Major L.M. McBride’s two-month journey from Nazi POW camp Oflag 7B to his hometown of Nelson, B.C. in early 1945

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By Sam McBride

My father Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) enlisted for Canadian military service in 1941 immediately after graduating in law from the University of Alberta but before his bar examination, the last step before qualifying as a lawyer.  With his maturity, education and achievements, he was taken on for officer training, including time at Gordon Head near Victoria, B.C. and Currie Barracks in Calgary, Alberta.

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Leigh M. McBride and his brother Kenneth G. McBride, both proud to be officers of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.  Family photo.

As a lieutenant, he led his Seaforth Highlanders of Canada unit ashore in the Allied landings at Pachino in the southwest tip of Sicily.  It was the largest amphibious invasion in history, and destined to be exceeding size a year later with the D-day invasion of the French coast.   The invasion could have been a bloodbath like Dieppe the previous summer, but at that point Italians were turning away from Mussolini, and as a result surrendered in large numbers to the Allies.  The situation changed dramatically when Germany sent some of its best troops to stop the Allied advance.  Leigh was in the thick of the fighting against the Germans until being hit in the shoulder by a bullet.  He later said he was fortunate that the bullet did not hit any bones in his shoulder, but the wound must have been substantial, as he was sent to an Allied hospital in North Africa via Malta for treatment.   He returned to his regiment in  November, and was in at the forefront of the Allied advance to Ortona, which would be one of the bloodiest battles of the war, commonly known as “little Stalingrad” after the gigantic victory of the Russians over their German attackers by the Volga River.   I remember Leigh often talking about the extraordinary Christmas dinner that the Seaforths enjoyed in a church in Ortona.  As per military tradition, on Christmas he and other officers were the waters and servers of the privates, corporals and sergeants.  Thirty years later, in April 1975, he visited the re-built church with Seaforth buddies who were at the famous dinner, including the quartermaster Borden Cameron of Vancouver who organized the food and drink for that event which went on just a few blocks from where vicious street-fighting was going on between the two sides.

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Leigh met a fellow Nelsonite while in North Africa for treatment of a bullet wound to his shoulder.  Nelson Daily News

The hilly terrain in Sicily and mainland Italy was such that the advantage was almost always with the defending forces.  On May 23, 1944 Leigh and his men were part of an ambitious attack on the Hitler Line.  That day is remembered as his hometown city of Nelson’s Black Day of the War, as two Nelson boys (Priv. Ray Hall and Priv. Jack Wilson) were killed, and two others (Leigh and Priv. Joe “Bud” Dyck) went missing.  Both were seriously wounded and were hospitalized at Italian and later German hospitals.  Word came through the International Red Cross in July that Bud was alive and recovering in a German POW camp, but it was not until September 20, 1944 – four months after going missing – that his parents were advised that he was alive in a German POW camp, recovering from serious wounds, including schrapnel to his legs, arms and face, and the permanent loss of his left eye.  In response to a request for the Regimental History of the Seaforth Highlanders, Leigh wrote about the fateful day he was captured (see the November 4, 2019 posting in this blog).

pow article in local Nelson newspaperLeigh received treatment at a hospital in Rome before being sent by train for medical care in Germany, followed by time in prisoner of war camps.  I am not sure how many POW camps he went to, but once when I visited Regensberg as part of Western Europe he said “oh, I was in a prison in Regensberg”.   His last camp before repatriation was Oflag 7B (VIIB) north of Munich.  This was a camp for Allied officers.  He describes his experiences at this camp and others in newspaper interviews conducts as he was returning home in February 1945, and later in presentations in Nelson in March and April 1945.

He knew as early as October 1944 that the extent of his wounds made him a good candidate for a prisoner exchange and repatriation.  His parents worked tirelessly to get packages of supplies, particularly food, to him through the Red Cross, which was trusted by the Germans.

His repatriation was confirmed on about January 11, 1945 when he was at the German military centre Heilig Annaburg near Berlin, where he was photographed in a group with other injured Allied officers about to head home in prisoner exchanges.

My dad rarely went to movies, but he did make a point of taking our family to a drive-in theatre in Spokane, Washington in 1970 to see the movie “Patton”, where much of the story involved the Allied push across Siciliy and the conflicting egos of American General Patton and British General Montgomery.   I suspected his Seaforth Highlander friends recommended the move, and he told me it was very well done.  I don’t think he ever saw the movie “The Great Escape”, and I never heard comments about it from him one way or the other.   That escape concluded in May 1944 just a couple of weeks before he was captured.  Hitler’s vengeful act of having 50 of the escapers shot would have been one more reason for the next-of-kin of POWs to be worried about getting them back.

aug 16 180030Leigh occasionally watched the TV comedy “Hogan’s Heroes” and enjoyed it.  He said while in one POW camp he played chess with a German guard who looked a bit like Sgt. Schultz in the show.  Through the efforts of his parents, Leigh was able to get law books included in his Red Cross packages which he read in preparation for the bar exam he would be taking after returning from the war.

mar26190003After his prisoner exchange was confirmed, he left Heilig Annaburg by trail for the Swiss border.  As a result of Allied bombing, rail trips took about four times longer than normal.  He became officially free in Constance, Switzerland.  From there he was taken to the port of Marseilles, which had been liberated in the Allied invasion of southern France in the fall of 1944.  The Red Cross ship “Gripsholm” took him to New York, where he and other freed Canadian were taken in a sealed railway car to Toronto, and headed west from there on the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Reporters met them at several locations along the way, but, as part of the repatriation agreement, they could only comment on the help provided by the Red Cross, which Leigh and others were happy to do.

