Good Friday Ghost Town
Driving down Railway on Good Friday presented an image that has left itself so often in peoples’ minds about Ashcroft. Not a soul around for seven blocks. Not a vehicle. Not even a cat or a dog. No railroad workers. Even their yellow work cages parked in a neat row along the spur track. It was only when I reached Safety Mart that life renewed itself. Every parking slot filled. People spilled out of exits loaded with groceries. But how often have you heard comments like, “You could fire a canon down Railway without hitting anything,” or, “All I saw was a tumbleweed rolling down the avenue.” But I heard that the pews at St. Alban’s were filled that morning.
Temporary Foreign Workers
Has become a big issue. The issue isn’t as straightforward as it seems. There’s a number of reasons why foreign workers are being used. There are jobs out there that Canadians don’t want. Jobs that require shift work, working on weekends, working long hours under a hot sun, back breaking toil, bending, lifting, chopping, pruning, – the list goes on and on. We know in this area, that seasonal Mexican and East Indian workers are absolutely essential to production on our farms, in our nurseries. Some of the MacDonalds’ franchises have been accused of firing long established workers in order to hire foreign workers. But I know from personal experience years ago, when the mine shut down in Highland Valley, when a few of us went out to the produce fields at Basque, glad of the work to tide us over. And while we were pruning grapevines, were told that the younger people who could have made some money doing the work, didn’t want it. No, the issue isn’t a cut and dried one.
We never know what the ‘Fates’ will bring us from one day to the other. When Sherman and I moved to Mesa Vista Court in Ashcroft, we intended to remain for a few years at least. But health issues intervened. Sherman is in care in Kelowna. And I am here, and find I can no longer maintain our dwelling as I would wish it to be maintained. Minus weed infestation, gardening. But the increasing costs of utilities poses another challenge. Telephone rates have increased substantially, for example, as well as natural gas. I sat down and pondered. What to do? Last winter, I went to the Thompson View Manor, and Reneeta gave me a tour. The suite was attractive. I asked to be considered a future tenant. On June 1, I will move into my new home. There’s a nice little patio for my table and chairs. And a great view to gaze at over my morning coffee. I am looking forward to beginning a new chapter. I’ll still have the internet that connects me with The Journal, and my families in Maui and Surrey. Life is good. “As your faith is, so shall your powers and blessings be.” I keep that in mind.
She’s got it. She’s had it for years. I will never forget her sweeping into the Ashcroft Community Hall on voting day in a 1980’s federal election. Straight out of Vanity Fair. Long coat, thick hair framing a face full of ‘elan’; that quality in any one that stands out like a beacon. I am referring to Marnie Adamski. Back from their stay in Mexico, Marnie stopped for a chat from her vehicle, still remarkably handsome, still doing. As Barb Gyoba and I worked in the garden. Actually, Barb was doing all the work, though I did spade up some knapweed, that weed that has overtaken the environs for miles around Ashcroft. I’ll miss gardening. I know I will. I find it as creative as painting, writing. Even making bread!
A family emergency
Nothing stops you in your tracks, so to speak, than a family emergency. My beloved grand daughter, Nalani, 33, who lives in Maui, gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter three weeks ago. Sophia Grace’s face appeared on the computer with her mom and family around them. But the birth was very difficult. An infection developed. Nalani’s life hung in the balance. Prayers were said from Ashcroft and Bellingham, Washington, to Haifa, Israel. What else could we do. but pray? My daughter was with Nalani day in and day out. Nalani’s husband Randal looked after the three children, aged 5, 1, and the newborn, Sophia. Randal is a very good dad. Grandmas helped too. And other relatives. Nalani is at home now, but under a nurse’s care three days a week. She is recovering, but the progress is steady and slow. Another operation is scheduled for July or August. “Keep praying,” Nadine e-mails. I give thanks to my church family for their prayers. They are more appreciated than you can imagine. One other item of interest, in the face of the American reluctance to have socialized medicine… Nalani’s care would have cost $200,000, had they not had medical and hospital insurance!
