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Kimberley Families

The Musser Family

as told by Grennie

Our interview with Grennie Musser was so loaded with names and events that took place when he was growing up in Kimberley that it was difficult to sort out all the facts. The reader may get lost, as we did, in the interesting tales that he related.

His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Angus Musser, hail from Owen Sound and Huron County, Ontario, respectively. Grennie was a lad of five when they arrived in Kimberley in 1906. His father started working for the Gaskill Sawmill as a steam engineer. Charles Gaskill sold out to the Taylor Brothers and from then on it was called Taylor's Mill. Mr. Musser then went to work at the same job for the Otis Staples mill at Wyc1iffe.

Grennie attended both the little school in Kimberley and the one at Wycliffe. Miss Bella Taylor was one of the first teachers in Kimberley. Grennie can remember when she was suddenly stricken with acute appendicitis, which in those days could be fatal. A special engine and coach was rushed up from Cranbrook to take her to the hospital there for an operation. Miss Jessie Kennedy was another teacher, she later married Mine Superintendent Bill Lindsay, nicknamed "Roarin' Bill" as he would roar out his orders, dress down a man or generally cuss a job, so that everyone in the vicinity could hear. Strangers feared him, friends respected him for underneath he was a kind-hearted man.

There were four boys and a girl in the Musser family. Roy, the eldest, passed away; Grennie, who tells this story; Harry has also died, leaving Charles in New Westminster and Jessie at Shuswap Lake.

Grennie Musser

Grennie has lived in the Kimberley area for over seventy years and they have been busy, active ones keeping him looking years younger than he really is. He started working for the Company at sixteen and has experienced many phases of the operations of the Company. His first job was helper to Nelson Smith, a diamond driller at the Top Mine.

Grennie explained how the miners had to work in those days of driving the tunnel. No hard hats, just an old felt one with a tin plate fastened above the brim to hold a candle. While working, the candle was placed in a stick with a long spike on one side and a finger ring on the other to enable one to drive the spike into the nearest wooden support. These were their only lights in the dark recesses of the underground. The daily issue was two candles a day.

Grennie stayed in the bunkhouses before he was married and tells of the battle of the bed bugs. It was out of the question to get rid of them; the situation was impossible. Even a new bunkhouse would become infested immediately as blankets and baggage brought in would carry the nasty little pests. It was one of the discomforts that just had to be tolerated. Fumigation was later introduced to alleviate the problem.

Another job he worked on was the driving of the 3900 level tunnel, the main portal to the mine today. Jim Davis, Sr. was the operator of a big electric mucking machine that loaded ore cars that had to be pushed along the tracks by hand, emptied and pushed out the same way. His partner on this job was Gus Soderholm.

For awhile, Grennie worked in the Rockhouse on the sorting belt. Sorting ore was all done by hand at that time. A conveyor belt moved the ore past the sorters who picked out the bigger pieces, placed them on a steel block and broke them up with a hammer. The lead, zinc, iron and waste would then be dropped in their respective chutes and taken away. Stiff cumbersome leather gloves, reinforced with wire to prevent them wearing out too fast, were required for this work.

Many years later a new method of separating the rock from the ore was built at the Concentrator and the crushed waste is stock piled hundreds of feet high. This is constantly being used for ballasting railroad beds. To relate an example, the road bed from Golden to Wardner (one hundred and fifty miles long) was raised three feet for it's entire length and the waste removed to do this job didn't even show. The waste pile is literally a man made mountain of crushed rock.

It was at the Top Mine Rockhouse that Mr. Cliff Oughtred, the Assayer at the Concentrator found Grennie. When Mr. Oughtred asked him if he would like to learn the trade, Grennie figured anything was better than pounding rocks all day. As assistant assayer he would go underground every morning and gather samples of ore, bring them out and crush them fine to be tested. He held this job until 1919. Grennie Musser and Olive Dickson were married in 1923. They had known each other since school days in Wycliffe. Over the years they had four children; Grennie, Jr., Larry, Roy and Sheila. The boys are all working here. Sheila is in Edmonton.

Grennie, Jr. works for Pacific Coast Brokers in Cranbrook; Larry is Works Superintendant for the City of Kimberley and Roy is a draftsman and works with the Company Surveyors.

The Government Liquor store opened in 1923, the vendor was Mr. P. Gougeon until 1928. Dick Burke was the man entrusted to transport the cases of liquor from the C.P.R. station to the store. He told Grennie if he wanted a part time job on Saturday nights, paydays and the day before holidays that Mr. Gougeon needed help. As Grennie and his wife lived with Mr. and Mrs. Dickson only a half a block away from the store it was easy for him to drop in.

In 1925 he quit the Company to work steady in the Liquor store and when Mr. Gougeon died in 1928, Grennie became the Vendor and worked there for thirty-seven years.

Grennie has been active in all kinds of sports throughout his life and he recalls an amusing story of the first competitive hockey game played in Kimberley. Roarin' Bill Lindsay used to own a motor cycle and would drive to and from Cranbrook like a maniac. On one of his visits he got talking to some Cranbrook hockey players; Hughie Cameron, A. C. Bowness and Mickey Argue and in the course of the conversation Bill made a bet that Kimberley could beat Cran- brook. There was just one thing wrong With this idea - Kimberley didn't have an organized team of any kind. Not to be out done, Roarin' Bill approached every man in the mine next day with the question "Can you skate?" If the answer was yes, - "Okay you're on the hockey team." They only had one week to practice. There was Ed Handley, Corkscrew Davidson, Cliff Dally, John Dickson and Grennie. Frank McMahon was goalie. The only excuse they had for a rink was the flooded tennis courts at the Top Mine and it was not the regulation size, it was square. Never-the-less they won by a close margin.

In 1926, known as the Intermediates, they went to Vancouver and won the Coy Cup.

Grennie also played baseball for several years. Golf is a regular summer sport for him, as well. When at the Top Mine some of the boys built a bob-sled that would bring them all the way down through town and further, but the long pull back was something else.

He loves hiking and has covered all the trails around Kimberley and is responsible for opening many new trails. It's a daily routine, walking at least three hours and invariably meeting others on the trails and all coming home in one happy group. In winter he covers them all on snowshoes. Often he packs a lunch for himself and the dog and is gone all day. He knows every foot of North Star and Sullivan Mountains, every little lake and stream. He tells of a cabin some boys built on top of a steep cliff. The boys hauled up materials, even tin sheets for a roof and a bed spring to sleep on.

Grennie cleared up an erroneous concept about the naming of McDougall townsite. The first superintendant at the Top Mine was a Mr. McDougall. In 1916 he went overseas and was killed in action. In memory of this first superintendent the new subdivision was named for him.

Kimberley today is well known for its Cominco Gardens. An excellent advertisement for the Elephant brand fertilizer manufactured here. Grennie tells us that Gus Nelson was the first gardener for the Company and Ab Lilley took over the position which he held for many years until his retirement.

Other names mentioned were Tom Aulty, first manager of the Mark Creek store; Enos Hinds, mechanic and cable splicer for the Company; Emil Louis and Ben Obert were also cable splicers. When Grennie was boarding at the Top Mine bunkhouses and eating in the cookhouse, he remembers the excellent meals that were served, especially the Sunday treat of thick cream pies.

Grennie and his wife still reside in upper Blarchmont.

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