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The Russell Island Interviews

Wendy Maurer, 2009

Accession Number Interviewer self recording
Date April 27, 2009 Location
Media wave file Audio CD mp3 √
ID Duration 28 minutes





    Memories of Brussel Island and seafood collection.
  • Wendy Mauer shares memories of Brussel Island, where she grew up and has strong connections.
  • Speaker 1 recounts childhood memories of beachcombing with their father, including collecting shells, sea urchins, and seafood.
    Childhood memories of beach trips and water activities.
  • Speaker 1 remembers a beach with cockles and a smooth rock for sliding into the water.
  • Speaker 1 and their siblings caught crabs and fish off the beach, including a close encounter with a dogfish mistaken for a shark.
  • Speaker 1 and their siblings spent a lot of time on the water, using various boats and engaging in activities like waterskiing and collecting shells.
  • Speaker 1 and their friends had a challenge of reaching the other end of the island without going through the bush, which they would scale the cliffs to achieve.
    A summer island vacation with memories of a dump area and a cliff.
  • Explored a beach with a rocky shoreline, cliffs, and a boat launch area, and enjoyed swimming and camping there.
  • Speaker 1 recalls their mother's dislike for mink and the scariness of the far end of the island where they lived.
  • Speaker 1's mother was upset when Uncle Label threw away keepsakes from the attic, and the group was not supposed to go up there.
    Childhood memories of a beach vacation island.
  • Speaker 1 shares fond memories of Uncle Label and his farm, including apple, peach, and plum trees.
  • Speaker 1 recounts childhood memories of summer vacations on an island, including beach fires, clam and crab cooking, and stories of lightning strikes.
  • Speaker 1 recounts childhood memories of visiting Wrestle Island, including learning to make fires and collecting rainwater for washing.
    Childhood memories of a small island in British Columbia.
  • Woman recounts childhood memories of rowing, singing, and encountering a seal on the water.
  • Speaker 1 recounts challenges and fun moments from family trips to Fulford Island, including dropping a pop carton and putting on a show for people on the ferry.
  • The speaker reminisces about their childhood visits to Wrestle Island with their family, including their auntie Sophie and uncle Leon, and recalls a time when their sister made a nest in a hayfield with snakes.

