“It was good coffee. A man with big feet could walk on it.”

In the late 1800s, in an effort to increase production, steam technology began to replace horse and oxen in the logging industry.  Until diesel machinery began to be in use in the 1940s, steam donkeys could be seen all over the Pacific Northwest.  They were mounted on log sleds and could be towed from one area to another on floats.  Steam donkeys were versatile machines that could be used for yarding, hauling and loading logs.

One of the lesser known uses of the steam donkey was also the highligmcr018981ht of many a loggers’ day – donkey boiler coffee.  Arthur “Bill” Mayse, who told his story to Jeanette Taylor shortly before his death, recalled fondly waiting for the engineer to blow his whistle at eleven thirty signalling lunch break.  “Woooo woo – one long and one short – and that meant lunch time.  So everyone would drop their gloves and head for the donkey engine.”

The fireman who stoked the fires of the engine, was responsible for making the coffee.  “He would take a great big lard pail, one of the great big storage pails that holds two or three gallons of water, off a hook and he’d reach for what he called his injector hose.”  The injector hose was a high pressure hose filled with steam from the donkey boiler.  “He’d take the injector homcr005518se and whoosh, he’d send a big jet of hot steam into it and would bring it right from cold to boiling in nothing flat.  Then the important thing, he’d take about two pounds of coffee, which is quite a lot of coffee, and he’d dump it into this furiously boiling water.  Then he’d take what they called the slice bar, one of the steel pokers that they used for poking up the fire in the firebox, and he’d hang his pail with his coffee makings on one end of the slice bar and he’d ram it right into the white-hot donkey boiler.  He’d hold it there for a while and let it have a good bubble, good boil.  Then he’d set the pail on the donkey deck and he’d grab another of these bags of cold water, drinking water, and he’d pour about two quarts in the coffee; that was to settle it down.  And then the coffee was ready for drinking.”

The loggers would gather around the steam donkey and each grab an empty tobacco can.  “They’d take a dip into the big steaming bucket of coffee and get about a half-pound can of coffee, which is quite a lot.  And then there’d be canned milk, “canned cow” we called it, and sugar in bags and we’d fix our coffee the way we wanted it.”

The loggers would then find a place to sit and open up their nose bags, which is what they called their brown bagged lunches, and settle in for lunch with their sandwiches, pie and coffee.

“It was good coffee.  A man with big feet could walk on it.  It was the best coffee I ever tasted in my life, even if you did have to fish bits of burnt twig and charcoal out of it mcr005156every now and then.  But it had a taste, I think maybe from the quick, really savage boil in the white hot steam that no other coffee anywhere else ever got, so we loved it.”

An Empire Steam Donkey manufactured in 1916 can be seen at the entrance to the Museum at Campbell River.  This fully restored donkey will be fired up for Canada Day at 11:30am and the public is invited to bring their nose bags for a picnic on the Museum grounds, and join us for a sip of coffee in honour of the loggers of the past who once gathered around the steam donkey for this daily ritual.

Sonora and Thurlow Islands Boat Tour with the Museum a Favourite with Guests

This summer treat yourself to some time on the water with a boat tour with the Museum at Campbell River and Discovery Marine Safaris.  One of our most popular tours is the cruise to Sonora and the Thurlow Islands, with a stop for lunch at Dent Island Lodge.  This cruise departs from Kelsey Bay, where guests are brought by bus from Campbell River, and explores East and West Thurlow Islands, and the northern portion of Sonora Island on board one of Discovery Marine Safaris comfortable boats.2014 Sonora (23)

Located 1.6km from the village of Sayward, the Port of Kelsey Bay was the home of Salmon River Logging in the late 1930s.  Years later it was the location of the southern terminus of the BC Ferries Inside Passage Route.  Visible from Kelsey Bay is Hardwicke Island.  Named by Captain Vancouver after Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, Hardwicke Island has been home to the Bendickson family since the arrival of Norweigan logger H.A. Bendickson in 1918.

