Stamp Mill Day Recalls Mining Era

Stamp Mill Complex and Slime Pond, ca. 1910 -  photo courtesy of Hedley  Heritage Museum Society
Stamp Mill Complex and Slime Pond, ca. 1910 – photo courtesy of Hedley Heritage Museum Society

Fearing rain would wash out the May 28 Stamp Mill Day celebration in Hedley, organizers debated various strategies, including a Sun Dance. Virtually no rain fell so possibly the latter tactic did keep it at bay.

Sponsored by the Hedley Heritage Museum Society, Stamp Mill Day is a celebration of the swashbuckling mining era when the unrelenting thump of the stamping could be heard day and night, with no respite on weekends. Former Hedley resident Helen Moore, now living in Penticton, described it as a constant roar in the background. According to local historian Jennifer Douglass, the mill used 40 heavy iron stamps to crush the ore. She has heard that after the mill ceased operations, people in town experienced difficulty getting sufficient sleep. They had gotten used to the unceasing thumping of the stamps. It seems there is no longer anyone still living in Hedley who can verify this.


Some 70 guests arrived from diverse locations, including Alberta, Kelowna, Summerland, Keremeos and Princeton. In the morning Terry Regier schooled the children in gold panning and Jan Leake painted their faces. Lunch was served in the back yard of the Museum under a canopy of green branches provided by large trees. There were numerous compliments for the Hedley cooks who again prepared a meal that delighted the palate. This year it was beef on a bun, potato and vegetable salads, plus a selection of fruit. Five cent ice cream cones attracted a steady line up of excited children and appreciative adults.

Jozie visiting Hedley!
Jozie visiting Hedley!

Entertainment was provided by George Huber and Colleen Cox of Lund, B.C. Billing themselves as The Seniors, they are a high octane duo, a popular item on the provincial Blue Grass circuit. Local residents, Eric Lance and Bill Day backed them up with guitar, mandolin and voice.

Colleen Cox & George Huber (foreground), Bill Day & Eric Lance (background)
Colleen Cox & George Huber (foreground), Bill Day & Eric Lance (background)

Like most rural community events, Stamp Mill Day was a success because a small band of committed volunteers planned and prepared for several weeks. Museum President, Jean Robinson said, “I’m happy with the way it turned out. People enjoyed the meal and the music. It was a success because of the people who pitched in to help. Also those who donated food.”

Peggy Terry & Lynn Day in pioneer era dress, helped at this event and are active volunteers in the communily.
Peggy Terry & Lynn Day in pioneer era dress, helped at this event and are active volunteers in the communily.

The mine and the Stamp Mill are no longer producing gold, but glittering memories linger.

Japanese Knotweed, A Devious Adversary

Joe Cindrich
Joe Cindrich

Elaine Cindrich told us her husband Joe is tenacious when he’s battling a tough problem. “He’s like a bulldog,” she said. Joe’s tenacity became absolutely essential several years ago when he realized invasive Japanese Knotweed had staked a claim on his neighbour’s property.

The Knotweed can wreak havoc,” Joe told us when Linda and I recently visited at their home in the Township of Langley. He discovered at the outset the plant employs its luscious leaves and pretty white flowers to beguile unsuspecting property owners. When he informed his neighbour, an elderly widow, about the dangers of Knotweed she exclaimed, “Oh, but it’s so beautiful. I just love it.” Only his threat to sue if the plant invaded his property persuaded her to let him attempt to eradicate it.

Leaves of a young Japanese Knotweed
Leaves of a young Japanese Knotweed

Ignorance of the issue has been a huge problem,” he said. “I went to the Township for help. At first the council was skeptical and I needed to educate them. Once they understood it could cause mayhem on municipal lands, they developed a plan and took action.” But it did nothing to assist him.

Now 75, in his work life Joe was a mechanic and then a manager with Finning Tractor in Vancouver. Later he established his own company, doing utility work. He realized he’d have to educate himself so he could keep the Knotweed off his own property and also inform others. His nature, and his work experience had provided him with the persistence required to deal with this unwelcome intrusion into his life.

