Recently Matthew Francis, Executive Director of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with Merlin Bunt. Merlin is a proud member of the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society, and was elected to serve on our Board of Directors last year. He is also the researcher and writer behind the popular “Chilliwack History Perspectives” Facebook page. In this interview, Merlin shares about his own keen interest in Chilliwack’s history, his personal connection to Chilliwack, and why history matters.
Merlin – can you describe some of your own personal background and your connection to Chilliwack?
I am a fifth-generation Chilliwackian, born here in the early 1950s, and my great-great-grandfather is Isaac Kipp, often referred to as the ‘father’ of Chilliwack. I have fond memories of being raised in Chilliwack.
Since I spent my first 23 years here, in an era quite different from today, I greatly care about its past, present, and future. I have three daughters, each one a lawyer. When I am not working, my hobbies include lawn bowling, hiking, cycling, and chronicling Chilliwack’s history.
People would be interested to know about your professional background. What can you tell us about that?
After graduating from CSSS in 1971, I attended UBC and graduated with a B. Com. degree in 1976. Later, I became a Chartered Professional Accountant. Today I work for myself, providing financial consulting and editing/writing services for my clients.
You have an active interest in “connecting people to Chilliwack’s history,” researching and writing about locally significant historic places and events. Can you tell us a little about your popular Chilliwack History Perspectives Facebook page?
As I mentioned, my ancestors were integrally involved in the development of early Chilliwack. My grandmother, Irene Bunt (nee Knight, born in Popkum in 1891 and passed away in Chilliwack in 1988) had a real passion for Chilliwack’s history (as she was witness to a good portion of it), she attempted to spark my interest in it. Her grandfather was Isaac Kipp, and she would often tell me about him and early Chilliwack. However, I was then living in Vancouver, with three children and a busy career, and my interest in Chilliwack’s history did not match hers, to say the least. However, in recent years, as the nature of Chilliwack evolved, and certain physical elements of its history were no longer with us, along with finding myself with more time, my interest in Chilliwack’s history became much more focused. I finally joined Facebook in 2013, and as I enjoy writing, I found that I wanted to put ‘on the record’ certain aspects of Chilliwack’s history, including the perspectives of my ancestors and me. I started posting some informal accounts of Chilliwack history, and initial response was very positive, and thus in 2014 I created a Facebook Page dedicated to Chilliwack history called “Chilliwack History Perspectives”. As time allows, I try to post a new article every two weeks, on Sunday mornings. To date, I have posted over 80 articles on Chilliwack’s history on this Page.
You were elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Museum last year, and we have really appreciated your participation and insights. What have you enjoyed about this experience so far?
I do quite enjoy being a member of the Museum’s Board of Directors, largely because everyone in the room has some connection to the history of Chilliwack, and a common commitment and passion to preserve it, enhance it, and share it with the area’s citizens. It is also gratifying to have input to the stewardship of Chilliwack’s history, through both the Museum and the Archives, such that future generations can benefit and learn from our efforts now. Beyond that, everyone associated with the Board and the Museum is very nice!
What do you enjoy doing for fun or recreation in Chilliwack?
I have recently become an avid lawn bowler, and I am on the Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club’s Board of Directors. I also like going for early-morning bike rides (preferably when it is sunny) in which I ride past many historic Chilliwack locations, as well as places of personal memories for me. During these rides, I have my smartphone with me, and occasionally if I see a worthy scene, I will stop and photograph it. I will often stop just to visualize how something was, as opposed to how it is. Also, this coming summer, a group of us Chilliwack natives (and fans) are planning to climb Mt. Cheam.
Why should people explore Chilliwack’s history?
Chilliwack has a rich and significant history, and being a growing city approaching 90,000 citizens, knowing its roots and foundations gives an appreciation of how it was, thus allowing us to understand where we are today, to perhaps better deal with what lies ahead tomorrow. Also, sometimes it’s just fun to ‘escape’ to yesteryear, when times were simpler.
Thanks, Merlin, for taking the time to talk with us!