The Odyssey of “Bert” Kipps

After transcribing my first document originally written by Daisy Cripps, titled ‘La Famille Mabille and The Cripps Family‘, I have another, but this time written by an England-born cousin, Albert Edward ‘Bert’ Kipps, who travelled to America and became successful in the mining industry. It was written in 1972, whilst he was retired and living in Laguna Beach, California. He died the year after writing this 17-page piece. This is 2,000 words longer than my first transcription effort at 9,500 words – I managed to type it all up in several hours. I look forward to your comments, enjoy!


The Odyssey of “Bert” Kipps


1972
     Families, children and grandchildren, occasionally like to review the past, especially if it bridges the gap of immigration from the “Old” country to the new.  So now, the Christmas of 1972, I’m going to review my travels. I will try to make this account factual getting the data from my diaries, kept since a boy. I’ll try to be objective, but pardon the impressions recalled from the past.

England 1901 to 1920

Before I go on to the more interesting experiences I have had in the “Frozen North” around the Arctic Circle, and the hot and humid beauty of the “Rain Forest” in South America, I must first recount some of my travels in England, where I was born on February 3rd, 1901.

As I grew old enough my sister, Olive, and I used to enjoy the charm of the typical English countryside, just walking can be most satisfying. Then, with a bicycle I could go further afield, but when I got a motor-bike I really started to cover England from “Land’s End” to “John O’Groats”. If you’re going to the Old Country this is the way I would suggest – motor-bike.

Travelling around England you always run into signs of its great historic past. “Stonehenge” on the Salisbury plains has the ancient Druids circle of monoliths where the civilization started, and the “Celts” became people. The Low Country where King John signed the Magna Carta giving the people a Parliament and the chance to vote in 1215, Shakespeare’s country and its beautiful River “Avon” must be enjoyed.

In Devonshire, where I spent a glorious holiday, it has a sub-tropical climate, with Palm trees along the seafront, and caves to explore. Near there, a t Plymouth, Sir Francis Drake played bowles as the French Fleet approached. Of course he had to finish the game before bothering to go out with his ships and drive them away. Since the days of William Norman the Conqueror [sic], about 1066, England has never been invaded.

One school holiday I took off by myself on my bike to visit my Grandfather Cripps on the lovely Island of Jersey. Grandfather was quite an exceptional man, a scholar and a poet, he was sure good company for a boy, and I enjoyed myself.

I had a nice life in England, my sister and I could walk to church through the beautiful Park of Hampton Court Palace. Henry the Eighth did himself well there, a place hard to conceive this day and age. We could go “punting” or canoeing on the Thames up around Windsor Castle, and so many pleasures without much expense. I hope it’s not changed yet.

1914 – The War

Suddenly we were at War with Germany and facing some terrible facts – no Army or supplies, we were not prepared! As the Germans came around the Maginot line through Belgium they were just across the Channel. Lord Kitchener recruited an army of 700,000 boys and sent them across the Channel to dig trenches and hold the Germans back.

My brother, Tom, who was 18, immediately enlisted and after a meager training was off to France. Tom fought in the front line trenches for three years, a long time, but, just before it was over, he was reported missing in action and we never heard from him again.

Father’s business was a war casualty and he was cleaned out. He didn’t get over it, he was too old to enlist, 54, and too old to start all over again, although a big, strong man he caught pneumonia and died in a few days. At the time of his death Mother was anxiously waiting to hear from Tom, but all we heard was that he was setting up Trench Mortars out in front of the front lines when he did not return.

Olive and I were left practically on our own resources, but there was plenty for us to do for the War. Olive joined the W.R.A.F. and look real nice in her snappy uniform. She worked at the Royal Air Force Depot, at Hurst Park, near our home so I got on there too waiting till they would take me, but the War ended before I was old enough.

With demobilization and termination of War work England was in a pretty state and it was slim pickings. The “Dole” paid married men $4.80 per week, and there was no work. I was lucky to hold onto my job, and was very well paid, so I saved my money to get away where the prospects were brighter.

Utah – U.S.A.

I had been corresponding with my Uncle “Bert”, I was his namesake, and he kept urging me to “come West young man” so I did. He had migrated there early in life and done well. He was a fine man and had sponsored other members of the family to join him.

By Steamer from Liverpool to Montreal, Canada, and then train, a Pullman berth no less, to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was quite an experience at my age and I got a bang out of every minute. Salt Lake City was so modern and prosperous and quite a sight with the great Wassatch Mountains to the East and the Desert to the West, with Great Salt Lake nearby.

My cousin Percy Cripps also lived there and was just leaving for a month’s vacation with his wife, Ida. They were going to take their Chevrolet touring car and camp out all around the West. He asked me if I would like to go with them, and of course I jumped at the chance. In those days there were no Motels and very few roads, and they were all bad. Perce and his wife had a tent but I slept outside on a camp cot in the “wide open spaces”.

We journey North through Idaho with extensive wheat fields and sheep ranches, all new to me. One morning I got up with the sun only to find that, across the valley, there was a big harvester machine working with many horses and outriders.

From Idaho we turned West towards California. There was only a trail through Oregon, and one day we spent 14 hours going 120 miles through the Pine forest, what a trip! There we climbed up the mountain to “Crater Lake National Park”. This beautiful, blue Lake is deep down, 2,000 feet, inside an extinct Volcano, and surrounded with bright, green Pines. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

On to California over the Donner Pass through the Sierra Nevadas where the early day Mormans perished in the snow – the Donner party. On down to San Francisco, the metropolis of the West, a delightful little “City”, and the “Golden Gate” which I had been waiting so long to see.

