After an interesting in-person semester of my Motion Picture Arts program at Capilano University, I’m excited to be back at the Museum- and to have a normal schedule again! I’m very much looking forward to welcoming back visitors in the near future, it’s so quiet here now that I swear I can hear chattering from the dolls upstairs. Working at the Museum has allowed me to see that although events transpire in a fixed way, our knowledge and perception of history is constantly evolving. This process of re-learning and un-learning has given me the opportunity for much self-reflection, and the ability to think more critically of my role (however small) in events that are currently transpiring; a process which I’m grateful to be able to further expand upon in my time here. The COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on several video projects we had started last year, including our new “Unpacking History” series, where each episode we'll pull an artifact and discuss the history that it represents. Lots to look forward to this summer!
(Photo #841) Aerial photo of Princess Louisa Inlet.
We would like to welcome military historian Stu McDonald for a guest column about the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers on the Sunshine Coast during World War II
Remembrance Day is a day to think about those who served in defence of our freedom and the freedom of others around the globe. We often think about those Canadians on other days of the year, as well as on November 11th. When doing so, here on the Sunshine Coast, many of us are not aware of a little known group of military volunteers who served right here in our communities from 1942 to 1945.
These volunteers were members of the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers (P.C.M.R). All of them were members of Canada’s Reserve Army. They were equipped with weapons and uniforms and trained in the evenings and on weekends. Many of the Rangers would have preferred to join the overseas Canadian military forces but they were employed locally in essential work, such as logging, fishing, farming and mining and were not permitted to leave those jobs.
The mission of the P.C.M.R. was to provide surveillance along the coast of British Columbia and Yukon and to help to defend our country against possible Japanese attacks. They also watched for suspicious activity, located Japanese balloon bombs and assisted the Regular Army as guides and scouts.
How many were there in B.C.? Far more than you would probably think. There was a 25 to 50 man company in the Sechelt to Pender Harbour area, another in the Gibsons to Robert’s Creek area, another company in Gambier - Port Mellon – East Bay and a fourth in the Woodfibre area.
There were 132 companies in BC and Yukon, with a total strength of over 14,000 Rangers. If you were a Ranger, or know someone who was, please post a comment below, or contact the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives.
Many thanks to guest author Stu McDonald!
Thanks to the rise of the smartphone and the World Wide Web, it is now easier than ever for us to connect with other people. With one quick search, you can almost always find out anything about anyone, even that girl you met at summer camp ten years ago. It’s difficult to imagine a time when we couldn’t take a thousand photos of our friends, or send a good morning text to a loved one kilometers away. For the generations who grew up before the rise of social media and accessible photography, memories of these connections could be maintained in autograph books.
These books were quite small in size, usually with a decorative cover, and they were carried around by the owner with the intention of collecting signatures and pieces of writing from their friends and family. The sentiment is similar to how one would sign a yearbook today. Autograph books first appeared in 16th century Europe, carried by travelling university students who wished to have something to remember their friends by. At times it could even be used by scholars to show off any impressive connections they’d made throughout their academic careers. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that autograph books became more commonplace. Friends and family would write a prayer or wish for the owner of the book, even including a sketch or a painting at times.
The books lost popularity in late 19th century, but came back into fashion again in the 1920’s. The content between earlier and later books differs slightly as earlier books are more likely to include photographs and artwork, while the later ones will at times contain only a simple signature. Despite a shift in content between the generations, the idea of immortalizing past connections was nevertheless the same.
Two of these autograph books have recently found their home in our collection- one from years 1925-1928 and the other from 1951. The difference in the language used between the two books is interesting to observe. The 1920’s book generally seems to be more poetic and romantic, but contains its fair share of wit nonetheless. Two gimmicks that appear in both of the books are inscribing “by hook or by crook, I’ll be the first in your book” on the first page, or writing in the book upside-down while including a rhyme about this mischievous act, as shown below.
