This is Kelly Harrison’s award-winning essay for the Eva Mack Heritage Scholarship. This award is in recognition of Eva Mack for over 30 yrs of service to the District and to celebrate her unwavering commitment to the research and recording of our community’s history. The award is handed out to a grade 12 student. They have to do an assignment or project on Bella Coola history. Like a biography of a community member, history on its early settlers or an idea of their own but about Bella Coola.
My Great Grandmother Mabel Plommer was a school teacher in Bella Coola for a number of years. Mabel Plommer, who her family nicknamed “Mabs,” was born in Vancouver British Columbia on December 18, 1908. Mabel had two siblings, a brother named Bill and a sister named Connie.
Mabel got her first job working with children when she was 16, looking after children at their neighbourhood playground in Vancouver. Mabel decided that she loved working with children, and she would later get her teachers training at the University of British Columbia. Her first teaching job was at Read Island in a one room school.
Mabel came to Bella Coola to teach in 1928 in another one room school. She taught in Bella Coola for a year then married Odin Conrad Pedersen. Odin was born in Bella Coola on Sept 11, 1898. He lived in Bella Coola all of his life, and joined the military when he was just 17 to go fight for the allies in WWI.
Mabel and Odin bought property in Bella Coola, the exact property my parents live on now. Mabel could not teach anymore because the law did not allow women to teach after they were married. Instead the men went fishing in Rivers Inlet and the women stayed home and took care of the farm and the children. They lived in a small cabin on the farm and Odin kept adding onto it. Their first child Joan Maureen Pedersen (my Grandmother) was born in 1930.
Their farm was quite small until Mabel’s father gave them a cow. Mabel spent her days milking the cow, picking raspberries, looking after the children and occasionally she would go to Vancouver to see her parents. She took the steam boat to Vancouver because the only other way out of the valley was by trail. After Maureen was born Mabel’s parents paid for her ticket on the steam boat so she could bring Maureen to Vancouver to see her grandparents.
Mabel’s Father was a chartered accountant. Ever since she was a young girl he taught her to save half of her pay check and spend the other half. This turned out to be her philosophy for the rest of her life.
One of the first stories about Mabel was when she was Just a young girl. Back then you had to pass a government exam in grade 8 to be able to move on to grade nine. When Mabel’s Brother Bill passed the exam their parents rewarded him by buying him a bike, this was a large purchase at the time.
So when Mabel passed the exam she wondered what she would get as a reward. When Mabel’s parents got the news her mother told her she would take her to the store and she could buy a bottle of ketchup, because Mabel loved ketchup. This wasn’t the reward she had expected but a good one none the less.
One of the only things Mabel liked as much as working with children was hiking and the outdoors. When Maureen grew older, Mabel along with her friend Martha Rosten, Martha’s daughter Margaret Rosten (Brekke) and Mabel’s children Maureen and Duane embarked on a trip to the Precipice. They were to meet Mabel’s sister Connie and her friend who were coming to Bella Coola from Williams lake. Connie and her friend would ride the mail truck to Kleena Kleene then walk from there to meet Mabel and company in Precipice. Mabel, Martha and the children rode the mail truck to Raspberry Flats and from there they would start walking to Atnarko.
On their way they met some fisheries officers on horses, the officers told Mabel that the children should not be walking so they gave them a horse to take on their journey up the Sugar Camp Trail. When they got to Precipice Connie was very surprised to see them and they all walked back together down the Zig Zag Trail.
Later on in Mabel`s life the laws had changed. She could now teach again so she spent a year substituting in Bella Coola before going back to UBC to get her degree in teaching. After that she gained a permanent job at Sir Alexander Mackenzie School in Bella Coola where she taught for many years until she retired in 1970.
Mabel later embarked on another journey to the Rainbow Mountains. Mabel, along with friends Peggy and Bert Mathews and their daughter Jean, Bill, Connie and Maureen, planned a trip to the Rainbow’s. They left Bella Coola on July 9th 1955, Mable`s daughter Maureen was also a teacher at that time. Connie, Mabel and Peggy took the Jeep up the hill and the rest of the group rode horses. They brought along with them on their two week trip seven horses, three pack horses and limited amounts of supplies.
Mabel wrote a diary of the entire trip. Mabel writes that on their trip they saw a lot of wildlife including an albino moose which was quite the sight. By the end of the trip they were running low on food, dinner was rice and breakfast was Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. At the end Mabel writes, “Hope you can read this and re-live our trip. Maureen enjoyed reading and listening. She hadn’t realized we were so long in Paradise Valley! – Love Mabs.”
When Mabel retired she traveled all around the world with her sister Connie. was very active in her retired years. She spent most of her time looking after the senior’s center on the lot where the Co-op is now as secretary. After her husband passed away in 1977 Mabel decided she would downgrade to a smaller lot, so she switched houses with my Dad (Maureen`s first son Stuart).