“It was quite a party,” said Isabel Ford, looking up from the newspaper she reads every single day. Cover to cover. Ford turned 95 last week. Her room at the intermediate care home where the senior has lived for two years has momentos of her past all around her. On the walls, behind her easy chair, on the window will and on table tops. But she is very much in tuned with today.
“This is what happens when you move out of a house into a space this big,” she said.
Asked if she remembers her trip down the Nechako River in a paddle wheel boat, Ford is quick to respond. Using a thin index finger – and the newspaper on her lap as a makeshift map – she traces the route her family took back on August 15, 1913.
Her voice stern but not impolite, Ford asked, “Do you know your geography? (she leaves the reporter with the distinct impression that if not, there will be a lecture or a geography lesson.) She continued.
“The Fraser River has a bend right here. And that is where we got on.” Ford then makes an imaginary line with her finger. “This is the Alberta border, We got on just past the border and my sister Winnifred and I – I was four years old – we walked from the train station along the rails to where the CN ended. My mother was with us. My Dad had already gone ahead of us.”
“I remember my mother buying the ticket in Toronto. I don’t remember the train trip much. They’d never heard of the CN rail then, only CPR in Ontario. My grandfather came out in 1910 but he didn’t stay. My father did and he built a log cabin for us. Eventually there were six children in the family.”
Asked when she arrived in Prince George, Ford is impatient. “It wasn’t Prince George. Prince George wasn’t here. There was central Fort George, South Fort George and what later became Prince George. I’ve always lived here but Prince George wasn’t named until the railway came in 1914.”
When she was 24, Ford graduated from nursing and worked for three years in immunization supplies. A collage of student nursing photos on her wall shows a young woman with thick, wavy hair and a mischievous smile. It is the same smile she has today.
During her nursing career, Ford worked 12 years in the Health Unit as it was then called. After that, she married, stayed home and looked after her husband. Their greatest joy as a couple, she said, was times spent on their lot at Bednesti Lake.
“We got it when it was the last of a group of 19 lots on the lake. So we got a good deal. We later sold it to a fellow who had a plane. He wanted to use our lot as a landing spot for his plane.”
She is proud of the history her family has left behind in Prince George. “My family name was Tyner. They named a street after us.” Ford has seen many changes in her nine decades of living. Most of it good. “Communications is something that has expanded the world, not just here but everywhere. Cell phones, computers and all sorts of new technology. I can remember when we did everything by hand. Even laundry.”
Although the invention of television was a big event in her youth, Ford has little time for it now. “I’m not a great TV watcher. I like the news but I don’t like fiction. Even what I read is non-fiction. I enjoy historical books. A friend used to bring me books from the library every two weeks.”
Now she enjoys simple pleasures. Like the resident cat, Sheba, who often wanders down the hallway and sleeps on her bed. “I like cats,” she said simply. And when it came time to take her picture, Ford marveled over the digital camera and its instant images.
“I remember the old box cameras. My sister Winnifred had one. She didn’t take very good pictures.”