Interview of Goodrich Sisters
Memories of Vesuvius
On April 28, 1977
Audiotape transcription Oct. 25, 2013
Transcription corrections Nov. 4, 2013
Mary: The date is April the 28th, 1977. My name is Mary Williamson and the subject of this tape is Vesuvius. Being the closest point of Salt Spring to Vancouver Island, Vesuvius was one of the earliest settlements and it still has quite a different character. It's a cluster of small, summery houses which rise above the warm waters of the public beach. There are four short streets, each containing perhaps half a dozen houses. One of these, Goodrich Street, was my first home on Salt Spring. It's very fitting and a great pleasure for me to be sitting in the spacious living room of the Heinekey Farm with the Goodrich sisters. Ruth Goodrich has been Ruth Heinekey for many years now and her sister, Iris Pattison, has recently returned here after a 30 year absence.
Now I just want to establish the different voices of these two and then I'm going to bow out and let Ruth and Iris just talk about their reminiscences of Vesuvius going back as far as they can and, coming from their father's memory too, and then bringing us up to date with perhaps some of the characters who are still living here. Iris, you have been away how long?
Iris: Approximately 30 years. We came back two years ago and have built next-door to Ruth in the Bay.
Mary: Actually on the same property.
Iris: Yes, on the original Goodrich property. When it was divided, we saved a lot from it and kept it all these years.
Mary: And Ruth I have known for the 7 years that I have lived here. She was a marvelous neighbor to us when we first arrived and I have a very warm and special place in my heart for her. So I want to thank you, Ruth, for allowing us to do this in your living room and now just to introduce yourself so that we can hear your voice too.
Ruth: Well, as a Heinekey, I have been here for 37 years and all of my life I have lived here except for one year that was war service with George. We travelled around the country and decided that it was better for me to stay put and raise kids here while he was away. Then on returning, we went farming but other than that my whole life has been spent here. Presumably the next stop will be Pioneer Village but this is where I plan to stay until then (laughing).
Mary: Now you have mentioned something that I'm quite sure you won't bring up again, so I'm going to now. You talked about raising kids, but in fact, you have raised a good many more than your own kids and I seem to remember hearing that you have helped to bring up 53 different people in your family and I want to get that on the record (laughing).
Ruth: Well, there have been 53 young people live with us, 5 of which we call our foster kids but of the 53, it's just been the most fantastic experience and one I'd repeat any time if it come to repeating I would have no qualms about doing it again. It's been a fun experience that not everybody's been privileged to and it's had its un-fun moments too (laughing).
Mary: Alright, now I'm going to turn the tape over to the two of you, so please carry on.
Iris: Thank you. I thought, Ruth, perhaps we could start with the Bittancourt that came to Vesuvius, probably the first people that came to Vesuvius and as dad used to know Mr. Bittancourt and talked with him, he passed on a lot of his early experiences to dad that he has repeated to you. Perhaps you could start from there.
Ruth: Well it seems that they were a Portuguese family that arrived on Salt Spring and particularly Vesuvius in their sloops and there's many stories about them being shipwrecked and landed here but I don't think that was the truth. I think they saw an opportunity and embarked on it. The original Mr. Bittancourt had five sons and he built what was always known as the Lodge, wasn’t it? Originally, it was a store cum saloon, post office, what have you ...
Mary: Where was The Lodge?
Ruth: Right at Vesuvius Wharf it was latterly known as Hotel Vesuvius. It had many and varied owners. It was idle for years, in fact we called it the haunted house, didn't we?
Iris: Oh, yes, we were certain ...
Ruth: It was brave kid that could run through the front room and we weren't very brave (laughs). We were less brave, if my dad found out we were doing it so ... These famous Bittancourt had coal mines and copper mines over excavations for the same, a coal mine over in Dock Bay. On the map, you'll find that as Duck Bay, but originally that was known as Dock Bay because it was so sheltered that's where the sloops used to anchor.
Iris: We used to call it just The Creek.
Ruth: Well, it was St. Mary's Outlet.
Iris: St. Mary's Outlet is what it was.
Ruth: Which was reasonably good fishing.
Iris: They used to, even Lorrie Mouat used to get his coal from the beach years ago just by waiting till the low tide and [crosstalk 00:06:06].
Ruth: The sea just ran right out into the [crosstalk 00:06:05]. The sea went out and this was in the '40s, he was still [crosstalk 00:06:09].
Ruth: It was not a good quality, but if it was usable and there are copper [cribs 00:06:14] all along this coast and definitely along, right opposite on Vancouver Island and in our great wisdom, we thought that it was wells because they were all cribbed down. But we found out later that they had been excavating for copper and that there is an abundance there but it's just too expensive to do anything with it. I think Beaver Point has its copper deposits as well but it's just not high grade enough to be economical to do anything about it. Of course, those old birds, they probably could make a nickel where nobody else could anyway, probably kept it too (laughs).
