Trent Ernst, Editor
Norma and Ron Klein called the TR News to reminisce about the early days. Ron says he got off graveyard shift at Bullmoose mine where he was working the morning of June 6, 1984 and drove into town for the celegrations. He remembers the beer garden and the dancing in what is now known as the Shop Easy parking lot.
The Klein’s moved to Tumbler in August of 1983, when Ron started work at Bullmoose. At the time, the houses weren’t ready, so he and many of the guys working at Bullmoose brought their trailers into the area and set up camp at the Moose Lake cutoff.
As the town took shape, and the houses were built, Klein moved the trailer into town. “The house still wasn’t ready, so I moved the trailer into the driveway. I’d use the bathroom to shower while they were still working on it.”
Klein remember the early days as a big adventure. “When I got here, there were no real streets, no sidewalks. The Liquor store and grocery store were where the elementary school was. They were both in trailers. If you wanted beer, they wheeled it out of the back of a truck. When the truck was empty, they’d just bring in a new one.
“The New Life Assembly church was where TR Elementary is now, and it served as our town hall. There was an Irly Bird over where the stables were. The bank was over there, too. That building is now the legion.”
Also in the area was a chicken and rib place run by a Czechoslovakian named Victor. Norma Klein remembers him fondly, as she started working for him at his next enterprise, the Ridge House restaurant, Tumbler Ridge’s finest dining experience. “He was a top chef; he was trained over in Europe,” she says. “That little restaurant was the place to go if you wanted someplace fancy. It was really top notch. He wanted this dining experience to be top-notch for everyone. If people ordered pizza, you had to make sure they went to the back door for take-out for pickup. I loved working there. His father was a really good artist, and had these beautiful paintings that were hanging in the restaurant. It was like a mini art gallery. He was quite a character. I don’t know what happened to him.”
Back in those days, says Ron, there weren’t many of the problem the town has faced over the last few years. “Everybody was working. The issues weren’t around work. All the Bullmoose people owned their own houses. Everybody stayed in town. Most people didn’t work here and go home to someplace else. We didn’t have the same issues with people coming to town to work then leaving. The shifts were four and four, so people couldn’t work here and live in Vancouver.”
One of the biggest changes they’ve seen is the downtown core. “Back in those days—maybe more the late 1980s and early 1990s—we had lots of stores here in town. We had two lady stores in town. Did they make any money? Who knows? But we had lots of places to shop. We had the Jewel Bin. We had the drug store. We had a western clothing store. We had a fabric shop. It was a lot.”
Ron remembers commuting to and from work in the early days. “The road from Bullmoose wasn’t finished, so we used to drive the railbed into town because it was smoother and faster to get into town, at least until they laid down the ties. One of the engineers was a little drunk and didn’t realize they had laid the track and wrecked his car when he was driving back into town.”
Both of the Kleins say that one of the biggest things about living here in the early days was the media’s perception of the town. “One of the thing that got to all of us here was the news coverage in the papers,” says Norma. “If there was rumours of a crisis, they’d send a crew up, but not a peep if nothing was happening. Take the year both mines shut down. The TV crews came in with the cameras interviewing people, and they were only interested in negativity. I was interviewed and said ‘I love it here,’ and you know what? they never played my interview.”