Speaker 1 0:00
Hi. This is Wendy Mauer, April the 27th 2009. And I'm self recording my memories of Brussel Island. My father is Harry Roberts, who is the son of Mary Jane, who is the daughter of Maria Maria Malloy, where I have Fisher. I am 50 was born in 1952. And I am the middle child that had seven I have the privilege of collecting interviews from my family members. And I want to get my memories down before I talk to the rest of them. Because I have a lot of really good memories, a lot of strong memories of Russell Island. And it's played a very important role in my life. I can remember waking up on the island. And first thing I was thinking about in the morning is where's the tide, because we would be camping in a tent down by the dock and we'd get out of bed and whipped down to the beach to see if the tide was out because we wanted to collect things out of the tide pools, find find little fish and find crabs and, and one of my personal favorite things to do was to see how many shells I could find. And my favorites were an orange colored shell that was you know, your traditional seashell shape. And they would be of course they had, they had stuff in them. You know, like these days, you'd never do this. But in those times we did. And they would be under ledges and in crevices and they were hard. Those orange ones were hard to find. And of course that made them more special. We used to once in a while go and look for sea urchins because my dad loved to eat them. I wasn't crazy about them. And I remember tasting them but that was about it. And I remember my dad ate just about anything from the ocean including sea cucumber. And I just couldn't believe that but he would go and get oysters off the beach and shuck them and eat them raw and he did anything wrong. He loves seafood. We always had clams and and crabs when we were at rustled Island, and we would dig the clams and they were small ones. And there was one little bay further down. On the inside. I think it was where the steep what rock ledges about halfway between the House and the point. And that was a beach where you could get cockles. There weren't that many of them but their shells were cool. That's how I remember them. And I remember the name was interesting. We used to swim in the little bay when you go down from the house and you go to the left and that first little bay there that's where we swam most of the time. And that's where I remember learning to swim and learning to float. And there was smooth rock that if you scraped up all the barnacles and got rid of all the shells off of it, you could slide when the tide was was coming in, you could slide down it and into the water. And so first thing we would do in the summer when we got there would be to scrape everything off so it was smooth. Again, you'd never do that these days, but that's what we did. I remember getting crabs we'd go out in our rowboat. We had a big old gray wooden rowboat. That was my sister's and that was the girl's boat. And we would roll out and then hang over the side or hang over the back and and put the order down and the crabs would grab onto the orange carefully bring it up and hope the crap didn't let go. I think we might have netted some but I don't. I don't think that was considered sporting. There was always lots of crap And now when I go back, and I look in the same areas where we would go and catch crab, there's lots of crab in those same spots. I remember fishing off the beach, just to the left where the wharf was. Remember, I remember that distinctly because one time and it was quite a low tide, there was a shark. At least that's what I thought it was, and never going getting my dad and, and actually, it was it turned out it was a dog fish, but it sure looks like a small shark to me. We always we love to fish. And there was a spot off the backside of the island. Off the point there, down where the gardener's used to camping, and just off aways. That was a good spot for cod, I think especially lingkod and rock cod. Mostly it was the guys who went fishing. But we all spent a lot of time on the water like brothers had, they would use the Klinker boat. And my dad had his speed boat. And we were we spent a lot of time on the water. We had to if we were in the boat, we had to have make sure they wear life jackets for each person. And to baleen Ken, that was part of the rules. And that was just a given it was a safety factor. And if you were gonna go waterskiing, you had to wear a life jacket. I remember, we were all thrilled when, when my dad bought a special one for skiing. I remember us going over to the Indian reservation to get water. And that was always a fun expedition. And I can remember us a whole bunch was being in the boat and just singing and singing all the way there and all the way back. We loved going to that beach because the shells there were so white, there were so many of them. So we thought that was pretty special. Because we did like shells, we would go out and collect shells, and then cover bottles with them or cover boxes with them and make jewelry boxes. And there was one part of the beach and again, it was when you come down the path to where the dog was, and you go to the left, and there's that little bay where we swim. Right at the top there. That's where we found these little tiny pink clam shells. And that was the boat, the only place we used to find those is from what I remember. And those were the most prized ones to collect didn't tend to go on to things because they were such a pretty color. And they were tiny and dainty. We used to have this challenge. Because we could go anywhere on the island we wanted. We just had to be careful. And I remember we would be gone for hours. And I didn't like walking down the trail in the middle of the island from so from going from the field down to the point. I thought that was too creepy. And scary. I didn't like doing that. So I like to walk down the beach as far as I could go. And then the challenge was to get to the other end of the island to get down to the point without going in the bush. And so you had to be daring and scale the cliffs. Well, they're not very big cliffs, as I'm an adult now. But that was the challenge. And it's interesting to go back there now and the same spots are still hard to get past without going in the bush. We did go to the backside of the island as well. But there we didn't, we didn't spend as much time on the back side as we did on the inside. There was one spot when you went across from the house straight across from the back of the house to where the dump is. To the left when the tide was out. There was a huge rock and it had a hole in it. And I remember we call that toilet paper rock because the hole was about the size of a roll of toilet paper.

