Category Archives: history old and new

Where I Live: The City of Dawson Creek

Three Major Districts of Import

Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada
Virginia Stark


The Health Care and Hospital District

Dawson Creek Hospital has a complex of buildings around it that show the regions need for an increase of medical resources in a hurry. The complex consists of a three story hospital with three wings that house a variety of patients and facilities including an X-ray, Laboratory, Ultrasound and recently and MRI. Although it has a lot of space and facilities, it is often lacking in doctors for the Emergency Room. Patients are frequently flown out of Dawson Creek to Vancouver or Edmonton for emergency procedures that outstrip the areas technology or the availability of qualified medical personnel.

The entire facility encompasses a large park-like area that allows patients some easily accessed green space. Dawson Creek is a city that is known for its boom and bust economy and the set up of buildings shows how the municipal government utilizes bursts of money to build smaller, but well outfitted buildings. These buildings include a walk-in clinic for transient workers with no local doctor. It also has a health unit complex that treats the elderly and other patients who need help with physical care but may not need or qualify for in-home care workers. It also administers vaccinations and narcanone kits.

The Mental Health and Addictions Centre is housed in the same building as the Health Care Unit and offers help for anyone seeking assistance in dealing with any drug or addiction problems, group therapy and both psychologists and psychiatrists who are available through a General Practitioners recommendations. This is a sizeable amount of permanent resources available for a population whose permanent residence level is fairly small.

There are many people involved in the construction of these buildings including oil and gas companies who make financial contributions to offset the burden that transient workers they bring in put on the health care system. The workers at these places seem content and although they are less likely to stay in Dawson Creek permanently due to the remoteness of the location and the hostile weather conditions. The buildings themselves are slightly awkward because workers often have to go from one building to

The Walk-In Clinic offers the service of doctors for non-emergency services for patients who do not have access to a General Practitioner. It is pictured across the road from the hospital. There is a bus stop between the hospital and the clinic for increased access.


another in inclement weather to access the array of resources.

Shown here is the entry to the hospital. Now covered in snow, this expanse is covered in grass in the summer months. There is also a large parking lot that offers free parking for easy access to the many resources offered.

The Health Unit and Hospital are ringed with easy access to bus stops to further facilitate accessibility.




The Parks and Recreation Public Use District

The Rotary Park is a large park that is vital to the city in all seasons. It is utilized for walking, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and for various other games and sports as well as a training ground for emergency workers who must learn to move through the woods and snow in all conditions. Pictured here is the tennis courts. They are of little use in the winter but are utilized heavily in the summer. There is also a baseball diamond on the far side of a parking lot. All parking and usage of the park are free. It is maintained by park workers and the land was donated to the city by the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek.

The park offers greenspace and protects the creek, Dawson’s Creek, that the city was named for as a protected watershed. The Arts Society has contributed interesting markers with poetry and historical markers along the extensive walking trails to enhance its interest and encourage people to visit the park.

Part of Rotary Park, an outdoor gym sits unused in the winter months but offers free access to sophisticated gym equipment for anyone to use day or night.








The Railroad District


The railroad is another vital piece of infrastructure. The city was brought into existence by the railroad and is one of the oldest parts of the city. The grain silos pictured are now abandoned but they are likely to be utilized in the future. There are more active grain, feed and other agricultural as well as other natural resource transportation that relies on the railroad to this day as its artery to the outside world.


The original railroad station brought in many people anxious to get in on the Klondike Gold Rush. Later it was instrumental in bringing in American soldiers to build the famous Alaska Highway that protected the entire west coast of North America from invasion through the Pacific Ocean. The railroad station is now a Museum and popular tourist attraction but the original railroad line is still active behind it.

Immediately beside the former railroad station is the last standing grain elevator in Dawson Creek. It has been transformed into a magnificent art gallery that supports local artists, potters and crafts persons of all sorts. Classes are offered for young or accomplished artists and it is a hub of culture in the city.

Valentine’s Day Triple Feature

This Valentine’s Day has been spread over two days for me and my husband this year. Part of this is because in British Columbia we now have ‘Family Day’ which fell on February 13 this year. Because of this a lot of our day on the 14th is the ‘back to the real world’ part of any long weekend.

This hasn’t stopped it from being an extremely special time. Last year we released the ‘Hearts Asunder’ anthology and this year we released the second anthology of the same title. It’s starting to feel like things are moving at a rolling, steady pace with the holidays adding a conducive momentum to these types of themed anthologies. Heart’s Asunder 1 was popular and I think the second of the same name will be at least as enthusiastically received.

I’d like to share a more intimate (but still PG rated) part of my Valentine’s Day this year. As with most anything in my life, it comes with a backstory; so get cozy!

When I was a little girl I was in many ways treated like a princess. This extended to my Dad making me a little girl’s dream canopy bed. I had always wanted a canopy bed and both of my parents pitched in to make it my fantasy come true. Pink, with rosebuds on the curtains and canopy and crushed velvet accents, my mother made a matching blanket out of the same material with my childhood velour blanky as the lining.


This bed isn’t nearly as nice as mine was, but you get the general idea: A little bed for a little princess. 

Like all in most fairy tales, the princess’ life became more complicated through no fault of her own. Evil forces conspired to burn her house down and the magical bed went with it.

I’m really serious about that last paragraph. I’ve frequently joked about living in a Lemony Snicket book and I’m half convinced he got some of his ideas from my childhood (not really, but sort of really). The bed was lost in the fire and I never had one like it ever again.

Even all in pink my older brother was jealous of that bed. I think it was more about the time and energy both of our parents put into it but whatever the case, it was something special. it’s rare that something has so much love put into it. In my tempestuous life, it was an anchor point for me to hold onto. My dad was a man of grand gestures that made up for his many other shortfalls. In this case, that bed of mine made up for a lot of failing and probably bought him years of forgiveness that kept me bonded to him.

