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Coming Together (Staying Apart)

Posted on: March 20th, 2020 by Anna Irwin

With the COVID-19 pandemic constantly evolving, life is shifting rapidly these days. As borders close, facilities shutter and services reduce in the community, an eerie feeling can be felt over the streets. Life feels as though it is coming to a standstill, especially as the calls to stay indoors and self-isolate become stronger. The urge to do something – anything – is high.

Every crisis is different, as is every response. Over time, Chilliwackians  have collaborated, solving crises together and tackling challenges with appropriate levels of generosity, consideration and resiliency. 

Photograph of Chilliwack during the 1894 flood showing the area that is now Main Street and Yale Road West. [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1973.034.010]

In Crisis: Flooded With Kindness

When disasters like the 1894 flood happened, communities like Chilliwack banded together to support our neighbours. When the Mission gauge on the Fraser River reached 25.75 feet on June 6, the floodwaters covered many of our streets, submerging hundreds of hectares of farm land and Five Corners. As all communication with New Westminster was unavailable and the floodwaters left residents stranded, The Chilliwack Progress reported that Chilliwack’s Mayor Samuel Cawley “advised the taking of a row boat and making at once to [New] Westminster for the purpose of obtaining aid.” He, along with a crew of four men, rowed down the Fraser River, taking approximately five hours to arrive at New Westminster. The men procured the Gladys, a steamer, and brought her up the Fraser River with the hopes of having the vessel assist with saving livestock and anyone unable to save themselves.

Photograph of grade three students at Central Elementary taking part in a Junior Red Cross rally in 1962. Chilliwack has a long history of supporting each other in times of need. [Chilliwack Progress Press Photograph, May 16, 1962. Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1999.029.021.057]

At War: Stitching It Together

In times such as World War One, Chilliwackians embraced wartime efforts led by groups such as the Sardis Red Cross Sewing Circle. The group, which crafted a handmade red and white quilt in 1918 and embroidered the names of Chilliwackians who donated ten cents, donated all profits to the war effort. Approximately 400 names are contained on the quilt, which was then raffled off and won by A.C. Wells. At the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, the quilt [1972.035.001] serves as a proud reminder of our community coming together to support a cause larger than itself.

Staying Apart: Influenza of 1918

As we are seeing today with COVID-19, pandemics can bring life to a screeching halt. While different, the 1918 influenza pandemic did just that in Chilliwack in 1918. The flu spread rapidly, transmitting between people primarily through airborne particles shared through sneezing and coughing. Soldiers returning home from war compounded the spread.

Advertisement published in the Chilliwack Progress by H.J. Barber (druggist) in November 1918.

Acting upon orders issued by the Provincial Board of Health, the Municipality of Chilliwhack and the City of Chilliwack closed all gathering spaces to fight the spread of the virus indefinitely in October 1918. All churches, theatres, schools and various gathering spaces such as pool halls were closed to the public for a period of a few months. To cope with the hundreds of cases, Coqualeetza Institute was transformed into an emergency hospital.

During the “flu ban,” Chilliwackians worked together by staying apart. Begrudgingly accepting the conditions of the ban, local churches like Saint Thomas Anglican Church cancelled public services, instead encouraging local parishioners to continue prayer and meditation at their regular hours at home when the bells were sounded. Meetings were cancelled, demonstrations postponed and theatrical performances indefinitely put on the backburner. Individuals who fell sick were to report their illness to J.C. Henderson (Medical Health Officer) immediately: failure to do so was grounds for prosecution. Following illness, a minimum of ten to fifteen days of self-isolation was prescribed.

After a closure of multiple weeks, life slowly began to normalize. City and municipal operated works re-opened on November 17 and the ban on gatherings was lifted. While multiple deaths were attributed to the outbreak, Henderson noted the death rate was low, no doubt due to actions taken to contain the spread.

Of Our Time: COVID-19

It is tempting to draw parallels between the 1918 influenza outbreak and what we see unfolding before us today.

We are in the early days of this pandemic. We do not know what will happen. What we do know for certain is that following the lead of our medical professionals has led our communities back to health before. We also know that history has shown Chilliwackians are resilient: when life has thrown us curveballs, we have adapted to the situation and persevered with a constant eye to protecting our community members.

As in the past, we are asked to come together by staying apart. This can be challenging for us – we are social beings. We want to be with people: to be with our loved ones in care homes, to celebrate birthdays, to catch up with friend groups and go to concerts. Please don’t.

Like the influenza of 1918, COVID-19 will pass eventually. It will be in its own way and will be in its own time but what we are living through right now will end. Life will normalize.

Stay strong. Come together – but stay apart.

The Stockings Were Hung

Posted on: November 28th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

Written by Cari Moore – Coordinator of Volunteers and Administration

Slinky’s
Photo Credit: Cari Moore

When I was a little girl – our favorite thing to do on Christmas morning was to open our stockings. They were the only things we could open before my parents were up. Getting up before them was very rare as my mother was always like a kid in a candy shop on Christmas morning. Banging about and putting the Turkey on in the kitchen with about as much noise as she could make. She came from a relatively large, but poor family that never had enough money at Christmas for stockings, so she was most excited to see how happy we would be. Our stockings always had the orange in the toe, some gold chocolate candy, and our own little individual bottles of shampoo and cream rinse. To this day Finesse Shampoo® still smells like Christmas to me. My favorite year was when my sister and I made mini stockings for my parents out of felt and filled them with skinny things like pens, nail clippers and candy canes. My mother was so excited – this was her first stocking ever!

Whoopie Cushions
Photo Credit: Cari Moore

When I got married and moved away from home, our first Christmas we were broke, so we decided to just “do stockings”. I went out and purchased the largest stockings I could find! (kind of defeating the purpose.) We also started a tradition of wrapping the items in our stockings so that we would have things to unwrap on Christmas morning. When we eventually had children, I lovingly hand made them both stockings, an Angel for my daughter and a Santa for my son. Some years their stockings would be filled with dollar store items and other years more expensive things, but always socks and underwear, somehow that became a rule.  Our family tradition of stockings has now been passed down to my daughter and her husband as this year they will be opening their stockings together, for the first time as a married couple.

Yo-Yo’s
Photo Credit: Cari Moore

With my new job at the museum, I was very curious about the origins of stockings, so I investigated it. Wikipedia states stockings are a tradition that began in a European country, in which children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. These stockings were traditionally used on Saint Nicholas Day but in the early 1800s, they also came to be used on Christmas Eve. Wherever they started, in my family, stockings are here to stay. I look forward to filling all our stockings every year and I am often on the lookout for fun quirky things to wrap up and put in. This year I will be doing some of my shopping at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives gift shop, we have a great assortment of very cute, traditional old-fashioned toys that will be perfect!

Volunteer Spotlight – Aleeta Sepass

Posted on: October 23rd, 2019 by Tristan Evans

My favourite blog to write is the Volunteer Spotlight blog.  During Volunteer Spotlight we highlight one volunteer so that you, the reader, can get a sneak peak into all the wonderful volunteers we have at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.  Today we are going to look at the one and only, volunteer extraordinaire, Aleeta Sepass.  Aleeta has been volunteering for a few years now.  Last week I emailed her a couple questions about her experience at the Archives and below is her responses.  I encourage you to take the time to read her answers.  Aleeta is one of our younger volunteers currently completely her degree at the University of Fraser Valley and I have no doubt that she will do well in this field or any field of her choosing. 

Aleeta Sepass
18 October 2019

When did you start volunteering at the Chilliwack Archives?

November 2017.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Chilliwack Museum and Archives?

Why? That is a good question! This answer has a couple of reasons: First, I have an interest in the history of Ts’elxwéyeqw (Chilliwack). Second reason is being able to have an opportunity to volunteer. Let me begin by sharing that I am a xwélmexw (First Nations) woman. I come from the Stó:lō -Skowkale, and St’atl’imx- Xa’xsta (Port Douglas) Nations. So, I have an interest in the nearby history of Ts’elxwéyeqw and enjoy exploring elements such as Stó:lō family histories, oral traditions, Coqualeetza Salish Weavers, and the Skulkayn Heritage Project. To uncover information and to learn more about this history is a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of not only our community but also about myself. The second key reason in my decision to volunteer was being offered an opportunity. I was fortunate to have worked with the Coqualeetza Cultural Education Centre as a student archive support worker. In May or June 2017, we visited the Chilliwack Archives and I expressed to Tristan that I had an interest in learning more about the archives. He shared with me that there was an opportunity for people to volunteer. So, the following fall, I decided to give it a shot. And so far, so good!

What type of work do you perform when you are at the Archive?

Currently, I am involved in two archival projects. The first project being the Chilliwack Progress Project where I perform data entry. To do so, I use the Past Perfect program to identify what collection items needs to be updated. To update, I reference to past Chilliwack Progress newspapers and write a description relating to the photograph. The second project that Tristan has recently introduced me to is the Geocaching Project. So, far I have begun to research some key locations in the Chilliwack area. In the future, I would like to incorporate Stó:lō Knowledge including the Halq’emeylem language to future geocaches. 

Aleeta Sepass
August 2019

Do you have a favourite memory at the Chilliwack Archives and Museum? 

Recently, a fellow volunteer Ev donated a collection of Sardis Secondary School yearbooks. Knowing that both Anna and I are former Sardis students, Tristan searched for our graduation photographs. He eventually uncovered it and without any help from us, ladies I might add! Of course, to be a bug, Tristan proceeded to read our (cheesy) graduation quotes aloud. This is my favourite memory! Not! Thanks again, Ev. Ha-ha! With all joking aside, I do enjoy most of my volunteer days. It is hard not to uncover a photograph or newspaper without being able to recognize familiar faces from the Stó:lō community.

Is there anything else you would like to mention regarding your work at the Archives? 

If you would like to learn more about the history of Ts’elxwéyeqw (Chilliwack) or you are interested in learning about archives. I would like to offer you the suggestion to come to visit! As an undergraduate student, I do appreciate the opportunity to learn, to gain new skills and to receive any advice from both Tristan, and  Anna. Kwas’ hoy! (Thank-you).

From a staff perspective, I can say without reservations that Aleeta is an amazing volunteer and we are incredibly lucky that she donates her time and knowledge helping us complete our mandate of protecting and promoting Chilliwack’s history.  Should you visit the Archives on a Wednesday afternoon and come across Aleeta, please make sure to give her a huge kwas’ hoy for all the work she does. 

The Coliseum – An Idea Waiting in the Wings

Posted on: September 20th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

Recently the City announced plans to rename the Prospera Centre the Chilliwack Coliseum.  For new residents of Chilliwack, this announcement may mean very little.  However, long-term residents of Chilliwack will have fond memories of the original Coliseum, affectionately called the “Old Barn on Corbould.”  Prior to and immediately following the closure of the original Chilliwack Coliseum in 2004, a flurry of articles appeared in both The Chilliwack Times and The Chilliwack Progress expressing fond memories of the Old Barn.  Since it’s demolition, little has been written about the building.  The surprise announcement two weeks ago provides us with an opportunity to look back on Chilliwack’s original Coliseum and learn what made it so significant to this community. 

Aerial view of unfinished Coliseum, ca. 1950s. 
[P. Coll 42, file 90]
Aerial view of unfinished Coliseum, ca. 1950s.
[P. Coll 42, file 90]

Following World War II, Chilliwack residents called for an athletic community centre as a memorial to those that passed away.  In 1945, City Council designated the Agricultural Ground as the site of a new sports centre.  Assisted by the Chilliwack Rotary Club, the Chilliwack Recreational Centre Association started raising money for the new facility in 1947 under the slogan, “Let’s Skate in ‘48.”  With half the funds raised, construction for the facility began in 1948.  Unfortunately, erection of the new facility halted and the plan quickly sank as the infamous flood of 1948 breached dykes in Agassiz, Chilliwack, Nicomen Island, Glen Valley, and Matsqui. 

The half-finished structure languished for many years as strong opposition in the Township of Chilliwhack viewed it as an unnecessary luxury and a burden for taxpayers.  By 1953, voters in the Township slowly started to come around to the idea.  A close referendum that overwhelming passed in the City was only marginally voted down in the Township.  Through a variety of volunteer and fundraising efforts, a roof and seats were finally installed in 1955.  Still unfinished, 1800 people came to a “Grand Opening Concert” on May 13, 1955 to watch the Our Lady of Lourdes gymnastics team and the Royal Canadian Engineers band from Camp Chilliwack perform.   

After the Grand Opening Concert, support for the Memorial Arena (as it was referred to at the time) soared.  With growing calls to finish construction, the Township of Chilliwhack, City of Chilliwack, Agricultural Association, Federal government, and Provincial government finally came together and contributed the final costs ($150,000) to complete the arena in 1958 under the updated slogan, “We Skate in ’58.”

Chilliwack Progress Press Photo: First Hockey Game at the Coliseum, 5 November 1958
[P. Coll 106 – Unnumbered]

On November 5, 1958, the Chilliwack Flamingos played the first hockey game in the new Chilliwack Coliseum, drawing a crowd of over 1200 for a 7-7 draw against the Nanaimo Clippers.  From 1958 to 2004, a plethora of Chilliwack teams called the Coliseum home including but not limited to the Chilliwack Flamingos, Chilliwack Loggers, Chilliwack Bruins, Chilliwack Colts, and Chilliwack Chiefs.  The early 1960s featured a few WHL and NHL exhibition games at the Coliseum when the Red Wings took on the San Francisco Seals on October 1, 1961 followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs vs the San Francisco Seals on September 25, 1962. 

Many other memories occurred in the Coliseum’s 46 years of operation, some of which can be read in a Chilliwack Times feature on April 16, 2004 at the Chilliwack Archives.  A short list of other sports and events that occurred at the Coliseum include: figure skating championships; concerts; conventions; public skating; football; and the Chilliwack Fall Fair.

The official opening occurred on December 27, 1958.  For those interested, the Chilliwack Archives has a recording of opening night from CHWK Chilliwack Radio (AM 393, file 73).  The Old Barn on Corbould had a special place in Chilliwack’s sporting history.  Whether it was figure skating, a concert, or a hockey game, perhaps you have a favourite memory at the original Coliseum?

Remnant Research: The Story of Nylon Day, 1946

Posted on: July 24th, 2019 by Anna Irwin

Our recent exhibition, Five Faces, Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown focuses on the common leisure activities and experiences which bring Chilliwackians together at Five Corners. While this seems like a simple concept on the surface, Five Corners has been (and continues to be) a very busy place, with events and social activity happening constantly on its streets.

Men and loaded pack horses destined for mines in Mt. Baker district in front of A.C. Henderon’s store at Five Corners. Many photographs and stories such as this were not included in the exhibition [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, PP501731]

The history of Five Corners is complex, rich and delightfully colourful at times. From a harrowing plane crash at the Empress gas station in 1938 to the potential discovery of gold at Five Corners in the 1980s, we discovered quite quickly we would have to narrow the scope of the exhibition somewhat for clarity and logistics. As we moved forward, we had to cut stories from the exhibition as they no longer fit the bill or we simply no longer had space to accommodate it!

Instead of condemning the research to the recesses of my hard drive, I’d like to share one of my favourite tales cut from the exhibition – the story of Nylon Day at Lois Lovell Hosiery & Lingerie in 1946.

Nylon: A Wartime Staple at Home and on the Frontlines

Rationing and “learning to do without” was a way of life for Canadians on the home front during the Second World War to support soldiers. Nylon stockings, (or more specifically, nylon fibres) were a valuable material on the warfront. Nylon had many uses to a soldier or manufacturer: it could be used to make flak suits and parachutes, for stitching wounds and as an outer layer on lightweight tents.

A popular fashion statement, nylon stockings were in very short supply in North America during the War. Fashion-forward women of the time, desperate for nylon, turned to cosmetics and paint to replicate the look of hosiery. Unable to purchase the real deal, women would paint a black line up the back of each of their legs, attempting to replicate the seam of hosiery. Some turned to the black market: The Chilliwack Progress notes in 1944 that American women were being warned about the presence of treated rayon being circulated as nylon. 

Nylon Madness Grips Chilliwack

Advertisement from The Chilliwack Progress for nylon sales at Lois Lovell, 1946. [The Chilliwack Progress, February 13, 1946]

In Chilliwack, nylons were equally challenging to come by. In February 1946, 400 pairs of nylons were slated for delivery to Chilliwack, an amount to be divided between Pickards, David Spencer and Lois Lovell’s lingerie stores. Of these stores, only Lois Lovell would sell nylons over the counter, the other stores requiring a pre-order to purchase a pair. Fervour was high: the previous shipment in December, consisting of 800 pairs, had sold out in only a handful of hours. One unnamed retailer lamented that the amount allotted to their store would not meet demand and another stated they would “like to put [their] supply out in the middle of the street and let people scramble for them”. The situation at Lois Lovell was of particular concern to the city police as the store was the only store in the city planning to sell nylons on a first come, first serve basis.

Customers line up outside Lois Lovell Hosiery & Lingerie, February 19, 1946 [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1997.059.006]

The day of the sale arrived. On February 19, 1946, more than 100 individuals lined the streets of Five Corners in front of Lois Lovell’s. Buses, coming from places such as Cultus Lake, were at full capacity, transporting women anxious to have a chance to purchase. Police were on hand, providing a presence to ensure the safety of all customers and merchants. At nearby Picks Hardware store, sales associates eager to get in on the flurry of activity, attempted to lure customers into the store, telling those in line that they “[had] nylons!” only for those who took the bait to discover they were referring to nylon fishing line. Nylons sold out at all locations by the end of the day.

No Fist Fights: Cooler Heads Prevail

Thankfully, the event passed without incident despite many being turned away due to lack of stock. An article issued in The Chilliwack Progress the next day ran with the title “Peaceful Affair: No Fist Fights on “Nylon Day.” While customers waited calmly in line, the day by no means satisfied the community demand for nylons and David Spencer’s and Pickards both began taking orders for the next nylon shipment following the sale. Following the war, nylons became gradually more available and fervour surrounding their sale dropped extensively.

Party in the Park

Posted on: July 10th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

When you work with archival records five days a week your mind sometimes skews timelines and it’s hard to consider what is truly ‘long ago.’  Only recently have we started to receive donations from the 1980s.  Working everyday with our records, I consider the 1980s to be relatively new, never mind the 1990s or early 2000s.  This was glaringly evident to me when I wrote a blog post on the snow storm of 1996.  Truth be told, besides a few Chilliwack Progress articles and photographs, we haven’t received many donations about this event yet. Compared to the records describing the 1935 ice storm, the snow storm appears to have had little impact.

While we know records from the snow storm of 1996 will eventually find their way into the Archives, it’s sometimes hard to think about the 1990s or early 2000s as ‘long ago.’  2006 and 2007 may feel like yesterday, but the following events actually occurred twelve and thirteen years ago.  Just long enough for us to begin having a little historical perspective on them. 

If you will, let me indulge you with a little story about one of my favourite events:

Chilliwack Court House 
[PP500910]
Chilliwack Court House
[PP500910]

I am biased.  I like parties, music, and I live downtown, so I really like Party in the Park.  Naturally, I also like to know the history of events (I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I wasn’t interested in history).  Turns out, Party in the Park has been around just long enough to write about. 

The land that is Central Community Park was once the home of the Chilliwack Court House, originally built in 1894.  The original courthouse survived two separate fires in 1906 and 1949.  Unfortunately, a third fire completely destroyed the building in 1951.  Today the only surviving remains from this building is the courthouse sign that can be seen right now in our temporary exhibit, Five Faces Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown (nice plug, right). 

After a few transformations, the area was eventually known as the Jean McNaughton/Happy Wilkinson Parks and home to a Chilliwack Farmers Market.  In 2005, the City of Chilliwack, Rotary International, and the Downtown Business Improvement Association (BIA) began construction on a collaborative project called, Central Community Park.  The idea was to create “a splendid place where everyone in the community is welcome to fully enjoy outdoor performances, special events festivals, and to learn about the history of the parks and the surrounding area.”  Central Community Park officially opened on Friday, October 13, 2006 and was designed by architect Rob Powers. 

Chilliwack Farmer's Market, ca. 1984. 
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.1117]
Chilliwack Farmer’s Market, ca. 1984.
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.1117]

To celebrate opening day the City of Chilliwack, the BIA, and Rotary International put together a weekend of celebrations called – wait for it – Party in the Park.  The first event featured speakers, dignitaries, and music from both Central Elementary and Chilliwack Senior Secondary schools.  According to an account from The Chilliwack Progress, Mayor Clint Hames predicted the new facility will be a focal point for future cultural activities in the downtown core

Following architect Rob Powers advice that, “the community [had] to start building new traditions around the park,” the City of Chilliwack, the BIA, and Rotary organized a series of Party in the Park events the following summer.  Each Friday between June 29 and August 24, 2007, these three organizing parties hosted what has now become the annual Party in the Park. 

The first summer Party in the Park occurred on June 29, 2007 and featured a Farmers Market at 5:00 PM, kids activities at 6:00 PM and live music at 7:30 PM. As so often happens in Chilliwack, poor weather threw a wrench into the scheduling and the local rock band, Relic’s Jetboat, was ultimately unable to perform that night.  Fortunately, the band was able to be rescheduled for the final Party in the Park date for the summer and played on August 24, closing off the festival with a bang.

Construction of Jean McNaughton/Happy Wilkinson Parks, July 5, 1983. 
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.434]
Construction of Jean McNaughton/Happy Wilkinson Parks, July 5, 1983.
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.434]

The exact dates of Party in the Park have changed over the years but the event is now considered a Chilliwack tradition. The event has grown to the point that venders often spread out beyond Central Community Park onto Mill Street and Wellington Avenue. Although the event changes from year to year, in my humble opinion, the heart and original goal of the event remains constant, bringing together the community of Chilliwack for a night of fun and solid cheer. Oh yeah, that and the opportunity to hear some rock-solid local musical talent.

Volunteer Spotlight – Ev Parker

Posted on: June 5th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

Are you curious to know what Chilliwack looked like in the 1980s?  Ask our volunteer Ev Parker who is currently processing a large collection of street photographs from the 1980s.  This is a unique collection that Ev is digitizing and describing so that you, the researcher, can access the images online.  To learn more about Ev and his work at the Archives, read his answers to the questions below:

Ev Parker
Photo courtesy of Ev Parker

When did you start volunteering at the Archives?

November 2015.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Chilliwack Museum and Archives?

Being slightly familiar with Chilliwack, I enjoyed what the Museum and Archives had hidden within its walls and found it was beyond fascinating.  Some information I was familiar with previously but with a little searching, it became obvious a massive amount about Chilliwack was available to the public.  If people only knew what was available for public viewing, there would be far more people visiting the Archives.

What type of work do you perform when you are at the Archives? 

Data entry, scanning pictures and documents, looking up information, adjusting numbering systems when an item has been removed, dusting and vacuuming. When people that are familiar to me visit the Archives I try and make them feel comfortable.  I also visit with people I know when they come into my work space.   

Ev Parker
Photo courtesy of Ev Parker

Do you have a favourite memory at the Museum and Archives? 

Too many to itemize but just about every time I’m there Tristan or Anna will enlighten me with something I wasn’t aware of, making it more desirable to come back.

Is there anything else you would like to mention regarding your work at the Archives? 

It is really unbelievable how much information is there for ANYONE to have and to hold, read or use, for any purpose. 

Ev Parker volunteers every Wednesday morning at the Archives.  If the doors are not open by 9:01 AM, he’ll let you know.  We like to refer to this time as Ev’s office hours since he regularly receives visitors during this time period.  Sometimes, those visitors even stay to do a little research of their own!  Interested in knowing more about Chilliwack history?  Stop by on a Wednesday morning and we’ll be happy to show you how to search our records or just enjoy a short chat with our amazing volunteer, Ev Parker.    

Volunteer Spotlight – Lawrie Edwards

Posted on: April 26th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

Have you ever wondered how one archivist, one curator, and one archives technician have managed to describe and make available online 3,884 archival records, 1,169 library records, 9,880 object descriptions, and digitize 14,781 photographs all while doing the rest of the work keeping the Museum and Archives running?  The answer is simple really, we haven’t.  A huge amount of our descriptive material is done by Chilliwack volunteers who generously give their precise time week after week.

Lawrie Edwards at the Archives
January, 2015

Volunteers are quite literally the reason we have been able to describe and make available so much of our archival and object collection.  Volunteers research photographs, objects, and archival collections and then put in the hard, and not always exciting, work of entering descriptions for each collection.  The work is tedious and not immediately rewarding.  It is however the reason you are able to search and find so many online descriptions of our records.

Today I would like to highlight one volunteer who has been volunteering at the Archives since April, 2012.  Lawrie Edwards is a resident of Fairfield Island who moved to Chilliwack in the 1980s.  Lawrie volunteers every Friday morning and he is a huge part of the reason we have so many descriptions for our archival records.  I asked Lawrie today if he wouldn’t mind answering a couple questions and below is what he had to say:

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Chilliwack Museum and Archives?

I’ve always been interested in History.  After retirement I completed our Family tree back to the late 1700s in Wales.  My wife’s family on both sides settled in Chilliwack in the 1880s and so I decided to allocate a morning doing research of the Chilliwack area. 

What type of work do you perform when you are at the Archives? 

Mostly computer work, data description, and researching from the archives and through the archival Progress Papers.

Do you have a favourite memory at the Museum and Archives?

Every Friday morning is memorable but the 2017 British Columbia Historical Federation conference the Chilliwack Museum hosted was particularly memorable. 

Is there anything else you would like to mention regarding your work at the Archives?

Just nice to be associated with a great working crew at the Museum and Archives (No, I did not pay him to say that). 

Lawrie Edwards is an amazing volunteer.  He’s been dedicating his time for seven years at the Archives!!!  Once again, I’m going to borrow a phrase from my favourite podcast, The Secret Life of Canada, shout out to Lawrie Edwards!!!

A Historic Night’s Sleep

Posted on: January 23rd, 2019 by Tristan Evans

On New Year’s Day,  the Chilliwack Progress predicted, “the year 1908 holds out great prospects for this little Valley… The expectations for this incoming year are great, the prospects greater, and the realizations will be the greatest of any.”  For new immigrants and re-settlers to the area, 1908 was a pivotal year marked with major changes.  The City of Chilliwack officially incorporated as a separate government entity from the Township of Chilliwhack.  The first Empress Hotel in Chilliwack opened, the new City of Chilliwack installed the first electric lights in downtown, and just two years later the British Columbia Electric Railroad opened the first passenger and freight rail line to Chilliwack on October 3, 1910.  As the City continued to expand that year, prominent local builder and architect Robert Harvey Brock began filling in the last vacant lot on the south side of Wellington Avenue between Main Street and Five Corners with the construction of the Royal Hotel.

 

Front view of the Royal Hotel, ca. 1912. [1977.006.035]

The Royal Hotel was the brain child of David Swain Dundas, the first owner.  He approached Robert Brock who then drew up the plans for the hotel.  J. C. Robertson completed the excavation work and laid down a concrete foundation for the building.  Upon completion, the three story hotel towered over local businesses in downtown Chilliwack.  The hotel featured many luxuries that we take for granted today including closets and bathrooms on every floor, steam heating, electric lighting, and telephone services.  After thoroughly touring and measuring every room in the hotel, one writer from the Progress finished the review of the hotel simply stating, “Mr. Dundas himself, has left nothing to be desired in hotel structure and modern conveniences.”

 

Although the Royal Hotel was well received, Dundas left the hotel business after just a few short years.  He sold the building to Cyrus W. McGillivary in 1912 for $47,000.  In 1926, Tom Berry bought the hotel from McGillivary.  Tom Berry’s son, Harry “Buck” Berry took over from his father in 1947.  The hotel was owned and operated by the Berry family until 1995 when Buck sold the building (CMA, AM 373 Tax Rolls).

 

Staff at the Royal Hotel beer parlour posing with customers. Left to right : Tony Britton, Bert Harwood, Vi Harwood, and Jack Pulford, 1952. [1999.065.002]

Large, colourful, and friendly owners, Tom and Buck Berry kept the hotel running through many renovations.  The biggest change during the Berry years came in 1950 when Buck bought the Royal Bank building on the corner of Main and Wellington.  Corresponding with new liquor laws in Chilliwack that allowed hotels to sell beer by the glass, Buck Berry merged the hotel with the old Royal Bank building and built a beer parlor in the building he called, the House of Blues.  To speed up service, staff wore roller skates as they rushed between the beer parlour and the kitchen, (CMA, Subject Files – Royal Hotel; CMA, 1999.065.002).

 

The hotel saw its share of disasters as well.  On July 29, 1958 lighting struck the Royal Hotel.  Instantly, “a gaping hole was ripped in the top of the Royal Hotel.  Seconds later the fire siren sounded and the city was alive with men, women, and children expecting the worst.  It was a miracle nobody was killed.”  An early response by the volunteer fire department saved the building.  Buck repaired the damage and the business continued.  Another fire damaged the hotel on August 9, 1974.  This time the fire started near the entrance and worked its way to the beer parlour, destroying the inside of the bar.  Undeterred, Buck again repaired the damage to the interior of the building.  Perhaps knowing how much the Royal Hotel owed the volunteer fire crew, among the many charitable activities sponsored by the Royal Hotel, Buck Berry also hosted the volunteer fire department’s annual banquet in the beer parlour.

 

Chilliwack Progress Press Photograph: The August 9, 1974 fire at the Royal Hotel, published August 14, 1974.

