Published in the North Island Gazette, July 2016
100-year-old Port Hardy resident Floyd Smith experienced extreme poverty and lack of education during an era that few are left to tell about. It didn’t keep him from running a successful logging business and providing education for his six children, and many others around the world.
His priorities throughout his life have been his faith, clean living, hard work, education, family, and philanthropy. He says spiritual life is his driving force. As a Seventh-day Adventist Church member, he is dedicated to the principles and the education system.
The clean living of his faith may be a contributor to his longevity. Although he admits to a few sips of grape and chokecherry wine as a child, Smith doesn’t drink alcohol. “Liquor… it’s a foreign object, it is poison.”
He may have had six cigarettes in his entire life. “I quit once I could inhale without it choking me,” he said, “Then I cursed myself for being a damn fool.”
He has never used drugs, and doesn’t drink anything with caffeine.
Born on June 28, 1916 in a sod farm house in Eastend, Saskatchewan, one of 11 children, Smith’s family moved between Iowa, Colorado, and Saskatchewan trying to makes a living farming and coal mining. One winter in Colorado, they had nothing to eat but potatoes until someone traded a cow. In Saskatchewan winters he wore moccasins layered with four pair of socks. He thinks they might have been warmer than boots, “But I never had any boots, so I don’t really know.”
The relocations, rural distance, farm work, and poverty made it difficult for him to attend school. One year he actually helped build a school, but was unable to pay the $5 per month tuition.
At about age 13 he made wooden fence pickets for a half-cent per piece. 400 pickets earned him $2.
“People don’t realize what we went through in the Hungry Thirties,” he said.
Although he officially passed Grade 8 at age 16, he figures he only spent about four years total in class. He had wanted to be a minister, but didn’t have enough education.
“At that time, other boys called you a sissy if you went to school,” he said. “The Depression was on full force. Boys especially were considered able to do a man’s work when they got to be about 16. The last year I went to school I lost 20 school days after Christmas. The work had to be done. We had 13 cows to milk and 3 horses and a bunch of chores besides.”
Bucked from a steer at age 12, lifelong back issues prevented him from being hired as a regular labourer, but he found ways around that.
“The only thing that I learned thoroughly was how to work, and do it intelligently. I can take a few tools and accomplish with the best of them,” he said. “Basically in my working years, I did piecework and had my own company and made a living for my family.”
In 1943 he married Alberta and spent three years in McBride, and eventually settled in Armstrong for 36 years with their six children.
He worked for most of his life in the bush logging, starting simply. “You cut down the tree, cut it into logs, and hitch a horse on it, and drag it in.”
Eventually he had a portable sawmill, a truck and a small crew for his Hillside Timber business.
“I couldn’t have done it all without my wife, who kept the books and raised the kids,” he said. “She was a jewel beyond description.”
Without much time for real hobbies, he did enjoy trying his hand at gold panning, near Zeballos, the Okanagan, and the Fraser River. “I never made 5 cents out of it!” he laughs.
But his logging business enabled him to provide tuition for the Seventh-day Adventist private education system (which also has universities and colleges around the world) for as long as his children wanted, and he is proud that each became successful in their fields.
“He made good money, and I never knew it,” said Smith’s daughter Wilma Rafuse, a former Avalon School teacher. “I thought we were poor. It was that culture of poverty that we grew up with.”
He used his savings to contribute to the education of many people besides his children, either through direct donations or by providing work for local students. He supported mission projects throughout the world to help build schools, churches and clinics, and sponsored children in orphanages and boarding schools. He still sponsors six students today.
“Our church, our whole setup is to educate and help people. That’s what we’re here for,” he said. “There is the satisfaction of helping somebody.”
He came to Port Hardy in 1994 to be closer to three of his daughters, Wilma Rafuse, Elaine Daffurn, and Lori Lambert, and continued working his saw mill until he was 94. Alberta passed away in 1997. He remarried in 2001, and his second wife Birdie passed in 2014. He celebrated his 100th birthday at public party on July 2nd, 2016.