Childhood Reminiscences
Interviewee / Speaker
Bate, Darryl
Audio Recording
Nanaimo Historical Society Fonds

Series 2 Sound Recordings

Tape 5 Side B

Address by Darryl Bate to the Nanaimo Historical Society, November 8th 1966

Transcribed by Glenys Wall, November 2004

William Barraclough: This tape-recorded address by Mr. Darryl Bate was presented before Nanaimo Historical Society in the Credit Union Building, November 8th 1966, reminiscing on his boyhood days at Cumberland, B.C. and visiting his grandparents at Nanaimo, Mr. & Mrs. Mark Bate and Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Dixon.

Darryl Bate: I consider it a privilege to be able to tell you a little bit of early Vancouver Island that I experienced it as a youth and as a young man. The time that I knew Grandpa Bate, which I know that you're all interested in hearing about, Grandpa had already served Nanaimo for approximately fifty years. So when my walks with Grandpa Bate and so forth about the streets of Nanaimo, I was just a lad; so I will try to recall as much as I can what he discussed with me and his hopes and what he thought of the future of this city in which we reside at this time.

For a moment I'm going to digress a little bit away from Nanaimo. I was born in Cumberland, B.C. My father, Thomas Bate, he was born in Nanaimo, March 31st 1863, a little over a hundred years ago and he died in Vancouver, in Kerrisdale exactly, in January 1937. Dad, from what tales I remember him telling me, I think in the early days in Wellington he was a locomotive engineer, because he used to fascinate me with his stories in the locomotive, loaded with cars, backing down, and making a run for the top of the grade, wherever it was; it wouldn't make it and he would have to back down again and get up more steam; up he'd go! That's before I was born. My sisters, Vivian, Muriel and May and Evelyn, I believe were born in Wellington. I was born in Cumberland in 1899. Dad, remember the tale something about Wellington where the homes were starting to sink into the ground, possibly caused by the mines caving in? So about that time he moved to Cumberland and opened a hardware store.

My early recollections at that time were the horse and buggy days, of course, where Dad had his sulkies, his phaeton and a couple of horses. I must have been very young on this particular occasion, because my mother passed away when I was seven years old, but I recall them riding with their buggies down to Royston, or in that area somewhere, (looking for a place to set up a summer home), one particular July and August which we, like gypsies, every summer spent on the beach in that area. But on this particular occasion I must have been very, very small because I recall when they were looking, it must have been just after a rain-storm, and it seemed we went in under a bunch of maple trees; it must have been just after rain, the sunshine was streaking through like you see the lights in the theatre, the spotlights, and the robins were singing their heads off and that's a recollection, (probably I was four, five, six at that time), that I've never forgotten.

I also remember up around Royston, when the Rainbow, the Niobe and the [Algerine] used to moor over at the Comox spit and we boys would get the rowboat over to see the sailors and we used to like to explore on the old Comox spit because there were a lot of relics that the sailors had left, such as maybe old shells and also they used to like to bury their pets; they had little graves planted here and there on the old Comox spit. We had some very happy times at Royston in the camping days: there was the Matthews, the Lindstones, the Tarbells; they were glorious days that we spent in that area. But, during certain times of the year, one of the highlights that we had was to come down to see the grandparents in Nanaimo.

