Ivy Hubbard: Celebration of a Life Well Lived!
Prepared by Joan Morris
Ivy has had a long association with Beacon, from its beginning, in fact. She was a founding member of Beacon in 1983. And Ivy declares she has served on every committee and volunteered in every position at Beacon except for the job of Treasurer and making coffee. I somehow think that’s okay with Ivy.
I sat with Ivy one afternoon in her lovely New West corner apartment on the 11th floor that overlooks the views of New West, the mountains and Fraser River. We covered a lot of territory as I listened to her stories of childhood, teen years, working years, years as a wife and mother, a widow, her travels and more recently her time with Ralph Greer and Beacon.
Carol and I would like to share this wonderfully full and rich story with you.
Ivy’s mother’s family can trace their history back to a Gt Gt Gt Grandfather who fought on the Plains of Abraham with General Wolf in the mid 1700’s. Veterans of that war were given land in Nova Scotia where her family lived since that time. Ivy’s mother (who had 3 half brothers and eight other siblings) left Nova Scotia for Vancouver when she was 18 years old to become a nanny for the 3 children of an older brother whose wife died in the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918.
Her father’s family came to Canada from Scotland in 1912 when her father was fifteen. Thirteen members of the family (4 adults and 9 children) all travelled to Canada together coming directly to Vancouver. Two years later her father and his brother Ivie joined the New Westminster Expeditionary Force to fight in France in WWI. He suffered from gas poisoning and then the Spanish Flu at the end of the war giving him a lifetime dealing with chronic bronchitis.
Ivy’s parents met and married in Vancouver.
Ivy was born at Vancouver General Hospital September 5, 1927. In those days VGH was the only hospital around and since the family lived in Burnaby and didn’t have a car, her father stayed home with her older brother, Allen, while the doctor drove her mother to the hospital. Ivy was named after her father’s brother, Ivie who died at Vimy Ridge in the First World War.
When Ivy was 8 months old, the family moved to the Similkameen Valley east of Princeton where her father was caretaker of the mine site for 7 months. The doctor had told her father, due to his bronchitis, he needed to move out of the city to have fresh, clean air. In later years, Ivy can remember her mother “ironing his back” by putting brown paper on his back and running the iron over his back as a treatment for the bronchitis.
Ivy grew up with a large extended family with lots of parties and weddings and good times. The children were always included in card games and other games when visiting her father’s family.
She lived in Burnaby and Vancouver attending two schools and making good friends wherever she went. For years she has had lunch every Wednesday with Aili and Mary, 2 friends she met in grade school.
A favourite memory of Ivy’s during her childhood was the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V’s reign in 1935 which also coincided with Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee in 1936. The Jubilee Fountain at Lost Lagoon in Vancouver was installed for the celebrations. For a child of 8 years seeing the fountain all lit up was pretty amazing. She describes lots of celebrations including a neighbourhood tea where her tap dance group performed. Ivy recalls dancing as “a little Dutch Girl” in her special lace dutch hat and later that week a little girl from down the street excitedly pointed out Ivy to her mother saying “that’s the little Dutch girl”. Ivy felt quite famous.
As early as grade 5, Ivy took cooking and sewing in school. They learned to make aprons, a cook’s hat and towel which they then used for their cooking classes.
When Ivy was 10 years old she contracted scarlet fever. In those days before antibiotics, the public health officials put the house in quarantine. Ivy can remember people passing by their house and when they noticed the large red Quarantine sign they would cross over to the other side of the street. Her father and brother moved out of the house for the 20 days of quarantine. Her father rented a room downtown and her brother moved in with their aunt who lived up the street.
Ivy missed a whole month of school and had to give up her tap dancing and gymnastics as a result of an enlarged heart from the scarlet fever. She was told the tap dance teacher had moved away so she couldn’t continue her lessons, although she didn’t know the real reason until years later.
In those days, before the second world war, most of the groceries were delivered to the house. Meat, fish, bread and milk were delivered by truck or horse and wagon. The Chinese grocer delivered produce to the neighbourhood in their tall Model T truck. Ivy recalls the Safeway was the first ‘supermarket’ in their neighbourhood.
