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3350 Coast Road - Gabriola, BC - V0R 1X7

Tel: (250) 247-8931 Fax: (250) 247-8997

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Silva Bay inBACK 1943. The war casts its shadow even here. Kanshiro Koyama, who ran the fish camp for a decade has had to leave. He and his family have been scooped up and transplanted, with thousands of other Japanese Canadians, away from the coast, their livelihood and their home. Wilf Taylor, who took over the lease, is leaving too. The whole camp, including the store and living quarters, is on floats, always at the mercy of the sea. Their child is found under water, close to drowning, and the Taylors have had enough.

But the Japanese fishermen, packers and storekeepers have thought about the future of the businesses they are leaving. They encourage two young fishermen from Galiano Island, Les and Jack Page, to revive the fish camp at Silva Bay.

The Page brothers know about fishing. As boys they acquainted themselves with every bay and inlet in the Strait of Georgia, working wherever work was available, as far north as the Skeena River. In 1939 they purchased their first fishing vessel, the 30-ft M.V. Spirit, and during the winter months caught dogfish in the Gulf Island waters. Dogfish became big business when science discovered its liver was rich in Vitamin D.

From 1940, Jack works seasonally as a marine mechanic for the North Pacific Cannery on the Skeena. Les makes Galiano his headquarters; he and the M.V.Spirit haul lumber, freight and tourists, whenever they aren't fishing cod. Pearl Harbor makes a huge gap in the fishing fleet, removing the Japanese and inspiring other young men to enlist - although fishing like logging, mining and farming is classified as essential and its practitioners draft exempt. Les buys dogfish at Otter Bay on Pender Island and at Montague on Galiano, works nets at Vancouver, packs at Ucluelet.

At the end of the salmon season in 1942, Jack and Les buy a 40-ft packer, the M.V. Sea Rock, and start a fish buying operation at Otter Bay. By then Jack has a wife, Joan (neé Bishop), and a baby son, Terry, who accompany him to the Skeena. Les lives on the scow at Otter Bay. The Sea Rock collects and delivers fish livers on a regular Sidney-Nanaimo-Vancouver route, bringing home groceries and other supplies, occasionally fresh water when the island suffered a dry spell.

1943. Jack is 27 years old and Les is 25. Jack needs a permanent home for his family. Les needs a good slip for the boat. They all need to put down roots, even if, for a while, the roots go directly into the sea. They purchase the fish camp at Silva Bay, and from that time on, the Page Bros. Store & Fish Camp is their headquarters and home.

On the bank near the camp is a 5000-gallon gas tank. There is no Hydro here, so a shed, 8 by 10 feet, houses the power plant. Everything else is on floats. The dwelling is 16 by 24, constructed of dark shiplap, with a cedar shingle roof and a heavy wall paper interior.

The store is a separate building, slightly larger, 20 by 24 feet. The first intended customers are fishermen, but increasingly Page's fulfills a necessary function for Gabriola. The trip to Nanaimo is a lengthy trek over bad roads. The ferry runs infrequently and can carry maybe one one-ton truck and three or four smaller vehicles per trip.

The inventory amounts to only four or five hundred dollars, but it includes a bit of everything:  canned goods, tobacco, soft drinks, candy, some bakery items, household cleaners, a few bits and pieces of hardware, lamp mantles, wicks, candles, kerosene, naphtha, motor oils ... the necessities. A pot-bellied wood stove heats the store in chilly weather. The stove pipe goes straight through a hole in the roof. The building is partitioned, and lined with shelves and cedar shiplap. A large counter holds bins for bulk products, and big bronze scales sit on the counter. Fifty years later, those scales still give a true weight.

The house makes no pretence at anything more than a plain living space, furnished with the bare essentials - beds, stove, table and chairs, storage shelves - without running water or indoor plumbing.

The Japanese have dug a well about twelve feet deep and approximately 100 feet from the water's edge, lined it with granite boulders the size of a small loaf of bread, and mounted a hand pump on a stand on top. The little well supplies plenty of water in winter, but dries up during the summer. Over the years the Pages will drill three more wells until they solve the water problem. Their first "Laundromat" is a small wash house equipped with two cement tubs and a wringer washer.

The floats supporting house and store are held by Joe Pokes, poles secured from the bank by "eye" bolts, covered with barnacles like warts, and held up by teredo-eaten logs. Replacing the cedar logs, building and rebuilding floats, is an on-going task. Logs are salvaged from booms breaking loose in a storm. Sometimes, someone hauls in a nice log in exchange for a favour. Things get fixed in a hurry and will be fixed better when there is time - one gets so slick at shortcuts.

The upland lease is not clearly defined. The Pages use what land they need for a nominal rent. But they have "first option to purchase" the waterfront farm land which has belonged to the Laws and the Millwards since the first decade of the century. The Millwards live in the small farmhouse, with two or three cabins scattered about to house various relatives, and several fine modern chicken houses. Apple and cherry trees flourish, and holly, lilac and lime. Thousands of daffodils grow among the rocks and trees. The cows provide milk and butter, the hens obligingly lay eggs, and the forest yields its game.