Speaker 1 9:51
But if when you went to the dump, you went to the right. And there was some sloping rock that came from the water up it was almost like sort of It reminded me in my mind reminds me kind of like a boat launch area. That was a neat area to hang out. But what I remember the most is that the cliffs, were you, you know, it was a drop off to the ocean. And I used to like to look for sea urchin shells, the ones that would the birds had dropped and they'd gone and got all white. And if the tide was out, you could climb down. And then it's your way along. And then there's there's holes in the in the rock. And so you look for ones that you could sit in for a while that were big enough that you could climb into we did like to swim at the point because that was where the water was the shallowest and, and it was, so we sunny there too. But when we, when we would camp there, and the gardener's were there, that was their end. And that's where they camped. And we always, we always kept down below the house. And so she would come down the trail from the house down to the beach, we were on the right hand side. And we had tents, couple of tents, and a shelf area where that was like our kitchen and we would have a big picnic table there. And I can remember my mother would get annoyed if the mink ran through the the cap area, if I can remember seeing them running along the top of the board that was sort of like our kitchen area. And she didn't like that at all she didn't wasn't enamored of mink. And although we could go anywhere on the island we wanted, we didn't very often go down to the other end. That's where the mink lived, we were told and so of course, maybe that was a TV they told us that to try and control how far on the island we moved around. But, so that was the scarier end. And, and I don't remember a trail down that way. So it would have been a lot harder to to get to the far end. I do remember the dump having to go and take stuff over there. But also, I remember my mother being quite upset. One year when we went out there, went to the island and Uncle label had taken everything out of the attic and taken it and thrown it over the bank that was the dump and into the ocean. I remember her being quite upset that he had done that and that there were all kinds of little treasures that had been up there in the attic that were keepsakes and would have been things that people would have liked and he just threw them all away. I remember we weren't supposed to go up in the attic. I in my mind. I remember going up the stairs and looking up there and there wasn't a proper floor and that it was supposed to be what we were told it was dangerous up there. remember there being a few treasures. I specifically remember a beaded purse. But I can't remember what else when we went to wrestle island we didn't use the house except if we were having a bath. I can remember having a bath and the big tin top on that was put in the kitchen on the on the floor and we'd all take turns having about that I don't remember us using the house much like you there were a lot of us too. So they probably didn't want all his kids in there. I do remember Uncle label. I have loved uncle label. And I remember being in the living room watching him play crib and him telling me that that I was his his lucky piece. So it was okay for me to stand there by his shoulder and watch because I was bringing him good luck. So I have fond memories of Uncle label and his dog tiny and I can remember him sitting on the front porch. And in my mind, I thought that he had a goat in his Snake are in his foot. And so I've been asking people that and other people don't seem to remember that. But in my mind, I was I thought for sure that he did. And there were, as far as trees when they I mean, we all knew there was apple trees there. And remember, they were King apples. And I remember going over sometimes in the fall, my dad, my brothers would go over and bring back apples. I knew there was a peach tree. I've ever seen the peaches on it. But I don't know if we were ever, ever eating the peaches. And I remember the grapes who weren't supposed to touch because they were uncle labels. And they were when you were standing on the front porch, looking towards the ocean, they were on the left over, it seems to me probably about 20 feet. And I remember plum trees by the shed in the back with lots of plums on them. Remember, there being wood in that shed, and the outhouse. There was outhouse in the back. And it seemed to me that they they moved the outhouse from time to time every not not every year, certainly, but at times, I remember that it changed locations. We played for hours, we were gone for hours. And and I don't think anybody worried about us. We all knew how to swim. And we just had a lot of fun. And we played I remember my cousin Stan going to wrestle Island taking his girlfriend's there. And not all at the same time, obviously, but he had a girlfriend, sometimes he would take them over there and carved their initials in the tree. And I remember carving my initials in the Arbutus tree. And I looked for them. But they've obviously all grown over, I can't find them anymore. I remember that fire was something that we always had to be concerned about. We would have a fire on the beach every night, often during the day, and that's where we cooked. There was a big pot and they'd hang it over over the fire and we'd boil the clams and the crabs right there right on the beach and then and then eat them sitting on the dock.

Unknown Speaker 17:51
And we dip them in butter and garlic I think melted butter. And afterwards after we left the island I couldn't I couldn't

Speaker 1 18:08
I didn't eat clams and crabs because they just didn't taste the same. They weren't as good. But I remember stories of fun fire lightning strikes on wrestled Island and are viewed as tree on the backside. Just on the backside of the field. I remember that story about that happening and, and a bunch of people that happened to be on the island at that time working to put it out. But there was always a lot of real conscious consciousnesses about the the threat of fire and having to be safe about how we used fire. So we didn't we didn't have fires except that that once bought down on the beach. And that was important to note because my dad was a Boy Scout leader and my brothers were scouts and my sisters and I we were guides and and so learning how to make fires was something we all learned how to do we were all proficient at it and and we would not hesitate to make them when we were other places camping or hope for day trips and stuff. And so the fact that we were much more conscious of not having fires when we were at wrestle island except in the one spot to me is even more noteworthy. I can remember my mum washing clothes in the salt Chuck. And so when you come down from the house, and you go down to the beach and then to the left a little bit just at the end of that little baby where we swam. I can picture her there. Scrubbing clothes on the rocks. And we were careful about water. I never knew that there was a bathroom with a flush toilet.

