Fred Taylor looks back over a century of gold mining, gold medals and golden memories.
He was born in Stanford-le-Hope, England, June 21, 1911 and came to Canada with his family when he was 11. They settled in the Maple Ridge area where he worked in mills from the time he was 14.
“Then during the Depression there was no work, so I rode the rails across the Prairies, which I didn’t like because it was too flat. I came to Prince Rupert and took a boat to Skagway and walked to Mayo, Yukon — 350 miles in three weeks,” he recalled.
It was the beginning of a long-term love for the north.
Taylor worked in the mines, saved his money and bought a placer gold mine in Dublin Gulch in 1936.
“It was all by hand, shovel and picks but I liked it. I worked hard but I was working for myself and I liked the country,” he said.
In 1940, he married his first wife, Anne. He volunteered for the services and the first time he was told to keep on mining because a byproduct of gold mining is tungsten which was used in the production of guns. In 1942, he was accepted for the Armed Corps and did his basic training in Vernon. He saw his first son, Frank, for one day before he left for overseas and then not again until 1945. He drove tanks in France, England, Algeria, Sicily and Italy and was part of the Canadian liberation forces in Holland.
“Dad never talked much about the war, it was something that had to be done, it was done, then you got back to work,” said his youngest son, Lars Taylor.
Taylor went back to his mine and his second son, Jim, was born in 1947. After Anne’s death, the boys were sent to school in Vancouver and Taylor joined them there in the winter.
He married Joyce, a nurse in Mayo, in 1965.
“I noticed she walked with her feet turned out so she was a good girl for me — if she ran away, I could track her. It turned out she was a good girl for me,” said Taylor, laughing.
Joyce remembers that they spent their first winter together in the cabin at the mine from November to March. They had lots of supplies, reading material and did lots of skiing.
“We’d spend a long time getting up the hill and then two minutes coming down. It was not a cold winter, only minus 30. I was in Mayo when it was minus 75. It was a wonderful winter,” she said.
By the 1960s, they were coming to Silver Star to ski and were grateful for the rope tow and poma lift. Lars was born in 1969 and was on skis as a baby, later becoming a member of the Canadian National Ski Team, and then an occupational therapist. Frank went mining in the Yukon and Jim was involved with the early days of Greenpeace. The Taylors have four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Fred and Joyce moved to a farm in Lavington in 1972 and took up cross-country skiing.
“We skied all winter and farmed all summer. We spent a lot of time clearing cross-country trails at Sovereign Lake. We met so many wonderful people who are still friends,” said Joyce.
Lars added that many people don’t realize how volunteers worked to build up what is now one of the best cross-country ski areas in North America. Fred and Joyce recalled how skiing has changed from wooden skis, leather bindings and woolen knickers to high-tech equipment and clothing.
They continued to ski three or four days a week and took part in races around the area until Fred was 97.
“It’s been a good life,” said Fred, taking Joyce’s hand affectionately.