North Shore man celebrates his 100th birthday
HAROLD Plumsteel turned 100 on Nov. 20, celebrating the occasion with friends and family at Eagle Harbour Yacht Club.
Go back nine decades. It's summer of 1924. A group of boys set off from Vancouver by trolley and then by ferry across the inlet to West Vancouver. They catch the PGE train and disembark at Gleneagles, the end of the line. Loaded with pup tents, cooking gear and supplies, they tramp down the hill to Horseshoe Bay. The boys are prepared. They're members of the Iroquois Club.
They set up their tents on the rock face just above where the ferry dock would be built in the early 1950s and make for the beach. The sun is warm, the water cool and so clear an arrowhead might be spotted and collected from the sandy bottom, a great prize for an Iroquoian.
As the sun sets, it's time to head back to camp for a bean feed. Each boy opens his can of beans and tips the contents into a pot perched on the fire. As the week passes and the beans run out, they dip into club funds to purchase a feed of pork chops, six cents a pound, from the local butcher.
Harold and his lifelong friend, Arthur Harper, were classmates at Cecil Rhodes school in Vancouver and members of the school's cadet program. The cadets inspired the creation of the Iroquois Club, which eventually numbered about eight boys.
Mothers embroidered the club logo - a capital
'I' and a small 'c' - on the boys' sweaters. Club activities revolved around the acquisition of food and its consumption, and playing poker for pennies. Caddying was a good source of cash to cover dues, especially if the boys carried the clubs of a "two-bitter" who could afford to pay them 50 cents.
Club funds were held in a wooden box and club minutes were recorded in a black notebook, which Arthur handed on to Harold a year or two ago.
Harold lived on 12th Avenue in Vancouver with his four sisters and their parents. His father, William Plumsteel, had served in the Boer War as a fireman and joined the Vancouver Fire Department in 1902, rising to the position of assistant chief.
As Harold grew older, his visits to West Vancouver continued. He and his pals were regulars on the Ambleside ferry and the blue buses. Winters, they would hike to Circle 5, the cabin they built on Hollyburn Mountain. Summers, they camped at Eagle Harbour and went dancing at Horseshoe Bay. At one of those dances, Harold met Dorothy Hooper, his wife of 55 years. Together, they had two sons, Ron and Doug.
Harold graduated from King Edward high school, just across the street from his home, and got a job at The Scale Shop.
"I was too skinny to be a fireman," he laughs, "and was lucky to get any job at all."
In 1938, the company won the bid to install tolls on the new Lions Gate Bridge. Until Canada entered the Second World War, Harold was responsible for maintaining the toll cash registers and training the toll takers.
During the war, Harold was a war production manager at the Boeing plant at Sea Island and after, a weights and measures inspector for the federal government, visiting canneries and marine fuel stations along the Coast.
Harold moved on to finish his career at the BC Electric Company, now BC Hydro.
In 1965, two years after the Lions Gate Bridge tolls were removed, Harold and Dorothy moved to West Vancouver.
Forty years ago, at the age of 60, Harold retired from work but not from his social life. He sang in a barbershop quartet and Dorothy sang with the Sweet Adelines until her death in 1994. Harold was a volunteer for 25 years at the West Vancouver Seniors' Activity Centre, where he continues to play bridge regularly and is active in the North Shore Stamp Club.
Harold and his friend, Arthur Harper, 98, the two surviving members of the Iroquois Club, have a lunch date coming up. Will beans be on the menu?
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.