Another fun word game appears in the 1951 autograph collection, when the writer signs off with “yours till ___”, some creative examples are “yours till Niagra falls”, “yours till the kitchen sinks”, “yours till the barn dances”, and “yours till the washing diapers”. It is unclear where these silly rhymes originated from, possibly from the mind of a creative author one day, and copied from one book to the next ever since. Another interesting aspect is the history represented in these collections. The older autograph book holds many signatures from young members of local pioneer families, names such as Soames, Inglis, Hinsta, Winegarden, and Chamberlin.
It is fascinating to witness the unfiltered humour of past generations. There are many sweet sentiments in these books; however, there are just as many witty and slightly crude remarks. Reading these pages evokes the feeling that despite being separated by several decades, we really aren’t so far apart.
The museum holds many mysteries, and these past couple weeks have brought us the answer to one which has been in the back of our minds since last summer; the restricted time capsule instructions from Gibsons Elementary School (as mentioned in our previous blog post “Restricted Access”). We came upon this sealed envelope last year, and written on it was an opening date of September 1st 2020.
Leaving messages for the future is not a new idea. Even the ancient Babylonians inscribed tablets in the foundations of their buildings for future generations to discover. Building time capsules as we know them today, however, is a practice far from ancient. The first time a capsule was built with a specific “open by” date took place in 1876, at the US Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, which was then dubbed a “century safe”. Some of the items deemed of enough importance to be included in the safe were a gold pen, a book of Americans’ signatures, and a book on temperance.
In 1937 a “Time Bomb” was being prepared for the 1939 New York World Fair, and thanks to a publicist from the event, the words “Time Capsule” were coined and have stuck ever since. A notable artifact contained within this capsule is a letter from Albert Einstein himself, which reportedly says, “People living in different countries kill each other at irregular time intervals, so that also for this reason anyone who thinks about the future must live in fear and terror.” It’s doubtful that the children of Gibsons Elementary included any words of this weight in their capsule, but that was for us to find out.
The first step in our search was to look through the digitized archival newspaper collection. The date our time capsule was created had not been noted in our records, so that made the search a bit more difficult. In the end, nothing pertaining to a Gibsons Elementary time capsule was found, but it does seem that there have been quite a few capsules buried on the coast over the years.
The Coast News 04/18/1994
In a last-ditch attempt, a basic Google search was done. We couldn’t believe our eyes as the first hit came up; an article titled “What happened to the time capsule at Gibsons Elementary School?”, published by the Coast Clarion. The time capsule in the article had been buried in the late 80’s and was set to be unveiled in 2020, so it seemed that we had found our match. The only problem was that this capsule had been lost when renovations were done at the school. We contacted Brian Low, who wrote the article and assisted in the time capsule assembly, to find out if any new information had been uncovered.
“Please check the map to see if the indicated location of the capsule is beneath the stairs leading down to the gym and stage of the previous Gibson's Elementary School […]
If that is not the location indicated on your map, then perhaps the capsule or some part of it has survived and might yet be displayed! Please let me know either way.
It is just possible that Sam Reid [the principal at the time] had this trick up his sleeve the whole time. As indicate[d] below, he was always quite the showman!”
Since he published the article, Low had in fact located the capsule, although its fate was still a grim one. According to a former secretary from the district, Sam Reid had decided to open the capsule before his retirement in the early 90’s. An event for the unveiling was organized at Sea Cavalcade, and many of the students who contributed to the capsule were in attendance. The capsule had been tampered with slightly, but hope prevailed as Mr. Reid lifted the lid. A wave of disappointment struck as the eager audience realized that at least half of the contents were missing. One of the most precious items to be lost was a video made for the occasion. Interestingly enough, another time capsule buried by Mr.Reid at Cedar Grove Elementary also had a similar fate.
The question still remained, was this doomed capsule really the one in our archives? Or maybe Low was correct in his guess that Sam Reid had another trick up his sleeve. The only way to find out was to open the envelope. An executive decision had to be made as to whether there was reason enough to open it before the written date of September 1st. Whoever buried the capsule surely would want an event to be organized around the unveiling, so it was our duty to ensure that would actually be feasible. On top of that, we had a written request to open it from one of the probable co-organizers.
