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Kimberley Families

The Ekskog Family
as told by by Walter and John

Eric Ekskog came from Dalarna County, about thirty miles Northwest of Stockholm, Sweden, where he was brought up on a small farm. He first came to North America and journeyed to Altmen, Colorado, where he worked in a mine at Cripple Creek. He married a Swedish girl, Anna Swanson in 1909. Walter and his sister Mamie, were born in Altman, Colorado. In 1912 the family decided to return to Sweden. Their passage was booked on a new liner that never reached America, the Titanic. So they sailed back on a Swedish Liner. Signe and John were born in Sweden.

In 1923, Eric again decided to come back to North America. He worked for one autumn, stooking grain on the Prairies with the idea of going back to Colorado. Instead, he came to Kimberley and started work at the Top Mine. Four years later, in 1927 Walter, now seventeen, decided to join his father. Travelling alone he landed in Halifax and boarded a train for Kimberley. He had no knowledge of English and had no way of asking for food. He spent six days on the train and got so hungry that he got off at one station and pointed to a loaf of bread and a quart of milk, then held out a handful of change to the sales clerk for what was owing. This was all the food he had on the entire trip. He arrived in Cranbrook with only his father's address written on a piece of paper that he showed the Conductor of the train. A work train was leaving for Kimberley so he was put on the caboose and was put off at the Kimberley station with no one awaiting him there. It was very cold with snow on the ground. He painstakingly used his Swedish-English dictionary to write a note that read: "Take me to Eric Ekskog". Carrying his heavy suitcase he walked the short distance to town and saw a shop where several men were sit- ting around talking. He handed the note to a man that recognized the name and spoke to Walter in his own language. The man was Albin Johnson. What a feeling of relief to hear someone speak a language that he could understand. Albin called the taxi and gave instructions to drive Walter to the Top Mine bunkhouse. His father was on after- noon shift but there were several of his countrymen in camp. Sam Derby, the cook, gave him his first good meal in over six days. Eric Ekskog had not seen his son for five years, and Walter had changed in looks and stature and, not having a clue about his son's decision to join him, did not recognize him.

Walter managed to get work in the mine by adding a year to his real age of seventeen, and hard work it was, loading ore with a shovel into two ton cars, twelve cars a shift, which meant handling twenty-four tons a day. On this job a man was called a mucker.

In 1932, the rest of the family came to Kimberley. By this time Walter and his father were living in a house on Catholic Church hill. Not knowing when the family would arrive, the two were out hunting and the house was locked up. Fortunately a neighbor, Frank Carlson, was able to let them in.

John also started working for the Company as a mucker and moved up into the different levels of work. They both worked on transportation, then became miners and later barmen, the most dangerous job in the Mine, as they made the place safe for the miners by barring down any loose rock after each blast, sometimes atop three twenty foot ladders lashed together. This gave them fifty feet straight up, supported by guy ropes only.

When Walter first arrived he took English lessons from Frank Martello, the school teacher at the Top Mine at that time, and was soon able to speak and understand the language. John later took his English lessons from Chris Foote.

It was in 1942 that Walter was seriously injured while barring, when more rock than was anticipated came down. His partner at the time was Bob Shannon. In 1967 Walter had an operation on his neck that greatly relieved the problem. A new technique was used, not known at the time of the accident. However it did not prevent him from continuing his employment with the Company and he became a shift boss in 1949. In 1962 he was transferred to Riondel until his retirement in 1969. He returned to live in Kimberley. John was made a shift boss in 1962 when Jimmie Riddell retired. John retired in 1977. Both were active on Mine Rescue and First Aid teams.

Walter married Anna Skribe and they had two daughters, one died when only four years old. Caroline married Kief Holmberg, an underground dispatcher for the Company.

John married Alice Stanton of Cranbrook and they have one daughter Rhena, now married and living in Lowman, Alberta. Their son David is a heavy equipment repairman for the Company. David took bagpipe lessons from Hamish Scott and is now Pipe Major for the Kimberley Pipe Band.

Walter and John still reside in Kimberley and plan to remain.

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