The Thurlow Islands were logged with oxen in the 1880s, and mining for gold, copper and iron began in the 1890s.  According to local lore the first steam locomotive used for logging in BC was used on the Thurlow Islands.  A hub of activity at the end of the 1800s was Shoal Bay on the northern shore of East Thurlow.  In 1913 a one-room school house was opened and a government wharf was built.  It was a regular stop for Union Boats and settlers from neighbouring islands would row over to get their mail.

Sonora Island was named after a Spanish exploring vessel, the Sonora, which sailed out of San Blas Mexico in 1775, bound for the Northwest Coast.  The trip was plagued with difficulties, and by the time the ship reached Dixon Entrance only Quadra and Maurelle, the ships officers, were still on their feet.  The two men managed to sail the ship back to Mexico on their own.2014 Sonora (6)

Dent Island Lodge is a favourite lunch spot with guests.  Described as “luxury in the wilderness” they have a reputation for preparing exceptional meals in a spectacular setting.

Explore Telegraph Cove, Sointula and Alert Bay with the Museum at Campbell River

For the more adventurous traveler the Museum at CampbeDSCN0222ll River is offering an overnight trip to explore Telegraph Cove, Sointula and Alert Bay.  The trip departs from Campbell River on Saturday afternoon with a Museum guide joining you right from the beginning to explain points of interest on the trip north.  Guests check into cabins at Telegraph Cove and then are free to explore the area and have dinner.  The cabins themselves are a point of interest – each of them has a story about the previous inhabitants, most of whom were employees of the sawmill that was in operation at Telegraph Cove throughout the 1930s to 1950s.  They have, of course, been restored and are complete with modern conveniences.

DSCN0241Saturday evening is a presentation and tour of the Whale Interpretive Museum at Telegraph Cove. While there, don’t forget to look up to get the full force of just how big a whale is!

Breakfast Sunday morning is at the Seahorse Café, at which point you board a boat to cruise over to Sointula on Malcolm Island.   Sointula was a Finnish settlement and the name means “Place of Harmony” in Finnish.  In 1901 they arrived with the intention of setting up a utopian socialist society.  The utopian ideal may not have thrived, but the settlers remained and have built and maintained a lovely community rich in history and natural splendor. You will visit the lovely Sointula Museum at this stop. You can either catch a ride up to the Museum or take the opportunity to stretch your legs on the short walk over.

IMGP0757The next stop on the boat cruise is Alert Bay on Cormorant Island.  Alert Bay is a remarkable aboriginal cultural destination, rich in history and cultural tradition.  The highlight of this stop is a tour of the U’mista Cultural Centre and the Potlach mask collection on display there. You will also be treated to lunch at the Museum.

Mid-afternoon you will return to Telegraph Cove and board the bus back to Campbell River.

See Spectacular Desolation Sound on a Historic Boat tour with the Museum at Campbell River

Spectacular fjords, mountains and wildlife are what most people think of when they hear the name Desolation Sound.  On the Historic Boat Cruise to Desolation Sound with the Mus2009-01-01 04.18.31eum at Campbell River and Discovery Marine Safaris you will encounter all of that, and also have the opportunity to delve into the region’s rich history.

The boat tour leaves Campbell River, cruises past Quadra Island and its iconic lighthouse built in 1898.  Guests will then have the opportunity to view Mitlenatch Island, a wildlife sanctuary that houses the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia.  It is not unusual in this area to see not only birds, but other wildlife such as sea lions and seals.

Soon you’ll be passing Hernando Island, a private island with beautiful sandy beaches, as well as the Twin Islands, which were at one time owned by German royalty. LundHotelBW

Just north of Powell River is the community of Lund.  The trip stops here at the historic Lund Hotel.  Established by the Thulin Brothers in the 1890s, who would then go on to open the Willows Hotel in Campbell River, this hotel has been renovated and provides the ideal stop for lunch.

After lunch the tour heads towards Teakerne Arm and Lewis Channel.  Teakerne Arm is known for the stunning Cassel Falls that is located within Teakerne Arm Provincial Park.  This park is located on West Redonda Island.

