Clerence Ackerman

Clerence Ackerman – Interviewed Dec. 1993

My name is Bonnie Ward; I am the researcher for the Castlegar and District Heritage Society. It is the hope of the Society that by recording interviews with the pioneers and those familiar with the history of our area, the society will create a permanent historical record for all to enjoy.

Would you consent to be interviewed by me on this basis?

CA: Yes.

BW: Ok, so what year did you move to Castlegar?

CA: I beg your pardon?

BW: What year did you move to Castlegar?

CA: May, no, April 8, 1946 and it was raining like hell when we moved out of Rossland. We had been in Rossland for years. We moved out there after the war. I was in the services and when I came back we spent the winter in Rossland and then we came to Castlegar, into Kinnaird.

BW: And how many families were in Castlegar at the time?

CA: In Kinnaird, I don’t know how many families were in Castlegar, but Kinnaird there were approximately forty, from the railroad track this way all along the highway.

BW: So there weren’t many families then?

CA: No, there was lots of space between each house, each home.

BW: And what did you do for a living?

CA: I worked in the Smelter and we went back and forth on the Castlegar Transportation and I worked there until 1976.

BW: So I guess you’ve seen a lot of changes then?

CA: There were a lot of changes in Castlegar and Kinnaird, which is now just Castlegar, but back then it was Castlegar and Kinnaird. But it’s just unbelievable, you know. And of course they built the recreation hall. In those days Kinnaird Hall was the school house, when we moved out there. There were two rooms split and in Castlegar they had school where the school buses are now. There was a big school there at that time, and then the overflow that had in the old Castlegar Hall which was on the present site of the Castlegar Co-Op.

BW: I have heard that you were on City Council.

CA: I was on the Kinnaird Council for ten years.

BW: You must have seen a lot of changes through that?

CA: Well, we were there, I started there just before Celgar came in the sawmill. That was the year we built the clean water system in Kinnaird. We had one water tank up behind the hall. I think that they have had another one since. We put a big steel tank in there at one time.

BW: Is that the one where the cement one is now?

CA: No, there’s a steel tank up there by the school, the elementary school. We put that in at the time and at the same time we had to extend the original system by law to include Woodland Park which was just opening up. It was 1960 and the High Arrow was built at that time, and the line runs roughly around where Safeway is, down into Woodland Park.

BW: Is that the year they built the Plaza too?

CA: The Plaza was in a little bit before that, I think. But the narrow strip down there was a single road. No buildings in there at all. Beyond Sherbiko Hill they had the house were the Anglican Church rectory is now. That was his home and he sold all that property. He had quite a dairy at that time and he sol all that. Across the street from the tracks was all fruit trees in there. And Creighton owned the, where they’re building the big new plaza now. That was all of Creighton’s property. In fact, his daughter works up here in the Safeway store. But the property where Woodland park is now was owned by seven or eight people. They had big holdings down there, and they just split it all up after Celgar came in and bought it all and that’s that all came about.

Veto’s they were down in Lower Dumonte. They had an old house. We went there with a fellow by the name of Gadeem. He had a pig ranch in there. I was talking to Mrs. Geddo. I forget what her parents name was now, but she was raised there. In the early days there used to be a ferry across there. It went from there to Waterloo, I believe you’ve heard of that before?

BW: No, I haven’t.

CA: No? There was a ferry across there, and there was a town called Waterloo across the river. And then in 1912, or so the Doukahours came in and changed it to Ootischenia.

BW: I think I would have liked it better as Waterloo.

CA: Well, it’s just the sound of the word but it means “peace.” But this is the way it went. Then of course gradually we built a little fire hall right where the Kinnaird Hall is; on the point where you make the turn. We had a trailer pumper in there and one of the fellows had his car fixed up for it and the fire engine would go and hook on to that and everbody went to the fire. Of course, the fire stand pipes were all we had then. It was inch and a half stand pipes and you hooked on to those. Then when they made the big water change in 1960 they put hydrants in which are there today. But that was all part o the history. In 1946 when we moved, the school was in the hall in Kinnaird; the School Board in its’ wisdom decided. Well, we had taken the hall apart because the rafters were starting to spread. So we decided to tear it down, we were tearing the rafters out and the walls. So we had it partially up and they never came to us and said anything. So come school day, they made the kids go into Castlegar at the old hall in there which had outdoor plumbing. So we said “no way” and we got, we’ve at least got indoor plumbing and we can have that ready, which we did, within two weeks after they made up their mind.