South to Los Angeles, as disappointing as Frisco had been exciting. The Oranges growing on the trees alongside the road were something new, and Hollywood with its Movie Palaces and pictures being made in the streets. My Uncle Ernie lived there and we stayed with him a few days. We even went down into Mexico to Tia Juana, a depressing place.

Returning to Salt Lake City through Arizona and Nevada we sure saw a lot of desert, and the roads were terrible. The bright red, bare rocks of the “Valley of Fire” gave me a strange feeling, it’s now covered by Lake Mead. We crossed the Virgin River, and its quick sands, behind a horse, now there’s a bridge, which spoils it.

52 years later looking back at this month of hard travel, and the rewarding experiences, it’s hard to envision what we then had to do. Perce carried a melting pot and ladle to pour new engine bearings as they wore out, and we decarbonized when we lost power. Springs were broken often and shored up with wooden blocks and leather straps. Tires were patched and repatched and many stops were made to help others. One travelling salesman rode the running board, standing, for 50 miles as there was no room inside the car.

Returning I now had to make up my mind what I was going to do. I still had some money left and I could stay in Utah, go on to California, or on to Australia where I had a connection. Had I not taken that trip with Perce I believe I would have been all at sea. But Utah looked mighty friendly to me and its people so easy to get along with that I was not going any further.

Uncle Bert was Secretary of a rich, Silver Mine in Tintic, Eureka, Utah, with his office in Salt Lake City. He was enthusiastic about a future for me as a Mining Engineer. I was to go to the mine and see for myself if I would like it, and also if I thought I could make the grade. Of course I did not know a thing about it, but the math, geometry and mapping interested me, as it did in school.

So I went to Eureka to study under their Chief Engineer, a dour Scotsman named Harry Pitts. At the time I did not know it but I was to grow to like him, and I was to become his best friend. He put me to work underground, drilling “uppers”, holes in solid rock, for survey plugs, and carrying mule loads of stakes, posts and equipment up large mountains to survey claims. It started to get interesting when I learned to “run a transit” and make maps by plotting co-ordinates.

I was soon surveying by myself with a helper to do the “mule” bit. I learned about raises, winzes, stopes, drifts, and shafts. Also how to put in a Railroad siding, build good roads, install Aerial Tramways, and how to use explosives.

1922       Harry Pitts wife was a wonderful person, Clara was socially educated, and a very good cook. I was invited to Dinner often and was never late. The Pitts had a pretty, blonde daughter, Winifred, attending high school. We clicked immediately, and in this dreary, desolate mining camp this made the time pass very nicely after work. I had a roadster and we explored the Canyons for miles around, there was also a good stable at the Mine, and we rode horseback into the hills on picnics. There was no social entertainment for young people, dancing, etc., but we did well without it.

                On my 21st Birthday, February 3rd, 1922, we were married. It was a grand wedding, at the Pitts house, with all the Mine officials present, including my Uncle Bert. Much “bootleg” cheer, wedding cake etc. etc. ad infinitum, but we managed to make our “get-away” in my roadster to Salt Lake City for our honeymoon.

                The Company, Chief Cons., built us a fine house among  the other house of the Officials above the mine. I furnished it above my means, but nicely, including a baby grand piano. I bought a new Chevrolet Roadster for $735.00 but, even with no rent and utilities, and $250.00 per month, I was always way behind the eight ball.

1923       The big day had come, our first child, a son was born. We named him Thomas Charles after my brother and father. He was born on my father’s birth-date 28th February. Being born at home we had quite a time and I was surprised to find that I had much to do with it. The Doctor wanted a natural birth so it took 12 hours and everyone but the Mother was worn out. But Tom was a beautiful baby, 9 lbs. 6 ounces, well developed, and strong. Clara confirmed that he was the most ever!

                The Mine workings were getting more extensive and the company were buying up the adjoining Mines so my work load was getting too big. I could not complain as I was treated so well. Underground I got along well with the Miners and made many friends. I would take my lunch underground so that I could eat it with them in their different “dog houses” and listen to their conversation. They taught me more than some of the officials.

1924       Another big day, Muriel Catherine was born on the 9th May, this time in a hurry. She was also a fine, large, healthy baby and a very pretty one. After a child is grown it’s hard for them to realize the pleasure and joy they gave their parents.

I was now promoted to the position of Chief Engineer, Harry Pitts going up to Mine Manager, I had a fine staff of engineers, surveyors, and draughtsmen under me in the large engineering office up on the Hill. I had about 80 miles of Underground mine workings and thousands of patent mining claims to look after on the surface, so I was kept busy.

1925       Another son, Harry James, after his grandfather, was born on the 16th July. Again well-developed baby with all the qualities to make a fine man. I was in court in Nephi at the time testifying on a mine suit, and the clerk whispered the good news to me. Now I really had to find a way to establish myself in my profession and, of course, make more money.

                I could see the writing on the wall. The Chief Mine was getting worked out and the other mines had been that way when they acquired them. Although I was then getting top pay how long would it all last? So it was then time to move up. The only answer was to open my own Office in Salt Lake City and work for all the Mines instead of one. Specialize and charge more, working independently I could do this.

