Herbert William Davies
b.11 Apr 1914 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
d.14 Apr 2004 Central Saanich, Capital, British Columbia, Canada
m. 10 Nov 1913
Facts and Events
My father, Bert Davies, was born April 11, 1914 in Edmonton, Alberta. His mother, Lucy Crockett, was only seventeen when Dad was born. The following is from Dad's memoirs:
"My earliest recollections were of my mother and various aunts, uncles and cousins, as my father enlisted in the Army and was not in my earliest memories. My earliest recollection of my father was a large picture of him holding a trombone, which I have to this day. My mother read letters from him in France. One of my early memories is of going to the CPR Station in Edmonton waiting for the train carrying him home. At that time we were living with "Nana", my paternal grandmother."
My grandfather lost a leg in the war and was unable to return to his previous occupation as an electrician so they took up homesteading in Busby, about 50 miles NW of Edmonton. Dad recalled:
"This was in the fall of 1919 prior to the winter of 1919-20, one of the longest and coldest on record. The snow came in early October and the thaw didn't come till May. As they hadn't had time to cut wood in the summer, they had to cut green wood. When the snow left, the stumps were six feet tall. We lost a horse and two cows due to the weather. The only signs of life were the chickadees with their cheery song and the sound of the coyotes howling at night. In the spring I started school at Busby Park School with my cousins Wilf, Eric and Freda Davies, children of Uncle Wilf and Auntie Doll. They were in grades 7, 6, and 4. There were between 15 and 20 students in the one-room school. We went to school all summer and took our holidays in the winter, January and February at which time I was sent to Eastwood School in Edmonton. We stayed with my Paternal Grandmother."
It soon became clear that homesteading was too hard for an amputee and the family moved back to Edmonton. At first they all lived in an apartment on Jasper Ave. near Alex Taylor School which he attended; then his mother came down with diptheria and they moved back in with Nana while Granny recovered and it was back to Eastwood School. The family moved about in Edmonton and Dad was to attend Macauley School and Delton School, and the new Eastwood Composite School.
On returning to Edmonton, my grandfather learned the trade of shoe repairing from an old army friend and he eventually opened his own shop on 95th St. at 114th Ave. Dad left school after completing grade 8, and when the depression struck in 1929, he joined his father in the shoe repair business.
Coming of Age
His parents, sister, and Nana moved to Victoria, BC in October 1934 and Dad boarded with Granny's sister, Ada and her husband Arthur How where he had the companionship of his cousin Norman. He continued to run the shop until 1936 when he sent the machinery to Victoria where Grandpa was opening a new shoe repair business. He worked at the Arena that winter and in the spring found work at American Shoe Repair.
It was while staying with the How family that Dad took up cycling. The cycling team was coached by Dad and Norm's older cousin, George Crockett. He took part in races from sprints to more distant events, the most gruelling of which must have been the race from Edmonton to Jasper. In the following, Dad recalls how he met my mother:
"About 1935 my cousin, Norman bought a Model "T" coupe. We often would pick up girls if one of us knew them and it was on one of these times I met the girl that I was to spend most of the rest of my life with. The next time I saw her was at a Norwood Church young peoples sleigh ride. The sleigh skidded and threw everyone to one side which split and one of the pieces caught my pants just below the pocket and ripped them to the knee. As it happened near a friend's house, we went there and I borrowed a pair of pants and joined the party at the church, so I took the young lady home in a borrowed pair of pants."
The Working Years
Mom and Dad were married at a very quiet ceremony at Norwood United Church in Edmonton on December 31, 1938. My oldest brother was born in Edmonton and the little family travelled to Edmonton in 1940 so my grandparents could meet their first grandchild. The next year Dad was enticed to join Grandpa in the shoe repair business and they moved to Victoria before my younger brother was born in 1941.
They stayed with Granny and Grandpa for the first few months before acquiring a little house on Richmond Road which they had to vacate after the first year. They then moved to an old house on Fernwood Road where Mom and my brothers lived while Dad was stationed at Ucluelet during the war.
By the time Dad was discharged from the Air Force I had come along and a year later they would buy a three-acre piece of mountainside in Saanich where they would spend over forty years. The house on the property was very small and lacked many of the conveniences they were used to in town, but it was a good place to raise a family.
Dad returned to the shoe repair shop after the war and stayed until 1950, when he left to find some other line of work. He worked at a local general store while he put on an addition to the house and then it was back to shoe repairing at various locations in Victoria until he owned his own shop. For the first seven years, Arcadia Shoe Renew was located on Broad Street, then he moved to Yates Street for another seven years. He then downsized to a one-man shop on Johnson Street until the high rents drove him from the downtown area and he moved to a shop in Fairfield. It was at this location that Mom joined him in the business on a part-time basis and they took time to close the shop for lunch and drove to the nearby waterfront to enjoy their meal with a view.
It was during the years that Dad had the shop on Yates Street that all three of us kids left home and got married. Rather than lament over an empty nest, Dad built a camper for his truck and they closed the shop for three weeks and drove to Montreal for Expo 67. They were no sooner back when Dad decided he wanted to take up sailing and he built a 20' sloop which they named the Berru. As happens when you own a boat, a larger one came along and the 23 footer was called the Berru II. Many miles were logged on the camper and boat during summer holidays and long weekends before they retired in April 1979 when Dad turned 65.
In September 1979 Bert and Ruth took thier first trip coast to coast in the camper accompanied by Bert's sister, Evelyn, and her husband Victor Smith. After that trip, the camper and the boat were sold and they bought on old motorhome for the annual trip south to a recreational area near Yuma, Arizona. Bert and Ruth continued to travel south in their motorhome until 1989. In June of 1989 the motor home got traded in for an old camperized van. It would have been around this time that Bert took up his old pastime of bicycle racing. He joined the Cross Canada Cycle Touring Society in Sidney and started riding with them on Sundays and Wednesdays. He also went to the Crystal Pool with Ruth and joined the Crystal Silver Streaks, a seniors' swimming club. Dad competed in cycling races in several BC Senior Games and World Senior Games in Utah as well as taking part in many cycling tours with the CCCTS.
In the fall of 1990 they decided that it was time to sell the family home of forty-five years and move to a place which required less maintenance. They moved into their patio home at #12-2560 Wilcox Terrace in December, 1990.
By the time Dad reached his 80th birthday in 1994, he was more fit than he had been in years and by the end of that year he had logged almost 5000 km on his bike. He was slowed down a bit in 1997 when he had back surgery and was off the road for two months, but in spite of the setback, he had cycled almost 2000 kms in the year he turned 83.
Dad always loved to travel and when he was no longer able to drive long distances, they started taking cruises. He enjoyed the life aboard ship, especially the wonderful food. Mom and Dad cruised through the Panama Canal, up to Alaska, across the Atlantic Ocean, down to Mexico, and through the Carribean Sea. They also flew down under for a tour of Australia and New Zealand.
I think Dad managed to live life to the full for most of his 90 years and he is an inspiration to me to never give up my dreams, just go for it.