Florence Horcoff

Florence Horcoff – interviewed August 19, 1993

My name is Nicole Bouvette; 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?

FH: Yes

NB: The date of the interview is August 19 1993

NB: Mrs. Horcoff could you please tell me where and when you were born?

FH: Kamsack, Saskatchewan

NB: And you stayed there up until?

FH: Until 1936

NB: How old were you when you came here?

FH: I was born in 1918 and came here in 1936, so I was 15 or 16.

NB: When you came here were you finished school?

FH: No, I didn’t finish school. My mother had five men in the house and I was the only girl and she was ill and she took me out of school when I passed into grade five and I had to work on the farm and milk cows and to work in the garden and to help her cook.

NB: Did you come to Castlegar with your family or did you come on your own?

FH: I came a year before, no I shouldn’t say a year before, I came here in April and they came in the fall.

NB: Did you work when you came here or did you stay with relatives?

FH: I stayed with relatives and I worked and then I worked on the farm where I married the guy.

NB: And you married?

FH: Nick Horcoff.

FH: As we were coming down when we left the prairies there was so much snow my dad and mom brought me down to Kamsack and by the time we got there they had a team of horses and a little caboose (wagon). It upset 4 or 5 times, there was no road there and the snow was breaking and every time the horse would go down the caboose would go over. But when I got there, my brother was here and we were walking downtown and Horcoff’s farm just beautiful and the orchard was beautiful, lot of chickens and the grass was green already and chickens walking along the mountain side.

NB: And this is where the Horcoffs farm is today?

FH: Yes, and I said to my brother and my sister “Boy would I ever like to live here”

NB: And sure enough.

FH: And sure enough (laughter)

NB: That’s really neat

NB: Did you carry Mr. Horcoff soon after?

FH: Actually walking down the road which would be walking down the tracks and we just about got to the station there and my brother looked back and said “just a minute girls there’s Nicky Horcoff walking behind us. So we met right there.

NB: And you had your children in Castlegar?

FH: I had them here- I had all my children here. One is in Prince Rupert right now with his family and my daughter is in Cranbrook and two are still on the farm, my youngest and my middle one, Tim and John. Do you know John? John is a schoolteacher.

NB: The teacher from KJ? (Kinnaird Junior Secondary School)

FH: Yes

NB: Could you tell us about what Castlegar used to be like? What buildings?

FH: Well, the building, well, Ostwald’s garage was there and what you call that store on the corner?

NB: JJ’s

FH: And Fomenoff’s Store where the printing is.

NB: Cross Roads.

FH: And Plotnikoff’s store is where that little mall is right now and West’s store and the Castlegar Hotel and Station.

NB: Was there a schoolhouse?

FH: And a school house right below Horcoff’s farm there. What is that where the buses are? You know where the Court House is? That’s where the school used to be and that’s where my children started school.

NB: Did you take a lot of rides on the Train?

FH: No, I didn’t I came from the Prairies on the train, one time we went to Grand Forks and that was it.

NB: Did you drive a lot with cars or was that really difficult?

FH: Where?

NB: Trail? Nelson?

FH: Oh yes, when I was working on Horcoffs farm we lived off the farm, 175 heads of cattle, 1500 chickens, they used to plant 10 sacks of potatoes, thousands of tomato plants and cucumber.

NB: So they were very self-sufficient

H: Like they lived off the farm hay and just the horses, no big machinery.

NB: Lots of work

FH: Lots of work

NB: Did you sell any of the produce to the stores in town?

FH: We sold to Trail Safeway and to Rossland and from house to house.

NB: What did you do for recreation?

FH: Recreation? Work. Well, we used to go to our friends.

NB: Were there any dances?

FH: My husband didn’t dance very much

NB: Did they have any community fairs?

FH: At that time I don’t remember then, later on they started ball games and my son who was a pitcher. Then there was other people that moved in later on and they had games we would watch that and then there was a community hall, where City Hall is right now and they used to bring in pictures but no speakers (movies) and you couldn’t catch on to what they were saying.

NB: Read their lips?

FH: Yes, read their lips.

NB: So the Castle theatre came along quite a bit later then?

