During the Second World War Bexie Blake worked for the war effort while her late husband Roy was stationed overseas.
The Blakes were living in Kingston, Ont. when Roy was deployed to England in December 1942.
They had only been married for 10 months, so 22-year-old Bexie returned to Vancouver to board with Roy’s parents and find work.
“I had a job as a timekeeper at Boeing in Vancouver,” Bexie said. “Everybody had a card they punched in every morning and I was in charge of the time cards for Shop 63.”
Workers were docked six minutes if they were one minute late, she recalled.
She also had to climb into planes in various stages of assembly and interview people about the jobs they were doing.
The planes were used mostly for freighting and had two bolsters on the side that always had a gunner in them, Bexie said, noting they weren’t really fast planes and usually went in a convoy.
While working in the shop she developed chilblains in the winter months because her office was right out in the middle of the building where the large doors they took planes in and out of were not too far from her desk.
Eventually Boeing built little offices for the timekeepers and that was much better.
Laughing, Bexie remembered her hourly wage was 85 cents an hour. From her earning she paid $20 a month for room and board and saved the rest.
Bexie and her friends often went to the movies on the weekends just to see the news.
“I loved listening to old Winston Churchill. Whenever he gave a speech he was always very inspiring. He got everybody riled up and ready to fight and go. He was my dad’s hero.”
Most of the girls at work had husbands or boyfriends overseas, she said, noting there were quite a few young men working there who didn’t have to go to war for different reasons, mostly health related.
Up until Roy returned in 1945 the two wrote letters to each other regularly.
“At that time he smoked so I’d go to the tobacco shops and buy quite a big package of cigarettes and collect other things to send to him that he couldn’t get over there. Everything arrived OK.”
By the time the war ended Roy was stationed in Italy and had spent quite a bit of time in the hospital because he had jaundice from poor food.
When he returned they used her savings for a down payment on a home in Lynn Valley.
In 1952 they moved to the Cariboo and bought the Ochiltree Ranch at Miocene.
Today at 94 years of age, Bexie continues to live on her own, with her two sons and daughter’s homes nearby.