Meet the neighbours: the McLeods on Tugboat Island, Doc and Pat Nichols on Breakwater, Dick and Phyllis Hokanson on Lily Island; the Silvas at the turn of North Road, Joe Sr and his wife, Ed and Kitty, Mary and Fritz Nelson. On the site of the future shipyard, Norman Sear has a fish buying scow, a fish packing boat shed, and a small convenience store, and is building his own boat. He will go into partnership with Les Withey. Beyond Sear's, Abe Crocker and his family sell their property to George Stewart and Gordon Burt, who put in a sawmill, and build a store which they rent to Halvorson's; later, it will be The Boatel. Silva Bay is marked on the north by the Laws of Law Point, on the south by the Fenwicks of Fenwick Road.

1944. The first year of Page's is not all milk and honey. Jack decides to go back to the job at the North Pacific Cannery on the Skeena, where the money is good. Joan and Terry accompany him aboard the Cardena, Dorothy Page, sister to Les and Jack, works in the store and the fish camp during the busy months. The Sea Rock is on charter again with the North Pacific Cannery, and blueback are as thick as fleas on a dog's back this year. But a fish company reneges on its promise of boats and ice, and times are desperate. A different deal must be worked out for next year.

In the late summer, Joan returns to Galiano to leave Terry in the care of her mother, Dora, and goes to Victoria to await the birth of their second child, Gail, on September 25th. Jack meanwhile returns to Galiano, packs all their belongings on the Sea Rock, together with Terry, Dora and the dog, Mickey, and moves cargo and crew to their new home at Silva Bay. On Thanksgiving weekend he takes the train to Victoria to collect his wife and daughter. Before boarding the ferry "Atrivida" for Gabriola, he treats Joan to a turkey dinner at a Nanaimo hotel. Little does she know how difficult it would be to return for an evening out!

But right away there are friends to greet her. Bill and Catherine Coats meet them at the ferry dock with their brand new red pick-up truck, and drive them down the island, through the Millward property, to their "home" at Silva Bay. Travelling by pick-up down dusty roads in early October at night can be a sobering experience. Thinking "God forbid, what is this!", Joan  carries her two-week-old baby down a rickety ramp into what strikes her as a god-forsaken shack: two bedrooms, a kitchen area with a combined dining/living-room area, and a toilet comprising two holes in a bench, where you can look down and see the perch swimming in the sea below. In the main bedroom green building paper is tacked on the ceiling at either end and swoops down in the middle, touching the bed. The other bedroom, where Dora sleeps, is frequently under water so one has to walk on raised slotted boards. The kitchen has a wooden sink and is lit by hissing gas lamps. The wood stove burns bark which Jack salvages from the log booms anchored in Silva Bay. One corner of the living-room is partially submerged where the supporting logs have become waterlogged. The small tin heater smells of creosote. They will have to carry water down from the well to boil baby bottles, make formula, cook, wash clothes, and bathe the children.

Terry's play area is a boarded enclosure with cracks on the floor. For safety, he is tied with a long rope around his waist. Not surprisingly, he comes down with typhoid fever, and spends many weeks in hospital in Nanaimo, hovering between life and death.

Jack and Joan cannot visit him often, can only worry, hope and pray. He comes home at last, pale, thin, with a shaved head.

It is hard for the young mother to relax in the "float house"  When the tide is very low, the logs on which the house sits sink into the mud at the bottom of the bay; in her nightmares the tide comes in while the logs stay stuck in the mud. The following spring the family rents a house up the road. That house will later be bought by the Meyers, and subsequently burn to the ground.

Business is picking up. Tug boats working in the area request fuel and food supplies, and the Page brothers add a new 8000-gallon diesel tank. Fuel is barged in by Standard Oil. This service will end when tugs are built large enough to take on a journey's fuel supply at their starting point on the Fraser River.

1945. Even during the winter a few fishermen come from the northern canneries, but Silva Bay really wakes up at the end of March. One day the slips are empty; the next as many as forty fishermen have tied up at Page's. Gloomy days are forgotten; old friends have returned. The catch is kept live in tanks within the boats and in more tank boxes along the floats.

A few weeks’ earlier fish have arrived at the mouth of the Skeena, announcing spring while the forests are still quiet and hung with ice and snow. Jack is off to the Nass River, where the roar of the oolichan run has brought chaos; hundreds of seals, porpoises, sea lions and fin back whales, feasting on the oolichans and on each other. At home in Silva Bay, Les sets out nets to catch smelt. Jack's family exchange houses with brother Ron, on Galiano, and Ron and Ida, his wife, take command of the store and camp at Silva Bay. They sell fish to London Fish Company, of Vancouver, using the company packer, the 38-foot M.V. Bare Point. Les skippers the Sea Rock, on charter to the North Pacific Cannery. Fish prices have taken a significant jump, and things look good.

Late that season Jack is struck down by rheumatic fever. There is an inactive month for Jack, an anxious month for all.

