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Kimberley Families

The Woolley Family
as told by Frank

Frank was an only child, born in Tardibigge, England. He left school at thirteen and went to work as a gardener's helper. He had considered learning the copper utensil trade but this entailed seven years of apprenticeship with no pay.

A cousin in Grand Forks, B.C. sent the fare for him and his mother to come to Canada in April, 1911, when Frank was eighteen. It was a rough three weeks crossing of the Atlantic, on the ship, Lake Manitoba.

Frank obtained work with the Great Northern Railway for two years, then went to work for the C.P.R. The pay in those days was twelve and a half cents an hour, twelve hours a day, or fortyeight dollars per month.

He built a house in Grand Forks and married Rita Evans in 1919.

Work was scarce after he was bumped off the C.P.R., and several moves took place. First to Cranbrook where he worked on the Government roads. He spent one very cold winter at Crowsnest working in the C.P.R. yard. For two years he fired a boiler for the Lovering Saw Mill at Wasa.

In 1922 he saw all the construction going on in Kimberley so applied for work here and was put on a gang under the Maintenance foreman, Harry Stone, at the Mine, constructing ore bins. He lived in one of the townsite bunkhouses until he got one of the four little shacks built along Mark Creek, just below the main portal. Gus Nelson lived next door.

Frank Woolley.

Frank later bought a small dwelling near where the Presbyterian Church now stands, next door to Harold Dolson's place. It cost $1,100 and took all his savings, only to find the shack was ready to fall down. It had been built with no studdings, the boards had been erected and nailed top and bottom then covered with blue building paper. Underneath was a mass of dead bed bugs. Much time and effort went into fixing it up and he managed to sell it to someone else for $1,100. Frank says he had a very guilty conscience about the deal but needed to get his money back somehow.

They had two sons, Melvin and Frank Jr. It was here that Frank Jr., seven years old, took very ill and died of infantile paralysis and one of the Dolsen twins also died. Everyone was very frightened and wary of contagion so the coffin was not even allowed in the church. It was taken to the cemetery on the back of a truck.

Frank scouted around and finally purchased five acres of land in Meadowbrook (later he bought 3 more acres). There was a one-roomed shack on the property and he remembers moving his family there. It was twenty degrees below zero Fahrenheit. He built a chicken house and started with one hundred chickens and later sold eggs.

He recalls buying his first cow from Jim Foster, on St. Marys Prairie. They took a horse and buggy and brought the cow home, tied on behind. The cow's name was Blue and Frank says it gave blue milk - no cream at all. They ended up milking ten cows and selling milk.

All this time Frank continued his job at the Concentrator where he worked in the boiler house. On night shift he worked alone and often the coal would get hung up in huge clinkers and have to be barred down into the white hot chambers which were kept under control by the water below. He was doing this one night when he was severely scalded with live steam. He doesn't know how, but he finished the last hour and a half of the shift until he was relieved by Ed Quirk, who called an ambulance. It took three years to recuperate from this accident, but he never did get over it completely.

He went to work at the carpenter shop at the Mine following his illness and retired in 1953.

He still lives on his eight acres of land although he has sold his livestock. His hobby is rock collecting and has a shop where he cuts and polishes the many he has amassed over the years. He enjoys travel and has done a great deal since his retirement.

His wife passed away a few years ago.

Besides the boy that died, they had three other children. Melvin resides in Vernon and is married and has two boys and a girl. Mary also lives in Vernon and is married with one boy and two girls. Amy, the youngest, lives in Boseman, Montana, with her husband and three children: two boys and a girl.

Frank will be 85 years old in May of 1978and still keeps active after his busy and interesting life in Kimberley.

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