Eveleyne Evangaline Douglas
By Pat Forbes
Is there someone in your life who you would describe as one of the most unforgettable person you have ever met? John Osland and I learned we shared such a person when I notified him of the death of our mutual friend Evelyne Douglas. John immediately wrote back to say “You must be wrong - she is too young to die.” By the time I got his letter I had a copy of the death notice and sent John the details – Evelyne Evangeline Douglas Walin 65 years old, born on Lasqueti Island – that was enough to convince John that Evelyn had indeed passed on. He went on in his note to relate his first memory of her. 1947, they had gone to the island’s July 1st picnic at Marshall's beach. There he spotted this tiny vivacious three year old child with a head of curly red hair thoroughly enjoying herself. She seemed to be everywhere and John couldn't keep his eyes off her. He learned that she was the youngest daughter of his neighbor, George Douglas, son of Grandpa Douglas. Evelyne remained John's friend for over 60 years.
I responded to John's story with “It is my earliest remembrances of Evie that remain the clearest to me. September, 1949 - Evie came to my classroom at Tucker Bay school to start grade 1. In she came with her brilliant curly red hair and eyes that were wide open and ready to take in this new experience. She was up to the challenge, always tried to do her best to please me and her face glowed with appreciation if I praised her efforts. Her oldest sister Irene was also in grade 1. She had started school the year before but had broken her leg and missed much of the year. Also in my class with her sister Dorene in grade 4.
I didn't know her family like I did the rest of the many Douglases is on the island. Evie's family had lived on her father's fish boat for a few years, only moving to his property across the road from Hogan's about 1945 when his older children George and Dorene we're ready for school. By this time his wife had left him and he was raising the children by himself. At one time he had housekeeper to help him and at other times the children were left with their grandmother, 80 year old Emma Douglas. Life at times were tough but the four children always arrive at school on time, clean, and with a lunch. I knew when they had a cold because they arrived with a huge handkerchief that had been soaked in camphorated oil – the scent filled the whole classroom. Their father loved them and they returned their love for him.
I just taught Evie the one year, then left to be married. For the next 6 years I was raising my own family then I went back to teaching. By that time the girls were in the senior room of the new school. I kept up my friendship with the girls and had them babysit for me a few times. Their father had inherited grandpa's house which was in much better condition than theirs and they move there.
It was a shock to everyone to learn in 1957 that both Irene and Dorene were pregnant. There was no support system for them now all the Douglases had left the island and Grandpa and Grandma had passed away. With no family help available, George took the two girls to stay with their mother’s family in Vancouver. Evelyne stayed on the island until she finish grade 9 then she to went to Vancouver. One of her aunts was a hairdresser and she took Evie under her wing and Evie became a successful hairdresser, eventually only her own shop.
Evelyne was a survivor. But Irene and Dorene did not fare well. They had no parenting skills and frequently the children were taken from them by Human Resources. Irene and Dorene along with their babies and older brother George died of heart attacks at very early ages – only Dorene tell her 40th year. Evie andher dad continued to live together until he passed away.
Somewhere along the way Evie married and had two children, a boy and a girl. I know nothing about her husband and he seemed to have died early also. Evie and her daughter ran a beauty parlor for years but had a falling out and Evie move to another salon.
In the 1970s Evie returned to the island to sell grandpa's old house to Jim and Lily Drake. The house had stood empty for quite a while with John Osland acting as guardian of their possessions. This was necessary as Lasqueti had been invaded by the back to earth crowd and any vacant property was fair game to them. On one visit back to the island she asked Jim where I lived and got my phone number. I was only partly on the island as I was teaching in Coquitlam putting my kids through high school. By the 1980’s I was home for good and I started getting phone calls from Evie. About 2 or 3 times a year she would call me asking about the few people left on the island who she knew - Ruby Nichols, and say hello to Betty Darwin from me and tell my daddy’s friend John Osland I still think of him. Through our phone calls I learned that she lived in South Burnaby and worked in a salon off Kingsway. Peter and I often stayed with one of my sisters in South Burnaby when he was taking his cancer treatments.
My hair was a mess one day so I decided I would try to find Evie and get her to fix me up. I went to a possible salon and looked for her fiery red hair but no such person was found. I was sitting waiting for my attendant when one of the hairdressers opened a supply cupboard in front of me and I spotted her nametag - Evelyne. I said “Pardon me, are you Evelyne Walin?”
and she said “Yes, who are you?”
“I am Pat Forbes from Lasqueti!”
“Oh? Who’s doing your hair?”
“That lady!” I said, pointing to the lady.
“No she’s not, I’m doing your hair!” And off she ran to make the arrangements. I think she spoke to every hairdresser in the salon because all I could hear was “I’m going to do my grade one teacher’s hair!” My red headed friend was now about 55 and her glorious hair color had faded.
A few months later I again had Evie do my hair. We shared old Lasqueti memories as she worked away. That was the last time that I saw Evie. In the next 10 years we kept up our phone calls with Evie always hoping to come for a visit. Then in 2008 a date was set. She would come up the last week of August and bring her son and teach him his heritage. I let John and the Mundys know and we started making plans. But once again the visit never happened. Evie had changed her job and was too busy starting up in a new shop.
It was only about 2 weeks later that my sister phoned me wit the death announcement. Evie too had died of a heart attack. I never got to say goodbye. I never knew her address or phone number. Evie was the one who had initiated the phone calls for the last 20 years. I miss my conversations with one of the most unforgettable pupils.