I was going through some historic family photos and came across this photo of my grandfather and my two uncles taken in 1916 on Vancouver Island. All are gone now but the true time machine is the camera and the film it produces. My granddad was one of the first railroad engineers on Vancouver Island when they were putting in the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway. He then spent his entire life as an engineer on various trains up and down the Island. His brother (my great uncle) cut away the forest and blasted stumps to form a working farm. These were true pioneers. They lived in a time when the timber was large and it must have seemed to them like an endless supply.
When my grandfather passed away in his nineties, Jack Wasserman at the Vancouver Sun made note of his passing. H.R. McMillan called me and asked if I knew where all my grandfather’s photos were. I informed him that my brother Bill was keeper of the flame and Bill was invited by H.R. to join him downtown at head office and go through the McMillan collection and review our family’s photos. My brother’s assignment was to get 3 copies of all photographs, one batch for the McMillan family, one for ours and one set for the Provincial Archives. Many of the photos you see in books about logging on the west coast come from this collection.
I can remember sitting with my grandfather in our living room in the early Sixties and watching astronaut Alan Shepard rocket into space in the Freedom capsule. It was America’s first venture into sub-orbital flight. I looked over at my grandfather and he sat amazed. I asked him what he was thinking and he said “Son, in my lifetime I have gone from sailing ships to rocket ships.” There is no better description of the 20th century in my opinion.
I am a child of that forest and a child of British Columbia. I loved my grandfather and was always proud to say he was a steam locomotive engineer. He came from Ireland at age 17. His name was William Surgenor.