The resilient women of Telegraph Cove could not really have had a better ally than Marvin Farrant, who wins the prize for being the only person who lived lived there as a both child and an adult, and for over 50 years to boot. Although the father of sons, his early life with all those sisters must have provided him with lessons he passed on to grateful cohorts of boys and girls, men and women who spent time in his company.
Marvin passed away November 18, 2021 at the age of 87.
He first arrived in Telegraph Cove in 1945, just after World War Two, when his father answered a newspaper advertisement for a steam engineer in the remote community’s saw mill. A raft of boisterous Farrants took the Union Steamship Cardena and landed in their new home, a far cry from Chilliwack and Ontario before that. Having to wear life jackets to guard against the frigid waters of Johnstone Strait lasted until the kids all got used to the idea of boats and tides and storms. After school, they would go scooting off in a small rowboat to scout for logs that could towed back with a bit of rope and sold to the mill for pocket money.
Marvin, being the second of 7 children, was no doubt a ringleader, and included everyone in his games and antics. And there were antics indeed….the Cove was awash with Farrants’ antics!
Like the time an entire bottle of shampoo was poured into the bathtub, with everyone taking turns sliding down the foamy sides. Water from the wash basin, which had no drain, always had to be poured into the bathtub, which was done so haphazardly, sloshing over the side, that eventually the floor rotted away under the tub. Marvin shot BBs through the roof at the rats, and at the tin of matches on the kitchen counter as a target, until one day when they caught on fire. A sticky gumboot got kicked off one day, with such force it went right through the window.
Outside was even more rambunctious. The Farrants played under the mill and under the boardwalk, hide and seek among the unlit piles of sawdust and the rats. There was always so many rats. They made rudimentary stilts that sent them flying off in all directions every time they hit a knothole or crack between the boardwalk.
They played tag by running on logs floating in booms, the most dangerous of all pastimes as falls between logs could mean death by drowning without being unable to surface back through the heavy logs. Thankfully, Marvin was lucky enough to emerge only cold, soaking wet and laughing, until his mother found out and went after him with the wooden spoon.
Marvin and his siblings, like all children, grew up. But unlike all the other children in that place, he stayed in the Cove. He married and built a house for Evylen and their two boys. He worked in the mill during the week and spent time with the local children on the weekend, on boats, teaching them how to waterski (in Johnstone Strait!), and listening to them. That was his real gift. He cared about people, especially children, and really listened to them.
He and Evylen pretty much singlehandedly (fourhandedly?) provided all spiritual education and guidance to local children for years. They taught Sunday School in Telegraph Cove, then in Beaver Cove and Kokish, where the kids were so wild that rowdy floor hockey games and loud sing-alongs acted as inducements to attend. His dry wit and even temperament helped him through some very dark days, but never left him.
Marvin had an open heart, a cheeky smile and a dry wit. His laugh was infectious, and no one ever seemed to have a word to say against him. He treated everyone with respect and good cheer, and never hesitated to get in and do whatever was needed for whoever needed it. He was always ready if a young girl or boy wanted needed someone to just listen to them. He knew how to ask the right questions to get at the heart of things, and never seemed to pass judgement.
While I was researching for my book, he was generous with his time and told me endless stories about what it was like as a child in those post-war days in the Cove, what his parents and other Cove adults were like, and about the workings of the mill and the union. There was authority, but never any hint of ego. He would constantly refer me to his sisters or wife as the true authorities.
When I asked him if he would allow me to thank him in the book’s acknowledgements he laughed and asked “Does this make me an honourary resilient woman of Telegraph Cove?”.
No Marvin, it does not, but you were a wonderful ally and I will miss you.