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Kimberley Families

The Pittao Family

as told by Jimmy

Frank Pittao left Italy in 1901 and came to Michel, B.C. to work in the coal mines. His wife and two daughters joined him in 1905. A son, Jim-mie, was born in Michel in 1907. Frank Pittao worked in the mine until ill health forced him to make a change. His doctor advised him to go back to Italy for a spell, so in 1911 the entire family returned home. In 1913 Frank returned to Michel alone with the intention of bringing the family back soon, but when the war broke out the family was not permitted to leave Italy.

In 1923 when Jimmy was only sixteen, he joined his father who accompanied him from Michel to Lumberton, where the B. C. Spruce Mills were operating a thriving lumber business. He got a job waiting on tables at one of the cookhouses. The cook was a man named McDonald and when he asked the young lad his name, John was the reply, but McDonald told him that was an old man's name and promptly dubbed him Jimmie, as he is still called today.

He worked in the camp for over two years, then went to work as a cooks helper in the Lumberton Hotel. Jimmie says Ed Cook was a wonderful baker and he learned a great deal from him. When Lumberton closed, Jimmie felt that if the B. C. Spruce Company had upgraded their mill and continued, they would have been very successful.

This was in 1929 and Joe Rollheiser and Jimmie travelled to Kimberley in an old Chev car, the roads were narrow, graveled and washboard so they experienced the usual flat tires. When they reached Kimberley, they asked about work and both got jobs. Back they went to Lumberton to gather up their belongings, having three more flat tires.

Jimmie Pittao

Jimmie went to work in the Townsite Cookhouse under Mark Beduz in June of 1929. He helped out at the Top Mine Cookhouse for a month in the spring of 1931 when they were get-ting ready to close up. He relieved during the summer at the Chapman Camp Cookhouse that same year under Tom Crosley. Summer over, he returned to Townsite but when Tom Crosley took ill in 1933, Jimmie was put in charge of the Chapman Camp Cookhouse.

It was here he met Dorothy Marquardt, a young girl from Denzil, Saskatchewan. She was one of nine children and when she had the oppor-tunity to visit a girl friend in Banff, she fell in love with the mountains and trees, after the bare Saskatchewan landscape and she heard of work in Kimberley. Dorothy came in 1931.

Coming from a large family, she knew how to look after children, so her first job was working for the Harry Paterson's and their five children. She later worked for the Harry Harrison's and their three children.

Jimmie and Dorothy were married in 1932 and lived upstairs in the Cookhouse until they were able to buy a house from Tom Jones in 1936. Dorothy recalls helping Ned Hughes plan the Horticultural Shows that used to be an annual affair in Kimberley in those days.

After eighteen years working in cookhouses, Jimmie was having health problems, so his doctor advised a change of work. In the summer of 1947 he got a job on the outside crew working for Harry Stone. He then went to work for Andy Grant in the Motor Repair Shop in the Electrical Department. When Andy passed away, Jimmie was placed in charge until his retirement in 1971.

Dorothy loved childern and had hoped to have a large family of her own. They were married for seventeen years before they were blessed with a son, Arnold (Arnie). When he was three years old, they had the scare of a lifetime. In 1952, a polio epidemic struck Chapman Camp. The first diagnosed case was on August the seventh when a neighbor boy died. It had been an extremely hot, dry summer and the Chapman Camp swimming pool was a busy place. The first few cases had all been in that pool, so it was immediately closed. One month later, on September the ninth, there were fify-one cases and nine deaths in the area and several were left crippled. It was later reported that there were numerous mild cases that had been diagnosed as throat infections with severe headaches. Chapman Camp was extremely quiet as everyone kept their children isolated from all others.

Arnold attended school in Chapman Camp and Kimberley. He was planning a career in the ministry and spent one year in Concordia College in Edmonton and a second year at River Forest near Chicago. He changed his mind and went back to Edmonton to study electronics at the school of Technology. He is now married with two children, a son and a daughter, and they reside in Lloydminster.

Jimmie likes fishing and gardening and does some bowling, but after working in warm surroundings for many years, he found curling too cold a sport. He still loves to bake, making his own bread and many other goodies.

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