After passing through the 2009-01-01 05.10.06north end of Lewis Channel, you will start to return towards Campbell River, passing between Read and Cortes Islands.

Tour the Thurlow Islands with the Museum

One of the boat tours being offered this season is a tour of the Thurlows, with a lunch stop at Blind Channel Resort.  The Thurlow Islands consist of two islands, East Thurlow and West Thurlow.  They owe their early development to logging, mining and fishing.  Logging began on East Thurlow as the stands of timber in the lower mainland were being used up. Companies like Hastings Mill out of Langley, BC were searching for areas to expand into.  As early as 1880, Hastings Mill made Bickley Bay on East Thurlow Island their regional headquarters.  Further development was curtailed, however, when gold was discovered in nearby Shoal Bay, also on East Thurlow.

In 1884, the first stake was claimed and by 1890, the gold rush was on.  This attracted a large number of prospectors and development.  By 1897, there were two stores and two hotels.  That same year Shoal Bay became incorporated as a town and the Union Steamships were stopping by four times a weekThe plans for a township never developed however, DSCN7920and today, all that remains at Shoal Bay is a privately owned lodge and seasonal residences.  Even the famous store pictured here had to be dismantled in 2008.

The government dock is still in good shape and today, pleasure boaters have replaced the working population and the Union Steamships which both left the area in the late 1950s.

The two Thurlows are separated by Mayne Passage, and West Thurlow lies to the northwest. On the south side of the island, location of present day Blind Channel Resort, a sawmill was built in 1910, then by 1918 it disappeared and was replaced by a cannery.

In ’Guide to Blind Channel’, Phil Richter says: “The visitor to the area today, might find it difficult to imagine the activity which existed here within less than onDSCN7938e lifetime.”  He goes on to say that the area attracted people looking for opportunity and an independent way of life.  An independent way of life was what attracted the Richter family to Blind Channel in 1969, and by 1970, they had sold their home in Vancouver and purchased the property and existing store there.  The family consisted of parents Edgar and Annemarie, sons Philip, Alfred and Robert and grandparents William and Therese.  They developed the location into a thriving resort, complete with a first class dining room, general store with a liquor licence and post office; washroom and laundry facilities, and mooring and fuel for boats.

Travellers to the area quickly discover the excellent homemade bread sold in the store and admire the unique artwork created by Annemarie Richter that is comprised of items she collected on local beaches; bits of crockery, jewellery and seashells.

For the tours of the Discovery Islands, the Museum partners with Discovery Marine Safaris, a local wildlife tour operator.  Passengers are taken out on comfortable, heated aluminum boats equipped with toilets.  The four to five hour trips also include a lunch at Blind Channel Resort’s Cedar Post Restaurant.  The restaurant is known for using fresh local ingredients to create delicious meals for their guests.

Experience Bute Inlet on the Homalco Cultural Tour

From the distinctive milky blue glacier fed waters to the vertical shoreline that stretches from sea to sky, a trip to Bute Inlet is not soon forgotten.  The traditional lands of the Homalco First Nations, Bute is one of several long deep fjords whIMG_0002ich cuts into B.C.’s coastal mountain range.  This summer’s schedule of Historic Boat Tours will include three trips to Orford Bay, located midway up this scenic Inlet.

Given the name Bute Inlet in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver it was named after John Stuart, the Third Earl of Bute, whose grandson was serving aboard Vancouver’s boat Discovery. In the late 1880’s Bute seemed to be destined to play an instrumental role in the early history of the Colony of British Columbia.  Entrepreneur Alfred Waddington had ambitious plans, which eventually failed, to build a wagon road from the head of Bute Inlet to the Cariboo goldfields.

On board one of the Discovery Marine Safari vessels this tour sets off from Campbell River’s government wharf and is a chance to visit an area rich in history and known for its spectacular scenery. During the two hour trip to Orford Bay one of the Museum’s historical interpreters is on board to point out sites of historical significance along the way.

