I was nearing five years of age when World War II ended. My recollections of that historic event are thus scattered and very few in number. Those that I do recall however remain very vivid and memorable to this day. The first impact that the war had on our lives occurred when Charlie Currie towed our float house into Prince Rupert harbour. This move was necessitated by my father, a skilled carpenter, being hired to help construct the war time housing being built for the war time dry dock workers. My only memory of that time was when we would row to visit the Closter family in Dodge Cove.
My mother and I in front of the Bank of Montreal, much later the Home Hardware store on Third Avenue. Note the War Savings Bond poster in the window of the bank.
In July of 1943 my father was hired by the U.S. Army as a carpenter in the Port Edward division of the Army Service Forces Prince Rupert Sub-Port Staging and Embarkation Area. Charlie Currie again attached his tow rope to our float house and returned us to Phelan and our Chick-A-Dee-By The Sea homestead. Three docks had been built in Porpoise Harbour to service the loading of munitions, war material and troops to the Aleutians and the Pacific War Theatre.
My first awareness of the war happened shortly after the time two uniformed servicemen visited us. Later that afternoon they set tin cans up on some of our stumps and fired away at the targets. One of them then very carefully handed me the pistol and assisted me in firing at the next target. Whether I hit the tin can or not I can’t recall. What stays with me though is the shot’s noisy report and the sharp recoil of the pistol. When the two soldiers left after supper I asked my mother why both of them were wearing the same clothes. It was then that I learned that there was a war going on and what it all meant.
My sister Carole playing with our newest toy, a spent artillery shell. It also doubled as our umbrella stand.
With my father now working in Port Edward my mother, sister Carole and I would visit Henry and Lama Closter and their four children who were about the age of my sister Carole and I. The Closters lived in the upstairs apartment of the Port Edward school. The school was located well behind the waterfront buildings and reached by following a long wooden boardwalk through the trees
In the background you can see the boardwalk leading to the Port Edward school house. As a child I was always fascinated by the miniature boat in the foreground. Never could figure out what it was intended to be.
On a number of occasions Bruce Closter and I would sneak up on the porch of the school and knock on the door then quickly dive into the firewood box located near by. The students never found us. I think now that they welcomed the diversion and didn’t want to disrupt our game. Perhaps it was at that point I decided that ‘Gee, this learning can be fun’. Maybe it was at that moment that I decided to go into teaching.....and yes, teaching did prove to be a pleasure.
One day back at our homestead I was playing outside when I suddenly heard a loud rumble growing louder and, most alarmingly, closer and closer to our home. I rushed indoors and the very walls seemed to be vibrating. Suddenly the noise died and I could hear multiple loud voices. There, tying up to the back deck of our home was an Air Force crash boat, not unlike the one pictured below*.
From local historian Phyllis Bowman’s book, ‘Second World War Memories!’
We were invited aboard, the lines let go and we slowly approached the entrance to Porpoise Harbour. Once outside the entrance the crash boat was given full throttle and we, quite literally it seemed, were flying towards the entrance of Prince Rupert Harbour. The massive power, the thunder, the waves and the speed were exhilarating, magnificent and absolutely delicious. What an experience for a young boy. We eventually slowed down as we approached Casey Point and waited while the submarine net was opened and we entered the harbour.
My last image of World War II is of my sister Carole and I standing beside our mother on the overpass leading to the steamship dock*. Carole and I are proudly wearing our Navy Coats with the brass buttons embossed with anchors. On our heads we have caps embroidered with red anchors. At that moment for some unknown reason the two of us charge down the ramp, our right arms raised in a Nazi salute, loudly proclaiming “Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler”. Our mother stands there absolutely mortified.
Some years after the war Carole and I learned of another wartime event that impacted our family. My father had a good Japanese-Canadian fisherman friend. On the eve of the Japanese-Canadian Internment decree the two of them attempted to arrange a quasi-legitimate bill of sale for the fisherman’s gillnet boat. Once the war was over my father would return the gillnetter. The authorities saw through the subterfuge and seized the boat. Sadly, my father never saw his friend again after the Internment ended.
So end my recollections of World War II.
Upon the outbreak of World War II a naval lookout station was constructed on East Kinahan Island, just west of the entrance to Prince Rupert harbour. There a small contingent of sailors kept a watchful eye out for enemy ships and aircraft. In 1946 the federal War Assets division put the entire infrastructure - buildings and wooden roadway - up for disposal through auction. My father was the successful bidder at $100.00. His plan was to use the salvaged material to build a family home for us in New Westminster.
The sailors constructed this ‘jeep’ out of the parts of other vehicles.
This project necessitated us moving to East Kinahan Island for a time in 1946. My father with the help of his cousin Henry Johansen and our neighbour Gunnar Dalgren proceeded to dismantle the entire facility. The recovered materials were then transported by handcart down the wooden roadway to the dock.
At one point due to a spell of bad weather my father had been unable to return to Port Edward in order to replenish our food supply. We were running short of food. My mother, always the mother of invention, for lunch served up a plate of fried Red River Cereal porridge left over from breakfast. Surprisingly tasty.
With our dogs Barney and Freckles sister Carole and I freely roamed about the station discovering many interesting items -signal pennants, engine parts and even the remnants of the fox farm established sometime before the war.
Sitting at the dock of the bay.
For sister Carole and I our time on East Kinahan Island was one great adventure. That is, until the morning when we awoke to the sound of a howling gale outside. We rushed upstairs to the large observation window only to see that our gillnet boat, having broken free from it’s moorings, was being tossed about by the huge waves and slowly drifting away. Dad ran down to the dock and dumped our skiff into water. The skiff’s oars having been washed off the dock he used a short board, a piece of shiplap, as a paddle and began to pursue the disappearing gillnetter.
Our dad and the hand cart that carried all the material down to the dock.
Carole and I are pulling a bucket of fittings down to the dock.
Carole and I clung to our mother, fear stricken, as she began praying aloud. I knew in that moment that she would protect from us from whatever future storms should appear in our lives. We watched as our father, struggling to maintain his balance, slowly gained on our storm tossed gillnetter. What a tremendous sense of relief we felt as we observed him haul himself aboard the boat and saw the first puffs of the engine’s exhaust. He had saved the day with his heroic action.
That winter the two scows of salvaged materials were tied up at our homestead until the following spring. They were then towed into Port Edward and loaded aboard the Alaska Prince for shipment to New Westminster. With the help of his brother Karl and brothers-in-law Clarence and Roy Pekrul my father began the construction of our New Westminster home in 1947.
Dad waiting to load our new home aboard ship.
Our ‘home’ being loaded aboard the Alaska Prince.
The final phase - tearing up the roadway way on our way down.
All the materials here are from Kinahan.
Ever the master of ingenuity, our father powered the table saw with the Briggs and Stratton engine from our boat.
A strongly built structure - 3 layers of shiplap formed the main floor (perhaps for the purpose of sound-proofing the basement).
Young sister Lynda born in New Westminster. The original windows are from Kinahan.
Our mother standing in front of part of her gardening and the stone retaining wall that our father built. Mom and Dad lived in their home for 65 years.
The house today is as you see it here.