Date 1977 •  Media tape • Audio CD  48:04 min • mp3 11MB

Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Stone talk about some of the old families on the Island, their childhood and wartime memories, and about Harbour House Hotel, owned by the Crofton family.


I. MORRIS, DOREEN (nee Crofton)

II. STONE, BETTY (nee Kingsbury)




VI. AGRICULTURE: Poultry farming


VIII. BUILDINGS: Harbour House Hotel, Barnsbury, The White House



XI. BUSINESSES: Mouat's, Harbour House, White House


XIII. DOCTORS: Dr. Beech, Dr. Baker







XX. TRANSPORTATION: Ferries, Water Taxi, Cars



XXIII. NAMES: Rev. E. F. Wilson, Henry Bullock, Mr. Mansell, Mr. 

Blackburn, Granny Gyves







Transcription by Usha Rautenbach:

Today we have the story of two people born on Salt Spring. Our interviewer is Mrs. Dorothy Wrotonowski, née McMillan, born in Duncan in 1907. Dorothy wrote for the Colonist for over a quarter of a century. Today she is interviewing Doreen Morris, née Crofton, the granddaughter of Reverend E. Wilson, and daughter of Mr. Fred Crofton, who was the original owner of Harbour House Hotel. With us also, we have Mrs. Betty Stone, née Kingsbury, who was born in 1912, on the Old Divide. Would you like to begin the interview, Dorothy?

DW: Yes. Betty Stone, when did your parents come to the island?

BS: Dad came out from Ireland in, I think it was 1903, via Australia, with a pal, Hugh Green, who also settled on the island, near Fulford. Daddy bought up on the Old Divide and he was going to go in for chicken farming, although he didn’t know anything about it, and mother followed him out the following year, and they were married down in the church at Fulford, and I understand they were the first couple married in that church.

DW: Was that St. Mary’s?

BS: Yes. And Mother came out from Dublin; she was a city girl, and had never done anything, and she found it terribly lonely up where they were, they didn’t see people for two or three weeks at a time, and the chicken ranching didn’t amount to anything. So before the war Dad was postmaster down at Ganges, for Mrs. Mouat, who was known as Granny Mouat in those days, and we lived where the Hastings are now (2008 Hastings House), and were next door neighbours to the Croftons, so I sort of grew up with them. And then when war broke out, Daddy joined up and we left for Victoria, and then returned 11 years afterwards.

DW: And you were born, weren’t you, Doreen, here?

Doreen(C)M: I was born at Harbour House. 

DW: Which was a landmark, and still is.

Doreen(C)M: Which was a farmhouse at the time, in 1911.

DW: Was it run as a farm?

Doreen(C)M: It was a farm, ‘til 1916.

DW: And that’s when your mother -?

Doreen(C)M: My mother and my uncle Norman Wilson went into partnership, for a short time.

DW: That was when your father was overseas?

Doreen(C)M: He was overseas, yes.

DW: That was Mr Fred Crofton, wasn’t it.

Doreen(C)M: It was Fred Crofton, yes.

DW: And they started by tents, wasn’t it?

Doreen(C)M: It was tents, and candlelight, no electricty. I think the family, we all did the cooking to start with, ‘til our faithful Billy Eng came, 40 years ago or so.

DW: Yes, well, it was actually, wasn’t it, that your mother felt that friends of hers in Vancouver must be lonely with their husbands overseas and asked them to come for -?

Doreen(C)M: Yes, well, it just grew, by, you know, knowing many people who want it. When you think of it, it was $14 a week or something like that. Some of it was even cheaper than that, you know, to stay for weeks on end.

DW: You’ve always lived on the island, haven’t you.

Doreen(C)M: Yes.

DW: So you’ve seen tremendous changes that have come. Some good, some bad, no doubt.

Doreen(C)M”\: Well I certainly have. Some are sad to see, the changes, and others I think is all to the good, when you think.

