Flitton Family History Chapter 9
The following is a sketchy and draft outline put together by Bob Flitton in the mid 1990s.
I – THE BELLS
During the mid ‘30’s, Donald Kellie Bell was employed by the Provincial Government working in the field of Health Insurance. His wife at the time was Pearl. Don met Agnes Flitton, a fellow employee, and a relationship followed.
Agnes left Victoria to work for GAD when his health failed and Don followed where he operated a business school. After GAD’s passing, Agnes and Don purchased the GAD’s business from the family.
Their only child, Donald Hunter Bell was born on March 10, 1942 in New Westminster where Agnes was hospitalized during a visit. Don Sr. and Agnes married two years later in Port Alberni.
Jack recalls “During the war (World War 2) Eileen and I worked for Agnes and Don. About this time we (the two couples) bought Sproat Lake property. Later we divided the property. Eileen and I took lot #20 where we lived for 13 years.”
Eventually they sold the business and moved to Vancouver where Don Sr. was offered a professorship at U.B.C. Don Sr. Suffered a thrombosis in 1952, was paralyzed as result, however recovered sufficiently to resume teaching from a wheelchair. He suffered a stroke and passed away July 10, 1960.
Agnes developed a relationship with family friend Jake Trueb. Jake and Agnes traveled extensively until a trip to Torreon, Mexico, where Agnes suffered burns in a travel trailer propane explosion on Christmas Day, 1967. The burns proved fatal and Agnes passed away Friday, January 11, 1968.
The Bells traveled to their Sproat Lake property every summer until Agnes sold the property in 1967 for $20,000.
Donald K. Bell married Judith Diane Robertson in April, 1963. They had three Children; Donald Kenneth, Lori Louise and Darren Hunter.
Don H. Bell, 26 years of age at the time, was employed as a photographic purchaser for Woodward’s Stores. Don later operated a photography shop in Lynn Valley where he was elected Alderman and then Mayor. In 1982, he retired from the Mayors position to take a public relations position with Canada Safeway. In the ensuing years, Don was elected successfully three times to the North Vancouver School Board, serving two terms as Chairman. Don was a popular politician, topping the poll on every attempt but one.
In 1993, Don was elected North Vancouver District Councillor, and in 1996, retired from Safeway to again run for Mayor.
II – Frank and Fay Flitton in Parskville
Frank ran his used furnishings and antiques business and toiled in his garden while Fay kept herself busy with the grandchildren.
Frank was active in the Parksville and District Garden Club with his first entries in 1976 when he won a his first vegetable, fruit and flower awards. He won second overall and second in horticulture at the 1977 annual garden show, and won the Centennial Challenge Trophy for overall most points and first prize in the vegetable and fruit category in 1978.
Frank was elected President of the club in 1979, that year winning second place in the overall gardening award, and first place in the vegetable and fruit category. He retired from competition in 1979 finding it too much work.
Frank and Fay played competitive duplicate bridge in Parksville between the mid-‘60’s and the early ‘90’s. In about 1986 Frank and his son Bob competed in a Regional Bridge Tournament in Victoria competing in “Super C” Division of more than 100 pairs from as far away as New Zealand. They finished first in the two day competition and had their photos published in the international bridge magazine. Frank considered this one of the highlights of his life.
Frank and Fay’s last home was a condo apartment unit #209 at 309 Morison Avenue in Parksville. Their son Bob purchased the apartment from the family in 1995, a few months before Frank passed away.
III – River Road
Jack married Eileen (nee-Ingham) Eatonshore on July 25, 1942 when her daughter Bobbie was 9 years old. Their neighbors were Benny and Vye Welsh. Jack’s niece Jeanine Robson remembers attending their wedding at Flitton’s Auto Court. The gardens were strung with lights and everyone was served fish, not knowing that the group from Victoria didn’t care for fish. Jeanine stashed her food in a shrub and wonders today if the shrub enjoyed the fertilizer. An avid roller skater in her younger days, Jeanine was a Bank Manager for the Bank of Scotia later operated or managed a number of motels with her husband, Don Robson.
