Florence Cora Milliken was born July 13, 1929 in Bowsman, Manitoba to Richard and Elizabeth Hall. She was the seventh of eight children who were raised on the old homestead.
While most young ladies wanted to be nurses or hairdressers, Florence wanted to be a chuck-wagon driver.
In 1957 the family moved to Williams Lake where she rode her horse Pride during the horseback square dance for Princess Margaret during her visit in 1958. We all know that Florence was a long-time square dancer, and now we know just how long. Pride was quite a horse, and she even tried jumping him with mixed results. As she said: “We would get over the first fence, and sometimes even the second if we were lucky, but then he’d get the bit in his teeth and off we would go again.”
In 1958 she met Jim Milliken and they were married Valentine’s Day 1959 with their reception being held at the 150 Mile Hotel. Jim came up from Vancouver in September 1955 to live in the country and work as a carpenter. They didn’t wait very long to start a family. Their oldest daughter Darlene was born November 1959, and the second daughter, Susan, arrived in May 1961. The family moved to the South Lakeside of Williams Lake. The family would build a house; and even before the doors were on the kitchen cupboards the house would sell, and they would move to the next lot to start all over again.
Florence became quite adept at cooking on a camp stove, flushing toilets with buckets of water, and raising her daughters while the house was being built around her.
They started the Valentine Chinchilla ranch and at one point they had more than 350 of the furry little creatures. Of course as with any ranch, other creatures such as chickens, pigs, rabbits, and steers were all present.
And of course the girls gave every animal a name, which made suppertime very delicate. Whenever dinner guests were expected, Florence would have to remind her daughters that it was “Please pass the meat,” and not “Please pass Lucky or Snoopy.”
In 1972, Jim was hired on to help build Gibraltar Mine, so the family moved to McLeese Lake where they lived in the chinchilla barn until the roof was on the new house. There, however, was a hole in the bathroom wall as Florence and a surprised guest soon discovered. Upon investigation of a strange noise coming from the bathroom she discovered a squirrel at the door wishing to be let out. Florence was never sure if she let seven squirrels out, or if it was the same one, seven times before she got fed up and blocked the hole.When the two teenage daughters wanted to go to the first Williams Lake Stampede Barn Dance, Florence and her two sisters Ellen and Helen decided to tag along. One of the daughter’s boyfriends brought a jug of wine and proceeded to fill all the glasses full. When Darlene and Susan got back from dancing they found three giggling sisters with empty glasses. These were promptly filled and the girls headed out dancing again. Well after filling the glasses three or four times, the daughters were starting to get worried about how to get the three giddy sisters home when the truth was discovered. They were pouring the wine back into the bottle.
Jim and Florence enjoyed playing cards and spent many an evening with friends and family playing various games with one such occasion being the night before Grant and daughter Darlene’s wedding. A large card game was going on in the living room while the rest of the family had gathered in the kitchen when a heated discussion started between Grant’s dad, Stanley and Florence. Nobody paid much mind to it until Florence loudly declared “That’s it, the wedding is off!” It’s a wonder that poor Stanley ever played cards with Florence again.
Susan and Darlene bought their parents a cruise to Alaska for their 25th anniversary. The cat was almost let out of the bag, however, when Susan got caught sneaking out of the travel agent, but some slick talking on her behalf saved the day. Jim and Florence retired to 150 Mile House and kept up their wandering ways, enjoying buss tours to Tennessee, Nevada, the Dakotas, and the Maritime provinces. They also joined in with the square dance convoy celebrating the 50th anniversary somewhere on the Alaska Highway in 1998. Their last trip was earlier this year, a cruise through the Panama Canal. Florence put on all of five pounds dining on the exotic cuisine the ship offered.
Florence was so proud of her four grandchildren. Of course all of them learned to square dance and two of them even started to call. They joined their grandparents on many a square dancing adventure, while Willie Giesbrecht became a favourite target with many comments and documentation about driving ability and insurance policies. The family referred to Florence as their fifth teenager because so long as they knew where the children were, they knew where to find Florence.
In 1999, Florence was diagnosed with cancer and spent time at the Kelown Cancer Treatment Centre. Although she was declared cancer free, the doctors determined that it was this cancer that came back in the end.
Florence died peacefully at her home at 150 Mile House with Jim holding her hand on June 18, 2005. There is a very beautiful and special ending to this story. While the family gathered at the hospital to say goodbye, they met Jim and Florence’s good friend and next-door neighbour. She was hurrying upstairs because her daughter was in labour with their first grandchild. This day, one soul left and another one arrived. It was a boy.
Florence is survived by her loving family: husband Jim; children Darlene (Grant) Raymond; Susan (Grant) MacPherson; grandchildren, Amber, Lance, Jennifer, Jamie; sister Helen Yatkowski; sister-in-law Muriel Hall; and many nieces and nephews.