Grandchild writes about her ‘Opa’

Valley Voices from the past - Grandchild writes about her ‘Opa’

Tony Uppenborn holding his grandaughter Melody Baird.

Tony Uppenborn holding his grandaughter Melody Baird.

By Melody Baird

Barriere Elementary student

2012 grade 4 Heritage Fair project

Donald James Edward Uppenborn, or ‘Tony’, was born Dec. 7, 1911, in Eden, Germany.   Tony grew up in Berlin, Germany, with his mother Alice Parkinson, who was born in Brighton, England.  Her parents were the owner/operators of the Parkinson Steamship Line.  Tony’s father, Ernst Uppenborn, was born in Hanover, Germany in 1874.  He was an electrician.  Tony learned a lot about electrician work, which helped him throughout his life.  Tony had two brothers, John and Wilfred, and a little sister, Rosemarie.

Tony came to Canada in 1928, arriving first in Montreal, then took the train to Kamloops.  Tony said the train ride was rough and tough.  Each car had it’s own kitchen, and everyone cooked for themselves.  There was a toilet in each car, and seats that could fold down into beds.  The train was very crowded.

Tony lived with his brother John at Frog Lake when he first came to Barriere, but moved to Vancouver after a short time where he found a job making harnesses.  When that job ended, he returned to Barriere and worked all around.   He worked for room and board, and a can of tobacco a month if the farmer could afford it.  He then took on a lease on Smith Lake and took a shot at running a fishing camp, but after the war he let the lease go.

Tony joined the army in 1941 in Kamloops, B.C., the day they bombed Pearl Harbour.  From there he went to Vancouver, then Quebec, and then they sent him to France, Belgium and Holland.  He received his Canadian Citizenship papers while in France.  He did special jobs for the Canadian army as he spoke three different languages.  He was fluent in German, English and French.

He drove the army truck in Germany for the Canadian army.  One time he was told to take a load of boots to the dump.  But because he knew families in Germany had little or no money, he went to a pub and had a beer.  He mentioned to the bartender that he had an unlocked truck full of army boots out back.  When he had finished his beer, he went out to his truck and it was completely emptied of the boots, so he drove the truck back to the base feeling very good about what he did.  Once had to hang glide into Holland on a mission.  He also took part in the Battle of Normandy.

While in Holland, he met the love of his life, Ruth Johanna Johanyer from Dortmund, Germany.  She had been in Holland looking for her father, as her home in Germany had been bombed and she wanted to tell him.

After the war, Tony returned to Holland to find Ruth and accompanied her back to Germany.  It took three years to get Ruth and their son Hans’s papers finalized.  Tony returned to Barriere in 1945, and Ruth and Hans got to come in 1948 on the Beaver Brae ship with the other war brides and children.  They traveled to Kamloops by CPR.

When Tony returned to Barriere after the war, he went back to stay at his brother John’s in Darfield,  and went to work with Bert Cleaveley in the sawmill.  This mill was later moved to upper Barriere.

The house Tony and Ruth bought was built at the old Meeks power plant in 1948.  It was a small hobby farm with a couple of cows, some chickens and ducks.

Tony and Ruth had two more children once in Barriere, Peter in 1949, and Heidi in 1953.

Tony and Ruth were active members of the Legion, Branch 242, and took part in many Oktoberfests.  They were active dancers and were given honorary membership to the Kamloops Big Band Society.  They loved to camp, and Tony was famous for his beer batter pancakes.  He loved to fish and hunt; he canned and smoked all his own meat.  Tony also grew a very large, beautiful garden and some of the most beautiful flowers in Barriere.

In the early 50’s, he quit working for Cleaveley and started work for the BC Department of Highways.  When he started the Department had a camp in Louis Creek.  There was a crew of eight, with a couple of dump trucks which they turned into ploughs for winter work.  In the early days the salary was $206 a month.  They worked seven days a week, evenings and nights, if necessary.  Tony retired in 1978.

When he retired, he took up woodwork as a hobby.  He made up all his own beer, champaign, wine, and rootbeer for his grandchildren.

I was lucky enough to live in my Opa’s house for the first nine years of my life.  I loved it there.

In 1978, after Tony retired, he and Ruth returned to the homeland for a wonderful two month visit.  They stayed and visited with Ruth’s cousins Alfred and Eva.  They traveled a lot in Germany to places that neither of them had seen before.

Tony passed away on December 27, 2004.