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Kimberley Families

The Albin Johnson Family


as told by Gerda Johnson

Mr. Johnson learned the shoe-making trade from his father in Sweden before coming to Canada. Arriving in 1905, he spent five years working for the C.P.R. in the Crowsnest area, then started working for the St. Eugene mine at Moyie in March of 1910. He transferred to Kimberley in September of that year and advanced to shift boss at the Top Mine, until the fateful strike of 1919. Along with several others, because of their alliance with the miners' union it was resign or be fired.

This proved a blessing as it prompted him to begin his own business. He and his family moved from the Top Mine into town and Albin opened a shoe store and shoe repair shop on Spokane Street. He continued in this business until he retired in 1958.

Gerda Johnson, also born in Sweden, had lived with her grandmother there, while her parents came to Rossland in 1905, where her father worked as a blacksmith. Gerda sailed from Sweden at the age of fourteen to join her parents, with no knowledge of English. However, she attended school in Rossland where she learned the language.

At the age of nineteen, she came to Kimberley to work as a waitress at the Top Mine cookhouse. She not only waited on tables, but washed piles of dishes, scrubbed the big dining room floor, made up lunch buckets and cleaned rooms. She recalls an amusing incident that took place there. The dining room was very short of dishes, especially cups, and they were using soup bowls for coffee mugs. One day the Superintendent, Mr. Blaylock, decided to eat there. The boss was very angry with Gerda when she deliberately served Mr. Blaylock his coffee in a soup bowl. Needless to say, the much delayed order for dishes was speeded up and arrived promptly.

Albin and Gerda Johnson, 80 and 75 years of age

Albin and Gerda were married in Cranbrook on Valentine's Day, 1912, and over the next few years had six children; Art, Edna, Annie, Lilian, Mildred and Edward. All three younger daughters, married with families of their own, still reside in Kimberley.

Art ran a General Store for his father in Canal Flats from 1927 to 1936. He now runs a store and Post Office at Galloway, a lumber town not far away.

Edna worked at the Kimberley Hardware before her marriage to Vic Skalk. He worked at the mine for ten years before they moved to Nakusp. They have eight children.

Annie was a stenographer for the Kimberley Hardware prior to her marriage to Ernie Walker, the son of another early family in Kimberley. They have three children Donald, David and Marjorie.

Lilian became a teacher. Her first school was at Mayook, where she taught for one year, then she taught three years in Marysville. She married Wilf Corriveau and they have four children; Lynne, Art, Brian and Jerry. After her children were all in school, Lilian returned to teaching at the Blarchmont School where she remained for nineteen years, retiring in 1978.

Millie was a stenographer for the Company at the Mine Office for four years and she worked in both the Clinic and the Hospital Health Unit for ten years. She married Vic Corriveau, Wilf's brother, and they have 2 children; a daughter, Terry, and a son, Garry. Recently Millie has worked part time in a gift shop.

Edward, the youngest, married Ines DeCecco of Cranbrook, and resides in North Vancouver with sons Gary and Ross.

The girls remember their growing-up years when skating on Kimberley Creek, which entailed ducking under numerous foot bridges that spanned the narrow waterway, that ran between homes and woodsheds. Later they dammed the creek to create a rink, where Centennial House now stands. This was the site of the first arena buil t a few years later. Bobsleighing was another winter sport. The steep hill from the Townsite made an excellent run, as they could slide right through town to the old Taylor Mill site, as long as the policeman didn't stop them for endangering themselves and other people. While sleighing at night they would use a miners' carbide lamp.

Summers there was swimming in the creek, picnics and best of all, the hikes up North Star Mountain to pick buckets of delicious huckleberries for pies and preserves. In those days, there were no organized games, so you made your own fun, of which there was plenty.

One event that sticks in Lil's mind when she was young, was when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, came to visit Kimberley and to inspect the Mine. The long procession of open touring cars coming down the hill passed Mrs. Halpin's house and as the royal car reached her place, she rushed out suddenly to present the Prince with a bouquet of sweet peas from her garden, much to the consternation of the security guards.

Mr. Johnson lived to be eighty-four and spent his years of retirement fishing and gardening. He died in 1971. Mrs. Johnson died in 1977 at eighty-six, very shortly after telling this story.

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