Monthly Archives: September 2013

Back on Civvy Street

L 12  Kits beach 1919 v

Wow, what a happy picture!

Isn’t it! No prizes for guessing when it was taken – and where.

Well, they  look even happier than on that river in Cambridge during the war, don’t they.  It must be after the war, and I bet that’s Vancouver.

Well done. It was at Kitsilano beach in the summer of 1919. The war was over, Rufus was out of hospital and working at the Province, and they had an apartment at 1521 Arbutus Street, two minutes walk from the water. They used this picture for their Christmas card that year.

Why was Rufus in hospital?

Actually, both of them were that year, himself and Bee. Rufus had some kind of nervous bowel condition, thanks to his wartime job – it had become especially bad when dear old General Loomis had been his boss. A spell in hospital, paid for by the military, sorted him out, but it would always come back when he was stressed. Poor Bee had awful  pain from an unspecified gynecological condition. The pain would come and go, and she had an operation in September that year.  It gave her relief for a while, but wasn’t a permanent solution.

M 13  outside 1337 Maple Street 1923

I see they got a new dog. Was this one called Nick?

Rather disappointingly, it was called Jerry and we don’t know a lot about him. They got him in 1920, when they were still living on Arbutus. But they didn’t have him for long.

It looks like Rufus liked him – what happened?

Yes, Rufus was good with animals, but he wasn’t goofy about them. They  got Jerry – not as a puppy, obviously – from some people in Kerrisdale in May. In late June Rufus wrote in his diary – “Jerry bit grocer’s boy” and the next day – “Jerry bit young Dixon rather badly – had to be shut up.” There’s no more for ten days, then – “Reg Harwood came and fetched Jerry away.”

Who was Reg Harwood?

A nephew of the famous Sir Sam Steele of the mounties – Sam’s widow, Lady Steele, was a Harwood, and one of Bee’s and Rufus’s early Vancouver friends. And, as Reg wasn’t the dog-catcher,  that probably means that Jerry lived to bite another grocer’s boy! Maybe Harwood wanted to keep Jerry, or perhaps he knew someone who did.

Bee must have said “get that dog out of our house.”

Perhaps – she wouldn’t have wanted a difficult dog around if she wasn’t very well, that’s for sure. But, of the two of them, she was more of a dog lover.

M 13  at Mt Lehman 1923 iiM 13  at the Owens' farm, Mt Lehman 1923

And both liked horses, I presume, from the looks of them.

Rufus was quite a horseman – he’d had to learn to ride in Saskatchewan and of course he had to ride in the army. But he was no horse lover, either – he once complained, when he was farming in Ontario, about ‘having no-one to talk to but a horse’.

And Bee?

This was the first time she’d been on a horse – it was 1923. That’s perhaps why farmer Owen’s family and Derek looks so pleased – they had got her to try it. She was game for anything.

She would need to be – married to Rufus!

A One-off Wedding

F 6 Grave of Father ChristmasFrederick Granville Christmas – why, that’s a fine name for a Vicar

He was a lovely man, and the vicar of Saint Mary the Virgin at Somenos. On 18 April 1912 he married Bee and Rufus in his tiny church.  People in Cowichan loved him and called him Father Christmas!

Did he know that they called him that?

He did, and he loved it – used to encourage it, in fact.

Is he in the wedding pictures?

No, sadly, he isn’t, and thereby hangs a tale. You see Rufus arranged for a Mr Milledge to take a picture or two, but no picture was actually taken – years later, Rufus, in a letter to “My dear Father Christmas”, talks about “silly old Milledge’s ghastly error in making a hash of the wedding group photograph.”

So poor Bee had no wedding picture to send to her family? She must have been upset.

I’m sure she was. And there was another reason why the wedding was a bit odd. Three days before it, on 15 April, the Titanic hit its iceberg. Everybody knew about it, of course, but the 18th was the day the Carpathia landed the survivors in New York. It would have been on the Leader‘s tickertape and the wedding guests would have been talking of nothing else!

Fancy being upstaged at her own wedding by the Titanic. Talk about bad luck! 