DW: As a small child what are your memories of the island?

Doreen(C)M: None of us had very much money. No. It was all like it was, I think, for anybody in those days, don’t you think. So if anybody gave us five cents we thooght we had a million dollars! Which I remember very kind people giving to us.

DW: Not only that, your fun would be made by yourselves, too.

Doreen(C)M: Oh yes, yes. And my brothers went over digging potatoes on Prevost Island, when they were 12 and 14, when Dad was overseas, just to make money, and we had a, this was, you know, during the war when Mother ran the hotel herself.

DW: Your father must have been rather surprised to come back and find his family -

Doreen(C)M: Yes, a growing family. (laughter)

DW: How many were there in your family?

Doreen(C)M: There were seven. Six before he went, overseas. So she was left with little ones, but the older ones (Dermott and Desmond), and then you know, sister Diana, she was the older one.

DW: Your grandfather, Reverend E.F. Wilson, was he not the first resident Anglican clergyman?

Doreen(C)M: Well, there has been controversy over that, but I always believed he was the first resident.

DW: But he was here quite long time -

Doreen(C)M: - from1894 ‘til 1912, and then he went to Victoria. They actually came from Soult St. Marie to Victoria on the Burnside Road, and that was the second Barnsbury, because the old home in England was called Barnsbury. Then they called this home on the Burnside Road Barnsbury, and then when they moved to Salt Spring Island, in 1894, Barnsbury which is now the Salt Spring Island Golf Club.

DW: The big old house that was there burned down, didn’t it. But it was a golf club before that, just started, really.

Doreen(C)M: Well, quite few years before. I think Uncle Norman was dead when it burned down. It was Lois and Jack Hayes -

SW: And in your sort of earlier memories, you almost must have known  everybody on the island. 

Doreen(C)M: Yes, we did. We can remember funny things about them all. Betty and I were reminiscing about old Mr  Mansell, who used to drive a horse towards Long Harbour. Oh, it was just when the first motor cars were coming in, there was a gas pump at the Trading Company. So he blithely would drive up and tie his rope around the gas pump while he went in to get his stores! (laughter) And then he always visited the pub. Dad started the beer parlour, in about 1923 or 1924 - it was after he came home, it took a while to get a licence.

B: The first car was Mr. Blackburn’s up in the Divide, and then Mr/ Bullock. Daddy was secretary to the agricultural show in those days, and he wrote a letter to Mr. Bullock.

asking Mr. Bullock if he’d drive his car

Because the horses were scared

Doreen(C)M: Wasn’t there another day when the ladies wanted to drive or ride on their horses or their pony carriages?

B: He was definitely restricted to when he could drive his car, or when he could bring it down

DW: Well, Blackburn, is that where Blackburn Lake is named after? And is now that museum?

B: - I was born at the Divide

DW: Well, there was no road as we know it now. It went over the Divide.

B: Over the Divide to Fulford. 


We’d go up the mountain and collect ten cents each and get a jug of wine -

Doreen(C)M: - and call it Mountain Dew

B: - or Nelson’s Blood, and all kinds of weird things, and we’;d all go up and get a gallon of this stuff for fifty cents and drive home quite happy.

DW: - Never ran into any

Of course I think that the old Fords that we drove couldn’t go fast enough, the roads were very windy, and you’d think you were going at a terrific rate, but it was just the bumps and the bangs that were going on.

And then you

And then you moved to Victoria and came back, didn’t you

B: - Well I left the island when I was two, and came back when I was 13.

