MANY MEMORIES FOR PIONEER COUPLE
Howard Foot, the youngest of the four sons of Claude Foot, was born in 1939. He was raised and educated in Prince George and remembers the gravel streets before the board sidewalks were installed.
This pioneer family, for which Foot Park was named, has close to 115 years of history in the city of Prince George. Members of the Foot family are still here and continue to be busy giving back to their community.
Howard’s father Claude arrived in Prince George in 1906. He worked for the Hudson Bay Company and came from Quesnel by a scow that was pulled up river by aboriginals; the trip took 17 days.
Following that adventure, he worked for the provincial government for 33 years. He married Kate Renwick and they raised their four boys here.
Howard said, “We used to sit on the fence around the big hole in the area across from the Northern Hardware. We threw rocks into the hole and checked out the girls as they went by.
“When my Dad retired from the government, he bought a secondhand store and I went to work part-time for him. I also worked at the Coliseum doing maintenance work for Bill Woycik. My wife Jeannette was working part-time in the concession stand at the time, but we never had the opportunity to meet. She also worked as a junior fashion consultant at the Bay.”
After high school, Howard went into the entertainment promotion business. He started out with the blessing of the city council of the day with a program called Teen Town. The idea was to involve teenagers in community events.
Howard said, “I was contacted by a U.S. promoter and I promoted entertainment concerts all around B.C. for rock and roll stars like Gene Vincent, Buddy Knox and Eddie Cochran. I also promoted car shows, boxing matches, teen dances and an aquatic show at the old outdoor pool on Watrous Street. It was an exciting time even if I did lose my shirt.
“After all that, I thought I should get out and see some of the world. I ventured to New Zealand, but a year later I decided it was time to go home. I wrote to my girlfriend Trudi Nelson and said, ‘I love you, let’s get married, send me $500.’ She did and we were married in 1963. We raised two children – Reg and Renee. We were married for over 30 years when, at the age of 52, Trudi passed away suddenly due to an aneurism.”
Howard worked in advertising at CKPG for eight years (one year in radio and seven years in television). He then spent 20 years working for Ron East at radio station CJCI. During that time a workmate introduced him to Jeannette DeWalt.
Jeannette was born in 1945 in Prince Albert, Sask. When she was nine months old, her parents moved to High Prairie, Alta. When she was seven, her parents and another family moved to Prince George to look for work. Jeannette still remembers the road trip through the Pine Pass. The construction crew was still working on the new road and had to tow cars through part of it with a Cat.
She graduated from high school and worked at various jobs until she found the perfect job with CP Air in 1974. Over the years, she worked in ticket sales, reservations, airport operations, baggage, check in and at the boarding gate. She moved to the regional carrier Canadian Airlines and retired in 2002. Jeannette has one daughter Tracey and she helped raise four girls: Wende, Lana, Natalie and Nicki.
Good Morning Prince George was a daily coffee shop newspaper that Howard bought and ran for five years before selling and retiring once again.
Jeannette and Howard were married in 1996. They have a blended family of 12 grandchildren who basically grew up at Nukko Lake. Jeannette laughed and said, “When the grandchildren would come to visit, they would ask if they could bring along their six cousins. They always assured me that I would not have to do anything except cook.
“We used to take them raspberry picking so they could make jam. They made such a mess and would triumphantly say ‘isn’t it nice how things go so fast when you have help’ and then they would go outside to play while I cheerfully cleaned up. As soon as they had all gone home, we sat down for a hard-earned rest while we reminisced about all the fun we had with them.”
Howard started the Nukko Lake Water Ski School in 1979. He is credited with being the first promoter of water skiing in Prince George. Word got around and people who had never seen the sport before came out to the lake just to watch what looked like Howard walking on water.
His water ski school became the training ground – or should I say the training lake – for many future water skiers. It was a great family sport and many parents got involved and not only supported it but became judges at local events. After 35 years, Howard left the school to Reg and Brian to run.
He said, “We turned out many good skiers. Back then my son Reg, nephew Brian and daughter Renee all wanted to go to the B.C. Summer Games. Reg and Brian wanted to compete. Renee wanted to compete, but also went there to check out the boys. All three of them became great on the skis and we are certainly proud of them.
“I was 75 years old the last time I was up on water skis. It was not a pretty sight.”
Howard skied competitively and won numerous medals at the Kelowna Regatta, the B.C. Provincials and the B.C. Summer Games.
He was one of the first people inducted into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame, in the sport building classification, for his contribution to the sport of water skiing both provincially and for our city.
Howard served on the Forest Expo board for nearly 10 years and served on the Sports Hall of Fame selection committee for many years. He serves on the board of the North Central Seniors Association and enjoys all the activities and the fun people at their senior centre.
Jeannette helps out with the Arthritis Society. Because of her rheumatoid arthritis there are now limits on her volunteer work and she volunteers quietly in the background.
Howard said, “We have done a lot of travelling around the world and right in our own back yard. Our last camping trip was to Mount Robson where we watched the kayakers come over the falls.”
Jeannette concluded by saying, “So far I have won the battle with cancer. What a journey that was. A journey that was made easier because of our great cancer clinic and the wonderful people that work there and who care so much for the patients.
“Prince George is a great place to raise children and grandchildren. We are looking forward to the next 20 years to see what is in store for Prince George. Even before that, we are looking forward to January 2020 when our first great grandchild is due to arrive.”
Jeannette and Howard Foot at their College Heights home and on a Mediterranean cruise in 1997.