Saturday, 3 August 2013

Other Neighbors

It is NOT my intent to disparage anybody - rather to share the color that various individuals (and/or ethnic groups) bring to a community. Some communities are formed by a body of people arriving with a common ethnicity and common religious background , while others are of a variety of people. As I mentioned in an early blog about life in Coquitlam, B.C., I included the group of French Canadian people who arrived late in the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries to form the village of Maillardville and to become employees at the new Fraser Mills. Those people were from Quebec.

Before them Chinese people had arrived to work at building the wagon road down the Fraser Canyon followed by the railroad through the mountains. Most of these people settled in what came to be known as Chinatown in Vancouver but others built homes east of there near Fraser Mills - and the other lumber establishments - as well as the market gardens on Lulu Island which lies in the Fraser River south of the city. Both of these ethnic groups were followed by other nationalities who chose to make the young British Columbia their new home.

I have no way of knowing who the people were who first homesteaded the property which Granddad purchased early in the 1920s. By the time that I was born, Ruskin was a European enclave (more British than anything else) but with a number of Japanese living there as well as other people of European ancestry.

In writing about the homestead, I mentioned a trail that wound southward from there through the forest and past a cranberry bog to where the trail split. The right hand route went on through the forest to two farms and then down the hillside where it exited through the property where we lived while I was a pupil in Grade 1. The trail to the left went to the brow of the hillside above the spot where the power dam - and the associated community of employees - were established.

Coming from Granddad's homestead, the first farm belonged to the Charles Miller family. I have no visual memory of this man but I know that he was an important figure in the community and, later on, he wrote a book about the history of Ruskin - The Valley of the Stave - however I have neither seen it nor read it.  

A friend in Vancouver has visited the area where the Ruskin Dam is situated. He has taken a few photos and has sent to me some old photos taken around the time of the construction of the dams. Some of those photos have been added here. 
The date that this photo was published was January 17, 1963. If you click on the note below the picture, it is readable and self-explanatory.

                                           The Ruskin Powerhouse as it looks today (2013)

The following is a photograph of Stave Lake before the dam and power generating plant were erected.
Stave Lake above the dam. I have driven across the dam a few times in my life and, in the sunlight, it is a beautiful sight. In the background are a few of the Coast Mountains.

                                                      A generator in the Power House

One couple whom Grandma befriended - and who lived along there - were the Halletts. They were very English (thus Grandma's feeling of affinity with them) and their home reflected their cultural background. It was a very British house with a lovely garden set in the middle of the forest! When Alda and I vacationed in Ruskin we would go with Grandma on one day to have lunch (tea?) with the Halletts. Grandma had broken off any association with her family in England - but remained very much the 'English lady' until the end of her life.

Near the Miller property was a farm inhabited by a Scottish couple named Ball. I cannot remember Mr. Ball but memories of the wife remain with me - especially her Scottish accent! A lane descended from their farm to the road which connected the highway in Ruskin with the communities at the Ruskin Dam and, some three  or four miles further on, at the Stave Falls Dam. Just before the lane met the paved road, it passed the home of the Nelsons. Minnie Nelson was the daughter of Mr and  Mrs Ball and it was with that family that I got to ride in a rumble seat on our way to and back from a swimming party along the opposite side of the Stave River. I mentioned that episode in the blog about Summer Vacations.

While walking down to where we lived from the Ball farm, we had to pass through a meadow where a bull would be grazing. We were never chased by that bull but I made sure that we gave it a wide berth! 
The Balls had a Japanese family as tenant farmers and that was one of the houses that we toured after the Japanese were ordered by Canadian authorities to leave the Lower Mainland The two children who stopped to play with Alda and I while on their way home from school belonged to that family. 

Before leaving this part of the story, I will mention a few people who lived near the dam as well as along the road to the highway, the General Store, and Post Office.

The trail down the escarpment exited through the yard and passed the house inhabited by the Reedle family. The house was immediately across the tram line which connected Stave Falls to Ruskin and the highway - and, also, from the company houses. While they were relatively new structures (and all painted green), the Reedle house was unpainted and showed that it had been there before the power plant community had been created.  

