Note to readers: This interview with Barriere resident Tommy Marshall took place in 1991 when he was 66 years old.
For 10-year-old Tommy Marshall, the summer of 1935 was “great pig picnic… the best of fishing and no school.”
That summer the Marshall family of Green Court, Alberta, along with their friends, the Cochrans, made the trek to Falkland, B.C. The following year, the two families moved to begin new lives on the North Thompson, Tommy Marshall recalled.
As the two-family wagon train made its way to B.C., Mavin Cochran and he drove the cattle, Marshall said, and Tommy’s sister Violet drove the loose horses”.
Tommy’s mother Eileen Marshall, drove a covered Democrat in which she was accompanies by three-year-old Glen Cochran and carried “two sick calves and three dogs.” he remembers.
The other adults, Pete and Zella Cochran and Sheridan Marshall, each drove a wagon.
The first leg of the trek “started around the first of May and around the middle of August, we got there,” said Marshall.
Marshall said his mother had been a midwife in northern Alberta and “one of my earliest memories is of bouncing on the back of a horse going somewhere to deliver a baby.”
Marshall settled at Chase Creek, where Tommy attended school to the end of Grade 8.
When he left that community, it was to join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943. While in the air force, he was a tail-gunner on Lancasters, making a total of 18 trips over Germany prior to the end of hostilities. His flying log book from those trips served as a moment of dangerous times which he displayed occasionally when discussing old times.
Reflecting on recent developments in the Middle East, Marshall said, “Nobody likes war, especially somebody who has been there, but it’s a job that sometimes has to be done… Same as with Hitler. We took our chances on dying rather than living under him.”
Marshall said he approved the intervention of the United Nations force in the Gulf Crisis, pointing out that such intervention is one of the functions for which the United Nations was originally organized – as a means of maintaining world order.
Discharged in September, 1945, “right after the Japanese surrendered,” Marshall returned home, relocating to Louis Creek in 1949.
After the war, he went sawmilling and trucking, then “worked north, and all over the province, on shovels and cranes,” on railway, bridge, highway and airport construction, until 1966, when spinal arthritis “set in.”
“I haven’t been able to do anything since: I was crocked,” he said.
Always interested in books, Marshall said he began reading adult volumes by the time he was 10. Casting about for something to do with his times after he became disabled, he considered starting a used book store in 1972, but someone else opened a similar business just about then. When that business closed in 1979, Marshall was ready, and went into business himself, adding new books to his inventory in 1986.
Marshall’s interest in the written word extended beyond reading and selling books. “I wrote 17 bloody novels, over the years, but I never got one published – I came close, but close doesn’t count,” he said.
He noted that his daughter, Melody Barnett of Celista, B.C., also writes. Marshall also has a son, Sheridan, of Chetwynd, B.C., as well as four grandchildren.
Opening the book store and eventually beginning to carry new books gave Marshall contact with a large cross section of clients from all over the country.
One seasonal visit, he said, was a University of Toronto professor of English literature, who stopped by each summer on his way to a remote retreat to stock up on the sort of escapist-reading paperbacks he prefered not to be identified with during the school year.
Maintaining an inventory of approximately 3,o00 titles of new books and 10,000 used volumes, Marshall also prided himself on being able to fill difficult orders from “people all over the area,” noting that often small retail outlets like his could obtain new titles more quickly than the larger volume chain book stores found in cities.
Tommy Marshall’s father, Sheridan, died in 1976. Marshall said he looked after his mother for the last 10 years of her life. She lived to be 91, dying in October 1989.
Tommy Marshall’s constant companions in the book store (which was located just north of the Barriere Motor Inn on Lilley Road in Barriere) were his “Chief of Rodent Control,” Churchill the cat, and a small black dog that greeted all new arrivals.
Trading used books and allowing new books purchased at his store to be taken in trade on the other books at a later date kept up the pace of regular traffic for Marshall.
And maintaining his book store in the little house on Lilley Road kept Tommy Marshall in touch with the world, while steeped in the history books that he loved so much.
This article has been reprinted from a February 4, 1991, interview by Ann Piper, who was editor for the Yellowhead Star in Barriere.