                I had made many friends among the Mining fraternity in the State and was sure of plenty of work, and that is the way it worked out.

We were glad to move from the desolate Mining Camp of Tintic and take up our residence and office in Salt Lake City. There was such an improvement in environment and living conditions, and the children could go to good schools.

This was the second crucial decision of my life. First I came to the U.S.A. and now I was to venture, with three children, to be independent. With Pitts and other of my friends I felt a fear of losing their jobs. In those days this was critical. Now your Company is supposed to look after you with a pension, etc. etc.

I opened my own Office, and hung out my shingle, (that is had my name and profession printed on my door). With the work I had solicited already I kept very busy, and the income was twice what I had received in salary.

1927       One of my big jobs was with all people but the Chief in Tintic, and at twice the pay they gave me in salary. They were getting desperate for Ore so had contracted with a prominent Geologist for a big examination so as to find more.

                I had long been wanting to study Geology as I felt that there was a big future in its application. Up till now Mines were found by ignorant prospectors roaming the hills looking for the obvious signs of Gold and other minerals. Geology and the understanding of rocks and their relation with Ore deposits was a science, and I knew I could succeed there.

                So I jumped at the chance to serve under Basil Prescott, a brilliant Geologist who had made a name for himself in Mexico. He was dynamic and very intelligent, working around the clock. I knew all the underground working and could help him a great deal, so we got along well and he started to teach me all the fundamentals of Ore deposits. This work lasted a long time and I enjoyed learning a great deal from Prescott.

1928       Another great event, but this time, thank goodness, in a Hospital, the Holy Cross in Salt Lake City. Another son, Albert Edward was born to us on the 30th March and we were as happy as with the first. He was also well developed at birth, and turned out to be a fine man. I sure have been lucky with my children.

                One of my mining friends in Salt Lake City was Bill Child, a stockbroker and enterprising mining financier. He was into a lot of Mines and I did all his work. Finally he and his associates bought a fine old Mine in southern Utah, the “Horn Silver”. This fabulously rich silver Mine had made a name for itself at the turn of the century, but when the “Horn” silver turned to sulphides they quit it and it had caved in. Horn Silver cuts with a knife just like horn and is pure silver.

He insisted that I had to open it up for them and see if I could bring it back into production. So, working from my office as usual, I undertook what looked like an impossible job. I had enough work without it and it was a big gamble. But I went ahead and hired a big staff from Tintic and 200 Miners and surface crew. To make a long story short after a year’s hard work we got down to where they had left off mining and we were lucky enough to find some more rich Ore.

This brought all my friends down to see, including Basil Prescott and the Smelter boys. I was in! One Mine owner from Park City was so impressed that he bought a large share of the Company, which entitled him to control. If a young punk 27 years old could do that good they could, of course, do much better.

This relieved me of a lot of real hard work, and, as all my friends had seen it, got me a lot more higher paid jobs. Bill gave me a big bonus and I took off for a rest in Cal. visiting my Mother and Sister.

24th January 1927 I was grateful to acquire a United States Citizenship.

I was not there long before Bill Child called me saying that a friend of his in New York City had bought a Gold Mine on the Mother Lode in California, and would I please go and get it started up for him. This was the old “Royal Calavaras” Mine in the lovely foothills of the Searra Nevadas, a change from my usual desert local.

I decided to take it on as it was Winter in Utah and that is a slow period. I made my base at a nice Hotel in San Francisco, the “Chancellor”, and enjoyed one of the best and easiest jobs to-date. After a few months I had them well squared away and so could return to my Office in Salt Lake City, where business was piling up.

1929       On my way back I stopped in Eureka and picked up my family who had been enjoying a long stay with their Grand-parents. Clara had really had a ball with the children, whom she dearly loved. And it had been a terrific relief to me as my work had kept me from home for so long.

                Back in my Office I tried to keep everyone happy. Some were waiting on my surveying their Patent Claims and there was underground work pending. But again I got a big, lucky, break which was to mean financial opulence for me during the depression.

1930 to 1935       Jim Elton, Chief of International Smelter, one of my friends who had visited me at the Horn Silver Mine, sent me a client. Walter B. Farmer, Managing Director of the Utah Metal & Tunnel Mine, Bingham Utah, with head office in Boston, had come to Utah to ask his friend Elton for an engineer who could help them with a problem.

Utah Copper Mine, the huge Open Pit operation in Bingham, had offered Utah M. & T. $100,000.00 for the right to dump some of their overburden on U. M. & T. surface adjoining them. Jim sent Farmer to my office for me to do this job, I was to get them more money. Farmer was a very nice fellow and we got along well (we did a bit of Trap shooting together). I told him it would take several months, which it did, but after I had concluded many surveys I found that it was more of a case with Utah Copper as to where else they could go, and there was no other place. So I got them $350,000.00 upon my presentation to U. C., who were very willing.

Farmer got a $25,000.00 Bonus from his Company, and I got what was to be worth much more to me. I got a low royalty Lease on their entire Mine. I worked this Mine out of my own bank account for some time, making over $2,000.00 profit, monthly when everyone else was out of work. I bought a fine, large, English style house on exclusive Haxton Place and furnished it well. We enjoyed the pro. Tennis court on our property, and had many parties. I enjoyed the Fort Douglas Golf Club also.

1935       It’s again a pleasure to break up this rather monotonous mining news to announce the birth of a lovely baby girl. Haidee, Latitia was born on the 7th April, and she grew up to keep up with her name which means “lovely lady”.

