Flash Back Fridays
ISOBEL SPRINGETT 1965
The Springett Family arrived from England and got a job managing the Lodge. Joan and Walter had two boys and two girls, one of whom was Isobel Springett, who was eight at the time. She is now a well-known photographer. Isobel liked this area so much that she now lives in the Comox Valley.
One night we were awakened by my brother shouting “there’s a cougar in the basement!” We all scrambled into our clothes and headed to the back of the Lodge. The basement was really a storage area located on the lower level at the rear of the building. My father and one of my brothers crept very slowly towards the open door, a 2 x 4 and gun in hand not quite sure what they were going to find. As they got closer they could see something large looming in the doorway. “Maybe it’s a bear” my brother whispered. By now they could hear the uninvited guest rummaging through the gas cans and firewood stored there. Suddenly something large and quite round appeared to be coming slowly towards them. As it advanced my brother suddenly realized what they were looking at. “It’s one of the bloody horses!” he exclaimed in a very annoyed voice. Apparently someone had left the door open and Gypsy, a big pinto, had decided to investigate even though there was not really enough room for a horse in the human-sized doorway. By now Gypsy had decided to head back in and had planted himself firmly in the doorway. My father and brother tried coaxing him with words promising treats and pats. Of course being a horse this went in one ear and out the other. By now they were getting quite annoyed. It was three in the morning and the Lodge would be waking up in a couple of hours. My dad picked up a stick and started swatting him on the ‘arse’ as he called that part of the anatomy. Anyone who knows horses will tell you that when you hit one on the arse it makes it go forward! Well now they were really getting mad. Gypsy must have had an arse made of steel because no matter how hard he whacked him he just continued to rummage through the cans and wood as though my brother was not there. There was no room to get in and get a halter on him since they could not back him out they continued to whack and swat and gradually the tone in their voices got more and more desperate until they realized it was a losing battle. After about an hour of getting nowhere it was ‘decided’ that they were just going to have to wait for Gypsy to finish his rummaging and hopefully he would just get fed up and leave. My sister and I headed off to bed and when we got up no mention was made of the battle in the night. I asked my mother and she just said, “what are you talking about?” It was never mentioned again.
One afternoon several of the loggers staying in the cabins decided to try and shoot a hole through the ESSO sign that was nailed to a tree across the road. It was about 60 feet up an old tree. One by one they kept trying and missing. My mother, who in her younger days had been a bit of a crack shot, had been watching from the Lodge window. Now my mother was what you would call a ‘proper English lady’, well spoken and with impeccable manners. She kept watching and finally could take it no more. Out she stomped and took the gun from one of the men, hoisted it to her shoulder and CABAM! To the amazement of the men she had put a hole right through the O!
She politely handed the gun back and without saying a word headed back to the Lodge. From that day on she was treated with a new found respect by the loggers who had dismissed her as ‘that funny little English lady’.
In England in 1965 pubs were open all week including Sundays. Since arriving in Canada my parents had not visited any pubs and were unaware that this had not quite happened here yet. The first Sunday arrived and my dad opened for business as usual. Well you can imagine how happy all the men were! They came in droves and my dad thought it must be my mom’s amazing cook ing that had brought them. Not one patron mentioned the fact that this was totally illegal, they just kept drinking and eating and it was a very successful day, or so my dad thought. The next day he got a call from a very upset Jim Boulding who’s first words were, “Are you trying to get me arrested?!”
My dad was baffled. “What are you talk ing about,” he said. “You opened the pub yesterday,” Jim said. “Yes,” my dad said, “and it was a really good day”. “Don’t you k now that it’s illegal to open a drinking establishment on Sunday,” said Jim. “Everyone in Campbell River is talking about it!” My father was dumbfounded. Why had no one told him? And why did pubs have to close on Sundays anyway? The next Sunday arrived and the men, assuming the pub would open again, lined up at the door. My poor dad had quite a time explaining to them that he had made a mistake and the pub would not be opening. It took a long time for that day to fade into memory!
To get rid of the garbage that accumulated every month, my dad would have to load it into a work truck and haul it to the dump that was a few miles up the road towards Gold River. On this occasion my sister and one of my brothers decided to go along for the ride as the scenery was quite spectacular and there was always the possibility of seeing a bear or two. It was the middle of winter and the snow was piled high on the sides of the road. We chatted happily as we drove along and it was starting out to be a lovely day. In the distance we could see a logging truck coming towards us. As it got closer it was apparent that it was not going to move over so we could pass each other so my dad steered our truck as close to the edge of the road as he could to avoid a collision. Suddenly, we found ourselves tipping and then rolling down the snowy embankment! When we came to a stop the truck was upside down and we were piled on top of each other with my sister, who was only three at the time, on the bottom! We managed to get her extricated before she was squashed and then tried to get out. That is when we realized we were completely buried in the snow.
As we lay there wondering how we were going to get out, the truck started to move! Fortunately a B.C. Hydro truck which had been behind the logging truck (which carried on as if nothing had happened) had seen us go over. He stopped and immediately attached a cable from his winch to the undercarriage of our truck and began to pull us out. Of course we had no idea what was going on until the snow fell away from the windows and we could see the Hydro truck and its operator. I often wonder what would have happened to us if he had not been there. After we were back up on the road we realized that all the garbage was now in the ditch buried in the snow. Nothing to do but wait ’till spring and come back and get it. My dad thank ed the Hydro truck driver and we drove back to the Lodge with quite a story to tell!
One of the wonderful things about moving from England to Canada was the abundant wildlife. When we arrived at the Lodge one of the first animals we met was Herby the Raccoon. Herby had the run of the place but took a particular liking to my dad. Whenever my dad had to take loggers across the lake in the water taxi, which was just a small motorboat with an outboard, Herby would go along. I can still remember seeing my dad standing at the wheel with Herby perched on his shoulder like a large hairy Parrot as they made their way to the exit of the small marina. My dad always came across as a stern man but somehow Herby had managed to wheedle his way into his heart and my dad would always go looking for him if, on the odd occasion, he did not show up. It did not seem to matter that the loggers were waiting to get to their jobs!
My mother was the most amazing cook and it did not take long for the word to get out. One day as she was in the kitchen preparing for the next meal service, one of the loggers came in and started chatting to her about how he was enjoying the ‘great grub’ she was producing. She was flattered that someone had noticed and happily talked while getting on with her work. As she talked she had her back to the logger who apparently thought this was an invitation to come in a little closer and ‘cop a feel’. Well, my mother just about hit the ceiling; screeching as she did so. The logger just backed away laughing and left the room. My mom immediately ran and found my dad to tell him what had happened. He managed to keep a straight face for about five seconds and then burst out laughing. Apparently he thought it was just as funny as the logger had. My mom was furious! From then on she never talked with her back to any of the men, including my dad. Poor woman! What an introduction to life in Canada!