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Kimberley Families

The Hulland Family


as told by Tom

Tom Hulland is another person who ex-perienced the hardship of prairie homesteading before he eventually arrived in Kimberley. He recalls the trip his elder brother and he made from Saskatchewan to Alberta, when land was being opened up there for homesteading in 1916. His brother rode the large wagon, drawn by four horses, while Tom rode horseback and herded four cows and a new born He was only fourteen at the time and his brother nineteen. Still miles from their destination, they had a misfortune. Going down a long hill, the tire came off the wheel and rolled on ahead before the wheel actually broke. Tom was left alone with their belongings, while his brother went on to see what could be done. The delay gave the new calf a chance to rest, it was extremely tired as they had been bucking a fifty mile an hour wind for some time.

The store keeper at a small place loaned them another wagon, but not as big as their own, so some of their belongings had to be left behind.

Their homestead was west of Medicine Hat and twenty miles north of Redcliffe.

The crops of 1916 and 1917 had been exceptional, but a few dry windy years were most discouraging and, by 1924, they had no crop at all. Tom decided that was just not the life for him. In Redcliffe, there was a blacksmith named Alf Bridle, who had worked at the Sullivan Mine in 1912. He had built the major part of the skyline tram from the Top Mine rockhouse to the railway cars in the Mark Creek valley, where the main portal is today. He also sharpened the steel bits for the drills. The story is told that he once waved a hot steel in Mr. Blaylock's face when he kept interrupting him at his work. Mr. Bridle was lured back to the prairies when the land development opened up. It was he that told Tom, now twenty-one, that no doubt he could get work in that area. Tom travelled by train through the Crowsnest and worked for a time at Lumberton, for the B.C. Spruce Mills.

When he came to Kimberley, he went to work at the Top Mine. Mr. Fortier was his boss. He worked for a year as a mucker underground and stayed at the bunkhouses there.

In 1929, Tom transferred to the Tunnel and by this time he had become a barman. In those days there were only two shifts - day shift and afternoons, The afternoon shift did the drilling and just before leaving, would do the blasting, this left all night for the dust and gas to settle. Day shift would clean up the loosened ore, this was called mucking, hence the name mucker to anyone on this job.

The responsibility of the barman was to check out the safety of the area that had been blasted before any muckers went in. This meant barring down any loose rock still hanging from the walls and roof. As Tom explained it, there is a foot wall and the hanging wall, the ore is sandwiched in between. In order to test the hanging wall, it was often required of the barman to climb three twenty foot ladders, lashed one on top of the other, and supported by six strong ropes. Then with a steel bar, anywhere from eight to twenty feet long, bar down any loose rocks.

Barman's ladders.

A good barman, (and Tom was a good one) could tell by tapping the rocks and listening to the sound, just how solid or loose it would be. Today they use aluminum bars that are much lighter and easier to handle. The lives of the miners depended on how safe the barman left the area to be worked in.

Tom remembers a Mr. Larson, a Swedish chap, that he worked with. Sometimes a drill steel would get stuck and have to be loosened by hammering it sideways, some steels were more brittle than others and this particular one chipped. A piece embedded itself in his eye, too deep to be seen. Mr. Larson went to Vancouver and the eye was removed just before his other one was affected. It was accidents like this that prompted the Company to insist on everyone wearing safety glasses. An accident such as described above, happens when Company precautions are not obeyed.

Tom was a member of the first Mine Rescue team that won the East Kootenay Championship in 1932.

He married a Cranbrook girl, Grace McFarlane, in 1936. They have one son, John, who received his schooling in Kimberley before attending two years at the B.C. Institute of Technology. He worked for the B.C. Research Council. He is now living on Kootenay Lake near Riondel, and is married with two sons.

Tom and Grace still reside in the house they first moved into when they were married in the section of Kimberley called Happy Valley. Now retired, he enjoys gardening and has a small work shop with its own forge, as he works in metal as well as wood.

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