The Ridgewood Review with George Meston

A person doesn't make it through 94 years on this planet without having seen and done a lot. For George Meston, his story is his own, full of trials and tribulations that are as unique as the man is himself. George is a man who has made a difference and whose life needs to be captured in a glimpse of the past.

Sharing a smile George Meston

Sharing a smile George Meston

Meston was born to farm life on March 3, 1917 in Eathdale, Alberta.  He had one older brother, Fred, and two younger brothers, Bob and Laurin.  After years spent in Alberta, Meston’s parents headed West.  First in Prince George, B.C., then Salmon Arm.  In 1928, the family purchased a farm on 5 Mile Road at the bottom of Baker Hill and grew roots.  Those roots grew so deep that George never left except to travel.

Meston and his brothers attended school along 5 mile road at Kilarney School.    “Dad made us go for one week after we moved before school was out that first summer,” said Meston, ” so we could meet the kids.  It was a one room school house with not too many kids in it.”

Meston worked farming for years after he became a young man with one incident.  “I fell out of a hay barn and broke my leg,” Meston remembered.  After farming came logging, then mining at the coal mine where Deblyn Trailer Court now sits.  “I did that for a winter and then when I was laid off I went to Taylor’s Mill for two years until I broke my arm.

Next, Meston went to work for Logan’s Service.  The building was constructed in the late 1930’s and is presently N&L Automotive.  In 1944, work took the backburner when a lovely 20 year old lady named Alice McNeil came to town all the way from Nova Scotia to visit her uncle.  “Alice came for a visit and never went back,” said Meston.  Alice and George married and in 1946 Glen Meston was born.

With a family now, George had new responsibilities.  “Logan bought an old shovel from the Highway Department and fixed it all up,” George explained.  “In ’52, he took it up to Copper Mountain Mine.  It was the first shovel on site and though it was small scooping up just three quarters of a yard of material at a time, it was a lot better than what they had.  It was the beginning of the first open pit and the beginning of taking the top off of the old mountain.  It was all underground shafts until then.”

Meston worked as an oiler on the shovel until ’55.  By then he had put away enough money to purchase a brand new ’55 Ford 5 tonne truck from Burr Motors for $10,500 “with the box and everything,” George said.  The truck went immediately to work at Copper Mountain and all was going good for Meston, until one fateful day.  Meston was out of his truck clearing rocks off of the roadway when a huge boulder let loose from above and rolled down.  Meston was hit by the boulder so hard he went unconscious immediately and was found by his co=workers laying under his truck.  “I was knocked out colder that a cucumber,” George exclaimed, “but believe it or not I was lucky.  If I had fallen the other way I would have fallen into the glow hole with a rock crusher at the bottom and I would have been pulverized.”

Two years of recovery time from a crushed foot, broken leg, broken fingers and a list of other injuries, did not stop Meston from coming back and was not the only time he was knocked unconscious at work.  “Rollo Ceccon got me good one day with a crowbar,” Meston said.  “We were trying to pry open a tailgate that was stuck and boom the crowbar slipped and I was out cold with a broken nose and broken tooth.”

Meston finally went back to work in ’57 and was only back to work for a couple of weeks when the mine closed.  “I took my truck and followed the highways construction crews around the province,” said Meston.  “I worked on Richter’s Pass, Rogers Pass, Manning Park, Nicola Lake, Sicamous…wherever highways were being built.  In 1959, Meston took over as a shovel operator in Salmo Creston, but again moved on to a new job.

For the next 20 years Meston built houses from Allison Lake, Osprey Lake, Tulameen and Coalmont to Hedley and Princeton.  Meston built a house in Allison Flats for his family in 1950 on Angela Avenue and at the time was only the third house in the area.  “I was a carpenter until 1980 and then I had to quit.”

Retirement for Meston, was not really retirement.  “I retired and it backfired,” Meston joked.  “I spent 21 years restoring furniture.  One time I remember working on the last chair I had to do and a truck from Golden pulling in with a load of furniture.  I was always busy it seemed.”  A fall in Nevada made Meston slow down. He broke his kneecap and was forced to thrown in his carpentry hat.

In ’07 Alice and George moved into Vermilion Court and in ’09 Alice was gone.  “She fell out at RockRidge, broke her arm and because of some other ailments she was dealing with at the time just never recovered.  She went in to the hospital at 84, got pneumonia and never came out.”

“Alice had never broken anything before,” recalled George, “and I’d broken so many darn things, it was just kind of a weird thing the way it all happened.”

In April of ’09, George moved into Ridgewood Lodge, but is still mentally sound in every way.  He is a man who has accomplished much and left a mark in his hometown.  He put in over 30 years in the fire department, 20 years on the Search and Rescue, 10 years in ambulance services and 20 years in the Fish and Game club.  “My duty for the town,” Meston stated.

Meston’s duty was sometimes very difficult to attend.  “I attended an awful accident on Hwy #3 years ago,” Meston recalled.  “Four drunks hit a family of 8 and their car rolled and caught on fire.  The whole family died and three of the drunks.  One guy survived.  It was one of the biggest accidents in B.C..”  On the positive side, Meston remembers saving a lot of lives too.  “I drove 150 miles an hour under police escort to Abbotsford one time with a patient in really critical condition one time and she lived.”

Two years after the war ended and George’s older brother made it home safe and sound, he drowned in Otter Lake when the boat he was in overturned.  “Fred couldn’t swim,” said George.  The two kids and other two adults all made it to shore and we had to drag the lake for Fred.”

George’s eyes tell the stories with him and in spite of the sad ones, he also has good memories as well.  After ‘retiring’ Alice and George travelled much of the world.  “We went to Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, the Phillipines, Hong Kong and Japan over two months, on our first trip,” said George.  “We took a 30 day trip up to the Arctic Ocean.  We went to Alaska, the Yukon, Inuvik, and Tuktyuktuk.  We went through the Southern U.S. states., back to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland where Alice was from and took two trips to Europe.  We travelled from Edinbrough to Italy, to Amsterdam, Norway and Sweden.  I’d have liked to have seen Africa and South America too,” George stated, “but I’ve seen enough.

George has suffered a lot of pain in his life at the hands of injuries, but also from loss and a life long disease.  He has a degenerative muscle disease called CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease); also referred to as Hereditary Motor And Sensory Neuropathy (HMSN) or Peroneal Muscular Atrophy.

He has had 12 operations on his legs and was labelled unfit to serve when he reported for duty during the war.  “I have pain 24 hours a day, but I don’t complain,” George said.  “I worked my whole life from daylight to dark and watched Princeton grow and change.  I have lots of good memories and a great family.  My son Glen and his wife June had two sons.  My grandsons Michael and Frederick both are married now with their own families and it is nice to see.”

George Meston is a Princeton resident who has overcome many obstacles.  He has contributed to his family, his community and even to strangers.  He is tough and he is kind.  Meston is the kind of man who has made Princeton not only his home, but also a better place to live.