Langara Island 1943 – 1945

– Norma (Kinnear) Money and Willa (Kinnear) Studiner (daughters of William Norman Kinnear, Senior Keeper on Langara 1943 – 1945)

Original interview from the Pine Tree Line1 website which is now hosted on this site.

The duplex – light tower barely visible on right side

Comments by Ren L’Ecuyer 2 – The Kinnear family lived at the lighthouse complex on Langara Island in the 1943-1945 time period. I was fortunate to communicate with Norma Kinnear in February 2004. I had requested her assistance in trying to recreate what once existed at Langara Island. The following detail is a series of questions and answers – all of which provide additional information on what occurred at Langara Island during this period of time. 

Q#1 – Can you please provide the names of your parents, your sister and yourself? I assume there were just two children when you went to Langara Island. 

A#1 – Father: William Norman Kinnear. Mother: Doris May Kinnear. Sisters: Willa Margaret Kinnear and Norma Kathleen Kinnear. 

Q#2 – How old were you and your sister when you arrived at Langara Island? 

A#2 – My sister (Willa) was seven and I was eight. 

Q#3 – Was Langara Island the first location for your father as a light keeper? 

A#3 – Yes. 

Q#4 – Where was your family living/working prior to your time at Langara Island? 

A#4 – Burnaby, BC. 

Q#5 – What month and year did you and your family travel to and arrive at Langara Island? 

A#5 – Our father travelled to Langara Island early in 1943. Our mother, Willa, and I followed him there in July 1943, after school was out. 

Q#6 – What mode of travel was involved, or how did you get to Langara Island, and from where did you depart? 

A#6 – We departed from Vancouver BC and travelled by Union Steamships to Prince Rupert. A Department of Transport ship took us to Langara Island. I believe it was the Cassiar. My sister, Willa, celebrated her seventh birthday on the boat between Vancouver and Prince Rupert in July 1943. 

Q#7 – I am assuming that you travelled to Langara Island by boat of some kind. Was the disembarkment at the dock an easy task, or was it a dangerous situation? 

A#7 – The disembarkment from the ship to the dock was made by a rowboat. I think we climbed down a ladder of sorts to the rowboat. When we got to the dock, the rowboat was hoisted up out of the water by a pulley system. The weather determined exactly how dangerous this proceedure would be. We watched a Flying Officer who was a war hero drown when the rowboat capsized. He was coming to inspect the camp. 

Q#8 – What was the approximate distance from the dock to the lighthouse complex where you lived? 

A#8 – About a mile. 

Q#9 – Did you walk from the dock to the lighthouse complex, or was there a vehicle to drive you from the dock to the lighthouse area? 

A#9 – We usually walked. At that time there was no vehicle in running order for the lighthouse staff. The RCAF, however, had a truck. 

Q#10 – You mentioned, in our telephone conversation, that the lighhouse housing consisted of a duplex – and that there were others living in the other half of the duplex. Do you, perchance, recall their names, and their duties at the lighthouse? 

Langara tower

A#10 – When we first arrived at Langara Island there were two male radio operators living in the other side of the duplex. Their names were Bob ? and Larry ?. They were later replaced by Harvey ? and Jack Egan. In those days, there wasn’t an assistant lighthouse keeper. I think that the radio operators more or less took the place of what would eventually become known as an assistant lighthouse keeper. We lived in the half of the duplex that was closest to the lighthouse. There was a building outside the back door which was used for storage. It also housed the one-hole outhouse. It wasn’t long before dad installed an indoor toilet and put in a bathtub. He put a door off the kitchen to the new bathroom. He piped in cold water to the tub and toilet. When we bathed we heated the water in a reservoir on the large kitchen stove and carried kettles of hot water to the tub. We had a pump at the kitchen sink where we got our water for the kitchen. 

Q#11 – If, in effect, there were two families, did each light keeper have a different job, or were they both trained to do the same job – on a rotational shift basis? 

A#11 – I’m not sure. 

Q#12 – Can you explain the expectations of what your father did in his job? 

A#12 – My father went to Langara Island after the government took our house and land for back taxes. We had a chicken ranch and life had been difficult during the Depression. Lots of people stole the eggs and not many were buying them. While at the light station, he attended to the light, the fog horn, and sent messages about the weather in morse code. 

Q#13 – What was the approximate distance from the duplex, where you lived, to the lighthouse itself? 

A#13 – Between 100 and 150 metres – as can be seen in this photo. 

Q#14 – Was the complex strictly a lighthouse, or did it also have a “fog horn”? 

A#14 – It was strictly a lighthouse. We lived in the half of the duplex that was closest to the lighthouse. A short distance from the lighthouse was a building with two rooms. The smaller room was used for sending morse code and the larger room housed an antique fog horn. 

Q#15 – You mentioned how the government eventually painted the duplex and the lighthouse in a camouflage color. I would expect that this was done in an attempt to hide the fact that there was a lighthouse in the area. However, would this not have been somewhat futile – as, if the light was working, then people would see that there was a lighthouse in the area? 

A#15 – When we first arrived at Langara Island, the lighthouse and all of the other buildings were painted white and red. Soon after, everything was sprayed a drab camouflage “jungle green”. It was later said that a lighthouse would stand out like a sore thumb, no matter what colour it was painted. 

Q#16 – How often were groceries, supplies, and mail brought in? 

A#16 – Twice a year for the light station. The RCAF had supplies brought in weekly. 

Q#17 – Was a boat the only way of getting supplies etc to the lighthouse personnel? 

A#17 – Yes. 

Q#18 – 1943-1945. We are talking long before telephone and television at remote locations. What did you and your sister do for entertainment? 

A#18 – We went to movies at the RCAF canteen. We also went on hikes, listened to records played on the jukebox at the canteen, played with our dolls, worked on jigsaw puzzles, listened to the Hit Parade on the radio, played on our swings, played Chinese checkers with some of the airmen when they came to visit, and we read many books. 

Q#19 – How was your education handled at Langara Island? 

A#19 – Our mother was a school teacher and we did correspondence lessons that came from Victoria. 

Q#20 – About how long did it take to walk from the duplex where you lived, to the base where the RCAF was set up? 

Q#20 – About 20 to 25 minutes. 

Q#21 – Was this a walk through the bush, or was there a path or wooden sidewalk joining the two groups? 

A#21 – There was a wooden plank road. 

Q#22 – Could you (as civilians) visit the military base camp on your own, or did you have to have an official or formal invitation to proceed to the RCAF camp? 

A#22 – We could come and go, pretty well on our own. 

Q#23 – I seem to recall that you said the duplex and the lighthouse were painted white when you arrived, but that these buildings were later painted a greenish colour after your arrival. Did the military personnel repaint things, or was this done by the lighthouse personnel? 

A#23 – I don’t know who did the actual painting. It was not done by the lighthouse workers. 

Q#24 – When did you and your sister depart Langara Island? 

A#25 – We left on the fall boat of 1945. The military had gone prior to our departure. When the war ended, the RCAF pulled out. They took a lot of their equipment and supplies with them. The Mess Hall, however, burned to the ground the night before everything had to be moved. Dad left Langara Island on the spring boat of 1946. 

Q#26 – Where did you go to from Langara Island? 

A#26 – We returned to Burnaby, BC. 

FOOTNOTES:

1 The Pine Tree Line website was taken offline when the owner, Ren L’Ecuyer, died July 23, 2005. It has now been re-instated by an unknown person.

2 Ren L’Ecuyer passed over July 23, 2005 – JC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please identify yourself as human. *