Joy Huntley

Are attitudes better now for people who are different, blacks, Natives?

I saw one black person once, I think. He was sitting in front of the hotel in Campbell River. I’d never seen a black person before. And natives were just like us. We were so used to them. We really didn’t have much in the way to worry about that sort of thing.

What activities did you and your family do together when you were growing up?

Well, being on a farm, we had our chores. I used to chop the kindling for the kitchen stove. I didn’t like cooking but I opted to make the butter and help make the bread. You had to pound the bread. I loved doing that. To make butter my mother used to put the big pans of milk – the pans were this big – you put them on the stove, a cool stove so it would just warm them and the butter came to the top. She’d skim it off into the butter-churn and I’d get to turn it till it turned into butter. I loved doing that.

What was a family meal like at your house?

Breakfast was always porridge and eggs and dinner was always meat and potatoes. My mother was English so she didn’t do a lot of baking, but she did make my favourite, macaroni and cheese made in the oven. Nice, thick cheese on top. That was something we always have today and we used to make it sometimes, what she called potato cake. You take a cup of mashed potatoes and a cup of cheese and a cup of flour and you mix it all together and put it in the oven, with an egg of course. It was one of everything so it was easy to remember. I love potato cake.

Did you have any pets?

We always had a cat. I guess on a farm you need a cat to get the mice, you know. We had a barn cat and a house cat. We always had a dog but the dog was never allowed in the house, not like today’s pets. He stayed outside.  Then we had all the other animals,  the chickens and different things.

We’re just trying to get this light set. It’s not very flattering.

Well, I’m past flattering

Cold camera, warm house.

I remember that from my camera days. My first camera that I bought myself when I was 18 was a big one that folded up. My sister had one was twice the size but it worked the same way, with bellows. I bought it second hand.  It had a hole in the bellows so I had to get that fixed. I loved photography. (points to wall photo) I took that picture in Summerland when I was working there. The place where I had my pictures developed, this lady would colour them for you if you asked her, so that’s a hand-coloured photo.

How would you describe the personalities of your family members?

I was one of three.  My brother had gone to the First World War.  Katie was a teacher; way up in northern Canada, and Whitney was a nurse’s aide down at St. Paul’s hospital. She was looking after Dad but she wanted to go, but my mother said he couldn’t boil water without burning it so she’d have to go and look after him, so they got married in 1918.  Phyllis, she went to school at Queen Margaret’s too but she graduated in ’35 and she was a teacher. She took normal school, was a teacher for a while, then she joined the army and was posted to Ottawa. She was posted to the eastern front which was the Japanese war, but they didn’t send women overseas so she spent the rest of the war in Ottawa. My youngest sister went into training as a nurse. That’s me in the middle.

We always admired our oldest sister, Kate. She was marvelous to us. She lived in the Okanagan. We used to go up there quite often, especially around peaches time. We’d go and pick peaches and bring them home. That was great.  That’s me sitting on top of a ladder on the top. We had to climb those ladders and thin the apples. Nowadays they thin them with spray. The fellows down below are all showing their big packsacks. They’re picking apples by hand. We didn’t have those little dwarf trees they have today. They don’t do that now. They don’t climb ladders any more.

My father had six sisters. He had a younger brother that died at two or something. He was going to be a doctor so his sisters – three were older than him, three were younger – they gave the money for him to go to college. So he spent one year at medical school but then he decided to become a missionary and came out west. He still had his basics. I have a pair of pliers up there that he used to pull people’s teeth if they came to him with a toothache. I don’t know how you use them. He had a little conservatory with basics in it.

This is part of my dad’s first aid kit. One’s heavier than the other. Look at that. This scale is for weighing medicine.

What kind of medicine. Native medicine?

No, stuff that he got from the church or somewhere. I don’t know where he got it from. I never asked. These forceps were part of his kit too.

No anesthetic?

Oh no. A good shot of whiskey maybe.

When he got the job at Cape Mudge, he was asked to come there as the teacher. He was the teacher but he used to preach on Sundays and he always had his medical knowledge in the evenings, so he was very useful and he loved the work.  When he retired he bought this place in Gowlland Harbour and became a farmer. He was the only boy, with six sisters, so you can imagine all the work. He had to look after the horses, you know. His father was a travelling preacher and he was never home, so my father did most of the work till he grew up. That was in Ontario. He grew up in Ontario. Then he came out to the coast and he never went back. He loved it here.

Mother’s problem with being English was in London they didn’t have ovens, they just had a gas ring.  So at Christmas, they bought a goose and took it down to the baker’s to cook it in their oven.  And she was rather fond of boiling everything because that’s the way she was raised. But she was a very good everyday cook.  In September, she made the Christmas cake and put everything you could imagine in it. It was always there mixed when we came home from school, because we all had to stir it. Then she’d put it away for three months. It was really good by Christmas. That was one of my favourite foods.

