NANAIMO HISTORY - For Regular Folks
There has been an interest shown in our history.
But if we rely on the normal history books, it will
be a slanted history that highlights the life and times
of Nanaimo through the echoes of a select few
of politicians, the business elite, and the rich
If we cast our eyes to the everyday person's history
we will then understand the real history of
the city and its people.
A good source of information would be from a few of the more than 200 folks connected to the
"Nanaimo Family History Society" that started in 1981
by Joan Blair and Pat Mahoney.
If we wanted to look into the daring and tragedy of our Nanaimo folks that saw action during WW I
or WW II, the history books will focus on the Generals and Admirals and the select few that earned a medal or two.
Another source is to look ar the life and times
of the private soldier or the cabin boy of a ship of war or the regular sailor on a merchant ship.
We could search through the old files of the
Brechin United Church and try to recover details
of the post WW II recognition of the boys and girls
of the church that served. The ladies included
names such as Margaret Best, Rose Lewis, Kathie Young and Barbara Cottle. A select few of the lads incuded Akenclose, Lightfoot, McGregor, Johnson
and Sim, and others.
One of the select few of regular folks was the Brechin boy, Don Sim. Picture attached is Don visiting London, England in 1949 at Hampstead Heath Park.
Last edited by Zelley10; 09-01-2005 at 11:41 PM.
The Brechin Boy in Rome - WW II
Picture of: Private William J. Zelley of
the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada
relaxing in Rome. The Seaforth's were part of the !st Division that saw action in Sicily, Italy and Holland.
One of the deadliest battles was in the town of Ortona
aka "Bloody Ortona".
In one action, William and a group were hunkered down close to a tree while the enemy were fiiring
shells. One shell hit the tree and killed three of
the five and seriously wounded one of the remaing two. Luckily with the part of the tree that stood
in the path of the incoming no longer exited, but at
the ultimate price for three.
John Barsby School
Another important source of the people's history would include
the data contained in various school annuals. For instance
Although the current school is a Senior High, that wasn't always the case.
Take the case of 1960/61 when Mr. H. K. Martin was the Principal
of this Grades 7 to 9 school for students on the south side of town,
There were a variety of talented teachers with names like
Bellamy, Devlin, Green & Gold etc.
Scanning the names of the students many have remained in the
old Home Town while others have moved near and far. Over the years while listening to the local radio, the name Bodecker might ring a bell.
Or other names such as Wells, Manns, Rickerby, Pridge, and Dugan.
What about the Junior High sports teams and undividuals:
Soccer: Bryce, Guzina, Swanson, Brown, Pile, Becia and Paugh,
Girl's Volleyball: Galloway, Armishaw, Higgins etc.
Track & Field: Porter, McGee, Ostle, Tibbals, Boyd,
....................Stolarchuk, Gow, and Bortolotto
Bowling: Robby King, Ron Findlay and Ian Wilsen
But let's not forget the "Rock & Mineral Club"
(No this was not a dance club with non-alcoholic beverages!).
Last edited by Zelley10; 09-02-2005 at 10:44 AM.
Gatekeepers, Wellington & Northfield and the Billy Foster legend
So what was life like in Nanaimo and the various communities.
The Brechin kids would often be running or playing tag on the log booms.
That was okay, but sometimes a log would sink below the sea and the unfortunate Brechin boy would have "salty wet pants" or a bruised knee or ego!
But, at night for evening at the drive-in theatre at Wellington. Those
Long Lake swimmers and skaters would be the gatekeepers of the spots
where the young locals without the wheels or the cash could slip
through the bushes for a free trip into the theatre grounds. I'm sure the real gatekeepers must have turned a blind eye to the small groups of teenagers that sat on the grass by the unused machines, so they to could listen
to the voices on the big screen. and it can be guaranteed that not all of the young couples in their '57 Chevy Bel Airs and assorted other vehicles
would be watching the big screen throughout the night.
However, when it came to big wheels and fast cars, the Northfield
track was the place to go. But the unofficial gatekeepers of those nifty little spots where the young teens could crawl under for free was the turf
of the Northfield crew. So if you were from Brechin or Townsite, it would be cool to have a few Wellington & Northfield friends for the ringside seat
to spinning wheels of the stock cars or listening to the sounds of music
from the big outdoor screen.
