• David Vick

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.

Almost done!

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.

Returning from Kinahan Island sister Carole and I did not fully realize that this meant that we would be soon moving to New Westminster. Our float house was put up for sale and was bought by Bernie Rae, the father of Norm Rae. He was going to use it for his coastal logging operation. Can you imagine that some 50 years later one of our sons would be playing minor league hockey with Dwayne Rae, Bernie Rae’s grandson!

Once again Charlie Currie was attaching his tow line to our float house. Bernie Rae was on board. I still see him sitting cross-legged on our living room floor pouring himself a glass of whiskey to celebrate the purchase of our home. My parents, being teetotalers, did not join him but were happy to share in the moment.

As we were pulling away I went and looked out the back bedroom window for a glimpse of our beloved Chick-A-Dee By The Sea homestead growing smaller and smaller in the distance. I did not know then that our enchanted young childhood and homestead were slipping away in our wake and disappearing into the mists of the Skeena River.

A sunny day.

The entrance to our homestead near Phelan. Beyond the gateway lay a footbridge leading to our float house home.

Inverness days - a happy time.

Sitting in our ‘back yard’ with our Aunt Mary, our dad’s sister.

Playing in our front yard.

Sister Carole and I enjoying our chocolate Easter chickens. Note our galvanized bath tub, here serving to capture the vital rainwater.

Atop our rain barrel stand. These barrels contained our sole source of fresh water.

Part of our adventure playground. We also had stumps to climb, salmon berries to eat and the seashore to explore.

Two miles down the tracks lay Port Edward. A special part of our day was when the train would rumble by and the engineer would blow his steam whistle and wave to us. On some occasions we got to ride on the railroad workers speeder, a very special treat.

Nearing the end of another exhilarating but exhausting day.

Inverness Slough at high tide. The mouth of the Skeena River is in the background and Inverness Cannery lay just around the corner to the left.

Kitson Island with two Inverness gillnetters in the background.

Inverness Cannery.

Phelan Railway Station, just up the tracks from our home.

Our float house.

“Port Edward is that way.”

We did indeed felt like we were living on top of the world!

CHICK-A-DEE-BY THE SEA, a whimsical, fanciful name, perfect in describing the home of our wonderful early childhood.

In 1947 I began school in New Westminster and for the longest time never uttered a word of my earlier life on the Skeena River. Looking back it seems to me that it is about Grade 4 when you begin to sort out your place amongst your classmates. So it may have been because of this that I began to share my early childhood stories with my classmates. They were immediately taken with my retelling of my Inverness days and I basked in the warmth of my new-found glory. The day came however when I finally out ran out of stories. Unfortunately I guess I wasn’t yet ready to yield the spotlight and decided to try my hand at embellishing a story.

Here’s the background. One summer day Nico Hedstrom, my dad’s aunt, took the train from Prince Rupert, got off at Phelan and walked down the railroad tracks to visit us. Coming into our home she remarked to my mother about what a strikingly handsome dog we had outside. My mother replied that we did not have a large dog. Going to the window she discovered that once again there was a large wolf in our front yard. Here’s the way I translated that experience to one of my classmates, a wide-eyed Marilyn Z.

My mother has just finished washing the kitchen floor. She opens the front door so that the floor will dry faster. Soon afterwards a huge wolf with large muddy feet wanders into our kitchen. My mother, looking at her still wet floor covered in the wolf’s muddy footprints is outraged. Without thinking she takes the broom and begins beating the wolf about the head. The wolf, in fear of his life, howls and charges out through the empty door and disappears into the forest.”

Not bad, eh? I was very pleased with Marilyn’s reaction to my tale of horror and derring-do. An hour or so later however, disaster struck! At recess Marilyn ran up our teacher Miss Smith and breathlessly retold my story. Miss Smith called me up and said that that was such a good story that on Monday morning she wanted me to share it with the entire class. Oh, oh, what was I to do now? I couldn’t bring myself to admit to Miss Smith that it was all one big lie. After all, I was hopelessly in love with her. That is, until Grade Five when Miss Grant entered my life but that’s another story. Ah, the fickleness of youth!

This having happened on a Friday I had the whole weekend to dwell on the mess I had gotten myself into. Truthfully, I didn’t get a lot of sleep that weekend. Come ‘Show and Tell’ on Monday morning I would be standing in front of my classmates and Miss Smith telling them all a great big bald-faced lie. The thought of doing that kept running through my mind day and night over that tortured weekend.

Monday’s morning’s Show and Tell finally arrived and I was called upon for my story. With leaden feet I slowly approached the front of the class. It was even worse than I had imagined. My mouth went dry and the back of my shirt was soaked in sweat. Slowly, painfully, awkward sentence after awkward sentence, punctuated by my deafening silences, Miss Smith drew the whole sorry tale from out of my dry lips...”and then what happened, David.?.. Uh...the wolf turned around...uh...Then what happened? ...Uh ... uh...” Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you learn more than just ‘the three R’s’ from your teacher.

Post Script: At my 35th Grad Reunion, I had the opportunity to speak with Marilyn once again. I asked her if she remembered that life-altering story of mine. Not a word of it. Like Comment Share


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