She was too happy to be upset, and of course she didn’t know about the photograph until later. Remember, she herself had arrived from Britain a week before the Titanic and may have been thanking her stars she hadn’t decided to book on that unlucky ship instead.

Did you take that picture in the graveyard at Saint Mary’s?

Well, I did and I didn’t. The stone’s in the graveyard, but the church there is now Saint Peter’s. That’s another strange thing about this wedding – Saint Mary’s was quite tiny, maybe too small for the community. So, later on, the parish shipped it, on a big truck, to Tofino, and built a bigger one! You can still visit their church, but you have to go a long way to find it.

F 6 1912 Rufus, Duncan

Is that their puppy Rufus is holding?

Yes, that’s Satan. They got him after the wedding, to keep Bee from being lonely while Rufus was working.

Interesting, that a vicar’s son, who once sang solos in a cathedral, would call his dog Satan.

Maybe his god had a sense of humour.


Rufus joins the 88th Battalion, the Victoria Fusiliers.

G 7  Rufus 1916, top left, with 88th Bn officers.

Who were they, all those men in uniform?

They were officers of the 88th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, or CEF. The same 36 men are in this second picture

G 7  88th Bn officers May 1916, Rufus 2nd left, back.

And we know the names this time. Here they are – neatly typed up by Rufus in his War Book after the war.

88th officers 1916 - key ii

Were they all from Victoria?

Most were, but some came from Vancouver. Rufus was recruiting officer and was sent over to recruit men by putting articles and ads in the Province.

So, these guys went to France together in 1916?

Unfortunately not, though they were together until they got to England.  There were about 700 soldiers in the 88th and some of them are in this next picture – maybe marching to the ship. It looks like the lawn in front of the legislature in Victoria.

  88th officers 1916 - marching

But after they got to England, the battalion was broken up! Instead of going to France together, they went off in small groups, to fill the gaps in BC battalions already at the front. Rufus and a dozen soldiers went to the 16th Battalion.

I suppose some didn’t come back.

Many did not. We should remember them all on Remembrance Day!


Rufus’s war

G 7  Rufus 1916, with 88th Bn. insignia                  So, this must be Rufus during World War I.            It is. But when this was taken he was still training in Victoria with the 88th Battalion. You can see the battalion’s number on his collar. He hadn’t yet had the stuffing knocked out of him by what he called ‘the Shambles’.

That’s rather a mild word to use, isn’t it?

Well, he used it in the Old English sense –  the Shambles in the city of York was the meat market, the street where the butchers worked. And he walked right into it – a few months later he was at Vimy Ridge, where many of his friends were killed.

Was that the worst bit of the war for him?

It was just the beginning. His kid brother Lyonel had been killed earlier, his older brother Roy had been gassed and invalided out, and his clergyman father begged him not to be a hero and to apply for a ‘safer’ job as a staff officer. As his dad put it: “Two of us are a sufficient offering!”

Did he agree to do it?

He did, but only after a few months as a  platoon commander in the front line, where he volunteered for dangerous assignments to prove to himself he wasn’t afraid.

I 9 Rufus, Bee, Derek at Cambridge, 1917This must be after the war – look how  happy they look!

They were happy, alright, but it was right in the middle of the war. You see, Bee and Derek came to live in England while Rufus was in France – so they could all be together when he had leave. Here he was on a staff officer training course at Cambridge in the summer of 1917. And when the happy times were over, he went back to this:

ItI 9 Passchendaele air photo - Ravebeeke valley, rd  Marsh Bottom - Passchendaele. Pillbox bottom left (X) What on earth is it? is that a photograph?

It’s a photograph of the battlefield at Passchendaele, taken from an aircraft. In fact, Rufus may have taken it himself. He was a Staff Captain ‘I’ – the ‘I’ standing for Intelligence – and his job was to find out what the battlefield ahead of his brigade looked like – exactly.

What are those holes, then?

They are holes made by exploding shells, and every one is full of water if you look closely.

And that mess was the battlefield in front of his brigade? Did the soldiers have to cross it? How could they do that?

Well, they started in the dark before dawn and the Canadian guns were keeping the Germans’ heads down, so they could pick their way. But cross it they did and, after a terrible fight, they captured the Bellevue Spur as they had been ordered. If you look at this next air-photo you can see where they went.

