Flitton Family History Chapter 5
The following is a sketchy and draft outline put together by Bob Flitton in the mid 1990s.
Frank Flitton and Charlie Flitton recall the excitement of witnessing the first airplane to fly over Victoria. “It looked like a big box kite.” Frank believes it was 1913 or 1914 when it circled over their house at 354 St. Charles Street where GAD had built a new home, renting out the original house. Frank recalled that the plane then flew towards the inner harbor where “it hit the corner of a red brick building near the harbor and crashed. The pilot died.”
Provincial Archives excerpt: “On September 8, 1910, William Gibson flew a plane near Mount Tolmie in Victoria using the first Canadian built engine which he designed. The flight led Gibson to be the object of considerable discussion. On August 6, 1913, John Bryant, on a visit to Victoria with his wife Alys McKey Bryant, became the first aviator to fly over a British Columbia city. Bryant was 350 to 400 feet in the air when the plane fell perpendicularly, striking the roof of the two-storey structure at the northwest corner of theatre alley and Cormorant Street. Bryant was killed instantly, Canada’s first aviation casualty, and his wife, also a pilot, never flew again.” FULL STORY.
Frank recalls a second plane, crashing near the drydocks at Esquimalt, and a couple of years later, a third crashing into a house near Beacon Hill Park. Frank rode over to the crash site on his bicycle and remembers that the pilot was only slightly injured. The flight was an early Boeing floatplane airmail run between Victoria Harbour and Seattle. The pilot was Eddie Hubbard, Boeing’s test pilot. Jack recalls years later running out from the Strawberry Vale home each time they heard the plane overhead. He believes they flew 50 to 60 mph and took a long time to pass over the house.
Provincial Archives Excerpt: “In March 1919, William E. Boeing used a 100 hp Model C float plane built by his Boeing Airline Company to fly between Vancouver and Seattle to start the first air-mail service in the U.S. The air service later included flights from Victoria Harbour. In 1934, Boeing commenced the first regular air service between Vancouver and the US with daily flights to Seattle, using a 10-passenger Boeing twin-engine 247.”
GAD purchased a near new 1911 Overland Roadster. He was unsure about changing gears and was in the habit of driving it away in high gear. A deep depression existed in the land near the Bay Street Armories, creating a substantial hill for a car to climb. GAD drove the Roadster up the hill from a standing stop in high gear. He did likewise on the hill near St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Victoria. Charlie recalls “someone connected a bakelite spark plug to the magneto and it gave the car extra horsepower. I was four years old, and I remember when it was raining like hell. Dad pulled a drive shaft out to re-pack it and I handed him tools. There were times when we used pork rind for con-rod bearings. The motor ran very quietly but didn’t last long.”
Milk was delivered by horse drawn cart in those days. Taxi cabs were horse drawn hacks. GAD had a delivery man who delivered his furniture with a team of horses. Later he converted the Overland to a delivery truck. The truck wheels had solid tires. GAD employed Cyril in his store and helped Neville to obtain an education. GAD and Neville, a dentist in Los Angeles, assisted their parents, Ralph and Latitia financially.
Emily Carr built her “House of All Sorts” in 1913 and purchased furnishings from GAD. She was a friend of the McVickers. Ann McVickers worked for GAD in 1910.
After the First World War began, people quit buying and in 1915 GAD’s business went broke. “You couldn’t sell anything. We were in a depression and the family didn’t have much.” Frank and Charlie wore women’s shoes to school and missed a year of school in 1915, the year Jack was born. Charlie went to school barefooted, and wore hockey boots with the skates removed. The family relocated its permanent home to a summer home they owned in Strawberry Vale in 1916. During the war years, GAD spent much of his time in town. Josephine lived out at Strawberry Vale with the family. GAD was known to have had a mistress at the time, his young store employee named Kate. Josephine called her “Cat.” The children lived on what meat they good get … “usually roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding Sunday night, but if we couldn’t afford roast beef, then beef heart or from Hick’s Butcher Shop on Pandora”.
Hick’s shared a building with McKinnons Store facing onto Douglas. On winter mornings when the children were cold, they stood on the oven door of the cast iron cook stove to warm up. Jack Flitton did yard work and mowed lawns for his grandparents earning ten cents for a entire days work. Frank also “bought the Victoria Daily Times newspaper at two-for-a-nickle” and doubled his money by selling them for five cents each. “The nickles were used to buy Orange Crush.” Jack recalls mowing the lawn and throwing wood into the basement, by this time making as much as 25 cents a weekend. Agnes and Jack picked broom flowers and dandelions for Ralph’s basement wine making. Jack was fascinated by the point on the light bulb and the wire inside. He wiggled the bed and the wires moved. He recalls that as a memorable experience. There was no power at Strawberry Vale.
