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  • 20 Jan 2021 12:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kinsol Trestle with logging train, date unknown. Ralph Morris fonds CVMA 2006.8.2.2

    By Kathryn Gagnon, Curator/Manager, Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives

    Completed in 1920, the Kinsol Trestle is the largest wooden railway bridge in the Commonwealth, offering a spectacular crossing of the Koksilah River. The trestle is notable for both its size and its unusual seven-degree curve.

    Also known as the Koksilah River Bridge, the trestle reminds us of the once powerful forest industry and the ambition and ingenuity required to overcome substantial geographical challenges in the construction of railways.

    The last train crossed the Kinsol Trestle in 1979, and by 2006 the deteriorating bridge was threatened with demolition. The regional government planned to replace it with a simpler, lower-cost structure in order to complete the Cowichan Valley section of the Trans Canada Trail.

    After initiating an independent analysis of the trestle, Gordon Macdonald of Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing presented an alternative to demolition, demonstrating why and how the structure should be saved. Strong public support for the project fuelled the decision to rehabilitate the historical trestle.

    At a sunrise ceremony at the newly restored Kinsol Trestle on July 28, 2011, CN Rail’s senior engineer Ralph Morris, was remembered for his expertise and 30 years of engineering records that contributed to the preservation of the Kinsol Trestle, his favourite of the more than 4,000 wooden trestle bridges in the Western and Mountain Division for which he was responsible. In 2020, the Kinsol Trestle is celebrated as part of Canada’s built heritage.

    The Virtual Museum of Canada exhibit Abandoned, Then Embraced: The Kinsol Trestle was created by the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives and the Shawnigan Lake Museum in 2011.

    Ralph Morris at the Kinsol Trestle, 2006. CVMA

  • 16 Dec 2020 12:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Mark Forsythe

    Photographs have a wonderful power to uncover long-buried memories. While scanning the Bulkley Valley Museum’s Collections Online portal I stumbled across a photo of the Smithers CNR train station that triggered an instant flashback.

    The Smithers CNR Station beneath Hudson Bay Mountain. This is where the author first stepped off the train in 1974 — on a warm spring day.  (Bulkley Valley Museum P1038) 

    It’s where I stepped off the train in 1974 for my first broadcasting job as; a frizzy-haired 19-year old from Ontario with one blue trunk and a guitar. I’d watched the Canadian landscape unfold from my seat thanks to a ticket purchased by my grandparents. Although my time in Smithers was brief — just six months — the town and surrounding valley have never left me. Indeed, the Bulkley Valley Museum’s digital collection allows me to return and learn more about this fascinating region near the geographic heart of our province.  

    BVM curator Kira Westby reports that visits to Collections Online have consistently grown since its launch three years ago. Another uptick came with the Covid-19 pandemic.

    “It’s all about facilitating community access. Having the site has been phenomenal for remote researchers, or for folks who are looking to learn more about the collection.”

    Some 8,000 archival and catalogue records are banked online, thanks to financial assistance from the Library & Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Program and the Wetzin’k’wa Community Forest Corporation. AndorNot Consulting helped develop the site.   

    Hudson Bay Mountain reflected in Lake Kathlyn. Postcard circa 1930s.  (Bulkley Valley Museum P4309) 

    Kira says the portal has produced other benefits. “It provides a great way for us to show donors that the items that they gave to us are available to the public. Especially for photographs or artifacts, the donors enjoy knowing that the items they gave are accessible, that people can view them, even if they aren’t immediately integrated into a traditional exhibit.”  

    Bulkley Valley Museum, with its full- time staff of two, continues to upload new maps, plans, and documents. A PDF reader with the ability to search is a welcome addition: “That’s been a huge bonus for research, even sometimes revealing things to staff. For example, if we search the website for a specific name, and find out that they’re mentioned in a yearbook or newspaper we’ve uploaded, that’s new information we may not have known previously.” 

    Searching through Collections Online let me revisit places I experienced 45 years ago, such as Glacier Gulch Trail with its jaw-dropping views of the Twin Falls pouring off Hudson Bay Mountain. It was my first hike as a newcomer.

    A little further west at Widzin Kwah (formerly Moricetown), I had watched a young man gaff salmon; a thin rope tied around his waist was the only thing keeping him from being swallowed by the roaring Widzin Kwah Canyon. Little did I know that the Wetʼsuwetʼen people had fished in this exact spot for millennia. (Today, the Widzin Kwah Canyon House Museum conveys the story for visitors.)  