To quote our blog post “Restricted Access”, “So much waits to be discovered in the world of archives, who knows where our sealed map will take us next September!” now we finally know that our sealed directions will in fact be taking us nowhere.
Despite a slightly disappointing conclusion, we were given the opportunity to learn about Sam Reid and his time capsule antics, which is a wonderful story in itself. Maybe another one of his capsules is still waiting to be discovered underneath a lesser doomed staircase.
“Ironically, we thought at the time that the greatest danger the time capsule faced was having its existence forgotten.”- Brian Low
Large B&W negative of a young girl "shaking paws" with a large dog. (Year unknown, photo #2486)
Following the craziness and uncertainty of the past couple of months (thanks to a certain pandemic), I am thrilled to be back at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives! I spent this past year studying Motion Picture Arts at Capilano University, where I was able to explore all the roles involved in the making of a film. Over winter break I was contracted to make a short documentary to preserve the history of the Gibsons United Church, which I just finished and can’t wait to share with the community. This film was a great opportunity to practice the research skills I acquired while working at the museum. Bringing in photos from the archives and newspaper articles from the online database (available on our website!) really brought the video to life. I’m looking forward to being able to welcome visitors to the museum again soon, and being involved with the continued growth of the exhibits. This summer will definitely be different than the last, but I’m certain it will be just as interesting with a lineup of exciting new projects.
I can’t wait to welcome everybody back, even if it’s from six feet away!
The swimming enclosure, diving tower and ramp from shore at Camp Elphinstone YMCA (1940)
It’s that time of year again, when back to school ads plague the television and everyone starts saying “this summer went by way too fast!”. Although I’m looking forward to the start of university, I’ll miss being able to come in to work at a museum with such awesome staff and volunteers.
This summer has been a whirlwind of projects, from learning how to add photo negatives into our collections database, to setting a new record in August for our busiest month ever. I never could’ve foreseen how interesting my time here would be! Working at the museum also gave me the opportunity to improve skills that are much needed at university; I worked on my writing and research capabilities while creating the articles on this blog, I learned how to edit video in different formats through working with our footage of Alan Farrell, and I even got to create a video promoting the museum.
One of my favourite parts of this job is the fascinating conversations I have had with people who came into the museum. You never know what memories or connections will be brought up while looking through the exhibits. My view of the Coast has also changed as I learned to see it through the eyes of first-time visitors. I’ll never get tired of recommending activities to do and places to eat here!
Even if I had an endless summer, it would be impossible to learn all of the stories and mysteries within the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives. I’m grateful for the (way too short) summer that I did have here and for everything that I learned during it.
Why are some archives in collections restricted, and why have they been made inaccessible? To work in a museum one must have a good knowledge of ethics, on top of many other things. Since historically significant objects can be personally or culturally sensitive, this understanding of ethical practices is crucial in accepting, displaying, and allowing access to these items.
Either the donor or the museum curator or archivist may decide to restrict an archive. The reasons for this can vary greatly but the over-all purpose is to protect sensitive information. For example; if a diary is donated and a person who was written about in the document is still alive, the curator may choose to preserve the book in a sealed envelope. Nobody, including the museum staff in this case, has permission to open the envelope until a pre-determined date, which would have been decided and recorded at the time of the acquisition.
The Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives holds some restricted archives. One that has recently caught our attention is a large envelope containing a map which leads to a time capsule created by Gibsons Elementary. The date on which the time capsule was buried is unknown, but the instructions state for it to be opened on September 1st of 2020. We can’t wait!
