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Kimberley Families

The Eccleston Family
as told by Bobby

Robert (Bobby) Eccleston was born and raised in Lancashire, England. He worked in a coal mine there before joining the Army and spending two years in the service.

He married Ellen Prescott in 1920. Following the war, young veterans were given a grant assisting them with transportation on a soldiers settlement scheme. He had an elder brother, Bill, that had homesteaded in Saskatchewan since 1912 so he decided to come to Canada in 1921. One year on a homestead was enough. He came west to Fernie and got work in the Coal Creek Mine. Ellen went back to England for a time, where their daughter Bessie, was born. On her return, they settled in Coal Creek until the mine began working only one or two days a week.

In April of 1924, Bobby came to Kimberley looking for work and got a job at the Concentrator on the pipe gang. He stayed in the bunkhouse just long enough to build a house in Chapman Camp.

Ellen again went back to England in 1926 where their son George was born, and she returned the following year. The water mains to Chapman Camp were not installed until 1925, so water for homes was obtained from a stand pipe near the cookhouse. Outdoor plumbing was still the order of the day. The only fire protection was a hose reel manned by volunteers. Once when the fire alarm went, Bobby ran down the street and met the hose reel being hauled toward him, to discover the fire was in his next door neighbor's house.

Bobby learned to play soccer in England so it was natural he would play on the Chapman Camp Team. Some of the players were Jack, Chris and Horie Evans, Jimmy Russell, Walter Holdsworth, Jack Sargeant, Danny Neve, Alex MacDonald, Bill Parnell, Dickie Dickens and Les Sales. The ball field was all cleared with volunteer labor.

His love was playing the piano and singing and in those early days when few people owned cars, the village of Chapman Camp was an entity in itself. It was noted for its happy times. When the beautiful Oughtred Hall was built in 1925, it contained everything a community needed for relaxation - alley bowling, billiard tables, library, a canteen and an excellent dance floor. It was a great loss to the community when it burned down in 1952. Bobby was the back bone of arranging the entertainment in those early days. Some of the good singers were Jim Barton, Bill Derbyshire and Dave Honeyman. Bill Spittle was always called upon to sing the Cobbler's Song - with action.

When Mr. Oughtred was the Superintendent of the Concentrator, a home was built for him and a house warming party was put on. Everyone had such a good time and enjoyed the entertainment so much that a rash of housewarmings took place after that. Bobby often played piano with George James and Jack Evans. Billy Young and Dave Hogg each played the violin. An impromptu orchestra could be arranged anytime. Bobby was a spare piano player for the old time silent movies in the old Orpheum Theatre in Kimberley. He sang in the Orpheus Choir and in the local musicals put on by Mrs. Suart. Bobby can still be relied on to play for Senior Citizens or any group sing-songs. He needs no music and can play almost any request.

Bobby worked in the Pipe shop for thirty- seven years and retired as lead hand there in 1961. Since his retirement, Bobby and Ellen have taken nine trips back to England. The first was a memorable one on a freighter that carried twelve passengers. They left April 5th from New Westminster and sailed down the west coast, making numerous stops along the way. They went through the Panama Canal and made stops in the Caribbean, then on to Germany and Holland before landing in England on the 25th of May. Other trips were via Montreal by boat and from Calgary by plane.

Their daughter, Bessie, married Bill Melvin of Trail. He was a Company employee there and has just recently retired. They have one daughter, Carol. She instructs typewriting classes in Trail.

Their son, George, served his apprenticeship in the same shop where his father worked and he is now the foreman in the Pipefitter Shop. He married Anna Mae Resetz. They have five children: Cindy, Bobby, Ellen, Scott and Chris. When Anna Mae's sister, Ethel, was struck down in the polio epidemic of 1952, George and Anna Mae adopted her daughter, Chris. Cindy trained as a nurses aid and is working in the Kimberley Hospital. Bobby is taking his apprenticeship in the Electrical Shop in Trail. Ellen and Scott are still in school.

George and Anna Mae ran the motel in Summers Sub. for twenty years and have just recently sold it. They now reside in one of the new Kimbrook Condominiums.

Bobby and Ellen are now the oldest married couple in Chapman Camp. They celebrated their fifty-eighth wedding anniversary in December, 1978, and have resided for fifty-four years in the home that Bobby built. He loves gardening in the summer and curling every winter until last year.

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