Salt Spring Island Archives

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Joane Milner

Mrs. Milner talks of her married life on the Island, as a turkey farmer and nurse and mother.

Accession Number 989.031.028 Interviewer Tony Farr
Date March 2, 1984 Location SSA Cassette tapes box File #1A to File #23 Shelf 8C
Media Audio CD
ID 24




Unknown Speaker 0:01
This tape is being made by Mrs. Joe Miller on March the second 1984.

Unknown Speaker 0:08
My husband and I were married in 1932, in the midst of the Depression, and went out farming in desperation as there were no, there was no employment in my husband's career and went to farming turkeys in the freezer. Well, approximately the Fraser Valley. We were seven years in the business of breeding and breeding and hatching business. When my husband was called at the first day of war being in the non permanent militia, this was 1914 1940 3919 39. He was in the army. As he was a trained officer, he was in the army for six years after the war, he was not a well man and was eventually released from shot to see for me to see if I could cope with his ailments. And it's so it happened that we had to look for somewhere where there was not too much tension, not too much. And property where we could go back into the turkey businesses, which is the only thing we knew after seven years of being in business. So eventually, after looking many places, we came back to Salt Spring because we both had previous associations with Salt Spring and loved it. My association was in 1926, my father died. My mother came to live with it. A very old school friend who was a lady doctor on the island and lived here for three years. And I in the Vancouver General Hospital as a pupil nurse and my sister in St. Paul's as a pupil nurse came for our holidays for three years running and really fell in love with the island. My husband came in military maneuvers when he was the BC BC, life horse and he also knew the island. And so with the help of good friends of my mother's we located on the island in the old Anglican property up at Central and started our business once again. And that is how we came to Salt Spring in 1946. February of 1946 in a snowstorm from there on our life was one of being two very very busy people. And that is perhaps you would like to know what we found that time on the island. It's so very very different today is it was it was before he six begin with in the village was no park. There was no fire department. As such, there was a volunteer group who came out and trucks if necessary. There was one there was no land behind the present fire hall. There was no bank. We had a very sketchy service we have the princess berry that came up three days a week, which took eight hours to go to Vancouver with full service dining rooms Cerebus with napkins finger bowls, all the trimmings for $1 You could have a steak, excuse me a steak drum or for $5 You could have a bridal suite needless to say we didn't leave the island very often our noses were to the grindstone, but it was a marvelous service as long as you had plenty of time. The other bit boat that came was the Nora when she took over when the Princess Mary was elsewhere. There was no Pulford there was a Swartz Bay to Fulford service, and it was the old side pick under Captain mod. That was all very well until she was either had to go in for repairs or then we only have to do with a motorboat. Otherwise there was no service. Food or any other big equipment had to be brought in by barge There was no theory to craft and again, there was a private service with a small bolt. We had no liquor store and Ganges there was no water line except from Maxwell Lake to Ganges. There were no paved roads. Lee's Hill as I remember it in bad weather. They were Highway Department sat at the top of the hill pulled us up through the mud. As all the water came down from maximum mountain and washed the roads out. There was getting back to Ganges there was just a causeway from the Trading Company, the mods, no funeral services. The coffins were supplied by Mowat store, and trucks were used as the hearse and volunteer service. The old hospital had more service services by getting by volunteers. The stores really were interesting. Mo it's had what is now they

