Mom always said Dad had gypsy blood! And so it must have been, for travel adventures were part of my existence from the very start. Like the gypsies, our travel was generally low-cost, involved the whole family (often extended), and no doubt caused some uppity folks to sniff with disdain at our lack of civilized travel style!

I suppose my travels began in-utero. Christmas 1954 we traveled south for the holidays from the Misty Isles of Haida Gwaii – or Queen Charlotte Islands as they were known then –  via sea-plane, water taxi, CP Air, and car. A couple months later featured a trip to Port Clements via fish boat for a teachers’ meeting; and at the beginning of June 1955 my mom again left the Islands to give birth to me in her home-town of Summerland.I don’t actually know how we traveled south that time, though I expect it would have been either by plane or steamer. In my imagination, steamer seems more romantic, and could account for my lifetime love of the sea!

At any rate, at three weeks of age, I was on the road again, riding ensconced in princess-style dignity in a cardboard box on the back seat of the car, from Summerland to Vancouver. And a couple weeks later, we were heading back to the Islands by plane. Mom and Dad sat in the front seat immediately behind the pilot’s cabin, and I was locked in place in a flight crib; a seaplane flight from Alliford Bay completed the trip.

We did not own a car, but we took daily walks out along Tow Hill Road to North Beach and also to the Haida village of Old Massett, with me happily riding along in my buggy, which also served as my bed for my daily afternoon nap on our porch in all kinds of weather, watched over there by free range cows who seemed to have an attraction to our porch. A special treat that year was a slipping-and-sliding drive on the plank road to Tow Hill in a rented car for a picnic on the beach.

The following summer we again flew south, where we spent the summer driving here and there, camping in style in a tarp-tent swung on a rope between two trees, with a curtain hung down the middle to provide two bedroom spaces, since we of course brought along a family friend. Then on to the States, camping in a new umbrella tent. From there it was on to the Okanagan, then to the Coast, and finally, back to the Islands by air. This would prove the first of many, many gypsy summers to come!

We moved from the Misty Isles at the beginning of July 1957, with my new brother, Stewart, along for the ride. This time we traveled by steamer. Mom and Dad had reserved a first-class cabin; however, due to a reservation mix-up by the company’s Vancouver office, only second-class cabins were available. It seemed like we were going to be traveling gypsy style as usual! But since the company had made the booking error, they decided to give us the Bridal Suite at the original first-class rate. And so Mom and Dad had a second honeymoon – with two babies in tow, and of course no disposable diapers back then, so the lines of diapers strung across the romantic cabin made it look gypsy-style anyway! Since we occupied the Bridal Suite, we sat at the captain’s table in the dining room, where I reigned enthroned on a special high-chair, and my jar of baby food would be taken into the kitchen by the steward, who would empty it into a crystal dish and return it to me so I could be served in proper style. However, my low-class roots won out, as in the middle of one meal, as we crossed the wild open sea of Queen Charlotte Sound, I up-chucked without warning, which caused most of the passengers at surrounding tables to leave their unfinished meals and depart the dining hall in haste.

And so our gypsy-travel lifestyle carried on. We moved to Revelstoke for 3 years, and then on to Rutland. Living on the mainland, we had our car available, and with Dad being a teacher, we were “on the road” for nearly every holiday… Easter/spring break, May long weekend, summer holidays, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day, and of course Christmas and New Years. With our car and trusty new green canvas tent, we traveled all over BC and the American Pacific Northwest. 1958 brought a new Vauxhall, and 1963 a Chevy II station wagon to accommodate our growing family, as Graham joined us and then Marilyn.  1970 or so brought a new 3 seater station wagon, a tent-trailer, and a 7 week trip across Canada and back.  And so the gypsy lifestyle continued, but none of those later trips could quite match up with the Haida Gwaii travel adventures of my earliest years.

Norma J Hill

March 28, 2008

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