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The O'Briens of Cloverdale

The photos and write up were provided by Bob O'Brien.

The O'Briens of Cloverdale are "Royal O'Briens", descendants of Brian Boru who was high King of Ireland in 1002. The O'Briens were one of the early families to arrive in Cloverdale cira 1925–1928 and eventually opened a business – an automotive garage, "O'Brien's Super Service".

William (Bill) Patrick O'Brien was born in Ireland, on a farm, Knocklishen, near the village of Kiltegan in County Carlow, in 1893. He was the oldest child of James O'Brien and Ellen O'Gorman. They raised a family of six children. William (Bill), Charlie, Seamus (Jim), Meehal (Michael), Nicholas, Bridey, and Kathleen.


James and Ellen O'Brien

James O'Brien and Ellen O'Gorman were the parents of William O'Brien and the grandparents of Bob O'Brien.


The Knocklishen house

This is the Knocklishen house, the thatched roof house that the O'Brien Family grew up in and is now approximately 400 years old.


Bill (William) O'Brien came to America via Boston, arriving in 1920. Like many Irish Immigrants he went west to work in the copper mines in Butte, Montana (Anaconda Copper Co.). He worked there for several years, but with the dampness in the mine he developed a spot on his lung. As a result he left Montana and went on to California. This was the roaring 20's and the automobile was growing in popularity. Bill took a course in Automobile Care and Maintenance and completed that in 1923.


It was while Bill was in California that he met Hattie Louise Flanagan who was working in a branch of the Royal Bank in Los Angeles. Hattie had come out from her home, Rive De Chute, New Brunswick, where she was born and raised.


Flanagan family

Hattie Flanagan had come from a family of five children, of which she was the youngest. Warden, Earl, Aubrey, and Lila were her siblings. Hattie is in the white outfit.


Hattie left Los Angeles in 1923 to live with her mother in Vancouver. Bill followed her a year later with the explanation that he was looking for work. Bill and Hattie were married in Seattle in 1926.


Bob O'Brien was their first child. He was born March 18, 1929 in Grace Hospital in Vancouver at 12:30 am. He missed St. Patrick's Day by half an hour otherwise he would have been named Pat.


Bill O'Brien went to work in Bonner's Garage in Vancouver. This was the father of Bob Bonner who later became Attorney General of BC in the Social Credit administration, and still later became the President of MacMillan Bloedel, a large BC forest products company.


After several years Bill left Bonners and started out on his own. The Pacific Highway had been cemented in 1923 and the north south traffic between New Westminster and the USA was building. He opened a garage in Cloverdale around 1928 as this was the logical stop over on the journey north or south. He sold Richfield Oil and Gas. Around 1930 he switched to selling Home Oil and Gas. Home Oil was a newly created subsidiary of Imperial Oil.


Home Station gas pump

This is a picture of the Richfield gas pump in O'Brien's Station. Oil is contained in the glass bottles with the metal spouts. One year old Bob O'Brien is seated next to the old style gas pump where you had to manually pump the gas.


Bill O'Brien put in long hours at the garage. He opened at 7:30 in the morning and was often there until 9 or 10 at night, seven days a week. This continued until the 1950s when the garage owners in Cloverdale (there were four garages at that time) got together and decided to close on Sundays.


O'Brien's Super Service

This picture is of "O'Brien's Super Service" around 1935. Bill O'Brien is standing near the pumps. The station sold gas, oil and accessories as well as providing general auto repairs. The station was located on the south east corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway (176th Avenue and 58th Street).


Super Service Stationary

This is the letter head of the stationary for "O'Brien's Super Service". William O'Brien proprietor. Note the station had one of Cloverdale's early telephones.


The O'Brien family home was located on King Street (176A Street) on the north side of Broadway (58th Avenue). The home was built for Bill and Hattie, around 1936, by Dan McGowan, a contractor who live in Surrey Centre. The home has been designated one of Cloverdale's heritage homes.


Front of O'Brien's home O'Brien name plate

Side view of the O'Brien home

The O'Brien family lived in it until the mid 1950s when Bob and later Larry left home to marry. Hattie and Bill lived in the home until Bill's death in 1968.

The O'Brien home was strategically located so that when Bill was seated at the kitchen table he could see the gas pumps at the front of the garage. If a customer came in he would bolt up from the table, run over to the garage and service the customer.


The O'Brien family

Bill and Hattie had a second son, Larry, born February the 2nd 1930, 10-1/2 months after Bob. This is a picture of the O'Brien family - Bill, Bob, Larry and Hattie.


Bill and Hattie O'Brien

This is another picture of Bill and Hattie taken in 1957 when they were visiting in Victoria.


Basketball team

Bob and Larry were active in sports - basketball and baseball. The is a picture of a basketball team they both played for. This was around 1945.


Back row: Jock Murie, Bob O'Brien, Reece Temblet, Hank Sullivan, Eldy Porter
Front row: Whitey Severson, Bill Dean, Dave McBeth, Tom Larkin, Larry O'Brien


Hunting party

Both Bob and Larry did a lot of hunting, mainly for pheasants and ducks. Larry was more active in big game hunting; deer, moose and elk. This picture shows Larry, Dick Hornby and PeeWee Kellaway returning from a hunting trip in the Horsefly area of the cariboo in 1951.


Both of the O'Brien boys attended school in Cloverdale. Bob O'Brien attended Lord Tweedsmuir High School in Cloverdale and Duke of Connaught High School in New Westminster. He continued his education at the University of British Columbia and graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Bachelor of Arts. He then went to work in the head office of MacMillan Bloedel in the marketing division. He became the product manager of Panel Board, mainly selling plywood into European markets. Later selling particle board in Canada and Asian markets. Bob worked at MacMillan Bloedel for 43 years and retired from the company in 1995.


Larry O'Brien was quite mechanically inclined so he worked for a while with his dad, Bill, in the garage. Later he sold cars for Keith Beadle Motors in Langley, and for Ed Hamre at Highway Motors in Cloverdale. Larry finally returned to work in the family garage with his dad, where they opened a new car dealership for Chysler and Plymouth.


Bob married Gerrie Sullivan in 1954 and they raised five children. They now have nine grandchildren. Larry married Arlie MacMillan in 1955 and they have two daughters, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.


Bill O'Brien retired from the garage business in 1958 at the age of 65. The business was sold to Bruno Zappone and the building was later demolished.(circa 1973) Bill passed away in 1968.


Larry O'Brien was killed in a accident (Aug. 12, 1974), when working as a volunteer fireman, the tanker truck he was driving skidded off the road and rolled over. Hattie O'Brien passed away in 1979.


Kilbrittain Castle

The O'Briens still have links to Ireland. Bob's cousins, Sylvia and Tim O'Brien still own a castle in Ireland - Kilbrittain Castle - in Kilbrittain, County Cork in southern Ireland.


Front of business block Back of business block

This is the front and the back of the building that presently occupies the former site of O'Brien's Super Service. McMurray, Roberts, Heming and Wyborn; Chartered Accountants operate out of the business block.


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