This is Nadine Kulikowski, and it is April 13, 1983, and I’m presently in the home of a person who worked on, and who was a passenger of the S.S. Keenora.
May I have your name please?
It is Roy Purvis.
When and where were you born?
In Selkirk Hospital, 1934.
How old were you when you first started working on the Keenora?
Well, I never actually worked on the Keenora, I worked on the office and I think I was about 13, when I started working there. Right after school and on weekends, and on Fridays and Mondays the busy days during the summer as well as Saturdays and Sundays.
And how long did you work like that?
Till I was 18 or 19. It was probably the summer of ’52, it was my last summer there, and that summer I was out on Lake Winnipeg. The Keenora would go as far as Warren’s Landing, and all the freight from further up would be transferred to smaller boats and barges, and I worked on that for that summer. Making sure that the freight got to the right people. The boat would be frozen out the year beforehand and a lot of stuff would be left in various points along the lake, and we would have to collect that and get it to the right people, and so on. And I also collected all the bills that the freight was dumped at various places or just getting there, and that is what I was out to do, make sure that everything went to the right place.
Why did you choose to work like this?
Well, the business was sort of my family’s, my grandfather was one of the founders of the Northern Fish Company which originally was owned by the Keenora and became the Selkirk Navigation Company, and I was a share holder in part of the organization. Did your grandfather work on the boat? My grandfather, well my grandfather Purvis, no, he was one of the owners, and he was responsible for ship building, and he was responsible for the fishing part of the operation out of Warren’s Landing, but he was never captain of the boat, he was captain of other boats, but not the passenger boat. My other grandfather, Captain Vance, had been Captain of the Keenora for quite some years, so I’m sort of born on his side.
What types of cargo or freight was carried on the boat?
Well, practically anything you can name, all from horses and cows, I saw a Lincoln caar, very fancy Lincoln go out once, generally it was things like flour and beer for the hotel at Norway House, wine for the church, just general supplies. A lot of gasoline, a lot of oil went out to the poor, for everything. Building supplies, the place was just loaded down every week, you couldn’t get any more on (I could imagine).
Did you have any wages?
Yeah, I started off with 50 cents an hour, which was pretty good in those days. My first purchase, was I saved up $75.00 and bought myself a Bulova watch, it was a top of the line watch, so I reckoned on doing this instead of spending it on cokes and so on.
What were your working conditions around you like?
Well there were two offices, one here in Selkirk which is the one down by the Keenora now, and there some years I worked in the outer office where I just did freight lay and bills, depending on how busy it was. I think when I started off, I was more in the inner office, then later on I was in the outer office, working with people. In the city where we found our barge, we had a big office, and freight was received on a ship’s barge, and there I did everything from entering into the books like doing accounting work, adding all the columns up, and writing receipts and writing cheques, and everything else for the treasurer of the company as well as the freight handling.
You were kept busy!
Yeah, that’s right.