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Kimberley Families

The Oliver Family

as told by son Albert

It is not known exactly when William (Bill) Edward Oliver left England to come to Canada. Born in the Bristol area, he was a coal miner by trade. His early years in this country are also vague, but he must have spent some time in Northern Central U.S.A. as this was where he met and married Pauline Neidig, and five of their children were born in the U.S.A.

Albert's first recollection of his parents movements, were when his father was working in Diamond City, near Lethbridge. He worked in the coal mine and when it closed down, he worked in Commerce, near by. Albert was born in Diamond City, the youngest son of six boys and four girls. Albert does not remember four of his brothers and one sister that all died very young. His brother, Bill, and sister, Dorothy, eventually came to Kimberley when Mr. Oliver obtained work with the Company. He worked on the pipe gang at the Mine, in early 1922. The family followed a short time later, arriving in Cranbrook by train and coming to Kimberley on Mrs. Brown's stage.

Bill was old enough to start work as a delivery boy for P. Burns Meat Market. He was then taken into the store and shown the art of meat cutting, and butchering became his trade. He left Kimberley and worked for P. Burns in Nelson for awhile before moving to Vancouver, where he lived until his death in 1969. He was married and had an adopted son.

Albert and Dorothy both attended school in Kimberley. Albert remembers his teachers were Miss Pratt in grade 9, Marion McKinnon in grade 10, and Jean Keer in grade 11. The High School was one of the early elementary buildings in the late 1920's, where Watkins School now stands.

Mr. Oliver Sr. was transferred to the boiler house that heated the hospital, bunkhouses and apartment buildings on the Townsite. Over the years all these buildings have been demolished. Mr. Oliver worked until he was almost seventy and passed away in 1937, at the age of seventytwo, while visitng his daughter Myrtle, in Chilliwack. Mrs. Oliver lived until 1952 and spent her last years in Pioneer Lodge in Kimberley.

Dorothy married a school teacher, Wilfred Orchard, in 1929. He taught at the Top Mine school in the late 1920's. They moved to Vancouver Island and he was Principal at the school in Victoria until 1976. They have three daughters.

When the family first moved to Kimberley there were other families from Alberta coal mines that came at the same time: The Schorheim's and the Nesbitt's. Their furniture all came in the same box car and they lived in Happy Valley.

Albert's first job was also with P. Burns, as a delivery boy. It was his job to feed and water the two horses on Sundays. They kept two delivery wagons busy, covering all sections of town from Chapman Camp to the Top Mine. As a delivery boy, it was his job to take orders while on rounds and deliver them the next day. He worked a short time for Jim Webster, a butcher that took over from Anderson when he sold out.

In 1933, Albert started work with the Company as a motorman, hauling the ore from underground to the Rockhouse, just below the main adit. He went mining for a time, but his lungs bothered him and he was advised to work outside for a while, so in 1945 he drove heavy duty trucks (Euclids) working on the back fill. He drove a grader when the subdivision of Lois Creek was being built.

In 1949, Albert was the first motorman on the new haulage tunnel which ran from underground directly to the Concentrator. The train consisted of forty fifteen-ton cars, a total of six hundred tons a trip. On afternoon and night shift, twenty- five of these cars would be loaded with waste rock and carried back into the Mine to fill up empty stopes. There was only room to dump twenty-five cars. His last few years before retirement in 1972, were on the maintenance crew at the Concentrator.

In 1934 Albert married a school teacher, Betty Warden. She was born in Merritt in the Nicola Valley. Her father, Bruce Warden, was a mining engineer who came up to Kimberley for a short time when the Company was surveying for the Concentrator. His plans were also used to build the first row of houses in Chapman Camp.

When Betty was a baby, she was a goldenhaired child and the Indians in the Nicola Valley had been seen such fair hair, consequently she was showered with gifts, one was a bear cub rug that graced the floor by her bed for years.

Betty attended Normal School in Victoria and taught one year at Lumberton, 1928-29. She came to Kimberley in 1929 and taught at the Central School until her marriage in 1934. In 1935 they moved into one of the new houses on Rotary Drive directly across the street from where the McKim school now stands.

Betty and Albert have four children, two girls and two boys. They all graduated from Kimberley schools: Lynn attended two years of V.B.C. then spent one year working her way around England and Scotland. She returned to V.B.C. to obtain her degree in forest pathology and entomology. She was a food tester for the Government in Ottawa for a time, and then studied to teach the hard of hearing, a problem she herself has had to overcome. She married a New Zealander, Ernie Wheadon, whom she met, on a skiing trip. They reside in Calgary and have one son and one daughter.

Betty Jane married Yosh Nakahara of Cranbrook and they have one daughter and one son, plus a son by her previous marriage. She is now employed by the Bank of Commerce.

John is a Captain in the R.C.A.F. and is stationed in Petawawa. He has always wanted to fly and joined the Kimberley Cadets as soon as he was old enough. He spent six months in Egypt with the V.N. Forces and three years in Germany, where he met a Canadian girl that was teaching on the Air Base there. They have one boy and one girl.

Betty and Albert's youngest son, Ernie, became a teacher and is now in Sooke, on Vancouver Island. He is married with three children.

Betty and Albert have both devoted all their spare time to Communtiy affairs. Albert was a soccer player for the Tunnel team in the early days and the Secretary for the Crowsnest Football League, the oldest Soccer League in Canada. He and Betty have worked with the Air Cadets for over twenty-five years. Betty has been their secretary and Albert does whatever is required around the Air Cadets' quarters.

Betty's other accomplishments for the Community are too numerous to list. They would fill an entire page. One service was being the first woman sports reporter for five years for several daily newspapers, covering all the local hockey games in the old arena. In 1963, the Eagles named her Mother of the Year. In 1969 she was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award and in 1977, on a recommendation from City Council, she received the Queen's 25th Anniversary Medal for Outstanding Community Service.

Albert has worked for the Bavarian Society when the City was changing the face of main street, and building the modern Mall with gazebos and quaint bridges.

Although both Betty and Albert are retired, they still keep very busy with all their Communtiy work. Albert curls in winter and tends a garden in summer. They travel to visit their children as often as possible, but plan to remain right where they are.

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