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Fraser Valley Record
Chimney sweep finds true love
Frank Proctor: Former chimney sweep became a landscape painter in retirement

It was 1916 when Frank Proctor reached the leaving age of 14 at Ushaw Moor School in the village of 3,000 just three miles from Durham City, England. The headmaster was Wilson Potts, a big man with a reputation for caning hard any wayward pupil. Feared by the schoolchildren, nevertheless they would sing whenever he was out of earshot, "Mr. Potts is a very good man - He goes to church on Sunday - He prays to God to give him strength - To whack the kids on Monday."

Proctor left school on the Friday, and stated work in the nearby coal mine on the Monday. He spent the next 12 years in the pit, six of them lying on his side to pick the narrow 18" seam. Paid by piecework, he earned an average of $5 per week. His father, a bricklayer, died before the 1926 general strike and Proctor was laid off when the colliery closed.

Times were tough for the Proctor family. Men, and children over 14, were not allowed in the soup kitchen. To receive the 18 shillings ($4.50) dole per week, Proctor neede six reliable citizens to sign a certificate stating that he had looked for work.

In 1928 Proctor read a newspaper ad "10,000 harvesters wanted in Canada to get in the harvest" with free passage promised to all who signed up for 30 days work. He decided to go. It almost broke his mother's heart, but Proctor sailed on the CPR ship Aurania.

On reaching Winnipeg he was sent further west to Kincaid, Saskatchewan. At some stations on the way men held up big signs, "No Englishmen need apply." Completely green, but willing and able, he was put to work stooking wheat sheaves. Working 12 - 14 hours per day in the broiling Prairie sun, Proctor suffered the facial skin cancer he bears to this day. "But," he remembers, "the farmer Mr. Haist was an angel treating us well."

Proctor earned $150 for his work, the most money he'd ever seen. Undeterred by warnings of the bitter cold winters, he decided to stay in Canada. Moving to Regina, Proctor took any work he could get, shovelling snow, labour jobs, night porter - he survived. Then he got a job on the new GM plant in Regina which paid well - 50 cents per hour. But the plant only operated from September to May.. By 1936 Proctor had found work at the Adanac Brewery. After work he would go to evening dances at the Sons of England Hall, where he met and later married Anne Tindall in 1937.

In 1939 Proctor volunteered for military duty overseas and joined the Regina Rifles. He was promoted to Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant and drafted to Aldershot, England, only to train endlessly for three years.

June 1944 arrived and RQMS Proctor landed with Canadian Forces in Normandy - it was D-Day. The Regina Rifles held a major enemy counterattack at Brettville-Norrey which saved the landings on the Canadian Juno Beachhead. Later the Regiment fought in the action to close the Falaise Gap, which ultimately spelt the beginning of the end for Hitler. Returning home after four years overseas, Proctor stayed on as Depot RQMS in Regina, leaving the army in 1947.

The Proctors decided to leave behind the Prairie winters, so Proctor came ahead to find a house. He bought the residence on 3rd Avenue where he lives to this day.

Next he had to find work. Seeing his neighbour Ethel Loving out on the street, Proctor learned she was waiting for the chimney sweep from New Westminster, as there wasn't a full time sweep in Mission. Canvassing the Main Street he also learned that storekeepers had to clean their own windows. So Proctor went home and had cards printed, offering, "Frank's Business & Home Service - Chimneys, Windows, and Floors."

Interested in art, Proctor as a boy had taken lessons after school, but it wasn't until he retired - "that I found my gift and my painting took off," he says. His work adorns many homes and has been chosen to show a two provincial and nine local art exhibitions.

Sadly his wife Anne dies in 1981 after a long illness through which she was cared for by her special friend Ruth Webber, who was a nurse at Mission Hospital. Proctor and Ruth married in 1983, and you will always find them together sharing their blessing in faith and love.

Legion President in 1967 - 68, Proctor wrote a monthly Legion news column for the Fraser Vally Record for many years. An active church worker, Proctor continues to serve the All Saints congregation as Warden Emeritus and is a former Sunday School superintendent. Still active in community endeavors, Proctor at 91 remains a gentle, kind man who loves to be of service to people.

Editors note:

The above article was published in 1994 on the occasion of the naming of Proctor Street in Misson, British Columbia, honouring Frank Proctor's contributions to his community.

 

I Was There how to order I was there

An AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frank Proctor

Edited by
William N Tindall & Pamela Proctor


Published by tmi Publications, Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada

email: tmi Publications




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