Unknown Speaker 6:12
call it Arthur. department and more so as you walk in the door, Cage, no, no, no dear hardware, where the hardware department is no, was the grocery department and it had big stairs going up to the upper floor in the center wide stairs. And they had an office up there, which took care of all the money that was taken in on trolleys went up to the office. Then eventually, they decided to go excuse me to go into the cache and carry this this. And that was what was known as a cage built in the middle of the grocery department. And one of the local girls sat there and ran that department. And from there, everything and modes began to change. It was never the same store. The Trading Company was equally as interesting there they had ladders on wheels. And every you bought there was over the counter. And the people who are serving you ran up and down these ladders because usually what you want it was at the top shelf and no one could reach it. Caps abounded in the training company. They slept on the counters, everybody loved them. There were barrels of this and barrels of that but you nobody was looking you could put your hand and help yourself to some coconut or whatever. It was a very easy going friendly place where everyone there and everyone but everyone knew each other. Which of course is no longer the case. There was no bank. There was no liquor store. There was the service for liquor, but it was not legal. It was I don't know it was just a very easygoing, happy atmosphere. We knew everyone on the island, you knew everyone's cars. I think I can tell you what I mean, when I say we had friends who came just have tea with us one afternoon, Sunday afternoon after taking a drive and looking down from our Sunday cup at the farm, saying I don't think we'll go drive into the gate and there are too many foreigners. We had more than 10 cars that afternoon. So I think you perhaps get the picture. The roads really were all dusty dusty roads. I think wonderful thing I can perhaps tell you about our children we had to and if they were never allowed to drive with me unless they were in the back seat because they always called a one Sunday afternoon from St. George's where the only Sunday school was. I went to pick them up. And it was a very, very hot, dusty Sunday and they started to fight. So I reprimanded them. And they fought again. And I said out. You can walk home. So they were put out on the road and it was hot and it was dusty and they had two miles to walk. When I traveled up the road, a big car home I didn't know who it was obviously a foreigner that picked my children up and they were sitting in practically thumbing their noses out. I was not amused. And I got to the gate. I was relieved to see they were afraid to go up the drive for mothers swept by them. Oh, these things are so different from the school today, the children's way of living. We built a hard tennis court with much effort on all the family. I think my son and I rake 32 loads of gravel. My husband on our daughter on the boiling hot day with all equipment from the O highway department. Get the hot, hot to the tar, which was a ghastly job. Anyway, we had a hard tennis court, which was very popular as tennis in those days was very popular harbor house had courts, Mr. Bullock's old court, we had another hard wooden court. And really, tennis was the game. Where do I go from there? What about Turkey, the turkey raising it. So let Turkey raising was very satisfactory in one way and a disaster and others. We had the first hatchery in British Columbia. And when we came to the island, we shipped birds new born, which are known as posts in the turkey business, as far east as Manitoba. All they lived on was the yolk of the egg till they got there. So they had to be very strong stock. And they had very, they were very strong stock because we had a breeding program that was to say the least a great deal of work. But unfortunately, not a great deal of money coming in for all our work. The business of selling meat birds, which we used to grow about raise about 5000 a year was very dicey. You never knew what the market people were going to do with you till about 10 days before Christmas. If they could get birds cheaper from the States or elsewhere in Canada, they would and you would go down very badly. Another year when they wouldn't be able to you would go up. So you're like, really it was a yo yo business. You never knew what was very, very harassing in financially and very satisfying to us because we raised the best turkeys in Canada. Unfortunately, it all backfired on my husband who had been insulated with ulcers from the war and ended up the two hemorrhages and the loss of his stomach. So after we have to really give up the business and I went back to nursing it was interesting but harassing again because I hadn't nurse for 25 years. And I started in the old lady Mental Hospital, which was quite an experience after being a head nurse in the Vancouver general hospital. The hospital itself was a dear old building. But you have to be a workaholic to be able to cope with it. No elevators, two bathrooms, you carry basins everywhere and bedpans. One funny little room would have to act as case room and operating theater. And we had to do our sterilizing in a very ancient sterilizer every time you thought you were going to be blown to Kinder Kingdom Come on, you were operating it, I was petrified of it. We had no locks on the doors. We very often started the fire in the kitchen stove in the morning. And you never knew what was coming in the door. It was an interesting hospital. But it kept one very busy because we were very small staff. Most of the time you were left all alone all night and you might have 16 to 18 patients up to two floors. So I really got back into nursing with a wham unfortunately I only did summer relief there and I still have to go on nursing because Arthur was not able to to get into any job. He was still recovering from his major surgery. So I eventually ended up at rest Haven Hospital, which was one of the most delightful places to work in that I think any nurse ever could have. I unfortunately was an Anglican so I was a heathen not the end Adventist so I was have to live out. But it was quite an experience and I was there for about six months. us in the main crime, the new hospital as we think of it, which is the present hospital was opened and after about five weeks, the board said to the board, they insisted this nurse whose husband was still on the island and not well should be given the job. So I was given the job and I was there for 13 years or a little better.