Les returns south to pack clams. At low tide, people living along the beaches dig the clams as if there will be no tomorrow, but only now, their share of the yearly harvest. The development of synthetic vitamins has killed the dogfishing industry, cutting off a source of employment, and relegating that much maligned creature to the nuisance status once more. A Page cousin logging on Gabriola obligingly pushes a road through to the Marina.

1946. Jack and his family make a last trip north, and then move ashore. The little clapboard house on floats is dismantled, the sound material retained, and a comfortable 500 square-foot cabin constructed on the bank. A ramp leads to the floats from a point beside the big arbutus tree in the garden. Ron and Ida leave to work at a camp in Johnstone Straits, and Jack and Joan take over the daily operation of Page Bros.

The new home consists of two bedrooms and a kitchen with a lean-to bathroom, but it is heaven compared to its predecessor. It has electric light from the small lighting plant nearby, and a wood stove which they convert to oil. However, life at Silva Bay continues to offer challenges. Clothes are still washed in a large square tub with a washboard and hung on an outdoor line to dry in the sun and wind - and to be covered in dust as cars rattle past and the wind swirls off the bay. The square tub is also a bath, and Joan bathes the children in front of the open oven, then wraps them in warmed towels.

When Terry is five, he falls down the cliff in front of the cabin and is rushed to Nanaimo with a concussion. After that he is hooked with a rope around his waist and tied to the clothesline in the front yard. He soon realizes that if he removes his clothes he can escape from his bonds.

For Les, there is no radical change in the pattern of things. He continues to live aboard the Sea Rock, as he does for sixteen years, always on the move. This year and the next he packs salmon for North Pacific Cannery. In 1948 he packs fish between Seattle and Johnstone Straits; there are tuna near Sooke that year, unusual so far south. But Silva Bay is home now, and he is on the lookout for anything which might be of use there. When three herring salteries on Galiano are dismantled, Les buys the lumber and hauls it home to build the Net Shed: a frame shed extending onto pilings, for the storing of nets, boat parts, and supplies. Also from the salteries, he salvages a water reservoir with a capacity of approximately 5000 gallons. This they install on a hill not far from the Net Shed, to store water pumped up from the two wells. In 1993, the Net Shed, with some additional proppings, remains a useful storage space.

Jack and his family are greeting more and more pleasure-boaters, people coming in small boats, buying a day's supplies, and lingering to enjoy the camaderie of the place. They begin to recognize types of boaters, like the fellow in a haywire boat who has to stay longer than he intends and pays Jack for his mechanical expertise. The boat that runs on the rocks, especially the now infamous "Le Rock" between Tugboat and Vance Islands, stays for repairs, or, if the damage is serious, needs to be taken to Les Withey's Shipyard next door. Out in the Strait many towboats work the tide shift, and the weary gillnetter rolls around in his bunk. Clamdiggers come, forever waiting for the right tide. The vacationing novice chats about tides, "she comes in and she goes out", or "time and tide wait for no one", and wonders what joker tied his dingy to the top of the piling.

Navigating the entrances to Silva Bay can be a nightmare. The only light is far out at Thrasher Rock. Even the gas barge cannot always avoid the reefs. Jack launches a campaign at the Department of Transport, contacting the Department every time any vessel runs onto any rocks anywhere. Eventually he wears the authorities down and receives a call, "O.K. Where do you want that light?"

Les loads his scow with lumber from the Chemainus mill for people building on Gabriola and the outer islands. He and Jack are Search and Rescue and Water Taxi, willing to take their boats anywhere for anyone at anytime. Les log salvages when he and the Sea Rock come upon a suitable find. Later they will set up a mill and cut the logs on their own property.

As the children grow, the cabin seems to shrink. It's time to think about building a real house. Les now hauls Chemainus lumber for their own use, and construction proceeds slowly over the next three years. It is a family and neighbourhood project. Ron, back from Johnstone Straits, supervises the first stages and assists in the framing. Reg and George Band show up to help. Jack and Joan have full-time jobs, dealing with the public, buying fish, running for supplies, but pitch in with the installation of insulation and gyproc, sanding seams and painting. Les and the Sea Rock are again on charter from June well into the autumn, first on the Skeena, then in the Gulf of Georgia. Most years he packs clams through the winter.

After the first year of building, the roof is on and the front area ready to serve as a store. The living quarters are completed as time permits. It's 1950, and the store is very busy. Gabriola is dotted with houses in various stages of incompletion, higgledy-piggledy, finished with shingles, clapboard, or black tar paper. It is a great house indeed that boasts a coat of paint.

Most of the grocery supplies are obtained from Malkin Brothers and Slade & Stewart in Nanaimo. Eggs come from the McDonalds and bottled milk from the Stalkers. T.P. Taylor delivers the mail only as far as Gossip Corner. Jack uses Millward's old Ford truck, nicknamed the "Hesperus", to fetch mail and groceries, deliver gas and transport people to the ferry as well as to the local dances. The truck never fails to backfire going down Gray's hill.

Then there are the Page's Cats. Joan adopts one to help with rat control. Before long the cat has kittens, who in turn has more kittens. They are officially outdoor animals, but occasionally find their way indoors when it's time to give birth. At one time the feline population approaches twenty. When boaters arrive with their pets, Jack warns them that his cats are fighters and will not tolerate strangers infringing on their territory; trespassers limp bloodily back to their owners.