This family was German and the parents spoke with a German accent. Mrs.Reedle corresponded with relatives back in Europe so, when one of her sons - August - enlisted in the army (during World War II) she instructed him to go over there and kill as many of those 'buggars' (Nazis) as he could! After the war he returned and, I believe, he was unscathed.

It was a pleasant walk of a little more than a mile out to the Ruskin General Store and the highway. Most of the homes were on acreage and/or large lots. Also, there was a lumber mill on the banks of the Stave River about half way out to the highway and Dad had worked there at one time. When I was still young the mill was either abandoned or burned down (I don't remember which) and was replaced by a drive-in movie theater.

Walking from the Ruskin Dam out to the highway there was one house on the side opposite to the river that I remember. It was occupied by Charlie Sobey and his maiden sister. In a way these two were the 'Royalty' of the community. Mom and Dad attended Whist Drives at the Community Hall where the Sobeys cajoled them into being the 'third' and 'fourth' for a game of bridge. While both of them knew how to play bridge they were not the sharpest of players. Often, though, their unorthodox way of playing the game led to them winning which incensed their opponents no end. Years later I - too - learned to play bridge but I could not talk them into playing with me and Alda - the attitude of the Sobeys had turned them off completely!    

Further along the road out to the highway lived the Sidwell family - the boy who bullied me all year while I was in Grade 1 was of that clan!

Moving on I will continue with more neighbors who lived near us on Dawes Hill.

Most of the folk about whom I have written were good people. However, there was one family on Dawes Hill who - because of the antics of the head of the family - caused most of the rest of us some anxiety.

The family were Ukrainian, they lived across from the Crandell family on Mundy Road. I have no knowledge as to the actual extent of their land but, if anybody whom they did not like came near them, he or she would be met with the expression, "Keep off of mine property!" and could be threatened with stones or other hand held missiles. At the same time, the patriarch wandered at will and - if there had been a snowfall - his footsteps could be seen on the property belonging to others.

When we first moved to Dawes Hill there were three staircases which led up to doors in the house. The one staircase that was rarely used was to the bedroom occupied by any of us who were ill (or I having just returned home from a visit to the hospital). Dad was quite perturbed when he saw the footprints in the fresh snow on that third stairway. He confronted this particular neighbor and was met with profanity and denial. We knew that those tracks had not been left by anybody else!

The ancestry of this family extended to Eastern Europe and the farm buildings (especially of the house) reflected this - most of the outer walls were composed of corrugated metal. A few acres near the house had been cleared and was grazing land for the two or three cows and a horse.

Two lots below the Crandell house Mundy Road did a sharp right turn onto Dawes Hill Road. However, a trail continued on from the end of Mundy through the forest and down the hill to the highway (that section was called Pitt River Road). At the same time, Dawes Hill Road continued as a track through the woods and it ran under a power line. Walking on either of those two tracks could illicit the same challenge, "Keep off mine property!"

Down the continuation of Mundy Road, it led to the house to which we moved when we left the hill. One day I had walked up to the Crandell home to ask for permission to use their telephone. On my way home I was accosted by two boys from the Ukrainian family with "Keep off mine property" accompanied by hurled stones. A gift that I had received for my birthday was a cap pistol fashioned after the design of the German lugger and it was in my pocket. I pulled it out and held it in my hand - I did not aim it - and my tormentors scrambled away in a hurry.

The route homeward on the school bus was down Mundy Road and, one day, we were startled to see a large shiny automobile parked beside the road and a woman dressed in a beautiful fur coat chatting to the 'lady of the house'. The husband had been married twice and the visitor was his former mother-in-law!

The man of that household had frequent brushes with the law and would have to appear in the courtroom in the Municipal Hall. When that happened, he would always bring his children with him in order to prey upon the sympathy of the Magistrate. As far as I know, he never went to  prison.

As his family grew up one of the sons turned out to be a pretty decent young man. He found steady employment and, with his earnings, he bought a nice car. Not long before that the Upper Levels Highway had been built to link the Trans Canada Highway with the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay  which is north of North Vancouver. The highway is a 'freeway' but a mountainous route. One evening the young man was driving along it at a speed that was too fast for the road. He lost control and slammed into a rock wall and suffered a brain injury. When he recovered enough he went to live with his father and - by that time - was the only other adult in the house.

One morning he awoke from sleep and went to call his Dad but the old man did not wake up.


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