Doris and Cliff Sims of Victoria were friends of Frank Flitton. Doris Sims today (mid 1990s) lives in the home on Blackwood Street that she and Cliff built in 1942. She says “we knew all the neighbors in those days but not today. People come, buy a house, do a little work on it and before you know it, its for sale again. I vaguely recall living on the River Road where the family raised Cocker spaniel pups. Muriel and Herb Porter were next door neighbors. Cory Porter, Bette and I were all there the day Muriel came home from the hospital with Roy.” Part way through the school year, the school was closed and the students transferred into Redford the same year. Tom Watts was native athlete of the year in AV in 1962.
IV – McCoy Lake
Frank sold the auto court in 1946 and purchased 5 acres of land, a home and a barn on the Port Alberni waterfront from Mirin at McCoy Lake for $4,500.00. The family moved into the house and for the first while had no running water or electricity. By 1954, Frank had built or purchased 10 homes and established a well known general store, at that time enjoying the largest gas and ice cream sales in the Alberni Valley. Regular customers included Jack and his new wife Eileen, Jim and Lorna Wilkinson, Don and Elva Alexander and the owners of Klitsa Lodge, May and Arnold Cole. Littletons lived next door and were regulars. Eileen says she worked in the store and had to slap Bob and Fran’s hands to keep them out of the chocolate bars, but Bette always ate ________(fruit?). The store originally was lit with 12 volt battery powered light bulbs. Frank recalls “our Chevron gas station sign lit up the countryside.” Larry Hanna was our Agent and Cec Hopps his driver. They were wonderful people to deal with. We sold a lot of coal oil in those days. The gas was pumped by hand up into a ten gallon glass reservoir and drained by gravity feed in to the auto gasoline tanks. Ted Thompson of McCoy Lake Dairies, Norm Robinson’s uncle, delivered milk to us.
Jack and Eileen built a summer cabin at Sproat Lake and moved into it in 1946. Eileen recalls walking all the way to Alberni one winter day in the snow to bowl. Jack and Eileen often visited his mother Josephine and his brother Charlie and Charlie’s family in Victoria. Charlie and Gladys lived at Mary Wilson and Josephine lived next door. They drove down in a little Hillman pickup. The trips were always fun times with lots of laughter and kibitzing. Jack and Eileen were both great story and joke tellers.
In September, 1947, Bette and Bob started school at the age of 5. They attended the one room Kleecoot School where Miss Shannon was the teacher. There were six classes in one room, an outhouse outback, and a chopping block across which layed a large leather disciplinary strap.
Jack later a well known local sportsman and the hardware manager for Woodward’s Stores Port Alberni and gained local fame-or-sorts in Woodward’s for his outstanding chain saw, outboard motor and boat sales. His hunting partners were Rip Rhodes, Gordon and Jack Whittaker. Jack and Eileen were the first people in Port Alberni to have a television set. They purchased it after seeing T.V. at Charlie and Gladys in Victoria the early ’50’s. The same TV that Bob Flitton recalls first watching – the second being Wilkinson’s about 1953. Charlie and Gladys’ television’s original antenna was a toy sprint car on a window sill.
The family was returning home from a California vacation in the forties, driving along Cameron Lake, the road now on the south west side of the lake. The original road was on the north east. Half way along the lake they were brought to a halt by a large pile of rocks on the road. Angel Rock, a large rock overhang, had fallen. It would be some days before the road reopened. The family returned to spend the night at the Island Hall Hotel and the next day walked across the slide, suitcases in hand, and caught a ride back to Alberni with a car waiting on the other side. Frank return some days later to retrieve the car. The road into the valley crawled over a mountain pass referred to locally as the ‘hump’. The road up cut off the existing hill about half way up and swerved around the base of steep cliffs. Frank recalls driving up the hump when a cougar leaped off the cliff directly into the path of the car.
IV – Sproat Lake
Don and Elva Alexander moved to Sproat Lake in 1947. Elva recalls “prior to that we came to Sproat Lake every year and rented a cottage from Mrs. Tye. We always stopped at Flitton’s Store. Due to war-rationing, you couldn’t buy certain food products, including Jello. Frank offered a package of Jello for my son. I was floored and I’ve never forgotten it, such a thing to do.” Frank and Don and a few friends originated the concept of Group dances at Sproat Lake. They got lumber from Great Central Lake and $1,500 profit from the 1953 Sproat Lake Regatta and built the Ratepayers Hall where they enjoyed many fun parties in the building, including Jack and Rene, goods friend who lived on the Great Central Highway.
