Kelowna farmers

Maurice Soames, furthest right, with his extended family on Byrns Road about 1925.

The following story was written by Maurice John Soames who was born in 1917 in Kelowna. Maurice’s mother was Bessie May (nee Tucker) Latta and his stepfather was Harry Latta.

The Latta family moved from Kelowna to New Zealand in 1938 where Maurice remained until his death in 1993.

This story was dictated to his daughter in Maurice’s later years in New Zealand and relates his memories as a boy growing up on his parents’ orchard on Latta Road in Rutland.

It was submitted to the Okanagan Historical Society Kelowna branch by Dianne (Tucker) Fidler of Kelowna, Maurice’s cousin

He has titled his short stories “I did it my way.”

Utter collapse and Bare Facts

I was born and brought up in a little district called Rutland, which is situated in a fertile valley between two mountain ranges. The whole valley, consisting of several districts was almost totally comprised of fruit and/or vegetable farms, supplying the town as well as several packinghouses and canneries.

I guess I had a pretty good life, although – to me anyway – my parents always seemed to be too strict!

It seemed I was always getting a hiding for some reason or another. I don’t know which I was the most frightened of out of Mom’s broom or Pop’s pruning sticks!

However, when I look back on my life as a lad, I guess I deserved everyone I got – and more!

The following are a couple of examples of my escapades or un-escapades – whichever way you look at it.

The Chicken Run

My ol’ Pop had put in about two weeks making a chicken run at the end of the fowl house. This fowl house incidentally, held 200 or more birds in different stages of growth up to laying hens, and the older ones too, which were fattened for the cafes in town.

As you can imagine, it was a very large building, with a hayloft above it for bedding and warmth during the cold winter months.

Anyway, this last day of work on the run was of great importance to Mom and Pop.

Pop was terribly proud of his addition so Mom brought down tea and scones to celebrate the grand opening!

Meanwhile, Pop’s ‘little helper’ was perched up in the loft watching the final bit of this great ‘work of art’ (Pop was no carpenter as far as anyone’s stretch of imagination went) and when Mom arrived with the goodies for morning tea, I decided to get to it the fastest and easiest way possible – and that was straight down!

Everyone was completely surprised and greatly shocked as the whole run collapsed when I landed in the middle of the netting, which covered the top! When I was finally extricated from the mess, I got another shock too!

But I’d rather not tell about that!

The Bear and the Strawberry Jam

It was midsummer and as several of the farms – including ours – were backed up against the hills and wooded tracts that ran up into Black Mountain.

The smell of fresh fruit and late blossoms were bringing a few bears down from the hills.

This particular night, I had been down at the Rutland Community Hall, some four miles away for a rehearsal of a concert the Cubs and Scouts were putting on to raise money for a summer camp.

By the time the rehearsal was finished and I had walked home, it was pitch black. When I finally arrived home, the house was in darkness, so I naturally assumed my family had gone to bed. But on trying to get in had found both doors and all the windows closed. I couldn’t get in so started banging on the doors; finally, Mom’s hushed voice came through the back door — “Is that you Maurice?” — and as I assured her that it was, she opened the door and said, “Come in quickly!”

I quickly stepped in and it was then she told me that Pop was away at a meeting and a bear had been trying to get in to get at the strawberry jam!

She then informed me how glad she was that I got in safely! I thought to myself, “Are you telling me?” Moreover, “How do you think I feel?”

Three or four days later, I came home from school and there was a note on the table to say Mom and Pop had gone to town but would be home before dark. So I decided to go down to the barn and look over the new team of horses that Pop had bought from a chap up in Oyama (a town about 18-20 miles from Rutland). They were a couple of four-year-old mares that really looked a picture of strength and speed.

I was having thoughts about how much work they could do and how I’d like to ride the one called Netty, when the idea came to my head.

They weren’t paying much attention to me when I was talking to them – just standing there in the corral with their heads drooped as horses do on a hot day when there is no work for them.

Remembering about the bear of a few nights before, I wondered if horses were frightened of bears too. Well, I guessed there was only one way to find out – so away I went back to the house and got Pop’s bearskin coat and sneaked back to the rear of the barn so the horses couldn’t see me.

I put on the bearskin coat, which completely covered me – it was miles too big for me. I crawled around the corner of the barn to the edge of the corral and loudly went “GR-R-R-R.”

Both mares looked up and pricked their ears. They just kept looking at me, and I thought that was just great! “They don’t look terribly frightened”, I thought to myself — “I wonder what they’d do if I jumped at them and roared?” So I tried it! There was a sudden squealing, a thundering of hooves, a cloud of dust and a screech of fence.

When the dust settled, the horses were nowhere in sight! Next morning there was a phone call from Mr Carruthers in Oyama to tell Pop if he wanted his horses, they had arrived back home some time during the night! You guessed it! I had to come clean! Ouch!

As someone once said, “Beware! Your past will always catch up with you.”

This article is part of a series, submitted by the Kelowna Branch, Okanagan Historical Society. Additional information is always

welcome at P.O Box 22105 Capri P.O., Kelowna, BC, V1Y 9N9.