Remembrance: Richmond woman recalls post-war signs saying ‘Vancouver overcrowded’

Whenever Nov. 11 rolls around, Joyce Ferguson digs out her late father’s war memorabilia to mark the service he gave Great Britain and Canada.

Her dad, Frank Hulks, left England as a 19-year-old to fight in the Boer War in South Africa in 1901, returning safe and well and with a Queen Victoria medal to boot.

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Later, after having immigrated to Canada, Hulks returned to the field of battle as a sergeant major, stationed somewhere in France during the First World War between 1914 and 1918.

Again, Hulks made it home alive, ultimately starting a family in Wynyard, Saskatchewan.

Remembrance: Richmond woman recalls post-war signs saying ‘Vancouver overcrowded’_1
Frank Hulks, who fought for Great Britain in the Boer War in South Africa in 1901. Alan Campbell photo

All that’s left of those early days, however, is a small, fading photo in an oval frame, a partial Royal Family tea set and a love note to Ferguson’s mom from war-torn France.

“I was too young to know or remember the stories of those wars,” said Ferguson, 89, who was born in Manitoba, but has called Richmond home since 1959, along with her husband of 68 years, Eric.

“I do remember during the Second World War the house being full of newspaper clippings and the radio was on all the time so (dad) could listen to what was going on in Europe.

“He was so interested in what was going on. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see the end of that war. He died in 1944 (of cancer).”

Ferguson had vivid memories of dealing with the ration book as a 13-year-old, although her farming community had no problem getting their hands on certain items.

“There was no problem getting milk, but eggs were rationed, butter was rationed, so was flour,” she said.

“We didn’t have too much trouble getting stuff. We did a lot of trading with the next farm and so on.

“And as kids, we went down to the grain elevators with scrap metal to help with the war effort. I remember taking down an old, wrought iron pump that I found in the garage. It was gladly accepted. I was so proud.

“Kitchen fat was also needed for the war. I think they needed the grease for the munitions factory. Perhaps for the machinery that makes the munitions.”

When the Second World War ended in 1945, Ferguson and her mom decided to head west on the train and start a new life in Vancouver with her “Auntie Jean.”

“The train was filled with soldiers,” recalled Ferguson, who was 15 at the time.

“There were big signs in the railway stations on the journey that said ‘Do not move to any of these cities, they are overcrowded.’ Vancouver was on the list. Maybe they were overcrowded with servicemen, I don’t know?”

Ferguson settled in Burnaby, before meeting her future husband while attending Britannia High School in Vancouver.

The couple, who have three sons, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren, have taken part in the Remembrance Day parade in Richmond in the past, as members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

But given their advancing years, they now tune in on TV from their Richmond townhouse and watch the national event in Ottawa, remembering the days gone past.

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