Upon reaching Orford Bay passengers are met by members of the Homalco Band paddling their Salish inspired canoe to greet the boat.   The cultural program for the onshore portion of the tour has been developed by Homalco Wildlife Tours and involves a number of Homalco youth interpreters.  From the Homalco Band’s perspective this program is part of an initiative to reconnect their youth with their cultureIMG_0037 and traditional lands. The enthusiasm of the youth involved is one of the many highlights of the onshore activities.

Orford Bay is the site of one of the Homalco’s winter villages. Located midway up Bute Inlet it is one of the few spots in the Inlet that is protected from the Bute winds. The topography of the inlet is such that the wind can be blowing in different directions at the same time on opposite sides of the inlet.  Bute’s outflow winter winds are particularly ferocious and can blow for days at a time at speeds gusting over 100 km/h. The severity and force of the Bute winds is known by the Homalco as Xwoxw.

The first stop after disembarking from the boat is the Orientation Centre which features information about this winter village as well as the history and culture of the Homalco people. Other on-shore   activities include an opportunity to join in a cedar weaving workshop atop one of the bear observation platforms and weather permitting, paddle the canoe in the bay. The visit concludes with a traditional seafood dinner enjoyed outside on a large deck.

Outstanding scenery at every turn, with exceptional hosts, this trip provides a glimpse into Homalco history and culture.


“For the most on the coast, shop at Del’s”

by Erika Anderson, Museum at Campbell River

Before the proliferation of modern fast food restaurants with their “drive-through” came the more social and certainly less rushed version, the “drive-in” restaurant.  An automobile culture was emerging across North America.   At drive-ins, carhops would clip trays on to the car windows and patrons would enjoy their meal in the comfort of their own vehicles.  The drive-in was the place to be.  The first drive-in restaurant opened in 1921 in Dallas, Texas, although it would take time before the idea became wide spread.  In 1951 the concept arrived in Campbell River with the opening of Del’s Drive-In.

Del’s Drive-In

Del’s offered the complete drive-in experience, including carhops in go-go boots and green and white uniforms.  It quickly became a meeting place where teens would come every night with their music blaring.  Del and Betty Pelletier began the restaurant, and then after leasing it to others sold it to Del’s brother and sister-in-law Ernie and Joyce Pelletier in 1960.  “Every weekend in the summer it would be busy busy.  All the kids would come, and they would even have little dances out in the parking lot.  They would get all of their radios going and it was a fun place to be,” recalls Joyce.

When Ernie and Joyce bought the restaurant they were only 28 and 25 years old respectively, and had 2 young girls.  Over the next few years their family grew to 4 kids with the arrival of 2 boys.  “When we first got started if someone had come in with a $50 bill we couldn’t have changed it.  It was scary, I would go home at night and wonder if we were going to make it through another day, and we did.  We hit it off really good with the kids that patronized us.  They would be sitting out on the hoods of their cars and we would be sitting inside talking to them through the window.  Then we would say ‘let’s close up early and go to the dance!’  We would close up at 11 instead of 12, take off and party until 2 in the morning and then be back at it at 9 the next morning, 7 days a week.  It was a very demanding job, but it was fun, we had a lot of really good help.”  Ernie and Joyce’s daughter Yvonne remembers her and her sister helping out with the family business.  “One of the things I remember when sis and I were young , about 5 and 7, we would go down and help out at the restaurant.  There was a big machine that was a potato peeler would scrub potatoes and get peels off, then we would put each potato in the chipper that would make the chips. Everything was fresh. We would also make the hamburger patties. The hamburger was from the butcher in Black Creek. It came in the brown butcher paper. It was defrosted overnight and it would still be partially frozen in the morning and we would freeze our little hands mixing the ingredients in. Then we would use an ice cream scooper and scoop them into hamburger press and put them on cookie sheets in the fridge. It was one of our chores – helping out in the restaurant.  We would also help mom cook the pies and pastries.  We would make cherry, raisin and apple pies.  We would make 20 to 30 pies at a time.  When we got older we would waitress at the shop and help out that way.”  The kids helped with all sorts of jobs, such as prep work and sweeping the lot in the morning.