    The Bulkley River is squeezed into a narrow canyon at Moricetown (Widzin Kwah) where Witsuwit’en have fished salmon for thousands of years. (Bulkley Valley Museum P1032) Written on the back of photo taken at Hagwilget:  “First bridge over Hagvilget canion Bulkley River; built by the indians, using telegraph wire from the Trans Sibirian Telegraph Line.”  Also known as the Collins-Overland Telegraph, the line was abandoned before  completion in 1867 when the transatlantic cable  successfully  linked North America with Europe. Part of the telegraph trail was later used for the Yukon Telegraph, an All-Canadian route built during the Klondike gold rush. (Bulkley Valley Museum P5241) 

    Settler culture moved into the valley with construction of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1913. Smithers, a divisional point, was named after its chairman, Sir Alfred Waldron Smithers, a British financier and politician said to fish with an assistant at his side who baited his hook. The first GTR passenger train rolled through in March 1914, however, the railway went broke following the Great War, and was later absorbed by the Canadian National Railway. Much of the Smithers story is found in Lynn Sherville’s popular 1981 book, Smithers: From Swamp to Village, written to celebrate its 60th anniversary. It is now out of print, but available through Collections Online.  

    Wetʼsuwetʼen people helped build the railway and clear the townsite. As Tyler McCreary notes in his BCHF Lieutenant Governor Medal-winning book, Shared Histories: Witsuwit’en–Settler Relations in Smithers, British Columbia, 1913–1973, “Wetsuwit’en [sic] have rarely been noted as town founders and often treated as interlopers.” The book reveals much about this often painful history, and the museum’s archives were critical to the story. 

    Ned Charleson (second from right) ran packs trains into remote areas, including cabins strung along the Yukon Telegraph line. Charleson was killed during the Great War. The man on the far right is Charlie Sterritt, grandfather of Indigenous leader Neil Sterritt (1941-2020) whose book  Mapping My Way Home: A Gitxsan History  won the Roderick-Haig Brown Award and a BCHF book prize in 2017. This photo appears in the book.  (Bulkley Valley Museum P7087) 

    Kira Westby says the museum gets about 90 requests a year for research assistance, but the connection to this project was deeper than most:  “Our archivist was processing a ten-year backlog of material that had never been catalogued, and was actively identifying new photos or document collections that were of interest to the project as it was developing. We were nominated for a BC Museums Association Award of Merit for Excellence in Community Engagement for our contributions.”  

    There’s more to come, including a permanent exhibit and a growing relationship with the Wetʼsuwetʼen. “It is very important to us to reflect the diversity of our region, and we continue to build our relationship with the Wetʼsuwetʼen community, from acknowledging the territory at our events, to having Wetʼsuwetʼen representation on our board of directors.” 

    Bulkley Valley Museum’s Collections Online presents the online explorer with many intriguing detours a.k.a. rabbit holes): There’s architect Francis Rattenbury’s land speculation in the Bulkley Valley, telegraph trails slashed through the bush to the Yukon, Cataline’s famous mule trains — even the invention of the egg carton by local newspaperman Joseph Coyle.  

    Joseph Coyle was a  Bulkley Valley newspaperman who saw the need to prevent eggs from breaking during transport from a local ranch to the hotel, so he invented the egg carton. Photo: Coyle at the Los Angeles egg carton factory in 1924. (Bulkley Valley Museum P1539)

    The current pandemic may restrict our travels to B.C.’s communities and museums, but the impressive evolution of digital resources like Collections Online gets us all a lot closer. Happy trails! 

    Reproduction copies of images from the Bulkley Valley Museum’s collection are available for personal or publication use. Find Collections Online at

  • 8 Dec 2020 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Crowd waving to Japanese Canadians interned during the Second World War departing on Greyhound bus, New Denver, mid-1940s. Arrow Lakes Historical Society 2012.003.289

    The Arrow Lakes owe a debt of gratitude to the photographic foresight of a former Paldi mill hand. Ichiro Shiino left a legacy in film, chronicling the industrial and social life of Nakusp and its environs over several decades. Born in Cumberland in 1915, Shiino (nicknamed Ichi or Ichon) worked in his youth for Mayo Brothers Timber Co. at Paldi, where he and friend Masanobu Kawahira began documenting everyday life with their cameras.

