“I feel like I’m living in a different world,” says Helen Eggersman while sitting in her Qualicum Beach living room —and in a sense she is.
Born in 1913 in the Prairies, Eggersman turned 104 years old last month, but Eggersman has been living on and off in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area since just after 1919.
“Oh my word. This was all big trees. I couldn’t believe it when I used to come back and see what went on,” said Eggersman who lived in Victoria for a time, but would come up to visit her daughter, Sylvia, who lived in Qualicum Beach.
Eggersman said shortly after the First World War ended, her dad received a letter from a man who he’d fought with in the war. The man, she said, had told her father to come out to B.C. — Coombs, specifically.
“There was nothing in Coombs,” said Eggersman, except for the log house. Eggersman said she remembers staying with her mom and dad for a week with the Ford family.
But the family’s stay on the Island didn’t last long. Eggersman said not long after coming to the Island, her dad went to Vancouver and booked passes on a boat to New Zealand. It was $100 for the three of them, she said.
They spent 14 months in New Zealand, Eggersman said, before coming back to Qualicum Beach where her dad once again got a job with the railway.
Then around 1930, Eggersman said her mother thought she should take up a trade, so off she went to Vancouver to take up hairdressing. When she came back to Qualicum Beach, Eggersman said she was the first hairdresser in town.
“I took up men’s hair cutting because men always had nice haircuts then. They don’t have all this stuff waving around (now),” she said. “Because there was no barber here, you see, when I came back I did the men’s hair cutting and for the ladies and we did perms.”
Back then, Eggersman said, she charged $1 for haircuts and $3 for perms.
It was in the 1930s that Eggersman met her husband Phil who had come out to the Island from Amsterdam — with stops in Edmonton and Vancouver — for work. Eggersman said they met at church.
Her husband worked in the logging industry for some years before he was injured at work. After his injury, Eggersman said, she convinced him to take up hairdressing with her.
“I told him to do all the barbering and he left me with all the ladies,” she said with a laugh.
In the early 1950s, she and Phil bought property on Memorial Avenue across from the Qualicum Beach Community Hall to open the first barber shop and beauty salon. Eggersman said they borrowed the money from a local builder and paid him back $5 per month.