In 2022 the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives celebrated our 20th anniversary, but many will remember the museums that came before – one was even in the same location on 716 Winn Road. The first of these local museums formed in the basement of Lester Peterson as his collection of local treasures started to fill up the lower part of his house.
Peterson arrived on the Sunshine Coast as a young boy in 1923 and grew up to become an English teacher and local historian. His interest in history led him to write several books and a substantial amount of newspaper columns and articles, which were digitized between 2012 and 2014 as one of the SCMA’s projects. Peterson was an avid collector and many of his friends and community connections gave him artifacts and related their own stories to him. Eventually, this collection outgrew the Abbs Road house that Peterson shared with his family.
In 1965 the Elphinstone Pioneer Museum Society, which included Les Peterson, was formed and were quick to get the museum a more suitable home. The first “permanent” home for the museum was in yet another basement, this time located in what was then the new Municipal Hall building on South Fletcher. Once situated, the museum was able to offer memberships for a large sum of $1 per member! Other collections came to join Peterson’s, including Don Cruikshank’s pipes, Charles Smith’s weapons, Charles Bedford’s shells, and our beloved butterfly cabinet was donated by an anonymous community member.
The Elphinstone Pioneer Museum moved in 1974 when a new building was constructed at the south end of Holland Park specifically for the museum. The museum was able to add an archive and library to its collection with the extra space and even went on the expanded again with an addition of a second storey. But it didn’t stop growing there!
Sunshine Coast Maritime History Society formed in 1986 to construct of full-size replica of Captain George Vancouver’s sloop, the Discovery, for the 200th anniversary of its voyage of exploration. While this project did not come to fruition, the SCMHS was able to open a new museum dedicated to maritime history in 1991. This Molly’s Lane museum was called the Sunshine Coast Maritime Museum and was open from 1991 to 2002 when it amalgamated with the Elphinstone Pioneer Museum. This merger happened 20 years ago to form the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives as we know it.
After 20 years of the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives, we would like to thank the innumerable people who have helped the museum through the years. Our volunteers, board members, staff, and, of course, our visitors have all been an incredible source of support! Our community of heritage societies and museums on the Sunshine Coast is a tight-knit group and we look forward to our museum's future work alongside the Sechelt Archives, tems swiya Museum, Pender Harbour Living Heritage Society, the Egmont Heritage Centre, and the many other groups that make the Coast what it is.
Last Day at the Museum
The summer is almost over and it’s almost time for me to head back to school! I’ve had such a great summer here at the museum. It’s been fun to learn more about local history, and to gain skills related to museum work. Pulling artifacts from storage and figuring out what they were was always a treat. Getting to do research about artifacts and the history of the Sunshine Coast was so interesting, I feel like I learned so much this summer. It’s been so neat to have the opportunity to explore both the exhibit spaces and the behind-the-scenes parts of the museum.
Thank you to Allie, Enya, and Matthew for making this such as fun and interesting job, and teaching me so much about working in a museum. I couldn’t have asked for a better summer experience, and I’m so excited to go back to school having learned so much. Working here and getting to meet so many different visitors has been really enjoyable, and it’s always neat to hear what kinds of questions people have about the Coast. Also, thank you to Chef Barry for always dropping off his delicious treats!
I’m so appreciative for the opportunity to work at the museum, it was truly a great experience! I hope everyone has a great fall!
The Malibu Club in Canada
Swíwelát (Princess Louisa Inlet) has been traditionally a very important location for the shíshálh nation, with massive amounts of spiritual significance, and for having contained a village in the past, called ásxwíkwu. Today, if you’re able to go up and explore beautiful swíwelát, you can find a gorgeous lodge that houses the luxurious Young Life Malibu Club, a summer camp for teenagers. If you had ventured up there in the 1940’s however, those buildings were a part of a very different enterprise. In 1938, American businessman and aviation executive, Thomas Hamilton, was introduced to the inlet by his friend Bill Boeing. Hamilton and his wife apparently were so enchanted by the landscape that they decided they had to own it. This vision was for Thomas Hamilton to create a “mecca for millionaires”, a luxury resort in a beautiful, remote location. He wanted to attract Hollywood movie stars, directors, industrialists, and socialites.