Culturally significant items may also need to be restricted from public access to protect the integrity of religious or ceremonial practices, or physical locations. A map indicating the whereabouts of sacred or religious areas may be restricted in order to prevent others from disrespecting or endangering the space. “The amount of this material may constitute a small percentage of the entire collection. For Native American communities the public release of or access to specialized information or knowledge gathered with and without informed consent-can cause irreparable harm. Instances abound of misrepresentation and exploitation of sacred and secret information.” (Protocols for Native American Archival Materials copyright First Archivist Circle https://www2.nau.edu/libnap-p/protocols.html#Accessibility)
Laura Millar, a well-known archival consultant and author of Archives- Principals and Practices, expertly summarized the subject to SCMA staff recently:
"Archivists act as trusted custodians of documentary evidence, and our goal is to preserve archives so that these materials may be used. But archivists have to balance access with privacy, and sometimes we find it necessary to restrict access to archives. Sensitive correspondence, for example, may be restricted for a number of years, often until the people mentioned in the letters are no longer alive and so cannot be directly affected by the contents of the communications. Archivists work closely with donors to consider appropriate restrictions, and we strive to support reasonable privacy concerns without denying access entirely. What archivists will not do is accept restrictions that unfairly inhibit the potential use of archives, such as closing archives permanently or only permitting certain people to use the materials. Unless we ensure that we can provide balanced and fair access to the materials in our care, archivists are left storing nothing but hidden secrets." (Laura Millar, archival consultant and scholar, personal communication, 8 August 2019).
The world of ethics in museum work is complex and ever evolving. There are always countless points of view to be taken into consideration; even a seemingly straight-forward inquiry into archival restriction reveals the many layers of expertise that are required in the field. So much waits to be discovered in the world of archives, who knows where our sealed map will take us next September!
When the rain finally gives way to sunny days on the Sunshine Coast, the towns begin to buzz with an air of celebration. And celebrate we did! From pillow fights in canoes, to the crowning of the “Pulp Queen”, West Howe Sound was the place to be.
The Sunshine Coast didn’t have many permanent residents during the early 1900’s, but the summer months brought crowds of people looking to catch a break from the city, and with all these vacationers came the West Howe Sound Regatta. Starting in 1929, it was held alternately at Granthams Landing, Hopkins Landing, and Gibsons Landing. A “costume parade” started the festivities and soon enough the wharf would be brimming with spectators, many of whom had just made the trip over by a Union Steamship. The surrounding waters were swarming with local boats, there to participate in or simply watch the chaos. Events included home-made raft races, sailing races, swimming and diving competitions, and pillow fights in canoes. There was even a sun-tanning competition called “skin game”, with each community submitting 3 contestants. The regatta continued throughout the 30’s, but came to an end after the Second World War.
“Postcard-West Howe Sound Regatta, held this year at Gibsons. Moderate crowd of people & boats gathered to watch a swimming competition. Gibsons bay area in background. William Prowse's long boatbuilding workshop at right.” (photo #453)
The middle of August would then bring along the Fall Fair, which contained events lasting from Friday to Saturday evening. Community members brought in entries for a wide variety of categories, and judges chose the most impressive to receive cash prizes for their efforts. The displays were shown at Gibsons Elementary, of which categories included: baked goods, farm animals, flowers, produce, and even displays of hobbies such as needlework or photography. Apart from the displays, a children’s parade would also take place on the Saturday. “A group entry won special merit, a group of Gibson Girls all charming maidens who excelled in doing the Charleston. When time came to gather names half these charming maidens were found to be young gentlemen” (Coast News 1959-08-20, “Children Stage Parade”). After the overall winners had been announced, the festivities finished off with an evening community dance.
“A decorated entry in the Fall Fair parade at Gibsons Landing, c1950. Ernie Lowe in Ed Turner's buggy drawn by Al Christensen's horse.” (Photo #553)
Gibsons Landing’s Wharf Day was a one-time event held on August 16th of 1947. Crowds gathered to celebrate the opening of the new wharf, with the main event being a parade on Marine Drive.
