Always Pack a Candle

A Nurse in the Cariboo-Chilcotin

By (author): Marion McKinnon Crook
ISBN 9781772033625
Softcover | Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Book Dimensions: 6 in. x 9 in.
256 Pages
$22.95 CAD
E-Book Price: $11.99 CAD

About the Book

Winner, 2021 BC Historical Federation’s Community History Book Award

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 more rigorous education in the field than she had at university. 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.

About the Author(s)

Marion McKinnon Crook is a nurse, an educator, and the author of more than twenty-five books, including the bestselling Always Pack a Candle, which won the BC Historical Federation's Community History Book Award. In addition to her nursing degree, McKinnon Crook holds a master's in liberal studies and a PhD in education. Now a full-time writer, she also writes the British Book Tour mystery series under the name of Emma Dakin. She lives on the Sunshine Coast in BC. For more information, visit


"Crook offers up some wildly entertaining stories of serving as a public health nurse ... Highly recommended."
Vancouver Sun
"The strength of Always Pack a Candle is the easy conversational style employed by Crook. More like a novel than a memoir perhaps, but a polished work, attractive to both history buffs and readers of fiction alike."
BC BookWorld
"At its core, history is about storytelling ... Crook effectively employs a literary style that kept me engaged through the entire memoir."
—Sean Graham, host, History Slam Podcast
" engaging read. Presented in a popular style that renders it accessible to a wide audience."
BC Studies
"Although the times were different than today, some experiences remain all too familiar, as the author often must contend with racism, prejudice, and the complications of bureaucratic red tape. She provides a glimpse into the world of 50 years ago, and her upbeat voice offers not only a series of engaging adventures but also some hopeful inspiration, reminding us that the dedicated sense of caring required of a nurse remains as true today as it did then."
BC Books for BC Schools