Getting Around: Transportation

What vehicles or transport devices do you recall from your earliest years?

When I was a newborn, my parents owned a car, a Vauxhall, which my dad bought about 1953. My first car trip was when I was about 3 weeks old; we drove from Summerland to Vancouver, and since baby seats were unheard of at that time, my parents put me in a cardboard box for the trip, and I happily slept for the entire trip. Not long after that we flew north to Sandspit on an airplane (not a jet), and from there to Masset in a seaplane. We didn’t have a vehicle in Masset; we walked everywhere. There were sometimes trips in a fish-boat to Port Clements for all-island teacher’s meetings, but I don’t know if I ever had the privilege.

When we left the islands in July 1957 we went south on a steam-ship, and since they had messed up the reservation for a first-class room, we got to stay in the honeymoon suite! My dad loved to travel around, so we took a lot of road trips around BC, and back and forth from our home in Revelstoke to visit family in the Okanagan and at the coast. I have very little memory of those early trips, but I do have a hazy memory of taking car ferries across Okanagan Lake at Kelowna and at other locations. We also took ferries to Vancouver Island on occasion, but I don’t really remember much about them until I was in my teens. I remember first going over the new Okanagan Lake Bridge at Kelowna, I think in the early 1960s. It was very exciting to go over such a big bridge, and pay a 10 cent toll! I am pretty sure we got a new car, also a Vauxhall, in the early 60s as well.

One form of transportation I remember clearly was my grandfather’s old car, which had a crank, which I thought was really neat! I liked to watch Uncle Preston crank up the car to get it going. I must have been pretty small in those days. I seem to remember they had a circular drive in their front yard with a big old walnut tree in the middle, and the car was parked there, and their dog would always run around and bark when the car was being started. I also have a memory of riding a miniature train; I know there was one in Stanley Park but I think that we rode that later. I think the one I remember from when I was small was maybe in Washington or Oregon when we visited our relatives. I remember having lots of fun waving at the conductors and engineers of real trains as they went by, but I don’t think I ever actually got to ride in a real train until I was an adult.

Revelstoke was a “train hub” town, so we got to see a lot of trains. When my mom was a girl, they quite often rode the Kettle Valley Rail Line train to Penticton or Kelowna, but by my day, the passenger service no longer existed. However, after I became an adult, the Summerland to Trout Creek stretch was reactivated as a tourist attraction, and I went on it with my son Peter, whose class was on a field trip. It was slow, maximum speed 14 miles per hour! Those trips to Kelowna would have been really long!

Although I did a bit of flying in my earliest years, I would not fly again until I flew north myself in 1979 to my first teaching job in Masset, to teach in the same school in which my parents had taught. One kind of transport I remember quite well, that you don’t often see now-a-days, is milk-man trucks, and door-to-door salesman trucks (like Watkins and Fuller Brush). I also remember the doctor coming and making house-calls when people were especially sick! It also seems to me that it was more common when I was small to see tractors and horses on public roads than it is now. One thing that really sticks in my memory is how narrow roads were compared to now. They tended to follow the lay of the land, so were also much twistier, especially through the mountains, and in places like between Summerland and Penticton along Okanagan Lake. Because of this, trips tended to take longer than they do these days. Going through the Hope-Princeton Highway was, in my memory, very twisty, and in the winter, it seems to me like the snow was very deep on both sides of the road, and the road itself was snugged up against the mountain side on one side and huge drop-offs on the other. It was almost impossible to pass other cars.

We kept entertained on long trips by singing all kinds of songs, memorizing scriptures (like Psalm 23), playing “I spy”, counting different kinds of license plates, and so on. Of course we did not have video games, or even radios or cassette players. We would always pack a good lunch for long road trips as we never went to restaurants. Most often we would have extra passengers along as a lot of people did not have their own vehicles and would be glad for the chance to come along. We could squeeze lots of people in, since no one had seat-belts to worry about. I remember one time, when I was 9 or 10, riding in a quite small car, with 18 people in it! Our grandparents often came places with us, and I remember that my Grandma Mott would always sit behind my Dad (who was driving) and talk non-stop to him, and keep handing him food to “keep him awake at the wheel.” Even when I was little I could tell it drove him crazy but he tried to be respectful! My Grandma Wright, on the other hand, would eat non-stop the whole trip, and would toss peelings, wax paper (no saran wrap back then) and other scraps out the window all along the way. I was always horrified, as my parents taught us never to do that, but of course we weren’t allowed to say anything when Grandma did it!

I don’t ever remember actually seeing horse-and-buggies or things like that, except of course in parades, and once in a while, in the winter, we would see people out sleighing in old-time horse-drawn sleighs. There was a big ski hill at Revelstoke, where world-championship ski-jumping was held every year. There were no fancy lifts in those days. I remember watching the skiers hike up the hill with their skis over their shoulders! There may have been a rope-tow but I don’t recall seeing one in those early years. Oh, one other thing I remember is the barge which would go up and down Okanagan Lake every day, carrying rail cars and other freight. After the bridge at Kelowna opened, it continued for a few more years but trucks soon took over.

Written: Dec 31, 2007

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