The Proctor family came from the Wapakoneta, Ohio to Alberta in 1910. Lemuel Proctor and his wife Eudora settled in Keystone, Alberta and had nine children: Charles, Richard, Clyde, Mary, Oceretta, Ronald, Goldie, Bert, and Russell. Lemuel died in 1911 and Eudora in 1928. The Proctor children eventually moved out of Keystone and headed their separate ways.
Charles Proctor, the eldest son, married Jesse Ross and had five children: Norman, Lemuel, Frank, Ida (Addie), and Violet. Frank Proctor lives in Detroit and has two children. Addie lives in Edmonton and has one child. Violet married Albert Briscoe and has five children.
Richard Proctor moved to Edmonton and married Estelle Cowan; they had three daughters: Ruby, Elnora, and Pearl. Estelle’s family came from Kansas to Athabasca in 1910. She taught herself to read, and she enjoyed reading poetry. She was active in Edmonton and participated in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Marcus Garvey Back to Africa Movement, and the Shiloh Baptist Church in Edmonton, where she did much public speaking. In the 1930s, her husband Richard suffered a serious stroke and was incapacitated, leaving her to raise their three daughters on her own. To suport the family, Estelle ran a thriving laundry business during the Great Depression.
Her daughters Ruby, Pearl, and Elnora all ended up in Vancouver. In 1936, Ruby Proctor, the oldest, left Edmonton for Vancouver to study piano and to seek out fame and fortune. Ruby became the first Black woman in Canada to receive an Associate of the Royal Conservatory (ARCT) degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music; this certification, which she achieved with first-class honours, allowed her to become a piano teacher. She started teaching piano and gave music lessons to Chinese children at the downtown YMCA of Vancouver.
After 20 years of teaching, Ruby had the opportunity to hear some very young Japanese violin students while they toured North America. These were the students of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, a philosopher-educator who had an internationally-renowned method of teaching music. Impressed by the control and musicality of Suzuki’s students, Ruby wanted to become directly involved, and, in 1972, she went to Japan to work with Dr. Suzuki. Through the Suzuki School of Music, Ruby went on to train many professional musicians, some of whom gained international fame.
Elnora followed Ruby to Vancouver in 1937 and enjoyed singing as a pastime; she did domestic work to earn an income. Pearl moved to a homestead in Junkins with her mother Estelle. After Estelle's death in 1941, Pearl followed her sisters to Vancouver and pursued a career in theatre. As part of the Totem Theatre and Vancouver’s Theatre Under the Stars, she acted in a variety of plays during the 1950s. She also appeared in various commercials and movies, as a well as in a television special calledCandyman. She was also a member of the CBC Swing Low Quartet and had a starring role in a Vancouver theatre production ofA Raisin in the Sun, which toured in Canada from 1968 to 1974. In the 1980s, Pearl began performing as a jazz vocalist. "Black Cultured Pearl," as she became known, sang with popular jazz artist Wynton Marsalis on his tours to Vancouver in 1985, 1991, and 1999. In 2001, Pearl released a CD with Marsalis called Goin’ Down Home.
Ruby, Elnora, and Pearl each married in 1942. Ruby married Stanley Sneed of Edmonton and they had two daughters: Brenda and Theresa. Elnora married Richard Collins of Vancouver and gave birth to Richard Jr., Barry, Judi, and Thomas. Pearl married Gerald Gordon but divorced him when she decided to move to Vancouver.
In 1945, while in Vancouver, Pearl married Frank Hendrix, Jimi’s Hendrix’s uncle. She had two children with Frank: Robert and Diane Hendrix. That marriage didn’t work out either. After moving to the United States in 1953 to study business, Pearl married Henry Brown in 1962 and had another son, Henry Jr. In 1966, Pearl returned to Vancouver.
Ruby, Elnora, and Pearl had a famous uncle, Bertrand (Bert) Proctor, son of Lemuel and Eudora Proctor. Bert Proctor moved to Edmonton and married Idabel Robison in 1928. The Proctors eventually had seven children.
Bert started out in show business at a young age. He launched his professional career singing for CBC Radio’sHawaiian Serenaders in Edmonton. He later directed a spiritual singing group with three of his nieces. He was also a member of the Musicians’ Union, and arranged his own music.
In 1939, Bert moved from Edmonton to Calgary to work as a sleeping car porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway. As a porter, he would sometimes entertain the passengers with his guitar. Bert played many instruments but the guitar was his favourite, and he taught several of his children to play.
Bert Proctor died in 1983, in Calgary.
Bert Proctor’s musical family became well known in Calgary, where the Proctor children grew up. Hazel Proctor was still a child when she made her public debut at Calgary’s Utopia Club. There she sang at a reception for A. Philip Randolph, the founder and president of the first Black labour union in the United States, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Accompanied by her father, she participated in talent contests for theatre and radio.
By the time Hazel was in junior high, she had won a variety of talent contests for her singing and, during the summer, she was touring, with her family, the rodeo stage show circuit in small towns across Alberta and British Columbia.
The Proctors had a dance combo and floor show. The dance combo was led by Bert with daughter Hazel on vocals, son Arthur on drums, and family friends Rueben Hayes on tenor saxophone and Bob Van Haaren on piano. The floor show featured a number of Proctor family members singing and performing comedy skits and dance routines. The Proctors made their first public appearance at Hazel Proctor’s high school, playing for the annual Operation Western Dance event.
The Proctor Swingsters, as they were later known, performed in venues around Calgary, including petroleum clubs, hotels, dining lounges, and jazz clubs. By the age of 16, Hazel was singing professionally with the Proctor Swingsters, who also made radio and television appearances, including a weekly television show called Old Log Cabin on the CHCT network. The Proctor Swingsters also performed for many benefits and hospitals, as well as for weddings, banquets, private parties, and dance engagements.
Hazel went on to have a successful music career: she has sung for the weekly television show,Soft Sounds of Jazz, and had a five-year engagement at the Beacon Hotel in Calgary. Hazel has sung with Bill Galliardi and with the Stampede City Stompers. For eight years, she was with Big Daddy and the Dixie-Cats and travelled to three Dixieland Jazz festivals across Canada and the United States. In the late 1980s, she became a vocalist with the Dixie Boppers at Cannery Row, in Calgary’s downtown core.