MURRAY

Murray was given breakfast in bed every morning, then dressed and carried to the couch in the livingroom for the day.  It was brighter, warmer there, and he had a window with good light, just above his shoulder.  Alan brought his school lessons and kept him supplied with story books from the Sunday School library. The boys both belonged to the school hockey team, and the other members called in a body, to offer sympathy and regrets for Murray's injury and enforced rest for such a long period.  They wanted Alan, nearly ten, to substitute for Murray as captain of the team for the balance of the season, and, though Murray thought him too young and small, he was overruled by the majority. I would not dare to smile for it was pathetically impressive when Murray ordered Alan to parade for inspection, to make sure he was equipped to go on the ice for a game.  Murray would feel him all over to see that his padding (papers and magazines) was sufficient and properly placed. 

During that winter I kept the sewing machine busy, and was able to clear up all the family sewing, by the time the Red Cross got into swing.  As few of the members had brought machines with them, I would bring home a half dozen pairs of pyjamas at a time, make them up, wash them in melted snow and dry them in lines across the kitchen, then press and fold them ready for packing.  Later we were advised not to bother washing socks or pyjamas.When there was a real game of hockey, I, working by the window, had to watch the road for the first sign of Alan's coming.  The first game was really crucial for Murray's nerves; he was afraid Alan that Alan might be injured.  The Little Man was nearly home when I noticed him, and I called to Murray that Alan wore a big grin so he must be all right. "Did you win?" shrieked Murray, as soon as the door opened.  From Alan came, very nonchalantly, "S-u-r-e!  9-1."  It was his big moment!  Then Murray was given a play by play account of the game, and his thin, white face flushed with pride.  Fort George had beaten Prince George!!!

In the winter of 1914-1915 The Cariboo Women's Club decided to switch their time and talents to Red Cross work.  Of course, the matter had already been considered informally among various members, and a special meeting was called.  On that day we discovered that our one member from South Africa was a conscientious objector. Immediately the Conchy lady was on her feet to object.  She did not believe in war and would have no part in any organization which contributed in any way to the carrying on of war.  She knew her subject from A to Z, and in a quiet, firm manner, she stated that if we decided to help the Red Cross, she would feel obliged to resign from the Club. 

Then Mrs. George Evans, an elderly lady from Victoria B.C. took the floor, announced that she was British and, being so, she felt that since we lived and worked and had our security in Canada, a part of the British Empire, she, for one,intended to help the Red Cross, and no one was going to stop her with the flimsy excuse of not believing in war.  None of us wanted war, but when it was on our doorstep, as it were, we ought to do our best to push it off by helping our fighting men. Mrs. Evans was one of those saved from the fire by Mr. Johnson catching her from a second story window.  She was still a bit shaky from the shock, but not in her loyalties, and her speech was received with warm applause. 

Having gathered the fact that she was standing alone in her opinion, the member from South Africa, excused herself and left the meeting.  Her formal resignation followed. After the withdrawal of the dissenting member, the incident was ignored, and the meeting proceeded as planned for War Work.  We had reason to expect good support for our effort, and were not disappointed.  Our group was allied with Vancouver Red Cross Headquarters. 

After completion of the new First Presbyterian Church, the stewards had planned that the first Annual Meeting in the new church, should be made a special occasion, with as large a representation as could be induced to attend.  The church officers called on the Women's Association for helpful ideas, and the best we could think of in sharp, cold weather, was a substantial hot supper for old and young, at the flat price of two bits each, the supper to be served in the fine basement Sunday School and recreation room.

On the way home from town on the supper date, I overtook young Dr. S., who was captain of our senior hockey team, and I reminded him to bring his men to supper at the Church that night, before going to the rink for practice. "What sort of supper will it be?" he asked, with a suspicious look."Just a fine hot meal of home-made pork and beans, brown bread and butter, variety of pies, tea, coffee and milk," said I, "and what better could you want for two bits?" "Of course it is cheap enough," he agreed, "but..but.." shifting from one foot to the other, like the boy he looked. "But what?" I questioned as he hemmed and hawed. "It's the beans," he mumbled, flushing, to which latter I paid no attention. "And what's the matter with beans?" I asked, guilelessly.  "The men who came here from 1907-1911, practically lived on beans.  We have beans at home at least twice a week, we love them, and our dog Paddy sniffs at the oven door until he gets his share.  Now, you run along and round up your men for supper.  I'll guarantee that you'll have a good, fast practice."

Dr. S. had called on me for help on several occasions, and although I would not remind him of it, I did feel that one good turn deserved another, so I was  not surprised later to see him and his puck chasers filling space at a long table nearest the exit. Since every woman who brought a dish of baked beans, used her own special recipe, not sparing the ingredients to improve the flavour, it was a mouth-watering aroma which greeted the guests. Naturally it was not a silent gathering, like a church service.  Added to the clinking of dishes, there was the soft chatter of old and young as the meal proceeded.  It was a successful venture, and the waitresses were picking up compliments on it, as they laid down fresh orders.