His idea of keeping his five sons busy and out of his saloon. I mean, he didn't mind making money off other people but certainly not off his sons. It was to keep them busy and one of his major projects was fence building, woodcutting, breakwater making, all these things that had no beginning, no end. In the back of our property from whom my dad bought, from Bittancourt is about five miles of snake fences that go nowhere, have no fields, no nothing. When asked about this, he said; Well, how the hell else you going to keep five boys busy. [Inaudible 00:07:36], there's cords of wood out there. Someone said; What did you cut it for? Was it for boats, or ships, or what? He said; No! It kept them out of the pub, this is it. How he had the authority to make five sons do this day after day is something that the rest of us would sure like to have known. That's an authority none of us had.
Iris: Well he brought quite a few things to the Bay in the way of agriculture, too, didn't he?
Ruth: Well, he's responsible for the orchards that are in the Bay, plus our juniper trees which every authority will tell you that there's two kinds and in BC, some in the interior, some on the coast and there's only the two kinds but these are quite different and the only place on Salt Spring that you find them naturally is in this area, and if you find them somewhere else, they've been transplanted from here. I think these apple orchards, they have varieties that just are not heard of anywhere else in BC. It's a pity that no one sort of propagated them more.
Iris: Well he brought the junipers from Portugal [crosstalk 00:08:48]. They came winter end, yes. So this was a completely new type of tree that was introduced here by him.
Ruth: It's quite different to the normal juniper and they seem to get just so big and then they deplete themselves and die off.
Iris: Well in the very early days, didn't they have a wharf at Vesuvius that regular boats stopped at...
Ruth: Yeah, the CPR boats stopped in totally around the island, I think it was nine wharfs and there's no roads, they stopped at the watercourses and Vesuvius was a regular port of call.
Iris: I think one of the early boats that I remember was the old Otter though there were earlier, I think the Iroquois and all those aerial boats called in. The Otter was due was, say, on Thursday but if it got here by Friday night so, well, so what and if it got back to Vancouver by Monday that was even a bigger miracle. But it did get there and that was the early transportation. In our life, I think perhaps there was the other like jitneys to Crofton and to Westholme and down by the train into Victoria but we certainly never traveled that way. It was always boat. And I don't think there was too much commerce that went from Vesuvius because the product part of the Island's economy went from Fernwood. But, here I think it was just a matter of survival.
Mary: Now, what about the quarry, Ruth? That's another major project or has been in the Bay area.
Ruth: Well, it seems to me that, and this was Harry Caldwell had told me this, that that started in uh, 1886 I think. Which is about the beginning of the Lodge time. And that is how the Mouat, and the Maxwells, and the Caldwells came to Island. According to Harry, the Caldwells brought them all. Maybe the other people will say it was the other way around, but the Maxwells were the skippers on the barges and the boats [crosstalk 00:11:07].
Iris: These were the barges that took the quarry.
Ruth: The masons that cut the rock and this is a particular type of sandstone that does not deteriorate when it's exposed to the air and they could barge it from, it's about a quarter of a mile down the coast from where we are now. And they could take that to places by barge that there was no other transportation and it got as far south as San Francisco. People have seen a plaque on the library that was built there stating just this, and that is 1886, plus the causeway in front of the Parliament Buildings in Victoria and Ogden Point breakwater and part of Wharf Street. This will be argued because it's all granite now, but that is the original and there obviously is money in [inaudible 00:11:58] or better. They've changed that face but the original rock is rock from down here and it's a particularly fascinating type of mining; no powder, no nothing, just rows of holes that they filled with chisels and then banged them in and the rock broke square. This was the whole value of that particular type. And even now there's the remains of the slag jetties that went out into the water where the barges came in. There's drums that winched it up and down wherever it had to be winched because there was no other form of power.
And the most fascinating is the remains of the cabins that the workmen lived in. There's like a fireplace at one end of an obvious cabin and a Dutch oven; the log part, since, rotted away. The treasures that was around there that we very foolishly left thinking ...
Iris: Thousands of whiskey bottles.
Ruth: I don't think they drank water, they couldn't have drank water. I'm not too sure what they ate (laughs) but certainly their fluids were all out of a bottle. But there were like 10 gallon washtub types of things that were all hand, I guess, manufactured because they were riveted and the dates were stamped in, not written on. We left there simply because we enjoyed looking at them and my dad figured; Well, anyone else would do the same. But no one else valued them and they just used them for targets.
Iris: Those lights, for instance, the lanterns…
Ruth: Yes, there were these old fashioned isinglass storm lanterns and they were a little collapsed but quite distinguished and we hung them in the trees thinking they were such fascinating objects only to find they were blasted full of holes. And old shoes with hand cut brads that kept the leather on them. All these fascinating things that people would have valued beyond anything and we felt leaving them there was the best thing you could do, well it wasn't. All the bottles got broken. There was literally hundreds of bricks that no one seems to know why they were there but they think perhaps it was where the forge room was for sharpening all these bits. And I guess there's about ten of these fireplaces still in evidence. So, of course, people find the rocks fascinating and swipe them for patios and what have you ...
Mary: What type of person worked on the quarry, Ruth?