It wasn’t because the bed was perfect. It was, after all, handmade. As a child as now, I have always been far more impacted by the love put into a present than in the most expensive of gifts. My dad could have gone out and bought me a bed like other little girls had, but instead, I got something special. That was something no one else would ever have or could ever have. The bed lived on in my mind long after the flames took it.

Here we come back to the fairy tale princess:

The princess grew up and after many trials and tribulations she found her prince. They got married and she became his Queen and he was her King. They loved each other very much even though the words, ‘and they lived happily ever after’ never scrolled onto the screen. Instead they had many adventures and came to love each other more and more despite all odds.

Here I am, a Queen now in my own way but a Queen with a story that lacks closure on many areas. That’s just bad storytelling: Let’s hear more.


This year I was telling my husband about my little girl bed and discussing the loss of it. There’s a whole lot more to the stories here, a wicked witch of a stepmother, a father turned villain, a mother under a horrible spell…

But that’s not for today. Today is about a happy ending to an aspect of my fairy tale princess story. After hearing about my loss my husband decided that it was only fitting that I get a grown up version of what had been stolen from me. This brings us back to Valentine’s Day.

True to the original bed, my husband decided to draft plans for a new, improved version of the bed and today I was presented with what will soon be a bed fit for a Queen. I’m not a princess anymore and I don’t need my little girl bed returned to me, there wouldn’t be room for two in it for starters!

I found a picture that is close to what the finished product will look like (there will probably be fewer throw pillows though): hp photosmart 720

Pretty nice, huh?

The dominant colors will be red with gold and dark wood accents and the headboard won’t look like the one pictured, but it gives you a pretty good idea: valance, curtains, fancy bit at the top and my husband will be carving the posts with things that are significant to us in our relationship rather than the simple doweling for the corners.

How did this make me feel?

First off: happy that it isn’t completed yet. I think having it all at once would have been a bit shocking to my system. It’s nice to have a bit of time to adapt and I’m also happy to have gotten to have input into the final touches of design.

Second of all, a lot like crying. We all lose things in life. Usually it’s a gradual moving on, in my case however, it was a violent and dramatic wrenching away of all my childish things in one hideous blaze. All I had left after the fire was my dog who was thankfully with me at the time. Even my fish and my turtle got fried.

A fire like that, the loss of my entire life isn’t something that is easily forgotten. The beautiful bed and all of the things I loved were taken from me. That was something that I dealt with and moved on until I discovered the villainy behind the fire and that it was not an accident. The bed had been taken from me by the same man who had so lovingly built it for me.

This is more than a piece of my childhood restored, this is a marriage bed. This is a bed fit for a Queen. This is a celebration of the fact that I am married to someone who cares about me enough to give and to not take away.


There were some more little exchanges. There was a lot of snuggling, there was good food and chocolates and the night was rounded out with a movie.

I got tools for me to work on my pottery and a handmade container especially designed for them. My husband got a few special things too 😉

I don’t think there is a Valentine’s Day that could equal what my husband did for me this year because it wasn’t just a time for loving, it was also the return of potential that had been stolen from me. It was a return of a certain trust that my father lost and my husband gained.
It was in fact, the best Valentine’s Day that the little princess who lost her magic bed could have ever imagined. Maybe I’ve got a fairy godmother or two looking out for me as well as some guardian angels. Man, I keep all those guys busy!



Dawson Creek as a New City

Dawson Creek and The Alaska Highway

By Virginia Carraway Stark

Dawson creek is a unique city and a relatively new one. Built in Northern British Columbia, Canada, there were few resources or incentives to colonize the area. It started off as a very small settlement but was mostly settled by Indigenous People who had made it their home for hundreds of years.


Despite the northerly latitude of the city, it is located in the Peace River District which is unusual for northern cities in that it gets far more hours of sunlight especially in the winter than most regions at the same latitude or even lower. The Peace River wound its way through the region creating fertile soil and many crops that wouldn’t grow so far north anywhere else would grow in the Peace Region due to this confluence of events.


Nevertheless, the region remained unpopulated for many years because it was so difficult to get to and there were no roads or trains going to the area. It wasn’t until World War 2 that Dawson Creek became significant as a strategic outpost for the Pacific theater. The American military used a railroad spur to expand the small settlement and to use it as a base for one of the most difficult and beset engineering projects of the day: Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway.

As a result of this, the city is built around several features:

The greenways and parks to keep the creek it is built around removed from construction projects and unhindered in its natural route. This was extended to include a large network of walking trails and parks. Many empty lots were also converted into parks rather than built on.

The Axis’ that it follows that make up both an irregular pattern and then try to establish a more ordered pattern through a grid design.

The new modern area that caters to entertainment, tourism and long term stay hotels for the oil and gas industry.

Additional green spaces and waterways have been highlighted in the maps below. The axis have also been marked out in pink. The city has left the surrounding area to agriculture and to wind farms to increase it’s green spaces. Even the Modern area ensures that trees and areas of grass or field are left to break up the intense building in the Modern Industrial Area.


It follows two axis, one axis is the Alaska Highway itself that forms a unique layout to the city planning since it protrudes in a Northwest direction. The second axis is 8th street, it too is part of a highway that turns into one of the major markers in town. It is along this second axis that a grid for subdivision was laid out and most of the commercial areas are located and is the most modern area of Dawson Creek. Nearly all of the buildings in this zone are new or have been significantly renovated to give them a modern feel.  This area includes the Aquatics Center, several large hotel chains, a Walmart, Canadian Tire, a row of fast food restaurants,  Northern Lights College, the Encana Center and many more such buildings. The Encana center and the Aquatics and recreational center are very large buildings where thousands of people can gather.

Below shows the exterior and interior of The Encana Center.


One of several hotels, behind the Pomeroy you can see the back end of the Walmart building.


Journey’s performance at the Encana Center shows how exciting this modern aspect of Dawson Creek is.