Unknown Speaker 15:27
My husband in the meantime was beginning to perk a little bit and we managed to buy an old sailboat which he worked on for months to put it in repair up on the farm and got his strength back. And then I don't know whether it was through the love of sailing or whether it was just happened chats, got a chance of a job, the water taxis, the old jacket, crack and the old Jacket, jacket, what was the other one? Cracker Jack and they and the cracker Jill, two very ancient boats. Good thing that I didn't realize how ancient they were. Because I think I'd have had fits if I had known he was older than them. But he was on that for seven years hoping helping alarm to bring an income. After that time, we decided that we're living on the farm, we still owed a great deal of money to the feed company. And so we managed to sell the farm and pay off the feed company. Then with what was left, we bought a property on old Scott road. And my husband built our present hole of which I love and I'm very proud of what he did. He still continued on the water taxi for some time, even when he was in the middle of building the house. Eventually I retired. And we came on to come and live here permanently in the home. I hope we will be in for some time to come. I think that's all about us. That's interesting. Our Children Of course, we found unfortunately in the days we first came we found the school was not what we want it for the children and we have to go to the expense of sending them out to boarding schools, which was a heavy drain on the naturally occurring well and went to Strathcona which was not uncertain again lake but unfortunately the headmistress died after two years, and she finished off in Victoria obey to university at 17. Our son went to Glen Lyon as prepared to School in Victoria. And then on the shanigan the school the boys school at shanigan and then eventually went to live with a sister in Burnaby and finished his high school there. So we really didn't see very much of our children unfortunately from but because our noses were so pressed to the grindstone with the turkey business there wasn't much time for the poor children. I think that's about all about us, except we're extremely happy unfortunately. able to cope with finances. What about no Saltspring the sailboat was one other sailboat on the harbour when we bought ours it was owned by a Mr. Mill's F O Mills, that he had very bad arthritic problems in his hips and was not able to say it. But once a year he take it out to see if the motor would run. So actually, we were the first sailboat on the island. And everyone knew when the middle and there's we're out sailing because there was no other sailboat and we thoroughly enjoyed and still are enjoying the old Whitecap which was built Heaven Knows Where are we in clinker built with the original cotton, Egyptian cotton sales. And my husband are one of our dogs sales very happily even now. Hey, that's enough about us. I've certainly enjoyed my retirement and all the things I wanted to do, which is mostly using my legs hiking, golfing, bowling, walking, reading what lovely thing was there at that time not know there were no subdivisions. Few cars do trucks when we came in about 2500 people we never felt when the island did eventually open up we never felt it was sad. We thought newcomers brought a breath of fresh air Are into the island. We have made many many good friends in the last 20 years. Look the last 20 years really where the island maybe 25 where the island really began to open up. The old days the island Korean resorts Britain, Ireland, Korea creamy produce the best butter candidate. And the best lamb was growing on the island King George and Queen Elizabeth in their trip across Canada, US nothing but the golf club was delightful. It was owned and run by Mr. Norman Wilson and his family. The sheep mowed the road the the course. We had Stan greens and little sacks, which we pulled around to remove the pebbles from the sheep. It was cost $5 A year for a family was very sad when the golf club. The dear old building was the Wilson home which was charming, was burned to the ground with all the treasures, a library, all the family treasures. The place was no longer the places we knew where it was almost the last of gracious living. One thing I should say when we first came it was still an island of calling cards and white gloves. Which, of course have gone by the board, New Year's Eve dances. Were always in private homes, long dresses, long white gloves, and evening coats. Probably with gunboats underneath and pushing trucks and cars to get wherever we were going. But so so different from today. Music by whoever could play very, very happy times we had I don't know what else I can tell you. Really.

Unknown Speaker 22:11
Did you have any interesting experiences nursing?

Unknown Speaker 22:16
Oh, many interesting experiences nursing, but unfortunately that brings people into the picture. And one lives on an island one can't discuss people, much as I would like to so there were very funny experiences and there were tragic experiences. I'd love to but there are many, many funny things I could tell you about a lot of people but one just doesn't when one lives on an island. You're hidden in a city that's quite different, but one is not hidden on an island. Really, anything else you want to know told me I have to think of anything else. To get back to the days when we came the Vesuvius people were really worried as it would be no chance of the trucks and the volunteer fire people from Ganges getting there in time with all the wooden houses, everything would be burned. So was very enterprising little group of housewives in Vesuvius became the firemen. They were trained by the volunteer group. And they had they put in a fire hydrants at this time. They water system had gone as far as the Soviets from Ganges. So they did have water. But that was quite a long time after we came to live here. And that was manned for some years before a proper fire department was organized in its present state and Ganges. So many things, I suppose I could remember if I could remember tell you. History I suppose that the golf course is interesting. At one time it was a Seed Farm, that a farm and then the farm which was owned by the Wilsons was turned into a golf course. Pretty rough golf course but it was a lot of fun. The present day golf course of course is cup won't have to take a back seat to many, many golf courses in the province. I think it's delightful note each year they are improving it. So many things have happened that have been improved. To make life pleasant for all we Islanders. I suppose that's why it has attracted so many people. And we still have more or less a country living