Knotweed does not play by the usual rules. According to the Invasive Species Council of B.C., the root systems can go down to a depth of 2 to3 metres and extend 20 metres laterally. Authorities on the plant agree it can penetrate and undermine concrete foundations and blacktop surfaces. When engineers found it growing along the massive concrete footings of the Lions Gate and the Iron Workers Second Narrows bridges, they deemed it a safety threat requiring chemical intervention.

Close up of Japanese Knotweed root, photo by Joe Cindrich
Close up of Japanese Knotweed root, photo by Joe Cindrich

Digging it out just multiplies the weed. The District of Sechelt attempted to deal with Knotweed by digging down 3 meters and removing it. The weed reappeared the following year, having doubled in size. If even one centimetre of root remains in the soil, it can generate new plants.

The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) states, “Knotweeds are very hardy and spread aggressively. They are capable of blocking access to waterways, reducing sightlines along roads and fences, shading out native plants, and increasing soil erosion.” Their website says Knotweed has been observed in Penticton, Oliver, Keremeos and Summerland.

Joe Cindrich holding a syringe & searching for Japanese Knotweed
Joe Cindrich holding a syringe & searching for Japanese Knotweed

Joe booted up his computer and showed us photos of the formerly dense Knotweed growth on the neighbouring property. He then invited us to tramp with him through high wet grass to view the present state of the land. “I started spraying the small plants with 20 per cent Roundup in 2013,” he said. Holding up a large ominous appearing bovine syringe he said, “I injected plants over 2 feet tall with100 per cent Roundup.” In spite of his vigorous, disciplined campaign, we saw a number of young plants all over the property. The websites dealing with Knotweed pretty much all agree 5 to 10 years are required to eradicate the weed. If the program is halted before its all gone, the clever weed takes this as a cue to again thrive.

Japanese Knotweed plants after innoculation in foreground, healthy plants in background, photo by Joe Cindrich
Japanese Knotweed plants after innoculation in foreground, healthy plants in background, photo by Joe Cindrich

By now our runners were soaked from the deep wet grass, but Joe’s willingness to share his knowledge made it well worth while. “It’s a huge problem in Britain,” he told us. “The UK government estimates that the cost of controlling Knotweed has hit the equivalent of $3 billion. If you have Knotweed on your property you can’t get a building permit. In Europe you won’t get a mortgage.”

Various government departments, including the Ministry of Transport, have grave concerns about Knotweed. It is expensive and very difficult to eradicate. The BC Weed Control Act requires citizens to take action against invasive species on their property. An owner who fails to do this may have to pay for the eradication.

Ignoring Knotweed is to invite destruction of property. If it comes our way, will we recognize it? Will we have the tenacity, patience and determination to battle it for 5 to 10 years? Joe Cindrich has the endurance. He’s that kind of man.

Linda’s Cop Car

Runaway Lane on Highway 3
Runaway Lane on Highway 3

The following account dates back to the first year of Linda and my marriage.  If you’ve seen the colour of my hair, you’ll realize this encompasses many years. Due to the considerable lapse of time, I admit to some haziness regarding details. In the interest of full disclosure, reader discretion is advised.

Linda and I had been married only 6 months when she returned from an auction driving a blue, 1960 decommissioned cop car. We didn’t need another car so, like a courtroom attorney, she had marshaled her defense.

Sweetheart,” she began. She tended to call me sweetheart when I needed convincing. “I’m sure it’s as powerful as a D8 cat.” I was then working as a heavy equipment operator. She had no concept of how powerful a D8 cat is.

It would soon become evident that some neurotic mechanic had applied his genius to this car. It was the mechanical equivalent of a cheetah.

A few days later Linda was listening to a radio talk show when she pulled into a full service gas bar. She neglected to turn off the engine and after about 2 minutes the exasperated gas jockey tapped impatiently on the side window. “Lady,” he sputtered, “would you mind shutting off the motor? I can’t get the tank full!”

That week we drove from our home in rural Abbotsford to Penticton for the May long weekend. To avoid the traffic on our return, we departed for home at about 11 pm. with Linda at the wheel.