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In repatriation group, Leigh is top row, third from left, at Heilig Annanburg.  Below, photo of the same facility today by Brennen Jensen of Maryland, whose late father is four in, front row.

pic from brennenWhen he finally got to Vancouver he was greeted by his mother Winnifred Foote McBride, who had not seen him for almost three years.  The reunion was particularly poignant because her other son, Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride, also with the Seaforth Highlanders, was killed in action near Rimini on Sept. 16, 1944 when his jeep ran over a German mine.

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Winnie McBride greeting her son Leigh at Vancouver CPR station

From Vancouver, mother and son made their way home to Nelson on the Kettle Valley Railway, arriving in the evening of Feb. 28, 1945 to an enthusiastic welcome party of family, friends, the mayor and other dignitaries.  In the coming weeks he was in strong demand as a speaker at service club meetings, and an extensive interview with the Nelson Daily News.

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After passing his bar exam he began his career as a lawyer in Nelson.  He was never the same physically after the war, as he had nerve damage and hearing loss as well as adapting to life with vision in just one eye.  He once showed me where schrapnel was still in his leg because it would be dangerous to remove it.  This was painful for him, but he never complained about it, as he remembered so many fellow soldiers who had more serious injuries or died in the war.  In the late 1960s his cousin (and former law partner in Nelson) Judge Blake Allan told him he could get an appointment as a judge if he wanted, but Leigh declined the opportunity because, as he told me, it would not be fair to soft-spoken defendants if he could not hear them.

Each year until the 1970s Leigh would travel to the Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital in Vancouver for examination by doctors there.  In 1969 he moved to Trail to begin working as a lawyer for the large mining and smelting company, Cominco Ltd.   In addition to golf, his hobby in retirement was reading books about Italian art and architecture, an interest he developed while participating in the 30th anniversary of Canadians in the Italian Campaign in 1975.  Within a couple of years after retiring from Cominco I 1982 Leigh contracted Parkinson’s Disease, which got progressively worse and resulted in him in 1990 going to a care home in Trail, where he died August 8, 1995 – exactly 42 years after being wounded in Sicily.

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front page of newsletter for relatives of Canadian POW’s

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from POW newsletter

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Oflag 7B mentioned in POW relatives newsletter, December 1944

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Oflag 7B again mentioned in Canadian POW relatives newsletter

 

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Oflag 7B facilities today, used for police training

 

30th anniversary reunion in 1975 of Canadian soldiers in Italy in Second World War

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By Sam McBride

The “Canadians in Italy” reunion of Canadian veterans who served in the Italian Campaign in World War Two was held in Sicily and mainland Italy between April 22, 1975 and May 3, 1975, commemorating the 30th anniversary.

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Cover of souvenir album of the reunion.  Photo by John Evans is of Canadian veterans beside reflecting pool during ceremony at Cassino War Cemetery.  Published by Minister of Supply and Services Canada 1976.

 

 

 

Approximately 300 veterans joined with the official party led by the Hon. Daniel Joseph MacDonald (1918-1980), minister of veteran affairs, other dignitaries and a selection of young people from across Canada.  Participants included the three Victoria Cross recipients from the campaign: John K. Mahoney; Paul Triquet and E.A. “Smoky” Smith.

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itinerary, page 2.  Also in the schedule were “Briefings in Ottawa and arrival in Rome, April 20-22, 1975”.

During the war Minister MacDonald was a sergeant in the Italian Campaign with the Prince Edward Island Highlanders, and later the Cape Breton Highlanders.  He lost an arm and a leg in the bitter fighting December 21, 1944 for Coriano Ridge in the assault on the Gothic Line.  Today, the headquarters of Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown is named in his honour: the Daniel J. MacDonald Building.

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photos with caption information from Veterans Affairs published in the Nelson, B.C. Daily News in May 1975.  Leigh McBride was born and raised in Nelson before moving to nearby Trail, B.C. in 1969.

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another photo with caption in the Nelson Daily News, May 1975

 

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ortona pic0001It was the first time Canadian vets returned as a group to the scene of the fierce battles of their youth, and paid their respects to fallen comrades in cemeteries from Agira in Sicily to Argentan north of Ravenna on the Adriatic Coast.  According to Veterans Affairs information at the time, a total of 91,500 Canadians served in Sicily and Italy, of whom 25,254 were casualties, including 5,900 killed in action.

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Seaforth Highlanders Leigh McBride (left) and Borden Cameron (right) with General Bert Hoffmeister (middle) during a side trip to Venice. Family photo.

The tour was described as a “pilgrimage”, and included events in famous names such as Salerno, Naples, Rome, Anzio, Cassino, Ortona, Bari, Reggio, Ragusa, Catania, Florence, Rimini and Ravenna, and 25 cemeteries.

There was some overlap with other ceremonies for a separate commemoration: the country of Italy’s 30th anniversary of the liberation from German rule in 1945.

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Welcomed by local residents.  Family photo.

I recall that my father, retired Major Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, initially did not want to go to the “Canadians in Italy Reunion”.  After coming home to Nelson, British Columbia in 1945 he preferred to put the war experience behind him, though he maintained strong friendships with several Seaforth veterans such as his commanding officer Col. Syd Thomson (who was my godfather), Captain D. Borden Cameron and Major John McLean.

Leigh suffered a bullet wound in his shoulder in the Allied invasion of Sicily in August 1943, and then May 23, 1944 at Cassino he suffered shrapnel wounds to his arms, legs and face that resulted in the loss of his right eye.  The only survivor of his unit, he was found unconscious by German soldiers, and taken to hospital in Rome for treatment, and then to prisoner of war camps in Germany.  He returned to Canada in February 1945 in a prisoner exchange.  On September 16, 1944, while Leigh was at the Oflag 7B prison camp, his younger brother, Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944) was killed near Rimini when his carrier vehicle ran over a road mine.

