BC Tel- Plant- Terrace- Facility Department

North-West, British Columbia, Canada

When asked what I did for a living, it was tough to explain the job of a Facilityman, or Facility person as it later became.
Our job consisted of many things, more than most knew we did, and certainly more than 99.9% of the bosses knew.
It always amazed me how an ex facility man who would later become a supervisor, could get so stupid about what they used to do.
Maybe they were not that great as a facility man in the first place??
I couldn't think of any other reason to explain this phenomena.
We did up cut sheets based on work orders drawn up by a technician. We created the cable sheets for these new cables, so they were able to be used by the Assigners.
We also updated plant maps with the new changes. Field trips had to be done for any new construction. This included work order activity and new phone orders, especially in the rural areas.
All sounds simple, but did require some work, to carry it all out, as a help to other departments.
We worked with FMS, (facility Management system) building cut sheets and adding, deleting cables, and terminals, as designed by the Engineering Department,
and the appropriate Technician, for that particular town, or village.

I saved the old work order books from destruction.

There isn't anything proprietary in them, but from 1970 on, it gives a snap shot of what buildings were built,
and at least when they got phone service, so a good source of historical data for down the road.

Now for the history, the names who were in this small Department.
In 1969, when I came to Terrace, the Facility Department consisted of one guy, named Wilf Hoffman.

Wilfred Gordon “Wilf” Hoffman
b- June 4, 1927, Venn, Saskatchewan
d- May 8, 1989, Langley BC, age 61
buried in Valleyview Memorial Gardens, Langley BC
Grounds Supervisor, Trinity Western University, when he passed away.
wilf was the son of August Hoffman and Matilda Schauer
Wilf married Alma Neufeld

The Supervisor, Skip Hollands, was one of the nicest guys around,
They were located in the rear of the old Central Office Building, which later became the Phone Mart, at 3236 Kalum Street.
One side was the CO, other side the Radio Department.
Wilf was the record keeper for all the area at that time, and this was the days of the manual pencil entry.
All phone records were kept in large 8' approx, rotary trays, lazy susan type.
The cable records, which the Facility men and assigners, used to do their job, were large 16“ x 16” approx., light green sheets of thin cardboard.
They also were kept in a large 8' rotary table with 6 tubs, or bins, for the sheets.
Around this tray would sit the 4 assigners.
Each sheet was a record for 50 pairs of twisted copper cable in the field.
It showed the customer's name and address on each line, or pair.
It was the bible for outside records.
Over the years this system was replaced with a computer system, partially by a system called MAIS, then completely by FMS,
with a system called CRIS, used for the Customer billing record.
FMS = Facility Management System
CRIS = Customer Record Inventory System
MAIS = Mechanized Assignment Inventory System (I think?)

Skip Hollands is now deceased, but I will remember him for the way he came up to you and shook your hand.
Skip was a fur trapper in his spare time up the Kalum Valley. He was tougher than nails. When he shook your hand, I swear he would almost break your fingers with his grip.
He also had a habit of grabbing you on the shoulder, and giving you a little squeeze, which he thought was little, but would almost bring tears to the eyes of those he did it to.
He wasn't that big to look at, but would have bet on him against anyone I knew for an arm wrestling match. Skip loved to hunt, and loved his guns.
He lived in a corner house on Keith and Molitor, which was torn down about 2000.
A Prince of a man.
He retired in May 1981 after 36 years of service, and with the labour climate at that time, I didn't attend his retirement dinner. This was a sad mistake on my part!

In the early 70's the department increased by one member, by the name of Don McRobb.

Don doing Facility work in Kitimat 1976, taken by Fraser Sutherland
Don's background was in Splicing and Outside Plant Construction, usually based on roving crews, out of Prince George.
He was sent out to the Terrace District, prior to his taking the facility job. Don is on my most unforgettable character list, and I am sure on others as well.

In 1979 the department moved to 4541 Lazelle Ave, above the Manuel DaSilva restaurant.
The desks were in the middle of the room in 1982, and moved against the rear wall a couple years later.

The third crew member was Ken Blanes,

Ken Blanes in 1977 during the strike, taken by Fraser Sutherland.