“4 photos of various entries in the Aug. 16, 1947 Wharf Day parade at Gibsons Landing. Shell gas station, Sunset Hardware (now Molly's Reach) and the Bluff visible. Also #1255.” (Photo # 1229)
”Two views (a&b)of the new wharf in lower Gibsons showing how it was decorated for the Wharf Day parade/events that occurred on Aug. 16, 1947.” (photo #1322)
Port Mellon also had its time to shine with the annual Labour Day celebrations taking place at the Seaside Park. Throughout the day various sports competitions and races would be held, although the main event was the crowning of the Pulp Queen. This tradition started in the late 1940’s and carried on for many years to come. School children voted for a Queen from the 6th grade, while the representatives of the younger grades would be cast as flower girls, pages, and a crown bearer. There were also games of Bingo held, and an evening of dancing to wrap up the day.
“Pulp Queen Ceremony: (Kristin(Lien)Dubois), Verna Bursey (braids), Lily McGee (taller girl). Flower girls left to right: Janet (Swanson) Flumerfelt, & Kathy Hostland. Maids of honor left to right: Verna (Swanson) Turner, & Helen (Stewart) Kennaugh.” 1951 (Photo #3861 )
In more recent history, from 1969-2018, Gibsons Landing was home to the Sea Cavalcade. Originally created to bring all of the communities together, this was undoubtedly the most elaborate celebration on the Sunshine Coast. The whole town was turned upside down to host the spectacle; which at times included 2 dances (one on the Gibsons wharf and one in the legion), a beer garden, the crowning of the Sea Cavalcade Queen, a children’s fishing derby, races, a “war of hoses”, fireworks, and a parade.
“B&W 4x4" photo. Local volunteer firefighters’ "War of Hoses" event in the Sunnycrest Mall parking lot as part of the Gibsons Sea Cavalcade. 4 men (2 in uniform) try to control a basketball with fire hoses. Spectators in background.” (photo 2287)
For the first time this summer we will see Gibsons Landing transform into a wonderland of lights with the first ever Lantern Festival. Taking place on July 27th, the day will include music performances, free dance lessons, food trucks, and a lantern procession at 9pm. “In coming years, we will look at expanding the scope and getting the word out even more--this year we have had only a couple of weeks to get everything together,” said Verna Chan, the event’s main organizer.
Celebrations have come and gone, but as time has proven, there will always be something exciting to bring the Sunshine Coast together.
The impact that The Beachcombers has made on the Sunshine Coast is undeniable; tourists remain keen to engage with the show, and every local has a mutual friend that was somehow involved in its production. The series made the Coast known to the world, and paved the way for productions to come.
Before The Beachcombers, the first movie to be filmed in this area was a suspense called The Trap. The Trap was shot on Bowen Island in 1966, before the Canadian film industry had made its name; it was therefore an important event for the whole area. Then, 6 years later in 1972, The Beachcombers moved into town and made Canadian television history. It started off with a small crew composed mostly of CBC news workers, as well as locals who were hired to control the traffic, to be extras, and to do the odd carpentry job. Before the series ended in 1990, there was a spin-off series called Ritters Cove, which filmed in Egmont between 1979 and 1980. The series followed many of the classic tropes of The Beachcombers, except with airplanes instead of boats.
In terms of large-scale Hollywood productions, the Sunshine Coast has had three notable movies that were either entirely or partially filmed here: The Fog (1980), Needful Things (1992), and Charlie St. Cloud (2010). We have also been home to several Hallmark TV productions over the past few years, the most memorable probably being A Carousel Christmas in the summer of 2018 which resulted in the wharf at Lower Gibsons being transformed into a winter wonderland. Although, this was not the first time that the Coast received a major make-over for a production.
In November of 1992, Gibsons played the role of Castle Rock, Maine, for the film adaptation of Steven King’s Needful Things. Not only did Lower Gibsons completely change face, but entirely new buildings were added to accommodate the film.
Molly’s Reach became almost unrecognizable as a run-down café named “The Dot”.