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Posing for photo with local residents.  Family photo.

With strong encouragement from Borden Cameron (the quartermaster who organized the famous Seaforth Christmas 1943 dinner at the Ortona church in the middle of the battle), Leigh decided to attend the reunion.   He was particularly looking forward to visiting brother Ken’s grave in Coriano Ridge Cemetery near Riccione for the first time.   Paying his respects at Ken’s grave was an extremely moving experience for him, as it was for me when I visited the cemetery as a tourist in 2005.  This posting includes a candid photo Borden took of Leigh standing by the gravestone and reflecting on Ken’s death, which was devastating for their parents, particularly mother Winnie who never recovered from the shock, as well as Leigh, other relatives and Ken’s many friends.

On September 20, 1944 the parents were thrilled to hear the news that Leigh, who had been missing for four months, was alive and in a POW camp.  They were still celebrating two days later when a telegram came that said Ken had died six days earlier.  The main reason why news of Leigh being alive and a POW was slow to reach Canadian authorities was because was being treated in German hospitals during most of the “missing” period, and the usual mechanism of informing via the Red Cross was not available in hospitals as it was in POW camps.

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Remembrance ceremony under way.  Family photo.

Participants in the tour got from place to place in sleek Fiat buses.  Leigh told his family he was extremely impressed with how Italy had recovered from the war, when people were starving and living in dilapidated homes damaged by the warfare.  He particularly enjoyed side trips to Venice and Mount Etna.  The experience led him to become an aficionado of Italian art and architecture.  Unfortunately, by the time he retired from his job with the legal department of Cominco Ltd.

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Borden Cameron, Leigh McBride and fellow veterans.  Family photo.

In retrospect, the 30th anniversary was probably the best time for the reunion in Italy to be held, as participants were generally still in good health, were advanced enough in their careers to be able to take a couple of weeks off work, and could afford the cost of the flights to and from Italy and other expenses not covered by Veterans Affairs or the local hosts.

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Leigh joins other tourists during a side trip to Venice in late April 1975..

Leigh would not have been able to attend a 40th anniversary reunion in 1985 because he was suffering from the early stages of Parkinsons Disease.  Ten years later he died at age 77 in a care home in Trail on August 12, 1995, a couple of months after the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Italy.

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1942 photo of Leigh McBride (left) and his brother Ken, who was killed in action near Rimini in September 1944 and is buried at Coriano Ridge Cemetery.  Family photo.

As part of the publicity associated with the reunion, Veterans Affairs distributed photos with identification and caption information to the local newspapers of participants.  Both the Nelson Daily News and the Trail Daily Times ran the material in early May 1995, and the Trail paper passed on the photo prints to Leigh for the family album, from which I am very pleased to be able to scan and share images in this posting.  Local residents, some of whom lived through the war years, showed their Canadian visitors heartfelt welcomes and appreciation, as shown in several of the photos.  A highlight was a parade of the Canadian veterans through Rimini to a response by locals that was described by writer Maurice Western in the May 15, 1975 Saskatoon Star-Phoenix newspaper as “tumultuous”.

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Leigh McBride, seeing his brother Ken’s grave for the first time at Coriano Ridge Cemetery.  Photo taken by Borden Cameron.  Family photo.

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ceremony at Coriano Ridge Cemetery.  Family photo.

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Cemetery ceremony.  Family photo.

 

 

Wood Vallance Hardware Company was a dominant retail enterprise in Nelson, B.C. and region from 1904 until 1989

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by Sam McBride

For most of the twentieth century, the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited based in Nelson, British Columbia was a household name in the city, and reached out to customers throughout southeastern B.C. and worked with suppliers from as far west as Victoria, B.C. and east to Montreal, Quebec.

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1902 bill from Byers Hardware in Sandon, which operated until 1904 when Wood Vallance Hardware arrived and centralized hardware facilities in Nelson.  Image courtesy Ed Mannings.

The corporate story for Wood Vallance began with the company’s formation in 1849 in Hamilton, Ontario.  The story of Wood Vallance in the West Kootenay arose from the winding down of business of the predecessor company in the region, the H. Byers Hardware Company, which had hardware stores in the mining boom towns of Sandon, Kaslo and Nelson.

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Original Byers Hardware store in Nelson at Baker and Josephine streets.  Touchstone Archivess

G. Walter McBride, a London, Ontario native who gained extensive experience in the hardware was  business in St. Louis and later in Calgary and then Rossland, was chosen as receiver for the bankruptcy proceedings.  The business opportunity attracted the interest of the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited, which purchased the business from Hamilton Byers.  The new company would be an autonomous subsidiary of the Wood Vallance group which included substantial operations in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver as well as Hamilton.

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Wood Vallance store in Nelson, about 1920s.  From McBride family collection.

In April 1904 the new Nelson-based Wood Vallance Company shut down the Sandon store, sold the Kaslo store, and expanded the premises of the former Byers store on Baker Street to be a prominent business in the field of industrial, commercial and household hardware, including sales of  mining and forestry supplies for the region.

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1906 bill for the Hume Hotel.  Owner J. Fred Hume was a major customer of Wood Vallance Hardware, and a close friend of R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp.  Image courtesy of Ed Mannings.

Walter McBride sold his Rossland store and came to work for Wood Vallance in Nelson as manager, with his nephew Roland Leigh McBride – who had gained experience working with hardware stores in Calgary, Rossland and Sandon – was appointed assistant to the manager.  Also working in the new business was Roy Sharp, who had worked at the Byers store in Nelson since 1901 and was given the job of driving a one-horse delivery wagon.  Also joining the staff were well-known Nelson businessman and sportsman Alf Jeffs, and Alex Leith, who came to Nelson from the Wood Vallance office in Hamilton to serve as secretary-treasurer of the new operation.