It was a magical night, just Linda and me, a full moon overhead, and a Kenny Rogers cd playing “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave me Lucille”. Exhilarated by the opportunity to test the Cop Car on a highway uncluttered by traffic, Linda was seriously speeding as we neared the top of Sunday Summit.

Too late we saw the police cruiser parked at the summit, the officer standing about 50 paces away, doing something for which I’m sure he now realized he could have selected a more appropriate location. With his free hand he waved at us to stop. The car shuddered, but scarcely slowed when Linda stepped on the brake. The accelerator was stuck against the floor and we began racing down the other side of the summit.

The car won’t stop,” Linda said. “I’ll have to outrun him.”

In the side mirror I watched the officer hurriedly completing his business and then running to the cruiser.

We were cresting another hill when the cruiser’s emergency lights began flashing. I lost sight of it, but in the distance ahead we saw tiny flickering lights. Must be fire flies I guessed. As we drew nearer, I realized they were tail lights of motorcycles, the biker gang we’d noticed partying at Skaha Lake. They were dipsy doodling all over both lanes of the highway, beer cans in one hand. I reached over and pressed hard on the horn, not aware the neurotic mechanic had placed transport truck horns under the hood. Hearing it, the bikers feared they’d be run over by a highway rig. Crashing wildly into each other, they desperately cleared to either side. Fallen bikes were strewn along both sides of the highway and enraged bikers shook indignant fists at us as we hurtled past them in the space they had cleared.

Once again, I saw the flashing lights of the police cruiser far behind, racing alone along the dark highway. The accelerator released and Linda was able to slow sufficiently for the next corner. In the darkness, a truck run away lane loomed just ahead to our right.

Up there!”’ I said, pointing. Due to the hill behind us, neither the bikers or the officer had us in view. We bounced up the runaway as elegantly as a herd of turtles. At the top Linda applied the emergency brake and turned off the lights.

Swarming along the highway below like angry wasps, roaring Harleys pursued the phantom car that had defiled their riders macho identity. Shortly we heard the cruiser’s siren, eerily piercing the darkness. I wondered what the officer would do if he caught up with this gang of enraged bikers.

Linda poured us each a cup of black coffee from a thermos, then said, “it looked like those boys were having a great time.”

Don’t even think about it, dear,” I replied. “I’m still adjusting to the cop car.”

Hedley Downtown Core

The following is a brief description and history of the Hedley downtown core. In further posts I will write about some of the other public structures in town.

Hedley Post Office

Hedley Post Office: owned by Ken and Heather Knight. The building was in dire need of upgrading when the Knights purchased it. Part of the lower floor has long been occupied by Canada Post. Although there is little information as to when the P.O. moved into this building, it is known that it was given a facelift in 1938. Also, longtime postmaster T.C. Knowles was appointed to the position in 1937 and served his entire term in this building. Initially the Post Office was located in Schuberts Mercantile, near the creek. In 1913 it moved to Love’s Drug Store.

According to current Post Master Ruth Woodin, when she came to Hedley the room next to the PO served one day a week as an outlet for the Valley First Credit Union.


Strayhorse Station with Hedley Inn & Hostel

 Strayhorse Station With Hedley Inn & Hostel: In earlier times this was a one story structure and served as the Hedley Fire Station and also as the office for the Hedley Improvement District. It is now owned by Ken and Heather Knight. The Knights enlarged the structure and added a second story. New siding and windows have greatly added to the appearance of the Hedley downtown area. At this time it is primarily operated as an inn and hostel.

Hitching Post Restaurant

Hitching Post Restaurant: According to Hedley researcher Jennifer Douglass, in 1913 two entrepreneurs, James Schubert and Frank French opened and operated the Hedley Trading Post in this building. It is now a thriving restaurant owned and operated by Brenda Gould and Wilson Wiley. When they arrived in Hedley some years ago they initially lived in the smallest house in town. They have developed a solid reputation for excellent cuisine and a warm, historic ambience. Many of the restaurant’s patrons come from neighbouring communities, specifically to dine. Often people from more distant locations stop for a meal because they have heard of it from friends.


