2017 Chris Wells
by Chris Wells at Smashwords
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in The Lake
Good Things and All That
final polish and counsel
memories, input and encouragement.
initially suggested that I do this. And,
inspiration, support and helping to guide me through this process.
more info http://abnd.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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.