GORE BAY—Pauline Smith, the oldest living resident of Gore Bay, celebrated her 100th birthday recently.
“She has had a wonderful life,” stated Sharon Sloss of her mother, who celebrated her 100th birthday on December 22.
On December 18, the Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home in Gore Bay hosted a birthday party for Ms. Smith. “All the residents, all the girls that have helped her at the nursing home and members of her family were on hand to celebrate the party with my mother. It was a very nice evening,” said Ms. Sloss.
Ms. Sloss pointed out that in 2015 when the town of Gore Bay was celebrating the 125th anniversary of its incorporation, a ceremony had been held in which Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane presented the eldest citizen award to Sharon Sloss, on behalf of her mother, Thelma Pauline Smith. Mr. Lane said at the time, “Thelma Pauline Smith was born on December 22, 1916 in Providence Bay. She lived briefly in California and back to Mindemoya with her mother. She moved to Gore Bay with her parents at age 12 and graduated as a registered nurse in 1938 at Toronto General Hospital.”
In 1941 Ms. Smith became a stewardess for Transcontinental Airlines (now known as Air Canada). She married Fred Smith on December 22, 1942 and continued to live and work/volunteer as a nurse until her retirement, explained Mayor Lane. “Pauline lived in her own home until the age of 96 and a half until moving to Manitoulin Lodge.”
The following article, written by Petra Wall, was published in the April 3, 2015 edition of the Manitoulin West Recorder. It is rewritten in part. “We hoped to do well in the oil business when my dad packed up the family in 1920 and we left our well-established hardware business in Providence Bay for the oil fields of Downey, California. We had an uncle in the oil business there and he could help us get started,” Ms. Smith recalled. “But after one fruitless year, mother and I returned to our Manitoulin home.”
Mrs. Wagg, Pauline’s mother, had been ill for some time and wanted to return to the support of the family in Tehkummah and Mindemoya. Her father, Walter Wagg, came back a year later with the other six children. Mr. Wagg’s family had come from Stouffeville near Toronto when he was five and settled in the Mindemoya area. Walter had married Mary Hopkins at the turn of the century and Pauline was born. Her siblings were Myrtle, Maurice, Harold, Welly (Wellington), Mary and Frank.
“I remember moving back to Mindemoya to the A.J. Wagg home. We used to visit our grandmother Hopkins in Tehkummah. When my father came back from California, he ran a general store in West Bay starting in about 1922.”
After their house burned down, the family moved to a big home in Mindemoya and took in boarders. Ms. Smith remembers being driven to grade school by her older brother in a Model T. Ford. ‘Continuation School’ (high school) was in Gore Bay where Ms. Smith’s family moved in 1926. The school was situated where the nursing home is now.
“I was 12-years-old the first time I left Manitoulin in 1928, and I was so homesick I cried until I could get home again. We visited cousins in Toronto and an aunt in Fergus, then we returned by ferry,” Ms. Smith shared, smiling. She was 18 before she left again for a nursing program at the Toronto East General Hospital. After graduating three years later, she was offered a nursing position in the operating room at the same hospital for $35 a month.
“Instead, I took a job in Niagara-on-the-Lake for $65 a month plus room and board and stayed for three years,” Ms. Smith said. She took a subsequent job in the children’s ward at St. Catharine’s Hospital, but wound up in the operating room and working with seniors. A position at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto was next.
“In 1940 I considered joining the Armed Forces but again life too me down a different path, and I spent the next two years working for Trans Canada Airlines (now Air Canada) until I married,” Ms. Smith recalled. “They hired only nurses under 5’ 3” as stewardesses. This job was like a holiday in comparison to hospital working 12 hours a day, day after day.” Home base was Toronto, and they flew regularly to Montreal, Halifax and Winnipeg.
On December 22, 1942, Pauline Wagg married Fred Smith-a man she had known most of her life.
“We were well-suited but we had gone our separate ways for a while,” she said. “Fred had been enrolled in mining engineering at Queen’s University until he had to return home when his father fell ill. Later Fred took flying lessons with the Levin Brothers in Toronto, and worked flying an Anson for training missions and practice bombing runs in London, Ontario.”
The young couple came back to Manitoulin in 1944 and settled in the Gore Bay area. It was normal for women to stay home after marriage, so for a little diversion Mrs. Smith got a babysitter on Saturday nights and ‘volunteered’ at the store.
“In 1940 I considered joining the Armed Forces but again life too me down a different path, and I spent the next two years working for Trans Canada Airlines (now Air Canada) until I married,” Ms. Smith recalled.
“We hoped for a family right away but we had some problems. Sadly, our first two children died before coming to term. We lost a boy in 1945 and a girl in 1946,” Ms. Smith said softly. “Finally, in February of 1949, after I spent two months in a Toronto hospital, we had our little Sharon.”
Fred worked in Gore Bay at the family owned Woods Brothers Store selling dry goods. Later Fred switched to selling building supplies. He was an excellent buyer and had a natural flair for sales. Community work was important too. He helped to get the curling rink going again by January 1968, after a fire burned the old building two months earlier.
“We were blessed with the kind of family and friends that made out lives extra-special,” Ms. Smith said, eyes sparkling. “Being a part of Fred’s extended family has been such a joy. I still remember how terrific I felt after the wedding when I got that wonderful letter welcoming me to the family.”
Sadly, Fred passed away at 86 years, on New Year’s Day in 2000. His health had been failing and he was discouraged about his condition. “We had shared love and friendship for so long that his passing was very difficult for me,” Ms. Smith whispered. “But I really have no other regrets. Fred and I had a very special relationship. We shared the same interests, played tennis, curled, and travelled together. Going to New Smyrna Beach in Florida every winter was another highlight. “But coming home to Manitoulin Island was even more enjoyable. This is really where our hearts have always been.”