Community: Relatives, Close Friends, and the Masset Community 1955-1957
Was there a neighborhood community, or community of faith, that welcomed you in your earliest years?
Yes! I was most blessed in that way! I came from a family that put very high value on family and friends, so I was welcomed in a big way. When I came “home” to my grandparents’ home, on August 3, 1955, I was welcomed by my grandparents, John and Emily Mott, my auntie Nornie (Laura Mott) and Uncle Preston. My dad arrived from summer school (he’d only been able to take two days off at the time of my birth) on the 5th, in time to attend the August 6 wedding of Laura and Lyle Barnes. Of course, that meant that Grandpa and Grandma’s house was packed with company, including Uncle and Aunt Sadie Oliver and Joyce (close family friends from Winnipeg), Uncle Oscar and Aunt Ruth Mott from Washington state, and others. According to dad’s autobiography, “Norma was just three weeks old, and at one point in the reception, Mom and I carried here around in her bassinet to show her off to the assembled guests. We thought she rather stole the show.” After the wedding, Dad went back to Victoria for his last week of summer school. When he came back the next weekend, he brought my other grandmother, Bessie Wright, to visit me. The family went to see the Penticton Peach Festival Parade! On August 14, Mom and Dad’s first anniversary, Rev. Joe James, who had married my parents, baptized (christened) me. The James family were long-time friends of the Motts, and in later years they would be our pastor and family in Kelowna. Susan and Marion would be two of my closest friends. And once we moved to Rutland (when I was five years old), the Free Methodist church family became our spiritual family (as they had been mom’s in Summerland), and I still have many special friends and memories from church services, CYC, camps, district meetings, youth groups and so on.
Anyway, after the christening, our family went to the coast. There were no baby seats in those days, and I made the entire trip sleeping in a cardboard box in the car! At the coast, there was a Wright family reunion with dad’s parents, siblings, and all the grandchildren present, including my cousins Brad and Fred who had been born shortly before me. Then Grandpa Mott came down, and we visited his Uncle Daniel, so there were four generations together. I am sure that at this time I would have also met Auntie Em and Uncle Cec, and their children.
Then we flew back to Sandspit, and I was placed in a “flight crib” at the front of the plane. We went to Alliford Bay by bus, and then to Masset by seaplane. Special friends in Masset included: Don MacRae, teacher; Mr and Mrs Pruden (he was the Indian Agent, and their daughter Gabrielle liked to play with me); Shady and Ruby Lane (he was in the Navy, and they lived for a short time in the other half of our house); Uncle Doug Archibald (the new Indian Agent, who moved into the other half of our house, and after whom my brother Graham Douglas got his second name. According to dad’s autobiography, “The wall between the two apartments was thin, and when Uncle Doug would hear Norma crying, he would whip into our apartment, take Norma, and start crooning to her in Gaelic — she would be asleep in minutes”). We took many walks with Uncle Doug and Uncle Don McRae (in those days, close family friends were “uncle” or “auntie”) out along Tow Hill Road to North Beach. We also often went for walks with the Hunter family: “Pop” (Dave), Ginny, and their children. We also often visited Auntie Mavis Kellar, the Red Cross Nurse in Old Massett, and a Christian. Usually we visited on Sunday afternoon, and in the evening would go with her to the service in the village church, where the lay-reader who led the evening service was Peter Hill, a wonderful Christian man. (Who would have known that many years later I would meet and marry his grandson, Lionel, and our son, Peter, is named after Chinni Pete!) When my mom resigned from teaching, she was replaced by Mrs. Mallory. Mr. and Mrs. Bob Mallory (he was the Fisheries Officer), had a daughter, Rosemary, who also loved to spend time playing with me. I am told that everybody called me “Susie Cucumber” — which is definitely an improvement on my dad’s first nickname for me, “Ammonia!” Another close friend was Howard Phillips, who was on the school board, and who, many years later, loved to have me bring Taryn over to his house to visit. The Masset Community Hall has been named after him. Another family who were friends were the Simpsons, and their daughter Faith was one of my dad’s first graduating students. When I lived in Masset after I grew up, Faith was a teacher at the Elementary School, and eventually I taught one of her grandchildren at the high school! Another family was Mr and Mrs Fred Steele; Mrs. Steele was the primary teacher at the school. I also had lots of friends among the school students, as for a time my mom was the only substitute, and she would take me to school with her and I would sit in my buggy at the back of the class. Mom and Dad also hosted a boy’s club and a girl’s club at our house. (The club was very popular, but the rule was that you could not attend unless you went to Sunday School, so apparently the Sunday School grew rapidly at that time!). Another friend, my age, was Sandra Hill, the daughter of the Red Cross Hospital housekeeper; she was one hour older than me! Another couple who were good friends of my parents were Meiri and Tom Earl, who were in the military; Meiri and my mom went to the hospital in Skidegate Landing at the same time to have babies. Another friend, Mrs. Blanche Shields, would sometimes babysit me; she had two sons, Allan and Ken, and Ken would later be the coach of the University of Victoria Basketball Team that took the Canadian College Championship quite a few years in a row in the 1980s. Another close friend of my mom’s was Jean Crist and her family. We also had a number of friends in Old Massett, such as Florence and Robert Davidson, and we were invited to their homes for meals. My parents also became friends with Nora Bellis, who sometimes babysat me, and we have 5 argellite poles carved by her father, Captain Brown. Of course, my parents became close friends with a number of their students, and when I returned to Masset to teach in 1979, my parents came to visit and rekindled many friendships. Some of the students who welcomed them back were dad’s grads — Bruce Hageman, Peter Burton, Lily Bennett, Faith Simpson (Thorgierson), Merle Davidson, Lily Bennett, Dick Bellis, Doug Hageman. Other students who were happy to see them included George Jones, Alex Jones, Eugene Samuels,Peter Burton, Raymond Jones, and many more! My parents were also involved in starting the tradition of the May Queen and May-pole dancing, and royalty those years included Mary Setso, Faith Weiden, Wilma Deane, Sophie Davidson, Irene Kelly, and others. Godfrey Kelly crowned the first Queen, Mary Setso.
In the summer between school years we travelled south, and visited mom and dad’s many, many friends and family. Friends and family were very important to my parents; last year I did their Christmas cards for them, for their “dearest” friends… nearly 200 cards, going all over the world! So I met a great many people, both friends and relatives, during those times.
And finally, on January 11, 1957, I got a very special new friend — my brother, John Stewart, who was born at Skidegate Landing hospital, and came home to Masset to join the family. Dad continued to teach at Masset until the end of June, and then we moved south as he was totally exhausted. He has written an interesting account of his teaching/principal career in Masset… and any modern teachers who think they are overworked, might want to read it!
Written: Dec 30, 2007