    In 1942, at age 27, he was interned along with thousands of other Japanese Canadians at Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley. Internees were forbidden from possessing cameras, but Shiino managed to take photos anyway. He also used his artistic abilities to render realistic charcoal portraits of film stars. He began working for the Big Bend Lumber Co. at Nakusp in 1943, first as a faller, then in its sawmill. After Celgar purchased and shut the mill down, he became a tugboat operator for the company and excelled in that position for nearly 20 years, until his retirement in 1980. In 2014, a rebuilt Celgar tugboat was dubbed the MV Ichiro Shiino.

    All the while he was seldom without his Rolleiflex camera that produced 2.5-inch (6.35-cm) square negatives, developed in his own darkroom. Although it was strictly a hobby for him, Shiino took thousands of photos and became Nakusp’s pre-eminent photographer. He was frequently asked to take pictures at graduations, weddings, and other community celebrations. Shiino also embraced video. His Super 16mm footage shows July 1 parades, tugboat operations, and the life of the Big Bend sawmill, among other.

    Ed Desrochers of Nakusp at bat, New Denver-Nakusp baseball game, rec grounds, Nakusp Recreation Park, 1951. Arrow Lakes Historical Society 2012.003.64

    Crowd gathered around scene of automobile accident, New Denver area, circa 1940s. Arrow Lakes Historical Society 2012.003.323

    In 1954, Shiino was on hand to chronicle the final sailing of the venerable CPR sternwheeler SS Minto in photographs and 16mm colour film. Many of his most valuable images were taken prior to the completion of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam in 1968, which flooded the Arrow Lakes valley, forcing the relocation of entire communities.

    Shiino died in 1999, but his images live on. The Arrow Lakes Historical Society has made 1,349 of them available on its website while 20 of his silent colour films from the 1950s and ’60s can be viewed at UBC Okanagan’s Kootenay Columbia Digitized History site.

    Crowd gathered on Canadian Pacific Railway wharf at Upper Arrow Lake, Nakusp to bid farewell to SS Minto on its final run, April 24, 1954. Arrow Lakes Historical Society 2012.003.415

    Celgar tug crew member John Swanson feeds bear cub on shore near Vipond Creek, Upper Arrow Lake, circa late 1950s–early 1960s. Tug Vanstone in background. Arrow Lakes Historical Society 2012.003.761

    To mark what would have been Shiino’s 100th birthday in 2015, the Arrow Lakes Historical Society’s Kyle Kusch produced a 60-minute slideshow entitled Ichi100, which is available on DVD.

    “Ichiro’s work touched generations of Nakusp residents,” Kusch says. “It’s still common to walk into someone’s house and, if they’re of a certain age, find a photo taken by him framed on the wall or mantle. Not only do people here still remember his work, they above all remember his kindness and humility.”

    Last year, 13 of Shiino’s charcoal portraits were donated to the Nakusp Museum, which prompted an exhibit combining his drawings and photos entitled The Art and Life of Ichiro Shiino.

    “We knew that having these portraits in our collection is an honour,” says curator Melissa Koftinoff. “We wanted to showcase Ichi as an artist while acknowledging the painful backstory of the Japanese internment in the Slocan Valley.”

    Koftinoff says those who knew Shiino emphasize his generosity and how they valued his friendship. “Part of Ichiro’s legacy is the preservation of memory through art and part is the positive impact he had on people in this community.”

    Greg Nesteroff is a director with the Arrow Lakes Historical Society and BC Historical Federation

    Teenage boys playing marbles on steps of Masonic Building, Nakusp, late 1940s or early 1950s. L-R: George Bedard, Fred Desrochers, Ed Desrochers, Doug Hakeman. Arrow Lakes Historical Society 2012.003.1322

    Children posing inside Nakusp Public Library, then located in Parish Hall (Small Hall), Nakusp, February 1952. L-R: Carol Gregory, Hiro Yanagisawa, Lynn Smith, Stephen Baird, Donna McIntosh, Brian Hoshizaki. Arrow Lakes Historical Society 2012.003.317

  • 13 Sep 2020 12:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Mark Forsythe travels through BC, and back in time, exploring the unique work of British Columbia Historical Federation members.

    Langley Heritage Society president Fred Pepin. Photo: Mark Forsythe

    Time itself seems to have ground to a halt. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people and organizations to take stock, and imagine a path forward. Over the last two years, Time Travels has highlighted the exceptional work of British Columbia Historical Federation members in the Slocan, Similkameen, Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island. The column hopes to profile members in other regions of BC, but for now, I remain closer to home in Fort Langley.  

