I am granddaughter of a coal miner and a logger. The miner made his way to British Columbia (BC) from Scotland; the logger, from Norway, through Wisconsin.
PORT RENFREW: EARTHQUAKE and TSUNAMI 1940s
I was just a little girl, with a pet deer, growing up in a logging camp at Port Renfrew, BC. We were a steamer trip from Victoria, up the treacherous Strait of Juan de Fuca, on the Princess Maquinna – or – a trek through the forest, followed by a speeder ride on logging-train tracks, to my front door.
Here is a picture of Mum, my brother, and myself in front of one of our logging trucks.1 Mum was something else. She was a very young entrant to the University of British Columbia and we saw her as a meticulous bacteriologist. Mum appears to be wearing a dress, in a logging camp. And, she did. All the time. Do not mistake that for idleness! Ha! She was an energetic multi-talented person, and a gardener, extraordinaire. Yes, she sewed the dress. As well, my warm “Bye Bye” snow suit and bonnet, worn to greet my deer. As to the wagon; one could only wonder on its efficiency over the truck rut-roads of Camp Port Renfrew. Yes, those are train tracks in front of the pictured house (I think, not ours). One could say with certainty, that it would be a few years, before a home of ours would be fronted by a driveway. The bacteriologist would later ban the deer from the front porch.
Photograph trio “deer, wagon, truck” from Marilee Wein Scrapbook © 2018
Three things are memorable to the little girl from that gorgeous green spot of earth. Her home had a whole windowed wall at the back; it looked over a cliff that fell down to the Pacific Ocean. The scene on that beach was breathtaking. Now, the room was filled with warm hued maple furniture. What else would one expect in Canada? It was, of course, upholstered by my mother. It was so sturdy as to sit presently, in my brother’s home. ( re-upholstered) Yet, Mum made pillows for a later home, in the 1950s. My daughter had to toss them, consequent to a home flood disaster over the July 4th 2017, weekend. Not one spot, fade or fray upon them – before the flood.
As to that “Bye Bye” coat; it would lead to an all-night trip on her father’s shoulders, on a speeder, then by foot, through the woods, to the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, where she had been born. There she was given an extraordinary medical diagnosis; one lung atresia. It would be one of three unrelated medical oddities, to be overcome before adulthood. Not to worry, the adult is well and robust.
Finally, and everlastingly haunting: a punctuated, elongated and repetitive “John … Marilee… whistle trill …” echoed in undulation, with the pulse of an earthquake which was followed by tsunami, on this westerly reach of Vancouver Island. Mum always whistled for us, to cut through the close of the trees. John and I, spellbound, could not answer. After a bit, we could RUN. Run home, we did, making wind from our haste. We lost our hot water heater that day, and dishes found their way to the floor. The crank up telephone did not work for awhile Strange, a phone line extended our way, but, it did. One, shared by all. Luckily, kerosene lamps were the light in our forested nighttime. They worked! That water heater? Off the wood burning stove.
Port Renfrew, on Pacific water, was a unique beginning. We would soon leave that paradise, for a choo-choo across Canada, followed by a turbulent crossing on the Atlantic Ocean, to reach our new home in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
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COPYRIGHT and NOTES AND SOURCES
- From Marilee Wein scrapbook, authored by John Oliver Hemmingsen (1913-2008). All postings and pictures are © 2018 The Hemmingsen Family Collection. Posthumously published at this blog under its copyright, below. All rights reserved.