Mary Catherine Carney Neave lived on land wanted by the province for a new bridge over the railroad, and she didn't give it up easily.
Government agents, under "Flying" Phil Gaglardi, Minister of Highways, had on several occasions visited a fiery "older" no-nonsense lady who owned the property where they wished to replace this bridge over the Ellison Crossing of the railway. When they approached her with the idea, she said no to the purchase and the price offered.
Her remark was "Why do you want to build the bridge here? It is all muskeg and quicksand! Where you want to put the bridge is a mile south on solid ground."
This lady had been born on the land, farmed on the land and knew what the subsoil was like.
A notice appeared on April 1, 1957, in the Kelowna Courier and the Vancouver Sun asking for tenders to build a bridge at the Ellison Crossing, project No. 241. It was estimated to cost $57,380 for this 170 foot-long bridge to be completed by September, 1958. Marpole Construction Co. of Vancouver was awarded the contract.
The first part of June, the government was still negotiating the price of the land. One of the agents visited this lady with an offer - she said "Price not good enough," and called her lawyer.
Unfortunately, the government agent had forgotten his briefcase in the house, but did not want to meet up with the lady again and so sent his assistant back in to retrieve it. One of the construction foremen said he would not work on the road if it was going to be going through the bog on the south and north ends of the surveyed road through the property. He was later convinced to stay on the job.
Since this lady would not negotiate with the government agents, she had padlocked the gate on her driveway The police had beenÂ out to see if she would unlock the gate, and this had held up the building process of the bridge.
Gaglardi decided he had better come to Kelowna and talk with her himself. After several hours of discussing and negotiating about using her driveway and buying her land, they came to terms, and the construction carried on.
An article written by Denny Boyd in the Vancouver Sun with regards to the meeting between thisÂ feisty lady and Gaglardi stated that Gaglardi finally charmed this "no-nonsense, shotgun packing 60s widow who had stood off the whole highways department before succumbing to Gaglardi's charm."
In August 1957, the Department of Highways placed an advertisement for Project No. 897 for construction of the Ellison Overhead Approaches. The bridge had been built by April 1958, but would you believe it, there were no approaches to this bridge out in the middle of this lady's field.
The Daily Courier had an editorial on April 15, 1958 with headline, "Ellison Overhead Bridge Is Becoming Mute White Elephant." It goes on to say the logical thing would have been to have built the approaches at the same time as the bridge. The approaches were finally built, and you now drive over the Bridge to Nowhere or the Mute White Elephant on your way to UBCO, south of the Kelowna airport.
This fiery shotgun packing (fired off every New Year's Eve), widow, who wore men's pants, men's shirts, an old cowboy felt hat, and had a transistor radio hanging from her belt (tuned into Penticton) was my mother-in-law. She would give you the shirt off her back if she felt you needed it. She was a real character and a pioneer of the Ellison area. She was none other than Mary Catherine Carney Neave.
Â Alice DePfyffer (Neave) Lundy was born and raised in Kelowna. She headed a committee that published the book, Kelowna Street Names and Their Origins, and taught swimming at the Aquatic. She is currently president of the Okanagan Historical Society and a life member of this group. This article is part of a series submitted by the Kelowna Branch, O.H.S. Further information would be welcome at P.O. Box 22105, Capri P.O., Kelowna, B.C. V1Y 9N9.