Ruth: Well, if you talk to someone that's been on the Island ten minutes, he'll tell you they were Italian masons but they weren't. They were presumably Scottish masons like Mouats, Caldwells, Maxwells; they're obviously not Italians. The earliest ones, that is. Well latterly, we're told that after 1900 there was a re-growth of use for that quarry and a contractor was in there and he had a crew of East Indians in there. This caused lots of consternation because they had to get fresh milk and Des Crofton [?] tells us that he and his dad used to bring the fresh milk out every Saturday for these settlements. But it could only have been very short lived; I don't think they were there for any particular time.
Iris: Now another industry that was in the Bay area, Ruth, was the tie mill that was in the, I suppose it's the creek bottom from St. Mary's Lake.
Ruth: I think it's called Duck Creek, that's not what we called it, but I think that's what it's known as now. Anyway, these were the portable Singer sawmills that cut railroad ties. It seems that at that particular time it would be ...
Iris: This would be the mid-'20s because I was quite small and I remember [crosstalk 00:16:17].
Ruth: Everybody worked in the tie mill, even our crippled dad worked in a tie mill. He drove a horse (laughs). On Saturdays, we could go over and take his lunch to him but he shouldn't have been working there but he was. Bill Evans was one of their original teamsters and they had a ... Oh, gosh, well I have to remember the name of that truck that Mr. Luney drove that was [inaudible 00:16:43] because he couldn't get his truck up the hill one way, he'd turn it around and back it up.
Iris: Mr. Luney was quite a character, he actually later in years lived up in Cranberry and he was absolutely and completely stone deaf and his wife used to get so cross at him that she would write him notes. And when he was reading that at her he would just crunch them all up and throw them out. He wouldn't even bother reading her notes so she can never get her anger across to him because he was frustrated at every turn.
Ruth: But his ability to drive a car was absolutely phenomenal and they always said if he couldn't get it up one way, he got it up another. When he ran out of gas he swore at it and it went. (laughs) It had no choice (laughing). Some of that is a little debatable, I guess.
Iris: After the tie mill, I imagine Chaplain's chicken ranch that they had was probably one of the biggest industries in the Bay.
Ruth: Oh yes. That was, well, it would be the area from the main road right through to Goodrich Road. He had literally thousands of birds, [unclear 00:18:02] stock that would ship literally all over the world. I think one of his biggest markets was South America, and Hong Kong, and places like that. It was egg production, as such, but basically it was for breeding stock.
Iris: You remember the Chinese help he had there, Ruth? (laughs)
Ruth: That we just loved dearly because he loved our cats, he fed our cats and then he ate our cats (laughing).
Iris: We didn't find this out till after several very plump cats disappeared from his doorstep. He used to keep them tied with a little collar and rope to his doorstep. Then that cat would be gone and he would want another kitten from whenever we had. We thought he was marvelous, he looked after our animals so well.
Ruth: Anyway, he was kind of a dear old chap, too. They had several different partners in that and then I guess it was Depression that sort of put the skids on that and various ... Mostly one partner went to Victoria, one stayed here, and one went back to England didn’t they. The business, as such, depleted and ...
Iris: Who was the chap that Inglis' bought from them. They were the place that came right up to our boundary.
Ruth: Well that was, I think, Langley was the name. Isn't that Langley Road? Yes, that's right. They were there, I never remember them, they were long gone in my memory. All those houses, I believe were all up that road that's now the corner one and the one they moved out of the Bay; that was all built by Bittancourt. It's pre-fab, he bought the lumber in Victoria and cut them all on the barge on the way up so that when he got here, all he had to do was assemble them. If they think pre-fabing is new (laughs), they didn't know Mr. Bittancourt (laughing).
Iris: When Mr. and Mrs. Inglis decided to make an autocourt out of their chicken ranch, do you remember the, when they made what they called the Community Kitchen out of the Brooder house? [Crosstalk 00:20:15] Everybody always to it as the Brooder house and poor Mrs. Inglis used to get into an absolute state because here were these guests who would be coming and we'd say; Oh, well, they're going over to the Brooder house instead of the Community Kitchen.
Ruth: It was that same family was the most fantastic neighbors you could ever get. It's really a touch of history, she sat with my mother when we were born and then she sat with me when my kids were born. You know, the kind of neighbors that probably only pioneering days will ever know because the need was so great. They needed each other so much and I don't know. They were quite a family, they had four boys and there were three of us, and the ages corresponded.
Iris: Fertile minds.
Ruth: Those kids. They were so bad, that you could only be proud of them. And I mean this wasn't naughty bad, it was just disobedient bad, but they had all bikes from our famous Aunt Honor and the booms used to be tied in Vesuvius. The little devils would get out and ride on the booms, on these bikes. Well there was broken arms, broken legs, half drowned kids being hauled out of the water all the time. It was, we didn't have bikes but I can't imagine ever having the nerve to try something like that. It's seems to me if somebody asked to dive the kids' bike off the wharf they'd fly down the wharf and go over, but they all survived [inaudible 00:21:47]. Like sending a kid to play in traffic; go play on the wharf sort of thing (laughs). They survived, but the thing that they had that we didn't have was Aunt Honor that had a good job.
Iris: She always brought them mounds of goodies at Easter.
