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Kimberley Families

The O'Connor Family

as told by son, Jim

Chapman Camp has been the home of the O'Connors since they first arrived in Kimberley.

Gordon Adams O'Connor was born in Escumanic, Quebec, in 1897. He was a gunner in the Fifty-Fifth Battalion during the First World War. On his return he came west on a harvest special and when he heard of work in Trail he hired on there.

Alice Jeannette Brown was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1898. Her parents were British Empire Loyalists. Alice was one of nine children and in 1907, when she was nine years old, her father, W. H. Brown brought the entire family west to Cranbrook, where he got a job with the C.P.R. They had some of their possessions stolen off the train in Saskatchewan, including the family silverware. Alice went to school in Cranbrook and later worked for Fink Mercantile. She used to tell her son about the Kootenay Indians from the St. Eugene Mission coming into the store to buy the brightest materials with their treaty money.

One of Alice's sisters lived in Trail and on a visit there she met Gordon O'Connor. They were married in 1922 in Cranbrook. Mr. O'Connor was working in the Smelter, tramming ore from bins to furnace, when a copper furnace exploded and killed two men and injured several others. He lost one eye and spent a year in the Vancouver General Hospital. On his return to work he was transferred to Kimberley to work at the newly constructed Concentrator at Chapman Camp. Their first home was a tent just below where the swimming pool is now. However, they soon obtained a small house on 104th Ave.

A son James Allan was born in 1924 in the Cranbrook hospital, as Kimberley still had no facilities for maternity patients. Jim was one of the first births, if not the first, to a Chapman Camp couple.

Gordon O'Conner.

Jim attended Chapman Camp school and while he was in grade four a teacher, Alf Frobisher got him interested in stamp collecting, a hobby he still indulges in.

Miss Myrtle Garden was also one of his teachers. He attended McKim High School and then took an apprenticeship in the Electric Shop at the Concentrator.

Mr. O'Connor Sr., worked up to a shift boss at the Concentrator. He retired in 1954 after thirtyfour years with the Company. He was a member of the Canadian Legion and worked with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind as his sight in his own eye deteriorated. When he passed away in 1959, he only had four percent vision.

During the depression he had mining claims up Perry Creek with George Jobin, Harold and Dudley Abbott. He and his son Jim, loved the outdoors and they would hike and hunt together. Jim likes cross coutry skiing and still enjoys it. He remembers the sleigh rides from the Top Mine to Marysville, often having to drag their feet to keep from going too fast.

As a boy, he was a member of the Chapman Camp Boy Scouts when Jimmy Barton was Scout Master and their summer camp was at Lake Windermere.

Before he started his apprenticeship he belonged to a Pals Club, instigated by the Rev. Byron L. Willis of the Presbyterian Church. The members were Glen Brown, Bill Leaman, Eric and Frank Holdsworth, Jim Douglas, Harold McGowan, Jack Southwell, George Eccleston, Chuck Kinrade, Bill Poole, Bill Herchemer, Bob Barrett, Doug Gallpen, Ken Bennett, Art Thompson, Lee Thompson, Bob Hopkins, Bill Angove, Ron Hutchison, Bud Conrad, John Banks, Jack Hargraves and Jim O'Connor.

Jim recalls the Indians that came to the cookhouse in Camp and Townsite selling beaded buckskin jackets, moccasins and gloves. They would trade these articles for deer hides. Many boys in town sported buckskin jackets and gloves. In season the Indians also sold huckleberries.

In 1942 Jim joined the Navy. He took his basic training in Calgary and received his final training in Victoria. He was sent to the East coast where he saw action on the Frigate, H.M.C.S. Magog, that was torpedoed in the St. Lawrence River in 1944. He was transferred to the H.M.C.S. Waskisiew but by that time the war in Europe was terminated and they sailed through the Panama Canal to join the Pacific action when it, too, eased off.

He met Frances Beveridge in Calgary in 1942 through mutual friends, while receiving his basic training. They were married in 1945 and came back to Chapman Camp. He went back to the Electric Shop, worked his way up to maintenance boss and training officer and is now in the Personnel Office.

He has been active on First Aid Teams. He was on the Sullivan Credit Union Board for over twenty years. Was elected to Village Council for two years when Phil Haverstock was the Reeve and Ruby Bidder was Village Clerk. Other members of the Council were Bob Eccleston, Verdon Scott, Charles McCracken, and Jack Mitchell. He also was on the auxiliary R.C.M.P. Force for thirteen years.

Jim was an only child but he and Frances had six children. The eldest died at two and a half of leukemia. Cheryl married Ian Barrett and they live in Calgary and have one girl. Judy married Brian Twells and they reside in Vancouver at present and they have three boys. David married Colleen Almack and live in Prince Rupert. Brent and Keith are still attending school.

Jim will be retiring in a few years and to quote him, he says "I don't know of a better place to be."

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