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.

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.

February 2019 Watershed Moments

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

Photo credit: Picking up the pieces after Courtenay’s devastating 1916 fire. King Studio photograph. CDM 972.54.5 Page 113.

Photo caption: “In [July] 1916, a devastating fire destroyed a city block, and the residents had only a bucket brigade with which to fight it. Joseph McPhee went to work once more to persuade his fellow citizens that the city should be in the water business.” Page 113.

Merville – 100 Years and Counting Part 2

Merville was originally founded as a farming community, a government initiative for returned WWI veterans to settle on their own plot of land. It soon became apparent that land quality was questionable and people had to turn elsewhere for income to make ends meet.

Here’s a look back at the folks who made up Merville in 1941. Many loggers and farmers are noted but you’ll also find a maid, a school teacher, an artist and even a Fuller Brush dealer!

This listing is from the British Columbia and Yukon Directory for 1941.

Periodical Wisdom: February 2019

Nothing says “February romance” like the sniffles! Take heart cold sufferers and read on to find out how to get the better of “Winter’s Special Beauty Problem.”

This entertaining column is from the February 17, 1938 edition of The Lady. It is one more example of the type of helpful hints that can be found in periodical magazines in our archival collection.