Born in Beausejour

Born in Beausejour

Heart of our City: Jack Rudolph is Prince Rupert’s well-oiled machine

Rudolph, a past city councillor, has spent his entire life in Prince Rupert, save for a few years outside of the North Coast

People still talk about ‘East’ Prince Rupert and ‘West’ Prince Rupert and the dividing point that they refer to is usually somewhere around McBride Street.

But there was once a time that some Rupertites may remember when the youth of the city weren’t exactly free to roam and cross each side wherever and whenever they wanted to.

“If you were born on the east end, you stayed on the east end. [You didn’t go] across the bridge,” explained Jack Rudolph last week.

“There were gangs all over the place.”

Rudolph, a past city councillor, has spent his entire life in Prince Rupert, save for a few years outside of the North Coast, two of those following his birth in in Beausejour, Manitoba – a small town northeast of Winnipeg.

The gangs have been cleaned up since then and, as Rudolph grew, he took a liking to basketball. Having grown to just over six feet by junior high, Rudolph started playing ball as a centre in Grade 6 and continued until Grade 10, moving onto Booth Memorial high school. Rudolph didn’t have the intention to join the sports team, but his coaches were interested in him before he set foot on a court.

“I was told they wanted me. I said I was six foot and a half, and they said ‘[great], [the extra half] looks better when we go touring [on the stat sheet]’,” Rudolph said.

“We played the Chiefs from the All Native Tournament and a lot of the teams from the ANT for practice. We played Terrace, Kitimat, Metlakatla, Alaska and then as I got older, we went down to Burnaby. I was walking around and I was six feet and I was just [as tall as] the other people’s armpits.”

Rudolph also played for the new Annunciation Crusaders, a small school with a smaller team of approximately five members.

Shortly after leaving high school, Rudolph continued to play when he moved to Smithers to work in the forestry industry. It was there he met his wife, Gloria. The two wed and the Rupertite later had the task of attaching house number signs to residences in the city.

“The addresses [before numbers came in] were ‘the red house on the corner of Second Street, over four more houses’,” he said.

Rudolph’s stint in Smithers lasted just one year, when CN asked for the Rupertite to come back to town and help out in relief duty for another employee on a three-month leave.

“When his three months were up, he decided he wasn’t coming back, so I phoned my wife in Smithers and said ‘sorry dear, I’ll be here another three months’. So, she was a nurse and gave her three months notice, then we had our first child [and made the permanent move back to Rupert],” he said.

Later this summer, Jack and Gloria will meet up with their kids at an annual family reunion at Cultus Lake, outside of Chilliwack.

Working with CN for five years and delivering dispatch freight for CN’s express office was the precursor to his career in the oil shipping and receiving industry.

“I spent the next 28 years at Imperial Oil … I was dispatching tank cars, filling them, receiving tanker [ships], then later jet fueling and [working with] aviation,” said Rudolph.

The Rupertite became a unique asset to the company as he developed specialized knowledge with train car, ship and plane fuelling and receiving. Often, he would wake up at 3 a.m. and go to work on overtime pay to receive or ship out barrels from another car or tanker.

“Eventually they decided there’s not enough ships coming in every week, so we would learn to do aviation inspections and terminal inspections [at airports] from Queen Charlotte to Prince George. Once a month, we would visit the air stations [in that region],” he said.

“I took samples of the gasoline, tested it and gave the results to the airport.”

After 28 years working with Imperial Oil, the Exxon Valdez oil spill forced the shutdown of many plants, including Rudolph’s.

At 49, he received a full pension with medical and dental insurance to ease him into retirement.

Not satisfied with sitting back and relaxing, Rudolph ran for city council in 1996 and sat on council until 2005.

“[I oversaw] graveyards, Wantage Road, the maintenance road – and everyday, we’d sort of have an open house in council chambers for anybody that wanted to come in and ask questions. We’d find the answers or we’d have somebody from staff answer them if we couldn’t … Now they’re talking about bringing a bunch of us old guys back to help with the solution of rebuilding the city,” he said.

Rudolph also helps out with the Prince Rupert Seafarers’ Centre, hosting the docked sailors as they stay in the city.

“I’m the gopher. If we run out of cookies, I’ll go and find somebody who can donate cookies. The Salvation Army had a surplus on their food bank – French [carbonated] water. Nobody in Prince Rupert drinks French water, but we’ve got a whole basement full. [Some of the sailors] are used to it because they all drink it,” said the Rupertite, who also carries a handy translation card in his wallet, giving him the words for ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘grocery store’ and the like in Russian and Mandarin Chinese so he can converse with some of the sailors.

“Everybody there has got a purpose,” he said.

For now, Rudolph is happy with the direction his city is taking.

“I think [Mayor] Lee Brain is doing a fantastic job. [It’s the same] in Terrace, Kitimat and Smithers – they’re all young. It’s a changing world and you can’t have us dinosaurs trying to figure out where to put the LNG,” he said.

But some things never change from generation to generation.

“[On city council], one day you get something new, the next day you get something old. It’s like today.”