When the war was over, Josephine and the children took their horse, ‘ole Billy’and the horse drawn wagon down to Yates and Broad to celebrate. Jack recalls servicemen returning with “lots bandages and much noise”. Towns people bought all the talcum powder the drug store had and threw it everywhere. Frank remembers getting it in his eye. The Flittons lived up the street from Gillies farm, situated at Charlton and Granville. Frank and Charlie took short cuts to school through the Gillies fields. Pat Cummings shot one of Gillies cows and the boys were not thereafter allowed on Gillies fields. Bernard Gillies, born in 1907 at 4217 Granville, later a school teacher, and still an active man, said that the fields flooded in the winter … and ‘Fran’ (Frank’s common name at the time) would take a short cut, running through the wet Gillie fields up to his ankles with water splashing everywhere. “I remember them arriving at school soaking wet.” Gillies farm was 50 acres at that time, but their land has since reduced to 10 acres. Win left school and waited tables for the Old British Fish and Chips on Broad Street when she was 14. It was owned by the Millers, close friends of our family, and was located near Robinson’s Sporting Goods. Win and Frank went to vaudeville pictures at the Pantages Theatre with the Millers. Frank recalls seeing Charlie Chaplin at the Romano Theatre near Johnson and Government. The Romano Theatre was derelict and cost a nickel. The Columbia, more upscale, charged a dime. “Charlie Chaplin was the first comedian I remember. He was very funny. Harry and I often went to the theatre.”
Harry Hague’s parents had a place at Mystic Springs Cadboro Bay where the father made home brew. He sold bootleg beer and wine above GAD’s store. Harry ran for Mayor of Victoria years later. Charlie signed his nomination. Some thought of Harry as a bit odd ball and a junk collector, “he was happy-go-lucky eccentric. He was married to an even more eccentric woman by the name of Topsy. It was she encouraged him to run for Mayor and to wear a tuxedo and top hat during the campaign. He bought a house among the millionaires on Rockland and turned it into a junk yard, burning cardboard and wood furniture in his furnace.”
Memories of Jack Flitton
Strawberryvale – meant as a summer home, but as my dad lost everything due to 1914 war, we were forced to move to SV. Gas or coil oil lamps, outside toilet, no insulation, pretty crude. Agnes and I shared Saturday night bath to conserve water. My dad added a 3rd bedroom with a furnace below. Agnes had a room of her own. “How nice it was to stand over the hot register in our nighties on cold nights. In the mornings, we dressed standing on the range oven door.
I had my own bed except when Frank came home. Charlies bed was in the same room.
Agnes started school about 1920, and took me once on a special day for young ones. I learned a lot of schooling from Agnes when she would do her homework. I started about 1922.
As our mother and dad loved to play cards, and seldom Frank and Chas were home, we had to learn Whist and 500.
Agnes acquired Win’s bicycle. I had one that Chas put together out of old parts. I later bought a better bike. Agnes and I traveled farther at times, with Margaret Sundin, Agnes’ life long friend. We went with other kids to Prospect Lake where Agnes got a blood sucker under her bathing suit. That had us scared.
In 1927, we moved to Port Alberni, but before school Agnes returned to Victoria. I don’t know what school she went to, but when my dad returned to PA, Agnes boarded with the Smith family on Linden St and attended Sprott Shaw Business School.
Agnes went with a man who road a large Indian motor bicycle. He took me for a ride. Seemed like 75 mph on a gravel road. He often brought it up to PA on weekends.
Living with the people (McIntosh) she was associated with the upper crust of Victoria. Started dating Lawrence Denton who’s father was the Dean of the Normal School in Victoria. They parted ways because he was a party man. Agnes started working for the Government health insurance where she met Don Bell. Our dad (GAD Flitton) died March 1938 and she had moved several months before to look after the business end of Flitton’s HH Furnishings. Don Bell visited Port Alberni more often, finally moving in. Later Agnes bought the rest of the family out. About that time Bell, your dad started his school.
Frank and Red Peters enjoyed snooker at the Metropolis Hotel Billiard Room on Yates. Frank laughs about the time he was “carrying two piss pots down Pandora. My dad bought them at an auction and I was taking them to the store. They were the type used in hotel rooms in those days. Bert Irish, who owned the Metropolis Hotel saw me and told Red Peters about it. From then on, Bert was always called ‘Piss Pots’. ”
GAD had two or three store locations on Pandora and eventually moved to Pandora and Blanshard. The store was located in what was formerly the Allies Hotel bar. He rented from Dr. W. R. Quagliotti, D.C. (who later became a Chiropractor). In 1918, Cyril and his wife, moved to Lacine, Quebec where son Ralph Johnston was born soon after. The family moved to Peterborough, Ontario in 1919 where Cyril worked as a draftsman for Vickers iron foundry. It went broke in 1933. Cyril helped design the World War II Corvette, a well used Canadian naval ship in the World War 11 battles of the Atlantic.
Frank recalls (see top of this page) about 1920 “a man named Eddy Hubbard flew the mail from Victoria to Seattle. He flew his plane into a home near Beacon Hill Park. I rode down on my bicycle to see the crash. “Provincial Archives record the following: “In 1919, William E. Boeing, President of Boeing Airplane Company, and Eddie Hubbard carried the first international air mail in America, between Seattle and Vancouver. On October 15, 1920, Hubbard flew the first regularly scheduled international airmail service, flying to Victoria in aCL-42 seaplane.”
1921 in Conneat, Ohio, Neville Flitton married Grace Elizabeth Stines, daughter of M.F. and Margaret Gertrude Stines, nee Finley. Cyril, with his young son Ralph, attended the wedding.