McKibbon, Stanford

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                                    STANFORD MCKIBBON
                                     By David Walsh
                                      (Part Three)

An ordinary man would be more than content with raising a strong family of nine and running a most successful store, but not Stanford McKibbon. His mind was always looking to discover new ways of increasing his productivity. As with many people of exceptional mind, he was always ahead of today’s events. He was seeing the future and how he might press his advantage.

His vision was not limited to the diversification of his retail enterprise, but also extended to the development of new mechanical ideas.

His daughter, Barbara, recalls that he was a man with the mind of a mechanical engineer. He was not interested in the actual building of his creations. That he left to carpenter and mechanics. His dominion was the theory of how things worked and he always seemed able to see how that could be changed and improved.

In the early ‘20s, he had a snow machine built to his specifications. He bought parts like the treads, but the rest was constructed from whatever was at hand. He utilized the tin advertising signs from his store to form the body of his creation. Stanford was not a man to create something just because he could. He built things that could bridge concerns of his existence. A snow machine would make it a great deal easier to travel the frozen surfaces of the river to Newcastle. A later version was formed on the chassis of a Ford truck with its skis formed by bending birch strips over a tub of steam.

Stanford moved confidently through an assortment of inventions. As a man who required ice to preserve his goods and serve to his clientele, he created a huge ice saw that would make the task of cutting river ice that much easier.

He also designed a number of mechanical improvements that were used in his extensive lumber operations. A loader that could be leveled on any slope and could operate both sides of the road from one position were just two of his more innovative projects.

After the war, Stanford purchased and used old trucks to deliver goods to the lumber camps. Their sturdy design suited the rough tracks they had to travel.

He used the busses for business transporting his own materials as well as the residents of the area. The need to find a way to town was so large that Stanford added a second bus to his schedule to ensure all were served. The second bus was known far and wide as “The Over Flow,” and the bus line that was quite well known to all was the “Red Bank Cannonball.” This wood stove heated transportation was a mainstay of Miramichi life.

But Stanford could never be called one-dimensional. Over the years he added a restaurant and ice cream parlour to his small empire. Every avenue of revenue was explored. His family joined him and a number of them ran various aspects of the business. Stanford was a most successful entrepreneur. And, yet, as with so many, his life was not all success.

He struggled to meet his obligations, but was always bolstered by an indomitable spirit, a true sense of community and a genuine caring for those less fortunate. A man of integrity whose word was golden and who always expected the best from everyone he met.

His famous stories buoyed the spirits of many he touched. But even with all this, as well as the love and care of his family, he could not foresee every event in his future.

A series of fires of undetermined origin removed all signs of this enterprising gentleman and his life’s work. The garage, shed, barns and, then, the very foundation of his life – the general store – fell to the flames of what was believed to be rancour and jealousy.

The rescinding of the 99-year lease by the Red Bank band marked the fatal blow to Stanford and Emiline’s enterprise. They left the house and land with very heavy hearts.

As with the rest of the McKibbon property, their family home was soon a pile of smoldering embers. Stanford died within a few months of his relocation from his home and life’s work.

As Barbara recalls, this genius of Red Bank was never comfortable in his new surroundings. “I always knew where to plant my feet” was his wistful remembrance of his life and times at Red Bank.


Source: Miramichi Leader – November 30, 2004


                                       (Part Four)

Barbara (McKibbon) Bruce makes no bones about it. The Miramichi is her home and she is very happy to be back.

Barbara was born at home in Red Bank, the eldest child of Stanford and Emiline McKibbon. As the oldest child, she saw the development of her family’s rise in fortune and, while she was not present in later years, she was all too aware of the circumstances that surrounded its demise.

For more than six hours she discussed with passion, candour, affection and a fierce loyalty all aspects of her life on the Miramichi. From her earliest memories of being around her parents at the store, to escapes to Peabody Lake for treasured fishing trips for the abundant trout. Life, death, laughter and loyalty. Work and respect. All of these aspects of life were part of her upbringing.

She recalls with honesty that while her father was the spark plug of the family it was her mother who kept the whole thing together. As chief purchaser, mother, clerk and general partner, Emeline pressed her stamp on the family success. “He couldn’t have done it without her,” says Barbara.

Perhaps one of her most distinct memories revolves around her fishing expeditions both with her father and family and even alone. Many times she would get dropped off to fish when her father would conduct business further up the road.

She was a quick study and soon understood the intricacies of salmon fishing. Later when she married her husband, George Bruce, they would spend as much time as possible at wilderness camps. They would hike for miles into the woods to spend a few days at a particular pool. Barbara recalls one occasion where they were dropped off to take advantage of an offer of free days at a salmon camp. They waded the river and then hiked 14 miles into the wilderness to take up the offer.

After fishing for a few days, they hiked back for a prearranged ride home. They got to the meeting point only to find that no one was there to meet them. It was another six miles of walking before they arrived back into civilization. “But the fishing had been good,” she recalls with a wide grin.

When asked about her favorite fly, Barbara recalls with a great deal of pride the following story.

“My sister-in-law was in Edinburgh, Scotland and stopped in a fishing tackle shop. She inquired of the owner as to what fly would be a good gift. “Where does she fish?” asked the clerk. “Canada.”

“Where in Canada?” “New Brunswick.”

“Where in New Brunswick?” “The Miramichi River.”

“Without further ado the clerk produced six flies that would be good on our river.”

The pride that her river was known so far from home is evident in her eyes as she relates the tale.

“Of those six, I had one favourite, a Black Fairy. One day my father dropped me off when he was visiting my uncle. There were nine men at Joe Walls’ Shore. I soon caught two grilse with my fly and the teasing started. The men asked about the fly I was using and then added it was probably my lipstick that was giving me an advantage.”

Barbara lived in Montreal for years with her husband, who was employed as a jeweler for Henry Birks. Every chance she could get, she returned to the river of her youth to refresh and renew herself. There were lots of house parties and casual social get-togethers. She watched as her siblings helped, expanded, and reinforced the growing McKibbon enterprises.

Her pride was never hidden when her family is discussed. The sadness of the early death of her brother is also apparent. Her life has been wound inextricably with the store at Red Bank. There was so much that was positive and exciting about their life.

To Barbara’s knowledge, her parents never fought. Stanford’s most severe remark would be, “We can’t allow any more credit.” A chiding that usually fell on deaf ears as far as her very generous mother was concerned. That is what Barbara remembers most.

The sense of fairness and goodness that was integral to the very fabric of their lives. No one was left without, if at all possible.

Since her return to the Miramichi, Barbara has lost her husband and another sister.

Her visceral feelings about her home and family and the river have perhaps helped to assuage those traumas.

Her remembrances of the family store at Red Bank still bring soft smiles to her face. As the shadows of autumn bring the conversation to a pause there is a most heartfelt reflection.

“I love this river. It always restores my soul.”


Source: Miramichi Leader – December 3, 2004

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