After purchasing the land (and naming one of the islands after himself), Hamilton began construction on his ambitious project, which he planned to call the Malibu Club in Canada. This was a very arduous process, as Hamilton designed all the buildings himself but would not draw them out, and had things rebuilt multiple times until they matched completely with his vision. Originally, Hamilton’s plan had been to create three distinct resorts on the property, including a Scandinavian village on his island and a Swiss one near the mountain, complete with a ski lift. Despite the inlet’s location within shíshálh nation territory, he mostly decorated the inside of his resort with art inspired by the Indigenous of the American Southwest, in order to make his Californian guest feel more “at home”. He did however, make an exception to this rule to commission several totem poles, and employed local Indigenous carvers to do so. The pole Hamilton had made featured his family, the Hamilton Standard variable pitch propeller (which he occasionally claimed to have invented) and a thunderbird. In another bizarre co-opting of Indigenous culture, Hamilton decided to call the opening party for his new resort the “Malibu Potlatch”. Actual potlatches were illegal at this time, and would continue to be banned for another decade when the club was opened in 1941.
Hamilton did manage to create a luxurious escape for the very wealthy, and he did attract some high-profile guests. People such as John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Barbara Stanwick all visited the remote Malibu resort. Activities offered by Hamilton included sailing, boating, fishing, water skiing, hiking, and hunting. The rooms were luxurious, and the food was prepared by French chefs, with a customized menu depending on the guest’s tastes. Entertainers were flown up to the resort specifically to perform for the guests there. After Pearl Harbour, Hamilton closed the resort for the remainder of the war. At the end of the war however, he was determined to revive business, and he went to work renovating and adding cabins, as well as purchasing more yachts and even a seaplane. At this point the golf course is added, possibly to allow the club easier access to a liquor license. The Malibu reopened in 1946,
and remained open until it’s swift and dramatic abandoning in 1950.
The book “Through the Rapids, the History of the Princess Louisa Inlet” proposes three possible reasons for why Hamilton might have deserted his beloved resort. The first reason listed is financial issues. Apparently, though the Malibu kept spotty records, the club had been on a downward track. The book suggests that perhaps it just didn’t seem worth it for Hamilton to keep the resort open, considering the large amount of money and work it took to keep it operational. The second theory put forth is that despite Thomas Hamilton’s dedication to being the “visionary” behind Malibu, most of the actual management and organization had come from his wife, Ethel. At this point in time, they were divorced and she was no longer there to oversee operations. The third, and most dramatic potential explanation, is that it had to do with a polio death and quarantine occurring at the resort.
In 1948, 17-year-old Sydney Diane Harris, an employee of the Malibu, became extremely sick and became unconscious. The nurse at the resort attempted to have her flown to the hospital, but it had become too stormy to safely fly. Instead, the nurse and the captain of one of the Malibu’s yachts attempted to take her boat, but a lack of working light and bad conditions made them turn around. It was decided to wait until the next day to have her airlifted to Vancouver, but tragically, she died on that flight before making it to the hospital. The next night, the visiting sister of the captain who had tried to help Harris also became sick. She was admitted to the hospital and would remain there for three years, having also contracted polio, quite possibly from Harris. After the second case was confirmed, Health Authorities instituted a two-week quarantine on Malibu. Once the quarantine ended, the Malibu returned to its usual operations. However, in 1950, Hamilton’s grandson contracted the disease. Perhaps under the impression that polio would once again spread at the resort, Hamilton collected the staff and abandoned the Malibu. The resort was left entirely intact, with food still on the stove in the kitchen and yachts still moored at the dock.
Two years later, the Malibu would be introduced to Jim Rayburn, the founder of non-denominational Christian Youth Group, Young Life. Rayburn thought that the neglected resort would make for a great summer camp, and had Hamilton visit existing Young Life Camps so he could see what the Malibu would be used for. Hamilton was apparently very pleased with what he saw, and ended up offering Jim Rayburn the property for the greatly reduced price of $300,000. Originally, Hamilton had been trying to get $1 million for it. Young Life officially bought the Malibu in 1953, and campers began coming in the summer of 1954. The camp is still operational, and thanks to renovations and additions done by Young Life staff and volunteers, can now house up to 300 guests at a time. The Young Life Christian camp is still functioning at Malibu, with campers coming from throughout Canada and the United States to experience the wonders of the Inlet.