In 1950, young Bobby Flitton, at the age of 8, traveled by bus to Waterton Parks, Alberta to spend a summer with half-brother Norman Robinson. Two women were traveling from Port Alberni to Lethbridge, Alberta, and offered to keep an eye on Bobby during the trip. At Waterton, Bobby and Norman experienced a terrific time, horseback riding and avoiding bears scavenging food in the garbage bin behind the Ballinacor Hotel.
Bob and Bette attended first grade at Kleecoot Elementary in 1947, the year the school closed, then grade two and three at Alberni Elementary, Bette, Bob and Fran were among the first to attend the new Gill School on Beaver Creek Road. Mr. Rosseau, the Principal, was killed in a ski/hiking accident. Vice Principal Joe Webb took the Principal’s position. Bob recalls “I wanted in the worst way to be a Junior Forest Warden. I recall one time when the school had a uniform day and I expected a junior forest warden uniform to arrive by mail. I was so disappointed when it didn’t arrive. I concluded later that my mother did not send in the membership application.
Herb Porter was a fireman in the Army Camp. And Bob and Corey often ran around the Camp chasing fire trucks out on fire practise. McCoy Lake neighbouring children included Peter an Paul Wiltse, BillyVermette, Diane and Lee Wilkinson (later Jimmy) and Bill and Ann Freethy.
Bob often spent New Years Eve at Klitsa Lodge with Bobby Cole.
The Mallory family, who had a farm north of Sproat Falls, had four children. The eldest Red and Brian. Diane and Lee Wilkinson. In 1951 Bobbie Eatonshore met Leo Cyr and they later married in 1951. They were a common sight on the Sproat Lake Highway at the time, driving closely cuddled on the driver’s side Leo’s 1941 Chev Coupe.
In about 1951, Princess Elizabeth and her new husband, Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, came to Alberni. Phillip had a reputation for being a fast driver and many thought she should not have been allowed to ride with him. A school holiday was declared and nearly every student in the valley, and their mothers, went to see the parade. Bob, Bette and Fran saw the Princess with Fay at Johnston Street and Victoria Quay in old Alberni.
After the parade, the couple was to travel to Stamp Falls for an official viewing of the fish ladder. Phillip drove and took the wrong turn after he crossed the Drinkwater River and ended up on the road to Sproat Falls instead. Bob, Frances and Fay were in the family store and saw the car go by at high speed. They ran, jumped in the family car and followed.
They found the royal car parked at Sproat Falls and stopped. Present were the Princess, Prince Phillip, two security guards, the Flittons and a handful of other – surprised on-lookers. Bob recalls the royals spent 10 or 15 minutes admiring falls and left. “We spoke to them briefly.” The Wilson family were travelling along River Road at the time. Lillian Wilson, later a historian at the Alberni Valley Museum, recalls “we saw this big car go by at a fast speed and recognized it was the royal couple.”
The Royal couple, and later Prince Charles and Princess Diana, visited the Milner Estate in Qualicum Beach.
1952: The original West General Hospital was closed and the new five-story, 117 bed hospital opened under the same name. Jack built a hydroplane powered by a ten horse Johnson. Leo ran the boat, one of the fastest on the lake, and one of the largest motors until brought a twenty five horse motor out to the lake to try it with a “Dream” that Jack was selling. The belief at the time was that a dream boat couldn’t be. Don Alexander spearheaded the construction of the Sproat Lake Hall. He came from Great Central Lake.
Bob Flitton recalls late one Sunday night when a teenager by the name of Jim Robson came into the store to buy gas. Flitton’s was the only service station open. Jim and his friends had a couple of large trophies in the car. They were out celebrating a basketball championship. Jim was the announcer for the Alberni Athletics and was a play-by-play broadcaster and the voice of the Vancouver Canucks. Alberni won the Canadian Championship in 1955. Fred Bishop ran the team and became Mayor. Frank Flitton said “the reason I later voted for him for Mayor, was if he ran a town as well as he ran that team,’d be a fine Mayor.”
