Irene Farnden - Growing up on Savary
(1909-2008) Irene Adelaide Mace was born in Vancouver on June 9, 1909. In 1933, she married William Hanry Farnden, a pulp-mill chemist and later a pulp-mill shift supervisor. He died in Powell River in 1969. Irene died in Powell River on December 10, 2008.

The following is a brief memoir of her life growing up on Savary Island in the early 20th century. It was taken from Rusty Nails and Ration Books: Great Depression and WWII Memories 1929-1945 by Barbara Ann Lambert.

"In 1912, my father, William (Bill) Mace, an experienced carpenter, came to Savary Island to build cottages for summer rentals. He liked it so much that he decided to bring his family up and live there permanently. My parents, Bill and Laura moved to Savary with their three children: Allan, Irene, and Evelyn. I was the middle child and only three-years-old at that time. Alice and Doris were born later.

At first we lived in a tent until my father built a house. The tent had a floor and walls. It was quite comfortable.

Savary Island had a large number of summer residents, mainly from Vancouver. It was also quite the thing for Powell River mill management families to have a cottage on Savary. Everyone, of course, loved the beautiful sandy beaches on Savary Island.

1914 photo showing Bill Mace and his family at Savary. From left:  
Bill, his wife Laura Mace (1886-1969), and their children Evelyn (1912), Allan (1908-1960), and Irene (1909-2008).
(Source: Conde Landale, Savary Island Heritage Society)

1914 photo showing Bill Mace and his family at Savary.
From left: Bill, his wife Laura Mace (1886-1969), and their children Evelyn (1912),
Allan (1908-1960), and Irene (1909-2008).
(Source: Conde Landale, Savary Island Heritage Society)


The Union Steamship Company, on their summer schedule, stopped twice a week at Savary Island. The steamship brought up hundreds of day visitors, as well as, the long stay summer residents.

During the Depression my father continued to have work given to him by the long stay summer visitors. The people coming up to Savary were professional people: doctors, dentists, teachers and lawyers. They were fairly well off, even in the Depression. Dad did not get as much work during the Depression; there were small jobs to do. Sometimes he completed a job one summer and [did] not get paid until the next summer!

When my brother Allan was old enough, he joined dad and became a skilled carpenter.

We had a small garden. It was impossible to put in a good garden, as the soil on Savary Island was too sandy. We grew tomatoes. Tomatoes grew well on Savary Island due to the warm climate. We tried growing potatoes but they were tiny, due to the sandy soil. It was a real effort to grow vegetables on Savary Island. The return for all your work was not worth the effort of planting a garden.

A 1930 photo of the Mace sisters on Savary Island.  Left to Right: Evelyn, Irene, Doris, and Alice.
(Source: Rusty Nails and Ration Books: Great Depression and WWII Memories 1929-1945 by  Barbara Ann Lambert)

A 1930 photo of the Mace sisters on Savary Island.
Left to Right: Evelyn, Irene, Doris, and Alice.
(Source: Rusty Nails and Ration Books: Great Depression and WWII Memories 1929-1945 by Barbara Ann Lambert)


We were able to get wild meat on Savary Island. Dad went out and shot a deer whenever we needed meat. The deer on Savary were small, like the ones on Cortez Island. Mum canned most of the meat.

We had a rowboat and used to go out fishing. We caught plenty of salmon when the runs went through. A bachelor, Jerry Williams, lived next door and he used to take us out fishing. Mum canned the salmon. At low tide we used to go out with a lantern and dig a bucket of clams. There were lots of clams and we used to know exactly where to find the best ones. Mum made wonderful clam chowder soup.

We mainly used canned milk on Savary. If fresh milk was available, we'd buy it. One time we kept a goat. On one occasion, a neighbour had a cow on Savary — he put it out to pasture and it ate the wild onions which grow in abundance on Savary. Well, the summer visitors did not like the taste of onion-flavoured milk! He only got 25 cents a quart. This venture eventually failed.

Mom used to put in an order every month with Woodwards to get our basic supplies: flour, sugar, and canned goods. The order came up from Vancouver on the Union Steamship. Occasionally, we rowed over to Lund to get something from the store. It was far more expensive to buy groceries at the Lund store than through the catalogue.

In the winter months there were only half a dozen permanent residents on Savary Island. There was my aunt and uncle, Gertrude and Harry Keefer, and their daughter Frances, an artist. My uncle was co-owner of the Savary Island Inn with the two Roberts' sisters who came from the West Indies (one was a teacher and the other was a nurse). Bill Ashworth, Gerry Williams, the Killops, and the Spilsburys also lived on Savary. Jim Spilsbury was interested in radios; he had a crystal set; the Mace children were invited over to listen to his radio.

In the late 20's and early 30's, we used to go over to the Powell River townsite on the Union Steamship and attend the Christmas Tree party given by the Powell River Company. It all came to an end in the mid-thirties due to the large number of children and the Depression. The Company had to cut back like everyone else during the "Dirty Thirties.'

I used to go over with my cousin Frances Keefer to stay with a friend of the family, a Mrs. Willis, in the townsite. We stayed overnight and attended dances at Dwight Hall put on by the Powell River Company.

One time I was over and went skating on Cranberry Lake. I was only a novice skater and a nice young man gave me his arm to keep my balance. This was Bill Farnden, my future husband.

While we were courting he used to come over to Savary for a weekend and stay with my parents. Bill worked for the Powell River Company. He always brought a big roast to give to my mother.

We were married in 1933, on Savary Island, at Mum and Dad's house. The Rev. Alan Greene of the Columbia Coast Mission married us. Before the ceremony, he went over in his boat to pick up my mother-in-law and friends at Lund.

At first, we rented a house in Westview then, later on, we were able to rent a house in the townsite. Bill earned 33 cents a hour. He was working fairly steadily through the Depression. We managed all right. I bought some groceries at the Company store and the rest I bought through Woodwards.

I could sew and I made all our clothes. I used to make dresses for my three sisters on Savary Island. Mum ordered the material through Eatons. I used the cotton flour sacks for tea towels and cotton panties.

I put in a garden in our townsite lot. It was good growing soil, far better than the sandy soil on Savary. I had a nice garden.

We belonged to the Old Time Dance Club. We attended all the dances in Dwight Hall. I remember Mrs. Alexander; she was in charge of the Old Time Dance Club.

I was visiting on Savary Island the day the war was over in Europe. All the permanent and summer residents got together and we walked along the main street with pans and whistles, and anything that made a noise. We had a march to celebrate the end of the hostilities!
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