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A Crazy Idea

Copyright 2017 Chris Wells

Published by Chris Wells at Smashwords

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Table of Contents



Growing Up

A Crazy Idea


The House

Working in The Mine

The Great Moose Hunt

Winter Activities


Tree Planting

Early Days


The Program


Into Town


Dunking in The Lake

The Conspiracy


All Good Things and All That


Peter Parry

For the final polish and counsel

Lisa Free

For her memories, input and encouragement.

Eileen Wells

For her positive comments


The People

Who initially suggested that I do this. And,

Especially Rosalie

For her inspiration, support and helping to guide me through this process.

For more info http://abnd.ca

Email abdn@shaw.ca


In 1974 I had the privilege of becoming the head foreman of a Junior Ranger camp in northern Ontario. I started to write just about that, but was finding that the story leading up to the event was just as interesting. So, I included the tale of how I got to be in that situation.

We had only been it Canada for four years. When I was twenty four I had moved from England with my wife Eileen and baby daughter Lisa. So some of the crazy things we went through are worth recording.

After the events in this book, we finally made it to British Columbia, had one more daughter Lorraine, and lived there for about eleven years. One day I was visiting my brothers in Ontario when I was given a job opportunity. I talked it over with Eileen and we decided to move back. After five years, having realised what a mistake we had made we came back again and settled on Vancouver Island.

Eileen and I split up shortly after, and I eventually met and married a lovely lady named Rosalie, originally from the prairies. We've had a lot of fun over the years and when she retired in 2015 we decided to make a once in a lifetime trip to Europe.

Several friends suggested that I write a blog as we went along. I hadn’t done anything like that before, but as I was somewhat computer savvy, I thought I’d give it a try. It seemed to go down well because I think my Crazy British sense of humour was appreciated.

When we got back, I kept hearing “write a book, write a book”. Well, as I’m something of an introvert I was very reluctant. But the idea kept nagging at me and, with a lot of encouragement from Rosalie; I decided to give it a try.

I’m not the sort of person who can make up a story so I had to think of something that I had experienced. The obvious choice was the story of the Junior Rangers.

Another obstacle I faced was that I had not written anything for years and having forgotten all my punctuation and grammar, I had to go onto the internet to download some software programs to help me.

I also had Rosalie as my personal editor, which was a journey in itself. In the beginning, I didn't want to burden her with having to read everything over and over, so I'd finish a chapter, print it out and have her correct it for me. As we went along she got more and more enthusiastic. We did have some issues. I tell the story in "English" English and she corrects in "Canadian" English.

We had some very interesting discussions about this and came to an amicable way of doing things. I deferred to her mostly as my grammar is atrocious. Eventually, I made a game of it. I was determined that she wasn't going to find one mistake in any chapter. I never did achieve my goal, but my mistakes became less.

I've added some photos to make things more interesting. They have been lying around in photo albums for over forty years, so some are faded and out-of-focus. I cleaned them up a bit, but graphics is not one of my strong points.

Growing Up

I was born near Canterbury England but grew up in the ancient City of Rochester which is the nearest crossing of the River Medway between Dover and London. It was a Roman town (Durobrivae) and part of the original Roman walls can still be seen. The Vikings rowed up the Medway trying to attack Rochester but we brave Men of Kent beat them back. Later, William the Conquer's sons built the castle, it still stands today, one of the best preserved Norman castles in England.

There is a cathedral built on the site of an Old Saxon church. I spent many happy hours playing around the castle and cathedral since we only lived a few hundred yards away.

We were a hard-up family, my three brothers left home early to join the navy to get away from our abusive father. That left my Mum and me, at age eight; I was the youngest by seven years.

Me, at about six years old. Mum had to buy this school photo as I had scribbled all over the back of it on the way home. We were living in the tent at that time

I was about three years old when my father bought a double decker bus. His business was growing watercress which is very popular in England. The idea was to convert the bus to an RV and take the family to the west of England, looking for likely spots to grow watercress. We never did go but lived in the bus for some time after.

The bus was parked in Rochester close to the river. There were all sorts of merchant ships moored in the river at that point as they couldn't go any further upstream because the bridge was in the way. They were mostly foreign ships. I once remember my dad talking to two sailors from one of them. They had a suitcase full of cigarettes. He must have bought them as I remember him stashing them in a cupboard under the counter.

I had a pet duck for a while but it mysteriously disappeared just before Christmas. I also broke my toe while playing on some paving slabs and had to walk with a cast for a few weeks.

I don't know what became of the bus but it stayed with my dad for a long time. I saw it often as a teenager but lost track of it after that.

When I was six, my father took us out to the fruit orchards to pick fruit; mostly cherries, apples, pears and plums. After we finished with the fruit we went on to the hop gardens to pick hops. While doing this we lived in two tents a fourteen foot ridge tent and a large bell tent.

While we were fruit picking I had to go to a different school. I got there on the local bus, as we didn't have school buses in those days. I was six at the time. Often I would spend the bus fare on candy and have to walk home.

