A Tribute to My Parents


A Tribute to My Parents
a son's memories


Joseph Cecil Carr



Hilda Carr


My parents' love for each other and myself was rock solid. My life as a child was smooth sailing, and both of my parents made sure of that.  I was adopted when I was a few days old, and as far as I am concerned, that was the luckiest day of my life.

I have many fond memories of my parents.  Both of my parents were not shy about letting me "do things" at an early age. In the 1950's, it was still popular to raise children "to be seen, not heard".  That wasn't my experience with my parents.  They always valued my opinion, and encouraged me to participate in debate around the dinner table - politics, religion, the environment, economics - always a subject-of-the-day.  I was encouraged to take risks...sometimes they worked out, sometimes it ended in failure.  It was all part of growing up.

I was expected to help out with the endless chores to keep our five acre property in the Cowichan Valley in good shape.  There was no weekly allowance for me.  I had to find my own ways to earn spending money. On the other hand, I never wanted for anything (clothes, books, toys, etc.), since I was an only child.  I was always out in the yard helping Dad cut the lawn (an all-day affair when we only had a power mower you had to push to cut our acre of lawns), pick apples, gather hay from the back field, fencing, looking after chickens, bantems, dogs, wild birds, horses, cows, sheep, and the list goes on...  In the winter, we were shovelling snow off the roof.  Is is my imagination, or did we see more snowfall in the 1950's and 60's than today?

When I was a youngster, summer vacations were spent at Rathtrevor Beach or Qualicum Beach.  We camped at Rathtrevor when the Raths still owned the property; so we camped wherever we liked, since there were no marked campsites.  Dad was there to setup the tent, chop wood, play ball, and walk the beach. We often stayed so long that he had to return to work in Duncan - he  would rejoin us on the weekends. When we were at Qualicum Beach, we stayed in a small cabin. It was always a challenge to get Dad in the water.  He could swim, but never seemed to like the water that much.  A quick dip, and he was out! Mum was a dedicated sunbather, so while us kids were playing sandcastles or in the water, she was working on her tan.  My Mum always invited friends of mine along whose parents (or single parent) couldn't afford to go on vacation. Doing a good turn for others was just part of her nature.

We did a fair bit of traveling when I was a kid.  Tours of the province in the 1950's and 60's were part of the job for Dad, since he was a safety instructor for BC Hydro (BC Power Commission at the time). We drove across "The Big Bend" road, which connected Golden and Revelstoke before the Rogers Pass was built. Later in the 1960's and 70's we took bus tours to see many parts of the province: the Bennett Dam (when it was being built), Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Kootenays, Okanagan Valley and the Cariboo. We also traveled to Expo 67 in Montreal - flying to Montreal and returning back across Canada by bus tour.  Getting Dad to fly in an aircraft was another challenge.  He was a white-knuckle flyer, but managed to make it from Victoria to Montreal.

During the 1950's, BC Power Commission was still involved in bringing power to the residents of the outer Gulf Islands.  Dad was part of this work, and so Mum and I would stay at the Harbour House Hotel on Saltspring Island while he was working on construction. I could barely see over the lip of the huge billiards table they had at the hotel, but I played billiards with Dad's fellow workers after the evening meal. Travelling together over the years made us a very close family.

When I graduated from BCIT in 1972, my Dad nearly cried, he was so proud of me.  That ceremony obviously meant more to my parents than I realized at the time, since higher education wasn't really an option when they were growing up.  My Dad retired early from BC Hydro at this time.  Mum and Dad lived in the same house in the Cowichan Valley in which I was raised for awhile, but soon found it to be too much to look after. They decided to retire to Nanaimo (their home town) in 1980, and rented an apartment in a senior's complex.  They lived there (independently) until my Dad died in 2000.

I lived in Vancouver for six years (1970-1976), and during my stay in the West End, Mum and Dad would be frequent visitors.  When I moved to Victoria in 1976, they were very happy to have me living closer to them.  The hour and a half's drive between Nanaimo and Victoria made visiting that much easier (and more frequent).  I cherished my visits to Nanaimo, especially in the later years. We usually did little things while we were visiting, and simply enjoyed each other's company.  In the afternoon, Dad and I would sit in the living room and have a beer together.  Mum would often join us with a hot brandy. We all looked forward to this quiet companionship that seemed to build as we matured.

A few times each year, Mum and Dad would visit me in Victoria.  In later years, I drove up to Nanaimo and returned with them to Victoria, since they were not confident enough to drive that far by themselves.  In 1998 Dad voluntarily gave up his license to drive (Mum continued to drive for a few more years).  When they were in Victoria, it was a ritual to take Dad to the Swiss Chalet for chicken dinner, which he really enjoyed.  His 90th birthday (his last) was celebrated at my place with take-out Swiss Chalet chicken, since he wasn't feeling up to going to the restaurant that day.