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float in Nelson parade, about 1930.  McBride Family Collection

R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp would continue as a team at Wood Vallance until they retired together in 1950 after 46 years of service.  Jeffs would work for 44 years until retiring in 1948.

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Thousands of products were in the 650-page Wood Vallance catalogue.  Touchstone Archives

Walter McBride was manager for 20 years before retiring in 1925, succeeded as manager and later president of the company by R.L. McBride.

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G.W. McBride, first Wood Vallance manager, died Oct. 13, 1925.  He was a half-brother of my great-grandfather Richard McBride of London, Ontario.  Touchstone Archives

Alex Leith worked for Wood Vallance in Nelson until his death in 1932 – one week before his retirement was scheduled to begin.  In 1919-1920 Leith and R.L. McBride were among the founders of the Nelson golf course,  and he would serve several years as President of the club and donate the Alex Leith Trophy which went to the Nelson club champion until the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy was established in 1945.

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The Wood Vallance Trophy in Kimberley was one of many sports-related sponsorships and donations over the years.  It continues to be awarded in annual tournaments. From Nelson Daily News, 1943.

In 1906 the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Ltd (also known as CM&S, and later as Cominco and then Teck) was incorporated.  This included the smelter in Trail and associated mines in West Kootenay as well as the huge Sullivan Mine orne Kimberley in the Sullivan Mine.  The CPR-owned company would eventually become the largest non-ferrous smelter in the world and a huge success, but in its early days its finances were shaky because of problems in processing the complex lead-zinc ore, as it had to be hand-sorted in a very inefficient assembly line.

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Wood Vallance long-service staff recognized in 1961 photo display.  Touchstone Archives.

Around 1910 CM&S was short of funds, and about to go under because no one would offer them credit.  The one supplier that gave them credit was the Nelson-based Wood Vallance Hardware Company.  This help was greatly appreciated by CM&S, and the start of an extraordinary, mutually beneficial, unofficial relationship between the two companies. Tom Lymbery writes about it in his book “Tom’s Gray Creek: A Kootenay Lake Memoir, Part Two”.  The remarkable connection lasted until the 1980s.

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Wood Vallance share certificate. Touchstone Archives.

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December 1949 Wood Vallance staff photo and identification.  Touchstone Archives.

In addition to using Wood Vallance as a supplier, Cominco would contract Wood Vallance to handle part of its Purchasing function, for industrial supplies like rails and steel.   As part of the enduring strong relationship, manager and president R.L. McBride would travel from Nelson to Trail every Thursday to meet CM&S executives and staff about purchasing requirements.

By the 1920s Cominco had developed differential flotation processing technology that made the Sullivan mine profitable, and they expanded by leaps and bounds, with Wood Vallance growing along with them.

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Nelson Daily News June 8, 1972.  Touchstone Archives.

Tom Lymbery noted that “Wood Vallance gave us excellent service, and the range of stock was amazing”.

“These days we would need at least 20 suppliers to obtain the stock we were receiving in our weekly shipments from Wood Vallance,” Lymbery wrote, recalling decades of Wood Vallance business with his family at the Gray Creek Store.

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A corporate change in 1963 enabled purchase of shares by employees.  Touchstone Archives.

Of the original 1904 staff, Alf Jeffs retired in 1948 and died in 1950.  R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp retired together in 1950.

Sharp died in 1953 and McBride in 1959.  Lifelong friends as well as work colleagues, they and family members are buried with memorial stones side-by-side in Nelson Memorial Park.

By the 1980s the business world had changed, and the stewards of the company agreed that it should wind down as a corporation, with final pay-outs to employees and final dividends for shareholders.

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1972 long-service staff photo display.  Touchstone Archives.

Subsequently, the name Wood Vallance has been used for storefronts, but the corporate entity of the past is long gone.  In retrospect, Wood Vallance had a significant role in Nelson’s transition from a boom-and-bust mining town to a regional centre of commerce and administration.

List of Wood Vallance shareholders in 1972. Touchstone Archives.

The two-page corporate history below was written during the World War Two years, with the final section added as an update towards the company’s 75th anniversary in 1979.

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first page of 2-page Wood Vallance corporate history

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second page of 2-page corporate history

 

Experimenting with photo scenes with friends in pioneer Nelson, BC

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by Sam McBride

My paternal grandmother Winnifred Foote was a camera buff who enjoyed experimenting with photography with friends in the early 1900s in Nelson, BC.

Here are some pics in various settings and posings of her friends Roy Sharp, Emily Wilkinson, Dr. Wilmott Steed and an unidentified lady with Wilmott which I originally thought was his future wife Elizabeth “Bessie” Lillie but I learned it was someone else.  The year was likely between 1908 and 1910.  You can imagine that at some point in the afternoon the subjects of the photos told Winnie that enough was enough.

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from left, Roy Sharp, Emily Wilkinson, Wilmott Steed and unidentified lady.  Approx. 1908 photo by Winnie Foote.

