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British Columbia history that informs readers while entertaining them.


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Black Ball Ferry Chinook the last word in comfort

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Articles | 2 comments

A tribute to “the Queen Elizabeth of the inland seas”. What a shame. The former Puget Sound Navigation Co. ferry Kalakala, famous for her advanced streamlined superstructure of polished aluminum and her art deco styling, didn’t make it to the century mark. In January, the shell of the 89-year-old floating landmark entered a Seattle graving dock for scrapping, just 11 years short of what would have been her centennial. Her demise recalls another company ship of renown, the M.V. Chinook. So proud were her owners that they dubbed her “the Queen Elizabeth of the inland seas” There have been so many changes in the ferry scene, on both sides of the 49th parallel, that it’s hard to believe that, in 1946-47, Victorians were as interested in Washington’s newest car ferry as the citizens of Seattle. That was when the Chinook was said to be the last word in Pacific Northwest commuter comfort and elegance. So proud of their new-born flagship were the directors of Puget Sound Navigation Co., the parent firm of Black Ball Transport, that they touted her as “the Queen Elizabeth of the inland seas”. Launching of the $2.5 million lady at Seattle’s Todd Shipyards, April 22, 1947, was a gala event, Victoria being represented by Mayor Percy George and members of...

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Old destroyer making waves for Reefs Society

Posted by on Jan 10, 2015 in Articles | 2 comments

Decommissioned destroyer escort was one of Canada’s distinctive 1960s-era St. Laurent-class ‘Cadillacs”   An honoured name in Canadian naval history is in the news again. Plans to sink the stripped-down destroyer escort HMCS Annapolis as an artificial reef in Howe Sound have been met with successive challenges. As I write this, she’s scheduled to be sunk off Gambier Island on Jan. 17th if The Save Halkett Bay Marine Park Society fails to obtain a Federal Court injunction… This is the second Canadian destroyer to bear the name of the river that runs through Nova Scotia’s fabled Annapolis Valley. The first Annapolis began her career as the USS Mackenzie and was one of six of 50 WW1-era four-stacker destroyer acquired by Great Britain from the U.S. under Lend-Lease then turned over to the Royal Canadian Navy. Commissioned in Halifax in September 1940, the ‘new’ HMCS Annapolis underwent refit (including removal of one of her four funnels) and strengthening after having spent 17 years in mothballs. Initially assigned to convoy escort duties out of Halifax, in 1944 she was attached as a training ship to the RCN training base, HMCS Cornwallis. Thousands of new Canadian seamen learned the ropes aboard the Annapolis She also participated in the salvage of the S.S. James Miller, aground in the...

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Posted by on Jan 1, 2015 in Articles | 2 comments

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British Columbia’s first mental hospital was a disaster

Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Articles | 2 comments

The superintendent admitted to wearing his patients’ socks but not their drawers! News Item: History is about to repeat itself when a new rehabilitation and recovery program for those battling mental health and substance-abuse issues is opened in Coquitlam. It will operate from two upgraded buildings on the grounds of the historic Riverview Hospital, opened in 1913 and closed in 2012. Victoria’s own pioneer mental health facility, then known as the ‘Lunatic Asylum,’ opened in the spring of 1876...

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Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Articles | 0 comments

You’ll  notice that these century-old Christmas cards are in what we know as postcard format. The folded card within an envelope  came much later.  Now we send season’s greetings by email or text-mess. Progress....

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Where did Canadian history go wrong?

Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Articles | 4 comments

  You remember how it was in school: names, dates, events all of them of long ago and far away and of no real interest. Which is precisely what’s wrong with the way we teach history in school, if you ask me. (They don’t, of course.) If children don’t engage with history, is it their fault? Or is it ours because we present it so poorly that history becomes, in fact, boring and dull? Several times I’ve been asked...

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It will always be Jimmy Chickens Island

Posted by on Nov 29, 2014 in Articles | 11 comments

News Item: When Charlee the American bulldog was spooked by Halloween fireworks in Victoria, she took off. Rather, she swam to Mary Tod Island off Oak Bay. I’m pleased to report that she was soon reunited with her owner, but that’s not my story which is about one of my favourite pioneers… Maps show the wooded isle off Oak Bay as Mary Tod Island but to those who know their history it will always be Jimmy Chickens Island. This...

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