Backmans made memories, history together

Three-time team member and past winner of the Curl BC Senior Men Championship, Ronald (Ron) Backman was born in Prince George in 1935. His wife, Louise Blair Backman, was born in Nipawin, Sask. in 1937; the sixth of 13 children from a loving family of good Catholics. Here is their story in a nutshell.

Ron was one of three children born to Simon (Sam) and Walborg - nicknamed Wally - Backman; both of Swedish descent. His father Sam was one of eight children; he left Sweden on his own at the age of 19 and arrived via CN Rail at the general store in Dome Creek. He arrived in 1923 with all of his belongings in the suitcase he carried in his hand.

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Ron's mother Wally Vikgren-Backman was a cook in the biggest hotel in Pitea, Sweden. She arrived in Canada in 1928. Sam and Wally both came to Canada on separate occasions and both under the sponsorship of Oscar and Elma Johnson. They got to know one another and Wally decided she wanted to marry Sam because he spoke her native Swedish language.

To make a long story short they were married and had three children Ronald (Louise), Shirley (Willie - deceased) McDermid and Alvera a daughter who died as an infant due to the effects of a severe case of whooping cough.

Ron Backman grew up in Giscome and at the age of 14 his parents took him and his sister back to Sweden for four months for a family visit.

There is an interesting story as to how the family trip back to Sweden came about. Many years earlier Ron's father purchased some land in Prince George on Patricia Boulevard and in fact he purchased four lots and paid $100 for each lot. Time went by and in 1948 he sold all four lots to Roy Yip of Royal Produce for $1,000 for each lot. The money from the sale of the property was a windfall they had not expected so they used part of the money to pay for their trip to Sweden.

When the family returned to Giscome, Ron started high school in Prince George and in order to do that he had to stay in the dormitory at Alward and Fifth Avenue. When he turned 15 he landed his first job at Eagle Lake Sawmill as a laborer working for Archie Smith.

When Ron got a bit older he worked at Goss Cold Storage. At that period in time, most people living outside of the City had no electricity or running water so it was a common practice to have the Goss Cold Storage Company butcher, cut, wrap and store all of their meat. It wasn't long and people hooked up to electricity, bought refrigerators and freezers and Goss Cold Storage went out of business and Ron lost his job.

He quickly found work with CN Express. He was 21 and it was at this point in time that he met and married the love of his life, Louise Blair.

Louise was working at the candy counter at the Five to a Dollar Store which was located across the street from the Northern Hardware Store. The young couple made their wedding plans and asked Corky Moffat who was a friend to both of them to be the best man at their wedding.

Dr. John McGinnis had his dental office on the second floor in the same building as the Five to a Dollar Store. One of the girls in his office was leaving and she suggested to Louise that she should apply for her job and she did. Louise said, "I applied for the job and I didn't realize it yet but my career in the field of dental assisting took off.

"We moved to Vancouver, Ron attended school and earned his drafting degree and I followed my career in dental assisting. I found this amazing job just down the street from where we lived on Denman Street. I worked for the next five years for the very distinguished and highly respected Dr. Basil Plumb as a dental assistant at the Hornby Dental Lab. Dr. Plumb offered his employees continued education courses in our field of work and I took advantage of every one of them. I now realized that the more I learned about dental assisting the more I wanted to make this my career."

Eventually Ron and Louise moved back to Prince George; Ron worked for Prince George Warehousing while Louise worked as a dental assistant. She continued on with her education and before long she had developed and then began teaching the dental assisting program at the B.C. Vocational School which is now the College of New Caledonia. She was the second dental assisting professor at the Vocational School and after 28 years in the field she retired from her amazing career.

Eventually Ron was invited by Lorne McCuish to work for him in the insurance business; he needed someone with drafting skills and before long Ron was an insurance adjuster. He worked in the insurance industry for 19 years and retired in 1979.

Ron used to be an avid curler. He was on the Prince George team consisting of himself, Brian Mooney, Laurie Rustad and Henry Englesjord that won the Curl BC Senior Men's Championship in both 1988 and 1989. In 1993 Ron and his teammates Kevin Smale, Laurie Rustad and Gary Dinsmore won the Senior Men's Championship again.

Just a side note: In 1994 the Prince George team of Jim Horswell, Bud Burbee, Neil King and Bob Miscovitch took home the Senior Men's Championship and again in 2012 the Prince George team of Dennis Graber, Brian Windsor, Garnet Boese and David Johnston won the championship.

And last but not least I feel like I should mention the Prince George Senior Women's team of Doris Bueckert, Kay Gable, Jean Dorgan and Isabel Brigham who won the Senior Women's Championship in 1978.

Ron and Louise will soon be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. For nearly 24 years they enjoyed their time and their many friends at the cabin that Ron built on an island on Summit Lake. Ron said, "We had many good times with great people like Donna and Ross (deceased) Ferguson, John and Pat Caden, Alan and Gladys Thorp, Wilf and Mae (deceased) Peckham, John Warner and my sister Shirley and her husband Willie (deceased) McDermid just to name a few. Those were certainly great days but now that we have grown older we stick pretty close to home and the coffee shops around town."

Below is a note from a personal friend of mine who also has a story about Ron and Louise Backman:

"Hi Kathy!

It was good to see you last night. I am kicking myself though that I didn't ask you a question that I wanted to. Once I got home I gave my mom a call who lives in Calgary. During our chat, she said that she had been talking to a dear family friend that morning who happens to be Ron Backman. When we were at the grant reception, I was going to ask you who your next interview was going to be with. As you can guess, my mom was telling me that you had been talking to Ron about this very thing! Anyway, I thought this was one of those amazing coincidences that happen in PG, but I hope you don't mind, I wanted to share a story about Ron.

Ron was my dad's best buddy and is more like an uncle to me than a friend. My dad's health hadn't been very good for the years leading up to his passing in 2014 but he still managed to live in his own house (even when he probably shouldn't have). Ron would phone him every day. I mean every day and always shortly after 9 a.m., barring Ron being out of town. This went on for years.

They would talk about sports and things that were going on, but it was really Ron's way of checking on dad without saying he was checking on dad. If it wasn't for Ron, I wouldn't have had the special time I had with my dad before he passed away.

One morning in January 2014, I was at work and my phone rang at about 11:30 in the morning. It was Ron and right away I knew something had to be wrong as Ron would never phone me at work. Sure enough, he had got worried about my dad as he tried phoning him for their usual call and couldn't get a hold of him. He tried numerous times and thought he better go over and check.

He found my dad on the bedroom floor where he was unable to move. He had tried to get out of bed not knowing he had suffered a stroke. Ron called 911 and called me to the hospital. Dad spent nine weeks in the hospital and ultimately passed away, but we had those nine weeks to have all of those important conversations and story telling opportunities that we never would have had if Ron hadn't been such a great friend and gone and checked on him. I would talk to my dad every day, but not until after I got home from work so I would not have figured out something was wrong until late in the evening when it would have been too late.

Ron walked over to the hospital almost every day that my dad was in the hospital for those nine weeks. The only time he didn't is when I would phone him to say that dad was having a bad day and it would be hard on Ron to see him the way he was.

Anyway, I thought that just might give you some insight on Ron. He is a great talker and storyteller and has a memory like a steel trap (I am sure you will hear lots about Giscome!). But I wanted to tell you what a loyal and lovely person he is as well!

Have a great day and weekend!"

Meredith Burmaster

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