Unknown Speaker 20:10
I don't remember ever knowing that until till I was an adult, which is interesting. I do you remember that there was running water, but that it wasn't drinkable.

Speaker 1 20:23
And I do remember that, we learned that rainwater was what you washed your hair with because it would make your hair soft. I remember digging in the dump, finding bits of dishes. Because of course, after we heard that Uncle label had thrown stuff out there, it was an even more fascinating place to go and check things out. When we would go out in the rowboat. We didn't very often go on the back side of the island because the fairy waves were significant in my mind. And so it wasn't very often that we would lease my sisters and I that we would roll all the way around the island. But it wasn't unusual at all, to go over to Mrs. Kings or to the other side. And I can remember on a regular basis, rowing by myself into Fulford and going to get the mail going to the store and singing at the top of my lungs. Because I didn't think that anybody could hear me. And I love to be out there all by myself. Probably because I came from a big family and you didn't get that many times to be on your own. But I loved to be out on the water. And I remember one time being scared to death, because I went over to Mrs. Kings. And I was just out rowing and a seal came up behind me. And I don't remember that there were very many seals at that time. I don't think there were and, and it terrified me because it kept following me. And it wouldn't leave me alone. And my brothers had rigged to sail up on our on our rowboat, and there was also a motor on the rowboat. But I didn't know how to use either one of them. And so I just rode like crazy and that seal followed me all the way back to wrestle Island. I can remember people waterskiing especially my brother Bruce. I mean everybody, Mary and Bruce and Garth. They all water skied. And my dad. And I was I was just learning how to do it when when they saw the island. I remember falling off halfway between Russell Island and Saltspring one time and being absolutely terrified because I didn't know what was underneath me. I had never thought about it to that point. But I remember my brother Bruce, especially because he would. He was a great water skier. And he's the oldest and he smoked. And so the trick was to have a cigarette and have it in your mouth and lit and still be smoking it when he got to the dock and Fulford and got off and got out of the water. So that was one of the challenges. And I remember another one was you dropped a pop carton. So they were these wooden cartons that held six bottles of pop. And they would drop it be out skiing and drop it and then the boat would come around and they'd have to pick it up because it floated and so be able to pick that up. And I can also remember tandems skiing either Bruce and marier or Bruce and Garth or Marian Garth. And then if the ferry was going by my dad would would go down parallel to the ferry so they could show off and put on a show for the people on the ferry. And the ferry was the side Peck and everybody knew that the signal was if there was somebody coming on the ferry to wrestle Island, the captain would toot the horn and then you knew he had to go and pick them up in Fulford. When we would go over to the island, we'd have a ton of stuff to take, of course, because there's so many of us in our family. And so the boat would get loaded up in collagen Bay. And one or two people would bring it across either Stanley or my brothers. And because my mom didn't drive, and then the rest of us would come across on the ferry, and from Crofton, and then we would drive to the kings. And then dad would park in the orchard and flash the headlights. And then they would know that people on the island would know that we were there. And no to expect us or if somebody came out and they wanted to ride they wanted to ride over to the island. They park in the orchard and flash their headlights. And I remember we always called Mrs. King Auntie Sophie. My dad always called her auntie Sophie and Uncle Leon. That's how I remember them. And everything was being old people, but very kind, very nice old people. And I loved her garden. She had all these things, creatures made out of driftwood. And she had a castle, a little castle made in her in her garden. And we were allowed to wander through her garden when we were when we were there. So it was considered a special place to go visit. We all loved wrestle Island. We had lots of good times there. I remember one time I remember cutting the hay in the hay field and cutting it by hand with the side. And I remember my sister Mary one time decided that she was going to make a big nest out of the hay when big enough that she could sleep in it. And she did only she wasn't expecting there to be snakes in it with her. So that wasn't a very happy thing to come out of that. I did remember thank God I didn't sleep in there with her because I petrified of snakes. And I know there's snakes on the island. But I didn't remember that there were as many as I'm hearing about from other people's stories. Maybe that's another reason why I always walked on the beach instead of through the field and on the path down the middle of the island. I don't know because I've always been terrified of snakes

Speaker 1 28:02
going to stop this now. And I have some notes that I'll check to make sure that I've covered everything I want to cover