Elmer Spiedel was brought in from Seattle to coach the team. Stars included Spiedel, Doug Brinham and “Jumpin” Joe Samarin of Nanaimo. Others that were brought in were offered jobs in the community, often at local sawmills. Jon-Lee Kootnekoff was a home-town hero. He later coached the Simon Fraser University team. The Athletics’ arch-rivals were the Vancovuer CLoverleafs with Bob at centre.
The news that King George VI died was a real shock. It was the last time people sang God Save the King. It took a while to adjust to singing the ‘God Save the Queen’. From her visit to the Valley, Albernites were happy to see Elizabeth become Queen.
Bob played basketball at the Alberni Athletic Hall on Saturday mornings. The coaches were Williamson and Patterson. Their sons played on the team. “Our best player was Ellery Littleton, I recall quite tall for his age. We won a championship, I think for Vancouver Island. My key position was bench warming.”
1953: Frank and Jack Flitton ran the first Sproat Lake Regatta in 1953 when 10,000 people attended. It was the event held in Port Alberni up until that time. Frank was the first chairman and Jack ran the second and third. A highlight of the regatta was the attendance of a record class hydroplane from Vancouver capable of speeds of 135 miles per hour. The owner of that boat later built a boat for Joe Van Bergen which was set a Canadian record in its class. Bob won the kids row-boat race, having lived near the lake at the time, and owning a plywood run-about boat with a 3-1/2 Viking motor. “I was used to boats and, and the kids from town really didn’t have a fair opportunity. My motorboat was fast and I spent many hours enjoying it. I remember Mom and Dad took a vacation and left me at the Alexanders. Doug Alexander and I enjoyed the gallon of gas that Dad left the boat.”
Bobbie and Leo also lived at Sproat Lake across Faber Road from there and by that time little Cyr’s were showing up; Frankie, Sandra, Kim (who Grampa called Sparrow) and Heidi, four years apart, and later Sherry and Darcy; and now eleven. Jack and Eileen lived on a beautiful point at Sproat Lake facing Klitsa. Nat Bailey owned a large summer home directly across the lake from Jack and Eileen. Nat Bailey operated a large chicken farm in Newton at the time and started the White Spot restaurants in the twenties.
1954: McMillan and Bloedel dedicated the Two-Spot locomotive to the community. Fay Flitton and her sisters, Isla Defrane, Alwood and Mary Stewart, as family of the original owners, were invited to participate in the dedication at 3rd and Roger Street, and did.
1958: When was asked her age, Josephine Flitton always responded that she was “as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.” The grandchildren fondly remember her as ‘Nana.” Josephine passed away from staph infection in St. Joseph’s Hospital March 31, at the age of 73. Those in attendance at her funeral at St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Sands Mortuary Limited were her sister Mrs. R.A. (Grace) Sims of Vancouver.
1959: Eileen raised Golden Retriever dogs until Jack retired from Woodwards. Jack and Eileen, built Sportmen’s Lodge at Shuswap Lake in 1959 and later sold that business, retiring when he was 44. Bobbie and Leo now live in Nanoose and have a summer fishing home at Canoe Pass on the Alberni Canal.
1964: On March 28, 1964 a series of tsunamis hit the coast (see the news report and video here). The biggest of the waves increased the sea level ten feet above normal, and all businesses and homes in the lower elevation levels, particularly River Road were flooded. No family members experienced personal damages by the flood.
1965: Bob Flitton, his wife Jane (nee Jane Morrison of Nuneaton), sons Rob and Bill, and Jane’s young brothers Ian Morrison and Dave Morrison, lived at French Creek. Bob purchased a near new home from the McManuses for $15,000 – $1,000 down and the balance owing at three percent. Craig Ried of Qualicum Beach held the first mortgage. It was that year that Bob shot a cougar while hunting over the north east end of Cameron Lake.
1980s: Robert Geoffrey and Sabrina married July 18, 1987.