Ruth: Their Christmas parcels were fantastic, so we all adopted Aunt Honor. Iris and I's best claim to Aunt Honor was that she'd send her clothing to Mrs. Inglis which was no more than what it always was, hand downs. When Mrs. Inglis got a new parcel, we could hardly wait to see what was in it that she was going to give to us which was usually navy blue bloomers that none of us wanted but mother thought were so practical. Aunt Honor wasn't a favorite when this happened but when sends a blouse that we liked; Well, she's a great person.
Mary: What about the Indians, Ruth, that used to fish for Bluebacks usually in the winter months here? They were marvelous people too.
Ruth: They came from Kuper Island, which is always a bit of jest here because our fisherman always go up around to Kuper and Kent Island to fish but in the early days, the Kuper Island Indians always came down around Vesuvius to fish. There could have been more than one reason for that. We never did know their name, this family. They had twelve kids, we do know that and the father would come in and sit on my dad's bed and converse with him. But he'd send the old lady and all the kids out fishing. They had a dreadful boat and they towed all these dugouts down and they'd all go fishing (laughs). He'd come in and have tea with my dad, then he'd go down on the rock and give the most god awful screech and they'd all come in from fishing. Well, mum would make them cocoa. He didn't like cocoa, but he got tea with dad. But the kids and the old lady would come in and have this cocoa...
Iris: Cocoa and buns.
Ruth: We called her 'Ad-enough actually and that was the whole thing.
Iris: Tell them how she got the name of 'Ad-enough.
Ruth: Yes. She'd come in and have this cocoa and mother would say; Will you have some more? 'Ad-enough. And you say right down the line to twelve kids; Will you have some more? 'Ad-enough, you see (laughs). We never called her anything else but 'Ad-enough. 'Ad-enough came one day and there was no kids with her and she ate all she could and she'd have enough. Mum says; Where's all your kids? Them's all got mumps (laughs). I guess if she told her this beforehand, she wouldn't have got the cocoa (laughs).
Iris: We used to have apples. Dad was a great one for, in the Bay of course, there was just hundreds of apple trees and we used to have a root cellar that bulged. An awful lot of the Indians came and traded apples for fish. We got all of our fish that way. They'd probably bring three or four Bluebacks and dad would give them half a sack of apples.
Ruth: The bigger the apple, the better. The old cooking apples that looked like a balloon, well they were just prized but their big prize were pears which they called “Bears”.
Iris: Any bears?
Ruth: And they'd say; You have bear? We have fish. And this was bartering between 'Ad-enough bears and apples (laughing).
Iris: Ruth, you should tell them about Mrs. Inglis's little boy that was burnt that time.
Ruth: This goes back to things that people are trying so hard to recapture and are missing the boat a 100%. This little chap had a very bad burn on his shoulder and it was oh so infected and inflamed and he was a very tiny little boy and he was suffering badly with this. 'Ad-enough arrived one day and she took one look at it and said; I'll be back. She went up above the Lodge and along the beach and she'd come back with a handful of real gucky looking stuff, mostly seaweed. She patted it in her hands a few times and slapped it on this kid's burn and put a patch over it and said now you leave it for three days and don't touch it. Then, of course, Mrs. Inglis was a nurse so she nearly died at this gunk going on her kid's shoulder but three days later the inflammation is all gone and it's healing beautifully. They never thought to ask her what she put on, now, you'd give your eyeteeth to know what it was.
Iris: In those days, before antibiotics and that, Ruth and I can both remember all the treatments. Mother always put on red poultices, which we find out later was the start of penicillin. If we had blood poisoning in a finger, we soaked it for probably days in hot water just in a ... And I mean hot. It was changed every ten or fifteen minutes. For impetigo which we got off the barnacles on the beach it was sulfur and lard; and that cured better and as good as any antibiotics that they have today.
Ruth: It worked, anyway.
Iris: Of course, living here too, we had the most fantastic storms. And our house, being a very old farmhouse, it's a wonder it lived through it.
Ruth: More, a badly built old farmhouse (laughing).
Iris: You remember the time, Ruth, we looked out and this was a dreadful storm and here was this house sailing past the rocks. It was one of the Japanese places up in the canal and the high tide was there and it had just literally blown it out. It went sailing past and I suppose eventually it disintegrated and the Japanese were furiously taking out nets and things that they had stored in it.
Ruth: An awful lot of Japanese was being fed very little [inaudible 00:27:58] (laughing). That same storm was probably one of the funniest things that ever happened on this farm. We had a chicken house on this side of the ridge and the wind picked all the chickens up and blew them over the hill into the other valley. These things were sailing over like footballs, not flying, not doing anything and they're not the brightest looking critter in the world and to see them sailing without flying (laughing). It took about three days to find them all.
Iris: Dad came to Salt Spring about 1918, I think, didn't he, Ruth?
Iris: He was a First World War veteran and really very badly wounded and he brought mother, who was straight from England, from London, and dropped her in the middle of Vesuvius. It was isolated here, and really isolated.