But in the meantime, people wouldn’t send their kids to school; we just kept them out for three or four days. There was nothing done about it. A couple of them went in and interviewed the Trail Times and once they got into the paper they got action. You know just little things like that make history and that was 1946.

BW: When did they put the Kinnaird Bridge in?

CA: Oh, I can’t give you the exact date, around the time that Celgar came in, or a little before. There was always an argument as to where to put the bridge, some wanted it to go through Castlegar, and put it where they are putting one now. But they said when they were putting a new highway through and they didn’t want any tourists in town so they put the bridge in where it is now. We watched them put that in. It was quite a feat to put that in there.

BW: How long did it take them:

CA: Oh, it was a couple of years; at least two years. They had to excavate all through there. First they had to put the overpass in there for the railroad, and after they got that in it started to wash out down stream in the current. So they went down to lower Dumont, below water and built a kind of road along the edge. Then they would take huge rocks, one rock to a truck sometimes, lay it in a barge and take it out there and dump it. And if you look there today, down stream from the bridge a ways, you’ll see eddy curls, and that’s all that rock that they dumped in to stop the water. It was washing out, then it would come right back and wash out the bridge. So that’s how they stopped it with all that heavy rock and boulders and everything. We used to go up in there and pick huckleberries where Tenth Avenue is now. When you go up there you can see and hear all the cars going by; it seemed like you were a way out but actually you were only a short ways. There were quite a few huckleberries up in there. And we used to go a way back up around where Harry Killough’s old place is, past that industrial shop up there. Well, you go in there and deep to the left and go up into what we used to call the mad Irishman, at the head waters of Merry Creek. It was at least flat up there but to walk up there it seemed like a long way. He left there one day. He worked in the dam down at Waneta and he had a horse. He left the horse over there and went away for the summer after they finished the dam and he never came back. He had umpteen dogs out there, and they were quite vicious. The police had to go up and thin them out and kill them, because they were all interbred. They didn’t know what they had. But it’s all starting to expand up in there. I think there are two or three houses in there now. Then in 1961 or ’62 we rebuilt it. We’d go down the road to practice and everything was frozen up.

If we had a fire we’d have been in trouble anyway so we had to that everything out and make sure it didn’t happen again. They had lots o small fires and some bigger ones, too. We lost a house up in Merry Creek one time, Karzaniewski’s place. They both came home from work and smelled smoke. Then they looked around and saw that the basement was on fire. And they had coal down there. Well, we got in there with the hose and poured water on it, and killed it. But as soon as you backed off there were enough gas fumes so that it would just ignite again. We just couldn’t stop the flame, because there was about five tons of coal in the basement. And then all the bombings took place at that time too. We had a fellow at the school looked after the hall. The target was the schools. And we had to have a night watchman for the hall. And then of course they bombed the railroad and there were fires set in Castlegar, at different places

BW: There were a lot of bombings around then?

CA: Oh, there was quite a lot of them. They were going to blow up the Kinnaird
Post Office which is down where that welding shop is now behind the filling
station. Well that used to be Cob’s. They had the Post Office out there and
a little general store. They had the post office right back I behind the filling
station. Well, there were three or four young fellows in a car with a bomb
and they were going to blow up the post office but the bomb blow up in the
car. So they picked them up in a wash tub, I guess the guy had it sitting on
his lap. But they blew up switches, too.

BW: Is there any particular reason why they would want to do that?

CA: Well they were the Sons of Freedom, and there are two old ladies who still live in Grand Forks and are still blowing up everything they can get their hands on. They let them out of jail and they go back for more. They are about the only ones left now.

BW: Has it been a long time since there has been any bombings?

CA: Oh, it’s been quite a while now since there’s been anything like that. Well, attitudes change and it was only one group anyway. The rest of them were quite fine. Of course, when we came out here, Robson had lots of fruit trees over there, and there are hardly any orchards there now.

