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Kimberley Families

The Fontaine Family
as told by son, Omar

John and Anna Fontaine came from Quebec. They were married and had eleven children when they moved to Ritchie, Manitoba. Their son, Omar, was only one year old when they took up a homestead there.

One son, Leo, was the first to come to Kimberley in 1921, and worked as a truck driver on the construction of the Concentrator. His brother Ray came in 1923 and went to work for the Mark Creek Store, in the grocery department.

In January of 1924, Omar married Ettienette (Tony) Marquis. Their first home was a rented farm near Dollard, Saskatchewan, and that first year they had a garden and an excellent crop, only to have it completely destroyed in a twenty minute hail storm. The horses were marked with huge lumps and ninety-seven chickens lay dead with only eleven worth using. Even the siding on the house was badly pitted. The young couple both went to work. Omar drove horses for one farmer while Tony did cooking for another.

In November of that same year, Omar and Tony came to Kimberley. The first two weeks they stayed in rooms above the Elite Cafe, then moved into one of Gough's shacks among the bushes on the south side of Mark Creek. A large log across the creek was the only means of getting to the stores and the Post Office.

Omar got a job at the Concentrator, unloading coal for the boiler house. This was done by the slow process of a wheelbarrow. For a short time, he dug ditches for fifty cents a day, then went to the Top Mine, mucking. At that time Frank Fortier was in charge.

For two months in the spring of 1925, Omar was unemployed. By April 1st, he went to work for the Company at the stables on The Townsite where Ed Houle was boss. He handled horses and drove teams, but by 1926 the Company was using some tractors and trucks. Omar's first truck was an old Republic, with solid, hard tires. Truck driving for the Company was Omar's job for the next forty-two years, hauling sand and gravel or whatever was needed at the Mine. Owen Kelly and Dan Pierce were also drivers.

Omar's parents, John and Anna, came to Kimberley in 1928 and John went to work as a carpenter, building houses for the fast-growing town of Kimberley. One of the houses he helped build was for the family in Lower Blarchmont, or French Town as it was called. Only four other houses were there in 1930: The log house occupied by the Dakins, and one each by the Cornfords, Deschamps, and Beauregards. Before this, they lived for five years in one of the Company apartment houses near the hospital. These have just recently been torn down.

John Fontaine passed away in 1941,at the age of 71. Anna moved to Vancouver to live with one of her daughters, and died in 1951 at the age of 76.

Omar and Tony's first daughter, Lucille, was born in Cranbrook, as the only hospital in Kimberley was Dr. Hannington's small one at the foot of the hill, and it was used for Company accidents mostly. Their other five children were born in Kimberley. They were: Rolland, Bob, Jeanette, Leo and Claire. All received their schooling here. Lucille is now Mrs. Farren and she is Credit Manager in Field's Store in Kimberley. They have a boy, Mickey, and a girl, Lynn, both married and living in Kimberley.

Rolland took his apprenticeship in the Mine electric shop. He spent six years at Pine Point and is now electric supervisor at the Mine. He married Jeanette Dufresne and they have three girls: Denise, Linda and Kathy.

Bob first went to work for Bill Therriault when he ran the Kimberley Transfer. Leo and Bob later bought the Transfer together. Leo now resides in Maple Ridge, truck driving. He is married and has a son and a daughter. Bob now lives in Kelowna and is employed by Vanguard Trailers. He had ten children, nine are still living.

Jeanette married Albert Lord. They had one daughter, Anne, before Albert died. Jeanette works for the Kimberley Credit Union and Anne is now Mrs. Neil Matheson.

Claire married Gordon Anderson and resides in Calgary and they have two girls.

Omar and Tony still reside in the house on Higgins Street. They now have nineteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren. They took up bowling when Omar retired and they both have a few trophies to show.

Tony remembers their first Christmas in Kimberley. She had put in a grocery order and when it was delivered, it included a good sized turkey. She hadn't ordered it and knew right well they couldn't afford it. She was most surprised when she was told it was supplied as a bonus from the Company to its employees. To date, in 1978, they have received fifty-four turkeys, one for every Christmas.

Kimberley has been good to them and they intend to remain here.

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