Reg and George do finishing work on the building. The store area is twenty by thirty feet, and attached to the remainder of the ground floor, comprising kitchen, eating nook, living room, and bathroom. The upstairs is a half-storey, with four small bedrooms and dormers which serve as closets. A propane furnace heats both floors. In the living room is a fireplace of brown brick, with a brown brick chimney. The outside is painted white.

Jack is a most genial and attentive storekeeper and fish buyer. Les brings home his earnings and any time left from the packing boat. They are rich in friends, and it costs very little to have dances and games in each other's homes. Time is measured by the tides and the cries of gulls. There is the enjoyment of doing something for yourselves. It doesn't seem important to squeeze time off from being errand boy, accountant and head sales-person. They do go hunting - but not far. Deer, ducks, geese are plentiful. Picnics are a standard part of island recreation. There are no policemen; so far people deal with their own conflicts. Later, Les will realize he never took a "vacation" in twenty years.

Ken and Vera Harrison are good friends of Jack and Joan. They start out by camping on the point near the Millward farmhouse, later rent the dark brown cabin on floats near the site of the old store, and eventually lease property from Millwards to build a delightful summer retreat. Other Millward lessees are Phyllis and Norton Blythe, Olaf Christianson, Fred Frederickson and Vic Clark. After Mrs. Millward dies, Barbara and her father continue to live in the old farmhouse. Barbara comes often down to the store to play with the young Pages, and stays briefly with them after her father's death, until she leaves to live with a cousin in Victoria.

By the early 1950s the store is running smoothly, things are improving financially, and the children are off to school. It is a half hour walk over to the Catholic Church every morning to catch the school bus. Lil Gray is their first teacher in the one-room school house near the south end hall. Frances and Tom McDonald and their children Ken and Gordon, have become close friends of the Pages.

In the summers the local children - McDonalds, Witheys, LePoidevins, Pages - are joined by others who come every year from Vancouver: Steve Harrison. Fred Pearson, the Sweeneys (the Bands' grandchildren), the Fultons, the Vitterys, the Campbells and others. Haying time is great fun when the Boultons come to cut the hay in Millward's fields. The horse plods along pulling the huge cart, each new manoeuvre inevitably coinciding with a blast of wind, much to the delight of the children riding high on the hay. There is always time for fishing from the dock, wearing funny lifejackets, and finally learning to swim. Years later Joan recalls harrowing stories of children on the dock, of Jack jumping the counter in the store and running full out when he sees Terry fall off the dock, or again when Gail disappears from the dock and is found three hours later at the Boultons where she had hitched an unauthorized ride on the haywagon.

Tom McDonald joins Les in casting an eye on what they can make of logging during the slack winter months, when Tom's farm chores are few and Les is home from the sea. There are many small logging operations on the islands, but not yet the enormous brute machines and clear-cutting. Gabriola is rich in great stands of Douglas fir, red cedar and balsam. Les and Tom log property for neighbours in the Silva Bay and Degnen Bay area, selling logs to mills in Chemainus, Vancouver, or Nanaimo , wherever the price is right,  All the "trucking" is by sea. A Caterpillar tractor rolls logs into the water. Boom sticks are placed below the bank so the logs will stay in a pocket until they can be lashed together and collected by towboats for delivery to a mill.

Les and Tom come close to cutting one tree too many. As it falls, a limb hits Les on the head. Tom, horrified, gets him to hospital in Nanaimo. After a month, Les is flown to Vancouver for neurosurgery. By spring, 1955, he is ready for his packing charter.

Islanders with good wells, or good wet land, garden contentedly, hurrying to harvest their daily share ahead of the raccoons and deer. Everyone enjoys the wild berries: the salal, the Oregon grape, and blackberries. The Pages raise chickens, ducks and geese, all too often losing them to marauding raccoons, otters, mink and - interminably, the dogs who run unleashed, with no owner in sight.

Les's fleet is growing: the "Sea Rock", of course, and the M.V. "Silver Horde", a 48-foot halibut boat, and then the seiner "Sarah J". Jack's salmon buying season runs from mid-April till the end of September. Twice a week the packer from Tullock Western Company brings fresh crushed ice and takes the fish in wooden boxes to Vancouver.

Withey's Shipyard, "next door", has its heyday in the fifties, building ships for the Royal Canadian Navy. Lou Meyer, Walter Krull, and Frank LePoidivan work at the Shipyard, and settle near Silva Bay.

Year after year the scene is re-enacted. Les prepares his boats for the next season, and helps Jack whenever he is available. The Page brothers make their living from the Pacific salmon; a food supply which not only requires no planting or cultivation, but presents itself, voluntarily and in fantastic numbers, at their very doorstep. The tourist trade is secondary at this time. Not much profit is realized from selling penny candy, milk, bread, small amounts of gasoline, or newspapers a few days old. Moorage is not for rent; it's reserved for the fishing boat bringing in a catch. Fishermen look after themselves, but tourists require amenities not yet possible to supply, especially fresh water, garbage disposal, and a place to walk the dog.

