Kelly Green

Kelly GreenA Good Life

I was born in England in 1919. My parents brought us from England to settle in the Okanagan Valley. We settled in Kamloops to begin with, and then around the railroad in Coquitlam. I was just a baby when we came. We were out on the land during the Depression, so it didn’t hit us as hard there. My parents had one boy and three girls; I was the oldest. My oldest sister died, now I have two. They live in Vancouver.

My father was a blacksmith. He made anything out of steel, and he worked on the railroad. He used to play in the church choir; he played the organ. He did a lot of that stuff. My mother was-she was busy! My wife and I went to high school together. We’ve had our problems. My family was British; hers was American. My dad became okay with it, but not my mom. She wanted me to marry an English girl.

I was about 25 when the war came along. I didn’t go into it till about 1944/45. I was conscripted when I went in, kept till the end because I was a family guy. That was the only time I went back to England. I went as a soldier, and I met all my relatives.

I was in signals. I went to England, and they shipped us to Germany in the occupational force. I was there about a year. It was interesting, meeting new people. I wasn’t nervous, there were good people there, who were real good to us. We did nothing much. The German people were okay. I don’t think they wanted the war, didn’t do them any good. I got back home in 1946. I’d left my family, it was hard on all of them; it wasn’t very good for us. Got out of the army as soon as I could, and started working in Squamish.

I’ve worked since I was fourteen. After the war I came down to Squamish. It has a different climate from the Okanagan. I was a logger around the railroad, for about ten years. It was all right. I made up the booms. It wasn’t very hard; you just learn it and do it. Booming, that’s the part that I liked. I just worked by myself. I worked at the Britannia copper mines but I never went underground. There were other jobs that I liked. Had to look after myself.

I was 32 or 34 when I came in, with polio. It just hit me overnight. I got a headache to begin with. The next day, I couldn’t move. I don’t think the doctors knew right away. I couldn’t even breathe, that was the worst part. It’s funny how you can get used to anything. It floored me for a while. I can’t move anything. It’s very frustrating. Oh, there’s no use being angry; just take it as it comes.

I was in the iron lung for one year, and could breathe a little bit on my own when I came out. I don’t think it’s [George Pearson Centre] better now. It’s been a good place. We’ve all been together for so long, some for a lifetime. I’ve been here for about fifty years, since 1952. We were the ones who tried out the first iron lungs, the first ventilators. It [Ward 7] was better down there. More open. I don’t make friends anywhere, but I get along with everybody. Pearson is a good place.

On a typical day…well, you eat and sleep. Nothing happens, you know. Sitting outside in the summer, that’s what I like. Just getting by from day to day, one day to the other. My sister comes to visit me. I do a lot of reading. Once in a while I go home. I stayed at home before I came here, after I got polio. We had some machinery at home so I could live there.

I’m keeping busy. I learned leather crafting here. I taught myself how to do it, just from books and stuff. I’ve made wallets, handbags, you name it, anything. I could never keep up with the orders. It’s all hand-made. I decorate them sometimes; I carve designs into the leather. I just make them up. I never made anything for myself.

Also, I’ve been doing photography for about twenty years. I just wanted to do it, so I learned from books, books and practicing. Good composition, the way you put the picture together, how you arrange it-that’s what makes a good photograph. Also, you’ve got to have good light. I like to take pictures outdoors, anywhere outside. I don’t do it very often anymore. I have no way of getting out now. I need somebody to take me out; I don’t have a car of my own.

I used to play baseball, football, basketball, and I skated. It’s one of my best things. I taught my kids how to skate, got ’em going. We had a frozen lake half a mile long, skated there all winter. Pretty much got the kids in skates as soon as they were able to walk. I have three girls and a boy. They’re all grown up now and have their own families. I have great-grandkids. My wife and kids are still in Squamish; my wife was born there. We did things as a community quite often.

I don’t think I’d change anything, if I could. I’ve had a good life.

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