HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM (1920-2008)

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One of the happiest times of my late mother’s long life was her first year of marriage, before kids, before money pressures, before fortune’s ups and downs. It was 1945. After six years of war, the future lay open. Anything seemed possible. She had joined my father in Prince Rupert, where he was teaching, and about as far from where she grew up in the Fraser Valley as possible, while still remaining in B.C. She loved the stimulus of new discoveries, on her own, far from home for the first time. My mother also taught school, the newly-weds pleasantly ensconced in a few rooms on the lower floor of a two-story wooden boarding house. They were part of a lively, progressive community in Prince Rupert, earning decent salaries, and they were very happy. Forever after, when there was a soft rainfall in Newmarket, Ont., where she lived for more than 50 years, my mother would get that dreamy look in her eye and sigh: “This reminds me of Prince Rupert….”

After that blissful year in Rupert, however, my father snared a job in Vancouver, and off they went. Young and carfree, they decided to hitch-hike the nearly 1,000 miles to Prince George and down to the Coast.

My mother loved talking about that trip, how they stayed with people they met along the route, how they made a detour to pre-touristy Barkerville when they decided to look in on a miners’ strike in nearby Wells, and especially, their frightening trip with a truck driver through the Fraser Canyon. In those days, the Canyon “highway” was a dangerous, rutted, narrow road, full of precarious hairpin bends with few guardrails. The truck driver drove quickly, explaining that the faster he drove, the sooner he would get through the Canyon. Along the way, he would casually point to spots where drivers he knew had plunged over the edge. Luckily, my parents survived that terrifying section of their adventure, and here I am.

Years later, when we made a family trip across Canada, riding the new Fraser Canyon highway, tunneled, well-paved and safe, my mom would \shudder every time she glimpsed remnants of the old road down below.

All of which is an introduction to one of my favourite photos of my mother. That’s her hitch-hiking along Highway 16 on the old, historic Telkwa Bridge near Smithers, which still stands. She was 26.

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2 thoughts on “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM (1920-2008)

  1. Great story Rod! Our parents led such interesting lives before we came along. My parents emigrated from Germany, via London and lived in Northern BC in very primitive circumstances while my dad worked as a labourer along the northern line of the CN. They almost froze to death the first winter until Dad figured out to pile snow around the cabin. They both described it as the best time of their lives.
    Dad had been a German prisoner of war in Fort Lewis Washington, (another huge adventure) and fell in love with the countryside, but couldn’t get immigration status to the States after the war, so he picked the next best place he thought – British Columbia. They settled in Robsons Streed for a bit in 1950, when it was truly Robsonstrasse, but lack of work forced them up to the north, near Burns Lake.

  2. Mickleblogger: thanks for sharing these wonderful vignettes and pictures of your Mom’s early days. I love the hitchhiking picture. If only I had known… I would have told her of my hitchhiking trip around the Big Bend (unpaved as I recall, from Golden to Revelstoke) before the Rogers Pass opened and of persuading a kindly family in Salmon Arm to let me spend the night sleeping in the back of a school bus parked in their yard.

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