In spite of all that, the flotilla of luxury craft grows. Silva Bay has been discovered as a refuge. It is the shortest distance across the gulf from the bellbuoy off Vancouver. Tugboats lie over, waiting for the weather to change before heading across. Sailors of all types arrive; some seasick, cold and thankful to have survived the trek during a squall. The store phone is on a party line; one long and three short rings indicate an incoming call, probably a message to be delivered by dingy to yachts anchored in the bay. Every summer is busier than the previous one, and the work day longer.

Jack welcomes everyone. His friendliness is contagious, he makes everything funny, and people come where the laughter is. His hunting buddy is a bush pilot, Denny Denroche; when business ebbs in late fall, they snatch a few days in the interior.

Years later, at Christmas time, 1992, Gail recalls what it was like growing up at Page's: "It was a very time-consuming occupation for my father. However, it was always exciting to see the first pleasure boats of the season arrive at Easter, even though it meant long hours. Then the cozy, long days of winter, but always with the concern that a strong easterly wind would come up over night and blow the docks and boats around. This also meant the possibility of skating on the fields where the ice froze over the old cow pats, and we would build a fire near the "skating rink". That place has such fond memories for me ... even the old laundry shed where I would go to do the wash in an old wringer washing machine and hang the clothes on the line to dry... the huge vegetable and berry garden we used to have ... jumping on the nets in the old net shed ... and of course, waiting on customers in the store and buying fish (yuk!). I can recall the embarrassment of running after a customer when I had realized I had given him/her too much change (I think I was about 12 years old) ... never realizing that they probably knew I had done so. The smells that come to mind.. the fresh baked pies that Frances McDonald used to sell to the summer customers. The Indian clam diggers came to get their money in the store, and an old Scots man used to walk to the store and buy a case of vegetables. Memories, such memories, of days gone by."

A major Gabriola tradition has its beginning in the late summer of 1955, as islanders and yachts people talked about having a "Fishing Derby and Dance". The idea comes to life. Two families produce a clinker-built rowboat as first prize; the Vancouver folks obtain donations from companies dealing in fishing rods, dipnets and other gear. Signs are made and distributed about the island and even to some Vancouver yacht clubs. Everyone pitches in, and a Salmon Barbecue is held in the field by the store. The ladies make potato salad, coleslaw, pickled beets and buns. The men cook the salmon, as fresh as Les could catch it. In the evening island men turn up to drive yachts people to the South End Community Hall for the dance, and then back to Silva Bay after the dance is over.

The Salmon Barbecue becomes an annual event, at Page's, or in Withey's field, eventually on the grounds of the Community Hall. Always there are fish and ice cream, sack races and a tug o' war, good fun and friendship, islanders and summer visitors.

Tragedy strikes in 1957. The Sea Rock is burned to deck level as she sits in drydock, but worse, much worse is to come. Jack and Denny drive to Alexis Creek for their annual hunting holiday. Transport and shelter are both supplied by a borrowed "crummy", a heavy duty truck-plus-house for transporting men to logging camps. The cold is sufficient to put a light snow fall on the ground and ice on the lake. They park the crummy snugly under a strand of fir trees, eat their meal, and settle into their sleeping bags, with the charcoal stove still burning.

When they fail to return on time, Denny's company sends a pilot in search of them. The crummy is well hidden under the fir branches, and they are not found until two weeks after they left home. But a quicker rescue would have made no difference; the carbon monoxide does its terrible work quickly, leaving two young families fatherless. Jack's ashes are scattered in his beloved Silva Bay.

On October 29, 1958, a year after Jack's death, the West Vancouver Yacht Club institutes a racing trophy in his memory. Joan, with Jack's parents, is invited to receive the cup. The first race from West Vancouver to Silva Bay, called the "Jack Page Memorial Race", is the following summer. Gail sails home on the "Ivanhoe" with the Vitterys that first year, and is thrilled when they win!  The race still continues, and the cup still resides in the West Vancouver Yacht Club.

With a heavy heart, the Page family carries on. The partnership is revised, and Page Bros becomes Page's Store. The business continues to thrive, demanding maximum effort from everyone, including the children. While still very young, they learn to work the docks, sell gas and buy fish, estimating weights and portions of meat and cheese, calculating costs in their heads. When Terry is old enough to work on the boats, he starts crewing on the Sea Rock, then skippers it with his friend Jack Edwards as crew. Gail takes over the docks, monitors water usage, and flirts with the handsome boys who sail over on their parents' yachts. When the business becomes too much for Joan to manage the store on her own while Les is kept occupied with the comparably increasing "outside" work, Evelyn Stewart (now Evelyn Tufnail) is hired to help. A number of island ladies help in the store over the years, primarily in the summer; besides Evelyn, who stays for twelve years, these include Val Slade, Edith Gibson, Annie Watson, and Frances McDonald.

