Becoming Canadian: Pioneer Sikhs In Their Own Words


Section 3

" They got their first contract at the Cedar Cove Sawmill. This was for hauling wood. They had their own trucks and their own
Typical millsite in the early 1900's
Typical millsite in the early 1900's
horses and buggies. They acquired the trucks in 1918, but first they hauled the wood with the horse and buggy. They were the only ones, of our people, who had a big contract with the sawmills. They used to get the wood from the sawmill and go from house to house to sell it for firewood because everybody used to burn wood. Then lots of our people got into the wood business after us.

" About twelve of our people worked in this particular mill in the early days. But they also worked in Hemby Sawmills and Giroday Sawmills which were both close by, and Alberta Sawmills which was right there too. Quite a few of them used to work at Robertson and Hackett. These mills were around the Granville Bridge.

Mr. Giani Harnam Singh, the priest at the 2nd Avenue temple, was one of the original pioneers who came to Canada in 1906. He arrived from India educated in English and Sanskrit, enabling him to read and write letters for his Sikh neighbors on 2nd Avenue. This kept him in touch with events in the villages and in Canada and he lectured at the temple about politics, religion
Mrs. Jagdish Kaur Singh
Mrs. Jagdish Kaur Singh
and social affairs. He owned several properties in the temple area, which he rented to follow Sikhs. At age forty-seven, he returned to India to marry and in 1929 returned with his wife, Jagdish Kaur Singh. " When he arrived here everything was already set for us, " she remembers. " My husband owned three houses and several wood trucks and horses and buggies for hauling wood. He had parked the trucks and left everything in the hands of Chanan and Nand Singh Johal. They looked after all the houses and rents, they paid all the taxes and bills while my husband was away.

" Many of our people at this time sold wood. They picked up wood from the mills and went door to door and sold it for a profit. Most still had horses and buggies and some, if they could afford it, had trucks. Trucks were very expensive. We had several trucks, made of metal, even the wheels were metal. There were no doors though. He kept two drivers, Saran Singh and Tarlochan Singh. They made about four to five dollars a day. They were very good people, all of our people were very good, very trustworthy. Everybody got along well then. They helped one another and respected each other, no fighting at all. "

" I spent most of my time at the temple praying, cleaning and cooking in the kitchen. There were about twenty families in the temple area and the temple was the center. Evenings and weekends were spent at the temple. We all socialized here, there was nowhere else to go. We rarely mixed with white people, unless they came to the house to buy wood. "

Before the arrival of the women and the children, the men who lived on 2nd Avenue spent most of their time working and saving their money. The hours were long, the work was hard physical labor and they had lived a frugal life. But with the arrival of their families there was cause for joy and celebration. Many of the pioneers spent some of their hard-earned money for the betterment their families, leaving rental and communal situations and buying homes, furniture and household goods for their wives and children. Two pioneers even bought cars. Prior to this time, such extravagance had been considered foolish, but now things had changed; they had a reason to celebrate. Their families had finally joined them.



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