BW: There’s one there now.

CA: Yes, just one I guess; but there used to be several. They had peaches, pears and apples. Things have changed since I was a kid. I remember we had this horse and buggy, and hardly anything else, and, in Kinnaird and Castlegar, when we moved out there, there was never any thought about transportation because everyone worked in Trail. At one time there were six hundred riders in the Transportation Society and we built that big garage in Kinnaird at that time. The cars came from Robson and over to Castlegar and Kinnaird to pick them all up. So the Transportation Society wasn’t even operating at that time.

BW: But they did have the bus running still at that time, didn’t they?

CA: Going out to Celgar and Cominco, yes. It was a sixty passenger bus, and we had other ones – 44 or 45. We had six buses, plus cars.

BW: That’s a lot of people.

CA: Yes, and then of course there’s Cominco. It was part of the history, too. That’s what they call the Eastern Star, Castlegar had a little chapter. It was named after a boat.
But Creighton’s were over by where Panagopoulos is now. That house next to them was Harold Creighton’s. He just died here a little while ago. That house had been originally the school house and they just moved it over and built the big building. He had a store in that house first. Ya; it was a store and then they built the other building. I think his brother built that building. I don’t know. I helped to pour the foundation of that building. Then we put the roof on it.

BW: I did an interview with Mr. Waldie, and he was telling me about the Co-Op building in Robson and how the Sons of Freedom burnt it down. Then they built it back up. And when they were finished the Sons of Freedom burnt it down again.

CA: Yes, they were trying to prove something to somebody else; not even the Russian people understood. But they used to have to stand guard in their own homes because the terrorists would come and burn them out. I remember one night somebody phoned in a fire, and we got all the way down to our fire hall and looked across the river and at the angle it was where the North end where the Airport is now. You could see it from the fire hall. It was a big fire. Well, then we went down towards where the plaza is to see where it was and decided to go on over. The police said, “Well, you better go, maybe they could use you”. We got over there and there were two villages on fire. They burnt right to the ground. The power lines were there, of course, and we had to get the police to carry people away because a pole blew up with a transformer on it.
BW: Was that before they put the airport there?

CA: Yes, that was before they put the airport there. And Otto Walker, have you talked to him?

BW: No.

CA: His dad was one of the pioneers in this town of Castlegar. And George Cheveldave is another one you should talk to. George Cheveldave has got a lot of knowledge. Him and Gerry Wanters, were the first two guys here. Well, first there was three of them in the first council in Castlegar, and Sammy Muirhead and George Jackson. That’s all that were on the council, I think. Watson got involved in Kinnaird but he came a little bit later. Watsons’ moved down to the coast.

From ’46 until now that’s pretty near fifty years and that’s how long I’ve been in Castlegar. Well, we moved into Trail about four years ago. It was in August of ’89, I believe.

BW: That’s the same year that I moved to Castlegar.

CA: Ya, well that’s when we moved out here so. We came out to Castlegar in ’46 and stayed here fifty years. Then after the war I went back to Rossland for the winter and we rented a place there. I had heard about Kinnaird even before that. They had started that up in 1940, I believe.

BW: Were you in the army or the air force?

CA: Air Force; I didn’t go overseas though.

BW: Well, it’s a good thing that you didn’t go overseas.

CA: In one sense of the word, yes. I had hoped that I would but circumstances didn’t allow it.

BW: Where were your parents from?

CA: England. I have two sisters and I had a brother but he’s dead now. My youngest sister went to England and to meet the relatives that still live there. Then about three years ago they came out to Regina and they brought them out here by car,
between my two cousins and their wives. We just got some letters from them now. We correspond once in a while.

BW: You never went over to see them?

CA: No, I didn’t see them. We were over there on a tour but I didn’t get down to see them. Grandma has been up here. She came up after her husband died. When we came gack from our trip, she met us because she knew where we were going.

BW: When did your parents some to Canada?

CA: Dad came in 1906, and he homesteaded Saskatchewan, as they had agreed before he left. It was seven years before he could get her out. She worked as a domestic; saved her money while dad homesteaded until he got enough crops. Then she came out in 1913.