Small boats with outboards come for day fishing. The fish camp operates six months of the year, and the store every day. Les delivers food and fuel to the outer islands and to a number of homes on Gabriola. Moorage is still free. Floats, gas barge, and the good ship Sea Rock all require continual maintenance. The fuel business increases enough that Standard Oil provides materials for a timber and metal shed to house the drums of bulk petroleum. Ron Page helps Les with the construction.

1960. The Millward property is for sale, and the Pages are able to follow up on their "first option to purchase". The Millwards have leased bits of land, with scattered cabins, and this is "home" - summertime or year-round - for half a dozen tenants. Photos from the early 60s, provided by Judy Lee, show her husband Bill busy with Les on the docks. Their daughter Barbara remembers giving Evelyn a hand in the store, and helping at the fuel pumps; in the 1990s she brings her husband and children to Page's.

In 1963, Joan marries Ed Berry. The "children" have become adults. By 1965 Gail has entered nurse's training, and Terry is working in Vancouver. Joan and Ed, with Joan's mother Dora, move into the old Millward farmhouse.

1969. A happy event for Les: he and Joan Potts are married and Gabriola rejoices with the couple at a Community Hall Open House, organized by Lil Gray. Jack's family are going their own way; it is time to dissolve the partnership and divide the property, Les retains the marina and business.

Now a second lady named Joan finds she has acquired a whole new career and a community of friends, who arrive from all directions, by land and by sea. The outer islanders come for their mail, delivered to boxes in Page's yard every morning by Helen Cox. It's eleven o'clock, time for coffee, with Helen and a troop of seven bachelors: Olaf Christianson and Morris Herlinveax from Fenwick Road, George Redcliffe from Sear Island, Mr. Tritchell from Tugboat Island, Alge Jackson from Bevmaril Road, and Clare Musclow from Silva Bay. Mr. Edgetts, a camp cook of some renown, brings cream puffs.

Fresh fish on the dock!  Joan thinks it makes sense to sell the fish right here, to tourists and islanders. She is right, and people come from all over to buy salmon to barbecue, can or smoke. In 1973 Les is fishing again, aboard a 34-foot troller, the M.V. Rusty. Joan finds herself "Boss" for the busy months. She draws the line at driving the oil truck, but the rest is up to her, and it's a veritable carnival while she learns to tell one fish from another, - and one fisherman from another.

Sometimes she cannot even be sure of the language, as she greets the fifty Japanese fishermen who are on first-name terms with Les. They all wear heavy woollen pants, police suspenders, thick work shirts with longjohns showing even in summer, mackinaws of various patterns and colour, but on their feet only grey elastic-sided fishermen's slippers. They prove to be soft-spoken, kind-hearted and helpful. After a day of hard work, they like to be invited to the house to watch hockey on television; in return they bring delicacies and teach Joan to cook Japanese foods.

Gabriola lacks bank, hairdresser, any source of supplies for the little store; there is no choice but to make frequent trips to Nanaimo. Joan becomes well enough organized to get to town and back before noon, driving as fast as she can - 20 mph over the potholes - and returning to find people waiting for their mail or a peek at her purchases.

Customers stand at the counter and call out their requests one by one from the lists clutched in their hands. The clerk climbs shelves, dives under counters, disappears into a back room, and returns with what is wanted. It is a slow process, as each item is written laboriously in a charge book. While they wait, everyone cheerfully participates in endless discussions on the topics of the day.

Joan's first summer employee is Susie Strasdine, who changes hats every five minutes, running from store to gas pump to fish house to propane tanks, serving as camp ranger and cleaning lady, then suddenly called on to entertain unexpected guests. The phone always rings when she is on the dock, at the bottom of the ramp, which summer tides make straight up and down like a ladder; inevitably the caller wants to know "are you open?" or "when do you close?". But Susie stays for six summers; then Charlene Usselman works for Joan. Later, both girls become marine biologists.

Young people come every summer - family and friends - handsome young Coast Guarders - tenants and boaters. Fishermen, clamdiggers and oyster pickers bring treats for the nightly barbecue.

Tourists find themselves stranded on the island, far from the ferry, and Page's begins to welcome campers. In 1974 two new cottages are built, with Walter Krull in charge of construction, and the first little cabin, the original house on floats, is totally refurbished.

1975. A sunken barge is towed from the Fraser River, pumped, raised, filled with styrofoam, and replanked to serve as the fuel dock.

The following year the fuel tanks are moved from the waterfront to a safer location behind the campground.

In October, 1979, fire destroys the hotel at Silva Bay Resort. Joan and Les watch anxiously as cinders fall on their roof and floats, but no damage is done at Page's. They do, however, spend that winter amid demolition and upheaval. The little house has served well for thirty years, but its age is showing, and they envision a renovation which takes full advantage of the magnificent setting on the bluff above the Bay. They hire Marvin and Bob Wall from Nanaimo to build a new house all around the old one. Bits and pieces are ripped away, windows and doors removed, and the debris burned for firewood. It's chilly living until a tenant leaves one of the cottages, and Les and Joan take refuge therein. At the end of May, 1980, they move in to the new house. Only the finishing touches remain; Bill Rowan brings truck loads of top soil for the back gardens, and Les does the cement work for the flower beds in the front.

