He actually wrote the newspaper article, and I have faithfully transcribed it here;
The Sunday Province, Vancouver, B.C. September 25, 1932.
I was signing my name on the visitors; register―a surprise visit―at the entrance to the Provincial Industrial School for Boys, Coquitlam, when a voice from behind cheerily exclaimed "Well, well look who's here." Turning round, there stood Superintendent D.B. Brankin, late of that muddy ditch "Regina Trench," Somme, where as a sergeant, he narrowly missed being decorated with a D.C.M.
"So you've ousted Veregin from his command"!
"Not wholly true," parried Mr. Brankin, "though I am in charge of ninety-two young Douks." Then he began to tell me the story.
Subtle treatment is rewarded.
"Like most boys, they were a bit unmanageable at first; now they give no trouble. About half are big boys, eighteen and under, the remainder, little fellows. The bigger boys told me when they first came, that they would not work. My response was that I did not want them to; that I had other boys who would do all the work that I wanted done. I told them that when I wanted anything done I would let them know, and I should expect them to do it, but just then I did not want anything.
They next told me they would eat only such food as they wanted to eat. I enquired what food they would like; I would get it for them; but I told them frankly that, if they wanted a special menu, different from that of the other boys, that I would not prepare it for them; they would have to do that themselves. The big boys seemed glad enough to do this, and also promised me to look after the smaller ones; so I set them up in a kitchen of their own. Mrs. Brankin had plenty of food of the kind they asked for put where they could get it.
"You see, they will not eat flesh meat, fish, nor eggs; they want raw vegetables, salads, soups and vegetable oils such as olive oil. They are fond of fruit and sunflower seeds. I must say the bigger boys carried out their promises in a manner satisfactory to me.
Scarecrow job was too much.
"We have been bothered lately with birds eating our crops, so we decided to make some scarecrows, and stand them out in the fields. Then I thought of a better plan. I took the bigger Doukhobor boys out on the farm, stationed them at intervals midst the foliage, with orders to stay there, and shoo the birds away. I told them all they had to do was to stay exactly where they were put, and shoo the birds away; nothing more. They were not to work, nor to wander around. The weather was fine and the sunshine good for them.
"After two or three days, it chanced I was passing by when one of the boys beckoned to me to come to him, so I went over. The boy said, "This is foolish."
"Of course it's foolish," I agreed, "But you don't want to work." The boy answered that they wanted to work, so I told him I would think about it.
Boys at last begged for work.
"That afternoon I was again approached: "When could we start work?" I asked when they wished to start; the answer was, "at once." I promised I would consider it further, but the next day I got some benches and told them to sit down on them, which they did―all day.
"But the following day I told them I had decided they could start. They started at once, have been at it since and work like good boys. They're up at the playground now; come on up, and i'll get them to sing for you."
At the far end of the playground some were playing ball; nearer, others were at marbles. The sun was slowly setting; it would soon be time for them to get to their dormitories, Mr. Brankin called, and a flock of youngsters came running from all directions like chickens to a clucking hen. They ranged themselves into a tightly knitted group; the taller ones in the rear, the shorter in the front.
"Boys," said the superintendent with a smile, "these ladies and gentlemen are from Vancouver. I have been telling them how nicely you can sing. I would like you to sing a song or two for them."
Singing charms the visitors.
There was no hesitation, no accompaniment, no leader, no movement; song just burst forth from well behaved, bareheaded boys, all solemnly singing in splendid rhythm, perfect unison, all save one very little fellow who stood mystified, half hidden midst his taller brethren; shrill alto voices carrying song far over the beautiful grounds resplendent in a mass of flowering blooms. We removed our hats; at the conclusion of each hymn all boys reverently bowed their heads.
First it was the "Volga Boatman," then some hymns. They sang and sang until it seemed they must tire, yet with a willingness which clearly demonstrated them to be happy―as circumstances permitted―and to appreciate the kindness, and tender yet firm discipline under which they live. Their faces showed scarce a smile; faces for boys too solemn, as of children who knew neither laughter nor shouts. At least they ceased, and we went nearer to thank them.
Our words of appreciation were scarcely out of our lips when a chorus of voices exclaimed "You're very welcome, sir." The leading boy singer stepped forward, smiles as we grasped his hand, the group dispersed and straggled off to their sleeping quarters. Even their aversion to marching in fours―a military formation―is respected.
It was a touching, hopeful scene; not without an element of sadness that these little chaps, through no fault of their own, should be separated from those they loved, yet convincingly for their good. An examination of their schoolbooks, lying on their desks, showed evidence of very good penmanship, and skill at freehand drawing.
At the other end of the grounds―the Doukhobor children are treated as a distinct and separate unity―the boys of the Industrial School proper stood "at ease," under their masters, awaiting the proper moment for the proud ceremony of lowering the Union Jack at the close of the day. The boys came to "attention," the bugles blew the "Retreat," Slowly the emblem of our land was lowered, inch by inch; the boys band poured forth the National Anthem. A few sharp commands, "form fours," "quick march," and to "Onward, Christian Soldiers," by the band in front, they marched off to bed; an impressive ceremony, dignified and orderly, features so lacking in the dispersal of the Doukhobor children a few moments previously.
"What do you expect to make of them?" we queried of the superintendent, with our mind to the young Doukhobors.
"Make of them?" responded Mr. Brankin, "well, we have much hope; there's possibilities in most of those boys. But it will take patience and―time."
David Brownwood Brankin
A little background to the story. In the spring of 1932, 600 men and women were convicted for nudity and given three-year prison terms on Pier's Island. 365 children needed to be cared for until their parents were released between October 1934 and July, 1935.
Piers Island: The Doukhobor Period, 1932-1935; By A. Harold Skolrood. A good outline about why the children were incarcerated into care.
Ronald Henry Clarke Hooper "Custodial care of Doukhobor children in British Columbia, 1929-1933,"
(M.S.W. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1947). (not online, unless you have UBC library access.)
Apparently 92 boys were kept at BISCO, ranging in age from 7 to 18. (One of which was under the care of the Mental Hospital.)
Listing of all the children incarcerated,(PDF)
(Note: I counted 95 males between the age of seven and eighteen, in this list.)