To begin my summer museum work and to get some experience with handling artifacts, I’ve been working on a little bit of rehousing. This is where I take a box of artifacts from storage, unpack the artifacts to see how they’re doing, and then replace them in the box. While I repackage the items I’ve also been checking in our artifact database to make sure that they are registered correctly. It’s been interesting to trace the origins of an object, through looking in the database and at the donation form from when it originally came to the museum and its path through the museum accession process. This is the process through which an artifact enters the museum’s collection, is catalogued, and put in storage or on display. Some of the objects I’ve come across have either been missing accession numbers, have been given multiple numbers, or just have completely illegible numbers. In these cases, some extra work is required to figure out what exactly the object is and where it came from.
One example of an object that was difficult to trace is this black plastic contraption:
The artifact was found in a box of military items, with a note from 2006 that stated that it was a “measuring instrument with lenses – not military”. This object isn’t something I use in my everyday life, and the accession number had been smudged, making the object difficult to identify. Guessing at what the number looked like it might be didn’t bring anything similar up in the database either. The smudged number was useful, however, in the year the object was donated was legible. In 2002, the Elphinstone Pioneer Museum merged with the Sunshine Coast Maritime Museum. The fact that the object was acquired in 2002 indicated that it was probably a maritime artifact. We ended up scrolling through the database to try and find a description that could be applied to the object. Eventually we decided that it might be a sextant, and, sure enough, when we checked in the database, we found an entry featuring a picture that was most definitely the object. However, the object in the database had a number from 2011, suggesting that someone had given the sextant a new number when they couldn’t find the smudged number in the database. In the end, it was decided that the database entry should be changed to reflect the older, 2002 number. I also re-wrote the number before returning it to the box.
A second mystery find was this metal number-less artifact pictured below:
A note in the box indicated that the artifact was a patent log, a tool that had been used to measure the speed of a boat. However, putting the term “patent log” into the artifact database brought up nothing. The item was also listed on the outside of the box as depth sounder, a completely different maritime tool. Neither of these terms were helpful for finding the object in any records. Eventually, when looking through pictures of patent logs to try and find any other descriptive language that might help me locate the item in the database, I found an illustration from a thesaurus website depicting two pigeons having a little chat about synonyms for the term patent log.
Synonyms for Patent log. (2016). Retrieved 2022, June 23, from https://thesaurus.plus/synonyms/patent_log
Seeing this, I put all the synonyms the graduated, bread-wearing pigeon mentioned into the database, and with that I found an entry for a “log line” (which turned out to be a very similar artifact). This led me to an entry for a “chip log”, which turned out to be the correct item. Now that it had been located in the database, I was able to number the patent log, so that it would be easy to locate in the future.
Unfortunately, even after all that looking, I wasn’t able to learn anything about the specific histories of these two objects, about where they had come from, or who had used them. The task of trying to figure it though was still interesting, and going through a few of the artifacts in storage has made me intrigued to see what other interesting, unidentifiable tools the museum’s collection contains.
New Summer Student!
Hi! My name is Lucy Wolchock-Brown, and I’m so excited to be starting my job as the Summer Museum Assistant here at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to see how the museum functions, and to learn more about Sunshine Coast history. I’m from Roberts Creek, and went to Elphinstone Secondary for high school. This past September I moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia. There I’ve been pursuing an arts degree, and am hoping to major in either anthropology or art history. I’ve always been a big museum visitor, and I'm delighted that I get to spend my whole summer at one!
I’m interested in material and visual culture, and am excited to explore those things through the museum’s collection. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can learn about the Sunshine Coast through working at the museum and having access to all the historical documents, artifacts, and photos here. This job will be a great way to learn about all the different facets of museum work, and I’m especially excited to learn about artifact handling and preservation. Over my summer at the museum I hope to be able to help maintain and run the museum, as well as learn more about the Sunshine Coast and its history.
Photo 168, A panoramic view of lower Gibsons Landing c1950.
Many visitors to the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives ask “where are the archives?” While we maintain a robust collection of archival documents in storage, many of these archives are not available for in-person viewing due to preservation concerns. What we have on exhibit is only a small percentage of the Museum’s collection, which includes 7000+ artifacts, 1600 archival documents and over 8000 photographs and negatives. We also house The Coast News and The Peninsula Times newspapers, along with an assortment of other regional publications. The museum is committed to making everything accessible to the public so we have worked to digitize our collections. This makes them easier to search through and means that you do not need to visit the museum, or be trained in archive handling, to go through the archives. You can visit our collection from the comfort of your own home!