                Basil Prescott again came into my life and this time with even better results. He approached me to help him map a Mine in Nevada which he was appraising for Erret Cord, the automobile magnate. This was a big, rambling mine with tunnels all over a mountain, Silver Peak, Nevada. I was not very anxious as it looked like a rough job, but I would get more lessons in Geology and that I prized more than anything else.

                I put a crew of Surveyors and draughtsmen to work and after a few months hard work we had something to show. But Cord could not understand flat maps and so I made him a very elaborate, large Glass model in colors, this he could understand.

                Erret Cord was a likeable character and a lot of fun, he would spend some time at the Mine then take me back to Beverly Hills in one of his Cord autos at breakneck speed. I tried my best to explain to him that he was buying a worked out Mine but he bought it anyway, probably for Tax purposes.

                But it was at Silver Peak that I got my real lucky break, it was to change my life, and to enable me to retire from Mining at 46 years of age. I was to go to Canada, and there to be introduced to Mining through the top, to the Mine Owners. Chas Kaeding came to the Silver Peak for a 3 days visit to examine the mine for Eastern interests. Kaeding was a wealthy and internationally famous mining engineer, with offices in many countries, but a head office in Toronto, Canada.

                I helped him with his examination and he came to the same conclusion. Then he had a long talk with me about my future. He advised me to open an office in Toronto where there were many new mines, and a shortage of engineers. He went so far as to say that he would sponsor me. This clinched it.

1936 – Canada

                I again made a major decision and again was lucky. We put our Haxton Place house up for sale, shipped our good furniture, and set sail in our auto for Canada. Haidee was so excited that she stood up all the way, later she was to make this same trip alone and by Plane. We soon found a nice house and settled down to like Toronto.

                Kaeding lent me an office in his suite in which to study the Canadian mining picture before I opened my own office. But it was not long before I had to do just that. I was put under retainer by Sir James Dunn, the Canadian Steel Magnate.

The Dunn assignment was quite interesting and new to me. Kaeding was to open a brand new Iron Mine for Dunn, and I was elected to prepare the way. It was at Michipocten on the north shore of Lake Michigan, and I was to measure the deposit. But it was just rolling hills covered by brush and Boysenberries, Dunn had lent me some Engineers and Kaeding sent along a metallurgist, and I took a Diamond Drill crew. Dunn, who owned the Railroad, lent us two of his private cars and his Chef, so we parked on a siding and spent an enjoyable time, working and eating boysenberries by day and playing Bridge at night, some of the fellows had brought along their wives, what a picnic!

Kaeding now introduced me to Jos. Errington, a millionaire mine owner. Joe had made his money late in life so was fair game for any old prospector who came along, he backed them all. A Swede prospector had come in from the far North Country and had rich samples of Gold. Joe was very excited about this find and asked me please would I go up there and “what it was all about”.

It was a long way, 3,000 miles, and no planes to Edmonton, but from there a Bush Pilot took me in to the Great Slave Lake, near the Arctic Circle. We landed on the north shore, and it was wild, no one there, but we had spotted the prospectors’ tent from the Air and soon found them.

I did, indeed, find a real Gold discovery and was able to recognize its possibilities. I spent three days sampling the little pits along the narrow vein, but it was so rich that I had to discard most of the pieces as showing too much Gold. I decided that I had better buy this prospect on the spot as news gets around. After much deliberation we agreed on the terms, I gave them my check for $66,000.00 and wrote out a Contract for them to receive a 20% interest in any mine to be formed to mine it. Of course, the prospectors really found it!

This action on my part turned out to be the reason that I am sitting here in Laguna Beach and writing, enjoying my retirement. Of course I was not to know this at the time.

This vast great northern tundra is something to be seen in order to be believed. Imagine a prairie several time larger than the American plains where the buffalo roamed, but with Caribou, in the same huge numbers. But mostly rock and water and very flat, flat for about 3,000 miles east and west and 3,000 miles north and south. This is called the Canadian Shield, and interest lies in the fact that it has been scoured by Glaziers till only the oldest rocks show, the balance being down in Arkansas. These oldest rock are where the great Gold mines may be found.

If you are interested in Geology (who would not be?) it is also interesting to note that I found the same condition persists in South America under the great Rain Forest. Thank you, Bert!

It’s a lovely place to live, really. So dry that you do not feel the cold, and the summer’s hot and dry, with flowers, birds and fish in abundance. Winter temp. 35 to 50 degrees below, but you can go outside in your shirtsleeves, lots of fine, big, whitefish to be easily obtained through a hole in the ice, and lots of Caribou.

Flying out with my Bush Pilot to Edmonton I decided that I needed a holiday, so I went south to visit my Mother and Sister. No connection across the border for over 100 miles so I took a taxi. We detoured through Glazier National Park and had a ball. The Taxi driver was glad of the trip so that he could visit his relatives in Great Falls.

After resting a while in L.A. I got a wire from Kaeding asking me to make a quick examination of a Mine in Colorado on my way back. The “Smuggler Union” Mine at Telluride was 13,000 ft. high (why do I always meet such extremes). To reach it you get into an ore bucket and travel by Aerial Tramway.

My samples had reached Toronto ahead of me and there was much excitement. When Joe Errington heard that I had bought this prospect for him he was quite happy. I was given carte blanche to go ahead and spend all that was necessary to prove it up.