Hedley Country Market

Hedley Country Market: According to Jennifer Douglass, in 1904 this was Fraser’s Fraternity Hall. Several organizations used it, including the Masons, the Loyal Orange Lodge, Wood Bin of America (a Tradesmens’ organization) and the Anglican Church. It is now owned by Doug and T.J. Bratt.  Prior to buying the store,(once owned by The One Way Adventure Foundation), TJ owned a small confectionary and liqour outlet across the street. She and Doug Bratt have built the store into a successful enterprise. They have the only liquor outlet in town. Both Doug and TJ are deeply involved with the Hedley Community Club.

Auntie Doll Celebrates 98 Years

Auntie Doll in her home at Olalla
Auntie Doll in her home at Olalla

Not having met 98 year old Auntie Doll previously or spoken with her, I thought she might be a shrunken little lady with a weak hesitant voice and possibly lapses of memory. I was surprised when she gripped my hand firmly like a logger, and warmly welcomed Linda and me into her comfortable home. A zest for life still burns with a lively flame in this lady. Her erect bearing suggests resolute character.

I began by asking how we should address her. She said, “I was born Violet Madeline, but everyone calls me Auntie Doll.” She immediately became Auntie Doll for us.

Although a member of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band she has never lived on the reserve. “My grandfather on my mother’s side was Indian,” she said. “My other grandfather was French. Our family owned a ranch just north of Olalla. When I was 6 months my father died and everyone was needed to keep the ranch going. I was thinking of going into nursing but I quit school after grade 8 to do ranch work.”

“For 6 months each year our cattle were in the mountains,” she said. “As I became old enough I began riding the range. We were out in all weather. At night we stayed in a deserted prospector’s cabin. I loved horses, and I loved riding.” Almost certainly much of her inner resolve was developed during those months in the mountains, keeping track of cattle, contending with storms in spring and fall, and dealing with dangerous situations.

“One morning I was riding up a steep trail with a 30 foot drop to one side,” she recalled. “My horse was anxious. Suddenly it bucked and threw me off. I was lucky. I landed on a huge sagebrush that kept me from falling all the way down.” Another time her horse stumbled. Her head took a hard hit and she was kept in the hospital 2 weeks.

Auntie Doll never learned the language of the band but her mother taught her the thinking and culture of their people. “Mom understood the language,” she said. “Being the youngest, I was with her a lot. She talked about people who had gone before her time. She knew about the natural medicines our people use. Sometimes we dug up edible roots for food. We dried berries and choke cherries and she preserved fruit in jars.”

I asked about a deer head with splendid antlers mounted on one wall. “I shot it when I was 19,” she told us. “I was a pretty good shot and I bagged quite a few. We always had lots of food.”

Auntie Doll remembers shooting this deer at age 19.
Auntie Doll remembers shooting this deer at age 19.

As a young woman she danced in Pow Wows. “The beat of the drum is the heart beat of mother Earth,” she said. “The land is important. Young people should get an education, but they shouldn’t forget the past.”

“I was married to Reg in 1944. The next day he was sent to the war where he was a scout and a sniper. The Germans captured him and he was in a prisoner of war camp 7 months.”

After the war they bought the family ranch. “Reg had been wounded,” she said, becoming very serious. “He had terrible nightmares from the war. He was never the same. We couldn’t keep the ranch. It was a hard time. We had one son. Reg died in 1983.”

Auntie Doll at 32 years
Auntie Doll at 32 years

In spite of a physically vigorous life, or possibly because of it, Auntie Doll retains remarkably robust health. “I take a little pink pill and a baby aspirin,” she said, “but not every day. I try to understand life and make the best of it. There will be bumps. We have to find a way around them.”

Although she no longer attends the monthly meetings of elders, she values her connection to the band. I asked if she knows Chief Keith Crow. “Yes,” she said with conviction. “Chief Crow will do well for us.”

As we were about to go, she said “ Life is still exciting. I enjoy every day. Now that I’m so close, I’d like to get to 100.”

Auntie Doll asked me to remind family and friends to come to her 98th birthday celebration at her home in Cherrywood Estates in Olalla on May 21. It will begin at 1 pm with the potluck dinner at 4. Happy Birthday Auntie Doll!