It was quite an experience for a lad to step aboard the train at Cumberland; get cinders in your eye looking out the window, heading for Union Bay; passing those blazing coke ovens that were going at that time; getting aboard the City of Nanaimo or the Charmer, I've forgotten; was the Joan also. But my favourite vessel was the old Charmer, because as a lad engines always fascinated me and in the Charmer, in the lounge, they had plate glass windows, where you could stare down and watch those engineers working away and those engines plugging away; that would fascinate us for hours. My sisters, possibly it was May, possibly it was Evelyn, accompanied me on those trips; we'd go down into their dining-room and that silver-plate silverware and the waiters would treat my sisters like princesses and myself like a prince while they waited on me, at least that's what it seemed to me at that particular time. Then later, crawling into the top bunk of the boat, cruising down to Nanaimo, listen to the slap of the waves at night and the roll of the boat. I can recall one time, I must have been quite young, and the waves and the crash of the waves against the boat, (we must have been off in the sound there somewhere off of Hornby or Denman), sounding like we were not going to make it; but we did! Then the thrill of hearing the whistle as we entered Nanaimo Harbour, blasted away. I can recall one time when the propeller was whipping up the herring in the harbour; I felt awfully sorry for those herring. Those are little recollections that I had as a very small boy and also tramping up the old plank wharf; it was very steep, if I remember rightly, from the old wharf up to the post office. Who met us, I don't recall exactly, but we had so many relatives in Nanaimo. There was the Hawthornthwaites; there was the Plantas; Martindales, so many that we had. My sisters, I believe, used to go and stay with Dorothy Bate or the Plantas, or the Martindales; but my favourite spot to go was always to my Grandma Dixon's. Grandma Dixon and Grandpa Dixon and Uncle Arthur, home was at the mouth of the Millstream; the fascination with boats always appealed to me more than going up to the houses where they had the beautiful gardens and so forth. Uncle Arthur was always my favourite uncle because he could tell more tales about old Nanaimo and I don't know if Mr. Gough every visited down there but I remember a lot of the Old-timers, this is later years, Mr. Horne, Mr. Lewis and a number of the Old-timers would sit around there in summer evenings and chew the fat about old Nanaimo. They used to say, well it was city council, we're ruling Nanaimo right from here! A lot of those Old-timers used to sit there by the hours in the summer evenings; this is later.

When I visited Grandpa Bate, I would go to his house, right in this very spot we're sitting at tonight, was where his home that I remember was located. I think the home was originally built by Dunsmuir and later he occupied it. And, Sunday afternoons, I can see Grandpa today, standing at the head of the table sharpening that knife; perhaps there was a leg of lamb, a leg of beef, I don't know. But I had to remain very careful; I had to watch my manners. One peculiarity I remember about Grandpa Bate, that I wasn't to drink or we weren't to drink water with our meals. That was something, I don't know why, but I remember that, I remember that as a youngster. I remember the coal-grate fireplaces that were in the dining room; they look like very comfortable days when I look back now. Occasionally Grandpa, he was a pretty busy man there's no doubt, we'd take a walk and he'd walk around, and we'd talk. His main thought to me was always particularly about books and I recall later, when he was up somewhere up in the hill, Hecate Street I believe it was, he used to take me into the library and before I left he'd always give me a book to take home to read; I wish I'd kept them. But, I remember one book that I did keep, it was [Eberd Hubbard's] notebook and I remember one that I memorised, that I liked very much and it carried through with me for many, many years:

" In the elder days of art,

The workmen built with greatest care

Each minute and unseen part,

For the gods see everywhere."

I've thought of that and I've repeated it sometimes to the boys in the shop, when somebody complains about a job or something, I repeat that. They say, "Well cut it out, we've heard that too much!". (laughter). But, I remember that. And another one I remember that I always liked:

" If thou art worn and hard-beset

With worries that thou woulds't forget,

Go to the woods and hills,

Breathe the sweet air that nature gives."

Now I'm repeating that because that always brought back to me that memory as a four, five or six year old boy when I saw those maple trees with the sunbeams coming through and the robins singing. Perhaps that what I received as a youngster is the reason I loved to live in the country with a little bush around me. I still like to take my walks in the woods. Those are the impressions that Grandpa passed on to me.

Other walks I remember going up back along, I guess looking up toward Mount Benson and then we'd turn round and look over the Nanaimo Harbour. I think Grandpa had in the back of his mind, once upon a time, that as his background as a youngster, his father was in the iron and steel business in Birmingham. I think he had a dream that someday we would have an iron and steel business in this area, either here or in Union Bay, because my Dad used to talk about it also. At that time the complaint was we don't have enough iron-ore. But what are we doing today? Look at the shiploads of our iron-ore that are being processed in other countries! If his dream had come true at that particular time or my father's dream, would we have been a Sheffield or a Birmingham in this area, who knows? But anyway that's water under the bride. I would say the essence of everything that Grandpa told me: think right, live right and your days on this earth shall be many! Thank you Mr. Chairman.


I have here one or two pictures, that I might pass around and see if you can identify.


NOTE: Mr. Bate's name seems to be spelled a variety of ways: Darryl, Daryl and Darrell. I have not established which is correct.
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