“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.

Thank-you,

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.

It Was a Haig-Brown Sort of a Weekend!

There were two significant Haig-Brown events this past weekend – one at the Museum at Campbell River and the other at the Haig-Brown Heritage House site.

On September 29, the Museum hosted its annual Haig-Brown lecture with special guest lecturers being all four Haig-Browns themselves – Valerie, Alan, Mary and Celia.  Their talk entitled ‘What We Learned’ was delivered to an audience of over 80 people and marked an unusual occurrence – that is, all four Haig-Browns being together in one place at one time.  Many former friends and acquaintances of the Haig-Browns who attended the lecture had an opportunity to reminisce with them about their fond memories of the family.

Sunday proved to be an equally good day, with high attendance at the Haig-Brown Festival, held every year on World River s Day at the Haig-Brown property.  The Haig-Brown family was there too, and one of the highlights of their weekend was having a portrait painted of their father Roderick by local artist Dan Berkshire, pictured at right, painting in plein air to an appreciative group of onlookers.

Great music was delivered by the Bentwood Boyz (at left) and later by the youthful group Who is Barbosa.  Laverne Henderson, who opened the festival, moved the crowd with her powerful rendition of ‘Oh Canada’ sung in the Kwakwaka’wakw language.

Laverne Henderson


It is hoped that Cynthia Bendickson, who took over organizing the festival this year will return to do so once again.  She was clearly up to the challenge of taking over the reins from Terry Hale, who as festival organizer for several years always did an excellent job.

Cynthia with husband Chris Osborne

Festival Features Talented First Nations musicians

The Haig-Brown Festival has been attracting some excellent local talent in the last few years, and this year is no exception.  Duane J. Hanson, a member of Campbell River’s First Nations Homalco band, will be appearing again this year with the Bentwood Boyz, a group of musicians also composed of local Aboriginal artists.

Like last year, they plan to play a mix of blues and country tunes and Hanson is in favour of playing acoustically.  For this appearance, he will play the bass guitar, but he usually plays drums.  “I’ve been playing since I was six years old,” he said, “I grew up in a musical family and learned from my dad and my uncle.  I was already performing in public by the time I was 10.”

When asked what drew him to the Festival, Hanson said that while working with MISA in Campbell River last year on a project involving Aboriginal youth and art, he got to know Ken Blackburn at the Campbell River Arts Council.  When Blackburn (who also coordinates the Haig-Brown Festival) found out that Hanson was a musician, he asked him if he would be interested in providing the festival’s musical entertainment.

“I went to the property to get a feel for the location,” Hanson said.  “I liked the fact that it was right by the river.  Historically, everything in Campbell River started with the river.  I think the Haig-Brown Festival is a really good festival because it tries to create an awareness about our impact on the environment.”

“I don’t think there is a First Nations group that would disagree about the importance of preserving the environment, and right now, there is a concern that commercial interests are going to overwhelm the small communities that are being offered dollars in exchange for compromising their surroundings.”

Hanson has a degree in social and economic studies and works for the John Howard Society as First Nations Relations Advisor.  His recent experience with the Society has given him the opportunity to look from the outside, in.  He has also been an elected chief, and he is well acquainted with the frustration experienced on both sides.

“I have an ‘over the hedge’ philosophy,” he says, “I think Aboriginal peoples are in a position to take the best from both worlds and to empower each other.”

Duane playing with Darren Harry at the 2011 festival

This philosophy has worked well for Hanson musically, and he is ready to move forward with recording original songs.  He has been very busy this summer playing in the Vancouver area mostly for weddings and family reunions.  There, he says, the demand is usually for rock music.  As a writer of songs however, he leans more towards blues/rock.

He would like to see other First Nations musicians on the West Coast break away from what is classified as Aboriginal music and create something new, and he wants to help the Bentwood Boyz take the next steps towards doing that and creating a following.

This summer audiences enjoyed their music at Spirit Square, and they are booked to play at the Quinsam Hotel in November.  On Sunday, September 30, you can have the pleasure of hearing them play live on the grounds of the Haig-Brown house.  The festival is free and runs from noon to 4:00pm.

While you are there, don’t forget to look for this year’s commemorative fly, Haig-Brown’s ‘Coho Blue’.  A boxed ‘Coho Blue’ has been donated by Tony Pinder and will be available for auction at the Festival.

By Catherine Gilbert