This site offers a portrayal of the Wood’s Christian Home, for some seventy years, a home for orphan and disadvantaged children just west of Calgary at Bowness, Alberta. (also see http://www.homerspot.wikifoundry.com the informative site created by and for Homers, that is ex wood’s kids. To provide background, I collected memories shared by others and time lines (PDF documents) that succinctly describe the history of the home and its development. There is also a page devoted to a video I created in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the home as well as links to other resources.
I entered the home as a four-year-old in 1946. Like many of the children, I had a single parent, my father, who could not care for me. The home shaped my childhood in unusual ways. If you wish to learn more about me, scroll to the bottom of this page.
In 1998, I came back to a reunion at the home, my first visit in some forty years. That exhilarating , and traumatic, experience, along with being made redundant (at age 57) prompted me to write a novel, “Passing Innocence’ (Trafford, 2002) based on my experiences. The result connected me with other old boys and girls from my era. Several of us staged further reunions, notably Perry Davis, and I, fortuitously, connected with another old boy, Richard Nickel – who lives in Queensland, Australia. Together, Dick and I (assisted by Perry) collaborated to research the history of the home as a contribution to the 100th anniversary of the home in 2014. The end result was that I created this website to help preserve the material and, importantly to enable other ex-kids to connect (that purpose has been rewarding). My aim is to maintain this site until 2026, which is the 100th anniversary of the year the home arrived in Bowness, after shifting from Olds, Alberta. The children’s new home was the old Hextall mansion house, shown and described in these pages.
In creating this portrayal, my aim was to celebrate the spirit and resilience of the kids who lived there. The home was a remarkable place; like something out of Dickens, a happy family for many and a hell hole for some. Its evolution mirrors the failings and the progress in caring for Alberta’s needy children.
This Woods was remarkable in my time for its striking duality. Wonderful and awful things happened there. A good number of children from my era might regard it as the best home they ever knew. Many of them, and I include myself, came out of dreadful circumstance. I came into the Woods, as a four-year-old, on November 4th, 1946. I left, after completing grade nine, in the spring of 56.
A SPECIAL TRIBUTE AND DEDICATION
Dedicated on this day, December 8, 2018 to the memory of the many old boys and girls who have gone home, and especially to the memory of William Lawrence Davidson.
Elsewhere on this site I have remarked on qualities many ex Woods kids seem to share; namely resilience, spirit and courage. No one I believe exhibited those qualities more than William Davidson, also known as Billy Davidson and later in life, as Kayak Bill. He died on an island off the coast of British Columbia on December 8th, 2003. The body was not found until some three months later, under drift wood, on a storm threatened beach. His remains had to be removed post haste owing to that threat. The cause of death was a bullet wound to the head. The coroner declared that the cause of death was indeterminate. It is not known if it was by his own hand or someone else’s act. No one has knowledge whether or not Billy was alone on that night. The Goose Island group in December must be one of the most desolate and lonely places anywhere. The last entry on his diary was from the day before, December 7th, 2003.
Billy was at the home, as a smaller boy, while I was there in 1953 to 1956. He stayed on until graduation. He then became a near legendary mountain climber in the front ranges of the Rockies and later in his life, in the incarnation of Kayak Bill, as an epic solo ocean kayaker on the outer Pacific Coast of British Columbia. He was in this later life mostly reclusive, living for lengthy spells in rough shelters on the remote islands. Find a link, below, to a concise biography and tribute to perhaps the most remarkable of Homers: A Tribute to Billy
Frank Dwyer is the curator of this exhibit site and author of much of the content. He is now seventy-eight years old and retired. Frank lived in the home for most of ten years, leaving after he completed grade nine in 1956. He lives in Kamloops, B.C. Canada, with his wife Janice.
Note: If you wish to contact me please use the contact page where you will find my postal address. Regrettably, I deleted the email link feature after being pestered by constant sales pitches and malicious messages.
FIND ME: In the header photo on the welcome page, I am with the threesome in the front row – being first from the right with the black top and new overalls. I am five years old. The photo was taken in front of the little boy’s dorm in the spring of 1947.