BW: Were all their kids born in Canada?

CA: Oh yes, all of us were born in Canada. But she never went back. All my sisters were mad at here because they wanted her to go back but she wouldn’t go. She wanted to go, but then she changed her mind and wouldn’t. One of my sisters was going to go with her. My dad died when I was eight years old and my mother raised all of us on her own.

BW: That must have been hard for her.

CA: Well, she had the farm you see. She rented the farm out and lived farther down the road. I always remember when I was little and my dad went to Moose Jaw to sell wheat and to get groceries. I guess it took him about two or three days to come back a hundred miles. And that was the highway, they used to have these seats that were set across the top of the wagon in front, you know, and were big enough for two people to sit in. The wagons were all solid and there were no shock absorbers on them. It was just if you got a bump, you got a bump.

Castlegar has come a long way, and I think it’s going to go a long way. But the sad part of it is, that there are no archways here. That’s the thing I noticed the minute we moved from Rossland. My impression was that they may have made a mistake. I don’t know how the Highways Department could allow that to happen. They never should have allowed it to happen. When they were trying to amalgamate North Kamloops, they refused it along with a bridge and everything else. If we’d have said “no”, they’d have put another archway in. Now I don’t know where they would put another archway in. The cost is more than they can bear, but I suppose, in time, that will happen.

BW: Are there any particular changes that you would like to see in Castlegar?

CA: Well, where Safeway is, Merry Creek came down and it ran down through where the Clinic is, then where the hotel is. There was a big culvert in there. There was a big hollow. I would say it was anywhere from 35 to 40 feet deep and I suggested that maybe we should have bought that thing. It came up where Mike’s R.V. is. Then they could have used it as an underpass from the creek to the river. It would have been a natural underpass. After they filled it in, Safeway, two or three years later, their foundation started breaking, because it had settled. That’s what has happened and now it’s too late.

And that Chicken Delight or whatever it is, old Hansen had a grocery store there. But Scott’s took it over after that. Bernice is still up there. She was in Drumhellar. And then Trishchuck took it over and he’s still around here. Then he sold out to a chicken chain; I think it was Dixie Lee. There was two of them in town. He sold out to them and eventually it was what it is now. And, of course Crestview and all those places, they went in afterwards. There was a great big water tank up in Crestview. That’s that subdivision at this end of Kinnaird, Crestview’s up on top. And when the water tank came in they were building Dumonte subdivision below the tracks and they put that tank in up there to service them, instead of him and Watson getting together at the time. They could have put them on the same level but they didn’t. Then there was another tank up by the school, a small one, and we were losing so much water in the 1960’s. They had four inch pipe on each side of the highway, and it was leaking faster than they could store it. At four o’clock in the morning the water was only twenty minutes difference between a forty thousand gallon tank and empty. We were still losing the same amount of water with only twenty minutes difference; that’s how fast it was leaking. Kuryluk used to live down by the Sandman Hotel where that filling station is now. Chevron is what I believe is there now.

Well, he had a water tank above Merry Creek, back above the church. And he serviced a few people down at that end. So they amalgamated Watson’s, and Dumonte, and they amalgamated Kuryluk’s end. But they had to buy each of them separately and when they got through with them in a few years, all the money that it cost to buy them out, there was not a thing left there. It was all brand new. They had the franchise, Ralph West had the franchise in Castlegar.

BW: So at that time Castlegar and Kinnaird were two separate places?

CA: Yes, the railroad crossing was the divider. John Sherbiko lived in Cstlegar, but all that whole stripe, had nothing on it. I used to walk home at four o’clock in the morning from meetings. There were six of us. We started the K.R.C. and that stands for Kinnaird, Robson and Castlegar. I don’t know if you’ve had a history on that or not?

BW: No

CA: But we were walking home late at night from Castlegar to Kinnaird three miles. It was quite a hike at that time and there wasn’t anything in between. Well there was a dairy and there was Dr. Johnson’s office and Sharplis had the dairy. There were a lot of people up top by the park. When we lived out there, there was hardly any park. Now there’s 22 acres in that park. And I think there is a track up there too, a racing track up in the bush.