On my next trip there I was lucky to find a competent man to manage the operation for me, so I started diamond drilling to prove it to depth, and it came through royally.

The location was called “Yellowknife” after the Indians there. We had to form a Company to get about $350,000.00 to bring it into production, and I was asked to name it, so I called it “Negus” as that black Emperor was then in the news, and also because the gold-quartz was quite black. I was made Managing Director, so I could have enough authority at such great distances, given a bonus of 10,000 shares of Stock, and paid $1,000.00 per month for ½ my time.

I’m not going over the year I spent in the far North and the other Mines I operated at the same time, under a similar arrangement, only to say that eventually there were Nicholson (I was President of that uranium property), and Mercury Gold Mines, further north than Negus, where the richest gold sample ever came from, or some smaller ventures which would only bore you worse than you are already.

My work load was getting too heavy and I needed complete relaxation so I turned to Sailing on Lake Ontario. We first bought a small boat, the “Scolto” (sea scout), to practice in, but on one of my frequent trips to New york City (we had financiers there), I found the “Constance” at City Island in the sound.

So Tom, Muriel and I went to New York to bring the “Constance” home. With mast on deck until we cleared the Erie Canal, we blithely set out, down through Hell Gate, around Manhattan, and up the lovely Hudson. There we started with Locks, something to remember, and through the Finger Lakes, to Oswego on Lake Ontario. There we stepped the mast and sailed down the Lake, out of sight of land, for 120 miles to Toronto. Looking back I am amazed that we made it, but we enjoyed every minute of it.

All my career I have kept strictly to the mining engineering end of Mining, and have been lucky not to get mixed up with unscrupulous promoters. But I nearly got caught up in one. Byrnes a friend of the bunch asked me to take a quick look at their Mine and give them my advice. Well their so called mine was on a small rocky Island in the middle of Great Slave Lake, called Outpost Island. I spent three days there and results were negative. But I had my office staff prepare a good brief on the reason that they should shut down.

They paid me $5,000.00 for my work and I thought nothing else of it. But later I was told by one of my friends that Byrnes was getting out an elaborate promotion brochure, quoting parts of my report out of context, to make it look good. I put my Attorney on them and they had to scrap all their printing.

Now that Negus was proving itself and we were sure of a new Gold Mine for Canada I became somewhat of a celebrity. We were enjoying a good life, although a lot of my time was still away from home, a difficult situation. I bought a fine house, you guessed it English style, at 42 Russell Hill Road. I hired a chauffeur-Butler,  and a Cook to help out at home, and my secretary took care of all the bills.

One of my associates, Arthur Carr, put us up for the “Carlton Club” where we enjoyed badminton and swimming. Tom, under the sponsorship of General Hogarth, another associate, entered “Upper Canada College”, the Eton of Canada. Tom, a radio buff, had his own room in the basement where we “talked” to the rest of the world nightly. Muriel and Harry also had a big playroom there to entertain.

South America

It was not enough that I was looking after three Mines remote in the Arctic with our head offices in Toronto but now I must include South America in my itinerary. Joe Errington got all fired up over some Gold dust a prospector had brought in from British Guiana, South America. Would I, please, go take a look?

Another type of adventure called me and I again jumped at the opportunity. Taking the unheated, rickety, old sky Pan Am Flying boats I flew from Miami, landing at Puerto Rico, Haiti, Santi Domico, and St. Thomas to Trinidad. Then a short jump across to British Guiana, only 5,000 miles.

I was met at Georgetown, British Guiana by Ed Walcott and the prospector Bill Dann. Walcott was a typical British Colonial and had staked Dann to go into the interior looking for Gold.

I examined the Colony Maps of the Interior but there was only a large blank area where we were going. We were required to wear side arms at all times, as there were supposed to be bad Negros back in the bush. Such rot, it came from a massacre of Whites in Dutch Guiana long ago.

We took coastwise steamer from Georgetown to the mouth of the great Orinoco River, then we managed to get a Chinese shopkeeper’s boat to take us a tributary, the Barima, to Arakaka, which was to be our base. Arakaka was a small clearing with a Chinese shop and some Negro huts.

We went deep into the great Rain Forest to the Gold discovery. We could see Mount Roraima, the highest waterfall in the world. The beauty of this forest is almost indescribable with its mighty hardwood trees, draped in lanas, bamboo, ferns and undergrowth. But the temperature was 100 degrees and the humidity 95% and fallen trees to climb up over, and pouring rain all the time.

The Gold was there in placer form, near the surface and extending back down as far as Arakaka. I took many samples, panning the gold dust, and brought them home; I still have some of them.

Returning to Georgetown Ed Walcot helped me get a government concession over several miles. I was required to map it a report on it so that the Colony could fill in some more blank spaces. Imagine the U.S.A. with areas so inaccessible waiting for someone to fill in the data.

Eventually getting back to Toronto we formed another company with I named the “Manicuru Goldfields Ltd” using local idiom. It would take two or three hundred thousand dollars to build a dredge and ship it in pieces, and get it up into this almost inaccessible area, but that we did!

1938       You may wonder how all these operations were taken care of, but it was not too difficult. I had a good staff in my office and the men in the field made periodic reports in detail to my office, there they were put into shape for the different Director’s meetings. All accounts were handled by a good Toronto firm of accountants, but the responsibility for employment, direction and progress were mine.

Negus – came in.

