Thursday, February 25, 2016

Travel in 1945

Remembering our train trip to Saskatoon in December 1945,  there were no other travel options open to us.  Now, you can also fly, drive or go by bus from Vancouver to Saskatoon and can reach  your destination in a few hours,  not a couple of days.  Train travel is a great holiday adventure and the Canadian Rockies are spectacular,  but it was a long trip for a family anxious to get back home. As far as driving  a car from Vancouver to Saskatoon, not possible, the road was not even open in the winter.

There was a gravel road through the mountains which  had been completed in 1940 at great expense and connected Golden and Revelstoke.   It was called  the Big Bend Highway and was said to be drivable if you had nerves of steel.  Everyone had heard the horror stories about this highway, and even the thought of  having to back up on a switchback to allow another vehicle to  pass would send shivers up your spine.  One story I recall was from a family member who took the bus  to Vancouver in the early 1950s.   They were on a narrow, hairpin curve on the Big Bend, and the bus driver and  a woman driving a car coming toward him had both stopped and were arguing. The driver wanted the woman to back up so he could get the bus through but she was scared and refused.  Finally,  the bus driver had no choice but to back up.  For the passengers seeing the rear of the bus hanging over the steep mountain cliff as it slowly edged back, allowing the woman to pass was as frightening as it gets.  Everyone  breathed again when she was clear and the bus proceeded.

Sometimes, if people wanted their car on the other side of the mountains, they just shipped the vehicle by train and picked it up when they reached their destination.  Flying was not an option as the first commercial airline, Trans Canada Airlines, or TCA as it was known was just getting established at that time.

Oh well, you might say, at least people could keep in touch by phone.  Sorry, it was not so easy.  Long distance was expensive so calls  were a luxury and only placed when absolutely necessary.  We would write a list of subjects to be discussed, then rush through them to get off the phone in five minutes or less.  Christmas was the busiest time for calls and often you would try for hours to get a call through to someone in another city.  Unfortunately, many of these calls would start out with, "What's your weather like?" 

As for our trip to Saskatoon, my mother and children got off in the  Biggar, SK train station where we were picked up by my grandfather and once again taken to the farm.   My father continued on to Saskatoon to  check out his old job and find a house for the family.