But it took us a few years to build up the park, and the old swimming pool I paid money into it for about three or four years. That’s how we got the swimming pool in. In 1967 everyone paid a little money. They pooled their money together but now it’s all gone. But the old Kinnaird City Works yard is still there; that’s where you turn off to go to Dumonte, past the hall there. That’s the old Kinnaird City Works. We got that built too in the early sixties. We had a lot of snow and in early February it would start to rain. And up in high Meadows and all up in there the snow would melt and run off down that creek by the hall. There’s a culvert down there, but it would come down and across the road, and over the railroad tracks. The C.P.R. would have to come down and fix it up because the culvert would wash all the dirt under the track away. But we had lots of fun.

BW: Sounds like it.

CA: Do you know where Rene Archambault lives?

BW: Yes, I do.

CA: Well right next door to him is Robinson’s. He had a whole lot there and we built a skating rink on the back end of his lot. And part of it was on Rene’s property too. Whenever we got a lot of snow, we would send in the town grader to plough it off. I think that was in ’68. One night they had 31 inches of snow in three or four hours. You can imagine shovelling that and keeping up with it.

Oh, there’s lots of things I’ll probably think of after. Our old dump used to be up there, you know when you come around this end of Kinnaird coming up towards Trowelex there’s a gully there. Well, that’s all dump bulk wood. We had a dump I there for quite a few years. If anybody ever wanted to build in that now, they would have to excavate the whole works of garbage out of there. And down Connor’s Road, that looks over the top of the bridge, they hauled dirt and gravel out of there. I don’t know if you ever noticed them or not.

BW: Yes.

CA: There’s a big excavation there. If you go along Connor’s Road. And that was the old Castlegar dump, I think. When they started there, they had to take all that garbage out. I don’t know what they want to use it for, I think they still haul stuff out of there.

BW: Yes, they still haul gravel out of there.

CA: But all that was garbage. And then Don Phillips and Art Phillips they had big chunks of land along there; I think it’s all sold out now; but that was all tied in. Then all sorts of people with Celgar came in and they were going to disturb the water with the hydro up at the dam. So they built these bottom dumping barges; for where they were hauling gravel. But they came to us and wanted us to pay for water, all the people along Connor’s Road, and there was only about eight of us.

And we said that we would give them drinking water. They were all pulling water out of the river. But we got off drinking river water because we started processing all of our water, and, of course Nelson’s sewers were going in at that time, too.
So what we said, “OK but you’ll have to run a line for fresh water from us because we chlorinated ours. And, so that’s what happened. They got water for their houses, but we wouldn’t supply water, because we didn’t have it for their big chunk of land. So finally after they finished the Hydro dam and everything, then they went in to them one day and said “We’re finished. We can no longer supply water to you people”. So then we said, “Well then, we will cut them off”. So they came to us and said: “We will have to come into the village then”. And it’s the law you can not service anybody outside of you because if you do then they can come back and dispute your rates and put you under public utilities. And that still goes today. So we had no alternative but to cut them off, or they could have come back and hung us out. So we said: “No, not unless you come into town”. And they did come in and they got their water, of course. There were lots of things that happened. Joe Killough is the oldest Killough left. Harry died and they lost a brother in the first war, and Jack died. So Joe’s the only one left. Oh, and there’s a sister around, somewhere, too. But life goes on.

Is there anything else I can tell you? Up above where High Meadows is there was a chicken ranch. We used to walk up there and get eggs. We’d go straight up where the cemetery road is. It went up to a peak as you followed Merry Creek. Then you’d come back in like that and there was a sharp curve. They lived just about where High Meadows is now. His daughter lived with him at that time. And Pete Ostrom was where Dr. Johnson lives now. He had a house next door to us. He also had a few head of cattle. They built the house that’s there now. He also had another little house up there. We used to go there in the summer time before they built the bridge up there and in the winter we’d go back down to the little house and spend the winter there. Eventually we sold out to Dr. Johnson.

BW: Well, I thank you very much for taking the time to sit and talk with me this morning. You’ve been a great help to me in my research.

CA: Well, you’re welcome, I’m glad to be of help.

Interviewed by Bonnie Ward