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Kimberley Families

The Gill Family
as told by May

May Gill is now in her ninety-sixth year, and from what she can remember her husband Albert Gill left home at age nineteen. He came west to Moyie where he worked until war broke out in 1914and he enlisted and spent four years in the services.

He married May Burvill of Folkstone, Kent, in 1917. Following his discharge in 1918 they came to Kimberley where Albert got work underground at the Top Mine. May recalls the Kavanagh family very well and the long walk down the hill into the scattered little settlement that was called Kimberley.

The next year, 1919, was a traumatic one. First the forest fire that threatened all the buildings at the Top Mine and caused it to be evacuated, but not before digging a pit in the yard and burying their few valuables. This was followed by the long strike, so they went to Kellogg, Idaho, where Albert leased the Last Chance Mine. When he became ill with T.B. in 1927, they went to Waco, Texas, to stay with a sister he hadn't seen for many years. A son Norman had been born in Cranbrook in 1920.

When the family returned to Cranbrook, Albert was sent to the T.B. Sanitarium at Tranquille and May stayed in Kamloops where she could visit him. The Sam Fyles family in Cranbrook took care of young Norman. Albert died in Tranquille in 1929.

There being no widows' pension or welfare in those days, May worked at odd jobs, but because Albert had been an employee of the Company, she was offered a job at the Mark Creek Store. She and Norman moved back to Kimberley in 1930. They lived upstairs in the Pioneer Block above the Bulletin Office (now Macleods Hardware).

Norman continued his schooling in Kimberley and May started work in the office of the Company Store and later transferred to the confectionery department where she worked until her retirement at sixty-five in 1948. She remembers Wilf Mason in the men's wear, Brock Markle in the shoe department and Harold Townsend in the grocery department and many others that she worked with over the years.

When Norman graduated from high school he went to U.B.C. and became a mining engineer. During the war he was a navigator in the R.C.A.F. On his return, he re-entered V.B.C. for one year and became a teacher. He has taught in Sparwood and then Fernie.

Norman is now the prinicipal of the Fernie high school, a position he has held for many years. In the past four years, a great deal of alterations to the school has been going on continuously and Norman says its the only school where students have graduated from a construction site.

Norman married Grace Brock of Cranbrook and she is also a teacher in Fernie. They have two children: Glen and Beaven. Glen studied business administration but has returned to Simon Fraser University to be a teacher. Beaven trained as a nurse and is on the staff of the Lions Gate Hospital in Vancouver.

May Gill was still living in the Pioneer Block when the building was damaged by water and smoke from a fire in the basement. She then moved to Pioneer Lodge where she lived for nine years. Following a fractured hip, she went to live in Fernie with her son and daughter-in-law, but found difficulty in climbing stairs so in 1972 she moved into the Tom Uphill Home for Senior Citizens.

She still loves Kimberley and would like to be where her friends are, but she also enjoys being close to her son and family.

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