They played all kinds of games in the neighbourhood; Kick the Can, Run Sheep Run, Alley Alley Out and Free, hopscotch, jacks. The boys played a knife game they called “pie”. She loved to go to the indoor skating rink at the Forum at the PNE grounds and watch the ‘fancy skating’ and then go home and try the moves in her roller skates. She also belonged to Brownies, then Guides, United Church Explorers, and CGIT, took dance lessons, and did some gymnastics. She believes the things she learned from her family and these groups influenced her life big time.
During the winter all the Vancouver lakes (Deer Lake, Lost Lagoon, Burnaby Lake) would freeze over deep and long enough to skate on. In her teens, Ivy and her friends would ride their bikes to the ponds, carrying their own skates, to enjoy a day of skating. It could be very cold.
Ivy’s Teen Years:
In 1941, her father joined the Army Medical Corps and her brother, the airforce. Their landlord wanted to sell the house so Ivy and her mother moved to South Vancouver. In Burnaby, grade 9 was the senior year in public school, but junior year in Vancouver high school quite an adjustment at 14 years of age. For the first month of school she would take the #14 streetcar into Vancouver, transfer to the Oak St jitney to go to King Edward High school at 12th and Oak St.
There, she met Virginia and they became best friends. It was a big change living on the East side of and she never felt part of the “in crowd”. She tells one story with a lot of chuckling, of one girl who was “quite full of herself” that she and Virginia decided to pull a prank on. This girl was always busy knitting socks for the war effort with a terribly superior attitude. So, they found her yarn in her locker in the basement locker room, unwound it and threw it all over the room, the precursor to “yarn bombing”. It was great fun at the time… unfortunately they did get caught and had to ‘pay for it”. They were given a detention and had to rewind all the yarn. In Ivy’s words: “We were hooked on our own petard”!!
Ivy recalls having lots of freedom as a child roaming around the Heights. And in her teens she and her friends could ride their bikes anywhere in the city. She often rode her bike across False Creek flats and across the Viaduct to babysit. When she was older she would take the streetcar to the foot of Columbia then take the ferry to North Vancouver to visit another friend. Ivy says “I admire my mother now who was on her own (during my teens) and never limited my activities”.
They were not a wealthy family, although Ivy never felt poor. Her mother made all her clothes and they had a nice rental home. Her father was very good with mechanical things and always able to find work. But during the depression, to make a living, he read teacups and his crystal ball in a downtown Vancouver cafe although he would never read family teacups. He got lots of perks from that job, often being given a client’s summer cottage for a week or two.
It was amazing to Ivy how her parents were always able to provide a summer holiday. Before the war the family always took several weeks’ summer holidays with friends and family. Different years, they would holiday in WhiteRock, Deep cove, Bowen Island, Wilson Creek , Horseshoe Bay or Hopkins Landing. When they went to Hopkin’s Landing on the Sunshine Coast, the families would pack up the dog, cat, all their bedding, take the streetcar to the harbour where they would catch the Union Steamship. The groceries would be ordered and shipped up from Woodwards food floor. The fathers would return to work for the week. And each Friday night , the families would gather at the dock to meet the “Daddy Boat” which carried all the fathers joining the families for the weekend.
During WWII her father joined the Home Guard stationed at Ioco, patrolling the refinery. Later he talked his way into the medical corp where he was stationed at Harrison Hot Springs and Gordon Head on Vancouver Island. The family visited him in the summer. He looked after Japanese Prisoner’s Of War until after the war was over.
As a teen, Ivy joined the CCYM (Co-op Commonwealth Youth Movement, the youth movement of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the social democratic party, before the NDP) The youth would meet on the weekends for dinner and dances at Boag House in East Vancouver. It was at Boag House she met her husband, Jack Hubbard, a tall good looking blond who belonged to another CCYM club although they didn’t get together for a number of years.
The CCYM helped with rallies, canvassing during elections. When she was 18, Ivy remembers meeting Tommy Douglas when he was Saskatchewan’s Premier. She went with the group when they took 1-2 week holidays together on Pender Island. It was a great opportunity to make some very good friends.
