Written by Claire Graham for Golden Memories
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were an interesting couple. They ran the stopping place at Wapta. They first met at Donald BC during the town’s heyday as a construction camp on the CPR mainline many years before. Mrs. Johnson was Swedish and could not speak a word of English when she met her husband, and Irish Canadian. They were married 24 hours after their first meeting. Prompted the bride and groom went farming and opened this stopping place.
One of Mrs. Johnson’s earliest accomplishments after her marriage was the use of plenty of swear words. She knew no English, she was sure that what “Jonson” taught her was alright, and so, when people went to the house, she invariably swore at them, not because they were unwelcome, but because it was the proper thing to do, or so it seemed to her. Even in later years, she laughed about her early efforts with the English language and still continued to punctuate her speech with plenty of fireworks. Her expletives were meant for inspiration, emphasis, or maybe just force of habit.
While his wife cooked the meals and served the traveling public, “Jonson” played the host, regaled his audiences with clever boyhood episodes, or the last installment of the current serial running in the weekly newspaper. Mrs. Johnson, ate in the kitchen while the guests were served meals family style, in the dining room. When someone required a second or third cup of coffee, Mr. Johnson called her by hitting his spoon sharply against his cup and she came running.
The big dining room was always clean, and in the winter, warm and comfortable, did it did not contain much in the way of decoration. A calendar and two stuffed crusted mergansers mounted on a stone, adorned the walls. The travelers’ horses were fed and stabled in the adjoining barn by the two Johnson boys.
Upstairs, where the guests slept, cotton partitions separated the sleeping rooms. Everybody went to bed by lamp or candlelight. Modern bathrooms hadn’t caught up with the majority of folk in those days, but each room was equipped with a hand basin, jug of water, towels, etc.
Our fair was plain and wholesome homemade bread, plain cake, homegrown vegetables, fried pork that had been boiled and roasted. None of the Johnson family went hunting. Therefore, we had no wild goat, which appeared to be the staple food of many of the neighbors. During the winter, we occasionally caught ling fish. The boys chopped a hole in the ice of the Columbia, suspended some hooks previously baited with pork, and left a lighted Lantern by the whole. Next morning there would be ling on one of the hooks, so we all promptly had a change of diet. Early in the fall of 1909, Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada, and his party, including his daughter and Lord LaSalle, made a trip from Golden to Windermere on the little steamer, “Isabel”. Mrs. Johnson had the contract of supplying the boat with butter. We took this commodity down to the Columbia and waited on the bank until 10:00 o’clock that night, but the boat did not appear. It must have become stuck on a sandbar.
Earl Grey’s destination that night was Edenhouse, a beautiful summer home on Lake Windermere owned by Professor Adami of Montreal and his wife, daughter of Lord Strathcona. The royal box, a small building somewhat resembling a garage in shape, was Earl Grey’s special abode. He loved the mountains, traveled through them, and once traversed Earl Grey Pass.