Joan Milner


Interview with Joan Milner who ran a guest house, boarding house for BC Hydro.

Mother, acted as ears for Dr. Sutherland 1926 -29. Dr Sutherland was deaf.


Accession Number   Interviewer Sue Mouat
Date 1991 Location


Media cassette tape Audio CD   mp3 √
ID 145 duration  
Transcript by Susan Good

Joan Milner

Interviewer_Sue Mouat

Date: 1991

Place: Brinkworthy

ID 145



“I was wondering when the first time you came to the island?”


“I was 20. Mother and Dr. Sutherland went to boarding school together. When mother was Elizabeth Hardy and she was Eva Snowball. I can’t remember her maiden name. Snowball was her first husband.”

Sue: “He was in medical school too then?”

Joan: “Yes, She came out of University of Edinbugh and she was top of all the medical class. She was not popular with the men. They took a Liverpool practice. He looked after the men and she looked after the women.

So, then they had the Liverpool practice for some years and he was a highly strung young man and took to drugs. So suddenly one day he disappeared. Dr. Snowball which she was then, had a very bad breakdown. They took her down to London and the Harley street physicians said she only had 6 months to live. She had a brain tumour. So she said if she just had 6 months then I’m going to go and find my husband with a detective. So, between the detective and herself they found him at Bella Bella in the last stages of drugs with a very tiny practice. Just enough to buy his drugs and she buried him up there and took on his practice and it just flourished. She persuaded them up there to build a hospital and she ran that. Then there was a British Naval training ship. Then one of the officers was taken off the ship to her hospital with TB and she nursed him back to health. He was a good many years younger than she was but anyway she married him. Then after a little while, a year, maybe 18 months, she thought, now this is no climate for Billie. Billie must go to a climate that is more acceptable for TB patients and she looked all through all the information she could get. The Gulf Islands was the most even climate in the world so she brought him to Salt Spring and opened her practice here. It flourished. She fought with the other one. The only other doctor that was here. You see there were two doctors here. I’m 86 now and I was 20 then. Whoever it was they didn’t get along at all. She drove a little box of a car. One of the very first ones. She drove right down the middle of the road and Lord help anyone that was in her way. They scattered.  She really was a character.

I remember one case she had and you’ll probably know who it was. They lived on St Mary’s Lake. They had two little girls and they lived where the Mouats used to live looking down over the lake on the high side near the abattoir right near there. The big tall second story house there looking down over the lake. She had one daughter then she had the second daughter and after the first daughter, Eva said you “must never have another child. Your heart is on your right instead of on your left side and I will not be responsible for delivering you for any more children. Of course she had another child and of course Eva Maude did deliver her. She was a very clever doctor. She’s come from a very big practice in Liverpool to a very little place on Salt Spring. They were very lucky to have her. “

Sue: “That would be the Burkett family, I think.”

Joan: “That’s it.

Eva Maude in herself was a character. She was tubby and she wore three pairs of glasses pinned on her blouse and mother said she took them all off when she really wanted to see.

My father and Dr Sutherland’s husband died within 4 months of each other. Eva Maude and mother were 54 then and so she came to Vancouver and I was in Vancouver just starting in training when my father died in ’26 and my sister was still in England being finished. She was 4 years older than I and they sent her to England because she was going to live with her grandmother and three maiden aunts. They didn’t think that wild ? Joan would ever be fitting there so they sent me to St Margaret’s because there were no high schools where we were in the Similkameen. And then she came over and she said, Elizabeth, Joan’s in training, Marjories coming back with the thought of going in training and she said, I wish, I wish. I wish you’d just put your things in storage and come over to me and live for three years at least. I’m lonely and I really want you and the girls don’t really need you.  She said let’s ? get their training over. So mother consented. She put everything in storage and she came over here and lived here for three years. She used to tell us afterwards when we were nursing, She said Eva Maude said half the people who went up there, there was nothing wrong with them so she said she’d concoct a bottle of water with a little bit of colouring in it and some peppermint or something and got along just fine.

