Galiano Museum and Archives

The Georgeson Collection

Interview with Joan Carolan

1. Active Pass Fish

G01My father’s on the left, that’s Edward Georgeson, and on the right is his younger brother Archie Georgeson. In the center is Red Howard. He was born on Mayne Island, right next to the Indian Reserve there. He was completely fluent in Chinook, and he loved children. He used to bounce me on his knee. This picture was taken... actually I went out too . You could catch this many fish in a couple of hours in Active Pass. Any time. I mean, it wasn’t unusual. Those salmon never went to waste, either. It was probably more than we needed, but it was always passed around to your family and neighbors. We ate a lot of it, too.

Red Howard was very interesting. He used to do “bare-knuckles fighting”-- boxing. My uncles used to hold his coat. And his hands were all broken, his fingers... his hands were all gnarled from bare knuckle fighting, which they used to do for entertainment around here. Well, on Mayne, or the other islands too. They traveled, my father and his brothers, his generation, traveled to different islands. Usually they’d just row. Sometimes they’d have a little sail in the boat, but it wasn’t unusual for them to row to another island. My Aunt Ellen used to row to Mayne to have tea with a friend of hers, and then the following week the friend would row over to have tea with her.

Also, Red Howard, you know in the picture that was taken of the 3 men with the fish? He was absolutely mad about her [Sophie Georgeson] but she didn’t want to have anything to do with him. She’s known him all her life, he was like a friend to her, you know. So he got so disheartened, he decided that he was going to commit suicide, because she wouldn’t marry him. So he went down to the beach at Georgeson Bay. he sat down on the beach and said that he was going to just drown himself. But it was very cold, and as the water started to come in, he rapidly changed his mind! It’s pretty cold! After a long time he came back up to the house and decided that maybe he’d live for a while longer. He always adored Aunt Sophie. She was not really a pretty woman, but she was always so vivacious, and she had such charm. She was very small, only came to about here on me, she was a small person. All the family was small. Even Uncle Arthur was small-- he wasn’t small, but he was short.

see photo G1, M35, G29, G30, G78

2. Albert Hawthorne

Yes, Aunt Ellen was my father’s sister, and this was her first husband. He was a butcher, he was much older than Aunt Ellen. But he came to Galiano and they 1lived in the “Big House” on Georgeson Bay, and he raised sheep. He used to take them to market. So he died when Aunt Ellen’s children were just very young. I never knew him. He was English. He looks about 40 in this picture. Some hairstyle!

see photo G2

3. Archie and Arthur

On the left that’s Archibald Georgeson, we always called him Archie, he was the youngest of my father’s family. It was a family of 10! On the right is my Uncle Arthur. They’re both quite young there. My Uncle Arthur went on to be a tugboat.. to be a Captain, and he was Captain of a small freighter up and down the Coast for many years. And then he studied and went into the pilotage after that. And he was drowned off the West coast of Vancouver Island. He was coming back. A pilot boat was coming out to pick him up from a big freighter and bring him back to shore, and he had taken his wife with him, which you weren’t supposed to do. They were coming back, and they hit a deadhead, and the boat sank.. the pilot boat sank. And she couldn’t swim, so they put her between them on a capox cushion-- they didn’t have any life jackets with them-- they put her in between them on a capox cushion and swam for shore. And when they got to shore the pilot boat captain was helping her onto shore, and when he turned around my Uncle was gone. And of course the water was so very cold... and they never found him. He was a very clever man. He followed after my father [Edward Georgeson]. My father was older than he was, and everything my father did he followed along, as far as his career went. Even as far as selecting his suit! My father got a new suit, and he had to get one exactly like it. But he was a very clever man, and very nice. He loved children. Uncle Archie was.. well, they never considered that he was very strong, but he lived longer than all the rest of them. He never worried about anything. He worked for the telephone company here, and did odd jobs, that sort of thing. All the rest of the boys went to sea, but he didn’t.

This was a professional photo. They’re not very old.. 20, 22. In that time, everybody had a suit. I mean maybe you had it for years, but you had a suit. And whenever you got dressed up you wore your suit! You wore either your old work clothes or your suit. And they’re wearing their suits. You can tell by Uncle Arthur’s hard collar.. they’ve both got hard collars on.

see photo G3, G7, G17, G18, G19

4. Archie Georgeson

He was a good storyteller too... but he used to listen to all of his brothers tell stories, and then he would tell them and make them his own. Which a lot of storytellers do.

see photo G5

5. Arthur and Sophie in Town

Oh yes, that’s my Uncle Arthur on the left and my Aunt Sophie on the right. It’s taken in Vancouver when there used to be photographers on the street-- they’d take your picture as you were walking down the street. And then you could order a picture, and it would be ready a few days later, and that’s what this is. I was talking about my Uncle Arthur bought a suit, and the next month my Uncle Archie bought that suit! They were very close, my Uncle Arthur and my Aunt Sophie. She was quite a bit younger, but. She told me an interesting story one time. She said, she was staying over at the lighthouse [on Mayne Island], and Aunt Ellen was there, and some government man came, and said there was a small... it wasn’t a lighthouse, but it was a light, and there was a house there, and a light, and the man that was staying there had an appendicitis, so they had to take him away to the hospital. So there was nobody to keep that light. So there was nobody else. Aunt Ellen stayed there and did the housekeeping and whatever, so they wanted my Uncle Jack to go, my Uncle Jack was there. And he was about the same age as Aunt Sophie. Well, Uncle Jack didn’t want to go because he heard there were wolves on that island. Not that he was afraid to keep the light, but he was afraid that maybe there were wolves on the island. So they sent Aunt Sophie with him, And they were just little children! They were about 8 and 10 or something like that. They sent then to this light, and they were there 3 or 4 days before they managed to find somebody to keep the light, and then they came back to the lighthouse.

