Interview & Address
Interviewee / Speaker
Ney, Frank
Nanaimo Historical Society Fonds : Series 2 Sound Recordings
Tape 8

1) Mayor Frank Ney's Address to the Nanaimo Historical Society, February 20 1973

2) Interview with Frank Ney recorded May 8th 1973

Transcribed by Glenys Wall, September 2003

Barraclough: Nanaimo Historical Society, Mrs. Emily Kneen as President. An address by Mayor Frank Ney. This tape recording was made at Nanaimo Historical Society meeting, Tuesday February 20th 1973. Previous to Mr.Ney's address, two recordings were played as living memory of their observations during their residence at Nanaimo. First by Mrs. Martha A. Kenny who arrived at Nanaimo April 1876. Her voice was recorded March 14th 1962 and she died at Nanaimo the same year December 21st 1962, aged 91. Secondly by Mr. Joseph Kneen who arrived at Nanaimo August 1907. His voice recorded during 1967 and he died at Nanaimo the same year, November 5th 1967 aged 84.

His Worship Frank Ney, Mayor of Nanaimo, entered the hall with a fanfare of recorded trumpets. Mr. Ney presented his forecast on the future of Nanaimo after consulting his crystal ball.

Sound of trumpets!!

"And now the Nanaimo Historical Society makes welcome His Worship Mayor Frank Ney, Knight of the Bathtub, Holder of the Golden Plunger and Member of the Order of the Silver Plug. He will look into his crystal ball and tell us what he sees in Nanaimo's future."

Frank Ney:

Mrs. Norcross, and Mrs. Kneen, and ladies and gentlemen of the Nanaimo Historical Society, this evening I bring you greetings from Nanaimo, jewel of the west, sun-porch of Canada and the bathtub capital of the world. Actually this is going to be a little off-key talk for me this evening because coming down here and talking to you. When I heard Mr. Kneen talk this evening and Mrs. Kenny, I remember Mrs. Kenny used to write letters to the editor in the old days, a woman of very keen mind. And I talked Phil Piper over there about Beban Park and you heard what Joe did for us in the old days and I guess that's really what history is all about. It gives us a chance to recognise the people who made our country and our province and our city and of course from history we learn lessons for the future as well. But it was the vision of people that we had in the past that has given us so many fine things in our city today. And I think it such a wonderful thing that you are keeping track of history in Nanaimo, because it is not just kept track of in the big national books. I know as just as a matter of interest, this year at our inaugural banquet, I wanted to make it kind of a motif in preparation for our big one hundredth birthday next year, our centennial is coming up in 1974 and incidentally I hope your historical society will take a leading part in it as that is when the knowledge you have is going to be such great benefit to so many organisations in our city. But Howard pulled out the first minutes of the first meeting where Mark Bate, and I know some of your folks knew Mark Bate and I was all written in lovely hand writing and I said to Howard "who wrote that?" he said "it wasn't Mark Bate" and so we looked and it was a man called Young was the city clerk then. I said, "Who was he?" he said, "I don't know". I said "surely you don't mean to tell me you don't know who the first city clerk was" he said "we don't know have any information on that at all" and then there tonight Mrs. Kenny told us who he was and now I know why it was in such good hand-writing because he was a school-teacher and it's in beautiful script and if I had known you were going to talk about him tonight I would have brought down a copy of the first minutes.