1939       On the 8th of May the big day came for Negus, we poured the first Gold Brick with many more to follow, so “it came in” they say. It’s really pretty and is worth up to $50,000.00, and heavy. In Canada this is the occasion for a big party, and I mean a BIG party. We sent planes out for many miles around to collect the prospectors and anyone else who wanted to come, returning them several days later when they decided that the party was over. No limit to good Canadian Whiskey, and lots of food and a good bunk house.

The next morning I flew out to Edmonton, a little the worse for wear with my “Brick” in a gunny sack. There was also a big celebration there, as Edmonton is the Gateway to the far North. The postmaster sent the Gold to the Mint in Ottawa. Some time later I visited the Mint to see what they did with our Gold, but could get no samples.

World’s Fair – New York City

1939       A great idea is born – we’ll go to the Fair in our good ship “Constance”. So away we go with our indispensable crew, and Muriel filling the most important position of “Galley Slave” (without her – no trip). We took the same course back but met Gil Kilcarr and his fiancée, Olive, at Troy and they sailed back down the Hudson with us. Around Manhattan into Flushing Bay to the Farr anchorage, where we were well looked after.

                We all had a grand time and took in all the wonderfull sights. While I met with some of my business associates in New York City the gang showed themselves around the Town.

                By now the boat was paying off in many ways. I got my complete relaxation, and there was responsibility and character building for the gang – it was to last them their lives. Our return to Toronto was easy now with a hep crew.

                Due for another trip I returned to British Guiana. I arranged with the local Iron Works to build me two large steel pontoons. These were not only to take the machinery, etc. in the River to Arakaka but to mount the Dredge on at the site.

I enjoyed the Colonial life very much, those boys do themselves very well. Ed Walcott put me up for the very British “Georgetown Club” and I had good quarters at my base there.

1940       But I was counting my blessings prematurely. Travelling up to Arakaka on the Barima River in my launch we got stuck with low water, and could not go either way. After a few days I realized that I had fever – so pass the quinine, but it did no good. I was hot but then you’re always hot in the tropics, and I actually did not feel bad, I could not eat and my Hindoo boy, who was supposed to look after me kept crying (afraid, I suppose of what would happen to him if I did not come back). The jungle was too thick for anyone to land and there we sat.

                After a few days some Indians came by in their dugout so I gave them a note to take down to the Police Station at the seacoast. Next day Williams flew in and took me out in his old Ireland Amphibian plane. After landing on the water we had to bail out the hull and all the way home, flying over the impenetrable Forest with no chance of landing at all.

                Into the Hospital but no relief, temperature rising up to 104-105 in the evening and down in the morning. I had one of those many fevers, not malaria which was too bad, and there was no cure then. I lost much weight, going from 185 lbs. down to 126 lbs. and looking poorly, yellow eyes and dirty yellow skin and not able to raise my head or stand up.

The Surgeon-General for the Colony just then returned from a trip to Mt. Sinai Hospital in N.Y. and brought back some Sulpha drugs – a new discovery, guaranteed to cure but with side effects worse than the complaint.

The Sulpha cured me immediately; fever went down to normal and stayed there. The only trouble now was to convince others that I was not dead, I looked it, but strangely I never felt too bad, and did not figure at any time that I was about to give up.

Back in Toronto for a much needed rest. We sailed the “Constance” to the “Thousand Islands National Park” at the head of the St. Lawrence River. There we established ourselves, and appropriated one of them, “Burnt Island”, a most enjoyable spot. These islands are small, red volcanic spots covered with green Pine trees and very fragrant. The water is ideal for swimming and we spent a good vacation. I am looking at a photo of the “Constance” moored at the Burnt Island on my study wall right now.

Hearing so much about the Rain Forest, and I always made it sound good, others might have called it stinking but that’s their bad fortune, General Hogarth, his friend Col Spencer, President of Pioneer Line, and Bill Englebright (Kaeding’s friend) all wanted me to take them to Hanaikuru. It looked pretty risky but I decided to take them.

They left to visit friends in Florida, and I left in a large cruise steamer from New York to Puerto Rico. I used to like varying my route to the south each time, and went many ways, once via Barranqula, Columbia. Just my good fortune we got caught in a hurricane off Bermuda, and lay disabled for 28 hours rolling terribly. It was rare fun! There was some damage and some passengers hurt but we made it into P.R.  2 days late. There was much celebrating on the dock.

We all met at Georgetown and I got Williams to fly us in to the Barima where my launch was waiting, then up River to Arakaka. Although the dredge was not recovering as much Gold as I would like they were tremendously impressed. What the hell did they expect – no dredge and no gold! The mud was too sticky to separate it from the fine gold very well and I was disappointed but that engineering problem could be solved.

Going home I went with the crowd as far as Trinidad. There General Hogarth had to show them Canadian hospitality, so he put on a big bash for the Governor and a couple of hundred big shots on the Island. The whole bit – beautifully decorated patio with lights, big dinner, band and dancing. Some fun I wonder if the company paid for it?

I left them there and we went our separate ways homeward, me to New York on business and they went back to Florida. But I could not get rid of them, although I tried. Leaving New York on the crack train for Toronto I ran bang into them all in the Dining Car – still having a party!

You must wonder why I rave so much of the beauty of this damn Rain Forest. You really should go there, if not, read Hudson’s “Green Mansions”. The difference between the Arctic and the tropics is so great, one so bleak and healthy, and the other so vivid and deadly. One densely populated that there is no square inch without some form of life, and the other where you may hunt for days to find some life.

