Barlow a pioneer for area women

Norma (Millar) Barlow was born in Vancouver in 1939. Here is her story in a nutshell.

Her parents Reg and Viola Millar met in Elkhorn, Man. Reg traveled to the Yukon, found work and promptly sent for Viola.

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Her mother was determined to marry her father so she took a train to Vancouver, boarded the Princess Nora on Aug. 22, 1933 and headed for Skagway, Alaska. At Skagway, she caught the train, traveled over the White Pass to Whitehorse and transferred to the Klondike Queen headed for Mayo Landing.

The boat broke down along the way. Undeterred, Norma's mother had to stay in Stewart Crossing for a week. She cooked in the hotel in exchange for a room and finally arrived in Mayo on Sept. 21. Norma's parents were married the next day.

Norma was born in Vancouver because there were no doctors in Mayo Landing. They survived -60 to -70 temperatures in the winter, floods in the spring and mosquitoes beyond belief. In 1941, the mines shut down and the family of four headed for Lulu Island at the coast. Later, they moved to the Soda Creek area where Norma grew up and went to school in nearby Williams Lake.

After high school, she worked at the Bank of Montreal and married Dean Barlow from Soda Creek in 1958. They had a daughter Leslie (deceased) and three sons; Ross (Liz), Chris and Dallas (Lorie) who in turn gave them nine grandchildren. They separated in 1977.

Dean got transferred to Quesnel and Norma was hired on the spot by the Royal Bank of Canada.

In 1965, she was transferred by RBC to Prince George. They started their family in 1966 and she had to retire because of no maternity benefits. She went back to RBC in 1968. It was in 1968 that the nine-story Royal Bank building at Sixth Avenue and Victoria Street officially opened.

She left the bank again in 1970 when she had their third son.

In 1971, the bank called and once again offered her a job.

Norma said, "I told them I would come back to work but not into an accounting job. I became the first RBC female loans officer at the main branch. Some of the old-time bank managers had a problem with the fact that I was a female until I was able to prove myself.

"It was a time when it was not easy for a woman to get a loan from a bank. Women were not given a proper chance to borrow money and earn their own credit rating; it wasn't long until I changed that.

"In 1977 I opened an all-female RBC branch at Eighth and Ahbau - where M&M Meats is now located.

"I worked there until 1980 and transferred to Vancouver to manage branches at Cambie and 57th Avenue and at Balsam and Fourth Avenue. I returned to Prince George in 1983 in a position as manager of retail and operations.

"In 1986 I transferred to Vancouver to manage a branch at the Coquitlam Centre, then executive banking in downtown Vancouver and finally into a private banking centre in Kerrisdale."

Norma moved to Kelowna for a while and then back to Prince George. She retired at the age of 65 after 35 successful years in the banking industry.

Her volunteer work in Prince George, during her career, included serving as a director for the YMCA, the P.G. & Regional Planning Board and working with the Chamber of Commerce.

Norma served as president of the Greater Vancouver Crime Stoppers, formed a provincial Crime Stoppers board, started a student Crime Stoppers program in the schools in Vancouver and worked with the municipal police force to establish a 24-hour tip line which now serves all the Crime Stoppers program in the province.

In her retirement, with her ingenuity and tenacity, and at the request of RCMP Superintendent Steve Leach, she started the Prince George Crime Stoppers. During the 23rd Crime Stoppers International Conference in Ottawa, she was presented with the Crime Stoppers International Civilian of the Year award and the Prince George Crime Stoppers program received a total of 11 awards, the highest number ever won by a single program in the 23 years of the international conferences.

In closing, Norma said, "I would like to encourage all females in the workplace to decide what they want to do, what they want to accomplish and then just go for it. Believe in yourself, enjoy your work and head for the top."

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