Ruth: No one lived here, then. There were houses, but nobody lived here. No phone, no light, no water, no nothing. Mother was a little person, like 90 pounds soaking wet sort of thing and I think she'd never seen a cow till she hit Salt Spring. I think the isolation and the quietness could have just about done her in, really, except that they got to love the place so much they wouldn't have parted with for anything. But I think the first two or three years must have been absolutely beyond endurance by some standards.
Iris: I know the electricity and that never came to Salt Spring until 1937, I think. We had no refrigeration, no electric light, and we ate by the season, didn't we Ruth?
Iris: In the summer, which wouldn't be approved, we ate nothing but venison all summer. In the fall, we ate nothing but venison. In the winter we ate cod and salmon because they were plentiful.
Ruth: To think of it, we ate nothing but venison (laughs) most of the time.
Iris: Dad used to shoot. Mainly, you see, the only light that we had really that was manmade was dad's pit lamp and flashlight which had five cells, it was about that long. He would go out at night and aim the flashlight over his head down his gun barrel and hit a pair of eyes and that deer was dead just that quickly. This is how ... We ate everything, we didn't waste one morsel of that meat. We ate it, and ate it, and ate it, didn't we Ruth?
Ruth: Dad was lethal with guns and he never wasted ammunition, that was expensive. Anything they shot at died, that's all there was to it. They used to pit lamp the coon on the beach because you could get about, well, 75 cents for a skin if you were lucky. This particular night, we had rowed in around to Vesuvius to go hunting this coon and he puts the light up the tree and there's the eyes and he shot but nothing fell out of it. This is absolutely unheard of, anyway, he told us to move the boat and we did and it was two stars shining through the branches and he'd done his best to shoot the middle (laughing). Hunting was over then, that was so absolutely embarrassing to have this happen. We came home, that was the end of the hunt. (laughs)
It really was a matter of survival on the ... We were raised on our dad's military pension. We were so lucky because of this military pension but nobody knew it was $7 a month. (laughs) When the season would be like around now, it would be getting just about time when the chickens didn't need grain and he'd, Dad didn't want to buy anymore; so he used to send us kids over to the beach to dig clams to supplement the chickens food. You'd throw these clams into the chicken yard, and they'd eat them, and you could eat eggs or you could eat clams but damned if you could tell the difference between them sometimes (laughing). But it was the original recycle, I guess.
Iris: Outdoor plumbing was another joy.
Ruth: Well, everybody's been trapped in the outdoor plumbing but if you made a quick dash before you went to bed with your ...
Iris: The bug. You better tell them what a bug is.
Ruth: You take a jam tin and you cut ...
Iris: But turn it sideways.
Ruth: Turn it sideways and poke a candle up through the bottom, and put a bail over the top and keep it out of the wind or else it goes out but it takes ...
Iris: It takes a good wind to blow it out.
Ruth: Anyway, you would fly for the guhooey and then have your bug go out, so there you were trapped until somebody rescued you (laughs).
Iris: Ruth and I used to make this trek every night, about 8:00 and it'd be pitch dark, and windy, and stormy and we'd get inside the little outhouse, which was a two seater I think. Then we'd start thinking that maybe there was a cougar outside and we used to stay in there for, I don't know how long, but by the time we got back mother would be so mad at us because we'd be getting to bed but no way we would get out of that door because we were sure there was a cougar. And then when we did, we'd run (laughs) ... Break the four-minute mile coming back to the house.
Ruth: This pit lamping bit, I don't imagine anybody in those early days ate any other meat but what they ... I'm quite sure they didn't.
Iris: No, everybody lived on venison, practically.
Ruth: There are some great tales about the various game wardens that weren't plentiful and made a darn good point of not coming to island, it was safer that way and the police didn't bother too much. You got pretty crafty, it was never the crime shooting the deer, it was getting caught shooting the deer and believe me, you didn't get caught; that's all there was to it. Not if you wanted to eat meat.
Iris: People in those days really just hunted to eat. They didn't, there was no game shooting, there was no fantastic deer hunting during hunting season because they hunted deer ...
Ruth: It made little difference.
Iris: It made no difference whether it was hunting season or not, people just shot the deer that they needed for food.
Ruth: Later, when the neighbors started to come. We'd be, we wouldn't be teenagers but we'd be a little, getting on to it that we had a magistrate come to live in the Bay. Dad still had to shoot deer but he was a little reluctant to be obvious about it, so he used to send Iris and I over to talk to this guy til’ we heard the shot. As soon as we heard the shot, we had to come home and help bring this beast in (laughs). Anyway, the idea was we would keep everybody so occupied they wouldn't hear the shot. If he did, he never let on.
Iris: Of course, in the summer when we had summer visitors, they would say; Oh my, what's this meat? So then we'd say; Oh well, it's veal. Either that or it’s goat.
Ruth: We didn't have goats by the way.
Iris: Either veal or goats (laughs). They thought it was marvelous, they never realized what they were eating.
Ruth: Nobody asked too many questions, anyway. Other industry, or whatever, your agriculture enterprise that was in the Bay was that violet farm.
Iris: Oh, that was beautiful.