FH: Later, yes. Once it started growing and once they start selling and businesses started coming.

NB: What was the Health Care like?

FH: Well we all had to pay for our health care.

NB: There was no health plan then?

FH: No.

NB: So there was no hospital?

FH: No hospital and no doctors. We would have to go to Trail or Nelson and for the dentist.

NB: Really?

FH: Oh yes. Then Dr. Goesky got into Castlegar for just minor things and we used to go to him.

NB: But to have children you go?

FH: I had my first two children at home.

NB: Really, that’s neat.

NB: Was there a mid-wife?

FH: Yes, a mid-wife and then the last two, I went to the hospital.

NB: Was there an ambulance service. I guess not, before the hospital.

FH: No ambulance.

NB: Any fire department?

FH: No.

NB: So people had to care for themselves?

FH: Well, I know that before my time there was a big forest fire up on top of the mountain above Horcoffs farm and they were sitting on top of their roofs with hoses.

NB: Did it take out the mill? (Waldies)

FH: No, Waldies is where the lagoon is now (sewer)

NB: Was the mill a big employer back then?

FH: I think so, quite a few

NB: And Cominco?

FH: And Cominco and then when Bill Waldie sold out to Celgar and of course we stopped farming and my husband got a job.

NB: Was there a great sense of community?

FH: Yes, like I said, every stuck together.

NB: So, if some one had a problem everyone would help?

FH: Yes, everyone would help and then in the evenings everyone would get together and sit around.

NB: Was there any women’s group at that time?

FH: Not really, not really.

NB: Was church a big part of your life?

FH: Actually, I belonged to the Orthodox Church and I’d go there, I don’t attend very much now.

NB: Well that’s okay (laughter)

FH: Was there a lot of work to do on the farm?

NB: There was always plenty to do. You could go day and night to keep up with your family. We had to wash laundry by hand; we had no indoor washrooms or bathtubs.

NB: So did you wash the kids in a basin outside?

FH: Well, in the summer time we used to have a steam house and then it got old and then I just wanted water in the house. We had a big metal tub and then we would get them in there.

NB: Did you have electricity?

FH: We had electricity, yes. Then I changed my stove for an electric stove and then we got a power heater, but I did have running water. It’s from the mountain, underground, there’s Bloomer Creek and our creek mountain water is good water. When I moved here I couldn’t drink the water, I had to buy a water filter cause every time I drank it I got nauseated.

NB: So, do they still have water from the creek?

FH: Yes, they still have running water from the creek.

NB: So, what year did you get a washroom?

FH: 1972. A lot of years without water to raise a family, but I tried my best.

NB: I am sure that you did very well.

NB: Is there anything that you wished had stayed the same?

FH: No, it was hard, it was hard. Like I told my husband we had these orchards and we would sell in the summer and the fall and then had winter apples we’d store them under the chicken coop. We had a basement there, it was so cold in there and I would be packing these apples from there and I’d be so cold my fingers would be frozen. One time I got annoyed and I said, “I don’t care what happens but I won’t make children work like that” But they all are working hard right now, hanging on to the farm.

NB: Are you happy that it’s staying in the family?

FH: Yes, I am, but I hope that they can divide it up or sell it because it’s hard for them. It can be very hard for them to keep it up, it’s nice, I went down there last fall and I miss it very much.

NB: It is a nice piece of land. You can see it from the highway.

FH: It’s beautiful there and up on the mountain.

NB: Did you have big flower gardens then? I had seen some pictures of West’s garden or was it Thomas Bloomer’s? They had old-fashioned gardens.

FH: Bloomers had a garden. It was a little park, they had an orchard but they had a little park and fountains there.

NB: I thought that was just yard there.

FH: No, that was a little park, you know I had flowers, I lived in a old log house and it is still standing there.

NB: So it’s a Heritage Home?

FH: Yes, a Heritage Home. I think it’s about 200 years old now.

NB: That’s really interesting.

NB: Is that down from the ranch?

FH: It’s right there. I raised all my children in it. They were all raised in that house.

NB: Well, I will bring this interview to a close now and I would like to thank you for your time and your memories.

Interviewed by Nicole Bouvette