On September 5, 1911 Roy and Wilmott were ushers at the wedding of my grandfather R. Leigh McBride and Eva Hume, who was Winnie’s best friend.  A year later, on September 11, 1912, Roy and Emily married.  Just a week later, on September 18, 1912, Wilmott and Elizabeth married.  Tragically, Eva Hume McBride died due to childbirth complications on November 23, 1912.  Two years later, on December 23, 1914, Winnifred and R. Leigh McBride married.

march 29 2017 scans0018The three couples would remain close friends in Nelson for life.  Their children would be childhood playmates, as the Sharps and Steeds were both just a few houses away from the McBride house at 708 Hoover Street, where Winnie took numerous photos of Dawn Sharp as well as Graham, Jack and Edna Steed bicycling and playing with young Leigh and Ken McBride.

march 29 2017 scans0014Roy was a close colleague of R.L. McBride at the Wood Vallance Hardware Company for almost 50 years, and is best known in local history as the Father of the Nelson Midsummer Curling Bonspiel, which was a huge event when I was growing up in Nelson.  Wilmott was the first of several generations of Nelson dentists.   Details of the lives of R.L. and Win McBride are in previous postings in this blog.  The stories of the Steed and Sharp couples are summarized in their obituaries published in the Nelson Daily News.

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R.L. McBride (1881-1959) of Nelson BC was head of the Wood Vallance Hardware business and a tireless volunteer at the Nelson Golf Course and in many charities

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By Sam McBride

My grandfather Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) was an interesting fellow who had a large role in the business and sports scene in Nelson, BC  in the first half of the 20th century.  Born in London, Ontario, he worked for three years as a CPR ticket agent, and then his hopes and ambition led him to move west in 1900 to Calgary and then on to southeastern British Columbia and the gold-mining boom-town Rossland, where he worked as a hardware store clerk.

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R.L. McBride, on right, was known by middle name Leigh from early years

He moved to Sandon in 1903 to work for Byers Hardware, and ended up a year later in Nelson at the start-up of the new Wood Vallance Hardware operation which would dominate the region`s hardware store business for several generations.  He rose to manager in 1924 and then president of Wood Vallance, and retired in 1950 after 46 years with the company.

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R.L. McBride in Rossland, c. 1902

In local directories in the early 1900s, R.L. McBride was listed as a “traveller“, as he had a commercial travellers license and was often on the road meeting with potential and continuing suppliers and customers, as far west as Victoria and east to Montreal.

rl with collar jpgHis roster of personal contacts amounted to thousands across the country.  He used the opportunity of extensive travelling time on sternwheelers and trains to get to know fellow passengers and discuss their hardware needs with them – feedback he used in making decisions on what items to stock and pricing.

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Second from right, enjoying tea party on Nelson beach

His nephew Judge Blake Allan told me once that R.L. had an ebullient personality and was extraordinarily popular in the community.  “If he was in politics, nobody could have beaten him,“ Blake said.  I was just seven years old when he died in 1959, but I well remember his gentle friendliness and sense of humour.

During his years in charge of Wood Vallance, the company had an ongoing contract with the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited (Cominco — now Teck) to manage its purchasing function.  In this regard, R.L. worked closely with Cominco CEO S.G. Blaylock for more than a decade, often taking his sons with him on visits to Blaylock at the Trail smelter, which grew dramatically in the 1920s to become the largest lead-zinc production complex in the world.

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R.L. McBride in Ward Street in Nelson, B.C., c. 1920s

As a businessman, McBride was ahead of his time in emphasizing customer service, marketing the Wood Vallance brand, and corporate sponsorship of local sports and charities.

In his early years in Nelson McBride was a keen curler, and played hockey with the Wood Vallance team in the local commercial league.  In 1908 he was elected president of the Nelson Hockey Club.  This was an exciting time for hockey in Nelson, as the superstar players of that era, Lester and Frank Patrick, were living in Nelson, and hopes were high that  Nelson might actually win the Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, for various reasons – including a dispute about refereeing — that never happened.  While he apparently did not participate further in management of the hockey club, he was an avid Nelson Maple Leafs fan for the rest of his life.

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R.L. McBride was a proud member of the all-male Nelson Masonic Lodge, and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.  It is noteworthy that many of his friends, business colleagues and customers were also Masons, including Roy Sharp, Wilmott Steed, J. Fred Hume, and J.D. McBride.  His wife Winnifred Foote belonged to an affiliated organization, the Order of the Easter Star

rl freemasn 1 001On Sept 7, 1911 my grandfather married Eva Mackay Hume, daughter of prominent hotelier and politician J. Fred Hume and wife Lydia, in an elaborate wedding at the Hume summer home across the lake from Nelson known as Killarney-on-the-Lake.  Tragically, Eva and premature baby daughter Marjorie Dawn McBride died a year later from childbirth complications.

In December 1914 R.L. McBride married Eva`s best friend Winnifred May Foote (1889-1960), and their two children were my dad Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) and brother Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944).  The story in my family was that on her deathbed Eva encouraged Win to get together with R.L. after her death.  I recently heard from a niece of Eva’s that her mother Freeda Hume Bolton told her that Eva whispered in R.L.’s ear “marry Winnifred”.  Through the ensuing years, the McBrides and Humes continued their friendship.

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R.L. as a young father

R.L. McBride`s friends called him by his middle name Leigh, but within the family we called him R.L. to distinguish him from my dad Leigh.

In the spring of 1919 he was a driving force behind purchase of farmland in the hilly Rosemont section of Nelson, and construction of the nine-hole Nelson Golf Course, financed by the sale of shares and memberships.  He served on the club executive almost continuously for the rest of his life.

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R.L. hitting a drive on the Nelson Golf and Country Club, c. 1930

Through his support, Wood Vallance was a regular sponsor of golf tournaments and trophies, and he personally paid for the McBride Cup presented to the winners of tournaments for senior-aged members.  His sons shared his passion for the game, and were top rate players, particularly Ken, who won numerous Kootenay tournaments, as well as provincial championships and inter-university events as captain of the UBC golf team, prior to enlisting in the army in 1942.

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With older son Leigh and his brother Ken

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with Ken in 1932

As reported in Sylvia Crooks` book “Homefront and Battlefront:  Nelson BC in World War Two“, Ken`s death in action in Italy in 1944 was a tremendous shock to the community, particularly his  parents, who were never the same as a result.

