The nicest thing happened by chance in February. Archives volunteer Lise Ouimet had an appointment in Vernon. She was there over meal time, so stopped at Denny’s. There was an omelette on the menu that Lise liked.

Lise must have been her usual chatty self. Her server, Laura, mentioned that she grew up in Salmon Arm. Lise mentioned that she worked at the Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village. Laura was up for a conversation. She used to live in Haney House before it was taken over by the Museum Association.

Laura went on to say that both her sister and mother were married on the Haney property. Her sister, Karen, was married in the back yard in 1971. Her mother Viola, a single parent with five kids, remarried in 1973. Viola chose to say her vows on the front deck. She started a tradition. The deck is still a popular place to be married.

Laura told Lise that her family moved into the house when she was 14. They lived there for five years. Laura had so many happy memories of growing up on the farm that she commissioned an artist to paint a picture of the house because it was a wonderful place to grow up. Laura wanted the painting to go to the museum.

Lise asked what Laura liked best about the living in Haney House. “It had character,” she replied.

“Call her,” Lise said when she reported the next day for work. “I’ll pick up the painting when I go to Vernon next time. She works until three, so make sure you call her afterwards.”

Armed with a gift form, Lise made a second trip to Vernon, arranging for Laura to take the painting to work. They did the paperwork. Lise is a stickler for completing donation forms.
I called Laura when the painting came in. There was more to the story.

Laura didn’t recognize the name of the artist Marg Dondaneau. She did remember a Nona Dondaneau, someone from school. Perhaps Nona was her contact. It was a long time ago. She knew she commissioned the painting in the 1980s and then she had it framed.

The Haney farm was a great place to live, Laura told me. Her brother had chickens and a horse. Marjorie Fulton, R.J. Haney’s daughter, rented the four-bedroom house for $60 a month.

Laura’s mom, Viola, worked full time as a meat wrapper for Askews and then Overwaitea. When her hours were cut back at Overwaitea, she drove to Kamloops for shifts at that Overwaitea and stayed overnight with Laura’s aunt and uncle. The kids had to be independent. They had chores. They cooked on a wood stove, hauling wood up from the basement. One memory Laura has is of cleaning the kitchen floor.

“We had an Electrolux floor polisher. One job we had was to polish the kitchen floor every morning before school. We never knew the floor was pink until we stripped off the wax!” Laura said over the phone.

One day Laura’s mom was driving to Kamloops for a shift. She was hit by a drunk driver near White Lake and almost died.

“We were really shocked. She was driving a Maverick and we saw the car crumpled at the gas station at the bottom of the hill after school,” Laura said. The kids contacted the RCMP. No one had thought to call them.

Viola was hospitalized for eight weeks. The eldest daughter, Karen, came home with her husband to look after the family. 

Viola met her husband-to-be in Kamloops and the rest is history – including the Dondaneau watercolour that has found its way “home” to the archives at Haney.

Thank you Laura.