She had a fetish for entertaining and all her goodies that she had at the entertainment were from the Bon Ton in Victoria and they were good. Mr. Bullock always came and Mr. Bullock stuffed his pockets with everything he could stuff in them and ate all he could eat and then they departed. And one of his


Well, Captain Best and I used to, if I was on holidays, used to do whistling duets. My father and I used to do whistling duets which was fine until I lost my upper teeth. That was the end of my whistling which was very sad.

Eva Maude had another thing. She had very, very tiny feet and I mean tiny feet. She took size 31/2 if she took that even. She had at least well over a hundred pairs of shoes. She changed them all the time and they were all beautiful shoes. She went to Victoria for her shoes or had them brought out.

It was very pleasant because there was so much Japanese help so really mother was a companion. Eva Maude was very deaf and she would not wear hearing aids, well, such as they were. She wanted to have a trumpet, yelling into her trumpet. Mother said she suggested that she go down and interview the patients and let her know because you could hear her blocks away you know she was bellowing and didn’t realize she was bellowing. So, mother used to do it and she got very interested and said she could understand why Joan and Margie wanted to go in training because of course we were interested. So, they got along very well and then at the end of the time when I was finished and my sister was almost finished mother said, “no I must go home and make a home for the girls.” And Eva Maude did everything in her power to dissuade her. I will leave you everything I have Elizabeth if you will stay with me. The girls don’t really need you. But mother said, “yes they do”. I’ve had one trip back to England in the 25 years I’ve been out here and I would love to have stayed but I couldn’t. I have my only children, my daughters here, I had to come back she said. So she did. Well, Eva Maude was not amused but anyway they stayed very good friends and she moved to Victoria. She died in Victoria. What about her husband. Oh he died. She’s not buried here is she? I’m surprised she didn’t want to be buried with him.

Sue: “Was he buried here? How much longer did she stay after your mother left?” Jean: “Oh, a good many years. Dr Bryant, Dr Colonel Bryant as you remember that lived on the goat farm. When Eva had to go on a conference or something Dr. Bryant would come along. Mother and Dr Bryant got along very well indeed and became close friends and Ruth Maude was another one. After she went to Victoria, I can’t remember where she lived but she lived in a very, very nice home. Cherrybank. So I can’t really tell you any more than that.” Sue: “ Did her husband eventually die of TB?” Joan: “ Oh yes he was too advanced. She did her best to keep him going. He died when my father did. He died at a relatively young age. My father was 54 but Billy Sullivan was definitely much younger. He was a naval officer . She was 8 or 10 years older.”

Sue: “She did practice on the other islands too didn’t she?” Joan: “ Oh yes, that was lovely. It happened when I happened to be over here holidays with my sister. She would rent a boat and we would go and she always dropped us off at the Halls on Mayne Island. We were there while she did the children, all the school children and then of course we’d get back on the boat and go to Galiano. I don’t remember her doing Pender but she certainly did Mayne and Galiano. She may have done the others but I wouldn’t be here, my holidays weren’t that long.

That was a real joy.

Sue: “Did she keep a little office on any of the other islands? “ Joan “Oh no, no. She just worked for the department of health.”

Sue: “Do you remember what boat she used to come over on Joan?” It was a little boat. It was a taxi. S. “Oh no, I meant when you used to come over from Vancouver.” Joan “ The Princess Mary. Dear old Mary. Lovely, dinner, crystal and full silver, napkins and dining service. $2.50 for a bridal suite, $. 75 cents for a full dinner. I didn’t mind that it took 8 hours to get there. Oh I had a lovely cabin to myself with a magazine and the time to read it and not hearing the turkeys squawking.”