    Kwantlen, Katzie, Matsqui, and Semiahmoo peoples have lived here for thousands of years. The Hudson’s Bay Company planted palisades for a fur trading post in 1827, and the Fort Langley area became the first pocket of Colonial settlement in the Lower Mainland. After the Fraser River gold rush ignited in 1858, the Colony of British Columbia was proclaimed here as thousands of American miners jumped in the chase.

    Nearby Derby was Governor James Douglas’s choice for the first Mainland capital, until Colonel Richard Moody and the Royal Engineers opted for higher ground across the river at New Westminster. If you paddle on the nearby Bedford Channel you can almost hear these voices echoing off the water. 

    When my retirement from CBC Radio approached a few years ago, Langley Heritage Society president Fred Pepin invited me to join its board. It has an impressive record. Over the last 40 years, dozens of houses, barns, and churches have been spared the wrecker’s ball because of the society’s efforts.

    Many buildings had been vandalized or faced demolition, and today they remain standing and highly useful. Successful conservation grew from a spirit of collaboration with municipal governments, businesses, parks authorities, educational institutions and dedicated volunteers.

    Today, the the society maintains and manages nine buildings, each home to a caretaker tenant. (One outbuilding has been turned into a cat sanctuary.) The Society has crafted a remarkable legacy, one nail at a time, and it is the vision of those first volunteers that must be recognized.  

    Trunk belonging to the first British war bride to arrive in Langley following the Second World War, Lois Bowling, on display at the CN Station. Mark Forsythe photo

    The first project (with a local arts council) was restoration of Michaud House, home to the first Francophone family to settle on Langley Prairie. Others followed, including the Lamb/Stirling House and Harrower House at Murrayville in the mid-1990s.

    Fred Pepin remembers the ripple effect it had in the neighbourhood, ”you could see the difference down the street, people started cleaning up their houses. In six months the street looked totally different…the impact was enormous.”

    At nearby Milner, Judy Lamb-Richardson’s great-grandparents operated the Dixon dairy farm during the First World War era. Nine years ago the house and barn were restored in partnership with the Township of Langley, prompting this message from Judy: “I don’t know if whomever was involved had ever thought during the restoration process how much that act would mean to the generations coming after to have the opportunity to touch the hands of their ancestors. There are no words to tell you how much I appreciate this.”  

    Fred Pepin led that restoration. The original stained-glass windows and various fixtures had been stolen from the house, and the barn was one windstorm away from collapsing. The two-year restoration earned an Award of Honour from Heritage BC.

    Volunteerism is in Fred’s DNA. He has spearheaded restoration work in historic Milner, Murrayville, Langley Prairie, Sperling, Willoughby, Aldergrove, and Fort Langley for decades. Named a Freeman of the Municipality by the Township of Langley, he also received an Award of Merit from the BCHF. Now in his 80s, Fred still crawls beneath buildings to patch leaking pipes and volunteers with the BC Farm Museum and sits on Township’s Heritage Advisory Committee. He’s called “Mr. Heritage” for good reason. 

    The society’s most-visited building is a gem — the 1915 Fort Langley CN Station restored by volunteers beginning in 1983. Built by Canadian Northern Railway, it is one of the last Class 3 stations standing; it is owned by the Township of Langley and operated by the Langley Heritage Society. For decades, Bays Blackhall was its biggest promoter and protector. She was also a feisty advocate for local heritage and landscape conservation, and the Society initiated a high-school scholarship in her honour following her death in 2017. 

    The CN Station sits in the heart of the village and has become one of Fort Langley’s most frequented sites. It includes a 1920s wooden caboose (with a marvelous model railway) and a 1940s passenger car. Last summer a short dramatic production called Wheels of Time was launched in collaboration with the Creative Compass Society, a non-profit that mentors young people in the arts. It tells more of the CN Station story, and life in Fort Langley.

    At the time of writing, the CN Station remains closed, but exciting work continues behind the scenes and out front in the historic gardens. Our station manager Helen Williams and her army of volunteers can hardly wait to show you. 

    Heritage gardens at Fort Langley CN Station. Photo: Mark Forsythe

    An evening stroll on the platform at the Fort Langley CN Station. Photo: Mark Forsythe

    Cast from the Wheels of Time production performed on the platform at the CN Station. Photo: Mark Forsythe

    For information and videos highlighting restored buildings visit: The CN Station is located at the corner of Mavis and Glover in Fort Langley.