There are several ways to search the collection and the best method depends on what you are looking for. Interested in learning about the winner of the Dog Fish Derby in 1979? Looking for images for your business? Do you want to hear locals tell stories about the olden days? Each of these can be found in a different part of our collection. Let’s research Harry Roberts as an example.
Photographs & Archives
Click here to search photographs and archives
When you type Harry Roberts into the keyword search bar, the results will come back including anything mentioning Harry or Roberts. All of the items associated with Harry Roberts will be included, but so will every other person named Harry or Roberts and you will get 478 results rather than the 40 that are specific to Harry Roberts. To avoid this, you can instead type “Harry Roberts” or Harry AND Roberts. To search for photographs taken by Harry Roberts, used the Advanced Search option and type “Harry Roberts” in the Creator field. To limit your findings to photographs of the different things that Harry Roberts built during his lifetime, you can search “Harry Roberts” AND buil*. The asterisk (*) will include built or buildings and is a great trick to use if you are uncertain about spelling. In this case it is useful because we will be able to see all of the buildings, boats and even the waterwheel that Harry Roberts made in one search.
Once you have clicked search, you will see photographs appear first, followed by any archival materials that are in the search results. For Harry Roberts, these archival materials are categorized as “Papers, Personal” and include his extensive writings on a variety of topics. You can read through handwritten or typed accounts of local stories as well as some of Harry’s more philosophical ponderings. Other archival materials that can be found in our collection are maps, pamphlets, books. Anything on paper!
If you want a digital copy of a photograph that you have found, without that pesky watermark covering it, we’ve got you covered. Click on the image, then click Request Image in the lower right corner to open an online ordering form. Once you have submitted your request, an email notifies staff at the museum and we will get back to you ASAP. For research and private study, low resolution .JPG images (96 dpi) are available free of charge. High resolution .TIFF images (300 dpi) are available for purchase for $20 (research/private study only). If the image is to be used for commercial purposes, a Usage Agreement may be required. *PLEASE NOTE: Prints are not available for purchase at this time. Printing can be done at home, by a local copy shop or through an online service.
Click here to access digitized newspapers
The museum has digitized several publications that were locally produced, including two newspapers The Coast News (1945-1995) and The Peninsula Times (1963-1979). These are invaluable research tools that highlight the day-to-day life of the Sunshine Coast as well as chronicle many significant events for the area. Similar to searching for photographs, the newspaper search also uses keyword searching and works best when quotation marks are used. You can choose to search chronologically or within a certain time frame if you are looking for a specific event or article. The Coast News has the most articles so it is a good place to start but do not underestimate The Peninsula Times! Searching for “Harry Roberts” will pull up 126 results from The Coast News and 23 articles from The Peninsula Times.
To save digital copies from the newspaper collection, there are two options; single pages can be downloaded in JPEG format while entire issues can be downloaded as PDF files.
Click here to access selected clips from our Oral History Collection
Recorded interviews with a variety of Sunshine Coasters are preserved in the archives, with the oldest recording dating back by to 1959. There are over 90 that have been collected from local legends. We are currently working on making more of them available and our incredible volunteers are in the process of transcribing them. Although the Oral Histories are not all available yet, the ones that are online can be found on the museum’s Soundcloud. This includes an interview with Harry Roberts, recorded in the 1960s. To learn about the recordings that we have, submit a research request and we will look through our masterlist.
Our library includes books on relevant heritage and coastal topics, some of which are no longer in print or are difficult to source. The library is open to the public during museum hours, although it is not a lending library, meaning that our books are available to read in the library but cannot be borrowed. If you would like a list of recommended books for a topic you are interested in, we are happy to discuss which books may interest you. Harry Roberts is, of course, mentioned in Remembering Roberts Creek by the Roberts Creek Historical Committee as well as a selection of other books.
You may have to come into the museum after all – some things just have to be experienced in person!
If there is anything that you cannot find, feel free to ask us. We are happy to help with research requests, nothing is too out there. It takes approximately two weeks to complete a request and the first 30 minutes of research is free. Additional research is $25 per hour. Requests can be submitted by emailing email@example.com, phone 604-886-8232 or in person. Now that you have read all the way through this guide, you are practically an expert researcher already!
