VALLEY SENIORS: Alberni educator recalls summers commercial fishing

For several decades Roland (“Roly”) Arnet taught hundreds of young students in the Alberni Valley.

Born in Tofino, Arnet came from a family who immigrated from Norway. “Jakob Arnet, my grandfather, left his country for North America in 1894, landing first in New York City, and later to Seattle, Washington, and around 1900, to Canada,” says Roly Arnet. He settled in the Clayoquot Sound area where he, like other immigrants, was given a piece of land to work on, make his living and support his family. His first place to live was in the Tofino Inlet, There he cut trees and built his own house and barns for his animals, in addition to do fishing for personal food supply.

“My grandmother also came from Norway to join him. They had several children, most of them boys, including my dad, who was born in 1910.” By that time, the family had moved to the Village of Tofino.

Roly’s father grew up in the Tofino area and did his early education there. And, as a result of being a good student, he earned a scholarship to finish his secondary level in Victoria. Soon after, he was awarded another scholarship for university, which he turned down, and instead, he went to work with his older brothers as a fisherman.

Arnet eventually got a job with Nelson Brothers Fisheries in Vancouver, a job he kept until around 1951. But, because of severe arthritis, he could not continue with that type of work, so he joined the Coast Guard agency of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada until retirement.

Roly also grew up and did his formal education in Tofino.“I did my schooling up to Grade 11 there (the highest level available in that area at that time) mostly by correspondence, thanks to a good teacher we had, who encouraged us to take Grade 11. Then I moved to Burnaby to take Grade 12. I stayed with some relatives there.”

He then took Grade 13, which then was the equivalent of first year of university. Following that he started his teaching training at a normal school in Vancouver.

“After that, I taught for a year in Ucluelet and again went back to UBC to do my second year of university.” In order to save some money to pay for his university courses, he went to teach in Terrace, BC “Finally, in the following years I managed to complete my studies by getting a Bachelor degree and majoring in Mathematics and Biology.”

In the 1980s Arnet continued his teaching career in Port Alberni at Eighth Avenue School (now known as Eighth Avenue Learning Centre) until his retirement in 1991. “It was a good teaching experience for me. I taught several grades and various subjects, except music.”

During the summer months, the teacher became a fisherman. “In 1966 I started commercial fishing after I bought my own 37-foot salmon troller boat which I used extensively until I decided to sell it in 1984.”

This outdoor working experience was not only quite a different activity from the traditional classroom setting, but more profitable as well. “By fishing for two months every July and August, I managed to earn more money than during my 10 months in the school setting!”

Arnet, the father of three daughters, (all three living on Vancouver Island), and the grandfather of several grandchildren, has made four trips to Norway and travel the country of his ancestors as well as meeting some of his relatives. “All my trips there were very enjoyable, especially my first trip, as I went on a cruise with a friend who owned a boat and together we navigated the coast of Norway for a full month.”

Nowadays, in his retirement years, Arnet keeps physically and mentally active by exercising through daily walks and weight training. He also enjoys reading and has become an avid internet user.

Alberni ValleyPort AlberniSeniors

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