Tumbleweeds and roses; a journey down memory lane

The more research local resident Leona Nicholas did into her family history, the more intrigued she became.

(Top) (L-R) Leona Davis (Nicholas)

(Top) (L-R) Leona Davis (Nicholas)

The more research local resident Leona Nicholas did into her family history, the more intrigued she became.

What started out as general interest, turned into a 211 page book titled, “Tumbleweeds and Roses’ documenting the histories of the Nicholas and Davis families.

Leona said much of the information in her book has come from family stories that were passed down from her parents, grandparents, her late husband Harold [Nicholas] and his father Bert.

Leona also had help compiling the information for her book from her friend Lynda Kemp.

The two met in Camino del Mar in Melaque, Mexico and swapped stories of their family’s histories.

Intrigued by the stories, Lynda later sent a binder filled with empty paper and a title page that said ‘the histories of the Davis and Nicholas families’ so the tales could be kept for the grandchildren.

“This turned out to be a much bigger project that either of us expected,” said Leona adding that she eventually decided to publish her story for everyone to read.

She said to Lakes District News that she would write down her stories and send them to Lynda, who would then enter them into her computer.

“It was a journey down memory lane for me as I went through all of my old photos,” Leona said.

The book took approximately four years to write.

“I started the book when my husband became ill … he passed away in 2009,” she said.

Leona’s family relocated between the U.S. and Canada countless times during her childhood. “We had an unconventional childhood, life with my father was never dull. He was always looking for the greener grass on the other side of the fence,” she said.

Her father, Ike Davis grew up in the small town of Pueblo, Colorado however as a young man he travelled to San Diego, joining the U.S. Navy and became a cook, but excelled at a baseball player on the Navy’s team.

After leaving the Navy, he joined the San Diego Fire Department where again he was chosen to play baseball on their team.

Soon after, at the age of 22, Ike began a professional baseball career with the Wichita Witches in 1917.

Leona said, “His major league baseball career started with the Washington Senators on April 23, 1919 when he was 24 years old. He played for three season in total on two different teams, one year with the Senators and in 1924 he went to the Chicago White Sox and played with them for two years.”

On Feb. 8, 1930 Ike married Margaret Graham and after he retired from professional baseball they settled in Fort St. John, then relocated to Alaska, Bakersfield, Santa Ana, San Francisco and many other places in between.

During 1947, the family travelled back to Canada.

“Like tumbleweeds, we were here today and gone with the wind tomorrow,” Leona said.

“We stopped in at the immigration office in Prince George asking about available property and the area around Ootsa Lake was suggested to my father as he was told the land would suit all of his needs. Once we arrived, it was love at first sight and my father purchased a property at Marilla,” she said.

During 1940s Leona said Burns Lake was still a pioneer town, with board sidewalks and a single water pump on the main street for locals to fill up their water containers.

“Mom and dad continued on to Francois Lake where there was a small ferry that operated until the lake froze over. After freeze up, the only options were to travel the frozen ice or tackle the trail leading around the head of Francois Lake.”

Nicholas met her husband [Harold Nicholas] in 1950 and she said at that time he was in the rose growing business in Seattle, but they made Ootsa Lake their home.

According to Leona, one of the hardest things she had to do was leave her home during the flooding of Ootsa Lake by Rio Tinto Alcan on April 21, 1952.

“We loved it there. We were footloose and fancy free,” she said.

“A representative from Rio Tinto Alcan came to our home and told us the flooding was going to happen …. when the lake was flooded we lost our home … it was really sad because my husband had done a wonderful job of remodeling and he had put plumbing and electricity into our home. At that time we were one of the few homes with inside plumbing,” she said.

After the flooding, Leona said she and her husband camped at a spot she refers to as ‘little bear lake.’  “The actual name is Chief Louie Arm,” she said.

They eventually purchased another Ootsa Lake property, running a cattle ranch and lived there until last fall.

“The kids moved me into town because after my husband passed away they were worried about me living at the ranch,” she said.

“So many years and so many wondrous memories ….there was never any regrets,” she added.

Copies of Tumbleweeds and Roses can be purchased from Health and Order.