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Both Leigh (left) and Ken were officers in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment.  Ken died in action, and Leigh was seriously wounded, taken prisoner and to hospital by the Germans, and returned to Nelson in a prisoner exchange in February 1945.

Funds were raised within the golf club for a silver shield known as the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy, presented to winners of the Nelson Labour Day tournament starting immediately after the war ended in September 1945.

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Daily News report of retirement of R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950

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from Nelson Daily News, August 1950

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from Nelson Daily News, August 1950

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invitation to retirement reception in honour of R. Leigh McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950.  The Whimster signature is of the printer, Bert Whimster, father of Lois Arnesen and Muriel Griffiths.  McBride Family  Collection.

 

R.L.`s community involvement over the years included serving on the hospital board, as well as the Red Cross, the Civic Centre project board, wartime bond drives, and with the United Church and the Association of Canadian Travellers.  He was particularly active during the world war years, in charge of bond drives, Red Cross support and events that welcomed soldiers back home from battle and responded to their needs.

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R.L. and Win with a friend, and SS Moyie in background.  C. 1951

He was in good health until his sudden death from a stroke in March 1959.  Though she was 8 years younger, his wife Win was in poor health in her later years, so everyone assumed she would die before husband R.L.   As it turned out, she lingered in care facilities for 15 months after his passing, before dying in July 1960.

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R.L. and Win McBride are buried in the Mason section of Nelson Memorial Park, next to the memorial stone for Eva Hume McBride and the premature baby who died a half century earlier.

sept 11 2014 006Also right beside the McBride gravesite is the grave of Roy Sharp and his family members.  Roy and R.L. were among the first five staff members when the Wood Vallance Hardware business began in Nelson in 1904.  Roy was always R.L.’s reliable second-in-command in the company, and the pair retired together in 1950.  Sharp was as active in the curling scene as McBride was in golf.  He served as president of the B.C. Curling Association in the 1930s, and led efforts to establish Nelson’s famous Midsummer Bonspiel.

 

Winnifred May Foote, born in 1889 in Perth, Ontario; came to Nelson, BC in 1900 at age 11; married R.L McBride in Nelson in 1914; died in Nelson in 1960

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My paternal grandmother Winnifred Mae Foote (1889-1960) was born in Perth, Ontario and came across Canada to Nelson, B.C. with her mother and sisters in 1900 to join her father Jim Foote who was working as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  They lived in a rented cabin in the mine townsite before moving into Nelson in 1902 at a house by Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road when Jim began working in construction with the City of Nelson.  Years later she recalled riding on the the mine’s spectacular tramway.

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Win with camera beside Kootenay Lake c. 1907

 

She was in a camera club where members took turns posing and practising photography techniques, and she learned how to make her own prints.  Many of these photos have been safely kept over the years in family albums.  Based on the pics, she had a happy time growing up in Nelson.  She worked as a Post Office clerk before marrying R.L. McBride in December 1914.

She died when I was 8, and was in poor health when I knew her, though she retained a playful disposition.  The big tragedy of her life was the death in action of younger son Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride in Italy in September 1944.

Edna Steed Whiteley, a neighbor who knew Win well, told me in 2006 that Win was never the same after Ken’s death.  These pics of her were taken either in Nelson or on Prebyterian or Methodist church outings at Proctor.  The pic of her welcoming son Leigh in Vancouver in February 1945 on his way home in a prisoner exchange ran in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

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Win with male friend (perhaps Wilmot Steed) in c. 1907

Win was active for many years in the Nelson IODE, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Nelson Golf Club and the Nelson Curling Club.

I recently discovered that Win played ladies ice hockey between 1910 and 1912.  She was a forward in 1910, and then moved to the goalie position.  She played on teams that competed within Nelson, and also for the team of the best Nelson players that played against ladies teams of other cities.  I was amazed to learn that she was a member of the Nelson team in 1910 that was coached by Hockey Hall of Fame player Lester Patrick, who, along with brother Frank Patrick, was among the best players of the era.  Lester may well have become involved with the team at the urging of his sister Dora Patrick, who was a player and manager of the team.

 

Here are some more pics of her, from her youth until later years, including the local Daily News write-up of her marriage in 1914 and her obituary (written by her son Leigh) in 1960.

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Win with Nelson as backdrop c. 1907

 

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Win c. 1907

 

 

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Roy Sharpe in front, with Win Foote next from left c. 1907

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Win (top) with friends in a fun pose.

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Win on horseback c. 1907

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Win with friend Wilmot Steed c. 1907

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Win at left with her sisters and parents and Mr. and Mrs. Lilly (parents of Mrs. Steed, grandparents of Edna Whiteley

 

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pic from Craig Bowlsby book “Knights of Winter, the History of Hockey in BC 1895-1911” has my grandmother Win Foote second from the right

 

 

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Win Foote, in middle of ice hockey teamates 1910

 

 

 

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Win c. 1910

 

 

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Win at far right with friends in Nelson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Foote sisters c. 1908.  From left, Win, Marion, Gladys, Isabel and Lillian.

 

 

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Win with baby Leigh 1918

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R.L. and Win McBride c. 1915 in Nelson

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Win with son Leigh and baby Ken 1920

 

 

 

 

 

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Win with elder son Leigh and younger son Ken in Nelson c. 1923

 

 

From left, Ken, RL, Win and Leigh

 

 

 

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Win and.L. McBride with grandson Sam McBride and R.L.’s sister Edith Monroe c. 1953

 

 

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The pioneer Foote and McBride families of Nelson B.C.

