Community Portrait — Jake Martens
Chilliwack Progress - August 28, 1957
One would probably be correct in saying "Over half the dwellings in Yarrow were houses that 'Jack' built"- "Lumber Jack" as Jake Martens is popularly known to his neighbours, started here 27 years ago at the age of 18—. "What seems like yesterday," Mr Martens comments.
Jake Martens road to success had it's beginnings in this district's hop yards where he spent his first years in B.C. "I always wanted to save a little money" he recalls, "but that was the hungry 30's and it was pretty tough." He had always wanted to get into a business of his own, so after seven years of hard work he saved $800 and decided that he had had enough of the hop yards.
When Mr. Martens opened his lumber business in Yarrow, the town was just beginning its rapid grown and advancement. As Yarrow grew, so did Mr. Martens' lumber concern.
In 1952, fifteen years of successful business, started by the initiative of business acumen of one man came to an end when Mr. Martens sold his lumber yard. He still lives at his original address, however, with only an inch and a half thick board fence separating his lot and the lumberyard's.
After his big "sale", Mr. Martens invested in three different businesses. He was instrumental in the organization of Clearbrook Frozen Foods Ltd., of which he is a shareholder and board director. He also operates and is a 50 percent shareholder of Central Agency in Yarrow. He realized his investments wouldn't be complete without a share in a lumberyard as well… so he, is also a shareholder in a lumber business in New Westminster. The sale of these three businesses this will, as they have in the past several years, reach over a million dollars.
One of the outstanding personalities of the Yarrow district, Mr. Martens helped many folk become established there in the early years of settlement. Generally of a quiet personality, he is a well respected, prominent community figure, well-liked by all who know him.
Although Mr. Martens is a firm believer in the importance of education, school didn't play too prominent a role in his own life. He attended public school and first year of high school in Russia where he was born in 1911. He recalls quite clearly the Russian Revolution which was going on when he was about 10 years old. "The only time we ate bread during those years was at Christmas time and at Easter," he relates. "The rest of the time it was thin soups."
Mr. Martens' father was a teacher in a private orphanage owned by his grandfather. After emigrating from Russia that Martens family settled for three years in Manitoba where Jake was determined to complete his education. Here he attended night school for some time and dropped it again but as recently as three years ago, he attended regular classes in Vancouver. "The best I could do was grade 10," he grins.
"A good education" is what the Martens hope to give their three children, all of whom are interested in music. Jimmy, 11 plays the piano; Bobby, 8 takes violin lessons, and Rosella 4, takes nothing." She will pretty soon though, was Mr. Martens' hopeful comment.
Although never really active in sports himself, Jake Martens is probably one the greatest spectator supporter of sports in the Yarrow community. His face lights up when he recalls the years softball was in it's "heyday" around the district. At that time his lumber yards sponsored "the team that always topped the league." In recent years he has been among the regular fans to coach Yarrow's Ocean Sprays from behind the backstop.
He has attended and witnessed various sports activities across the country ranging from bullfights in Mexico to major league ball in Yankee stadium and also National league hockey in the east.
Jake Martens names travelling as his hobby - and he has done lots of it. "I guess I've pretty well criss-crossed the U.S., Mexico and Canada," he says. Among best remembered points he has visited in the United States are Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the white sands of Texas, the lava fields in Arizona, Death Valley and up to the 24th storey of the UN building — "They wouldn't let us go any higher", Mr. Martens comments, "We found the Americans quite friendly and helpful through all our travelling."
Of all his travels Mr. Martens says: "It has been a good education for me — I've widened my scope— I've seen how business is conducted in various countries—I've tried to adopt some of these business principles and profited by them."
This year the Martens had a trip to 14 different countries all laid out. In fact, tickets were already bought but illness forced Mr. Martens to postpone this trip. Among countries which are the schedule for this trip are Egypt, Palestine, and most of the European countries.
Their travels have taken them to all parts of Canada of which Mr. Martens says: "The best place to live is of course, B.C., but Ontario is very nice. I've travelled through most of the states but there is hardly a place that can beat B.C. If we had a little less rain here, I would say we have the best country in the world."
This is where Mr. Martens had his start, where he married a local girl 19 years ago and where, if possible he hopes to stay. "Right now, I'm what you might call semi-retired. I believe that a young man with honesty, ambition and service can have a great future right here," he concludes.
[Jacob Peter Martens was born May 5th, 1911 in Davelekanovo, Ufa Colony, Russia, to Rev. Petrus & Aganetha (Dyck) Martens. He passed away June 1984 in Abbotsford, B.C.]