Always Pack a Candle
A Nurse in the Cariboo-Chilcotin
The true story of an adventurous young nurse who provided much-needed health care to the rural communities of the Cariboo-Chilcotin in the 1960s.
In 1963, newly minted public health nurse Marion McKinnon arrived in the small community of Williams Lake in BC's Cariboo region. Armed with more confidence than experience, she got into her government-issued Chevy—packed with immunization supplies, baby scales, and emergency drugs—and headed out into her 9,300-square-kilometre territory, inhabited by ranchers; mill workers; and many vulnerable men, women, and children who were at risk of falling through the cracks of Canada's social welfare system.
At twenty-two, a naïve yet enthusiastic Marion relied entirely on her academic knowledge and her common sense. She doled out birth control and parenting advice to women who had far more life experience than she. She routinely dealt with condescending doctors and dismissive or openly belligerent patients. She immunized school children en masse and made home visits to impoverished communities. She drove out into the vast countryside in freezing temperatures, with only a candle, antifreeze, chains, and chocolate bars as emergency equipment.
In one year, Marion received a rigorous education in the field. She helped countless people, made many mistakes, learned to recognize systemic injustice, and even managed to get into a couple of romantic entanglements. Always Pack a Candle is an unforgettable and eye-opening memoir of one frontline worker's courage, humility, and compassion.