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Kimberley Families

The Joe Thompson Family

as told by Joe

Joe Thompson came to Kimberley by chance in 1922. Looking for work, he left his home in Innisfail and traveled via Calgary and Lethbridge where he accompanied another chap on the train to Coleman. Not liking what he saw, he travelled back to Lethbridge, where someone suggested there might be work in Kimberley, a place he had never heard of. He arrived by train in Chapman Camp where he asked Tommy Ellison, the Post Master, directions in getting employment. Bill Leaman was the time keeper, and Fred Chapman the Superintendent, with Mel O'Brien the Assistant Superintendent. When the Concentrator was being built, many families were living in tents. He was put to work wheeling cement in a wheelbarrow with Jack Light, the foreman, but a week later he went on the steel gang.

Joe worked on the building of the rockhouse just below the main portal, erecting steel. The worst job he worked on was the building of the smoke stack for the Concentrator steam plant, working on scaffolding from inside, as bucker for the riveter. There were no ear protection or hard hats in those days! The pay was $3.80 a day and one dollar of that went for board and room at the cookhouse and bunkhouse.

When the Concentrator first started up, Joe remembers how problem after problem arose before it functioned smoothly.

Joe went overseas in 1916 and was wounded in France in August, 1918 and returned to Calgary. The train arrived Christmas night of that year. This was when the Col. Belcher hospital was the Ogden Hotel.

His intention was to go farming, but the hard work of operating one in those days discouraged him.

In 1924 he married Gertrude, the eldest daughter of Henry Pearson of Kimberley who was a logger by trade, but worked for the Company at times. Henry invented a scraper that could be used in the Mine to fill ore cars. The Company paid him a sum of money for this suggestion as it saved hours of manual labour by shovel.

Henry Pearson had six daughters, but only one son. There were Gertrude, May, Thelma, Emma, Agnes and Alice, and son Frank. Joe and Gertrude had three children that received their schooling in Kimberley. The eldest, Dorothy, married Roger Galloway. She worked for the Company at the Concentrator during the war, and now lives in Wynndel. Son Melvin is married and has four children: Diane, Debra and twins, James and Maryanne. They also live in Wynndel, and Shirley resides in Creston.

Joe moved to Wynndel in 1945 where he and his son, Mel, started up a chicken farm, supplying eggs and fryers to many of the stores in the East Kootenay. They had several thousand chickens and business was thriving when in October, 1967 one bolt of lightning struck the building which exploded and they lost everything - chickens, equipment, granary, feed mill and meat buildings. Joe carried on in a small way for two years, but finally sold out.

Gertrude died in 1971, and in 1972 Joe married a widow, Mrs. Helen Osborn. They still reside on the property that was once the chicken farm.

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