Byron Keith Roberton fonds [graphic materials, textual records]
Administrative history / Biographical sketchByron "Keith" Roberton was born on June 4, 1925 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and raised along the trap lines north of Flin Flon, Manitoba, by pioneering parents, Roy and Irene. Keith eventually moved to the B.C. coast, worked on numerous fishing boats, then sailed on deep sea freighters. From 1942-1946, he was an Able Body Seaman in the Canadian Merchant Navy, sailing the North Atlantic on the Park ships. A proud veteran, following discharge, Keith returned to the B.C. coast where he worked on Union steamships. He became a member of the Chilliwack RCL, Branch 4, and was presented with his 65th anniversary pin posthumously. In 1951, he re-trained as a cook, leading to four years as personal cook to H.R. MacMillan on his private yacht, again sailing to many destinations. During this time, he met and married Gwen and they remained together for over 59 years. Deciding to remain on land, Keith re-trained as a millwright. In 1956, he joined the IAMAW, Lodge 692, and felt honoured to serve as president for three years. For 30 dedicated years, he served in capacities such as VP, Executive Board Member, Trustee, Delegate, and Member, involving many building trades Councils and Associations. He was dispatched to B.C. and worked on major projects throughout the province. He was integral in building Jubilee Summer Camp. He was a judge in the Court of Revision. Besides these many accomplishments, he was a storyteller who loved to regale family and friends with tales of his many escapades. He continued traveling and took great pleasure in home and garden projects and taking photographs, and thoroughly enjoyed lively discussions and sharing knowledge and skills.
(Adapted from a 2013 obituary.)
Biographical sketch provided by Roberton's brother.
1939-1940: As a teenager, Keith liked to experiment. Following a foraging expedition to the local slough, Hope Slough in Chilliwack, he brought home a half dozen mallard duck eggs, put them under one of his banty hens, and waited. In the meantime, he dug a great hole in the backyard, filled it with water, and waited some more. Some time passed, then the ducklings hatched. Wouldn't you know, they headed straight into Keith's newly dug pool. Followed to the edge and frantically clucking and circling said pool was Mother Banty Hen.
1945-1948: In the last years of Keith's service in the Canadian Merchant Marine, he was aboard a ship anchored off the China coast, Bo Hai Bay, a part of the Yellow Sea. The nearest medical facility was in (Tianjin) Tin Sin, some rail distance from the seashore. Did I mention Keith had an abscessed tooth? With the skipper's piermission, he was able to hire a boat to take him ashore, catch a train to Tin Sin and locate a dentist (American marine doctor).
Having negotiated the transit to Tin Sin and the encounter with the dentist, Keith made his way back to the beach, only to find out no one would transport him out to his ship. Why? Because the ship was carrying airplace parts for Chiang Kai-shek's air force. The local population was of a different persuasion.
About this time, the American marine stationed in the area detained Keith for his own safety. He spent that evening in an unlocked jail cell. During the night, shots were fired and an attempt was made by some locals to enter the base armoury. After a long, exciting night, the marines graciously escorted Keith back to his ship.
1988: Transit to Moscow
Keith always wanted to travel to Moscow. The opportunity came when the UBC Oldtimers hockey team made their way via Helsinki, Finland, by train to St. Petersburg, where he had the privilege of boarding the docked Russian naval vessel, the Aurora, the pride of the Russian navy. The guns of the Aurora fired the first shots of the revolution. The Aurora is only steps away from the famous Hermitage Palace and Museum, housing one of the world's great collections of art and wonderful treasures.
On to Moscow by Train
Keith's observation: When the little shacks and huts along the rail line reminded him of arriving in Vancouver from Manitoba by train in 1935.