After apologizing for not having any beer, she said the best she could do was offer us a hot cup of coffee, which we graciously accepted.
However, upon sipping the coffee, we all looked with surprise at Mrs. Creeley, who with a twinkle in her eye held up a bottle of Demerara Overproof rum, saying: “It’ll take the chillin’ of the evening out yer bones”.
Suddenly old Charley Wilkenson was hollering at us to come back over to his place because he had moose steaks on the barbecue and his wife Susan had already called our wives and they were all coming over for a gathering.
So there we were moms, dads, kids, wives, husbands, neighbours, all enjoying ourselves when who should arrive but a police car.
The officer said they had received a report of some sort of occurrence on Skeena Street, and no they were not allowed to accept a beer from us while they were on duty and in uniform.
However, they graciously accepted the hot cups of coffee offered by old Mrs. Creeley—the widow with the twinkle in her eye!
It was at that point that we heard the sirens of the fire truck charging down the hill and into the Kildala neighbourhood.
As the siren died down, we were all talking about how close the fire must be when lo and behold the fire engine came crawling around the bend towards us.
As it came to a halt, who should step down out of the cab of the fire truck but young Donny Wilkerson, the assistant fire chief and also the oldest boy of Charley and Susan Wilkerson.
With a big grin on his face he said: “We got a frantic call about smoke on Skeena Street.
I should have known it would be my pop with his shiny new barbecue”.
Mrs. Creeley was as busy as a bee in a bed of begonias serving up her special blend of coffee to whoever would take it.
All the Skeena Street kids were busy climbing on the fire truck and trying on the firemen’s hats and it was right about this time that word was travelling throughout the ecumenical community of our town, quicker than water through a leaky sieve, and as word travelled, it grew in volume and severity.
The Catholic Church offered up financial assistance to the forty-seven families of Skeena Street that were without food and shelter.
The United Church started a clothing drive for the seventy-five destitute households on Skeena Street. Meanwhile over at the Presbyterian Church, the newly arrived minister and his family were just receiving word of the monumental disaster occurring on Skeena Street and they felt it was time for action.
The right Reverend James Wallace stood above the congregation and urged the men to action by saying, “It’ll be stout hearts tae a stye brae, an’ there’ll be drink aplenty when the muckin’s done”.
This statement while being the Queen’s English was greeted with stony silence until ten-year-old William Wallace, his father’s pride and joy, stood up and said “My dad says there’ll be free beer on Skeena Street when the work is done”.
This was greeted with smiles and grins and a lot of “let’s go men”.
Mrs. Wallace, not to have the ladies outdone, stood and said: “There’s tae be no cream in the tea til the coos are lowin in the byre, then we’ll be havin; a great cealidh”.
Silence once again reigned supreme until wee Mary Wallace, her mother’s shining star, stood and said: “My Mom says there’s to be a grand party on Skeena Street and you’re all invited. Please bring food and drink”.
At its peak, Skeena Street was host to a little over four hundred and fifty local residents including the mayor and council.
One character, in particular, was a fellow known locally as Fred the Firecracker, who was known for taking up the banner of a cause and promoting it high, wide and handsome and at one point during the day the Firecracker was standing on the tailgate of a pickup truck hollering about how he had stood for all he could stand and he couldn’t stand no more, and if everybody gave then we could save something or other and that’s when it became apparent that Helmut was reading the riot act to his two boys, Karl and Heinz.
Being a pair of enterprising young lads, they decided to start taking monetary pledges for something or other.
We never did find out what the something or other was, but the lads returned the money collected to its rightful owners.
It wasn’t until much later that word went around the group that the Mayor of our fine town, having enjoyed a third cup of Mrs. Creely’s coffee, had pledged five thousand dollars in municipal funding towards improvements in something or other.
It’s been twenty-two years since the great barbecue and scoop-off, the youngest of the three Powers kids just graduated out of high school this past June, and my neighbour Jim retired from work last month.
The Shmengel boys, Karl and Heinz, have a used car lot in Prince George and are doing very well.
Charley Wilkenson still likes to barbecue a fine moose steak every now and again. As for the Wallace children, William graduated from UBC with honours and is a high profile labour negotiator while his sister, wee Mary Wallace, is a top-level interpreter for the UN.
Old Mrs. Creeley passed away a few years back and left the house to her granddaughter Molly.
Molly’s husband was in the military and was one of the first Canadians to die in Afghanistan.
If you should happen to wander by Skeena Street in Kitimat on a Sunday afternoon in February, don’t be surprised if a widowed lady with a twinkle in her eye offers you a cup of coffee saying “it’ll take the chillin’ of the evenin’ out yer bones!”