An era in 21 chapters: New exhibit preserves Ioco’s history online

Online exhibit records Ioco’s history

There are photos of the way it was and memories of the way it might have been.

The Port Moody Station Museum recently launched Ioco Memories on their website. A living document, the 21-chapter gallery combines black-and-white photos with colourful stories in an effort to paint an accurate picture of the company town.

The history begins the early days of the Ioco refinery when sheep were deployed to keep the grass down.

photo supplied Ioco Memories

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Ioco was largely shaped by labour unrest that resulted in a strike in 1918. However, according to an account from Don Hart, workers might have struck earlier if not for one superintendent and a 25-cent raise.

“He gave everybody two-bits an hour raise, rather than see them walk off the job. That would have been our first strike,” Hart recalls. “He met everybody at the gate and he says, ‘You’re not going on strike, I won’t allow it.’”

The superintendent was eventually “let go” for signing a contract with the union, Hart recalls.

School and ‘the big strap’

The history also provides a glimpse into what constituted educational theory 100 years ago.

Some of the most moving passages in the project are supplied by Fred Laidlaw as he recalls going to school in Ioco.

Eventually, children growing up in the company town would attend Ioco School. But while the school was being built, kids got their education in a makeshift room “down on the beach,” Laidlaw recalls.

He describes his teacher, Miss Haley, rowing in, teaching, and then rowing home when school was over.

Miss Haley wielded a “big strap,” according to Laidlaw, who describes a piece of belting supplied by the refinery.

“You didn’t have to do very much wrong before you got it. The boys. The girls never got slapped,” he says. “She’d allow you to have about two or three mistakes in spelling and after that you were out there getting your hand out.”

He describes Miss Haley rearing back with the strap, getting both feet off the floor and her hair bun coming undone as she meted out justice to poor spellers.

“But she was a marvelous teacher,” Laidlaw concludes. “We were quite a bunch of roughnecks too you know, It wasn’t any picnic for her . . . she’d come and help you at nighttime and then bring you back in her own time and help you with it and strap you the next day for mistakes.”

Childhoods of fire and ice

Ioco’s community hall. photo supplied Ioco Memories

Other old-timers recall bonfires at the schoolhouse, flooding-and-freezing the tennis court for skating, and the way older boys would use metal pipes to stitch two or three toboggans together. “They called this ‘hob noggin,’” Thelma Davies recalls.

Marjory Kingsbury tells a story about a druggist named Mac McCarthy who ran a shop that sold prescription drugs, confections and what sounds to be flame-resistant candy.

“McCarthy’s store burned down more than once and we kids would pick through the rubble and find wet packages of gum and chocolate bars and all sorts of things. I also remember a red machine on the store porch. We kids would all hold hands and put a penny in the machine and we would get an electric shock tickling all through our arms and hands. It was great fun,” Kingsbury remembers.

No funding for police

Back then, stealing apples out of a neighbour’s tree was about the biggest problem anyone had, according to Davies.

“The only police department was in Port Moody. . . . Young people didn’t step out of line,” she says.

Related: Ioco, a floating bomb and the strike that built a town

Related: Mary Anne Cooper, ‘spirit of Port Moody,’ dies at 107

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