Joyce remembers clearly one Canada Day early on in in her career as a restauranteur. “The July 1st parade used to come right past our place.  We were there at 7:30 or 8 in the morning chipping chips and blanching and getting ready.  Then everybody came at one time.  They were all saying “Where’s my order! Where’s my order!”  My husband at the time was the cook and I was the waitress. I kept saying “It’s coming! It’s coming!” Finally I was so frustrated I took off my apron and said “I quit” and I went and sat on the curb out the back door.  Next thing I know my husband came and joined me.  So we were sitting out there thinking what do we do now?  We finally got it all under control and everyone got their orders, but there were so many people at one time.  In later years we coordinated it a little better.”

Campbell River local Dave Tabish reminisces about his times cruising Del’s:  “Getting a driver’s license and your first car was a big deal, you had a license 12 hours after you turned 16 and cars were a big part of our lives at that time. Driving around town was a big event, you would cruise through the plaza and go see who was there to talk to, and then drive by Del’s to see who was there.  You always cruised past Del’s.”

Del’s was loved not only by local residents, but also by many of their employees who have fond memories of their times there.  In an article in the Courier-Islander from 1997, Melissa Hudson, nee Skwarchuk, reminisces about working at Del’s.  “It’s like once it gets in your blood you can’t stay away.  I don’t think I have one bad memory of that place and you can’t say that of many jobs.”

Lana, Joyce and Yvonne Pelletier posing with a photo of the Del’s sign

Although not currently on display, the Museum has in it’s collection the orange and blue neon sign, featuring an ice cream cone and the words “Del’s Burgers”.  This sign had replaced an earlier, less ornate sign that read “Del’s Drive-In”.  Recently a photograph of the Del’s Drive-In sign was enlarged so that graduates of Carihi High’s class of 1975 could have their photo taken with it.  According to Dave Tabish for the class of ’75, Del’s was a gathering place where kids would go for lunch or meet up after school.

When asked what made Del’s unique, Joyce notes “We had the best burger I have ever had.  Never had another one to compete with it.”

Artist Statement for new Bill Henderson Pole

In front of the Museum is a pole carved by well-known Kwakwaka’wakw carver, Sam Henderson.  Originally raised in front of Campbell River’s Centennial Building this Kwakiutl Bear Pole was part of the 1967 centennial project “Route of the Totems”.   Unfortunately, time and elements have weakened the Pole, which has been extensively restored in the past, and it has reached the point of being beyond repair.

Master carver Bill Henderson, the son of Sam and current head carver at the Campbell River Indian Band’s carving shed, has been identified as the lead carver for a replacement pole.  This new pole will be a testament of the continuing carving traditions in our community.

The Museum plans to take this opportunity to document and film the carving process.  This will be a valuable resource for the Museum, as well as for the community.  It will record not only the details of the carving of this pole, but also the culture of the carving shed and the methods used to mentor young carvers.  It will allow us to see how the knowledge of carving is passed from one generation to the other.

Recently, The BC Arts Council and the Government of British Columbia have awarded the Museum a grant to assist with the commissioning of this 22-foot pole.  We are thankful for the help to move this project forward, and hope to have the pole started in the near future!

 Artist Statement

Master Kwa Kwaka’wakw Carver Bill Henderson

 I worked alongside my Dad, Sam Henderson in his carving shed here in Campbell River from a very young age.  I watched him work, listened to him talk about our history, his life and where we came from.  Not only did I learn to carve under his guidance but I learned my culture and the importance of giving back to my community.  Today I am the Head Carver at the Campbell River carving shed which opened in 2000.  Like my Dad, who passed several years ago, I teach, guide and mentor the next generation of carvers.

I remember working with my Dad, in the 1960’s on the Bear Pole which now is located in front of the Museum.  The crests depicted came from my mother’s side of the family.  Under my Dad’s direction I worked on the face on the front of the top Thunderbird figure.  This pole, which was part of the Route of the Totems commemorative project in 1967, has been part of the community for a long time.  Over the years it has decayed and has been repaired, by myself on more than one occasion.  It is now at a point that it can no longer be repaired and will soon be taken down.

