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Kimberley Families

The Davis Family
as told by Jim

Mr. James Harley Davis Sr. was born in London, England in 1881 and grew up in that city. His sister had left England earlier and went to Cranbrook where she found work, and then persuaded her brother to come to this new land. Sarah Ann Wilson was born in Leeds, England, and went to Toronto and eventually to Cranbrook. She met Mr. Davis here and they were married in 1910.

Mr. Davis got a job with the Company at the Top Mine in Kimberley, but as houses were scarce, Mrs. Davis stayed in Cranbrook. In 1913 they moved to Marysville and lived in a small cabin, where Frank was born. Their next door neighbor was Mr. and Mrs. George James and little son, Leslie (Sparky). The cabin wasn't too satisfactory so they reluctantly moved back to Cranbrook. They were eventually able to buy a house at Taylor's Mill and moved to Kimberley for keeps. In 1924 they moved to a new house on Mark Street where Mrs. Davis lived until 1960.

Mr. Davis was a lover of the outdoors, during the summers he worked for the Forestry Service as District Fire Warden or guided mineral exploration parties for the Company. In the winters he worked in the Mine, and for a period in 1914- 1915 he operated an electric mucking machine for driving the main 3900 level haulage tunnel.

Jim was barely seven years old but vividly remembers the forest fire of 1919. As fire warden, Mr. Davis was totally involved. Every available man and boy was put to work putting out spot fires, caused by a high wind that carried flying embers everywhere, as North Star Hill was an inferno. A special train was sent from Cranbrook to evacuate the town, and the people could only take what they could carry. Mrs. Davis had the boys dig a hole in a nearby sandpit and buried her linens and dishes etc. but refused to leave as her husband was reported missing. That night the wind changed and by morning the danger was over and he came home with his clothes ragged and burnt, extremely worn out but otherwise alright.

Mr. Davis passed away in 1926, leaving his wife and four young children; Jim, Frank, Alice and Harold (Mike).

It was necessary for Jim to quit school and get a job to support the family. He was fifteen when a friend of the family, Mr. A. Watkins, took him up to the Mine to see Bill Lindsay, the Mine Foreman. Jim still remembers that day, as "Roaring Bill" looked him over and said with a few colorful adjectives, "the first thing you do is to get your hands out of your pockets." Jim started at a dollar a day as an electrical apprentice and worked for the Company for 45 years, retiring in 1972 as Electrical Foreman for the Kimberley Operations.

In the early days, some of the Company employees lived in Cranbrook and could only get home on long weekends. Two of these were Charlie Selby and Jim's Uncle, Alf Gardener. Jim and Frank would go with their uncle occasionally and spend the weekend with their aunt and uncle. Charlie rode a bicycle and Alf drove an old Chevrolet. They usually left Kimberley about the same time, but sometimes Charlie would get to Cranbrook first. Alf had about four spare tires strapped on the back of his car plus all his tire-repair equipment. About half way to Cranbrook they would have a flat tire and Charlie would give them a wave as he passed. With the tire repaired they would catch up to him and roar past with the suitable melody on the Klaxon. Invariably there would be another flat and Charlie would pass again, this time giving them a four fingered salute.

Jim has been active in community affairs all his life. He joined the Boy Scouts in 1924 and was with them for 25 years as a scout, Scout Master and Executive Member. He served on the Workman's Co-operative Committee, Welfare Committee and the Union Medical Committee. He was twice elected to the City Council and served on the various council committees for ten years.

Other organizations he worked with were the Pioneer Lodge, Projects Society, 1969 and 1972 Centennial Celebrations Committee and the Handicapped Bus Transportation Committee. He was a member of the Court of Revision and the Board of Variance. He was twice elected as Constituency President for the Social Credit Party. In 1976 he was elected President of the Kimberley Senior Citizens Association and President of the East Kootenay Regional Council in 1978.

He was also active in first aid and mine rescue work. In 1955 he captained the team that won the Provincial and Dominion first aid championships. Other members of the team were D. McArthur, C. Leonhardt, A. Caldwell and D. Jacobson, the coaches were Joe Shaw and Joe McLay.

Jim is also the instigator and co-author of "Mountain Treasures", the book on the history of Kimberley. Jim married Lornetta Shaw in 1935 and they have a married son, Norman living in Vancouver.

Frank was interested in school sports and took an active part in basketball and track and field events. He remembers Fred Martello, a school teacher who devoted a great deal of time encouraging and training many Kimberley boys and girls. Frank began his working years during the depression and worked for the Pete Woods Dairy for fifty cents a day, and in 1934 he delivered groceries for the Mark Creek Store. He started work with the Company in 1935 on the transportation crew in the Mine and was later transferred to the Surface Car Shop.

Frank enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1940 and was stationed in Inverness, Scotland. During the war years he saw action in Belgium, France and Germany.

On leave in October, 1945 he married Margaret Johnston in Glasgow. After his discharge, he returned to Kimberley and went back to work with the Mechanical Department at the Mine. He retired in 1975 after working 40 years with the Company. Frank's hobbies are curling, bowling, fishing and collecting and working on driftwood.

Frank and Margaret moved to Naniamo, Vancouver Island, in 1978 and are enjoying their new surroundings. They have one married son, Michael, living in Nanaimo.

Alice was born in Cranbrook, as there was no hospital in Kimberley at that time. Some of her recollections of Taylor's Mill were helping her mother with the chores the children had to share. Carrying wood for the stove, getting water from the nearby creek and helping around the house. After Mr. Davis passed away Mrs. Davis had a hard time providing for her family. She kept a cow and chickens and sold milk and eggs to Dr. Hannington's small hospital, which the children delivered daily. With coal cars unloading nearby, the boys would gather the coal that spilled on the tracks for their stove.

Alice married Leonard Porter of Cranbrook in 1940 and have three married children; Jimmy, Marion and Gordon. Jimmy lives in Houston and has two daughters. Marion also has two daughters, they lived in Kitimat for a short time and then returned to Cranbrook. Gordon has one son and also lives in Cranbrook.

Harold, "Mike" is the youngest of the Davis family and was also born in Cranbrook. After completing his schooling he worked for the Forestry Service on a fire suppresion crew in the Creston area for a year. In 1938 he started work with the Company in the Rock House, after a year there he was transferred underground on the transportation crew.

He enlisted in the Air Force in 1942 and took his training in Medicine Hat and St. Thomas as an Air Frame Mechanic. He was stationed at an American Air base in Alaska for one year and then was transferred to Boundary Bay. After his discharge he went to V.B.C. for three years to further his education. He has worked for the Northern Construction Company, the Vancouver General Hospital and is presently working for Lenkurt Electric Company in Burnaby.

Mike married a Vancouver girl and they live in Burnaby, they have two sons; Howard and Alan.

Mrs. Davis Sr. left Kimberley in 1960 to live near her son in Burnaby. In 1971 she went to Cranbrook and stayed at the Extended Care Home until she passed away in 1973 at 97 years of age.

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