I 9 Passchendaele air photo - rd Waterloo - BellevueIt looks like a flat plain. I can see where it says Bellevue – so that’s what the soldiers captured?

Yes. If you enlarge the picture you can see the shell-holes here too – and not a tree – they’d all been blown to matchwood. Rufus had been watching the advance from inside a captured German concrete bunker called Waterloo- also written on the picture. And then the general sent him, with his runner, to walk right up the road from Waterloo to Bellevue, about 2 kms – you can see the road in the picture – to make a map of the brigade’s new positions and report  back. Two of his runners were killed while he could still see them and Rufus himself was lucky to survive .

K 11  Rufus 1918 DAAG - sporting major's insignia with staff gorgets.Was this after the war?  My goodness, I see what you mean about him having had the stuffing knocked out of him.

Well, it was nearly the end of the war – you can see his major’s insignia on his sleeve. And the terrible things he’d seen are in his eyes. For Rufus, the end couldn’t come soon enough.

A Married Couple

F 6 1912 New appearance of LeaderThat’s a pretty fancy front page logo for a newspaper, isn’t it?

Rufus thought so. When he was head-hunted to be the Leader‘s editor in 1911, one of the first things he did was to have someone design it.  The Leader was only a weekly, and in Duncan – miles from anywhere – but it felt wonderful to be his own boss for a change.

I suppose he made a pretty good salary.

The directors paid him $150 a month – not exactly a fortune, even then. However, he and Bee thought it was enough to marry on – but before wedding bells could happen they needed a place to live.

F 6  1912 St Stephen's, Rufus's & Bee's house in Duncan, April 1913And  this was the house they chose? A little house in the woods – how romantic it must have been!

If only it had been. You see it was built in a hurry by a local man, with help from Rufus when he had time. He and Bee had set the wedding date for 18 April 1912, and time and money ran out before they’d started the plumbing for a flush toilet. So married life began with a pit toilet in the back yard.

Even so, I expect they soon got used to it, didn’t they?

Well, Rufus did, but Bee point blank refused to use it. She would wait until Rufus had gone to work on his bike; then, every day, she would walk the 1.5 kms into Duncan to use the facilities at the Tzouhalem Hotel.F 6 1912 Bee, dressed for her daily walk to the hotel in Duncan This is her, dressed to kill, ready to set off. People in the houses she passed were said to set their clocks by her passing. She became pregnant quite soon, but continued her daily walk until the baby arrived. F 6 1913 Bee, Derek, April 20And there she is with her little girl – doesn’t she look happy!

Bee was happy alright, but that ‘little girl’ was really Derek, her son. In 1912 people still dressed babies in dresses, both boys and girls. You can see she’s sitting on the covered deck around their house, and probably just back from the new Duncan hospital where she remained for a month after the baby was born. When she did get home, Rufus hired a wonderful woman to help her with the baby for the first few months.

F 6 Bee 1913, Rufus, DerekWell, they look a happy little family in this picture.

They certainly do. But they didn’t stay long in Duncan and moved to Victoria six months later.

Had Rufus found a better job there?

In a way he did. Actually, he had to take the job he was offered whether he liked it or not – but that’s a  story for another day.

Rufus’s pioneering days

This is the first picture of Rufus in Canada, drawn in 1906 by his friend White at their camp beside Lake Ontario.

C 3 Rufus 1906, at Camp DalhousieI think he’s fishing, but maybe he’s cradling a shotgun.

They caught sheepshead fish in the lake, snared rabbits and hoped to shoot pheasants. Everything was cooked in one pot over the fire and if it tasted bad they added curry – “not real curry but French mustard and canal water” – to take the taste away. They swam and rowed on the lake, canoed on the river and even managed some sailing.  Life was good and Rufus enthused: “it is quite the Canadian life about which one reads in books.”

At the time he had a job in a bank at St Catherines, a job he soon lost  –  he had sent returned cheques to London, England, not yet having heard of London, Ontario.  He might have been forgiven for that, but his second blooper was less forgivable. As he described this to his dad:

“One wet day we had decided to practice with the accountant’s revolver against the day we might be held up. Most unfortunately, I sent a bullet ricocheting through the plate glass window of the manager’s office!”

