Elve Morrison lived in New Westminster for all but 8 years when she lived on the border of Coquitlam and Burnaby. Both of her parents were Finnish immigrants. Her mother came to New Westminster unmarried with a friend from Finland. Her parents came from the same area in Finland and met in a Lutheran church in New Westminster. Her father worked at Fraser Mills, and eventually became the superintendent of the lumberyard. Her mom worked at Gilley Brothers. Morrison’s first husband worked the river boom at Fraser Mills, later Canadian Western Lumber, and eventually owned by Crown Zellerbach. When Morrison was in high school, it was common for schools to send their top students to find jobs. Morrison, being the top student, was offered two jobs along the New Westminster Waterfront. Her first offer was an accounting position with the Gilley Brothers. She rejected this position because she did not like the dress code. The second position that she was offered was with the Royal City Cannery. Morrison also turned down this position. Throughout the interview Morrison recounts the large companies that existed along the New Westminster waterfront, such as Brackman-Ker and Pacific Veneer. Morrison currently lives in a low-rise condominium on the New Westminster Quay.
Interviews conducted 29 Jan 2013 and 6 May 2015
Ron Noullett is a retired longshoreman and member of International Longshoremen’s & Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) Local 502 who mostly worked in New Westminster and Surrey. In 1962, at age 16, Noullett began working as a longshoreman, and attained union membership after 10 years as a casual. Although he retired in 2011, Noullett still remains active in the union on various caucuses and committees, and currently is a part of an education committee teaching new Local 502 members about the history of the union. Throughout the interview he speaks highly of about his experience working on the waterfront. Noullett states that he worked everywhere throughout his whole career, in the interview he mentions Pacific Coast Terminals (PCT), Overseas Transport, Delta rice mills, and Fraser Surrey Docks.
Bob Olson retired as a tugboat captain after having worked for Westminster Tugboats for several decades. However, when Samson Tugs, a new company, was looking for experienced captains he returned to work and is today 71 years old. He was born on Lion Island, grew up in Queensborough, and has worked on a tugboat on the Fraser River since he was 17 years old. 54 years after he started, he states that he does pretty much the same job as when he started out, but with better equipment. He shares his experiences of multicultural Queensborough, tales about his family origins in Sweden, and his life on the Fraser River. When asked why he chose to be a tugboat operator instead of a commercial fisherman like his father, Olson replied “ I was too lazy to do the work [of a commercial fisherman], and too nervous to steal, and therefore ended up on a tugboat.”
Catherine Ouelett-Martin was the first executive director of the Fraser River Discovery Centre in New Westminster. In 1989, Ouelett-Martin moved to New Westminster from Quebec. She studied English at Douglas College and then transferred to Simon Fraser University to complete her bachelor’s degree in history. Afterwards, she completed a post baccalaureate certificate in public history, as a step towards a career in museums and archives. She did a variety jobs and volunteered with museums in the Lower Mainland. In 1997, she landed a job at the Delta Museum and Archives, and worked there for 10 years. She has been working at the Fraser River Discovery Centre since the fall of 2008. The Centre’s mission is to be an advocate for the Fraser River by educating and informing visitors. Ouelett-Martin describes her role as giving “soul” to the Centre. Throughout the interview she describes the responsibilities of the executive director of the Fraser River Discovery Centre, the process of planning and executing the Centre’s exhibitions, and speaks enthusiastically about her work and the “working” Fraser River.
Eric Pattison is an architect. He owns Pattison Architecture, a firm located in New Westminster. This interview is primarily concerns Pattison’s work restoring two of New Westminster’s historically significant buildings: the Columbia Theatre and the BC Electric Railway depot (currently occupied by the Salvation Army store). His firm has done historic work on the Brooklyn Pub, the Queens Hotel, the Bank of Montreal, and the Trapp and Holbrook condominium project. Pattison is a resident of New Westminster who moved to the city in 1989 from Victoria.The interview was conducted as part of History 461 – Oral History Practicum at Simon Fraser University. The sound level of the recording is extremely low, making the interview difficult to hear.
Gary Pooni is the president of Brook Pooni, a Vancouver-based urban planning company. He was born in 1971 at St. Mary’s Hospital in New Westminster to a Punjabi family that had immigrated to Canada in the 1960s. One of Pooni’s earliest memories of seeing the Fraser River from the top of the downtown parkade. He also spent time as an adolescent running along the Dyke Road in Queensborough and contemplating life, thinking about crossing the River to leave Queensborough and New Westminster. After completing his graduate studies, the first urban planning project was at Fraser Mills.The interview was conducted as part of History 461 – Oral History Practicum at Simon Fraser University
Lowell Quesnel was a barber who later became a real estate agent in New Westminster. He moved to New Westminster with his family from Williams Lake in 1946, when he was 13 years old. Quesnel attended St. Peter’s School (grade 6-9) and Duke of Connaught High School (located where New West city hall is now located). He dropped out in grade 12 and took a job at Pacific Veneer on the waterfront. He also worked as an “ice man” at the Queen’s Park arena, before buying his father’s barbershop at Joyce Road (now Joyce Street) at Kingsway in Vancouver for $800. He sold the barbershop approximately a year later (in 1955) for $1600. He then went to work for his father in Elks Barbershop on Carnavon St in New Westminster.1 One summer, when he was 15 or 16 years old, Quesnel and his brother worked at Pacific Coast Terminals (PCT) labelling salmon and stencilling boxes. Quesnel continued working as a barber until the emergence of The Beatles phenomenon of the 1960s, which led to the popularity of long hair for men. Business at the barbershop was so slow that Quesnel decided to work in real estate.
Pair of interviews with Brian Ringrose
Brian Ringrose worked as a longshoreman on the New Westminster waterfront for over 40 years. He was heavily involved with the union, and served as President for a period of time. While president he participated with the Fraser River Harbour Commission in trade missions to promote the New Westminster port to international shippers. He thinks that these were useful trips. He also discusses the union and mechanization.
At the time of the interview Jack Singh was 82 years old. He has since died. Singh grew up in the Maillardville neighbourhood of Coquitlam. Everyday after school he would walk past the Fraser Rails personnel office, and on June 14th 1945, at age 14, was . Singh worked the “green chain” at Fraser Mills. Singh began working as a longshoreman in 1958, and his first longshore job was at Fraser Mills. The interviewer, who also worked at the waterfront, recalled Singh as being the first East Indian that he knew of at the International Longshoremen’s & Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) Local 502 in New Westminster. Throughout the interview Singh describes the “hard work” he did as a longshoreman, and his experiences travelling to work at other jobsites in Canada and the US. Singh worked as a longshoreman until 1995, and retired as an operator on the coal dock at Westshore Terminals. Overall, Singh speaks positively about his experience longshoring, as it gave him many opportunities to travel and fun experiences.
Nate Stafiej has worked for Fraser River Pile & Dredge for the past 10 years. He started in 2005 as an apprentice welder, completed his welding ticket and got his Red Seal, and then applied for the position of Equipment Superintendent in 2011. His father-in-law worked for Fraser River Pile & Dredge, and that is how Nate found his way into the career. He likes the job because things are different each day, even though he describes the work as “dirty.” He emphasizes the adaptability and intuition required for his work. He also enjoys the social connections that he has made though his work.