Brazil

No sooner back in Toronto than I found that one of the crowd, Arthur Carr, had bought a Gold Mine in Brazil. Of course I would go and get it going for them, I was still not satisfied with travels and different countries.

We don’t know too much about Brazil, it is a land of great surprises. Great Western plains untouched, great Iron Mine Ranges, larger than the Mesarbi untouched, Gold Mines, one of the biggest in the World, St. John del Ray, worked by the English for 100 years.

I was invited to visit the St. John del Rey Mine and enjoyed my trip down over 8,000 feet. On the dump they had a modern mucking machine but explained to me that with labor at 35¢ they made more money without modern machinery. I travelled along the vast Iron Range in a miniature, old Railroad to the Mine I was to examine. It, like everything else in Brazil was undeveloped, but had produced good gold, but they were too lazy to go down on it. The Mill was too small and it needed a hydroelectric power plant.

Carr negotiated a government loan of $250,000.00 through the nephew of the President of Brazil, but the War interfered and there it sits. I made two trips there and enjoyed the southern California climate, orange trees and flowers.

Rio de Janeiro is surprisingly ulta-modern, impressive, clean and vigorous. Its bustling with a new middle class, white collar people which may mean the solution to their problems. It’s a thrill landing in Rio,  the plane flies around the mighty statue of Christ on the Corcovado and lands near the Bay with these peculiar sugar-loaf mountains standing straight up out of the big City.

Yukon

I forget how many miles it is but I flew from Rio, via Toronto, to Dawson City, in the Yukon. A difference of 7½ hours in time zones – figure it out for yourself. I was to examine a Platinum Mine, and buy it if promising. It turned out to be the smallest possible producing Mine, owned and run by one old man.

Reaching Dawson, on the spectacular Yukon River, I found it much as I suppose the 49ers had left it, dead. The same old saloons and Jack London atmosphere. My bush Pilot, who was to fly me in, was very drunk, and the battery in his Plane was dead, so I rustled up a new battery and got someone who knew where this mine was to come with me, and flew in myself.

I found the Mine with its old bearded man, who looked like he had been there since 49. There was a gravel deposit above his Cabin and he had rigged up a sluich arrangement so that once an hour he would come out of his Cabin and pull the rope and for five minutes wash down the gravel. Of course he explained he did not do this on Sunday. Twice a year he took his little vial of Platinum into Dawson and bought his grub.

He told me that there was a nice lady who visited the old timers and stayed a week or two to take care of them. He run traps in the Winter and lived pretty good, I did not have the heart to even think of depriving him of his pleasure, or ruining him with too much money. But I could have killed the idiot who caused me to go there, some promoter who thought they could use my crowd in Toronto. But I did enjoy the site of the old 49 days and the gorgeous scenery of the Yukon.

I visited my Northwest operations on my way back and found all going well. So I returned to Toronto, and after all that, went sailing.

1941 – “Constance Wrecked”

September 24th a full hurricane swept down Lake Ontario and threw all the boats at the Yacht Club up on the beach. The coast guards warned us and we put out extra anchors but it did no good. It was a heart-breaking  sight to watch all out lovely boats being washed ashore on tremendous waves.

But unfortunately the “Constance” being the largest boat, and the farthest out, came in last and ended up on top of the others. This only knocked a large hole in the side and broke the two ton keel off. So we towed it around out of the Wind and later had it repaired, even better than it was before.

1941 – Defeat

Back to Arakaka the climate was defeating us, Bill Stuart had to be taken out using the oxygen frown the welding machine to keep him alive. I had been changing white personnel as they failed to make it, but without a white staff the operation was doomed. The humidity and heat were unbearable, and all kinds of respiratory sickness and fever persisted.

The Gold was there, there engineering problems had been licked, but the position was untenable. I had only one decision to make and that was they close down. The Shareholders had been warned that this might happen. We left everything to the Jungle and by now it will absorb it. If you want a lot of Gold I will tell you exactly where it is, and you’re welcome.

Back to Toronto and a lovely Christmas with all the family at 42 Russell Hill Road. I was tired, I had flown 55,020 miles this year. But my Northwest operations were going very good.

1942 – Another War – And Return to U.S.A.

Tom had left the University of Ontario and I took him by auto to Los Angeles so that he could enlist in the U.S. Signal Corps. With his education and experience he was well suited for a commission, which he quickly obtained.

The Gold Mines in Canada closed down, for the manpower was all needed for the War effort. I had a presentment that it would be a long time before conditions returned to normal.

Now I had to find something I could do for the War in my adopted (or rather the country adopted me) country. I got in touch with my old friends in Utah and found that Geo. Heikes had been put in charge of metal production in the War Production Board in Washington. Contacting him he immediately asked me to join him in Washington and take charge of the Zinc production Section.

Thanking Canada for a very hospitable stay we again migrated and this time back to the U.S.A. I figured this would be permanent and that’s the way it turned out.

No housing in Washington unless you were lucky to buy a new one, and this I did, in Silver Springs, Maryland. A nice location for the family, but I did not see much of it, my hours were long and work load tremendous.

I had a good staff, engineers to visit the Mines and to correlate data and make graphs for the big boys to understand. My job was this:- if the Zinc Mines were too marginal I was to close them down and release the manpower, and if very productive I was to find more manpower for them. Both almost impossible.