So I thought I would just say that but I'm not going to talk about history to you folks tonight because you're the experts and I just love listening to it and I just hope that more and more of this will be recorded and Bill, I must compliment you; I remember in the old days you used to run off and tape different people, like you got Billy Lewis too, and all this is going to be very valuable to us in the time to come and I want to say this too that if you have any problems in your society where you feel the city should help, come and see them, because if there is any organisation in the city that merits,... because you're not a money making organisation, you're just dedicated to history and I think this is something that is kind of a motherhood thing, the city can never afford to ignore your pleas within reason. But you want me to talk about the future tonight and I know when I first came to Nanaimo I think it was about 7 or 8,000 people then and it's certainly grown a lot during those years; I think it's about 40,000 people tonight and in seven years it will be close to 60,000 people and before the end of the century it will be up around 100,000 people and becoming a big city. Now one thing that may not like that unless your going to lock all the bedrooms of Canada we can't keep things down very easily unless your going to put a gate across the harbour...a lot of people like to do that too, I know that but...I want to say this too that one of the reasons we're here is because this was a port city from its earliest conception. Coal was here, of course, but finally this became the city rather than Ladysmith because we had the best port and all the boats were coming in here. And I think this is something....because you asked me to gaze into my crystal ball tonight and the only thing that I can see in my crystal ball that right now at this moment that if you ever were at the crossroads we are now because we're fighting now about port development, where the BC Ferries are to go, and I do feel this; I was thinking this as I came down tonight, are we going to continue to be a terminus city because if we're not then are whole character could change quite a bit in the years to come. You see if the BC Ferries does go to Gabriola or if they protest it and it goes further south, all of a sudden another area could become the terminus area. And that's why every citizen should be concerned whether they phase the BC Ferries completely out of Nanaimo, and I'm hoping if they do go to Gabriola it'll simply be a third crossing. I'm speaking tomorrow night on the ferries at an open forum and at that particular time you know, er.. .when they're going to spend forty million dollars, that's a lot of money, and it occurred to me today, that you could probably take that land right now by the assembly wharf, where they're having another fight about whether that should be a harbour or not, moved out and the city council's position has been as long as it's not going to damage the environment we feel that we should go ahead there because we're worried about our tax base, ever rising taxes, jobs for our people, and the fact they've got many millions of dollars already tied up there. Mind you if it's not going to hurt the environment we're quite content to see it go ahead. But, you know, you could take that land and not go out as far as the original plan and go ahead and buy the Indian Reserve or lease it. You know there's only about 50 homes on the Indian Reserve; you could give every Indian family a $40,000 home as well as another $40,000 a piece and you're talking about less than four million dollars to own the Indian Reserve. When you're talking about forty million, what's four million! And once you had that then you could use the whole land mass back, you could still have your deep- sea harbour and the BC Ferries could go from there. You see they only have fifteen acres down at the Brechin Terminal now; you could double up and have your thirty acres right down there and then this would forever be the terminal city where you could have your buses come in and people wouldn't have to take the bus to the ferry because the bus would be right at the ferry. Your railway would be there; your hovercraft could come in there; your boats would come in there. You could even have a [intelligible] port one day. All I'm saying is these are all things that should be studied before we go ahead. Maybe the Gabriola Island thing is the best; maybe they'll go south of Gabriola. Whatever they do, I just say that it is so important to the future of Nanaimo that every idea should be given very serious consideration because we are at the crossroads today. I say this that the terminus that we have here is very important as to the future character and economy of our city.

Now we're going to continue to have inflation, I hate to tell you this, but the taxes are going to double in the next ten years. But they're going to double in nearly every other city in Canada because there's nothing that you can do about it. And within the next ten years your quart of milk will probably cost you fifty-two cents, your whisky is going to cost you $11.or $12 a bottle and all across the board probably the budget of the city will go from seven million up to fifteen million and it will be the people on the fixed income that will continue to be hurt. We're having more inflation now than we've ever had before,and if you want to go a few more years beyond, you just have to escalate it over and over again because we've had a continued pattern of inflation, not just in Canada, which has lead the western world in the inflation fighting league until the past year when the United States was ahead of us. If you just think about it many of the countries in South America last year had 20% -25% inflation. In fact Chile had 164% inflation and they're having more inflation in Japan and Germany than we are too; so we're just going to have more inflation, the national debt keeps going up, we keep printing more paper and the people on fixed income get hurt more and more. So that's one thing I definitely see, more and more inflation.

The other thing is that we talk about dress and Mr. McGirr and the ladies and Mr. Wally with his top hat. You know I've got an idea that in ten years...they say there's nothing new under the sun, it wouldn't surprise me if in ten years the dress is even more old-fashioned then it is today. Because you just think back ten years ago, the way these girls are going around today, you'd think they're send across the pond there (laughter). That's why they're dressing...they're dressing now like they did a hundred years ago, and the men are dressing the same way and the beards are coming back and every thing is coming back. They're making tuxedos now in the old-fashioned way they used to wear in the old days. The bowler hat certainly hasn't gone out; I was in London last year and saw....I think that's something you might see more and more and of course, the old-fashioned dresses like our ladies are wearing tonight are certainly in style now and the very youngest of girls are wearing them and I think you may see more accent on the....that's just a little guess I have.

