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British Columbia history that informs readers while entertaining them.


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No smoking in movies? Cowboys without their tobacco pouch or chaw?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in Articles | 1 comment

The latest in the war against tobacco is a movement by some American public health officials to discourage smoking in the movies (I mean on screen) by giving them an R-rating. It sets a bad example for young people, they say. The restricted rating is meant to spare millions of kids a year from being exposed to the filthy weed. And, no doubt, by reducing the potential audience, impact on the movie’s profits thereby encouraging studios to comply. They’re targeting actors who deliberately light up on screen, not as part of their character or role but as a subliminal advertisement. Just like when your favourite star reaches for a clearly labelled Coke. It could be anything, even water, but, no, it’s made very clear with a close-up for the world to see that he’s/she’s drinking a Coke even if it takes a close-up in slow motion. The war on smoking is spreading It’s a wide net anti-tobacconists are casting—all tobacco products used or even implied!—including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes. Now, if you think I’m wandering far from my usual historical beat, hang on a moment. I, and I’m sure many of you, grew up when smoking in the movies was so incessant in some...

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‘Balloonatic’ Daniel Boria Recall’s British Columbia’s First Air Fatality

Posted by on Aug 5, 2017 in Articles | 0 comments

Dare-devils have always been with us, probably as long as Man’s fascination for flying, so Dan Boria isn’t unique. Hot-air balloons have been around a long time, too—originally in default of powered flight, latterly as recreational toys. But none like with which Dan made aviation ‘history’ at the 2015 Calgary Stampede. The mid-20s former Victorian launched himself an estimated 14,000 feet high on a lawn chair ‘powered’ by more than 100 large helium balloons! With the intention of parachuting over the chuckwagon races, he said, as a publicity stunt for his cleaning company. But high winds forced him to jump early, before he made it to the race track. He managed to land safely, into the arms of police who charged him with the dangerous operation of an ‘aircraft’. In March of this year he received a scathing lecture from a judge and fines totalling $26,500. Was he sorry? Not a bit: “I have the greatest story to tell for the rest of my life,” he told reporters. At least he lived to tell the tale. Not so barnstormer Milton Bryant who, on Aug. 6, 1913, crashed his converted Curtiss seaplane onto a Victoria rooftop. Killed instantly, he’s officially listed as Canada’s first aviation fatality. Tain’t so! He’s Canada’s first aircraft victim, yes. But...

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‘Island idyll Just Minutes from Nanaimo’

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in Articles | 0 comments

So read the headline in the Vancouver Island Free Daily of the idyllic Newcastle Island, immediately off Nanaimo. And make no mistake, Newcastle truly is a treasure island of natural beauty. It also comes with a fabulous pedigree of industrial and dramatic history. There’s something for everyone including summer camps for kids. For me, of course, it’s the historical provenance that has been the draw to Newcastle (and its immediate southern neighbour, Protection Island) numerous times. What’s now Newcastle...

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Morden Colliery Park’s New Memorial Crowns 12-Year Campaign

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Articles | 4 comments

Yesterday’s doubleheader began with 90 minutes of taking over 100 pictures in Nanaimo’s Bowen Road cemetery before the unveiling of Morden Colliery Park’s new memorial. I was waiting to join an hour-long tour of Masonic graves led by fellow Duncanite and Mason historian Mark Anderson. His tour was part of the day-long 150th anniversary celebration of Nanaimo’s Ashlar Lodge No. 3. In purely historic (and storytelling) terms, this is a really great cemetery: headstone after headstone bears the sad...

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Typewriters are still with us–who cares?

Posted by on Jul 9, 2017 in Articles | 2 comments

According to an item by the Associated Press, typewriters are still with us; at least for those nostalgians who prefer to continue to pound out letters and manuscripts on a Smith Corona or an old Underwood or a Remington or… Me? Never again! I can well remember, as a kid, dreaming of the day that I’d be a professional writer—an author!—which would also mean my having a typewriter of my own. Access to a portable Smith Corona, which belonged...

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Remembering Terry Fox, Old Trains, the Galloping Goose

Posted by on Jul 2, 2017 in Articles | 3 comments

Almost 20 years ago, when I began writing my twice-weekly historical column in the Cowichan Valley Citizen and (for 10 years) a once-weekly retrospective in the Nanaimo Daily News/Harbour City Star, a friend predicted that I’d “be starved for material in four months”. “Not a chance,” I replied. “In four months I’ll have more to work with than when I started.” This wasn’t idle bragging but based upon years of experience. You see, and to give but one example,...

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Black Ball Ferry Chinook was last word in comfort

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

A tribute to “the Queen Elizabeth of the inland seas” It’s hard to believe, today, that in 1946-47, Victorians were as interested in Washington’s newest car ferry as the citizens of Seattle. That’s when the M.V. 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...

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