Then it's fishing and tourist time again, this year with the added attraction of guided tours through the new house. The living room is a spectacular success; people come in unsuspecting, gasp as the view breaks upon them, smile as they move into the airy, inviting space, and take a long time leaving. Joan and Les have built well.

But Les takes ill and is hospitalized. Their Japanese friends help in the fish house so Joan can visit the patient. Other fishermen cut grass, prune trees, and even clean house. The grocery store is phased out; people have good roads and ferry service and go to Nanaimo to shop.

The fish buying continues another three years, years which Joan expects to be the worst and which turns out to be the best: the fresh air job that calls her out early in the morning or in the darkness of the night. Some fishermen have sold their fish to Page's every summer for forty years.

Through the Hippie years, young people appear from the bushes, too many and too often to keep count. They subsist on fish, oysters and clams from the water and wild berries from the woods. There is always something edible growing in the old greenhouse. A drug dealer takes up residence in one of the cottages, with a horrific amount of something from Central America, and guns under the mattress. Les is away fishing, but Joan has to take action. One night, while the undesirable tenants are out, she packs their belongings and, when they return, evicts them.

Most visitors are nice. A few are famous: Bob Hope comes ashore to pick blackberries; Prince Rainier brings Albert in for an ice cream cone; Harvey Southam walks his dog. Pierre Trudeau swims off Tugboat Island, and Prince Philip observes us from the Fifer, anchored in Silva Bay.

Les and Joan remember the summer people: Jack and Jean Bruno, Lyle and Phyllis Hurschman, Jack and Laura Watkins, Hugh and Pat Kelly, Ralph Smith and Olive, friends and family from Abbotsford and Galiano, Dave Armstrong from CKDA, Bob Fortune the weather man, the Griffiths family, Jim Manders, Tom DeRoos, Rita and Norman Jones, Doug and Esther Stephens, Hans Anderson... too many to name them all. There are rich and poor, and they may look at the world in different ways, but when they come to Silva Bay they are pretty much alike.

The Smith family lives on Bath Island, out of sight beyond Sear and Tugboat Islands. Don and Joyce and the two girls shuttle back and forth across the water, occasionally staying overnight when a gale funnels across the Bay. Christmas is a great social occasion, as the Pages load their boat to visit with the Smiths. When bitter winds prevail, everyone stays home to feed wood into the heaters.

No real tragedies follow after Jack's death and its ensuing miseries. A boat sinks at the dock and another explodes but without seriously injuring anyone. There are no robberies or fires. In forty years of carrying grocery and fuel accounts, fewer than a dozen have to be written off.

Occasionally in the summer in sockeye running time, Joan takes a respite to go with Les aboard the "Connie Sue". She begins to think of retiring from her "job" as wharfinger and janitor. The business is winding down; the store, the fish house and the fuel dock are closed. The only campers are special perennials, like Fred Withey, for whom Silva Bay has always been home. Boats still moor at the docks, for a small fee, and tenants still occupy the cottages.

In 1987 Les and Joan sell Page's Resort and Marina. Les keeps more than half of his acreage, builds a cabin and plants a garden, and in the summer takes "Connie Sue" after salmon, but their home is in Nanaimo.

Ted and Phyllis Reeve have come to the end of a quest. For twenty years Ted has been British Columbia's transplant physician. Phyllis is a university librarian. They have been disheartened by the politicizing of their professions. They are not old enough to retire, and they have an idea what they would like to do. With the help of agent Jim Fraser, they set out in search. Jim has doubts about this couple, who want peace and tranquillity at the same time as a viable business. One day in November, 1986, they board the Gabriola ferry, drive past North Road's tunnel of trees, and follow Coast Road to Page's. Jim breathes an audible sigh of relief.

The Reeves take possession on April 1, 1987. Their Vancouver acquaintances find the date significant, but Ted and Phyllis are tucking into their first Gabriola dinner: a bucket of fresh prawns brought as a welcome by Jae and Sylvia Labell.

What to do first?  Ted chooses a task which he feels confident he can handle, and which will station him out in the midst of whatever action occurs. He begins painting the handrails on the ramps to the wharf. Everyone using the ramp has to stop and introduce themselves. Before the paint can is half empty, he is well on his way to meeting the Page's community: Peter Sakich and Dorothy of the fishing vessel "Teeny Milly", Aileen and Neil Adam of the sailboat "Meg", George Wood of "La Mouette" with Poi his deckhand dog, Ina and John Curran of "Sun Star", Carl and Joan Nelson, new owners of "Picnic" ...

Bath Island too has just been sold. The Smiths continue to have a boat, and settle not far away, on Martin Road. Then begins the endlessly entertaining saga of Professor Roger Boshier and his attempts to divide his time equally between the Flat Top Islands and the university campus, navigating on a succession of accident-prone vessels. He is often seen racing to the rescue of some heedless boat which, despite Jack's light, goes aground on Le Rock.

