by Brenda Smid
It was the summer of 1973. Mt father, looking for adventure, decided we would leave Alberta. He borrowed his older sons' truck and canopy. With an eight by nineteen ft. trailer in tow, we set out for BC. Divorced for many years, Dad had sic children to deal with. Both Morgan and Doug were working in Alberta. In the cab of the truck we packed in like sardines, all four of us girls. I was sixteen and miserable leaving my friends in Sundre. Colleen was thirteen going on thirty, Tracy and Lisa (twins) were seven and yappy. Out Dad, nicknamed "doc", was a very patient man.
Camping along the way, we stopped for a couple days at Canim Lake. Back on highway 97, rain poured down as we came along to Williams Lake. Rain drops dancing on the water, lush green hills, a mist over the lake, it just took a hold of me. I will never forget the feeling of peace at the moment.
Motoring on to Quesnel, we visited with Dad's brother Norman. He was the editor of the town's newspaper. We set up out little trailer at Ten mile Lake. Dad had initially wanted to live in Prince Rupert. Norman told him about the open pit mine at McLeese Lake. My father was a road building from the time he left the Navy after the War. He could do anything with heavy equiptment. We took a drive to Gibraltar Mines. He went into the office and thirty minutes later, came out with a job. After the last few years in Alberta, making three hundred and twenty five dollars a month, this new job was three to four times more money, and it felt like we hit the mother load.
We moved to Freemans Trailer Park and set up out piddly little home three miles from the hamlet. Jean and Frank Grimard owned the Oasis Restaurant, a motel, and cabins on the short. They took an interest in our family, as did the Goyettes' at their store, along with the rest of the community. Not too many people would see such a good, devoted father. One of the first treasures we found was Jean's butter tarts, oh so goo! We had a ritual at the cafe a couple times a week to savour the flavour and to get the local news. My brothers arrived from Alberta, securing work at the mine and staying at the camp. Colleen and I had a lucrative business. We were the resident babysitter for all the families with children at the park. Autumn was showing her colours, so dad traded the trailer for a brand new 25 ft. travel trailer and we built a porch next to it. We were warm and happy, most of the time, when we girls weren't at each others throats. The twins went to school in McLeese and we took the bus to Williams Lake.
In late spring, when Dad had weekends off, we took drives around the Caiboo. We fished at Polley, Dugan, and Tyee lakes in Morgan's new 16 ft. canoe fitted with pontoons and a small motor for trolling. We got stuck trying to get in and out at Jackson's Hols. It was the best of times.
Summer, yahoo! I graduated and got a job at the mine. It was a family affair. I was a warehouse parts person, first of three girls hired for labour. At the time, Williams Lake had only steel toes boots for men and I had to buy the smallest size, a Snoot Boot. My nickname was Boots, or Five Foot Two. The best part of my job was the money, $4.50 an hour, overtime, and the eye candy all around me! I blushed easily when the man came to the counted wanting a part. Giving me a bogus order, I'd write out the request - one hundred feet of shoreline - when I looked up at him he burst out laughing, and then I got it.
All the rented cabins at the Oasis were brimming with good lookin' men. My brothers rented one, and we practically lived there. We hitched a ride on their off days, and we stayed till dark. It was so much fun, lots of fun, swimming and fishing at the creek. Love was in the air for my brothers with their girlfriends, and for my first boyfriend. Doug bought a speed boat. Water skiing for whoever wanted to do it. They mounted a toilet on the float and, sitting on the can holding the roped hollering "HIT IT!", off they went with a porcelain smile. At the end of the summer, we talked Dad into buying yet another, bigger trailer. A twelve by forty eight, replaced the other one foot at a time.
I married my boyfriend, Al, a minter from Ontario. Dad had to sign for me because I was still seventeen years old. We put our brand new twelve by sixty furnished trailer in the park, a hundred feet from my family. The decor, deluxe harvest gold, brown and orange (yikes!) I had a dress in the same colours and it I stood in front of the curtains I was almost invisible, with only my face and legs showing. Two years later, all of my family went back to Alberta. Al I am moved to Williams Lake and bought out house. We reared our two sons, born with severe disabilities, with love. After thirty years of marriage, Al learned he had cancer. He fought the battle, but it took his life. Seven years later, I remain here with my sons in their group home, four door from mine.
I love it here, The Cariboo is a way of life. The scenery is amazing, but it's the good, hard working people, great friendships, people on the street who are quick to smile, and those who take the time to help each other. That is what makes us strong.