My thrifting life took an uptick recently, when I found this lovely Early’s Witney Point trading blanket at my favourite thrift shop in Parksville, on Vancouver Island.
My Trading Blanket
It happened like this: I spotted the bright red blanket across the floor at SOS (short for Society of Organized Services) in Parksville, and I was making a beeline for it when another shopper scooped it off the rack. I followed him as he went through the checkout and out to the parking lot, where I said wistfully: “That sure is a beautiful blanket.”
To my delight, he replied: “I’ll sell it to you for what I paid for it. I don’t want the darned thing anyway, but it was such a bargain I couldn’t pass it up!” So I gave him $49 cash and we both went away happy.
That’s more than I usually spend at the thrift shop, but this Early’s Witney Point blanket was made by an English company that originally supplied blankets to the Hudson Bay Company as early as the 1600s. This one has four full points (black stripes along the edge) indicating its larger size and greater value. It looks great in the cowboy cabin we use as a bunkhouse in our yard.
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My Vintage Electric Typewriter
Sadly, I wasn’t so lucky with my next purchase. I fell in love with this classic IBM electric typewriter at a garage sale and jumped on it for $20.
I knew the unusual rosy shade would just match the red accent colour in my family room, and live happily with my other three typewriters.
Alas! The darned thing is TOO WIDE to fit onto the shelf! Since the typewriter doesn’t work, I even considered cutting the knobs off each side with a hacksaw, but it is also TOO DEEP to sit on an ordinary shelf. So I’m looking for a local buyer to take it off my hands for $20.
I say local, because it is also TOO HEAVY to ship! Please let me know if you would like this home or shop decor item for $20.
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My Visit to the Greenwood Post Office
When driving across British Columbia this summer, we passed through Greenwood. This is Canada’s smallest city, with just 665 residents. I insisted that we take a detour off main street, because I knew about the old post office there — it is a duplicate of the working post office in Battleford, Saskatchewan, built in 1913, where both my great-grandfather and my grandfather after him served as postmasters.
What a magnificent old building! The clock is still running — all four faces — and although the paint is peeling on the outside, it is definitely still serving the community well after 105 years.
The front door is painted green, which really sets off the red brick.
Since it was a Saturday afternoon, nobody was working. Happily the lobby was open, so I could admire the beautiful period details inside. The woodwork, flooring, brass wicket and brass mailboxes are still intact!
I admired the filigreed brass trim on the wicket in the lobby.
The old counter on one side is available for people wishing to open their mail or stamp their letters. Note the original black and white mosaic tile flooring.
Best of all, customers can still find their mail inside these quaint old brass post boxes. One of my history experts informed me that the letters DOC, which had me stumped, stand for “Dominion of Canada.”
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My Writing Life
While staying at our lovely Palm Tree Cottage in Qualicum Beach last month, I returned to the Shaw Cable TV studio in Nanaimo to be interviewed on a program called Coast Connections. Host Elizabeth Heinz does a wonderful job interviewing folks around the island. Recently she had a fascinating chat with wildlife artist Robert Bateman.
Elizabeth interviewed me three years ago about my book Bird’s Eye View, and you can watch it on youtube here: Bird’s Eye View Author Interview.
This time around, we talked about the Peace River landscape and the pioneer history included in my latest novel Wildwood. This interview will air throughout Vancouver Island beginning on September 26, 2019 several times a day for two weeks. You can also watch it on youtube here: Wildwood Author Interview.
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On our way home to Invermere, we stopped in Osoyoos and I had a chance to visit with the lovely Anne Marie Thibodeau, aged 90. She telephoned me after reading in The Senior Paper about my love for Star Weekly magazines.
Anne was just a girl during the Second World War, and she showed me her scrapbook of wartime Star Weekly covers. It is much like the one kept by my mother. You can read about my mother’s scrapbook and see my own collection of covers here: Star Weekly At War.
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My Married Life
I’m sure some of you may be wondering what my husband does while I’m gadding about. He is a mining construction manager, who supervises the construction of all the buildings on the mine site, plus the milling equipment used to extract the gold from the ore. He started work back in the 1970s as an electrician at a mine in Cassiar, B.C. Over the years he has been involved with gold mines in Canada, Mexico, U.S., Costa Rica, Russia, and Namibia.
Currently, though, he is working on a most interesting project that will probably be his last before retirement. His Vancouver-based employer B2Gold built a gold mine in the west African country of Mali, and is now is constructing a huge solar plant right next to it. The energy harnessed from the brilliant sunshine will help to power the mine, substantially reducing the amount of fossil fuel being burned to generate electricity.
