe. He was arrested and placed into the cell and, as he was resigned to his fate, he did not make a fuss but went to sleep. I was able to doze in my chair.

Later I received a pay cheque from the RCMP paying me for the hours I spent as 'jail guard'.

It was really a glorious summer with lots of sunshine and, for the Coast, not too much rain. Off shore we could watch the Alaskan cruise ships passing by and. closer in, the yachts and other pleasure craft. As I have mentioned, there was an 'oil dock' to the south of the community (next to Japtown) and tourists would stop there in order to 'gas up' their boats. 1968 was before concerns for the environment became paramount so the cannery officials were free to dump the offal from the plant into the salt chuck. Naturally this attracted birds of prey including bald eagles. Many of the American tourists were nonplussed - what were 'Their Birds' doing in Canada?

A bald eagle waiting - with its sharp eyesight - for prey to come into view.  This terrain is NOT near Namu but further down the coast and the use of this photo is through the courtesy of Michael W. who lives in Vancouver.

On Sunday afternoons a boat would dock at the cannery to load frozen salmon to take to Vancouver for shipment elsewhere. This was a freight boat with room for luxury staterooms that were rented to tourists who wanted to see the Coast up to the B.C.-Yukon-Alaskan border - but not Alaska itself. The loading of the frozen fish would take anywhere from one to four hours so the tourists would get off of the boat to walk around.

The entire community was linked by boardwalks which led everywhere. The tourists could wander as they pleased - going as far as the small lake that fed the Namu River - but they were not allowed across the bridge into the 'Indian Village'. What I knew - but the tourists did not - was the treasure trove of Indian art to be found over there. The whale (killer whale) and the bald eagle figured largely in their folklore and depictions of these 'gods' were magnificent. Incidentally, I have said that these accommodations were tenements but many of them that I visited were spotlessly clean.

Most of the Indians had a huge sense of humor and, when the frozen fish boat came in, they would stand with me and josh about scalping parties and the like, Back then there was a comic strip in the daily paper called 'Tumbleweeds'. I loved the humor depicted there - and so did they.

From what I was taught by my Dad and Granddad I tried to never show racial bias - and was astounded when I encountered it coming from the other side.

There was a young woman who had grown up on a smaller island next to Bella Bella. Her father was the manager of a B.C. Packers depot and store there. While she was a girl she would travel over to the bigger island every day to attend school - usually the only Caucasian child who attended. When she reached adulthood she went away to study nursing, gained her RN degree, and returned to Bella Bella where she married one of the native boys - actually, her wedding had been the day after I arrived in Bella Bella. As the Rev. Doug Archibald - my Supervisor - was the officiant, I had attended.

It was a bowling league night and Liz was asking who was going to the big wedding in Bella Bella on the following Saturday. One of the Indian men responded with, "What wedding?" Liz recited the names of the two couples (two Caucasian girls from New England who were marrying two native boys) and he responded with, "Jeez, more half breeds"! I was shocked but then thought - 'Why not? Caucasians are not the only people who are bigoted'!

There was a small cafe attached to the side of the mess hall which was operated by Eva - the wife of the stationary engineer - who, for years, had looked after a remote lighthouse along the coast of Vancouver Island. Eva was known for her vulgarities. One evening the cannery closed earlier and just after the evening bowling had finished. I decided to drop into the cafe for a milkshake and sat on a stool along the counter while the 'Grannies' - who had also finished work - were seated in a booth. When they had finished Linda Humchitt went to pay their tab. Eva said to Linda. "I have the mattress that you wanted." Linda asked, "What mattress?" Eva replied, "I heard that one of the women in the Indian village was looking for an extra mattress and I thought that it was you." Linda came back with, "It wasn't me who was looking for one - besides, Ernie and I are not sleeping together anymore!" I howled with laughter while Eva's jaw dropped. I found that hilarious - and another proof of how much I was appreciated by the First Nation folk.

                    The UC of Canada aircraft being paddled to where it is to be moored.

I have mentioned the small lake that fed the Namu River. It was reached easily by a boardwalk and, around it, were walking trails. Many hours were spent with the Indian men and boys swimming in that lake. Also, the fishing there was good.

Labor Day came and it was time to return to Vancouver and College. I booked a seat on a float plane flight down to Port Hardy which is very near the northern tip of Vancouver Island, My college buddy, Terry Shaw, was waiting there with my car (he had spent his summer in the logging communities between Port Hardy and Campbell River and had had the loan of my car).

We headed out along what was mainly gravel and dirt logging roads passing through the various logging communities along the way. The southern most community was Vernon Camp. A 'slash fire' had been lit in order to clear the brush left after the logging. Unfortunately, that fire had gotten out of control. As it was the beginning of a long weekend there were others who were trying to get down to civilization so we were formed into a convoy to be led through the danger zone.

It is really weird to be driving - with ones heart in ones mouth - through a forest fire!

A postscript - the visit of two of the women whom I had met there who wanted to meet Mom. I am not bragging in this last paragraph but sharing the awe that I felt then - and still do.

Maggie Windsor was one of the matriarchs of the Bella Bella people and both she and Linda Humchitt wanted to have tea with my mother. I met each of them separately in Vancouver and took them out to Coquitlam. Mom was most pleased to meet them. With Maggie it was merely a visit but Linda had a daughter with her and she wanted to go on up the Fraser Valley to the resort hotel at Harrison Hot Springs. I took them there and we went for a dip in the hot springs pool.