The Museum’s Blog

March 2019 Watershed Moments

Here is the latest newsletter installment of an image from the museum’s award-winning book Watershed Moments – A Pictorial History of Courtenay and District.

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Photo credit: CDM Sillence Collection. Page 147.

Photo caption: View of the empty corner lot of 5th Street and England Avenue, 1940, that would soon boast the E.W. Bickle Theatre. Charles Sillence photograph.

March 2019 Gift Shop News

Amazing new items are arriving daily for your shopping enjoyment. There are too many to mention so staff have narrowed it down to these top three personal picks:

  1. Adorable felt mice and rabbit figures that couldn’t be any cuter if they tried. A great Easter gift for $14.95 each.
  2. Animal and bird themed cotton tea towels at 14.95 each.
  3. Gorgeous smelling soy candles made by Aroma Botanicals with the heady scents of Raspberry Champagne, Lavender Orange and Chamomile or Coconut Lime. $5.95 each.

Merville – 100 Years and Counting Part 3

The soldier settlement of Merville consisted of more than just farmland. By May of 1919 bunkhouses for single men, a cook house, office, stables and a general store had all been erected at the town centre along the Island Highway under the direction of the Land Settlement Board. By July there were fifty shacks up for settler families.

North of Nurmi Road, the Erskine & May sawmill was in operation by 1920. It seems that Erskine and May made quite a name for themselves in the area. Story goes that they had difficulty cutting a straight line and much of their lumber had an obvious taper.

But it wasn’t their reputation for wonky wood cutting that made them a topic in the BC Legislature.

Their fellow settlers had complained about having to pay $5 to $5.50 per thousand feet higher for lumber from the Erskine & May mill.

The Hon. E.D. Barrow, Minister of Agriculture, explained it this way: “Now I do not think this is a fair criticism from the point of view either of the board or the Merville settlers. As far as the board is concerned the Erskin[sic] & May lumber was cut entirely by white labor at wages in the neighborhood of 55 cents per hour, ordinary white men’s wages. In fact, most of the employees were settlers themselves. On the other hand all the outside lumber was cut by Orientals at low wages.” Source: Argus newspaper, November 10, 1921.

The Erskine & May mill was destroyed in the 1922 fire.

Courtenay Courthouse’s First Inmate

The front page of the Argus newspaper from April 9, 1952 spilled the beans with the headline ‘Smoky’ Johnson In Cells.

“Mr. Anton “Smoky” Johnson, chimney sweep, was the first customer of the RCMP at their shining new quarters at the Court House. He over-stepped the mark too often and when he came before Magistrate Pidcock for making a nuisance of himself in a public place he got a sentence of $50 and costs. He hadn’t the coin so he is now in Oakalla and will be there for the next 60 days.”

It’s All There in Black and White: Courtenay’s Court House 1952

Courtenay’s Court House officially opened on Monday, March 31, 1952. The building housed provincial government departments as well as the RCMP. This article from the April 3, 1952 Comox District Free Press gives all the details right down to the coal mixture used for heating (that’s 50% Cumberland coal, in case you were wondering).

With legacy support from the Bickle Family and the Comox Valley Echo.

So Long Comox Creamery

Creamery booth at fair, 1920s. CDM 988.225.14.

The Comox Co-operative Creamery Association reaches the end of a 118 year long story with the imminent closing of the Courtenay Saputo dairy processing plant.

But it’s not the end for the Valley’s dairy farmers whose milk will now be hauled to the Island Farms plant in Victoria.

“Smaller farms, with lower quantities of milk, could not always justify investing in a [cream] separator. Unless they worked co-operatively, they would retain a small share in the market. They had only a few cows to compete, and could not put as much to market as the larger farms.

Thus, in the spring of 1901, creamery founders held a series of meetings. On March 12, 1901, they reached an agreement and the Comox Co-operative Creamery Association was born, assisted with the efforts of the Farmer’s Institute and the Agricultural Association. The board purchased one acre of land, located where the Courtenay library is today, for $100.

…Overall, the agreement was good for the small farmers, who helped to supply Jersey cows for the creamery. At the start, the creamery used 255 cows to contribute to their products. By 1920, barely two decades after the beginning of the creamery, there was an astounding 2,700 cows contributing to the co-op. In 1946, the co-operative members built a new plant. On June 10, 1982 Dairyland opened a new $4.5M plant on 28th Street in Courtenay. At that time, 26 local dairy farmer-owners continued to provide raw milk to the plant.”

Excerpt from A Short History of the Comox Co-operative Creamery Association, compiled written and published by: City of Courtenay Heritage Commission and the Courtenay and District Museum.

Courtenay’s Puntledge Elasmosaur Receives the Most Votes!

Thank You to All of Our Supporters!

On November 23, 2018, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development closed its voting period for designation of a Provincial Fossil. Courtenay’s Puntledge elasmosaur, discovered by Mike Trask in 1988 was included as one of seven important fossils from around the province.

Today we have the results with the elasmosaur having received forty eight percent of the votes.

Thank you to the Ministry for seeking input through this process and to the British Columbia Palaeontological Alliance for its initiative.

Thank you and congratulations to all who voted and to the City of Courtenay staff for supporting the museum’s efforts throughout the campaign. Finally, a big thank you to all of our local business and tourism, economic development, arts, culture and heritage colleagues who helped create this legacy.