Monterey volunteer Linda Foubister interviews Audrey Bruce, lifelong resident of Oak Bay.
What is your background?
I was born in Victoria. My parents came here in 1910 from Scotland. I went to Willows school and then Oak Bay High. As a child, I spent hours playing on Willows Beach. At first, my parents rented a house on Bowker Avenue, then we moved to Topp Avenue when I was 13. My father had trained as a joiner in Scotland, but here, he worked as an orderly at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, a job he had for 35 years.
When I finished school, I went the Standard School of Stenography. It was located at the Oak Bay junction, where the barber shop is now. My first job was at the National Employment Insurance office. In those days, employees had to put stamps in books to prove they had paid their share of unemployment insurance. It was at that job that I met my future husband. During the war, he and his brother had served in the Royal Air Force for 5 ½ years, having been recruited in Victoria. When we got married, I was required to retire from my job because after the war, married women were no longer allowed to be employed. Later I took a part-time job for several years in payroll at Canadian Stevedoring.
In 1946, the street car lines were torn up and the property was sold to returned servicemen. We bought a lot in Oak Bay where the street car tracks had been removed and we built our own house. My father, because of his training as a joiner, was qualified to act as overseer as required to meet National Housing Association rules. I worked on the house, putting shiplap on the roof, painting, and doing other jobs that were needed. It took fourteen months to build the house.
We grew potatoes in the front yard. The reason for that was to break up the clay soil before we put in a lawn. One of our neighbours was a vacuum cleaner salesman. One day, he came by with his demonstration vacuum cleaner and offered to harvest the potatoes. I agreed, and to my surprise, his cleaner sucked the potatoes right out of the ground.
I still live in the house we built. In fact, I have lived in Oak Bay all my life.
What changes have you seen in Oak Bay over the years?
People are more friendly now. We used to wait for the street car to go shopping on Saturday afternoons and we would sit with other people but no one ever talked. We just looked straight ahead. Now people talk to you often. Other changes include the great increase in traffic. My dad used to bike to work at the hospital and traffic was a lot lighter. I am sad to see more heritage houses being torn down now.
What brought you to the Monterey Recreation Centre?
A neighbour up the street told me that she had such a lovely time at Craft Carnival. I asked her what that was and she replied that it was a club where members got together to knit and sew. She asked, “Why don’t you come along?” So, I did, and years later, I am still going to Craft Carnival.
How long have you been a member of the centre?
I joined in January 1985 and have been in the Craft Carnival club since then. I have served as club president several times. Now I crochet dish cloths and the tops of towels. We cut towels in half and crochet a new top so they can be hung up. The towels are one of our best sellers. We sell our crafts in the large display cabinet at the entrance to the centre. I like that all the revenue stays in the centre.
What do you like about the centre?
I like the close proximity to where I live. The people are friendly and I enjoy coming to the dinners and concerts. There’s lots going on if you want to be involved. If you don’t, nobody is watching. I love the new elevator although I guess it’s not so new anymore.
What would you tell a newcomer to try?
It’s a welcoming place. Depending on the newcomer’s interests, I would recommend table tennis as it is popular these days. The concert band and Sing-a-Long clubs are also well-attended. And of course, there’s Craft Carnival if the newcomer is interested in crafts. We meet every Tuesday morning from 9:30 to 11:30.
What are you reading?
I enjoy mysteries. I just finished reading a James Patterson novel, “Cross the Line,” in the Detective Alex Cross series.
What would surprise people to learn about you?
I played the bagpipes. I was a member of the Victoria Girls Piper Band where I played the bagpipes and the drums, and I danced. The band entertained the military during the war. Once when I was performing a Spanish dance with castanets for the crew members of an aircraft carrier, a cat walked across the stage. Well, it threw me off my routine and I was so embarrassed. We performed at a lot of events in those, marching in parades including the 24th of May parades and the Portland Rose Parade in 1946.