These modern areas are in stark contrast to the old downtown area of Dawson Creek. This area is enclosed on both sides by the arms of 8th street and the Alaska Highway. The place where the two roads interconnect is a roundabout that is the actual location of Mile Zero.

alaska highway.jpg

One of the things that was easy to observe was how the city of Dawson Creek had worked to re-purpose old buildings to create not only a still vibrant downtown that seems to leap out of the 1950s, but to create centers for artists and tributes to history in what was the ‘old downtown’.


Located near the Mile Zero round about, this last grain elevator from the days when agriculture was the sole industry in the area was preserved and turned into an utterly unique and beautiful art gallery. Visitors follow a circular walkway that leads up to the top of the grainery that is now regularly covered in artwork from local and visiting artists.


In another example of repurposing and preservation the former railroad station was converted into a museum that preserves much of the past of Dawson Creek and the building of the highway.

Much of Dawson Creek is devoted to green spaces including the windfarm that tops nearby Bear Mountain. Bear Mountain and the surrounding areas are dedicated to agriculture so the entire area is surrounded by green and yellow fields of canola.


Field of Canola blowing in the wind shows how Dawson Creek borders on the prairies. It is juxtaposed between prairies and mountains resulting in the ability to establish the windfarm in addition to the massive amounts of agriculture still being practiced in the area. These fields contribute to the greenspaces available to the people of Dawson Creek and keep the area’s air clean.


The Bear Mountain windfarm as seen from the edge of the city.

Dawson Creek has made a point of making access to green areas a priority. In addition to preserving the natural waterways the city has also made a man made lake and park called Rotary Park. This offers a free place for residents and tourists to swim and picnic. It borders a campground and a second historical area that has preserved settlers homes, churches, general stores and other buildings.


The man-made lake and surrounding park known as Rotary Park. Not pictured are acres of land that consist of play ground space, biking and walking trails and areas for cook-outs.


Among the re-purposed buildings was the original post office. A brick structure with marble interior, the building was a long term landmark and no one wanted to see it torn down but it cost too much for a private company to purchase and maintain it. As a result it was completely renovated as a complete center for the arts including a performance theater, cafe as well as studios for artists and room for the Potter’s Guild and the Quilter’s Guild amongst others. 

The post office boxes were partially left intact and were used as plaques to dedicate to patrons of the arts.

Not all buildings were successfully renovated. The old swimming pool building was filled with toxic waste and was a difficult issue for many years. It was recently torn down and the waste removed. The area is now a green space and park adjacent to the ice arenas.


 An unusual building, the swimming pool served the people of Dawson Creek for many years. It is now a memory in a photograph. 

Ding Dong the Witch is STILL Dead

Two years after the death of my Stepmother I found myself weeping with joy. She’s gone. She’s really really gone. The woman who left my half sister in a bathtub face down (and I had to revive with CPR) and then punched me in the face for telling her that she had nearly killed her own little girl is never going to hurt me again.

You can get mad at me if you want for being happy over someone’s death, but if you are, perhaps you’ve never been hurt and abused by someone to the point I was. I’ll share some of my memories of her since I’m sure that my half-sister will be telling the world how sad she is that the mommy who nearly killed her on repeated occasions is finally out of this world.

Lets start with the basics. My stepmother was an abusive alcoholic who made me run away from home when I was fifteen. She abused my real mother and smeared her name and did everything she could to hurt the woman whose husband she had stolen. She had her daughter taken away from her repeatedly after I left home. One time for going on a drunken bender and leaving her daughter naked and screaming behind the toilet until the post lady called the police when she heard the little girl crying.

That little girl grew into my half-sister. My half-sister damn well knew what her mother was like. Katy would routinely call her mother up when she was living and yell and scream at her for how she acted when she was drunk. She even warned our dad not to sleep with her sainted mother because she was worried he would get an STD because Judy slept around so much.
Now that her mother is dead though… my goodness, her mother was the most amazing person in the world. Let no one ever speak ill of her mother at the risk of angering Katy.

Well Katy, your mom was no saint. She hurt you for years after I ran away and I understand that you can’t face it. But it’s the truth. She was a bad human being and I know she was a hell of a lot better to you than she was to me but to celebrate her as a human being is a fraud. You can remember the good times she gave you, and unlike me I know she gave my sister some good times, but you DO have to acknowledge the evil she did in the world and in your life. You have to acknowledge the damage she did to you.

My dad stayed with Judy because when Katy was a little girl she saw an old woman crawling into a dumpster and she said, ‘Daddy, is mommy going to end up like that?’ and my dad felt so bad that he swore that he would never let that happen to Judy. It was a promise that my dad claimed to have deeply and heartily regretted.

I had never knowingly seen ANYONE drunk before my stepmother. I remember when she was about three months pregnant with my half-sister, my dad getting a phone call. He cursed and told me to watch my brother. He came home about an hour later and opened the door. He said, ‘You go upstairs and you shut the door and don’t look out. You keep that door shut until morning.’ His voice was rough and angry. Without a question I fled upstairs and tucked my sleepy brother into bed.

But I was a curious little thing and while I had been obedient to a fault until the divorce my parents had lost a lot of credibility since then. So, I crept out to the stairwell and peeked around the corner. My dad opened the door with a kick of his boot and carried in a figure that at first I couldn’t make out. All I could see were stiletto heels, black nylons and an animal print mini skirt. He swung around to shut the door and I saw my stepmother’s face lolling in his arms and laughing while my father cursed at the door and her drunken giggles.

That probably explains why my half-sister doesn’t get this. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is not a kind fate. Judy knew that she was pregnant when this happened. She was so happy and excited that she just had to out out in her ‘guy hunting’ clothes to celebrate. My stepmother had come from a truck stop and jumped into my dad’s truck with him and headed to Mexico. She latched onto him like a leech and never let him go.

Judy went to her father’s funeral and, of course, got wasted. Her family took her to a hotel outside the city limits and left her there with a bottle of whiskey, they called my dad (who was currently having a ‘break’ from her) and told him: If you want her, come and get her but we’re done with her.

