John and Evelyn Burdikin are pictured here in the taxi on the way to their wedding reception in Vancouver in 1952.

John and Evelyn Burdikin are pictured here in the taxi on the way to their wedding reception in Vancouver in 1952.

Looking back on a lifetime of adventure

Williams Lake residents Evelyn and John Burdikin have embraced new challenges and adventures throughout their lives on two continents.

Williams Lake residents Evelyn and John Burdikin have embraced new challenges and adventures throughout their lives on two continents.

Their experiences include crossing the ocean from England and teaching at a small ‘bush school’ in rural B.C. in 1952 and moving from Port Coquitlam to Williams Lake — with a lifetime of adventures in between.

The two met in teacher training college in Sheffield, England.

Evelyn had been there a year when John arrived, and said that at the end of that year a lot of men were leaving the forces after World War II.

“Instead of getting only 18 year old boys at the college, we got a real man like John,” she said.

John explained that you had a choice of things you could do when you left the forces: you could get some training or go back to school and said that he chose to go to teacher training. He got a taste for teaching while he was in the navy, helping to train enlisted men for various kinds of tech jobs. He found that he had an affinity for teaching and decided to pursue it as a career when he got out of the navy.

He said that he joined the navy in 1944 before the invasion of Europe.

“It was really a quirk of fate that Evelyn and I met,” he explained. “The group of guys ahead of me went to Japan, but when it came to my turn they had dropped the bomb and they didn’t send any more troops.”

Evelyn said that they met in 1949, added that in college John was in charge of social activities like the Saturday dances. “I went to the dance with my friend. John knew her and asked her to dance, and afterward he asked me,” she said.

She said that she wanted to be a teacher for many years, adding that her first teaching job was the ‘baby’ class at a small school on the outskirts of Sheffield. John’s first job was teaching in a secondary school in the east end of Sheffield, specializing in technical and machine drawing.

A friend of a friend had moved to Canada and was designing part of a big shopping centre in Vancouver, B.C.

“He kept saying, ‘You should come to Canada — there are lots of jobs here,’” John said. “Things were different in Canada after the war: they were desperate for teachers. In England there were fewer jobs and housing was hard to come by.”

“We kept hearing these great stories from Canada and decided to come here. John wanted to come and see what it was like. He came over with a friend at Easter 1952. We decided that I would come over, and after five days on a boat and five days on a train, I eventually arrived in Vancouver,” Evelyn continued. “We had planned to get married two days after that.”

John got a house and jobs lined up for them in a bush school south of Powell River, and worked for the summer with the Forest Service at a fire station.

They had a short time to plan a wedding. “John met a guy whose brother was a warden at the St. James Church, and they offered to arrange the wedding. The wife of the superintendant of schools who hired us held a beautiful reception for them at their lovely home in Vancouver,” Evelyn noted, adding that they were married on August 15, 1952.

“We each had 15 students in our first little school. I taught grades 1-3 and John taught grades 4-6. We had a whale of a time,” she said.

“It was like paradise. The kids would get on the bus after school and we’d hop in our bathing suits and head for the beach. It was lovely and the people adopted us,” she said. “We stayed five years, and our oldest son was born there.”

At the end of their five years at Stillwater, John was persuaded to take a job as vice principal in a 600-student school in Prince Rupert, and they moved there with a nine-month old son and another baby on the way.

That baby, a daughter, was born in Prince Rupert. Two years later John took a job as assistant superintendant in Coquitlam, where their third child, another boy, was boy. Today they have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

They spent their careers in B.C., Evelyn in kindergarten classrooms and John in school administration and also serving as school superintendant.

“We lived through a lot of different experiences. I went to summer school for 10 years, through my master’s degree,” John said. “Evelyn would be home with the kids, and at the end of the summer she’d drive down and we’d all have a little holiday.

“We were privileged – we had a good life. At one point we packed up and went to Oxford for a year so that our families could see the kids when they were young,” he continued. “We farmed them out to stay with relatives while we were there and they’ve remained close ever since.”

“When you live in a small house and teach in a little school surrounded by bush and bears, you become very dependant on each other,” John said.

“People used to ask me how we managed to live in the bush like that, but we thought it was marvelous,” Evelyn added. “We just accepted each other as we were and took the rough with the smooth.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A new daycare in Tl’etinqox (Anaham) will be located across the road from the Datsan Chugh building. (Tl’etinqox Government Facebook photo)
Daycare approved to be built at Tl’etinqox First Nation

“We’re excited,” said Chief Joe Alphonse

International Women’s Day is March 8. (Internationalwomensday.com)
International Women’s Day 2021: #choosetochallenge

International Women’s Day is marked annually on March 8

Businesses in Williams Lake are invited to participate in a new sticker program that will help make their venues more accessible. (Williams Lake Accessibility Advisory Committee image)
‘Come On In’: New program aims to make Williams Lake businesses more accessible

Williams Lake Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) is leading the project

Celebrate women in leadership, March 8, International Women’s Day 2021 (Unsplash)
EDITORIAL: International Women’s Day 2021 shines spotlight on achievements, ongoing inequities

COVID-19 increased gender-based violence, economic stress, the burden of care giving for women

Amarjit Khakh of Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021: Amarjit Khakh

Kindness and giving, key to full life

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
B.C. father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)
Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

Most Read