DOLLY Cartwright is a well-known volunteer and advocate for seniors' issues on the North Shore but how many of her friends and fans know she's a farm girl at heart?
One hundred years ago, in 1912, Dolly's paternal grandparents, William and Emily Nesbitt, packed up the family farm in Walsh, Alta., and moved to West Vancouver, the same year the community was incorporated.
"They brought their children and their animals," recalls Dolly, 85, "a pair of goats, four cows and some chickens."
Ruth, Dolly's elder sister by three years, chimes in, adding "a Jersey cow, a Guernsey, two Holsteins and 50 or 60 white Leghorn chickens."
The Nesbitts set up their farm on a piece of logged off land between the Capilano River and what would become 13th Street. Although using a wheelchair due to arthritis, Emily cared for the animals, milking the cows, churning the butter and collecting the eggs. Uncle Bob drove the team that delivered the milk, butter and eggs. Uncle Cecil, who also had arthritis and got around on a pair of canes, sold the socks he made on his knitting machine. Harry was a Blue Bus driver.
Dolly's maternal grandparents, Mabel and Richard Robinson, retired to West Vancouver around 1920. Richard had been a horticulturalist who got his start with a market garden and nursery on the site of the present Vancouver Art Gallery. They were joined by Mabel's sisters and by their daughter, Ruth Dulcie, who taught at Hollyburn School.
West Vancouver's population in those days was small but social. Dulcie Robinson and Harry Nesbitt could have met at church or at a dance or at the beach. Married in 1923, they built a house next door to Harry's parents.
"It was a big square," recalls Dolly, "with two bedrooms and two porches." For the arrival of each daughter, another room was added. Dolly and Ruth share the house now. Sister Bea has her own home nearby and sister Nora, who worked for many years at the North Shore News, lives in North Vancouver.
Neighbours were scarce back when the sisters were young girls. Dolly remembers one other farm and a couple of orchards nearby and the annual arrival of summer tourists in the rented cottages on Ambleside Beach.
Cottages west along the shoreline were permanent dwellings served by the Blue Buses along Marine Drive as far as Caulfeild, the end of the line.
Dolly was four or five when she joined her father on his morning bus route. At each stop going west, she would honk the bus's horn, alerting early morning commuters to be ready at their stop when the bus made its return trip.
West Vancouver was that kind of community back then. Everyone knew everyone. The four sisters attended Hollyburn elementary, sang in choirs, performed in plays and concerts and operettas. For Dolly, Brownies and Girl Guides opened the door to community service.
At Inglewood High School she was the only girl in the metal shop class thanks to the support of her teacher, Mr. Merrick. "Dolly was always an individualist," remarks sister Ruth.
Dolly's training got her a job with the George H. Hewitt Company, making metal objects, including commemorative plaques. She and Ruth, who worked at the Royal Bank, commuted to work by ferry from 14th Street, with Dolly, prone to seasickness, taking refuge in the wheelhouse during rough crossings.
In 1946, a former employee of Hewitt's came to say hello.
"This handsome man came down the stairs all in uniform," recalls Dolly. "One of the girls said, 'I'm going to marry him.' 'No, you're not. I am,' I said." And she did.
Doug Cartwright, a North Vancouver boy, was still serving with the Canadian Army medical corps when he and Dolly married in 1947. After Doug was discharged in 1954, he got a job with the municipality of West Vancouver.
Doug and Dolly moved into the family home, adding more rooms to accommodate their four sons.
Dolly Cartwright was 27 years old. The life of service that lay before her is commemorated in the honours - and plaques - bestowed by a grateful community and the love given and received over the years glows within Dolly's family home.
Laura Anderson works with and for seniors on the North Shore. Contact her at 778-279-2275 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.