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Kimberley Families

The Blundell Family

as told by Ed

Ed's folks hail from Birmingham, England. His father was a green grocer there before coming to Canada, when Ed was only ten.

One of his brothers stowed away on a cattle boat to get to Canada.

Ed started working in the Granby mine In Phoenix, B.C. when he was just sixteen. For the next few years he worked in numerous mines throughout the area; Rossland, Butte, Montana, even Alaska. He recalls the winters in Phoenix when the snow was very deep. He had to walk five and a half miles into Greenwood to attend high school.

He arrived in Kimberley in 1920,just after the big strike. The Company and the Union members were still harbouring hard feelings and many of the men working were young lads from prairie farms, needing jobs, but because of the heated controversy, were dubbed scabs.

Ed's first job was cutting timbers with Ed Houle and Gus Soderholm. He was living in a tent in the valley below the Mine Portal. On May 16th of that year,about twenty inches of heavy wet snow fell during the night and next morning his first blow of the axe on a tall tree almost buried him in the snow that fell off the branches. He was about to quit right then but was sent on another job. Ed Handley was motor man on the train taking men underground, but as this was Ed's first trip in the Mine he didn't know where to stop, Handley was then told to show Ed around that part of the haulage system.

Over the years Ed said that Bill Lindsay must have fired him forty times. They both had a flair for fancy language and it often ended in the old familiar routine, "I Quit", "You can't, your fired". One day Ed picked up his lunch bucket to leave following one of these episodes and Bill yelled, "You leave and you're fired", and so went the banter that sounded most serious. Ed claims that Bill was a rare character, a diamond in the rough. A fair man but one had to understand him to appreciate his qualities.

Ed recalls the days when almost every establishment in town did a bit of bootlegging in the back room. The men could buy a half dozen quarts of beer and place them in the creek to keep cold. They'd stop after work and enjoy a cool one sitting on the bank. They'd leave the empties for the kids to collect. Not once were any of the full bottles stolen. Something to say for those days. Not so with the men. They once snitched a bottle and a half of whiskey from the Chinese Cafe that was in the building now occupied by Repps Agency. When the poor Chinaman found out, he set up such a ky-yi, that Ed didn't have the nerve to go back for a month.

Ed has the distinction of being the one and only Wild• Man of Borneo in Kimberley and possibly in Canada. For the July 1st celebrations in 1924 he took a suit of full length underwear, cut the buttons off, dyed them the proper shade of brown and had them sewn tight on his body. A cage was made for him and, with a bone in his nose, a spear and a few old bones scattered around the cage, he really looked the part. A local dog had his fur trimmed to look like a lion and kept him company in the cage. Ed also provided the proper grimaces, howls and everything else that a Wild Man from Borneo would be expected to do.

Ed was a hockey player, and played for the senior league for eight or nine years before the Dynamiters were formed in 1931.

Ed worked for the Company for forty years as a miner, pipefitter and finally transportation foreman.

In 1924, he married Mina Slawter. Mina was only nineteen and needed her parents consent. They naturally thought she was too young and felt Ed was not a stable prospect. After much persuasion they gave their consent. Just to prove how wrong first impressions can be, Ed and Mina celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1974, with their natural, adopted, and foster children and their families all attending.

They have lived a very full and busy life. They had four sons; Edward, jr., Earle, Thomas and Edgar. Edward died of polio in 1930 at the age of five before the doctors could diagnose what it was. Mina still wanted a girl, so they adopted two and acted as foster parents for three more. Earle still resides in Kimberley, working as a miner for the Company. He is married and they have three children. Thomas works for a contracting company in Calgary and is the father of six children, five of them girls. Edgar is the Vice Principal of a school in Fort St. James and he has a girl and a boy. Edgar was born with a ruptured diaphram that allowed his stomach to develop in the chest cavity, crushing one lung. He was almost eleven years old before this was discovered and he underwent surgery to correct the ailment.

Joan and Judy, the adopted daughters, are married. Joan lives in Kitimat and has three children. Judy is in Vernon and works for the John Howard Society. They have one daughter.

Not being busy enough with raising children and working in the mine, they opened a flower shop in 1941, next door to Jack O'Neills drug store. Two more moves took them to what is now Fred's Place. It was so successful that in 1943, they built their own greenhouse back of their home on Ritchie Townsite, and raised bedding plants in the spring and flowers in the summer.

III health forced Ed to retire early. They owned a cabin at Was a Lake which they enlarged and improved, spending the next ten years there, but going to Victoria in the winters. Ed's doctor advised him to be a little closer to medical facilities, so they moved into the Kimbrook Apartments. With no garden to work in, this was like a prison for Ed, so they bought a little house on Wallinger Avenue close to the centre of town and remodeled it. It has a small garden space and a small greenhouse in which Ed spends a great deal of his time.

The Blundell's love Kimberley and are enjoying their retirement years here.

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