Erling Olsen grew up in Queensborough, and started gillnetting with his father when he was 7 or 8 years old. By the time he was 13, he had his own nets; by age 15, his own boat. He also worked in the tugboat industry, working his way up from a deckhand to captain. He also briefly tried his hand at millwork. His grandfather came to Queensborough from Norway and his family has a history in the fishing industry. He later moved to Delta and purchased several boats, as well as a fish processing plant. He discusses life in Queensborough, as well as the changes to his childhood neighbourhood and New Westminster.
Panel Discussion at Maritime Labour Centre between former ILWU Archivist, Gene Vrana (Part 2), former ILWU Canada president Dave Lomas (Part 3), Labour Heritage Centre archivist Robin Folvik (Part 4) and SFU labour studies professor, Kendra Strauss (Part 5). Part 1 introduction by SFU urban studies professor Peter Hall.
Judy Brennaw is a semi-retired galley worker on the M.V. Native and her duties consist of food preparation and cooking. Her title on her business card reads as ‘chef’. She has been with by Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours since March 2008. When Brennaw was 16 she moved to New Westminster from the Cariboo region of BC and has lived in New Westminster ever since. Her first job during high school was at the Fraser Café located in the Windsor Hotel, which is how she got her start in the food industry. She owned a restaurant called JCs which was first located on Begbie and Columbia St., was moved to the Elks Building on 6th St. and Carnarvon, and finally located on 4th St. and Columbia. Her restaurant opened around the same time as the Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours did. She is proud to be a resident of New Westminster and is a member of the Lions Club. In the interview Brennaw describes some of the changes she has witnessed on the New Westminster waterfront as well as her frustrations with the City of New Westminster.
Series of interviews with former ILWU Local 502 president Joe Breaks
In 1960, Joe Breaks got his first work at the New Westminster dockyards. He joined his first dockworker “gang” in the winter of 1961. He was sworn in as a full ILWU Local 502 member in 1965. From 1972 to 1979 he was the Local 502 President, except for one (unidentified) year in between. He retired in 2006. During Breaks’s career the work of a longshoreman changed significantly as a consequence of increased mechanization, and especially, containerization. The jobs and duties of a longshoreman, and the politics of being Local 502 president are described.
Bruce Briggs, is a retired longshoreman who began working on the New Westminster docks as a 15-year old. He eventually moved to Westshore Terminals for the last 17 years of his career. Having spent over 35 years on the waterfront, he has handled the full variety of goods that arrives on the West Coast, and tasted his first kiwi on the dock at Pacific Coast Terminals. He tells stories of the booming New Westminster docks, when the Pacific Coast Terminals could host between 12 and 15 ships at the same time, and the longshoremen and ships’ crew would host parties on the boats. Work sites mentioned include Pacific Coast Terminals, the Rice Mills, and Fraser Surrey Docks.
He grew up in New Westminster, and at 10 years old, he remembers exploring ships that were docked there. Briggs married at 17 years old, and at 20 years old he needed a job to support his young family. His brother encouraged him to go the longshore hall, which he did on December 22, 1961. Briggs also worked briefly at MacMillan Bloedel, drove a truck for a lumber company, and tried working as an electrician prior to longshore. Briggs reports that his family is one of the few families that have four generations working on the waterfront:. He retired in 2005 at the age of 64, and during his career he worked in New Westminster and Vancouver. In this interview he largely discusses how automation and mechanization changed the work of longshoring, the camaraderie and brotherhood amongst the longshoremen, and why he believes the stereotype of longshoremen being “all brawn and no brains” is inaccurate. He states that there is no other labour job like shoring and that “you had to work it to understand it”.
Terry Brine was born in New Westminster and grew up in Burnaby. He studied education at the university and upon graduation joined the successful family business. He was the third manager of this family business after his father and grandfather. The store existed for more than 100 years at its origin location. Terry shares his experience about the success, decline and revitalization of Columbia Street from its heyday as the “Miracle Mile” of the region until today. The interview provides information about the changes in the retail structure of New Westminster, the local business community and the local shopping and entertainment habits. Moreover, he shares his views about the city's waterfront and its relation to the downtown area.
Dr. Robert Butler is a biologist and bird specialist who has lived in New Westminster and studied birds on the Fraser Delta for the last thirty years. He was a senior research scientist with Environment Canada and at the time of the interview an adjunct professor of biology at Simon Fraser University. Fraser Delta is considered the primary of all “Important Bird Areas” of the 598 areas in Canada, and Butler describes his work on birds in the area and internationally. Having worked extensively on the Fraser Delta, he talks about the changes to the bird population in the New Westminster area through the process of urbanization, industrialization, and deindustrialization. Butler was a part of a five-year project that resulted in the creation of a British Columbia Bird Atlas and recently completed the first urban bird atlas on the bird population in New Westminster. http://www.sfu.ca/biology/wildberg/butler.htm
The Columbia Theatre on 530 Columbia St. in New Westminster was built in 1927 as a 900-seat movie theatre. Until the mid-1980s, the building housed a cinema, and was the first cinema in Canada with air conditioning. After being closed for many years, the city of New Westminster sold the building to Barry Buckland in 2011, and he took on the task of restoring the theatre. Buckland is an Ottawa native, but came to New Westminster in 1985. Since then he has has operated a number of businesses. His goal is to revitalize the entertainment scene of the city by operating a comedy school, managing the Lafflines Comedy Club that occupies the theatre today, and providing a performance venue for up-and-coming local artists. He predicts that within 20 years, Columbia St. will again be a centre for entertainment in the region.
The interview was conducted as part of History 461 – Oral History Practicum at Simon Fraser University
Don Carter grew up in a family that has worked on the Fraser River since 1900. His grandfather was a well-known boat builder and a fisherman, and his father had towing contracts with multiple mills along the waterfront. He started working at age 14, along with his three brothers, feeding lumber into a saw that the mills had in the water or helping out with the booms. At the same time, his grandfather gave him his first boat, and Carter would row on the river daily. On the river, he collected dunnage (the packing material used to separate cargo in a ship’s hold) that he used to build his first fishing shed. Companies mentioned in the interview are Capilano Lumber, Fraser Mills, Lamford Cedar, King Neptune Restaurant, Valley Towing, Swiftsure Towing, and the Shell and Chevron waterfront gas stations.
During the interview Carter is showing photographs to the interviewer and describing them.