Talking about....I've told you about the population probably up to about 100,000 by the end of the century, but the thing I would wonder tonight is whether Nanaimo will become a bedroom city or a tourist city or a city of industry and commercial. But I say this the one thing we should watch in the next few years because the thing that's bringing people to Vancouver Island is the beautiful trees and the forest and the lakes and the ocean and we're going to have to spend special attention to our environment. But always remember this that 95% of the Island is under perpetual forest lease, so we're very lucky in that respect when you talk about green-belts. But a lot of people, unfortunately, look on industry as a nasty word. I say "unfortunately" because the young people coming up need jobs, a lot of older people need jobs and if you don't have productivity, you're not going to have a standard of living that you're going to like. So we still have to produce and I believe that industry and environment can live in harmony, and that we shouldn't run away from industry and at the same time face up to our responsibilities as far as the environment is concerned and if you ask me for my guess tonight I would say that's what will evolve in the end. Because the dedicated people who are completely sold on the environment, and I have the greatest respect in the world for them, in the end I think they will realise that we also have to have jobs and work for our people and we are a resource orientated island and the world is going to need our lumber more and more in the years to come because the population of the world is increasing so much and when you consider that more than half the world goes to bed starving every night and we're that certainly living on the upper crust as far as standard of living is concerned in the world, the value of those natural resources will become more and more apparent as the years go on and Nanaimo in that particular stands in a very enviable spot because we have a good climate; we're not too big, we don't have too many people; we have some pollution but we're never going to have the pollution of the extremely crowded areas of other countries and England is not the most crowded country in the world and yet it has a population, oh it would be about 60 times more than Vancouver Island even more than that because we have 350,000 people and they have about 50 million so it's a way way more than that and even they're not overcrowded compared with Holland. So you can see we have a lot going for us; we have an economy that's guaranteed as long as we're going to be alive and our children's children's children right down the line. I was down in San Francisco when I went skiing last month, the problem with water down there! They're paying forty-five cents a gallon for it in the stores and just working girls who work in stores when they go home at night they stop in and get a gallon of water in throw-away bottles. When I was in Spain a couple of years ago I noticed the water cost more than the wine did and of course we just take the water out of our tap and think nothing of it but when you're traveling they're very few countries in the world where you can turn the tap on and drink it. In Niagara Falls they say the water in those taps has been through nine kidneys before it comes out of the taps and that's just in our own country. So we have that going for us; we get the whiff of the pulp-mill once in a while but comparatively speaking we have pretty doggone good air.

Now remember one thing - the population of British Columbia is going to double in the next ten or fifteen years and the number of automobiles they figure will double in the next twelve. I think there's about just over a million automobiles in B.C. You going to have two million in the next ten years and presumably you're going to have double the number of cars on the Island in the same time and these are all the sort of things that are going to hurt our environment. But you ask me one more little thing on that....and all the scientists say today that gas and fuel oils are running out and there again the day may come when we're riding on horseback up and down the highway again. (laughter) But I can certainly see that although we're probably reaching the peak as far as automobile traffic goes the day is not far when the country and the nations will be compelled to use mass transit and get away from the terrible waste of one person traveling in one car, because as I say the fuels are running out and the men that know say that it's just around the corner when we're going to have to have a new style of transportation.

All in all though I think Nanaimo is a very great city and one thing that you do learn out of history and a historical society is the people that make the city. I'm not going to talk about what makes the world, but I guess it's the same thing in every city in the world. But you heard tonight quite a few things that happened and the people who made it happen and that's just a small part of our history. There's all the other wonderful people and it's just too bad that we can't have a great big plaque and put down all the wonderful things that all the people have ever done to bring Nanaimo to what it is today. And I have the greatest respect in the world for you because you have that interest and the appreciation to recognise those people of the past and my thought is that should always be a great priority in the running of this city because I've learned that as Mayor in the short time I've been there. You know when I got in there I thought I was interested in roads and sidewalks and all things like that and getting commerce going but I don't think I was really aware of all the hard work and the ingenuity and the poverty and the sweat and the toil that had gone ahead to bring the town to give us a chance to push ahead a little more and you know it's easy when you've got prosperity and lots of money around to make things work but when you think back to the old pioneers and what they had to work with and the mud trails and the typhoid wells and the filth and disease and everything else and that they...and down in the mines there, it took a lot of guts to come through the way they did and that's all part of our history. So that's what I see tonight. (applause)

Unknown speaker: "Mayor I would like to thank you on behalf of all the members of the historical society; it's very kind of you to come here this evening and tell us what you think the future's going to be like. And I guess what we can all hope is that in the future the chief executive of the city will still have time to come out and visit with the citizens at night. Thank you" (more applause)

Ney: The one message I want to get across tonight is that next year is our 100th birthday and we're really going to have to depend on you 100% and I know you'll come through.



Barraclough: This is a further recording of the voice of His Worship Mayor Frank Ney of Nanaimo as living memory for Nanaimo Historical Society made Tuesday May 8th 1973. The interview is being conducted at the mayor's office, City Hall.

Mr. Ney, would you kindly relate some items concerning important events in your life.