He was working in I&R, prior to bidding on the Facility job.
As it turned out he was the last Facilityman in Terrace, forced to quit, by Telus, you know, “the future is friendly” company, in August 2003.
Ken and myself were both forced to quit, or move to another city down south.
With over 32 years in Terrace, there was no way either of us was willing to move, and start a new life, mortgage etc. in another place.
So we both took early retirement, which has turned out to be the best move either did.

Fourth Member that came, was Tom Coxon in 1980. Tom was working in PBX prior to this.
Only story I remember about Tom, was when he was in I&R, and it was his first winter in Terrace.
One day I looked out of the Radio Atco trailer, in the old barn on the hill, and noticed an I&R van parked in the entry way.
On the other side of the van I heard some cussing and swearing. On further checking, I approached the noise, to find big Tom on his knees, and he was putting chains on his rear van tires,
for the first time in his life, obviously. Tom was a big guy, and there he was with the chains on the tire, puling for all he was worth, to join the last outside link connector.
No matter how hard he pulled it was an inch apart. He was pulling so hard, I seen his face turn beet red, and the chains were actually pushing the tire lugs in.
Having put a few sets of chains on in Radio, I asked Tom if he needed a hand. He was glad I offered. I got down on my knees, and noticed the big error Tom had made.
Chain sets in those days were V lugs, each chain had these V shaped pieces of metal welded on the chain to bite into the ice.
They were supposed to point out from the tire. You guessed it, Tom had the set inside out. And he just about had them done up!

When Tom Coxon bid out, that opened the door for me. Me myself and I, Doug Gent, came to the Department, in December 1982.

The Supervisor that hired me was Steve Pearson.

I came from a Radio background, and had no training in the outside plant end of the company, but Don convinced Steve that I was a good record keeper
based on what he seen as my duties as Secretary of the Union Local at the time. As it turned out, it was a perfect fit. I stayed until Dec 31, 2002.

At this time (ca Apr 6, 1984) Wilf Hoffman retired and moved his family to Vancouver, to work as a gardener for a church complex I think it was,
and was one of the first to retire from our Union Local 33. He latter passed away in the Vancouver area.

Wilf Hoffman's Retirement Party in the Terrace Hotel

Last person to unofficially come into the department was Maureen David.
Maureen was kind of forced into the department after the test desk was closed in Terrace. She had all the knowledge of the records, so didn't need the training that I needed even.
She was involved on the FMS implementation team, with Dawn Tomas, an assignor at the time. I was also a small part of this team as Facility advisor.

FMS Implementation team

Dawn Tomas and Maureen David
During this period the department worked out of the Service Center, at 4541 Lazelle Ave, Now it is the Kitimat Stikine District office.
Maureen was one of the few female Facility persons in the company.

From that building, when the lease was up, we were moved to where the original Operator Room was, in the cement prison, which was just across the street.
The whole service center was squeezed into this room. The first sign that they were working on getting rid of that whole group.
They got their wish in 2003, when Ken Blanes left, he was the last of the original Service Center group.
Donna Stach was still working, but she was an engineering clerk by then.

After Don McRobb retired, we were left with a big hole to fill, and the work load climbed dramatically to make up for his big loss……….
How we managed to pick up the slack is beyond me.

We had many supervisors from down south in the last few years.
It was Supervisor Au Jus. Every week it seemed like another.
The first change from a Terrace Supervisor, was a Prince George fellow, Bert Braybrook.
I will give him at least a B in effort in helping us get our job done.
Bert actually knew where Terrace was, and didn't forget about us.
Rest I wouldn't really want to say. Some tried, but had no idea what we did, so how could they be a good supervisor?
Last one was a woman named Kelly Kugi, (who told Ken on the phone on her first call, that she wasn't Chinese???)
who was only put in there I am sure, to lead us out the door.

We had Gerry Dekerf as a boss for a few years, and he admitted he didn't know what we did, and at least left us alone to get the work done.
I never really had a problem with Gerry.

We were absorbed into Engineering at one point, and had Dave McNeice as a Supervisor.

Nothing bad to say about Dave, but this was like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
We did the work the Techs designed. Now they had total control of what we did. Can't say it ever worked right after that.

Then they really went overboard, and made Bob Kelly, the Construction Supervisor, the boss over all of us.
Nothing against Bob, but this was really putting the wolf in charge of the hen house, with all the chickens chained to their perch. It just never did work.
Not sure what the answer was, but none of their experiments worked.

