A small group of friends gathered at Scout Island Nature Centre Saturday afternoon, Oct. 27 to celebrate John Roberts’ 90th birthday.
John reiterated some family lore about how 90 years and one day earlier his mother broke the family dog out of the dog catcher’s cart.
“The next day I was born,” he said.
No wonder John became a veterinarian.
He told another dog story about how the family German shepherd would enthusiastically ride in the front of his canoe when he paddled across the lake to work on their new house at the end of South Lakeside.
Williams Lake was a sleepy little town in the late 1950s and his veterinarian practice wasn’t brisk.
“Every half hour I’d look across the lake with binoculars at our house on North Lakeside. If a client arrived at the clinic, Anna would hang a white sheet on the clothesline, then the dog and I would paddle back across the lake to serve them.”
Shortly after setting up his veterinary practice in Williams Lake, John purchased a Super cub airplane so he could serve the vast ranching community of the Cariboo Chilcotin.
“It was the only way I could make my services affordable to the ranchers by avoiding those rugged roads,” he said.
Anna remarked that John purchased his airplane before they owned their own home in Williams Lake.
In those days the airport was located on Ninth Avenue, and John always had to check for cattle on the airstrip before landing.
He later equipped his Super cub with floats and skis and the flying veterinarian built a little lakeshore hangar on their property next to Williams Lake.
Over the years John has taken a keen interest in the history of Williams Lake and area. He was instrumental in helping to establish the original archives at the Williams Lake Library, and has had an active interest in the environment.
“I would say John’s main claim to fame is as an historian,” says Diana French, who is also a long-time regional historian. “He started the archives and was involved in the museum from away back – not so much with the current one but if he hadn’t kept things going there probably wouldn’t be a current one,” French says.
“I would rate him the number 1 historian for the Cariboo Chilcotin. John has done a lot of research and has collected a huge amount of stuff such as photographs, diaries, letters, records, books, you name it.”
John also served as an alternative representative on the Cariboo Regional District board during the board’s early days in the 1970s and did a stint as a coroner once he retired as a veterinarian.
He also published his own historical book The Cariboo – An Historical Narrative after doing some researching in England.
Those attending the birthday celebration included local historians and naturalists including Diana French, Marty Simon, Libby Abbott, Edith and Charlie Fawcett, Betty Fletcher, Jim Sims, Fred McMechan, Steven Walker, Jurgen Hornburg, Sue Hemphill, Ordell and Kathy Steen, along with John’s wife Anna and daughter Gina.
John said he comes from a line of long-lived people and invited everyone to his century celebration in 10 years time.