Wayne Ackerman

Wayne Ackerman – interviewed in 1993


My name is Bonnie Ward and 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?

WA: Yes.

BW: Good, I need the correct spelling of your name.

WA: Ackerman

BW: What year were you born?

WA: 1938

BW: And where?

WA: Rossland

BW: So in what year did you come to Castlegar?

WA: 1946, I guess it was.

BW: 1946? You have to speak up so that the tape can hear you. Ok, so tell me some stories Wayne. What was it like around here when you first came here?

WA: What was it like?

BW: Yes.

WA: There wasn’t too many houses out here then.

BW: What do you remember?

WA: Most people started coming in here more than into the Kinnaird area, back in about ’47, ’48 they started building houses, and getting places built up then. They really started building.

BW: How many buildings were around here would you say?

WA: Well back in those days we were lucky if there was 40 home, in all of Kinnaird.

BW: Where did you go to school?

WA: We went to school in Kinnaird Hall

BW: The hall that’s there now?

WA: The hall that’s there now, yes and they had that split into two rooms. They had a partition there and when they had dances on the weekends they would take those partitions down, then move all the desks and get everything out of the way into the other part of the hall and fold everything all up. Then they’d have to put everything all back together for Sunday night so everything would be ready for school on Monday morning.

WA: They only had up to about grade five there in this room.

BW: Was it just one teacher?

WA: No, we had two teachers in the rooms, but they partitioned it with grade one and two in and grade three, four and give in the other section.

BW: So who were your friend’s in school?

WA: My friends? Well there was Nelson, he’s now our boss, he was also our neighbour. Then there was the Mitchell’s, they were one of our neighbours too, and Butch is in Cranbrook, that’s where he’s at. And Nelson still lives in the area.

BW: Did you get yourself into a lot of trouble in school?

WA: Oh sometimes. The hill above the hall there used to be a gravel pit area over in there. And you’re not supposed to go over there, so we used to go over in there anyway. We played around over there just for something to do and we knew we weren’t supposed to. Then we’d come back to school after somebody would tell something, or say something to the teachers about it and we’d all get a little strap, or sit and write lines.

BW: If you got caught right?

WA: If you got caught. They had Evelyn Clark; she would be Miss Knight at that time. She was our teacher. She’s John Clark’s wife, she lives in town. She was one of our teachers way back when we were going to school in the Kinnaird Hall.

BW: She still lives around here?

WA: Yeah, she’s still here. She bugs some of us guys cause I asked Larry, I was teasing Larry, one day at work when he was getting dressed up to go tobogganing, and I said, “You know what you got to do, is just talk to Evelyn about what kind of angels all us angels were, when we were going to school.” A couple of days later he comes back from the school and he says, “Angels, ha!” He says, “Some angels you guys were.”

BW: What year did you get married?

WA: 1972.

BW: And where did you meet Merle?

WA: Actually I first met her when I was in the fire department; they had a fire in the house down there.

BW: So you went to the fire and you met Merle.

WA: And there’s this one place out at Thrums they were plucking chickens out in there one day. And her mom and dad introduced us out there, when we were out there at a friend’s. And so, plucking chickens was the great introduction.

BW: What did you think of her when you first saw her?

WA: She was nice and cute and slim, and nice blonde hair and nice smile and blue eyes.

BW: So how many kids did you have?

WA: Two, we’ve got two of them. One’ married now and she got her own little one. And the other one’s trying to get to school.

BW: So after you graduated from high school what did you do for work?

WA: I didn’t graduate.

BW: Oh, then when you left high school.

WA: When I left high school. I was away that fall or that summer actually. I went to Trenton, Ontario, where dad’s sister lived. I was down there till the following November. That’s where I first started in, more or less, that work where I was working a little bit for the village, after I came home. Then after the first of the year near the end of January, there was not much work around so people were going down and working in the village, or going to Vancouver. So I went down there and worked in construction. I spend pretty well all spring and all summer, and pretty well all fall down in Vancouver, and also on Vancouver Island with the same outfit that was building the B.C. Electric building. And also, working on the road over the Island because they were building the dams in the Campbell River. So after awhile later on in the spring we needed some more fellas over on Vancouver Island, so they shipped some of us up there to the head office, in downtown Vancouver. I spent the rest of the fall up at there, till we got down to the point where they didn’t need us and they started cutting back. We’d pretty well finished the building in Vancouver so, when we got laid off up there I came back home.