Mother was a teacher too. She was a kindergarten teacher, and she and her sister were teachers together in England.  Her mother said that the youngest daughter had to stay home and look after her.  But when her sister came out to BC and she was pregnant, “Oh, Kathleen needs me. I have to go and be with her when the baby’s born” so she never went back either. But that was the way it was in the old days. You didn’t have homes for seniors, and actually, on the farm, we had two people that lived with us, an old gentleman that had been in the war in the American army, and a lady, Mary Howarth. George Warren used to get up in the morning and light the fire and keep the wood chopped and do the kindling, and Mary used to do all the mending and taught us all to knit. I learned to knit when I was five years old. When you’re five years old and can’t go to school till you’re six, you’re impatient, right? So she sat me down and taught me to knit. That was normal in those days. There were no old folks’ homes. It was a wonderful way, really.

How about your dad, when he first came to Quadra as an English teacher?

transporting-a-car-to-quadra-copy1893, he came to Quadra Island as a school teacher. The natives had seen a government boat parked in Duncan Bay, which is north of Campbell River. So they went up there and asked somebody to get them a teacher to teach them English so they could trade with the white people. But the first two teachers didn’t stay. Then my dad arrived, and he brought his wife and two little girls, and the youngest girl had white hair. Well, they’d never seen anybody with white hair. She was a little blonde.  Anyway, the first thing he had to do was build himself a house, because they gave him a house to live in that wasn’t exactly up to British and Canadian standard, and he did that. He’d learned to do that as a child.

So he was there eleven years, and he showed them how to build things.  They’d build things with logs, and great slabs. My father’s name was Walker. (showing ornamental plate) This plate is the Walker Memorial Church. The Indians built that after he left.  He showed them how to build the school and the mission house, how to cut the lumber.  They went on building their own houses after that.  They all became good boat builders. They built a lot of good boats. And they built a great big public hall there now. And they all worshipped my dad. They loved him. He was awfully good to them. I used to walk down there with him sometimes and they were always so glad to see him.

His wife introduced them to soap.  Every Monday the natives all washed their clothes and hung them out. She taught them, and they were happy. They never had soap before. Can you imagine how people can get by? Of course some of the Natives up north solved that. They found other things to use for soap, but these people hadn’t.

You said, Joy, that as a result of their kids learning English they didn’t have to go to Residential School? 

I don’t know that actually, but I do know the Catholic father was over there. Some little baby was born and they wanted him to go to Catholic school and he said no, you can take my daughters but my son is going to Coqualeetza which is United Church. So he went to Coqualeetza because they taught the Natives more things there. It was a very good school. That’s in Sardis, I always remembered that. I think the Indians on the Campbell River side were Catholic and the Gowlland Harbour ones were United Church or Methodist. I have a picture of my father down in Victoria in 1925 when the United Church became the Union. Methodist, Presbyterian and, what the third one, Congregationalist, was it? Anyway there were three churches that became Union.

You were one of five out of all your siblings, is that correct?

No, I have five daughters. My eldest daughter, in the picture over there, she died at 14 from leukemia. The other four are all married with families, doing fine. As I say, I’ve got eleven grandchildren, eight great grandchildren.

How did you meet your husband?

joy-in-lab-at-summerland-1943-copyI went to a wedding. I was a friend of the groom, actually. The groom was boarding at my sister’s place in Keremeos and so we went to his wedding and my husband was a friend of the bride, so he was there too. And that’s where we met, at a wedding in Penticton, and I guess I was already working. I graduated from UBC in Agriculture and I got this really nice job at the experimental farm.  I was always interested in gardening and getting outside, but when I worked for the federal government which is what the experimental farm was, women didn’t do men’s work, so I had to work in the lab and test tomatoes for molds and stuff like that. But anyway, I was there for three years before I got married. We used to say we live in the showplace of the Okanagan, where do we go on holidays? It was a beautiful place there.  I went back there a couple of years ago. It’s still a lovely place.

You were saying that when you got married you weren’t allowed to work, you had to leave your job.

Oh yeah, I had to leave my job when I got married. All women did. Married women were supposed to be busy raising kids. That’s the days before the pill, you know. That certainly revolutionized the human work, hasn’t it?

How were your daughters growing up?