So he moved west to Saskatchewan where, after a shaky start farming, he did well working for Beaver Lumber in Govan. Later, things went badly for him – having eked out a living in Lethbridge, shoveling coal and singing in silent movie theatres, the next picture finds him at Kipp, Alberta,

D 4 Rufus's shack at Kipp, Alberta, 1909, his first 'home' in Canadaleaning proudly against the home that he had probably built himself. On the back of the picture was written: My shack at Kipp, Alta, winter 1909-10, 15m W of Lethbridge (3 months alone).”

 We never do find out what he did for a living during those months, but in the spring of 1910 he arrived in Nelson, BC, where his brother Roy had started a fruit and strawberry farm at Harrop, on Kootenay Lake. While waiting for the strawberry crop to ripen, the brothers traveled to Vancouver where Rufus was hired by the Daily Province. He had finally found journalism – work he enjoyed and at which he was a natural. Vancouver was booming, sharp practice was everywhere and enterprising journalists made their names exposing the scandals. In 1911 Rufus did just that with the Steamboat Mountain goldmine near Hope, which he exposed as a fraud after trekking into the mountains with two friends. He took these pictures:

E 5 1911 packers on the Steamboat trailE 5 1911, Myers & Preston 12 m. along Steamboat trail in Nicolum valley iiOn the left were packers they met on the trail. On the right fellow trekkers Myers and Preston take a rest on a log along the Steamboat trail.

Introducing Bee

Bee in Vancouver, 1926
         Bee in Vancouver, 1926

So this must be Bee. Was she Rufus’s wife?

She was – they were married in 1912, in Duncan, BC.

I suppose Rufus met her on one of his journalist trips around the province?

Oh no, nothing like that. Their story was a fairy tale romance with a happy ending.  You see, they met in England when they were both eighteen, at a time when both wanted to make a fresh start in their lives.

That sounds bad! What had they done – something terrible?

Quite the contrary – they were educated but had no money. In 1905 England, a woman had to choose between working and getting married. The wages offered were low and employers wouldn’t hire married women. So girls got married at 18 – like the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe, they soon had so many children they had no choices left .

And Bee didn’t want children?

Oh, she did indeed. But she also wanted to marry Mr Right – and for her, Mr Right had to want to make a fresh start with her in Canada – where people could live without all those social rules.

And Rufus became Mr Right?

He did – because his family expected him to enter the army, the church or the law – but had no money to get him started. So Canada, the land of opportunity, seemed a sensible alternative.

Did he take Bee with him?

No – Rufus and Bee swore to be faithful and Rufus came to Canada to make his fortune. After five long years and twenty jobs he discovered journalism in Vancouver in 1910. Bee, who had been working all that time as a nanny or governess in England, came to Montreal to do the same sort of  thing – but really to escape having to marry a man picked for her by her parents. And by 1912 Rufus was making enough for them to marry.

That sounds beautiful – you should write a book about it.

I have – its called ‘Rufus’. I’ll tell you about it another time.


Introducing Rufus

Rufus 1924 Vancouver

Who was this man?

He looks like he expects us to know, doesn’t he?  Assured, on top of his game – the kind of guy to take charge and get the job done.

So, was his name Rufus?

Yes, that was Rufus alright – or Lukin Johnston as he was known to his readers.

Newspaper readers?

Yup – to Canadian newspaper readers in the early thirties Lukin Johnston was a household name from Vancouver to Montreal.

So what did he write about?

Well, he was one of those lucky scribblers who could write about whatever he fancied and the papers would print it.

For instance?

Well, English inn-keepers, or driving a car in Germany for example – maybe hiking in the Gulf Islands or conversations with famous people.

Like President Roosevelt?

Sadly, no – Rufus died before FDR really got going. But he did know, and wrote about, President Harding and he met Winston Churchill – in fact, during World War I  he showed him around the battlefield of Vimy Ridge.

What did he think of Churchill?

Not much at first, but that all changed when Churchill started warning the world about Hitler – but that ‘s a story for another day.