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By Sam McBride

My great-grandfather John James “Jim” Foote of Perth, Ontario (about 50 miles southwest of Ottawa) arrived in Nelson , B.C. in 1899 at age 38 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  A year later, in 1900, his family came from Perth to join him, including 35-year-old wife Wilhelmine Edith James (known to all as Edith) and daughters Winnifred Mae Foote, 11; Lillian Maud Foote, 9; Gladys Edith Foote, 7, and Isobel Bessie Foote, 3.

Born and raised on a farm in upstate New York close to the Canadian border, Jim Foote of Perth, Ontario came west to Nelson, B.C. in 1899 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine, He later worked for the City of Nelson as a carpenter, sidewalks foreman and superintendent of works.

The family lived in a rented cabin on the Silver King Townsite, and the girls attended a makeshift school there.  In 1902 the family moved to a house at Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road, about a mile from downtown Nelson.  The move may have coincided with Jim Foote moving from employment at the mine to a job with the City of Nelson.  Another big event for the family that year was the birth in Nelson on Feb. 9, 1902 of a fifth daughter Marion Louise Foote (there were never any sons in the family).

Jim Foote was born Sept. 18, 1861 in Morristown, New York (near Ogdensburg) in a family farm on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River.  The land he saw on the other side of the river was Canada.   A couple of months before his first birthday, his father, John Foot (who tended to spell his name without the “e” at the end more often than not), went off to fight in the Civil War as a private in the 142nd New York Regiment of the Union Army.    Private John Foot contracted malaria while in army service, and was wounded in the buttocks in the Battle of Appomatox in April 1865 – one of the last North casualties in the war, prior to the surrender of South General Robert E. Lee at Appomatox Courthouse.   Foot’s injuries would cause him to live in pain for the rest of his life, and his many written requests for financial compensation went unheeded.  John Foot (1825-1903), who married Elizabeth Graham (1828-1871),  was a son of John Foot (1802-?) and Isobel Bovie (1805-?) who lived in upstate New York.   While their ancestry is not known, many of the Foote population in New York is known to descend from Nathaniel Foote who came to America from England in the 1600s.

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Win Foote, keen photographer  c. 1907

When he was about 24 in the mid-1880s, Jim Foote ventured into Canada in search of better prospects for his life ahead.  He arrived in Perth (about 70 miles northwest of Morristown) and met Edith James (1865-1941).  Her parents, Thomas G. James (1829-1902), and Sarah Best (1836-1888), both children of Protestant families who emigrated to Canada from Ireland (likely County Cavan) soon after the end of the War of 1812, were among the most prosperous farming families of Lanark County in North Elmsley, a small agricultural community outside of Perth.   Jim Foote and Edith James fell in love and married, despite the opposition of her parents, who thought she could have made a better choice, and only gradually came to accept the itinerant Yankee Jim Foote as a son-in-law and father of their granddaughters.

The five Foote daughters, from left: Lil, Isobel, Marion, Glad and Win

Jim Foote is listed in the 1913 city directory as Sidewalks Foreman with the city of Nelson.   The obituary in the Daily News after he died April 24, 1921 in Nelson said he was “for a number of years in charge of construction work of the city”.   My first cousin, once removed, R. Blake Allan (who was my dad’s law partner in Nelson for 20 years before his appointment as a judge in 1968, and was an enthusiastic genealogist in retirement years before his death at age 92 in Victoria in 2009) told me he remembered his grandfather Jim Foote well, and that he held the title of superintendent of construction with the city when he died.

The eldest of the daughters, Winnifred, married Roland Leigh McBride in Nelson on Dec. 21, 1914.  It was his second marriage, as he married Eva Mackay Hume (niece of Lydia Irvine Hume who she and husband J. Fred Hume adopted after her parents died) on Sept. 6, 1911 at the Hume property known as Killarney-on-the-lake across the lake from where the Chahka Mika Mall is today.  She died of childbirth complications on Nov. 23, 1912, and the baby daughter Gertrude died a few days later.   Winnifred Foote and Eva Hume were close friends, and the story in the family is that Eva on her deathbed encouraged Win to get together with R.L.

ornate wedding certificate for R.L. McBride and Win Foote.

In the community, the couple was known as Win and Leigh (he was never known by his first name Roland).

After son Leigh Morgan McBride was born on Oct. 31, 1917, the family always called the father “R.L.” to avoid confusion with the son.  Their only other child was son Kenneth Gilbert McBride born Jan. 20, 1920, and died in action in Italy on Sept. 16, 1944.  Win and R.L. moved into a house at 708 Hoover Street soon after their marriage, and remained there until R.L.’s death at 78 on May 14, 1959.  Win died at 71 on July 10, 1960.  I talked to Edna Steed Whiteley recently, and she agreed that Win never recovered from the shock and despair of losing son Ken in WW2.  My childhood memories of my paternal grandparents is that they were both in poor condition in the late 1950s, particularly Win, who had great difficulty speaking, and only wanted to play bingo with her grandchildren.  My father Leigh died in Trail August 5, 1995 after battling Parkinsons Disease for a decade.

R.L. McBride was born and raised in London, Ontario, where he worked as a ticket agent for the CPR for two years after finishing school at age 16.  His grandfather Samuel McBride (1819-1905) had come to Canada on a crowded emigrant ship from Northern Ireland at age 12 in 1831.  As a teen-ager in Brantford, upper Canada, he learned the tinsmithing trade, and joined his much younger brother Alexander McBride (1833-1912) in a retail business selling wood stoves and other metal items.   Alexander moved west to Calgary in the mid-1880s in search of cleaner air for his wife Lucy’s asthma, and established Calgary’s first hardware store under the name A. McBride and Company in the late 1880s.  By 1896 he was mayor of Calgary, and had branched out from Calgary with other hardware stores, including one in the gold-mining boom town of Rossland, British Columbia, which he hired his nephew G. Walter McBride to manage.