This is the thing with Judy’s death in particular that is hard for me to swallow. Her family who was sickened by her behavior and washed their hands of her now talk about how she was a wonderful person and she did ‘so much good’ and that everyone loved her. These are lies. Katy isn’t the only one to posthumously attempt to glorify Judy and I think it’s a natural thing to do, to try to reclaim some good out of a wasted life.

She and my dad fought physically, the police were called, Katy was repeatedly taken away. Judy was put in rehab and came out and got drunk. She was put in the hospital near death again and again and would get drunk again and again. Even at the end she couldn’t easily admit that she had a drinking problem. Her entire life she never got as far as step one: admitting she had a problem.

Occasionally she would gust to an admission. When Katy contacted me and cried about how much she wanted me in her life, my dad and Judy both contacted me with elaborate apologies as well. Judy gave me gifts and a card and I told her the truth: I had lived for years without them and made my own peace with them. I wanted to forgive them all for everything and have a family.

It wasn’t to be.

My forgiveness of Judy sent her into a tailspin. She was convinced that I had forgiven her to mess with her head. She told me that after everything she had done to me that no one could ever forgive someone like her. I told her that she was wrong, I had forgiven her and that she had a chance to start fresh.

Judy responded to my assertion that she was forgiven by drinking. She had asked me to come help her at the second hand store she ran in Dawson and she stopped paying my wages. I told her that I trusted her, that I knew she would pay me as soon as possible. One night, I don’t know if she was drunk or sober, but she started to get more and more agitated about the fact that I had forgiven her. There were customers in the store and she started to yell at me. I went into the back room to try to keep the scene down and texted my husband, ‘Come get me, I’m scared’.

He came running from work in time to see Judy with her hand around my neck and her getting her fist up to punch me. It was just like when I had left home. I had been plunged into a high school nightmare all over again by forgiving her and letting my family back into my life.

Tony, my husband, yelled her name and Judy lowered her fist to her side. He had to confront her face to face to get her to drop her hand from my neck. We made a police report and I had to take Judy to the Employment board to get a portion of the wages she owed me. She was drunk when she talked to the Employment board according to my dad.

What did my dad do during all this? He threw up his hands and said it wasn’t his fault, that if ‘you two want to fight, I’m not getting involved.’

I did not want to fight with Judy. I had wanted to have a family. But despite my dad’s many prolific promises that he would NEVER believe Judy over me again like he had in high school and that he would never let her hurt me again. That was a lie too. They were like a pack of dogs and Judy was the meanest dog and the other dogs fled from her target: me.

More memories: her chasing my little brother and hanging off of the driver’s window while he punched her to get her to let go of his arm as she drunkenly pursued him.

Grabbing the wheel of the car while she laughed and laughed while a semi truck barreled towards us and we skidded on the winter road in the wrong lane of traffic and Katy cried in the back seat.

Her breath stinking of booze while she ‘gave me a makeover’ that made me look like a drunk clown. Her telling me how pretty I looked and looking at myself in the mirror, black eyeliner drawn messily around my eyes, rouge plastered on my cheeks, bright pink lipstick jaggedly applied around my mouth, mascara caking my eyelashes and brushed onto my cheeks.

Her and my dad standing me in front of the mirror and telling me that I was fat and that my thighs had to be able to see daylight between them before I would be given lunches to take to school anymore.

Her chasing me with wolf spiders and laughing like a maniac while I tried to hide from her. Finally, when she ‘fell asleep’, calling my dad who was on a long haul load across the country. I thought she just hated me, that was the first time he told me she was drunk. I didn’t know. You see, I hadn’t been raised around alcoholics, I had been raised in a Christian home where neither of my parents or my living relatives drank.

My dad told me to go look in her closet for some sort of bottle. I went and I found a mason jar full of a clear fluid. I took it back to the phone and told my dad about it.

“Open it.”

“Ok,” the sound of the lid unscrewing, the phone tucked between my shoulder and ear, trying not to cry, but I was so scared. I had never seen an adult act like that before!

“What does it smell like?” He asked with baited breath.

“Like something you clean a cut with,” I said, recoiling from the smell.

“I need to tell you something about Judy, she’s very sick. She’s an alcoholic.”

“I’m scared, please come home daddy.”

“She’ll wake up in the morning and be just fine,” he assured me and paused and his next words were muttered. “At least I hope she will be.”

This was my stepmother to me. As an adult, my husband and I invited her and my dad over for thanksgiving and she showed up drunk. She shoveled turkey and potatoes and gravy into her mouth with her hands and sprayed food over the table when she laughed too hard. My dad hid his head. She forgot her purse and her cellphone at my house she was so drunk. I was so angry that she had ruined Thanksgiving that I looked at her cellphone and saw everything she and my half sister said: mostly gossip and vitriol about me and Tony. How they hated us for being ‘the good ones.’

You can judge me how you wanted for looking at her cellphone, I’m glad I did because she was a good liar and finding out how much she and Katy hated me was good to know. It protected me from further harm and that was one of the last times I ever saw Judy. I don’t pretend to be perfect, I defended myself as best I could. I did things to protect myself the year before I ran away as well.

Judy sitting on my dad’s lap during the Canada Day BBQ, dressed in a flimsy nighty she moved her head to block my every word to him. She put food in his mouth and called him, ‘Daddy’ and smirked at me.

Her sitting outside of my house with her truck idling for hours on end. Her phoning my landlords, anyone she could think of and telling stories about me. Making up emergencies to force people to give her my forwarding address so that she could continue stalking and harassing me.

This was my stepmother to the world: passing out in the secondhand store on one of the beds drunk while people came in and out and left money on the counter for her for when she woke up again.

The doctors and nurses saying: There’s nothing we can do, she doesn’t want help. She’s going to die if she doesn’t stop and that’s all there is to it.