Ruth: That was where Dr. Cox's place is and all that. It's five acres of solid violets. Then I guess they didn't make enough money off that, so they also had large chicken buildings there. Which one compensated for the other, the violets smelt beautiful, I can't say that those chickens did (laughing). That was a return, a settler, what do they call it?
Iris: They were soldier settlements in those ....
Ruth: They farmed that for quite few years and then they went back to England. Everybody seemed ...
Iris: During the Depression, they went back.
Ruth: They went back. The [inaudible 00:36:25], I'd guess we'd be, what, five and six, something like that. Those were the days when the whales went through here. Now this has to be mentioned, Mary, because it would take three days for the herds of whale to go through these narrows. I mean night and day, that channel was solid with them.
Iris: It was black, literally black with whale.
Ruth: They'll tell you now that killer whales are not aggressive and all like that, it's only because there's so few of them. Because believe me, the fights that went on out there was absolutely epic. No fisherman would stay; the Japanese, or the Indian fisherman, anybody-they got to shore fast when the schools went through. The natural, no, it's the other way around; the natural enemy of the sea lion is the whale and they would come up on the beach and they would roar their heart out but they wouldn't stay in the water. You could get within ten or fifteen feet of these enormous bull sea lions and he'd roar at you and sort of make lunges, but he would do anything but go back in that water. They would sit on the rocks for as long as the whale went through, which sometimes would be three days. You got to know the old lumps.
Iris: The different ones (laughing), yes, they had different, some of them had different ... Their skins were different.
Ruth: They were some that were much more aggressive than the others. The schools, particularly the black fish, there were others, weren't they? There were other whales that went through but it was mostly killers than went through. In the spring they seemed to go north and then in the fall, they'd be becoming back and they'd have the young with them. That was really something, you'd see this enormous fin and then the little fins ...
Iris: Beside them, yes. Of course, we used to as children, well we started walking three miles to schools, to central. At least we always said it was three, I think it's since shrunk to two and half or two.
Ruth: The roads are a lot straighter now (laughs).
Iris: Maybe this is it. Our actual entertainment as children was mainly in row boats on the beach and Ken, the oldest brother, his main Saturday occupation was catching octopus off the rocks and some of them were literally huge.
Ruth: Yeah. We've caught nine feet legs on them. (laughs)
Iris: So that would make it up to about a 20 foot octopus ...
Ruth: At the pain of saying the word wrong, the tentacles were nine feet long. It's better to call them legs, I think. That beach, I'm sure, was just literally a playground.
Iris: Yes, it was.
Ruth: We spent ...
Mary: When you started farming then, Ruth, that was about 1946, was it?
Ruth: Yeah, about that. That was about three cows, a truck, and $125 dollars I think; no barn, no nothing. Before we finished, it was 30 cows and a couple of trucks ...
Iris: Two milking machines.
Ruth: Three (laughs).
Iris: Three milking machines.
Ruth: Of course, the thing is to farm on Salt Spring, you need as much equipment to farm 70 acres as you would to farm hundreds of acres. You needed the convenience of it which defeats any project.
Mary: I think some of your experiences on that milk run are absolutely marvelous.
Ruth: For the want of a better word, devastating, I think (laughing).
Iris: Ruth and George used to start delivering at 4:00 in the morning and of course nobody was up then or if they were up, there would quite often be some fantastic arguments and different ... The wrong cars were parked in front of the wrong houses quite often.
Ruth: This is the loveliest part of it because the population was considerably smaller and everybody was known by their car, you know. You'd see the wrong cars at the wrong gate (laughs) at 4:00 in the morning and you'd go into the village and say; I know where you were last night (laughs). They either hated you or else they were very nice to you, whichever they figured would do the best good.
Mary: You should tell them about your trips with the truck in the snow, the early trips you had. It would just break the heart of a normal person, I think.
Ruth: I don't know, it's so funny now, but at the time you'd sit in the middle of the road and I simply will not go another inch. I think our epic trip was out Trip road, 5:00 one morning, and the snow plows had been out and they'd plowed the road out and made right angle turns into all the driveways. Turning the van around was just next door to impossible without a lot of two inch jiggling and George was never the most patient man at that hour in the morning. It was; Get out and tell me where I am. So you'd smack the side of the truck, whichever side he was suppose to turn to. It took 30 turns to get him turned around at Trelfords of all places.
I guess he got so engrossed in this turning that when he did get back onto the road, he took off and left me on the road, you see. And I'm thinking ‘well as deaf as he is if I yell, I'll wake up Trelfords but I'll never get George’s ears and I'm sitting there. He's gaily going on off the center and wondering why the old bag isn't answering him with all these questions and I'm not even in the trunk. He has to come all the way back, he had to go all the way to central to turn around, comes back and the same damn thing happens all over again. This turning ... I said; Enough, you go and leave me in the middle of the road again but anyway, he didn't (laughs). It seemed to me that it was, the last thing you needed on the milk run was sensitive feelings because particularly it was always snow weather. For a few winters, we had some dandies. He'd start laboring up a hill as; Get in the back. Meaning the extra weight was needed and you'd get up the hill or the particular bad spot. But he never remembered to stop and let you get back in the car and you'd be sailing through Ganges sitting in the back of the truck like a prized spaniel or something.