BW: Were you off work for a long time when you came back?

WA: No, I started doing some work again for the village on and off, all that winter. And some in the spring you were always doing stuff, so in between times I wasn’t working the village, and this other time I wasn’t out working in town I was out with the forestry, out in the bush fighting fires. Which was good experience, tracking around all through the mountains.

BW: Were you just a volunteer at the Fire Department?

WA: I wasn’t in the Fire Department at the time yet. I was still just waiting for some work to happen. But I kept busy with the Forestry fighting fire. There were a lot of fires on out block for a couple of years, too. We got one in Moon Lakes, which is up in the mountains in Peter Creek. Peter Creek runs into Dog Creek just below Ferrence about 11 miles from where it comes into Dog Creek. And runs back up the mountains into a lake. And that little lake had no name so the Forestry asked about six or seven or eight of us that who were up there, if we could come up with some kind of name for it. So we used the first initial of all out last names and that lake is known as Scamby Lake. So that’s what they have marked on the map in the Forestry Office, Scamby Lake. Just a little lake you drew quick drinks out of.

BW: That’s interesting. You’ve got a lake names after you.

WA: And there was a fire on the ridge, up above the lake so that’s why we got sent up there. Way back in those days, we went up there by Deer Park, where they had a jeep. And the Forestry had a little small boat that would hold a vehicle on it and it took us across the lake. Then they drove us just about to the tunnel as far up as they could get because that’s where that old city called Brooklyn used to be. When they were building that tunnel. So we walked through the tunnel. That was quite an experience; there wasn’t much room on either side of those tracks.

BW: Did you have flashlights or was it just dark?

WA: No, we had flashlights with us, because we all had packsacks and stuff and we had to go to the lake up there. We were up there for about three or four days, then when we come back down they would pre-arrange to with the C.P.R. to pick us up, because the passenger trains in those days were still running, to Vancouver. They didn’t usually have the boxcars but when they did it was quite a lengthy train. That same summer there was another fire up in the same area, and went up that time on the train. There was a siding up there where the trains used to park and wait for the other one. So that’s what they did when they took us up and then we were up there for about four days and the we came back down, the was there again and it stopped and picked us up and took us back down. We used to have a smoker car in the back and all us guys were all dirty and grubby from being up in the bush so that’s where we stayed until we got into town.

BW: So you wouldn’t ride with the passengers.

WA: No, no with us smelling with a little bit of fire smoke and running around up in the bush. That was quite the interesting experience. It’s quite the territory up there. There’s also a nice little falls on that Peter Creek coming down. It’s not the best country to get into. Because you got that low brush along part of the side hill. And you got all these old trees and snags and stuff sitting there all criss-crossed and all full of moss. You got all that low brush, too, so you’re either walking over these criss-crosses or you’re down on your back wading through all the small brush and stuff trying to get through it. It’s like an obstacle course. Sometimes it was better to get up on top of them and climb along where one went on to the other instead of being down on the ground.

BW: So, is that how you got involved with the Fire Department?

WA: Well, I guess so, more or less that way. Then I got into the Fire Department and spent 22 years in that.

BW: That’s a long time. You must have seen a lot of good fires.

WA: Yeah, we’ve had a few, there was some. We’ve had a dandy little fire in the bush round here, too. They were nice to try and battle.

BW: So, you work for the City now. How long have you been with the City?

WA: I’m on my 36th year.

BW: 36 years?

WA: Yeah.

BW: That’s a long time. I guess you’ve seen a lot of changes in Castlegar then.

WA: Yes.

BW: What’s changed that you would not have liked to have seen change?

WA: Well, you can’t stop progress.

BW: This is true, but there’s got to be something that you liked better the way it was.

WA: I don’t know, I’ll have to think about that one for a while.

BW: Okay. What’s your favourite memory?