Before Winegarden Park or Brothers Park there was “Fairy Glen”, more commonly referred to as the Glen. It was a popular picnic area enjoyed by locals, summer complaints and cattle alike, but until recently, the Glen was no longer the community gathering space that it was 100 years ago. According to The West Howe Sound Story, during the 1920s “the Glen was a lovely secluded picnic area […] at the north-eastern boundary of the Village of Gibson’s Landing”. Church services and fundraising events such as summer teas were often held there alongside everyday picnics. It became so common to have these events that the Gibson’s Landing and District Improvement Association installed two large picnic tables there. This lovely spot made such an impression that it was included in a wedding album that Helen McCall gave to Mary Fletcher, alongside other favourite spots about town such as Gibsons Landing, Dougall Point and the Howe Sound School.
Although the popularity of the Glen faded in the decades since the 1920s it is being revitalized in the 2020s as a trail system. The Town of Gibsons, with the help of many volunteers and a grant from the Vancouver Foundation, has developed a new trail through the area.
Barry Janyk, former Mayor of Gibsons, worked with neighbours to build the new trail following a dispute over property lines. The Heritage Hill Neighbour Association and the Town of Gibsons cleaned up the creek and surrounding area, which had been used as an illegal dumping site, rebuilt the trail and planted a dozen cedars. Janyk, who has lived on the Coast and been involved in community work since 1978, commented that “nothing bonds people like everyone working together on a common goal” and this trail was one such goal. Daniel Tardif, Manager of Maintenance and Operations at Town of Gibsons, also spoke about the effort that the project took as it required a geo-technician, biologist and trail designer to evaluate the area. Michel Frenette was heralded by Janyk as a "master trail builder" and was instrumental in the planning and building of the trail.
The Glen, as it was remembered by Stanley Trueman in one of the Museum’s oral history recordings, “comes out just where the highway leaves the village. At that time, it wasn’t as thickly treed as it is now”. The new trail, which has not been officially named yet, is in this same location, with an entrance right next to the sign for the Town of Gibsons. The trail is not very long, and is made up of a leisurely couple hundred metres that wind along Gibson Creek. The old wooden bridge is no longer there and the pathway is maintained by the town and the neighbourhood rather than the free-range cattle “that roamed at large” and “kept the grass well grazed” in the 1920s. And yet the area has kept its secluded allure.
When asked about future projects, Tardif mentioned working on other local rights of way that need to be improved upon to make them more accessible. Signage for these trails will also be created, which is not only good for helping people find these paths, but also in clarifying property lines and educating people about the heritage of the area. That is something we at the Museum are particularly fond of. While the trail through Fairy Glen waits to be named, it will be exciting to see the area become a community gathering space once again.
Crowe Road Commune, Funny Food Farm, and Sugar Mountain Commune are just some names of the groups that populated the Sunshine Coast in the early 1970’s. This may not come as much of a surprise, as many of us are familiar with the Coast’s countercultural attitude, so what made 1971 any different? This year was especially notable in the history of these communes because, for a short period of time, they were funded by the Federal Government.
Mushroom Festival, Fall 1969. Photograph by Michael de Courcy, from the Intermedia Catalogue. Courtesy of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia.
Unlike the emergency Government funding we’ve all familiarized ourselves with during the reign of COVID-19, the people of the 70’s were faced with an entirely different pandemic: restlessness among youth. To remedy this, and the growing youth unemployment rate in the country, Opportunities For Youth was created. These grants were unique because they were given to projects that were created not only for, but by the younger generations. The program received criticism for many reasons, including supporting projects which some found to be too controversial. Underground newspapers, drug counselling services, and communes are just some examples of the ideas which received funding. British Columbia had 30 of these subsidized counter-cultural groups, half of which were located on the Sunshine Coast. At the foundation of these communes was the idea of self-sufficiency, and exploring alternative lifestyles. The phenomenon received international attention when a New York Times journalist was sent to the Coast, noting that many communes were without electricity and running water. One of the harshest critics of this program was Wallace Peterson, the Mayor of Gibsons at the time. In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, he stated that “to support a bunch of American hippies. . . isn’t the purpose of the OFY program. They’re using the money to learn how to grow pot—I don’t think you’ll see a single potato growing on any of these communes.” His suspicions were put to the test on June 21st of 1971 when the RCMP raided these grant recipient groups, only to find no hard evidence of any illicit activities. Documentation on the final success of the communes is limited.
The experience of living through a pandemic has changed many individuals’ perspectives regarding the sustainability of our current ways of living. And although we aren’t quite headed toward another Government-funded commune craze yet, it may not be a bad idea to learn about ways to become more self-sufficient.
Special thanks to Matt Cavers for research notes
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!