Community Memories from Ed and Elsie Davis

Ed and Elsie Davis arrived in Thompson in 1962; Ed in January and Elsie several months later with their three children, Kim, Kelly and Lance.  Most people had to wait for at least six months to have their houses completed.  Ed had lived temporarily in one of the famous tents and later in an H-hut.  The tents were heated by pot-bellied stoves that were so inefficient that pails of water beside them were frozen overnight.  Food was excellent—a lot of steak and anything one wanted to eat.  The atmosphere in the H-huts was noisy with a lot of yelling and exuberant card-playing. 

Fortunately, their housing problem was solved when Ed met a man who was willing to trade some child care for his daughter in exchange for temporary residence for the Davis family in their home.  Eventually, they sold their car and bought a home on Staghorn.  Their intention to stay for five years stretched into almost thirty.

There were a lot of people coming and going with many who disliked the tough winters and the isolation. Elsie felt she had an easier time than most. She had lived in Flin Flon and was accustomed to the North. She recalls that living conditions were quite primitive—one Hudson Bay Store for all a family’s needs, one hotel (The Thompson Inn) and one theatre. There was no pavement and no street lighting. People made their own fun.  The main form of entertainment was house parties. People were friendly and soon became like family.

Ed was part of the maintenance crew and enjoyed his job. The main buildings were completed and production was well underway when he arrived. One of his memorable experiences as a foreman was a bomb scare. A phone call informed INCO that a bomb had been placed in one of the tunnels and it became his job to investigate. Fortunately, it proved to be a hoax. 

Like many other couples, Ed and Elsie took in boarders to make ends meet.  After a while, Elsie got tired of cooking for renters and packing lunches. 

Elsie worked with Doreen Lindquist who had established a private kindergarten class at the United Church, and she was eventually hired on at Deerwood School when kindergarten became part of the school program. Elsie remembers well the Burntwood School fire, where a newly built school was gutted and its contents completely destroyed.  Apparently, the sprinkler system failed to work.  As a result of the fire, Burntwood School students had to be bused to other schools until the structure was rebuilt.  Shifts were introduced as a way of accommodating the extra students. 

Elsie felt that Thompson schools were progressive, though some of the ‘new’ concepts copied from the American system did not prove successful.  She described the difficulties of teaching in an open area, especially with kindergarten and first graders who should have been free to chatter and play.  It was a time of adjusting to noise and distraction and attempting to compromise with other teachers’ plans.  The walls went up again after a few years of this experiment.

Thompson was progressive in other ways as well.  University courses came to be offered through Interuniversities North and BUNTEP, making it possible to advance one’s education without having to go South.  Ed mentioned progress in the mining industry as well with advancing technology and improved machinery. 

As with many INCO employees, the strike in the 70s caused much hardship. Many people left, abandoning their houses and leaving their cars by the train station. As a result, houses were cheap, and some who could afford it and were willing to take a risk bought several homes. 

Ed and Elsie both enjoyed golf and curling and described a curling marathon that lasted for 17 ½ hours.  The first curling rink was a corrugated tin structure which was colder inside than out.  Ed said some of the guys were so tired they had to tape their brooms to their hands in order to keep going. 

All of their boys played hockey; Kelly was drafted into the NHL and enjoyed the travel and excitement of being a part of the team.  Upon returning to Thompson, he, along with another couple of guys, had a pro shop at the golf club premises.  The fellows decided to have a golfing marathon to raise money for the mentally challenged.  It turned into an all-nighter with the course being lit up with headlights, lasting until 6:00 P.M. the next day.  Over $7,000 was raised.  Ed also described a problem with bears visiting their pro shop. 

Most ‘early Thompsonites’ have road stories, and the Davis’s were no exception.  They were to attend the wedding of Elsie’s brother in Flin Flon and left on a Friday morning in the pouring rain.  A bit past Wabowden they came across a car stuck in the middle of the road.  Unable to get past it they returned to Wabowden to the Silver Leaf Motel where their family, along with a friend and her baby, shared a room.  There were nine cars stranded at Wabowden and they all left at the same time, physically propelling each car through the mud.  Covered with muck and sweat, they finally arrived in Flin Flon at 4:30—½ hour late for the wedding.  Ed commented that it was the only time it took them two days to get to Flin Flon.  They are both very happy to be able to enjoy a trip to Thompson now.  They give a lot of credit for the building of the highway to Joe Borowski, the riding's M.P. at the time. 

As for changes in the city, both Ed and Elsie mentioned the new places of businesses.  In the early days they always felt safe in their home.  They didn’t see the prevalence of drugs and alcohol that are experienced today.  Elsie mentioned, with a note of nostalgia, the replacement of the Bailey Bridge with a modern structure.  Ed commented that most people who came in the early days were anything but wealthy so were all experiencing the same struggle.  Friendly people made the difference in their lives.  Elsie’s words of wisdom: “The years pass all too quickly.  Appreciate what you have.  Learn to adjust to change and be grateful for the benefits that you have throughout your retirement, thanks to INCO.”

Ed and Elsie presently live in Brandon where numerous ex-Thompsonites have chosen to retire.  They get together regularly for coffee klatches, golf tournaments in the summer, and always enjoy the annual Thompson Christmas party.  They have no regrets whatsoever for their time in this community and return often to visit with family who have remained here.

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