WA: Favourite memory, something I can remember. It was when my dad was in the Air Force and he was stationed in Charlottetown. They had some company over and mom had had the hot plate on. I was about five years old and there was no place for me to sit. So, mom said, “Sit on the hot plate.” because she thought it was turned off, but it was really on low. So, I sat on the hot plate. It got a little warm after a while. It took a while for the rings to disappear. I got what you call a real bum burner.

BW: That’s pretty cute.

WA: And another good memory is Warren Macray’s mom and dad who just lived down the road from where we were. The Air Force barracks was right handy there as well. He was Don Messer’s drummer and quite often the band would all get together down in Charlottetown at the seashore there to practice. And every time Don Messer came into Trail or Nelson, which he did once in a while, we’d always try to go and see him and then afterwards we’d go backstage to see or talk to Don Messer himself. And Warren, too, if he was with him. There are a lot of good memories of the Air Force days.

BW: So what did you do for fun in those days?

WA: Well, I tried to play a little bit of tennis one time. The tennis court used to be kinda hidden in the bush area where the Kinnaird ball diamond is now. It didn’t stay there then for some reason, people didn’t want to play tennis. It kind of fell apart and everything grew back again and the weeds grew through the cracks in the pavement. It used to be quite interesting. I always thought that maybe they could have left some of the park the way it was but they came along and put those humps in there and tried to make it look like a Japanese type of garden. It was all right the way it was before. There used to be a few more trees in there and they got all taken down and thy put up all that dirt stuff in there so they could make those humps up there instead of leaving it flat, but it’s turned out to be not bad I guess. I have fond memories of working up there all these years and being around there from the time they first bought that land and turned it into a park. I wasn’t quite too keen on the idea when they first decided to build there but it’s turned out to be not bad.

BW: What about Syringa Creek Park? Was it the when you moved here? When did they open the park?

WA: Well, Syringa hasn’t been there long. It’s just been the last twenty years.

BW: Was it put in after they put the dam in?

WA: Yes, it was after they put the dam in, and once they got control of the water. It used to be quite a ways down to the water before they put the dam in. Yes there’s a few fond memories. And then the Sons of Freedom used to try to burn down the hall, too. They tried to burn some of these schools down and the succeeded in some of them.

BW: Any idea why?

WA: Just their belief on some things. Now I’ve got to try and think back. What year was it when they lost the Kinnaird Hall? It was where they built that new elementary school, up there on Tenth Ave. Where it is now, that wasn’t there either.

BW: Behind the Hall?

WA: Yes, that wasn’t there. They used the Hall for a couple or three years when they were building that elementary school up in there, before the moved into it. And then a little after that they were building the high school downtown, too.

BW: What was downtown when you were a kid that’s not there now?

WA: Well. There used to be the old Portuguese Hall down by the it’s around where the Co-op Garage is now. Because the old Co-op Garage used to be down below the theatre. It’s the old building down beyond the theatre. And where part of our Works Yard is down in the north end there used to be a little church, St. Rita’s, in there.

BW: Did it get torn down?

WA: I think they moved it over to 7th Ave.

BW: Was West’s still there?

WA: Yes, West’s had been there for a long time. Where the Pharmasave is now there used to be a garage at one time. And where Pete’s TV is now used to be the one and only drug store in town.

BW: Do you like the changes that are going on now?

WA: Well, I think I’ve accepted them, that’s the way progress is you know. Compared to that it was like when we first moved here, everything has grown slowly over the years. A couple or three of us boys had out own Model A Ford. And behind where we used to live on Donnely, which is now called 7th Ave, there was just a bit of a dirt trail in through the back on 8th Ave. There was nothing up there then, so we used to go back and forth on that back road in our old Model A, learning to drive. And then a couple of times we got brave and started getting out on 10th Ave. That started opening up in there. But we were starting to get brave and drove up into there. And I guess sometimes we’d go a little too fast. So, they phoned the R.C.M.P. one time. So, one of us went down to the where Thrifty Gas Station is. It used to be the Chevron Station. We’d use a gas can because we could park across from the hall. Where that gravel pit was, so we’d walk down to get some gas. And we didn’t think anything of it and when the police started going down the road and we just hung back. After somebody reported us he was looking for us, trying to find us, so he watched us when we were coming down and he watched to see where we were going with the gas. We poured it into the tank then turned around and started coming out of there. When we got around the end we made a trail back and guess who we ran into. So we kind of got a warning about not running up and down the main part of 10th Ave. because that’s where people were living.