DW: - And you were in charge in the telephone

BS: - Well, I went to work in the telephone office in about 1926 I guess. In those days it was open from 10 to 1, and 5 to 7 on Sunday, and it closed at 10.30 at night, on weekdays; until during the war, just after Japan entered the war, there was a deal of Jap balloon landing being

sighted on Maxwell Mountain or Musgrave’s, I’m not sure which, it was one of the high mountains, and so I had to keep the office open all night (because we had blackouts in those days, you know, you had to check everybody with their blackouts) and that was the first time that the office (was open at night) - from then on it was open at night. In those days there were only 200 subscribers - there’d be 7 or 8 on a party line - and at night if there was anybody very ill, we had sort of a three-way plug, and we’d plug them in with the doctor, or if there was an emergency, they’d either wake Miss Aitkens, who was the Agent, or myself, and we’d go and open the office for any emergencies, which there were once in a while.

DW: - Well, there’d be no ambulance then, would there?

BS: - No, no. And if there was a fire you’d just phone up anybody that was around.

Doreen(C)M: - And the questions you used to get! We’d phone the telephone operator and say “Is the boat coming down the harbour? What time is the Mary coming in?” Or “What is the time?”, and we always very politely got this answer, you know, they’d give us the time. And if there was a fire “Where was the fire?”, and ‘Central would always tell us’.

BS: - And then somebody would phone and they’d want So and So, and we’d know that she was out playing Bridge or at tea, and say “Oh, well, try Mrs. So and So, she’s over there.”

DW: It was more of a friendly exchange than a telephone exchange!

DM: - It was certainly missed.

BS: It was a terrific deal on election night in the old days, because it was definitely Liberals and Conservatives, and the Croftons were the Conservatives, and the Mouats were the Liberals, you see. And every tme Uncle Fred would have a grandchild, there would be another Conservative  -

DM: No! A child first -

BS: A child first, yes -

DM: Because he’d phone Gilbert and say “I’ve got a Conservative vote.”

BS: - but that was before my time.

DM: And then as you say, it would be a grandchild.

DE: And would Mouat reciprocate?

DM: Oh yes, they were great pals, and took it all as -.

BS: And I geneally was working election night, and if the Conservatives were winning, Major Turner was a great Conservative, I’d get a little present from Turner’s Store, and if (the Liberals) were winning, I’d get a box of chocolates sent over from Mouat’s, so it was sort of up and down!

DW: As if you had anything to do with it, really.

BS: Oh, it was bedlam!

DM: - Fighting!

BS: When (St. Paul’s) church was burned down- it opposite Claire Butterfield’s, it was right on (Ganges) Hill. Ivan Mouat rushed down and woke me up and said the church was on fire, and I dashed down to the telephone office and phoned everybody round to go up. We all went up afterwards, and saw it.

DM: - Mr. Bullock’s house was burned, Harbour House, Barnsbury.

DW: He was quite a personality on the island for years.

BS: Oh, very much. He taught me how to drive. And he had a car, he was very large, I guess you’ve seen pictures of him, and the wheel of the car, when you got in it would go up, so he could get under it, and then it would come back into place. Oh, he was an amazing person. He taught me how to carve ham and chickens. He’d have these dinners and he’d ask different girls on the island to be hostess, and we’d have to know how to, you know, properly carve things. If you were asked to supper you wore a short dress, if you were asked to dinner you wore a long gown. And he had all these boys from the orphanage in Victoria.

DM: But also, a seven course dinner, and these cream sauces on  everything, and all the time he’d be talking about an 18 inch waist, and here he was feeding us up, we were almost groaning with food!

 a long pair of earrings - kid gloves - sixteen inch heels

DW: Sixteen! You mean six.

BS: I mean six.

Doreen(C)M: And he did tell us even if we went to Ganges to meet the boat or anything, we should all wear high heels, and he liked a veil, and gloves, just to give a good appearance, that people would see.

He was a great one for gimmicks. Well, he wouldn’t buy one, he’d buy a dozen.

He was terribly generous, he’ gibe these things.

They say a lot of girls that used to come over here for holdiays, you could tell, they’d go back -

Doreen(C)M: With the ears pierced.

DW: Who pierced ears here on the island then?