Being picked up in a snowbank where she died, in the end, no different despite all the enabling my dad and my half sister did as the woman climbing out of the garbage bin. She died on the street, alone and cold and disoriented and drunk. She died the way she lived and no self congratulating lie after her death will ever make her life any better than what it was.

There is no shame in being relieved, even euphoric when someone who harassed, abused and did everything in her power dies. She was, in everything she did to me, the most wicked witch that ever was. People can deny what she was, but there is extensive documentation of police reports, social services report, orders for her to seek therapy, more and more police reports. I have documented evidence of her crimes, no one has documented proof of her being a good person, only wishful memories of what they wanted her to be. I understand, I did the same thing when I forgave her. The difference is that I never ever ever forgot the horrible things she had done to me. People don’t realize that forgiving is far different from forgetting.

Ding dong the witch is dead. Thank God, I won’t ever see her again.


‘My Children are My Sunshine’ -Meet my Mother.

I would like you to meet my mother.

She was NOT a perfect woman but she was pretty wonderful in her very special way. She was a school teacher, she was a foster parent, she worked tirelessly with special needs children. She was a poet and a writer in her own right, having kept journals her entire life.

Let me tell you about some more of the really great things about my mom.

My mom didn’t finish high school. She was abused as a child and like many women, she used pregnancy as a way to marry and to escape her own family. She didn’t just use my dad as a means to her own desperate ends though, she fell deeply and passionately in love with him. She wasn’t good at keeping house but she doted on my dad and would have done anything that she was capable of doing to make him happy. She loved her three children and wrote that, ‘My beautiful children and my husband are the sunshine in my life. Without them, everything would be dark’.

My dad had affairs on my mom and my mom had few options at her disposal. Because of her early pregnancy, she never finished high school, she was utterly dependent on my dad for financial care. On several occasions she tried to get her GED and this led to fights between her and my Dad.

It was because of this that when my dad divorced my mom after cheating on her, my mom was in a dire place. She was completely traumatized. The one thing she had believed in: Her Love, had failed her and set her out in a boat in a stormy sea.

She collapsed. It was awful.

And then, she picked herself up and she got her grade 12. Yep, that’s right. She did what she had been stopped from doing and she did it on her own. She didn’t stop there. She applied for college and then university and became a school teacher. She worked primarily with children with special needs.

When my mom was going to university I was just discovering my own love of literature. This love blossomed for us at the same time. It was like our childhoods overlapped into her adulthood. Her life, a life that was kept from her because of being a girl from an abusive family, and then being with a controlling man, had been ‘gifted’ to her through the divorce.

She did great at school. She and I stayed up late and talked about what books I was reading, what she was reading. My dad had never liked anyone to read so the freedom we both had to read literature was a liberation for us both. We would butt heads about this later on when it came to her religious beliefs, but the point was that literature was great.

We read Shakespeare together and her favorite poet was John Donne.

When I was a little girl she brushed my hair 100 times every day. When she realized how afraid I was of spiders she made me a book about how spiders were our friends and it was so sweet and tender that I actually PRETENDED to be cured from my fear of spiders for so long that I stopped being scared of them!

She worked hard to be a good parent even though she was such a young parent. She had been raised with beatings and wooden spoons, that’s how she raised me when I was very young. By the time I was in kindergarten she had advanced to using ‘time outs’ and using positive statements about each other in place of what she had been brought up with. She broke the cycle of violence used as punishment.


She was always into self improvement. One time she took this course on massage and one on foot care. She taught these things to me and probably started me off into my career as a masseuse and Shiatsu practitioner. She was always trying to stay on the upside of life and not get sucked into the darkness. Sometimes she slipped, it was especially hard after my dad left her. Nevertheless, she would not be stopped.

debbie wedding garter

When my dad re-married my step-mother, Judy, she took great pains to torment my mother. When I stayed with my dad my mom would write to me and Judy would open the letters before I saw them and she would cut down everything my mom said in them. She would try to convince me that my mom was putting me down in completely innocuous statements. She loved me enough to write me a letter and there wasn’t any vitriol in the letter.

Judy was so jealous. She once orchestrated paying my mom her child support for me in pennies. She put them in a big blue water jug and then peed on them. She thought this was hilarious. What a nice woman. My mother rarely got any child support and struggled to support her kids on a student loan. Life was not easy for her. Judy, a woman at a truck stop who had jumped into my dad’s big rig and then clung onto him for life, had stolen my family. She had stolen my mother’s family. Judy started poisoning my brothers against their mother as well as me. Only poison ever came out of her mouth.

My mom never spoke down about my dad after the divorce. She never spoke ill of my step-mother. She was just broken hearted. My dad and step-mother had plenty of bad things to say about my mother and she never tried to defend herself.

I fell for it. I believed a lot of the things that they said about her.

I was a stupid kid and I had always been a daddy’s girl but you know something? I might have been a kid and believed what my dad said, but that doesn’t mean everyone was quite that gullible.

One of my husband’s co-workers was asking about his wife. My husband mentioned her last name and the man he was talking to, an old timer in Dawson Creek, got a reminiscent look to his face and smiled wistfully.

“I know who you mean, Debbie. My god, she was a beauty, smart as a whip too! She was a teacher, you know, loved books.”

THAT was my mother.

I was recently accused by a friend? Of glorifying my father in my story about him for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I was surprised by her anger at my very truthful and heartfelt story about my dad because there are many different sides to people and you can acknowledge the bad while focusing on the good times and the good memories of the people you actually love. You can love people despite the fact that they hurt you an incredible amount.

For me, I had to leave my family (what is left of it) and have zero contact with them. This isn’t the first time that this had happened in my life. When I was fifteen I ran away from home. I tried to stay in contact with my mom but it was too difficult, the whole family was too tangled up and if I touch one of them the whole ball of yarn comes tumbling into my lap. That doesn’t mean that I can’t value the good things that my family did as well. They were a difficult family to have from the start and after their divorce and then Judy coming into my life things became hellish.