Don told me in 1982 the department was the hub of the wheel.
we tied Construction to the Engineering group.
CO to the Construction and I&R group etc.
They were all the spokes, and they all went through us.
Well one day the hub fell off, there wasn't anyone in management that knew how to put a spoke wheel back on, and before long, we were considered redundant.
Guess we went out like the buggy wheel in the end!

Somebodys sick joke about a Facility man

I remember a few stories about Wilf Hoffman. Wilf had a speech impediment, and would stutter on the phone etc. When it came time to give Wilf a Company phone number,
they assigned him 4444 as the last 4 digits. For a person that has a stutter, a 4 is about the worst number there is. When asked for his phone number I am sure sometimes it came out

Another odd habit he had, was writing with a ruler.
Everything he wrote he used a ruler under the line.
In the old Work order books, you can easily see which entry was Wilfs, by the straight bottom line of the letters.
All in all, Wilf was a great guy, and I am sure the company got their moneys worth out of him.

At one point in time, our Department was the Union Local Executive.
Don was Convention Delegate, Ken was President, and I was Secretary/Treasurer.
I am sure 2nd line bosses, like Rob Cumiskey hated us for that reason alone.
The beauty of our job was we were available at a phone every day, We all had Field trips, but always had one person in the office for the calls.
Just possible, one or two of those calls were not Company related.

Couple quick stories about Don McRobb.
In the 70's and 80's smoking was allowed at the desk.
We worked with the plant record sheets, described above, and also large 3' by 4' plant maps, also made out of paper.
One day Don was noticed sitting at his desk, and suddenly smoke was seen rising from the middle of the page he was looking at.
You guessed it, he burned a hole in the middle of the map.
Could have been the reason they banned smoking from BC Tel later on!

Another one I remember myself, was the shrimp lunch he had.
On Friday morning, after a long Thursday night, Don would be a little hung over. So first thing he did around 9am was head out for a bite to eat.
Usually a greasy hamburger or chips and vinegar. But one day he decided to have shrimp.
So after a quick trip to Safeway back he came with his shrimp tray(s).
He would then prop up the plant map in front of himself, so the boss in the corner office wouldn't see him. and proceed to eat.
Well this one day he must have been full, and instead of throwing the shrimp in the garbage in the kitchen, he put the leftovers in his top drawer of his desk.
You guessed it, after the weekend, on Monday there was this aroma that I can not describe. A smell that would make a skunk smell good!
When everyone went on the hunt for the culprit, there it was. Rotten Shrimp! Didn't stop him, the next week the chips came in!

Trust me there is more, like Don's infamous mouse trap trick, under the phone cradle.
I think he smacked his own fingers 20 times before he got those set each time.
By that time we all knew what was up, after the screams of his pain, and we would then send the warnings out to others.
Don at 6ft++, and a big guy, he always thought he was hidden when he was trying to pull off a prank. In reality he stood out like a thumb.
And still more stories could be told.

Don lived in Stony Plain AB, he is sadly now deceased. Ken and myself still live in Terrace. Maureen now lives in the Kelowna area.

And then last but not least, Don's Airport story.

Don as a member of the Local Union Executive, and Bargaining team, had hundreds of trips to Vancouver.
On this one trip in the fall of 1989 Don was flying back to Terrace, from Vancouver, but Don was kind of tired (slim possibility he was hung over?)
Anyway the plane landed in what Don thought was Prince Rupert. In fact he told us he looked out the window and thought he seen the Prince Rupert Terminal building.
So he stayed put. A few minutes later the plane starts to board the Rupert passengers. Suddenly Don is confronted with a lady, holding her boarding pass, and telling him he was in her seat.
He politely said no, he was in this seat before, and wasn't moving. She asked him again, and showed him her ticket stub. again he told her no, he wasn't moving.
So after a few words she sat behind Don. They take off, and land a short time later, at what Don thought was the Terrace Airport. The stewardess announces they have landed at Prince Rupert,
and Don pipes up and says Rupert, I thought this was Terrace.
He then realized he never got off the plane where he should have, and to make matters worse, the lady behind him, pokes him in the back and says, that explains why that was My Seat, A..hole!
He then had to call Carol, his wife, and get her to drive to Rupert to pick him up. I imagine that was a fun trip!

That is it in a nutshell, and when time, will add more


  • Last modified: 2017/12/08 19:53
  • by dlgent