From Norway to P.G. farm girl

Synove (Lea) deDreu, one of four children, was born in Sandefjord, Norway in 1943. She was born at home, on the farm, during the war. She remembers the stories her mother told of how the Germans occupied the top floor of their house during the war.

She was raised and schooled in Norway. Learning to knit with five needles was part of the curriculum in elementary school and Synove learned her lessons well.

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Her mom had a serious stroke in her early forties and spent one year in rehabilitation. Since Synove was the only girl in the family, she took on the responsibility to cook, clean, do the laundry, mend the clothes, milk the cows and quite often worked in the fields as needed. In those days, everything was done by hand and many hands were needed to turn the rows of hay and stook it to dry and then load it on wagons to take to the storage place in the barn.

She worked in the garden and helped with the sales of their strawberries and cucumbers for extra money for the household.

There was always work and Synove worked hard with no need for supervision.

The children always knew that Saturday afternoons and Sundays were special days set aside for them to just play and have fun.

After high school, she lived at home for the next six years and worked at a department store in kitchen wares and in the gift shop.

In 1966, at the age of 23, she left Norway headed to Prince George for a job that was waiting for her. A Norwegian lady needed home care for her family after a surgery and Synove was summoned and agreed to help. When she arrived, everything was new to her and she quickly found out that it was going to be difficult because she did not speak English. She went to night school and started to learn English; it was hard for her because at school, they did not understand her questions because of the language barrier.

Time went by and she applied for a job in the stockroom at the new Woodward's department store. They hired her because of her experience and started her in the sporting goods department.

This was a new challenge because she had to learn how to sell and issue fishing and hunting licenses.

Synove said, "It was a great experience and I learned a lot for a new Canadian. It wasn't long and I advanced to the fine china and kitchenware department which was my specialty at the store where I worked in Norway. I knew the difference between fine china, bone china and porcelain and I was able to explain to the customers why it was all so expensive."

She worked at Woodward's from 1966-69 and became the head of her department.

Synove met and married Maurice deDreu in 1967. Maurice was born in Holland in 1942. He moved from Alberta to Prince George when the pulp mills came to town. They got married in Norway and visited Holland on the same trip.

Synove said, "Maurice worked at the pulp mill but all his life he wanted to be a farmer. The chemical smells at the pulp mill eventually made Maurice ill and he wanted to move out of town.

"I always said that I would never marry a farmer but I did. We homesteaded and then bought the land located just five minutes north of Salmon Valley on Beale Road.

"We started homesteading with nothing. There were no buildings, no power and no source of water. We were very isolated and rarely saw other people. I am a very social person and I didn't know it but I missed seeing people. When you are young and in love you look at things differently and those things didn't seem to matter at the time.

"A pipeline went through our property and since I am a gardener, I planted strawberries where the land had been cleared.

"It is a long story but we had to have six families living along the road in order to even request installation of power lines. We had to clear five kilometres of land - from McLeod Road to the end of Beale Road - by hand using a power saw in order to bring in power lines. Once we accomplished that, we had to agree to pay a minimum of $10 per month for the service before they would run the poles for power. Prior to this, we relied on kerosene lamps for light.

"Once we had power, we began to develop our land with our D-7 Cat, built a small house, named our farm the Mountain View Ranch and started a family. We built a small barn for my chickens, goats and my geese.

"I worked at Polar Sawmills in Bear Lake from 1990-1999. At first, I got all the dirty jobs on clean up but I hung in there. I had the opportunity to take early retirement and I took it. It was extremely hard work for a woman but I was always thankful for the job and even more thankful for an early retirement.

"Eventually we built a beautiful two-story house and the small house became a workshop. We cleared 130 acres of land to accommodate 70 head of cattle. We had a root cellar and raised and sold organic potatoes to the Cariboo Restaurant. We raised rabbits and sold organic rabbit meat.

"The ranch was a great place to raise our children. We had so much fun as we cross-country skied as a family and with the Sons of Norway ski club on our many acres of land at the ranch.

"I grew a huge garden, baked, canned and pick berries because I wanted chemical-free food for my children.

"We have three children Roy, Anita and Erick who gave us three grandchildren. We raised a foster child for four years and that was a very rewarding experience.

"I spent 51 years on the ranch and I turned into a real farm girl. When I turned 70, I moved into Prince George. I worked hard all of my life and it didn't hurt me one bit but now I wanted to just enjoy a small garden, a social life, go to the theatre and go dancing in my senior years while I was still able to.

"One of my greatest joys is having been a member of the Sons of Norway since 1967. The Norwegian ladies are like a second family to me. With my family still back in Norway I was homesick (we were all homesick) and these ladies filled that void for me. I was invited to weddings and birthday parties and I felt like I was part of this big happy family. We all worked together and the Sons of Norway ladies auxiliary group put together two fund raising events each year and donate the proceeds to local charities.

"My proudest and happiest time of my life is all about my children and the fact that they gave me three wonderful grandchildren."

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