"Are you the Greenwoods with a family member  who's a Social Studies  teacher?"  

"No, we're the Greenwood family with the canoes!"

© Susan Greenwood

Because my father was so committed to his business, family vacations were not always possible. When we did have the opportunity, holiday trips often consisted of travel within British Columbia, usually with a canoe and tent trailer in tow.  Dad was extremely interested in British Columbia's lush history, and was keen to share this with us.

One such trip included a trek to Barkerville, where Dad obtained a whip saw for display in the Vancouver Hastings Mill Store museum.

Eventually, my parents felt we had outgrown the Marpole house, so they purchased a larger house in Vancouver's Kerrisdale. My brothers and I attended Quilchena Elementary, as well as Point Grey Secondary Schools.  My brother Sid began working for the Greenwood Canoe Company’s Mitchell Island location on weekends while in high school. After graduating, he worked for Dad full-time. One of his many memories is of Dad giving each employee a chocolate bar with their paycheque.

We knew when Dad was arriving home from work because he was always whistling. He would come home so covered with sawdust that Mom would make him change his clothes in the basement before being allowed into the rest of the house.

When Mom and Dad were first married, they lived in an apartment above the 4th Ave. canoe shop. After learning they had to move due to the new Granville Street Bridge construction, Mom, Dad, and my brother Michael (b. 1951) moved into a new house built by Dad and my grandfather in Vancouver's Marpole district. The split-level design made this one of the most modern homes on the street. This is where my brother Sidney (b. 1954) and I (b. 1959), were born.  The boys both attended Sir Wilfrid Laurier Elementary School.

Also part of my father's busy schedule was his involvement with both the YMCA camp committee and the Native Sons of British Columbia Post #2. Dad was honoured to have attained the highest rank possible in the Native Sons, that of Grand Factor.

Dad met his future wife Mary Gidley (b. 1922) at a house party given by a mutual friend and fellow member of the Anglican Young Peoples Association (AYPA). They were members of St. Philips Anglican Church in Dunbar and were married there in 1946. In addition to Mom's name change to Greenwood, she acquired the roles of bookkeeper and sales manager for the Greenwood Canoe Company. Although my father sometimes worked seven days a week, he always made time to attend church and was involved in organizing parish fellowship.  Both my parents spent time as Sunday school teachers.  Mom and Dad attended many dances and social events together. Dad had a natural wit, keen sense of humour, and loved socializing. Everybody loved Bill!

Dad's parents were married in 1904 and moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver in 1906. Dad was born in the family's Vancouver home in 1912. My grandfather Arthur was a house builder, which is where Dad learned his meticulous carpentry skills, and he would often assist Grandpa with construction. The Greenwood family resided in Burnaby's Vancouver Heights until the early 1930's, where Dad attended Gilmore Avenue Elementary School. Grandpa then purchased property in Vancouver's Dunbar neighbourhood and built a new family home there. Dad attended Lord Byng Secondary School and started building boats and canoes in the basement. 

Dad's paternal grandparents emigrated from England to Rat Portage, Ontario (later to become Kenora) in 1893. Rat Portage was a growing community due to the presence of the Hudson's Bay Company, as well as active lumber, gold mine, fur trade, and fishing industries.

Dad's grandfather, William Greenwood, was elected to the school board when he arrived in Rat Portage. He retired from this position three years later to join the town council and was involved in the boundary dispute with neighbouring Manitoba. My great grandpa later started a dairy business in Lake of the Woods, and from 1915 was president of the Kenora Agricultural Society for 11 years. The Kenora Golf & Country Club currently resides on the site of the family farm.

The Greenwood Family

Among other things, Dad taught me to ride a bike, ice skate, ski, walk on stilts, and of course paddle a canoe. I didn’t even consider his handicap until grade one, when one of my friends asked me “why does your daddy walk funny?” Prior to that, I hadn’t even noticed his disability, as it seemed there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.

St. Mary's Anglican Church Kerrisdale

In 1979, while repairing a boat for Camp Elphinstone, my father tragically suffered a major stroke, resulting in his passing away. Dad’s memory lives on in the boats and canoes he so skillfully crafted. When I am in my canoe, I get an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment. I believe that sense is my father’s spirit!

Dad's attempt at impersonating Century Sam for B.C.'s 100th birthday.

My great-grandparents are shown seated centre. My grandparents are seated to their left, holding my auntie Evelyn.

Other summer vacations were spent at YMCA's Camp Elphinstone. While Dad repaired boats and worked on various projects, Mike and Sid would attend the camp activities. I felt somewhat privileged to be the only girl allowed at an all boy’s camp.

From left, Auntie Evelyn, Dad, Auntie Dorothy, Grandma, and Uncle Art. Auntie Ruth is standing in front. 

According to a 1928 YMCA camp leader’s training course, "…a leader must be resourceful and adaptable,  have patience in abundance, have the spirit of justice and fairness, control his temper, have the quality of friendliness with which to temper discipline, be unselfish, inspire respect and confidence, have sane optimism, and a genuine love for nature and the out-of-doors…"  When I read this, it seemed as if it was written specifically to describe my father!

The "Five G's"