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Kimberley Families

The Bell Family

as told by Mrs. Ellen (Nellie) Bell

As a young girl, Ellen (Nellie) Bell worked in the cotton mills in Lancashire, England. She was one of six sisters, who all worked there beginning at twelve and thirteen years of age and putting in eleven and a half hours a day.

She married Jack Bell in 1915. He spent two years in France before being recalled to his job in England. When post war depression caused labour problems, Jack came to Kimberley alone in 1921. His mother and sister had come to live here earlier. In November 1921 Nellie set sail with three small daughters Gladys, Bessie, and Nellie, Nellie was only eleven months old. The journey took two weeks on a rough sea and almost two weeks on the train in a colonist car, with a stove at one end where everyone did their cooking. There were no berths and sleep was accomplished as best one could on the hard seats. Supplies had to be purchased whenever the train made stops and Nellie recalls how embarassed she was when she asked the family across the aisle where they had purchased the fish. They had bought some long johns (doughnut-like pastry) that looked exactly like deep fried fish from back home.

When they arrived in Cranbrook the only transportation to Kimberley was by MacLeod's Jitney, and with three small children and their belongings it cost $20.00 for the trip.

The only dwelling they could get was a two room shack at Taylor's Mill, that had been unoccupied for a time. The doors had been left open and cows had wandered in and out. Being November the snow was deep and the weather colder than Nellie was used to. "What had they come to?" Homesick and faced with unfamiliar problems, she felt like going back home, but another month of travel with three small children was more than she could endure.

Water was carried from the creek, coal oil lamps were used for light and a wood range for cooking and heat. Nellie remembers the shock she got when she first saw the stove. It was red with rust and, being from England, where a kitchen stove was the pride of the house and kept polished until you could see your face in it, she set to work with a vengeance. Several times she cut her hand badly while chopping wood blocks into smaller pieces to fit in the stove.

A fourth daughter Mollie was born in this little shack. Closest neighbors were the Davis's who had a cow. She bought milk from them for the four girls. Two sons were born, Alex (Dingey) and Claudie. By this time a hospital had been built on the Townsite and Doctor Hannington was in attendance.

Mrs. Bell recalls the first Christmas in Kimberley. It was very cold but she bundled up the four girls and walked from Taylor's Mill to Handley's Hall for the concert. She still remembers Ida Hannington as a young girl singing "Alice Blue Gown." Nellie also remembers their first car, a second hand wreck bought with the first $75.00 Christmas Bonus the Company paid their employees at that time. It had no top, very little paint, and there were wide cracks in the floor that allowed you to see the rocky road beneath and allow the dust to seep through.

They moved to a larger building, in what used to be the Taylor Mill cookhouse, and here they spent four years. When the Company bought the property and they had to move, Nellie was sorry to go. She had come to love the place. For a short time they lived in one of the small dwellings just below the Mine Portal along Mark Creek. Finally, they were allotted one of the Company houses on 4th Ave. Townsite where they lived for the next thirty-two years.

With six children they lived near the Swan family that also had six children. If there was any mischief afoot these were the first ones to be accused - all twelve of them.

Jack was in the Veterans Guards during the Second World War, in such places as Medicine Hat, Fernie and Victoria. Nellie then went to work for the Company, cleaning the Mine offices. Other women there were Mrs. Swan, Mrs. Wik, and Mrs. Martin.

Gladys married Tuffy Johnson. They have two children, a girl and a boy. Tuffy worked at the Mine and is now pensioned. Bessie married Angus Scott who was Pipe Major for the well-known Kimberley Pipe Band. They had two girls and a boy. After Angus passed away Bessie married Fred Thomason and now resides in Vancouver. Nellie married Bob Varley and they have two daughters, both of whom live in Calgary, but Nellie and Bob still reside in Kimberley. Mollie is now Mrs. Chas Allen and lives in Riondel. There are no children. Alex (Dingy) married Irene Doyle and they had two girls. Dingy spent five years in the Navy and two in the Army. He died in October, 1968. Claudie married Joyce Gelling, they reside in Kimberley where he works underground. They have a boy and a girl.

Shortly before Jack retired in 1956, after thirty-eight years working for the Company, he and Mrs. Bell moved into a small apartment in the Parnell Block. Jack passed away in 1958 but Nellie has continued to live in this apartment for twenty-two years surrounded with pictures of her eleven grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. With so many of her family near by, they visit her often and bring her lots of tasty dishes, so she doesn't have to prepare many meals for herself. At the time of writing she is eighty-three years of age.

She has a keen sense of humor and is a delight to talk to.

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