Then we have the Nanaimo legends of motor sport with names like
Foster and Haslam. Sadly, the boy called Billy Foster didn't make
it completely round the track in California one deadly day, but
his name lives on today.
Last edited by Zelley10; 09-04-2005 at 01:36 AM.
Reason: house keeping
Broken Bodies of another lost teen - No Coming Home - just a lifeless empty room
Pro racers like Billy Foster died in organized auto racing, but the history
of unorganized racing or careless driving throughout the streets of Greater Nanaimo are scattered with the memories of yet another dead teenager or young person.
We have heard it in the music and the songs like "Last Kiss" and
"Tell Laura I love Her", but they are only songs that can be retold and replayed.
But, the "Last Goodbye" or "Final Farewell", for the young whose body
parts are broken and shattered or burned, will last forever.
Last edited by Zelley10; 09-04-2005 at 01:28 AM.
Zelley, you seem to have a great wealth of knowlege on Nanaimo History, any interst in becoming a contributing editor in an official sense on the forum (You are already a great contributor) This would mean I could create a whole forum dedicated to the posting and discussion of Nanaimo History, stories etc. Let me know as I'm sure we arent the only ones that enjoy the subject.
You are most welcome to add a section called Nanaimo History.
The four sub-sections could be:
Community, Family, School, and Sports.
The Community section could include social organizations and clubs
from Lions Clubs to Social agencies - from Salvation Army to the Sons of Norway
and more. But it could include business and industry such as
coal mining to fishing. Or, family owned businesses from Nash Hardware,
Jean Burns clothes store, Fletchers to the little old grocery stores like Lums,
the Thompson family the Kipp family etc to old Fish & Chip shops
and the early days when there was a coffe shop at the BC Ferries then known as the Black Ball Ferries and a number of the locals sold
newspapers to folks in the lined up cars.
We could look at how property on Stewart Avenue was "taken" by the B C Government to expand the road leading to the B C Ferries. Sadly, some of
the heritage connected with coal mining was lost in the process.
Sports could include organizations such as the Nanaimo Boxing Club to star track &
field stars, to things like the 100 Mile Club, and the life and times of
Billy Foster and the Haslam Family.
School history could step back to the old pre-1952 days of John Shaw and the early days of NDSS, the early days of Malispina College and the old hospital
The Family section could connect with folks of the Family History Society
or just have folks talk about their early family days in Nanaimo.
A few History Students from the College could make the History Section a special project.
Last edited by Zelley10; 09-05-2005 at 06:30 PM.
Lost Heritage in the name of Progress
In fairness to the Government that took the land that they needed for "progress" - i.e. B C Ferries route etc.
they did give a "fair market" value. But, in hindsight, there is no fair value.
Memories and Heritage can never be bought and sold for a fair price
because they are priceless!
Last edited by Zelley10; 09-05-2005 at 08:51 PM.
The Road Ahead - Looking Back through fresh Nanaimo eyes
The Road Ahead re. A proposed History Section:
as any history section would or should be the "People's History"
we would want to (over time) to contact every organization in Nanaimo
to have them offer a brief history of the establishment. Although some pf the information may be available, an updated history with more detail would be cool.
For instance, the history of the Sea or Air Cadets in Nanaimo.
How many locals remember marching in a Remembrance Day Parade, shooting on the rifle range or attending the Sea Cadet camp in Comox.
What about the Legion organization branches. They do a good job of posting th "Last Post" in the magazine and web site. But, what about the in-depth life and times
of the dearly departed veterans,
What about the old "Diefenbunker" - How many young locals are awate of it
or understand the reasons it was built - i.e. to protect a select group of
VIP's not you or me??
Of interest, when we Google Nanaimo History, this thread is number 10,
but if we Google: Nanaimo History, dark side, we stand as No. 1
Last edited by Zelley10; 09-06-2005 at 10:53 AM.
HE TIN KIS Park, Ucluelet 1971 - Helping Hands & Shared History
The building of He-Tin-Kis Park in Ucluelet at Terrace Beach in 1971
was due in part to folks from Nanaimo, but folks in Ucluelet had a role in
the formation of the Nanaimo Boxing Club. ( I bet folks involved with the
club today have no idea of the connction/link).