“It was hard to give it up”

In Our Valley: Michael Jeffery

(Photo Submitted/Michael Jeffery)

Michael Jeffery, 75, was born in England and he would spend a short 10 years there before coming to Canada.

His dad had come over on a program where if newcomers worked on a farm for a year the government would pay for the transportation from point of entry to the farm. Jeffery and his family landed in Quebec City and caught a train to Smithers.

“We had a pretty long train ride, we arrived in Quebec City and went all the way to Smithers,” said Jeffery.

The ride from Quebec City to Smithers is certainly not a short ride, taking over four days by train. Jeffery, his parents and three brothers rode day-coach all the way. They arrived in Smithers and the farm was 20 miles east of town. For a young 10-year-old, that led to a long journey to and from school every day.

“That was an experience, walk a mile-and-a-half to the elementary school, catch the bus there at 7:30 a.m., and go to Smithers picking up kids along the way, it was about quarter to nine when we get to Smithers,” said Jeffery.

The ride to and from school was nearly two hours each way, making for a very long day. Jeffery graduated from Smithers Senior School and moved to Prince George where he attended schooling for an automotive pre-apprentice program that lasted six months.

The program was pumping out 30 pre-apprentices a year — the government had decided there were four journeymen needed per apprentice. and there were two garages in Prince George that could accommodate apprentices.

While in Prince George Jeffery met his wife Hazel through mutual friends at a party, and they dated every night until they married six months later.

Jeffery worked a few odd jobs around the city before ultimately landing a job at Canadian National Railway (CN) where he stayed for six years. There was a bump in the road as Jeffery was working at CN which caused a shift once again in his career.

“It was a rotating strike, we weren’t on strike but we were only working three days a week but my mortgage payment required five days a week, I got a job in Granisle at the mine,” said Jeffery.

He spent seven years working at the Granisle mine where he began his electrician apprenticeship. He completed three years of his apprenticeship at the mine before moving to Houston B.C., and finished his apprenticeship at Equity Silvermine.

Upon completing his electrician apprenticeship he once again took a turn in his career. He purchased a donut shop franchise and opened a donut factory in Terrace which he ran for four years. He then expanded the business into Kitimat however it did not work out as a new donut player was in town.

“Tim Hortons opened up across the street and down a block, after we’d been open three years. We lasted a year, we knew the end was coming,” said Jeffery.

Even with the business failing Jeffery hopped back up and took another opportunity this time beginning work at TL and T Electric Ltd. in Kitimat.

Jeffery and his wife arrived in Kitimat in 1990 and moved into the Whitesail townhouses, where they remained until 1992. The couple purchased a home on Bittern St. At this point Kitimat was not the booming town it once was.

“When we came in 1990 it was kind of an economic slowdown and a lot of stores were closed and empty spaces, it was still slow in 1992 when we bought our home,” said Jeffery.

The home, to many homeowners’ surprise, cost them only $60,000. It was a storey and a half home that they converted into a two-storey. There was an even more unbelievable stroke of luck in the process of getting the house renovated.

“We were lucky, took us two weeks from the time we tore the roof off and got the new roof on and it only rained twice in that time”, said Jeffery.

He worked with Tl and T up until 1995 when he got a job at Alcan, working there until he retired in 2014.

Jeffery also hoped to renew his 40th wedding vows on his and Hazel’s 40th wedding anniversary, but he had not been to church since he was a child.

“As a child we always went to church every Sunday, when I moved away I didn’t go to church for a lot of years and then got back into it here in Kitimat.”

He then found himself getting involved in a new endeavour, working with the concert association.

“In 2000 I went to a Michael Kaeshammer concert at the theatre and they had survey forms since it was the last concert of the year and it said ‘would you be interested in working with the Concert Association’, and I thought ‘sure, why not,’” Jeffery said.

He quickly became the director, taking on the position that fall. He also held other positions including secretary and ticket chairman. But in 2005 there would be a changing of the guard.

“In 2005 the president said she was leaving town and someone needed to step up, everyone else was quiet and I said – ‘okay I’ll do it,’” said Jeffery.

This moment launched him as a long-standing president with the association where he was now in charge of booking talent and dealing with agents. Jeffery brought a variety of acts to Kitimat including Outerbridge, Ballet Jorgen, Jim Byrnes and Gordie MacKeeman & his Rhythm Boys to name a few. Some even had interesting tales of arriving to perform in Kitimat.

Gordie MacKeeman was set to play one year however there was a hiccup in the scheduling as they may have been unfamiliar with B.C.

“They were from Nova Scotia, their agent didn’t realize how big B.C. was so they were booked in Mission or Maple Ridge one night and then they were booked in Terrace the next night,” said Jeffery.

The journey for the group was quite long as they nearly ran out of gas heading through the Fraser Canyon. They did luckily make it into Terrace an hour after their soundcheck.

Another interesting story from Jeffery’s time as president of the Concert Association came when Outerbridge arrived in town to do their magic show. The group when travelling typically rents out a 24 foot truck for all their gear but their tail lights were having some issues. Upon arriving in town they asked Jeffery if he knew anyone that could look at it.

“Ted says to me is there anywhere we can get someone to check the lights on the truck since the taillights went out, I said I’ll just go home and grab some tools,” said Jeffery.

Not long after retrieving his tools, he located a broken wire in a junction box which he fixed for the group. In 2017 Jeffery and his wife received the Presenter of the Year award from the BC Touring Council.

Jeffery officially stepped down as president at the Annual General Meeting in 2021.

“It was hard to give it up, but when you can’t do it you can’t do it,” said Jeffery.

Jeffery stepped down due to health issues but is still part of the concert association as past president.