It was September 27, 1958 when Ernie and Margaret Bigelow were married at the United Church in Port Alberni, and this would become the beginning of a long-lasting relationship that produced three children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Sixty years later, right here in their hometown last September, they had a wonderful celebration of their wedding anniversary, which was organized by their family members.
Ernie and Margaret met in Port Alberni when Ernie bought a “shack” next door to Margaret’s parents’ house on First Avenue.
“I remember that one day in 1957, Ernie came over to my house to borrow a shovel and asked me if my husband was home, to which I replied, ‘It isn’t my husband, he’s my brother!’” said Margaret with a big smile on her face.
Ernie had bought “a shack,” as he calls it, and was at the time fixing it. The old house is still standing after all these years.
That was when Ernie and Margaret met for the first time. They dated for a while and got officially engaged in July of 1958.
Margaret (née. Fletcher) was born in Qu’Appelle, Sakatchewan. After losing her mother when she was only 10 years old, the family (consisting of her father, one sister and six brothers), moved to Port Alberni in 1956 when Margaret was 16.
Her first job was at Woodward’s Department Store as a casual employee in the furniture department, followed by a job waitressing at the old Somass Hotel. Later on, she and Ernie would foster about 30 children during several years, as well as doing babysitting jobs.
On his part, Ernie (who was born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan) grew up on a farm and witnessed his father’s passing in a farm accident when he was 16. After such a terrible tragedy, he decided to stay home and work by transforming the family farm into straight grain crops.
In the fall of 1951, he came to Port Alberni for the first time and found work at Woodward’s. Every spring he would go back home to farming and return to Alberni in the fall. He had to find a job every time he came back to town, including working at the Plywood Mill, Franklin River Logging Camp and the Somass Mill, a place where he worked as a millwright until his retirement in 1992.
In 1959, the newlyweds bought a house on Beaver Creek. Their active life together for almost 61 years has been rewarding with lots of things to do. Not only their work and raising their family, but travelling to many places in the world, as well as helping many in their community.
Margaret joined the Sunshine Club and has taken part in various activities, as well as volunteering for the organization. She has been giving her time to assist at the “Lunch Counter” at Echo Centre every second week and performs other functions for the seniors’ centre.
Ernie had an active working life as a union member and was known as a good negotiator. He worked passionately defending the rights of the fellow employees as a shop steward. He held several positions as an IWA Executive from 1964 to 1992 for the Labour Council.
His busy working life was not a deterrent for giving his time to the community. In fact, his major contribution to the seniors in Port Alberni was his volunteer work, especially his work for 33 years on the Board of Directors of the Alberni Valley Senior Citizens Homes. During his mandate as president, the construction of the new “Cottages” on 10th Avenue was possible. He also sat on dozens of boards for different organizations.
“Volunteering is my pleasure!” he once said.
Now, Ernie and Margaret’s life has become more relaxing and laid back. They join others for senior activities, such as floor curling and social interaction with friends, while reminiscing their yearly trips to Arizona, trips to Australia and New Zealand and their sailing trips to Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Panama Cana.
“We have had a good marriage!” both comment, while looking at each other.