see photo G8, G20, G78, G29

Another story she told me too. My grandparents, John and Elizabeth Georgeson, lived up in the valley, you know where Mushroom rock is? Well they had a farm just inland from there. My Aunt Sophie told me one time that she had-- there were caves in there. Have you ever been in those caves?--- well she’d been in those caves and she came home and she had some little dishes, and her mother really beat the pants off of her and told her to take them right back! It was an Indian burial ground, and she must never go in there again. She said she felt just terrible. But she was just a little girl. She didn’t know. Her mother was horrified!

see photo N128, G78, H53

6. Rowing Race

This was a common sport, and it wasn’t just for men, it was for ladies too. These are all men, but they had women’s rowing races too. My Aunt Ellen was very good at rowing races-- she used to win lots of ribbons at rowing. And she never got tired of it, even when she was old. She loved to get in a skiff and row a little bit. My Dad told me one time when she got a little bit older-- she wasn’t just a girl-- she got a little bit older and started fancying the boys, and she didn’t win that time because she was watching the boys that were rowing. And they scolded her for not paying attention to her rowing. And everybody rowed everywhere. My father used to row to Vancouver Island and then take a little train down to Victoria. And Scottie used to row to the mainland. He used to have a little sail in the boat, but I don’t think it helped very much. Everybody knew how to row, not only the men but the women too. And they all feathered their oars. They rowed properly ! They were taught to row properly because it was necessary! It was the way to get around, the same way everybody learns to drive a car now.

They used to have a lot of competitions between Galiano and Mayne because it was so close. My family used to row back and forth across the Pass, no problem. And I think I told you Felix Jack at the Indian Reserve used to row over to Georgeson Bay. They thought nothing of it, they used to do it all the time. It was just commonplace.

see photo G66, S85

7. Salvor

My Uncle Arthur [Georgeson] was the Captain of this small freighter for many years, going up and down the Coast. This was one that took freight anywhere up and down the Coast. This was the kind of sea captain that the Pilotage looked for, one that had had so much experience up and down the Coast, for many years. He was a very clever seaman, too. He and my father, we used to say they had nerves of steel. We never, ever saw one of them upset by anything that happened on the ship- the weather, or anything-- they were very calm, strong men. And they just took naturally to the sea, and they loved the sea. If we went on vacation, we always went somewhere that had water.

Little freighters like this were very important to people that lived up and down the Coast. They would take a few passengers too, but they weren’t really set up for passengers, mainly freight. They would put things on the bow-- machinery, and so on.

see photo G67, G9, G12, G18

8. Scottie and Sophie

This is my great-grandparents. My Grandmother-- I think I told you that when she got old, she wasn’t very well, they tried to make her take it easy, and not work so hard. But every once in a while she’d go out in a skiff and go salmon fishing. She’d tie a line around her waist, and she’d just let it tow her around for a while until it got tired, and then she’d pull it in! The salmon! Oh, there were lots of salmon in the Pass. you could get all the salmon you wanted just in an hour or so. But they fished it so much there just aren’t many left anymore. But there was lots of herring, and lots of cod. And the herring was big, big herring.

I think she must have had a hard life, living at the lighthouse, because they weren’t paid very much. They had all these children, and grandchildren staying there, she had to keep house for all these people. Her daughters and granddaughters helped her some, but even so... they had people dropping in any time. You know, anytime somebody came to your house, well they could stay over night! This was the thing you did. So I don’t think she had a very easy time. When she was ill she used to go to the shamans at the Indian reserve on Mayne, to the medicine doctors there, but also she had a doctor on Mayne when she was dying. She’s buried in the cemetery here. My great grandfather gave the land for the cemetery here. And he made a stipulation there would be no restriction for race or creed, and there would be no charge if you were an island resident, and it’s still that was today, which was sort of a nice thing to do.

see photo G75, G68
Scottie Georgeson photos: G68-G76

9. The Home Guard

It was for defense, and these are men that didn’t go into the service. The second from the left is George Georgeson, and then on his right is Jack Hawthorne, and in the center is Toughie Georgeson, this is George York with the dark pants and suspenders, this is Tom head in the foreground, second from the right, I think this is... there were more than that, this is just one picture. There were many, many more in the Home Guard. They were supposed to be protecting the home, the home-land. I mean most of the men were away in the service, in the Second World War, there weren’t many men left, so they banded together to make the home guard. And so they used to practice their drills, and shooting and whatever. They had home guards many many places, and I’m sure they would have recorded planes that were sighted, and things like that.

see photo G84, H22