Elphinstone: The pioneering family of Murray King

Have you noticed my new (old) photo in the print version of the paper? I recently came across an old typewriter, sat down and declared that I could type this column on it. My husband snapped the photo. I had to teach myself to type on one very similar, loaned to me by a neighbour. Those of us who were streamed into five-year arts and science in high school were not offered typing, so it was the first thing I did upon graduation (university had to wait until I had earned some money). Who remembers those old typewriters that if you typed too fast, the letter arms would seize up and you had to stop to uncross them? Mistakes were corrected with tiny sheets of whitened paper – you’d retype the error to white it out (I went through a lot of those). The photo seems fitting as I like to delve into historic aspects of Elphinstone – as in this week’s column. 

A recent talk with Murray King was like taking a walk through Elphinstone history. Murray, a vibrant 86 year old, told my husband and me about the days when they often got around on the logging skid roads. His father, Mitch King, built a house on the northeast corner of King and Chaster in 1934 when Murray was one year old. I had thought it was the original house, but Murray set me straight. However, the house across the street, on the northwest corner built by the Hicks in the early 1930s, is the original one, recently lovingly restored by the Penner family. 

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Mitch King was a jack-of-all-trades as so many were in those days; Murray remembers his dad bucking wood for Guy Fisher, whose son Bud Fisher still lives in Elphinstone. Mitch went on to work for the early version of Ministry of Highways doing road maintenance. They had no running water and wells dug came up dry. Fortunately a spring further down Chaster provided abundant water for the many people who hauled it home. It’s probably where SCRD has a well today in the Velvet/Knight area. 

Murray remembers abundant wildlife – he often bagged a willow grouse for his mother to cook. Less common were blue grouse and pheasants, and of course bears. Chaster Creek was so thick with salmon you could “walk across on their backs,” he said – pinks, chum, coho and spring. 

Murray kept bantam chickens for extra pocket money; Mrs. Florence Chaster often bought one. He has fond memories of her, a kind and thoughtful woman, known to help those in need. Murray missed most of his first year of school with whooping cough, so when Valentine’s Day rolled around, he was the only one in the class to not receive a card. Mrs. Chaster invited him over and sent him home with a lovely card and home-made chocolates. The Chasters ran a store and a dairy at Bonniebrook and Murray recalls, “You could to get real Orange Crush, the type with sediment in the bottom, and ice cream cones for a nickel.” Trelawney was the name of the original cottage on the site where Chaster House stands. The Chasters tore it down to build a retirement home in the 1950s. Lucky for our community that the SCRD bought it in 1992! 

An early job at a garage where Leo’s Restaurant now stands eventually led to a career as a mechanic. Murray showed us a photo of it in that great book of Helen McCall’s photos. Murray’s wife Avril was from England and passed away two years ago; his sister Iola still lives in the area, as does daughter Trish who owns the Landing Clothing Co. Son Wayne lives in Surrey. What a delight to speak with someone so knowledgeable of our history. 

If you have news to share, drop me a line at elphin@coastreporter.net

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