Doreen(C)M: We all went to the doctor, but he would do it himself, if anyone would let him. He always gave you the little gold rings, the sleepers; that was the first thing he always gave to anybody that got their ears pierced.

BS: But the shoes were really quite something, he’d have all the sizes  -

DW: Was he on the shoes too?

BS: Oh yes, beautiful shoes, but they had this -

DW: - six inch heel.

BS: Yes.

DW: But you couldn’t wear those down to meet the boat, those were for - 

BS: Oh, you were supposed to wear them as much as you could.

I didn’t know you could!

Oh yes they were very good about it. (laughter)

There were some from Etons, you know, French kid

the long white ones, they’d cost a mint now

But he had a great big bureau

Well, it was numerous bedrooms

And all these drawers were all labelled

BS: And these boys were great for (music), they’d have saxophones and all different instruments in the kitchen, do you remember? We’d be having dinner, and he used to entertain Fraser Tolmie, and quite a lot of the well-known, and Lieutenant Governor Bruce, and there’d be this little silence during dinner and you’d hear this terrific saxaphone going in the background. The boys felt they’d cooked the dinner, and then they were having fun and games.

What about opportunity for them, though; it would be an education for them

Oh yes, and he was very good to them.

Well, the Log Cabin was started, he bought that for one of his boys who’d cook up there. He built the Log Cabin. Which is now the Ship’s Anchor.

Q. Where did you first go to school?

We went to Miss Ashton, who was later Mrs. Oxenham, 

- and she had a little school in Ganges 

Yes, kindergarten - that’s the one I had the picture of, that I’m afraid I burnt, I had it put away for Miller and Toynbee, and it’s disappeared.

And then we all went to the public school. First, there was one where Mrs. Case Morris, where Gavin Mouat lived at one time, and then the next one was up where the Catholic school (sic - church) is. 

Then we went to a chicken - that was the High School - a converted chicken house on the Agricultural grounds - behind the Mahon Hall.

It’s really where the junior school is now, but it was a High School, converted from a chicken coop as we called it..

We had a lot of sports on the island when we were young.

Very keen athletes.

Tennis, and grass hockey

And the boys were basketball - 

We played basketball too. 

We did too, but they were better than we were.

Well I wouldn’t say that!

Oh I think they were. I think they beat the Blue Ribbons at one time, Salt Spring.

Oh did they?


Oh, we used to go over to Chemainus and to Duncan and play the Black Cat Café. (laughter)

We weren’t very popular in Duncan, I don’t think.

No, we weren’t, but that’s another story. (laughter)

I remember we used to walk up to St. Mary’s Lake and you could skate right across St. Mary’s Lake. And we’d walk up to Bullovk’s, we didn’t mind walking in those days.

Yes, a great bonfire we’d have at the edge of the lake and skate..

You could skate right across St. Mary’s Lake.

That was only one winter. I think it was only one winter when it was very solid. But Mr. Bullock’s lake we did.

There were other tennis courts than those at Harbour House.

Mr. Bullock had a tennis court we used to play, and Mrs. Halley out at the North End.

Yes, Mrs. Halley and the Bests.

And the Simpsons.

The other thing in the old days was the boat, I’ve forgotten which was the one that used to come in, I’m thinking of Dad and George Borradaile’s time and the boys that used to like to have the odd drink. The captain, they’d go on board and the captain would take the boat out.

They had a bar, didn’t they, yes.

I think they had to be, what was it, five miles out or something, and they’d open the bar and bring the boys back. One time Dad and George Borradaile came to and they were in Nanaimo!

They probably did have a nice trip.

They’d order their liquor in kegs, you’d get a keg of Scotch delivered. Mum used to say all the ‘good boys’ around would spot the name on the keg, and you’d have visitors for the next two weeks, dropping in.


Accession Number   Interviewer DOROTHY WROTONOWSKI
Date 1977 48:04 min
Media tape Audio CD   mp3