A bit about our Asian history
I was told by the operator of the restaurant at the River Inn, that he and his wife will be operating The Diner in Ashcroft. A friend and I went for lunch to the hotel recently. That is good news indeed! Remember Parkie? Parkie’s operated for many years where the Central Cafe is today. Parkie’s breakfasts, lunches, and Chinese food were literally, the order of the day. Many will remember those days. The cafe was filled from morning until evening. Coffee at 10 brought out all the locals, and likewise at 3 pm. Chinese once operated the Ashcroft Hotel that stood at the corner of 4th Avenue and Railway. Chinese also operated grocery stores, a noodle shop. The Chinese population of Ashcroft during the 20’s and 30’s was the largest in the area. They say 500 lived within that corner of Railway and Barnes Lake Road.
The Chinese helped build our railroads, suffered punishing loss of life in doing so. They built the flumes to carry water from the lakes and rivers to the farms. The federal and provincial laws right up until near the end of the 1940’s, demanded $500 “head tax” on any Chinese entering Canada. This meant thousands of men toiled in our fields, worked our mines, and did so without the support of their families near. Yet, despite this discrimination, Chinese entered the war and served their country. It is a sad commentary on our history. Just as the incarceration of Japanese families in the Second World War in camps located in remote areas has left its mark. No compensation was ever made to those who lost their businesses, livelihoods, during those war years. As a nation, we are far from being unblemished. Native Indian culture was devastated from the 1880’s until the last residential schools were finally closed. Thank God, we appear to have learned from our past transgressions.
Oil by rail
Is expected to increase four fold. “skyrocket’ is the word used. It is absolutely essential then, that oil cars be built to the safest specifications. No town lying alongside a rail line, or two rail lines, as does Ashcroft, can be anything but concerned. Our council is well aware of the dangers. They have no doubt expressed them to the powers that be in Ottawa, where new regulations are required urgently to guarantee the safety of our communities. I was glad to read in The Journal, that our Ashcroft council is “on the bit” in this regard.
It is essential that I find a permanent home for my collection of unsold paintings, drawings. I am hoping that the Kamloops Art Gallery will accept my collection, which includes several paintings by established artists such as Marie Nagel, Kathleen Hamilton. I am particularly concerned about the early figure work, portraits, group and single. There has never been a market much for figure painting, – and, except for the odd commissioned portrait and group family portraits of children, the work remains. They have been shown in several civic galleries, including Kamloops, Burnaby, Prince George, and in Vancouver. I painted a number of portraits over the years, and some have appeared in my group paintings. For over a decade, Merritt, B.C. was my main market. Two agents there sold a goodly number of paintings, including the odd figure painting. Recently, a friend looking at some of the smaller paintings, suggested I have a sale soon, at greatly reduced prices. So I will be advertising the sale in The Journal this week in St. Alban’s Hall. Finding a permanent home for an artists’ collection can be quite a challenge. Even the great Impressionist, Claude Monet’s collection was initially turned down the Louvre! A collection of Ashcroft streetscapes is owned by the Thompson Nicola Library System and also the three on Savona themes, is in the library there.
Keeping a journal
When people tell me about their lives, I am fascinated by some of the challenging times they have lived. I always ask, “Do you keep a journal?”, and sad to say, most of the time, the answer is “No.” Even the habits and day to day events that seem quite ordinary, and may not seem worth recording, can be absolutely fascinating to a researcher, historian. What many people don’t realize is, that our history books depend upon those little notes and comments, opinions, feelings and emotions that enter into the written word. The trouble with the digital type of communication that has come about over the past 20 or so years, is, it is a type of shorthand. This may be valuable for police records as they scan the hard drive of a computer, but it will scarcely be the stuff of history. At least, not the kind of history we are accustomed to studying. Sure, in the police files dusting on the shelves, maybe. The stuff of history is the written word. It is also the stuff of literature.
I leave you with these thoughts and personal reflections for another month. Read any good books recently?
Esther Darlington MacDonald