I was fortunate enough to find a piece of the original storyboard in the museum’s collection. This segment illustrates the church explosion scenes, which make up the climax of the film.
“I don’t think Gibsons was quite ready for that movie,” recounts Steve Sleep, manager of Eastlink TV. “They built a church right over top the tourist info booth, and on the other side of the road they built another front, the Needful Things store. In the middle of the night they blew it up. I’d been working on it because it was a lot of night shoots and they needed extra lighting people. They set up this huge explosion with canons to blow that whole thing up. The fire department was on standby, they locked down the whole town, and there were police everywhere. Meanwhile, the church was on fire at the same time. It was quite a big deal.”
After having worked on The Beachcombers, Needful Things, and with the CBC, Sleep became the manager of EastlinkTV (formerly CoastTV) which also plays a key role in our community’s relationship with film and video. It all started in 1978 with a partnership between Coast Cable (now Eastlink), Maryanne West, and Marta MacKown to create a television production course at Elphinstone Secondary. “There were a lot of people who were seeing the movies, specifically Beachcombers being shot, and realized then that we could do this” said Sleep as he retold the channel’s history.
Crew members from The Beachcombers setting up a travelling shot. Terry Blair is the camera assistant/focus puller, Phil Lindsay is the camera operator.
The Beachcombers crew was very open to giving support to the students, with everything from lighting gear to props. The program is still running today in partnership with Eastlink TV, and continues to give students valuable opportunities to work on a real television crew. “That’s where I see the future going, is with the youth being the strong point of the community channel, and bringing their young knowledge and enthusiasm to the station; because that’s always been the way that station’s thrived is having young people and adults and everybody in between working on a level playing field. And I think if I could see that continue that would be my dream.”
The Sunshine Coast’s involvement in film also goes beyond being used as a back-drop. The Sunshine Coast Film Society (SCFS) started a little under 20 years ago with small screenings in Roberts Creek and Gibsons. Today they screen independent films at both the Raven’s Cry Theatre and the Heritage Playhouse. Alan Sirulnikoff, one of the founding members, states the importance of having a society such as this one: “I think the impact of the SCFS has been very important as generally Gibsons would only offer the most mainstream commercial films. The SCFS was an opportunity for the community to experience films that might be out of their comfort zone or films they might not have thought to see otherwise.” Co-founder Tim Mclaughlin adds that “the original vision was to show titles that were inaccessible on the Sunshine Coast, especially those titles that could be supported by a live presentation by the film maker… showing films that sparked ideas, interest and discussion,”. Despite the growing popularity of online streaming, the SCFS’s screenings still have a high attendance rate, and the board is continuing to work on bringing in more challenging films.
Although The Beachcombers left the most permanent impression on the Sunshine Coast, we still have a rich involvement in film and video beyond that series. From hosting large productions, to creating our own, and to screening films from all over the world, this small town “North of Hollywood North” has a considerable amount to offer.
Summer is approaching once again, and with that another new student museum assistant will be joining the team! My name is Kaylin Schober and I couldn’t be more excited to learn about the work that goes into conserving the history of the Sunshine Coast. I greatly value community involvement and have spent many hours volunteering for various projects, so being able to work while giving back to the community is a fantastic opportunity.
I was born and raised in Roberts Creek, but I will be moving to Vancouver this September to attend Capilano University’s Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts Program. In relation to my passion for film and storytelling, I will be working to create video projects with the museum on top of my regular assistant duties. During my time here this summer I am looking forward to learning about the foundations of the coast, how artifacts are processed, and the work behind making an exhibit. The amount of time that goes into researching and caring for the collections astounds me, as well as how much support is given by the community. I hope that I will be able to share my appreciation for the Sunshine Coast with people from all over the globe as well as the locals who stop by.
I’ve already learned so much in my first day here and can’t wait to see what these upcoming months will bring!
Welcome to the official blog of the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives in Gibsons, British Columbia. We're a small museum that strives to preserve and present the history of the beautiful area between Howe Sound and Jervis Inlet.