But there was also GOOD there.

So, yes, my mother hurt me and she really hurt my little brother, but she also loved all three of her children an incredible amount. My older brother, the baby who had helped her escape from her parents left her to drown after the divorce but I know that he was drowning too. He had to leave then just like I had to leave when I was fifteen and things got too bad.

There are few villains who are villains for the sake of being villains. My stepmother enjoyed tormenting me. I can count a very few things that she did for me in life and after she was ensconced in marriage with my dad those few things ceased entirely. She and my half sister are some of the worst, most malignant, oblivious and stupidly cruel people I have ever met.

judy and katy

My half sister, Kat, Kate, Katy or Katrina depending on the day and her mother, Judy (deceased). These two people tormented me and my half sister continues to slander me and to deny my mother’s very existence. She’s not my family and neither of my brothers are  Judy’s sons. 

The rest of the ‘cast’ of my life have good traits and bad. I can tell you hundreds of good stories or bad stories that would make you say, ‘how could they even be human?’ They tried to be good and sometimes they chose to be villains. Of all of my family I know that my mother never tried to be a villain, she just slipped down the rabbit hole from time to time.

I was out of contact with them all when my mother died. She had stayed and spent the years while I was gone being tormented by my drunk stepmother and my increasingly foolish father. She died from an electrolyte imbalance from drinking too much water. She died too young and it wasn’t her fault. Like everything in her life it seems, it was too soon, she was too young.

My mom and I weren’t as close as we could have been. She and I both had poison being whispered in our ears and we both were innocent unsuspecting dupes. We were played by a lot of people. I wish we had been closer. I wish she had had a better life but what I wish most of all is that people would remember like that one old timer. She was a mother, a wife, a teacher and most of all, a sensitive, delicate rose that kept her blooms long past all logical explanation could justify. She had a core of strength to her that is neglected in her memory.

75 years of Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

75th Anniversary of the Alaska Highway
A Coffee Table Book and Production Celebrating Our Great Achievement

From War to Alaska:

75 Years of Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

By Virginia Carraway Stark and additional authors

Produced by StarkLight Press in conjunction with the StarkLight Players, The Songwriters of The Peace, The Dawson Creek Arts Gallery, The Peace Liard Arts Council and the South Peace Community Arts Council, this celebration of northern heroes is sure to inspire young and old alike with the vibrancy of our history in the north!


The original definitive guidebook to the Alaska Highway was published in 1949. The Alaska Highway was one of Canada’s largest contributions to World War 2 but it was nearly completely shrouded in secrecy. The path that it took was designed to optimize hooking up with key points of military importance. It is thanks to the Alaska Highway that American Fighter planes had a jumping off point into the USSR to fight Germany and its allies. A key point to winning the war and fighting against Japan’s ingress into North America’s West coast.

Because of the secrecy and its strategic importance there is still little known about the work, struggles and dramas that played out during the all important building of a highway that had been proposed since 1920. 75 Years of Putting One Foot in Front of Another strives to pull off the shroud of secrecy and to make the story available to the world.

So secret was the mission that built the Alaska Highway that many of the residents who have lived along the road their entire life are unaware of the origins of the road. Without the Alaska Highway the world north of Prince George would have remained a nearly uninhabited wasteland. The first engineers who planned the building of the road traveled by dogsled to map out the terrain and plan the best mode of attacking the enormous endeavor they were charged with.


The original highway was much longer than the modern highway, or than in this artist’s conception of how straight and easy a road would be to build through such harsh, unbroken landscape.



With the loops necessary to reach remote military outposts and with improved technology the road was streamlined into a modern road for transport and for tourists who want to enjoy this gateway to the hard to reach State of Alaska. Transportation, fuel costs and rubber were at a premium and how to get resources to the troops was one of the largest hurdles Generals faced. The Alaska Highway solved many of these problems.


The Alaska Highway was one of the most diverse projects of the war. 10,000 men were initially sent to begin working on the road that would start off as more of a rutted trail than as what we now consider to be a highway. Pontoon bridges served in place of stable, modern bridges in the haste to build the road that would play silent but key roles in an Ally victory. About a third of the American Soldiers sent to work on the road were black.



Perhaps as remarkable, one of the lead engineers was a woman! ‘Rusty’ Dow, nicknamed for her auborn hair asked for the challenging assignment herself.

‘Without the ruffles and stiff stuff that is the usual decorum between a general and one of his workers, “Rusty” Dow sat cross-legged in the office of the late Simon Buckner, Jr. She told the commanding General of Alaska Defense Command in World War II, “There are two places I want to drive a truck: the Burma Road and the new ALCAN Highway.”

I can do nothing about the Burma Road,” the general told the auburn-haired truck driver. “The ALCAN might be different,” he said to the woman in coveralls, driver for the Anchorage Corps of Engineers. (The Great Lander Shopping News, October 1975)’

Upon receiving her orders on June 1, 1944, Rusty was ecstatic and the following was her reaction in her own words:

Immediately I put in an appearance at the major’s desk. We have been informed that you wish to drive the Alcan highway said he. Yessir I stammered. Well here are your travel orders, approved by General Buckner. Report to Merrill Field in two hours where you will take a plane to Fairbanks. Upon arrival there report to North West Service Command, from whom you will receive further orders.

Yessir – I was able to reply weakly thinking of just how much preparation I could make in two hours.

But evening found me reporting to my new assignment at Fairbanks with a clean pair of G.I. coveralls under my arm, and my toothbrush and pair of pliers and a screwdriver in my pocket.”

The event was published the next day in The Anchorage Daily Times. An excited reporter got word of the story before she boarded her plane and was able to conduct a quick interview with her. The headline read: “‘Rusty’ Dow To Drive Highway: Will Be First Woman Piloting Military Road”

“‘I don’t know what it’s all about,’ Mrs. Dow said in her rushed interview between gathering her few things together. ‘But I do know it’s going to give me the biggest thrill of my life.’

