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Kimberley Families

The Millner Family
as told by Frank

Frank Millner was born in 1896 in what was called a mining camp at Bubendorf, Austria (the old Austria of pre-war ways). The family had a farm about ninety miles north of Vienna. Frank learned a bit about farming, a bit about mining and a bit about being a cobbler.

In 1915 he joined the army and was taken prisoner by the Cossacks and taken from Austria during the Red regime. He managed to escape and this was the beginning of an eight year trek across Siberia, Mongolia, China, and Japan; by means of foot, horse, on cart or caravan. He would work at whatever or wherever he could. He once met a caravan leader that had crooked feet, so he made him a special pair of shoes and the leader showed his appreciation by taking him along. His trip entailed crossing several borders at great danger.

It was necessary to learn enough of each language to get by. His family had no idea of his whereabouts until he finally got a letter through to them from China. By this time his mother's sister had come to Canada and she was willing to sponsor him so he could come to her at Coutts, Alberta. He sailed for Vancouver from Vladivostok in early 1923. Frank relates an amusing story of his very rough boat trip from Japan to Vladivostok. He befriended another chap, who claimed you wouldn't get seasick if you kept something in your stomach, so they shared a huge salami, a loaf of bread and a bottle of whiskey. They were the only two not seasick.

He arrived in Coutts and went to work on the track gang for the C.P.R. to pay his aunt back for his passage to Canada. In the mean time, he was trying to master still another language, English!

He was there only a few months when another escaped war prisoner who had obtained work in Kimberley at the Concentrator visited Coutts and encouraged him to seek work at Kimberley. He arrived in late 1923 and he first stayed at the Globe Hotel. He tried for work at the Mine, but was at first refused. He heard a whistle from up the mountain and made enquires as to what it was and was told about the Top Mine. He walked up and was hired on as a mucker. Frank Fortier was the boss and Bob Woody was the foreman. He soon became a miner.

In 1930, Frank took a vacation by going east where he met Mary Menacher in Buffalo, N.Y. She was born in Plachendorf, Germany, and had come to Winnipeg in 1927 as a domestic servant. Later a family in Buffalo hired her. They married and Frank began building a small house in Upper Blarchmont in 1931. In 1938 he built a se- cond one next door, using second-hand lumber. This lumber came from a demolished hotel in Wardner. They moved in and rented the first lit- tle house.

After forty years, they still reside here. Frank worked up to being a barman and retired in 1961 as slusher-hoist operator.

They had one son, John, who received all his schooling in Kimberley and became a draftsman for the Company. He is now senior planning technician at the Mine.

Frank and his son both enjoy hunting and fishing and in 1961 when Frank retired, he ac- quired a place at Tie Lake near Jaffray. John also obtained property there in 1966.

John married June Clark and they have two children. A daughter, Heather, took a Bachelor of Education course at Notre Dame in Nelson and is now teaching in Surrey. She married Ted Stone of Chapman Camp. Their son Clark is employed at the Fertilizer Plant and plays hockey for the Kimberley Knights, as a defenceman.

In 1976, Frank fulfilled a desire to complete his trip around the globe, so he took a trip across Canada and the Atlantic to visit his old home in Austria. That pilgrimage almost cost him his life as he became very ill and spent forty two days in hospital. His son John was all ready to fly over and bring him back, but he recovered enough to come back on his own. He is now 83 years old and Mary is 82. She keeps busy hooking beautiful rag rugs of her own design and has many to show for her efforts.

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