Ray Tress was born in a log cabin in Brisco almost 80 years ago, and for the most part has never found a reason to leave the Columbia Valley.
Growing up with eight brothers and sisters, Tress enjoyed a childhood that included sharing with his identical twin brother Roy.
“It had its advantages and disadvantages. We always had to wear a name tag on us because no one could tell us apart. Teachers couldn’t tell us apart,” he said. “Our mother had to embroider our names on the back of our sweaters so the teachers knew who we were.”
Tress said the two brothers did have to understand sharing from a very young age.
“We had fun, but there were ups and downs because you were always sharing. Everyone else got a bicycle but we had to share one,” he said.
He also said there wasn’t much in Brisco back in that time, and after three years his family moved to Parson where he would spend a great deal of his childhood on the family farm.
“I worked at the family saw mill until I was 21 and then I got married,” he said.
Tress met Helen after he became friends with her brother.
“At that time I ran a square-dancing club. I picked her brother up and said that he might as well being his sister along too. And away it went. We dated for three years after that,” he said.
Helen explained that she had just come to the area from the Prairies, and had only been here a month when the couple started dating. Eventually they would be married at the giant mascot mine because that is where Helen’s family lived.
“We were the only ones to ever get married up there,” Ray said. “We were married in a superintendents house.”
“All of the miners were there. They had a town site up there with about 30 homes. It was like one big family then.”
Tress explained that after they got married they spent many years living in different camps in the bush. At different times he worked on the Trans Canada Highway, and then took the trailer in the bush for seven years until their oldest child started going to school.
“There would be nine feet of snow pack and we were 80 miles out in the backcountry. We moved to Field and also spent a winter under the glaciers in the Blaeberry,” he said.
Helen said there was no indoor plumbing but being out there with her children was wonderful.
“It didn’t really bother us. We made our own entertainment. I would take the kids out tobogganing,” Helen said.
The family moved into Golden in 1962 when there were only 500 people in town. Helen stayed in Golden while Ray went back in to the camps to work over a number of years. Ray would eventually start driving a logging truck which he would do until the late 1980s, and he never had to leave the valley because he always had a great deal of work to do.
“I never wanted to leave. I went to Fort St. John for two months but that was it,” he said.
Even though Ray is semi-retired he still helps out with other family businesses and his museum.
“It is a private museum filled with tractors and buggies. I always collected and it just added up. I kept getting more stuff and putting more in. Then one day a couple of guys stopped in from Seattle and said it was Ray’s Museum. We have many people from all over the world stop in and take pictures. They come in and a couple of hours later they are still there,” he said.
Some of the family’s grandchildren have also caught the bug of looking after and collecting tractors, which have also become birthday presents.
“It has done a lot for the boys and they have learned to drive the tractors and repair them,” Helen said.
The couple had five children and over the years a number of grand and great-grand children have joined the family.
Something they enjoy is when the family gets together and goes out camping as a large group.
“On the 24th of May every year, about 45 of us get together,” Helen said.
The family would go water skiing, though neither Helen or Ray spent a great deal of time in the water.
“We needed hot dogs, fish or pancakes. We were camping one time and this young kid who was down at the other camp said he was coming up to our site for breakfast. His mother asked him if if he had asked us if it was OK and he said, ‘It’s fine, they won’t know if there is one more kid up there,’” Helen said. “You make the best of everything. We are lucky.”