In Mali, where the temperature ranges between 40 and 16 degrees Celsius, and the sunshine is intense, this makes total sense. In Canada, not so much — although hopefully our use of solar energy will continue to increase here at home.
Best of all, thanks to modern technology, my husband can do almost all his work from home — through conference calls, online meetings, and exchanging documents and drawings by email.
When it’s finished, the solar panels will cover 170 acres.
I haven’t been to Mali, but I have visited several of my husband’s mining projects. I found this old photo from my 2001 visit to the Julietta Gold Mine in Far Eastern Russia. To get there, we flew north to Nome, Alaska, and across the Bering Sea to the city of Magadan. We then hopped on an old Russian military helicopter that took us to the site, where I spent three weeks admiring the uninhabited wilderness, going down into the mine shaft, and hobnobbing with the bilingual Russian translators on site. It was a truly educational experience.
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Happy One Hundredth Birthday!
Recently two of the veterans featured on my Wartime Wednesdays blog celebrated their 100th birthdays!
Canadian Army veteran Russell Thompson of Seeley’s Bay, Ontario, was born on September 22, 1919 in Dauphin, Manitoba. He served in France, Belgium and Holland with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. After the war, he built a thriving electrical contracting business in Seeley’s Bay. Read about his exciting wartime experiences here: Russell Thompson: Army Veteran, Role Model.
Jim Ashworth was born April 13, 1919 in Cranbrook, British Columbia. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and flew Hurricane fighter-bombers against the Japanese in Burma. After the war he remained with the RCAF until his retirement, and then moved to Fairmont Hot Springs where he and his wife owned a service station and campground. They live in their own home in Invermere, B.C. and Jim is still driving his own car! Read about his wartime adventures here: Boat-Busting in Burma.
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One Hundred and One Years Young!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent birthdays of two other treasured elders in our community who turned 101 this year!
Joy Johnston Bond
Joy Johnston was born on August 24, 1918 to a pioneer family near Invermere, B.C. and has lived here all her life. She was a member of the Invermere Women’s Militia during the war, training to defend our community against an enemy attack. She and her husband Bill Bond later owned a hardware store here. Joy still lives in her own home and enjoys working in her garden. Read about her wartime experiences here: Girls Primed to Defend the Home Front.
(Sadly, Joy passed away not long after this was written, on October 13, 2019. Rest in Peace, Joy Johnston Bond.)
Ray Crook was born on September 1, 1918 and has spent his entire life here in the Columbia Valley. Ray is not a veteran himself — ironically, the armed forces turned him down because of a heart murmur — but he worked with his father at a prison camp for Conscientious Objectors during the Second World War, located in what is now Kootenay National Park. After the war, he worked as truck driver, carpenter’s helper, forester, and maintenance man for Parks Canada. Ray lives on his own and can often be seen bombing around town on his electric scooter. Read Ray’s fascinating story about the prison camp here: The Guys Who Wouldn’t Go.
You will notice that three of these four centenarians live in my little town of Invermere, B.C. I don’t know if it is the mountain water or the mountain air, but I sure hope it rubs off!
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Wartime Wednesdays Flashback
Now, here’s a story that will warm the cockles of your heart. This little green sweater survived the holocaust.
It was knitted for five-year-old Krystyna Chiger by her grandmother in 1941. Two years later, she and her family were forced to hide in the sewers below Lvov, Poland for 14 months to escape Nazi persecution. This sweater was one of her cherished possessions, and one of the few things she was able to take with her during this ordeal. Here’s a photo of little Krystyna. Happily, she and her entire family survived, along with the sweater.
In 2003, an American doctor (and serious knitter) named Lea Stern first saw the green sweater at The Hidden Children exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She painstakingly recreated the knitting pattern, and it’s now available at the museum gift shop, or by visiting this website: The Little Green Sweater.
If you purchase the pattern, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that all the proceeds go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Meanwhile, the blog post I wrote about knitting back in 2014 is one of the most popular posts on my website! You may read it here: Knitting For Victory.
During the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of people here in Canada and Britain learned to knit so they could send socks and sweaters to their loved ones overseas. Even the Royal Family learned to knit! Here’s a photo of the Queen Mother with her two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, knitting for the troops.
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Friends, the leaves are changing colour and there is fresh snow on the mountains visible from my window. Enjoy your last weeks of sunshine, and you’ll hear from me again in October.
And please share my monthly letter with anyone who might be interested.
As always, Elinor