Ivy describes spending weekends at Hollyburn and Seymour Mountains skiing with her friend Virginia. They would take the West Vancouver ferry to Ambleside, then hike up the mountain to the lodge at Hollyburn. Or they would take the ski bus to the lower parking lot on Seymour then hike up the mountain to the lodge. They must have been very fit!! It was very exciting and fun. They would rent skis, ski on Saturday and Sunday morning, party Saturday night and return home Sunday afternoon
Ivy’s Working life during the war:
When Ivy was 17 she got a job with Underwood Typewriter Company delivering ribbons and doing office filing. In those days students had to decide in Grade 9 and 10 whether to take University entrance or commercial courses. Ivy did not want to be a teacher or nurse so switched to the Commercial program. She would have had to go back to grade 9 to get her typing and shorthand so decided she would rather go to work. Years later she realized she was actually a “highschool dropout”!
While working at Underwood Typewriters located behind the Hudson’s Bay in downtown Vancouver she remembers when the Greenhill Park Freighter blew up in 1945. The blast filled the sky full of debris from the seabed. Building windows broke all the way up to Pender from the harbour and she remembers seeing the plate glass windows at their workplace bulge in and out from the impact of the blast.
She recalls another time when she and her brother took the ferry to West Vancouver and just as they were crossing under the Lion’s Gate bridge, a freighter was fired on by the gun emplacement under the bridge on the North Shore side. It brought the fact of war close to home for Ivy.
During the war years the Friday and Saturday night dance halls and ballrooms were “the place to be”. Most of the local boys were in the forces but there were lots of boys visiting from other places. ‘Everyone’ went downtown to Granville St on Saturday nights to meet at the Birk’s Clock at Georgia and Granville. Then they would walk up one side of Granville to Smythe, cross the street and walk back. Sometimes they would see a show, but often just walk.
Ivy and Jack Hubbard were married on March 17, 1950. They honeymooned on Vancouver Island taking the CPR Ferry to Nanaimo and Yellow Point Lodge.
When Jack graduated from his machinist training with the CPR he decided to work in Penticton thinking a smaller place would have more chance for promotion. After the wedding Ivy and Jack lived in Penticton. It was lonely for Ivy away from friends and family. However, they soon started a family and their first baby, Judith arrived in February 1953. In January 1954, when the CPR changed from steam engines to diesel, they closed the outlying roundhouses and with 3 days notice Jack was out of a job. Choosing not to move to Nelson or Boston Bar, they returned to Vancouver where the family moved in with Jack’s parents. Jack went back to school, earned his Stationary Engineer ticket and went to work for the Vancouver School Board. They were able to buy a house on East 49th near Jack’s mother where they lived for 27 years.
Ivy had another pregnancy in 1955 which resulted in eclampsia and the baby’s death 4 days later, a very traumatic experience for Ivy. Several years later in 1958, John was born by C-Section, a month premature.
Jack and Ivy decided that Ivy could be a stay-at-home mother for their two children; Judith and John. After a hysterectomy when she was 36 yrs, she experienced what she thinks now was a serious depression. She experienced weird feelings and felt she was “never me”…. always a wife, mother, or daughter. About this time she heard about the Housewife’s Holiday program at the YWCA in downtown Vancouver and decided to join. With the children in school, she was able to attend the weekly program. Every Wednesday there was an exercise program, crafts, a swim, lunch and a speaker. It was a life saver for Ivy, and she made some very good friends who were interested in her for herself!
In July 1977, Jack and Ivy bought an acre of land in Surry and moved from their longtime home in Vancouver. In September Jack was diagnosed with cancer and 3 years later in March 1980, he died. This led to Ivy’s involvement with the Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Living With Cancer organization. She helped form the Surrey Hospice Society when in 1986, as part of the volunteer group they applied to Victoria for Society status. Ivy was one of those who signed the application, and became one of the first directors and first president of the Surrey Hospice Society.
Ivy spent a few years in Surrey and then in Langley living with her son John and his family. About a dozen years ago, she moved in with Ralph Greer whose wife Ethel had died several years earlier. Ralph and Ivy generously hosted many gatherings and meetings in their home in Coquitlam. Eventually they sold the house and moved to New Westminster where Ivy still lives.