BW: I take it that car was pretty loud?

WA: Well, plus the fact that it was loud I guess they figured we were going a little bit too fast on the dust and it created a dust up. Yes, the way to learn was on some of these back roads around the country. There was lots of them, all around here, they are all subdivision and house and paved streets now. And that Zuckerberg Island park hill wasn’t there years ago either, that just used to be a steep path. There used to be a gully where you come down at the bottom off the hill. There was a big natural draw down there.

BW: I guess you could get going pretty fast on sleds going down there.

WA: Yeah, I think us guys or some of us guys have old Harry Killough a few grey hairs. We used to make these home made bob sled things and we went up that road where the school is now and up to Eleventh Ave. Before they built the highway, that was where you went. That road went all the way up through there, but when they built the highway they blocked that there and filled that gully in with gravel. Any you used to have to go all the way up and you’d turn off, now the turn off for that road used to be up around the area where the BC Tel Works Yard is. That’s where you could come up past the school and run on up through, and you used to come up over in there. Then you made your right hand or a left hand turn to come over past the cemetery area and come up to the park.

BW: So, you had to go the long way around?

WA: Yeah, because there was no park there back there. There was nothing there except a path. Many of us guys used to have these home made bob sled things and we’d come flying down the hill, he’d be coming up and we’d be flying down. You could almost see his hair standing on end. Well I don’t blame him those sleds would move down that hill.

BW: Any good spills?

WA: Yeah, there’s been a few bruises and scrapes here and there.

BW: Did you do a lot of fishing and swimming in the summer time?

WA: Yeah, I used to do some fishing back then. But we had no swimming pools. If you wanted to go roller-skating you had to go to Trail or to Nelson. They had no arena around. There were no rinks of any kind back then in Kinnaird; you had to make your own fun. In the wintertime in Rene Archambault’s back yard they had a rink there and everybody used to go down to their skating rink. Of course, some of us would go way up on top to the path to Dr. Johnson’s farm by the junior high school. Plotnikoff’s used to be up in there and they had cows and beyond in that area there’s a creek that runs through it; in the field used to fill up a bit with water. So some of us guys used to take our shovels and our hockey sticks and we’d hike up there and clean a spot off the ice and play hockey. And in the spring time filled up with water and we used to call it the frog pond, we used to put rafts out there.

BW: Were there a lot of frogs out there? Is that why you called it the “frog pond?”

WA: I think that’s probably why we called it that, because it was damp around there well there seemed to be a blot of frogs around.

BW: You must have taken quite a few of them home for your mom.

WA: Yeah, but now it’s all grown back into the bush and because there are no cattle to keep down all the small bush and stuff, so you’d never know that there used to be a wide open field up there at one time. And then we used to have a pool hall downtown. I never did get into playing much ball.

BW: Did they have the golf course there over by the airport where it is now?

WA: Yeah, they had a part of an old pasture and had nine holes up there at one time. Then they roughed out some of the other land that was up there and made some temporary sand dunes and stuff so they could use them to play on. They built the first nine and after they got going pretty good they built the second nine holes

BW: Do you still like to play golf?

WA: Well, I haven’t been because my back won’t let me. But I used to bowl and I used to curl and I even played broomball in the winter. So in the summer time we used to spend a lot of time up at old frog pond. Just sitting around and rafting.

BW: So, you were an athletic person?

WA: I played badminton to when I was in school, I used to go down to the Kinnaird Hall where they had a badminton court when they first built the school they didn’t have a gym. Until a few years later down the road when they added onto it. We used to go up there and play badminton up a bit in the wintertime when we were still able.

BW: That was in the winter?