Rusty was a true hero and a role model for women and men to look up to. Born in Texas, her name was Benzie Ola ‘Rusty’ Scott, her maiden name was changed to Dow when she married years later. She was one of the first of the lady Two years later, Texas-born trucker Benzie Ola “Rusty” Scott packed up her two-ton Chevy and traveled first to California and then was deployed to Alaska.
Only a few years after Amelia Earheart broke stereotypes wide open, Rusty started on her own rash of stereotype blasting. Rusty Dow had a big line of firsts under her belt: first woman truck driver in the territory, first woman to drive trucks for Alaska’s Fort Richardson, first woman to drive the newly constructed Alaska Highway, first woman to drive through the Whittier tunnel.


Rusty Dow in her iconic Studebaker driving the Alaska Highway.

She wasn’t the only woman to be deeply involved in the highway, its construction, maintenance and the health and transportation of the many people who contributed to its building.

75 years of Putting One Foot in Front of the Other focuses on the firsts that are what we, as Mile 0 are all about. We are the starting point for The Alaska Highway and so much more. This lineage is going to be celebrated between the covers of this beautifully formatted coffee table book as well as on stage as Rusty Dow and other key players come to life for the first time in the modern era.


Even though we start with ‘firsts’, 75 Years of Putting One Foot in Front of Another celebrates endings as well. This wasn’t just something we started, it was something we finished and in doing so, we contributed to keeping the world free.


Dawson Creek Art Gallery Archives/Photos

Project 49: Benzie Ola ‘Rusty’ Dow, ‘The dean of women war workers in Alaska’

Updated Bio

Virginia Carraway Stark Biography


Daughter Series

(GAF Universe)

Dalton’s Daughter (StarkLight Press)

Detached Daughter (StarkLight Press)

Galaxy’s Daughter (StarkLight Press)

Carnival Fun Series

White Rook Takes White Queen (StarkLight Press)

Red Queen Takes Red Rook (StarkLight Press)

The Chessboard (StarkLight Press)

Royal Sacrifice Series

Shards of the Mirror: Book One 2017 (Jaded Press)

Books 2 and 3 to be announced

Circle of Stones

(Young Adult)

Honey Bee of The Faerie (StarkLight Press)

Circle of Stones (StarkLight Press)

Gates of the Sheela (Azoth Khem Publishing)

Decay of Man (Coming from StarkLight Press 2017)

Charism (Coming from StarkLight Press 2017)

Brooks (Coming from Jaded Press 2017)

Thrice Fallen (To be announced from Azoth Khem Press)


Blind Eye (Skylight Productions)

The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens (Skylight Productions)

The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens 2 (Skylight Productions)

Witch Doctor (StarkLight Productions)

Code Black (Date to be announced, StarkLight Productions)

Ugly (Date to be announced, StarkLight Productions)


I Have Memory (StarkLight Press)

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible (Simon and Schuster)

Canada: Because we Could (Arras Books)

Mile 0: Games of War (Arras Books)

Voices of the Valley (Cobalt Press)

Thrice Fallen (To be Announced Azoth Khem Press)

Columns Etc

Phraser Connector (Monthly Column):Writer’s Life
(Published by Elaine Storey in conjunction with StarkLight Press)

Outermost: Journal of the Paranormal (StarkLight Press)

National Paranormal Society (articles) (NPS)

Writer’s Block Science Articles

Medical Journal Dissections for the Layperson


Carnival Fun (StarkLight Players coming winter of 2017)

Canada: 150 Years (StarkLight Players coming summer of 2017)

75 years of Mile 0 (StarkLight Players coming summer of 2017)

Carnival Fun: The Red Tower (Carraway Productions)


The Concierge (CWC Publishing House)

Ambition (CWC Publishing House)

Bit (CWC Publishing House)

Ark (CWC Publishing House)

Wytch Born (CWC Publishing House)

Space Stranded (StarkLight Press)

The Arkellan Treaty (StarkLight Press)

The Irregulars (StarkLight Press)

The Irregulars 2: Fit in or Miss (To be announced, StarkLight Press)

Short Story Anthologies
Tales from Space Volume One (StarkLight Press)

Tales from Space Volume Two (StarkLight Press)

Scarecrow (Weaver World Press)

Cult Classics for the Modern Cult 2 (Magpie Press)

Bittersweet (Magpie Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 1 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 2 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 3 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 4 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 5 (StarkLight Press)

Stardust Always (Writer’s Colony Press)

The Long Watch 2 (Writer’s Colony Press)

Grim Keepers (CWC Publishing House)

Collective Ramblings 1 (Rambunctious Ramblings Publications)

Festive Frights (CWC Publishing House)

Twisted Easter Tails (CWC Publishing House)

Poe Gets Punked (Writer Punk Press)

Punked Classics (Coming 2017 from Writer Punk Press)

Great Ladies (StarkLight Press)

Autumn’s Frost: Fall into Fear (StarkLight Press)

Game Changers (StarkLight Press)

Cynosure (StarkLight Press)

Carnival of Madness (Azoth Khem Press)

Blue Moon Season (StarkLight Press)

Cult Classics for the Modern Cult 3 (Coming 2017 from Magpie Press)

Poetry Anthologies

In My Mind’s Eye (StarkLight Press)

Poetry Marathon 2014 (Writing Marathon Publications)

From the Depths (StarkLight Press)

Words off the Page (StarkLight Press)

In Flight Magazine

Lemons, Blood and Glass (Coming 2017 StarkLight Press)
Lovely Darkness (Jaded Press)


Virginia Carraway Stark received a nomination for an Aurora Award. Virginia won the Valour in Poetry Award 2015. She won the ‘I Found the Darkness’ short story award in 2015.

