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Kimberley Families

The Rollheiser Family
as told by Joe

Joe's parents moved out of Russia when that country was experiencing political problems around 1894. They eventually came to Canada with three children. His wife died shortly after they arrived in Winnipeg where Mr. Rollheiser had obtained work on the C.P.R. railway. It was here he married an Austrian girl. Joe was the eldest son of this marriage.

Mr. Rollheiser took up homesteading in a place called Odessa, Saskatchewan, named after the district of Odessa in Russia, from where a number of families had immigrated. When Joe was old enough to start work he became a carpenters helper, but the building of houses closed down in the fall when the weather became cold. In 1924he and another chap read an ad in the Regina Daily Post that bush workers were needed at a place called Lumberton, B.C. so they spent their meagre savings on train fare. On arrival, they discovered if they went to work for the B.C. Spruce mills at Lumberton they would be strike breakers. He recalls the group of one hundred and fifty pickets and only one policeman.

The Concentrator at Moyie needed carpenters and Joe obtained work there for awhile. When it closed down he went back to Lumberton doing gypo work (contract work). He was taught the art of cooking in that camp.

When a fire destroyed the cookhouse at one of the camps, Joe was put to work setting up facilities in a bunkhouse and ended up cooking there.

While he was in Moyie he met Claire St. Dennis, a young lady who was working for the Superintendent, Stan Grey. Her job with the Grey's was short lived after she met Joe, they were married in 1926 and moved to Lumberton.

Joe Rollheiser

Joe was working in the sawmill one day when something happened to the machinery that could have killed him. This caused a shut down, so he went looking for work and found a job in Kimberley where they were still doing contruction work on the Concentrator. They had two children by this time and housing was scarce so his wife and two children went home to Qu' Appelle until he could find accommodations for them.

This was in 1929.Joe worked for the Company for thirty-seven years on shift work. His first job was carpentry work. Bill Young was his shift boss and Nick McKenzie was boss of the carpenters shop. Joe finally worked up to be chief operator in the Concentrator. During the war years the Company employed women to fill in some of the jobs men used to do. It was Joe who trained them and showed them the ropes.

During the depression years beginning in 1932, rather than completely layoff some men andkeep others, the Company kept everyone on, but cut the time to four days a week. With spare time on their hands, several men decided to do prospecting work in the area. This developed into forty years of gold fever. A group of men formed a company known as the Rice Group, consisting of Elmer Rice, Elmer Anderson, Ernie Taylor, Charlie Schulli, Gus Johnsen, Bert Brown, George Walloch and Joe Rollheiser. They purchased claims on Sawmill Creek and even sold shares. They built a road into the property and, with an old truck bought from dairyman, Mr. Pighin, they did manage to truck some ore for smelting. However it was finally sold to a Jim Brown. Joe says even if they didn't make any money on the deal the outdoor life was a pleasure and a challenge.

Joe and Claire had four children: Clarence born in Cranbrook, now married with four children. He is in partnership in car sales there. Pearl was born in Lumberton. She was killed in a car accident in her early twenties. Donald and Jeanette were both born in Kimberley. Donald now resides in Calgary and is married with three children. Jeanette is married with two children, and is a stenographer for Revelstoke Building Supplies in Calgary.

Mr. and Mrs. Rollheiser lived on Leadenhall street near the Mark Creek until the 1948 flood. Joe and Claire had to stand by and watch as the raging water washed away a lot and half of the garden, the garage, and the septic tank that had been built over top of a huge rock. Finally the house was swept off its foundations and broken up. Their furniture and belongings were stored in seven different locations. A bit of compensation was received from the Flood Fund but it was a case of starting all over again to build a new home.

When Joe retired in 1966 they moved to Cranbrook where the altitude is a little lower and better for Claire.

Joe has always been active in community affairs at different times. He has been Recording Secretary and President of the Local No. 651 M.M.S.W. Union. Has acted on the Welfare; Benevolent and Medical Societies and is a member of the Knights of Columbus. Since his retirement he was placed on the visiting committee for the K.C.'s and dutifully visits the sick and shut-ins regularly in Cranbrook, a duty he enjoys.

They have three great-grandchildren.

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