It was about this time, we'd even started taking a thermos with us to sort of break the monotony. 6 o’clock in the morning, when cars are going to the ferry, and here's the Heinekeys having coffee on the side of the road. They go by, they're wondering what's with them people.
Iris: You're drinking so early in the morning. (laughing)
Ruth: It seemed to me, we were always on the road long before the road crew was. I don't know why we didn't wait, except that if it was cold weather and you waited too long, the milk froze and rose above the top of the bottles. I don't know about you, but not many people are going to buy milk that's exposed two inches to the air. So we got it out there or we didn't. They'd say; Well, why do you bother? For the simple reason, if you don't get it out, you don't get paid for it and that was rather an important part of our economy was to get that money at the end of the month which not always came in and many times it was “Well we overdid it at Christmas, so you'll have to wait” or “We're planning to go away for a holiday so you won't mind waiting”. If you did mind, you wouldn't dare say so; not to them. We had lots to say about it but preferably when they weren't there. Our best things were said when nobody was there. It was good but I don't suppose anybody in their right mind would repeat it, particularly in the early morning.
Mary: I wanted to hear a little more about the Model T that your father had.
Ruth: Oh, that thing. We spent one winter in the Cranberry following these particular tie mills. I guess it's when we were all coming home that ... I don't know, everything was such an occasion. Mother would get in the front and one by one we would get into the back and everybody would be settled. Then father would crank it up and we were on our way back and we went over that bank that's just past the old, depending which way you're going, if you're coming down from the Cranberry, it's just past what's now the Gosset's farm up there, Foxglove Farm. I think it was about a 60, 70 foot bank which we went right to the bottom and then rolled over, nobody was hurt. Two big Swedes packed the car back up to the road and we drove it home. It always had a bad turn to the right, you never knew where it was going because it angled that way and it scared the gee-whiz out of people that were coming towards you, particularly if you made a left hand turn looking like you were going right (laughs).
Iris: Of course, it happened several times that you would be driving down the road and look ahead of you and here you would be your front wheel tearing along the road ahead of you. The car didn't, it stayed up even on, it didn't flop like a car would nowadays. It just was ...
Ruth: We knew better, probably (laughing).
Iris: A little [inaudible 00:45:54].
Ruth: There's a thing that you're forgetting, that mother was in that car.
Iris: Yes, mother didn't drive but she was very vocal.
Ruth: I don't think any car could have survived mother's instructions.
Mary: Now, Ruth, do you know of any particular funny incidents that happened? I'm thinking of Mrs. Inglis's store.
Ruth: These are local people, a reasonably newcomer to the Bay and as tight as a tick; he just didn't spend a nickel if he could borrow, that is. But he went to the store and bought a cake of soap for 3 cents and then when he got home, he found that he had a little piece of soap. So he brought it back and said he had only washed on it once, so would you mind taking it back. I don't know whether she did or not, she probably did.
Iris: Of course, she did.
Mary: Perhaps more driving stories too. Other people driving you, Ruth?
Ruth: These are new modern ones in a modern little Austin, when I needed a ride to Ganges very badly and Margaret Kyle, one of our, a very sweet old lady and our very valued neighbor too decided to drive me and ... You start at 90 miles standing start and you fly into the ditch over the white line, into the ditch, all the way to Ganges and when you hit the biggest hill, she says; I never drive very fast, you know, I have no brakes. About this time, you're either in a state of total collapse or you're hysterical.
Mary: Ruth, tell us about the team that were brought back from Crofton that night they'd been out [crosstalk 00:47:47].
Ruth: This goes back even before my dad's time. I guess it had to be, it couldn't be basketball because that's a reasonably new game isn't it? It had to be a soccer team that had been to Duncan to play soccer. They used to get a launch to come from Maple Bay over to Vesuvius, pick up the team, and take them back, and then they'd play their game. By the time they got back here it was getting into the wee small hours of the morning. Anyway, a highly excited team arrive and the launch lets them off at the rocks, and they all clamor ashore and find they'd been left on the farthest island of the point and they walked the island till morning wondering where the hell the road had gone to.
Mary: Then there was a rather serious note, which I think we should record here. Which was when you found that family.
Ruth: A man, and his wife, and two youngsters had been clam digging and Booth Canal and they tried to go home in the face of a storm and didn't make it, and washed in on the beach here. Actually, the storm, it was about now, it was in May that this happened. Why it was so cold but it was a bitterly cold wind that unexpectedly came up and three of them washed in and the father didn't turn up for a month or so.
Iris: What time of the morning? You were looking out of the window and ...
Ruth: My habit is to look at the beach first thing in the morning and there's a bucket on the beach so I went down to retrieve it and practically fell over these mother and two children that were washed ashore.
Iris: For one thing, in this particular channel which is Stuart Channel, it's one of the most treacherous areas in as much as the storms can get up ... Years ago we didn't have weather forecasting and they could literally get up, in ten minutes it would be calm, and within ten minutes it would be a real, raging storm. If you happened to be, I think Ruth remembers this one, we were ... I was 7 and Ruth was 8 and we were caught out in a storm. We started out in September and the weather was beautiful, mother was with us and this speaks very highly of Ruth's ability with a boat.