When she was a child, travelling to Hopkin’s Landing on the Sunshine Coast was “travelling to the end of the world”. But since then, Ivy has travelled the world beginning after Jack died. One trip she planned was to South America. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt just before she was to leave. When the tour was cancelled, Ivy was all packed and ready to travel. She asked the tour guide for another trip so they put her on an Adventure Tour to Peru which turned out to be a highlight of all her travels. There were only 4 tourists on the trip. It was truly an adventure as Ivy described it; “We got dumped into a river off a raft which was very exciting. We visited a mountain archeology site during a thunder & lightening storm. During a trip to Cuzco, guerrillas had blown up the train track so we had to hire a car.” Travel by road from Puno to Cuzco was also exciting since there were no bridges and they just drove right through the rivers.
Ivy had taken lessons in Latin dancing in preparation for the trip and for 10 years after that she continued to dance, taking part in competitions in Vancouver, Edmonton and even as far away as San Diego. Every Friday night there was a social event with the dance club; a safe place she really enjoyed.
Other travels included Costa Rica, Europe, a cruise to Egypt, including a trip to the Valley of the Kings and a camel ride by the Pyramids. She toured the Greek Islands, Israel and Turkey. Other trips included the Barbados, Hawaii, HongKong, Thailand, China. Closer to home Ivy had several tours of Canada and the US, including a road trip to Alaska.
She took many trips with Ralph including trips back east to visit Ralph’s family, and to Spain. (always took Boggle with us) Ivy said she enjoyed every trip, many beautiful places in the world, but it was always good to be home.
More about Ivy’s Volunteer Life:
Ivy began her volunteering early in life.
As a young girl Ivy attended Guides and eventually became a Guide leader in training and then a lieutenant. The leader of the troop she was with became pregnant and left the position of Captain vacant. Ivy happily became Captain and had many interesting experiences. One time the troop had gone camping at Wilson Creek on the Sunshine Coast. Two of the guides got sick and had fevers on the return boat trip. No one could leave the boat until the Doctor had checked them both to make sure they didn’t have polio which would have kept them quarantined. Very worrying for the young newly appointed Captain. When she and Jack were married her troop of about 25 girls acted as their Guard of Honour.
Later when Ivy and Jack lived in Penticton she led a Guide company and then again in Vancouver when they returned in 1954.
Her volunteering expertise was honed at the Y. They did fundraising and she is especially proud of her work with the “Wise Owls”, a group of 10-12 women who made crafts over the year and then sold them at the University Women’s Club Christmas Bazaar at Hycroft. They would make as much as $5000 for world service with their annual sales. Her friend Pat at the Y “pushed her to do things” with the result she became a board member, and almost became the YWCA president. At that time, her mother became ill and insisted that Ivy be available to look after her and wouldn’t allow her to take on the commitment at the Y. This was a big disappointment for Ivy.
For a number of years Ivy volunteered as a docent and then docent chair at the Vancouver Museum, leading school children through the Museum of Archeology, an exploration of city animals (with stuffed exhibits) and the Maritime Museum. (her attitude about volunteering was shaped during those years: “if you don’t get involved you just float on the surface and never get anywhere”.) …We know that about Ivy here at Beacon with her many years of active involvement in the life of our church.
And, of course, Ivy has contributed many volunteer hours to Beacon in many capacities; serving on the Board as secretary then a two year term as president in the mid nineties), helping teach an RE class, chairing the membership committee in the early days, serving and then chairing the worship committee for a lot of years. She was a member of the Care and Concern committee. Other involvement includes attending the Humanist group since the beginning and Lunch Bunch which has been a really great part of the church. When Beacon had no minister Ivy organized a chart and system for all the many volunteers needed on a Sunday morning to produce a worship service.
Ivy says: “Beacon has provided a community, the people who matched my thinking and people I could talk to. It has been my community from the beginning and I have contributed a fair amount and I did grow. Church family is a very important part of my life. Ivy has been known for her poems about Beacon and here is a snippet of one that she wrote with an additional verse composed for each Annual Congregational Dinner.
“In the beginning a church was born,
And gradually as it took form
A new community came to be.
It was also a new beginning for me.
I needed a place where I could grow
Learn from others, share things that I know”