She had two nominations for BOFA for best novel and Valor in Literature (White Rook Takes White Queen, the first in the Carnival Fun series and Red Queen Takes Red Rook which is still in the contending to win for Best Novel Valor in Literature 2016) and a BOFA for best novel for Dalton’s Daughter. She wrote for Poe Gets Punked and won Best Indie Award.

She won the ‘Promising New Artist’ Award from the Northern BC Writer’s Guild in 2015.

Her screenplay Blind Eye received an honorable mention at the Canne Film Festival. Her short screenplay Witch Doctor got in the top three at the Reel to Reel Film Festival. Nomination for best short story for her short story, Alway Hungry published in StarkLight Volume 4.

She’s also completed three annual 24 hour poetry marathons as wells as 3 years of 30 days of Poetry. She’s won Nanowrimo two years in a row and completed the novel in 3 Days Challenge 2016

Virginia has been trained in massage and shiatsu as well as the art of Dim Mak. She has extensively learned herbology including usage in tonics, unguents, ointments, tinctures, teas, poultices etc. She studied reflexology and aromatherapy use and distillation of essential oils.

She has taken courses from the University of Guelph, University of Copenhagen, University of Edinburgh and Boston U as well as other supplementary courses from other Universities through correspondence including the University of Barcelona. She is currently working on her Masters in International Law from the University of Copenhagen in conjunction with her completion of her Bachelors in Philosophy and history from Penn University.

She is completing Specialties in Creative Writing from Wesleyan University and in Philosophy Specialty from Yale University.

She has basic competency in French, German, Latin and Spanish and can speak Danish, Irish and Greek on an elementary level. She constantly endeavors to improve her proficiency levels.

She is also an artist who has had several gallery showings of her work and has had her photographs used for cover work and other projects. She formerly modeled herself and is featured on several posters, Vogue Magazine, travel BC pamphlets and magazines, and book covers. She has done some acting including playing the lead role of Virna in her play, Carnival Fun. She attended Vancouver Acting School.

Other places to find Virginia:

author pic fiesty

Where to find more about Virginia

Free Stories, Contest Wins  or Excerpts Available Online by Virginia. You can also find links to live interviews on radio shows as well as interview transcripts.

Current Public Events:

Summer of 2016
The Dawson Creek Art Walk

Find Poetry and Art Work by Virginia Carraway Stark at Faking Sanity Books and at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. You can also find all of Virginia’s publications through StarkLight Press at The Art Gallery and find used editions at Faking Sanity all year long!

Her artwork is a regular at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery as well as at other art shows in Western Canada. Her art and poetry are usually paired together and inspired one from the other.

 Her poetry is featured at the end of every month at Faking Sanity Song Writer’s Cafe at the end of every month with live readings of her poetry or songs.
She performs at the annual Christmas Concert with the Songwriter’s of Northern BC the first Friday of every December. For more details about any of these events you can contact her at

Outermost Journal of the Paranormal is a great source for free stories as well as all sorts of interesting articles. This has  taken the place of the National Paranormal Society as I take a more open and dedicated view of the paranormal and can freely address many more topics! There is also a lot of fiction as well as interviews with Paranormal Investigators and Psychics who have worked with the police to solve crimes!

Interviews to Learn More About Virginia

(simply copy and paste any of the links to your address bar to get access to the interviews)!episodes-page-3/c3j5

Facebook Pages:

Author Virginia Carraway Stark

Outermost: A Journal of the Paranormal

Guest Blogs

Stories about:

Roy Daman Reading ‘Fell Wind’

Mentioned by:

You can reach out and say ‘hi’ to Virginia through her blog , or you can email me

Find her on Twitter: @tweetsbyvc


YouTube Channel

or just google Virginia Carraway Stark to find poems, publications and different challenges, interviews or projects that are always new and developing!

Her Amazon Author Page:

Some other places to find articles:…/




Fan Art, Letters, Poems and Dedications etc

Thank you

By Liane Carter

People I don’t know
Pleasing me with prose
The scent of jasmine
A twilight rose
Caterpillar crawling
Reminding me to be
A monument of beauty
Virginia is she
Hands sticking in hair
And sticky magazines
Wing-wandering in night time
Half asleep still with dreams
Virginia and Sunny singing sweet song
I’m blessed to be among this poetic throng

liane carter picture for virginia poem

The very, very popular picture of Virna Grant, by my talented husband, Anthony Stark.

virginia and virna mug

Virna portrait

virna bag

virna mug

Artwork by Liane Carter who is also pictured with her copy of ‘In My Mind’s Eye’. She is an amazing poet in her own right as well as a clarinet player, artist and an inspiration to all who she touches!

picture by Liane Carter

liane carter virginia pic 3

liane carter virginia pic 2

liane carter virginia pic 1

liane carter in my mind's eye

There’s nothing like the feeling of having inspired someone to the point where they dedicate a book to you! Dedication by Lynda Williams for Opus 6 of her Okal Rel Series. Sketch of me by Richard Baltrop.

reality skimming opus 6 dedication

reality skimming dedication

Fan Jen M. Duell composed the following: Inspired by the planet Dalton from my novel Dalton’s Daughter.

More Fan Art!


Me as an evil queen who I was assured is redeemed in the end, CG artwork by Robert Marquiss.

Virginia loves to hear from her fans in every form and attempts to respond personally to every letter. She found this letter particularly touching:

Hello dear Virginia,

Hope all is well with you and yours across the miles. Are you the same Virginia Carraway Stark who wrote the wonderful story “Astronauts and Olympians,” from a recently published book by the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Think Possible? The story, however, impressed my heart in a very positive way because asthmatic since 2003.

Best wishes,

Hamza Saudi Arabia

(shared with permission)

She also is sent odds and ends of things that have inspired people as well as deeply personal fan mail about how her work affected them that isn’t available to share publicly.

If you want to send fan mail you can send it to:

Virginia C. Stark

RR 1 Site 3 Compt 32

Dawson Creek, BC

V1G 4E7