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Small in stature, big in life

Viola (Stafford) Merritt was born in Norgate, Manitoba, in 1923 as the fourth of five children. As an adult, Vi moved to the coast and went to school in Vancouver to train as a psychiatric nurse.
Vi Merritt didn't let the hard work stop her from putting in many hours over the years at Lloyd's Drive-in Cafe.

Viola (Stafford) Merritt was born in Norgate, Manitoba, in 1923 as the fourth of five children. As an adult, Vi moved to the coast and went to school in Vancouver to train as a psychiatric nurse. Vi who stands four-feet-eleven and weighed in at about 110 pounds said, "Even as a child I always wanted to be a nurse. I finished my training and when they hired me at Essondale they assigned me to the children's ward. I had always been short and light in weight so I think they assigned me to the children's ward because of my size. Regardless, I liked working with the children. I worked my way up to the position of the in-charge nurse and worked there until I got married and moved to Giscome in 1949."

Vi met Lloyd Gordon Merritt through a friend at a Christmas dinner and of course there was an immediate attraction; they got married in 1946 in Chilliwack.

Lloyd was born in Regina, Sask. in 1920. His family moved to the Fraser Valley in 1936 where Lloyd worked as a carpenter buying and then remodeling houses to resell. Jobs were scarce so Lloyd and Vi traveled to Giscome to visit her brother who encouraged Lloyd to inquire about a job at the saw mill. When they returned to the Lower Mainland, there was a message that he should contact the mill in regards to an offer for a carpenter's job.

Lloyd wanted to move to Giscome so he promised Vi that they would only stay ten years and then they would move back to the coast; a promise that by mutual consent never came to pass.

Lloyd worked as a carpenter for Eagle Lake Sawmills in Giscome and built a house in his spare time. When the house was completed, Lloyd bought some land in Prince George and then traveled back and forth on a regular basis to build the Lloyd's Drive-In Café.

In 1953 they moved to Prince George and officially opened Lloyd's Drive-In Café, which was located at the end of 20th Avenue. They operated the business for 16 years and then sold it. The building is still there and is now part of a local car dealership.

There are lots of stories to be told about the gatherings at Lloyd's Drive-In Café. Vi said, "There were about 8,000 people living in Prince George at that time and we got to know everyone. Over the years the young people came and gathered all the time. Our café was much like Arnold's in the TV show Happy Days. If there was trouble I was the one who went out and told them to leave and to never come back. I can remember one mouthy teenager who was the son of a prominent court official. I told him to leave and not come back. Well he did come back and once again I went out to talk to him and he tried to argue. In the end he jumped into his car and left and later he came back and apologized.

"I was the peace keeper. If Lloyd went out they wanted to fight so it was my job to keep the peace. It was a great place and all the locals and the transients enjoyed it.

"Our special was a great hamburger and fries called the Lloyd's Special and believe it or not the price of it was only 60 cents. In fact I still have a copy of our menu. We were both so much younger back then and we worked every single day at the Café for the first five years until we finally decided to take some time off. If anyone had told me that I would one day own and manage a café I would have told them that they were nuts."

They eventually retired and sold the café. Lloyd never really retired and continued on in contracting, land developing, real estate and rentals.

Lloyd and his brother Archie went into land development and developed two subdivisions; one on Sanderson and Merritt Road (which was mainly bush at the time) was bordered by Range Road and situated near the Star Time Drive-In theatre which is where Costco is now located. The second subdivision properties that they developed were off Blackwater Road in the area that encompassed Frenkel, Krietz and Dave Road. Coincidentally all the roads in the subdivisions took on many of their family names.

In the 1980s Lloyd developed a subdivision along with his two sons.

Vi always kept busy with the family business and her volunteer work at her church. Now she leaves the volunteer work to the younger people.

Vi reflected back and said, "We had many happy days and some sad days but we had a good life; I had a good husband and a great family. Lloyd and I did everything together and we took pride in watching Prince George grow. We had two children Larry (Lois -deceased, Linda) and Curt who passed away in 1995 as the result of an airplane crash. We have three grand children and three great grand children who are perfect in every way.

"We were married for 63 years when sadly Lloyd passed away in 2009 from a heart attack. My life went on but it was a difficult time for me. I don't know what I would have done without the support of my friends at the Evangelical Free Church on Fifth Avenue and my family. I will soon be 94 years old and I just want to conclude by saying that Lloyd and I were always thankful that we came north to Prince George and did what we did. We had a great family and we made so many life long friends along the way."

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