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Kimberley Families

The Zak Family
as told by daughter, Vilma

Anton (Tony) Zak was born in Czechoslovakia in 1884 and came to Cranbrook when he was only eighteen years old, working his way. The Kneip Family also came from Czechoslovakia to Michel when their daughter, Frances, was twelve years old. It was in Michel that Tony met Frances. The Kneips moved to Sherwood,. Oregon, and some time later Tony went there and married Frances. They lived there for about a year and a daughter Vilma was born.

In 1913 Tony moved to Lethbridge, Alberta, where he opened a butcher shop and there a son, Emil (Butch), was born. Business dropped off in Lethbridge so in the fall of 1924 Tony came to Kimberley. He built a store with rooms above and an apartment at the back on the corner of Wallinger and Ross Street. His family joined him in July of 1925.

For a number of years they ran a butcher shop and grocery store. Mrs. Zak took care of the rooms upstairs and Vilma and Butch attended school. Butch started school in Kimberley with Miss Ruth Soderholm as his grade one teacher. Vilma had Mr. J. E. Marsh for a teacher during her first year in Kimberley schools.

After school Vilma had to hurry home to help work in the store, no idle playing or being late or she got her ears boxed. In those days store hours were unlimited, and their store was open from early morning until late at night. When they first came Vilma remembers the only buildings across the tracks on the south side were Holt's big house and further down near the creek were a number of shacks owned by a Mr. Gough.

In the latter years of the depression, Mr. Zak had to close the store owing to poor business and his good heartedness toward people in need. He took a job as night watchman for Northern Construction when they were building the railway from the Mine to the Concentrator.

For a short time they lived in the Bonner house, right next to the Orpheum Theatre, where the Bank of Montreal now stands. They then moved to a big house near the creek on the corner of Beale A venue and Leadenhall Street, below the English Church. Mr. Zak passed away in 1949 and Mrs. Zak went to cook for the Bill's family at Premier Lake.

The Zak Family, Vilma, Anton (Tony), Frances, Emil (Butch).

Vilma worked at both the Townsite and Chapman Camp cookhouses before obtaining work at the Mark Creek Store in the dry goods department. She married Bill Pratt, a Vancouver man that had come to Kimberley to play hockey. He worked for the Company in the Mine, becoming a shift boss. Bill was killed in an industrial accident underground, in 1962. They had one son Leslie Van, now a teacher in Sydney, Australia. He married an Irish girl there, Maura McGrath, and they have twins, a boy and a girl.

Butch first started work in the C.P.R. Station office. Later he worked in the Company general office. He studied to be an accountant and received his certificate from the Queens University of Kingston, Ontario. Butch married a Kimberley girl, Ethel Loraas, after coming back from overseas, where he served in the Air Force. Butch was transferred to the Company offices in Trail. Butch and Ethel have two children, Gary and Brenda. Gary is a teacher in Victoria and married Mary Ogg, a girl from Duncan, B.C. They have one son, Michael. Brenda is a teacher in Burnaby.

Following Bill's death, Vilma worked in the offices of the Kimberley Heating and Plumbing, for five years. She is now retired and taking life easy in her apartment on Swan Subdivision. In 1977 she visited her son and family in Australia for two months and again for Christmas in 1978.

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