WA: Yeah, played badminton in the winter and tried to take on some of the tournaments around the country. And there used to have dances in the Kinnaird Hall at one time, too. We also used to have Bridge games and Whist and Crib and all these different social activities. We had cups and stuff for the hall for all these different things. They still use the hall for Guides and Brownies. They’ve gone there for years.

BW: So I guess you’ve kept pretty busy then?

WA: Yeah, we used to try to keep ourselves busy. It was better that. There used to be lots of land around not too far away so you could either walk or bicycle down there. Everybody back then used to go swimming down on First Ave. at the bottom of the hill. Where Dr. Van Fliet lives now. And that used to be the swimming hole; there was always lots of people down in there all the time.

BW: Was that over by Zuckerberg Island?

WA: No it was down below First Avenue.

BW: Okay.

WA: There’s a little sand bar down there. There was a great big tree with nice big branches. We hung a rope on the branches and we would swing out and drop into the water. It was there for years. And we’d all go down to Zuckerberg Island, too, when the water was high. And it swept in through there from the river. That’s where Bob Branson drowned when the water was high.

BW: Did you ever meet Mr. Zuckerberg?

WA: No, I don’t think I ever really did meet him. I remember seeing him and knowing who he was.

BW: Well he was supposed to be a teacher. I was just wondering, did he ever talk to you?

WA: No, we never talked. Some of the other people there were around then did

WA: We used to have a, on part of that wide turn off of Columbia there when you go up by the hall there at the bottom of the hill there. That’s where the first fire hall shed was. Where they used to put the ah, they had a fire truck in there at one time. And we used to wait for the school bus there; there was a school shack they had built there to sit out of the wet weather. And part of that bottom, that wide spot at the bottom of 24th Street there by the hall. But they an old trailer sitting there with all the hoses and what not, when they first formed the fire department. And the old village works shop we just had a bit of a shed there off to the one end there where that cement block building is not at first there were only a couple three of us when we first started out. We had a little bit of a wooden shop in there. Then the place was growing and eventually we got more equipment, and then they had to build a bigger shop we had to have more room to work with. But it’s fun going back to old memories. We had an old grated and sometimes in the wintertime if it got cold you used to have to crank that grated to get it going. You’d go down there and try to start some of the trucks or one of the other little pickups and nothing would go. Some of them as soon as we’d get a cold snap so we’d turn the mag needle on and shut that old thing out and give the grated a few cranks and that thing would go. Then we’d leave it warm up for a while, and then we’d get everything else with the chains and pull them down the road to get everything else there. Nothing would start, we had a truck and they had a plough on it and it had a lever on there and we used to have to really pump that thing good to get the blade up on it. It was easy going down, it went down all right but bringing that think back up, that was a lots of fun a chore. You had to bring the pressure up by pumping it up to bring the blade up it was fun. There was a blue truck there that we had, it was a ’57, ’58 brand new then. And then after a while they got into all the hydraulics and hydraulic sanders and hydraulic lift blades and all that. We got the first backhoe they had out here in the town of Kinnaird back then. It was about ’62 the first time that we had a backhoe, ’61 or ’62 we bought a backhoe for out own use. Before that if you got stuck it was hard to get out there wasn’t too many backhoes around. We used them to do all the digging with when we started doing our own digging.v

* Mr. Ackerman takes a moment to collect his thoughts. *

WA: The last and the worst big fire that I was ever on before I left the fire department was that fire at the elementary school burnt down on 10th Ave. And that was a big one, we were up there all night on that.

BW: Was there anything left of it after?

WA: No, when that built those schools back in those days they were allowed to have all the bent tunnels that used to go underneath the school. And once that fire started up in there well that’s just created through the wind. You would just go down there and tunnel the whole thing. There’s all them bent tunnel and crawl spaces underneath in there, it was just good air to build that fire up. I don’t weather there’s any schools left around here like that around the province. Some of them they’ve fixed them up so that they can’t, or that won’t happen. And the problem with the old ones is they got torn down or rebuilt sections of them where.

BW: Well, I thank you for your time and thank you for letting me interview you. I guess that we should cut this off here right now, but thank you very much.

Interviewed by Bonnie Ward