Charles W. Bennett was one of the early pioneers in B.C. Born in Pembroke, Ontario, where he apprenticed as a blacksmith, he came west when the C.P.R. railway was being built. He worked in a camp near Fort Macleod shoeing horses for the railway. In 1897 he and another chap purchased a pack horse and walked the proposed C.P.R. line through the Crowsnest Pass and on to Trail. They had been cautioned to guard their horses well against Indians on the west side of the pass. The Indians would steal a horse, then offer to find it and sell it back to the owners. When this happened they refused to pay, letting the Indians know they were wise to the trick.
For a short time Charles worked on a locomotive as a fireman on the train that, at that time, came up from Spokane to the smelter at Trail. He tried fishing on one trip out of Astoria, Oregon. In Vancouver, B.C. there were business men who would grub stake anyone interested in prospecting so he tried that for a period in the Queen Charlotte Islands.
He headed back inland and worked at his trade of blacksmith in several small mines around Hedley and Phoenix. It was here he met a Swedish waitress, Emily Swanson, at the cookhouse and they were married in 1911. He worked for the Silver King mine near Nelson in 1913. It was here his first son, Albert, was born. In 1914 he spent time at the War Eagle and Center Star Mines near Rossland where two more sons, Ross and Earl, were born. A daughter, Geva, was born after their arrival in Kimberley.
In the spring of 1918 Charles came to work at the Top mine at Kimberley and his family arrived in the fall of that same year. There was no school at the Top mine at that time and the small school in Kimberley was full. The large lobby of the Ontario Hotel had been made into a school room to handle the overflow and this was where Albert started his schooling. The two-and-a-haif mile walk from the Top Mine was not bad coming down but it was a long pull back up. If he was lucky, Albert and others sometimes caught a ride with "Vinegar" Bill Philpot, who freighted supplies and mail from town to the Top Mine. In winter they used sleighs. He still has the sleigh he owned as a kid. He also has an old family McLary cook stove at his cabin at Wasa Lake and the old heater which he recently relined. Albert says it was some job. There were forty-eight bolts to replace.
Albert remembers an incident while living at the Top Mine, Morgan Price was in charge of the pigs there but it was decided they should be moved to the Townsite. They commandeered about twenty boys to drive the pigs down the road to the new pen. As soon as they were released they took off in all directions into the brush and through the trees. There were pigs and kids running everywhere but on the road. The task was eventually accomplished but the episode was an unforgettable experience.
Albert recalls that Burns and AndePson's Butcher Shops delivered meat in two-wheeled carts that looked like large tool boxes with a step on the back to ride on. He also remembers Tom Boardman and Ted Holt delivering bread for Wallace's Bakery.
One of his first Christmas concerts was attended in down town Kimberley. The family bundled up in a horse-drawn cutter and he recalls falling asleep on the long ride home to the Top Mine. He seemed to be travelling all night.
In 1932 Albert left school and started working in the Kimberley Hardware for Chas. Crisford, located on the present premises of Holmes Real Estate. In 1941 the Hardware store moved to larger quarters across the street to where Macleods is now located. This was known as the Pioneer Block and he remembers it being built in 1925.
He worked in two hardware stores in Cranbrook from 1941 to 1950, McBrides' and Park's Hardware. In 1969 he changed jobs and went to work in the Kimberley Post Office. Albert retired in the fall of 1978. He married Hazel Owen ~ in 1935. They have two sons Barry and Eddie. Barry is in Calgary working for the Alberta Government as a field supervisor on the Apprenticeship Board. He is married with two boys of his own. Eddie still resides in Kimberley and works at the Skookumchuck Pulp Mill and has two children, a boy and a girl.
Ross lives in Cranbrook and married Hazel's sister, Gelena Owen.
Earl married a Cranbrook girl, Irene Milne and they had four children. Cheryl has passed away. Lorne is in London, England, Karen and Sharon were twins but Sharon died. Karen lives in Prince George. Earl was a welder for the Company. He passed away in 1975.
Geva married Ed Renaud and they had seven children all born in Kimberley. Geva also died. Albert has been Secretary for the Air Cadets for a number of years and has watched the boys win quite a few hundred awards for Shooting.
He and Hazel plan to remain in Kimberley.