When the hockey boys rose at a signal from their Captain, a bell tinkled from the platform, and the perturbed Secretary sprag to his feet, as he raised his hand and voice. "Please, Please, don't leave yet!" he pleaded.  "As soon as supper is over, we are adjourning to the church upstairs to listen to the Reports."  A giddy titter started a wave of laughter which spread as the hockeyers dashed to the door.  The red-faced Secretary subsided in confusion. It was my turn to wash dishes and I did not attend the Annual Meeting. 

On my way downtown one morning, I happened to meet Shorty Huff, whom I had not seen since he had moved his tidy, little house from Fraser Avenue, to a lot he had bought in Prince George, before he came down the river.  We stopped to have a chat and among other news, Shorty told me that he had given his bear to Dad Webster, who was the busy cobbler of the district.  Shorty asked if I remembered the day "Teddy" called on me.  "Will I ever forget it?"  I answered, laughing. as we both went our ways, and here is the story.

One afternoon in mid-March, 1914, I was at home, alone and not feeling very well; a recurrence of old trouble.  It was a bright day, and the snow was all gone except in hidden hollows or under the thick new pines and spruce growth which followed the clearing of the townsite. While resting on my bed, reading, I heard a rapping on the shed door, but there was a chinook blowing and I decided not to open that door.  Anyone wanting me could come around and rap on the front door and, in a few moments, that is what happened.  Evidently some person intended to be admitted, so I tried to summon a facsimile of a smile as I opened the door to find--- Shorty's bear, Teddy, expectantly standing on his hind legs, and just as disagreeably  surprised as I was. Before I could bang the door in his face, he let out a couple of disgusted woof-woofs, fell backwards out of the porch doorway, raced to a medium-sized jackpine in the front yard, and scrambled up as nimbly as a squirrel until the tree began to sway.

I shot the bolt on the door and watched him from my bedroom window.  I could see his every movement through the net curtain, but he couldn't see me, though he kept an eyes on the window while glancing all around for a bigger tree and he found it seventy-five feet away in the old cattle corral. It was a revelation to me to watch the cunning of the half-grown bear, testing the branches with his hind feet as he warily lowered himself to the point where he could drop and dash to the tree he had chosen for safely.  It was a spruce with the largest girth in the neighbourhood, and he almost forgot to stop climbing.  The chinook had increased in velocity, and Teddy had to back down ten feet, where he literally hugged the trunk. As I looked from a different window, I could imagine him wanting to thumb his nose at me as he too, watched over his shoulder, but he daren't loosen one of his hands to make the ribald gesture.

Finally, just before the boys returned from school, Shorty and two helpers arrived to ask if I had seen the bear.  Some person had telephoned to report that it was loose.  They carried a long pole with about three yards of rope tied to it, and, dangling at the end of the rope like a flag the whole skin of a large side of bacon, a hopeful lure to catch the bear, who no doubt had been watching them all the way to our place. The men coaxed and tempted but Teddy was not impressed, and I knew that Shorty feared he was going to lose his pet, freedom and Spring were proving so wonderful.  When the enemy pretended to go home the bear lost no time in getting out of the tree, but not to follow the bacon skin.  He dashed among the second growth greenery, and led them a real may-pole dance for an hour before they caught him. Teasing spoiled Teddy's temper when he was confined, and two years later he was taken to Summit Lake, thirty miles to the north, and set free to find happiness in the sort of country where he was born.

I had heard our boys speak of the Fredericks children, but I did not know the family.  They lived in a small cabin, on the first bench, not far from Alex and Jessie, and I understood that they belonged to Mr. Hagar's congregation.,  One winter's day in 1914-15, when Alan came home for dinner, he told me that the Fredericks children were crying at school, that morning, because their father was very ill with pneumonia.  Childlike, he was quite upset, when some of the other  children asked, "if he was going to die."  Even young children seem to have a morbid streak in them.

When Dad came home he said it was a serious case, and that Alex's wife Jessie, had offered to do what she could to help, but the one small window in the house, must be taken out.  It was a permanent fixture, no way to open it otherwise.  The patient needed all the fresh air he could get, and Jessie was not afraid of his getting any more cold.  With no ventilation, and six, I believe in the family, it was remarkable that there was only one of them ill. Mrs. Fredericks remained with her husband at night, while Jessie went home for a few hours sleep.  Jessie and the doctor watched the case closely until the crisis was over, and then they advised Mrs. Fredericks what to do for her husband, to avoid a relapse,  Jessie visited the patient every day until all worry was over, and they had a bigger and better window. As soon as the nice, summer weather came, those people left the country.  Just another war-disappointed family, who had been hoping for a prosperous, happy future with their children.    

Before school-opening that year, Jessie and Alex went back to Toronto, and Alex was able to get a good position in teaching,  Our minister, Rev. C.M Wright, with his wife and two children, also left Fort George on the same train as our relatives, and we missed them despite a change of cheerful clergy and amiable wives every two years.