  • 1 May 2020 1:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BC Historical Federation Vice-President Mark Forsythe caught up with the 2019 Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing prize winning author Michael Layland to discuss his book “In Nature’s Realm: Early Naturalists Explore Vancouver Island” (Touchwood Editions, 2019).

    A celebration of the richly diverse flora and fauna of Vancouver Island as explored through the records of explorers, settlers, and visitors, and with due respect to the wealth of Indigenous traditional knowledge of the island’s ecosystems. In Nature’s Realm gathers initial reports, recorded histories, and personal accounts left by Vancouver Island’s early naturalists who studied the region’s flora and fauna.

  • 28 Mar 2020 12:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Spring 2020 issue of British Columbia History features a story on haiku poetry written in the Tashme Japanese-Canadian interment camp. Here is a gallery of recent images of Tashme that we did not have room for in the magazine, courtesy Jacquie Pearce.

    For more information about Tashme, see the Tashme Historical Project website at and the Tashme Project play at The play has references to the playwright’s grandfather, who wrote haiku in Tashme and wrote haiku.

    Site of internment housing

    Barn interior


    Tashme Museum

    Tashme, February 2019

    Tashme, February 2019

    Stop-of-interest sign, erected 2017

    Stop-of-interest sign, erected 2017

  • 14 Dec 2019 12:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The following story by Dayle Sheridan takes place at Sweetwater school in 1949, during her second teaching assignment, and was included in her Christmas letter this year. Our thanks to Dawn Klassen for sharing it with us.

    Dayle Sheridan during her teaching days.

    The place was Sweetwater School. It was 17 miles north of Dawson Creek on the Alaska Highway and three miles due east toward the old highway abandoned during World War II because the U.S. needed access to the USSR through the nearest outpost state, Alaska.

    Sweetwater School served the settlers of the pre-war days, but was still needed for the tag-end families of those pioneers. 

    It was an old log building when I arrived, but still good for a few more years.

    It was a one-room school and the teacher was expected to teach all grades from I to VIII if that were necessary, though it wasn’t always necessary. I think there were only Grades IV to VIII that year, with about 11 pupils attending.

    When I arrived, there was nowhere for the teacher to stay, so a teacherage had to be brought in. That took a week, so I had to stay with the neighbouring teacher about four miles away.

    My teacherage could not have been more than 12 x 12 feet at the most — if that. It was built of wood, but with no insulation, regardless of the very sub-zero temperatures for most of the winter.

    A cord of wood was hauled into the school yard and piled against a wall of the teacherage. There was no source of water there, indeed, the water definitely would have been sweet had you found any!

    For the school, blocks of ice had to be cut from the Peace River and stored in the ice-house which was filled with sawdust to stop it from melting. Still, by the beginning of school in September, almost all the ice had vanished, and somehow, we slumped along until about mid-October when the snow began to fly again. After that, until spring our water-supply was no problem.

    I don’t recall where the paper to start the fire came from. But, the fire was definitely made. I would hop out of bed in the freezing temperature, quickly stuff the paper in the stove, pile the prepared kindling on top of it with a couple of sticks of wood, fly back to bed, get under the covers, and stay there until the one room warmed up.

    I don’t recall what breakfast was like. I’m sure I would have had no milk for porridge, certainly no eggs, and I can’t imagine the luxury of coffee. 

    The closest neighbours around were an old bachelor and his housekeeper, about a half-mile down the road. (I don’t think I ever went there). The rest were a mile out or more in a great circle around me.

    The Coopers were three miles to the north, the Wallaces four miles to the northwest, the Myhres lived to the east four miles, the Parodoskis three miles to the southeast and the Belzuiks four miles to the west, beyond the Alaska Highway.

    Regardless of the temperatures, the pupils showed up. David and Vern Belzuik would arrive at 8 each morning, in spite of temperatures down in the -30s or -40s, though when the temperature got down to -40′, the pupils were not legally required to come to school.

    When the temperatures were low, the scarves around the mouths of the children were covered with hoar frost, their lashes, and any bits of hair showing, were thickly frosted as well.

    Sweetwater School was my most difficult assignment, but always my most memorable one. I was surrounded by great wheat fields, both productive and fallow — and little else except miles of isolation and long, straight roads which led out to the store or highway or up through miles of wilderness.

    I often think, now of those places of isolation and wonder if I could endure them again. Yet I and a lot of other young teachers didn’t seem to even worry about these details that would probably not happen these days.

    Such were these pioneer teachers. Many of them, of course, were brought up in similar conditions, and so had learned to cope with the hardships they encountered.

