“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.

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.

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.”

A Piece of Campbell River History Closes Its Doors

A piece of Campbell River history has closed its doors.  The Super Valu grocery store (see last building at end of row) was one of the first businesses to open in the Tyee Plaza in August of 1962, and served the community for 47 years, until the end of December 2009. Due to its seaside location, the store used to service boaters who were tied up at the Quadra ferry dock in the early years, and in later years supplied many of the logging camps.  A small business with a community focus, it offered years of friendly service and the convenience of shopping in the downtown core.  It is sure to be missed by many!

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p8260145_grouse_mask

Grouse Mask by Campbell River artist Raymond Shaw of Kwakiutl heritage. This stunning mask is carved in yellow cedar with cedar bark decoration. Total dimensions including cedar accents, 20” by 12”…buy it now just in time for Christmas!

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca