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Connections – Why I Support the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by Vivian Evans Walker

Posted on: November 8th, 2018 by Yvonne Contreras

Connections – Why I Support the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by Vivian Evans Walker

Butter Mold 1981.028.012ab

When I was a child, if I wanted to know something about “the olden days” I would often ask Gramma. What was it like to travel in a covered wagon from the Dakotas to Alberta? Were you dizzy the first time you took a train? How can I make butter from scratch? Gramma knew. She was a living connection to questions about the past.

If I wanted to know about being a wartime kid in Vancouver, I would ask Mom. Her father was a world champion ski jumper, but like many families in the 1930s, they lived in poverty. She saw the huge migration of Prairie farm kids to North Vancouver in the early 1940s, when families crammed into “wartime houses,” eager for the work the shipyards brought. She watched four of her brothers go to war. She was a Junior Air Raid Warden, doing her part for the war effort at age 10.

For almost everything else, I asked Dad. He had a coin collection gleaned from the mud under the horse barn, where the farmhands played poker while waiting for mares to foal. He regretted rarely eating the food prepared for the Chinese field hands by the Chinese cook on the farm but could show me the tiny opium bottles found near their bunkhouse. He would read us sections of the Charles Evans Diary, which details my great-great grandfather’s journey from Picton County in Ontario “around the Horn” to Victoria. He would show me the farm ledgers kept by my great-great grandmother, Jane Wells Evans, detailing her struggle as a young widow to turn rich but soggy soil into a productive farm.

Evans Farm Horse Barn – PP502545

These memories lived with us as children. The ledger and diary were on the top shelf of the linen closet.  I could literally touch Chilliwack’s history. Inspired by his cousins Casey and Oliver Wells, my dad was an early trustee of the Historical Society and spoke of the days in the future when some of the relics we grew up with would seem quaint to future generations.

Do I have any of these relics? No, and I am actually happy I do not. We have a large family. My gramma and my Aunty Milly (Mildred Evans Hall) made the wise decision to donate many of our family’s special items to the Museum for all to experience. The abacus I played with as a child, the journals, the opium bottles, the beautiful bowl my great-grandmother received as a wedding gift and many other more mundane family treasures all live in the Chilliwack Museum.

Evans Farm Cabin -PP502549

These items, though, are part of the Museum’s collections. For the Museum to truly resonate and move forward, we need to invest in connections. Today’s kids want to be entertained. The stories of the Museum’s collections come alive in a way that makes Chilliwack’s history compelling. We work constantly to use best practices to do this. Last year we expanded our school programs to include the Classroom-in-Residence program. It fully engaged intermediate students in an integrated study of their community, with the Chilliwack Museum and Archives as the launching pad for their explorations. Overwhelmingly, their feedback after the program spoke of how they felt more connected to their community’s history.

How do I help the Museum to create better programming? I support the Museum by volunteering my time as a trustee, just as my dad did. My mom and I created an Adopt-a-School fund so money isn’t a barrier preventing schools in low-income areas from visiting the Museum. And although I am now retired, every month I make a small gift to the Chilliwack Museum so we can offer Chilliwack kids the best in programming. With that support, they, too, can form the connections I did to Chilliwack’s history.

Vivian Evans Walker

If you would like to support the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by donating, please go to our secure online donation page at CanadaHelps.

If you are interested in supporting the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by becoming a Museum member or volunteer, please learn more at our website.




Time Travelling Taste Buds

Posted on: October 11th, 2018 by Sarah Belley

In my ongoing exploration of the area’s history, I find myself often comparing how our experience parallels that of those who’ve come before. How are our traditions alike or how are they different? How can we engage in that history, and experience life in similar ways?

In our last blog post our archivist, Tristan Evans, gave us a delicious account of Chilliwack’s long history of produce stands. A particular portion sparked my interest, Mrs. Caroline Christie’s Hot Dog Relish, and the book that carries on the formula, Pioneer Recipes.

Circa 1930, James and Caroline Christie operated multiple local businesses, including the eventual Christie’s Farm Fresh Produce. While the establishment did house a hot dog stand, that portion was only in operation for roughly 10 years from 1940 – 1950.  I find it interesting to imagine that 8o years ago locals would be stopping in to Christie’s with their families to pick up some fresh produce and have a hot dog made with Caroline’s homemade relish. Caroline made 350 gallons of this relish annually, which speaks to the demand of her local customers! It is also interesting to note that the hot dogs were ten inches long and cost a dime.

After locating the recipe for the relish, I can now set out to re-create it, and share it with my family. How difficult will it be to prepare? How will it taste? How will the act of preparing the relish give me the opportunity to experience this piece of history?

Comparatively in our temporary exhibit, Mountaineers, there is a reproduction of a diary from 1928 titled “A Trip to Paradise”. The diary is a collaborative account of six young adults and their assent of Liumchen Mountain. While the diary does a beautiful job of recording the natural beauty and camaraderie of the trip, it also provides insight into what the group were eating. Breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon, and coffee; Lunch of sandwiches, cookies, raisins, and dates; A dinner of ham, bread, and string beans. And for dessert? Chocolate éclairs and rice pudding. This 90 year old meal plan could easily be one we plan for a camping trip today.

Having obtained a copy of Pioneer Recipes, I had secretly hoped to find obscure fantastical early pioneer meals of sweet breads, haggis pie or even a mystical “Lièvre Royale”.  Alas, the frightening foods of our past are mostly relegated to post 1960’s entertainment magazines.  Although we have changed in many ways, (socially, economically and technologically); gastronomically, we still enjoy our hot dogs, puddings, bacon and eggs, and even perhaps a nice bowl of macaroni and cheese.

A copy of Pioneer Recipes, Published by the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society is available to view at The Chilliwack Museum.

Your local gift shop at the Chilliwack Museum

Posted on: September 4th, 2018 by Yvonne Contreras

Disaster on Mount Slesse & 105 Hikes

The evenings have begun to cool and the morning air is brisk – Fall has come upon us. This is the kind of weather that makes me think of cozy evenings curled up with a book and if you’re looking for something new to read what better place to head than the museum gift shop.

We have an excellent selection of local history books such as the Chilliwack Story, Disaster on Mount Slesse, and Edenbank; we also carry a variety of noteworthy First Nations books, including Being Ts’elxwéyeqw and Sepass Poems.

Our children’s section is expanding as well with local history books such as Flood Warning, featuring a child’s perspective of the 1948 flood, and Island in the Salish Sea, a beautifully illustrated story of a young girl’s visit to her grandmother’s island home.

Mountain Range necklaces – Ava & Oliver

If your bookshelf is already full of books to be read we’ve also got a variety of locally produced jewelry and gifts such as the Mountain range necklaces by Ava & Oliver and handmade birch coaster sets by Laureen Cuvilier Benton.

The museum and gift shop is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and on Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you there!

My Summer at the Museum

Posted on: July 31st, 2018 by Kelsey Ablitt

Guest Blog by Education Assistant Abbie Murphy

Mountaineers Bear Hunt craft taught at the July guided family craft sessions.

This past summer I had the pleasure of working the Education and Engagement Assistant position through Young Canada Works. Some of the things I learnt include different events in Chilliwack’s vast history, how a museum operates, and many instructional techniques that will benefit my future career in teaching.

When I first started at the museum, the Mountaineers exhibit was being prepared to open. During the preparation for the exhibit opening, I learnt not only of Chilliwack’s historical relationship with the mountain ranges in the area, but also, the techniques and mechanics that are required to produce an exhibit. For example, for the exhibit to open, the lights must be rearranged to highlight the texts and artifacts. Along with the other summer student, Alec, I worked to reposition current lights and add light fixtures to ensure the exhibit features were clearly visible and shown at their best. After adjusting the lights, I had a new understanding of the meticulous work that had to be completed before opening an exhibit. Thus, my appreciation for the staff at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives increased.

One of the projects I worked independently on this summer were the family craft drop-ins that I led each Wednesday in July. Although the craft dates took place in July, I spent the majority of June researching Chilliwack’s history and finding a craft to associate with the topics I discovered. Once I had selected four major themes, Mountaineers, Chilliwack Flying Club and Airport, British Columbia Electric Railway, and Chilliwack Fair and Agriculture, I started planning related crafts. In addition to preparing interesting crafts for elementary aged children, I created matching and true or false games using historical photos from the archival collection at the museum. Although I would not consider myself a crafty person, I enjoyed creating and teaching crafts that reflected Chilliwack’s history.

Canadian Goose Marionette Puppet

Another important part of my position at the museum were outreach events. Outreach involved working at different community events throughout the summer, such as Canada Day and Party in the Park. At Canada Day, I had created and prepared Canada Goose parts out of construction paper for children to build and turn into a marionette puppet. During the outreach events, I learnt about the community’s different interests in Chilliwack’s history and was able to teach, using the games and crafts I had created, about some of the captivating topics in Chilliwack’s past such as the flood of 1894.

Although my time at the museum is about to end, I will continue to use the historical knowledge and experiences that I have received while working at the museum throughout my education, career, and personal life. I have gained a new appreciation for Chilliwack after leading walking tours, assisting in educational programs, and teaching crafts. Sharing the details of Chilliwack’s past, the architecture, the environment, and the people, has truly allowed for both my education and appreciation for the area to flourish.

Upcoming Summer Activities!

Posted on: June 6th, 2018 by Kelsey Ablitt

As the summer approaches, myself and our education assistant, Abbie are planning our summer activities! For the past two years the museum has offered weekly craft activities throughout the summer. This year our activities will be taking place in July. Every Wednesday in July we will be offering both a morning and afternoon session of guided crafts. Each week we will be focusing on a theme related to Chilliwack’s vibrant history, offering a specific craft related to the topic.

We will be offering both a morning session from 10-11am and an afternoon session from 2-3pm.

July 4th: Mountaineering featuring a map craft.
July 11th: Chilliwack Flying Club/Chilliwack Airport featuring a clothespin airplane craft.
July 18th: British Columbia Electric Railway featuring a train craft.
July 25th: Chilliwack Fair/ Agriculture featuring a fair focused puppet craft.
Cost: By donation.
Location: Chilliwack Museum, 45820 Spadina Ave.

Activities are suitable for ages 5 and up.

The B.C. Electric Railway train craft that will be offered July 18th.

Along with our summer activities at the museum, we will also be at various outreach events throughout the summer, such as Cultus Lake Day and Canada Day. Stop by and say hello!

For more information on our summer activities please call 604-795-5210 x. 103 or email [email protected]

SQ’ÉWLETS Exhibition Final Week

Posted on: April 26th, 2018 by Adrienne Rempel

Installation image of Sq’éwlets exhibition. Photo by Lori Johnson.

This is the final week that the exhibition SQ’ÉWLETS: A Stó:lō–Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley will be on display at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. The exhibition will wrap up this Saturday April 28th, with a closing ceremony held from 10am to 11am (the exhibition will remain open until 2pm on Saturday). All are welcome to this community event.

Sq’éwlets exhibition opening event.

During its 5-month span, the  SQ’ÉWLETS exhibition has welcomed over 800 visitors. With a strong interest from local schools, our staff provided exhibition tours to nearly 200 students in the community. This spring, we also ran our first classroom-in-residence program, which provided two classrooms with a dedicated period of time to engage with, and study, the exhibition.

If you don’t have the chance to make it to the exhibition, you can still catch the content through the Sq’éwlets First Nation website (but we hope you make it out anyway!)

With informative panels, photos, touchable objects, a material identification activity, video, and a touchscreen portal to the exhibition website, there is a lot to see and do for folks of all ages!

(The website was produced by the Sq’éwlets First Nation in collaboration with the Stó:lō Resource and Research Management Centre at Stó:lō Nation, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and additional partners.)

The Women Mountaineers of Chilliwack

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by Adrienne Rempel

Group photo of Nina Carleton, Irene and Gertrude Knight, William Knight, “Olealley” Louie, and Lyle and Carolyn Macken, 1907 [P1190]

Group photo of Nina Carleton, Irene and Gertrude Knight, William Knight, “Olealley” Louie, and Lyle and Carolyn Macken, 1907 [P1190]

During my research for the upcoming exhibition, Mountaineers: Community Experience in Chilliwack’s Mountains, I’ve discovered some great accounts of women exploring the local ranges. In fact, one of the initial factors that drew me to the exhibition theme, is that climbing and exploration of the nearby mountains has long been an activity for all genders to enjoy. The following is one example.

When William Knight led a party of seven up Lhílheqey (Mt. Cheam) in 1907, his daughters Irene and Gertrude, along with Mina Carleton and Carolyn Macken, joined the climb to the peak. Unlike today, this journey was a challenging multi-day climb that involved hiking up the north side of the mountain from a trail near Bridal Falls. Camping several nights on the mountainside, scrambling along loose rock, and at least one hold-your-breath dash along a narrow ledge were required parts of the climb.

To make the journey more practical, the women of 1907 eschewed the dress conventions of the day by wearing short(er) skirts. While still considered long and hampering by today’s standards, a member of the climbing party, Carl Grossman, observed that, “The girls had donned their climbing clothes and looked like a lot of school kids. Their skirts were cut to the knees and looked very funny.”1

Gertrude and Irene Knight rest at Prairie Camp, halfway up the Lhílheqey hike, 1907 [P1192]

Gertrude and Irene Knight rest at Prairie Camp, halfway up the Lhílheqey (Mt. Cheam) hike, 1907 [P1192]

Irene (Knight) Bunt and her sister Gertrude (Knight) Barber were in fact regular climbers of Lhílheqey (Mt. Cheam) and accompanied their father on countless trips to the peak. Bunt later recalled, “As a child we lived at Popcum and saw Cheam very well. Most years my father, William Knight, would take parties of young people up in August. We would leave early Monday morning and not get back until Sat. p.m. It was a delightful trip and we all…enjoyed it.”2

Unfortunately for Barber, she never reached the very top of the mountain. It appears that the various hiking parties inevitably had at least one member with a fear of heights, and poor “Gertie” was always selected to bring them back down to an easier part of the trail.

For more accounts such as this, make sure you visit our exhibition Mountaineers: Community Experience in Chiliwack’s Mountains when it opens at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives on May 18, 2018.

(Read more about the group’s climb in this 1907 article from the Progress archives.)

  1. Letter from Carl Grossman, 25 August 1907, AM0014, Grossman family fonds
  2. Letter from Irene (Knight) Bunt to the Chilliwack Historical Society, 11 November 1985, AM0606, 1985.092, Irene Bunt fonds

Tell us your mountain story!

Posted on: February 8th, 2018 by Adrienne Rempel

Here at the Museum we are planning the next exhibition, Mountaineers: A History of Community Use on the Skagit Range. We are actively involved in the research and community outreach phase, and are contacting local individuals and community groups about their mountain experiences. We are also looking for loans or donations of equipment and gear associated with hiking and exploring the Skagits.

Early colour photograph depicting the ridge of Cheam Mountain.

Lhilheqey (Cheam) Ridge at the 7000 ft level, during the Grossman group climb, 1907 (CMA PP501181)

Which mountains are the Skagits? The Skagit Range is a subsection of the Cascade Mountains that extends to the Fraser River in the north, down to Washington in the south. Famous peaks include Lhilheqey (Mt. Cheam), Selísi (Mt. Slesse), and Loyúmthel (Liumchen Mtn). This area has been used extensively by aboriginal groups for thousands of years, and is included in the Stó:lō First Nation’s S’ólh Téméxw (Our World).

In addition to the community outreach and knowledge gathering we are currently conducting, if any individuals want to reach out we are happy to hear from you. If you have a story, photograph, old journal, or equipment associated with your relationship to the local mountains, don’t hesitate to get in touch. (Remember, a local element is crucial, so while we enjoy hearing stories from other parts of the world, our focus is on the Chilliwack connection.)

So…Did your family have regular backcountry excursions? Were you a member of Chilliwack Search and Rescue, the Chilliwack Outdoor Club, or did your Guides group explore the Skagits? Do you remember your family going out for berry picking excursions, or do you participate in cultural activities in the mountains? Maybe you are ready to retire your old backpack or the trusty hikers that got you through many the upcountry trail…

Black and white image of 4 figures standing atop a rocky mountain ride, the background shows the silhouette of mountain peaks in the valley.

1928 excursion into Loyúmthel (Liumchen) Valley via the first horseback trail in the region (CMA 2016.052)

If so, get in touch with our Curator! Email [email protected], call 604-795-5210, or stop by the Archives at 9291 Corbould St (open M, W, F 9am to 4:30pm; Tu and Th by appointment).

We are interested in a range of modern, as well as traditional and historic, stories, photos and artifacts.

Connecting with the Collection: The Hats of Violet Dickinson

Posted on: December 13th, 2017 by Adrienne Rempel
Black and white image of a woman in a dress seated in a yard with flowers, holding a dog.

Violet Dickinson with pet dog, c. 1930s-1940s (CMA 2014.034)

When it comes to fashion, the Chilliwack Museum textile collection has some articles of note, from a pair of 1900’s buffalo fur chaps (1988.030.001a-b) to a 1920’s beaded flapper dress (1995.006.007). Garments such as these provide an example of the changing trends in personal adornment over time, and tell a particular story about the history of Chilliwack.

One such collection that I’ve had the chance to review lately are the fabulous hats of Violet Dickinson. As Mrs. Dickinson was a fixture within the community for over 80 years, her hat collection represents the changing trends in modern headwear, particularly in the era from 1940-1970. Below is a sampling of the styles now held in the Museum collection.


The Beret

A mannequin head is pictured wearing a mustard yellow, wool beret.

Beret (CMA 2014.077.019)

Sporting a beret, or “tam” style, this rich yellow cap (CMA 2014.077.019) is completed with a matching pom-pom.

The beret and its Scottish variant, the tam-o’-shanter, have a long history and various associations tied to local and military identity, going back to the bronze age. Other associations, as a revolutionary symbol (think Che Guevara) or the Rastafari movement, also follow the beret. As a modern accessory, such caps were worn by cultural icons from Picasso to Thelonious Monk, and the stereotype of the beret-adorned artist exists to this day.  In North America, the look has been a popular fashion accouterment since the 1920’s. In 1933 Chilliwack, you could buy a “beret tam” from David Spencer for .79c.


The Pillbox

Head of a mannequin is seen sporting a white pillbox hat with white netting and a floral motif. Head is tilted at a 3/4 angle.

Pillbox (CMA 2017.044.003)

The pillbox style is characterized by a flat crown, straight upright sides, and by having no brim. Historically, this shape of hat was used as military headgear, however the modern women’s version was invented in the 1930’s, and was perhaps most famously sported by Jackie Kennedy in the 1960’s. This variant on the pillbox style (CMA 2017.044.003) is topped with stiff netting and a flower motif.


The Cloche

The third hat (2014.077.016) is shaped in the cloche style, which is characterized by a bell-shaped, close-fitted look. Popularized between 1922 and 1933 (think Josephine Baker), the style enjoyed a resurgence in the 1960’s. This particular hat is made with in a decorative, “lacy straw” style. The gauze bow adds to the delicate appearance of the piece.

A mannequin head is modelling a straw-coloured hat with a matching bow tied around the brim. The head is looking straight on.

Cloche (CMA 2014.077.016)


About Violet Dickinson

Violet Phyllis Dickinson (nee Craven) (b. April 1, 1919, England–d. September 28, 2013) came to Canada with her parents and siblings in 1928. The family lived in Agassiz for a year, then moved to Chilliwack. In 1942 she married S. Perry Dickinson, and they had two daughters. Her hobbies included knitting, making artificial flowers, and collecting and caring for a small aviary, and a large assortment of rare tropical fish. Dickinson is well-known for her role in hosting the “Chat-A Way” Club—an initiative of the Chilliwack branch of Soroptimist International—from her home twice a week during the 1950’s. The club went on to become the Chilliwack Senior Recreation Centre. She continued volunteering in the community throughout her life.

Connecting with the Collection: Cats in 3-D

Posted on: October 5th, 2017 by Adrienne Rempel

The stereoscopic card was a popular form of household entertainment in the late 19th century. Developed soon after the advent of photography, stereoscopic cards provided the illusion of 3-D imagery. These cards were easily reproducible and fairly inexpensive for individual households to purchase, and consequently enjoyed a worldwide market.

I recently reviewed the Museum’s collection of stereoscopic cards, and while many of the cards portrayed famous events, landmarks and persons—several cards did not. Rather than recording the momentous, these humble scenes portrayed situational jokes and household tableaux.

Most striking among these cards was the humorous scene titled, Tabby as Grandma. This card pictures a well-pleased tabby cat lounging in a comfy armchair, knitting needles at the ready, and neatly dressed as “Grandma.”

2 nearly identical photos of a tabby cat sitting in a wicker chair, dressed as a human woman. The cat has knitting needles in its lab. The images are surrounded by a paper border.

Tabby as Gramma (Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1987.003.007b), c.1902-3

The beauty of studying history is how it can inform the present, often in unexpected ways. Let’s take a paws (ahem) and consider Tabby as Grandma from our vantage point—namely, that of internet users in 2017. Today, the undisputed champion of social media shares and viral youtube videos is none other than the felis catus (domestic cat). Both lauded and vilified for possessing low-brow accessibility and tremendous popularity, many the critic have questioned humans rising obsession with felines.

close up of a ginger cat lying on white and pink sheets. The cat is looking over its shoulder and has green eyes.

An example of a cat-based meme
image source: https://flic.kr/p/4c6TnL

But what if this obsession didn’t just begin in the age of the internet? Looking at Tabby as Grandma, we can infer that cute and/or humourous cat photographs were being produced and distributed en masse as soon as humankind had the technology to do so inexpensively (for instance, with stereoscopic cards).

It does seem to prove that before the internet brought us lolcats, Grumpy Cat, and many the meme, the human love for their furry companions was already a well-established trend. And in fact, have captured our hearts for (at the least) over a century!

The Tabby as Grandma image was originally published by The Universal Photo Art Co., in Philadelphia, USA.