In 1995, Buck Berry sold the hotel.  The new owners began a massive renovation project beginning in May of 1996 and continuing through 1997 at the cost of $1,600,000 (CMA, Nicholas Desautels, 2016.023.001 file 7).  All thirty-four rooms were redecorated and upgraded.  Fourteen of the thirty-four rooms received special attention including, “restoration of wall-to-wall hardwood floors, an addition of a cast-iron claw foot tub to each room, and antique furniture in the form of chairs, wardrobes, and dressers” (CMA, Nicholas Desautels, 2016.023.001 file 7).  The old boiler system was replaced with high efficient gas units, and renovations to the exterior of the building were completed as well, always with an eye towards the historic significance of the building.

 

The Royal Hotel is not the oldest building in Chilliwack.  It’s not the grandest building in Chilliwack either.  It is however, a fantastic representation of a unique time and place in the history of Five Corners and downtown Chilliwack.  Should you have guests visiting and your spare bedroom is feeling a little cramped, encourage them to spend a night in one of the rooms at Chilliwack’s Royal Hotel.

Movember Part 2 – Rise of the Goatee

Posted on: November 21st, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Captain John Swalis of Soowahlie First Nation, unknown date [AM 362, File 263(D)]

Last Movember I wrote a blog highlighting some of the individuals from Chilliwack’s historic past rocking a solid mo.  The moustache is grown each November as a symbol of support to raise awareness for men’s health issues.  This year, in addition to the typical male pattern balding, men’s health issues have particularly struck home for my family as we overcome some men’s health obstacles.  For those of you still feeling intimidated about rocking a moustache in 2018, rest assured.  Creativity is allowed and Movember is not limited to the standard stache.  Let’s take a look at some of Chilliwack’s finer individuals that went beyond the moustache and donned some pretty elegant goatees during their life.

 

Beyond the Stache – Growth of the Goatee

 

Lewis William Paisley, ca. 189- [1984.002.013]

Captain John Swalis from the Soowahlie First Nation lived on the Th’ewa:lí settlement on the North bank of SWEE-ehl-chah (Sweltzer) Creek.  Like Chief K’hhalserten (Chief Sepass), Captain John Swalis lived during a challenging time of transition for his community and was widely respected both within his community and the growing re-settler community of the area.  According to Denys Nelson, Fort Langley 1827-1927: A Century of Settlement, Captain John first came into contact with the growing re-settler community in 1858 when he successfully navigated the American steamship, the Surprise, from Fort Langely to Fort Hope, proving that the Fraser River was navigable by steamship (P. 24).  Captain John was a resourceful builder and mover of goods.  He was instrumental in the construction of the Alexandria suspension bridge, established a ferry service across Ts’elxwéyeqw (Chilliwack) River, and designed and built the first permanent bridge at Vedder Crossing with other members of the Soowahlie First Nation.  Captain John helped construct the first church at Th’ewa:lí and vigorously advocated for his community.  Captain John was a leader in the Soowahlie First Nation for approximately 40 years.  He was born around 1810 and died December 9, 1908.

 

William Knight, unknown date. [PP500260]

Louis William Paisley was born July 1, 1860 at York, Ontario.  He farmed for a number of years at Whitechurch, Ontario before heading west in 1890, settling in Chilliwack.  Described as a man of great energy, initiative, determination and good judgement, Paisley was an active promoter of Chilliwack.  In addition to his involvement in real estate development and insurance with Samuel A. Cawley, he was also a highly successful auctioneer.  He was involved with the local Masonic Order, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was president of the Agricultural Association, and secretary of the Dairymen’s and Livestock Association.  He purchased and brought into the valley purebred live stock, which was the nucleus of the fine dairy herds for which the Valley is now so well-known. He suffered a massive stroke in 1910, and passed away on October 14, 1914 at the age of 55 years.

 

Left to right, Tristan Evans and Greg Evans, Palm Springs, CA, December 2016.

William Knight was born on July 24, 1851 in Horton Township, Renfrew County, Ontario.  Knight moved west in 1870 to join the volunteers in the Riel Rebellion, then moved west in 1874 to the Cassiar gold fields.  Knight purchased a small sawmill at Popkum in 1878, and continued in that business for 22 years.  He married Mary Jane Jennie Kipp, eldest daughter of Isaac and Mary Ann (Nelmes) Kipp on April 23, 1883.  William and Mary had eight children together, four daughters and four sons.  Knight Peak is named in his honor.  William Knight passed away January 15, 1928.

 

And finally…

Dr. Greg Evans, father of Chilliwack Museum and Archives, Archivist (me), knows how to sport a solid goatee when the season is right.