Ruth: And desperation probably.
Ruth: Dad and Ken, our brother, had gone hunting over at the Cranberry Outlet and we were to go and pick them up, I can't remember what the time was to be, must have been mid afternoon and we were within ten minutes of getting to that beach and four hours later we still hadn't made it ashore.
Iris: We finally went with the wind and came up on Laird's beach, which was the Rainbow Beach camp, it was an autocourt. But Ruth rowed that time, I don't know how she did it, she was thirty ... It certainly was a life and death struggle for her.
Ruth: I don't imagine you had much choice, you were there. It makes heroes out of a lot of people who didn't plan to be heroes. We were to go over there by ourselves and at the last minute, mom decided to come with us, and I don't know if that was good or bad.
Iris: Well, I think it was in a way because she could at least have an adult's outlook on things but she had just recently recovered from a very serious operation and she could have been no help as far as [crosstalk 00:51:23].
Ruth: Physically she was no help.
Iris: Physically, no.
Ruth: She probably stroked us in. One other thing, when these herds of whales would go through, the population of whales and sea lions was absolutely stupendous. You couldn't, it's unbelievable the hundreds and hundreds of these animals that were here. The big sea lion rookeries were up at Cape Mudge. They still are, but they're very minimal now. The Mounties in those days had nothing to do with civil policing at all, they were strictly federal and fisheries is federal. They would go up with the mounty boat and turn the machine guns on the rookeries to keep the population down. Just thousands of them and they had to be controlled. Cape Mudge isn't that far away and these beasts would float down and they've got about a half inch thick leather hide on them. So by the time they got down here, they were well and truly high but the leather would them together. Well, when they landed on the beach and they ruptured, it's absolutely unbelievable and it would usually be in the summer.
Getting rid of these two ton beasts was always an epic. Sometimes, they'd take them out and try to sink them – well that's an impossibility. Dad had a fantastic way of marshalling everything. You know, like; You kids get rid of that sea lion. We'd tow it out and hope it would get in the current that would take it somewhere else. But if it didn’t it just came back on the beach. These neighbor boys and ourselves, we'd tow these damn things out. One time we ran into a tug and tow going through, which had a big boom on it and we hooked this sea lion onto the end of the tow. It would take a little explaining in Vancouver why it had a dead sea lion on the end of it. The other thing was, you couldn't rid of them, there was no such thing as dynamiting them which didn't work anyway. We would tow more than one to Crofton and tye it to the wharf over there. The worst the Crofton people could do was let go of it. It would go in on their beach then. It wasn't a matter of eliminating the evidence or anything like that, it was just spreading it around a bit and if we didn't have the problem then Crofton did. They could do as they choose about it.
The other story of this same sort of thing was when the Laird's originally came to the island, which had to be even, that would be in the early 1900s. They had a whale go up Booth Canal and smother itself in the mud up there. The Laird's, this is when Toby, I think was 17 and his brother was a year or two older or younger; their solution was to dynamite the thing and get it into small pieces and that it would wash out with the tide. Being their age and everything else, they overestimated and they didn't blow the thing to pieces to go out with the tide; they merely blew it up into the trees. All summer they had this thing – you’d be walking through the woods and plat, there would go a batch of whale [inaudible 00:54:51]. They used to say; Pack a shovel, if you find a piece bury it. Well, how do you bury about a 40 ton whale? (laughs)
Iris: Ruth, I think you should tell that story about Sputnik, your cat. When you left it at the animal shelter and George thought perhaps, just perhaps, it might have come up the canal ...
Ruth: It escaped?
Iris: It had got loose.
Ruth: The only one that ever got out of [inaudible 00:55:20] was ... We went on our first holiday after we sold a herd and I thought we were going to Europe because I'd been given a present of matched luggage but we went to Barkerville and camped. We had to put the dog and the cat into the kennel and when we got home, we were gone two weeks and the day after we left, this crazy cat of ours escaped and we hadn't found it, at least two weeks later. But George got the real epic idea that the cat would find its way home, they always do but he'd go and help look for it. So he takes his gun ...
Iris: So it was hunting season, for one thing.
Ruth: Yeah, hunting season. And he walks straight through here which is two miles to the canal ...
Iris: Thinking he might see a bird you know, that he could shoot.
Ruth: You don't waste your time if you're in hunting country, you hunt, even if you're looking for the cat. He's roaming through the bush; Here kitty, kitty, kitty and he meets Ben [Greeya? inaudible 00:56:16] who says; You must be awful mad at that cat to run through the bush with a gun. George is totally embarrassed, he didn't want to be caught calling kitty in the bush when he supposedly is hunting deers. The cat didn't come home, we found it in the graveyard about two weeks after we got home. So he had been on his own for a long time.
Iris: Alive, that is.
Ruth: Yeah. He was just wondering what took us long, I guess.
Mary: Well, I don't know how all this will come out on tape, but I've rarely spent such an enchanting and entertaining morning and I just want to thank you both very much indeed.