This pole will be the inspiration for a new pole that I will carve, as a commission for the Museum.  As Head Carver I will guide and direct my nephews and other carvers as we work on this pole.  I am proud of my nephews and it will be a time to learn and to strengthen our ties to our culture.  Once completed the pole will be located in front of the Museum, which is a very prominent location.  The new pole will be a reminder for many years to come of our culture and the strong legacy left by my Dad and myself as I followed in his footsteps.

As we work on the pole I am happy to welcome the Museum staff to the carving shed to film the process and interview those who will work alongside me.  I understand that this footage will be included in a short documentary that the Museum will produce on the making of the pole.  This film will add to public’s understanding of the pole and will serve as a record of it’s creation.

I look forward to working on this pole and with the Museum on this project.


Bill Henderson

Museum Hallowe’en Event a huge success!

Wow! It was great to see so many people come out for Hallowe’en at the Museum! The staff and volunteers helping out at the event had so much fun seeing the kids all dressed up in their costumes.  The kids really seemed to enjoy seeing the exhibits come to life.  There was face painting and crafts in the lobby, Hallowe’en Lego downstairs and one of our volunteers was capturing the imagination of all the little ghouls and goblins with his stories in the Van Isle Theatre.  The exhibits were decorated for the occasion, and most of them had characters in costume ready to greet you.  Captain Vancouver was telling tales of his exploration, while the fortune teller in the float house was seeing in her crystal ball that there would be lots of candy in most children’s near future.  This event gave us some great ideas to work with for a Christmas event, so watch for details coming soon!

Madame Zelda had some very accurate predictions for the young visitors.

Hallowe’en Lego was a blast, with all kinds of wonderful creations being built.

Our wonderful volunteers were busy helping kids build some Hallowe’en crafts


Students learning to teach their peers about Anne Frank

Steve Joyce, the teacher of School District 72’s Outdoor Adventures Program, approached the Museum about hosting the travelling exhibit “Anne Frank: A History for Today”.  We asked him what his motivation was for bringing this exhibit to Campbell River.

“The idea was passed on to me by a friend and former Campbell River person, Iris Young Pearson who had a contact with the Anne Frank House and made the connection with me.  I loved the idea of bringing this important story to our community and having my students help in the sharing with the students of our district.  Many know of Anne’s story as it is told in school and those that do connect her to the horror of the Holocaust.  As a teacher I have participated and led in symposia, events and classroom teachings covering this time in world history.  Sadly it really wasn’t the first instance of this sort of genocide and we have witnessed many similar events over the course of my lifetime.  Education can open eyes and hearts to events far away and connect us all together in common cause, as evidenced by that little boy on a Greek beach only a short while ago.  I remain hopeful that education can make enough of a difference that we as societies protect the vulnerable so as to avoid more instances like the Holocaust.”

“I was lucky to find in the Campbell River Museum the amazing support to bring Anne’s story to Campbell River and the CRM have connected it to our community through the stories of those who served in WWII fighting the very evil that created the Holocaust. The stories of Campbell River men who served and in some cases paid the ultimate sacrifice to liberate Europe will reside alongside Anne’s personal story.”

Steve was then asked about how he thought the youth who are being trained as guides for this exhibit would benefit from the experience. 

“As for what the students might get from this experience I give you their words:”

  • “While I know the story of Anne Frank I hope to learn even more of what life was like in Europe at that time….I think it is important not to forget all these terrible things that happened”.
  • “ I hope to learn why the Jews were persecuted and how this family survived as well as they did.”
  • “Along with learning more about Anne and her family, I hope to gain the skills one needs to guide others through her story”
  • “ to learn the importance of HOPE in a situation where hope is futile”
  • “I think it will be more real as we’ll be the ones speaking about it, teaching kids the intense history”
  • “ to share a story from the point of view of a teenager who experienced this horrible time.”
  • “gaining confidence in speaking to large groups”

The exhibit, Anne Frank: A History for Today, will be at the Museum at Campbell River from October 13th to November 15th, 2015.