S. “When did you take over the turkey farm?” Joan “1946.” S.: “ Was that just after Archdeacon Holmes left the house?” J: “ Yes, when we moved in he was moving out with all the things still there. Mrs. Holmes was still busy burning things in the kitchen stove so the so called furnace were just jam packed with things they didn’t want.  He wanted us to take the chickens and you can’t mix chickens with turkeys. Arthur was at the back getting the incubators into the building there and I was in the front receiving furniture and the piano arrived and there were no men there to help me so I was at one end of the piano and the mover at the other and I wondered why my back went out. Oh, that was  ’46. And the washing was still hanging out on the front veranda and Mrs. Holmes was quietly going through her recipes. Oh that night, Willie Palmer was one of the wardens and I’ve forgotten who the other one was. Mr Price one of the Price boys and they were running up and down the stairs, there were a lot of books up there and it was wet and muddy and you can imagine what the house was like by the time they finished. Mrs. Holmes was never a good housekeeper at the best of times. So that night the Wilson’s, bless their hearts, who had been great friends of mother’s. Mrs Wilson called and said bring the children over and we’ll give you an early supper. Of course the children were exhausted by this time and so were we.

It cost us all of fifteen dollars to move everything from Galiano. I went to Galiano.” S: “ Oh, you were on Galiano before this?” J: “ I went to Galiano for 18 months before the end of the war. I just couldn’t stick the city any longer, I just hated cities.”. S. “ Did you raise turkeys on Galiano? J. “” Oh no, Arthur was in the army from the very first day he was an officer in the reserve army. He was called up on the first day of the war and he was in it until the last. He ended up in Shaunessy Hospital with frightful ulcers and eventually he lost 1/6 of his stomach. So I had to think of somewhere where he could calm down and be happy. Oh he wanted to go back into turkeys but I didn’t want him to go back.”  Well he had been into turkeys before. We went into it in desperation because he was in to stocks and bonds. We lost everything we had in the crash and his job. There was nothing. I was nursing, the head nurse at the General in a male surgical ward. We could have lived on it quite happily but you weren’t allowed to nurse once you were married that was it, your husband was supposed to look after you. Well, he couldn’t. He just didn’t have it. So we went intothem. Here was old Jesse Throsun. Real old countryman, you know, surrounded by turkeys said anybody with guts could make a living. So I had a little box of a car that wasn’t paid for either. But anyway, I drove Arthur out there and they just fell into each others arms. We stayed with them for 10 days and learned all about the turkeys. We started off with two toms and 25 hens,  a box of a house that didn’t have a bathroom, had a sink fortunately and a cow, we had a cow.” S. “ Where was that Joan?” In Newton.  You go up Scott Hill to Newton. That’s another story. And I thought when we came over here and I thought if I had a resort and Arthur could raise maybe 500 turkeys. Now, that would be retail and you know you never lost on retail.  But of course we’re out west, They don’t know us in Ottawa so they refused to let the veterans out here that wanted to do that business. They let the veterans in the east do it but not us so we put all our money into this turkey business. So it was too late we couldn’t switch so I really resent that Ottawa. And I do because I think that he would never have gone downhill as much as he did. It was Mouat’s that saved our bacon because he worked for them for 8 years as well as running the farm and I had boarders, I don’t know what all.” S.” Did you have outer island children boarding?” J. “ Yes, I had a boy from Mayne Island for three years of his high school. He was an awfully nice boy, He’s a dentist now. I can’t remember his name. His mother’s name was May” S. “ So you didn’t have adults you just had….” J. “Oh well, then I had paying guests and they were a pain in the neck. They wanted cups of tea or they wanted to hang their washing out or they wanted this or that or they weren’t feeling well so could they have breakfast in bed etc. etc. I didn’t have time. I worked just as hard outside as I did inside. So then of course what saved our bacon was when the Hydro went across and Des Crofton said this hotel was full and they tried everywhere to get places for all these people that were building the hydro so he came and said,” Joan and Arthur, you’ve got lots of bedrooms.” Well we had five bedrooms so he said,” Joan, would you consider taking some and to make some money.” So, I did for eight months I had twelve men. Sue “Did you have to feed them?” Feed them and lunches. It was a busy time plus the turkeys. Well, on the strength of it we sent the children out to boarding school. Ann was 13 and there were very, very undesireable boys getting much too, she was afraid of them as they never left her alone. So, school was not what it is today. Not by a long shot. It had either the has- beens or the ones that should have retired. They had one or two good teachers but when Miss Olson ran it during the war it just ran perfectly. Anyhow, our boy went out at nine. Both the children hated going of course, we hated them going. But we were very grateful afterwards. They both did well and I think they would not have done so well had they gone here. So, that was that. So right almost at the tail end around the last 6 months, Katy Marpole whose husband were the Marpole family that owned Marpole. Well, one of her daughters married Bell Irving. Well, Katy used to come when the Wilsons had boarders. All year. They used to play golf. When the 2 seasons were over the Freelys used to take over the Wilson house. They used to go to Welbury, they used to come to us. We became very close friends. Poor old Katy, she, well Monika died, Bell Irving. She died of cancer at an early age and Katy, she had a heart attack and Dot, the one who never had married who was in the tourist bureau had phoned and said “Joan, all Katy wants to do is come to you and I couldn’t possibly. I had 12 men in the house. Anyhow Arthur and I slept out on the porch.  We had to because there wasn’t any room for us inside. I put another bed up in the playroom. I put 7 beds instead of 6 and Katy had a bed in what was Archdeacon Holmes study. It had a fireplace and of course Katy had to have her breakfast in bed every morning and of course one of them didn’t get breakfast.