Dad was an excellent soccer player in his early adult years (semi-pro), so he loved sports all his life.  Later on, he was also an excellent ten pin bowler and curler.  When he had to have a hip and a knee replaced with artificial joints, that ended his active participation in sports.  He was always an avid armchair sportsman, watching hockey and soccer on TV, and in later years he expanded his viewing to include almost any sport going. Mum and Dad joined the Heart Aerobics class at the Bowen Park Seniors Centre when it first started up.  Three days a week, early in the morning, they would go for their exercise class, and to have their hearts monitored. Mum continued to go to the class after Dad died.  They made many good friends among the participants of the class, and many showed their support to my Mum after Dad's death.

Dad was the baby of his family.  His brothers and sisters all pre-deceased him.  His father was a coal miner from the west of England, and soon decided to leave mining and operate a farm just north of Nanaimo in Wellington.  Now that property is covered in malls and houses.  His parents then decided to operate the Somerset Hotel - located in the same area.  Finally, they operated Carr's Garage in the downtown of Nanaimo, running a taxi business as well.

Since my parents were both in their forties when they adopted me, they had already led a full life full of adventures only young people experience.  They talked fondly about their camping and fishing trips into the (then) wilderness areas of Vancouver Island. They had settled in Duncan by the time I came along, and my Mum became a fulltime homemaker. Both my parents were involved in the Duncan United Church.  Church life was particularly important to my mother, although Dad and I also embraced the Christian way of life.  As Mum was driving around doing errands, she would frequently stop and offer a ride to virtually anyone who happened to be walking the road, much to my father's and my consternation.  Sometimes these people smelled a bit of booze, but no matter...my mother would cheerfully take them to wherever they were going before returning to her errands.

My mother regularly greeted strangers on the street, but didn't just say hello and keep walking.  She would stop and have a conversation, and be an "active listener" as she was trained to do by the church ministers of the day.  She felt outreach and community support was part of her job as a Christian, although she never tried to convert anyone, and often didn't even mention our church in the conversation.  She just listened.  She and the other United Church Women also helped many people in need.  Again, they didn't try to convert anyone...they just helped them as best they could. When I was a preschooler, she would bring me along to the seniors "rest homes" as extended care was called in those days.  We would go from bed to bed and chair to chair to say hello to everyone.  Many of the seniors would only see one visitor a week - my mother.  We handed out sweet treats, and again, my mother would sit and listen while these folks told her about their lives and their problems. Altruism and empathy at its finest - a concept we could learn from today.

My parents were also ardent NDP'ers (as they would call themselves).  Left wing politics were very much a part of their make-up.  My Dad told many stories about organising non-union forestry workers and getting them into the union ranks with the attendant fair wages and benefits.  He also told of some pretty hair-raising incidents which happened during these organising drives.  Some of his favourite stories revolved around getting the Chinese forestry workers a fair wage - he was working against both the company bosses and the Chinese bosses who used to skim from what little wages the workers got!  My Mum worked tirelessly for the New Democratic candidates in the Cowichan Valley over the years. Both my parents remembered vividly when W.A.C. Bennett pulled a coalition together at the last minute, denying victory to Harold Winch, the leader of the CCF party (predecessor to the NDP) in 1952.  As many of my friends know, I generally support the NDP - mainly because I know where the party's roots come from first hand.

My Mum had two brothers, who both predeceased her by several decades.  With both of her parents dead, she often felt lost without any direct relatives.  After Dad died in 2000, the next ten years tested her fortitude.  She slowly developed dementia...first living on her own with assistance from my relatives who lived in Nanaimo and myself (commuting as needed).  Eventually her condition worsened; first requiring residential care, and finally extended care (or complex care as it is now called).  I moved Mum down to Aberdeen Hospital in Victoria in 2006, since as I got older, I found I simply couldn't continue with those weekly commutes back and forth to Nanaimo.  Mum was happy in Aberdeen, and the care she received from the staff was absolutely first rate.  Mum died peacefully at Aberdeen a few days after celebrating her 98th birthday.

I have no regrets about either of my parent's deaths.  I visited them often, and we always got along wonderfully.  I considered the time spent with my parents a gift.

Fond memories...

Joe Carr

December 2010

Back to Joseph Cecil Carr Memorial

Back to Hilda Carr Memorial


horizontal rule

Home page for Carr.ca

Last updated:2014.01.22
Copyright 2014 Joseph A. Carr