    Fall came and went. I survived on juice for my water.

    Finally the snows came, and life settled down to some resemblance of normality.

    Christmas was approaching and there was the usual school concert to prepare for. That happened toward the end of November and occupied hours of time, rehearsing and practicing. Concerts are exhaustive work, especially on top of regular school work. I was very much looking forward to getting home for Christmas.

    Not long before I was planning to leave for the holidays, I received a letter from Mom saying that Dad was sick. He had been plagued with asthma for years, so this was not a surprise. It was also the time before Medicare, so I wrote home and said that I would send my travel money home and then Dad could go to the hospital.

    All the holiday plans were scrapped, and I prepared to spend Christmas alone in the teacherage. I was disappointed, of course, but I adjusted and simply focused on the upcoming concert.

    Just before school closing for the holidays, a letter came form home saying they would rather have me than my money. But it seemed too late to change my plans again, so I simply put Christmas out of my mind.

    The concert happened on the night before the holidays. It was about 2½ hours long. We had all given it our all, and I felt good as I heard the sounds of the horse’s harnesses fade into the semi-darkness of the northern lights.

    Then came the following morning. I rose, as usual, lit the wood fire, hopped back to my bed until the room warmed up enough to get up, get my breakfast and prepare for the day.

    The inside of the teacherage looked like a casket. There was the thick, smooth frost on the inside of the windows and doors. Silence was everywhere, of course, inside and outside. I made sure I had plenty of kindling and wood indoors. Then I settled in front of my open oven, I sat on a chair, put my feet in the open oven and began to read a book. I think I was doing fine up to that point.

    When it snows in the northern wilderness, the silence can be overwhelming. Everything is soft and very quiet. As one writer once described it, “The silence is so overpowering, you want to go outside and yell at it, just to make a noise!” and that is just how it was.

    As I sat reading, I was suddenly aware that my whole body was going stiff. I couldn’t move my arms or my legs. The only thing that was moving was my mind, and it was telling me in words I could not agree with. “You better get out of here now or you may never get out!” It was a command and I knew it was true. The casket had already been prepared and it was obvious I would be next!

    I tried to get up, but it was difficult. Neither arms nor legs would move of their own accord. I literally had to peel them and move them as best I could.

    I managed to get off the chair and get to the dresser where my clothes were stored. I did the necessary packing and was soon ready to leave. I had no idea what was going to happen once I got outside the door. All I knew was that get outside the door I must. What happened after that I knew not. By this time it was early afternoon.

    I had just closed the door behind me and was preparing to make my way through the unploughed snow to the road, when who should come along but Larry, the younger son of the woman who lived in the midst of the woods with the woodcutter.

    Larry was going out to the store on the Alaska Highway where I needed to go to get the bus to Fort St. John, about 40 miles away, where I could take a plane to Edmonton, then home! What an absolute god-send! It would have taken me hours to walk through the snow to the highway. That would have been late. Traffic on that old highway was scarce. There may have been no one else travelling that road that day!

    How would I have gone to Fort St. John? It was the North. Dark happened early, and along with it, the cold. The gods must have been on hand that day. By sheer luck I was able to get the afternoon bus to Fort St. John. I was sure it was already Christmas Eve, so I would have had to get a hotel that night and fly out on Christmas morning.

    I can no longer remember the details of that date, but I got to Edmonton (or was it Calgary?), and from there I took the train to Notch Hill, our railway town, where Dad met me and took me home.

    I missed Christmas Day, of course, but at least I escaped freezing to death in my spacious casket. Had I not, I don’t know when I would have been found. Certainly not until school opened in the New Year. Almost no one would have passed by the school and if they had, would they have stopped in — especially if there was no smoke coming form the stove-pipe? Since I was not sure I would be escaping for Christmas, it is not likely anyone else would either.

    My plight was probably not too different from many of the northern wilderness teachers. Stories of young school teachers in those very isolated rural communities were common and yet I am not aware of the people there showing too much concern. Maybe the incidents of such cases were more common than I realized.

    A lot of new teachers to the North never came back to their own homes. They stayed and married the young farm boys. It was an easy thing to do. The shortage of both males and females was always a chronic problem, so if you didn’t want to become a young pioneer’s wife (or even an old one!) it was hazardous to go North!

    And so, such is a slice of what could happen in earlier days.

    This sort of thing comes with the building of a new nation and these stories are very easy to get lost — because who is there to keep the pot boiling with Canada’s early tales?

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