After my dad left we had some hard times. However, my Mum always managed to provide for us both. Once in a while though, welfare had to help out. She had hip surgery when I was about eleven years old and in those days you didn't get a replacement hip. The only thing they could do was to pin the joint so that it didn't move. She was always working because she had no choice. Once, she fell down a short flight of stairs and bent the pin. After getting checked out at the hospital she returned to work.

My education wasn't that great, however, I knew that I wasn't stupid. My first year in high school, I was the bottom of the class in English. I was somewhat embarrassed, so next year I worked hard to finish third. When I finished school at age fifteen, I left on Friday and started work on the following Monday. Getting to work was a challenge so I had to buy a bike paying for it weekly until it was paid off. Mum got most of my wages as I was now the main source of income.

In those days if you had a poor background you didn't stand much of a chance. I did read a lot, even as a kid. So perhaps I got a different kind of education. I know I was smart enough to emigrate. Since I was a hard worker I hoped the rest would take care of itself, and it appears to have done. The British class system is ingrained in us from birth; we were never encouraged to aspire beyond our daily grind; we had to know our place. I think that attitude held me back for most of my life.

When I was a teenager I played bass guitar in a band. My greatest claim to fame was that I had a chance to go and see the Beatles. But didn't. There were so many Liverpool bands at that time I dismissed them as just another one. I was broke at the time anyway.

Me with my fan club

A friend and I moved to Nottingham when I was twenty. He had a girlfriend living there and wanted to see more of her. This was where I met Eileen. We were married in 1967, I was twenty one and she was twenty. She soon became pregnant so we moved to Corby in Northampton-shire, to be near her family. We had a little girl, Lisa. The local steel mill was always looking for men so I ended up working there as a class two electrician.

I had always wanted to emigrate to Canada since my oldest brother Kit and his wife Bridget had come here when I was eleven. He would send over a Calendar every year and I fell in love with all that fabulous scenery, especially the deep snow on the mountains. Shortly after, another brother Joe and his wife Jean and kids also came over so I really wanted to go.

At first, Eileen didn't like the idea at all, but then, for some reason, changed her mind. So we applied and were accepted. To get enough money for our fares, we each worked two jobs. I drove taxi in the evenings and on weekends and Eileen pumped gas at the local station as well as doing her regular job in a factory on a sewing machine.

We came over the old way, by ship, 'The Empress of Canada'. We landed in Montreal on 2nd July 1969 and were met by my brother Joe and his wife Jean and driven to Ajax, Ontario. As we drove along the 401 I took in all the sights and sounds of our new home. The two things that struck me most were: how clean this place was after industrialised Britain and the vast distance between communities. In England, if you stand on your tippy-toes you can practically see the next village. We had no idea of the size of this country and once wanted to drive to Calgary for the weekend. Then a friend told us that it was over two thousand miles away. So much for that idea!

We landed in Montreal with a few household goods and about $200 so it wasn't long before I had to get a job. I did various kinds of work. The first was in a local factory welding together exhaust pipes for Ford Mustang cars. Shortly after that, I got a job as a cable TV installer where the money was better. Being on piece work I found I could make more money if I worked quicker and more efficiently. I did that for the next three years until we moved on.

A Crazy Idea

In 1973 Eileen and I, in our naivety, decided that we had to head west to find our fortune. We were sitting in the local Legion with my brother and his wife, and in a minor alcoholic haze, we all decided to move to Vancouver. As it happened we heard about a full-size school bus converted to an RV that was for sale that had been driven from Vancouver of all places. This was a good omen, as we thought the bus would be able to find its own way back. We decided to go and look at the beast and decide what we wanted to do.

Our first sight of it wasn't very impressive, sitting in the corner of a field surrounded by uncut grass and weeds. It was still dressed in its original school bus yellow and didn't look too pretty. Seeing as we had driven half an hour to get there we decided we might as well look inside. Well, what a shock. It had been professionally done out with all the RV amenities including a fridge, stove and flush toilet. There was even a large flat deck on top for storage and lots of room for our then two kids. We were hooked.

After arriving home, we deliberated for about thirty seconds and decided to buy it. We were very adventurous in those days, or stupid, or both. It looked as though I was inadvertently following in my Dad's footsteps. As we had travelled halfway around the world to come to Canada, a trip to Vancouver seemed like a doddle.

We called a local real estate agent to put our house on the market. They told us they had a company who would buy the house from us. This was great news as we were raring to go and we would get paid right away. The price they offered seemed good at the time so we sold it to them. We bought the bus for $3,000 so I arranged to drive down to pick it up.

After a few trial trips, we found that everything worked fine. Although we did have to do some modifications to the charging system since I wanted to run with two batteries, one for the motor and one for the RV. My good friend Al, who was good with electronics, helped me with this.

Meanwhile, my brother and his wife had sobered up and decided not to come with us. A very smart choice as it turned out. We took a few days loading our worldly goods on the top of the bus, including a small fridge and the lawn mower. A lot of stuff was stowed inside including a lot of books since we were both avid readers. Soon, we would be on our way.

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