A drizzly day has never stopped Vicki Bisaro from having a good time. Like on Friday, when the 99-year old Trail pioneer drove downtown to the 2016 Civic Reception, then parked and walked through heavy downpour into the Cominco gym, sans umbrella.
“I hate to miss anything, especially at my age,” says Bisaro. “I’ve been coming to this ever since they started it because I get to see people I only see once a year.”
Bisaro (nee Colonello) first came to Trail from Italy in 1924, in the company of her mother and brother. The trio were reunited with Vicki’s father who worked at the smelter, then called CM&S, after he immigrated to Canada three years previous.
“My dad met us in Nelson on the train,” said Bisaro. “When we got to our home in Trail, we weren’t doing much because it was too late, 10:30 at night.
“But I can remember my dad saying I’ll give you something to eat before you go to bed, and he gave me and my brother this ‘thing.’”
This is Vicki’s first memory of Canada. But what was the ‘thing’?
“I didn’t know what it was, my brother didn’t know what it was,” she chuckled. “He look at me and asked what we were supposed to do with it, and I didn’t know.”
The ‘thing’ was a banana.
“My dad saw us not knowing what to do, so he got a knife and cut the end off and left the peel at the end,” Bisaro recalled. “Then he showed us where to hold it and said we (could) eat it. And it was so good, I loved it.”
Since that first day in Trail, the Colonello family grew by two more girls and planted lifelong roots in the community. (Alex Colonello, Vicki’s brother, moved east and eventually settled in Winnipeg)
Though Bisaro’s children, grand children and great grandchildren live across the country, in the States and Europe, she still resides in the West Trail home her four boys were brought up in.
“I raised my children to be independent and to get out there and do what you want,” she said, mentioning her youngest stayed with her for six weeks during a recent surgery. “But my family is very close and they phone me every single week, so I am truly blessed.”
After chatting with the Trail Times, Bisaro stood unaided and sang “O’ Canada” with about 100 civic reception guests.
Coun. Robert Cacchioni emceed the event, which included Mayor Mike Martin giving thanks, greetings from NDP MLA Katrine Conroy and Teck Trail General Manager Thompson Hickey, and Reverend Meridyth Robertson saying grace. Local Citizen of the Year Keith Smyth and Lottie Bonin from the Trail Senior Citizens Association gave light-hearted talks, the latter recounting her first memory and long life in Trail.
“I came to Trail from Castlegar in 1939,” Bonin reminisced. “I remember walking down the Rossland Avenue train tracks with my family to the Bluebird Cafe for dinner the first night in this fair city. I did not realize I would be here this long.”
After raising four children in Trail and a lifetime of happy memories, Bonin said she would never think of leaving the city.
She also shared wise words on behalf of her fellow seniors.
“Born in the 1930s and 40s we exist as a very special age group,” said Bonin. “We are the last ones climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the war itself with fathers and uncles going off.
“We are the last ones to remember ration books for everything from sugar to shoes to stoves,” she continued. “We save tin foil, pour fat into tin cans and had milk delivered to our front doors.
“We are the last ones who spent childhood without television as we like to brag, with no TV – we spent our evening playing outside until the streetlights came on.
“We really experienced a lot of changes but we enjoyed a good simple life and did not communicate with our thumbs,” she said as the audience laughed and nodded knowingly.
Below: Former Trail mayor and councillor Dieter Bogs (left) with Miss Trail Hannah Flick, Miss Congeniality Nicole Johnson and Miss Trail Princess Trynity Turnbull.