As I closed them down they run crying to their Congressmen, and they called for a hearing. I got to know a few of these fine Senators. They agreed with both sides but kept each separate so they would be happy, but of course we were allowed to go ahead.

As soon as possible I got out of Washington and civil service; I’m not cut out for it. But I sure put in some hard work until it was over.

California – At Last.

We have always wanted to live in California, and an opportunity to do so, and also make a living, came up. So, we shipped our furniture, sold our house, and away we went in our Auto. It was an interesting ride and enjoyable, so we got there in good shape.

The price of Gold has let me down but the price of Silver was up along with other commodities. My old Horn Silver Mine was inactive and Bill Child in control, so I was able to get a good lease on the Mine. This lease prospered and I took in two partners from Los Angles, George Clemson, a wealthy property owner and Otis Birch a multi-millionaire Oil man. Eventually Otis bought me out as he wanted a larger share. I was glad of this opportunity to get out and live in California permanently.

I bought a nice Spanish style house, with ample grounds, overlooking Hollywood. By now Bert and Haidee were the only two left at home. Tom was 1st Lt. in the Signal Corps, Muriel studying at U.C.L.A., and Harry with a commission in the Navy.

When Harry graduated at Golden, Col. Navy College he had two visitors from Toronto at the exercises. Nora Quinn, his fiancée and her Mother. They came home with him to Hollywood to visit us.

1946       Mrs. Quinn was fond of Haidee since our Toronto days. She wanted her to attend Loretta Abbey in Toronto, a girl’s school rating along with Upper Canada College for boys. Later we decided that she should have this opportunity so we put her on a Plane by herself to travel to Toronto via New York. It was a wonderful experience for her, and I had the pleasure of visiting her there on one of business trips back East.

1947 – Retiring from Mining

Wages and the cost of Mining had gone way up but the price of Gold had remained static at $35.00 so there was no profit in mining it. Gold mining in Canada was dead and has remained so, this relieved me of further activities there, and for that I was grateful, I could retire and live with my family. But Mining had been good to me and I was most thankful to all my friends which had made it possible.

With much leisure time on my hands I decided to build a little house on our large lot, and see if I could do all the work myself. It took some time but it turned out well and I leased it to Billy Julier of General Petroleum.

Jerry and I had a delightful holiday in Hawaii. We sailed on the “Lurline” and stayed at the “Royal Hawaiian”. It was all formal in those days, and you dressed for dinner, etc. We had entertainment by Hawaiian girls during dinner, and they gave us the ancient dances. The water was so clear and buoyant that even Jerry could swim and enjoy it.

We needed new money coming in so I decided to go into the Apartment House Business. It appealed to me as it brought a good return to the investment, and I could look after it all by myself, with a resident manager. As time went by we were able to trade up to better places. Of course we had to conserve our income to do this, but rising Real Estate prices helped.

I enjoyed building houses so much that I bought another lot, this time in Outpost Canyon in Hollywood. I put up a small house which we enjoyed living in for a while. Then I bought a large lot across the street, and put up a large house. This was the nicest yet, with a lovely patio, including a small swimming pool and lots of nice plants. While Haidee was attending U.C.L.A. she had a grand party there, and Harry and Barbara and their children enjoyed the little pool.

Haidee was married from this house and left us with too much room so we decided to take up Apartment House living for ourselves. This we did for several years, but not living in our own Apartment Houses, which we continued to trade. Eventually we got tired of this and returned to living in a house with a garden of our own.

1964       On the 23rd of March I entered the Kaiser Hospital in Hollywood for a major operation. This I had brought on myself, constant and extensive travelling, irregular meals and habits had brought on chronic indigestion and blocked the “north-west” passage. They removed the Sigmoid Colon which had a tumour in it and the tumour was malignant. The operation was a success but the patient lived.

We then made another trip to Hawaii, only this time informal, and by plane. It did not have the impact of the first visit. But we visited the other Islands, all of which had different attractions, and we enjoyed every bit of it.

I now come to the last of my travels, and that is what this “Odyssey” is all about. I have omitted the other half of my life as the travels seem to offer the only interest to others.

Jerry and I took Air France to the French Polynesia Archipelago, landing at Papahiti in Tahiti. Then on to Moorea where we stayed at the Club Méditerranée. I went fishing and we caught a beautiful, great, Blue Marlin. We did a lot of swimming and enjoyed the out-rigger canoe rides. The atmosphere was very French but with tropical over-tones. We also flew down the Islands and stayed at Bora Bora, reputed to be the most beautiful island in the World. It was a wonderful sight, the green, black, volcanic mountain in the middle surrounded by lush, green foliage down to the blue lagoon. What a time we had!

1972       Disposing of the last of our Rental property we bought a quaint, little house, and little orchard in Laguna, and definitely retired. But we have a cruiser “Constance 11” and can work in the garden. As I have tried to keep personalities out of this account I hope no one’s nose is out of joint. I typed this up in four days from my notes taken from my diaries so don’t apologise for the many errors I have made.

                End.

2 thoughts on “The Odyssey of “Bert” Kipps

  1. Bert was born Albert Edward Kipps, son of Emma Jane Cripps who married Thomas Charles Kipps!

    Charles Cripps > John William Cripps > Emma Jane Cripps > Albert Edward ‘Bert’ Kipps

    I’m going to create a profile page for him and his siblings tonight.

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