Within a couple of years, Walter McBride was successful enough with the store to pay off his uncle and take ownership of the Rossland store under his own name as G.W. McBride Hardware.   In 1900, 19-year-old R.L. McBride came west from Ontario to work for a few months for his great-uncle Alexander in Calgary, and then further west to work for his uncle Walter in Rossland.   He moved on to Sandon in 1903, where he worked for a year (including the winter of 1903-1904) for the Hamilton Byers Hardware store, which was one of three Byers stores in the West Kootenay.  A year later, Byers sold out to the Winnipeg-based Wood Vallance Hardware company, and the Nelson operation was managed by G.W. McBride, assisted by his nephew R.L. McBride, who succeeded to head the Nelson operation in 1924 when his uncle retired and moved to the coast.

Foote sisters in about 1905.  From left: win, Marion, Glad, Isobel and Lil

Lil Foote married Wilfred Laurier Allan (1891-1938) in Nelson on Dec. 22, 1915.  For a couple of years Wilfrid had been working at Wood Vallance Hardware in Nelson under manager George Walter McBride, who was an uncle of R.L. McBride, who would succeed his uncle Walter at top Wood Vallance man in Nelson after Walter retired in 1924.  Lil and Wilfrid’s first child, Robert Blake Allan, was born in Nelson in 1916. A year or so later, the Allans moved to Stavely, Alberta, where the Allan family had a general store.  Son James Henry Grant Allan was born in 1919 in Stavely, daughter Margot Francis Allan was born in 1922 in Stavely, and son Alexander Arthur Allan was born in 1925 in Stavely.   In 1931 Wilfrid moved his family back to Nelson as he took on the position of secretary-treasurer with Wood Vallance.  After he died in Chicago at age 47 his brother Alexander Hamilton Allan came from Stavely to Nelson to succeed Wilfrid as secretary treasurer of Wood Vallance.  In 1950 A.H. Allan would succeed the retiring R.L. McBride as Manager of Wood Vallance, continuing to lead the operation until his own retirement in the 1970s.  He died in Nelson in 1988.

Blake Allan died in Victoria in 2009, Jim Allan died in West Vancouver in 2010, and the third brother Alex Allan died in Toronto in 2010.

R.L. McBride in abt 1902 in Rossland, where he worked at his uncle’s G.W. McBride Hardware store.

After schooling in Nelson, Lil attended normal school in Vancouver and became a teacher.  She taught at Shoreacres, Renata and Harrop before joining the Central School staff in Nelson in 1912 until her marriage in 1915.  During World War Two she returned to teaching at the Lardeau district, Argenta, Kaslo, Central School in Nelson, and finally at Renata where she retired in 1953.  Daughter Margot died at age 19 in 1932.

Gladys (known as Glad in the family) Foote married Colin Argyle Moir, originally from Manitoba, in Nelson on Sept. 29, 1920.  They moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta where he worked in the farm supplies distribution business.   She died in Medicine Hat in 1966, and Colin died in 1972.  Several Nelson directories list Glad as working as a stenographer for Nelson businesses in the years after the First World War.

Dick McBride of London, Ontario visiting his son R.L. and grandson Leigh in Nelson in about 1919. Dick worked as a tinsmith, and was part of the early hardware business established by his father Samuel in partnership with Dick’s uncle Alexander McBride, who established a thriving hardware store operation based in Calgary in the late 1800s.

Isobel Foote married Arthur Edward “Eddie” Murphy (1893-1950) on Nov. 16, 1921 in Nelson.  They built a home across the lake from where the Prestige Inn is today.    Through the years there were many extended family gatherings on the beach and dock of the Murphy residence across the lake.  Both Isobel and Eddie were expert rowers who won rowing competitions on Kootenay Lake.  Even though she was the shortest of the four sisters (less than 5 feet), she was one of the best basketball players at her school.   Isobel and Eddie had several successful businesses in Nelson, including contracting, interior decorating and signage.  They did not have children.  Like her mother Edith (who died in Nelson at age 76 in 1941), Isobel was a longtime member of the Nelson Pioneers group which was for Nelson residents who had been in the city since the 1890s.  I recall her once saying she felt a bit guilty because she arrived in 1900 rather than the 1800s.  She lived until 1988 (when virtually all of the 1890s pioneers would have died), but after 1974 she had serious dementia and resided at Mount St. Francis care home.

R.L. McBride with his sons Ken (left) and Leigh in about 1936.

The four Foote sisters remained close through the years, and there were many trips back and forth between B.C. and Medicine Hat.  While Glad and Colin and Isobel and Eddie had no children of their own, they were keen aunt and uncle to five nephews.

Jim and Edith Foote’s fifth daughter – and final child – Marion Louise Foote, was born in Nelson in 1902.  A popular young lady in Nelson, Marion died of tuberculosis in 1921.  Nelson’s city directory of 1919 has Marion listed as a clerk employed by the Hudson Bay Company in Nelson.

Jim and Edith Foote and their daughters are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, except for Glad who is buried with husband Colin Moir in Medicine Hat.

R.L McBride and wife Win Foote McBride are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, next to the gravestones of Eva Hume McBride and the daughter Marjory, who lived just a couple of days after her mother died in childbirth in 1912.  Right beside the McBride graves are those of R.L.`s longtime friend and next-in-command at Wood Vallance, Roy Sharp, and his family.

The four Foote sisters in mid 1950s. From left: Glad Moir, Lil Allan, Win McBride and Isobel Murphy.  Their youngest sister Marion Foote died in 1921.

 

 

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