Good food, nice weather, friendship, and a comfortable home. All are things people from around the world have looked for and many found it here in the West Kootenays. Like many immigrants my grandparents from Georgia came around the turn of the century to look for a better future. That area was preparing for an Armenian conflict.
Others came later to leave the havoc left behind by war-torn Europe.
My grandfather purchased a large tract of land to supply berries to our local jam factory and the surrounding area. They also had a large number of fruit trees and a personal use veggie garden.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The jam factory went up in flames,
What to do? What to do? Was the question.
In the nearby town of Trail a second wave of newcomers to Canada arrived and the Gulch was a busy place with both newcomers and permanent residents. There was a problem though. At that time, post war, from my understanding, some of the soil in the trail area was not suitable for growing the number of vegetables needed to supply a sudden increase in population. There were also some issues with contaminants from the local smelter.
So … My grandfather, dad, and a neighbour bought Chevy pick-ups, year 1936. in Nelson and went into “truck farming” of vegetables. In those lean times the pay was a dollar a day, but lunch was provided. Later it was 1.25 but bring your own lunch. My guess it was too much work for my grandmother and aunt to make lunch for 20 plus workers every day.
My father’s job was to pack the veggies, load them and take them by pick-up to Trail as a mobile vendor. There, of course, he was warmly greeted and after a bit of haggling over price he learned a couple of words in Italian and made many friends. There may still be children of grandchildren who heard of “little Bill” on a green pickup.
Of course, after the price was settled on, there was always a glass of thank you wine. From my memory of Dad talking about it there were times that navigation home was somewhat of a challenge.
My best guess was that having to walk a strait line was less enforced.
He always spoke highly of the hospitality he received from the Trail community which loved fresh picked fruit and vegetables as much as we did … and a really good glass of vino rosso!
Peter Ozeroff lives in Castlegar, B.C. He comes from a family of pioneers and is very knowledgeable about local history and folklore of the West Kootenays. Peter writes poetry. For several years, he has volunteered as a “reader”, evaluating and selecting the finalists for the Italian Centre’s F.G. Bressani Literary Prize. His short memoir “Neighbours Down the Road” recalls his and his family’s long association with the Italian community in