Phyllis and Ted have to learn quickly about floats and docks, and wells and septic tanks, about accommodation guides and travel agents. They clean fish and grow vegetables. Henry, their youngest son, knows about boats, and through the summer is the third member of the team. His first engineering triumph is the design and building of handsome, heavy picnic tables.

So far they have met only the year-round boaters. Suddenly they find they have a fleet of summer craft, each expecting to tie to its usual wharf. Word is out on Gabriola that Page's is open for business, and a scramble for moorage begins. There is no list of seasonal moorage. Ernie Fleming cannot believe the Reeves have never heard of him; neither can they, once they meet him, his wife Jeannie and their vintage blue powerboat "Astrobelle". Lyle Hurschman arrives on the "Deb Rob", with the news that there is always a spot for him, every Saturday, all summer long. Fortunately, Lyle proves adept at manoeuvering into tight corners, so "Deb Rob" always does fit somewhere and no summer Saturday is complete without the unmistakable sound of her motor.

Ernie reveals that he has painted signs for Joan, and is available for the new owners. His cheerful, funny signs now post a welcome by land and by sea, and point the way to office, rest rooms and dog walk. David and Kathleen Davies know travellers will want to go further afield, and compile a "List of Walks on Gabriola from Page's Marina". The list proves popular with footloose boaters and cottagers, but also with islanders who want to explore the back roads and shore lines. A second list follows, a Checklist of Birds for Gabriola Island and Surrounding Waters, compiled for Page's by Keith Poulton.

Divemaster Nick Small suggests he move his dive shop to Page's, and the former oil shed becomes Gabriola Reefs Dive Shop. Nick is close personal friends with a wolf eel.

The fuel dock reopens the first of July. All summer Page's Marina feels like Sleeping Beauty being welcomed back to life. The grocery store is no more, but before long the office is stocking marine charts, seashell cards designed by John Curran, and books about Gabriola, books written by Gabriolans, and books published on Gabriola.

The most spectacular event of the first five years is the replacement of the barge which holds the fuel pumps and is losing flotation and planking at an increasing rate. Henry and Ted design and build a section of small floats, gaining expertise and confidence. The original intention is to decrease the size of the main dock, but three summers have revealed this as the social centre of the Marina, a gathering, gossiping place.

When his university term ends in the spring of 1990, Henry starts construction. By the end of June the frame is afloat and time is running out. Roger of Bath Island organizes an impromptu corps of volunteers who spend much of their July 1st holiday carrying planks down the ramp. Everyone wants to drive a nail. The climax of the community effort comes July 3rd. The necessary experts synchronize their watches and work with precision worthy of NASA. Steve Laakso is on his towboat, Gordy McDonald (son of Tom) on backhoe and pulley, Ron Smith and Gunther Krohnke on fuel lines. Phyllis removes two unknown children who appear from nowhere with their fishing rods, just as Gordy activates his machines. The ramp, weighing more than a ton, is raised, the old dock is removed, the new dock is brought in, the ramp is lowered. Everything is back in place, and the fuel pumps are back at work after less than twenty-four hours.

That same summer, 1990, Page's becomes a centre for the arts. A Vancouver artist of international reputation, Pnina Granirer, exhibits her spectacular series of paintings inspired by Gabriola's rock formations. The house at Page's Marina takes on a dual personality as the Sandstone Studio, and Gabriolans come by the hundreds.

The following year one of the campers is a composer. Ted finds Jeannie Corsi, with earphones and portable keyboard, working at a picnic table. In August 1992, Jeannie gives a piano concert in the Sandstone Studio. Again Gabriola responds. The concert is sold out, and Page's looks ahead to a series of chamber concerts.

Page's becomes again a place for special occasions: the Vancouver Rowing Club's Easter barbecue, the Sapperton Fish and Game Club on Victoria Day, the Silva Bay Yacht Club sail past a week or so later. Family reunions happen in the picnic ground. The first New Year's Eve "non-party" occurs when teenagers on Bath Island want to share their celebration. The teenagers have moved on, but the celebration continues.

May there always be celebrations at Page's.

Written by Phyllis Reeve in 1993, the 50th anniversary of Page’s Marina.

Looking Back – and Forward

After Les Page died in 2004, his family unveiled a memorial plaque, mounted on the rocky shore above the site of the original dock and store. Gabriolans  - McDonalds, Witheys, Boultons, Stewarts, and others - came to share memories of Jack and Les. We were especially happy to welcome younger generations of the Page clan, and encourage them to feel at home here and to keep alive the link with the past.

For the Reeve family also, the time came for looking to the younger generation. In 2007, twenty years after coming to Page’s, Ted and Phyllis handed the reins to our daughter and her husband, Gloria and Ken Hatfield, and Page’s officially became a family business. With their children Nicolas, Stephanie and Michelle, Ken and Gloria are continuing the hospitable tradition begun by Jack and Les and their families. They are also making changes to fit the needs of the twenty-first century and, even more important, to fit the dictates of their own dreams.

A new chapter has begun.

Phyllis Reeve


Page’s Resort & Marina has been serving visitors since 1943. Originally a fish camp on Silva Bay, Page’s has since expanded into a full time, full service resort along the shores of the bay.