I guess that my visit to the new school on the old Gundy Ranch brought back a lot of old memories that were lying dormant in my mind. Perhaps they were all pretty unimportant at the time and just a part of that other life that we lived, and very seldom recall in today’s mad whirl of events. It’s just my own philosophy — but I do feel that the young people of today are being deprived of something very important.
When I was seventeen to twenty-five and when I was completely frustrated with life, I could always find many ways of letting off excess steam, such as saddling up a bronc and crawling aboard. The excess steam soon went out of one of us.
There were many other ways such as a moose hunt in the wilds, all by myself. These things are not available to young people today.
One incident in my early days I thought kind of exciting, and telling of it just might clear up a mystery for someone either now or sometime in the future. I believe it was in the summer and winter of 1930-31. I drove our first representative in the British Columbia Legislature, Clive Planta. Many of you will remember him as one of the prominent figures of those days. Also Mr. McLeod, the school inspector who I also drove. I had travelled over 6,000 miles with a team of horses, riding them in the fall and summer, driving them all winter, and riding again in the spring when the snow was gone. It was a long cold winter.
In the incident that I am thinking of, Clive and I were riding towards Fellers Heights where he was to hold a meeting. When Clive was a boy of about fifteen years he had suffered a broken back and had been all those years with a steel brace that ran from his neck to the end of his spine – a steel backbone I guess you would call it – about three quarters of an inch wide by a quarter of an inch thick. It had about three ribs hinged to each side that buckled about his chest and abdomen, a steel spine to support a broken back. It was darned uncomfortable to ride in. Clive still bore it for a long time. But this day Clive stopped, got off, undressed, unbuckled the contraption and threw it as far as he could into the bush, never to wear it again, and never really missed it.
To anyone finding it, it would certainly look like the remains of some strange prehistoric animal, and if anyone hasn’t found it yet, someday someone will. I can imagine their consternation. If anyone has or does (find it) I would surely like to hear from him. It will be somewhere between Henshaw Valley and Fellers Heights. We were travelling from the Gundy Ranch via Henshaw Valley and were closer to Fellers’ Heights on an old wagon trail.
Another incident occurred when Planta and I stayed in a well-known hotel in Fort St. John. It was best known for its bedbugs, but was the best in town at the time. Many a morning Clive would have a string of bugs he had sat up most of the night to kill, lined up touching head to toe in a line that would reach from side to side of the dresser that was between the beds. That dresser was close to two feet wide. In case you are wondering what I was doing all night long — well, I am immune to bedbugs. They just don’t bite me. Don’t ask my why. Planta always maintained that they were smart, and had no intentions of committing suicide.
In 1930-31 the great depression was in full swing. Darn few people had any money at all, but most any place we went we were invited for coffee. The usual coffee was roasted wheat with no sugar, and believe it or not, it was not too bad, when you got used to it. As a matter of fact it tasted quite like Postum – if anybody can remember Postum.
One thing got to be quite a joke between us. It was along towards spring. Everyone was pretty fed up with the diet which consisted mostly of moose meat, boiled wheat porridge and roasted wheat coffee. It was all good healthy food but everyone was hungry for something new. Then the chickens began to lay and everyone wanted to give us a special treat. Fresh eggs! They were a treat for a couple of days, but after eggs three times a day for days and days they got a little too much! However, Planta, being a good politician, had to look delighted whenever anyone mentioned having “a treat” for us. “Fresh eggs!” Well, I wasn’t delighted! In fact the thought of them made me slightly sick but I needed that job, so I had to look just as delighted as he did!
In all of this political stuff, there was one episode that I thought was going to be the end of Planta. Without mentioning any names I will try to tell you the story.
We held a political meeting at Tupper Creek School. After the meeting, one of Planta’s chief supporters — I’ll call him Larry S. — insisted that we go to his house and have a drink of potato whiskey that he had just made. It was supposedly real good stuff. Maybe it was or maybe we both imbibed a little too freely. Anyway, we were both sick all night and twice as sick the next morning. The next night we were to appear at a meeting north of the River around the Beatton River area. Well, we pulled out early in the morning, so sick we couldn’t eat any breakfast. Dinnertime came and we still weren’t interested in food. Around suppertime we arrived at our destination, feeling that we were both going to live after all. Well!
When we pulled into our new host’s yard, his first words were – “You fellows are sure in luck! I’ve just run off a batch of potato whiskey. I got a recipe from a friend of mine, Larry S. of Tupper Creek.”
Poor Plant had to continue to be the model politician and show his delight at his good fortune. That time I was a little luckier for, job or no job, I turned teetotaler in a hurry. The next day I was able to laugh at Planta. He gave me plenty of reason — for he was sure sick!
Just a few more words about Clive Planta. Just like any politician he was liked by some and disliked by many others. I still call him a friend and used to hear from him occasionally from his home in Victoria.
One “stunt” that I have seen Planta do is this … We would hold meetings with sometimes two hundred people. He would bet me that he could meet people at the door, get the names of men, women, and kids, and even babes in arms. As they left, he would go back to the door and call them all by name as they went out. As far as I remember, he never missed.