My husband was in construction and he used to travel all around BC, so these poor kids got uprooted out of different schools and had to keep moving. We spent one year in Whitehorse. Irene started grade one in Whitehorse, didn’t you? And then I had another baby while I was there so she got a Yukon name, Kluane. Then we managed to come back to the farm again. You went to school in Campbell River, didn’t you? You had to take the ferry every day? That was quite something. Very different for me. I used to walk to Heriot Bay School. There was no Heriot Bay School any more. They had a bus, you see. Everything was so modern! We went to Comox. We were in Comox from ’60 to ’63. He was working out at the Air Force base for a while. It was all to do with wherever his work was.

When my husband was in the navy, he was born and raised in Oliver on a fruit farm, similar to what I was, and his dad built him a swimming pool and he learned to swim underwater when he was a kid. That was his big accomplishment.

What were some of your proudest moments?

I think when I graduated from school. I never thought I’d be so lucky because I was never a very bright student. I loved math, but in boarding school they learnt French in grade one. I went in grade eight, so I was never very good in French because they were all way ahead of me. So I managed to scrape through. That was pretty exciting, the fact that I had actually made it! We had French, Latin and German. We didn’t have a chem lab. The school could not afford it. Chemistry I did later on but didn’t then.

You have some objects there to show us?

looking-at-book-with-kids(shows an old antique planer) My dad built that himself because there was no hardware store. We just got a big hollow chunk of wood.  The blades are up here, out of the way. Of course, it’s heavy. It had to be.  I think that’s the only artifact I’ve got. I guess he made a lot of his things. But he grew up on a farm – he knew what he needed.

(shows a school bell)  This bell was the one my mother used when she worked in Headquarters. Then we were living in a tent, a four room tent, just with partitions. My next door neighbour here, she’s gone now but she lived to be 95, she grew up in Headquarters. Her father was a logger for Comox Logging and we had a great time talking, telling me what life was like out there. It was the same sort of thing. We had to learn to do a bit more. You had to make your dresses and do all your own sewing, mending. They say Mary Howarth was wonderful because she kept our clothes all mended. People didn’t have, seniors, really.  If you had no family you were in a bad way with nobody to look after you. I don’t know. We talk about the homeless on the streets of Vancouver. There must have been some in those days.

How has the technology changed?

I remember my first contact with television. That was in Campbell River. I went looking for one of my daughters. Couldn’t find her, so I knocked on this door and walked in and a TV was playing. I’d never seen a TV before. I sat there with my mouth open. Fortunately the guy wasn’t in the room. I had to wait for him. So I’d recovered when he came back.

The telephone was interesting. Well, the radio, my dad had a radio with earphones and he could sit and listen to the news. Of course he had to have the news. Then somebody bought him a bell and it had a wire on it, so the bell sat in the kitchen so we could have the news during lunch, and he could get the news from this bell contraption. I don’t know, I’ve never seen one since.

The telephone, I’ve got one there that needs an aerial to pick up the sound. That’s an old, old phone. You can’t just turn it on like this one over here. That’s the way they all were in my day. When I first got married, we moved into a house that had great big spikes on all the corners in all the rooms, because this fellow had to carry the aerial around to the different rooms to have his radio on. It made a mess of the walls. It was terrible. That was ’46. Things didn’t really change till after the war. Everything stopped during the 40s when the war was on.

My father hated the phone. He wouldn’t use it. And it was a party line. There was only line for Quadra Island. There were 30 people. So if you rang one big long ring, that was Campbell River which was central. Everybody would rush and listen in because maybe somebody got hurt… “What are they phoning Campbell River for?” Then you couldn’t hear because they cut all the electricity down. The sound wouldn’t carry. So it was very frustrating till finally people got separate phones. Our ring was two long and a short. We didn’t answer it unless it was two long and a short.

Do you have some photos of the things we’ve talked about?

Just the ones I put up there. This one is the horse my mother used to ride when she was a school teacher. Then there’s a picture of the ranch taken from the water, and then the water taken from the ranch, so you can see what Gowlland Harbour looks like. My father was smart, he bought a piece of land that was facing the south and it was also sub-irrigated. The first thing he had to do was build the ditches and of course, in those days, he just took slabs of wood to frame the ditches. He didn’t have metal or anything, and about the time that we moved there all the ditches just started to fall in, about twenty to thirty years later, but he grew wonderful crops. We had orchards. We had everything.

What has provided you the greatest satisfaction in life?

My four daughters. They’re wonderful. And watching my little grandchildren and now it’s great grandchildren. Watching the grandchildren find their way in life, that’s a great blessing.

Here’s a big question for you. How do you feel about the future now?

Well, I know that the good Lord’s in charge so I’m not worrying much. This old earth, you know, has been around a few times and maybe it’s going to go around again. Whether the humans manage to stay on it or not, nobody knows. We’ll just have to find out, eh?  I don’t spend any time worrying about it. If people would get out of the way and stop interfering nature would do a much better job.