She loved all these men. She would get into her brocaded lovely lovely clothes at night and be the queen bee. And the men loved her. They got the biggest kick out of her and she did them too.

Sue: “I didn’t realize that the Norman Wilsons took boarders too.” Oh yes, they had to. Sue: “It was in the 30’s when farming wouldn’t pay at all. Well some of their land was rented out to the James Seed Company too.” That’s right. It’s a long story too. Oh, Mrs Wilson was a treasure. Always had a cigarette hanging out the corner of her mouth but she was a very, very well educated delightful person Oh their library was gorgeous. She kept so many gorgeous books. Sue “I wonder what would have happened to those books” I don’t know what happened. Well, I guess they went up in the fire. I was on night duty and I’d just got up when I called to Arthur. He was upstairs on a very damp dark day and I think it must have been in November. One of the Wilson girls, Lois Bride the one who had the son. Lois and her son had been in and well they’d gone out and left the fire going or had not put a screen on. The whole place went up. Well Arthur went over and saved a lot of the golf clubs but not all. Sue: “the golf club had a room in the house” J. Yes. I can always see that house. It was a lovely old house, it really was.

S.”Do you remember the year that the Wilsons moved out? Because it became a golf club in ’28 but I think they stayed on. I think they were still there when we came” No once they put in a bar in the golf club they didn’t have boarders. I can’t think of anything else about them except they were quite a family. S. “I have never seen such wonderful hostesses as those girls” The flowers, the decorations. The flowers were gorgeous, the whole Harbour House was…The ambiance was so friendly. Well, you knew everyone. Sue: “Well even if you hadn’t. I remember the first party I went to at Barnsby, the girls were so good to me.” I do remember one thing about.. when the islands started to get a few more people and very few when Nora and Zena Loginski came around for afternoon tea. And we had build a sundeck and we were sitting there which looked onto the road, you know, high up and Nora turned to Zena and said I don’t think Zena we will go driving again on Sunday afternoon. There are too many foreigners. I loved Nora and Zena. Zena lived with us. He was one of our boarders when he was engaged to Nora.

Sue “Joan went on to tell me that Dianna had a very roving eye and was a bit tired of Adam. She went on to tell me some very libelous things about some people on the island some of which I took with a grain of salt.”