Ney: Well Mr. Barraclough, I would like to say how much we in the City Council appreciate your very magnificent efforts in recording for posterity so many of the interesting facets of our community life in the past and in the present. And I'm quite confident in years to come your recordings are going to be most appreciated by future generations in our city. Of course, as you say, this is May 8th and our Empire Days celebrations are just a week or so away now and Nanaimo still has the honour of holding the longest consecutively celebrated Empire Days celebrations in Canada and I do think here today, in Nanaimo, we still have a very strong loyalty and affection for the British Commonwealth and I frankly hope it always stays that way. I guess I could never be any way else. I was born in London originally, like so many of the people were in this community, and that was during the last war when my father went over in the armed forces, that's the 1914-1918 War I should say, and I was brought up and educated in Winnipeg. Then during the Depression in 1936 I went back to Britain to take a short service commission in the R.A.F. Unfortunately I was cashiered for low flying over Southampton Harbour (laughing) and subsequently started playing professional hockey in Europe and when the war broke out I got out of Poland just a few days before the War and came back and once again joined the R.A.F. and finished the War, that's the 1939-1946 War, the last war, and having done that came back to Canada and went into the real estate and insurance business here in Nanaimo. Of course at that time the coalmines were just closing down; people were talking about grass growing in the streets of Nanaimo. We had had twenty years of government where people were holding the line. There'd been very few civic improvements because the people just didn't have the money. You had a depression and very few jobs and it was tough going for every one. However, the forest industry started to come into its own because of the tremendous appetite the people in this growing world have for lumber. And now, of course, today, Nanaimo has the thirteenth highest wages of all the cities in Canada and a growth rate well over twice the Provincial average and almost four times the national average. In fact,Nanaimo's quadrupled its population since 1946. I remember even as long ago as 1949 I got stuck in my car driving down to Departure Bay on that old mud road and today, here in 1973, Nanaimo has never had better educational facilities, better recreational facilities, better medical facilities and so many other things that people only have in large cities normally. Today,we have on of the most beautiful cities in Canada with coloured sidewalks accenting the waterfront personality of our harbour. There's no sewage in our harbour. We have a clean harbour, sandy swimming beaches and we're not only one of the great industrial centres of British Columbia, we're rapidly becoming a retailing...a major retailing centre, a financial centre and a place where tourists like to linger. I've enjoyed my many years in Nanaimo. I married a Miss Floyer? from Victoria and we have eleven children.

Barraclough: Eleven children!

Ney: Eleven children, although my youngest boy is adopted and a very fine boy he is. In fact he's the only one who looks like me, a young Indian boy from the Yukon. Nanaimo has been good to me and I've enjoyed all the years I've had here. We have a lot going for us in Canada because we have political stability, and we have economic stability and we have a great heritage given to us by our pioneer people and today the proudness that we have from their great efforts carries on and I'm quite sure it will to future generations.

Barraclough: Mr. Ney, what do you do in your spare time, with eleven children and the mayor of a city as well.

Ney: Well I do a lot of figure skating and I do comedy acts on figure skates and I ski all winter and I love boating and swimming and I keep very active with my yachting and I keep very active with my children, on the waterfront in the summer and high in the mountains in the ski slopes in the winter time. And of course I do a lot of traveling. I just came back from Australia where I started their bathtub race this past year. All expenses paid, first class too, very nice, courtesy of Canadian Pacific Airlines, and I travel around the world quite extensively. In fact I'm going back to Eastern Canada and Iceland shortly. I want to see the ....where the volcano just went off in Iceland. I want to go back and see how things are back there and then come back through Greenland and Baffin Island back through Alaska. Canada is just on the verge of the greatest prosperity and growth its ever had because the world population, which is four billion people now, will probably be seven billion in the next 35 years, and the natural resources of this country are going to continue to make this one of the greatest and richest countries in all the world.

Barraclough: Mr. Ney, you haven't mentioned in your talk here, about being elected as mayor of Nanaimo how many times, and also being elected to the British Columbia legislature.

Ney: Well, Mr. Barraclough, I was first elected as mayor of Nanaimo in 1967, that was the year that I was Centennial Chairman, and the late Mayor Pete Maffeo put me on the Centennial Committee when we were celebrating our one hundred birthday in Canada. And subsequent to that I've been elected on two more occasions and I have now served as Mayor of Nanaimo for six years. During that period, at the end of the first term just moving into the second term, I was also elected to the Legislative Assembly in Victoria and for three years I was Mayor and M.L.A. as well and I found this...being a member of the government, it helped me in my civic duties and closer communication and cooperation from the Provincial Government, very interesting experience. And then the New Democratic Party swung the polls right over, a switch over during the last election in 1972 and I was defeated for the Legislature. I'm still Mayor of the City of Nanaimo. Amalgamation of the outside areas is now in the wind and at the end of this year we could have elections for a much greater area than we do at this moment. The town is changing very rapidly. The attitudes, the complexion of our city and this is very very interesting years that we are living in at this particular moment. Before I was in the political sphere I was also Chairman of the Empire Days Committee for many years and Chairman of the Salvation Army Red Shield Drive.

Barraclough: Thank you, Mr. Ney, for this interview and we appreciate the time you have taken in giving it and this record will be filed away in our archives. Thank you again Mr. Ney.

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