Gurdial Singh Dhami holds photos of his father Basanta and mother Raj Kaur Dhami.

Golden Moments: There’s no place like Golden for Big Bill

Gurdial Singh Dhami is well known as Bill or Big Bill to his friends in and around Golden.

Gurdial Singh Dhami is well known as Bill or Big Bill to his friends in and around Golden.

“Everyone knows Big Bill but not my name,” he said smiling.

Originally from the Punjab region of India his father came to Canada in 1906 but returned to India during the First World War.

After the war his father returned to work in Canada and Gurdial moved to Vancouver in 1934.

“I came to Canada. My father was back and forth to Canada all of the time,” he said. “He wanted my mother, sister and me to come, but my grandfather didn’t want us to come to Canada.”

When he was 18 years old he made the decision to finally come to Vancouver.

After his father returned to India in 1935, Gurdial continued to work hard for a brighter future.

“In those days it was hard to get a job. It was during the Depression,” he said.

During the Second World War Gurdial returned to India and would not come back to Canada until 1947.

Before coming to Donald for work, Gurdial had a history of working for lumber companies in Vancouver.

After owning his own trucking company, which was used to move lumber around the coast, the mill he was working with suffered a serious fire and he lost everything in one night.

It was a friend from Vancouver who convinced Gurdial to move to Donald to work at a mill.

“I worked for six months and then the mill went bankrupt,” he said.

A few years later the mill reopened and once again Gurdial was offered a job.

After a few discussions, he returned to the area to work at the mill in 1963.

Gurdial was one of the first people from East India to live in the Golden on a full-time basis.

“There was nobody here like myself. I went back to Vancouver and brought some of my boys back with me to work,” he said.

Golden was a very different place back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, according to Gurdial.

“At that time Golden was a very sad place. There was nothing much here,” he said.

Eventually more people with the same ethnic background as Gurdial came to Golden, and they came together to build a Sikh Temple.

“We all pushed for everybody to build a temple. With everyone helping, we all came down to build it,” he said.

Gurdial explained the hospital was very small and there was nothing on the area around where the highway now runs.

“Donald had a small flag railway station when I first came here. No one would come here unless it was by train.The roads were very bad,” he said.

In 1976 Gurdial moved to Golden and eventually bought the Golden Rim Motel with a partner.

The motel became a family business which would eventually be taken over by Gurdial’s grandson Manjit (Mike). The family would also open the Ramada Hotel in Golden which whas run by Gurdial for ten years and is now operated by Mike.

Since 1988 Gurdial has been enjoying his life in Golden as a retiree.

“At first I didn’t like it. For the first month or two I missed my job. After that I got used to it. I sometimes travel to India or other places,” he said.

Gurdial added he was not planning on spending his life in Golden but would not move away now for many reasons.

“There were no jobs in Vancouver so that is why we came here. I thought I would work for a year or two and then go back to Vancouver,” he said. “I like to stay here where it is nice and quiet. People are friendly here and we know lots of people here. It is like a small village. This is a nice place where I am going to grow old.”

 

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