When half an acre cost you $85

Qualicum Beach resident celebrates her 100th birthday

Helen Eggersman celebrates her 100th birthday with her first grandchild

Helen Eggersman celebrates her 100th birthday with her first grandchild

So what’s it like to live for a whole century?

Helen Eggersman knows all about it — and her tale is in many ways a part of the story of Qualicum Beach.

Born in McDowell, Saskatchewan in 1913, Helen and her parents — Jack and Millicent Adronis moved to Coombs after the end of the First World War.

Work wasn’t easy to come by for returning veterans and when Jack saw ads advertising job opportunities in New Zealand, the family jumped at the chance to get ahead — even if it meant moving to the far end of the Earth.

It seemed too good to be true — and it was. Things did not work out as expected. The only work they could find was in a millinery factory, where Helen’s mother worked making hats.

After 14 months of  this, the family was through with life at the antipodes and they once again packed up their belongings and moved to Qualicum Beach, where Helen’s dad obtained employment with the railroad, working with well-known old timer Perry Burgoyne, who died in 1943.

Helen was only 16 in 1929 when she crossed to the mainland to attend the Malar School of Barber and Hairdressing. After a year of training, she was ready to start her career and moved back to Qualicum Beach to open the Qualicum Barber and Beauty Shop — the first in the village.

Her shop was situated in the green building which used to house Olivander’s Restaurant.

Helen lived upstairs in a rooming house, as her father by this time had been transferred to Nanoose Bay.

Things were different back then, with the cost of a haircut for men set at 30 cents and a lady’s shampoo and set at 50 cents. The roads in Qualicum Beach were dirt then and there weren’t a lot of businesses — a Red and White store, a liquor store, the beauty shop and the Village Garage.

Helen later moved her business across the street, where the CIBC now stands.

The new digs allowed Helen to make her home in the back of her new shop.

Parker Brothers started using the office for their fuel business and Helen took phone orders for them.

It was in 1935 that Helen met a young Dutchman, Phil Eggersman at a young people’s group at the United Church on First Ave.

On Boxing Day 1936, Helen and Phil were married and, on Nov. 15 the following year, they had a daughter, Sylvia, who grew up and lived in Qualicum Beach, eventually marrying Monty Montgomery.

After getting out of hospital following a serious logging accident, Phil went to barber school and joined Helen in her business, where he worked for many years.

In 1943, Helen and Phil bought a half acre of land for $85 in a tax sale on the site of the present day Qualicum Barber and Beauty Shop, located across from the Community Hall.

Thick woods covered the property at that time, but within a year the couple had cleared it and started to build their new home.

Sam Little, the father of Elizabeth Little, who owned and operated St. Andrew’s Lodge drew the plans for a new shop, with living quarters in the back.

There was another war on in Europe by this time though and permits were difficult to obtain, as barber and beauty shops were not considered essential to the war effort.

Permits weren’t the only things in short supply. Timber and nails were also hard to come by, so the couple bought a boathouse located on the beach behind what is now Deez Restaurant and used that as raw materials for their new home, straightening any bent nails and salvaging the lumber.

They moved in June of 1944 and on Dec. 17, their second daughter, Deane Hendry was born.

The Eggersmans worked together until 1964, catering to many celebrities ranging from the King of Siam to Bob Hope.

When asked what she remembers fondly from those days, Helen cites the Flannel Dancers at the old Log Cabin Inn, now the site of the Sand Pebbles Inn. She remembers horseback riding with the Barclay girls.

Helen sang in the United Church choir and at many local weddings and was an active member of the church guild and a member of the Rotarians.

Helen — known to many as Granny Egg — turned 100 on March 4 and her birthday party was in some ways like a family reunion for Qualicum Beach pioneers. Mayor Teunis Westbroek spoke and presented Helen with a special cup and saucer.

She can still be seen riding her trusty scooter in Qualicum Beach on her way to Qualicum Foods.

— With files from, and our

thanks to, the Eggersman family

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