The Sternes Of Coalmont

Bob & Diane Sterne in front of their home & motel office.
Bob & Diane Sterne in front of their home & motel office.

The drive from Hedley to Coalmont would have been worthwhile just to drink Bob Sterne’s richly flavoured coffee and sample Diane’s lemon loaf. Between Princeton and Tulameen, Coalmont is somewhat off what we call the beaten path. At one stretch there is a steep drop to the valley below. I’d want a 4×4 pickup for the trip in winter.

Linda and I had not met the Sternes previously but we already suspected they aren’t the type who wring their hands and say “someone should do something about it.” They initially came to the Coalmont area to do gold panning. “We fell in love with the community,” Diane told us. “Over several years we became quieter and quieter on our trips back to Anmore. This was where we wanted to be. At that time I was a dental assistant and Bob was building radio controlled sail boats.”

Set in a spacious valley Coalmont is, for the most part, peaceful and idyllic. In 2003 the Sternes made the momentous decision to buy the former CPR pay office in this community of about 85 citizens. “The building had no electricity, no plumbing and no septic tank,” Bob recalled. It was a daunting decision for other reasons as well. Even now, Coalmont has no doctor, nurse or first responder, no cell service, stores, or fire department. Also, there is no community water system so each property must have its own well.

Web photo of the Mozey-On-Inn
Web photo of the Mozey-On-Inn

They transformed the sadly neglected structure into a home and 3 unit motel, and named it the Mozey-On-Inn. Wanting to retain the aura of the earlier gold mining era, signs on the units designate them as Bank, Saloon and Barbershop.

With virtually no services people must come together in an emergency. “When Bob had a cardiac arrest while shovelling snow in the driveway,” Diane said, “people came to help. I had purchased a defibrillator some years ago after my Dad had a heart attack. A neighbour put the paddles on Bob. The Tulameen fire chief lives here and showed up with oxygen. Without the help of neighbours, Bob would be dead. It was a reminder that as a community we need to be self-reliant and help each other.”

The Sternes are passionate about preserving local history, and in our 2 hour conversation there were frequent references to the past. “Walt Smart owned the only grocery store in town,” Bob said. “He let people run up a tab. Sometimes they couldn’t pay and when they moved out of town, they gave him their property. He loved the town and stayed here until he died in 2010.”

When we had emptied Bob’s coffee pot, eaten Diane’s delightful lemon loaf and toured the motel, we drove to the Granite Creek Cemetery. “The Granite Creek community was founded in 1885,” Diane said. “By 1886 it was the third largest population centre in B.C.”

The community died when Postmaster Foxcrowle Percival Cooke passed away. Only the cemetery remains and it had deteriorated almost beyond recognition. “Fallen trees were lying across the graves,” Bob said. “The graves were poorly marked and hard to find.” In 2004 the Sternes and others in Coalmont decided to restore it. Using information provided by a funeral director and also notes from a high school research project, they began identifying occupants of the graves. They checked birth and death records at the Vancouver Library.

Bob & Diane Sterne at the Granite Creek cemetery.
Bob & Diane Sterne at the Granite Creek cemetery.

Walking about the now orderly and clean cemetery with Diane and Bob, we concluded that they think of the people in the graves as interesting acquaintances, even friends.

Bob & Diane Sterne posted a map of the Granite Creek cemetery.
Bob & Diane Sterne posted a map of the Granite Creek cemetery.

“We have marked all the known graves,“ Diane said. “I talk to the people when I’m working on their gravesite.” (Don’t worry, she’s totally sane).

Coalmont Hotel
Coalmont Hotel

As we passed one grave, Bob said, “That’s Mary. She was the second wife of Louis Marcotte. He built the Coalmont Hotel.” At another grave Diane said, “that’s Hattie McBride, the Coalmont madam, the second biggest contributor to the community’s WWI machine gun fund.”

As we were about to leave Bob said, “everyone in our community is involved, but people don’t talk about what they do. They just do it.”

“We’re living our dream,” Diane added. “I never want to leave. I want to die here.” Bob nodded agreement.

People waved at us as we were leaving town. If Linda and I weren’t settled in Hedley, Coalmont would be an attractive option.